Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Two

My baby is two years old today. TWO!
Whut?

Martin came to us through an agency with whom we were impressed from the start. They were very good with birthparent counseling (and treated the birthmothers with respect, which was important to us) and managed to get honest answers from both birth and adoptive parents in order to make the best possible matches. One thing that I thought was kind of quirky, though, was the phrase they kept using in their workshops for adoptive parents: "You will get the child you were meant to raise." I thought that was a rather bold statement. If you think really hard about it, every child is "meant" to be raised in his/her biological family of origin. I mean, biologically speaking, that is how it is sort of the idea. Adoption only exists because the world isn't perfect and we are all fallen.

From a faith perspective, though, I understand that God works out some of these messy situations in our lives for the good of all involved. I knew from experience that adoption could be like that. I just thought it was a corny statement for an agency to say. How can you assure that this child from one family will "fit" into the personality and lifestyle of this other family?

My kid...he proved their adage to be true.

I cannot imagine a child better suited for us, and particularly for Olivia. The two of them get along SO WELL. He adores her and she never tires of entertaining him. They play and they fight and they hug and they share. They are siblings, through and through.



Martin is definitely a Momma's boy, unless Grandma is around. Then he's all hers! He also delights in Daddy's arrival home every day. He could brighten anyone's day with his exuberant reception. He races to the door..."Daddy! Daddy!" and then jumps up and down and hugs on his leg.

Martin loves well. He is a snuggler and a sharer. He always remembers meal prayer even when the rest of us might forget. And he insists that we stop and say it first! "Mommy! Daddy! Father-Son." He says this while touching his forehead over and over...his two-year-old rendition of the sign of the cross.

He loves waving to Jesus when we go to Church. And then he blows him kisses. Loudly.

Martin is a fan of anything with wheels. Cars, trucks, tractors, and especially buses. He points them all out when we drive down the road, and he never tires of playing with his toy versions.

Today, we celebrate this kid who looks so different from the rest of us but fits so well in our little family. Happy Birthday, Martin! Watching you grow up is one of life's greatest pleasures!


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

"Discouraging" doesn't begin to describe it.

I interrupt this blog hiatus to bring you a rant on a very poorly designed and executed foster care introductory class that we attended last night. You have been warned.

I think I have mentioned here before that the idea of foster care has floated in and out of our consciousness for awhile now. It's an idea I/we have been toying with, but never really got serious about.

Lately, though, I've been seeing lots of yard signs and PSAs and articles about foster care. The Forgotten Initiative has put out some really excellent, thought-provoking articles (like this one). It just kept coming back up. So I started doing some browsing through online photo listings of waiting children. I saw a couple of older children who captured my imagination. I started to think maybe this is worth looking into.

So I mentioned this to Joe, and he agreed to go to the first class and see what this was all about.

A little background. For foster care (in our state, at least), you need to go through the three RAPT classes (Resource and Adoptive Parent Training), amounting in ten hours of training before getting licensed. Couples interested in adopting also go through a fourth, six-hour class. All classes are free, and there is no obligation to follow through with fostering. You can go to one or all and decide it is not for you and you are not out anything but your time.

We decided to invest three hours of our time to find out more.

We found out nothing...at least nothing that we didn't know before.

You guys. This "class" was so, so disappointing. As an introduction to DCS and the foster care system, it served to do nothing other than cast foster kids in a negative light. And yes, I understand that some foster kids...maybe even most foster kids...carry a lot of baggage. But I'm not really sure that highlighting that baggage is exactly the right thing to do in your introduction class.

We were supposed to learn all of the pertinent acronyms and social worker titles associated with the process, but I don't remember any of that explained very clearly.

Here's what I do remember: They talked a lot about kids hating foster parents for that which they don't understand. They talked about teens and abuse. They talked about lack of control and damaged kids.

Now let me explain to you who was in this room. This tight, cramped, freezing room was crammed full of couples. Three of them (including us) were couples who had domestically adopted young children and were interested in adoption or foster-to-adopt. One couple was childless and also interested in foster-to-adopt, likely of infants or small children. The three remaining couples were currently caring for children related to them and were simply there to get licensed as foster parents to continue caring for their relatives under the financial support and protection of DCS and the state.

In my research and discussions with the adoption specialist with DCS, it is my understanding that DCS does NOT place foster kids who have been sexually or physically abused in homes with small children because of the danger that the abused kids might pose to the small children.

So, based on the demographics of the room, who, exactly, needed to hear multiple references to older, emotionally damaged and/or abused children and how they might react to placement in a foster home? At the INTRODUCTORY meeting?

I would argue, not a single person.

I'm not saying we don't need to be informed about some of the situations and behaviors that might arise with foster kids. I'm not saying that at all. But, come on, DCS. Do we really need all that doom-and-gloom during our first introduction to the foster care process? It was distracting and unnecessary.

There were other things. Like when we were going through the orientation packet (and holy wow, someone needs to hire a graphic artist because those pages had NO WHITE SPACE AT ALL). And we got to the "definitions" page. And the social worker leading the session said, "Why don't we go around the room and read these definitions out loud." And I flashed back to fifth grade and my brain exploded just a little.

The facilitator kept referring to page numbers that didn't exist. She had a different copy than the rest of us, and her page numbers didn't match up. And then we read several pages word-for-word. And then we skipped a bunch of pages for no reason at all.

They kept referring to certain things within the system that only insiders would know and then having a side laugh about that while the rest of us just stared in bewilderment. They kept saying stuff that just occurred to them, like "Just remember to tell us if..." and "You'll see when you work with so-and-so."

At one point, it occurred to them to say something about confidentiality (which didn't appear in the packet at all OMG). They mentioned social media and explained that it is absolutely inappropriate to post photos of foster children unless and until they are legally adopted by you. Which, yes, of course. Then one couple who is fostering their grandchildren asked whether it was OK for them to post, since they have a relationship with these kids outside of fostering and like to post grandkid pics so other relatives can see them. The social worker sort of hemmed and hawed and said, well, you know, that might be a different situation and technically we aren't supposed to do it but as long as the parents are OK with it... But then another grandparent-foster candidate piped in with a perfectly logical reason why you should follow the letter of the law in this case, and the social worker quickly agreed with him and said, yes, that makes sense, and that's why we should stick to the rules.

I am not even kidding.

There were just so many things, but I think you get the idea. I have no experience as a social worker and have been changing diapers professionally for the last six years, but I'm relatively certain that two hours looking over the DCS website and I could have led a more professional and informative session than this was.

And you know what? It makes me angry. It makes me very, very angry because there are so many kids in need of homes. There are so many organizations who promote and support foster care, and do it well. There is such a great NEED for families willing to dig a little deeper and investigate this process. And if THIS is the best we can do as an introduction, then I think the system is failing these kids. 

Luckily, RAPT 2 class is online, so we can dig a little deeper without hiring a sitter and wasting three more hours of our time in a freezing box of a room. I only hope the online materials are presented a bit more professionally.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

We got creative with Olivia's hair for St. Patrick's Day. I was, of course, inspired by this. (I don't come up with these ideas on my own.)

This morning, Olivia asked me if the leprechaun came. I did not know of this tradition, but apparently he comes and makes little messes all over the house. (Thank you, school, for introducing yet another mythical creature for me to keep up with. And one who makes messes! Lovely.)

No, darling child, the leprechaun did not come. Probably because we are not Irish. Much like St. Patrick himself. Now go to school and learn something about the Trinity.

Happy St. Patrick's Day! May the leprechaun forget to visit your home too!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

7 of 7: The flashback picture post

This week, with the illness and the husband away, has sapped my energy. It is Sunday. I want to rest. So today's post is a flashback of random photos. And that is all. Hope you all had a great week!

This is me, around age 4 or 5.
Olivia, age 4 1/2. See the resemblance? (Of course you don't!)

Olivia at Easter some years ago. Wasn't she the cutest?
Martin, one year ago.
One year ago. They still cuddle like this sometimes.
Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, June 2012. It was warmer there that day than it is here right now.
One month after the Alaska picture was taken. 2012 was a pretty great year.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

6 of 7: On family size and openness

There was an article making the rounds on facebook this week about the bittersweet emotions of watching your last child go through firsts and milestones, knowing you'll never be in that place again. There was something that just rubbed me the wrong way about that article.

It was the first sentence.

"On the day that your last child is born, you'll find yourself filled with a jumble of emotions."

Whoa, wait a minute. Wait. A. Minute. How do you know it is the last child?

Our culture assumes that we need to make these decisions. We say, "Oh, we are going to have X number of children. Period." That makes me sad. Where do we leave room for being open to God's plan for our family?

My husband and I got married later than some. I was in my late 20s and he was in his mid 30s. We figured we'd shoot for maybe 4 kids and see what happened. I always assumed that our family would be larger than the standard "one boy, one girl" American ideal.

It is not. Here we are. One boy. One girl. No prospects for family growth on the horizon.

But here's the thing. We are open to more children. Our adoption resources are spent. Fertility, at this point, would probably require some sort of miraculous divine intervention. Our kids are currently requiring every ounce of energy we have to give. But we are open. If God placed an opportunity in front of us, we would take it. Not necessarily because we were looking for it or even thought we could handle it. But because He does. And He knows what we can handle and what is best for our family, even more than we do.

I'm participating in Jen's 7 posts in 7 days at Conversion Diary. 










On the day that your last child is born, you’ll find yourself filled with a jumble of emotions. - See more at: http://suburbanturmoil.com/the-last-one-3/2014/02/20/#sthash.jtSeG0lK.dpuf
On the day that your last child is born, you’ll find yourself filled with a jumble of emotions. - See more at: http://suburbanturmoil.com/the-last-one-3/2014/02/20/#sthash.jtSeG0lK.dpuf
On the day that your last child is born, you’ll find yourself filled with a jumble of emotions. - See more at: http://suburbanturmoil.com/the-last-one-3/2014/02/20/#sthash.jtSeG0lK.dpuf

Friday, February 28, 2014

5 of 7: Why we love our school

I had a short "work" day Tuesday, so I had time to pick Olivia up from school. As I was making the half-hour drive there, I thought about the many reasons we love our school and why we will gladly sacrifice to pay for her to go clear across the county to the only Catholic school in our area.

We always wanted to send our kids to Catholic school. It was a lovely idea, but I could never really articulate why Catholic school was "better" than public school for our family. All of the schools in our area get excellent "grading" by the state. Most of them get an "A" grade. There are no bad schools around here. But now, as we approach mid-second-semester of our kindergarten year, there are a few things that stand out in my mind that make this particular Catholic school the right choice for us.
 
Undoubtedly, in a local public school Olivia would have newer and more spacious facilities. My Dad, attending Olivia's Christmas program in our school gymnasium, recalled fond memories of himself playing basketball in the same gym (as the away team). "It hasn't changed much." (My Dad would have played there in the mid 1960s.) This is absolutely true. Our school is small and the building is old.

Public schools likely have newer and better access to technology. Our school has computers in the rooms, but we don't have a computer room. We don't have much of a library to speak of. (We make up for that by taking classes to the public library on a regular basis.)

What we DO have, I think, outweighs what we don't and makes Catholic education worth every penny we pay. Here is what our school offers us:

First and foremost: We get to talk about Jesus! This is huge. Aside from the daily trips to church for Mass or other forms of group prayer, the students pray in class. They have a prayer, over the loud speaker, each morning with announcements and each afternoon at dismissal. (I experienced this firsthand when I picked Olivia up a few minutes early and she insisted we stop in the middle of the hall and pray with the principal when he came over the loud speaker.) Each classroom has selected a patron saint. They have religion class...and it is a good one! They are learning actual stuff about the liturgy and why we believe what we believe. She comes home and explains things to me that she learned in religion class. I love this!


Oh, and my very favorite is when she starts singing a song they sing in church. They are in church about 15-30 minutes a day. Some days it is Mass, but when a priest is not available they go for some other form of prayer. The first time I heard her singing the Divine Mercy Chaplet around the house, I just about exploded with joy.

The point is that Christ is truly at the center of their educational experience. That, alone, would make her Catholic schooling worthwhile.

But there are other things that set this school apart.

There are 113 kids in the whole school, grades K-8. That translates to smaller class sizes and more personal attention from the teachers. But it also means that everyone knows everyone else. Olivia is friends with kids from her class, but she also has friends from all other grades. The kids are expected to treat each other with respect and watch out for each other...and they do! I'm sure there is some level of bullying and "mean girl syndrome", but if there is, it is not evident to me and kept pretty well under control. It appears that the overarching attitude is respect and that the peer pressure leans heavily toward keeping the bullies in check. Bullies don't tend to like to be bullies if it makes them overwhelmingly unpopular.

In other words, it is a positive school culture.

That positive culture bleeds over into her long bus ride too. The bus, in my childhood experience, was an awful place where big kids bullied little kids and taught them horrible words and songs and phrases. But her bus is full of kids from her school, so the "respect culture" bleeds over into their (long) bus ride. It is excellent.

There is a collaborative spirit in the school. For example, the kindergarteners have "reading buddies" from the 4th grade who read with them once a week and help them sound out words. This helps the kindergarteners, but it also give the 4th graders some leadership and service experience.

I just love it so much. Yes, these kids learn the basics of the standard curriculum. But they learn so much more. They learn that they are a part of a bigger family of church and community. They learn to care about each other and reach out to one another. I feel very comfortable allowing this school to help us raise our children to be responsible citizens and good Christian examples in the world.

I'm participating in Jen's 7 posts in 7 days at Conversion Diary.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

4 of 7: Kid personalities, part two: Martin

Yesterday, I talked about Olivia's unique personality. Martin is very different from his sister, and, I think, complementary. It makes for a great sibling relationship.

Martin is a lover by nature. From the time he was born, he has always loved to cuddle and snuggle and kiss and hug. He will stop in the middle of playing to come over and give me a hug or snuggle on my lap for a few minutes, and then he'll run off to play again. It soothes my soul.

Martin is also a helper. If you ask him to help pick up, he does, with gusto. He pays attention to specifically what you are asking too. Toys don't go in random boxes...they go in the right box. He is careful to make sure that the job is done right! And then he comes to seek a high-five for his efforts (a request which is always granted, of course).

All toddlers are at least a little self-involved. Anyone who has taken a child development course would know that. But Martin...he is also so very concerned about other people. If anyone sneezes or coughs or gasps in shock or surprise, he is right there saying, "OK, Mommy? OK Daddy? OK Sissy?"

He pats your back when he hugs you. He is liberal about blowing kisses. He waves at passing cars in the parking lot at the grocery and says, "Bye, bye!" As if the people in the passing cars are old friends.

This kid is so social, but in a different way from his sister. Olivia, at this age, wanted to get attention. Martin seems genuinely to want to just relate to people. I can't even explain why I know this to be true. It is something about his demeanor. He exudes empathy and concern and interest. Of course, his attention span for any one thing or person is short-lived because, well, he's 19 months old. There is so much to learn about the world and only so many hours in the day, yo.

Martin loves the sign of peace at church. He demands to be put down and walks around to everyone in a 2-pew radius to extend his hand and offer "peace! peace!" It is his favorite.

My boy is a comedian too. He loves to be funny and seems to know when he is being funny. He loves making people laugh.

He is a musician! This was unexpected. We knew early on that Olivia was a performer. But in the last six months or so Martin has started singing (and dancing) along. The other day, Olivia was trying to pick out, on the piano, a melody to a popular song. When she missed a note, Martin chimed in with the correct note in pitch-perfect voice. It is going to be so fun to watch him develop that talent!

Martin is definitely a mama's boy and not nearly as extroverted as his sister, but he has his own unique and delightful traits that are showing just a bit of what he will become as he grows. I can't wait to learn more about that!

I am delighted that these two kids seem to complement one another. Olivia loves showing off, and Martin loves laughing at her when she does. He waits for her at the door when the bus comes at the end of the day, and he offers her a hug and then runs off to invite her to play. There is a little more rough housing than I care for on most days, but they just love being together. It is such a blessing.

I'm participating in Jen's 7 posts in 7 days at Conversion Diary.