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Archive for January, 2014

Preparing to be a foster parent is a unique situation.  It’s not like pregnancy when you know in 40 weeks you will have a newborn in your arms.  While I have a general timeline to go by, I have no idea when I will officially be licensed and no idea how long I will wait after that before I get a placement.  And even then, I have no idea what age the child will be who comes through my door (my age range is newborn – 18 months).  It’s a lot of unknowns and for someone who always wants to plan way in advance, this is teaching me many lessons.

I have always been content with the idea of not having biological children.  I can love a child who doesn’t have my genes just as much as one who does.  That has never been an issue for me.  From the moment I first walked through the doors at Chara, I’ve had a special place in my heart for fostering and adoption.  So while I am completely confident and comfortable with my decision to not have a biological child, it turns out I’m not ok with not being pregnant.  I didn’t anticipate that I would feel like I am “missing out” on something by not experiencing pregnancy.

Let’s face it, I’m at an age where many of my peers are having children.  They get to see their waists grow, hear their baby’s heartbeat, bond with other expectant moms over discussions of heartburn and cravings, and count down the days until they will have that child in their arms.  It’s not that I am upset I won’t have a child of my own (and I’m definitely fine with missing out on labor and delivery).  Even though I am taking a different path, I will have the same end result, a beautiful baby in my arms who needs my love and caring.  I just don’t know when I get to experience that end result and for how long.  It’s a very different journey to that endpoint and I feel like I am missing out on the “typical” journey to parenthood.

And there are frequent reminders that I am doing things differently.  On a foster parenting Facebook group I belong to, there was a rather heated discussion today when one woman made a comment that “you are foster parents, not family” in response to a woman’s post that she was sad to see her 1 year old foster son leaving to go live with a relative.

It’s a painful statement and as you can imagine, many of us were hurt and offended by it.  Yes, we all understand that these children are not “ours”.  Yes, we know that the goal is for each child that enters our home to be reunited with their family at some point if at all possible.  Yes, we know we are not the biological parents.  But this child is in my care.  It is my responsibility to keep them safe, show them love and help them reach milestones.  You don’t think I take that role seriously?  Officially, I am not his/her mom but you better believe I am loving these children and raising them as if they are “mine”.  Do you not think these children deserve to be loved and treated as if they were our own?  And is it no ok to be sad when we say goodbye to that child.  We know that it is for the best but we still have to grieve the loss.

This is not an easy journey.  But I still feel 100% confident that this is my life calling and I am eager for each next step that gets me closer to that first placement.  While many women are looking forward to their next ultrasound to mark their progress, I’m eagerly awaiting PRIDE classes that start in March to check off another “to do” in my journey toward becoming a (foster) mom.

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I have a passion for books.  I love the look of them (especially old hardcover books), I love shopping for them, I love reading them.  And I have my parents to thank for that.  Given that I grew up in a family full of educators, it’s not surprising that I developed a love of reading.  And this is one love that I definitely want to share with my kiddos.

I have so many fond childhood memories involving books.  My parents have shared with me that even as a baby, I was a fan of reading.  They would rock me and read me book after book until I fell asleep in their arms.  Needless to say, being the smart child that I was, I quickly learned how not to fall asleep so it would force them to read to me more.  If you are going to spoil a child, this feels like a great way to do it.

This also led to me memorizing entire books because I had heard them so many times.  My parents convinced my grandparents that I could read at the age of two or three because I could recite the entire book word for word, including knowing when to turn the page.

My mom said that as a toddler, she could sit me down on the bathroom floor with a stack of books and I would contently sit and look through them while she enjoyed a shower.

I loved family trips to the library.  I couldn’t wait to browse through the shelves to find something new I could engross myself in.  (Although when I was little I was also known to check out the same book over and over again if I really loved it.  There was a children’s book I loved about two little girls who were friends and one of them was named Jenny.  I called it The Jenny Book.  This was my favorite book for obvious reasons.  I wish I knew the title of it.)  And I remember my mom sharing with me books that she loved reading when she was growing up like Nancy Drew and the Bobbsey Twins.  I can still picture the shelves at the library full of these books with the yellow spines.

I was the dork that couldn’t wait for the summer reading list to come out.  And yes, I was a fat kid because we all loved the Pizza Hut Book It program.  My love of reading equated to a lot of personal pan pizzas.

So, I’ve always known that reading would be an important love that I wanted to instill in my children.  The first baby item I bought when I decided I was going to pursue becoming a foster mom was a board book.  And I’m already brainstorming how to create a fun, comfy reading nook in the nursery.  I want my kids to get as excited about books as I did when I was young.

I know that being a single foster parent to newborns and infants will not be easy.  So, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about ways I will cope with those tough times.  And one tough time I know is coming is a lot of sleepless nights with a crying baby.  As I’ve mentioned before, it is pretty likely that I will be caring for a baby who was exposed to drugs and is dealing with withdrawal.  It’s not easy.  Sometimes, no matter what you try, you just can’t settle them down.  All you can do is hold them, rock them, talk to them, make them as comfortable as you can and be patient until they can settle down.

So, I started thinking, what am I going to do to pass the time when it’s the middle of the night and I’m awake with a crying baby?  Sure, I could sit and watch TV.  We may listen to music for a while.  But today, I had a great idea.  Why not read to them?  Why not share my love of books with them just like my mom did with me?

So, I started googling and coming up with a list of chapter books that I remember loving as a child.  Everything from Anne of Green Gables to Freckle Juice to the Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIHM.  It’s easy reading (because we know I’ll be too tired to read and comprehend anything intellectual), it will keep my attention better than reading a million baby books, and it will let me relive stories that I loved so many years ago and don’t even remember anymore.  I just love this idea.

So, I have start compiling a list of all the chapter books I remember loving as a kid.  The list has gotten long already!  Take a look here.  Then, please come back to this blog post and comment about your favorite book from my list or a great one that I need to add.

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Have you noticed the “one little word” phenomenon that seemed to be popping up all over social media around the new year?  As soon as I saw people starting to post about it, a word immediately came to mind: faith.  Those of you who know me personally know that making decisions is not my strong suit.  I’m a researcher, a weight the options, pros/cons list kinda gal.  I’m not a spontaneous person AT ALL.  I like to have a plan and think things through.  So, when this word immediately came to mind and just felt completely right, like there was no need to contemplate other options, I knew that was a sign.

2014 is going to be an incredible year.  It will be a year full of challenges and excitement.  I know there will be lots of highs and lows.  But it will be a year that a dream comes true so the lows will be worth it because there will be new highs I’ve never had the chance to experience before.  A friend sent me a message the other day that said “PS: It’s 2014 – the year you become a Mommy!”.  And I smiled thinking, “oh my God, she’s right!”.  Obviously I already knew this fact but it just doesn’t seem real.  It’s still hard to believe that this dream will be coming true at some point this year.  I think I’m still in denial that something so wonderful could be happening in my life.

Single parenting is not easy.  Nor is foster parents.  So, I know becoming a single foster parent is going to be extremely difficult at times.  And yes, there are moments when I sit and wonder how in the world I’m going to handle those difficult times.  “Am I really strong enough to do this?”  But it never makes me think “maybe I shouldn’t do this after all”.  I never once doubt my decision.  That’s faith.  I know this is what I am meant to do and I just have to have faith that things will work out the way they are supposed to and trust that God isn’t going to send me more than I can handle (not an easy thing for me to trust but I’m working on it!).

There are a lot of unknowns with foster parenting and there is so much that will be out of my control.  So, I know that I won’t be able to survive this journey without faith.  If a child leaves my home, I have to trust that they were with me for that portion of their life that God needed me to take care of them.  So, the same is going to go for accepting placements.  I’ve told them I will accept newborn-18 months old and that I am willing to accept special needs with the stipulation that they cannot have medical conditions that would prevent them from attending daycare since I obviously am not in a position to be able to be a SAHM.  So, I need to have faith that if I get a call that fits in those parameters, that child is meant to come into my home.  There’s no time for a pro/con list when you get a call for a placement.  It’s an on the spot decision which is definitely going to require me to have a lot of faith.

I did a lot of thinking about the special needs portion of those parameters.  There are many families that will not accept a special needs child for a variety of reasons.  Can it be more challenging?  Absolutely.  But it can also be amazingly rewarding.  I’m definitely not 100% confident of my abilities to parent a special needs child.  But is any parent ever completely prepared to take on that role?

What I know is this.  I spent years interacting with families that had children with disabilities when I was working at VME.  I spent years providing direct care to medically fragile and developmentally delayed infants and toddlers when I was volunteering at Chara.  I have family members that work in the field of special education.  Does this make me the perfect person to parent a special needs child?  Absolutely not.  What is means is simply that I have enough knowledge and experience to know the very special joy that can come from having a special needs child in your life.  So, I am opening myself up to this possibility and having faith that if there is a special needs child who needs me, God will send that child to me.

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