Friday, July 15, 2011

"If there were no changes...there would be no butterflies"

Our Anna is wiggling in her cocoon! She is grieving for her last few weeks at home full-time. Oddly, this makes it ten times easier for me. This time last year I was in tears over Jana. She was so ready and excited, I think it felt more like she was leaving us. As all mama's eventually do, I've begun the process of nudging my little chick from the nest. I can handle this much better! I like spending this time thinking of ways to make the transition easier for her.

Jana is flying! Her wings are painted with all the colors that are her. She has been in North Carolina for the summer working an internship at a ranch. When I told her that her sister was having a hard time, she immediately concluded that Anna is a "late bloomer"...remembering that she worked through her own similar feelings mid senior year. Jana's call to counseling is unmistakable.

I can already feel the flutters of change that this season will bring for the younger ones. The last ten years were spent focusing on the girls and their various activities. That time with them was well invested and they are equipped. Without all of the functions that active high schoolers bring, Shawn has been able to spend countless hours with Braden in the canoe, fishing. Braden is developing an intense interest into anything wild. This week he has bruises on his arms from shooting arrow after arrow at the haystack in the yard. Not only has he been developing his archery skills but he's had time to think. I love listening to the things that he thinks about. He reminds me so much of my daddy.

The little kids are "home schooling" this summer. We don't home school but we've used this summer to explore the option. Since we live in a small town and our schools are not terrible, we probably won't home school but it has been a great summer of learning for both of them. I forgot how much I love to spend this kind of time with children. It has been good for all of us.

I'm not sad yet, though I know I will be. I've been here before and with that comes the knowledge that leaving the cocoon brings on the wings!

Friday, April 1, 2011

What to Say?

I've been asked to share some of my experience as a foster/adoptive mother at a GPS class next week. GPS is a ten week training class that prospective foster parents must go through in order to receive their license from the state. Hopefully writing this post will help me get my thoughts in order! So if you are reading this, just pretend you are considering becoming a foster parent.

Turn on the T.V. at ANY time of the day and you will be able to find a "birth story" an "adoption story", a "wedding story", an addiction story...people want to know all about other people. What you will not find anywhere is a foster story. For good reason. Privacy is one of the first things you learn as a foster parent. You simply cannot share every detail of what you will witness in your daily life with your kids. Nor will you want too. However, as a society we have grown accustomed to too much information. You won't find much on the internet, on T.V. or even at the library. If you do, it will most likely discourage you. The road that you take as a foster parent will often be very lonely. You will have social workers, directors, counselors and other foster parents. You will be surrounded by people who can provide you with valuable information and advice but no one can prepare you for the children that your will foster. Because just like these stories that we all love to watch, every foster child is different. Because you are here at this GPS, I trust you know the Lord. Ultimately, He is the only one that understands the needs of your child. It is essential that you completely trust Him to guide you through this. This is not to say that you will not need all of the people that I mentioned, you will! You all share a common goal, taking the best care of your foster child until that child is in a permanent situation. You are the one who will be there 24/7 until that need is fulfilled.

I will begin by telling you what we do not have experience with, this might be your experience. We have never fostered older children or a sibling group. Because of our location we have never fostered easy children. We got the children who were a little harder to place simply because the DHR social workers do not like to drive more than an hour for visits. We don't have much experience with birth parents. Our first placement saw her mother twice before her adoption three years after coming into our care. Our second placement did return home to his mother after nine months. He was granted supervised weekend visits and was transported by a social worker. We met her a month before he was returned home to her. Our third placement was abused by his mother. Again, because he was a possible adoptive placement we were not able to meet her for his protection once he was adopted.

My husband, Shawn and I are not currently fostering. I guess the main reason would be that we adopted two of our three permanent placements. We're out of room! At the moment we are parents to a college freshman, a senior, a seventh grader, a second grader and a preschooler. That translates to one home with me all day and one in every division of the school system!

We have three birth children. We answered the call to foster when our oldest was thirteen and our youngest was six. If you have children, that's probably one of the first questions that you would ask. Is what we are doing fair to our children? That is a question that I still ask myself six years later. In some ways the answer is no. It's not fair. They give up a lot and too much is expected of them. I can't know the people they would be now if they had not been through this experience. I can see positive and negative ways that it has affected each of them. All of them have told me at one time or another that they struggle with this question too but in the end they cannot imagine our family any different than it is now. They love their siblings very much and are extremely protective of them.

We did a lot of respite before we received our first placement. Probably because of the fact that I worked for the Children's Home. I completely bonded with the first beautiful baby girl that we did respite for. She looked exactly like my middle daughter. I begged Louise to let me keep her as a full-time placement. Because Louise is ever-wise and is completely unaffected by tears she sent her to live with the family who had her older sister. It took me three months to get over loosing a child who was never mine and had only stayed with us for a week. You will get attached. Looking back, God was preparing me very early to trust all of the children in our care to Him. The week that Kamryn stayed with us our church was rehearsing an Easter Cantata One of the songs was "At the Foot of the Cross". The song talks about laying your worries, everything at the foot of His cross. I held that baby girl close to my chest that week and sang my heart out. I could visualize laying her at the foot of his cross. It was five years later that I realized the logo of the Children's home is the little children in the shadow of the cross.

Another little one that we did respite for was an African American baby with Down's Syndrome. He was in a wonderful foster placement but was up for adoption. We did not feel called to adopt him but I worried myself sick over what would become of him. I remember rocking and praying for a mama who would sing to him. Again, God was teaching me that our role was different for each child that would be placed in our care. Every child that came through our home was known to God. Our job is to be His instrument.

About four months after we completed GPS training we got the call for our first placement. Most of the time you will get a call and then you'll need to meet someone or they'll bring the child to you that day or the next. This call was open ended because she was transitioning from another foster home. (Amber's Story) (Christian's Story)

When my oldest left for college this past fall, I asked her if she was nervous. She said, "Mama, I'm going to college with no expectations". At the time I read fear all over that statement. As the year has played out I realized it was trust. She was ready to meet whatever God sent her way without telling Him what that would be. Because of that attitude she is completely content. If I could have two minutes with my pre-foster/adoptive self with her rose colored glasses, that's what I would say. Meet this calling with no expectations. Take the child that God gives you, and give your best to that child, whether that's for a day, a week or forever.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

I Will Not Lie

I will not lie. Some days I wonder what took a hold of us that we would think that we should adopt two more children. These feelings seem especially pronounced the older Braden gets. It would be easy about now. Braden will be thirteen on Easter Sunday. Anna will leave for college in the fall. Our house would be inhabited by one teenage boy who regularly withdraws to his room to read or goes to the pond to fish. Shawn and I crave evenings out...ALONE! Very typical for a couple our age. If we had not taken this path we would be down to one set of school activities. We would be free to make choices that do not involve consulting the master schedule. I will not lie. It would be easier.

Instead, I look out my window to a familiar sight. One that has not changed much in nineteen years. There's a jungle gym, a wagon, my chair, two bicycles, a swimming pool, a swing set, a mound of sand with a stick stuck right in the middle. Inside the house, there are shoes in my kitchen floor that will warrant a good scolding in a few minutes but for now I imagine the sparkly things were slipped off while she was getting a cold drink after coming in from play. Never mind that I've told all of them at least twenty-thousand times to take their shoes off at the front door.
And then there are dreams. I have dreamed of going to Prince Edward Island for twenty years but it will have to wait as the little one I never dreamed would be mine is too attached to his mama. I will not lie. Sometimes I get tired of teaching and training, washing and cleaning.

But the truth is, they're worth it!

Thursday, February 24, 2011


As evident by my blog picture, I LOVE daffodils! A big 16x20 of the same picture hangs above my mantle. Mid-February, every single year, I begin the "daffodil watch"...just waiting for the first droopy pop of yellow. It's not spring that I'm waiting for. Fall is my all-time favorite season. It's the daffodils.

You'll see them growing in random fields with a naked spot in the center, the only reminder of the old home place. Sometimes there is still a weathered house with the daffodils standing true, the hands that planted them...long gone. Just last week we traveled the rural roads of Chilton and Perry counties to visit our daughter at the one hundred and seventy-five year old women's college that she attends. All along the way were patches of daffodils. Some were peeking out from behind old logs, others were gracing the fence row, all were a gentle reminder that we were not the first to pass this way. Maybe that's what the daffodils whisper to me, that someone before me cherished them too.

Braden came running back into the house this morning after I thought he had left for school. I was just about to fuss at him for slamming the glass door. He greeted me with the same charming smile he had as a four year old little boy and a single yellow daffodil. He gets it!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Memory Lane

Almost eleven years ago I took a seven year old little girl to her first violin lesson. It happened to be on her birthday. We painted her fingernails and she picked out her favorite sun-dress. It was a beautiful print with over-sized garden vegetables in primary colors. She wore a big red bow in her chestnut hair. I will never forget the feeling of just knowing that this day really was something special. What I did not know was that we were meeting the woman who would have as much to do with shaping Anna's future and character as her daddy and I ever would.

Eighty-one year old Mrs. Johnson greeted us with a heavy, German accent. Walking into her music room was like stepping into another dimension, a different era. Her wavy hair was coiffed into a style straight from the 1940's and her make-up was beautifully coordinated to her outfit. She quickly sized Anna up as "the cherub". The twinkle those bright blue eyes told us that the afternoon's pampering had paid off with a favorable first impression. For the next seven years the student mimicked the teacher.

This evening I have the privilege of introducing my youngest daughter to this remarkable woman. From past experience we know that this is no ordinary day. Again I spent the afternoon preparing one of my little ones for one of the most important meetings of her life and a day that I hope she will never forget. Mrs. Johnson will teach her so much more than music, she will invest almost a century's worth of wisdom into yet another pupil who will insure that her legacy continues long after she's gone.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

It Feels Good to be Mama

Today was a normal Saturday. Seven people with seven different agendas. I was up at dawn to take Braden to sell doughnuts for the youth group. Then we headed to the grandparents to get Amberly. She spent her first night away from home since her adoption. She was so obviously spoiled rotten by the time I picked her up that I seriously considered a no return policy, for the weekend at least! We had to stop by Piggly Wiggly to buy Popsicles with the $5.00 bribe that Nana gave her so she would leave. When we finally made it home, Shawn and I decided to sneak away for a couple of hours for a mid-day date. The little ones seemed in good spirits and Jana's home for the weekend so it seemed right. WRONG. We were in Walmart when we got the call that Nana and Papa's "little angel" had broken the door frame because she was mad at Anna, her least favorite sister since Jana left for college (misplaced separation anxiety). Our two hour date ends all too soon with the promise of two very upset sisters and a little boy who's behavior spiraled out of control. Once everyone was settled I sat down for a minute at the computer. I felt a weight on my arm and almost shrugged it off when I looked down and noticed that Christian had climbed up beside me and fallen asleep. Sometimes you just need Mama.

I'm really thankful to be that today. For all of them. For the college student who has decided that she LOVES for me to take her to school instead of driving herself. For the senior who wants to be independent more than anything but still lays her head on my chest to hear my heartbeat when all's not right with her world. For the almost teenager who couldn't sell a single box of donuts until I demonstrated how he should approach a "would be doughnut buyer" by waltzing into the ethnic barbershop and startling them into buying a questions asked. For the anxious little girl who is finally getting her feet wet. For the little boy who mercifully doesn't remember all of the bad things that would have made him anxious. It feels good to be Mama.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Erskine Elwood Hand is my paternal grandfather and today he celebrates his 86th birthday!

My favorite thing about him is his "chuckle". His health has been poor the last few years so most days you can find him in his chair in the living room. When someone walks into that room he greets them with that "chuckle" and a twinkle in his eye!

Last night I saw a picture of him as a boy in 1932. It struck me how many familiar faces I see in one little boy's features. I immediately recognized traces of my own father peering back at me. The expression on his face hints of his grandson, Colton. We have always wondered where Jana got her distinctive cowlick, there it is in black and white. The purse of his lips has passed through three three generations. That single trait told me when my daddy was angry. My husband smiles when he notices that same intenseness in my lips and calls me Roger. A few months ago I was delighted to see that identifying family resemblance yet again in pictures my cousin posted of her beautiful little daughter.

Happy Birthday, Pawpaw!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Rambling I'm writing this because Shawn asked why I haven't blogged in a while. Why? Because...the kids have been out of school for the holidays, we've been getting Anna ready for Junior Miss and basically my mind is just mush.

So what's going on these days? My baby will be four on Tuesday. Monday night we're having an Auburn cake & cookie during the NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP game for his birthday. He's wearing his CAM jersey to church tomorrow. He's the fifth child so of course I'll let him. What's he about at "almost four"....Auburn, Toy Story, football, his Toy Story Guitar, Cam, football, trapping the kitten, his Aubie Pillowpet that Nana bought for him and his Auburn blanket his MawMaw crocheted for him. His favorite song of late is from Veggie Tales, "My God is Bigger Than the Boogie Man". At this very moment he is break dancing to "Watch Me Do My Thang" on ESPN.

For some reason the holidays wore me out this year. I guess I'm old or at least too old for this many children...My new year's resolutions? I have none. I'm just tired of lying to myself. At the very least one should strive to tell ones self the truth. I'm adopting Jana's college motto of "No Expectations". Instead, I'll just be thankful. Thankful for a husband who goes to work everyday whether he wants to or not and then walks through the door at night and looks for ways to make me happy. Thankful for daughters who are true blue and have never given us one minute of trouble. Thankful for my young daughter who has every right to be angry but tries her best not to be every minute of every day. Thankful for my sons who make me tired. Thankful for my messy house that is bursting from the life that lives inside it.

Happy Birthday, Christian, Armya, Sarah and Aunt Lisa!

Good Luck Annie!