Sunday, July 29, 2007

Can You Help?

As passionate as we have become about foster care and adoption, we certainly realize that every family is not called to physically care for these children. There are so many other ways to help in this effort, and I'd like to highlight a few.

Pray. There are prayer warriors out there reading this - I know you! You can pray for children in foster care, generally. You can also pray for the specific needs of individual foster children that you may know. A huge prayer need is for the biological parents who are often trapped in the desperate cycle of drug abuse.

Respite Care Providers. When emergency situations arise, foster families need a place where their foster children can go for a few days. Respite providers go through CPR training and behavior management training. Covenant Kids pays their respite providers to fill-in for foster parents.

Babysitters. If you love children and have a clean background, you can provide up to 12 hours (at one time) of babysitting for a foster family. We did not realize how much we would need this until recently. We have 2 friends who have stepped up, done the background check and are willing to babysit for us but, most often, my Mom is our official babysitter.

Hand-made Gifts. We have had 3 special examples of this... First, a very special friend who knew and loved Baby Girl right along with us, spent hours of her time crocheting a special blanket for Baby Girl to take with her when she left our home. Second, two almost teenage girls at our church made a small quilt for Baby Girl with a fabric flower attached. Third, a special friend at church made a pillow for Baby Girl. All of these things went with her, along with special explanations, to her new home.

Financial Support. Faith-based organizations, like Covenant Kids, provide support for families involved in fostering and adoption. These organizations are typically non-profit 501(c)3 entities that take charitable contributions. We chose to be involved with Covenant Kids because of their commitment to meeting the needs of children - physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Our relationship with Covenant Kids is one of like-mindedness. They pray for our family, our children, our foster babies.

Donated baby and children items. Individuals can donate new or gently-used items to the faith-based organizations, to CPS or directly to foster families. When Baby Girl arrived at our home, we had not one shred of clothing for her. She came only with a pair of pajamas that CPS provided out of their Rainbow Room. Within a week, we had 3 garbage bags full of girl clothes for her. HUGE blessing!

Encouragement. The ups and downs of foster/adoption are emotionally challenging. We have been regularly encouraged by several special people. The e-mail we receive can sometimes be just the thing needed to get over a hump... thank you to those of you who take time out of your own life to be a consistent blessing to us!

If somewhere, under the 'I just couldn't do that,' there is a persistent whisper saying 'Yes, you can!', we urge you to follow the path to the next step. The next step is all that is needed.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

You Can't Just Throw Them Back...

You may have seen the Dallas Morning News article last weekend about Christian foster care and adoption. If not, I highly recommend a quick perusal. It highlights what churches and individual Christian families are doing around the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex to meet the needs of children locally and even around the globe.

The article was especially important to me right now. I can get so bogged down in the daily minutiae of whether this or that child is going to be ours, that I forget the larger picture.

The best quote, in my opinion, was this one by a foster/adoptive mom referring to children in foster care... she said "These are not fish. You can't just throw them back." Well said.

My next post will pull together some ideas on how anyone and everyone can help with this 'foster thing' even if not called to actually have a child in one's home.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Valiant Warrior is Heading Home!

Great news! Last night there was a real breakthrough in Valiant Warrior's headaches. In trying to discover the reason for the headaches, the neurosurgeon replayed the surgery in her mind. She remembered that the exact place where his headache was centered was a spot where she had really disrupted a muscle. So, an anti-inflammatory was given last night and there was almost immediate resolution to the headache!

I feel great relief for his Mom and Dad. They have withstood a great deal of stress these last few days, wondering if he would be having to 'learn to live' with the headaches. Thank you, Lord, for watching over this family, for providing peace for them in this trial.

And thank you to the many friends who read this and have prayed for Valiant Warrior. He is so special and I can't wait to share his life with you in the future.

Monday, July 23, 2007

How To Comment...

For blogging newbies, here is how you comment...

Below the post, click on the underlined word Comments. If there are already comments to the post, the link will have a number in front of it; if not, the number will be 0. Next, the comments box will pop-up. Type in the text box under 'Leave your comment." You can either enter your name in the text portion of the comment, or post a comment anonymously. Below the text box, it says 'Choose an identity' - if you have a google account, you can enter that. Otherwise, just select the Anonymous circle. To finish, click the orange 'Publish Your Comment' button. It is that simple... ha.ha.ha

Oh, this is a family-friendly blog... so anything unsavory will be promptly removed.

You may now feel free to speak your mind...

Little Boy Blue Sleeps Peacefully

Little Boy Blue had his surgery today. He now rests quietly as the anesthesia wears off.

We arrived at the hospital 20 minutes early... 2 hours later, yes hours, we were taken to pre-op. It seems the consent forms from CPS were lost at Children's Hospital, somewhere in the great paper abyss. So, we sat in the waiting room with a very hungry baby for 2 hours while the documents were re-faxed. Little Boy Blue was wonderful... and he is such an eater, I was very surprised at his patience.

The surgery was fast and we were home 8 hours after we left. All in a day's living...

Update on Valiant Warrior

Valiant Warrior is still in the hospital. His neurosurgeon had originally hoped he would be home by Sunday or Monday. He is experiencing unexplainable headaches of great intensity. The doctors have tried many different types of medications, without success. As one doctor put it, 'the amount of medicine we have in him would have dropped an elephant.'

So, he waits... and his parents wait. Right now, his family just wants to get him home.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Blogging is Life

This blogging thing often boggles my mind... why would some stranger find his/her way to our blog and actually read it. I understand why our family and friends read... to keep updated. This is the purpose of our blog in the first place. But, why, would a perfect stranger navigate here and read?? Is there not a better way to fill a day?

True confession time... there are a few blogs that I absolutely love. I have them set up as feeds and I get very excited in reading what is written. Often, I find nuggets of depth and truth amongst them and I feel like I've found a like-minded soul in the blogosphere.

But blogging as a whole... isn't it a bit (or a bunch) narcissistic? To believe that one's writing is somehow 'worthy of being read by the masses' strikes me as awfully self-focused. To go to the trouble of setting up a blog (even though it is free!) and to post daily, is it merely just another way to feed our starving egos?

Before you bloggers throw over-ripe produce my way, I want to admit that I'm just as guilty. I love to hear of my friends reading my blog... I love to know that I haven't left anyone out in sharing our experiences. But, the bottom line is, why do I think anyone is really that interested?

Another thing to ponder... is the success of blogging another example of a society that has pulled inward? Are we more comfortable blogging than speaking to people face-to-face? Is it easier to be vulnerable when we know that we don't have to visually respond to the reader's reaction?

My Dad would answer a resounding 'yes' to the questions laid out above. I've explained it to him in another way... it is like old-fashioned letter writing... except often the letter is not written in return. Maybe not a great way to explain it, but it works for me to justify my time spent.

On the other hand, we have met several cyber-foster parent friends through this endeavor. Yes, God works in the blog world, too. He must have some bizarre purpose for this blogging thing, but couldn't we have named it something else??

Just something to chew on this Friday afternoon. Oh, and for you Blog babies, I'm going to post about 'comments' and how to do it... I want your voices to be heard, friends! And since I can't shout them in the public square, this little space of bandwidth will have to do.

Tune in next time, for an update on All My Children (Budding Author, Little Mommy, Little Boy Blue, Prince Caspian and the newest addition to our family, Gloria the goat)... we don't just adopt children out here in the boonies. Ya'll come back, ya hear!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Hope Fulfilled

Yesterday was Valiant Warrior's day of hope... and Hope did not disappoint. After many hours of surgery, he emerged from his groggy anesthesia and spoke! Yes, he spoke and he spoke clearly. It looks like he has all vision functionality as well. When he asks to eat, his folks will know that all is on the upswing.

What an experience... I tried so hard to put myself in my friend's (his Mom) shoes yesterday. She was so strong. As hard as I tried, I just could not even fathom what it would be like to watch your baby undergo something so serious. And, even though Valiant Warrior is almost 20, he will forever be 'her baby.' That never changes for a Mommy, does it?

For me, I felt like I was watching from outside of a bubble... just barely hanging on to the reality of the day. It all became very real when I got to give Valiant Warrior a kiss before I left. What a treat!

Thank you to Collette and my Mom who unselfishly watched our kids all day so that we could be with our friends. And thank you, God!! You were there, you saw the heart of a young man who will happily be your Valiant Warrior for the rest of his days. Thank you, Lord...

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

They Picked Us...

They picked us!! Our sometimes crazy, busy, country-living family was selected to be the permanent family for 12-month old Prince Caspian (Budding Author named this one - Narnia is on the brain.)

Yesterday felt like the day we found out we were pregnant with Budding Author and Little Mommy... an amazing sense that life is about to change in a huge way.

I got the call around 11:00 a.m... way before we ever expected to hear anything. The kids and I were out-and-about. Goose bumps were all over me... and just a feeling of total surprise.

So, here is what happens next. CPS sends us Prince Caspian's case file. We review it. They want to schedule our first visit with him at the beginning of August. There is an appeal time of 30 days which will expire July 28th. CPS wants to be able to give us information on whether an appeal was filed on the termination judgment.

If an appeal is filed, we will become his short-term foster parents. They expressed that the appeals almost never succeed because of the thoroughness of the termination process.

Prince Caspian will move in with us in mid-August... the transition is slow for his benefit. He has lived with his foster Mommy since birth and is attached to her. We will do what we can to facilitate an easy adjustment for him.

After he moves in, he will have to live in our home for 6-months before we can finalize an adoption. So, in 2008, we will officially be his Daddy and Mommy.

We are makin' plans! We are makin' lists! And, honestly, we are dreaming that something similar happens for Little Boy Blue.

Yesterday, we were making cards for Valiant Warrior and our Budding Author drew the picture above... hopefully, you will be blessed...

Monday, July 16, 2007

May God Be With You, O Valiant Warrior!

I want to tell you a love story... it is a love story on many levels; the love of God for a young man, the love of a Mom and Dad for a son, the love of a brother, the love of dear friends for a boy they care about as if he were their own.

The young man I'll call Valiant Warrior. He was born almost 20 years ago with Cerebral Palsy. God knew exactly what Valiant Warrior would need during his time on earth and so He graciously placed Valiant Warrior into the arms of two amazing parents. A Mommy who unselfishly loves, cares for and teaches... and a Daddy who fiercely protects and risks for the sake of his family.

Valiant Warrior was also given a very special younger brother. I'll call him Boy Wonder. Boy Wonder is 16, yet has the maturity of someone much older. You see, he has watched, helped, sacrificed for and encouraged Valiant Warrior from day one. Boy Wonder is a basketball whiz. He once told his parents that he plays hard because he is playing for Valiant Warrior, too.

We have the privilege of being dear friends to Valiant Warrior and his family. We have watched Valiant Warrior as he referees basketball, tutors elementary children, received his homeschool high school diploma and encourages a sports team of special needs children that was founded in his honor. And this week, we watch and pray as he undergoes a very serious surgery, a hemispherectomy.

Valiant Warrior has fought an amazing fight these last few years... one which those watching can only stand in awe of. He has lived his life with seizures that have become so frequent and serious that medication can no longer quell them. He has functioned on an amazing level, all the while anticipating the 'next seizure.'

This week, he has hope. Tomorrow, Valiant Warrior goes to the hospital for a day of testing and blood work. Wednesday he has a 5-6 hour surgery which will, in all hope, make Valiant Warrior seizure-free for the rest of his life!

Friday night we spent the evening at his home. We played Mexican Train dominoes... which, by the way, Valiant Warrior rules over! And we laughed, a lot. Thank you, God! Valiant Warrior is a huge sports fan... and so he had to take a break from dominoes to watch wrestling.

Valiant Warrior told me about a song that gives him great strength. When I really listened to the words of this song yesterday, they pierced my soul. The depth of his hope and the prayer for his life are right there mingled in... I thought I'd share it with you, so you, too, could catch a glimpse at this amazing young man's heart. The song is called 'Voice of Truth' by Casting Crowns...

Oh what I would do to have
The kind of faith it takes
To climb out of this boat I'm in
Onto the crashing waves

To step out of my comfort zone
Into the realm of the unknown
where Jesus is
And He's holding out His hand

But the waves are calling out my name
And they laugh at me
Reminding me of all the times
I've tried before and failed
The waves they keep on telling me
Time and time again.
"Boy, you'll never win!""You'll never win!"

But the voice of truth
tells me a different story
The voice of truth says,
"Do not be afraid!"
The voice of truth says,
"This is for My glory"
Out of all the voices calling out to me
I will choose to listen and believe
the voice of truth

Oh what I would do to have
The kind of strength it takes
to stand before a giant
With just a sling and a stone
Surrounded by the sound
of a thousand warriors
Shaking in their armor
Wishing they'd have had the strength to stand

But the giant's calling out my name
And he laughs at me
Reminding me of all the times
I've tried before and failed
The giant keeps on telling me
Time and time again,
"Boy you'll never win!""You'll never win!"

But the stone was just the right size
To put the giant on the ground
And the waves they don't seem so high
From on top of them lookin' down
I will soar with the wings of eagles
When I stop and listen to the sound of Jesus
Singing over me

I will choose to listen and believe the Voice of Truth!

Will you join us in prayer this week for Valiant Warrior and his family? May he rest in the arms of God, may he experience the peace that passes all understanding and may he hear the sweet sound of Jesus singing over him.
(Double click below to watch the video...)

Friday, July 13, 2007

Friday, Friday, Friday

I've come to have a love/hate relationship with Fridays...

Every Friday, Little Boy Blue has visitation with his Mommy and Great-Grandmother. Every Friday, I'm happy for him as I prepare bottles and get him looking spiffy and smelling good. Every Friday, there is a heavy sense of dread as I watch the CPS case aide's car pull out of our meeting place. Every Friday, I have a small knot in my stomach and an empty feeling like one of my chicks has fallen from the nest. Every Friday, I have a huge smile on my face as the kids and I drive to pick him up. Every Friday, I hit a wall of realization that Little Boy Blue is not mine.

I know, I know... I should be able to deal with this by now! The diametrically opposed positions involved are so difficult to process. The 'we want him to be with his Mom' competing with the 'we want him to be with our family.' If I think about it too long, it makes my head spin.

I simply cannot explain the ease with which our family has adjusted to having a baby in the house. In some ways, I'm realizing that we are 'baby people.' When we get together with other Covenant Kids families, there are those that avoid babies and toddlers like the plague. And then there are those of us who love the bottles, diapers (diapeees as we call them), wipes (wipeees) and all of the other required paraphernalia that goes with a wee one.


On a totally different note... for those of you following our retaining wall drama, the wall is almost complete. It has ended up being almost 6 feet high in places! And, I cannot explain the money that has been required to feed this beast! This wall could have paid for several adoptions. We are, however, grateful for a wall that will outlast both of us... and it happens to be very attractive, as far as walls go. So, come on out and take a gander at our new addition.

Until next time...

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Could it possibly be?

A 'straight adoption' opportunity has presented itself to us! We were selected as one of three final families to adopt a 1-year old boy. This appears to be the reason we have not been contacted about additional foster-to-adopt children.

We know almost nothing about the child... just that his foster mother describes him as 'blond-headed with beautiful blue eyes and just irresistible.' I'm really seeing a theme with the blond, blue-eyed boys here. Sounds great to us!

On Monday, CPS will have a 'selection staffing' which gathers all caseworkers and the agencies representing the three families that have been selected. This pow-wow will result in the three families being ranked in the order that they fit the child's best interest. Family #1 will have the opportunity to review the child's entire case file and then actually meet him. And, if all goes well, the next step is adoption 6 months after he is in a permanent home.

Could this be one of the ones? I suppose it is way too soon to hope for such things. However, we really love the idea of forever... that is why we started this whole affair after all.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Go Little Boy Blue!

I watch Little Boy Blue in amazement... he has relaxed so much this last week. His little hand actually grabs the back of our arms when we are holding him. We can get his legs up almost to his chest. And, most importantly, he is beginning to turn his head when held to almost snuggle on our shoulders.

This last one is a huge milestone... when held, his default position is usually face mushed straight into the shoulder. He has no natural inclination to turn his head to the side and cuddle. Plus, his neck is so stiff that we can't move it to show him how to relax. But we do see signs of movement and some appearance that he is enjoying the closeness.

It is all about the little things in life, right?

Last night, he slept peacefully for almost 9 hours. We are so thankful. He is a big baby, in size. He eats more than enough. However, he has been swaddled since he was born. He is a swaddle addict. We joke that when he leaves for college, he'll have to make sure he has a roommate that is willing to swaddle him in each night before bed.

Since he is about to grow out of this swaddle thing, we are encouraging him to nap without it. Not a fun process for any of us. We are hopeful that he will have 'Two in a Row' tonight. We all function so much better on a full sleep tank!

And we haven't been called about another baby in over a week! We are surprised, but would actually love to see Little Boy Blue sleeping through the night before we add another to the mix.

Blessings to you on this beautiful day!

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Drugs & Babies - A Personal Comment

This post has been a long time coming... I've mulled over the topic of babies being exposed to illegal drugs/toxins in-utero in every imaginable place and at every imaginable time... over dish soap bubbles, driving to piano lessons, making dinner, in line at Walmart and every time I look in the face of Little Boy Blue. It is something I ponder many times in the course of each day.

It is not an easy topic for us; nor something flippant to write on and then forget. It is, however, a reality for families seeking to be foster parents or adoptive parents through the foster care system, as well as those pursuing adoption from some international locales.

So, where does one begin to discuss something of this magnitude? I suppose I'll honestly describe a few tidbits from our early decision-making in this post and in a few weeks, in a later post, I'll attempt give you a brief picture into the known effects of drugs on children.

I cringe when I think of the naivete, selfishness and just plain immaturity of our initial inquiry to Covenant Kids... my words went something like this... "we want to be adoptive parents only and we are not interested in children who have been abused/neglected or exposed to drugs in-utero." I'm sure the intake person on the other end was laughing or, at a minimum, rolling her eyes... almost every child in foster care has been abused or neglected and a very high percentage of the infants have been exposed to drugs on one level or another. Thankfully, she didn't say 'take a hike' or 'let me give you the name of Perfect Children-R-Us Adoption Agency.' She promptly registered us for training! Unbelievable.

We attended our 30 hours of training and received an abundance of information about drug-exposed babies. The thing that stands out the very most to me was the emphasis placed on a child's first two years of life... the prognosis for drug-exposed babies was and is hopeful if they are loved and nurtured. I wonder why this was such a surprise for me?

There was story upon story of children who were fostered and later adopted by families who nurtured them during this very important formative time; met their basic needs, gave the babies many opportunities for verbal development, enrolled them in Early Childhood Intervention if necessary, and just overall provided a semi-normal life for these wee ones. Mostly, these children were close to being developmentally on track for their age. They often could not be distinguished from their peers raised in normal family environments with healthy Mommies.

On the other hand, there was also story upon story of children who had been born drug-exposed and then were left in their cribs for the bulk of every day, malnourished, with little one-on-one interaction. These children failed to attach to anyone at critical milestones... and every day that passed, they moved deeper into their own little world. These children had a tough time of it... difficulty in relationships of all types, difficulty with authority, and even failure to develop a conscience. This is serious business for our society.

Our fears about drug-exposed children were immediately eased. We knew we could provide a stable environment, meet basic needs and nurture a child. We suddenly came face to face with the truth - we do not know what challenges any child will present, biological or adopted. Often a biological child who has had no exposure to toxins and spends his/her first years in a loving home still ends up with some type of learning difficulty and/or disability. There are no guarantees... and there are no perfect children. You would think I would have learned such things at my age!

Ultimately, we were persuaded... and oh, what we would have missed if we had closed the door to children who didn't appear perfect on paper. Sometimes the greatest blessing is the most unexpected. And our fears completely disappeared when we took one look in the responsive eyes of a child who just needed to be loved...

God generously gave us just the right amount of information at just the right time... and, we remain forever changed on this topic!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Old Friends Are Like Gold...

Today we had the opportunity to spend the day with 2 very special friends of our family. These 2 knew my hubby and me separately before the two of us ever laid eyes on one another. I have spent the last few hours, since they left, remembering the really funny times we shared.

I met these 2 (they happen to be twins) in the 4th grade at Sunday School. Yes, that was an extraordinarily long time ago. I remember being very shy and reserved and these 2 smiled and welcomed me back then. That is so like them...

You see, these 2 ladies are the most gregarious people I have ever met. They know someone everywhere they go; they never meet a stranger. And when they meet people, the conversation is always about that person... they never feel the need to interrupt and focus on themselves, their lives and family.

You know what is really amazing? They are literally happy people. Just happy! I've known them for 30+ years and they are still happy! Not a fake, superficial happiness; just a genuine, love-for-life type of happy.

It is not that their lives have been a breeze... in fact, we shared some times in our twenties which were anything but easy. However, these 2 always land on their feet with a smile on their face.

To recap some really great times... when one of them threw her gum out the window on a church trip and the gum came in my window and got stuck in my hair; my hubby's great memory of one of them calling him 'sugar bear' in school just to get him to smile; being present at the birth of 5-year old twins - long prayed for and absolutely beautiful and healthy; these two always being the first ones at the hospital when we had our babies; helping one with her monogramming business as she did an entire drill team's monograms in several days... and I could go on forever. They make me laugh just thinking about them.

And their children... it is so neat to watch them grow up. There is a teenage beauty who seems very grounded, a super athlete, and a set of also gregarious twins who are going to knock their teacher's socks off when they start Kindergarten in the fall.

I'm so grateful today for old friends. I have several more that I'd love to brag on another time, but for now, I'll just share these 2 and treasure the time and memories we've made. And I'll sit and giggle to myself and think of all of the chips and salsa we've shared through the years!!

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

How Many More Are There??

Let me describe a few of the children we were called about yesterday, just to see what emotion it evokes in you...

  • 2 little girls, ages 19 mos and 2 mos. Their Dad is in prison, their Mom a meth addict.
  • An approximately 3-year old little boy in a diaper left at the bus station in downtown Dallas... alone.
  • A 2-month old little boy possibly being taken out of the home for 'failure to thrive'... in other words, he has not been fed. His father was raised in the foster care system himself. Both of his parents are young.

And that was just yesterday. What in heaven's name is happening? If we are getting this many calls, how many children are out there? From what we've heard, at any given time, there are 4,000 children in foster care in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex. Over 50% of those will be adoptable at some future time.

It is easy to look in the face of Little Boy Blue and thank God for him and his time with us; but what about the others, what about the ones who don't get out? Right now, this is probably the biggest question I desperately want to ask God when I see him face to face. But then again, I somehow feel the answer... this is the mess we have made of our world; these are the consequences of all of our choices; this is what sin produces. It still hurts.

We did not end up with any of these children. We were selected for the 3rd one listed... but, at the last minute, he was able to go back to his parents last night for another chance. We were very happy for him and pray for his parents to learn what to do and to have some support in their efforts.

We will never know exactly what happened with the others; just like we probably won't know what happened to Baby Girl. My heart literally grieves every time I get a call and, for one reason or another, we aren't the family that CPS envisions for that child. Or, sometimes, we know our limits and are unable to say 'yes.'

Maybe I've given too much information in this post... I may have crossed the line in terms of privacy. But I had to lay it out there for someone to see... for you to see. This is the reality of today's world. We can try to close our eyes to it and hum to ourselves so we don't hear it... but, it doesn't disappear.

And God whispers to me, every so softly, 'just love the ones I've given you.' And I desperately do.