Friday, March 29, 2013

I swore I was never going to do this (Part 2).

As you may be able to pick up from the (Part 2) in the title, this is a continuation of a post from two days ago. Feel free to look at that if you haven't yet. Today I will get into more of the specifics of how Seth and I became foster parents and why we don't have biological children. Let's jump right into it, shall we?

Why don't we have biological children? We really didn't want them. Well, at least for most of our marriage. When we were engaged, I still wanted kids. Oh, did I. I was especially fond of toddler boys. Oof! I'd see a little man dressed in a plaid shirt and I'd whisper to Seth, "Take him!" (Clearly, I was joking. We're not kidnappers, y'all.) Then I started some nanny jobs, and I quickly got over my desire to have kids.

Believe me, I adore my now-goddaughters who I nannied back then, so this isn't about them being bad or difficult or anything. It was just that spending lots of time with them and the other kids I watched was so boring. And sure, there was the screaming in the car that made me very grateful that someone else was going to be in charge shortly, but there was also the knowledge that your life was no longer your own once you had kids. Good or bad, your lives are wrapped together. If your kid is depressed or messed up, so are you. I didn't want that, and Seth was always fine with whatever I wanted, so we went with that. And almost daily, we could look at kids being obnoxious or demanding and we'd look at each other and just say, "Reason #947 why we don't want kids."

So I got Norplant the year after we were married, and when the five years of that was up, Seth got a vasectomy. See? We were serious. The only reason we didn't do the vasectomy earlier is because we knew that doctors would give us a hard time or flat-out refuse since we were so young and didn't have any kids yet. We had thought long and hard about it, and we did. not. want.

Many people were concerned that we might change our minds and someone who will remain nameless even wondered if I was being fair to Seth, because what if I died and he wanted kids with his new wife? It was so lovely to talk to one woman who had never had kids, who when I said, "But everyone says I'm going to change my mind when I'm 35," just matter-of-factly answered, "Then you change your mind." It was not the end of the world.

Jump ahead some years, and as predicted, my ovaries started twitching at 35. I started having baby dreams, including one that I now think may have been about my niece. In that one, I was playing with a fabulous, blond, 1 year old girl. We were just having the greatest time kissing and laughing, and when I woke up, I missed her. I was sad all day. Another found me arguing with my cousin over babies found in little dirt piles on the sides of hills, as if they had been planted. A third dream, which was so clearly about adoption or foster care, was one where I was going down a road (through redwoods, I remember), and there was a man on the side of the road with his 3 or 4 year old daughter, and their car wasn't working or something. I stopped, went back to them, and said, "I'll take care of her."

We had always talked about adoption, but I was never going to do foster care. I did not need my heart being trampled upon like that. No, sir. But I know now that I was made for this. As hard and crappy as it has been, this calling is the most clear thing ever in my life. Believe, me, I'm often tempted to quit. The first five days we had our first placement, I felt nothing, she was difficult, and I wanted our old life back. When kids keep leaving, I want to say, "Screw this. I'll get a job, we won't have kids, and we'll travel and have money." And then I go by the children's group home and see a couple boys out playing basketball and I immediately think, "Do you want to come live with us?" Or I remember the day I was looking over a website with available kids (I call it petfinder for kids and I kind of hate it.), most of whom were older and/or handicapped, and I wept and told God that we'd do this, even if we didn't want to.

We weren't just pushed out of the nest, but I often say that God pushed us off a cliff. With many people around us adopting, the thought was popping up more and more, with Seth even saying, "Well, we'll probably be foster parents eventually," and me yelling at him, "Why would you say that? We don't want kids!" Watching the news after the earthquake in Haiti, I thought, "Okay. Send me one of those toddlers," (obviously not knowing that some people were totally exploiting the situation and taking kids.). We put that on the back burner though, because we lived in a one bedroom apartment and didn't have the money to move. But then a family situation arose and we thought we may be adopting someone, so we dove right into foster care classes and the licensing process.

I have a few posts already written from that stressful time period. Suddenly, my life was totally different and I wanted kids. I cried and felt like I was very much in a desert place with my faith and life because we were waiting on so many things to happen before we could just freaking get kids in our house.

It's scary every time a new kid comes to our house. We have adored and wanted to keep every kid that has lived with us. I've thought 5 different kids were going to be mine forever, and they're not. They'll always be my kids, but I won't see all of them and be their mommy every day. Our hearts were completely ripped out last summer when we were unable to keep the 1yo girl who lived with us, partially by our choice. Our fabulous 5yo daughter who lived with us for 15 months moved back in with her mom two weeks ago, and that's awesome. We hung out with her today, and she's still calling us momma & daddy. She's down with having a big, complicated family. In fact, next Saturday we're going to the 2nd birthday party of the girly who lived with us last summer, because they'll always be sisters.

I really hope that some of you are reading this and realizing that you could totally do this. Oh, it sucks. Believe me. But it's important. And we know how much you all support us. We have amazing friends and family and we appreciate all of your encouragement and prayers and rolling with making another new kid feel like part of the family.

If you can, please donate whatever you can to the Redwood Empire Foster Parent Association. This money makes it possible that every kid comes into our home with a big duffel bag of new clothes, a hand-made blanket, some jammies, books, and toys that are just for them. That way, I won't have to put any more two year olds to bed in one of my t-shirts on her first night in a scary place. ;)

Thursday, March 28, 2013

I swore I was never going to do this.

Many people are understandably curious about how Seth and I ended up as foster parents and why we don't have any biological children, so I thought I'd start telling that story, or at least tell a condensed version of it. I will try my best to not use the words "journey" or "calling," but I can't promise you anything. Actually, I can go ahead and promise you that I will use "call" or "calling," because that's the only way I can describe some of it.

Not long after we moved to Texas in the early 80's, my mom had dreams about having babies that turned out to be toddlers, and she knew that these were messages from God telling her that she was supposed to go into foster care. (Crazy start, huh?) My sister and I were around 5 & 9, and my parents were only 27 &  32. When I look at my life and the stages my siblings and I are in compared to my parents, I can't even wrap my mind around all of it. I'm 38 and I barely handled having 2 kids for 3 months last summer, and my mom had two children and started taking in foster kids when she was 11 years younger than me. We have had very different paths.

We had two kids living with us while we lived in Texas. One boy went back to his parents, and when our family had to move back to Michigan, the little girl who lived with us moved in with a different foster family. It was awful leaving her.

Back in Michigan, my parents got licensed as foster parents again and my sisters came to live with us when I was in 8th grade. They lived with us for about 3 years, with my youngest sister coming to our house straight from the hospital after she was born. They eventually went back to their mother, and it was one of the hardest things ever. It was one of the worst things that has ever happened to my mom; to lose her baby like that.

A couple other girls lived with us during that time, and I had always thought we just took care of them briefly or as respite, but no, they lived with us for a while. My parents had five kids sometimes. I can't get my head around that. I suppose I shouldn't be too surprised, as they both came from households with five kids. And now that I think about it, my parents will end up having raised five kids. Me & Beck, my once-foster sisters who both ended up coming back, and our nephew/brother. Funny.

I think that's where I'll end this part. I'll get more into the specifics about me & Seth tomorrow or the next day. My point is to tell our story for the curious, and also to show you that we are just normal people doing something that almost anyone could do.

Please consider supporting our work with children in foster care by donating to my fundraising efforts for the Human Race. I'm raising money for the Redwood Empire Foster Parent Association (REFPA) and this money goes towards supplying every child who comes into emergency care with a big ol' bag full of clothes, jammies, a blanket, a stuffed animal, and some books. These bags are so important both to the kids and to us as foster parents. We couldn't possibly be prepared for every size of kid who may come in, and these bags help us to clothe them and get them settled in their first few days before we can go shopping for them.
Thank you so much.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Insert Pun Here

I'm tired of insomnia. Wocka wocka wocka!!

My husband? He can make the decision, "I should go to bed now," and do so. There he goes, and he's soon asleep.

My body? It takes that whole "second wind" thing entirely too seriously.
The scene: It's 8pm, my daughter has just gone to sleep, and Seth & I want to watch some TV.

Body: I am soooooooo tired! I could fall asleep right here on the couch!
Brain: No. It's way too early. You know that if we go to bed right now, you'll just be a bastard and treat it like a nap, and I'll be up in 3 or 4 hours.
Body: So, we're not going to bed?
Brain: Nope. Suck it up for a bit.
Body: Ooookay.

3.5 Hours Later:
Brain: Well, it's time to go to sleep now. This is a perfectly reasonable hour to go to bed. Let's do that, shall we?
Body: HAHAHAHA! I do what I want! We're staying up now!

Another 3.5 Hours Later:
Brain: Now? Can please go to bed now?
Body: Nope! You might have to pee again in a little bit, so we better just stay up all night. Why don't you start a movie?

I realize that central metaphor of my stunning drama has fallen apart because at some point, it is my brain keeping me awake, or at least part of my brain, while the rest of me desperately wants to sleep.

This has been going on, what, 8 years? More? I think I need to stop taking classes that don't get me home until midnight. Especially if we get a baby/toddler, I'll need to be partaking in that thing the kids call "sleeping at night."

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Look at us, making healthy choices!

I've never liked vegetables a lot. Sure, I've gone through phases when I ate whole bowls of cucumbers or cauliflower for lunch (covered in salad dressing, of course), those times always pass quickly, and I'm back to cereal and sandwiches. Fruit? Ah, fruit. I love it. I could eat it all day. I could probably live on just grapes for quite a while. Berries? Kiwi? Peaches? Bring it on. All of it.
As chubby people, my husband and I have been on plenty of diets over the years, or tried to eat better in this way or that. We've tried low & no carbs, weight watchers, spiritual angles, and I've attempted to be a vegetarian more than once, but none of it has really stuck. We're able to make some sweeping cuts, such as HFCS, and partially-hydrogenated oils, and after realizing we were sensitive to gluten & dairy, we've cut 90% of those out of our diets. (Husband can't get on board with any gluten-free bread, and there isn't enough of a variety of affordable goat & sheep cheese to cut off all cow cheese.)

Enter Pinterest. Oh, I love it. If you haven't investigated it yet, please do so now, but only sign up if you want to have hours of your life sucked away in looking at recipes, outfits, crafts, and home decor and then feeling bad about not having the time, money, or stamina to do any of it. Here, you can look at my boards:

The things is, unlike many people, I've actually done a number of things I found on Pinterest. I've made a few kid crafts and tried a number of recipes. It's the recipes that have really been a godsend in our lives. I've gotten e-mailed meal plans, I have hundreds of recipes bookmarked in my browser, cookbooks sit wasting away on my shelf, but something about the visual nature of Pinterest drives me to actually cook (or have my husband cook) what I see there. I think it comes down to a few factors: seeing a picture (unlike in most cookbooks, where the majority of the recipes don't have photos), having a real person comment on whether the recipe worked or not, be they the "pinnner" or the blogger that put up the recipe in the first place, and being able to easily visually organize recipes I'm interested in. It takes no effort at all to scan a page of pictures for what looks good to me, then buy the ingredients and get to work.

So here's the exciting thing: our absolute favorite things to eat lately are VEGETABLES! And not just any old vegetables, but roasted vegetables. Oh, man. Seriously drool-worthy. I was skeptical when I saw all the pins of things like roasted cabbage, roasted carrots, and even romaine lettuce (Seriously. Romaine lettuce.), but I'm always trying to get myself to eat more veggies, so we tried cauliflower.
OMG! This is so freaking good. We haven't tried the linked recipe from REMcooks yet, mostly out of laziness, but there's no way it could be anything but amazing. We have made roasted cauliflower at the homes of multiple friends, and they're always pleasantly surprised by it. You can put any flavor you want on it. We've made it spicy, we've put nutritional yeast on it for a cheesiness, and every time we gobble it up like candy. 

But wait! We now have an even favoriter (yep) roasted veggie: BRUSSELS SPROUTS! Om nom nom. 
We had tried brussels sprouts a few times and I decided I was done with them, because they were always meh. When I saw these balsamic roasted sprouts, though, I figured I'd give them a try, because balsamic vinegar covers over a multitude of nastiness. Truly, we love to eat these more than almost anything else. I might even choose these over pizza, were the two placed in front of me. We're going to have to keep a constant supply in the house. 

So this is an exciting development. We'll roast almost any veggie, and they are scrumptious. I doubt I'll ever be a vegetarian, because it's just not practical, what with tri-tip and fajitas to eat, but at least we are expanding our food horizons and can happily fill up on healthy stuff instead of carbs, which we hardly even make anymore.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Don't I know you?

I've recently gotten back in touch with one of my cousins, and it's fantastic. Even though he's four years older than me, we were kind of close for a while there, mostly once he was in college and then when I was. The Hitchhiker's Guide was on my radar thanks to him, as well as a number of 80's bands that he and his brother would talk about in their furnished basement with a bar (fancy!).

When he went away to Michigan State, his mom took me with her to visit him at least once, if not more. She let me drive, which was very exciting, and I quickly learned that it's important to slow down when getting off the freeway, especially with a curved exit ramp. What else did I learn? That college life is really expensive, as he lived in a corner of a basement and paid a lot of money for it, that college students are disgusting (piles of garbage in the kitchen), and that the above parking garage was nicknamed the Human Habitrail. (I was certain that his genius mind had come up with that on his own.)

Once I was in college, we actually hung out from time to time, which was great. A few times, when my parents were out of town, he came to stay with me, even though I was quite able to stay by myself. I just didn't want to. Those times, we would hang out, I'd criticize his choice of girlfriend, and he even went out with me & my friends a few times.

He's smart, creative, hilarious, and I love him. But life, marriage, kids, family drama, and geography conspired against us, and we've gone many years at a time without talking at all and definitely not seeing each other. This time it was the impending death of our grandmother that put us in touch again. The day she died, I tried the work e-mail I had for him to let him and his mom know what was going on, since my mom couldn't get in touch with my aunt.

As we wrote back and forth, we both declared that it couldn't happen again; that we needed to stay in each other's lives. So we have continued. Three months have passed now, and we're still in touch. Sure, you could scoff, but I say that's pretty good. We're writing at least once per week, we've each shared writing with the other, and we're laughing and being honest. What makes me so happy is the pleasant surprise that he's still him. A few messages into our exchange, I was laughing and realized, "Oh, yeah! I totally love you! I forgot about that."

Plus, we have to stay in touch because I owe him a black eye from my first decade. There's a foil ball coming for you, cousin.

photo credit: Elizabeth/Table4Five via photopin cc