Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow

On Monday night I sat around a long, beautiful table with my new kids.

After a chaotic afternoon, we all found ourselves sitting down to pot roast, mashed potatoes, and asparagus wrapped with bacon - my favorite thing to serve kids.

I am now the proud foster mom to three teenage boys, two elementary school boys and the sweetest little slip of a girl you could find (Ellery no longer falls in the "little slip of a girl" category as she is now nearly seven and reads at a middle school level).

All of the children in our home have been in group home settings before. One of the boys has had 22 different placements and asked me in an equally indifferent and hopeful tone of voice if this would be a permanent placement.

I couldn't tell him yes or no, but I could tell him that I was happy to have him.

And I am!

Yesterday I cheered on a boy at the skate park. Today I listened to him ask every hour when we could go back.

Yesterday on the first attempt to get to the skate park I received a call from one of the schools asking me to pick up one of our kids who was suspected of bringing drugs to school.

Today I assembled a tv stand that had thwarted all of the teen boys - even the ones who "like to put stuff together" and Andy.

Today I also had a mini-meltdown over the minor detail that I haven't figured out where CrossFit fits into this new life.

Tomorrow is Jack's third birthday, and I feel just a tiny bit guilty that I haven't even purchased gifts for him. We will, don't worry, but I am finding myself extremely thankful that he is still just young enough to not be aware of how exciting a birthday could be.

Tomorrow is another day. Another chance to learn and to develop a flow for this new family. To pray. To laugh. To feed. To thank God for his good gifts and ask him again to give me everything I need to let his love flow through me and into the very special and fragile lives that are now living in my home.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Quick Update

Well, we just (seriously, JUST... like five minutes ago - so this will be brief) rolled back in from our second, and apparently last, short-term house stay.

Midway through our week at SPLASH 8 (each of the 10 GAP houses is numbered), we got a call saying there were both a house and kids waiting for us.

So this weekend we will be packing up our daily life and moving it to a new house, for good. Joining us on Monday will be a set of four siblings (3 boys and a girl, all middle-school or younger), a teen boy, and a teen girl.

It has been fun to see how other families order their days and to have an opportunity to test out our skills in a home with lots of chances for immediate feedback. But I can not tell you how excited I am to have my own home.

The house we are moving into is still in the process of being renovated. We did a walk through yesterday and it is far from finished, but with a good team, and some elbow grease it should at least be functioning by Monday for us to bring kids in.

My fingers are crossed!

To be continued...

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Trial By Fire

Andy and I have now finished our first week of in-home work. We relieved a couple so that they could have a week off. After a crash-course of how their house worked they handed over their keys and left us to the lions.

I felt a little foolish during training, but I made a special point to ask what I was allowed to talk about on this here blog, in regards to the kids who Andy and I are interacting with.

You will be happy to know that I can still share about this adventure, I just have to be vague in reference to the kids. No names, no ages, no identifying details. I knew, going into this ministry, that I would be working with kid who needed a safe place and a refuge from unhealthy and unsafe families and situations, but until this week I didn't KNOW.

I spent Wednesday night sitting with a young woman as she experienced an intense flashback to the brutal events that brought her to GAP. She was mentally trapped in a memory of abuse. She couldn't hear me, but she gripped my hand as she screamed and moaned. Andy was upstairs with some of the high school boys, and each time they moved or came into view she was terrified.

After a consultation with her therapist I got her a drink of water and lead her, unseeing, to sit outside. As we sat on the porch swing, she calmed down. When she could hear me, I started to tell random stories. Anything that I could think about that was unrelated to the world she knows. I talked about my mom's new paint colors, about moths, about driving to Arizona.

Eventually, she sat limply on the swing, but started to ask me questions. She asked about how Andy and I met, and about school and about why we moved. After a long time of swinging and talking, she said she was ready for bed.

I got her another drink of water and stayed up while she brushed her teeth and put her pajamas on. In the morning she acted like it wasn't a major event and just moved on with her day.

At some points of the week, we felt like we the girlfriend in "The Parent Trap." Kids hid things from us (the phone and remote) they told us tall tales, they frightened us with the realities of bobcats and javelinas (okay, that was just me that they scared)

in case you are like me and
have never heard of them,
are a sort of wild pig.
Sometimes called, a skunk-pig.
They travel in packs and
are highly aggressive.
They have large, sharp canine teeth
and a gland somewhere on their body
that can produce a stench kin to a skunk.
They eat cactus and small children, so I've been told.
They are blind-ish and as a result travel about at
dusk and dawn.
They terrify me.
They have taken on a mythical quality
of evil and if I see one, I might decide to

In the course of two days I was told that I was beautiful, and that I was ugly. That I was cool, and that I was mean (said with as much venom as a frustrated elementary school boy could muster). Kids jumped up to help us when we asked, or they jumped up, literally, on counters and couches in an attempt to exactly the opposite of what we asked.

I worked with two elementary schoolers who could barley read and struggled to write.

Andy did impromptu workouts outside and the boys thought it was a treat to do lunges across the driveway.

I prepared food according the the mandatory menu (the menu will have to be a whole other post, or two or three) and I also whipped up food that got rave reviews from the kids. I consider it a personal triumph that in a house of seven kids, from elementary to high school, every child but one ate the asparagus I made and asked for seconds and thirds. And that happened after many cries of dismay when I pulled it out of the grocery bag.

One teen in our care took a special liking to Andy. Though he also like to spin stories and push the boundaries, he seemed to battle within himself - "do I want to help these newbies, or do I want to make it miserable for them?" He did a little bit of both, but when he said, "You guys are weird. I've never met anyone as weird as you." He said it with a hint of admiration and later in the week he casually dropped the suggestion, a few times, that when we have our own SPLASH house we should ask for him to come live with us.

Andy and I both felt like we were able to, by God's grace and strength, to handle each event that came our way. We developed genuine care for the kids we were with and I cherished the moment that the boy who fought with me the most asked me to come read and pray with him before bed.

Both Jack and Joey got fevers while we were there and Andy was attacked by some sort of sickness early in the week. When he went to bed by 8:00, I managed the house by myself and it was fine. I remained healthy until we left and as soon as I was in the car I was struck by what I think was my first-ever migraine. I sat motionless in the van as we drove home. Then I went straight upstairs to throw-up and fall hard-asleep for a few hours. Andy, the champion of all husbands, took the boys to the park and left the house silent for me to rest. When I woke up I felt a million times better and ate a little dinner before turning in early.

At the beginning of this venture I wasn't sure I was going to be able to say that it would be "fun," but after this week, I can say that it will be. I loved almost every minute of this week. I love the kids and I love the staff of this ministry. I love my husband and was amazed again by him as I watched him interact with the kids.

Yesterday afternoon we learned that we may be in our own house very quickly. We toured it and Andy and I both agreed that we could make it our home. It is in the process of being cleaned and stocked with furniture, and though it is not ready our program director said that if she received a call today with a sibling set of six kids, she would send them to that house and tell us to get there ASAP.

Andy and I still are working out how we will make sure to give our boys the individual time and attention that we want them to have, but we feel like we have time to make those discoveries.

Last night, as we both sat with Jack and told stories and prayed, Jack wrapped his arms around our necks and said, in the tone of voice that belongs only to sleepy preschoolers, "I love you guys."

We love you too Jack.

We love you too!

We have today and tomorrow to rest and do laundry and then on Monday we walk into another house. A new set of kids and a new routine.

If you had asked me four months ago what I though of someone who did this job, I would have immediately thought of all of the hard parts. But today, I see the hard parts only in light of the miracle of being able to, even for just a few days, communicate to a child that they are safe and cared for and important.

And that Jesus loves them.

Today, I am amazed.