Friday, November 29, 2013

Giving Thanks

Today we gathered together to celebrate Thanksgiving.  Two kids were not able to make it; Kassi was working and Joselin spent the day with her boyfriends family.  We hope to have both of them with us for Christmas.  We have invited the foster kids parents to our home for Christmas as well.  If things go as well as they have the kids will go home in January.  We pray that they do and that the changes "stick".

This year there is so much that I am thankful for, to name a few......

The many plates at our table, even though they are not fancy china as I had once envisioned using. Instead they are corelle from Walmart, almost child proof.  We need almost child proof in our home.

The forks at each setting.  We were down to a few forks which required a trip to Walmart yesterday.  That in itself was a blessing.  In our country I have to freedom to get in my car and drive to the store to make a purchase.  That is a freedom that I seldom think about until I read in the news that not all women in this world have the freedom to do so.

The children who sit at each of those plates.  They give me many opportunities to work on my forgiveness and patience.  They have taught me many things; magic erasers work, peanut butter does get gum out of hair, a kiss and band aid are great healers and love is boundless.  Although I make many mistakes and could use do-overs myself, each of my children love me in spite of my faults.

The space that does not have a chair.  My mom is still with us this year and celebrated her 75th birthday today.  She has taught me that I can do so much more than I ever thought I could do.  I am thankful that my children are in a multi-generational family and are learning that we don't just throw away family when they need us most.

All the items in those bookshelves.  Although they don't show in the picture, they represent many of the travels that I have had the opportunity to take; Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Germany, Hawaii and Egypt to name a few.  I am so thankful that I have had so many opportunities to see so much of this world and to experience different cultures.

Best of all....the Christmas tree and what it represents.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Changes Continued

We are still undergoing a lot of changes here. When Jason came back he took over my shop. All my craft stuff is up in the FROG. What a mess! Now it looks like he will be going to Alabama after the first of the year. he has a friend who recently moved there for a job and he wants Jason to come out with a guaranteed job. Jason is seriously considering it and I am contemplating what to do with the shop when he does. I may just move my painting supplies and make it a painting studio/guest room.

We have also changed churches.  When Anthony started asking to sit with us instead of going to the children's church we realized that there was a problem.  He said that the kids wouldn't talk to him.  Sarah who volunteered with the children's church said that it was true.  She also said that when they had to go into teams, no one wanted to be with Anthony and that Anthony was the best behaved boy in the group.  We are now attending a church that does not have a building yet, it meets in a funeral home.  We really enjoy this church and so do the kids.  We actually feel accepted here.

At our last church I asked to paint murals/build anything and such but was always told no.  I have asked to do the same at this church and have been put to work.  Currently I am building a gingerbread house for the local Christmas parade.  I am having fun with that project.

I was also excluded from the mission team.  I went to Guatemala on a mission trip through a different organization yet was never asked to participate in any mission activities with the church.  However, I did receive an email from them last week inviting me to go to Charlotte to pack Christmas boxes.  Oh, and I was also invited to drive my van.  I am not sure what to think of that.  I didn't respond and am just trying to let it go.

Neither John or I were brought up with any religious training.  We didn't attend church, say any prayers or read the Bible.  Nothing.  As an adult it was even harder to become a Christian.  The most judgmental people I knew were Christians.  The most hypocritical people I knew were Christians.  I can't tell you how many times I was told that I was going to hell.  Let me tell you, if you want to convert someone do not tell them that they will go to hell if they don't believe.  It doesn't work.  If anything it pushes them further away.  I think that the best way to lead someone to believe is by actually living life as a Christian.  They are watching you.  When you lie, steal, judge, and condemn others are watching.  If you tell someone you are a Christian then expect that they will look at your life. 

John and I were baptized about 10 years ago.  We were in a great church at the time and were accepted.  However, we moved and have struggled ever since.  We were doing fine until we started to foster children who were not white.  It is amazing how many Christians still look at skin color.  How many Christians judge us for adopting black children.  I say that it is their loss.  That they are missing out on some great relationships and blessings because of their views.  Hopefully this will be our last church home.  It feels like it is right for our family.

John is still struggling with what he should be doing.  I find it so easy for myself, I feel led to work with children.  He feels that as the man he needs to be supporting us.  However, he has not been able to get a good job.  In February he will hit the 2 year mark of no employment.  The VA training program has not led to any type of employment.  I wonder if the VA program is just not where he is supposed to be.  I would appreciate prayers for him as he seems so lost.

Tomorrow is Sarah's birthday, so I am off to look for pictures and make a pumpkin cheesecake.  Have a great day.

Saturday, November 23, 2013


Changes, they happen often in our lives. It looks like our two foster kids will be able to go home after the first of the year.  It will be so strange not having those two little ones at home every day.  However, I consider this a good thing.  We have not had too many foster children who have returned home after the parents completed their plan.  I sure hope that the changes that have been made continue.  I know that Larissa will miss having them around during the day.  It would have been nice if the kids had been able to go home before Christmas.  Their social worker isn't able to get a court date until January.

I have been struggling myself.  I am not sure what it is.  My doctor did tell me that my thyroid levels were off and my medications were increased.  However, it has not helped with my motivation level.  I would rather nap every day but instead keep plugging along.  Perhaps it is stress.

John was let go today.  He was working at a training program through the VA at the DMV.  He was working a special project that was supposed to take a year to complete.  John completed it in 4 months so they no longer had a need for him.  This has just really driven home for us that these companies that are taking in these veterans and offering training opportunities for them really are not.  They are using them as cheap labor to complete menial tasks.  After he completed the project he was put to work shredding.  They offered him a training position to stuff envelopes but he declined since he didn't think that he needed training in that area.  So we will adjust our budget and carry on.  Hopefully we will survive spending lots of time together!

Right now we are really in a place where we don't know which way to go.  We hadn't sent in our homestudy information because we didn't want our foster kids moved if a placement became available.  Looks like this is a good time to finish it and send it in.  Adoptions wants us to keep our home open and to not accept any other foster kids.  That will be hard but we are going to try and take a break.  However, if they call with a baby I am not sure I can do that.  Just being honest.

The holiday season is upon us and I need my mojo back.  Please pray for me.  I need to get out of this pit that I find myself in.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Jason is 25

It is hard for me to believe that my baby is 25 years old.

Jason was the first baby I ever held, the first diaper I ever changed.  He survived and so did I.

Jason has moved back home.  He plans on going to school next semester and I hope that he does.  Pray for him as he struggles to find his way.

On a side note, he hasn't changed much, he is still stealing my Oreo's!

A Glimmer of Hope

Lying is a big problem in our household.  A lot of lying.  The, if they are talking they are lying, type of lying.  Most of the time it is over things that aren't of any importance.  Many times the consequence for lying is worse than what the consequence for the thing that they are lying about.  Often the only consequence for the behavior would have simply being me telling them to knock it off.

Yesterday I had some items in the garage I was working on for our church Christmas float.  The kids had been told to leave it alone.  Someone took upon themselves to get a permanent marker and write on some of it.  Luckily it happened to be scrap.  So I asked who did it.  I simply wanted to correct them and reiterate that this was not my property but belonged to the church and to leave it alone.  So I held it up and asked the question.  I got a lot of not me and they did it.  I said think carefully and just tell me the truth.  I can go compare writing styles.  I held it up again and asked who did it.  Amazingly Emma said she did.  Finally, a truth!  I told her that I appreciated her telling me the truth.
That the items in the garage belong to the church and not me so she needed to leave it alone and get me the permanent marker that she used. 

That was it.  That simple.  Amazing how much easier it is to just tell the truth.  Finally someone is learning that it doesn't hurt that much.  Larissa will often admit to the things she does and the kids have watched her getting a simple correction versus a consequence.  I wonder how long it will take them to realize that it is just so much simpler.

Friday, November 15, 2013

This Week

I know, it took me forever to put the last posts up.  Considering they were already written it was extremely slow.  That doesn't mean that life has been slow.  It has been a very busy week here.

The weather took a turn here.  Windy and cold, we even had snow late on night.

I have been cleaning the pool.

I have thousands of pictures.  Many of them are not digital because the technology wasn't available back then.  Over a year ago I bought a picture scanner and never took it out of the box.  I decided to try it our.  Of course, this meant going through my pictures.  I spent hours looking through the pictures and a few minutes scanning a few.  That is going to be a huge undertaking, scanning them.

We only carved one of our pumpkins for Halloween so we decided to paint them for Thanksgiving.

To us it says Give Thanks.

Sarah dragged the Christmas tree in.  It has been sitting there unfluffed and the lighting has not been connected.  Sarah's kitten likes to climb it so this year it will be a year for unbreakable ornaments.  We hope to make some, preferably before Christmas.

Michelle came down one morning and was wondering why I was accusing her of getting into something after she went to bed.  I clued her in.  One finger was blue as well leading me to believe that she found a sugar packet.  She won't tell.

I picked Kassi up and she came for a visit.  We had to get some San Jose.

Also, I have been doing my secretary duties with the foster parent association in coordinating some events with local groups. 

Also, I got a bunch of insulation delivered last night so I can work on the Christmas float with our church. 

Larissa and I visited the local acute care place to have her wrist x-rayed, she sprained it.

I have pulled out all the winter clothing and have a huge mess.  Lots of clothing for Anthony, Emma and Michelle.  Larissa has moved up to size 10/12 clothing as long as it is skinny style.  I did think ahead and buy some that size the end of last year.

This has been a big week for change.  I am tired of picking up after kids or calling for them constantly to came and get their stuff.

I have changed up the clothing issue.  I was in control of the girls clothing.  Matching and storing.  It didn't start that way.  When the girls first came having a lot of clothing was new to them, they had to wear multiple outfits every day and throw them on the floor.  My laundry was crazy out of control.  So I reigned it in and took control.  Now, I am tired of spending hours matching and managing their laundry.  I bought everyone their own laundry basket, I even labeled them.  I assigned each child a laundry day.  They are in charge of ensuring that their clothing is in the laundry basket, help with washing it and then putting it away themselves.  They are also in charge of making their own matches.  Emma is challenged in this area so it should get interesting.  I have told them that any clothing on the floor gets to go to Goodwill.  Since this is new I am currently giving lots of reminders but it will kick in full swing next week.  Wonder how much clothing they will lose before they realize I mean business.  They also have their own socks so no more sock matching for me.  I assume that they will have none left by the end of winter.

I am also taking back my dining room and kitchen.  No more toys all over the place.  Six kids can leave a lot of stuff around.  The other day I walked in and tripped over Anthony's backpack and shoes.  The kids literally walk in and drop everything.  I explained the new rules to the kids and I have given many warnings this week.  Anthony was the first to test. Anthony couldn't find his backpack because I put it in John's office.  His shoes, favorite jacket and many papers were in the trash.  I did let him take out his shoes, they cost me $50, but I told him that was the last time.  I had given a warning about the papers but no one was concerned.  Anthony because concerned the next day when he realized he was missing some assignments.  I did not let him take back his jacket.  He has several and hopefully he won't lose any more.  Next week to get backpacks the kids will have to do a chore.

I know that it sounds severe but my kids are so lazy.  I can't tackle big jobs because I am constantly on the little ones.  I am tired of seeing shoes, dirty clothing, backpacks and toys laying around everywhere.  We have a huge coat closet, the kids have their own bedrooms to put stuff and a huge two car garage for toy storage.  They know where the stuff belongs so I expect them to do it and I don't care how much stuff I throw away in the testing process.

Oh, Jason has moved back home.  He is in my shop.  All my craft stuff got moved to the laundry I was taking out the winter clothing.  huge mess, huge work in progress.  I do have before pictures I will share after I download them.  I am overwhelmed and really need to organize. 

How has your week been?  Anyone care to come to South Carolina to help organize my craft stuff?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Adoption Journey part 3

Less than a month after we adopted Anthony and Larissa we moved to Texas. At that time the housing market had hit rock bottom and we weren't sure if the house would sell. After a year in Texas we decided to return home. paying for rent and a house was just too much. John was not able to get a job in Columbia so he accepted one in Augusta. At the same time I started back to school to get my master
degree in special education.

We decided to continue with foster care. At one point we decided that having kids coming in and out of the home was hard for our healing kids so we continued to foster while completing our paperwork to adopt again. The decision to adopt again was simple, we still had room for more.

We completed the paperwork and then waited. The wait seemed so long. During our wait we were still taking placements for foster kids. One placement was for a teenager. We were told that she wouldn't stay long since she was a runner. I remember that call well because our license wasn't for that age group. They had to change our license and were able to do that very quickly. They brought Kassi to me at Wateree Gymnastics. She was sixteen. We adopted her at the age of 17. At the age of 18 we had different opinions as to what was important. We wanted her to finish school and stop partying. She wanted to be free to do whatever she wanted. She left and is working at a restaurant. I worry because she is capable of finishing school and so much more. The problem is she needs to realize that she is capable of so much more. At this time we have a relationship but it isn't as strong as I would like. She is learning some of life's lessons. Being an adult isn't all that it seems, paying bills requires money. That freedom to do whatever we want to do isn't a reality. Sometimes being an adult really sucks! But I hope. I hope that one day as she grows older she realizes that we are still her family. Even though we don't agree on everything, we still love her.


 Shortly after Kassi arrived as a foster child I received a call about Emma and Michelle. I said that we may be interested and requested more information. I was sent a list of their challenges and was told that they needed an answer soon. After discussing it John and I decided that these girls could be a possible placement. That was October 7th. We met with the girls social worker for full disclosure on October 12th. After a reading of their file we told them that we would like to adopt the girls. We would be their 7th placement, not their first adoptive placement. We were the only family that they were matched with. We asked about transition. There was to be no transition, they would be at our house the next day by 11 am. Their previous adoptive placement wanted them moved now.
On October 13, 2011 we received two girls as an at risk placement. This meant that TPR was supposed to happen soon. Unfortunately the system is very slow. These girls needed permanency and instead they got a lawyer who put them on the back burner. I had to go to the state to get their case to move forward.

We knew what we were signing up for with Emma and Michelle. However, there were still times that we wondered what we were doing. Having a child tantruming for hours wears on everyone in the house. Having it go on for 6 months in spite of consistency makes you wonder if there will ever be any change.

We made a lot of adjustments. Had to buy door alarms and place baby monitors. Had to add a lock to the pantry. Numerous times bedrooms have been shuffled around as changes had to be made.

The system has failed these girls. They should not have been in 7 different placements. Their first adoptive placement was with a family with no experience. They were not prepared, they were not given the support to succeed. Why would a child learn to trust adults when adults have proven to be untrustworthy. Today we are still dealing with issues of anger and mistrust from all those moves. It will take years for healing to take place, even then some of the pain may never go away.

However, there is hope. Hope that in spite of everything that has happened in their past they do have a future. A future with a family that will help to mold them, support them and love them. Every child deserves the opportunity to have a family. Our system needs to do a better job of making that happen sooner. The longer a child lives in the foster system, the better the chance that child will not be able to function in a home. I know that if we had made that call and had the girls moved then they probably would have never had hope. Their social worker told me that she thought the girls would age out of the system. Imagine being only 5 years old and already placed in 7 different homes, after coming from a neglected home environment. How would you learn to trust? To love?

That is our journey from 4 kids to 10 kids. Life is very complicated, John no longer has the good job, earnings are less than when we started with 4 kids, I have learned how to seriously bargain shop and to let material things go, Goodwill and garage sales are my friend. However, life is still good. I may be tired all the time, laundry is never done, the house is a mess but that is OK. Those things are not important when comparing it to the life of a child and the opportunity to give them a home. We have made many mistakes as parents, fallen short in many ways, but we try. Each morning we start anew.  

Last year I started praying about another adoption. We were taking two cars to church when we had foster kids so transportation was impeding further adoptions. I prayed that if we were to adopt again we would need a larger vehicle. John received some back pay. He received enough that we were able to trade in our 10 year old vehicle for a newer, larger van. We now have a large enough vehicle to do one last adoption. Wonder what the next year holds in store for our family as we open ourselves and our home

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Adoption Journey part 2

After completing an international adoption we decided to become foster parents. We weren't looking to adopt. We had 5 children and didn't feel that we had to grow our family. We did feel the need to help children and families in crisis. We were allowed the opportunity to foster some children where we developed relationships with the family. This allowed us to help and support families on a deeper level.

 Foster care is a challenge. You don't know who will be walking through your door next. What issues you will be dealing with or how long they will stay. To bring a child into your home, love that child and then lose them is hard. But you do it for the child. The best possible outcome for the child is being able to stay within their family, even if it is with extended family. So your loss can very well be in the best interest of the child. When children come into care, they need a good home to land in. Right now there is a need for more good foster homes. More people need to step out of their comfortable lives and stretch themselves.

We know that when a child leaves our home they have received any services that they may need to grow. More importantly, they have received our love.  

When you are a foster parent you have no idea when you will receive a call about a child. I will never forget the call I received for the placement of a 4 month old baby. They asked me to take her for a little while until they could find a foster home for her. I remember vividly telling them that if a baby came to my house it was staying. I had no idea at that time that this baby would one day ...become my daughter.

It was considered to be a temporary placement because of race. At the time we were relatively new foster parents and they did not realize that race didn't mean anything to us. Although race didn't mean anything to us we quickly realized that it did to many others. We lost relationships because of this placement, even within the church we were going to at that time.

When they brought us the baby we were quickly aware that she was going to have some challenges. She had no neck control, actually her neck was cocked to the side and one arm was in an odd position (neurologist later believed that she had a stroke in the uterus). She was not able to suck well and was not used to being held when she was being fed. She would arch her back when held and look away when offered a bottle. She spent the first 4 months of her life lying on a bed. We quickly requested an evaluation by Babynet and she received early interventions. We also knew that she needed serious attachment interventions. we held her....A LOT. In the beginning she was uncomfortable with it, but in the end she attached.

At the time they came in to care Anthony and Larissa were sent to different homes. A lot of kids were in the home they came from and there was a lot of chaos. A short period of time later Anthony's foster parents requested that he be moved. He was 2 1/2 years old at the time. We were called and asked to take him and we quickly said yes.

We didn't know what we had gotten ourselves into. For the first few years of Anthony's life he was terribly neglected. He didn't know how to use silverware to feed himself, how to sleep in a bed, how to talk, or how to form a relationship. He didn't even know who Larissa was. He was tested and it was determined that he had intellectual disabilities. Early interventions were started with him as well.

It was a very hard time for us. Anthony did not have any social skills and had so much anger. He didn't know how to play in any appropriate manner. He started school at 3 and challenged his teachers. We were concerned. His family admitted to me that they never talked to him. He didn't know how to communicate so he acted out. He destroyed everything, toys, walls and furniture. There were times when we were tempted to call DSS and have him moved. It seemed too much for us to deal with. But, we didn't make that call. we knew in our hearts that if he moved that all the improvements he had made would be lost. Each move means a loss for these kids. We stayed the course for him

We were told that Anthony and Larissa would be short term placements. For 3 years they went to visitations every two weeks. Anthony came back from every visit more angry. Larissa came back more withdrawn. Larissa never spoke to her biological family. We came to realize that she didn't speak to anyone outside of the family. Visits were so painful, Larissa would scream while they pealed her off of me. All the work with attachment was tested every other week for three years.

Finally after three years as foster children Anthony and Larissa's parents had their parental rights terminated. This allowed for the visits to stop and for us to adopt them. On May 22, 2009 Anthony and Larissa because our children.

We now had 7 children. Life was complicated, busy, challenging, fulfilling and joyful. We stretched ourselves and although our income hadn't increased, we always had enough. Life was good.

To be continued....

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Picture

I don't believe that I have ever posted this picture before.  I have posted a similar one without Joselin's biological mom in it.  Yes, that is Joselin's biological mom in the picture.  She was wearing heels and I was in flats, that explains why Joselin is only 4'9" tall. (I am 5'2", short myself)

We were given the option of whether Joselin could meet her mom before we left or not.  We thought that it would be in Joselin's best interest but we came to regret that decision for a very long time.  On that visit the hogar owner watched very close to make sure that her mom didn't say anything inappropriate to her.  We didn't think that she had but she did.  She was able to whisper to Joselin that she was pregnant.  She also told Joselin to come back when she was 16 and take care of her and to never call me mom.  She also slipped Joselin a cell phone number.

Of course it took years for us to realize all of this.  The first thing to come out was about the pregnancy.  Joselin was so worried because Jopselin took care of her younger brother.  She was really worried about her mom.  We contacted the hogar and they said that wasn't true, that they were supplying her with birth control.  We may never know the truth.

Everything came out over the years.  Joselin felt that she was betraying her mom every time she called me mom.  I thought for sure that she would head back to Guatemala one day but she says she has no interest.  I think that the phone number issue came out last.  Joselin thought that we found it and threw it away.  She was mad at us about that, for years.  Honestly, I never saw the piece of paper.  I have no idea what happened to it.  I think it took her a long time to believe that.

As much as I have regretted that decision because of the pain it caused I also think that it was in Joselin's best interest.  We have lots of pictures of her mom.  Pictures are so valuable and I know that in the future Joselin will treasure having them.  We were also able to get Joselin's true birthday. Her birthdate was the day she was taken to the orphanage and the year was off by 3 years.

I plan on asking Joselin how she feels about that visit.  I know that at times she has wondered if things would have been different if her mom hadn't been able to talk to her.  Now that our relationship is going well I wonder how she feels.

Adoption Journeys

Since this is Adoption Month I decided to post my adoption stories on facebook.  Since most of my readers are not friends with me on facebook I decided to post it here as well. 
Eleven years ago life was good. John had retired from the military and had a federal job. We bought a nice home and I was able to stay at home and be a mom. We were new Christians, baptized the year before. We were comfortable. We had four kids, three living with us.

I had always had it on my heart to adopt a child and had nagged John about it. He didn’t share my dream of adoption. Finally (after years of nagging) ...
he opened his heart and we decided to adopt. We chose Guatemala.

We thought that we would adopt a young child. Once you decide to open your heart and home you don’t know where it will lead. We adopted a 10 year old. Different culture, lots of trauma, different language, no schooling. Lots of challenges, lots of mistakes and lots of love. Today she is our beautiful daughter Joselin and after many struggles we have a great relationship.

It is interesting how adding to our family expanded our lives. We were still comfortable, life was still good. It was just different. We made the decision to do something locally. We became foster parents.

to be continued.....

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Art Around the World

Larissa and I have decided that we would like to do art around the world as part of our homeschooling. That is the beauty of homeschooling, flexibility.

It took me a while to find a globe but I finally did at Books a Million.

For our first project I decided on Day of the Dead/ Dia de Los Muertos.  It is celebrated in Mexico on November 1 and 2.  First we learned a little about Mexico then the history of Day of the Dead.  I learned a lot myself.

For art we learned about symmetry.  It is nice how you can learn so much with one little lesson.

We had a little fun with supplies as well.

This is a nice link for information on Day of the Dead for anyone who is interested. 

I am creating these lessons myself so if anyone has any country/art suggestions please mention them to me.

Friday, November 1, 2013


Halloween has come and gone but the candy wrappers are here to stay (until I find all the hiding spots).  Honestly, I find that I am less and less interested in Halloween.  I refused to buy new outfits this year and told the kids to dig up stuff from the house.

Further failure is the lack of carved pumpkins on the front porch.  We bought pumpkins and then Sarah carved half of one.  Next year we will put out some molded plastic lit-up ones and be done
with it.

I am not sure why I don't feel like celebrating Halloween big.  It just seems like another day in which I am supposed to go out and spend big money for candy.  Not feeling it.  Anyone else?

Since I had 6 little ones we ended up going to the recreation department for the trick or treating activities.  It was actually pretty nice with a mild haunted house and lots of coupons and candy.  Better yet, I didn't lose any kids.

Waiting in line, sizing it up, Anthony is about as tall as Sarah.

So there is my unexciting Halloween post.  I guess that it sums up my feelings about this event.  Every year it just becomes another burden in which I have the opportunity to fail.