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Thursday, April 21, 2016

My Monkey's Set Free in the Zoo

 Rather than stay home and study, we took to I-5 and had ourselves a field trip at the Woodland Park Zoo. With Daddy overseas, we all needed a distraction from missing him and the zoo was the perfect place for that. 
The weather had cooled down giving us sunny skies to stroll through all the exhibits. Myriam explored the grounds with Miss Monkey clinging to her back giving her the freedom to check things out on her own. Yes, I got looks, but my kid was not running free and out of control so I had no shame. 
The favorite exhibits were the lizards and snakes along with Mr. Brown Bear who sat himself in front of the glass and stared at his could be entree's. I could watch Brown Bear all day long if the kids would have it!
The lions were napping under the trees out of sight and the hippos were deep in water not to be seen. The tigers and jaguars were also MIA. Miss Social, a.k.a. Myriam, tried coaching a group of old ladies to make a funny face that would encourage the jaguar to come out of hiding. It was quite funny seeing all these oldies scrunching up their faces and saying, "Cheese! Here Kitty Kitty!" 
I may have hid from that scene as well!
At the end of our tour, the kids were allowed to pick out one treat from the gift shop; books, toys and stuffed friends along with the rescue kit to save the stuffed friends from danger. After loading back up and stopping for a quick snack (bottle time), I had four sleeping kids dreaming their way through traffic. 
It was a perfect day with my own little monkey's!

{ Viewing all the bird exhibits. }

{ We had lunch by the penguins. }

{ Touching the California King snake. I kept my distance.}

{ Having fun feeding the birds. }

{ He was more relaxed then what it appears to be. }

{ The lizards were a hit with all the kids. }

{ Mama & her babies checking out the zebras. }

{ True form. A smile with left over lunch. }

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Loving Her Is Easy

Miss Bee is almost three months now and continues to gain more rolls that Addison can't keep up naming...so far we have Billy, Bobby, Percila, Patty, Matty, Fatty, Superman, Spiderman, Batman, Rumble, Tumble, Squishy, 
Spongy and Bungee.
 Nothing beats a Chunkee Bee with many rolls to squeeze, tickle and kiss. 
We have entered the bubble blowing phase so bibs are a must as we are blowing raspberries and attempting to communicate with noises. If found, the tickle spots can get this little thing giggling which I love to hear on any young child. It's fun to watch little ones figure themselves out as daily, Miss Bee is learning or doing something new. Grabbing toys, sucking on her fingers, kicking with delight and lighting up when she sees familiar faces. 
It's still unclear how long Miss Bee will be in our home as the goal is to go back home to her Mommy and Daddy. It's been educational for me to sit in the court room and listen in on not just our case, but those of many other hurting children in the community. We continue to send pictures and write updates that are passed through letters and text messages during visits. We have not only built relationship with Miss Bee but with her parents as well. 
I've been asked more than enough times, "How are you going to give her back?" Easy. The best plan is for reunification. That is the goal. My job and blessing is to be the best for Miss Bee until she can return home regardless of my emotions and attachment. As a licensed foster parent, myself and everyone else who finds themselves in this position should know how quickly that attachment can happen. If that chiseling of a child growing deep into your heart is not happening, then it's a disservice to the child's development and time in your home. I understand how some kids are harder to love, but here's the bottom line; if we are not loving these kids like our own, then why are they in our home? 
Fostering and adopting kids from hard places is a mixed bag of fear, trauma, embarrassment, shame, horrific stories and walls that have been built five stories high in attempts to protect themselves from more pain. A week before we picked up Miss Bee, we experienced this a little bit when we 
provided respite care for our friend 'M'. 

'M' needed a home for two nights which turned into a week in our home. From the time she entered our door with one bag of her things to the time her social worker left, was under five minutes. We were complete strangers to 'M' and yet she didn't run away, claw at the door or ask for her social worker to stay longer. She knew how this worked and slowly walked to the room we had prepared for her to sleep in that weekend. 'M' and I unpacked her bag and put all her belongings into the dresser drawers then together Myriam and I gave 'M' a tour of our home. 
Over the six days in our home, I learned more than I wanted to about this seven year old girl. I was asked too many times to be her "pretty mommy," and reminded that she was "adoptable."  There were few moments of fear and usually just at night after we spent time reading books, sharing stories and learning how to say bedtime prayers. It wasn't all pretty over those six days.
"M' recognized that there was someone younger in the home which instantly became the target of her emotional stress and baggage.  Myriam received lots of grief from our friend that week when not deserved. When you understand the challenges 'M' has had to overcome, you understand why. 
Because 'M' ended up staying with us a little longer than planned, we needed to go shopping for a few more things that would get us through the week. I'm so thankful for Little Red Wagon and the many options they provide for those in-a-pinch moments of needing something for the kids. 
The morning 'M' was scheduled to leave, she wanted to write some speeches for us to hear before she left. My heart struggled with all that was happening as her story came out in these speeches as our kiddos sat on the couch jaws dropped and eyes popping out. Regardless of what we heard, we gave 'M' our full attention and clapped when she was finished. I knew that 'M' had no home to go to after she walked out of our home. I knew that there was not a secured home with interest to adopt this little girl. I did what I could and packed her bag full of car ride treats, school activities (she missed three days because she was out of district due to the lack of foster homes in her county and finding a respite home was more important then keeping her in school) and many coloring books and games to keep her busy knowing she would sit in the office for hours that day and possibly the next. She left with more clothes than she came with and wore Addison's old jacket with pride.
What surprised me the most, was how routine it was for 'M' to pack her bags and move to the next home. We were her eighth home she had stayed in during the just under two years she'd be in care. In the week she was in our home, she opened up emotionally with me and was okay with me rubbing her back, holding her hand and sharing a hug. I saw a glimpse of 'M' breaking down one of her walls. I had guilt for not being able to keep her longer, but also knew that Myriam couldn't take any more than she already had. This wasn't fair for 'M' and I can't say with confidence she's in her permanent home as she's been legally free for awhile now. 
Fostering is hard. It's unfair. It's ugly and confusing. but, regardless of how I feel about caring for these kids, it's multiplied for those having to be cared for. So, when someone asks me how we can take in an infant, love her like our own, have interrupted nights with bottles and back to being spit on...

Well, it's easy. 
Jesus took us in. He didn't question how hard it would be to love us when we wandered or strayed away; when we choose to sin rather than follow. He doesn't look at our past and see the scars that will haunt our futures. He wraps His arms around us and without words, gives us the promise that for right now, in this moment, it will be okay. 
So, for right now, we will wrap our arms and heart tightly around Miss Bee and love her like Jesus does regardless of how much it could hurt if she goes home. We will continue to open our home to this little girl that has quickly found her place in our lives. We will provide what's necessary for her to grow and develop along with offering many prayers for her Mommy and Daddy to prepare their home for a potential return. I ask that you pray the same. 
Pray for the kids in our community who are being placed in strange homes, having to gather a bag of goods and walk into scary situations. Pray for the kids who are adopted from international homes and brought here into a completely different environment. Pray for all the parents who are making these adjustments with the kids that together patience and grace may be a common thread in daily decisions. Pray for walls to break and attachment to become a beautiful story between child and parent. And then, pray if your home is willing to walk an unknown, unpredictable and amazingly blessed 
adventure of fostering or adopting. 

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Move Over Winter

 Life has been pretty calm lately besides the fact that spring is boldly and quickly making itself known around our home. The sun stays out later making the neighborhood full of bikes, scooters, basketball games and friends coming and going through the yard. Playhouses are being cleaned out and prepared for the sunny months of entertainment and the trampoline has been cleaned for bouncy adventures. The cherry blossom trees are in bloom welcoming anyone who drives into the driveway. The daffodils I did have were in color before being picked by little loved ones and the lawn has had it's first haircut. The family of six deer frequent almost daily making the spray necessary to keep any bush clothed in leaves; hungry furry creatures they are! Buckets have been filled with winter weeds including the millions of maple starts 
I had the kids helping to carefully pull from the soft soil.
This week we had our vent ducts cleaned and outside pressure washing was completed. On the list for spring cleaning are still the windows, the blinds and the seasonal cleaning/organizing of all closets. Ahh, it feels good to have some decent spring cleaning taking place. 

{ Jumping the winter crazies out. }

Yesterday, I spent over an hour cleaning Myriam's carseat, using toothpicks for the tight spots, finding close to a meal sandwiched, smushed, and shoved into the tiniest of places one could find on a joyride. Sure I could implement a new rule of no more Goldfish, coffee shop treats or whatever else I have in my purse for snacks consumed in the car, but let's be real. I believe most mom's shamefully could agree that we all have a happy meal hiding somewhere in our mom cars giving us a moment of silence cruising through town. 

 { Self inflicted SHORT haircut. }

 { The chair of shame knowing she done wrong.}

The kids are busy with school projects including classroom speeches which Addison blew me out of the water LOVING. Say what??? You, of extreme shyness, silence and fear of stages or performances LIKED to stand in front of class and give a speech??? Folks, you have yourself a modern day miracle. Seriously, this is an amazing feat for our Addi Jean and it brings such delight to this mama seeing how much she has blossomed into a shining star at school. 
On the other hand, it was an emotional week as we made the decision to send Charlie to "real" school next year. Charlie and I have always struggled to make the homeschool schedule flow with focus, motivation and determination to complete assignments. It's been a year of butting heads, pulling hair and tossing pencils in the air trying to get through a lesson of anything at home. I had a lump in my throat after I told Charlie this as he had instant excitement on his face. Feelings of failing him as a teacher were very real that day but since then, we are all excited for what he will accomplish in his third grade year at Fisher. My goal now is to make sure his re-entry into the traditional classroom is one that can be confident in his learning abilities, prepared for all opinions ready to become the leader some may never have and that makes us proud of our decision to switch schools. 

As Spring brings lots of sunshine and potential allergy flare-ups, it also brings many running races that I've been happily training for. Last October when I tore my calf muscle, I honestly wasn't sure if I could manage longer runs ever again much less a 50k come this May. It has been an absolute joy being able to run the Bellingham trails again with my running gals. Oh, how I love Galbraith and a muddy trail! Wednesday's have become the favorite day of the week as Papa watches Myriam (and sometimes Marley) so I can get a longer run in before all the kids are home from school and visits. I look forward to these days and so does Papa as he's embracing the retired life of chilling with grandkids. Last week Linda and I tackled the Interurban Trail completing twelve miles from Fairhaven to Larabee and back with just the last mile having some light drizzle before the rain came in with a force. This week we pranced through the Lake Padden horse trails climbing up and over many trees that had fallen victim to last week's wind storm.  We live in a gorgeous area full of beautiful hiking trails, friendly trail faces and have been blessed with perfect weather for running. 

The birdies are chirping and my coffee cup is empty. I have a few bags of bulbs to plant and more Spring cleaning to tackle today. 
Happy Spring time to you and yours.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Eight Years of Chuckles

Hard to believe it's been eight years already since we first laid eyes on our son. Born early, Chuckles quickly gained rolls giving us more places to kiss and snuggle his sweet baby face. No doubt the kid was healthy and happy. Charlie was and still is, full of smiles. Charlie, Chuckles, Chuggy Dougie, our Middle Man... one of the most sensitive, compassionate little men I know. 
Even last week as we were focusing on our school studies, he burst into tears simply wanting to just "be" with his Auntie Traci. He has a sixth sense of knowing when she is rejoicing or mourning. He knows when extra hugs are needed or when a joke is needed to make those hurting laugh. Charlie sees the needs of others and does what he can to pursue a solution for them. 
Recently, Teacher Dawn from church, has approached Tim and I praising the attention to detail, cleaning up messes others have made and putting others first at church. The joy hearing these sweet remarks of our son fills us with
pride for our man.
Charlie has been introduced to the world of fostering and adoption which has only grown his heart bigger. And not just for the kids, but for the entire families involved asking how to pray and make things right. When he sees a homeless person he's quick to ask if we can give them a blessing bag. If someone needs praise, he speaks it. If someone needs help, he gives it. If a sibling needs a button pushed, trust me, he pushes it! Sweet can also mean sassy, talks back, extends eye rolls at times and may have selective hearing at times chosen with no idea what "checking in" means while playing at the neighbors.
Regardless of those sour moments, we are incredibly blessed to have a son with the size heart God is growing and find it a gift to help train him, nurture him and live life with our Charlie.
Happy Birthday Middle Man.
Let the music begin...

#Sensory Child # Me Too

This past weekend Tim and I attended the Re-Fresh Conference, at Overlake Christian Church, surrounded by 1400 other foster and adoptive parents. I had attended this event three years ago and found myself giddy to go again. The rat race of dropping a kid here, some there and organizing respite for Miss Bee was exhausting, but successful. ( Thank you to all who cared, tucked in and fed our babies. It takes a village...) By 7:30pm Thursday evening, we were kid free, bellies full and heading south. 
With our church family submerged in this adoption/foster community, we found many familiar faces once checked in and ready for the conference to begin. The worship is LOUD, powerful and something my heart was yearning for. I could worship all day and walk out feeling refreshed, but that's not the only purpose of this weekend. What the organizers have done, is provide six break-out sessions personally selected to cater your own needs in home along with four general session speakers that challenged us, broke us and gave way to a brighter day. The main theme this year was #Me Too, as in a place where most everyone experiences the same struggles on some level gets each other. 
Fostering and adopting kids from hard places, and even easy places from birth, can leave you empty, exhausted, confused, frustrated and ready to walk away some days. It's the other side of the spectrum that keeps us fighting, advocating, praying and celebrating. 
I could tell you all about the things we learned, all the break through moments we had and ways we were blessed in these jammed packed two days, but my intent is to share what has been working and shown proof of steps towards progress in our little lady who struggles with sensory processing disorder.  I left feeling convicted to provide more sensory output in our home and guilty for not doing enough.

{ You know you have a sensory kid when...
you'd rather roll around in the sand and rest then build a sand castle. }

Our journey in understanding the world of sensory needs began when we met with our friend, Megan Eastwood, who specializes as a Children's Occupational Therapist. We quickly immersed ourselves into this life of providing ways to help teach Myriam how to regulate herself in times of struggle. It was out of these appointments, or "play dates" as Myriam called them, that we filled our shopping carts with sensory toys and turned ideas into process in our daily lives.
Here are a few ways we regulate in our home. 

PLAY DOUGH (Shaving Cream works too!)
Took me 11.5 years to FINALLY purchase the nasty smelling, sensory seeking play dough. If using shaving cream, add a little corn starch to stiffen the "cake mix" up a bit. We often build cakes or simply dig our fingers into the mix and yes, it makes a mess. Nothing that can't be cleaned up. Great opportunity to use your imagination. 

Our bin has colored marbles, animals, and other items to search for in the mix of beans and rice.

Messy; potentially. Worth it; absolutely. 

Sticky yes, but they clean up easily.

If you need a fidget item this works great. Keeps the child busy, helps them focus on sizes & gives you at least five minutes of entertainment.

Great for fine motor skills & hand/eye coordination. This is a fabulous quiet game for at home or in the car. 

Foster license nightmare, but a gift to the parent with busy ones. Meets the deep muscle needs of some sensory kiddos. 

We have outside swings and inside swings. IKEA provides a great option that we have in Myriam's room. She will often say she needs some swing time and after a while will come out a different child. 

Scooters, plasma cars, and bikes with semi-flat tires. Again, this activity provides the deep muscle engagement that meets the sensory need. Kids feel like they're having fun playing outside, but little do they know they are self-regulating.

Megan has given us a few different techniques to use which help provide the release of cortisol. Hard to capture in a picture, but seriously works wonders at bedtime as we do the embracing squeeze on her arms and legs.

With this seat, we can use as a busy seat when watching movies, reading books or use to roll on our tummies and engage our arm muscles walking in and out.

For some kids they need the security of feeling protected. This chair from IKEA offers a secret space, hide out & isolation space. The chair also spins for those needing spinning therapy. A cardboard box will act as the same for a safe place if needed.

We have gum in every bag and use it often. I buy the Spry brand from Amazon.  Dr. John's makes a chewier lollipop that can't be cracked. These both provide great sensory input and fit in your purse or diaper bag easily.

We have found some improvement when we are consistent with Doterra Oil. Our potion of choice is Serenity (not pictured), Lavender, Aroma Touch & In Tune. I keep Serenity in the car and use the roll-ons under the big toe or behind the ears. Ask me for details if you are interested in trying a few of these oils.

We don't use this often, but when we do Myriam loves the "tickle." We only use this on her arms.

This is new to us and we haven't yet used it, but knowing the benefits, we will be putting this to use soon for our sensory seeker who needs the deep calming pressure. I'm not including the picture of myself trying this on for obvious reasons.

We have many others, but for older kids at school, these pencils work wonders. We also keep a Tangle close by when needing to sit quiet for awhile.

MISS MONKEY (better known as the child harness)
We have the flight child. Myriam feels much more in control if she can walk hands free, but also have the security of not getting lost. I have no shame using this to pick up kids from school, grocery shopping or any other public outing. Can I get a #MeToo???!!! If not in use, some said children may end up in the Dave's Sporting Good's display windows...(I told you to use it Dad!)

We have a few new toys on order that will be delivered soon...

You can always look for more ideas by clicking HERE to be connected to our Pinterest Sensory Board. I'm sure I forgot a few tools we use, but you get the idea of how we navigate sensory in our home. The more I discover and educate myself in this area of sensory needs, the better I understand our child...and even see traces in our bio kiddos benefitting from these activities.

Is it hard? Yes. 
Is it exhausting and embarrassing some days? Yes. 
Does it sometimes look like child defiance or disobedience? Absolutely.
As a mommy, do I feel like I'm failing some days? Often. 
Is it rewarding once you meet the need and see the connection made after regulation has been found? Priceless.

We are a sensory family.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Those Sweet Feet

We have had the sweet privilege of snuggling this newborn for a few weeks now as Miss Bee approaches her one month birthday. Our time has been filled with scheduled feedings every three hours and some lucky nights of 
stretching past five hours at a time. 
Back are the days of diapers and bottles with baby coos and the impressive grunting noises Miss Bee can produce. There are plenty of hands to help and cuddle along with the fun outfit changes Addi seems to enjoy daily. Thanks to our foster community, we have all that we need for the time being. We're not sure how long these sweet feet will be with us, but for now, we love Miss Bee like our own and share those moments with her mommy via text messages. Miss Bee has been an amazingly easy baby with rare cries and lots of new smiles. 
Please pray for Miss Bee and her young parents. 
Pray for protection over their family, wisdom for the state workers and opportunity to share Jesus in a dark situation. 

"Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."
Matthew 19:14