Fostering Expectations

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I don’t begrudge their mother their title. She is their mother. She should be called Mom. But they live with us and they hear our girls call me Mom and so I also get called Mommy. Craig gets called Daddy. And slowly, over time, the names start to lose their true meaning. The names have less to do with the people who will love them unconditionally and care for them for the whole of their lives and more about the people who are taking care of their basic immediate needs at this moment in time and likely will change a few times. Titles transfer. Attachments weaken.

When we began this foster care journey and had children in our home for 2 weeks or 10 days or 1 month, we loved and we lost, but we always knew it was coming and that knowledge built in a guard that made the leaving just a teensy bit easier than one would otherwise imagine it could have been.

But your heart can only do that so many times before it either grows too soft or too hard. And as hard as I tried to hold off, I gave in and I parented. I didn’t simply take care of them; I parented them. And I got burned and never wanted to do that again.

But then August came and we got two babies. And I’m not going to lie – they are sweet babies, but the sentinel keeping watch over my heart is very committed to the process of my protection. I’ve been caring for these boys, but not really parenting.

To parent is to risk. And it’s a risk I’ve not been willing to take with these little ones. Not yet. And here I stand, on the cusp between too soft and too hard and I’m feeling myself making a choice, one I am reluctant to make, but love calls for it. I must parent until their parents are better able to. I must provide love in addition to theirs. We must move forward in this hard life in a way that others do not, cannot, and will not understand.

As author and musician Michael Card says, “Jesus doesn’t accept volunteers; he calls disciples. Following is a command, not an invitation.”

And so we follow, even though we know what it eventually means for us. Again.

 

 

Three Guys in a Tractor

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We arrived at the farm in Pike County, IL last night and today has been a flurry of farm fun for the boys. It’s been super fun to watch our extended family on both sides embrace the boys as part of our family for this season of time and be so willing to give them all the love and experiences they give our own.

Truly, this is foster grandparenting at its finest.

 

 

Snow Day!

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We had a family snow day today and I will confess: At 8:30 this morning I said, “Only 12 hours to go until bedtime!” because…*cough*…two little boys pent up in the house all day, save for a few forays into the snow is a recipe for disaster.

We made it, though. We had one outside play time in the morning, followed by my new snow day tradition of a big brunch/lunch of sausage egg casserole and cinnamon rolls, then naps, then an afternoon play time, lots of Lego playing, and a lot of Wild Kratts. And I do mean a LOT of Wild Kratts.

Then we hauled them all over to McDonalds for the simple fact that they have an indoor play place and weren’t crowded tonight. They burned off some steam there and we headed home for bedtime.

Whew.

And we get to repeat a lot of this tomorrow, sans the evening McDonalds. Here’s hoping we make it.

Daddy’s Home

What we have here happens to be two little boys who were OVER THE MOON excited when a certain someone walked in the door tonight. Though they’ve only been here since 10am yesterday morning, he was the primary person of interest for them and they asked repeatedly when he was coming back. Craig’s been out of town since Tuesday and we kept trying to explain he was out of town, but coming back tomorrow and they just couldn’t grasp it. At bedtime last night A5 was super mad at me because, in his words, “You promised Dad would be home tonight!” Well, obviously I never promised that since I knew he wouldn’t be back until the next night, but I was glad they were so wanting to see Craig again. And believe me, by 10:30 last night, I was wanting to see Craig again too…

So when Craig walked in the door at 5:45 tonight, they bolted for him yelling, “DADDY’S HOME!!”

And that made all of yesterday worth it.

The Boys are Back

It’s official: I signed papers today agreeing to care for A5 and R4 once more. We are now officially Dunham, party of 9, only Craig is still out of town until tomorrow. Today was a comedy of scheduling errors which culminated in a need to take both boys to an urgent care clinic after hours (which means ER) because of two issues I needed to get documented as having occurred before they came into our care.

I’m glad the boys are back. I’m also glad everyone is finally asleep. This has been one heck of a day.

What are you risking for the gospel?

In 30 minutes I’m heading to Tulsa to tell our foster care stories at the Oklahoma Foster Care Forum.

The oft-quoted Jerry Seinfeld said, “According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that seem right? That means to the average person, if you have to go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”

I’m not sure how true this is, but I do know that later on this morning I will be in Tulsa standing up in front of a large-ish crowd at the Tulsa version of the Oklahoma Foster Care Forum. And I will sort of wish I was dead.

Speaking in front of crowds has never been something I’ve aspired to. I’m much more comfortable behind a computer screen or in a living room. So when I was asked last April to speak at the Oklahoma City version of the Oklahoma Foster Care Forum I suggested that Craig and I do it together instead, knowing that if Craig was there I would default and make him do the bulk of the speaking. That plan didn’t work out, though, and I found myself with 2,155 type written words tucked inside a purple folder with white flowers on it, willing myself to stand up in front of a bunch of people I’d never seen before (and a few I see all the time) and not die.

Fast forward to after that event – I did not die. I also didn’t turn into John “Golden Mouth” Chrysostom or anything. It wasn’t my favorite thing to do ever, but it really didn’t kill me either, so there’s that. I think my comfort level increased by the fact that the topic I was presenting on was one about which I am passionate. I’m generally quiet by nature, but if you start asking me about the foster care crisis in Oklahoma, I suddenly build a soapbox and jump up on it. Because we really do have a foster care crisis in Oklahoma and I think most of us are content to defer to our preference for convenience as a way to excuse our lack of involvement in the biblical mandate to care for widows and orphans.

Speaking on the topic of foster care is one thing, but sometimes it takes more than rhetoric to show you believe something to be true; sometimes it takes getting your hands dirty. Sometimes it means getting buried in what feels like a grave of bureaucracy in order to be available to do the necessary thing to which God calls His Church. Sometimes it means providing meals and meeting needs for other families who have given themselves to the task. And sometimes it means being willing to die to self in front of a large group of people and take a personal risk at the gain of stirring the heart of even one more family toward the cause of foster care.

Because some things require sacrifice, be it time, money, public speaking, or all of the above; for me, foster care has become that thing.

All of us are called to die to ourselves for the sake of the gospel. The oft-quoted Luke 9:23-25 reminds us, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” The question is, what does that cross look like? It should look a lot more like work gloves than Facebook status updates. It should feel more scary than safe. And it should come from conviction not condemnation.

Because that’s how the gospel works.

 

Stroller for 2

So a double jogging stroller would be pretty nice about now because on Saturday Baby A came back to us for a little bit so we’re currently carrying for our 1yo, Baby T, and our 2mo, Baby A and I’m remembering just how crazy life was when the girls were little and I’m also remembering why we simply just didn’t do much during those years other than live.

We don’t think Baby A will be with us very long. We agreed to become his alternate care givers in the event anything happens to his primary care giver. On Saturday night that event happened. I got an email asking me to call. I was in Owasso, but I called anyway and was asked if we could come get the baby. I explained I wasn’t there but Craig and Chloe could go and then proceeded to try to get Craig on the phone. This is the point in them where I realized that if I’d had a true emergency I would have been completely on my own – he was a hard man to get a hold of that night. He and Chloe had gotten up early for the cross country meet and then spent much of the day in the heat outdoors. By 8:30pm they were zonked. He took some Nyquil and passed out. He was not hearing the phone by 10pm when I called and I tried his phone, the girls’ phone, and the house phone in multiple rotating successions. I finally decided to post something on Facebook asking if anyone could go to my house, while simultaneously texting my neighbor to see if she was home. I actually had several sweet folks offer to drive over to my house at 10:30pm. As it turned out, my neighbor was home and her husband went across to ring the doorbell and wake Craig up. In another twist, the doorbell didn’t even wake Craig up – our barking dogs did. So that was perhaps the only time I’ve been thankful for those goofy barking dogs.

So this weekend was a little nuts. Katie and Millie were in Missouri with friends; Maddie, Baby T, and I were in Owasso; Craig and Chloe were picking up Baby A and staying put in Oklahoma City. This is going to be one interesting week for sure.

Happy Birthday, Baby T!

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As if having one birthday in the house wasn’t enough, today Baby T turned 1! We have a history of keeping 1yo birthdays very small and uneventful. Babies don’t really have any idea what’s going on here at this point and the whole affair is really for the parent. And in this case, it’s really so that we could take a few photos to send with him in the future so that he will one day know that someone did care enough to celebrate. To that end, I only actually wrapped one of his presents. He enjoyed everything in the way you would expect a 1yo to and then he tried to eat the wrapping paper and then it was time for bed.

He’s only been with us for a little over one week now, but he’s worming his way into our hearts, just like we knew he would.

Babies Again

Y’all, I know. We’re supposed to be on a “break.” A4 and R3 have only been gone 10 days and we communicated we needed a month before taking another placement and we’re going out of town in two weeks and my own case worker through Angels is on vacation so I thought we were “safe.”

And then I started getting calls from the director of our agency. She called our home phone. She texted. She called my cell phone. I knew something was up.

Emergencies. They just keep happening. Two babies, a 23 month old girl and her 5 week old brother. They were taken tonight and needed a home and could we possibly?

And it doesn’t make sense and we are extremely exhausted and yet…they need a home and we have one. And I said, “When should I be there?”

So now we’re back to babies again. I’m really really REALLY thinking this is going to be super short. They apparently have a good family network and someone should be cleared to take them in soon. So in the meantime, we will love these little sweeties while we have them and pray for their soon-to-be home to be a good place for them to be.