Three Lessons

Yesterday marked five months since the boys came back to live with us. I think I can officially say we are out of the weeds. (Or maybe you prefer “woods” but for those of us that worked in the restaurant industry, it’s “weeds.”) We still face our challenges. There are still hard days, many behavioral and trauma related issues, and plenty of legal annoyances to settle (the boys are still not officially adopted) BUT we are eating less corn dogs, our home is a little less dirty, we are getting a lot more sleep, and I’m not crying nearly as much from exhaustion and being overwhelmed. Yay for progress!

I’d like to share three things the Lord is teaching me.

1.) Appreciate each little step.

I find myself more and more in these moments where I can look at the boys and really FEEL in my bones they are mine. I smile and giggle over their little personalities and the unique ways God has created them. I can envision the ways He might use them in the future. The frustration of their negative behaviors lingers less and has been replaced with a passion to equip them however I can for life. I appreciate little things like leaving undergarments ON and making it to the potty. Snuggling up for a book and going to sleep without tears. Learning to like tilapia and other healthy foods. And being the one that can fix their boo-boos. For the first four months I was not the one who could fix a boo-boo, it was “mawmaw will fix it.” And one day K got his fingers caught in a door at school and it was pretty bad. He only wanted ME. “Mommy will fix it. Mommy will make it better.” I never realized how something that simple really signifies me being the mommy.

2.) Be content when there is no progress.

This is a hard one. There are definitely days when you feel like you aren’t getting anywhere. When the tears never end, and the kicking and screaming is volatile, when the aggressive behavior continues, when all you here is “NO!” or “I don’t want to!”, when you look at your children and just wonder, “Are they happy here?” “How can I help them?” “What’s happening in their little minds?” We all want for our children to be peaceful and happy. No one wants to see their child in turmoil and chaos all the time. As a foster/adoptive mother I also want to be confident that I am actually helping my child move forward in healing. So a lack of progress can make you feel like a failure in that. But instead of focusing on progress God is calling us to have patience, trust Him and love unconditionally. Love when there is no progress.

3.) How much are you willing to give?

Being called to foster/adopt you know it will involve sacrifice. But you can never know what little daily things God will ask you to give or give up for these children. I have a tendency to think that “I’m sacrificing this so I deserve this.” That’s just not a Biblical way to view sacrifice. There are so many moments in my day where I feel the Holy Spirit prompting me, asking me “Can you stop that for now?” “Can you put your phone down?” “Can you let the laundry pile up a little bit more?” “Those dishes can wait.” “Will you read a few more books?” I know its opportunity to serve my children better and to be more intentional and present in my parenting but many times I respond, “No, I can’t do that.” or “I deserve this bit of down time.” I’m praying for growth and maturity in this area. That I would see the immense value in all those little mothering opportunities and that my heart would desire pleasing the Lord over what I think will make me feel better in the moment.

Yesterday I went to the library and checked out a stack of books in an effort to continue my education on the layers of adoption, trauma, attachment, sibling rivalry, and developmental delays. I’d like to ask you to pray that I would be able to become well informed on how to meet the various needs of our children. I’d also like to continue asking for prayer that we would not run into any more delays or hang ups with the TPR hearing. It’s so important for these boys to have stability and with rights still in place it puts them at risk for unnecessary interference’s. Thank you for all the ways you continue to encourage and support our family. We are blessed beyond measure.

~Katie

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Thankful for bedtime

So I’m laying in my bed…. Jason had to work late, the girls are still in Florida and I got my buddy Caleb next to me watching Team Umizoomi way to late. I’m reading my new book Confessions of an Adoptive Parent by Mike Berry. I just started it and already feel so encouraged and hopeful.

I don’t know why this struck me just now, maybe it’s the book, “Confessions….” and I felt compelled to write about it but I am SO THANKFUL for bedtime. With our two little guys that is. And let me tell you why.

I love bedtime because on most days it’s the only thing I feel confident I have done right and well.

We have our routine. We get jammie’s on, we read books, we rock a little. For the most part they go to bed well and happy now, maybe a few tears from J but all in all, bedtime is an easy and happy experience. This is a huge deal. We have had bed time issues and I know a lot of children who have experienced trauma deal with on going night time issues.

Our days lately have been hard. The honeymoon is over and we are realizing just exactly what all the trauma and disruption has done to these two little guys. I remember telling Jason one of the “positives” of adopting these boys was that we “know” them. Because we had had them in our home and maintained contact with them…. I naively thought I knew what we were getting into. But I realize now you can’t know or anticipate what you will encounter with children from hard places. There are just so many layers. So much has occurred in their short lives. And it’s all compounding and here we are.

But bedtime is sweet and not just because they are going to bed. Although, that is a wonderful victory for me if I’m being honest. We made it through another day, yay us!! Bedtime is sweet because I enjoy reading to them and they love being read to. And I love reading Pete the Cat and Little Bear and Poems and Prayers. And I know that the simple fact that I get this one moment every night that affirms my soul “This is right”, is not to be taken for granted.

For all the thousand times I doubt myself during the day, I am so grateful to end most nights knowing I did at least one thing well.

Boundaries in Adoption

Hey look at that! A Two-fer. 😉 The elephants moved from upstairs to the pool so I figured, hey I can lifeguard and blog at the same time! Night swim, woohoo! Love having a pool. 🙂

One thing I am learning in our foster to adopt journey is the importance of boundaries. There are so many dynamics you can not possibly anticipate in adoption and every situation is unique. Most of the people in our life simply will not understand what we are navigating. They will try to understand and they will BE “understanding”  (and I am SO grateful for how understanding and compassionate people have been) but that’s different from actually living it and truly getting it. And that’s okay. There are  hundreds of experiences I will never personally walk through and wont be able to understand. What I’m learning though is that this means I have to be honest, direct, and fearless about what I believe (and what I have sought the Lord in) is best for our family.

I have been trying to be very sensitive and open to the boys great grandparents. We have always said we would want them to remain in the boys lives. And they will. But I’m praying over what will be a hard conversation with great grandma because honestly, we just need some space. It’s so vital that the boys bond to us and see us as their parental figures. Since the boys moved in the great grandparents have visited every week. About a month ago the caseworker expressed concern over the frequency of their visits so early on and offered to step in but I didn’t think this would be necessary. I just like to handle my concerns and conflicts personally. I truly believe that in every relationship we should be the one to confront people not send someone else to do it for us. I know this situation is different, but I’m really wanting to maintain a good rapport with great grandma and I think the key to that is open, honest communication. Plus, I fully recognize how difficult this is for her. She cared for her great grandchildren for a year and a half, day in and day out and now they are here. To some degree I know that heart break. I know she misses them terribly. And yet, they are young, they have been through so much, and seeing her so frequently prevents them from settling in. In some ways I believe its hindering them from healing and fully attaching and moving forward with their lives. So while I’m extremely empathetic toward her, my responsibility is to them. Please pray I would have the courage to express my concerns. Pray I would do so tenderly and lovingly and that she would hear my heart and love for these boys and understand.

Another boundary area I didn’t anticipate encountering is our traveling or people traveling to us. When you have children coming from hard places, consistency and routine are VITAL. When you change the schedule or add something new, sometimes they do great and sometimes they absolutely cannot handle it. And you will know by their behavior. All kids can get thrown off but it’s just a different beast when you have children who are being adopted. My big kids, I can basically say “suck it up buttercup!” but with my little guys, I have to treat it sensitively and carefully. When we went to the beach the boys did pretty well. I did my best to maintain the schedule we keep at home. After our trip to the beach we had family come and stay with us. By the end of their stay we had a full fledge BITER. Both boys are pretty off but one is definitely exhibiting some concerning behaviors. It’s summer, the time to travel. I wanted to go to Florida and I also had plans for our family to come back again…. Basically everything is getting put on hold because we have to get back to normal and help our little guy handle his big emotions. It stinks RSVPing “No” to my sister in laws baby shower, and “No” to a friend’s daughter’s birthday, and telling my sweet family “Hey, umm, I love you but can you maybe not come?” I mean that’s hard. I don’t want to hurt anyones feelings or come off like I don’t care about their special events and milestones. But we’re only a couple months in to a huge adjustment not only for ourselves but for these boys. I keep telling myself “It’s like having a new baby. No, twins. That come with DFCS, great grandparents, and a mixed bag of bonding and behavioral issues.” And they are completely worth it all. So to those in similar adoptive situations, the boundaries you have to set may surprise you but be open, be honest, and be fearless! These kiddos are so worth it!

We are on a seriously steep learning curve here. I know we are doing this all so far from perfectly and I pray people know we mean well as we stumble through the journey. I pray these boys especially know how loved they are. The other night, J was having a hard time getting to sleep, and it was one of my finer mothering moments. I went up and rocked him for like 20 minutes and just sang every worship song I could think of, plus Never Enough from the Greatest Showman. And then I prayed over that little guy and that God would continue to be so merciful in his and his brothers life. That He would step in all our many parenting gaps and all the broken places that everyone has left in their little lives. And I prayed they would know the Lords fierce love for them. And that he would equip Jason and I to love all our kids in ways that direct their hearts to Him. I am such a mess sometimes you guys and my prayers have been desperate for God because I cannot do this without Him. Maybe you are feeling a bit like me today…. Just desperate for God to be present in your parenting. Tonight I am just praying that I would not neglect meeting with my Heavenly Father. I need my Good Shepherd to lead and guide me otherwise, I am utterly lost with out Him.

The Journey Continues

Well happy July everyone! It’s been several weeks since I’ve written here and boy is there a lot I’d like to share. Today was one of those days that I wasn’t sure I would make it through. For starters we are in the throws of potty training and all in all K is doing GREAT but on the days that he poops his pants and decides to finger paint his crib…. Oh and bonus, the power went out as I discovered the mess and I got to learn how to clean and disinfect in the dark. Yay! But I’ve got the little ones safely in bed and currently can hear my big kids above me having a blast jumping off furniture. Sounds like someone might fall through the ceiling or possibly a baby elephant. (Two story home owners feel me?) I don’t know what it is about tough days that bring me to write….. although it IS one of the healthier options to decompress. I guess I fear you will think we only ever have tough days and that’s not true at all.

In fact, we’ve had some very good days. In the middle of June we spent a glorious week at the beach. It was the boys first trip and our first trip as a new family. The boys absolutely loved the water and sand. Our extended family loved them. And it was a very needed time of bonding for us all. We had each other day in and day out and I didn’t realize how much we needed that week together. In fact I would strongly encourage families who are adopting to consider planning a vacation specifically for a special time of bonding. I wish I could share pictures but since they are not legally ours yet I still am not allowed to do that. I also am out of storage on my blog here. :bummer:

I wish we were still at the beach. But alas, we are home and reality is in full swing. Upon returning I was made aware that our boys biological mother requested visitation. Since DFCS has yet to terminate parental rights, (they have filed three times and keep messing up paperwork) she can not be denied this privilege. We went a few weeks with no action and then I received a phone call from a transporter who would pick the boys up and supervise the visits. My heart sank. It feels so wrong and unfair. All because of “policies” the system allows these children to be yanked around and thrown into confusing situations that will only deepen their trauma. While I’m trying to build and strengthen the boys trust in me as their mother, caregiver and protector now I’m having to put them in a car with a stranger, to go have play time with another stranger, who will claim to be their “mommy”. I don’t mean to come off harsh but I struggle to call her their mother when she hasn’t been a mother to them for two years. Their great grandmother was their “mother” for the last year and a half. (which is another story) This is all just hard and I’m human and oh so fallible. I did the best I could to explain to K that he was having a visit with someone he may remember and that a helper would come to take him and brother. I told him they would play with toys and then the helper would bring them home. And then I cried in private and called out to my Helper. I know God is sovereign in all this and it’s another opportunity for us to rely on and trust in Him. Thankfully, the boys did well and it sounds like the visit went something like when they get dropped off at the church nursery. They played and were pleasant and excited to come home to me, mommy. Please pray that the TPR hearing would be expedited quickly. These children need normalcy and stability and consistency. And as long as we are waiting for rights to be terminated all of that is very difficult to have.

I have so much more to write about. I am learning SO MUCH in this foster to adopt journey. Like boundaries you must set, conversations you can’t avoid, things you just have to say no to, and so much more. I also have some fun stuff to write about like how we acquired a puppy, a pig, and two bunnies in one month. And tomorrow is Calebs 6th Birthday! I hope I can get a birthday letter in for that boy. Heck I hope I can get his birthday in period! This momma is off her game lol. Lesson number 465 in the adoption journey…… Grace. Grace. Give yourself lots of grace.

When you feel at wits end…..

I’ve been really overwhelmed. The last couple weeks I felt I was floundering in all this parenting stuff. I’m not saying I have it figured out now.

But I can breathe again.

Fostering and adoption in some ways is like having a baby. In the way that you have no idea what exactly is going to change when this new life (or lives) makes their entrance into your world. You can’t predict the amount of sleep you may or may not get, how long the adrenaline of the newness will last, and what you just wont be able to handle. You try to prepare and plan but it’s life. The thing that tends to be different though with fostering and adoption is typically the onlookers do not view it like giving birth to a new baby. It’s not their fault. I think it’s a lack of awareness. But it’s awkward asking for baby showers and meal trains, ya know what I mean? (But now you know so it’s on you :-/ 😉 ) So I reckon a lot of foster/adoptive families just hunker down and push through it but some times you just need to ask for help.

I didn’t actually have to ask for help (I should have asked) but I was crying out enough to my parents that the Holy Spirit prompted them to come. Praise the Lord! My mom came one week, with her little foster baby in tow. They used frequent flyer miles and jumped through DFCS travel request hoops, navigated airports and plane rides and baggage claims, all for me and my family. And it was good. I still cried almost every day as my mom and I processed everything that was going on from schedules, sleep issues, behaviors, healthy ways to approach everything and additionally wondering where the loss of our baby played into all this. It was wonderful having a listening, intuitive, compassionate ear, another set of eyes around, not to mention the helping hands. And Jason kept all the children, all 6!, so we could have a Barnes and Noble date to pick up some new parenting material. I was bawling my eyes out on the way to the airport as that Reckless Love song played because I felt “God has shown me his reckless love time and again through my parents.” What a blessing. I want to be this for my children.

And then the next week my dad came. And that was fantastic. I was able to get some appointments in, child free, including getting my hair done. My dad’s company is so comforting. He is great at running errands and taking the kids to places like the animal shelter and coming home with a free bunny. I love having him here. He is a constant source of affirmation and encouragement and sometimes that’s exactly what a mom needs.

I was uplifted though and I can tell that there has been a shift in the overall tone in our home. It went from chaotic and stressful and everyone was feeling it to now there is peace and joy and truly I can tell the kids sense this as well. Everyone’s behavior and moods are better. Whoever said the mother sets the tone of the home was right! And that’s no easy feat. Please continue to pray for me!

But my main point is, if you need help, ask someone! It’s hard, I get it. I tend to think in my mind “We chose to have all these kids we should be able to handle this transition ourselves.” But when the Bible instructs us to “bear each other’s burdens” I believe this would be an example of just that. God didn’t mean for us to do this alone. And I know they are my parents but they are Christians, too, responding to the Holy Spirit. As Christians this is what we are called to do for our brothers and sisters in Christ. “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” Galatians 6:10 NIV

I also wanted to share some of the helpful reading material that I’ve utilized with our little guys and combined with a peaceful mother these books and “tactics” have been tremendously helpful. I think we are beginning to break through with some behaviors which is immensely encouraging because at first I was like “is this even helping?!?” You guys I am SO impatient. Another thing the Lord has been impressing on me but I don’t want to get side tracked.

For the parent:

The Connected Child (a must read!)

For the children:

Hands are not for Hitting

Sharing Time

(Lots of books similar to these, I want them all!!!)

I read these books to the boys daily and quote phrases from them during the day. They are so good. Very simple and direct but the boys totally get it.

Thank you for your prayers. In the last week we have had some wonderful times of bonding and joy (and full nights sleep for J). We celebrated they’re 2nd and 3rd birthdays this week which was such a treat and milestone for us as a family. God is with us.

“I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Joshua 1:5

an honest update

I really shouldn’t be blogging right now. So many other things I should probably be doing. But when the Lord leads….. I came to my computer to print off a “sleeping log” because our two year old is not sleeping through the night. I have been aware of this sleep issue. Every time we’ve kept K and J we would experience night time waking. Grandma would even share with me that they would get up and “play” in the middle of the night, have a 3 am snack, whatever. I thought it was a product of bad habits and we could quickly correct it with a few nights of letting him cry, self soothe, get himself back to sleep. You know, instead of intervening with gold fish and mickey mouse clubhouse. It’s been a month and I realize once again how ignorant I am. This is a much deeper and bigger problem than I thought. We’re not only experiencing sleepless nights with J but he’s also exhibiting behavioral issues, aggression and anger. I mean can you blame him? I just got off the phone with my parents (in tears) having an “I don’t know what to do!” moment. I’m discouraged. I’m tired. I know the parenting tools I’ve utilized for 11 years aren’t completely useless but in this moment I feel like I have no tools and no clue what I’m doing. And it’s different with K and J now because they are here to stay and I want to give them the very best and what they need to benefit them for their whole life.

You know how it is when you bring home a newborn baby and you’re figuring everything out. You’re unsure, you’re trying new things, trial and error,… I look back and think how sweet it was to bring home this blank canvas of a newborn that I carried safely in my womb with no trauma. It was hard and we made some mistakes but they weren’t devastating. I feel like I did then, a new parent we’ve brought home a 2 year who’s canvas is not blank, in fact at conception someone took a bunch of black paint and dumped it all over and for the last 2 years people have been putting their brush strokes on it trying to “fix” it. He’s not this clean, white canvas. He’s been hurt, neglected, yanked around, has trust issues. He doesn’t know how to sleep or self soothe or deal with his big emotions. Just because J has lived in two “good homes” (ours and great grandparents) doesn’t mean that he’s unaffected by every move, every visit, every strange face waltzing in and out of his life.

My heart has so much compassion for him.

But I’m human and we’ve had some hard days with this little guy. I’ve felt defeated and insecure, I’ve been impatient (with everyone), I’ve been waking up bewildered on how to go about my day. Some days I have felt like we’ve been in time out all.day.long. and I go to bed thinking “What a waste of a day? Did I accomplish anything?” I have felt like a tyrant raising a tyrant. And then of course there are the other four imperfect children to shepherd as well. So yeah, I guess you could say, one month in we are DEFINITELY still adjusting, to say the least.

In the weariness, hopelessness, defeat and exhaustion I finally made myself get out of bed early enough to cry out to Jesus. Psalm 62:5 “Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him.” I picked up Paul David Tripp’s book “Parenting”. In it he writes a sweet reminder, “Here is the single redemptive reality, right here, right now, that makes parenting possible: God in you……This means that God is with you in the morning when you dread getting out of bed and facing another hard parenting day. He is with you when you have to break up the seventeenth squabble of the morning. He is with you when you have an opening for a very important talk. He is with you when your children are in your face and disrespectful. He is with you when you fall into bed with a combination of exhaustion and regret. He gifts you with His presence. He really does live inside you. You aren’t left to yourself. And he will not turn his back on you until what he has called you to do is complete.”

Today I checked out from our library the No Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers and have already dove in. Apparently sleeplessness can make for one difficult toddler! No kidding!! I know we have a long road ahead, with lots more to learn. I don’t have a neat little bow to wrap this blog up with. But I am printing out some sleep logs and taking the next step and God is in me. I do want to leave you with this song though, because it’s a new favorite of mine and a reminder of how I should love others, as Christ loves me, but it’s been a really timely reminder in my parenting and love for little J. Oh I pray that God would continue to strengthen me with his Spirit and his reckless love.

Hope Renewed: Part 4

Part 4

It’s crazy. So much of this journey has felt long. We have had to wait. They have had to wait. Wait for answers, wait for case plan decisions, and wait for direction  from the Lord. And the waiting is not over. We still have so far to go. But we’re in! We’re pursuing them, pursuing making them our boys. I already catch myself referring to them as “mine” or “ours”. I tear up just thinking about it. I feel like in the midst of trying to decide there were some fears that came with the unknown. But the moment we decided so much of that fear has been crushed! God is infusing my heart daily with more love and trust and confidence. I know we will face challenges, opposition even, but, “The Lord is my Light and Salvation, whom shall I fear? Whom shall I be afraid?”

re·new verb

past tense: renewed; past participle: renewed

resume (an activity) after an interruption.

synonyms:       resume, return to, take up again, come back to, begin again, start again, restart,…

When you look at the definition of renew, I think you’ll understand why I chose the title, Hope Renewed. So much of our story with the boys has been “come back to” and “start again”. And so much of their story is about “beginning again”. Of course I wish the world was not the way it was, that children didn’t come into foster care, and that life altering decisions weren’t so complex and messy. Of course I wish they had not experienced so much disruption in their life and no I can’t understand why it all happened the way it did. But then there is hope. There is Jesus Christ. I thought about titling this “All Things New” because that is the hope we have in Christ, that he IS making all things new. Where sin has broken and torn and messed up, Jesus steps in and offers hope and healing. And that’s what he’s doing in the boys life and in ours.

April 10, 2018….. That date probably holds little significance to you. I forgot how significant it was for me, for our family. The Lord didn’t though. I want to share with you one of the most gracious, amazing confirmations I believe we received from the Lord about adopting these boys.

We got a call March 23rd that there would be a permanency hearing for the boys on April 10th at 1:00pm. The permanency hearing will be to officially move them to our home and begin the adoption process. The following Sunday I went to put that event in my calendar on my phone. On that day, at that exact time, I had entered something else. Eight months ago I had put on my calendar for April 10th that baby was due. Ironically the default time was 1:00pm. I mean seriously? How in the world is it possible that these two dates, established eight months apart, after everything we’ve been through, would land together? Because God is just that cool and sweet and awesome. I got chills and tears and could not believe how specific God would be in our future and in theirs. I believe with every part of me he is redeeming and healing all these pieces of their life and ours together. And this is just the beginning of it.

So as my sweet friend so appropriately put it, I am “nesting”. Baby shower anyone?? Hehe! We’ve been having fun rearranging rooms and I love hearing Caleb talk about how he “will not sleep in his new room till the boys get here”. He asks me every day “When are we adopting the boys?” and he also very excitedly informed me, “Now that we are adopting K and J we will have enough kids to play manhunt!” I think he’s excited to get some brothers.

This is not the end of our story though. Please keep us and them in your prayers. Pray for our relationship with the great grandparents. We didn’t always know if we would adopt the boys but we did always know that God was using us in the boy’s lives and in the lives of their family. Pray for strength and wisdom as we jump back into parenting toddlers. Pray that the boys would integrate into our family, both immediate and extended. Pray for protection during the adoption process because we still fall under “adoption legal risk” as they are not officially “freed” for adoption yet. Which basically means it’s not over till the court says it’s over.

I am so honored to get to share this amazing story of God’s faithfulness through fearful, unsure, slow learners like ourselves. It’s been awesome to write and reflect on all the ways God sustained us when we wanted to quit and orchestrated His will through the doubts and fears and imperfect steps of obedience, faith, and trust. I can’t even tell you all the ways I look back and see his hands, “Oh, now I understand…” I look forward to writing “Part 5” and we are so grateful for your support and prayers.