My fears

Last weekend was our first full weekend with the little man, and like we expected would happen during our first long weekend--we experienced the behaviors people had been telling us about. The trigger: exhaustion. He met my family on Friday night and played hard outside with them, and then Saturday morning we set out for an overnight camping trip nearby with the Helzer family. He spent the entire weekend being active outdoors (he also has bad allergies), and on Sunday when we got home, he melted. All over. Loud enough for the neighbors to hear. It was like we were dealing with a completely different kid for about 25 minutes. I won't go into specifics about his behavior, but at one point I ended up in the living room sobbing, and Nate--my typically strong, unshakable husband, had a slight quiver in his voice. Eventually the storm subsided. We talked through it, brainstormed better behaviors, and dished out consequences. But the rest of the day and really, for about three days after, my fears about this placement, a possible adoption, and parenting took root in my mind.

There's so much I fear about this new stage in our life. I fear that we're not prepared to parent this child who is resiliant beyond belief yet still delicate. I fear Sunday's tantrum will happen when he's at children's church and that it will cause him to be labeled by the other kids and their parents. I fear people will not be understanding with his behaviors, that they'll fail to realize there is a very good reason why he acts this way. I'm nervous that the other grandkids on Nate's side won't get along with him. I've always had this fear that if we adopted/fostered a child, that he/she would be an outcast in the family since he/she isn't a biological, blood relative. I fear our marriage will suffer. I'm nervous that little man will pick up on the fact that we're novice parents feeling our way through. I'm nervous that I'll be too overbearing with him. I fear we're not "spiritual" enough to develop in him a hunger for the Lord. I worry about disciplining him--do I give time-outs or time-ins?  I fear if this does end up as a long term placement, he'll never attach to us or we'll never attach to him.

The truth is, I'm nervous about the entire transition to becoming full time parents. In one week we will catapult into an entirely different lifestyle. We've desired to be parents for nearly 7 years now, but that's 7 years of adapting to a certain lifestyle where we can go where we want, when we want. I'm ecstatic about the opportunity to be parents to little man whether for a short time or long term--but I guess I never realized the adjustment it would be for 7 year DINKs (double income no kids) like us.

Despite being utterly exhausted yesterday, I stayed up late reading just about every article about adoption, attachment, and discipline that is posted on Focus on the Family's website to try and prepare myself and ease my mind. I ran across this verse in one of the articles, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not be afraid" (John 14:27). Peace for my worrying heart will not come from articles. They may help ease my mind, but prayer and faith in God will bring true peace.  I fell asleep yesterday praying for wisdom, peace, and guidance as we parent this boy. I prayed that we'd be able to protect this boy from harm, nurture him well, and help him grow into a well-adjusted young man who serves the Lord. I was able to fall asleep that night peacefully for the first time in three nights. It will take a lot of prayer and time to help settle my troubled heart, but over time I hope replacing worry with prayer and faith will come more automatically to me.


Foster care 101

Let me begin by saying that I am still trying to feel my way through this whole foster-parenting business. I don't have all of the answers to every question, and sometimes I don't even know where to begin to find out the answers. On our walk last night, Nate and I talked through a few "foster care issues" we'd each been mulling on individually, and it was surprising to hear how many varied questions we each had. As we talked we realized that if we had this many questions after taking a 10 week training course on the topic, we can't imagine how many questions others might have. So this post is an attempt to address some FAQ's or anticipated FAQ's; I tend to take on a bit of a snarky tone at times mainly because I appreciate sarcasm. Please don't be offended.

Why do you always call him "little man" in this space? And why haven't you posted any mug shots of the cutie-patootie?!
Believe me, I WANT to post pictures of little man, but due to confidentiality, we cannot. We cannot share photos online, reveal identifying information, share personal information about his background/family story.

So, what's his story? Why is he in foster care? Where are his parents?
Many people have asked these questions. And while I think people are generally well-intentioned when asking, I also find the questions a little nosy. This information is incredibly personal and cannot be shared with others. It's not our story to tell.

What should I call him? 
Okay, I know this seems like a bizarre question, but let me explain:  Nate and I talked last night about how we will introduce him to people--he's not our son and he knows we're not his parents (though we will treat him and love him as if he were our own), and saying he's our friend just makes us look creepy. We also don't want to introduce him as our foster son because that's a big label with lots of connotations. He's young enough that he doesn't understand the concept of foster care; he doesn't know he's a "foster kid." So, we will introduce him to others by calling him his name. And if you should meet him, please don't ask, "Oh, is this your FOSTER KID?!" No matter how much the question is marked with enthusiasm, it will still provide for an awkward situation. And nobody likes to be awkward. If you don't know his name or who he is, treat him like you would any other person and ask him his name.

How long will he be with you?
He'll be with us for however long God wants him to be with us. This is part of the excitement and uncertainty of foster care.

Why does he do ____________?
If you've spent any amount of time with children, you know they are unpredictable little boogers who sometimes do odd things that leave adults scratching their noggins. A teacher once told me that there is a reason behind every behavior. The more time I spend with people (not just kids), the more I believe this. When I keep this concept in mind, I tend to be more understanding and gracious with others. That doesn't mean I let people get away with murder because they were exposed to violence at a young age--appropriate consequences still apply for unacceptable behavior. However, this does mean that I try to understand why said person did said thing instead of labeling the person by his/her behavior. For example, I had a student once who would punch the wall or drop F-bombs whenever he was angry. Each time he did this, I'd give a consequence (a trip to the office for the demonstration of excellent vocabulary acquisition) or a detention or other appropriate consequence for his incredible pain threshold (seriously, the kid never flinched when he beat the concrete wall). It would have been easy to label him as a "bad kid" because of his behaviors. Doing so would've made the years I spent with him unbearable. Though it was frustrating and difficult, I tried to step back and understand why he engaged in these behaviors by talking to him after he was cooled off (it never did me any good to talk to him when he was punching walls or spitting out swear words). If our little man does something odd, like dip his pizza in his applesauce (which he is prone to do) or otherwise, please, please don't write him off as weird, messed up, bad, etc. Remember: there is a reason behind every behavior. (Side bar: Please tell us about unusual behavior, but don't ask why he did _____ either; we likely can't tell you anyway).

How much do you get paid to be a foster parent?
Really? How much do you get paid to do your job? 'Nuff said. (All sarcasm aside: I have no idea how much a foster parent gets paid. I think it's a case by case situation.)

This post has dragged on long enough. If you have other questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments or email me personally. I promise to avoid sarcasm in my response. We truly appreciate your interest in our process of becoming parents!


Needs and would-like's

Preface: This post makes me feel a little selfish, but many of our family and friends want to help and have asked for specifics on what we need for the little dude. Now that we've spent a little more time with him and have done our first overnight (that was successful, I might add!), we know more about what we need. So for those of you who have asked--here's our more specific list of needs and would-like's to help make the transition to our home a little more smooth for the little guy:

  • Little kid medicine stuff (we had to give him some liquid allergy medicine this weekend, and he was insistent that our Pampered Chef teaspoon was not what we should be using to give him his medicine)--thermometer, medicine spoons, etc.
  • We have started a small collection of clothes thanks to some awesome friends, but we could always use more. He currently wears a 4T. Pajamas, athletic shorts, socks, underwear, church clothes, etc. would all be nice. 
  • Shoes--he wears a size 10 right now.
  • An outdoor storage system for all of our outdoor toys. We have become "those" people--the ones who leave their kid's baseballs, bats, buckets, trucks, etc. scattered throughout the lawn. 
  • Toys--he LOVES, LOVES, LOVES firetrucks, police cars, and motorcycles. He was also smitten with the play tool set that we saw at Target. He's a big Spiderman fan as well.
  • Games/puzzles/tactile learning games--this kid is brilliant. He can put together a 48 piece puzzle in no time. He loves problem solving, tactile games. 
  • Boy books--have I mentioned how heartbroken I am that he's not a fan of reading? I won't give up hope here. Boy books about trucks, superheros, gross things, etc. would be fantastic. 
  • Bath stuff--toys, towels, wash cloths (we actually only have two wash cloths...is that weird?!), etc.
  • Clock for his room--he's very into knowing what time it is. 
  • Kitchen stuff--Plates with a lip around the edge; the plates without the lip don't work well for him. Most of the food usually ends up in his lap or in Sampson's mouth. We have enough cups (thanks to the Nebesniaks and Valentis!), and he has one Camelbak bottle that he loves, but another water bottle might be nice. 
  • Inflatable pool--he's a bit freaked out by water right now, so we thought this might help ease his fears. 
  • A slip and slide--really, this is more for me than him.
  • Movies -- examples such as Veggie Tales, SpongeBob, Dora, Thomas the Train
I think this is about all for now.  Again, we are not too good to receive hand-me-downs, garage sale items, etc! Hopefully we'll get a chance to introduce him to many of you in the next few weeks! Thanks to those of you who have helped us so far through prayer, kind words, or by buying stuff for us. We appreciate it!