Friday, January 26, 2018

Foster Care: Baby A

Baby A
Baby A on the day he arrived at our house. 
He was a month old and weighed all of five pounds. 

About a week before my birthday, Sinclair was in her ballet class at the gym and I was relaxing in the steam room when I got a call on my phone. It was our family social worker, and she asked if we would be willing to take in an one-month old boy. He was currently in the local hospital where he had just finished detoxing from his drug exposure and was on schedule to be released in a few days. The plan for his was to be in state care while his birth mom entered a residential rehab program, and then he would join her at the program once she had been there successfully for a month. "That's the plan," said our worker, "but it's possible that he could be with you for longer, if the mom doesn't do well in the program." Of course I said yes. So we hung up, and I went back to the steam room, my mind racing a mile a minute. This was really happening. 

Baby ABaby A
Luther and Sinclair were instantly smitten with him. 
Baby A

As Sinclair and I were walking out of the gym, I got a call from my good friend Laura from our foster support group. She had heard the news from our family worker, who is also her family worker, and was calling to see if we needed anything and to get details to start a meal train once he was with us. 

Baby A

Later, I spoke to his social worker and learned that the situation was a bit more uncertain. The hospital wanted to release him on Friday, but DCF was fighting to have him released the following weekend. They were concerned that if there was any emergency with his health, it would be harder to get a medical response over a weekend. So I wasn't sure exactly what day he was coming to us. And then I found out that there was a grandmother in the picture that was supposedly looking to get custody. So I wasn't sure if we would get him at all. Once it was decided that the hospital release wouldn't be until after the weekend, the hospital started asking if I would come in to meet him in the special infant unit to get to know him and his needs. He had been born a month early and with exposure to methadone (which by that point, he had been weaned off), so he had to have special formula and vitamins. 

Baby A
He had a visit with his birth mom right before Thanksgiving,
so we made her a card with his footprint.

So Piercen came home early on Friday to watch our kids, and I headed to the hospital. They let me hold him right away, and he was just the tiniest little thing. That Sunday after church, we all went by the hospital so that I could see him again and so Piercen could meet him. We realized at that point that our car seat was too old, so we made an emergency run to Target afterwards. Come Monday (if Jimmy Buffett is now playing in your head, you're welcome), we found out that the grandmother was a no-show at the court session, and that he would be coming to us. But that he wasn't being released from the hospital until Tuesday. I have learned that in foster care, nothing actually goes the way you are told it will. 

Baby A
In the vintage wicker bassinet I picked up at a garage sale a couple of months ago.
Baby A

So Baby A arrived at our house, and we all loved him instantly. He was tiny, only 5 lbs when he arrived. He was in super-newborn mode, only sleeping and eating. And that's pretty much all he did for the month he was with us. Except he did gain weight. By the time he left, he had reached over 8 lbs. He was the easiest baby as all he did was sleep all day. He had several visits with his birth mom during this period including one over-night visit as we got closer to reunification. Soon after he went into care, she entered a rehab facility that allows infants, so the plan never changed from him joining her there once he was old enough.

Baby A
Waiting for Baby A to come back from his weekly 1-hr visits with his bio mom. 

During this time, I attended one review meeting (required at the 6-week mark that a child has been in state custody) at the DCF office. His birth mom had to phone in as her rehab center was over an hour away, but his social worker, the social worker's supervisor, and the DCF review worker were there. It was a harder meeting than I was anticipating. It was difficult for me to hear her voice tremble on the phone and to imagine the anguish she must feel at having so little power over the future of her child and hers with him. She sounded just like me on the phone, and I couldn't help but imagine how I would feel in her place. She said he had changed her life, and that she would do anything to get him back and to care for him properly. 

Baby A

So all went according to plan. A month after he came to us, I packed up all his things, included all the clothes and Christmas gifts I had bought him, and put them in a bag. His social worker showed up at the door, and with tears streaming down my face, I handed him to her and then he was gone.

Baby A

In the weeks that followed, I had a harder time with his absence than I had anticipated. I knew that I would cry when he left and that I would feel sad, but I was not expecting to feel a hole in my heart for weeks and weeks. My friend Laura said that the first placement is often the hardest to let go of, and that I shouldn't feel silly for still being in pain from the loss for weeks after he left. "Never feel bad for showing love," she said and that has stuck with me.

Baby A

So how did the rest of the family fare? Well, Piercen tossed around the word "adoption" one week into Baby A's time with us, so clearly he was smitten. He helped out as much as he could with the baby and our kids, taking baby night duty on the weekends, and doing more than his fair share with both the celebrated and the thankless chores that are a part of having kids. Luther loved the baby; he is a really good caregiver, always snuggling up to the baby and bringing me the things I needed to care for him. Towards the end, I started to worry a bit. Luther tends to get very attached to certain people, and I feared he would really struggle when Baby A went home. However, I prepped him for the baby's departure really well, and his teachers were all aware of the situation and were very supportive, so he handled it well. Sinclair also loved having a baby around. I had to keep a close eye on her to make sure she didn't literally smother the baby with love. She always got really sad when he left for visits with his mom and definitely when he left for good. She is too young for explanations to really sink it, so she just feels all the feels. It was tough for her when he left.

Baby A Baby A

So where are we now? Well, after month of me being sad and crying at unexpected moments, I had recovered a bit, and we were back into our family groove. And then we got another call from our family worker, about another baby whose name starts with A. Baby A #2 has been with us for a week now, and will be with us for at least a few more weeks. We've fallen instantly in love with her.

Baby A Baby A Baby A Baby A Baby A Baby A Baby A Baby A Baby A Baby A Baby A Baby A
Each week I would write a note from Baby A to his mom, telling her about the week he had had. Sometimes I included some pictures of him or artwork we did with his hand or foot prints. 
Baby A Baby A Baby A Baby A
Weighing in at 8 lbs on the day he left us. 
Baby A

Monday, January 1, 2018

Happy New Year (and belated Merry Christmas)!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the Olivers!

Happy first day of the new year! I trust you had a lovely Christmas holiday. Ours was pretty easy-going. It was just our little family for most of the day until we were joined for dinner by several family friends. Luther's gifts were definitely superhero-themed, while Sinclair's dreams of everything ballerina came true. It snowed that morning giving us our first white Christmas. It was a lovely day, although Piercen has requested we do more of a potluck next year so that I can spend less time in the kitchen and more time with the family.

You know me, I love a good new year and the hopeful resolutions that come with it. However, when I tried to come up with a list of goals for 2018, I couldn't really think of any, at least not tangible, concrete ones. I think the problem is that I'm not really sure what this next year will hold. Now that we are a foster family, I don't know what children will come into our home, when they will arrive, when they will leave, or how they will affect our family. So the best I can come up with is some themes for the coming year; themes of efficiency, simplicity, and grace.

Efficiency: as a whole, fostering little babies works for our family (yeah, I know, I need to do a post on our experience with Baby A), so I'm expecting more babies to be placed with us. However, adding a baby to the mix makes normal, everyday tasks much more time consuming. I'm going to look for more efficient ways to do my (and our) necessary tasks. We already started this process in 2017; we streamlined our laundry system so we're not having to sort items as much, brought organizing structure to our coat closet so that we aren't wasting time trying to find this hat or those gloves, and were gifted a big freezer so that we could store frozen meals and leftovers to make cooking more efficient. I'm going to look for additional ways to cut down on steps and time needed for regular chores and activities.

Simplicity: while efficiency is kinda an easy one for me to find solutions for, simplicity is something I fight because it means I have to give stuff up, even if its just expectations. I have gotten a bit better about this; over the past year I cut my my showers down to one a day and moved them to nighttime, and this helped to cut my getting ready time in the morning to fifteen minutes. And just recently I've settled into the idea of daily "uniform" consisting of jeans, a teeshirt in pastel/earth tones, and a cardigan or sweater over top. This may not sound earth shattering to you, but I really, really care about clothes and one's "look", and it has taken me so very long to accept that silk blouses and ornate skirts do not work in my daily life of caring for children and running a home. Are there other areas of my life that I can relax my grip on or change my way of thinking about in order to simplify and make easier without sacrificing too much of myself? We'll see.

Grace: meaning accepting and forgiving the limitations of my husband, my children, my family, my friends, and mostly myself as we all grapple with the opportunities and challenges this next year will bring.

May Jesus bless you and keep you this coming year and may you feel his presence in your everyday life. Happy 2018, my friends!

For a look back at past years' resolutions, check out:
It appears I did not do a "New Years" post in 2015; I must have been way too pregnant for that.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Ode to Strawflowers

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One day last September, when we were visiting Piercen's family in Germany, his aunt Christa brought home a bouquet of strawflowers for the kitchen table. She said that she loved strawflowers, but that they always made her a little sad because seeing them at the flower stand meant that summer was ending.

Fast forward to February when I was paging through the spring seed catalog, and I found a listing for strawflower seeds. Fast forward to July, and those beauties started blooming. I got a stunning bouquet from them at least once, sometimes twice, a week. Even after the first frost, the flowers themselves stayed just as lovely while the stems were done for. I dried almost all of them and used over half to make a stunning wreath for the front door.

I never thought my favorite thing to grow would be a flower, but if I grow only one thing from now on, it will be strawflowers. And they will always make me think of Christa and our family's wonderful September in Germany.