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Archive for February, 2014

A Longing for More

Sometimes I look around my house and see the carpet stains and dirty tennis shoes and the two couches that sag so much in the middle it’s impossible to sit on the side cushions, and I wish things could be different. My handmade garage-turned-playroom some days seems like a poor substitute to the picture I have painted in my head of what I wanted my life to be like. Don’t get me wrong. I am incredibly happy with the life I have been given and feel blessed every time I pull into my driveway and remember this house is mine. But the reason I wish it could be different is because, not often, but lately, I just wish for more. I don’t wish for more material possessions so I can keep up with the Joneses, I just sometimes wish for more so I could give a better life to the kids that enter my home. I know they are looking for stability and love and not the latest game console or the coolest toys, but in the perfect world where my dreams come true the way I want them to, I am living in a two story, five bedroom house (built this year, of course), with granite counter tops and steel appliances, and a laundry room that is big enough to wash, dry, and fold in without having to lug baskets of clothes into my living room to take care of. And in my perfect dream, all four of those little bedrooms (master suite not included, of course), would be filled with foster kids that have turned into adoptive kids and are now a part of my permanent family. I’d have enough money stored away so I wouldn’t have to work anymore and I would devote all my time advocating for foster kids and volunteering at church. I would lead a Bible study for moms in my living room (with the vaulted ceilings and spacious accommodations), and all our kids would play together in the ginormous playroom that was built above the garage.

Every weekend that I get to spend at home, feeling like a stay-at-home mom, makes it all the harder to get up Monday morning and go to work. And weekends like this one, where my kiddo’s brothers are visiting and our day has been spent playing in the creek, eating dinner on the back porch, and falling asleep watching movies in the living room, I ache inside for this dream of mine to become a reality.

I don’t know why God has called me to be a single foster parent. It’s not something I dwell on often because I believe God is wholly good and He does not withhold good gifts from His children unless He has something better in mind. But sometimes, like this weekend when I get news that the boys may not be going back home after all, and I allow my mind to go places I shouldn’t let it, and I plan my life with them for the next fifteen years…it makes it impossibly hard to not wonder “why”. Why am I so close to entering into the season of life that I have always dreamed of, but still can’t seem to actually put my hand on it? It’s like God is dangling a carrot in front of my nose saying, “This is what it would be like to have a family.” But then he yanks the carrot away with a cord of reality.

I love tucking those sweet boys into bed. I love watching them play in the creek and get wet to their little bellies. I love seeing them wrestle and sword fight and jump out of the swings with no fear of getting hurt. I love teaching them how to ride a bike and chasing them around the playground in a game of tag. I love their chatter and the tiny way they snore when they sleep. They are beautiful boys. Active and inquisitive and silly. And I love them.

But they are not mine. And at the end of this weekend, my kiddo will stay here and his brothers will return to their foster families. In the next couple months (or years, as the system goes) they will return home or be adopted out. And unless I win the lottery (which I don’t even have a ticket for) or God works a miracle, they will soon be just a couple more faces to place on my wall and a couple more hearts that have stolen mine. Oh, it’s worth every bit of this heartache and longing. I believe that with all my heart. But someday, truly, I hope God will look at me and say, “Okay. This one. This one’s yours.”

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Temporarily Detained

February 14, 2014

Today was one of those days where you feel like you float outside of your body and linger in the space between conscious and unconscious and you watch yourself below but you can’t really believe it’s you. You know it is because that’s your voice and that’s the cute sweater you put on this morning, but the situation is too weird, too ironic, too serendipitous to truly be real. So you watch yourself go through the motions below all the while waiting to wake up from the dream. This happened today and I am still asking my conscious self if all of this really happened.

My sister and I were on our way to the mountains to celebrate my birthday and so I could take a little weekend respite from foster care. Jessie J’s song “Price Tag” was stuck in my head so we looked it up on Pandora and blasted it through the speakers. I belted out the words and danced the best I could for someone restrained by a seatbelt and two hands on the wheel. A cop followed me for a while and I sang and joked about getting pulled over for bad dance moves, because, let’s admit it, this girl can’t dance, especially in a car. I just celebrated my 32nd birthday and have proudly boasted a perfect driving record. I have never gotten a speeding ticket, never gotten pulled over; I’ve been a relatively perfect abiding citizen. So when the blue lights turned on behind me the only thing I could think of was that maybe it was illegal to dance and drive.

I turned into a Lowe’s parking lot and rolled down my window to get ready to give the officer my registration and license. All routine at this point. But then he threw me for a curve ball. He came to my window and asked me to step out of the car. I’ve never gotten pulled over before, but I’m pretty sure you’re supposed to stay in. I cautiously opened my door and stepped out and then started watching the most bazzar scene unfold around me. Three more cop cars pulled up, officers out of their cars, all eyes on me. I was asked my name, if I had any weapons on me, and then was patted down. I’m pretty sure they don’t do this for speeding or forgetting to turn on my blinker. “Miss, this car is reported as stolen. I’m sorry but I’m going to have to cuff you.” He gently put my hands behind my back and tightened the sharp metal cuffs to my wrists. He walked me to the police car and helped me into the back seat. He walked away and as I sat there it hit me that I was being detained as a thief for something I was absolutely positive I had not done wrong. The next two hours were spent making phone calls, running reports, and talking to investigators. My sister went inside Lowes and got trashbags so we could pack up the stuff in the car, and at the end of my time with Officer Skinner, I stood in the parking lot and watched a tow truck take my car away. Just like that it was gone. No warning. Nothing made sense. That was my car. I bought it. I had the title and registration and tags. I had done nothing wrong. And they just took it away from me and left me with my suit case, my purse, and a plastic trash bag of the rest of my belongings. I had my sister and my friend who came to rescue me, but the parallelism of this moment suspended in time and what foster kids go through suddenly struck me.

Imagine for a moment being a kid, taking part in your family, helping your siblings, doing everything your little four year old heart knows how to do right. Sure, things haven’t been perfect at home, but who’s family actually is perfect? A little drugs. A few nights left alone. A slap across the face once in a while. But he’s a good kid and his family isn’t “that” bad. Then all of a sudden a police officer shows up at your door. He tells you to throw anything you want with you into a garbage bag and then he escorts you to the back of a police car. You are scared. You watch your family being questioned. You don’t understand what’s going on. How can a kid understand this? And then in a few minutes the kid is being driven away, watching as his home, his siblings, his parents, his possessions, are all taken away from him. He has no assurance that he will ever see those things, these loved ones again. How traumatic that must be for a foster kid! Each move, each time they are taken away from a home, placed in another; each time they have to say goodbye, the trauma just builds. Anxiety and distrust and fear replaces the emotions that a “normal” kid should think and feel. He starts to disconnect from himself, from others, until he is floating around outside himself, occasionally coming in for a brief tantrum of emotional expression.

Today I lost my car. It was taken from me, very unexpectedly. My day was going perfectly. I was happy. The sun was shining and I had no idea that anything wrong was about to happen. I now know intimately the feel of handcuffs on my wrists and the smell of black leather in the back seat of a police car. I know the names of investigators and officers and attorneys. Those around me have asked how I can remain so calm after such a traumatic afternoon and the uncertainty of whether or not I’ll ever see my Tucson again. Those adventures I’ve had in that car and the security I felt in knowing I had reliable transportation was stripped away from me. But I am calm. Perhaps even uncommonly so, because at the end of the day, it is just a car. It is a possession. It’s not an unexpected move. Or a loss of a family. Or a final goodbye to someone I loved. It’s a car. Of course I pray I will get it back and that this whole crazy day will just give me another good story to use in “Two Truths and a Lie”, but even if I never see it again, if I’m out all that money, if it is a loss I’ll regret; at the end of the day, it’s a car.

I have a kid in my house right now who has moved six times. Six losses. Six unexpected displacements. Six trash bags full of his belongings. I can’t even imagine how he must feel. I have a family that walks through trials with me and goes to bat for me. He has another foster parent he doesn’t know, another placement where everything changes. Grief and loss are so deep and real with foster kids. I wouldn’t have chosen to lose my car this weekend but if it helps me understand even one drop of what my kids go through, then it is worth it, then it is a blessing. I can NEVER understand how they feel, and I won’t pretend that I do, but if this is how I feel after having a car taken from me…oh how my heart breaks for what they must feel!

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Emotional Seizures

(I’ve been without internet for several weeks so here comes a line of blogs that are long overdue…)

February 1, 2014

Today I had to lock myself in my room. Trust me, it wasn’t my first choice, but sometimes there is no other option. It all started with a shower. Well, not even really a shower. It started with my desire to take a shower this morning. I wanted to get cleaned, get dressed, and then take the kid shopping for some new pants. He needed new pants. He wanted new pants. He wanted to shop. He did not want me to take a shower. We had already been through the nonsensical battle of him not wanting me to get out of bed but also not wanting me to sleep. And he didn’t want me to read in bed either. Just lay there doing nothing. It’s morning. If I’m going to be in bed, I’m going to at least read! He didn’t want me to stay in bed for any other reason than he wanted me there, plain and simple. In his control.

These are normal battles. Normal melt downs. He threw a tantrum the other day because he wanted to give me a blanket. I said he could. Gladly accepted it. But since there was already another one on my bed he yelled and screamed “I want to give you a blanket!” for ten minutes. He melts down because he wants help picking out his clothes. I pick some out and then he yells and screams because he wants to pick them out. I call the on-call phone and they ask to talk to him. I hold out the phone to him and he runs away. So I hang up. Then he throws a tantrum because he wanted to talk to them. It’s all really a control game. He wants to control me. He wants to call the shots. Every tiny detail of my day he wants to be in charge of.

So, back to today and me locking myself in my bedroom. I told him I was going to take a shower. He ran down the hall, locked himself in my room. I have been intentionally practicing the art of remaining calm. By God’s incredible grace, He has taught me much. So instead of yelling or fighting, I sat on the couch. Just sat. When I didn’t respond like he expected (me chasing him down the hall and pounding on the door), he came back out. Called me “stupid” and told me exactly how mean I was. I just sat there. No response. Then he started throwing things at me. It started with a paper instruction guide to his new game. I deflected that. He threw it at me two more times. I just sat there. He took his snow gloves and chucked those at me. I didn’t flinch. I calmly asked him to please stop throwing things at me. I told him I knew he didn’t actually want to hurt me and I acknowledged how he was feeling. My calm voice just fueled his fire. So the objects got bigger. The yelling louder. He threw his backpack at me. Threatened to hit my face. I didn’t move. I spoke gently once again. Then he picked up the large glass top to a crock-pot that was waiting to go to Good Will. His eyes burned with anger. At this point I was worried about my dog more than anything. I knew I could deflect the flying glass, but I wasn’t so sure the dog had quite figured out what was going on yet. I moved off the couch, calmly, slowly, and went to let out the dog. The Kid didn’t like this but it did cause him to put down the glass and switch from throwing objects to throwing punches. It’s not the first time he’s hit me. But it was definitely the most aggressive. He laid into me with all his strength. Hitting, punching, kicking my shins. Thankfully he’s five and I’m twice his size, but as his anger built, so did his strength, and all of a sudden I found myself a little more scared than I like. I was sweating from trying to calmly walk away. My shins ached. My arms were sore from deflecting. I had tried everything I knew to do; everything I had been taught. So I called on-call and with her urging I went and locked myself in my bedroom.

And I took my shower. I listened to him kick my bedroom door. I heard him pick up the plastic timeout chair and chuck it against the wood. Over and over and over. I washed my hair. Rinsed it. Breathed slowly trying to remain calm. I watched the suds go down the drain and willed the Kid to settle down. My pulse slowed. I finished, dried off, went about my normal routine. Teeth brushed. Clothes on. Hair dried. The kicking continued, but it had slowed. By the time I was lengthening my eyelashes with my mascara, he had given up. I heard his bedroom door close and drank in the silence. Breathe in. Breathe out. It’s over. We survived. We are okay.

These emotional outbursts happen so unpredictably, in any place, and without control. I call them emotional seizures. Everything is fine. We are eating breakfast, talking about our day. Then all of a sudden, the smallest trigger, and something snaps. It can’t be stopped. I just move things in the room, make sure he’s safe, keep him from hurting himself. I stand and watch as he suffers through his own emotions and anxiously wait for him to come back to me. I watch his eyes glaze over and his face change. I pray that this one will be a quick one. And when it’s over I pull him in my arms, I cuddle him close to me, and I whisper to him, “You are loved. You belong.” I kiss his beautiful face and stroke his sweat-matted hair, and welcome him back to this world.

I hate these battles. I hate that I can’t fix them; that I can’t make his little heart and mind understand what’s going on. It’s been a month and I know his little brain is just trying to prepare him for another move. I’m his sixth placement since April. He can feel the change approaching in the coolness of the air. I can tell him he’s not leaving, but he’s heard that all before. So he pushes me away. He fights externally what he feels inward. And I just stick with him. I hold onto him. And I pray to God the sun will come out tomorrow and He will cover us with His new grace again and again. Because we need it.

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