Wednesday, November 11, 2015

In which month seven brings on the fire...

We're seven months in.  If I had written this post six months in it would have been peppered with "it's hard but you know we've turned a corner I think" or "it's messy sometimes but for the most part I think we're managing it well."  Month seven?  It's kicking our tail.  Like the tail is gone and the body is just a mangled mess of "are we doing things completely wrong" or "are they even feeling like this is home yet?"  SO many things to work through and so much pain that manifests itself in the worst ways.  What we're dealing with now is, finalization.  Next Thursday we fly back to their home city and attend court on Friday to make this thing official, and I'm pretty sure that's what the mess of month seven is all about.  Finality.  Going back "home" but not having any home to go to or any one person to visit because everyone that has been in their lives has hurt them, enabled them, and changed them but with our kids that doesn't necessarily mean they don't WANT to see them.  There's such a tough balance between wanting them to know you're excited for the permanency of them being an official part of your family but at the same time respecting their sadness and confusion over an official goodbye to their birthplace, family and a very sordid past. I was traveling home from Florida at the end of the September with Jashawn in tow and I had this thought...I wonder if he feels relief in knowing that at the end of our 19 hours in the car he will feel like he really is at HOME.  Did he miss it?  Did he long for it?  Because I'll tell you I'm 33 years old and sometimes I still want to be HOME, in my childhood home on Banyan Drive.  There's no other feeling like it, the familiar drive and faces, and the fact that I celebrated birthday's there, holiday's, there's a spaghetti noodle stain on the ceiling in the dining room that my mom has purposefully left there because she knows it reminds her grown children of the time they were probably making her crazy and threw the noodle up there in the first place.  I learned to drive and ride a bike on that street, walked to my friends houses on that street, the pantry door still doesn't close right and I can hear the sound of the back door opening and closing just the same way it always did when my dad would come home every day from work.  The hardest part is that I want them feel connected to this now because my desire is for them to understand what they've been missing for the sole purpose of mending those tiny little broken hearts.
Tonight I tried to reason with my oldest son about why his behavior wasn't acceptable.  I used a calm tone, I was very careful to use my words so as not to allow him the distraction of inaccuracy and I defied in my person every possible stubborn reaction to his hurtful words (which if you know me you know that this was a complete act of God).  This is the dance we do, me and him.  He moves towards me in desperate need of my love, acceptance and affection and then realizes it might cause him hurt so then he serves me up a big ole platter of "I'll show you how much I don't need you".  It hurts.  It didn't hurt in the beginning because time was not on our side, I knew it wasn't ME it was THEM.  It was HER.  SHE left him home for hours at a time to care for his siblings by himself.  SHE allowed unsafe people into her home.  SHE moved them time and time again.  SHE abused drugs.  SHE said unkind things.  SHE called the abuse hotline on HERSELF.  SHE had no intentions of working a case plan and not having her rights terminated.  HIS pain was HER doing but HIS love for HER is still there.  I'm acutely aware that it always will be, and no matter how many books, blogs, forums, articles I read that told me of this phenomenon I knew that I would have to experience it firsthand to truly believe it.  Loving children from hard places cannot be compared to anything else in this world...not one thing.  It puts you in this little bubble that very few people understand and heightens your awareness of how they are treated and causes you to have clarifying conversations almost daily with those in their life.  You want them to be treated just like everybody else, you want that stigma gone because you want them to feel connected and not "weird" to their peers but you also have to come to terms with how that's completely unreasonable.  They must be treated differently because they weren't treated with care in the beginning and I find myself juggling school expectations, family expectations, friend expectations, home expectations and truly, honestly, there are different expectations in all those scenarios.  You just have to but your big girl panties on and keep juggling.  Sure you can take a break and go cry your eyes out in the bathroom but honey you better come back out with those balls a jugglin' because you're in charge of the undoing.  That is in fact what you signed up for when you not so nervously inquired about a sibling group of four in the foster care system.  

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Thursday, May 28, 2015

In which it becomes a fact my mother was actually Superwoman...

I'll tell you right now there's a lot of reflection that comes with adding four kids at one time.  Reflecting on yourself and your needs and wants and their needs and wants while managing a home, a marriage, individual relationships with each child, friendships, extended family, I mean the list could literally go on forever.  Most people have some time to you know, ease into certain aspects of their life changing and make adjustments along the way as needed but we didn't so here we are and this is life and it's beautiful most days and I'm not asking for special treatment.
My mother had seven children.  SEVEN whole children grew in that precious woman's belly and became seven whole children that needed her all day every day until...well I still need her all day every day but in less of a change my poop pants and more of a HOW ON EARTH DID YOU DO THIS kind of way.  Ok lets be honest, perhaps recently there are some days where poop is in my pants.  ;0)  I always tell people (mostly those itching to get out of the house and become "adults") that I didn't find true appreciation for my mom until I moved a thousand miles away for college.  It was then I figured out that she did a lot of freaking stuff for me!  And then of course when I became a mom for the first time we could exchange stories of the usual first mom concerns and laugh it up but I'll tell you...crap just got real when I became a mother of five over night.  Like so real that daily I'm reminded how much more she did for me than was even humanly possible.  I know I said thank you but Lord knows I didn't say it enough because the fact of the matter is if I said thank you every single time that saint of a woman did something for me I'd have said it to her about 25 times a DAY at least.  This role?  It's huge.  And quite frankly?  It's thankless most fact there are times where I even ask for thanks.  I am almost ashamed at myself for what I imagine was the same behavior I exhibited as a child that my own children do when I place their HOME COOKED meal in front of them and at least one complains that I put five pieces of sausage on someone else's plate and only four on theirs.  For the love.  How did they know I show favoritism with sausage quantity?!  I digress...with us specifically we aren't teaching this masterful art form of being grateful to children we've had since birth, we're teaching it to children who haven't been taught it consistently if at all and that my friends, is hard.  Onward and upward, we'll get it figured out and a rhythm will happen...and just like my last post there will be moments where the thank you's are organic and the appreciation is expressed in others ways too.
This morning, I called my precious mother on the phone and was only able to utter five words before bursting into tears.  "I just want to say"...thank you.  Thank you for the late night runs to the store to get an item for a project I told you about at the last second.  Thank you for making me food every live long day.  Thank you for staying up late to switch the laundry so I could wear something special to school the next day.  Thank you for being funny and letting me see you be funny.  Thank you for wiping my butt and for teaching me to not pee and poop my pants and for cleaning up my puke.  Thank you for doing my laundry and picking up a toy I left out on the floor that the dog probably would have eaten that you warned me about leaving out ten times.  Thank you for being there.  For showing me what it looks like to take care of a home and a family, for teaching me how to cook, and for trusting me when I deserved to be trusted.  Thank you freezing my juice boxes so that at lunch when it came time to drink it was still cold.  Mama, thank you so much for praying for me especially now.  The beauty of the similarities we share as "mother" don't have a single thing to do with HOW we came into that role in the first place.  Babies in bellies, baby pick ups in conference rooms or airports.  She gets it.  She gets my exhaustion and my despair.  She gets my complaints and she takes it all in and just assures me that there is pay off eventually, with phone calls just like the one we were having in fact.  My mother was and is still superwoman, I am convinced of nothing less.  So if you're mother is still living, or if you were raised by someone who filled this role in your life, please call her.  Thank her for changing your life by simply taking care of you.  She deserves to hear it, and she deserves to hear it a lot.  And if for some horrible reason your mother was the furthest thing from the woman I described above, please know...there is redemption in a changed path.  Commit to do and act opposite of the woman who played no real part in showing you these values.  There is real beauty in the choice of making that promise to yourself.  YOU deserve it.  Undoubtedly.

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Monday, May 25, 2015

In which we discuss "the gracious one"...

Can we talk about this girl for a minute?  

Like even as I'm writing this my eyes are filled with tears reflecting on what has now been our life these last almost six weeks.  Four and a half years ago her eyes met mine in a conference room here's-your-new-baby-meet-the-birth-mom-sign-these-papers-good-luck-new-parents-goodbye exchange and we began this insanely delicate life long relationship of mother and daughter.  She was the easiest baby to get to smile.  She was beautiful, to the point that in any given shopping trip or outing I would have no less than five people on average stop and tell me how beautiful she was.  Being that I'm average looking at best I began to wonder how I would parent someone whose looks on the outside didn't dictate their worth entirely.  Tyler and I joked frequently about how we would parent a "pretty" child!  We began sprinkling in more "you're so smart"s and "you're so kind"s and commented on those things that internally make her the most beautiful little girl.  With parenting so much is done with this kind of thing in the beginning years with almost little to no visual pay off to even know if its working...until the day you bring four kids into HER house, to use HER toys, to need HER parents, and who aren't necessarily as receptive to "us" being family to them yet.  From the beginning of this year long process I prayed specifically that she would be accepted into their already existing family and vice versa, that she would accept them into ours.  She called them her brothers and sisters right away and drew pictures of us all together before they even came home to us.  At night time when we would say prayers she would almost never forget to pray for them and a few times a week ask when they would come home to us BUT when it came time to put actual actions with those words?  She freaking delivered.  And I wasn't surprised at all.  My girl, she's clutch like that.  Like a kind gracious ninja using hugs and laughter as her weapons, she is the very essence of believing the best about someone and I seriously am so proud of her.  Has it been all fun and games completely void of meltdowns or new behavior?  Of course not, she's only human.  Has it been filled with moments where she fights for what's right, thanks God for them during her dinner prayers and looks like a giddy little school girl when she's going to bed with her sisters?  Yes.  And those moments?  They are so worth it.  They are reassurance to us that being gracious and kind are more long lasting than being beautiful and we have a front row seat and are her biggest fans.  To my first girl and the gracious one, when I get to wake up and see your face in the morning I count myself as the luckiest mama in the world.  When I hear your laugh, hug your neck and kiss your cheeks I never want to stop.  Thank you for being to me what I never knew I needed.    

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Saturday, May 9, 2015

In which five little people sign their name on my Mother's Day card...

Today I received a Mother's Day card in which five little people signed their names, two or three of them truly feeling the connection with me as their mother and another two or three who probably still aren't sure just yet.  This holiday is different for a lot of reasons and in the spirit of full disclosure I can honestly say, I don't feel the connection with all of them yet either.  In fact, I said to Tyler the other night after the worlds largest meltdown..."Is it wrong that I just want to take Emery out and celebrate this day with just her?  What does that say about me?".  And how many of them wish it wasn't me they are celebrating tomorrow but instead the foster mom they just spent over two years of their life with or their biological mom who even though she left them alone for hours at a time still carried them in her belly and are connected in similarities like hair, eyes, and skin color.
One of the tricky things about raising children who are adopted is that this holiday?  It can wreak havoc on their psyche.  All week in school the two oldest worked on little projects here and there that they are supposed to give me for mother's day, and my question they even want to?  All of these reflections, all of these questions and musings are not my Debbie Downer moments at all, it's just the reality of the way we chose to build our family and the hurt that is associated with these very traditional holiday's.  Do we deserve a medal?  No.  Do we want people to feel badly for us?  Never.  Do I want other adoptive parents to know they aren't alone when navigating this rocky terrain?  Without a doubt.  Parenting children from tough places is hands down the hardest thing we've ever done before and we knew it would be.  We didn't imagine this mentality of "oh sweet mother and father, thank you ever so much for giving me a roof over my head, food to eat, and clothes to wear.  However can I serve you this evening."  Sometimes I describe it like there are five little fires burning, lets just call them burn piles so as not to be dramatic.  There are five little burn piles going and we naturally must tend to the one that is getting a little out of hand, sometimes this requires both of us.  When it doesn't the other runs to the next bigger pile and helps keep that one under fire code but then runs back quickly to previous burn pile because the wind has kicked it up a little bit and it needs managed closely.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  For the last 23 days we have tended to these burn piles some days with success and other days with complete failure...and each morning we have to wake up, dust ourselves off and start fresh.  Start with forgiveness.  Start with grace and mercy.  With kindness and love and with the promise of the love of a Savior who has us all hemmed in tightly.
Here is what I know.  Next year will be different.  Next year there will be connection with most if not all.  Next year that week of school will still bring back painful memories of those they miss but I have a little bit of hope that when someone says the word "mom" instead of a question mark, my face will be the one flashing in their mind.
To my little fires, I know these days have been tough and I know that you're tired and that probably more than the fingers on your hands you have wished to go back home to what you know and stare into the faces of those familiar to you.  This little fire dance we're doing?  We'll get it sooner or later and it'll be the best ever and we'll win competitions because of it.  Because we chose to spend hours practicing it and perfecting it and it will become very secondhand to us, very normal and we'll look at each other wondering how in the world we lived our lives separately for so long.  Until that day comes, we'll mess up.  We'll miss some dance practices but we'll get back up, dust ourselves off and promise to do better next time.  I love you.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

In which I break it down...

***DISCLAIMER!  The experiences I am sharing in this post do not indicate that I feel as though every single state or every single office has the same processes or checks and balances as our current office does.  These are my actual real feelings of actual real life events.  This is not mean to be complainy or to raise hell over injustice.***

If you had told me in the very beginning of this whole entire process to become foster parents that I would spend the most time and energy on obtaining information about my future children prior to placement and even more so after I would have said you were a damn fool.  I would have probably thought you were being dramatic or that my experience would be completely different and that I would just ask for things enough in advance so things wouldn't pile up.  I would have done all the things and my process would be the brightest shiniest star in all the land of foster parent stars and I would change that view with my process alone!
I'm here to tell you, for me, this has truly been the most heart breaking, the most confusing, the most infuriating, the most injustice highlighting journey I have ever been a part of.  I have spent the better part of eight months communicating with a social worker who by all intents and purposes should not be doing this for a job.  Again, this is not a complainy post.  This is a fact, a cold hard fact.  I have had to fight for extending prescriptions to allow time for me to make new appointments with new doctors in their new town but on the same token have children given to me at an airport without so much as a paper stating we are their legal guardians.  I have had conversations with supervisors, with CASA case managers, CASA volunteers, nurse case managers, all to find out why one particular child uses an inhaler and why did I have to find that prescription medication unattended in her backpack?  I have had to fight for contact numbers in case of an emergency during our first visit and was just told that we should call their office number over the weekend should the need arise and maybe just maybe they'll check their voicemail over the weekend.  The information I request, the documentation I request is solely for my own knowledge, to help me better understand my children and to help them with this transition.  What have their past grades been?  Are they good at math?  Reading?  What can I work with them on in order to make them feel more comfortable around a 30 new faces in their new class? I have had to fight for these things as if I'm not even remotely important in this process at all.  Sometimes the focus is on the need for more foster parents and how they never have enough and I will say this...the issue is not solely because people are unwilling, it's also because foster parents can be very mistreated.  Situations like this one.  If I wasn't singlehandedly the most stubborn person on planet earth and if my need for justice didn't course through my veins like it does I would be done.  Completely with all this.  I don't know if I would ever do it again.  But then, during bedtime I have a conversation with our oldest boy about his new friend Caleb that goes a little something like this...
J:     Mom, sometimes with Caleb it's like I want to see him every day.  What does that mean?
Me: Buddy, that means you found a friend who shares common interests and treats you kindly.  That's what a true friend is, someone that makes YOU better and someone that YOU make better.

I had to explain to him what friendship FEELS like and Caleb has shown him what friendship LOOKS like.  I have to explain to him why the adults in his life failed him by allowing him to watch scary movies and how that's not his fault and that I'm sorry I can't erase those images from his mind.  I have to leave four lights on in his room while he falls asleep and prop the door open just right so he can't see the "scary" playroom door.  I have to show him the weather app on my phone because he's terrified of bad weather.  Take cell phone photos of the cut on the top of his head so he can make sure no one at church sees it and makes fun of him.  Tyler has to hug him while he cries over the fact that he's worried his real mom doesn't have enough food to eat.  This is real life for him, the worry and the pain and the remembering of the icky that was his former life before foster care and that unfortunately didn't end once he was actually part of the system.  This is the same kid whom the "team" spoke about for the longest during any update phone call and one whom quite frankly is completely misunderstood because he's too little to have a real voice and instead has strangers speak for him.  And they were wrong about him, I knew it then and I know it now.  I see a boy who loves to protect his brothers and sisters with fierceness and love, one who takes his big brother role seriously but has to be reminded it's ok to be a kid and let us be the adult.  I see and experience his response to our consistency even if sometimes that means a consequence. He is one of the bravest people I know and when I first saw his face and learned a little more about him I knew then that he would change me.  He would wreck me and I wouldn't resist it.
So please current foster or foster adoptive parent...don't give up.  On those days where the injustice of your position and lack of control in their real life is hitting you pretty hard, just know that the pain is worth it if it means their pain will subside.  I promise you there will be days you'll stare at email replies with continued unanswered questions and you'll cry.  You'll read it again and you'll cry again.  You'll learn to cry quietly behind closed doors and employ tactics to hide your puffy eyes and red nose.  Push through.  DO NOT GIVE IN.  Ask your closest friends to pray.  Vent to them.  Advocate for them even if it's to someone you know should be on your side.  Get over the embarrassment of being the one they dread getting emails and phone calls from and just forge on.  In those moments, think of the healing you may be able to provide.  In those moments remind yourself that they need you, those precious children need you to make this work for them.  Even though certain moments with our boy are very hard, there is healing in the talking about things.  There is healing when he learns to trust and when he says he misses you after you return from a trip to the grocery store.  Healing in him asking to have his last name be Zielasko on his name tag at church and also on his name tag at school.  Don't let those other people have ruin moments like this, it's worth it you guys.  I promise you it is.

Let me tell you a little something about this photo.  I bought this shirt for J as incentive to manage how he voices his frustrations.  He didn't even wear it the very next day because he wanted to make sure he wore it the same day he saw Caleb.  When we arrived and were greeted this is what he saw and it was SERIOUSLY NO LIE NOT EVEN PLANNED!  Same exact shirt on the same exact day.

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Friday, April 17, 2015

In which I'm reminded how good of a Father He is...

Tonight, while Emery, Jamea and I sat at the dinner table, because the three of us are the slowest eaters on planet earth, I took a moment and looked at my first born.  Like dwell on her sweet face for about 30 seconds.  It was then I realized that I hadn't done this all day.  And it was then that I realized I needed to have a "moment"...and fast.  The tears were welling up and my window of time to get to my room without anyone seeing me upset was closing in at a rapid rate.  And once I got into my room, I lost it.  Tears flowing and heart breaking for what our new normal is now and what that means for my girl was very very palpable.  I mean, the truth is you really can't prepare yourself for moments like this.  What was I supposed to do?  Ignore Emery for an entire day and play prerecorded sounds of children laughing, screaming at each other, screaming at the dogs, and reminding them to have manners?  Nonsense.  So there I sat within arms reach of the girl who made a mama and THAT is when it hit me.  I am so proud of her and how gracious she's being and her genuine excitement for her new brothers and sisters is just perfect!
Anywho.  Back to my story.  So I'm losing my mind in the other room (as quiet as possible), not doubting anything about my choice but allowing myself to be faced with the reality that those days of long uninterrupted conversations with Em are long gone, when I hear it.  As clear as a bell.  "Where's mom?" Jashawn said.  Our room is right off of the living room where they were playing but it is by God's divine providence and maybe an invisibility cloak that I crept into our room completely undetected so I could still hear them playing.  Firs you should know that we have explained to the kids they can call us Tyler and Kari or Mom and Dad, whichever they feel most comfortable with and Jashawn has always positioned himself perfectly, both here and when we visited, so he didn't have to choose a salutation.  My boy asked for me.  And he asked for me when he didn't even know I could hear!  This was when I was reminded that He is good father, in the midst of the storm He sprinkled in that little promise to me.  I got you Kari.  I promised you before and that promise remains.  Hemmed in.

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Thursday, April 16, 2015

In which I officially become a mother of FIVE...

Tomorrow, ahem I'm sorry it's actually today since I'm an insane person and haven't gone to bed yet at 3:45am.  I digress, tomorrow I become officially a mother of five children.  I mean in my brain I've mothered them already, from afar at least, setting up meetings, expressing concerns, planning for them, praying for them, and dreaming about them.  I
This is one of those scenarios where there isn't a whole lot of difference between me carrying a baby in my belly for nine months and picking up four kids from the airport and driving home with them in the car.  It's still surreal and it's still weird, and it's still incredibly terrifying but also incredibly exciting.  Us mothers, we're all the same you know?  No matter how we got there.  We still loved someone we never met, we still planned for them, created rooms for them, took vitamins for them and obeyed cravings for them and all for the same end have them be yours for life.  Mine just happen to be 2,4,5,6, & 8.
Almost one year ago I stared at four sweet faces on a website and together Tyler and I made the first move in blind faith and sheer terror that the Lord would completely plan our steps out until the very end.  That all the glory, all the honor, all the credit and praise is due Him because there is no way on this entire earth that He Himself created that this whole thing could have even been possible.  His plans are made perfect in my weakness and I assure you in this process my weakness was prevalent.

To my fantastic four,
Today's the day.  The day you come home.  And I know it's scary and different and you'll miss some friends back home but I promise...good days are ahead.  I promise we love you and we aren't gong to leave you.  I promise your sister loves you too and has been waiting so eagerly to welcome you into our family.  She may come on a  little strong at first but that's just because she has been stuck with us boring old people for her entire life and is ready for some pals.  She loves you.  She needs you as much as you need her.  My precious littles, do you know how many people here in Indiana love you and have prayed for you?  More than I ever thought possible.  They are our people.  Sweethearts, everything will be ok.  We'll get this little dance figured out.

Love you forever,

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Saturday, April 11, 2015

In which community is essential...

You guys.  I have come to this post and tried to write these words no less than five times in the last week and each time I sit and stare at the computer screen because there's just so much gratitude jam packed into my heart that I just don't know where to start.  And quite frankly if I had finished it the first time I sat down I would have missed sharing more things, because that's what's happening.  More things.  More pressing in.  More showing up.  More meaningful moments.  THIS is the stuff of life, truly it is and we have felt IT.  We have been shown IT.  We are so incredibly humbled by IT.  Love shown in many different ways is just the most beautiful thing to be a part of.
The thing is, Tyler and I?  We are really bad at asking for help.  I don't think this makes us cool.  I think it makes us lame and we've certainly learned our lesson because we have these really great intuitive friends and family who just show up and offer to set up work days to get stuff done and prepare for these kids.  They organize, talk me off room design ledges, paint every single room in our entire house, text me photos of things they find in stores, paint furniture in the dead of winter, don't make me feel badly about monopolizing conversations, refuse repayment,  bring us meals, watch Emery for dates and the list seriously goes on and on and on.  I'm sitting here at my computer and I'm just so overwhelmed and so very thankful.
Almost a year ago Tyler and I "stumbled upon" four siblings available for adoption that were posted on a website called  Almost a year ago we looked at each other and said, "lets go for it".  We've prayed and sought advice from close friends and family and we were led down this path and now in five sleeps we will welcome home the Fantastic Four.  You guys these kids?  They are the raddest kids I've ever met.  They are the most resilient kids I've ever met.  My two favorite worlds, my community and my future children will meet this week and I'm so excited about them getting to know each other because of they both have so much to offer.

Pressing in.  Showing up.  Meaningful moments.  It's go time.

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Sunday, March 8, 2015

In which I plead for the fearful to become the fearless and provide hope for the hopeless...

It's about to get real up in here and I'll tell you why.  I just spent the last two days with my four future children and it was beautiful and complicated and hard and exhausting and funny BUT it was also eye opening and infuriating and very very heart breaking.  Currently these Fantastic Four live in three separate foster homes, the girls are in one together and each of the boys lives by themselves.  This weekend we experienced what it's like to stare desperation in the face, to look that stupid monster right in it's eyeballs and want to take it down.
What I realized this weekend, ok let me be honest what I've realized since starting this process is the INSANE need every state has for GOOD foster parents.  Not adequate.  Not sufficient.  Not three hots and a cot.  But genuine foster parents who are willing to trade in their fear of "becoming too attached" in order to provide hope for kids who in this exact moment in their lives need hope.  They need someone to love them and not expect anything in return.  This weekend I realized that my kids live with adequate foster parent(s).  I'm not being dramatic, I SAW their homes, information was relayed to me from reliable sources...they are not where they should be right now and I will not take this back when I say it but the state is turning a blind eye to kids in these situations but wait for's not their fault.  They have a need every day for foster homes and people simply aren't stepping up so when these kids are removed from tough situations and placed in a home where love isn't given freely and breakfast is not a requirement and neither is actual quality time the only difference is they aren't in grave danger.  They are still in danger but not life threatening danger.  My son was awoken late this morning (not his responsibility) after a late night watching some movie that he fell asleep to which involved some green bad guy with horns, not given breakfast, wearing the same clothes as yesterday, and was not given his medication, while the foster mom called him a turtle because he was moving so slow.  Excuse me?!  Let me see how fast you move when you're given a whopping five minutes to get ready and get out the door...FOR THE LOVE!  Every time we picked him up and dropped him off his foster mom wasn't there or had only just arrived back home.  The same person never answered the door and one girl I am 100% sure was hungover or strung out.  I had to wonder when was the last time he brushed his teeth or took a bath?  Was he wearing clean underwear?  These realizations caused me to really focus on what the issue really is with foster care.  It's not the states and their requirements because Lord knows everyone wants to blame the government.  The real issue is people are being too fearful!  They are afraid of the heartbreak associated with foster care and I'm hear to tell you it's real people!  It's SO REAL.  I will not guarantee that won't happen to you but as followers of Christ as ADULTS...WE should be able to take the hit when it comes to heartbreak because in all honesty when we avoid it we are placing that heartbreak into their sweet little child hands and asking them to deal with it because we can't.  Because we WON'T.  We make them a part of the system that is desperate for foster parents whether they are sub par or stellar.  WE choose that for them when WE don't make ourselves a part of the solution.  They didn't choose this sucky life for themselves, they didn't get to pick that their mother was a drug abuser who slept around and then called the hotline on herself because she couldn't handle her kids anymore.  They didn't choose the anxiety that follows multiple placements which result in multiple schools and new house rules.  They need us to do what the adults in their life have failed to do for them thus far...and that is provide hope.  To love hard and not expect anything in return.  To stand by them and know them when no one else does.  To risk our hearts for them because WE ARE THE GROWN UPS.  We know how to manage those feelings in our adult brains and WE will come out on the other side having learned what it's like to love hard.  To love well.  To love like He first loved us.  To not expect anything in return.  These precious littles need us to step up and take the risk.   If we can do it better in our little corner of the world and change the way kids like my fantastic four are taken care of while waiting for their family to mend or for their new family to be ready then lets freaking do it.  If you've ever thought about doing something like this then I am begging you, don't delay.  Take that next step forward,  Make that phone call and send that email.
I have said it before and I'll say it again not everyone should be foster/adoptive parents.  While we are not called to do the same thing, we are all certainly called to do something.   Offer to make a meal for  foster parent friends who just took in a new placement, watch their bio kids while they take the foster child to a court hearing or doctor appointment, become someone who can provide respite care, donate supplies, or even offer to clean their house.  All of these things can be done by anyone and all of these things help provide hope for them.
I am pleading with the fearful to become the fearless and provide hope for the hopeless.

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Friday, March 6, 2015

Im which after tomorrow I'll never be the same...

This is it. Less than 12 hours before we meet four littles who have occupied our thoughts and decision making for the last 11 months.  Outside of a 15 page photo book we are in fact complete strangers which is actually something that is common as children who have been in the system for two and a half years.  New therapists, new foster parents, new school, new friends, new case workers, and family?  It is important to me that tomorrow they know that they can just be whatever it is they need to be.  No pretenses. No expectations.   
Am I excited?  Yes!  Am I nervous?  Undoubtedly. Am I prepared?  No way.  Am I ok with that?  Let's do this thing. 

Saturday, February 21, 2015

In which I'm reminded...

JUST when I want to make it all about me...when I want to make it all about my pain, my waiting, my sadness, my frustrations, and my stress I am very boldly reminded that it's all about THEM.  My children.  My four sweet littles nine hours away and in three different homes.  The ones whose faces I dream about and hugs I long for.  It's their beating hearts that we're fighting an ill equipped system for...and nothing else.
This week was full of crazy twists and turns and an insane amount of nonsense.  It had taken me two whole business days to coordinate a phone conference with myself, Tyler, the kids social worker and her boss but when we did I thought I had struck gold!  We had to wait a week until the call actually happened but still, I pushed and prodded and in one week I hoped it would pay off handsomely.  Tyler and I had taken some time to organize our thoughts and expectations on paper and certainly felt prepared as far as getting some questions answered!  I had arranged to meet Tyler at home over my late lunch break so we could be in each others presence to swap eye rolls or kick each other under the table if things started to get rowdy.  Well.  30 minutes prior to the call we had rearranged both of our schedules for I received an email from the social worker stating her boss would not be there as planned due to her being ill and leaving early.  To say that I bawled my bloody brains out on the way home would be a gross understatement.  The fact is...I bawled my bloody brains out on the way home.  ;0)  We spent the first 20-30 minutes discussing next steps, deficits in communication, expectations, visits, logistics and while my intention was never to sit there and berate the social worker on the 50 ways she has failed us since July it did take up a decent part of the conversation because it was important.  It impacts us directly and it impacts the kids directly.  Around the 30 minute mark social worker drops a nuclear bomb directly into our ears via the wonderful world of modern technology in the 21st century..."there's something I need to tell you about the youngest boy"...pause...awkward this point I believe my head literally exploded off my body.  "On Friday he was removed from his foster placement due to extreme substantiated abuse towards another child and now his parents are in jail and he's at his second placement in two days."  Ehhhhhhhh.  Whaaaaaaaat?  It was almost too much to process.  And due to a very large miscommunication he would be moved soon from the second placement to a THIRD in less than a week.  As in three.  As in not even how old he is.  Most people at this point upon hearing the horror ask why he couldn't be moved to us instead of three strangers homes...its to do with the ICPC paperwork.  Legally a child cannot leave the state of which they are wards of without this packet of very important paperwork being agreed upon by both the current state and the placement state.  What you need to know at this point is there's no way to expedite this (the only exception would be if we were blood relatives), Indiana has approved our ICPC placement and the paperwork has either just arrived to the central office in Jefferson City or it will very soon.  Beyond that then?  We just wait and pray that things move quickly as they have for us in the land of paperwork.  He is safe for now and while this situation is not ideal it is certainly better than witnessing more abuse.  This conversation with the social worker provided some new insight but not a lot of answers.  So I prayed for that to change.  I reached out to many and asked for prayer in that situation as well.  To pray for our littlest guy to feel protected where he is, for the other foster child who is not well and is suffering significant damage from hateful people who chose to abuse him over abusing mine.  You guys, this was J's one and only placement from the time he was four months old.  He called them mom and dad.  He is suffering a great loss at this point and there will be bits and pieces of that loss that will factor into his hurt much later in life.  This is the ick of adoption.  This is the horror of broken people tricking the system into thinking they aren't monsters who almost killed a child.  When we began this process I went into it thinking I knew how messed up it was, nothing's gonna phase me when in all actuality nothing had prepared me.
Fast forward to this afternoon.  I had reached out to the kids CASA worker and left a message desperate for a return phone call.  Our attorney had told us they are an amazing resource and I needed a miracle, someone to give me more info and help me weed through this uncharted territory of what information I'm entitled to as their future parents.  I cannot even begin to tell you the relief I felt after out conversation was over!  So many of my questions and frustrations were validated and I felt for once in this whole process I wasn't fighting someone who is supposed to be on the same side as me.  Within an hour and a half of that conversation Tyler received a phone call from our social worker that we could schedule a visit in two weeks and what's even better is that visit would be with all FOUR of the kids!  Because the girls foster mom is being very difficult with some things we had been told for quite some time that until a few things happened (i.e. therapists show our life books and then give the green light for a visit) we would have to only to see the boys when we drove out.   But now?  All four baby.  I'm pretty sure I did cartwheels (good one) all the way out to my swanky mom-bus (read minivan) and then celebrated on the way home (read drove with wild abandon).
This week I was reminded again why the fight is worth it.  I've not ever felt like giving up, I've not ever felt like this is too much for me to handle.  This week I was reminded of a little thing called perspective.  I was reminded that His love is vast, and deep and wide.  That I have amazing friends and family who poured into me and my family every day this week when they knew it was hard.  Texted and called me with words of encouragement, brought me flowers at work, listened to my exhausted sobs of frustration, dried my tears, validated my sadness, told me to buck up and carry on and more importantly prayed safety around my littlest of littles.
This week I'm reminded that He will never call me to fail.  He only calls me to believe.
"You're a good good father, it's who you are.  And I'm loved by you, it's who I am.  And you're perfect in all of your ways."  Good Good Father by Housefires

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Saturday, January 17, 2015

In which I post about nothing related to adoption...Part One.

I've been on a bit of a personal journey these last several months...but it's weird because I don't know that I really noticed the lessons being taught until after I was really THROUGH them.  I am by nature and personality a very very stubborn person and while this can be a positive attribute in fighting for the rights of those who can't fight for themselves it definitely has it's drawbacks.  Specifically in the land of marriage.  Tyler and I have been married for almost 13 years and I would say the last three have been the toughest years yet.  We've relocated, started a family, changed jobs, endured money stress, expectations haven't been met, communication hasn't been ideal, our time with each other has NOT been valued or placed above others and it has just recently been very clear to me why people get divorced.  It's just so hard sometimes, to love thru moments where they don't resemble the person who stole your heart years ago (and I'm referring more to myself with that last one than Tyler).  Our arguments were always the same and almost always started from something completely ridiculous (one time the simple act of an incorrectly flavored cinnamon roll, ahem...I digress). In October and November our church, Mission Point, did a series called "For Better-A Marriage Beyond Ok"  that was the first of many subtle hints for me and I started to realize that I treated my friends better than I treated Tyler.  In the beginning of December I came across a blog post from a woman named Amy Groeschel about respect and it completely rocked my world.  You see Tyler had always talked to me about how important respect is for a man, for a husband and father and I thought I understood it but to be completely honest I never valued it.  I listened but I didn't implement.  He stood there in front of me on many occasions telling me exactly what he needed and all I could see were that my own needs weren't being met so why meet his then?  This admission of an extremely ugly part of me is not something I'm proud of, but I feel the Holy Spirit moving in my need for transparency at this point because I know I'm not alone in this.  I'm not some stubborn, opinionated lone ranger.  I am one of many whose complacent, reactionary attitude to something lacking in her marriage caused her to become a lesser version of herself.  I believe this happens a lot with people whose spouses are a little more passive.
SO...where did it start?  With me.  These bad habits that I had formed over the last several years became a very real part of my every day interactions that without focused daily prayer on a genuine change of heart I knew I couldn't be successful.  My prayer every morning on my way to work was that I would be put into situations with Tyler where it was very obvious how he needed me to respond and then to actually respond that way.  Almost like an extra dose of clarity and foresight and I'm telling you it worked.  When I first started doing this I didn't tell Tyler because I wanted what I was doing and changing to be something he noticed on his own not because I told him I was trying (stubborn for the win).  Here's a little side note for those women who are spicy and very independent (not that I'm speaking from experience), it's important to me that you know I didn't become a doormat.  I still maintained my core beliefs in areas that were inherently important to me and I still spoke up and shared opinions when I felt it was necessary instead of 100% of the time.  I'll give you an example, we were going to bed on New Years day and he shared with me his goals of 2015...and there are a few on the list that are very lofty (in my opinion with the year we have coming up).  Old Kari would have pointed out the many reasons why I think HE should rethink HIS goals for HIMSELF maybe even go as far as letting him know all the times he has started things like this and never finished.  To say I was a real peach would be an understatement.  Instead this time (not being a doormat because they're his plans not mine), I simply listened completely silent and resigned in my heart that I would pray for success in these goals for this coming year.  The End.  Was that hard for me to do?  Ummm yes.  Did he say thank you to me for not saying anything?  No.  Should he have?  NO!  I don't expect to be thanked for not being a brat.  As the month of December went on and I employed these changes within myself and asked nothing of Tyler I began to notice an ease return to our relationship.  A mutual give and take had made it's way back.  I asked for his opinion more, including him in more decision making that initially I didn't think he wanted to be a part of.  We said thank you to each other more, worked better as a team to tackle the day to day of both working full time and having a family and enjoyed each others company again.  Shortly after the new year and right before we headed back to work after an insanely amazing break I let the cat out of the bag.  I told him I wanted to be better for him and for us and lest you think he didn't accept responsibility for a great many things he did in fact apologize and was excited to move forward as well.
You guys, the real truth is if you want to see change you must be the change and I realize that I'm married to one of the kindest most genuine people on planet earth but everyone is capable of affecting their own change and once that started in me all of the pieces of kindness and respect fell gently back together.  Don't sit and wait for the other to figure their crap out because chances are they're waiting for you to figure yours out too.  Marriage is never made up of flawless people, let it start with you and it's a little surreal the ease with which that mutual respect returns.

In Amy's blog post she says..
Because to get what you once had — you have to do what you once did.
Marriage is not so much about finding the right person — as it is becoming the right person.
If you think something good — say it!
If you think something special — do it!
If you want something different — be it!

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Thursday, January 1, 2015

In which I reflect and look forward...

These last several days off for the three of us have been pure magic, literally just what we needed after a fall schedule that was INSANE.  We've stayed up late, slept in, took naps, cooked and baked together, laughed, cried, celebrated and held NO schedule whatsoever.  2015 holds major changes for us and I've found myself being extra reflective on what I'm thankful for...a husband who works so hard to provide for us, who loves us well, is quick to forgive, who doesn't always do the right thing but is humble enough to admit it.  He serves and loves his Savior with his whole heart and leads us into doing the same.  And his role as daddy to our girl...above and beyond.
And for me personally?  I'm thankful for my Father who uses His Word to show me the way, to confirm or detour decisions and provide me with daily reminders that HE has me.  Last Friday (12/26), I opened my Bible and came across this passage...Psalm 139:5 "You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me."  I was moved by it, sometimes for me the simplicity of certain scripture has the greatest impact.  Not multiple chapters at a time.  This is MY verse.  The one handpicked for me on December 26th.  The one that offered me hope and two hours later an email letting us know that in a few hours we could speak to our oldest boy for the first time.  I'm not saying that every time I read His word I have some epic revelation, but one of the many things I love about my Savior is that He knows most WHEN I need something...even if I don't.
This year we'll welcome four little lives into our home and it's moments like these, weeks like these that I'll need to be reminded of how hemmed in I am to His plan for me.

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