Baby Girl, you are wanted. You are loved and you are adored. Your little life started out so rough and I give all of the glory to God that He rescued you out of that bad situation at just 6 1/2 months old. The moment you were carried into our lives through our front door, that lonely November night, your entire life changed. Your sad little face took a few weeks to show happiness, but the joy came quickly after that. You started to giggle and babble in your highchair right away, watching your siblings being so busy around you. After we bonded and attached, you clung to me for several months, not ever letting me go. You did not want to be left alone. You would fight sleep and try to stay awake, I have no idea what your fear was, but we held you close and eventually you would drift off to dreamland. We answered your every cry, running when you made just one peep. You were loved from the beginning and 17 months later you are still the center of our world. The whole house follows you around and watches your every move. You have our full attention and you know it! Telling you, “no” is hard and you definitely don’t like to hear it. You dance, you sing, you have favorite songs and rhymes. You play “patty cake” and “wheels on the bus,” and we all sing along with you. You are our daughter. You are our sister. You are our joy. Baby Girl you are loved!
When we first told people that we were going to become a foster family for children entering foster care the response was mostly positive. A few people; however, did voice their concerns. Most of the concerns were in regards to our biological children. Friends and family members would say things like, “What about your children, aren’t you worried about how this will affect them?” “What if the foster child hurts one of them?” “What if your kids get too attached and it breaks their heart when the foster child has to go back to their family?” The other thing that was stated a lot was this, “Well, you better always remember to put your kids first… don’t get so wrapped up in your foster kids that you forget who is important.” This was one comment that I just didn’t care to hear. I was pretty frustrated when people would suggest that “our” kids were more important than the “foster” kids. We weren’t going into this foster care thing to be glorified babysitters. We didn’t care to have two groups of children, one special and set apart and one not. That was just NOT how we were going to do this thing. We were going to be a family… all of us! We prepared our children for nearly a year before we became foster parents. We made the decision as a family. They were involved in every aspect of the decision and planning. They were interviewed by THREE social workers and asked their opinions and ideas about our family becoming a foster family. This was a decision that we did not take lightly nor did our kids go into it with “rose colored glasses.” They knew the truth about what could happen. They knew they could get bit, spit on, hit, kicked, or yelled at by our foster children. They knew their toys could get ruined, their bedrooms turned upside down, and that mommy and daddy might sometimes need to tend to the foster child before being able to help them with something.
The funny thing is, that since Little Man and Baby Girl have entered our home and in turn entered our family not one person has said those concerns they had in the beginning to us. No longer do people question if we are taking good enough care of our biological children or if we are “putting them first.” No longer do friends or family worry about how this whole foster care thing could negatively effect our family. I guess there is just something to seeing our PRECIOUS Little Man and Baby Girl each and every day interacting with their three older siblings that melts a person’s heart and just pretty much erases all of those fears.
I often check in with my oldest three and ask them how they are doing. I want to make sure that we are all still on the same page. I want to see how they are handling the responsibility of being older siblings to our two babies. I thought it would be fun for others to get to hear what my oldest boy thinks about being a foster brother.
My interview with Oldest Boy- 10 years old
Me- “What is your favorite thing about being a foster brother?”
Oldest Boy- “I like it because I can share my feelings a little bit more. I get to play with someone who is like me… a boy. I like to watch my little brother because he likes doing what I do and he likes playing with me.”
Me- “What is your least favorite thing about being a foster brother?”
Oldest Boy- “Him screaming and when we are telling him to do something and he doesn’t do it.”
Me- “What would you tell other families who are thinking about becoming foster families?”
Oldest Boy- “I would tell them, it is fun. It helps you with patience.”
Me- “Do you like sharing a room or would you rather have your own room?”
Oldest Boy- “I would rather be together… to be with my brother. I get to help him fall asleep and I get to do a lot of stuff with him.”
Me- “What do you think is the hardest part about being a foster family?”
Oldest Boy- “Sometimes you argue.”
Me- “Are you happy that we became a foster family?”
Oldest Boy- “YES!”
The boys playing computer games together, a favorite pastime for both!
This little hand belongs to the most precious little girl in the entire world. Well, at least we think so. She is our Baby Girl. She is smart and funny, too cute for her own good and very very sassy. She stomps her feet and slams doors. She eats anything you put on her tray. She likes the color “yellow” and calls all of the colors by that name. She loves to do “Color Wonder” and play with play dough. Her purse is a favorite toy and she recently filled it with items from all around the house. She likes to swing and to jump on the trampoline. She’d rather be outside than in and absolutely loves the pool. She likes to run and to climb and I often find her after she’s pulled a chair to the counter to climb up and get something that she wants. She pulls the outlet safety covers off of the outlets and totally gives me gray hairs. She scares me half to death constantly trying to undo her buckle to climb out of the grocery cart while I am shopping and is known to throw things out of the cart while she’s at it. She gives the best hugs and kisses and loves to hold hands. She is my girl, my Baby Girl.
So, my husband and I have come to the conclusion after being foster parents for over 13 months now, that we’re not easy to be friends with anymore. We used to be! We would invite friends over all of the time and we’d have lovely get togethers where the adults would hang out in one room and the kids would all play outside. The two or three families would eat pizza, play board games, watch movies, and swim together. We would hang out late into the night, well past our children’s bedtimes and when it was all said and done nobody really wanted to leave, but at about midnight they’d have to, so that they could all wake up the next morning and not be grouchy. We’d walk our friends to their cars promising to do it all over again next weekend and we’d all be sad that it was over.
Um… that is a thing of the past! It wasn’t on purpose. We didn’t try to run our friends off. It just sort of happened. There are still two families that have stuck by us through our growing pains of becoming a family of seven. They still come over. We still play and swim and eat together, but I wouldn’t necessarily say that it is “easy” anymore. There is usually yelling and some crying. Kids accidentally get hurt. Children are always throwing things and someone inevitable will get bit. Yes, I said it… they will get bit. It is horrible to admit, but we just aren’t that picture perfect family anymore. We don’t party into the night because we have babies that have a strict schedule to keep unless we want all chaos to break loose for the next several days. Nobody really stays much past 8 o’clock anymore. Everyone starts to leave and as they do a part of me is sad. We’ve lost something. We’ve lost the ability to be “easy” friends. We just aren’t.
Sometimes, I mope around about it for a while. I complain that we don’t have any friends that like us anymore. I feel sorry for myself for a little while and then I realize something. I WOULD NOT CHANGE OUR “NEW NORMAL” FOR ANYTHING. So what if we aren’t easy to be around anymore. I don’t want to be easy! I want to be us. I want to be the family that we are now. I don’t know how long it will last. Little Man and Baby Girl’s cases are nowhere close to being over, so it could be a while or something could happen tomorrow to change everything. All I know is that I love our new family. We’re a little rough around the edges. We are sometimes difficult to be around because of all the chaos, but we’re a family and I wouldn’t have it any other way!
Remember when I wrote that blog post a couple months back about 44 things to do while my soldier is gone? Well, today I re-read the blog post and guess what? My soldier has been gone only 1/3 of the time that he will be gone and yet my kiddos and I have already done 22 of the 44 things that we planned on doing! That’s half! How awesome is that? So, yay for us!
We went to the drive-in. Um, CRAZY NIGHT! But, seriously I am SO glad that we did that! We may have been the loudest truck there with my five kiddos switching seats every ten seconds and calling, “Pass the popcorn,” loud enough for the entire drive-in to hear us, but it was a BLAST!
We visited the beach! SO GLAD WE DID THAT TOO! I love the beach, it is my happy place! My sister-in-law came to visit and we took five kiddos, two chairs, five buckets and shovels, snacks, drinks, diapers, towels, shoes, toys, and a camera to the beach and made it out alive and still ready to do it again someday! Success!
I teach my daughter’s Girl’s In Action class at church almost every Wednesday night and LOVE IT! Being with her and her friends and teaching them about missions is a joy!
I’ve taken the babies on walks at the park, watched my oldest play soccer and basketball, taken tons of photos of everything we do and so much more! I even signed my son up for drum lessons and that wasn’t even on the list!
So, three months down, six more months to go and only 22 more things to check off my list and then my soldier will be home!
Thanksgiving was awesome this year! The kids and I spent time together and pretty much did “nothing” all day long. We ate what we wanted, played games, took naps, and seriously just hung out all day! We missed our Daddy very much as he is still in Afghanistan, but we did get to talk to him today and he is safe for tonight. Now the kiddos and I are all ready to snuggle up in our warm comfy beds. The weather has cooled down a bit and it is on night’s like this one that I love to light the fire and drink hot apple cider while I catch up on reading my favorite blogs. I hope your Thanksgiving was all that you hoped for and that you spent time with those you love!
A soldier, a husband, a daddy, a son, and a brother died this week. Tonight I learned the devestating news that a dear sister in Christ received the very worst and most unimaginable news that the love of her life will never come home. He was killed in Afghanistan. The thoughts and feelings that run through my mind and body right now are all too familiar. I have never received the news that she had to endure this week, but something all too similar.
It was July 2004 and our first son had just been born a month and a half earlier. We were blessed enough that my soldier was able to come home on leave from his deployment in Iraq to see his son be born into this world. Those were the happy moments of 2004. Then, there was July 1, 2004. That day will forever be remembered in our house as the day that daddy came all too close to being gone forever.
My very best friend and I lived two houses away from each other on our military post at the time. Both of our soldiers were deployed to the same base in Iraq. We spent our evenings together, cooking meals for our kiddos and watching comedies to try and keep our minds off of our husbands being gone. She was up that night chatting with her husband over the computer when suddenly he typed that he had to go. The internet was being turned off. There had been an accident, a very bad accident and families would have to be notified. They didn’t want news leaking out to the family members before they could be contacted through Army channels, so all communication had to be cut off until it was done. My friend’s last words to her husband were, “Do you know where (my soldier) is?” His response: “No, I have not seen him today.” Then, the line went dead. She didn’t know what to do. Should she call me? Should she tell me what was going on? We had a trip planned to keep us busy over the 4th of July weekend. We were driving miles away and staying in her brother’s house while we shopped some of the biggest outlet malls in the area. She decided to call. “Have you talked to your soldier,” she asked. “Yep, I did yesterday,” I said. “He is on a convoy and will call me in a couple of days.” Her heart sunk. He was on that convoy. “Well, be sure to tell your Family Readiness Group leader where you’ll be,” she said. All Army wives keep in close contact while our husbands are away and its important that the chain of command know if we are taking trips or leaving base for any extended period of time while our soldiers are on deployment. “I’ll email her,” I said. I had a new cell phone number, so I emailed my Family Readiness Group leader my plans to leave town and my new cell number in case she needed to get ahold of me. She never got that email. I finished packing our bags that night and the next morning we left bright and early for the drive.
That night we stopped to have dinner at a restaurant and were just ordering when my friend’s cell phone rang. I watched her reach into her purse and move things around looking for her phone. Finally finding it, she put it to her ear and said, “hello.” Within seconds her face went white. She wasn’t smiling and didn’t look happy, but scared. Without saying a word, she took the phone from her ear and handed it over the table to me. It was at that very second that I knew something was terribly wrong. I took the phone. “Hello,” I said. “Baby, its me and I’m okay, but there has been an accident.” I knew it was him, but his voice didn’t sound right at all. I later learned that it was because his tongue was swollen out of his mouth, so talking was extremely difficult. The connection was also terrible. He was calling from a satellite phone half a world away. The conversation was short. We said, “I love you” to each other a hundred times and then he hung up.
After that, I did all of the things that military wives do. I called his parents. I called my parents. I called my husband’s commander’s wife and that is when I learned the details. My husband had been riding in the back of an unarmed Humvee. He was in the turret when all of a sudden he heard something that was so loud that he immediately couldn’t hear anymore. He was thrown up into the air and then came back down, his leg and ankle getting caught in chains. He was hanging upside down with dust and blood covering his face and eyes, so that he could not see. There was chaos, voices, and dust. Another soldier from the vehicle behind his ran to my soldier and got him down. They took him to the side of the road and called for a medic. “What happened,” he asked. “An IED,” they said. My soldier tried to get up, he kept telling them he was okay. He was not okay! He wanted to help, he knew his friend was dead. He knew his other buddy was still pinned inside the truck. He wanted to help, he wanted to get up, but they wouldn’t let him. It wasn’t until the medic got to him that he knew that maybe he wasn’t “okay.” A very young medic showed up beside my husband and hollered, “Holy hell,” when he saw his face. Blown completely open like a banana when it is peeled, the flesh beneath his nose, mouth, and cheeks were all totally exposed. Blood everywhere and debris too, my husband suddenly had the urge to spit. He did, and then immediately regretted it, feeling metal and hard chunks leave his mouth and thinking that he may have just spit out his teeth. After that, his mind is kind of a blur and the next things he remembers are all inside of the mobile medical station. They x-rayed him, finding a metal bolt from the vehicle lodged inside of his shoulder and tons of metal shrapnel in his face. As he lay there looking up at the ceiling his thoughts finally came around to us. He thought about how scared I would be. Moments later, he was in surgery. After over 700 stitches were used to put his face back together and the bolt removed from his shoulder he woke up in recovery and was given a satellite phone to call home. That is when he called me.
There were more days that he stayed in Iraq and when it was safe they flew him to Germany. After a two week stay in the hospital there, they flew him to Walter Reed in Washington D.C. After that, he came home to finish his recovery with me and the kids. He doesn’t like to be called a hero. He says he just survived. To me, he is a hero! Yes, he didn’t die that day, but he carries the scars of that event with him every single day of his life. There is not a day that goes by where someone doesn’t ask him about his face. NOT ONE DAY! For a while we didn’t go too many places. Having to explain those scars was just too much. Now, he wears his scars with pride because it gives him the opportunity to tell people about his friend and fellow soldier who died that day. He gets to tell people about his hero, the young man who gave the ultimate sacrifice.
Today… this morning… it was the moment that I had been dreading. Eleven and a half months have gone by since we became foster parents to Little Man and Baby Girl and all of that time, I felt had been leading up to this very moment. The permanency hearing for our precious foster babies.
I couldn’t fall asleep until 1:00 a.m. the night before and then awoke back up at 4:30 a.m. the next morning before my alarm even went off. I got on my knees, my face to the floor of my bedroom and I began to pray. Every fear that I had inside of me, I cried out to The Lord. I begged for His mercy and His grace and His peace that passes all understanding. I drank my coffee, woke the babies and dressed them. We drove the 2 hours to the courthouse. A fellow foster mom sat with the babies as I sat alone with our social worker in a courtroom that was empty for 30 agonizing minutes. Court was supposed to start, but it didn’t and all I could hear were lawyers talking loudly in the hallway. Every few moments, I would ask our social worker, “Where is the judge?” or “What time is it?” I was restless and nervous, “let’s get this over with,” I thought.
After what seemed like forever, a uniformed officer entered the courtroom announcing the judges presence. He walked into the courtroom in his long black robe followed by four lawyers and the supervisor of DHR and that is when I realized it… they didn’t show. The biological family was not here. Not one family member from our precious foster babies’ birth family was present. This was the permanency hearing to decide the future of their lives and not one family member was present. Not one of them showed up. The judge asked, “are the parents here today?” and I wanted to stand, I wanted to say, “I am here! Me… I am here!” But, I sat tight and didn’t say a word. Even though these babies are my world. Even though they are as important to me as my three biological children at home, I didn’t say a word. My social worker had warned me not to speak unless spoken to. I sat still and calm and prayed, “Jesus, be with me, be in this room.”
At the end of the hearing it was decided that our precious ones would return home with me today. They would stay with our family. We get to keep them! Maybe not forever, but at least for now and my heart was filled with JOY! There was joy and there was sadness. My thoughts went to the biological family. What is going on in their lives that they couldn’t be here today? They were given plenty of notice, their lawyers were present, but where were they? Why didn’t they come? I may never know. They did not show.
Eleven months ago, I was a mess. We had been “approved” to be foster parents for like A WHOLE MONTH AND A HALF and we had not yet gotten “the call.” I cried at the drop of a hat. I sat and questioned why, why, why we didn’t have foster children yet. Were we not “good enough?” I cried out to God begging for, “today to be the day,” yet those days were never the days… I was sad, I was worried, I was anxious. We were ready! We had been ready! We had done everything that the government had asked us to do, TWICE! You see, we had already completed an international adoption home study and then again completed a foster care home study, so in reality we had been through everything TWICE! How much longer must we wait?
I am here to tell you this, those of you out there who are still waiting… YOUR TIME WILL COME! Our’s did! We were chosen on this day eleven months ago to receive the two most precious little angels into our home. These two came with hurts, they came with trust issues, but I can say this without a shadow of a doubt in my mind, that they were meant to come and live with us. God had such a perfect plan!
And, as I sat on my deck this morning taking pictures of my three youngest holding hands and going on a “treasure hunt” in our backyard, I realized something. I am SO GLAD we didn’t get the call sooner, I am so happy we had to wait. Because, the two we have in our lives right now are the ones God meant for us and we were meant for them.
Thank you, Lord Jesus for making me wait. YOU HAVE A PERFECT PLAN!
“If something is going to go wrong, it WILL go wrong.” This saying is very popular among military spouses. It describes the high probability of things going wrong while your soldier is away. I am no stranger to this weird phenomenon coming true. During my husband’s first deployment, I was in my first car accident, our neighbor’s son accidentally set our four-plex military housing unit on fire, and because of that we all had to move. Did I mention that I was days away from delivering our second child at the time? It’s just one of those things. If things can go wrong, they probably will.
My husband has only been gone a mere 27 days and here are the things that have already “gone wrong.”
1. Our rental property agency in Tennessee called, the house there needs a new deck.
2. Little Man hosed my cell phone, it had a “life proof” box on it, but let’s just say those things may be life proof, but they are NOT Little Man proof. New cell phone needed.
3. Our rental property here in town called, the AC went out.
4. One ER trip with Baby Girl
5. One sick 6 year old with fever
6. One 12 year old with an ear infection
7. One broken lamp
8. One pool with an algae problem
I am exhausted! I am tired of mowing the lawn, cleaning the pool, checking the finances, and being the only adult around here! But, you know what? I am so very very blessed! Even in the midst of this God is so good! He is so good to me! Here is why…
1. My husband will be home for block leave in less than a month.
2. Our oldest daughter made the junior high basketball team.
3. We have insurance to pay for those unexpected things that break on our houses.
4. A builder in Tennessee said he can fix our old deck instead of building a new!
5. We have health insurance to pay for the antibiotics needed to cure our daughter’s ear infection.
6. The doctor at the ER took great care of Baby Girl and we have a nebulizer now to take care of Baby Girl’s breathing at home, so we hopefully will not need to visit the ER again anytime soon.
7. My phone was replaced for cheap due to qualifying for an upgrade!
8. I have a little boy who wants to show me everything saying, “Ma, wach!”
9. I have a little girl who runs, arms raised for me to pick her up and cuddle her!
10. I have friends to call when I need help!
11. All five of my perfect blessings are now healthy and well thanks to a God who hears our prayers and heals!
12. My husband is safe, happy, and well trained for his mission.
13. We are all well fed, well clothed, and living in a beautiful house.
Things may go wrong this year. We may have some more “bad luck,” but God is always good! He is in this with me! He will never leave me or forsake me. He has forgiven my every sin and has made me beautiful in His sight. He wants good for me. He has plans for our family that are wonderful and all I need to do is keep seeking Him, serving Him, and loving Him with all my heart!