Wednesday, November 20, 2013

I should be doing the dishes but I'm blogging instead!

Spoiler alert: There is nothing in this blog post about kids, so you can skip it if that's why you are here!

This week we held our first foster, adoptive, and kinship family support group. We met an amazing adoptive family through our church whose young son, who was adopted through foster care, was diagnosed with cancer at age 7. He was and still is a HUGE inspiration to all who knew him and the throughout the whole community. It's a story of an amazing transformation from a broken and hurting little child to a boy with a healed and cheerful heart despite his rough start to life, family tragedy, and a diagnosis of terminal cancer. You can see more of his story here. He wanted others to know that small things can make a big difference.
To honor his memory his parents wanted to start a support group for foster, and adoptive families and they honored us by asking us to come on board. Susie's (the moms) vision was to create this amazing place where families could connect and form friendships, and where "childcare provided" would mean so much more. She had a vision that this group would help provide a healing place for these kids who have been through so much. We had two counselors leading groups for teens and elementary children. We had great energetic volunteers with our younger kids and babies. We had 4 therapy dogs and an awesome "thankfulness" craft with Thanksgiving right around the corner. It was a FULL evening with dinner being provided to all the families beforehand. This group goes above and beyond what I would expect from a support group.
Our first evening was a huge success! For us personally, it was so great to meet other foster parents who understand what we're going through and have been there. They know the crazy. The tantrums. The uncertainty. The loss. And they also remind you why you do what you do and why you love it! We probably could have talked all night if there weren't 22 kids dropping like flies at the end of a long day.
My greater hope is that by hosting this group, people at our church will start to consider adoption or foster care, and they will have a group to support them through their entire journey. Already, we've had two people wanting more information about foster care!
I really feel God led me to this church. He even moved it from it's former location to one block away from my house so I wouldn't have the excuse of not wanting to drive there (which I often used). Thanks God! I don't know if this group is the reason why or if it is another reason, but I'm trying to learn to listen to what God is saying and follow where God takes me. I'm learning to say "yes" when God asks me something instead of saying "maybe later". It's scary, and definitely outside my comfort zone, but if I want to follow God (and I do!) then I have to follow God! And by saying "yes" to these things I probably would have said "no thanks!" to a few years ago I am growing so much.
And I've learned so much from Susie and her son Zachi. One person really can make a difference. And everyone can be that person who really makes a difference. Go make a difference!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

13 months and a new baby!

Busy. That's the word that best describes day-to-day life around here these days. Two months ago we got a call that went a little something like this "We have a one year old that needs a place to stay, will you take her?". Um, yes.

Has it been all fun and games? I wish I could say so, but honestly most days I just try to make it through to the end of the day in one piece. If there is anything that I've learned it's how much room I still have to grow in so many areas. I always thought I was a patient person until I had a baby. And then another one. It is a challenge to parent an emotionally fragile child when there is little time to recuperate. The only way I'm able to do it is by relying on God's strength and patience and remembering how deeply I'm loved.  (and by drinking coffee)

But is there joy too? Of course!

And even at the end of a hard day I still wouldn't trade it for anything. It's not about whether it's hard or easy for me. Because it's hard. It's really hard. I have a daughter that I have raised since birth. A daughter who snuggles on me thinking I'm her mama. A daughter who I will someday watch drive away in a car and my last glimpse of her will be her face watching me through the window of that car as it drives away. I have another child who has been torn away from everything she has ever known. Who wakes up screaming just wanting to hear my voice to know that I haven't disappeared. She has been so brave, but I can tell that she is just grasping for something that she can control because everything else is out of her control.
So is it hard, yes. But is that a reason not to do it? No.
It's about loving children unconditionally because God loves me. So I can and do choose to also give my life to loving others even when it isn't easy or convenient to do.

But back to that joy part. When no one is biting anyone (it's not me doing the biting if you were curious) or screaming and flailing on the ground (again not usually me) life is...manageable... But there are also these moments where I feel so full of life and such a deep inner joy and it's in those moments that I know I have the best job in the world. I hang on to those moments so I can remember them during the difficult moments. I have so much more wealth in life than I could ever deserve! I have a loving and personal God, a loving husband who is my perfect and true match, I have a house (with running water, heat, and more room than we need), I've never worried about having enough food, I'm in good health, I have a family that loves me, and I have two perfect babies that I get to love as my job. My job is to love babies. How great is that?! It really is my dream job. I have so much I'm thankful for.

Right now I'm thankful for my babes.

Baby Bear is starting to walk by herself. She will take about 10 steps by herself and is getting more adventurous by the day. She has just very recently started a word explosion. Last week she could say a few words. Now she can say: bear, bean, dog, bread, dada, baby, bye-bye, hi, all done, ball, book, bird, walk, up, down, and she'll try to imitate just about any word if you ask her to. I think she is starting to put two words together at 13 months. I'm sure I've heard her say "buh-bye da" twice now when we wave goodbye to Justin in the mornings. Today she said "hi gah" when I told her to say hi to grandma. I'll have to start listening more closely. She has been putting two signs together for quite some time but this is the first we're hearing the words so it's exciting! Tonight she also correctly identified the letter 'z' on the first try. What a smart baby! She can point to her belly, head/hair, nose, and my eyebrows. She has been doing the animal sound for sheep for a while and just today she started saying "mboo" for cow and also trying to make an elephant noise. So cute! Birds are her favorite things. She laughs pretty hysterically when we see them at the park. I didn't know she could laugh like that! She also thinks chickens are the cool thing. She spent 10 minutes smiling and waving and giggling at a chicken statue in a restaurant. She also likes to only read (and lick) the touch and feel pages with the chickens in both her touch and feel books. What a funny little thing. The other day she matched two roosters in a matching book.

And what about that new baby? Curly Top is 18 months old. She is a clever and happy little baby. She loves to snuggle and be the center of attention. She loves to help Baby Bear. She feeds her her cup, chases her, tickles her, hugs her, kisses her, holds her arms out and says 'up?', holds her hand, brings her toys, puts cheerios in her mouth, she pets her and pats her, and just generally loves her. Until Baby Bear has a toy she wants or my attention. bad for you Baby Bear! She is doing remarkable for being completely uprooted. Her language has come a long way in the two months we're had her. She picked up a lot of baby signs just from watching Baby. She used to throw tantrums about twice an hour but now it's only about twice a day. She is doing remarkably well learning to wait her turn and share. Better than most children her age I'd say! She's also learned that if Baby has something she wants that she can bring a new toy to Baby so that Baby will drop the desired toy and go after the new toy! Talk about smart!

The end.

Also, we don't have any idea how long we'll have curly top. One more week? 10 more months? Who knows. Not us. Not the caseworkers.
Baby Bear has another court date in October. Since she hasn't started unsupervised visits yet in this period we're assuming that she'll be with us for another three months after her October court date. But that is just an guess not a fact.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Almost 11 months old!

Nine was an exciting month for Baby Bear!
Three days after she turned 9 months we flew to Hawaii to visit Justin's family. Baby spent two weeks being held by grandpa and grandma, pointing to dogs, pointing to auntie and uncles, and trying lots of new foods. It was a long overdue vacation as we hadn't been out to visit his family since Christmas 2010! It was really great, but much too short when you only see your family every 2 years. Maybe someday we will love closer.

Unfortunately 97% of our pictures are of Baby which we can't post. But you get the idea. Amazing scenery. Amazing people.

Baby has been soaking up the world like a sponge. We've only just begin to discover how smart she is! She learns something new almost every day. In Hawaii we were so amazed when we pointed out a clock in the airport and then showed her one in the house and then the next day we asked her where the clock was and she pointed right to it!

She can point to her head, point to someone else's nose, identifies all sorts of objects around the house by pointing after we name them, points to things she wants, gives kisses, waves on command, rolls a ball back and forth, pushes buttons on command, dances on command, gives high fives. She plays peek-a-boo now by turning her head to hide her face and then turns around really fast! She is at the stage now where we can tell her a word and she will remember it! She can identify things I didn't even know she knew. Her receptive vocab is already over 25 words that we know of and growing every day. The other day we were reading a book and I told her to point to the baby not expecting her to be able to do it as we never taught her what a baby is. But right away she pointed to the baby!

In the past month she also learned how to sign 'milk'. Then all of a sudden in the past week we have seen a signing explosion! One day I told her it was time for her bath and she immediately signed 'bath'! We were so surprised as we do not sign bath consistently for bath time. We were even more surprised when I told her it was time to brush her teeth and she signed toothbrush. I thought it must be a fluke and she probably just wanted to chew on her finger. The next day when I told her it was time to brush her teeth she signed toothbrush again! She does it every time we say it! This little girl is amazing. We had a baby bedtime signs book from the library. We read it for like a week. Then we returned it. We never practiced it after that. A week after we returned it is when she started signing toothbrush. She is on the verge of signing sleep, book, eat, and diaper and can sign them partially. She also now signs 'more' by touching her index fingers together instead of clapping her hands like she used to. She also one time verbally said 'ma' instead of signing 'more'. Coincidence, I'm not sure... These things are all just within the past 4 days! (except signing bath).

She is so clever. You can just see those little wheels turning in her head as she watches everything. Often she just likes to point to things so you can name them. Almost like she is just trying to discover as much as possible. She continues to match pictures in books by pointing to one picture with one finger and the other same picture with her other finger. We read a Dora book one day and I'm not sure it's what I think but we got to a page that had the same picture as the cover and she immediately closed the book and really studied the front cover hard as if to say 'hey, this is the same'. Then she kept wanting to flip back and forth. I'm not sure my assumption is correct here either, but I wouldn't doubt it if it were - we were looking at a book and I told her to point to the bumblebee and her head snapped up and she reached for her book in which the only picture she will point to (because she is so excited about it and everything else pales in comparison) is the bumblebee. It could just be coincidence, but I know her memory is amazing.

On Baby's 10 month birthday she started cruising on the furniture. Hooray Baby! Now a few days ago I had given up on the idea that she was going to crawl. She was never on all fours. Rarely made attempts to get on all fours. If something was out of her reach she would either just cry or roll to it. On her 10 month birthday Justin and I were eating our dinner on the floor with Baby. She saw Justin's bowl and much to our surprise she just got up on all fours and proceeded to crawl over to it! She is now a pro at cruising around the house. I think she will be walking soon. She can walk using just one hand to hold on to ours. Today she stood alone for almost 2 minutes! Her previous record was on Monday when she stood alone for 15 seconds.

She loves to play "I'm gonna get you!". She will stop what she is doing and scream in excitement. She will then sign 'more'. Such a cutie pie! The other most exciting thing that she does is sleep through the night consistently! This is the best milestone ever! She had been waking up again for 2 hour periods during the night when we were in Hawaii and when we got home, and she was awful to put down. Then we decided that was quite enough of that and no longer went in to pat and 'comfort' her. In 2 or 3 days she was sleeping like a dream.

Baby has another court date at the end of this month. After this court date she will begin unsupervised home visits and that is the last step before reunification. We aren't sure how long this process will take, but we know we'll have her through her first birthday.

The end.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

9 months

This little girl just keeps growing up. It's still amazing how fast the months go. Baby Bear is such a good little baby. She is playing quietly with a pile of noodles while I write this and Mika is waiting patiently beneath her high chair. Baby eats all sorts of big girl food and is not a big fan of the baby food anymore unless it is mixed with something lumpy.
Baby still hasn't figured out how to crawl, but she does know how to roll and roll and roll or scoot backwards until she finds one of Mika's slobbery gross toys. Mika being the helpful dog that she is also brings her toys over to the baby and leaves them directly in front of her. So nice. It is unfortunately not an uncommon scene for me to find the baby gnawing on the dog bone.
Baby has figured out how to point to things in real life (as opposed to just books). She points to Mika ALL THE TIME. Right now she has a noodle in one hand and is pointing at Mika with the other hand. Silly baby. A few more new things she can do:

  • play pat-a-cake
  • do the 'rain' portion of itsy-bitsy spider
  • do "So Big!"
  • sign "all done" (but she doesn't know what it means)
  • dance on command
  • the other day she pointed with one hand to a horse in a book and then pointed to the matching horse with the other hand. I was very impressed.
  • grow her front two teeth, and two other new teeth (that makes 7 teeth all together)
  • sleep through the night most of the time

It seems like she learns a new trick every few days. Her favorite things to do are grab Mika's toenails, pat Mika's back, squeeeeeeeze Mika's fat rolls, try to get Mika's chew toys, (are you seeing a pattern?), point to Mika, read books, and find crumbs off the floor!

In other news, Justin finished a series of papers that he had been working on for 9 months. We are both very excited about that!  It was a pretty intense 9 months with a new baby and a huge project. And now we get to celebrate with a trip to Hawaii to visit Justin's family. We were lucky enough to get permission to bring Baby Bear with us, and we are so excited to show her off.

Still no new news on how long we will have Baby. We will still have her through the end of July for sure, and then it's all up in the air.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

7 & 8 months

I had written a post for last month but never got around to actually posting it so I'm combining the updates for last month and this month.

There was a court hearing earlier this week and birth mom is doing all the right things to get her back. This might be our last three month period with her depending on how fast they do the transition. It's a bittersweet thing. I really want to believe in the mom, but I find it challenging when the stakes are so high.

In happier news, she had her first sibling visit. Can you see the resemblance? They were all just so stink'n adorable I wanted to bring them home. Her siblings are all adopted by two different families. Girls with one family and the boys with the other.
Baby Bear is 8 months old now and wow has she changed from the last update I posted! Last time I blogged she had been screaming for up to 2 hours at bedtime in her loudest voice possible. She thankfully doesn't do that anymore! For the first time in her life sleep was no longer an issue. She had been sleeping through the night for a glorious two months, and going to sleep beautifully. However, a few weeks ago she started crying after every sleep cycle like she used to do when she was 2 months old. She'd cry at 12, 2, 4, and sometimes 6. Last night was the first time she slept through the night in 3 weeks. Let's hope that phase is done!
She's not crawling yet, but she is not stationary either. She is a pro at rolling around and scooting backwards so she is never in the same spot where I left her.
She likes to "dance" to songs and music by wiggling back and forth. It's super cute! She loves to look for us if we hide or play peek-a-boo. She just recently started playing peek-a-boo with her bib. She'll hold her bib over her face and then lower it when I say "where is Baby?".  Super cute!  She recognizes at least a few words that we know of including "mommy", "mika", and "milk". She's working on her pincer grasp and is pretty good about picking up small objects like cheerios. Baby even uses a real chewing motion now. Her newest skills are clapping her hands and waving bye-bye. She will do each on command. She also likes to clap her hands when her singing toys sings "If you're happy and you know it clap your hands".
She has also been pointing to pictures in books for the past month or so. She loves to point out all the cartoon babies in a certain book and is most excited to point to them on the pages they are really tiny or almost hidden. The smaller the picture of the baby the more fun it is to point to I guess. She also loves to point to pictures of farm animals and then wait to see what kind of noise I make for them. And dogs! Any book there is a dog in, she will find it and point to it. It's so fun to watch her discover things. She's really grown a lot mentally in the last two months. She feels much more like a real little person now rather than a tiny baby. You can see those wheels turning inside as she figures things out.