NO....I am not pregnant but I am in my final trimester. I have been expecting for 2 1/2 years. An expectation filled with pain, worry, grief, anxiety, stress....I know...I know...sounds like most pregnancies. However....I have been pregnant with someone else's child. I am a foster mom. I spent a year caring for a child that was not my own. Loving a child that was not biologically nor legally connected to me. Here we are over 2 years later ready to deliver. You see about a year and half ago it was determined that this love of our lives would not be returning to her biological family. Her biological mom and dad could not sustain clean living nor care for her. So we quickly and joyfully stepped up to the plate to adopt. To bring this wonderful child into our home forever. We thought it would happen right away but it was Braxton Hicks. False labor. Because as with most government agencies the process is long and filled with red tape. We have been waiting and longing for the day to call her our own. Well I am beyond thrilled to say that this day in in sight. We had a meeting with the adoption supervisor yesterday and on December 6th, which is our next court check in we will get our adoption day. A day I was fearing would never come! So safe to say I am in my final trimester! I can feel my heart starting to bursting at the seams! We will celebrate that day like most new parents. We will have our family with us. We will take lots of pictures. We will laugh and rejoice. As with most new parents we will forget the long painful road that led us here because in the end we will be able to take our little girl home and share more that space with her...we can share a name and a future!
Thanks to http://www.letstalkmommy.com for hosting Bumps and Babies! Although my bump is a little different it is still something to celebrate!
Two and a half years ago my husband and I started on a journey. We got a phone call from a social worker about a child we had connections to. This child was being taken into protective care and was now a foster child needing a home. Without thought or regard my husband and I said yes. From early on we fell in love with her. She wound her way into our hearts. As a foster parent we took classes to prepare us for loving a child that was not our own. We took classes how to help a child adjust to our lives. What we could not be taught was how to get rid of the fear. Fear that after a year plus we would have to say good buy to her. We took it day by day. Day one. She was in our home. We didn't have a clue what the future would hold. We just knew that the little girl needed love. We went to court hearings. We went to team meetings. We had meetings with social workers and CASA workers. We took her to doctors appointments. We took her to the dentist. We loved all over her. We worked with our Parent Aid to organize court ordered parental visits. Day one turned into month one. Month one turned into month 3. Court check in. Parents are not doing anything they should be doing but are full of promises. Month three turned into month six. Another court hearing. Still nothing being done that the parents need to do to complete their parenting plan. Visits are hit or miss. Mont six become seven, eight and nine. Month nine was a turning point. Bio parents had a home. Bio dad found a job. Even thought the visits by parents were sporadic and inconsistent the judge ordered unsupervised visits. I remember the moment the judge handed that down from the bench. I thought the floor fell out from under me. Here this whole time the visits have been supervised. To suddenly go from one extreme to the other was unusual. The only thing my husband and I could do was pray and trust. Trust that God had control. When everything seemed to be falling apart we had to blindly let her go. Alone. Unsafe. Scared. It was too much to bear. I remember two nights before her first unsupervised visit. I was shaking in fear. I was a mess. The only thing I could do was crawl out of bed in the middle of the night and pray over this child. Pray for safety. Pray for peace. Pray for God to move in amazing ways. The only thing that kept running through my head was Jeremiah 29:11 "For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper and not to harm you , plans to give you a hope and a future." Over and over I was saying this. God had to have a plan. It could be his plan was for her to go back. His plan for me at that time is to TRUST. TRUST...trust? Send this little girl into the lions den? To parents whom she had not seen consistently in months. Helpless is what we felt. Awaken the next day. A sense of urgency and butterfly's in my stomach. Sad. Scared. I noticed an email from our social worker. With dread I open it. I knew it would have the details on the visit. Now hear me when I say this. It is not that I wanted to keep her form her bio parents. I did not have it out for them. I was trying to protect this child. A child I had grown to love very much. A child who said from the beginning she did not want to go back. She did not feel safe with them. She did not want to go on visits. She wanted to be done with them. I knew as a foster parent the end goal is to reunify. However, I say how unhealthy the parents were. I saw that they only checked off boxes to please the court. There was no rehab. There was no real change. This child was going to be returned to a place that was unhealthy and scary against her will. Up to this point little girl had a parent aid whose primary job was to keep little girl safe at visits. Little girl knew if she felt uneasy or scared this parent aid would remove her. Now we are going to send her with no help? It just did not make sense. I sat down at the computer and opened the email. The only thing it said was "Visits on hold. I have new information I need to check out." Wait? WHAT? What information? What is going on? Frantic call. Message left for social worker. We have just entered a whole new world of crazy! After what seemed like hours I hear from our CASA worker. Apparently, the day before her visit, the bio parents parole officer made an unexpected visit and caught bio mom with all sorts of drug kits. Both bio parents were ordered to drug test. Both came up dirty and both went underground! Month ten and eleven parents can not be found. Month twelve...court hearing....neither parent can be found to be served with termination papers. This means the social worker needs to go through all sorts of hoops to try and locate them. Ads in papers. Registered mail to last known addresses. Just as we were nearing the end of this process mom shows up from drug rehab. Makes all sorts of promises about getting her act together. She looks GREAT! She sounds great. Wants to start up visits again. It is all to much. After all this time. Why? Well I know why. She loves her kid and wants to see her. But at this point it should not be about her. It should be about what is best for little girl. Dare I say thankfully this was just a flash in the pan and she could not sustain drug free life. A few more months and we are all in court again. This time it was the trial for termination. This would determine if the parents rights will be terminated or if the child will go back. I am thankful to say neither parent showed up. The judge ordered termination. This little girl was now a ward of the state. She belongs to the State! After what seemed like an endless battle was it too good to be true? Is she now free for adoption? Can we keep her? Can we finally become the family that she wanted? Yes...and no. Yes...in time we will. No it has not happened yet. Our state has such a backlash due to the opioid crisis the courts and social workers are maxed out. We are in a holding pattern. Waiting for paperwork to be filed. Waiting for visits form the adoption social worker. Waiting. Praying. Hoping. I know in time little girl will be ours legally. As I sit her on the eve of her birth I can't help but feel sorry for her biological mother. As we celebrate this little life tomorrow she will be reminded of a death. A death to her. A death to a family that could have been so much more. I am not sure where either bio parent is at this point. All I know is I pray they will find peace. I pray the will find a way to fill the gap that made them turn to drugs. As we celebrate this spunky child I can't help but think I have been through labor. Am still in labor. I will be in labor until we walk out of the courthouse with the adoption certificate signed. That is when my labor will stop. Because then and only then will her future be secure with us. As I think back to that first night where we held a sobbing child begging us to let her stay I did not know how this would all pan out. I did not know the end chapter. As I reflect back I can see God moving. I can piece together they why's and the how's. The little 4 year old we took in tomorrow will turn 7. Happy Birthday little girl. Mommy loves you. Mommy is proud of you. Mommy and Daddy will always fight for you! I am so glad you were born.
World Adoption Day is November 9th. To raise awareness you are suppose to draw a smiley face on your hand and post it to social media. I did a smiley face on my hand and posted to my media sites. I then began to ponder what that could mean. Why a smiley face? Why not a picture of your kid? There are some pictures of families with their adopted/biological kids with a smiley face on all their hands. Why? I tried to research the meaning and did not really find one. So here is my take. My soon to be child is still in foster care. She is officially a ward of the state. The rights of her biological parents have been terminated. She legally belongs to the state. They will make all the decisions for her until we adopt her. Thankfully we have had her in our care from the beginning and our experience with our social workers and CASA workers have been fantastic! However, as a foster kiddo she is not allowed to have her picture posted for any reason. We used to be able to post pictures of her from behind. Pictures of her far off where you can not tell who she is. The laws have changed to the point where we are no longer allowed to post anything. It may seem strange but if you had your child in foster care would you want to see her face on social media? Would you want to see her life without you? It makes sense. In respect to the biological parents, posting is a big no no! We are sort of in limbo land but still not allowed. As much as I want to post pictures of her first day of PreK, K and 1st, I could not. Yes, she has been with me that long. As much as I wanted to post her picture of opening the Power Wheels Jeep she got last year for Christmas, I can not. Video's I have of her playing the piano, singing, saying the movie lines along with the movie Frozen, I can not. So instead I will keep these memories safe until such a time is I can brag to the world how great this kid is. I will keep my phone loaded with videos that she can watch when she wants. Pictures I can show my friends and family instead of the outer friends on social media. To those mom's and dad's proud of your kid...post away! I love seeing smiles and love of life. But watch out for picture overload when those adoption papers are final! #WorldAdoptionDay
When children are in foster care the biological parents still maintain all rights expect for physical care. In our case her bio parents were still together. At first they would not let us take her out of state. We could not cut her hair. No field trips. No extra sports. She was to have no contact with any of her biological family except bio mom and dad. Now that their rights have been terminated and we are in the process of adoption we are no longer bound by their requests. The maternal grandmother is raising our little ones sister. I have been in contact with the grandmother for several years. As soon as we got the green light from our social worker we decided it was time to get the girls together. The older sister whom I shall call Abby is just shy of 13. A beautiful girl who is into dancing. She is an excellent student. Tall and graceful. The grandmother has done a wonderful job. We were invited to travel a few towns away to do trick or treating with them last night. My little one was unsure as to wanting to go. She wanted to go but in her words "I am so shy around my sister." Meaning she was not sure what to say or what to do. My little one has such a deep longing for a sisterly connection. All we have heard about for the past 3 years was wanting to see her sister Abby. When can we see her? What is she like? Last night was the first contact between the two girls. We were to meet at the restaurant the grandmother owned. We arrive and after the initial meeting she hid behind me...stayed close to my side. There was an aunt and 2 cousins there as well. Two boys. A lot to take in at once. Abby did an amazing job of asking questions. Trying to engage her. The aunt, as well, was very engaging and called her by her new name. All very kind. After a few moments my little bug became more and more at ease. I could see her big eyes taking in the new family members. The time soon came for us to start walking door to door. The first few houses she wanted me to walk with her. Hold her had. After a few more houses she started to talk to Abby. Before long they were walking side by side. I tried to keep back as much as possible to give them time to connect. Grandmother, Aunt and I hung back while the kids went on ahead. Abby, as the oldest, corralled them all from house to house. At one point Abby and my little bug were holding hands. My heart did a little jump. As the night wore on and the air became crisp I thought for sure we were over due for a meltdown but it never came. We walked around for about an hour and a half before we wound back to where we started. In that time fingers and noses became cold. Piling back into the restaurant the grandmother served hot chocolate to our little clan. Lots of giggles over whip cream mustaches. As I saw the time creeping later and later I knew we had to take our leave. As we packed up our loot to head out she gave hugs freely to her grandmother and aunt. She then gave her sister a hug and just rested there for a moment. It was a sweet ending to a good night. I was expecting some conversations on the way home in regards to bio parents but she was actually pretty normal. Chatty. Wanting to know when she can see Abby again without the cousins to do "real sister" stuff. Over all I would say it was a success. My friend asked me if I was threatened or sad that she took such a shine to her sister. I can honestly say no I was not. These people are her flesh and blood. She needs that DNA connection. I am her mommy. Her safe point. Her rock. The fact that we do not share DNA will not and can not change that. I am thrilled this need in her life is being met. In time I hope they are able to become close and have a special bond. She did not grow in my tummy but she grew in my heart. Stay tuned for more adventures from the beach chair!
Life with a foster kiddo is not easy but it is fun. Many people think once they get the child they are on their own. This is not the case. There are so many people invested in the wellbeing of a foster child that you are far from alone. This is my experience. Once a month we have a team meeting with our social worker. In this team meeting is the CASA worker, the bio parents (if they show), the parent aid (who supervises visits with bio parents to keep child safe), myself and my husband. Our social worker is fantastic to do this. It gets the whole team together to talk about how the child was doing. How were the visits going. Our social worker does not pull any punches. When bio's were dropping the ball she let them know. They would get defensive and try to justify but she would have none of it! Most meetings I just sit there as I learn a lot by just listening! Once a week our little has counseling. I take her to a wonderful place where we do child/parent physco-therapy. It is a fancy name for child directed play. Every 3 months we have a court hearing. It is required for kids in care. Our judge changed a few times but all were wonderful. The judges mostly listened. They did not say much. They did ask me a few times how the child was doing and I was free to s peak. A lot of times it was the bio parents promising things they would never go through with. Once a mont I take my little one to the doctors. When she came into care she was just shy of 5 and weighed 22 pounds. As you know this is not even close to what a child her age should weigh. She is being watched closely for her growth and normal physical development. We rejoiced when she finally made it on the growth chart! I am happy to report she is doing wonderful and is growing and gaining weight! Once a month it is required for the CASA worker AND the social worker to lay eyes on the child. The CASA worker can see her anyplace. Many times ours would swing by her school to see her in action. The social worker needs to see the child in the home. Part of her job it to make sure we are providing a clean, stable home with all the needed amenities like heat and food! Once a month there is a support group that helps other foster folks to connect and chat. Ours meets over a meal that we have with the kids. Once the meal is over the kids are taken to a gym for a fun time of supervised recreation while we have a meeting. Along with the support group is an advocacy group. This is a group of foster folks working to change the laws and speak out for the kids in care. The support group and advocacy groups are not mandatory but they provide great insight and are great supports. Along with the groups is an entire network on facebook of foster folks to help. In our state we have a very active page. If I had a question I can post it and it will be answered within minutes from other foster folks who have been there. There is also a facebook group dedicated to swapping kid stuff. If you get a child overnight and need XYZ you put your post and the community rallies to help. In reverse if you have an item you no longer need you can post it for anyone who may need it. All free. I have used this resource and have also passed stuff on. My CASA worker and social worker are just a phone call away. I was blessed in the fact that my two have been fantastic. They have been there every step of the way. Now that we are moving towards adoption I am going to meet a whole new team. This is the adoption social worker and her crew. They will be there to provide us with information in regards to changing her name, birth certificates, post adoption support and such. My entire journey has been a positive experience. We did not go into it knowing the outcome but with each up and down we had support. With each court visit we had information. With each support group meeting we had answers. Being a foster parent can not be done in a vacuum. You will need support and connections to resources. You are not in this alone. You will become part of the foster tribe as it really does take a village!
My little one has lived with us going on 3 years. She lived with me when she was just over a year old for an entire year. She spent 2 years with her bio parents. Long enough to cause trauma. Let me say this....kids are resilient....up to a point. Trauma will effect children in different ways. Most kids coming into foster care have some sort of trauma. After all they were removed for a reason! Our little one came out of the whole drug crisis. Thankfully her bio parents protected her from a great deal. They made those 2 years with them as magical as possible. They would do lots of free things around town. Her bio mom was very artistic. She could draw the most amazing pictures. She would make chalk pictures and sketches that could be sold in any art studio. Unfortunately as much as they tried they could not hide their drug use nor properly care her. I have mentioned this before but it is worth mentioning again...she weighed 22 pounds just shy of 5 years old when she came into care. She was removed for several reasons. I have only touched on a few. Having a child with PTSD is not easy. This is not a label that will define her. It is not a label that will haunt her for the rest of her life. Right now it is a label that allows us to see Beth our therapist for Parent/Child Psychotherapy once a week. It is a label that allows me to share with others so I don't get the judgemental stares from the perfect moms. It is like a tool in a tool belt. It helps us understand one piece of who she is. Our therapist explained PTSD like this....Imagine a child carrying a suitcase. It is roughed up and well worn. In this suitcase is all sorts of emotions and memories. The child will have this suitcase for life. There are times when she will carry it and be able to run and function and play like any normal child. There are times when we need to help her carry the suitcase. There are also times when we will need to carry her as she carries the suitcase. So you get the whole image of the suitcase. There will be times when the suitcase will come flying open. From my experience this is always at the worst times. We will be in a hurry, or in a public place or right before bed! You can not just shove the items back in. When the suitcase comes open you need to take the time to help the child process what fell out. It could be a memory. It could be emotions she can not label. It could be just a good case of the can't help its! Whatever it is, it requires your help in examining, labeling and packing. Sometimes one or two things will pop out like "do you think bio mom and dad are in jail?" "Do you think bio mom or dad will try to come and take me away?" What she needs from me as the adult is to reassure her she is safe, loved and with us forever! Sometimes the spill is much bigger. This usually involves tears, questioning of being loved, total and irrational meltdown. What makes this different from a normal kid fit? Not a lot except the fit is coming from a place of fear and trauma. When our little one gets to this point of no return it has to run its course. She had gotten to the point now that she will ask me to snuggle her. This is where I will sit on our bottom step and scoop her up and just love on her. I will wipe the hair out of her face. I will kiss her forehead. I will sometimes hum to her. Anything that lets her know she is not alone. I will tell her she is loved and safe. I don't use this time to teach her how to handle life or answer her wild questions. She is not in a place to hear it. She physically can not access the reasoning part of her brain. The spilling of the suitcase is becoming less and less the more she is with us. This is something she may always have. The suitcase may someday turn into a backpack so it is not as cumbersome. It may turn into a steamer trunk too. My guess is when she hits puberty with all sorts of hormones and physical changes we may get the steamer trunk. Regardless we have techniques to help her handle it. As she gets older she will be able to advocate for herself more. As I said it does not define her. It does not excuse normal expectations of obedience and following the rules. It just means on certain days and times she needs a little grace as she copes with her baggage. But then again...don't we all?
I have many people ask me why I decided to foster. My story is a bit unique in the fact that I knew the child beforehand. I had a friend, through church, who had just been granted guardianship of a 14 month old baby. Both baby and mother were living with Bert (short for Roberta). Bert had opened her home to homeless mom (for the sake of the story I will call her Sally) and child (whom I shall call Ann) with the understanding that bio mom Sally would give up the drugs. Sadly Sally could not and Bert got a court order for guardianship and Sally was asked to leave. This left Bert with Ann as well as 2 other boys whom she was caring for. Ann was a little delayed. She was just over a year and not walking or talking. I was a teacher with summers off and wanted to help. So I offered to lend a hand. I took Ann to my home. I lived in a big house with lots of family. At my house she had the freedom to climb, jump (yes even on beds) and move! When she would grunt and point to her juice we would give her the words...juice...I would like juice please. We also taught her simple sign language. It was not long until she was spending nights and full time care of this child was on me. I did not mind at all. We had a connection. Her court appointed guardian knew where she was and was fine with me caring for her 24/7. When school started up I had a friend who had in home childcare so it worked out perfectly. I also took foster parenting classes just in case and became licensed. Fast forward a year and bio dad (I shall call Jim) got out of jail and both got a good lawyer and a place to live. They went to court and got Ann back. This was THE hardest thing for me to do. I had to transition her back to her bio parents. It broke my heart. But somehow I knew this was not the end. Since I was not seen as the enemy her bio parents let me still be a part of her life. I would take her for weekends. Babysit while they worked or just did whatever? I saw her bits and pieces. I tried to support as much as I can. Poverty is not a crime. I would buy shoes and winter coats. Mittens. Boots. Whatever I could to keep my finger on this little girl. She would love to come over. She called me ReeRee. During this time I got married and moved out of state. My family stepped up and filled my shoes. I would try to come home once a month to see her. My relationship with bio parents were great. However it was clear as they moved from place to place they were not stable. I could tell they were back into the drugs. My family would keep me posted as well. Heartbreaking. My husband had fallen in love with her during this time as well. We made the decision to rent out our condo a mile from the ocean and move back into the state. We knew bio parents were spiraling down. We rented a place sight unseen 1/4 mile away from my family. We were living there less than 2 weeks when the police did a raid and removed her. Thankfully when Sally was asked if there was a reliable adult whom could care for Ann she gave them my name. Social worker called me and found out I was already a foster parent. I picked her up and our journey as foster parents began. I picked her up and she had on a dirty t-shirt of her mothers and a pair of swim suit bottoms that were cinched by a hair elastic. She was just shy of 5 years old and weighed 22 pounds. Yes.....22! Ann was elated to move in with us. She begged us not to return home. She would cry herself to sleep for fear she would need to go back. My husband and I promised her that there were people working on her behalf to keep her safe. When kids enter care their bio parents have a year to work their parenting plan and fix the errors which caused the removal. Because Sally and Jim were so severe in order for them to visit Ann they needed a parent aid. This is a person who keeps eyes on the child at all times. They oversee the visit and if at any time it becomes unsafe or the parents are unable to care physically or emotionally the visit ends. The idea is parents slowly work to partially supervised visits to unsupervised visits to over nights to getting the kiddo back. Our bio's never made it to unsupervised visits. Sadly through the whole process there was no consistency with visits or staying out of trouble with the law. I will add that at our 6 months court hearing the judge ordered unsupervised visits. My heart dropped. I was so scared and sad because I knew the parents did not have a change in behavior...they just checked off the boxes to get the list done. Thankfully the day before the unsupervised visits were to start they had a surprise visit from their parole officer and were found with all sorts of stuff. This is where their case really unraveled. They went under ground and it was clear they were not able to sustain sobriety. People think a year and done! Not so. After the year is up there needs to be a trial to terminate rights. In our case the trial was 9 months after the year was up. Various road blocks with red tape and serving the bio parents stalled the process. There was a delay with the trial and then finally the trial. Sad part is neither parent showed up for the trial. So we had the 30 day waiting period for appeal. Another hearing and the judge deemed it finished. She was now a ward of the state and able to be adopted. So here we are. Waiting. Waiting for the paper work. Waiting for the red tape. Our social worker and CASA worker have been FANTASTIC!!! I mean honestly fantastic. I know there are horror stories but in our case I have nothing to complain about. They were amazing! We are waiting for the adoption social worker to visit us and work through the process. We are hopeful that it will be by December. I could write volumes as to what we have learned as a family and in time I hope to but I want to end with this. Loving a child that is not your own unconditionally was the easy part. The hardest part was the looming fear that in the end she would go back. If she went back it would have still been worth it. She would have known what a healthy family looked like. She would have known there were people who loved and cared for her....if only for a year. Thankfully she will not have to leave us. We will be able to adopt. We will become a legal family. That in itself is music to my ears.
My daughter did name herself. She picked out her first and middle name. How is that possible you ask? Well...let me back up and say my foster daughter who will be our adopted daughter this December picked out her own name. She had lived with us for over year at this point and it was pretty clear she was not going to be reunified with her birth parents. It took my husband and I by surprise that she changed her name. Here's the story. Two summers ago I was at our local pool. For some reason she wanted to go to the city pool instead of our pool. I was fine with that. I am watching her like a hawk sitting on the edge of the pool with my feet soaking. I see her playing with a girl. They played for a good hour. Both girls looked like they were having fun. They mostly just splashed around no deeper than their waists. The time passes. I told my little one it was time to go. She turned to her splash mate and said goodbye. The little girl said "goodbye Bethany." I though it was odd. That was not my child's name. Now that I heard her call my child that directly to her face I recall her calling that name across the pool. I kind of tuck it in my mind to discuss later. In the mini van with my child I asked her why her friend called her Bethany. My child's response was that Bethany is her real name and people have been calling her the wrong name all these years. Her name is Bethany Marie. First name. Middle name. She than added my husbands and my last name to her new name. The middle name Marie is the same as my middle name. It is a family name and several generations have it. I can understand why she picked this. The other name Bethany, is a form of the name we called our dog....Beth. Putting on my thinking cap later that night I processed this with my husband. We love our fur pup. She is a good dog. She is well loved. In our heads we came up with the idea that our child wanted such a strong connection to our family that she picked names that had close meaning. She was adamant that we now call her Bethany. I spoke with her social worker and her counselor. It was clear we were going to adopt her so there was no real harm in her changing her name. Her birth name is really earthy and out there. A name that would be very easy to find on social media. Even with our new last name her birth name was that unique. In this age of social media I was very glad she decided to change her name. Fast forward 10 years when she has a facebook account or whatever is trending in the future she will have the protection of a new name. We never thought she would want a new name but it makes sense. She has been going by Bethany every since. Due to the fact she is still a foster kiddo her legal name is still her birth name. It drives her crazy when we go into the doctors and she needs to register under her old name. Most places are very gracious to note what she wants to be called but when they forget I can see it is like a little stab to her heart. She has taken off her old life and put on her new one. It is clear from her she wants no connection to her past. I applaud her for being an advocate for herself at such a young age. By the time we adopt her she will have been in our home for over 3 years. She arrived at just shy of 5. It has been my greatest joy to see her thrive and develop. Life is not always perfect with a foster kiddo but then again life is not about perfection. It is about the love and the moments that bring joy to our heart. So to my dear feisty soon to be daughter embrace your new name and your new future! Mommy loves you!
~Bethany is not the actual name she choose. I have replaced it in this post for the sake of her privacy. The real name she picked is just as great!
With the holidays looming I have advice for all foster parents (and even bio parents). Let go of the Hallmark moment expectations. The holiday, birthday or any event is not going to look like those wonderful movies where everyone sits by the tree smiling all getting along or sitting around the table while another child blows out candles and opens gifts. Now my little was thrilled to live with us from early on. She made it very clear her wishes and she felt safe and loved and wanted to stay with us. There was not great trauma having her move into our home. With that said big holidays and special moments are still hard. Regardless of the situation that caused the child to be removed, there is still deep connections and genetically wired love that foster kids have for their biological parents. First of all she is young. She was 5 during our first Christmas together. Being 5 alone is enough reason to not expect the perfect holiday. THEY ARE 5! I am looking at 50 and still have trouble with holidays. SO MUCH FOOD, EXCITEMENT, LACK OF SLEEP and that is the normal child. Now throw in a foster child (as happy as they are) there is still a piece of them that longs for their bio parents. They could have memories of past holidays or events with bio's and even extended bio families. They could have horrible memories of holidays gone wrong and that triggers feelings. My husband and I discussed this at length. We have a very close family. In each others lives and such. We see them daily. As the holidays got closer we prepared them by sharing our expectations...or lack of them. Our plan was to take our cues from her. She did not have to hug, high five or kiss any family member she did not want to...(we don't make her do that anyway). We told her if/when she was given a gift she was to thank the person. She could sign it if she was feeling shy. She will sometimes revert to using simple sign language when she is overwhelmed or feeling unsure. We also acknowledged the fact that we were glad she was with us but it is ok to miss bio parents. It is ok to talk about them. It is also ok to laugh or cry. We talked with her and gave her permission to emote. To feel. To be herself. We shared with our family that we were not sure how long we would stay. We may need to tap out early. Dinner was not going to be a battle. I brought some of the foods I know she would eat and just prepared them quietly on the side. The Christmas dinner table is not the place to throw down about food! We also brought a tablet. Sometimes when she gets overwhelmed she just likes to play one of her apps. She has several coping techniques for when she is overwhelmed. Drawing. Alone time dancing to her music. Apps on her tablet. We figured the app would be the least hassle. Our normal routine for Christmas was to spend the night at my family's big home. All kids under one roof and then they come down the stairs in the morning and we have this long present opening time. Well that was pre-kids for my husband and I. We were more flexible and could spend the night. Now with a foster kid we felt it was good for us to have our own tree at our home. We invited the extended family to come and see her open her BIG present which was one of those jeeps kids can drive. My family respected our plan and all came over to watch her open the jeep. We wrapped the big empty box and had the jeep downstairs all ready to go. Sure enough she opened it. Saw what it was and went CRAZY! Then we threw on a coats (it was actually very warm that morning) and went downstairs and watched her drive out of the garage like she was a BOSS! Smiles. Laughter by all! To me this was the perfect moment and it did not matter how the rest of the day went. But we still had the rest of the day to get through. I kept waiting for the meltdown. I kept waiting for us to leave with a screaming child but it never happened. Our first Christmas and the rest that followed have been amazing. Yes we have needed to adapt how we celebrate but in the long run it was not a hardship as family does for family. Being a foster child should not rule her life or define her but it is there. Some days are easier than others and we use the tools needed to help her navigate this life.
Food issues. We have them! When our little came to us she weighed 22 pounds at just shy of 5 and she only ate fast food chicken nuggets and anything chocolate. Fast forward a few months and she will eat pb &J sammies. I would buy organic PB and organic jelly and find the good bread on the buy now die later shelf at my grocery store. I would make a ton and freeze them. Pull one out and toss it in her lunch box. It is perfectly fine by lunch! We also got her eating pancakes with chocolate chips. Spaghetti on certain days. Hamburgers with extra ham and ketchup. Not sure where she thinks the ham comes in but it is still funny to hear her order it at a restaurant. She will get on kicks where she will consume massive quantities of items such as green grapes, cucumbers or apples. I kind of go with the flow and keep them well stocked for snacking! Anyway back to the green pancake. I have become an expert in hiding fruits and veggies in food. The perfect example is pancakes. Really by the time you toss it the chocolate chips and toss on the syrup you can not tell what is actually in the pancake. For example last night. My little and I made pancakes for the week. Side note....pancakes will also freeze well. Make them in bulk and put them in a freezer bag and they will be good for weeks. Makes giving your kid breakfast in the morning easier when you are pressed for time! Pull them out as you need them and nuke it for 30 seconds. POOF! I actually say poof when I give it to her! So back to hiding food....I hide all sorts of stuff. Last night I added some organic baby food. (Organic because it was on sale and I had a coupon...I am not THAT mom that only serves organic but try to when budget allows) It is easy to do. Just pour or squeeze your secret food of choice and add water to the consistency of pancake mix. Now when I bought it I looked at the label and it was the usual suspects like apple, kiwi, spinach, pear and kale. I opened it up and poured it right in the mix. Much to my surprise it was green. I mean that kind of green that looks like it comes out the other end of a baby. So what did I do? I added more mix and then some applesauce to even the color out and hoped she would not notice. Picture her sitting on the country helping me pour in the batter a scoop full at a time. This is her MO. She will "help" with the first one and then run off and eat it leaving me to make the rest of the 1,357 pancakes myself. So picture her scooping the greenish mix into the pan. She spilled a little her finger and licked it off. I thought for sure my game was up. No syrup to cover the taste. I waited for the "ewwww" face. Waiting. Waiting. Pancake cooking. Waiting. Nothing. In fact she "accidentally" spilled some onto a spoon and started eating it uncooked. WHAT! It is a miracle. A light shown from behind, the birds hushed their chirping, the angels wept...Ok. Not that bad but in the life of a foster momma we celebrate (if in our hearts only) the small advances forward. So first pancake cooked, cut up and served. Little child happily eating it. Momma at stove cooking the rest of the batch thanking God even in the little things like eating green pancakes.