Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Thriving on Chaos

I was shocked to discover that I haven't blogged since June! Wow! Where did the time go? I can find numerous reasons for time flying over the past few months. To quote my wonderful husband "Our family thrives on chaos!" And we're proud of it!

Today, the letter of the day at our house is "Z". Z is for zoom (as our 3 year old foster child plays with a zillion matchbox and other assorted cars/trucks) as Z is also for zzzzz (which is what our 8 week old foster child is currently doing). Our 3 year old should be starting preschool tomorrow, which will be great for him as he needs to develop language and social skills that he can't do at home with just myself and the infant. And the washing machine and dryer are both running.

So, how did we get to this point today? Jessica got married in August and I finished up my bachelor's degree at the end of the September. All of the children were now in school during the day. I was bored and not motivated to do anything. The idea of scrapbooking (which is my passion) was squashed by my inability to have sufficient funds and space to do it properly as we desired to keep Jessica's old room as a guest room. I kept reading in the newspaper about the lack of foster families and was told by CPS (child protective services) that children who were removed from their families were having to sleep in CPS offices overnight as they couldn't find a bed for them. After much prayer, we decided to become emergency receiving foster parents. We discussed it with our children and they were supportive, knowing that it would be difficult to have a revolving door of children through our lives.

After fall break, we met with our foster care licensing worker and decided to take in children ages 0-4 (so that we wouldn't have to deal with enrolling and withdrawing from school every week as our school district doesn't do enrollment at their schools, you have to do it about 10 miles away.

Within 48 hours of us hitting the vacancy list, we took in a 2 1/2 week old infant boy (Baby C). Wow! Having a newborn was quite an adjustment for us, especially the lack of sleep! He is now almost 2 months old and still with us.

Within 48 hours of our second vacancy (upon Jeremi's adoption being finalized), we took custody of an 11 month girl (Baby B). She was a sweetheart! She stayed 6 days and then went to an approved relative placement.

The day after Baby B left, we drove to Glendale CPS offices to pick up a three year toddler boy (Toddler I). He is a riot! He will be with us for a few weeks while CPS works through some things with the family and then he (and his siblings) should be going to an approved relative placement.

We do have one more vacancy on our newly renewed foster care license but we feel that two at home with me is plenty. Not to mention the fact that we will be filled to the capacity of our suburban and dad would have to drive separately if we took another placement. (The idea behind 3 children is to allow for a sibling group so that they wouldn't have to be separated).

Our children handled Baby B leaving really well and I am fairly certain that there will be some relief when Toddler I leaves. Baby C will be a different story as he has been with us for quite awhile already and there is no time frame for him going back home at this time. I told my sweet husband that when he does go back, I'll need 24 hours in bed with several boxes of Kleenex and perhaps a 1/2 gallon of rocky road ice cream. Grieving is a normal part of the foster parent process. It just won't be easy.

We feel so blessed to be able to serve these precious little children. We feel that this is God's current plan for our lives. We don't know how long we will do this, but we are so blessed to do this. We have great support from our family and friends as well.

God continues to bless us in so many ways!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Week day blahs

Most people have their moments of when they're feeling down, which is typical. I am no exception to this and today I am having one of those days. Today I feel like I just stay in bed all day long and let the tears flow. There are multiple reasons for my sad mood today, but I know that God will give me the strength to get through this day and the next and the next.

I've learned a few things through my darkness these past twelve hours.

* Mr. Fix it (my sweet husband) can't always fix everything.
* My communication skills have a lot to be desired as I forget that others aren't mind readers and I need to say what is on my mind.
* Habits and routines are not always a good thing if we become too dependent on them.
* I am responsible for how my darkness affects my children and myself.
* My lack of faith in myself and others which then creates a conflict is a problem that I need to eliminate.
* I need grown-up interactions.
* God lifts me up high when I am at my lowest.

I signed onto facebook this morning and a friend had posted a video my most recent favorite song from Chris Tomlin,"I Lift My Hands". The words reminded me that God is my refuge and strength, that "His arms are a fortress for the weak". Today I am at a weak point, yet I know that everything will be fine because I know that my heavenly Father will take care of me. I believe.

I know that it was no coincidence that when I woke up this morning and logged into Facebook that I was immediately greeted with this video reminder. God is so good.

Now, to push past my darkness and get going on some things that the children want to do today and some errands I need to accomplish. I will press on.

Dear Heavenly Father:

I am just a lowly person who has sinned and is struggling with those consequences. I ask your forgiveness for my lack of faith in myself and for forgetting that You are where I get my strength from. Please heal me and the relationships that have been impacted by my lack of faith.

Your Princess, Cathy

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Done! The calm after the storm

Done! Finished! Relief! Sanity!

Monday night the tile installation was completed. Mark, Vanessa, Suzy and I spent a couple of hours mopping the floors getting ready to move back home. Mark came back later that night to put all of the beds together so that we could move home on Tuesday.

Tuesday night we spent our first night at home with our new tile, among the dust and boxes and a high level of stress as we tried to make some sense of order out of the mess.

Saturday morning I unpacked the last box. Everything was finally in its right place. It was a great feeling! Our house has never looked better nor cleaner. The cleanliness won't last, but the new tile will help as it won't show the dirt like our light pink tile did. We also purged quite a few things that we no longer need, so we will be holding a yard sale after I clean out our storage shed where I know we have more items that we don't need. It's too hot now to do this, but the girls are really wanting to do a yard sale, so we'll see how the weather looks this coming weekend and if it's not too hot, then I know what we'll be doing this week; getting ready.

As I look back on these past two weeks, I am amazed at the difference in all of our children. They handled our small space confinement and the dust and boxes fairly well, but there is a definite peace and calm now that we are settled at home. I tried very hard to not let my own feelings of out of sortness be known to our children, but they are becoming very good at reading me. My children are amazing!

I feel very blessed and so thankful that God has allowed me to have these past few weeks of chaos so that I can be reminded of the peaceful calm. I take so much granted in my life and this most recent lesson on patience reminded me that I should not take what I have for granted and that I should appreciate every moment, both the good and the bad. The calm is a great place to be, yet we learn and grow so much during the stormy times. Today I choose the calm and I will embrace the next storm that comes along.

Now it's back to homework; got an assignment due in a few hours. :-)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

God is in control... of this control freak!

The majority of you who read this will realize that the following statement is not a new revelation for you. "I am a control freak!" Even though I am so thankful that I am not in control of my life and that GOD IS, I am still a control freak. I have proof that God provides for me, when I can't see a way. Yet still, I get frustrated, annoyed, upset, slightly emotional (okay Dr. Eley - stop laughing...) REALLY emotional and the list goes on.

In early April in my blog, I posted that I did not have the financial aid to complete my required credits to attain my bachelor's degree. Well, due to my newly status of "unemployed", I was granted additional financial aid (after submitting a significant amount of red tape paperwork). I recall being so upset with the school for getting my hopes up about being done and the tears of coming this far and not being able to finish. So, I walked graduation a couple of weeks ago and I am now preparing to finish up my degree. Silly me for getting all worked up!

My health has been another area where I wish that I was in control. Ever since I had pneumonia in April of 09, I have struggled with asthma. Doing breathing treatments several times a day has been very frustrating. The doctor was able to find the right combination of inhalers and allergy medicine and I am no longer taking daily breathing treatments, only when I need them. One thing that Mark and I knew had the potential to improve my health even more was to replace the carpet with tile. And our existing tile was horrible, so we would need to do the entire house. Sigh. Big $$$$.

Well, after our puppy made sure that our carpet was beyond help, a roll-off dumpster appeared and Mark (with a little help from my dad and I) pulled up the carpet and he pulled up all of the tile. Now what, I thought? We decided to meet with a tile contractor so I called them and they met me the same day. Five days later, new tile installation began. God provided the funding through my vacation pay-out at work.

All 2,000 square feet of furniture and everything else is now either in my backyard or the pod that sits in my driveway. The majority of my family is living in a 400 sq. ft. hotel room next door to my parents house, where our oldest daughter is staying. I'm thinking that I should have traded with her :-).

I am very much a home body. This hotel living is not for me. While I am enjoying time in the pool with my children, I would much rather be home. Right now, my two boys are sleeping on a sofa sleeper and they are literally on top of each other. It's fun watching Mark trying to untangle them without waking them up. Suzy and Vanessa are sharing a bed in our room and they are shoving and kicking each other all night. It's only been 4 nights, today is night 5, but I'm so done with this. However, I know that God is teaching me patience through this process (why He thinks I need this lesson AGAIN! I do not know).

Lessons learned these past few weeks:

1. I have little faith at times in God's willingness to provide me my wants; not just my needs (I want to finish college).
2. God always provides my needs (I have a roof over my head and I am with my family, albeit it really small).
3. At times I really do need assistance, as I can't do it all (another blog needed to explain just this lesson).
4. I can pack up my entire house in less than 5 days (without the kitchen).
5. We have a lot of books! (25 boxes worth!).
6. Installing 2,000 square feet of tile takes about a week; with no furniture or people living there.
7. I am loved!

My wonderful husband has the patience of a saint to put up with my emotional roller coasters as I attempt to achieve some sense of sanity in this insane world we live in. God is constantly teaching me that He too has patience with me and that He is ALWAYS faithful.

Chris Tomlin's newest song, I Will Lift My Hands Up, has really spoken to me.

Here is the chorus:

I lift my hands to believe again
You are my refuge, You are my strength
As I pour out my heart, these things I remember
You are faithful, God, forever

The new phase of my life is not an easy one and these words remind me that no matter what, He is faithful. I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13

Thursday, April 7, 2011

New Chapter

It is hard to believe that it has been over two months since I last blogged. This is not a reflection on the fact that my life has been boring since January 21st, but just the opposite. I'm not even sure where to begin, so I think that I am just going to do some bullet points that lead up to the new chapter in our lives.

* February 4th we met with CPS and an eight year old boy.
* February 11th, this sweet little boy was placed with us for adoption.
* February 11th I turned in my letter of resignation to the City of Scottsdale after almost twenty years.
* February 14th I reduced my in-office hours to six hours/day and worked the other two - four hours from home in the evenings.
* March 11th we signed the Intent to Adopt papers for our eight year son
* March 14th we headed to Disneyland for Spring Break
* March 25th was my last day with the City of Scottsdale
* March 28th I began a new chapter in my life, stay-at-home mom.

So, now I "stay" home. Not quite what I had imagined. The six hours a day that I am home with just Tyler and Jessica fly by. I thought that I would have plenty of time to get housework done and homework done. Not happening. I am still up late at nights getting things done. About the only thing that has changed is that we no longer go out to eat for dinner and dinners are typically ready no later than 6:00 PM. I think that once I get a handle on things and eliminate all of the one time items on my "to do" list, it will be a lot easier. I am also doing preschool with Tyler every day, which is a huge joy to me. I do have some down time each day (Tyler's nap time), which I am trying to leave as down time so that I can prepare for a future job opportunity if it were to come my way.

This has been a huge adjustment, which I expected, but I didn't expect the emotional roller coaster that I experienced last week. It was difficult to not get up each day and go to work, interacting with my great group of employees. My co-workers waited two days before they called me and my supervisor waited four days before he emailed me. They made me feel a little guilty not being there to help them, but I was able to talk them through it.

I also found out last week that I do not have enough credits to graduate after I finish these last two classes in June, so now I am having to take three additional classes. The financial impact of knowing that I am out of student loan money was hard to take, but we think that we have figured it out. I will be done by October, which will allow me to still walk graduation in May. God is so good to provide for us and I hope to use my degree later on in my life by substitute teaching and helping Mark run his education consulting business that he dreams of starting after he retires.

I am totally loving my life even more so, and feel totally at peace with our decision. Mark is so much happier and he is still very much involved in the day-to-day operations of Eley Castle. I was afraid that with me staying home, he would work longer hours and not touch base or help out, but these past two weeks he has still doing doctors' appointments when we have two children that have conflicting appointments and coming home at a decent hour when he is able to do. He calls or texts me just to say "I love you". I personally think he is checking to make sure that I haven't run away yet! (Just kidding!)

God is so faithful and has blessed us so much and we are so thankful that He has given us our beautiful children and that He has provided us a way so that I can stay home with them. My days are still filled, but with different joys and blessings.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Goodbye, precious little boy!

Today we said goodbye to our precious little eight year old boy. It was not meant to be. Although we never met him in person, we know a lot about him and have seen pictures of him and his beautiful smile. He will always be with us in our hearts.

We received a call from CPS this afternoon, letting us know that the decision had been made to leave him in his current foster placement and that they would be adopting him. Obviously, this is definitely what is best for him. Unfortunately, this decision should have been made months ago before the adoption process was begun outside of the foster family.

CPS never meant to put us in this position or to hurt our children (Suzy took it really, really hard). Mistakes happen and we were caught in the middle. We do not believe that anything happens by chance, so obviously, God has a great plan in mind. I was tearful when I talked with CPS (but somehow managed to keep it together while we were on the phone). This CPS office is already taking steps to make sure that what happened to us will never happen to another family. We also are now more knowledgeable (as well as our adoption agency) and we will also make sure that this never happens to us again.

I called our adoption agency to let them know that we had received the call (they already knew what the decision was, but CPS wanted to be the one to make the call as they were ones that needed to apologize and answer our questions). I was tearful with our adoption agency representative as well, but still managed to keep it together. She did tell me that she had already received a call from the CPS office that we had been working with about another possible placement. The CPS office and our adoption agency are going to give us some time to recuperate and then we will make a decision as a couple if we want to do this again.

Through this experience we have felt God's protecting arms around us, and have definitely felt all of the prayers that we received about this situation. I am really upset about putting our children through this, and CPS is also upset about that. We never get our children or family members involved until we are at a spot where there is no going back on our part or CPS. This was just something that happened because a step was missed in the process. We do take great comfort in knowing that this little boy is where he really wanted to be.

Mark and I are at peace with this. I had already made the decision yesterday to move on by scheduling our quarterly home visit with our adoption agency for next week. They are required to be out for a visit within 7 days of new placement, so we had cancelled ours in February, since we were anticipating that he would be moving in the next three-four weeks. This will also give us a chance for us to sit down and de-brief the events of this week as well as discussing what our next step is going to be.

We cling to our life verse; Jeremiah 29:11 "For I know the plans I have for you", declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future".

To quote my husband's tweet earlier today: "If I didn't serve a sovereign God, I would be angry right now". So thankful that we serve a sovereign God.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Did we just lose our child?

That is a question that we are asking ourselves tonight. We were supposed to meet our new son this afternoon at 3:30 PM at a park about 90 minutes from our house. At 1:30 PM I received a phone call from our adoption agency. There was to be no visitation. Our licensing worker had very little information about what had happened. She did say that she would be hearing from CPS next Tuesday after they have a meeting. We do know that this has nothing to do with us. It is something that is going on elsewhere in the system and they have put a stop to his adoption placement.

I had a 1:30 PM meeting (which I had left to take this phone call since I knew who was calling me), so I had to text Mark that the visitation had been cancelled and then endured (what seemed liked forever) a 75 minute work meeting. My boss knew I had to leave and at some point during the meeting he asked why I was still there and I told him that the phone call I had stepped out to take was cancelling the visitation. The look on his face was one of shock, but he didn't say any more. The tears flowed immediately after the meeting was over and I was able to close my office door.

The tears have continued off and on tonight, as I go through the grieving process of uncertainty. Have we really lost him? CPS does not know the answer to this question. This is the first in all of years of doing this that we have made it this far in the adoption process to have it stopped. It has always been earlier in the process so we are in uncharted territory for us.

We told the other children that we don't know yet what is going on. We haven't suggested to them that we are not going to get him. I want to send as few mixed messages as possible. We don't know yet, so that is what they know. We did send an email to the CPS caseworker letting them know that as painful as this was, we still desired him in our family, but we truly want to do what they feel is best for him.

We know that God has a plan for our lives and for this child, whether he join our family or not. So for now, we are just taking it one step at a time, still walking outside of our boat.

We appreciate your prayers for our family as we wait this out. This does give me more time to focus on getting my asthma under control. I've had a bad flare-up for the past eight weeks, so I'm changing steroids and using my rescue inhalers on a regular basis daily as well as daily breathing treatments. (Of course, that would require me going to the pharmacy to fill the new prescriptions, which I forgot today and didn't have any time to do yesterday). I did get all of my blood work done today and chest x-ray to confirm that this is just asthma and not walking pneumonia.

I am humming one of my favorite songs, "Our God is Greater" by Chris Tomlin. Such a comfort tonight.