Tuesday, July 10, 2018

You Call It My Victory

It's July, how can that be?

The past few days have been cooler and wonderful and with that the knowledge that it won't be long before the stifling, hot days of summer are gone and with it October.

October has always been my favorite month.

I love fall, I love the crispness and colors of October, the holidays coming up and of course my birthday.

This October brings our next court date and what to me at times seems like the inevitable pull of our baby further and further from us.

There's not much to be said about this except that God still reigns and there is no way this will go in our favor without a Divine intervention, if things continue the way they are.

So I'm praying and I trust Him.

I don't understand this system except that there are courts and parental rights and protocols and it all seems very very far from the actual well being of the child.

Isn't life unjust sometimes or maybe nearly all the time?

But I have the greatest defender, more powerful than any judge or lawyer.

And He goes before I know, that He's even gone to win my war.

I live and breathe that song often, when all this seems like too much to take.

Sweet baby, we love you. We are all fighting for you, even if it's just being still and letting Him go before.



Thursday, May 10, 2018

Foster Care | Sweet Baby R

News, almost four months later.

In January we picked up a 3 day old precious baby boy from the hospital. It was so surreal. I got an email at 2pm on a Wednesday and then by 6:30pm I was dashing through Target, buying a carseat and clothes for him to come home in on the way.

I remember thinking in the car, I have no idea what I'm getting myself into. I imagined sleepless nights and crying at all hours. I'll never forget carrying the empty carseat through the parking lot, the stars twinkling above the hospital lights, the night air crisp and cold. We found our way through security and into the nursery where a nurse let us in. Since the social worker wasn't there yet, we weren't allowed to hold the baby but I could see the nurses changing him across the room and how small and tiny he was.

We packed him into a carseat, with a tiny knitted cap on and left the hospital with just a bag of blankets made by hospital volunteers and a few bottles of formula to get us through the night. We had dropped Breanna off at Witt's mom's house and I remember walking back through the door with the baby and seeing Breanna's face when she saw him, jumping up and down excited.

We let her hold him on the couch and then I asked Cathy how do I heat up the bottle? Having breast fed her four children we were both at a loss, and she heated up the stove and we warmed it there and I fed him for the first time (the next day she showed up with a bottle warmer and that problem was solved).

He had a lot of dark black hair, rosy caramel skin and later I would learn, big brown eyes.

When we got home Witt's friend Adam came over and he and Witt went out and bought a bassinet and diapers and wipes. For some reason the image of them putting together the bassinet while I held my newborn baby is also forever etched in my mind.

Maternity leave was some of the best weeks of my life.

Our precious baby R somehow is the best baby in the world. He struggled a bit the first few nights, not sleeping unless my hand was on his stomach. The smells from the womb weren't there and that was displacing for him. But he quickly adjusted and usually only cried when hungry and tired. Waking up in the night with him was a joy, and spending my days walking him through the neighborhood in the stroller, toting him to many doctor appointments and singing to him while I fed him are some of the best memories.

Once maternity leave was over I had to go back to work. Getting up for work after having been up during the night was so exhausting. There were moments I would wake up with the alarm and think, I don't know how much longer I can keep doing this.

But like most things in life we settled into a routine and working and taking care of my two children has became normal. We've gotten onto a good schedule and I love picking him up from daycare and kissing his sweet cheeks.

Oh his case. It has been so stressful. Where he will be in the coming months continues to be unknown. Yet God keeps me here to rely completely on Him.

I hope to post more because I do want to remember all the details of his precious life.

For now I'm grateful...and waiting.


Saturday, December 9, 2017

Tis the Season

Gypsy Slow Down


Snow Day photoshoot with my beautiful girl.

Witt was working today and lo and behold it snowed. The roads were fine, so Breanna and I wrapped up and set out to do a little downtown Christmas shopping.

It was the perfect day- most people stayed home and so everything was quiet and pretty.

We went into a few gift shops, stopping by the train and the miniature train display.



Gypsy Slow Down



Gypsy Slow Down



Gypsy Slow Down



Gypsy Slow Down



Gypsy Slow Down



Gypsy Slow Down



Now I'm looking up places to visit Santa tonight while Breanna plays paper dolls and Oh! I love this season of life.



Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Foster Care | Adoption!!

I'm so excited to announce the adoption of our daughter...



Hartwell Photography



Breanna Valancy | November 28th, 2017




Hartwell Photography



Hartwell Photography



Breanna is her beautiful name at birth and we chose Valancy as her middle name, from my favorite book Blue Castle, by L.M Montgomery. 

It means Strength and Courage- and describes her perfectly.




Hartwell Photography




Hartwell Photography




Hartwell Photography




Hartwell Photography




Hartwell Photography


It's hard to believe it's been almost a year since Breanna moved in with us. When I think of this year and how tough the first 8 months were I can only thank God for happy endings.

When I think of the leaps and bounds Breanna has made it's staggering- not only is she taller and healthier but she's brave and kind, thoughtful and respectful...the list goes on.

These few months with just her have been so sweet. 

She is resilient and precious- and she is thriving as our daughter.

My prayer is she always feels safe. Always feels loved.

Maybe one day I'll be able to put into words all I learned from this year, and maybe I'll be able to put into words exactly what we experienced- or maybe I never will.

All I know is we are right where we are supposed to be. And I am forever thankful for the journey that got us here.

I love you my sweet daughter. 


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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

My Shoes

I'm sitting here with a cat in my lap, a glass of white wine and Diana Krall radio playing in the living room. There's also a plate of one bite eaten tilapia (it's undercooked mama! that's why I don't like it! clearly someone watches too many food competition shows...) with roasted potatoes and ketchup, and a 6 year old playing reading games on the computer in my bedroom and I'm tired.

But it's the good kind of tired, the worked all day and am still working kind of weary and its different than the stressed out, bone weary I'd been the past 8 months, from August backward.

I'm turning 30 next month. And if there's one thing I'm realizing as I get older it's that the opinions of others don't matter as much as they used to.

Opinions of my family, my parents, my friends, my peers - in the past they have been a blanket around me. Well, I'm doing good, I'm meeting approval, I'm well-liked, I can hide my flaws, I can please you by being agreeable. This is comfortable and feels good.

But sometimes life is so imperfect that you can't please everyone no matter if you want to or not.

And sometimes you make choices that you feel are right and you turn your cheek to the disapproval because it's your life, not theirs.

We are down to one foster child. Our teen's behaviors became so challenging we could no longer handle them- no matter what we tried. Intense family therapy being the last straw.

And I've grieved this. I've tried to explain what it was like to live with him. The constant strain and stress he put on our house. His relationship with his sister, who is still with us. The constant tension and dominance he lorded over her. The likability that quickly sours when you start asking things of him.

The way he didn't want to be part of a family- he wanted to be a parent of himself.

And I've gone round and round about the part I played in it. Asked myself why I was so attached to him, why I fought so hard for him, why I made so many excuses for him and overlooked so much.

And I keep going round as social workers, guardians, and even health care workers call me asking for his back story- how can we help him, what does he need, how can we knock some sense into him? Because his behaviors are just as intense if not more outside our home.

And I think it can be summed up in one sentence, courtesy of my dear co-worker.

You don't regret loving him because you know you did everything you could.

And that's that.

And I pray for him and think of him more than I wish I did, and sometimes my stomach turns when I think of how he turned on me, blamed me, lied about me and then sometimes I feel extreme sadness.

But I know some people can't understand why we let him go, why we didn't keep giving him chance after chance.

And to those people I have to lovingly remind myself- they didn't walk in our shoes. They didn't live in our home.

Our social worker wanted to remove him months before we finally agreed it was time. And so I let those opinions go as they come...I can't please them. They wanted me to be his savior and Lord knows I tried. But only God can save us.

Life right now is peaceful. It's good. It feels right.

I'm a working mom. And that feels right too. I pick up my daughter from after-school and sometimes we walk home together and sometimes we drive if its hot or rainy and I look forward to seeing her, to reading together, cooking dinner together, going through our evening routine of bedtime and baths and prayers.

 I've seen her thrive and change and mellow, just being in our stable home, with our love and our guidance and I know that the statistics are true- the main influence is home life.

It's what affects kids the most. And I live in my shoes. And I live in my home.

Almost every morning my daughter wakes up before she should, comes into my room and crawls up on the bed with me where I'm doing my devotions, drinking my coffee. She snuggles up and I read out loud to her, and I wonder if she smells the coffee and thinks my robe is soft the way I remember my mom in the morning, sitting on the red couch we used to have, doing her devotions, sipping that deep roasted smelling coffee before starting the day.

And I am so lucky to live this life. To have experienced the pain in order to see the growth, to feel the peace compared to the heart ache and to know that's its true...

...joy really does come in the morning.


Saturday, July 1, 2017

Hello Again

I closed my blog for a while because this blog was always about documenting my life and my life lately has been too difficult to document. It's not just my life anymore and as I hit publish I felt like I was exposing my family and one day they'll grow up and read and so I deleted a few things and it was just too hard.

It's all been too hard.

I remember reading about foster care prior to becoming a foster parent.

I remember thinking, why is everything so negative? Why are these families so exhausted? What's RAD, ADHD, SPD, and a host of other diagnoses?

How can a child have PTSD?

Once you take a child into your home and they are safe and feel loved isn't that enough?

Isn't it enough to discipline and show affection and provide for all their needs?

It's not.

One of my least favorite things to hear is, oh my "insert age" child was terrible when she was "insert age" too.

"That's just normal child behavior"

"Kids are hard"

"Parenting is tough"

Yeah, parenting is tough. Foster parenting is different. It just is. And unless you are right in the middle of the battle you can't possibly understand. You can't understand that while the normal kid behaviors are there they are also under a layer of other issues that are often mind-boggling when you try to comprehend.

So I felt like my complaining was coming across as...complaining. And it was making me weary because I was trying to make some imaginary audience understand what we were going through.

But I can't.

No one can understand.

I went, one night, utterly and completely exhausted, to a foster/adopt mom's get-together. Everyone had adopted, all younger kids, and they were all gushing about the Connected Child conference. I shared my story of what we were going through and what I got in response was, "oh, really...huh...well... you have to read the Connected Child."

I have read it. It's never been a magic solution with my kids. But the night got better <sarcasm> because then we got to watch videos on attachment parenting.

At that moment I was having a hard time attaching to my youngest, having a difficult time dealing with her disrespect and attitude and feeling less than loving towards her (I'm so thankful thats not the case anymore, it took time). But bring on the mom guilt. I texted Witt and said, get me out of here.

So I left. Left those three lovely women who through no fault of their own made me feel like I didn't belong. That I didn't get it. That I wasn't rocking this foster mom thing.

This week the kids were away, one at summer camp, one at my parents for a few nights.

I had forgotten what my life was like before they came. Forgot how peaceful, how quiet, how in control I felt of my own home. Sure, it wasn't perfect before. I was lonely, I wanted a family, there were things that I didn't like.

But it was my home again.

All the time I'm convincing myself, that this isn't about me. It's about pouring my life into these kids and making their lives better. That we weren't put on this earth to take but to serve. That Jesus laid down his life for me, can't I do that for them?

And I've been fighting...fighting...fighting...hanging on, trying to make it work, doing everything in my power to help...

But sometimes you have to let go of control.

I've prayed. I've curled up in a ball beside my bed sobbing for the situation on more occasions that I can count. Others have joined us in praying, are still praying. I'm still praying. But it's not up to me.

I'm making bone broth (this blog used to be about cooking, right?) and I put onions and carrots and thyme, pepper and a roasted chicken carcass. And it seems like a waste, to put all those big ingredients into the water because afterwards I'm going to strain it and throw it away and I'll be left with just the broth.

Is it a stretch to say that sometimes it feels like a waste to pour myself into this situation, to give so much time, money and effort and to feel like there is no return visible?

But just like I can't see the vegetables anymore in the broth, the flavor is there. It's permeated every part of the soup.

So that's what this journey is. It's pouring in, it's loving, it choosing, even if you don't see results. Because you may not. But they are there, underneath and everything you do as a foster parent is building up these kids, planting seeds, helping them to someday, hopefully, overcome and be able to live a successful life.

I just have to remind myself of that from time to time.






Monday, April 3, 2017

Violets

I don't think I'll forget it.

The way they both ran up the driveway as my suitcase hit the pavement, both hugging me, B shrieking, T pulling on my arm, wanting me to see everything he'd done to the yard...

...the sweet little violets he picked out at Lowe's and planted for me. My favorite- I'm always stopping to pick them out of the grass on walks...

...the way B kept saying, I just don't know what to say! when I gave her the little heart necklace with her name on it...

...how grown up T looked showing me the riding lawnmower they got working, driving around the backyard like a maniac shouting that this was "good driving practice..."

Sometimes breakthroughs are hard to see until you've been away but they are there just the same and God is working...I know through all the prayers being sent our way...

I've often wondered what it would be like to have a child love you just because you're their birth mom. Unconditionally, even if that parent has deserted you or treated you terribly... 

But I will say- having a child choose to love you feels just as powerful.

And so worth it. 



Wednesday, March 22, 2017

March 2017


I fixed the kids pizza from a pre-made crust, sent Witt and T off to church and ate some salmon and broccoli while B watched Veggie Tales because that was literally the only thing to eat and if I had had chips and salsa it would have been that instead. With cheese.

I had just gotten back from a walk around the neighborhood with T where we discussed what happened in school today only I was legit out of words and he mostly denied everything that happened and basically thinks everyone is out to get him.

And they probably are, because he has a target on his back that's 75% his fault and 25% being a foster teen in the school system.

I've said everything. I can't think of anything else to say, and he just looks at me and there is nothing in him that is trying to lie to me, and his brown eyes are hiding a lot and it's not lies it's pain.

Psychologically he is in survival mode-- it wasn't me. He can't see himself as the problem. That's how I'll get through this, that's how I got out of tough situations before.

That and throwing the first punch.

 When I finished my actually healthy meal, I opened instagram and saw a post from someone talking about how hard parenting is. And I put my head down on the table and cried.

It is so hard.

And it's double hard co-parenting with the State, who, when you talk about the behavioral issues your six-year-old is having, just wants to revert back to things we changed already.

And I know that his behavior is mostly stemming from trauma he endured not just at his parents hands but at his former foster home too, and I hate them,

all of them,

I hate all the people and the years that the locus destroyed.

I feel so powerless, and I love them but sometimes I don't like them or myself, and I wonder if it will always be this way.

If every day will feel like a struggle, like an uphill climb, like regression and regret and if I'll ever sit at work again not jumping every time the phone rings and I hear something from the school.

I've lost five to ten pounds since we started this journey and I'm not sure why except maybe it's the acid turning in my stomach on a daily basis or the fact that I no longer sit on the couch and read magazines with a glass of wine but I watch super hero movies or play video games, fix lunches, give baths, attempt to clean, do dishes, force teenagers to sweep the floor, go for walks because that's the best time to talk or a run or ride bikes or laundry laundry laundry.

And in the midst of that I try to install values and teach respect and break up the fights and encourage Witt to step off the ledge and write notes of encouragement and apologize when I get it wrong or yell or am too harsh.

But sometimes I don't know if it's too late. If the damage to their brains from the trauma is too much, the hurt and rejection and instability and dangerous lifestyle, has it done too much?

Am I doing enough?

Why on my way home from work do I want to steer the car in the opposite direction of the house?

And I read and repeat: I will restore the years the locus has destroyed. Job 25.

When I sit on the edge of his bed and pray with him and run my fingers through his curly hair I know God can.

When he asks if I'm going to pray or lets me know I forgot devotions I know God can.

When she hugs me and tells me I'm the sweetest mommy I know God can.

When she is helpful and sweet and outgoing I know God can.

When its' rough and the bad moods are plentiful and I feel like an entire system is against me I know God can.

I know I can't. All the love I have for these kids, all the ways they feel like mine, all the plans I have for their future, I can't do enough.

But God can.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Foster Care | Two to Four

It's been almost 3 weeks since our family went from 2 to 4. 

Three weeks since I went from taking care of myself to taking care of a 6 and 13 year old.

 Three weeks since my heart exploded and my energy level went from normal to so.tired.all.the.time. 

It's been incredible, hard, wonderful, more beautiful than I ever imagined. 


There have been moments like tonight when I cried while watching Frozen for the 4th time because I'm so overwhelmed with how a 13 year old can push your buttons one second and then the next you are staring at him wondering how you were so blessed to get such a resilient, goofy, gorgeous child who brushes your hair and complains about how "nappy" it is and makes the most hilarious voices while playing battleship. 

How kisses covering your face from a 6 year old and arms wrapped so tightly around your neck can feel so warm and amazing one moment and the next, when you are trying to walk through a crowded restaurant to the bathroom after your food just came can make you want to scream.

It's up and down, and all around, all the time. 



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But these kids. They are incredible. They've been through more than any adult should have and yet the love they have and the bitterness that is nonexistent in their precious spirits has me in awe everyday. 

I wouldn't trade them for anything. Has it been perfect? No. They aren't trusting of strangers so meeting family over the holidays was overwhelming at times for all of us.

But one minute my son is quiet and reserved around my family at the beach and then a few hours in, he's grabbing my purse and doing a duck walk through the parking lot causing everyone to die laughing. He is obedient yet pushes boundaries, hard working yet wants to play all the time. His smile can light up a room and his potential is definitely there.

And my daughter is sweet and spicy, caring and affectionate with just the right amount of sass. She cries over silly things and clings to me like no other. Yet one minute she's jumping up and down saying, "I missed you Mommy!" when I was just in the next room, and then the next day I come home from work and she's so busy playing outside she doesn't look up. 

Seeing Witt pray with her before bed makes my heart zing and hearing him speak wisdom into his life makes me proud. 

The kids fight with each other and then they take care of each other, he insisted on trimming her hair but doesn't want to help with her homework.

They are complicated and just kids all at the same time.

I wouldn't trade them for anything.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Foster Care | We Are Licensed

Written December 11th

I'm sitting here eating leftover oven fries from last night (which I may have sprinkled cheese on) while my new 9 year old friend watches Goosebumps in the sunroom. A show I find incredibly creepy but when someone is just staying for the weekend, and you are a stranger, you don't try to change them or their TV show tastes. You just want them to feel comfortable.

On Monday our foster care application worker came to the house and brought our new ongoing worker to meet us. We sat around the table in the dining room to talk about our application, that was sent off just a few weeks ago. We were fully expecting not to hear anything until January or February but our worker dropped a bomb shell when she told us, "Your license was sent back."

My heart sank. What didn't they like? Was it Witt's bees in the backyard...that we built a fence around...? Was it....what could it be??

Then she said, "Sent back approved!"

We were so surprised, as were they, that it had been processed so quickly. And on that note, she asked if we would be willing to do respite care this weekend.

During the week as we were setting up the respite care, our worker called me at work. She wanted to conference Witt in, so after I finally figured out how to add someone to a call she told us about another placement, one that could be more long term.

It seems like just a second ago I thought we were looking at February and now we were talking about maybe having kids for Christmas and New Years, and a new school year.

It could be that last weekend was our last as two people for a long time.



GSD


As my friend at work says, who was a foster mom, this process is a roller coaster. One minute you are up and the next you are down. So things can change.

But as of now, the process has OFFICIALLY started.

The long application process is over.

We have almost survived a whole weekend of respite care. We went bowling, to a Christmas parade, made copious amounts of apple cider and popcorn and have gotten to know a really really sweet kid who I will miss when we drop him off tonight.

And the future is being planned and I am so ready- ready to fall in love, for the hurts and troubles, for the known and the unknown.

Ready.





Monday, November 21, 2016

Beach Vibes

We went to Wilmington, NC for a weekend and it was incredibly nice to get away and spend some time together. 

We've been to Wilmington several times because we really like the river walk and the beaches nearby are beautiful but we've not stayed downtown until now. 

We stayed at the Wilmingtonian and it was so worth it.

Nestled right downtown, we were able to walk out the door and get drinks and oysters before heading to dinner. In fact we walked everywhere which is one of my favorite things about cities.




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My grand idea was to get lunch at Flaming Amy's once we got to Wilmington which Witt loves and have a picnic on the beach. We were bundled up but not all prepared for the extreme winds. 

Sand was blowing in my hair, my food, it was a crazy windy day.

But it was fun to walk.

I love the beach in winter. I like how quiet it is with so few people. 
I'm not a laying out in the sun kind of person anyway, and I think the blues and silvers are even crisper in cold weather.




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Witt wanted to go to Good Hopps Brewery which we had never been to before and so while we waited for it to open we visited one of the state parks and walked along the river. 

There was a lot of brush and damage from the hurricane but Witt has a dream of visiting all the state parks in NC so we checked it out anyway.




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I'm definitely a wine girl but I am learning to appreciate the different beers out there because Witt likes to try local and artensal brews. 

All I know about beer is that I like sweeter amber ales but surprisingly my favorite beer at Good Hops that we tasted was a chocolate stout. It was deep and heavy but with notes of spice and a sweetness I enjoyed.

After that we headed to our hotel.  I thought our room at the Wilmingtonian was so cute. It was a suite with a living area, small kitchenette and bedroom that overlooked downtown. 




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We sat outside on the porch which pointed towards the beautiful catholic church. Apparently the rooms of the hotel used to be where the nuns lived and they had a beautiful little garden courtyard that the long porch faced.

 After we relaxed we walked around downtown. We went by the river, some shops and neighborhoods and then to Dockside Oysters for a drink and some fresh oysters.




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I had an oyster-tini which is like a yummy tomato-y bloody mary with a raw oyster in the bottom and the martini glass rim is dipped in old bay and IT IS AMAZING. 

We had raw and steamed oysters and this time I like the steamed oysters best, they had a wonderful creamy richness. 

 We went back to the room and got ready for a late dinner, so we watched food network, sat on the balcony with a gin and ginger and then went out. 

After dinner we sat by the fountain and as I laid my head on Witt's shoulder I thought about how different things are going to be in the coming year. Foster kids, adoption, so many changes.

A lot to think about but a lot to look forward to.




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 The next morning we slept late and then ate at our favorite diner, The Dixie Grill. The sausage and potato skillet is the perfect meal when you've stayed up late and gallivanted around the city.

Exploring downtown.




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As soon as we decided we were going to Wilmington Witt wanted to go to the Serpentarium

I think this is so funny because Witt hates snakes. 

The Serpentarium is basically a deadly snake exhibit, the snakes are either huge boa constrictors or they are incredibly venomous. It's pretty impressive that they have so many snakes that you would never encounter unless you were halfway across the world.

My favorite part, morbidly, is reading the horrible things that happen to people who are bitten and the stories of people who have survived. The only snakes native to NC that I can remember are the rattlesnakes, water moccasins and copperhead. 




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The rattlesnake was very angry with us. At first I thought it was sound effects, but we would stand in front of it and listen to the LOUD eerie rattle and when we walked away it would stop. Crazy.



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Me reading the deadly deaths from various snake bites.




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We wanted to see the beach for the last time before heading out and this ended up being one of my favorite parts of the trip.

 It was a little drizzly, but we sat on the beach and drank a beer with the umbrella for a long time, just enjoying the much less breezy day and the hazy cold ocean air.




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