Yes, I’m attached

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“I could never do what you do; I would get too attached.” This is what we hear. We hear it at the park, at school, and when we meet strangers on the street that eye us and ask about our diverse family. We even hear it from family, and dare I say, at church.

Every. Single. Time. I hear these words uttered, the phrase “’Tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all” broadcasts emphatically across my mind. Who knew Alfred Lord Tennyson would have such a lasting impact in my life. But this is not usually how we respond.

After fostering for seven years, we have learned to respond with love as these words tumble effortlessly off someone’s tongue. And to be honest, I say effortlessly because it is a shockingly casual remark considering the circumstances of the children in foster care.

Children are almost always in foster care due to abuse or neglect. Even when they’re not, they were thrown into a system that often isn’t moving quickly enough. (“Moving quickly” is a description that all participants agree is the minimum standard of action constituting the child’s best interest while in care.) The children are removed from the people they love the most and placed suddenly into a home with complete strangers.

Even if they are being abused at their home, they still fiercely love those who are abusing them. The abuse is all they know. Removing them from the one thing they know and placing them into something they don’t creates instability. The only thing worse than the instability and insecurity of removal is the abuse itself. We know that. Kids don’t. They have no idea why they have been taken away from what they know and placed in a situation completely foreign. And for many of these kids it will be many years, maybe a decade, before the reality of the situation is clear to them.

Our response comes to a few simple points.

1) Understand that when the child leaves to go home, this is called reunification, and this is a hopeful sign that the family is healing. The parents are addressing the problems that led to the foster placement. Rejoice! Rejoice with tears of joy knowing that not only was a child cared for today, but a family was strengthened for tomorrow.

2) Stability through attachment is critical. If you don’t attach to the child you are not doing your primary job as a foster parent. These children need healthy attachments and loving adults. All children need the stability of healthy attachments to loving and protective adults.

3) You are the adult and they are the child. You can and should sacrifice your heart for these children. Regardless of the age or developmental stage, all foster care children require shelter, bed, food (preferably meals with a family at a table), and clothing. But those things are not what make a GREAT foster home. They contribute to, but do not create stability and development. You must love. You must provide emotional, relational, and spiritual security. Yes, without love you can meet the minimum standards of foster care. But without love the child will go home just as traumatized as the day he entered care, or more so. (We think this is why most people reflexively reject foster care the way it is advertised; your heart tells you it’s not worth the pain to simply provide three squares and a cot!) It is much better for you to suffer emotionally a little now, than for the child to suffer emotionally, spiritually, physically, academically, and relationally for the rest of their lives. Take an arrow to the heart for them.

4) Did I mention attachment is critical for children? Healthy attachments lead to healthy adults. The only way to break a cycle of foster care is to intercede now, for people you don’t know and children you didn’t birth, and attach your heart to the children in your care.

5) Foster care is a ministry you can engage in at home and in your community. It doesn’t require approval from a mission board (although support from your church is preferred) or a passport. You have the opportunity (and responsibility) to help a child when they are most in need. If you are called–all Christians are called (see James 1:27)–then you should/must act. Open your home. Get licensed and get involved. Support others who are directly involved. Ask your church about how they are, or can be, involved. Seek out organizations that are helping (e.g. Go Foster!). Donate money. Pray. Pray some more.

Yes, it’s hard. I’m not going to lie and say reunification is easy on the foster parents or the other children in the family. It’s not. But foster care teaches us to love a child, to sacrifice ourselves and to step in and fulfill a real need. (And that’s something I want myself, as well as my own children, to learn.)

It’s also a blessing. Meeting a child, having them fill your home with laughter and tears, helping them cope and understand what is happening, investing in their life. It all makes sense. And it fills your heart and home with many, many memories.

If you have considered fostering a child but have had doubts due to the pain you may suffer when the child leaves your home, please understand that attaching to a child is positive thing. It should be seen as blessing, and not as a hardship. And more importantly, reunification with their family is the primary goal.

Over the last seven years we have fostered 15 children and today four of those children are currently in our home. We grieve the day a child leaves. But as the days and years pass, we remember all the fun and all the laughter and we look forward to knowing that we made a difference during that time of their life when they were most in need.

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Purging our home

while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” — II Corinthians 2:18

Our kid’s room is a MESS! Part of it was because I’ve been working the entire time we have had children. Some weeks I worked 40 hours, some weeks I worked 80 hours. In the last 7 years we have had 15 children in our home. All different ages. And as foster parents we never knew what age we would have next. So for many years we stored clothes and toys that our children didn’t need. We have stopped and we actually don’t need to now (a story for later), but the excess that I am having to get rid of is shocking. I was also never home to make sure they cleaned their room correctly, and so our children learned to shove everything in the closets and close the doors.

To be quite truthful the amount of stuff we have as a family has been aggravating me for years. It bothers me to even think about how much shopping I did as a young adult. Most of us live in excess of what we need. And even as I type this and I purge my own life and my own home, I realize that my idea of minimal is still excessive.

As a family we have tried to focus on this things which are eternal – our relationship with God, our ministry (and more specifically what we are called to do), our relationship with others, and friendships.

There are some things in our home we have limited. For instance, our four children all share a room at the moment. Our daughters share a bed. There are no video games in our home. I generally won’t let the children watch TV during the week. The children are expected to help with chores and gardening and so forth. But even so, there are areas in our life that are too abundant and wasteful.

The verse I posted at the top of the post has been reappearing in our conversations at home for many weeks now. The children and I had a short devotional on it a few weeks ago. You might hear me reminding them when I find them arguing over a toy that their relationship with their brother or sister is more valuable than the toy. I usually ask them to reconsider and try to work it out. If they can’t, I simply remove the toy. And then a friend, and young mother of three young children passed away, and we were reminded again that things in this world are only temporary. We spent a lot of time with friends that week and it was a blessing.

Our own family has suffered from excess stuff. And now that I’m home, as wife and mother, it’s time to purge. I’ve focused on a few smaller areas since being home, but this past weekend I focused on the kids room.

I had been praying about tackling their room because honestly it scarred me. And about that time, a dear friend offered to help. And so Saturday she spent 12 hours in our home sacrificing her day to help our family reach our goal. She helped drag everything out of the closets and together we put all the little pieces to all the toys back together and decided what to keep, what to trash, and what to give away.

This is a picture of some of the stuff we pulled out. It was bad. I filled up our entire large trash can outside, and I determined another three boxes to donate.
toy purgetoy purge2

It is not completed yet, but it was the beginning. I still need to purge more and tackle the books in their room. I’m also going to let them help me tackle the stuffed animals and choose a few of their favorites.

I think the children thought I was throwing everything out. I didn’t. In the evening I think they were happily surprised at what they did see left in their closets. They can easily spot something to play with. And there are items they didn’t notice before because there was just too much stuff. So far, they haven’t been able to think of anything they are missing. It’s either because I didn’t throw out enough, or because they didn’t play with most of it anyway — and I’d prefer to think it was the latter (but I’m not sure).

Raw Day 4

I’ve been raw or nearly raw for 4 days now. The first day I was about 85% raw, and then I’ve been closer to about 95% raw the last two days. (There are some things I don’t eat raw like cocoa powder, and I had some hummus today on my veggies – but I made it so at least I know what went into it)

Interestingly, I’m not the least bit hungry anymore.

The first few days I was ravenous several times throughout the day. Not to mention the horrible headaches from caffeine withdraw.

Now, all is well. Except I’m actually feeling bloated. I think it was the plateful of raw broccoli I have consumed the past couple days. I’ll be staying away from broccoli for at least a few days – but at least I know what makes me feel stuffed.

The meals so far have been delicious. I have had green smoothies, a kale salad, raw veggies with a tahini/lemon dip, chocolate bark (which is basically a healthy candy), lots of cantaloupe and watermelon, not tuna pate, carrot juice, spiced blueberry cobbler, and more.

No complaints here.

I forgot to weigh myself this morning, but yesterday scale showed that I was beginning to lose weight.

 

Raw Food Diet – 30 Day Challenge

I woke up yesterday morning and decided it was time to try and go 100% raw again. I am tired, I feel like crap, I’ve gained weight ~ and as far as I know this is the best solution. Last time I ate raw I felt WONDERFUL – so good I said there would be no reason to ever stop. So that’s it, I’m back to raw.

 Anyone up for joining me on a 30 day raw food challenge?

One of things I enjoyed last time about eating raw was learning how to prepare different foods. It’s a treat to learn how to combine nuts and fruits in a way that creates something completely different than the normal SAD diet. Or to blend up some homemade salad dressing that is simple and nutritous.

I posted the following paragraph after I finished a 30 day raw challenge in 2010.

On Sunday, I completed my 30 day raw challenge, and I am so very glad I did it. The last two weeks have absolutely flown by. I had no real issues with cravings, sickness, tiredness, etc. In fact, I feel like I started to benefit from the diet change. The benefits I saw over the last month included: 13 total pounds in weight loss, flatter abdomen, less bloating and less of that yucky heavy full feeling, better facial complexion (in fact I think the dark circles under my eyes are disappearing), more energy, and no cravings! My blood sugar feels completely level at all times, I don’t feel like I go through highs and lows through the day, and I generally feel younger all over. You can read the rest HERE.
 
My goals this time are:
  • Increased energy
  • Feeling better
  • Weightloss

If you aren’t familiar with the raw diet, think fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds – none of which are cooked. But if you aren’t familiar with the diet you probably aren’t familiar with all the amazing meals you can create with these foods. So check it out, there is a ton of information online. It makes it easier if you have a blender, a food processor, and a dehydrator – but these are not required.Warning: don’t get caught up in thinking you need fancy equipment, foods, or supplements. Keep it simple and you are more likely to be successful.

Some of my favorite foods include: flax seed crackers, nut bread/crackers, almond milk, smoothies, desserts, nut balls, nut pates, and of course cocoa.

If you don’t feel like you are ready to commit 100% for 30 days, consider 1 meal a day or some alternative. However, when  you commit to 100% you will learn a lot more about raw foods and how you like them best. I’ve also found that if a completely drop the cooked food from my diet my pallete changes and I enjoy the flavors of the raw food more. In addition, to have any resulting weight loss I need to be close to 100%.

So, is anyone with me? It’s just 30 days – and the benefits will be well worth it.

 

 

Curriculum – Preschool / Kindergarten

We are just now at a point where I would say the children have a curriculum for homeschooling. I’m fortunate enough to have the mornings available over the next few months to really enjoy homeschooling Petra and Jasper. At nearly 4.5 and 3.5 years old, they are right around a late preschool-1st grade level. We start the day with prayer, the pledge of allegiance, and then move into our schoolwork. Free play and time outdoors is peppered in between some activities to give me time to pull the next lesson together if needed. Here is the curriculum we are using. And while this is a lenghtly list, with this age it doesn’t take long. We may spend just 10-15 minutes on each activity. We are easily done by lunch time. And some of these activities are accomplished at the table or in the evenings. I’ve marked them as such.

Story Activities – Story Stretchers, Five in a Row (daily)

Daily I read a children’s story and then we complete a corresponding activity. Activity suggestions are easy to find in Five in a Row, Story Stretchers, or similar books. I love the way these books meld together learning with a children’s book. It is perfect for this young age group. This week for instance we read Blueberries for Sal and then got our buckets and some “pretend” blueberries (which was really cereal squares) and worked on math skills. The children loved they were able to eat the food when they answered the question correctly.

Narration / Reading (3x weekly)

Petra is reading independently and completing a narration page. The page requires her to write the date, title of the book, and author. Then I write down her narration of the story. Afterwards there is a small space for her to draw a picture of the story. We just started these; I’ll post her first narration in the next week. I was very pleased with how well she did.

Reading Lessons (3-4x weekly)

I love the Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading and will continue using it over the next year with Petra. She is currently on lesson 133 – we have slowed down drastically over the last few months. At one point it was lost under a bed, so that had largely to do with it. But it seems that many lessons we come to now she already has learned some other place. Jasper is not quite ready for this book. He seems to be doing much better with hands-on activities. So while we are very slowly moving through the first few reading lessons with him, I’m doing it through some hands on activities that I create. In addition, Petra is picking up books all the time and getting a ton of reading practice. She stops to read many times through the day, takes books to read in the car, and reads to the babies some each day. She is currently on Level 3 readers.

Handwriting (daily)

Jasper is learning pencil control by tracing letters (often with dry erase markers) and completing Kumon mazes. He is getting much better. With Petra we are focusing on ensuring she knows the correct way to write each letter on lined paper. She is almost complete with her Zaner-Bloser Handwriting K book. And we are just going back through all the letters again.

Spelling (2-3x weekly)

We will be starting All About Spelling next week and I super excited about it. I know she is going to breeze through the first half of the book, but I’m excited about the basic understanding we will be able to ensure she demonstrates.

Vocabulary (daily)

Three words go up on the chalk board weekly that Thomas and I will used throughout the week. These are usually more complicated words and we will go out of our way to use in every possible way. This week expect to see: remorse, animated, and clamor. I’ll also review the definition of the words with the children, but the most important part of this lesson is just that they are used everyday in casual conversation. For a list of words to consider check out this online list.

Verse of the Week (daily)

We are using the Charlotte Mason guide for scripture memorization and love it. We daily review verses the children have already learned, and they are all stored in a handy box that sits on our table. This way we can do it at meal time and it doesn’t get missed. Most recently the children learned Psalm 100. We will be working on several other passages over the next year. Currently we plan on tackling: Matthew 6:5-15,  Exodus 2:1-17, and I John 4:7-21.

Bible (daily)

We read Bible stories, with questions and answers after breakfast in the morning. This seems to be the best time. We are all in one place and it makes sure it gets done. I have a few favorite Bible story books, but we are also working through Leading Little Ones to God.

Physical Education (daily)

Exercise is clearly shown to help children perform better at school work. While there is plenty of play time each day, and then they each of them sports – during the school days we also add in some physical exercise. Mainly activities you would expect to see at Cross Fit Kids. If they start getting ansy in their seats, or if I know I’m going to need their thinking caps on, we jump up and work on squats, burpees, pushups, handstands, or some other little combos to get their hearts racing and blood pumping. And of course I do it with them…if I can…this is not one of those things I can do with them.

Here’s a short clip of them “skinning the cat” on the swings. They thought of this idea all by themselves – I usually just have them use the rings.

Math (2-3  a week)

Petra has been working through Singapore K math this past year. She finds some of it confusing. We have actually decided to hold back some on math until they are a little older. We do some basic: more than, less than, bigger than, ordinals, sets, matching, counting by tens and fives, basic fractions, basic addition, but we aren’t pursuing it heavily. Jasper understands it all, but his handwriting isn’t as advanced as Petra’s – so it makes it more difficult to do math. We work with manipulatives though about 2-3 times a week. And actually they have learned more about addition and subtraction with the app Teach Me:Kindergarten. We love this app!!

History / Geography (2-3x a week)

I don’t have a set curriculum for history and geography. Right now we are working on learning about maps and different continents. I’m using a Big Book of the World that I found at the Goodwill Bookstore a few years ago. And then we also have the Usborne Lift the Flap Picture Atlas that we look at – but I’m not real crazy about it. For history we are reading historical books – yesterday for instance we read a book on Davy Crockett.

Science (2-3x a week)

There are so many great science books for children. We use the Learn to Read Science Series, Mudpies to Magnets, and I recently found Raindrops and Rainbows that has been a lot of fun for us. This is one of my favorite activities with the children and they love it.

French (2-3x a week)

I would love a preschooler’s – elementary french curriculum for our children – for parents who don’t know french. But we are slowly learning together. We have found a few library books we like, and a few internet resources.

Art (once a week)

I’m attempting to do some “art” lessons with the children once a week. Honestly, this as not been something they have expressed interest it. They like cutting and pasting – and we have done this up to this point. Plus they have crafts at church twice a week. We aren’t working through any curriculum at this point.  I would love an art book for young children – and just haven’t found one or bought it.

Music

The children have a music class once a week at church each week. They love it, and it has done wonders for them. We sing hymns together as a family as part of a bible/devotions. And I’m slowly teaching Petra piano using Music for Little Mozarts. She usually practices in the evening – with a goal of three times a week.

 

And that’s it. Its really not all that much since we work on learning through the day.

Baby News: K2

We took in Baby K2 (not be confused with Baby K we had a couple months ago) yesterday. She is 6 days old today, 21 inches, 5.5 lbs. and healthy. Similar situation to most other placements we have had.

Car seats have been moved around, baby girl clothes and bottles taken out of storage. Just need diapers and formula.

Now that daddy is home full time, well, for the next couple months anyway, we are using disposable diapers again. A mixture of disposable and cloth really, if only I can strategically plan the nature of their use, if you know what I mean. I’m not into the whole “dunking” thing.

Any comments or links on the subject will be appreciated.

Also, baby Shawn now has a brother, born Jan 19th. We don’t expect him to stay with us, and we are told mother and baby are doing well. Give thanks in your prayers for healing.

No internet

Hey guys, this is Tom. I wanted to drop a quick line while I could to update…

We just finished the re-licensing  process for foster care and at the last meeting with our liaison we received a phone call for a child. I think our liaison found it very interesting to witness the process we go through in receiving the call and deciding. In fact, I think she was a bit surprised.

So, now we have two foster kids, 8 months old (boy) and 5 days old (girl). We don’t really have any long-term expectations on either, but the short-term is busy with feedings, dr.’s appointments and court appearances. The boy is gaining weight and happy as ever. The girl was technically premature (35.5 weeks at birth) so she is small and hungry, but so far so good. But that also means we won’t leave the house very much as a family.

We are cutting expenses too since I’m not working actively this semester. We have cut nonessential items including internet (but not gymnastics!) and I’m not going to shave (haha!). Honestly, we are too busy to use it much anyway. And, I’m sorry to say, we had to cut for the near term some of our mission support and outreach funding as well. If you are looking for ways to help a hurting world, I know of two resources you could consider funding (Samaritan’s Purse and Mission to the World) as they have most recently lost a little funding.

Writing is going well and prospectus will be defended soon. And there is general excitement about the dissertation project from adviser and faculty. Plus, I submitted a paper proposal to a conference (in January) and have a good expectation of acceptance. And, I’m preparing for the job market in the spring.

But all that to say, we are busy, we aren’t connected to the internet at home (well, we have access through the iPhones but not posting using our phones), and we will seemingly fall of the radar this semester. One of us will occasionally post pics when we go to the coffee shop or McDonald’s or something.

Prayers are most needed.

We love you all.