Friday, February 13, 2015

Smiling through tears

Her precious laugh still rings in my ears.

I remember one day.  I had a meeting at the admin building after work and came back to school to pick her up from after school care.  I walked in the front doors and smiled at the worker letting parents in.  We were in the beginning stages of exchanging pleasantries when I hear "ALYSSSSSSSSSSA!" and turn to watch her run the last ten yards or so to fling herself into my arms.  I swung her around and we laughed at the joy of being reunited at the end of our days.  It was a day I will always remember.  Always.  The overflowing joy that she brought to my life.  The heart-smiles I was blessed to experience because she was there.

Her picture is in several places around my  home.  Throwing leaves up in the air when we went to Lake Ouachita last November.  Her school Kindergarten picture.  A precious, sweet one a fellow teacher made for me in secret on the playground at school when we knew she was leaving.  Her hand-prints in red paint for last year's Valentine's Day.  Her presence is every where.  Kindergarten had their nursery rhyme parade recently.  As these precious little ones walked in, I remember how hard she worked to practice Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and how proud she was to dress up in a pretty white dress with sparkles and put silver glitter in her hair.  I roll my eyes and laugh with Sara because her daughter and J poured glitter on each other and all over my classroom the morning of the parade while Sara and I were in a parent conference next door in Sara's room.

She left last year about 9:00a on Valentine's Day.  The transporter came to school to pick her up.  We had all of her belongings in my car and loaded all the boxes and precious items into the transporter's car and she chattered with her brothers after giving me butterfly kisses and Eskimo noses.  Then I waved, walked back into my classroom and away from my heart.

Valentine's Day is a day to love.  A day to laugh.  A day to remember the blessing the Lord has bestowed.  This year, I remember her and my heart smiles through tears at the memories we made.    

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

People Affect Us

Poof!  A cloud of flour and sugar puffed into the air when I turned on the mixer, and I was immediately transported back to a time, just a week or so together, that J and I were baking Lemon Squares.  I'd someone forgotten to raise the mixing bowl and the entire box of powdered sugar, it seemed, flew all over me, her and the kitchen.  Her eyes flew to mine, because she thought I'd be mad.  I laughed and tickled her and she ended up practically taking a bath in the sink since she'd been sitting on the counter to be able to see into the mixer and therefore was absolutely covered.  It was a fun, light-hearted moment for us, but a telling one for me, too.

She's on my mind all the time.  I'll see a Hello Kitty jacket and smile knowing how much she would like that.  I'll be walking around the creek by our house and see a little girl learning how to ride a bike with her dad and remember times we did the same thing.  She was in my life for 8 months, and she's been gone from me for 10 months now.  Longer than she was with me.  But she will be in my heart forever.  Her impact on my life was enormous, to say the least.  

We all impact the lives of the people we touch.  It makes me want to be sure I'm leaving the kind of lasting impression I want to be remembered by.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Life Change

I have decided to discontinue my work on my doctorate degree.  This has been a tough decision, because I'm not a quitter...yet, I'm quitting.  Honestly, that's been a point of pride.  As I met people and loved making contacts with people across positions in a variety of school districts, I was encouraged about the direction education is heading.  Let's be honest.  Some things need to change in education.  And I see some of those changes happening.  I see other changes on the horizon and it's exciting to see and to be a part of.  Yet, this degree was in Educational Leadership, meaning most people want to be a superintendent.  I do not.  So, the more I talked with others and the more I learned and the more we read books on leadership, the more questions I had about if this was where I needed to be.

I talked with a former professor, who understands my heart is vocabulary and teaching curriculum courses some day, and she said I would be pigeonholed into teaching educational leadership courses since many people with this degree are superintendents, thus universities need professors to teach these courses.  I don't want to be pigeonholed into teaching a course I don't want to teach.  

So.  I love the cohort model.  I love the idea of starting a process and seeing it through to completion with one group of people all along the way.  I am not a quitter.  But it doesn't make sense to stay with something that could potentially be the exact opposite of what I need.  So, I'm discontinuing the program.  

I was talking with a friend a month or so back.  My dad had just had triple bypass heart surgery and my grandpa's health was rapidly declining.  I said something along the lines of "This has been a rough couple of months."  My friend kindly, wisely and succintly said, "I think it's been a rough year for you."  

Well, now that you mention it.  J left in February.  I tested, applied and was accepted to a doctorate program in the spring.  I sold everything I own and moved in with my family in July.  I started a doctorate program in August while beginning my 13th year of teaching (We can definitely call August "busy season" for teachers.), my dad had heart surgery at the beginning of October, my grandpa passed away at the end of October and I'm quitting my doctorate in December.  Yes.  Yes, I think 2014 might have been a rough year.  Moving in with my family hasn't been rough at all.  In fact, it's been a humongous blessing.  But change, and some stress with the selling/boxing/moving of everything.  

I was talking with a dear friend on Tuesday and confessed I was limping along until Christmas break.  I love talking with her.  She's known me for over 10  years and loves me dearly.  It's nice to be known...you know?  She compassionately said she didn't think anyone would question it at all if I huddled under the covers and hibernated for a bit.  

Ok.  Don't mind if I do.     

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Children provide writing material

I haven't posted in a long time.  I was thinking about that the other day.  How therapeutic writing was for the time J was in my home and then the time when she left.  Children definitely provide writing material!

Don't get me wrong.  Life has definitely not been dull since she left.  I applied and was accepted to a doctoral program.  I sold almost everything I own and moved in with my parents.  My dad had major heart surgery and my grandpa passed away.  Life has had it's ups and downs this past few months.  But I haven't felt the burning need to write like I did when J was being boisterous and fun or my heart was tender regarding something happening in her case.

Hmmm...maybe I'll start writing again anyway.  Or maybe something will happen soon that drives it. ??

Friday, May 09, 2014

My Second Mother's Day...

Last year, C arrived the Monday before Mother's Day.  She left the day after Mother's Day.  A few days later, I wrote this post about my first Mother's Day.  To summarize: it was HARD!

I have learned so much about mothering in the last year.  I have gained so much insight into the journey of foster care.  I still have much to learn, but I am not in the same place I was a year ago.

J came to my home June 12 and left February 14.  We celebrated my birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Valentine's Day together.  We are not together for Mother's Day and as much as she had already started planning her Frozen birthday party, we won't be together for that either.

Everyone's mother is special to them in a unique way.  Whether you have a wonderful relationship or you have a strained one, your relationship is uniquely yours.  No one can take it away.  J always called her biomom "Mommy".  Always.  In the last few weeks she was with me, she had begun calling me "Mama".  Not all the time, but enough I knew it was purposeful.

I love her with a mother's heart, but she will not be with me this Mother's Day.  I hadn't thought much about it until today, but now I'm wondering if I should prepare myself to be a little emotional on Sunday.

My second Mother's Day will be one without a child.  And, frankly, that just feels weird.


Saturday, April 26, 2014

Preparing for a Home Study

You've finally finished all the paperwork, and you are facing what to do for the home study.  Maybe your agency has given you a checklist and you feel overwhelmed at everything that is required or prohibited.  Or perhaps your agency has simply said, "Pay attention to what we say in all the trainings and do that."  Ummm...."that" was a LOT of information spread out over 30 hours of trainings over several months.  Say wha?

Either way, you're probably a little overwhelmed.

Here's my advice.  Take a deep breath.  You're ok.  You've made it this far!

Now.  Talk with another foster parent, within your agency if possible, but really anyone will do.  Figure out what "temperature" your agency is about the home study.  Are they going to be there for 2 hours per person in your family?  Or maybe they'll be there for 2 hours total.  Are they going to open cabinets and scour your refrigerator for expired items?  Are they going to expect your children to be available for individual interviews?  What are you expected to provide for them while they're there?

The more detailed they are, the more prepared you will be for the state inspection when it comes.  And, y'all, it WILL come.  My home study developer was not very detailed and I led her around showing her things I thought she should ask me about.  I didn't feel prepared when the state came.  (It was fun.  (I mean, it was fine.  By fun, I'm being a little sarcastic....but it really was fine.)  I was prepared.  However, I didn't know what they would ask for and what if I couldn't show it to them because I didn't have the mythical "it"?)

Some agencies want you to have a "disaster" bag with 3 days worth of food and water in a safe place in your house as well as one in the car.  My agency never mentioned anything like that.  My agency did want me to have a list of emergency phone numbers handy and the children in my home to know where they are (which I thought was ridiculous since J didn't know 911 and wouldn't have been able to give them my address even if she did know 911 and I wasn't going to teach her my address because her mom couldn't have it, but....whatever.)

So, preparing for a home study.  Bottom line: talk to other foster parents within your agency and see what the agency expects.  Talk to your agency is they're helpful and knowledgeable and the person you're talking to as worked there long enough to be able to answer your questions.  I personally have found that foster parents are more helpful than agency personnel, but every agency is different.

A list of things that seem to be "across the board" with agencies:
a fire extinguisher on each level of the home
no food on the floor (even in the pantry)
evacuation map posted somewhere
medicine locked up
Child needs a bed
Child needs clothes or you need to have a place for their clothes to go when you do get the clothes

See?  Not so hard.

My home study lasted 2ish hours.  The last 15 minutes she walked around my home.  The first, and major part, was the interview.  Everything from my childhood to how many times I'd moved to why I hadn't chosen to do in vitro if I wanted to be a mom. (No, I'm not kidding.)  We talked about the ages and ethnicities and genders of kiddos I was willing to take and behaviors I was or was not willing to have in my home.  We talked about my rules for food.  This is a major one.  Food has to be available.  If you're planning to lock the refrigerator, please do not get into foster care.

The home study seems to cause a lot of anxiety for a lot of people, and I think the reason I was nervous was because my agency didn't communicate their expectations well.  I know other people are nervous because their agency's expectations are so high, they aren't sure they've met them.

Don't worry about how clean your house is or how neat and tidy it is.  You may already have kids.   Your house will look lived in.  It doesn't have to look like you're trying to show it to new buyers.  Promise!

You can do it!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Out of Season

Y'all.  I published this post a few weeks ago.  In it I mentioned I was almost done with the Christmas soap and was excited to pull out the Spring smells.  Well, I finally finished the Holly Berry Wreath and Winter Candy Apple and reached in to bring out the Tangy Tangerine and Kitchen Lemon soaps...and instead I saw the Cinnamon Pumpkin that was half finished.  Ahhhh!

The Tangerine stayed under the sink.  The Kitchen Lemon is brightening my cooking days.  The Cinnamon Pumpkin is hiding in wrong-season shame in my master bathroom.  I can practically smell the Tangerine from here!