Friday, April 17, 2015

Somebody Turned 12!

Our girl is 12 years old! 
She is looking more and more like a young lady.  She is officially taller than I am!

Elizabeth has grown a lot in the last year in so many ways.  She has been eagerly anticipating this day.  She had no wants or desires in the way of asking for any gifts this year.  She said to just surprise her.  She spends a lot of time looking at my fish tank, so Tim and I got her a small fish tank for in her office area. 
She spends a great deal of time in her office and no longer has a therapy dog.  So we thought this would be a good hobby for her and easy to care for.  She was so excited when we brought it home and set it up.  So now she has her parakeet and the little fish tank.  She spent hours researching types of fish on the internet before deciding what to get.  She had some time to decide as we waited for the tank to cycle and be ready for fish.  She got two angle fish, some neon tetras and two cory catfish. 

I also took the girls for a "girls night out."  The girls both saw these tops and begged for them, so they could match.  I haven't dressed them to match in years!  I didn't know they would still think dressing alike was cute!
They do love each other so much.

It amazes me how tall Elizabeth is getting.  She passed Carolyn a long time ago.  Elizabeth sure doesn't look three years younger than Carolyn!

Elizabeth wanted to eat out at a Mexican restaurant for her birthday this year.  So Stephen met us there.
All of the children had such a wonderful time.
Antonio has not felt like eating much lately but sure enjoyed visiting with everyone!

My sister made Elizabeth a ballerina cake of herself!  Elizabeth loved it!  Thank you Aunt "S"!
When we came home from supper everyone had some cake.
 It was such a nice day for her.

We all love you so much young lady!

Zephaniah 3:17  The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.

 Love always,

Dad, mom, Stephen, Antonio, William, Carolyn, Zeke, "B", "T" and baby "K"

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Getting A Lot Done

Life is always very busy around here.  There is always so much to do daily, that is normal required work.  Then add to that the unexpected things that come up frequently.  Then add to that the long, ever growing "To Do" list.  I always feel I am behind and can't get on top of it all.  I don't mind all the work.  This is our life and it is all good.  God is so good!
Look who learned to balance up on her knees the week she turned 11 months old!  Praise God!
Life is so busy that I have to prioritize and let a lot slide at times.  Then, there are times like we have had over the last two weeks.  I love spring.  I usually have extra energy, extra ideas and many dreams for the new year.  The weather has been just beautiful.  We home school year around, so we can take off days as needed for surgeries, appointments and for weeks like these!  We have taken the pretty days off from home schooling and just enjoyed this time being outside.  The rainy days, sprinkled in here and there, have given us breaks to catch back up on inside things.   I have been able to spend an hour or so a day, outside, working on small projects that needed doing, while the children play on the playground.  It has been so nice.  
"B" on his bike.
Baby "K" in the swing for the first time.  She loved it!
"T" going down the slide.
We did a lot out in the barn.  It got spring cleaned and the pens all got mucked out.  We sorted, organized and repaired anything that needed fixing from winter use.  We sold an extra milk goat to a good home.  We made a new stall for the pony, that was given to us, for the new group of littles as they grow up.  His name is Buck-a-roo and  he is just as sweet as he looks.  Like a huge stuffed pony.
Thank you Miss "J".  We will start the little toddlers to riding very soon.  It will help their balance a lot I hope. 

The baby goats are growing fast and only take two bottles a day now. 
I am so busy, with the care of the small children in our home, Carolyn has taken over bottle feeding them for me.  It is the first year she has been responsible for them and she is loving it. 
She loves to nurture things.  Especially baby things.  It is so good to know the barn is clean and all is in good working order out there.  It is all done till fall, when we do it again to prepare for winter.
Here is our farm dog, Yellow, guarding the goat kids.
He lays here most of the day watching the baby pen and the buck pen.  If he is not there, he is laying out in the big field watching the ponies and our doe herd.  This is  his view point.
I have five full grown does right now and four full grown bucks.  Then the two kids we are bottle feeding.  I am keeping the little doeling and didn't want her to be raised alone so kept a buckling to raise with her.
My girls are always curious, sweet and friendly.  God blessed us with good milk for our family.
Carolyn out with our dog Yellow getting some sun.  Way in the background, in the back right corner of this picture, is one of our original barn cats from when we moved here.  She is around 18 years old.  I bring her in the house at night, on the porch, have a warm place for her and give her a can of cat food, to try to keep her weight up.
I trimmed back all the grape arbors and have been attacking a hill of growth behind our home that needed cut back.  I am not even half way done here.

I still need to get out in our gardens and work.  I have weeded some and tied up the thornless blackberry bushes.  I grow them in a raised bed on the back trellising and have strawberries in the front bed part.
I still don't have any huge plans for a garden this year.  I know we might be getting a new born at any time and that will put us into survival mode for a while if that happens.  :) 

All in all, it has been a very therapeutic and relaxing spring.  We will keep at this routine till the high humidity and heat of summer hits. As at that time we will not be out much during the day.  Just mornings and evenings as the humidity and intense heat effects so many of our children's health in a very negative way.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18  Rejoice evermore.  Pray without ceasing.  In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

Pray all is well with you and yours.


Monday, March 23, 2015

Happy Birthday Tim!!!

Happy Birthday to the most wonderful, godly, man, husband and father I have ever known.  I am beyond grateful that God brought us together and I can call you, head over me, husband and friend.
Tim, you exhibit the fruit of the Spirit in all you do, to all you meet.  You are genuine and don't try to be someone you are not.  Your yes is yes and no, no but you are kind and fair.  You pour out grace to me when I need it and help when I stumble and fall, without condemning me.  You truly do try to be like Jesus in your daily walk in life.
I fall in love with you more every day. 
You work so hard at your job every day.  Since we started back into foster care, two years ago, I am humbled by the help at home you give to me and your family, selflessly, even though you are so tired from your normal work day. 
You change diapers, rock babies, make meals, sweep floors and pick up toys.  You take over and give me a free day, out with my dad, at least once a month.  You have sent me to our room to rest or let me sleep in, when you see I am to the point I REALLY need it.
I can only eat pure foods and they are expensive.  You always make sure I have plenty to eat, special things to eat, and you have cut mounds of sweet potatoes over the years, daily, so I can have my sweet potato fries every night for supper.  :)  I love you!!!
You send me romantic texts off and on all day and set aside time for "us" even if it is just watching a special movie in bed alone.
I feel spoiled.  I don't deserve you but feel so blessed we are one.

Happy, Happy birthday my wonderful husband!  May God abundantly bless you for all you do in life, not only for us but for others.  We all love you so very much!!

1 Peter 3:15   But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Impact of Doing Foster Care In Our Family

I was recently asked to write a post on how doing foster care has impacted our children living at home.  So I thought today I would share some of my thoughts on this topic in a broad sense.

When Tim and I felt the calling to do foster care, 18 years ago, we had two biological children.  Stephen was 9 years old and William was six months old. 
We thought we would step into foster care slowly but there was so many children in care that our home quickly filled up and became a revolving door for many foster children.  Each story sad, many just terrible.

We, as a family, must have been very sheltered from hearing much about this part of society, as we were not prepared to see the amount of abuse or neglect that we regularly saw.  When we went to foster care meetings, we would talk to other families and hear the stories of their cases as well.  It was almost over whelming at times.

Many of the children came with major issues.  Who could go thru what they did and not have any?  Being torn from the only family they ever knew, whether good or bad, is enough to cause great stress and emotional trauma.  Then add to it what they had seen and experienced in the form of neglect and/or abuse and you have a child whose normal development is off.  Their idea of love is off.  There emotional structure is just not normal.  There behavior can be all over the place and uncontrollable.  Some hoard food.  Many have trouble sleeping. Some scream and cry for hours on end with no way to comfort or console them.  To our children who live in a normal loving stable home, these behaviors are hard to understand.  We spend a lot of time talking to and explaining things to, our children that live at home.

So many people, myself included, go into fostering or adopting, thinking that faith in God, a stable home and love, will fix and heal all that is going on with a child.  Very soon we learned that is just not the case.  Those developmental years are so tender and the imprinting done on them will effect a child for life.  Children can and will change and improve in areas over time but some will always just be compromised in many areas of their person, just by not having anything normal in those developmental years.  They often also develop survival skills and behaviors that become part of who they are and can not be changed.  Also, when doing foster care, the only form of behavior modification you can use is "time out" and in older children, restriction of some privileges.   So for bad behavior, options are very limited.     

Laying these thoughts and ground work for what I am about to discuss, allows you to see that there are many facets to the children that come into our homes in foster care.  We have to take the good with the bad.  What I am about to say is hard to do and practice but... it is best to embrace and love a child for who they are, the way they come and pray and hope for the best for them.  Then the improvements and milestones they achieve will be so sweet and such cause for joy and celebration.  If you take in a difficult child with hard behaviors and think you can "fix" or change them, you set yourself up to always be frustrated with that child and possibly never bond with them.  It sets you up for a possible placement disruption and honestly, you will truly never be of any help to them at all.  It really is so hard to put into practice with some children though.

We have certain rules in our home, in place, that can not be broken, ever.  There are never boys allowed in girls rooms or girls allowed in boys rooms.  Not even for playing.  Tim and I are the only ones that change any diapers, ever.  The only bedroom with a door on it, is the Master bedroom.  No one is ever allowed to lock a bath room door.  These are just some of the rules that stand in our home. Not just when doing foster care but also when we took a several year break.  When one has special needs children in the home, in all stages of growth, development, cognition and back rounds, this is just best.  It is better than having something very unexpected happen and have regrets. 

Tim and I have been thru a lot in life.  Every hard time brings us closer and closer and makes us more united and one.  We try to serve God in all we do.  When we know a foster child is coming to live with us, we sit down and explain the situation the foster child is coming out of, to the children in our home, that can understand.   At times, Tim and I have been asked to take a foster child or children and we have asked the oldest child or children, in our home, if they think we should take them because in some situations, it would not only increase Tims and my responsibilities but theirs as well.  It would be more work for everyone in the home and cause a season of intense stress.  So, we often ask the older children, in our home, to get their opinion on the situation before acting.  Since Stephen was the oldest child for many years, in our home, we often asked him the question about taking in one more child.  He would always listen carefully to the background of the child and say, "No".  "I don't see how we can take even one  more." and go to his room.  It was never even five minutes and he would be back and say,  "I'm sorry, I was wrong."  "How can we say no."  "Where will they go."  "Who will take them.  We have to take them." 
Now that William is the oldest, he seem to go thru the same pattern.  Hearing the stories of these children, knowing the system is full and there are sometimes no other placements for these special needs or harder children, it builds a compassion into my children that they would not other wise have.  A selflessness that I am so happy to see that has grown in them.  I could never have taught them this without them experiencing being a foster/adoptive sibling to these children, that have come thru our home.  Only God can take a situation so broken and bad and use it for such good in all of our lives.  To have my children grow up seeing how blessed they really are.  How much they have in life, to have God, family, love, food and stability.  What they have seen and heard about theses foster care cases  has brought only good in their character and hearts.  God has done this and it is so good to witness.

When doing foster care, there are constant conversations, with our children, about the foster children that we have in our home.   We try to always be open, honest and upfront with our answers.  Our children always have so many questions....why were the children taken from their parents?  Are they staying or going somewhere else?  Why does this child or that child do this behavior, hoard food or have night terrors?  To explain why, helps our children give these foster children grace in their hearts, about the behavior they are seeing.  A compassion.  All of our children have at one time or another said to me.  "Mom, I will never do drugs or drink and do this to my child."  This is a profound statement.  I could talk to my children about the addiction of alcohol, not doing drugs and pray that they understand and stay away from these things in society.  I could preach to them about the damage they can cause in a persons life but them seeing the outcome, disabilities and struggles of the children exposed or neglected because of addictions, speaks volumes to their core.  They see the broken families because of it all. 

Now that I have spoken my heart on the heavier issues, I will share the precious side.  The love.  God has used the many foster children who have come thru our home, to grow us and shape us all.  All of our children embrace all children no matter the skin color, ability or disability.  They see the beauty in all children they meet.  My older children are so tender and loving with the young foster children we have. 
I see them stop and regress to sit down and play patty cake or peek-a-boo with the baby.  Or choose to watch Sesame Street or Blues Clues with the toddlers when told they can watch a show.  I have seen my older children, try to help the babies we have had, learn to crawl or walk.  Pick them up and rock them just because they feel like it or give comfort when the child is fussy and I am busy. 
All of our young children we have adopted used to climb up onto Antonio's lap, in his wheel chair and be cuddled when sleepy and needing to be still for a while.  This is our normal and it blesses my heart.

More specifically...child by child... I can say that doing foster care this time around...

Even though Stephen does not live home anymore, he comes to visit often.  He loves to play with  and spend time with his siblings.  True to form, even though he questioned if it was wise we take in more children at our age,  he is supportive of our decision and loves the foster children we have in our home.  I believe it is because he understands the big picture of it all, as he was raised in it.  He does special things for each child and spends time with them all when he comes.  Even with baby "K".

Antonio loves the toddlers and baby.  I can ask him to watch a toddler play in the living room while I cook dinner (I can see the living room from the kitchen) and he feels like a big help to me and tells me every move they make and what they are doing.  He was the first one to ever see our baby "K" roll over, as I had asked him to watch her playing in her crib while I was doing something for a moment in the next room!  He loves all our foster children.

William has a tender heart and understanding for what the children have went thru as he is older.  William and I have had very long and in depth conversations about the state of this world and how and why these things happen to the children that come into foster care. 
He often picks up baby "K" and plays with her, rocks her and loves on her.  She always gives a smile and squeal when he picks her up as she knows how much fun she has with him.  William often will pick up one of the toddlers and throw them in the air, tickle them, chase them around or pick them up and run them thru the house with their arms out pretending they are airplanes.  They LOVE this and want me to do it too.  Not a chance.  Ha ha.  They are way to heavy.  He also will sit and build with legos with "B" or build elaborate railway systems for them out of the wooden rail way. 

Carolyn LOVES children.  On sunny days, she asks to take "T" out to swing, as it is his favorite thing to do.  She will also watch "B" ride his bike or play on the playground. 
She wants so badly to mother baby "K" but with the baby's floppy tone and weight, now that she is older, it is not safe for Carolyn to pick her up and carry her around but Carolyn longs to.  She wants to.  I let Carolyn hold baby "K" and rock her in the recliner and Carolyn often sits down to play with her on the floor with baby toys.  She begs to feed baby 'K" but I prefer to do it.  Once in a while when I am very busy I will let Carolyn do it and she is in heaven.
Carolyn loves to pick out cloths for the children and would just love to take over with them if I would let her.  :)

Zeke has autism and does not like change at all.  When we first talked to him about going back into foster care he told me one day he was praying the child we took in would be a girl.  He told me this many times.  I thought it was very sweet to want a baby sister.  One day I asked him why and he said, "So he didn't have to have a baby in his room crying all night and smell the stinky diapers."  :/  Ok...not so sweet.  :)  But very honest.  When the foster toddlers came to live with us, they were a handful, very loud and screamed a lot as they were detoxing Meth.  Zeke literally hid and stayed in another room from them for a few weeks.  He would come and peek into the room they were in, watch them and then go and play in his quiet area on the front porch.  He slowly started to warm up to them and now loves them very much.  Zeke functions at about a five year old level in many areas, so he likes a lot of the same things that "B" does.  So they actually play together a little.  Zeke likes to play toddler games with "T" like chase me. 
He likes to take "B" out to the playground to play as "B" likes to run and climb and ride bikes like Zeke does.  So they have buddied up some.  It has actually been good for both of them and myself as it burns off some of "B"s high energy and helps Zeke be more social.  Zeke is still trying to figure out his relationship with baby "K".  He does not speak much and "K" likes to be talked to.  But Zeke will walk up a lot to her and give her toys or rub her soft head for a moment and smile at her.  It is very sweet and tender to watch him with her.

Elizabeth has deep issues with close personal relationships.  She is a pleasure around strangers or acquaintances but can not act appropriately to the people that love her and are close to her.  She deeply enjoys playing with the toddlers but because of her strong, stubborn, personality, she often ends ups squabbling or fighting with them while playing even though they are much younger.  I have to supervise her with them at all times if she plays with them.  So the rule is she is not allowed around them unless she asks permission. 
She would never hurt them but fights over toys, tattles every few moments and wants to be bossy and correct every little thing they do that bothers her.  We have always had to work on her people skills around all people.  It is part of who she is.  She is very sweet with baby "K" but again, I have to supervise her.

We have a large, diverse and busy family.  It is loosely structured. 
Tim and the foster toddlers playing Legos.
I have to have routine in order to get so many things done in a day but it is loose enough to run out to a doctors appointment or take the children out to a play park on a nice after noon.  Most foster children placed in our home have done very well, by the grace of God.  They see the structure,  respect, love general obedience and behavior of our children and try to model it over time.  All of our foster children are allowed to call us what they wish.  All have chosen to call us mom and dad I believe because our children call us that.  I think having a large and loving family is so good for the children that come into our home because they get bathed in love and positive stimulation all day long.  There is always someone to play with, a lap to sit on, some one to comfort them.  I am not always available.  I have barn work to do, food to prepare, a home to keep clean, home schooling to get in and appointments to make and keep.  We all work together to do what needs to be done.  This is a family calling.  A family mission.  God is worthy, we give Him all the glory, for all the positive things that anyone sees in our life and family.  Days are not always good, many days are down right long and hard but in it all is such sweetness and joy.  A lot of how you feel about life is where you place your focus.  We feel honored to serve in this way.  To see the miracles and changes made in these children, we have been blessed with, is enough.  Tim and I are blessed to overflowing.   God is so good.

Psalm 100:5  For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.