Monday, June 30, 2014

FAQs (and other inappropriate comments)

We received our foster placements last week! I will share more later on how we're adjusting but for now I am going to publish this post I wrote just hours before getting the call that CPS would soon be here with precious 2-year old twin girls. 

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I already covered why we've decided to foster. Now I thought I'd cover some of the other topics that people have been curious about or had strong opinions on. And weren't afraid to share them. Ahem.

Now, the majority of people in our lives have been overwhelmingly supportive and excited for us and we are extremely grateful. But we have also been met with some disappointing reactions from others too. You wouldn't believe what some people spew out of their mouths with no second thought about how hurtful their words are (or lack of words, which also stings). We have found that even perfect strangers have no filter. We really make an effort not to take the comments personally or be offended and instead give them the benefit of the doubt. There are a lot of misconceptions about foster care and SURELY if they realized that these are just KIDS they would not be in such opposition to what we've carefully chosen to do. This is a topic that I'm obviously passionate about and I love answering questions that anybody might have. Even when the questions/comments turn offensive or inappropriate I do think they are genuinely rooted in curiosity or misinformation and not ugliness. (Or at least I hope so.)

How could you do this to your kids? Won't they feel neglected and unloved without your undivided attention?

Apparently some people question our priorities and whether we truly love our children or not. Of course we love them. They mean the world to us and this certainly isn't something we should have to debate. Would you ask parents who decided to get pregnant and have more biological children the same thing? No, you wouldn't. It's really not much different. Obviously we will not be blood-related to these children but that isn't what defines family for us. Obviously our attention will be divided more -- but our love will not. And if I'm being honest, teaching our kids that they aren't the center of the universe was a big part of our decision to foster. We are excited for the opportunity to show them what serving others looks like. We have explained that it isn't going to be fun and games all of the time. That these new children will need time to learn boundaries and trust and that we will have to show them a lot of grace and patience and unconditional love. They aren't going into it thinking they are going to have a new permanent sibling or just a fun playmate. We have given them realistic expectations and will of course protect their hearts and best interests every day along the way of this process.
  
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace.
1 Peter 4:10


Don't you know that foster kids are monsters? Don't you know that they'll hurt/rape/murder your family?

I wish I could say I was exaggerating here but nope, it has all been said and we were even given the statistics to back the statement up (100%, by the way). So, how do I even begin to answer this one? First of all, obviously foster kids aren't monsters. Foster kids are just kids. Their circumstances undoubtedly include a lot of hurt, but this doesn't make them damaged goods. They are not broken kids, they just come from broken places. This doesn't mean that the healing process is easy. It doesn't mean that their hurt won't possibly interfere with relationships, trust, and behavior in the short term. But it certainly doesn't mean that they are out to intentionally hurt others just because they've been hurt. And it also certainly doesn't mean that they should be given up on. Just like our children, we will teach them boundaries. And just like our children, they will be supervised. It is our job to protect all of our kids, biological or not, and we will do just that. Surely we will be there to intervene before a conflict over a toy escalates to murder. :)

My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others? For example, suppose someone comes into your meeting dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewelry, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in dirty clothes. If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, “You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor”—well, doesn’t this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives?
James 2:1-4


How do you make sure you don't get a crack baby? Or kids that aren't too messed up? Or kids of a different race ::gasp:: ?

You gotta love the crack baby comment. We have heard that one several times, believe it or not. So here's the thing. 100% of kids in CPS custody have been abused or neglected. THIS IS WHY THERE IS SUCH A NEED. This is why we are doing this. These kids need people to care about them and advocate for them because nobody else will. How many people do you know who are repulsed by abortion and don't think twice about voicing their strong opinions for those helpless babies in their mother's womb? You may be one of them and that's great. But what happens to those helpless babies who are not aborted, yet still unwanted? Who cares about them then? There is such a disconnect between advocating for life in utero and advocating for them once they are born. They are still God's precious creation. They still deserve love and care.

And as for the topic of race. This is a very sensitive subject for a lot of people. But not for us. We do not care one way or another about the race of our foster kids. It wouldn't bother us in the slightest to welcome kids of a different race into our family and it would also be completely fine with us if they were the same race as us. We aren't "doing this for attention like the celebrities" (have actually heard that one, too). Sorry to those who don't agree, but it really is a non-issue for us. I have family on both sides who are biracial and as shocking as it may be for some people to believe, they are very much just normal human beings and there has never been any drama just because we all don't look exactly the same.

Our only question/concern about a potential different race was the effect on the foster kids themselves. We worried if they would feel different or like they didn't belong. We talked about it with our agency and they had some great wisdom and advice. They said that instead of going into it "colorblind" it is much healthier to acknowledge and celebrate any cultural differences. They haven't seen any issues with interracial foster homes and the bottom line is that kids just want to be part of a loving family no matter what they look like. 

Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? Why then are we faithless to one another, profaning the covenant of our fathers?
Malachi 2:10


I heard that fostering is kind of like buying a car. Do you really get to pick and choose what type of kids you get? And is it true that you get paid to take them?

This question kind of makes me cringe. Kids aren't cars and they aren't puppies. Your heart definitely isn't in the right place if you go into fostering or adoption just so you can customize your own personal child or collect a pay check. It certainly isn't a business transaction. But it is true that you can set preferences of the "type" of child that would fit your family best. You can choose race, gender, age, medical issues, behavior issues, etc. It is also true that while the children are in the state's custody, foster parents are paid a daily rate to reimburse for any cost associated with their care. It's essentially like a child-support arrangement. They also receive WIC and Medicaid. I think the daily rate is set by the state and in Texas it is approximately $23/day for a "basic" child (meaning no major medical/behavior issues). Foster kids usually show up with only the clothes on their back so this money is to pay for clothes, shoes, car seats, food, activities, and any other normal living expenses. It also goes to cover gas as foster parents are required to drive them to all of their doctor appointments, evaluations, parent/sibling visitations, etc.

From a financial perspective, there are no barriers to becoming a foster parent. So if you are considering fostering and you are worried about the added expenses of taking care of another child, know that this isn't an issue. It will take a lot of sacrifice and hard work from other areas of your life but at least there is peace of mind knowing that you won't be stuck with mounting medical bills or having to pay for everything out of pocket.

“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”
Mark 9:37

Which "type" of kids did you sign up for?

We are open to 2 siblings ages 0-4. We didn't set parameters for race or gender.


The only preferences we had were for age and medical issues. Since we have 2 young children already, we feel that taking in children of the same age group would be the best fit for all of us. We are open to mild medical conditions like asthma, food allergies, etc. Anything beyond that we would need to know the specific details before committing. Neither one of us have any medical background outside of what our own children have experienced and we feel unequipped to handle any major medical conditions without proper training.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Are you fostering or adopting?

Unfortunately we can't answer this question definitively. We would love to adopt but there is no way to guarantee that as the end result until parental rights have been terminated. The state always seeks reunification with biological family so in order for the adoption process to even begin, not only do the parents have to either voluntarily sign their rights away or have them taken away by a judge, but every other biological family member has to say no to taking the kids as well. There are a million variables and every case is different. It is impossible to know going into this how it's going to end and we definitely don't want to set ourselves up for heartache by having false expectations. So we are going into this with a day-to-day focus and the attitude that we are here to help these kids and meet them in their need. If that need is temporary, then so be it.

Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.
Psalm 82:3-4

Why have you decided to foster TWO kids? 

When we initially went into this we hadn't even considered taking more than 1 child. The thought hadn't even crossed our minds. But when we heard about the huge need to keep siblings together, God was quick to work in our hearts again. I had dream after dream about something happening to Rick and I and then our children being separated. So we started discussing what it would look like for us to add 2 children to our home. Obviously in some ways it will be more difficult. Having 4 kids will not always be easy. Especially since all of them will be 4 years old and under. We only have a 3 bedroom house so we had to bunk the kids together. We had to buy a minivan to accommodate 4 car seats. The list goes on. But to us, the benefit of keeping a sibling set together far outweighed any challenges. These kids will be losing everything. Their parents, their homes, their belongings...everything. How huge would it be to at least have your brother or sister to cling to as you begin the healing process? To not feel completely isolated or different from your new family?

We aren't certain we'll get two kids. There is a chance we will be placed with just one, and that would be fine with us. Our main goal is to just be flexible and available and willing to help where the greatest need is.

 In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’
Acts 20:35

When will you be getting your placements?

That right there is the million dollar question. As of last week, we are officially a licensed and open home. So now we wait. We have had a newborn placement that didn't materialize and were also scheduled to do respite care for 2 children that fell through as well. It is very challenging for a Type A person like myself to not be able to plan. We could literally get a call at any moment and go from 2 kids to 4 within a couple of hours notice. I am definitely learning some valuable lessons in patience and flexibility. I remind myself hourly that God has already chosen the kid(s) for us. He knows their names, their ages, their personalities, their circumstances, and the exact time they will arrive to our house and all of the details are in his perfect will. When I'm feeling anxious or unsettled I find peace in that.

Most likely, the children will be coming straight from their home to us so this could happen at any hour of the day or night, depending on when they are taken into custody. It is bittersweet to know that while we are excited that they will be joining us soon, it means that they are going through some ugly and hurtful things right now. We are definitely praying for them as we wait to welcome them to our home.

How can I help?

Many people have asked us this and we are extremely grateful for the support. The biggest way to help is to simply pray for these kids and the transition into our family. We don't know their ages yet so we don't know what size clothes or diapers to buy or if we'll need any baby gear. But luckily we've saved most of what our kids used. If you are looking for another huge way to help it would be to go through the process of becoming an approved babysitter. The state requires anybody who babysits foster children to be CPR/First Aid certified, be FBI fingerprinted, and have a background check run by our agency. We have to maintain 30 hours of training courses each year and childcare is not provided.

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
1 Thessalonians 5:11


If you have a question I haven't answered here please don't be afraid to ask. You can call, email, or even leave it in the comments as anonymous if you're feeling shy. :)



Sunday, June 22, 2014

Why?

I am bursting with things I want to share and am having a hard time organizing my thoughts on our fostering journey. There are so many parts to cover, but I guess first I should start with the "why".

The biggest "why" is simple.

There is a huge need. And we can help meet that need.  

Anybody can meet that need. We are very ordinary people. But the good news is, God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things.

What we've signed up to do isn't extraordinary. Kids have very basic needs. To be fed. To be loved. To be cared for. To be known. Just like any person on this planet. Just like we're already doing with our own children. What's extraordinary is how God can use us -- very ordinary people doing very basic things -- to make a HUGE impact on the lives of these kids.

The training classes we took really opened our eyes to how different life is for so many people even in our immediate area. We live in a suburban bubble, and while there's a lot of good in that, it also gives us a false sense of reality. We heard so many appalling stories about what some of these kids have gone through, but the saddest part is that these stories occur on a daily basis all around us and we have been completely oblivious. Stories of drugs, abuse, and neglect. Stories of a culture where there are no fathers. Stories where there is definitely no knowledge of Jesus. Stories of hopelessness.

But what was meant for evil, God uses for good (Genesis 50:20). We also heard so many stories of redemption and hope and healing. Of orphaned children being adopted into permanent, loving homes. Of children being reunited with their biological parents after they got the help they needed. Foster care is certainly not without its flaws and we are going into it with guarded hearts. We know that heartache is a very possible outcome. But we also know that we have a huge opportunity to introduce children to another way of living. That even if they don't stay in our home forever and go back to a less than desirable situation, we have peace knowing that their time with us in our family will not have been fruitless. That they will have gotten to witness first-hand another way of living that they may otherwise have never known existed -- a healthy lifestyle centered around love and family. That they will have been introduced to Jesus and the hope that he promises.

Our "why" definitely evolved over time. It began more with a selfish perspective as we initially were only thinking of whether or not we wanted to grow our family and which route we would benefit from the most. But as time passed and God continued to work on our hearts, it became less and less about us and our checklist and more and more about these children and their needs. Over time, it shifted from "why in the world would we ever want to get involved with foster care?" (and this was once our way of thinking) to "why would we not?" 

What once felt like a huge burden we now view as a huge blessing. We are going to be so blessed by these children we haven't even met yet. I am sure of it. And not only do we have an opportunity to love and care for them, we also have an opportunity to model for own kids what loving the way Jesus instructs us to actually looks like. To truly love in our actions and not just talk about it. They get to be actively involved and I can't think of a better way to teach them compassion and to grow their character through serving others. And you know what? They are SO excited. They talk about it all the time. They have voluntarily set aside toys and clothes for them. Any time we are out and about they point out things that they think would be good for our foster kids instead of begging for toys for themselves. They remind me that we might need to buy diapers and that if we get a baby, we'll need to get some bottles and pacifiers. We have talked extensively with them about realistic expectations and yet I'm not naive to believe that it won't be a huge adjustment for all of us. But since when is that such a bad thing?

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.  
Romans 12:2

I'm going to wrap this up with Harrison's own little paragraph. He came in as I was typing this and asked what I was writing. I told him it was a blog post about why we made the decision to foster. He told me he wanted to write his own post as well, and here is what he dictated to me verbatim:
  
 "Why do people foster? Because, um, if their parents are sick. I love fostering. I liked our home study. I don't know when exactly we're going to foster but I bet it's going to be exciting.  'Cause it's fun but if you're a bad guy you can't foster. If you are a good guy you can foster, but not if you're a bad guy. I'm just telling you that for you to remember. So, let your heart fill with joy and concern.  We love that we're going to foster because God wants us to love other people. So let yourself foster. Don't you love the sound of it?"

Yes, Harrison, I do love the sound of it. Such profound words for a 4-year old.




Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Fostering Love

So I've mentioned a couple of times on here that we have some exciting news I would be sharing soon. It hasn't been a secret but I wanted to wait until we were "official" before I formally announced it to the world.




We have prayerfully made the decision to become a foster family. We had our home study last month and now after over 6 months of classes, training, and preparation, we are finally done with the licensing process and I just heard from our agency that we could receive our placements any day now! We are looking to foster and potentially adopt a sibling group of 2, ages 0-4. Our hope is that this journey ends in adoption but it is out of our hands. We are leaving that and the hundreds of other variables and details up to God and instead are trying to focus our energy on being joyfully obedient to what we both strongly feel He has called us to do.

It has been a wild and exciting journey so far, and we don't even have our foster placements yet. I plan to share more soon about the hows and whys and other details of our decision since we have found that there are so many misconceptions about fostering. Until then, please join us in celebration and in prayer for the children who will be joining our family. Thank you, friends!

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. 
1 John 3:18

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Summer So Far

Well, hello there. I didn't intend to take a blogging hiatus but I guess that's what naturally happens when you are sick for 2 weeks and trying to still salvage some summer fun in the process. I do have to say that it's been kind of nice to be unplugged for a while.

Here's a little of what we've been up to over the last few weeks according to my iphone pictures:

The kids and I met up with my sweet friend, Latrice. We used to work together at the bank and it was so great to catch up. She's making her way up the corporate ladder and I couldn't be prouder of her. I loved hearing about how everyone is doing and how much has changed since I left. And even though my life isn't glamorous and I had to make her meet me and my monkeys at Chick-fil-a since that's as fancy as we get these days, I am so grateful for the path my life has taken. I do miss working sometimes, but I know how blessed I am to get to spend my days with my sweet babies and I wouldn't trade my new "career" for the world.


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We had to get in one last visit to the zoo before our membership expired.


 

 

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Same with Palm Beach. We got 4 visits in this summer before last year's membership was up.

 


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The kids finally saw their first rainbow. Harrison had been impatiently waiting to see a "real" one since they like to draw "pretend" ones all the time. He was SO excited. He was with my mom on a Beda date and ran into the house as fast as he could to tell us all about it.


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Lots of sickness. Shocking, I know.


So also lots of just hanging around the house.


I'm not sure how long he had these on before I walked in and found him like this.


There are so many funny things about the next 2 pictures that I don't even know where to start.


You've got your librarian disco tap-dancing diva with shoes on the wrong feet and her heavy metal rock star brother giving me a performance with his t-ball tee as his electric guitar. I wish you could hear his awesome sound effects. There's pretty much not a single moment we're not being entertained by these two goobers.

We have been baking a lot lately. Harper loves to help out in the kitchen and we have a great time together. We made peach cobbler from scratch and she even helped me peel all the peaches. It was quite impressive for a 3 year old. Their favorite thing by far that we've made has been monkey bread. I hadn't had it since I was a little girl and it was just as good as I remember it being.


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Sadie got a summer buzz and lost 10 lbs in the process.


And look who I caught spooning. There's a lot of love in this picture for someone who claims to not like cats. HA! (and check out that farmer's tan:) )


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 The kids started swim lessons at the Y.


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Harrison had his endoscopy. Going under and waking up from the anesthesia was quite traumatic for both him and me. He was so scared and started screaming and fighting and they asked me to come back and comfort him while they held him down until he passed out. He woke up screaming and fighting too, and then puked all over me. Poor baby. We were both in tears. The good news is his official diagnosis is acid reflux (GERD) and the doctor didn't see anything concerning that would indicate something more serious. He wants us to try to wean his dosage of Prevacid down to what's textbook for his weight and see if the improvement sticks or not. We follow up in 2-3 months to re-evaluate medication and in the meantime I've started overhauling his diet and cutting out all the processed junk. It's trial and error to see what he might be sensitive to so I'm starting with artificial food dyes -- it's been eye-opening to discover how many foods contain them. I've also read that there is a huge link between them and hyperactive/defiant behavior so that is just even more motivation to experiment cutting them out of his diet :) 



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We celebrated 8 years of wedded bliss! We always exchange traditional anniversary gifts and year 8 is bronze. I thought I had outdone myself with the idea I came up with. I found some bronze tanning lotion and wanted to surprise him with a weekend getaway somewhere sunny and poolside. He was a step ahead of me though so I wasn't able to surprise him -- AND his gift to me totally trumped my idea as well. He sent off the kids' baby shoes to be dipped in bronze. I mean, come on. Perfect.


We dropped the kids off at his parents' house and then headed to San Antonio for the weekend. We spent the first day at Fiesta Texas. It was a ton of fun. There were no lines and it felt like we were kids again. Or at least until we were actually on the rides...then we definitely felt our age. And it probably wasn't my smartest move to ride a bunch of roller coasters while sick with a sinus infection and ear ache but you should have seen my husband. He was seriously like a kid in a candy store and there was no way I was going to spoil his fun!

(I didn't take very many pictures so thank you google images for helping me document our trip)


 


In between Fiesta Texas and dinner, we got cleaned up at the hotel and then stopped in at an urgent care clinic. I was on day 2 of a fever and my ears and throat were hurting and I didn't want it to get worse to the point of ruining our trip. I had some sort of throat and sinus infection so she called me in some antibiotics. Boo for being sick on vacation! I rallied though and even though I didn't feel up to it I forced myself to keep our dinner plans. Sooooo glad I did, too, because it was amazing. Seriously some of the best food I've had...but more importantly, great conversation in a romantic atmosphere with my favorite person. Plus they called us Mr. & Mrs. Boyd all night long...definitely much fancier than Chick-fil-a :)



On Saturday we headed to the J.W. Marriott Hill Country Resort & Spa. It was so lovely. Once again, I didn't take any pictures but look at how nice this place is:

 

 

We ate more delicious food and enjoyed some adult beverages and were having a great time poolside and in the lazy river. But there were families with kids everywhere and we found ourselves actually feeling sad and guilty that we ditched ours. So we quickly relocated to the adult pool and ordered some more drinks and suddenly we were all better again. :)

I had to add this picture Rick took because we seriously laughed for 5 minutes about how giant my arm looks. We may have had a few drinks by this point :)

Even though I wasn't feeling so hot it was still a fantastic weekend!


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We had a fun, water-filled Father's Day weekend. We spent Saturday at Palm Beach and then came home and played in the water some more. Sunday we went to church and then over to Mom & Tim's house for burgers and swimming.






When I asked the kids what they wanted to get their dad, Harper's 100% unprompted response was "a shirt that doesn't have holes in it." Bahahahaha! If you know Rick, you know that since he was a kid he has always worn just a handful of shirts over and over and over until they have holes in them, and then he still continues to wear them. Doesn't matter that he has brand new shirts with tags in his closet. I literally have to throw his old ratty clothes away when he's not looking. It's sad when even the 3-year old notices your shabby wardrobe ;)  She was excited to pick him out a new shirt and Harrison chose a gift certificate to ride go-carts together and a "Fish Store" gift card (Bass Pro). They always go there together on their boy outings. And out of all 3 presents, a whopping 0 remained a surprise. Toddlers...you totally can't trust 'em.

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