Sunday, March 25, 2018

There's a first time for everything...

It's amazing how often I look at my life right now with pure gratefulness. Lately it's been about experiencing "firsts". We sat in Braums last week and I watched him eat his first ice cream cone with such excitement and I thought, "how lucky am I that I get to be here for this exact moment ." I looked at that blue ice cream all over his nose and cheeks and running down his neck and just appreciated the perfection that he is. I'm experiencing his first steps. He gets so eager that he wants to run. His Pop said months ago that he wasn't going to walk but just run. I think he may have been on to something. He's saying a few words now but completely on his own terms! We can stand at the door for 5 minutes trying to get him to say bye bye and then when I get him in his car seat, on the way home, he decides it's a good time. We took our first trip to the park. He loved sitting on the picnic blanket and watching everything going on around us. He loved the slide. (I realized my butt is a little big for the kiddie slide). We've celebrated his first birthday and gone to a birthday party for a special friend. We had our first photo shoot, and ohhh how I wish I could share these priceless photos with you all. I may be partial, but seriously his baby blues are to die for. I feel that I am experiencing great favor with each and every first. The magnitude of this rocks me to the core.

Even in the "not so great firsts", I am grateful that I am the one that gets to be there FOR him. I am his person. It's such a special position to have been appointed. This is the first time for this momma to experience teething. This has not been so fun. It seems like we catch a break for a few weeks and then bam right back at it. It has been exhausting and I envy all that have told me that teething wasn't so bad for their little ones. Molars have been a whole new hellish experience. I've relied on our village quite a bit lately. I called my mom a few days ago and said "I need you as soon as you're off work!" She later said she could sense the desperation in my voice. In that moment, I WAS desperate. I needed someone else to hold this baby boy while he flailed around. I had spent the whole day doing everything I could think of to try and make him more comfortable, and I was worn smooth out.

As if God was smiling down on us, the next day was full of giggles and cuddles and not a tear shed by either of us over teething. It seems to work that way. Sometimes I'm emotionally exhausted by the whole process, the system, the unknowns. I hate the not knowing. I hate thinking about him leaving and trying not to hope for him to stay...even when that's the hope of my heart. Just when I think my heart can't take anymore, he smiles a smile that shows off all those new teeth...he brings me the farm book for 999th time and crawls into my lap... He giggles or leans in for one of his super sloppy open mouth kisses. He melts my heart in the moments of exhaustion and his love fuels me again and again. I will ALWAYS cherish this season of firsts.

I remember standing around the piano as a little girl while my precious Aunt Norma played and listening to my Papa and his brothers and sisters sing beautiful gospel music. I felt closest to God in those moments. This comes to mind and perfectly expresses where I am in this chapter of my life's story.

Why me Lord 
What have I ever done
To deserve even one
Of the blessings I've known
Why me Lord 
What did I ever do
That was worth love from you
And the kindness you've shown

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Walking Out for His Future

As I rocked that sweet baby to sleep tonight I thought about the weight of this walk out. I know that this is one time in my life that I might be able to make a lasting difference in his. My decisions, along with all educators in my state, in the weeks to come will directly affect what kind of education this baby boy will receive. He has 13+ yrs of school ahead of him. I want him to receive the best. The very best our state can offer him.

I have always been a teacher that connected with my students. I listen to their stories about last night's basketball game, try to learn the dances all the cool kids are doing, have lunch with them from time to time, and genuinely try to learn about the things that make them unique and special. With every passing year this becomes harder and harder. I know less about them because there are so many of them sitting in front of me and numbers continue to grow each year. There was a moment earlier this school year when I actually had to look up one of MY student's last name. MY kiddo...how does this happen? I knew in that moment that I knew this class a little less than last year's and even less than the year before. It made me so sad. I jumped on my soapbox and preached to the choir at lunch that day. They know the struggle and we've all been supportive of one another every time things have gotten a little harder in the classroom. These make shift support groups can be found in every school across our state. It's over lunch or in a group chat and although we are grateful to know we aren't alone, we are tired of sitting around and doing NOTHING to change the situation.

You see... here is what I thought about tonight in that dark room where soft lullabies played and stars twinkled on the ceiling. I have no idea how long Baby will be with me. Could be weeks. Could be forever. If he leaves me, I can only pray that God will place people in his life that he will connect with. People that will see the things that make HIM unique and special. Someone who knows his demeanor enough to know when he's angry...or when he's hurting. When I think of these people...I think of his future teachers. Lord please don't let this Baby just be another full desk in a room of 30+. Don't let his needs be overlooked. Whether he's with me or not, He will NEED special people along the way. He will NEED to be reminded that he is enough. He will NEED to be encouraged to break the cycles that have tormented his family. He will NEED HIS TEACHERS!!!

I don't know what will happen in the weeks to come and I will continue to pray about what to do, how to do it, and for the support of our community and state. Tomorrow I will wake up, drive my 14yr old vehicle to school, and do whatever I can to SEE every student that sits before me. I will continue to pray that if God needs me to give one of them a little extra encouragement that I will recognize that. I pray I will never be too busy or overwhelmed with the numbers to stop seeing the hearts. Please pray with me! If ever a time we've needed it... THE TIME IS NOW!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Wing It Parenting 101

This lady, who is not my favorite person, asked the most bizarre question I've ever heard in my life. "If you never had any kids of your own, how do you know how to take care of a baby?"

Mothers, why did you not tell me?! Was it like the Matrix where they hook you up to something and fill you with training videos? Or was it tapes you listened to while you slept? Is there a secret society of mothers out there that trade information on a black market? I had no idea that mothers who gave birth already knew how to do this! Here I am over here "wingin it".

We had shots last week. I was totally unprepared for this. I think the excruciating, emotional toll of it all is what ultimately led to the complete and utter breakdown of my immune system last weekend. I was way more traumatized by the experience than he was. I knew I needed to be nervous, well because I'm nervous for me when I have to get a shot. We were talking about several....at once. I asked around and none of the other moms at school wanted to step in for me. This was another clue it might be worse than bad. We arrived only to find out the doctor had a special kind of torture in store. He was also going to draw blood because apparently three needle jabs to the thighs is not enough. Keep in mind this baby's arms are Pillsbury Doughboy thick. He seems to already know the pending doom being that he screams as soon as we lay him back. She jabs and can't find the vein. She moved the needle around for what felt like nothing short of 3 1/2 hours. No luck. I seriously thought, "They'll do it on the next visit...next time it'll be easier..." Nope. No such luck. She said she'd try the other arm. We turn him around and I'm layed across his legs trying to talk to him. I start bawling. Tears and snot and everything involved in an ugly cry. He's screaming and little baby tears are starting to fill his not so little baby Dumbo ears. I briefly thought of just running out. After another 5 1/2 hours she finally got blood. I pick him up and he's trying to hide inside of me. Like he can't get close enough. He's doing the hyperventilating cry. I'm constantly reminding him that I'm not the mean one. Now the shots. Lord help us. This was quick but he is still screaming and I'm still crying. It's over. Thank God. The mean nurse hands him a red lollipop and says "I know mommy probably doesn't let you have these but you earned it." One lick and he stops crying. I'm looking around the room and spot the tissues. I'm wiping my eyes and nose and apologizing for being such a hot mess. They told me I did good. This is humorous. We get to the front desk and they tell me we have to come back in a month for the second round of his flu shot. Seriously. We make it to the car. We've been at the doctor's office for like 9 hours and then I find out it's only been like 35 minutes in reality. Home. Bath. Pajamas. Deep Sleep.

You parents do this every few months for the first year of life? (I'd know the answer to this if they'd have input the training tapes!) There must be support groups. Happy Hour for moms. Something. Geez.

On a sweeter note, this baby has healed the deepest pain in my heart. A place I thought was untouchable. I can only thank God daily for allowing ME to be the one that rocks him to sleep at night. He's everything people love about a baby. His fat rolls go on for days. He has the most precious baby laugh I've ever heard. He loves to be held a little too much. He's working on crawling but seems to prefer the army crawl best. He absolutely loves dogs and chases poor Junebug around in his walker all the time. We now have four cute little teeth and have worked extra hard getting those babies in. Taking a bath brings him great joy and me a wet mess. It's our favorite time of the day.

A couple weeks ago I celebrated my 36th birthday. My aunt always said I'd be a mom by the time I was 36. I am. So far three amazing little boys have made me a mom in all the best and hardest ways. I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. I look forward to time with family for Thanksgiving tomorrow and this little baby boy that will bring extra joy to us all this year. May we all count our blessings. They are many. 💙❤💙💙

Friday, October 27, 2017

Ohhhh Baby Love

A couple hours in, I looked at my friend and said, "This is crazy!" My eyebrows raised and I sat there staring at this baby. She said, "Yup, It's like the stork came." One minute I'm closing up shop for Fall Break from school, thinking about sleeping in and binging Netflix, and the next minute I've jumped back into mommy hood head first. I've decided that case workers should ALWAYS accompany the drop with a box of tissues. The first 24-48 hours are full of shock, self doubt, happiness, sadness, and a whole other range of emotions for which I don't even have words. There WILL be tears. I looked around my house and still had everything you need to care for a toddler but all of the sudden I had a baby in my arms.

Once again I experienced God's love in unbelievable ways. The next days were full of trips to Walmart and coming home to gifts and more gifts. We had new clothes and hand me downs dropped off, soft blankies, little bibs, lots of toys, and more pajamas than we know what to do with. Apparently I'm not the only one that loves buying pajamas. He's the most stylish sleeper in town, for sure! I kept wondering how in the world can I nest with the baby already on my hip? I wanted to do all of those things that expecting mommies do but I didn't have any time. I wanted to wash and fold all the little socks and find the perfect place to put every toy. I looked at the dust on my ceiling fan and wanted to turn it on in order to ignore the neglected chore, but that seemed TOTALLY unacceptable now because now I had a baby.

I struggled the first few days because everything was a mess and I really like order. This stems from fertility issues and lacking any control whatsoever. I'd also say it heightened in a big way during the chaos of an unraveling marriage and divorce.  I took control of the things I could, including a tidy house. God is funny in this way. He takes these moments to show us what's important. I have learned the last couple weeks that the dishes and laundry will NEVER all be done again. There is always a bottle that needs washed or a bib that needs run through the wash cycle. There are crumbs on the floor and yes even diapers that lay for way too long on the end table because we are busy playing. I look around right now as Baby Love is napping and I see a thousand things that need done. They're not that important. Not as important as watching him sleep...listening to his little snore...adoring how he pokes his little lips out and makes a sucking sound...seeing those occasional smiles while he sleeps and wondering what babies dream about.

I can't lie to you and say that life without Big and Little has been easy. My eyes fill with tears often, and I miss them like I've never missed anyone or anything in my life. Baby Love doesn't fill that void but I've found there's a whole new place in my heart that God made just for him. There's room. He has filled me with new joy and hope. Once again, this is a journey of unknowns. We don't know how long we have together but we have TODAY. SO, today we will work on growing new teeth, we will drool all over Ms. Amanda, we will play in the floor and practice crawling, we will visit Lollie and Pop and cheer on the Sooners, we will nap, we will snuggle, and most importantly we will love.  💙

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

A bitter sweet ending...

If I had a dollar for every time someone told me "I could never do what you're doing." "I would get too attached." "You're stronger than I am." "How will you let them go?" "I don't know how you do it." Here's the deal folks, I don't have some super human power that you missed out on. I also do not have the ability to live with and care for these two babies for over a years time and not be unbelievably attached. I could go on and on about the love I have for them but if you know us, or if you've even followed my blog, I think you already know that.

I don't really know what to say to these statements. I usually reply with an uncomfortable smile and insert a statement about faith. It really is a lot about faith. This was a leap of faith. I felt called to step into this role. I also felt all the same things that most people think..."Really God, I can't do this!" I've said before, I resisted and God's persistence won in the end. I couldn't walk into this like " uhm so I'll let some kids live here but that's it. No attachment." Nope...I jumped in with my full heart. I had a conversation somewhere in the midst of this with myself that went something like this..." God didn't call me to this to not see me through this." I take a baby step and I gain new strength. I take another step and I gain new strength. With each new found strength, my love has grown deeper and deeper for these boys.

Our time together is almost over, at least the way we now know it. We have only a few precious weeks left together and as difficult as this is, there is a sweetness in looking at the beautiful time we had together. I can only focus on how far we've all come, the love we've shared, and the memories we've made. I spent the end of my summer putting together their scrapbook. I'm amazed at all the good times we squeezed into a year. It has definitely been a year to remember for us all. The next few weeks will be bitter sweet for me. I will cry...and that's OK. I spent our first few weeks together crying so it seems fitting to end it that way too.  We will laugh and play and continue to make the most of every moment we have. And when they leave, I know I will mourn. I will mourn the loss of the life that I, at one time, pictured. I will long for the sounds of silly boys playing in the next room and I will miss folding tiny clothes. I will miss them and it will hurt. I will pray for them every day and I will hope with all my heart that I will still be able to be in their lives.

My daddy always told me "hard times build character". I so believe those words. Although this will be more than hard, I trust that God will use this time to prepare me for what's next. I don't know what that is. I don't know if I'll continue to foster. I only know that my heart will be raw and that seems to be when God does his best work. I am open to what the next chapter holds. Grateful doesn't begin to express how I feel about the relationship I got to build with two very special boys. 

So I say all that to say this...if you feel like God wants you to step up and foster then do it. You are strong enough. Your house is good enough. You have something to offer, otherwise, God wouldn't be speaking to you about it. Come see me some time in September and you'll see that even if I'm a little broken, I'm still alive. I'm stronger and better for having followed God's will for my life the past year. Bring wine if you'd like. 😉 I'll tell you, over a glass, why you too can change a life and be forever changed in the process.

As always, thank you all for the love and prayers. Much much love! ❤💙💙

Friday, May 26, 2017

Terminal?!

Bridge fostering or fostering with the intent being reunification, is, I imagine, a bit like finding out you have a terminal illness. Please before you judge what I'm saying here, hear me out. It's not comparable in the ways that a terminal patient knows their life is ending. It's not watching your physical body wither away...but it's knowing your days are numbered and making the very most of every one of them.

I'm reading a book...yes, I'm reading again this summer. If I had tried to read last summer I couldn't have made it through two solid pages. I was BUSY! I, with a whole lot of help and support from the man upstairs, helped two little boys learn to trust, learn to love, and learn to behave within a set of given guidelines. I promise ya, there were many days I'd have liked to read...on a beach...far far away...from everyone and everything! The author I'm reading is a cancer survivor. They are a beautiful set of people. I've walked the Susan G. Komen Race for a Cure a couple times with my family, in honor of my Aunt Susie, who fought the good fight and won. It's amazing. Being surrounded by pink. Hearing stories of survival. Looking at the bald women walking... even running.. to show their strength, determination, and bravery. The stories are different but the same. They hate the disease but they love the reminder to live. I've watched my aunt LIVE. I'm beyond thankful for this.

I recently found out that a friend of mine has a terminal illness. I thought for two weeks what to say before I said anything at all. What do you say? How do you say it? When someone has had an impact on your life and changed you for the better, you want them to know. Especially if you know that your or their days are numbered. I decided to just speak my truth. This is what you have meant to me. This is how you've helped me and the ones I love. It was a little sappy but to the point. And of coarse a thank you. Something we all need to do more of. How in the hell did he end up praising me by the end of our conversation? Well, because people that have been reminded to live do these kinds of things. He called me a game changer. Guess what? We have something in common. The book I'm reading (please don't quote me!) said something about " the place where your greatest joy and the world's greatest need meet, is where you'll find your purpose". I thought of Nick. I've been a part of so many teams and played for some truly amazing coaches over the years, but I don't know that I've ever seen the same passion matched that I've seen watching Nick coach wrestling. There's no doubt in my mind that somehow he found that place where his greatest joy met the world's greatest need. He's been a game changer in the lives of some lost young men, looking for a place to belong, looking for something that mattered. He has been so much more than a wrestling coach to so many.  Damn you for turning this back around to me...but guess what...if someone like you calls me a game changer, I guess I am! I've found the place that my greatest joy meets the world's greatest need as well.

You see, something beautiful happens when we start to REALLY value our time here...our time together. When we know our days are numbered, we start to be vulnerable enough to tell people what they mean to us. We start to remember to say thank you for the things that really matter. I can't have enough days to just stay in our pajamas and cuddle watching cartoons. I can't have enough days for adventure and soaking up everything we can see. I can't put my phone down because I want to capture every picture and I can't leave it tucked away enough because I just want to FEEL the moment. I  can't give enough kisses or break up enough fights. I've learned to find value in all of these moments. I've been mad at God so many times in the past because things didn't work out according to MY plan. If I had only known it was all leading to me learning how to LIVE!!!

Don't waste time being angry at someone you love. Don't feel stupid for telling someone how you feel. Go ahead... That's the good stuff! Soak up TODAY! Do something fun or do nothing at all. Be grateful that you're alive. Be thankful for the good days, and in the bad days, be thankful for the good memories. Tell someone you love them. Be the one that starts one of those "pay it forward" acts. Take a walk. Read a book. Do something that brings you joy. Then spread it!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Happy Mother's Day

As I lay here with Big and Little, watching our 1,000th episode of Dora, the emotions are hard to put into words. The love that I have for these two is unbelievable. Like any mother, I want to give them the world. I want to make the world better for them. I think about and pray for their future. I wake up early on the weekends and play super heroes. I make beds, pick up toys, and wash stinky feet. For almost a year now, I have been their Ms. Amanda.

For so many this is a bitter sweet holiday. Last night I talked with my mom and she shared about the sadness of missing her momma every mother's day. I told her that for so many years now my emotions have been a hot mess on mother's day too. I swing from being overwhelmed with sincere thankfulness that God gave me the mother I have and completely heartbroken that I've never been able to celebrate this day as a mother myself. I think of my Aunt Carol, My Kelly and all the other moms who have lost a child. I can't imagine the struggle to celebrate this day with your other children. To fight through the tears and allow this day to be one of making new memories and not just one of longing, must be the greatest feat. I think about my bestie, Locklin, and know that mother's day must be the sweetest and hardest all in one. Mother's day without your momma just seems unfair. Mother's day without your baby seems unbearable. I know too well the Mother's Day that never comes and the unique pain it holds. Facebook is filled with stories just like ours. Maybe the message is to treasure each day. Maybe the message is hold your babies close. Maybe the message is sharing love on this day and every day. Or maybe the message is simply... YOU are not alone in whatever you are feeling today.

This is my first mother's day with the boys, but it too is bitter sweet. As I checked backpacks on Friday, I see all the little handcrafted goodies. I read the poems with tear filled eyes. The words are precious. The little hands are stamped so that each mommy can remember them just this size. So where's the bitter part?! You see, in my heart, I know that these are not mine. They have a mommy across town and these gifts are hers. THEY are hers as well. What a gift. God gave her the coolest, sweetest, bravest, (sometimes most stubborn) boys in the world. These two are my blessing for a season, and I am grateful for every moment we've had. My heart breaks when I think that next mother's day they most likely won't be running around here in their ninja turtle undies, begging for last night's pizza for breakfast. There is an emptiness in wondering if I will really be allowed to stay in their lives. I remind myself daily not to allow fear of the future to rob me of the joys of today. This is a constant battle brought to the forefront on this special day.

For now I will soak up the sweetness...It's time for french toast, eggs, and orange juice. (With a side of last night's pizza! After all, every ninja turtle needs pizza to carry on!) Happy Mother's Day to each of you. May God bless the days you still have with your loved ones, may He ease the pain you may be feeling today, may He provide memories to each of us that endure.