Friday, May 29, 2015

Life update

While I've given you some sort of update on our little peanut, I realize that there may be a few things in my life or Nick's life that you are unaware of. And since all of my family and many of my friends live 2000+ miles away, I figured I would share it all here. 

-- Earlier this week, I accepted a new job as the kindergarten teacher at a public charter school near Providence. The school system already has 2 elementary schools, a middle school, and a high school. They are launching a third elementary school in August, which is where I will be teaching! There are a few reasons why I am excited about this new opportunity. First, these schools demonstrate impressive diversity that is not often seen. They accept children from 4 different Rhode Island towns, two of which are urban, and two of which are suburban. This creates a demographic diversity that is often uncommon in public schools. Second, I was very impressed with the culture of the school. The teachers work very hard to create warm, caring, and joyful learning environments while maintaining high expectations for the students. The other charter school I had toured at seemed so harsh, even at the kindergarten level. This school was different. Third, I truly believe that a child's early learning experiences shape not only their later education but also their lives in general. Having the opportunity to help create building blocks for the rest of their lives is such an honor, and one I do not take lightly. 

-- Speaking of teaching, I earned my Rhode Island teaching certificate this month as well. I started the process in 2013. I am also halfway to earning my MEd in Early Childhood Education!

-- On to something a little less exciting. After months of allergic reactions with no common cause all over my skin, I discovered that I have chronic hives, an autoimmune condition that is rare, difficult to treat, and has no known trigger. Basically, my body is attacking itself. It's been a very frustrating few months, especially when the hives break out all over my face. My allergist and I are working toward getting approved for allergy shots that have proven to be very affective with this disease. Chronic hives can last 6 months or even 5 years... It's very random. While I'm not happy that I have developed such a strange condition, I am relieved to now understand why I am breaking out in rashes with no obvious explanation. At least now I can say, "Well, I have chronic hives." 

- Nicholas has been at his current job for a year now! Not much is new for him other than he is rocking this fatherhood thing. 7 weeks down and he's a pro. :) 

Our lives have definitely been rocked by becoming foster parents. It's changing our hearts and attitudes in ways I never could have prepared for. We met our little's mom yesterday. It was an emotional experience for both of us. That's another post for another day. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

seven weeks

It's been seven weeks since we officially began our foster parenting adventure.

Our little 13 month old is now 14 months old.

When she was first placed with us, she wouldn't stand on her own, even with us holding her up. She could pull herself up on the furniture, but she couldn't stand on her own. Now, she is standing on her own, and slowwwwwwly deciding to fit some steps in there.

She's seemed to decide she can be more picky with what she eats. For the past few weeks she ate almost every single thing we gave her. The exception was raspberries. However, this weekend, she decided to go on a little food strike. She likes to drop pieces of food over the side of the high chair, or reach out and feed what she can to the dog. They seem to have a mutual understanding of how things should work.

Once completely petrified of water, she now takes baths without any issue, splashing and playing until we pull her out.

When she first came to us, she wouldn't mimic anything we did. She would smile at us, but she wouldn't clap, wouldn't shake her head, wouldn't mimic our sounds. Now she plays peekaboo and gives us high fives and claps and plays her little piano. She's a total ham, flashing cheesy smiles with her eyes squeezed shut during meals, shaking her head when she knows she's doing something she shouldn't, sneaking dog food out of the bowl. She smiles for the camera because she totally knows her picture is being taken.

We just received an update from her caseworker. An update that basically said nothing has changed. Which can be good, it means we get more time with her... An undefined amount of time. But also left me heartbroken for this mom who has no support and few healthy relationships. So many miracles will need to happen for this little girl to be raised in a healthy home. I hope you will join us in praying for those miracles.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

three weeks

Three weeks. It's been a mere three weeks since a sweet little 13 month old was placed in our home. She's had an incredible adjustment so far... Eats everything we offer her, sleeps through the night, takes great naps, and is generally content. We've had a lot of fun so far, and I love the way she lights up and reaches for me when I go to pick her up from school every day.

Foster care is such a funny little business. We went into this with the expectation that reunification will always be the goal for every child that comes into our home. Our job is to love her greatly right now. We don't know if she will still be with us in a year... we don't even know if she will be with us next week. It's funny because our loved ones seem more concerned about that fact than we do. "Don't get attached... prepare yourself for when they take her away..." I was attached to this little nugget before they even brought her to our home, so that's not going to work. And we don't have to prepare ourselves for that because it's always been part of the plan. It's not really preparation when every night when you put your kid to bed you think, "This might be the last time we do this." Will it suck? Yes. Will we cry? I've already cried. We won't just cry, we will grieve.  But we signed up for this. This baby deserves a chance to grow up with her mama as long as her mama is willing to care for her. And our job... our ONLY job at this point is to love her like our own right NOW.

Honestly, one of the hardest parts of foster care so far has been looking at this sweet little girl and seeing two potential lives. The life she could have if she grew up with us and the life she could have if she goes back home. Have you ever looked at your child and thought about all the hopes and dreams you have for their future? I do that too. But I won't get to see those dreams come true. She might not even have a chance to live out those dreams because she may not be provided with what she needs to do so. That's really terrifying to me. The idea that Nick and I could give her everything she needs to graduate high school, to be successful with her life after, to explore the world, to have tons of adventures and experiences that shape her... There's a good chance that when she goes back home, she won't have any of that. Graduating high school might be a huge accomplishment for her depending on her situation. Yet, that is the life she was born into. Is it crazy for me to think that if only she stays with us, things could be different for her? Better for her? I seriously feel terrible having those thoughts... I've made the conscious decision NOT to pray that she will stay with us forever, because how could I pray for a family to be ripped apart?  Instead, I pray that we love her with all we have here and now. That's all we can do. Her future is not in my hands. But even if she were staying, it wouldn't be anyway. So I pray every day that she grows up to know how much she is loved by the one who created her and who does hold her future.  That even when it's not me helping her learn and wiping her nose and comforting her when she's afraid, that she will continue to grow in wisdom and stature and favor in the eyes of God and man. Because even if tonight is my last night with her in my home, the story of her life will still be written, and He will still be the one writing it.

For the first week, the anxiety of them taking her away was overbearing. We still know very little about her case, and any guess of a timeline has not been provided. They had originally said they were looking for kin to take care of her. I still don't know if that could happen tomorrow. I don't know if they're still looking. Heck, I haven't talked to her social worker in almost 2 weeks. The unknown is pretty brutal. Honestly, my biggest fear was that our friends and family were going to give her things like clothes, and then they would take her away, and those people would be upset because they wasted their resources on her. It's kind of silly when I think about it. But sometimes, when we would say we didn't know how long we would have her, that it could be a couple weeks, or a couple months, or a year, sometimes, the looks on their faces would seem so concerned, which I would interpret as disappointment that we hadn't landed a kid that we could have forever or at least a year or so. But, as I consciously loved this baby with everything I had knowing that it could be the last night with her, I realized that this journey we are on is not just teaching us to love sacrificially, but teaching our friends and loved ones to love sacrificially as well. Why does it matter if we spend money on clothes and food and diapers if that's what she needs right now? God hasn't asked me to take care of her for the rest of her life. Just right now.

Ugh, sometimes, really selfish thoughts cross my mind when it comes to this. I am pouring all this work into this little human, who, after 3 weeks, has already shown tremendous growth socially, emotionally, and physically. Sometimes I get angry thinking about the fact that if she goes back soon, all that improvement could be lost. Or wasted on a parent who can't continue to provide for those needs. I secretly think, "You don't deserve her." How nasty is that? I'm ashamed to even think it. So I remind myself AGAIN that my job is to love her completely and fully right now. Regardless of the future. Regardless of anything that could happen. She is mine to love right now and right now only.

And PLEASE let it be said that I know very VERY little about her mother or family. These ideas that she won't get what she needs are just my thoughts, nothing solid, because I only have how she came to us to go off of. I don't want anyone, myself included, to "hate" her mother or judge her or think negatively of her just because she isn't in her care right now. She has her own story and deserves grace just as much as I do. Which makes all these conflicting emotions so hard. The desire for her to succeed because I want EVERY mother to succeed is constantly fighting against the secret quiet thoughts of entitlement and wanting to keep her and to love her forever and always.

I know this post is probably heavier than you may have expected. We have had a lot of fun... We've been to the beach, to the museum, to the park... I feel so blessed to get to be the object of her affections and to watch her gripe at Brickley when she runs past her to quickly, and even to get to suck those sticky little boogers out of her nose. But when people ask me how it's going, they are generally looking for a basic answer... "Oh great, she slept through the night!" "Fun, we went to the park and she loves to swing", or even "I need coffee." Not the messy emotions of a foster mom hoping for more time but also feeling guilty for hoping for it...

So now you know. How I really feel. How within three weeks, foster parenting has already been one of the most joyous and challenging and heartbreaking experiences I have faced in my 26 years of life. And we haven't even dealt with anything yet. All they did was hand us a baby and have us sign a paper.