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Untitled design-8

And now we are eight. Baby M arrived yesterday, fresh from the hospital, two days old. He’s the sweetest, tiniest little thing you ever saw. We had…nothing for a newborn, but one email out to our church and later in the day we had a nice swing, a bouncy seat, and a big bin full of 3 month boy clothes. Tonight we came home from church with loads of newborn clothes, some formula, and more diapers. Truly, this is a community effort and our community is doing an amazing job of supporting us in this endeavor.

And now…*yawn*…it’s about time for bed so I can get up again and then again and then again and then again. But he’s worth it. Even if he’s only with us for a few days.


Quick to Judge

Dear Everyone at Walmart Judging Me For My Use of WIC Checks Tonight,

Did I want to turn around and blast out that I was cashing these in on behalf of our foster boy? You betcha. But I didn’t do that. Instead, I bore the shame you felt necessary to hand out. I did it on his behalf. I didn’t have a list of “WIC approved foods” with me and so I picked up the wrong brand of juice and the wrong size loaf of bread. I found out after standing in front of you for 30 minutes in one of the 5 open check-out lanes and then made you wait another 7 while we sorted that out.

Here’s what I knew not to do: I didn’t whip out my iPhone while waiting in line because I’ve heard the complaints. Instead, I just waited with E3’s milk, cheese, eggs, peanut butter, and bread. Once I pulled the checks out, I didn’t make eye contact with you. I already knew what you wanted to silently communicate with me without my having to confirm it by letting you burn it into my eyes.

And here’s something I wish I could communicate to you: We do not know everyone’s stories. Sure, we are smug with our decent jobs and our ability to provide for our own kids. I stand with you on that most of the time. And I hear what you hear: people on government assistance, buying crap at the store for free and laughing about it elsewhere. But there are people out there doing their best to get by and care for their kids and keep their kids and maybe they need a little help doing that for a season. There was a season our own family needed it too. And then there are families doing the best they can for kids who don’t even belong to them, kids who will only be with them for a short spell. And it would behoove you to dig deep and pull out an ounce of compassion over your pound of condemnation.

Now that we’re smack dab in the middle of this whole fostering gig, I’m seeing other sides to stories. Some of them are truly hellish stories. Some of them are simply heartbreaking. Some of them are actually hopeful. But it doesn’t seem to matter much to anyone else – all they see is handout.

There are plenty of cases out there that define the stereotypes. I get that. But there are plenty of situations out there which also bust right through them. And for the sake of restoring dignity to lives all across our country, please don’t make the assumption that you know someone’s story simply because you see the way they are paying for their groceries.

Because unless you ask, you don’t.




Just a Little Fracture

Good news today (gosh, we could use some, no?) – From what started out as a bad diagnosis for Maddie’s knee on Friday to a worse one on Monday ended up being really not so terrible after all today when we finally went to the orthopedic doctor. She does have a fractured knee cap (patella), but the area on her growth plate that appeared to be fractured by the doctor yesterday is really just a deep bone bruise, says the orthopedic doctor today. He said he highly doubts it is cracked, but that if it is, it is in 100% alignment, so he really thinks it’s just a bruise. The fragment of bone that did chip off on her knee cap is small and in a not-super-important place, so he plans to just let it go. He said she didn’t even need to use the crutches anymore, but does need to keep the knee brace on for a few weeks. He cut a hole in the middle of it to make some room for her knee to peek through and it’s much more comfortable for her now, though she’s still walking around like a stiff… She’s actually in more pain tonight than she has been since Friday, though, because she’s been crutch-free since 4pm so she’s been putting a fair amount of pressure on it, but that’s what prescription ibuprofen is for, right? He wants to see her back for an x-ray and follow up in five weeks. If it seems she isn’t healing up at that point he will talk removal of the piece of bone, but he won’t repair it. He said it’s so small he’s had more patient trouble with recovery from attempted repairs than flat removals. But if it’s healing up fine, we’ll move on.

All that to say this: WE ARE SO THANKFUL. Seriously. With the news from yesterday, I walked in there today totally prepared to hear surgery or at the very least, cast. Thankful for Maddie that this isn’t really *that* bad on the broken/fractured bone spectrum, that she can remove the brace for sleeping and bathing, and that really she’s going to be fine. Thank you for praying.

And PS – Yes, we are kinda sorta teasing her mercilessly about tripping over her own foot while walking down the stairs. People keep asking us why it happened and I keep blaming it on being 14. *grin*

Changing Lives, Growing Hearts

I just found this post from A Musing Maralee tonight and here’s an excerpt:

So because it is painful to love and to lose, does that mean we choose not to love?  God forbid.

We choose to do what is right because it is RIGHT.  For no other reason.  Not because it feels good or because it will be so rewarding.  Sometimes we may not see that reward until we see The Father’s face and He explains to us why we had to walk that road.  But I would rather suffer the heartbreak to be obedient than to run away from pain and miss the joy of loving who God has called me to love.  If Christians are too afraid of pain to risk loving children they can’t keep and whose futures they can’t control, who will?  If we aren’t willing to do what’s right just because it’s right, what do we expect other people to do?

So much good in this. And really, I wanted to copy her entire post and paste it right here. I’ll link to it twice instead.

This picture above is one of the very best shots of Chloe I have. And I have a lot of shots of Chloe. So happy, so content, so much loving her unasked for role of temporary big sister to E3. He loves her too. He calls her, “My Chloe!” He has recently started doing that with all of the girls’ names and they all really like having him here, some a little more than others, but Chloe has taken to this gig in a way I simply didn’t see coming.

And is it going to rip her heart out when he gets a new placement in the future? Yes. I believe it is. And it’s going to rip my heart out twice – once when he leaves and a second time to see it happen to my kids. But as Maralee said above, we do what is right because it is right. And doing the right thing downright sucks sometimes. Yet we do it anyway. Because we should.

No Rock Stars Here

Dazed and confused. This is life right now and we’re still trying to wrap our brains around it as well as figure out how to better manage it. But I’ve been trying to get a handle on that one for 16 years and…

Here’s the deal: after posting my laundry list of what happened to Friday, I started getting a lot of “You’re amazings!” and “You’re a rock star!” and “Mom of the Year!” types of comments and such. Here is the God’s Honest Truth: I’m not amazing. I’m not a rock star. I’m CERTAINLY not Mom of the Year. And I’m not being self-deprecating when I say this, it’s simply the truth. And I suspect most of you know that already anyway.

Here’s the other deal: After finishing the December Photo Project, I just decided I’d keep it going as it was helping me think more intentionally about providing everyday life content to my blog without me having to really struggle to think of it. So that’s what I’ve been doing, only on January 3, E3 joined our family  for this season and that’s been a pretty major thing ever since. I didn’t necessarily set out to chronicle life as a foster parent, I was just tired of neglecting my blog and/or giving it over to reviews and giveaways completely, hence the “2013 in Photos” category and accompanying content.

I process life by writing, so that’s what’s happening here. And I do struggle with the whole “let your good works be done in secret” thing because I’m not trying to show off with this. What we’re doing is hardly show-off-able (see above photo). But I do think it’s important to chronicle what we’re doing and let others peek into it just a little not only to raise awareness of such great need all across our country, but maybe…just maybe…God will use our experiences to encourage someone else to think a bit more about what they can do to also help those who are helpless.

  • Maybe adopt?
  • Maybe long-term foster?
  • Maybe emergency foster? (That’s what we’re doing)
  • Maybe provide respite care for other foster parents? (weekend care)
  • Maybe come alongside a foster family and surprise them with meals, diapers, support?
  • Something.

Getting involved doesn’t have to completely change your life. But I think it should change your heart. And how that looks will be different for all of us.

But it should look like something.

We’re not heroes here. We just have hearts.


The Day that Would Not End…

What today was supposed to be:

  • Take Katie and Millie to art class
  • Run a few errands with E3 while waiting
  • Finish packing for our trip to see my parents
  • Pick Maddie and Chloe up from school
  • Drive to Owasso and celebrate my mom’s birthday, one day late

What today actually was:

  • Get call from Craig just after 8am to tell me Maddie fell down the stairs at school and could I pick her up and take her somewhere?
  • Dash to school to pick up Maddie
  • Turn around and head the other way to drop Katie and Millie off at art class thinking, “Wonder if I can squeeze an urgent care clinic visit into that hour and a half?”
  • Halfway there, discover E3 is in process of throwing up all over himself in his carseat
  • Continue driving to art class thinking, “I still wonder if I can squeeze urgent care into that 90 minute slot?”
  • Drop Katie and Millie off, do a quick exam of E3 and determine there’s no way on the planet we’re heading to urgent care next
  • Head home, strip boy off completely in the driveway, thank God for warmish weather today, pick up naked boy and put in bath
  • Get clean boy redressed and settled on the couch with a pillow, sleeping bag, Thomas the Tank Engine via Netflix on the iPad, and Peaches on his lap
  • Deal with vomit. Discover the cover will NOT come off the car seat, determine that the best way to clean the car seat is to put it in the bathtub as well
  • Check on Maddie
  • Continue dealing with car seat
  • Load everyone back up in van (with a different car seat) and go pick up Katie and Millie
  • Head to urgent care
  • Check in and wait. Get called back and wait. Get seen and told an x-ray is forthcoming, but then be told their x-ray tech just left for lunch and we’d be waiting another 45 minutes until she came back. Play the Phineas and Ferb movie via Netflix on my phone, hope everyone else is okay watching that in miniscule, crawl up on the exam table and fall asleep. True story.
  • Wake up 30 minutes later with a noticeable sweater imprint on my forehead from where my arm was shielding my eyes from the exam room lights. Imprint does not go away for another 45 minutes.
  • X-ray at last.
  • Diagnosis: Torn MCL in her knee, given knee immobilizer, crutches, prescription ibuprofen, and a ticket to see her PCP and Orthopedic next week
  • Get in car. It’s now 1:30 and everyone is hungry, including vomit boy, who is crying for chicken.
  • Take my chances on that and stop at Chick-fil-a. Go inside. Seat girls just in time for E3 to vomit again all over the restaurant.
  • Look up in despair and make eye contact with manager who graciously tells me he’s got it and not to worry about it.
  • Immediately leave restaurant and get back in car.
  • E3 throw wild fit because 1) he’s covered in vomit again and 2) where’s his chicken?
  • Go through drive through and order some chicken.
  • Get home, feed the boy TWO nuggets and a little bit of Sprite.
  • Tell boy it’s time for a bath and then a nap. Boy screams because he wants neither. Nor does he want to be covered in vomit. But he does want more chicken, to which I have to decline for fear of more vomit.
  • Put him in the tub anyway. Screaming at me.
  • He finally settles down until I pour water on him. Screams again.
  • Crying, but clean, I tell him it’s time to get out. Now he doesn’t want to get out so he continues crying.
  • I pull him out anyway because I NEED HIM TO TAKE A NAP.
  • (he needed to take a nap.)
  • Get him redressed again. He’s still crying.
  • Take to room, read Snuggle Puppy (his new favorite book). He is happy to be in bed. But don’t ask him to go there.
  • He falls asleep almost instantly.
  • I’m now in a daze, semi-exhausted and with a not-so-faint whiff of vomit which I’m beginning to get used to.
  • Go downstairs and get bombarded by one of my kids whose homeschool day got derailed by the chaos and thinks she needs to get it all done right NOW. And can I help?
  • I help with Latin. I help with math. She doesn’t get the math and is getting frustrated with me explaining it to her and I’m getting frustrated explaining it to her because, oh, let’s see, it’s now 4pm on Friday and DID YOU JUST READ WHAT THE DAY HAS BEEN LIKE?
  • Finally make her put it all away and take a break in her room for a bit.
  • Craig comes home and I practically beg to be allowed 15 minutes alone in the car to go pick his shirts up from the cleaners.
  • That trip doesn’t really restore me the way I’d hoped and he leaves again for another meeting.
  • He comes home again and I suddenly remember I need to go pick up Maddie’s prescription from Walmart, so dash there before Craig has to leave again for another meeting.
  • On the way to Walmart get a call asking if we might be willing to take a 3mo baby tonight who was just placed.
  • Call Craig and see what he thinks.
  • We decide we’re okay with that because baby in a shelter = not okay with that
  • Call back and find they’ve already placed the baby elsewhere. Sort of sigh in relief. But then get asked if we’re okay being on the weekend pick-up list instead. Yes.
  • Go to Walmart for Rx and also get some diapers, bottles, formula, pacifiers, and all that really expensive jazz.
  • Get back home and desperately reheat leftover pizza from yesterday’s pizza day at school and fry a few eggs for those who aren’t interested in day-old Cici’s Pizza.
  • Hobble through the night, sort of edgy. Okay, really edgy.
  • E3 does not have a good end to the day and screams at bedtime. For a long time. Not a happy time for any of us.
  • Read more Snuggle Puppy. He goes to bed happy.
  • Shower at 10:45.
  • Hope for tomorrow.

Lamentations 3:22-23: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.


The Foster Care Tree Project

A few days ago I decided I wanted to paint a tree on one of our walls so that each child who comes through our doors for a short season can put a hand print on the tree, partly for them and partly for us. But my main problem is that I have ideas like this all the time and my problem is always follow through. I’m feeling the clock ticking, though, because we don’t know exactly how long E3 will be with us before he is sent to a long-term placement, so I wanted to act fast. Only the wall I’m wanting to do this on needs a paint job too and it’s going to be a several days long process.

But then I posted on Facebook saying I wasn’t sure if I should do hand prints directly on the wall or something that could be moved at a later time should the need ever arise, something like paper or some such. I got a great idea from an old friend to do them on the glass of picture frames and hang the frames on the wall. Brilliant.

So tonight we introduced E3 to the wonderful world of finger painting which he thought was all kinds of awesome until all of a sudden he realized he was covered in green and absolutely DIDN’T like it. At that point he started yelling, “GET IT OFF, GET IT OFF, GET IT OFF!!” *giggle* So we did. And now I have this:

Just need to add his name and the month he came to us and then pop it back in the frame. I’m planning to not put the back on the frame, but let the wall show through. Oh, and I need to paint the wall. And the tree. But I have a little more time on that. I now have the hand print and I can rest easy.

PS – One of the girls is getting him cleaned up for me as I type. I don’t know HOW we could do this without the girls. They love him so much.

Heartache and Hope

We walked in to the DMV of child institutions today. Hopeless lines filled with downtrodden people. I do not know their stories, though they each had one etched into their faces. They were not open books, nor were they inviting anyone to read them. In a place like this, eye contact is a threat and communication is less about connection and more about explanation. We smiled at a few, but mostly we glanced away, not wanting to judge, not wanting to fear.

This place is going to be more and more in my future and I did learn today to unstuff my pockets before going in next time. It’s pretty hilarious to see what I can pull out of a coat should I be forced to on the fly. I think today I had a Buzz Lightyear toy, a marker, a glove (not a pair), a plethora of writing utensils, some bit of string, and a lonely sock. I’m all awesome like that. Oh, and my keys and my phone. I did set the scanner off because I forgot to pull my phone out. I will know better next time.

E3 was not super excited to return with us, but he didn’t fight it either. And I felt for him. He loves his family. I want him to love his family. I want his family to love him. I want them to be a good situation for him. I really really want that.

But then the Dunham family Tuesday night schedule kicked in and he just came along for the ride. We have a tight window between drama for Maddie and Chloe and choir for all four and usually end up at a fast food joint between one place and the other every Tuesday. For some odd reason tonight we picked a random McDonalds in town. And when we got out of the car, E3 got really excited to see someone in the parking lot because he saw a member of his family. It took me a couple of minutes to clue in that he wasn’t just yelling a greeting at a random stranger – this was no stranger to him. And the person was yelling a greeting back and I thought this person was just playing with some random kid for a moment until I realized this was wasn’t just a goofy encounter between a little kid and a caring adult. It was his _______. As this person was talking to someone else and we were working our way through the parking lot and into the restaurant, I simply said, “WOW! I’d love to meet you if you want to come back in!” And we continued to walk in. We ordered and the person came in. He was so excited and wanted to be held by _______. I surrendered him for a moment while chatting with _______ for a little bit. I was asked for my name and I gave it (first name only) and then asked what E3 called this person because I wanted to make sure I was using the right name at home. I was told. And then E3 said he wanted to go home with  _______ but _______ was decent about the whole thing and said they would be seeing E3 again really soon and I also assured E3 he would be seeing  _______ again soon and that we had french fries waiting for him at the table (good move, eh? bribery by Happy Meal…please don’t judge…). He came back to me with little protest and as I was carrying him to our table, I looked back at  _______ and said, “I want you to know we’re caring for him for you and we will do the best we can with him while he’s with us.”  _______ nodded back at me with a sad smile and walked out.

And then we finished our time as though nothing out of the ordinary had happened, yet all the time marveling at the odds that that encounter just took place and then remembering that odds don’t really factor into situations like this at all. But God does. I have no idea why He chose to orchestrate this encounter the way He did tonight. Perhaps to give me a better glance into E3’s situation. Perhaps so I could pray with a face in mind. Perhaps just to add a little humanity into the stack of paperwork I was given. Perhaps. Perhaps I’ll never know.

And I’m okay with that.


Foster Parenting, Day 5

For all the cute, cute, CUTE things he does, he’s still a little stinker sometimes. But is anyone surprised by that? He’s a 3yo boy, after all. And he’s been displaced multiple times. In fact, I was telling someone yesterday that it almost seemed as though the transition had gone too well. Too well, as in, he doesn’t really seem to care who is caring for him and while he definitely recognized the six of us at church last night, most likely would have gone home with anyone there and been just fine.

Today we were on our way to the library and we saw Craig at a nearby gas station (we got another car today: a 1990 Volvo which Volvo lovers say is still a good car and I say it’s a 23 year old car and…okay, it looks cool, but it’s super old. Here’s hoping it will be driveable for a few years at least…) and E3 called out, “There’s Daddy!” It’s been his choice to call us Mom and Dad and I’m sure he does it because that’s what the girls call us, though I’m equally sure that those names don’t mean the same thing to him that they mean to our girls – it’s just a title like doctor or teacher or, you get the idea, but at any rate, he has some connection with the titles and our roles as adult care givers. The girls in the van agreed, “Yep! There’s Daddy!” and when they did this he said, “NO! That’s MY DADDY!” They giggled and said, “He’s our daddy too. We can share him!” He said, “Okay, we can share him. I have three daddies.” And there it is. He’s only three, but he can name some of his dysfunction even though he can’t understand it. And it’s heartbreaking.

We had a little hiccup with bedtime last night as it’s just been a long time since I’ve parented a 3yo and kind of forgot about the whole “ease them into bedtime” thing. He was playing trains in his room and then it was bedtime so I asked him to help clean up the trains before bed. Upon hearing the word, “bed” he freaked out and started throwing a fit. And that’s how he went to bed last night – throwing a major fit. Tonight we decided to let him play with the trains, then give him a bath, then read a story, and then put him to bed. And I told him multiple times that that’s what we were going to do so that he knew it was coming. He still didn’t like going to bed. He still cried a little, but he went. And I came downstairs with the girls to read to them. And 30 minutes later we heard movement upstairs. I came up and saw he’d somehow managed to remove the gate from his door frame and was in the process of scattering these tiny little cars all over the hallway. It was funny, but I still had to be the bearer of bad news: he had to go back to bed. I put him there and he cried again. I came downstairs and ten minutes later we heard him moving again. I came back upstairs and he heard me coming this time because he crawled underneath the bed and was hiding there when I came in. I slid him out and put him to bed again. Again he got out. And again I put him back. And even now I can’t be exactly for sure he’s sleeping, but he isn’t crying and I don’t think he’s made another parking garage out of the hallway…yet.

And I just can’t help but remember that parenting a toddler/preschooler is perhaps the best picture of being parented by God. And maybe even more so in the case of foster parenting. Here’s a kid who doesn’t really know how to love us, yet we love him anyway. Here’s a kid who has no concept that what we’re doing for him is for his best good and he pushes against our parenting all the time. Here’s a kid who, at some deep level, desperately needs to know someone is providing for him: boundaries, shelter, food, protection, love and yet gets angry when we do those things on his behalf. Because he doesn’t understand. Because he’s 3. And I do the same thing with God, only my excuse isn’t so much my age as it is my heart. God sets me down in a soft, warm bed and I insist on scattering dozens of tiny cars in the hallway. Maybe to see what He will do. Maybe to see if He cares.

14yo Birthday Party


Today: 14yo birthday party complete with a trip to the discount theater to see The Odd Life of Timothy Green and taco night for supper. 5 hours of 13- and 14-year-olds and I’m pretty much zapped of every bit of extrovert I might have had today.

Here’s to sleep and hoping all 7 of us get a bunch tomorrow morning.