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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