Monday, March 23, 2015

Happy Birthday Tim!!!

Happy Birthday to the most wonderful, godly, man, husband and father I have ever known.  I am beyond grateful that God brought us together and I can call you, head over me, husband and friend.
Tim, you exhibit the fruit of the Spirit in all you do, to all you meet.  You are genuine and don't try to be someone you are not.  Your yes is yes and no, no but you are kind and fair.  You pour out grace to me when I need it and help when I stumble and fall, without condemning me.  You truly do try to be like Jesus in your daily walk in life.
I fall in love with you more every day. 
You work so hard at your job every day.  Since we started back into foster care, two years ago, I am humbled by the help at home you give to me and your family, selflessly, even though you are so tired from your normal work day. 
You change diapers, rock babies, make meals, sweep floors and pick up toys.  You take over and give me a free day, out with my dad, at least once a month.  You have sent me to our room to rest or let me sleep in, when you see I am to the point I REALLY need it.
I can only eat pure foods and they are expensive.  You always make sure I have plenty to eat, special things to eat, and you have cut mounds of sweet potatoes over the years, daily, so I can have my sweet potato fries every night for supper.  :)  I love you!!!
You send me romantic texts off and on all day and set aside time for "us" even if it is just watching a special movie in bed alone.
I feel spoiled.  I don't deserve you but feel so blessed we are one.

Happy, Happy birthday my wonderful husband!  May God abundantly bless you for all you do in life, not only for us but for others.  We all love you so very much!!

1 Peter 3:15   But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Impact of Doing Foster Care In Our Family

I was recently asked to write a post on how doing foster care has impacted our children living at home.  So I thought today I would share some of my thoughts on this topic in a broad sense.

When Tim and I felt the calling to do foster care, 18 years ago, we had two biological children.  Stephen was 9 years old and William was six months old. 
We thought we would step into foster care slowly but there was so many children in care that our home quickly filled up and became a revolving door for many foster children.  Each story sad, many just terrible.

We, as a family, must have been very sheltered from hearing much about this part of society, as we were not prepared to see the amount of abuse or neglect that we regularly saw.  When we went to foster care meetings, we would talk to other families and hear the stories of their cases as well.  It was almost over whelming at times.

Many of the children came with major issues.  Who could go thru what they did and not have any?  Being torn from the only family they ever knew, whether good or bad, is enough to cause great stress and emotional trauma.  Then add to it what they had seen and experienced in the form of neglect and/or abuse and you have a child whose normal development is off.  Their idea of love is off.  There emotional structure is just not normal.  There behavior can be all over the place and uncontrollable.  Some hoard food.  Many have trouble sleeping. Some scream and cry for hours on end with no way to comfort or console them.  To our children who live in a normal loving stable home, these behaviors are hard to understand.  We spend a lot of time talking to and explaining things to, our children that live at home.

So many people, myself included, go into fostering or adopting, thinking that faith in God, a stable home and love, will fix and heal all that is going on with a child.  Very soon we learned that is just not the case.  Those developmental years are so tender and the imprinting done on them will effect a child for life.  Children can and will change and improve in areas over time but some will always just be compromised in many areas of their person, just by not having anything normal in those developmental years.  They often also develop survival skills and behaviors that become part of who they are and can not be changed.  Also, when doing foster care, the only form of behavior modification you can use is "time out" and in older children, restriction of some privileges.   So for bad behavior, options are very limited.     

Laying these thoughts and ground work for what I am about to discuss, allows you to see that there are many facets to the children that come into our homes in foster care.  We have to take the good with the bad.  What I am about to say is hard to do and practice but... it is best to embrace and love a child for who they are, the way they come and pray and hope for the best for them.  Then the improvements and milestones they achieve will be so sweet and such cause for joy and celebration.  If you take in a difficult child with hard behaviors and think you can "fix" or change them, you set yourself up to always be frustrated with that child and possibly never bond with them.  It sets you up for a possible placement disruption and honestly, you will truly never be of any help to them at all.  It really is so hard to put into practice with some children though.

We have certain rules in our home, in place, that can not be broken, ever.  There are never boys allowed in girls rooms or girls allowed in boys rooms.  Not even for playing.  Tim and I are the only ones that change any diapers, ever.  The only bedroom with a door on it, is the Master bedroom.  No one is ever allowed to lock a bath room door.  These are just some of the rules that stand in our home. Not just when doing foster care but also when we took a several year break.  When one has special needs children in the home, in all stages of growth, development, cognition and back rounds, this is just best.  It is better than having something very unexpected happen and have regrets. 

Tim and I have been thru a lot in life.  Every hard time brings us closer and closer and makes us more united and one.  We try to serve God in all we do.  When we know a foster child is coming to live with us, we sit down and explain the situation the foster child is coming out of, to the children in our home, that can understand.   At times, Tim and I have been asked to take a foster child or children and we have asked the oldest child or children, in our home, if they think we should take them because in some situations, it would not only increase Tims and my responsibilities but theirs as well.  It would be more work for everyone in the home and cause a season of intense stress.  So, we often ask the older children, in our home, to get their opinion on the situation before acting.  Since Stephen was the oldest child for many years, in our home, we often asked him the question about taking in one more child.  He would always listen carefully to the background of the child and say, "No".  "I don't see how we can take even one  more." and go to his room.  It was never even five minutes and he would be back and say,  "I'm sorry, I was wrong."  "How can we say no."  "Where will they go."  "Who will take them.  We have to take them." 
Now that William is the oldest, he seem to go thru the same pattern.  Hearing the stories of these children, knowing the system is full and there are sometimes no other placements for these special needs or harder children, it builds a compassion into my children that they would not other wise have.  A selflessness that I am so happy to see that has grown in them.  I could never have taught them this without them experiencing being a foster/adoptive sibling to these children, that have come thru our home.  Only God can take a situation so broken and bad and use it for such good in all of our lives.  To have my children grow up seeing how blessed they really are.  How much they have in life, to have God, family, love, food and stability.  What they have seen and heard about theses foster care cases  has brought only good in their character and hearts.  God has done this and it is so good to witness.

When doing foster care, there are constant conversations, with our children, about the foster children that we have in our home.   We try to always be open, honest and upfront with our answers.  Our children always have so many questions....why were the children taken from their parents?  Are they staying or going somewhere else?  Why does this child or that child do this behavior, hoard food or have night terrors?  To explain why, helps our children give these foster children grace in their hearts, about the behavior they are seeing.  A compassion.  All of our children have at one time or another said to me.  "Mom, I will never do drugs or drink and do this to my child."  This is a profound statement.  I could talk to my children about the addiction of alcohol, not doing drugs and pray that they understand and stay away from these things in society.  I could preach to them about the damage they can cause in a persons life but them seeing the outcome, disabilities and struggles of the children exposed or neglected because of addictions, speaks volumes to their core.  They see the broken families because of it all. 

Now that I have spoken my heart on the heavier issues, I will share the precious side.  The love.  God has used the many foster children who have come thru our home, to grow us and shape us all.  All of our children embrace all children no matter the skin color, ability or disability.  They see the beauty in all children they meet.  My older children are so tender and loving with the young foster children we have. 
I see them stop and regress to sit down and play patty cake or peek-a-boo with the baby.  Or choose to watch Sesame Street or Blues Clues with the toddlers when told they can watch a show.  I have seen my older children, try to help the babies we have had, learn to crawl or walk.  Pick them up and rock them just because they feel like it or give comfort when the child is fussy and I am busy. 
All of our young children we have adopted used to climb up onto Antonio's lap, in his wheel chair and be cuddled when sleepy and needing to be still for a while.  This is our normal and it blesses my heart.

More specifically...child by child... I can say that doing foster care this time around...

Even though Stephen does not live home anymore, he comes to visit often.  He loves to play with  and spend time with his siblings.  True to form, even though he questioned if it was wise we take in more children at our age,  he is supportive of our decision and loves the foster children we have in our home.  I believe it is because he understands the big picture of it all, as he was raised in it.  He does special things for each child and spends time with them all when he comes.  Even with baby "K".

Antonio loves the toddlers and baby.  I can ask him to watch a toddler play in the living room while I cook dinner (I can see the living room from the kitchen) and he feels like a big help to me and tells me every move they make and what they are doing.  He was the first one to ever see our baby "K" roll over, as I had asked him to watch her playing in her crib while I was doing something for a moment in the next room!  He loves all our foster children.

William has a tender heart and understanding for what the children have went thru as he is older.  William and I have had very long and in depth conversations about the state of this world and how and why these things happen to the children that come into foster care. 
He often picks up baby "K" and plays with her, rocks her and loves on her.  She always gives a smile and squeal when he picks her up as she knows how much fun she has with him.  William often will pick up one of the toddlers and throw them in the air, tickle them, chase them around or pick them up and run them thru the house with their arms out pretending they are airplanes.  They LOVE this and want me to do it too.  Not a chance.  Ha ha.  They are way to heavy.  He also will sit and build with legos with "B" or build elaborate railway systems for them out of the wooden rail way. 

Carolyn LOVES children.  On sunny days, she asks to take "T" out to swing, as it is his favorite thing to do.  She will also watch "B" ride his bike or play on the playground. 
She wants so badly to mother baby "K" but with the baby's floppy tone and weight, now that she is older, it is not safe for Carolyn to pick her up and carry her around but Carolyn longs to.  She wants to.  I let Carolyn hold baby "K" and rock her in the recliner and Carolyn often sits down to play with her on the floor with baby toys.  She begs to feed baby 'K" but I prefer to do it.  Once in a while when I am very busy I will let Carolyn do it and she is in heaven.
Carolyn loves to pick out cloths for the children and would just love to take over with them if I would let her.  :)

Zeke has autism and does not like change at all.  When we first talked to him about going back into foster care he told me one day he was praying the child we took in would be a girl.  He told me this many times.  I thought it was very sweet to want a baby sister.  One day I asked him why and he said, "So he didn't have to have a baby in his room crying all night and smell the stinky diapers."  :/  Ok...not so sweet.  :)  But very honest.  When the foster toddlers came to live with us, they were a handful, very loud and screamed a lot as they were detoxing Meth.  Zeke literally hid and stayed in another room from them for a few weeks.  He would come and peek into the room they were in, watch them and then go and play in his quiet area on the front porch.  He slowly started to warm up to them and now loves them very much.  Zeke functions at about a five year old level in many areas, so he likes a lot of the same things that "B" does.  So they actually play together a little.  Zeke likes to play toddler games with "T" like chase me. 
He likes to take "B" out to the playground to play as "B" likes to run and climb and ride bikes like Zeke does.  So they have buddied up some.  It has actually been good for both of them and myself as it burns off some of "B"s high energy and helps Zeke be more social.  Zeke is still trying to figure out his relationship with baby "K".  He does not speak much and "K" likes to be talked to.  But Zeke will walk up a lot to her and give her toys or rub her soft head for a moment and smile at her.  It is very sweet and tender to watch him with her.

Elizabeth has deep issues with close personal relationships.  She is a pleasure around strangers or acquaintances but can not act appropriately to the people that love her and are close to her.  She deeply enjoys playing with the toddlers but because of her strong, stubborn, personality, she often ends ups squabbling or fighting with them while playing even though they are much younger.  I have to supervise her with them at all times if she plays with them.  So the rule is she is not allowed around them unless she asks permission. 
She would never hurt them but fights over toys, tattles every few moments and wants to be bossy and correct every little thing they do that bothers her.  We have always had to work on her people skills around all people.  It is part of who she is.  She is very sweet with baby "K" but again, I have to supervise her.

We have a large, diverse and busy family.  It is loosely structured. 
Tim and the foster toddlers playing Legos.
I have to have routine in order to get so many things done in a day but it is loose enough to run out to a doctors appointment or take the children out to a play park on a nice after noon.  Most foster children placed in our home have done very well, by the grace of God.  They see the structure,  respect, love general obedience and behavior of our children and try to model it over time.  All of our foster children are allowed to call us what they wish.  All have chosen to call us mom and dad I believe because our children call us that.  I think having a large and loving family is so good for the children that come into our home because they get bathed in love and positive stimulation all day long.  There is always someone to play with, a lap to sit on, some one to comfort them.  I am not always available.  I have barn work to do, food to prepare, a home to keep clean, home schooling to get in and appointments to make and keep.  We all work together to do what needs to be done.  This is a family calling.  A family mission.  God is worthy, we give Him all the glory, for all the positive things that anyone sees in our life and family.  Days are not always good, many days are down right long and hard but in it all is such sweetness and joy.  A lot of how you feel about life is where you place your focus.  We feel honored to serve in this way.  To see the miracles and changes made in these children, we have been blessed with, is enough.  Tim and I are blessed to overflowing.   God is so good.

Psalm 100:5  For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.



Saturday, March 14, 2015

Almost Spring!

I can feel it!  I am ready for it!  Spring!

The weather is warming daily.  The frogs are peeping in the pond and turtles are out sunning themselves.  I have seen a lot of geese flying North.  The daffodils are up so cheerful and the forsythia bushes are blooming as well.  I see swollen buds on trees and bushes everywhere.  The ponies are all happy that the grass is finally growing.  The ground is covered with hen bit and chick weed.  Those are the first things that start to grow here in Georgia when the weather warms.  It carpets everything.  God is so good.

I got my spring rush of energy a few weeks ago and have been busily working inside sorting and deep cleaning.  I am itching to get some things done outside but we have had so much rain, its to wet to really do any of the projects on my list. We might attack cleaning and organizing the barn one day next week as we can do that rain or shine.

All of the baby goats have gone to new homes except the little doe I am retaining.  I kept a little buckling to keep her company till she is big enough to blend into the herd.  Bottle feeding two baby goats is not to much work and the children enjoy watching them grow.

I have no lofty gardening plans this year.  I am still very busy with our three young foster children and their many intense needs.  So I don't want to get in over my head, in things that need attention from me daily, when these children need me so much right now.  I might put in a few tomato and pepper plants and call it good for the year.

The children are all doing well.

Stephen is busy with his life in a town north of us. 
He comes to visit frequently.  He has owned one cat for many years but got a new kitten recently, so we have been receiving cute photos, as it has grown, over the last few months.

Antonio was having a lot of trouble with his joints locking up and muscles being very tight.
He started getting Botox shots a few months ago and taking Baclifin.  It has helped tremendously in our ability to get his shirts and hand splints on him.  He is still tight but we can move his joints a little easier.  Here is a picture of his Gecko Franklin.  He loves that little guy.  I was giving him a warm water soak.
William has been going over to our local college twice a week to participate in their GED program.   He has, for the most part, been able to drive himself.  He is still struggling with his health but is doing good over all.  His new dog has been such a blessing for him.  He spends a lot of time with her and I can tell it keeps his stress levels down.

Carolyn  is about to undergo testing by our local school system.  She is a little nervous about it all.  We need to see exactly where she is at and how her psychological looks in order to get full understanding of how to help her plan for her future.  She will be 15 very soon and we need to start to think about, what is available to her, with her special needs in life, to be successful and as independent as possible. 
She has been practicing ballet in her spare time as her recital is in May and she wants to do her best.

Zeke has gone thru a huge growth spurt and his voice has gotten very deep.  I often have to think who is speaking in the next room and realize it is him in his grown mans voice.  He is spending a lot of time working on his animation and videos he makes. 

He tries to have a movie made for Tim and I to watch each Friday Night Movie Night.  The children take pictures of each other all the time and doctor them with funny things.  Here is Zeke in a mustache sent to me from William!
Zeke said for me to post it.  My very serious young man.  He only smiles if asked  to or if something strikes him as very funny.
Elizabeth has also gone thru a huge growth spurt. 
Carolyn throwing a snowball at Elizabeth throwing a snowball at Zeke, two weeks ago in the big snow!
She is taller than I am now and has gotten a bit thin.  I have had to up her calories to try to get her weight to catch up with her height.  She loves to eat so she is enjoying it.  We usually have to watch her weight the other way so she is enjoying the larger portions and treats.  She is also practicing a lot for her ballet recital.  Last year she had a broken ankle and could not participate properly, so she is working extra hard and ready to dance this year for everyone.
Reading in bed.
"B" is still having a lot of behavioral issues but I can see him maturing lately and trying harder to please us.  He has come so far but has a long way to go. 
"B" out in the snow with Yellow two weeks ago!
We recently had him tested and they feel he has a syndrome.  Most likely Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.  He is very impulsive and full of energy.  I mean really full of energy.  I can not easily even take him out in public his behavior is often so bad but... He understands so much lately I am able to talk to him about it and the repercussions he will have once home (loss of privileges or time out) and can now steer him into being good sometimes, which is nice.  He is a very smart little boy and loves to learn.  We enjoy reading books together and surfing the internet to see things he is interested in learning.  He still struggles with his eating.  It takes him over and hour to eat each meal.  Chewing is very hard for him.  We took him to the dentist and he has about 10 cavities from his previous life.  He will have to be put under to have them all fixed at a local hospital.  He needs 5 crowns.  Hopefully that will help his eating improve as well once that is all fixed. On a very positive  note "B" is totally potty trained day and night now!  Praise God!

"T" is doing very well. 
One of his favorite pass times!
He is very immature for his age and has his own set of developmental issues but is a delight as most of his issues are not behavioral.  He has a lot of sensory issues and a has a few melt downs daily over those but all in all he is a lot of fun and a pretty easy child.  I was worried about his development and had him tested as well when I had "B" tested.  They feel "T" is on the autism spectrum.  I will take him to the school system to have him tested, when he is older, to get a definitive diagnosis.  But the testing we had done so far helps me tremendously in understanding what is bothering him, why and how to help him have better days.  Even though he is no where near ready to understanding potty training, we started some "mommy training" with him.  Just putting him on the potty after meals to catch his bowel moments.  I did this as he has constant very loose yeasty potty and it tears up his very fair skin in his diaper area.  We have been working with him a few weeks now and his bottom looks wonderful and he knows to push if  he has to go when he is on the potty now.  So this is wonderful considering his cognitive ability right now.

Baby "K" is looking much less like a baby now and more like a toddler. She is 10 months old.  She is far behind according to the developmental charts.  Those things are so over rated anyways.  :)  But is progressing nicely.  God really is doing an amazing miracle in her.  When she came she could not see and did not even blink to protect her eyes.  She now will  smile at me, if I smile at her, from even up to 10 feet away!  She has optic nerve hypoplasia and is considered legally blind but is using the vision she has wonderfully!  When she came she was a very floppy little baby and did not move her body  much at all.  She seemed to not know she had arms and legs and when she did move them, she acted like they were to heavy to move.  She can now roll over both ways.  She can pivot around while on her tummy, in a circle and she just learned to sit!
So she is doing really great.  I can see her trying to figure out crawling.  But she is missing part of the the nerve bundle that connects the two halves of her brain (Hypoplasia of the Corpus Callosum) so coordinating moving both halves of her body is very difficult.  She also has low tone CP so things like crawling or walking is really going to be hard for her to learn.  I can see her determination and with much prayer and us helping her practice, I can see she will crawl one day soon.  Maybe in a few months.  All in Gods timing! She is such a treasure and blessing to our home.  A very happy, sweet good girl!

God is so good and even though we have hard days at times, we feel so very blessed in life.  May the Lord God in heaven be with you in all you do.  Leading and guiding you to preform the works He has for you to do for others in life.

Hebrews 4:16  Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.