Monday, March 31, 2014

Respite Care as a Single Parent

drawn by the youngest
This was my first weekend to have foster children in my home for respite. Respite care is valuable because sometimes foster parents need someone to look after the children but the state requires that only certified individuals with proper training and FBI background checks should be used so this limits options and can create a challenge in an emergency or other situations, like going to a doctor's visit where it's not ideal for children to tag along.

In the case of this weekend's respite, the foster mom's mother had a stroke and she needed to spend extra time caring for the needs of her parents. Sometimes respite can be planned in advance but often there is little notice. I wanted to update friends on how the weekend went and also provide some tips that I learned for anyone out there searching for advice because when I did "pre-respite" research there was not a lot of practicals out there! [Especially for a single, with no kids who is providing respite for the first time.]

Some key information to find out:

  1. Drop-off and pick-up days and times
  2. Type of meds the children take (since pysch meds need to be double locked, etc...)
  3. Any trauma and abuse triggers, food allergies & foods they refuse to eat
  4. Kids' routines for eating, bedtime, naps & favorite activities
  5. Behavioral/medical issues: how quickly a child escalates, bed-wetting issues, how they do with pets, how they react around the opposite sex and if they ever try to run away
  6. If the children need car seats...
  7. The emergency number for the specialist on call [which I did use!]
I bought lots of activities & food children usually like but here is a list of some items that were a HUGE success with the girls or that I found valuable:
  1. For Activities: Hula-hoop, jump ropes, bubbles, beach & footballs, puzzles, sidewalk chalk, paint with water books, pom-poms, legos, Disney movies and my STOMP movie [I have used this movie to bond with kids from 7-15+ since they are always fascinated by them
  2. Food: build your own pizza, fruit, milk, gummy fruits, hot cocco, water & ice, cookies to bake that break apart, golden oreos. [Foods that one/other refused - chicken nuggets, veggies, gold fish]
  3. Kids radio [the girls slept better with the radio on a Spanish station], night light, bed-wetting mattress covers [I have one for each child's bed but wish I'd had three], pre-printed visual instructions [below]
When the girls, ages 7 & 10, arrived with the case worker, they came in and started to watch cartoons which allowed us time to discuss the medical logs and the girls' medicine in details. When it comes to the medicine, one thing I learned is that I can't have both kids standing there at the same time because it can get confusing with the kids talking and errors can be made very easily. I kept all the girls meds. double locked (inside a locking medical bag, then inside a new tool box that locked) and kept the keys in my pocket the whole visit. After the caseworker said goodbye, I showed the girls around the house. Immediately the girls said they were hungry. Often children who have experienced neglect can become food hoarders or what I call "food focused." These two sweethearts were definitely food focused so the whole weekend was a balancing act of the eating schedule. After eating dinner and dessert we watched a movie. The girls would ask for food about every hour. Fortunately for me, these girls accepted being told no. *whew* The girls were excited to meet the cats so I showed them my pre-printed sign that explains to them how they should treat pets. I found it online and I don't remember the source but it was great. My Trickle cat, who is practically a therapy animal, did wonderful with the girls! I also created a sign in the bathroom that explains some things to do for good health and it made a big impression. For instance, as the girls were brushing their teeth one night, the oldest said, "Miss! My sister rushed the brush!" (see below - LOL) so we were able to discuss why it's important to take more time brushing our teeth. :) The girls also started requesting water after seeing the section about the Otter. I have a print out about how to call 911 in an emergency too.


The first evening we talked and the girls asked if we could pray before lights out. The oldest slept through the night but the youngest woke up after sleeping for about 5 hrs. She said she couldn't go back to sleep for fear of bad dreams so she made a bed on the floor next to mine and we talked for about 2 hrs while she colored and told me stories about her family. We all woke up around 7:30am when the oldest came to tell me she wet the bed. I knew pre-visit that she was having some challenges in this area so I did my best to make sure she didn't feel embarrassed and just told her, "No problem...we'll take care of it." :) Much of their visit consisted of playing and doing laundry! ha. The girls were super helpful and serving to one-another and me. At one point, I heard the youngest in the kitchen puttering around. I called her name and asked her what she was doing but she was quiet so I walked in the kitchen and found her cleaning and organizing my fridge! So I learned quickly that the girls thrived when given tasks/chores they could complete because they wanted me to be proud and also for me to give their foster parents an A+ report.

picture drawn for me by the oldest
We spent most of Saturday playing outside using all those activity items I mentioned above and watched some movies inside. Since the girls are originally from Puerto Rico, I asked them often to use Spanish when they counted, named a color, and name people in their drawings. The girls loved this!! I do not live in the same town as the foster family, so I don't know if I'll get to see these girls again. One of my personal goals was to try to take every opportunity to build them up and share positive things. The girls drew me pictures so I made them encouragement gifts and talked with each one about how much I believed in them and encouraged them to dream big. I then put my "art" in small picture frames so they could carry them home. On Saturday night we created a huge pallet in the living room so we could pretend to be camping. I did need to wake up around 2am and do laundry though so I moved the youngest back into the bedroom and after the mattress pad was clean and dry I spread it on the floor for the oldest to go back to sleep. Sunday morning we picked up a bit and packed their things. When the fosters arrived, the girls were SO excited to share all that they had done. Even things I had showed them or shared with them that they didn't seem to care about originally, they shared them with excitement to the foster family, especially my framed dream list & my album showing "her vacation with cheetahs." HA. 

I bragged on how well the girls had done and I was very proud of them. There is, of course, so many more details to the weekend but too much to type. I've included some pictures below and am sending a huge THANK YOU to all my friends who prayed for me, encouraged me by text or sent scriptures by email. The respite visit, or "respect visit" as the youngest one calls it, was great and God allowed me to wrap these special ones in a little more love and care this weekend.

drawn by the oldest

puzzle for 12+ the oldest LOVED doing puzzles

my gift to the oldest

my gift to the youngest

The cats and I relaxing after a busy weekend of kid'os! 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

What was it like adopting a sibling group...?

I found this discussion online and I thought it was great! There was no image I could pin but I had to find a way to save it to my board :)


In response to the question, "What was it like adopting a sibling group...?" some responses were:
  • We are getting certified, and originally, the "top 3" potential adoptive children on our list was a single 14-year old girl, a single 12-year old boy, and a single 9-year old boy. There were two minor delays that were mostly out of our hands in the certification process, and we believed/ believe that God was delaying it for some reason, but still encouraging us to plan on adopting soon.The "top 3" have all gotten adoptive families! This is wonderful, especially considering most older children/ teens are never adopted. Now we are more seriously considering adopting a sibling group of 3 or 4. We already have two biological children, a six-year old and a 10-month old. 

  • We adopted a sibling group of three. Adopting a sibling group can be a great choice--it was for us. Firstly, adopting a sibling group made the transition to this family easier for all of them. They have been able to be with each other which has made them feel far more content with the process. In addition, having the three of them together means that all of us can talk about their first family together--they remember their family whom they talk about and it comforts them to know they shared the experiences to a large degree (it makes them feel less alone and less at fault).The hardest thing about adopting siblings is that each child needs a huge amount of individual attention as each is going through a different grieving process and each adjusts at his or her own pace. We were not prepared for the amount of time that we would give up. Sometimes our oldest just needed me to sit with him for hours without saying a word. He was processing all of the change and needed to feel like he wasn't alone. He didn't need me to "do" or "fix" anything, but he needed me to be there for the very few times that he would ask a question or say something to me. The time for us was just about being there for each child in the way each needed. Honestly, it took almost a year for us to even have the time to keep up on yardwork, housework and socializing with friends (at least those without children). Of course, it was absolutely worth it.I think it was a wonderful choice for all of us. Our children are older so they can tell us that they are happy here and are glad that they are together. I'm just happy to laugh and play together. 

  • We have fostered for the past 12 years and have had many sibling groups. Overall, you need to remember that children of this age who are in care will have a lot of emotional baggage and deep seated feelings of rejection which may manifest themselves in behavioral difficulties.Don't underestimate how thankless and draining trying to help children like this can be. If you have other young children, it is likely they would miss out on lots of your attention as children with histories of rejection often 'need' lots of your attention and can get jealous and possessive easily. Of course there will be lots of happy moments too but don't expect the children to be instantly gracious and feel lucky to be 'chosen'. They have a void that cannot usually be filled that easily. You will have to work hard and realise that you may not be able to heal their wound and not to take it personally if you can't.

  • We have adopted a sibling group of 7. Actually, we adopted the first 5 and now we have custody of the 2 youngest, but to me, they are ours adoption or not. Having 7 natural siblings is the most amazing, beautiful, breathtaking thing I have ever done. They look alike, act alike, even have similar disabilities. I love them so much and I feel surrounded by their biology, even if we are not their biological mothers. The only thing that breaks my heart about it is that we couldn't take the oldest because of his mental problems and him hurting the others. But we still have visits with him and I think about him every single day. I love him, too. I cannot tell you how a sibling group will mix with your other 2 children because we don't have any natural children. I just can't tell you how awesome it is to watch my kids every day and see how close they are. I am thankful that we were allowed to keep them together.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Top 5 Reasons I Have a Living Room Treadmill



#5 - Constantly reminds me to workout because I must walk past it multiple times every day. 
(especially to go to the kitchen - ha)

#4 - It's not called the "Living" room for nothing! Since this room gets the most use, it makes exercise more a part of my life.

#3 - My couch isn't far when I need to collapse after a hard run. LOL!

#2 - TV, DVD, and music are already set up.

and the #1 reason I have a living room treadmill...

I'm always running towards the cross!!


See it? :) 
What a great reminder to help me meditate on Jesus!


Hebrews 12: 1b-2 "...And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Heart, Soul, Mind, & Strength

recent birthday gift from a friend

Recently, I awoke and didn't feel like myself. After pouring some hot tea, I sat trying to calm my restless heart and found myself parched for God. In the days prior, I had read through the horrific abuse history of a sibling group in foster care that I was considering for adoption. Eight children in total had suffered abuse that literally made me sick at my stomach while at the same time the evil of the abuse & neglect enraged me towards the bio mom who had surrendered her parental rights recently. [more anger than I've felt in a LONG time towards anyone] After much prayer, advice and meditation, I decided to decline moving forward with the pair still available for adoption because I know that I am not the one God has picked to parent them. *deep sigh* All of this had taken an underground toll on me.

As I listened to one of my favorite songs by Audrey Assad, Restless, a line moved me that says, "Cause I know You're more than my salvation. Without you I am hopeless, tell me who You are....You are the keeper of my heart."

 

More than my salvation. Without You, I'm hopeless. You are the keeper of my heart...

 

I sipped in these words, along with my tea. Jesus is my Savior. And yet, he is much more than that! In Luke 10:27 the scriptures say, 'You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ Because it is easy to focus too much on what I am doing "for" God, written in the margin of my bible is a note. I wrote it during a past sermon and it is there to remind me that my relationship with God is not one-sided or just about my efforts. The Father God is always reaching out to connect with me too. Our relationship is two-way! He gives me His heart, soul, strength, and - as much as my human mind can handle - his thoughts & understanding. Amazing!

 

To help this sink in deeper, I looked up the Greek definitions in the Luke 10 verse [Strong's text analysis] on biblehub.com of these words

Here's what I found: 

  • heart - our inner life, intentions, character, moral preferences

  • soul - the place of our affections & will, self, breath

  • strength - our ability, power, might, effort

  • mind - our understanding, reasoning, insight

All this has been helping to quench my thirst for God because my heart is restless and I am broken for these hurting children. I know I need to get to a place of forgiveness, compassion and praying blessings for this bio mom even as I pray blessings for the six remaining children who have suffered abuse but survived with their lives. More challenging decisions and information are coming on different sibling groups as I continue to knock on doors to see which ones God wants me to care for and bring into our home. Although the CPS history & reports are 'professionally written,' for my Christian heart and mind, it was like reading R-rated text/porn and visuals get into my head that are terrifying. In light of all this, I need people's prayers for God's supernatural protection of my mind & spirit. I MUST focus my heart, soul, mind and strength on Jesus and my amazing God! AND I must lean into God and see all the ways He is giving back to me. God, you are the keeper of my heart. 

 

What I need right now is a whole lot of Jesus!! [yes, there may be some chocolate involved as well - haha] My home study has been submitted for 3 other sibling groups. Please pray. If you want to hear the song I mentioned above click here: Restless [some beautiful scenery too]. Some other scriptures to read: Mark 12:30, Matthew 22:37, Deuteronomy 6:5, 10:12 & 13:3, Joshua 22:5

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Wrestling in Prayer for You

Love this! - from the New York Times
"Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured." - Colossians 4:12

I decided to use my appreciation bowl idea this week during my "Coffee and Cozy time" with God to spice things up. The first idea I put into practice was: 

Sometime today, spend 5 minutes in silence with God.
~ Habakkuk 2:20
 


As I sat there in silence, I felt attacked. My mind wouldn't be silent, it was hard to focus only on God, the cats kept trying to distract me and terrible images kept popping into my mind. After the 5 minutes was over, I started writing and praying through my journal. The last thing I wrote was, "Be with my friends...so many are just having such a hard time" then I looked up and noticed this, "Write 'Satan, the Lord rebuke you!' on the bottom of your shoes. Stomp your feet down and walk all over him today. ~ Jude 9"

So that's what I decided to do! This helps me to remember the truths of Rev. 12:12 & 1 John 4:4. As I drove to work and prayed, the Spirit brought the scripture above to mind about Epaphras. I want to be a woman who wrestles in prayer for others. This is really a weakness of mine. I need to grow so much! 

So today I'm picturing myself as a collegiate wrestler who is ready to engage and wrestle in prayer. And if you've read this post, I have begun to wrestle for you. May you stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured!

Friday, March 7, 2014

The Thief & The Beast

While driving to work on Wednesday morning, God put some things on my heart. As I was praying through them this blog post was written. I hope you find the examples helpful. :)

THE THIEF- Comparison
 
"Comparison is the thief of joy.”~ Theodore Roosevelt

What a poignant quote! Seriously, who is not guilty of this? We compare ourselves to others all the time...I'm certain more times than we want to admit! Especially in our spiritual walk, we can look at others to compare if we "measure up." When we compare our walk with another person's, often our joy is stolen. We can become critical of ourselves and our walk with God. Or we can go the opposite way and instead puff up in pride and arrogance acting as though people should imitate us. This thief is sneaky and his main goal is to break & enter to steal your joy! In recent talks with younger sisters, a tone of "Why am I not where you are yet?" has popped up. I completely understand this temptation! And yet to my sisters I must share this picture quote below.


Yes, my time, failures, victories and experience have been a great benefit to my walk with God. And yet, I must go beyond this quote to say, not only, don't compare yourself to others of more experience but don't even compare your chapter one to another person's chapter one! 

In John 21 when Jesus was reinstating Peter, he says to him in verse 19, "Follow me!" Verse 20 says that, "Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them...When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him? Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” 

I like these verses because in Peter's comparison question of "what about him?" Jesus reminds Peter, and us, that the real focus should be on Christ and following Him...not on what He is doing in the lives of others. The bible is your standard. Jesus is your hero. Everyone else, is simply dust in the ground. [Psalm 103:13-16] As my  years have passed and those I compared my life to have failed or fumbled, God has been helping me to shift from comparing to letting the best parts of others simply inspire me to be a better me for God! Make your goal to keep your eyes on the Lord. [Hebrews 12:2, Psalm 141:8]
 
 
THE BEAST  - Our sinful nature

The sinful nature is a beast! Paul discusses it some in Romans 7:14-24. A beast is my best description and here's why. The sinful nature is like an animal that continually needs to be tamed. Christ gives us the tools to help keep the beast in check [2 Peter 1:3] but no matter how long you've been a follower of Christ, sometimes the animal escapes or reaches it's claws through the cage to do its damage. This is why people still get hurt and hurt others even as Christians.

So in our walk with God, no matter how old someone may be as a Christian, we ALL have to continually strive to cage it up again and again. As a disciple following Jesus matures, the beast may tend to lash out less but it's never completely gone!! 

Looking at the sinful nature this way really helps me when I sin or am sinned against because it brings me to a place of compassion towards myself and others when we fail. Thank God that a blessing of heaven will be that "this animal" will meet it's end with Christ's return!

"May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. - Galatians 6:14

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Dream List!! [updated]

There have been updates since 2011, so here's a repost!
I want to encourage you to have a dream list that you actually write down and post somewhere!

Write them down... for these are the adventures of your heart. These are YOUR dreams so don't feel like you have to please anyone with them and if no one else "gets them" that's okay! May these be adventures that build memories with God that you can talk about with Him now and in Heaven! My dreams below didn't happen in the order that I originally wrote them so it's good to be flexible. :)

Now, ask yourself, "What did I always want to do as a kid?" Then, start writing.

I will make another strong suggestion. For this list, don't make your dreams contingent on a person. For example, don't write down "to get married, have babies" or "to baptize 150 people in my lifetime." These are great dreams but not the kind I'm talking about here. This is a concept many people struggle with but think WIDE, my friend. These dreams should be those activities you can accomplish that are not contingent on others. These are dreams that, if they don't happen, you feel...it will be okay, after all they are just dreams.

I spent time with another blogger and she wrote about her own dream list afterwards. Please check out her blog post about it at High Fashion-Higher Purpose

May you enjoy your ADVENTURES!

Dreams I've completed (this is framed in my home to inspire me). 

  • Willie Nelson concert -  April 2006
  • Finish College  -Nov. 2006
  • Trip to Maine -Nov. 2006
  • Zip-Lining in Alaska -June 2008
  • Hot air balloon -May 2009
  • Vacation to Iceland -June 2010
  • Buy land & home -Sept. 2010
  • Hillsong United concert - March  2011 & Dec. 2011
  • Cheetah Adventure -March  2012
  • Stayed in Tiny Home- March  2013
  • David Garrett concert  - January  2014
 
Still on my list:
  • Literary & Women's Rights adventure: Thoreau & Walden Pond, Emerson, Hawthorne, Alcott in Concord, Mass.
  • Corrie ten Boom’s home, Haarlem, Netherlands

 
Another quick tip: when I started traveling I had a shirt made that said, "Destination Diva." I encourage you...do something that might make others ask you questions while you are on your adventures. This has been a great way for me to inspire and has even given me the opportunity to share my faith.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Inexpensive Date Ideas [Fall/Winter]

Whether you are single or married, dates are a great way to strengthen one another after a long week. I have seen how group dates impact those around us. People are not use to seeing happy people, who usually don't look like they would ever hang out, spending time together.

I was on a small group date once and as one of the brothers finished praying for the meal and we all said, "Amen" a group at the table next to us said, "Amen" too. Glancing over, their looks said it all...they were moved! I forget that most people are "people-watchers" and the impact we can make on others. Anyway, I hope these small ideas get your creative juices flowing. Go ahead...get on out there with these group date ideas!

Puzzle Date: Go to a dollar store and buy an inexpensive puzzle. It doesn't need to be 1000 pieces so buy something simple and funny. Try one under 250 pieces so you can have time to complete it on the date. (Unless, singles, you want a second date *grin*) You can go to a coffee shop or book store, and talk while putting it together. If you are a student, then take it to the student lounge or library. You might get some puzzled looks from others (ah, wordplay) but you can use it as a great spring board for conversations.

Cookie-cutter Date: Buy premade cookie dough, flour, and a gingerbread person cookie cutter. The cookie cutters are around 99 cents at most stores. You and your date can decorate the first two cookies out of the oven to 'look' like each other. Then make funny 'people cookies' to give away and encourage others. (found this idea on happymoneysaver.com) Invite a coworker(s) and their spouse or significant other.

Some More S'Mores Date: If you have a fireplace or an outdoor fire pit, make s'mores. You will need marshmallows to roast, a layer of chocolate, graham crackers to smash them between, and a childlike heart. Invite your neighbors over to join in the fun. This is great activity to do with someone who has children. Add a hot drink and enjoy.

Wine Shop Date: Most wine shops hold free tastings and offer pairing with cheese, crackers, and chocolate. It's a great way to meet others in that neighborhood as well. I learned so much from the people I met who just happened to swing by for the event. The shop owner was lovely too. After a great conversation, the group I was with invited some people there to the coffee shop that was next door. We had a great night of laughter and deep talks. If you and your date don't mind a sip of wine, why not give it a try?!

Movie Star Date: Grab a camera with video or your smartest phone and bring along your group of friends. Take turns making silly videos using your location of choice as your own film arena. Make a witty public service announcement, do a comic routine, have a fashion show or read a children's book and make the sound effects. You just need to make it fun. (and safe/legal) HA. For an added touch, take a clip board, have someone wear a director style hat...take props that make it feel like you are shooting a film. The options are endless.

Saturday Morning Date: Who says dates have to be at night? Have a Saturday morning date. If you are married and are use to seeing each other on Saturday mornings, grab another couple to spice things up. Eat cereal, or make some simple breakfast together and watch cartoons! Talk about your favorite things to do when you were a kid on Saturday mornings. Reminisce. When I mentored in the teen ministry, I had a "Superhero" themed Saturday morning hang out. I decorated the front door to look like a tree house and had them do a secret knock (to the song, 'Jesus is gonna fix it'). I made simple items that went with Superheros. (examples: a towel as a cape for Superman, Spiderman got to have the silly string, She-ra & Wonder woman received crowns just like the ones the characters wear..etc.) It was a blast...I have such fun pictures from that time together.

Summer Theme Date: "Plan a cold-weather escape at home with a summer-themed dinner and movie night. Scrape the snow off the grill and fire up your favorite grilled summer food. Mix up some refreshing lemonade, a tasty tropical cocktail or whatever fruity beverage reminds you of sitting poolside in the sun..." (thanks hitchedmag.com - that's genius) Watch summer-themed beach movies like “Cast Away,” “Blue Hawaii,” “Jaws" or "Flipper"

Okay, my friends that is just a start. Got other ideas? Please comment and share them :)