Sunday, September 28, 2014

Welcoming #1

I know things have been a little bit quiet over the last few weeks; I'm sure a few folks out there have wondered how things have been going. So here's an update on things that have happened since my last post:

Three hours after I signed the papers to be officially licensed, I was almost given a placement. Unfortunately, it was a pretty complicated situation, so the agency decided to pass on it since I was so new.

I expected a phone call with a new placement later that week. I kept my phone on hand 24/7- just in case. But things stayed quiet. I kept going through my standard routine- trying to take advantage of my my pre-placement free-time but mostly just hoping my I'd get a phone call.
(I wrote a post about the waiting period in those first few days, but haven't posted it yet; I wasn't sure it accurately articulated the complexity of what I was feeling. I'll probably re-visit and share it soon, but essentially it touched on how hard it is to hope for something that- deep down- you hope won't happen. The ideal is that foster families wouldn't be needed, but at the same time I felt so ready (emotionally) to welcome a child into my home. And it was sometimes hard to reconcile those two desires.)

One week later I received another call. It was for a second potential placement- this time for two children under the age of two.

The agency I work with is incredibly supportive, and they want foster parents to make thoughtful and informed decisions about accepting placements. They encourage them to be honest about what they're thinking and feeling, and want them to only accept placements they feel confident they can really care for and support.

When I received this second phone call, I was in the midst of a miserable cold. As I answered, I was  typing a message to a friend about my plans to take NyQuil and go to bed the moment I got home.
When this opportunity came up, I immediately called my mom and sister to get their perspectives, and ultimately decided I didn't feel confident at that moment to accept two young children. I wasn't sure I'd be able to adjust so quickly to life with two youngsters while feeling awful, struggling to breathe normally, and battling a fever.

So I told them I wasn't ready. Which was incredibly difficult.

After that, my phone went silent again. I kept it close- again, expecting it to ring at any moment. (I mean, I almost got a placement within three hours of signing papers- why was it taking so long??)

On Monday night I was sitting with a new friend, drinking tea and sharing my frustration with the waiting. "I thought I'd have a placement by now," I lamented. "I thought the difficult part was over when I finished the licensure process, but waiting seems just as challenging in a lot of ways." She encouraged me to trust that, whenever a placement came, the timing and fit would be perfect. I agreed, really believing she was right, but still feeling exhausted with the process.

The next day- less than 24 hours later- my phone rang again.

I picked it up- thinking it would just be a request for more information to complete babysitter background checks. (I'd had to provide a few rounds of information earlier in the week.)

But it wasn't.

I was told there was a new potential placement. There was an expecting mom was set to be induced later in the week, but she wasn't ready to take care of her new baby at that time. So she was asking to have him placed.

And they thought I'd be a good fit.

"Of course, we'll have to figure out childcare. Most places won't take kids under 6 weeks of age. But if we're able to work that out, do you think you'd be interested?"

I didn't even have to think about this one. I felt ready (again- emotionally) and confident as I said, "Yes, I definitely would."

So I made some phone calls and the agency made some phone calls, and we kept hitting walls. I talked to several day cares, all of which stated they couldn't take in an infant so young. The one I found that could accept newborns was full.

So I started to feel discouraged again; I began to think this placement would't work out, after all.

The next day- on Wednesday- the agency told me they were working on a few possibilities.

That evening, they told me they'd figured out an option that would work.

They didn't have information about the mom/baby yet, so I still wasn't sure if things would pan out, but I was trying to remain hopeful.

On Thursday morning I got a text. "It's a boy!"

I may or may not have cried in my office.

I felt such a strange mix of emotions. On the one hand, I was so excited to welcome this new life into my home. I felt humbled at the thought of accepting such an significant role in the life of this child and his family.
At the same time, my heart broke for his mom. I couldn't image what she was feeling. I was so thankful for the way she was choosing to care for her child, but so devastated at the thought of the pain she was feeling.

I cannot even fathom what she was- and is- going through.

But I felt very ready to love that new baby boy.

We weren't sure when he would be released from the hospital, but- expecting it to be sometime over the weekend- I made a Target run that night to pick up the essentials. Diapers, wipes, etc.

As I stood in the baby aisle- overwhelmed by the sheer number of various bottles (how do I know what to choose?!), my phone rang again.

"He's being released tomorrow! Do you want to go with the case manager to pick him up?"

After frantic and frazzled phone calls to my employers, I excitedly agreed to go.

Twelve hours later- after a somewhat sleepless night- I was heading down to Galveston to meet my first foster child.

As we made the trip, everything felt surreal. I kept expecting to wake up and realize it was a dream. I stared at passengers in the cars passing by, thinking about how we were (probably) heading to such different places. They were just going about their day-to-day lives.

I was going to pick up a child.

My heart was racing when we pulled up to the hospital. We checked in at the nursery, and I stood awkwardly behind the case manager as he filled out paperwork. I kept glancing around- trying to figure out which crying baby would be coming home with me in just a few hours.

After signing a few forms, the nurse waved me over to a few infants lying in portable hospital cribs.

She pointed to the one closest to me, and I met my new foster son.

"I'm sorry- we're really busy today," the nurse explained. "Let me try to find you a room." She asked her co-workers if there was an empty room nearby. We were directed to the circumcision room.

Not an ideal location for our first moments together, but still.

I followed her as she wheeled this sweet little boy- less than 48 hours old- into the room. She told me he was probably ready to eat, handed me a bottle, and left to take care of her other patients. "Am I allowed to pick him up?" I asked as she left, but she didn't hear me.

There are really no words that can do justice to everything I felt in that moment.

Overjoyed.
Terrified.
Grateful.
Nervous.
Uncertain.
Peaceful.
And so, so full of love.

I stared at him for a moment- completely unable to process so many distinct thoughts and emotions- and then, very nervously, pulled him into my arms.

I cried as I sat there holding him.

I whispered to him while he slept in my arms- terrified I would wake him up. I told him how happy I was to meet, hold, and care for him. I told him about how loved he was- by me, by his mother, and by the countless people who had called and texted me over the past 24 hours to offer support, baby clothes, meals, etc. (I have amazing people in my life, guys.)

Despite the noise and chaos around us, it felt so quiet in that room. He lay there sleeping (and- based on the adorable faces he made- dreaming some crazy thing); I stared in awe and silently thanked God for the life in my arms.

About 15 minutes later, his case manager joined  us as we waited for the nurse to return. We sat together for two hours before she came back into the room carrying a bag of supplies and papers. "Okay, I'm just going to give you a really quick crash course on caring for newborns," she told me. She quickly flipped through a booklet, reminding me to put him on his back to sleep, make sure he was buckled up in the car, and stick to short sponge baths until his umbilical cord fell off. You know, the highlights of infant care.

She probably said a few other things, too, but she was talking quickly. It's all kind of a blur now.

"Well, any questions?" she asked.
"Umm... I don't... not that I can think of right now?"
"Okay, well- you can go ahead and change his diaper and then head out! Good luck!"

Five minutes later, we were carrying this tiny boy out to the car.

I was expecting someone to chase me into the elevator and stop us. Surely someone knew I didn't know what I was doing?!

But we made it to the car without anyone saying another word.

We buckled him into his carseat ("Is this right? Should this be at a different angle? He looks so scrunched up- can he breathe?!") and left.

About 4 hours later, I was pulling into my driveway, trying to comprehend the ways my life had changed in the past 24 hours.

Guys.

I'm a foster a foster mom.

To a perfect little boy.

And I am so, so happy.

And sleep deprived.

But mostly happy. And unbelievably grateful.

I'll share more about the past few days later, but for now I have a sweet little baby to hold.






I'm not allowed to show his face or use his name, but here are some photos of our first days together:
He held my finger for most of the ride home. He knows how to melt hearts, guys.

Right after we arrived home (I look exhausted and like I just gave birth, but I love this photo.) 


RG is still trying to figure out what to think about him.



Thursday, September 11, 2014

It's Official.


1:30PM (or a few minutes before, I guess).

That's the time I officially became a licensed foster parent.

I had to sign a form in front of a notary, so I ran by the office this afternoon to do so.

As I sat down at her desk, she hovered next to me chatting with the foster care program director.

"Okay," I told myself. "This signature counts. Make it a good one."

Luckily I'd practiced signing my name at least a hundred times that morning- one of the perks of being a social worker, I guess.

A moment later I was sitting there- staring at my signature, freshly scrawled in bright blue ink- when I heard a piece of the notary's conversation above me.

"So, if we were to get a call tonight about a placement, technically..."
"It could go to her, yes."

That's when it dawned on me:

They're talking about me.

This is really happening.

Holy *&^%.

This isn't an intimidating mountain of forms and tasks standing formidably in the distance.

I've hiked this beast and left it behind.

And now I'm sitting at the notary's desk, taking it all in, and (sort of) realizing what this means for me.

In a matter of hours, I could have a child in my home.

Or it could be a matter of days.
Or weeks.
Or even months, I guess.

But it's done.

I did it.

I'm a foster parent.

(On paper.)


Truth be told, I'm starting to panic a little.

That might be a strong word, but I'm asking myself questions like, "What do I actually do when a child shows up? How will I know what to feed it? What time should it go to bed? Will someone tell me those things, or am I just supposed to figure them out? How does someone figure those things out??
What will we do in our first moments together? How will I explain what's going on to a verbal child? How do I help a child feel at home in a totally new and strange place?
Should I take the kid out for frozen yogurt to ease the transition? No, I don't want to teach them to numb their feelings with food.
But froyo is so food.
And, seriously... what else do I do with a kid?"

I'm having visions of myself sitting across from a four year old- awkwardly asking, "So... what do you want to do?" before falling into an uncomfortable staring contest.

I mean... really...WHAT IF THAT HAPPENS??

Hopefully it won't. Hopefully some of this will come naturally. I mean, I've spent a LOT of time around kids in my life- how hard could this be, right?

Oh my goodness.

I'm going to be a foster parent.





Wednesday, September 10, 2014

A Tour of the Nest

Well...

I passed the inspections.

The box springs for the kids' room weren't delivered until an hour before the inspector arrived on Tuesday, but I was able to rush home from work and throw the beds together just in time.

After the rush, stress and manual labor, I might not have looked very put together- but my house sure did.

Here's a little tour, for anyone interested in the (pretty much) finished project:

Let's start in the kitchen...
You can't tell in the photo (because the lighting is terrible, my B), but the paint is a beautiful, bright blue. It's very cheery and lovely. Between the paint color, the coffee maker, and the "You deserve a donut" print (aka- an old donut bag. I'm all about recycling) by the sink, this is definitely one of my favorite rooms of the house.
The Emergency Exit Plan also adds a nice touch.

If you turn around, you run right into the dining room.
It's not very exciting, but it has a cute table with cute chalkboard placemats. (Thanks, mom!)
I'm working on spicing the table up a bit with some color, but it's a work in progress. I'll report back on that later.


The dining room opens up to the living room. I did a panoramic photo (obviously), so it's hard to tell from the photo how awkwardly long this room is.  But- despite it's awkward shape- it's very homey.
(Oh, and in case you were wondering, I DIYed the rug from a plain $15 Target rug. It's whatever.)

View two:
The dog bed really adds a classy flare to the room.
I also made the photo hanging things above the couch, but they're a little hard to see here. I'm really happy with them, though- especially because they include some really great photos of my twin and me as toddlers. Here's a sample:
I was a very bubbly child.


Next comes the kids' room, for which I am forever indebted to my mom. (See my last post if you don't understand why.)
Not pictured- the DIY lantern-style Christmas lights. Thanks, Pinterest!

The other kids' room is not totally put together... it sort of serves as the dogs' room for now.
They really enjoy antique furniture, though, so it works out.
#sorrysoblurry

 Then there's my room. I owe the cool wall paint to my old roomie, as it was once her room.
My favorite parts of this room: that chair and the artwork. And the natural light.
And my books.

So, that's my officially-inspected house. 
Which will soon be home to a small person.
 Or people.

Tomorrow is the final walk-through, and then it's pretty much a waiting game.

So that's pretty crazy.

And great.

Who knows? There could be some big updates pretty soon...

Monday, September 1, 2014

An Overdue Update


I know- my photo editing skills are amazing.

Hey, team!

I apologize for the delayed update; things have been a tad busy lately.

Here's what been going on in the past few weeks:
  • At the urging of co-workers, I went the doctor and got my leg checked. I was diagnosed with some type of stress fracture and sentenced to time on crutches.
No one was more stunned by this news than Mel.
Unfortunately for my still-bruised leg, my time on crutches lasted about a day, because soon afterward I…
  •  Was on a plane heading to New Orleans with my brother! It was a really fun trip. I got some good sibling time, ate a LOT of food, and listened to some great music. Plus, I tried beignets for the first time! They were delicious, but if I’m being honest- I think they might be a little over-hyped.  

I still enjoyed them enough to get powdered sugar all of the hotel room floor- like a true lady.
My favorite part of the trip was listening to the Preservation Jazz Hall band at Preservation Hall.
If you get a chance to visit this place, do it. 
They were incredible- such a talented group. And the drummer fell in love with me at a bar the next night. (True story- my brother can confirm.) If we lived in the same town and he wasn’t at least 40 years my senior, I definitely would have scored his digits.

Here's my favorite photo from the trip:
I think it's obvious why it's my favorite.
  •  A few days after I got back from NOLA, my mom came to visit! This was wonderful because a) she’s really fun, and b) she helped me organize and get the house ready. I am so, so thankful for her. Seriously- I’m not sure I’d be able to get through this process without her encouragement and support. We got a LOT of stuff done while she was here, which decreased my stress levels significantly.  We built a shed for the boxes of toys (remember that last post?) and then moved said boxes into said shed, checked smoke detectors, organized the living room, put up a gate in the backyard to block an entrance to a sketchy shed that belongs to my landlord, etc, etc. Then she did some MAGIC while I was at work on Monday and Tuesday.          
We're talking a Gob Bluth-level feat, here.


She (among a million other things) single-handedly set up and organized my old room. I mean, look at these pictures:


 BEFORE:
It's horribly lit and should have been in panoramic so you could get a full view of the disaster- but it was rough. Piles of stuff outside the frame- trust me.
AFTER:
Hindsight 20/20, guys. But look at this! Plus- she BUILT that bookshelf!

 And that was just on Monday! She knocked a bunch of stuff out for me on Tuesday, too. So please know- when I say I’m not sure I could make it through this process without her, I really, really mean it. I’d be drowning in children’s toys if it weren’t for her. I cannot say enough how grateful I am for her help, so if you see her around town, give her a hug and buy her a margarita, because she deserves it for being such a generous mom and person.

Since she left I’ve been trying to wrap up the items on my foster-parent-licensing to-do list. The main challenges this week: dealing with inspections.

Guys- this has been the WORST.

I was na├»ve enough to believe scheduling these would just involve a phone call in which I'd say, “Hey, can you guys come look at my house?” and they would respond with, "Of course! We'd be delighted."

Apparently that is not how it works.

I was similarly disappointed.

When I called and asked to schedule an inspection, I was told I needed to fill out an application and bring it in to the office first.

I got that news from both the Health Inspector and Fire Marshall’s offices.

So the next day, on my lunch break during CPR/First Aid training, I trekked around town to drop off applications.
I had to go to two different municipal buildings (why can’t we just group them together into one? They have almost exactly the same name!), wrote TWO separate checks to the City of Waco, and then was given approval to schedule my inspections.

Which I had to do by calling the office.

As in… the office(s) I was standing in.

When I called the Health Inspector’s office- literally within an hour of leaving- I was told the inspector would be out of town for two weeks. While I feel it would have been helpful to hear about that while I was actually standing in the office, I persevered and- after a few phone calls- was thankfully able to find another gentleman willing to do it.

Check.

I was told to wait 24 hours to call the fire marshal, so I did that during my lunch break at work on Friday. During this phone call, I was informed by a very nice man who was trying to be helpful that I needed to:
1) get the house’s gas appliances inspected by a certified plumber and 
2) get my over-five-pound- fire extinguisher inspected by a fire-extinguisher-inspector. (Something I didn’t know existed until that moment.)

Now, at this point, I’m starting to panic. These inspections are 2 of 5 things standing between me and a completed checklist, so I was hoping to get them taken care of by the end of this week. And since it was Friday afternoon before a three-day weekend, I felt like my window of opportunity to get these completed on time was quickly closing. (The other three things are taking pictures of the house, updating a pet’s shot records, and signing a final form- much smaller tasks.)

With the time I had left of my lunch break (who wants to eat anyway, right?), I found a plumber that could come out that afternoon after work. I also called the fire-extinguisher-inspector company and discovered they would close for the holiday weekend at 5PM on the dot.

Except for not at all. 

After a hectic afternoon at work, I was able to rush home at 3:30.

I arrived a few moments after the plumber (sorry, bro), who moved my oven/stove forward and lit a match by my water heater before declaring the appliances acceptable- a service that costs $100, by the way, in case you are considering a new career path.

When he left, I grabbed my fire extinguisher so I could rush to the inspection office only to discover-
it wasn’t over 5 lbs.


Apparently fire extinguisher makers don’t want to waste ink printing the weight on the box, so you can only know for SURE what it weighs by opening it. Fun.

I sprinted out the door, ran to Lowe’s, found an extinguisher I thought might be over five pounds based on its size relative to the first one, and then drove to a sketchy warehouse to have it inspected.

It was give the okay just before 5PM.


Suffice it to say, it was a hectic day. Really, it was a hectic 48 hours. But now both inspections are scheduled- for tomorrow and Thursday.
And hopefully I'll pass them.
With flying colors.
Because I’m not sure I can go through that again.

With those on the calendar, this weekend has been dedicated to going through inspection checklists and making sure everything is in order. I’ve baby-proofed my stove and the cabinets containing cleaning supplies, organized closets, mowed the lawn, hung up the officially inspected and approved fire extinguisher, found locations for the medicine lock-boxes, put up pictures and artwork to make the place look homey, and cleaned like there’s no tomorrow. There’s still a bit more cleaning to do, but I’m determined to have everything ready to go by the end of the night.

Please, Lord.

In all the stress of the past week, though, I can’t help but think about what this long checklist is leading up to.
And then I can’t help but feel really excited.
And then a little terrified.
And then back to excited again.

I am rapidly approaching the end of this stage of the journey, which means my life could look drastically different in the very near future.

To be honest, I still haven’t wrapped my mind fully around that fact.

It’s odd knowing my life is about to shift in such a profound way, but at the same time have no idea what that will look like. I can’t predict when kids might arrive, how many of them there will be, how old they are, or what they’ll like to do. And, since I don’t have kids of my own, I can’t really draw from experience to make a rough estimation of what having a child in my home will look like on a day-to-day basis.

It’s times like this that I realize how crazy it is that I’m doing this.

But, crazy or not, I feel so much joy and peace in this decision. Even in the midst of the stress and fear.

As Liz Lemon would say...
Things are happening...