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.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Workin' Momma

As I sit here at home again, for what feels like the 100th time this school year, I am reflecting on just how hard it is to be a single, working momma. Pink eye is today's culprit. This definitely beats the hell out of puking, diarrhea, or high fever. Other than wrestling Little to put the drops in, this is looking to be a relaxing day of toons and giggles. There is though a part of me, across town, wondering about my school kids. There's also a little kindergarten boy who consumes most of my thought time lately. This is the hard part....

How can we be present and in the moment when we have so many responsibilities, concerns, and cares? Every school day when I drop my boys at daycare, I begin to think about their day. Are they dressed warm enough? Will they burn up in that long sleeve shirt when the day decides to warm up? Will I get called because one of them got sick or because they are just having a really rough day? I think about them constantly. After making it through the morning, I start to think about our after school schedule. What time is therapy? What can we have for dinner that they might actually eat? I have always taken great pride in the teacher that I am,but I feel like this year, I've been less. Please don't get me wrong. I'm sure my school family still knows how loved they are. I've still covered all my standards and done my very best to prepare each of them for life, state testing, and 4th grade. But in my heart, I know that this group didn't get all of me in the ways that the past 10 years worth of kiddos have.

Here's the kicker though...God knew all of these things. He knew that about Christmas time I would begin to question if could actually handle this pressure. So guess what. He was two steps ahead. He sent me a student teacher. She's stepped up, with a heart of gold, for my school kids and become part of our school family.  She's been so much more than I could have hoped for. She's also become my friend. God knew that those planning periods needed to be for grading but also for good ol heart to hearts. We've shared tears and lots of good healing laughs. I will forever be grateful for her and all she's meant during this season of life.

Here's what I've learned, workin mommas....A little faith goes a long way. Don't doubt that God will show up and show out when we need it most. When you are completely exhausted, pulled in a million directions and just feel like you're not enough in each area of your life, He sees you. God will send us what we need. Did I and do I still struggle? Absolutely! I want to be able to control my life. I want to be responsible and give 100% at work and at home. This is a tough gig but know you're not alone. I'm sure most of us feel the same.I know I'm not judging you when you have to call in...again. . I'm just looking at you with compassion, knowing the struggle you feel.

Let's do our best to live in the moment. Let's pour the love we have into those we care for at home and in our daily careers. Let's remember when we're home with sick babies that the world keeps turning without us and we're right where we need to be. So for now, I'm going to wish I had a couple extra arms to hold this baby while I, against his will, gently place two drops in each eye. Then, I'm going to cuddle, play, and live in the moment because life is short and our days are numbered. Lots of love!

Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Bigger Picture

The magnitude of what family does for an individual is not lost with me. I have always known how blessed I was to be born into the family that I call my own. To say we are close is an understatement. My mom is my dearest friend. She's the first person I turn to when I have something to share. My dad is everything a dad should be. I have never doubted his love for me or the fact that he would protect me at all cost. My bother and I look out for each other to the ends of the earth. We are hard on each other, but at the end of the day, there's no one that stands up for me like my brother. Truth is, that's only the beginning. I have an extended family that isn't so extended. I have aunts, uncles and cousins with whom I have closer relationships than most people have with their own parents or siblings. I grew up with grandmothers that talked to me about life and love and grandfathers that took me on dates. We don't turn on each other when things are tough. We gain strength from one another.  We unite. We pray for each other and support each other.  Again, to say we are close, is an understatement.

My parents now have three grandsons. When we are out with them and someone they know asks, "are these your grandsons?" They, without hesitation, answer, "Yes!" Over the past seven months I have watched their love grow and grow for these boys. I have wondered lately how I forgot to consider THEIR hearts in making the decision to venture onto this journey. I ache inside thinking of the hurt and void they would feel if they no longer got to see the boys. I have come to the conclusion that we were ALL called on this journey together. I know for sure I've never been alone in it.

All of these things have aligned for a greater purpose than I can even comprehend. These boys have not just gained a foster mom, they've gained a FAMILY. And not just any family. The best family. They have witnessed good men being good men. This is huge. They have learned to trust people again. This is huge. They have learned how to gain attention in positive ways and that it's really better that way. This is huge. They've learned to love and be loved. This is huge. These months have had an impact on the kind of young men they will grow into. It is much bigger than me and my fears. It is far greater than the chance that my family and I have taken by falling in love with them.

To my family, I'd like to say....thank you for the part you've played in making me the woman I am today. Thank you for the love and support when life wasn't so easy. Thanks for the laughs and unforgettable memories that helped me learn not to ever take myself too seriously...to live in each moment and soak it all in. Thanks for the prayers. In this very moment, thank you for loving these boys no differently than you would if they had been mine all along. Thank you for the peace I have in knowing that I will face none of this alone.

To the rest of you that are following us on this journey.... Pray for me. Pray for my family. But most importantly pray for my boys. Pray that "the system" doesn't fail them. Pray that God's will aligns with their lives. Pray for their future and protection over the progress they've made. Pray that no matter where life takes them, they always remember what love and family means.

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Holidays

The holidays have brought with them two extremes...the highs of starting new traditions and the anxieties of wondering if these will actually get the chance to be traditions. I didn't take the leap in to fostering with any expectations. I've said before, I simply opened my home and my heart. God did the rest. I must admit though that this time of year definitely has me in my feelings. I've begun to pray for forever.  More than wondering how I could adjust to life without them, I worry about how they would adjust to life without me. We are thriving with routine and stability. We feel safe and loved and we love our life together. All. of. us.

Big has moved leaps and bounds in school. He honestly has exceeded all my expectations. I was, at one time, sure that a repeat of Kindergarten was in the future. I now realize if he continues to progress as much as he has in the first semester, we could possibly be ready to be a big first grader. I am amazed that the same little guy who was terrorized by nightmares, responded to every frustrating situation with a full on meltdown, acted out aggressively, is now the kiddo that said to me today, "Ms. Amanda, you just have to be patient!" (As I groaned about the car in front of us not moving!) He apologizes with sincerity when he's done wrong. Most of the time he walks himself to take a time out and cool off when he's upset. He knows he has to take a deep breath. He also reminds Little to do the same. His speech is becoming easier to understand and we are learning about boundaries with strangers. There was a time I felt nervous on any outing because of the lack of understanding of personal space with people we don't know or just met. We now move in and out of most appointments or trips to the store with simple reminders about making good choices and respecting others people's space. Don't get me wrong, he's still the type of kid that tells the waiter "I have to go poop!" I am never surprised at anything that comes out of his mouth because I know that at any given time he can and will say something that would embarrass the hell out of any parent. I have learned to laugh as I blush and move right along. He sticks close to me. Lollie and Pop's is probably our favorite place on Earth to visit but you better believe if it's after dark, I'm not getting out the door without Big. He needs the security of knowing I'm going to be there when he goes to sleep and when he wakes. He loves for me to sing to him as I tuck him in at night. (Apparently he's not old enough to realize I am not a great singer!) He loves everything Christmas and has filled this season with magic for all of us. His imagination continues to inspire the child inside me. We laugh and play and continue to treat each day as a new adventure.

Little is not so little anymore. He is simply not okay with me referring to him as my baby. He insists on being called a big boy and rightfully so. We are now potty trained and I can take little to no credit for this. He was ready...plain and simple. Day one went something like this...brand new underwear and a little boy that was afraid to put them on. I kinda had to trick him into them. Pottied twice in underwear and then BAM, potty trained. His words are growing by the day and continues to be an amazing communicator even without being a talker just yet. A new word this week was "home". He says it with such joy. I love that he understands home. Many never get that.  He has this super power to make people fall in love with him. I think it's those baby blues. His teachers adore him and honestly I'm wrapped around his little finger. He inspires a deep love within me. A reminder that love does have healing power.

I still stand in a place where I trust God has a plan and purpose for our lives and that His will alone is greater than my desires but I am only human. As I ponder what Elfie will do his last day with us and mentally prepare for the beautiful chaos that will begin tomorrow, I thank God. I am so thankful that these holidays have been defined by happy, healthy children that are full of Christmas spirit. I am happy that THIS Christmas I will wake to laughter and giggles and more excitement than I can even imagine. I am thankful for each day and reminding myself that all any of us have is TODAY anyway. Merry Christmas from Ms. Amanda, Big and Little. May your holidays be filled with an abundance of love and laughter as well! ❤

Friday, October 14, 2016

Growing

I'm amazed at the growth that can occur in four short months. I mean, our hearts are fuller than we ever could've known they'd be. Even our little 2T and 5T jammies are getting a little snug! I think growth is the word that best defines this season of my life. I stepped into this scared...really scared. God just kept telling me to step. Fear no longer has a major role in this journey. I can't say from time to time I don't have worries, but I have grown into a woman that prays harder than she worries.

I love being a mommy. I'm a different kind of mommy, yes, I am Ms. Amanda. Big asked one day recently "are you my Ms. Amanda mommy?" I had no idea what to say. "I am whatever you want me to be." We play a game of "how much do you love me?" We start with our hands really close together and say "do you love me this much?" We laugh and say "noooooo!" Eventually we get to outstretched arms and say "yesssss, I love you that much!" It's always a set up for a hug, which I can't get enough of.  He's a morning person. I'm am working to solve the mystery of how one sits up in bed every morning with a huge smile. He has at least helped me grow into a person that can pretend to be a morning person. I smile because he smiles. He makes the mornings sweeter. The angels, yes angels, that love and teach this baby each day comment on how he comes in smiling and saying good morning. His actions are a lesson. It teaches us all to step into each day with kindness and optimism. He is a natural protector. Although he can fight with Little in true sibling fashion, he watches over him in such a grown up way. He never let's him get too many steps behind when we walk. He talks to him about being happy on the mornings that he's just not feeling it. He hates for little to have to go to time out and usually says something like "Ms. Amanda, you are making him berry sad!" He is creative...a true child like spirit we all need more of. Some days he is Pacman. Other days he's Spiderman. Most recently he is Maaaario. And he never forgets his sidekick Luigi.  He is curious. Asks as many questions each evening as I answer all day at school. He's all boy. Jumping, rather than stepping, into each day. Life is an adventure for Big.

Little is an old soul. He sits with his legs crossed, sippy cup in hand, watching his Little Einsteins. When he's in the best of moods he claps and shakes his head yes when they ask for his help on their mission. When he's grumpy, he frowns at their questions and shakes his head no. It's pretty hilarious. He watches Big's every move. He watches all of us. He's so observant. He recognizes emotions on a very deep level for his age. He's sympathetic when someone cries. He consoles kids his own age and even me on the couple occasions he's seen me cry.  He raises his eyebrows with a very serious look when Big has a fit and sometimes shakes his head in a way that says "buddy this is unnecessary.." . He has a servants heart. He loves to shadow me as I clean house. He holds the dust pan and toddles back and forth to the trash can to dump it. (Most of it ends up beside the trash can! Lol) He loves to help pick up the laundry that falls as I'm carrying it through the house which is extremely helpful. After he pushes the clothes into the dryer and slams the door shut, he looks at me with a rather accomplished grin. This definitely makes weekend laundry a more pleasant task. He is helpful without being asked. If he ever hears me say I'm looking for something, he springs into action. I think I need to start paying him for finding my keys so often. He is not a morning person. He doesn't enjoy being woke up and this bonds us. He stretches like and old man and let's out a few grunting noises. If looks could kill, I'd be dead every morning around 6:30, Monday through Friday. He definitely doesn't want to be talked to right away unless it's the weekend and he's slept until HE was ready to get up. Most mornings, like me, he's happy once he has had time to wake up and shake off the yuck feeling that comes with being on someone else's time. He is tender. When his feelings are hurt, they are really hurt. He is also tender in the way that he likes to hold my hand when I lay next to him before sleep. He sticks his tiny little perfect fingers between mine and all is right with the world. He pats me to sleep as I pat him to sleep. Sometimes he wins. Life is an observatory for Little.

Me, I'm just over here swinging on the pendulum from "Hot Mess Mommy" to the "Crust Was Already Cut Off His Sandwich Mommy". Some days I magically get us all bathed and in fresh pj's, lunches prepared and ready for the next day, clothes layed out next to backpacks, and everyone in bed at a very decent time. Other days, nothing is ready and so I throw a lunchable into the Ninja Turtle lunch box on top of whatever was left in there from yesterday, grab some pants out of the floor and do the sniff and spot check, run around looking for my keys and fly out the door with my hair on fire. I am the mom that even after 2 1/2 months of school, still hasn't managed to remember to bring home a pencil for Big's homework. Yes, we do our homework with crayons. I kinda think it's prettier anyways! I sometimes remember to keep some wipes and diapers in the car in a nice little bag to use as needed. Other times I'm licking my thumb to wipe their faces so we look presentable enough for public. I've dug in the back of my car and prayed for a stray unused diaper a time or two. I don't sleep like I used to. I say the spirit of my sweet, overly anxious Grandma Genelle wakes me up at least a couple times a night to go in and check on the boys. I'm not sure why this is necessary being that at least one of them, if not both, make their way into my bedroom nightly to let me know they are alive and well. I think I'm lucky it all worked out this way. I was at a place in my life and had waited long enough to be a mommy, that I truly am able to appreciate it all. I'm able to realize that it is super okay to not have it all together all the time. It's more about taking the time to notice the little things. To absorb them and let them become a part of who you are growing to be. It's fun. It's crazy. It's everything I thought it would be and more. I love Big and Little to the moon.

At this stage in our journey, my greatest prayer is that God will always make a way for them to stay together. They are a team and it is evident how much they need each other. I ask now that you join me in this prayer. God has a plan and a purpose for their lives. My intention is to always be a part and I pray but have no way of knowing if this will be able to happen. I know that if I can't always be around, I just hope they have each other. Mario and Luigi. Spiderman and Batman. Brothers til the end. 💙💙❤

Friday, September 2, 2016

What if LOVE really is enough...

I'm exhausted....Truly exhausted. Physically and emotionally. I'm also blessed and I never forget that. We have started praying at morning dropoff and it's unbelievably precious. We hold hands and close our eyes but we all peek a little. I know this because I peek a little. Our prayer is always similar, "God watch over the boys and bless their teachers and everyone else who looks after them during their day. Help us to remember to be nice to others and bring us back safely together at the end of the day. In Jesus name...Amen!" This morning, Big says "OK, now let me do it!" He mostly mumbled but I heard teachers and nice so I'm pretty sure he gets the idea! The first couple weeks of school, I was spinning. I couldn't get the boys dropped off fast enough because all I could think of was all the things I needed to do to get ready for the next 27 kiddos that were depending on me that day. One morning this week, God said "Slow down. Take the time to invite me into your day."

This journey has been HARD. And by hard, I mean I have looked at my bank account a few times and wondered if I could run away from home. I'm cool with surviving on an island with coconuts and bananas if it meant that I didn't have to be responsible anymore. I mean really Lollie and Pop are kinda awesome and if I disappear then I know they could handle it. God gently reminds me that he needs me HERE. Here to simply love. He didn't ask me to be perfect or to even make it look pretty. He just asked me to open my heart and love. There have been days that that I lay in bed and think wow I kicked ass at "momming" today and there are also days that I feel totally defeated. I just ask myself in both scenarios if I remembered to love...the answer is always yes. So, I suppose I'm doing it right even when it feels like I've done it all wrong.

I've been wanting to write, what feels like a million times in the past couple months, but sleep always wins. I'm telling ya, I'm exhausted. Our days are full of school and therapies and more therapies, and scheduled visits, and as much routine as I can provide. We try to always find time to talk about our days, and go over our school work. I do some pretty goofy dances about the Kindergartener following directions and completing his work correctly. These papers immediately go to the fridge. I repeat the same word over and over and over in hopes to develop speech with little. We high five for standing in front of the toilet...even when no pee pee comes out. I've gained a truly special admiration for all you mommas out there. This summer I got to experience being a stay at home mommy. Wow, that was exhausting. I always felt pressured to keep up with EVERYTHING. Laundry couldn't get behind and dishes had to be washed. I felt obligated to cook. Now that I'm back to work I am so empathetic to the working mommy who has to juggle both. I'm looking in the drawers like "Yeah we have socks and underwear to last til the weekend...no laundry tonight!" "You want that other half of your peanut butter sandwich in your lunch box for dinner?...fantastic!" Big shout out to the single moms who just want to go to Walmart alone. The struggle is real. Keep on keepin on mommas. You're doing great if they're alive and loved!

I wake up with little feet in my face. I have no idea how it happens. I share my home with two Houdini's. I'm sound asleep stretched out in my bed big bed and next thing I know, I'm being smothered by two kiddos and a dog. No one tells you these things. First time I woke up at 3am with a child staring me in the face, standing next to my bed, I screamed. I've gotten more brave. I'm pretty sure the boogie man could come cuddle at this point and I would even know it.

This has been life changing and beautiful. I have gained so much perspective and grown so much as a person in the past few months. Many ask me "How will you let them go when that time comes?" To you, I say  "I will never let them go. They are a part of the beautiful tapestry of my life. They are a part of me and my story as I am of theirs. They have changed me for the better. They will forever be in my heart no matter the time or distance that could possibly separate us. I will never let them go!"