We have discovered a new use for socks – bandage covers. Last night #5 got his finger pinched in the closet door and we spent a good hour in the ER. Now we have to keep this little one from pulling the bandage off. It’s been a rough 24 hours, for us. The baby is taking this all in stride and only cries when we change his clothes. We are doing lots of snuggling and praying over him.
Her: when did you have your first kid?
Me: your the first kid.
Her: No, when did you have your own kid?
Me: I don’t have any kids of my own
Her: why didn’t you and Joseph have kids?
Me:…..well, God knew that you needed me, so I didn’t have any kids so you could live here.
Her: oh! So I could live here when I couldn’t live at my house!
Yes, I think my 5 year old just asked me to explain my infertility. And I did. Sort of….
Seven years ago we met and you told me how you wanted a big house full of kids (and no TV). And ever since I have had this vision of you coming into the house with kids on your back, and wrapped around your legs, big jolly grin under your beard.
Five years ago I found out that I would probably never make you a father. And as tears were shed, you told me how your God was bigger than infertility, and we would just make our family differently than most people.
So here I sit, five years later, in between two bedrooms. Waiting for one kid to go to sleep so I can stop guarding him to stay in his bed, and another kid to finish going to the bathroom – again. Yet another child sings softly to himself, and two more are happily asleep with their beloved pasi’s.
Hey, your big God called, and suddenly you are a father of five. And my vision of you coming into the house with kids on your back and kids wrapped around your legs, big jolly grin under your beard (And no TV) has become a reality. A beautiful, complicated reality.
Joe, I could go on and wax poetically about what a wonderful father you are, but I hope you already know it. I hope you know it by the way all five of our little cherubs adore you, and how I long to be the kind of calm, loving parent you are. You are the soothly aloe to my burning fire of a temper that sometimes rises up.
Thank you, light of my life, for always knowing and reminding me that your God is bigger than whatever we are facing. Thank you for being a steady, faithful father to our children, and most importantly thank you for being a morning person – shining the light of love over all of us and pushing out the ‘morning mommy black cloud’ that seems to follow me from dream land.
It’s been a full two weeks since our old friends moved back in, and we became a family of 7*
And this is how we look:
Ok that’s not us, it’s just Joseph, but doesn’t he look happy?
For the most part we are happy. Here’s what I have learned in 2 weeks:
-Three sets of hands are better than two. We have been so blessed to have people cooking us meals and bringing them by and then hanging out with us and the kids. And we have gotten so much done by having an extra person in the house with us.
- Cooking keeps me sane. Like I said, we have had a lot of meals brought in during the last two weeks, which is super great, and we have been able to spread them out to about every other day, which I am so thankful for. I like to cook, and it’s one thing that I can do that makes me feel acomplished every evening. I find the days I cooked something – even if it’s hard boiling an egg I feel better about myself.
-We must stay organized. While I wouldn’t say my house is Clean, it is staying pretty tidy. Tidy is key – have a place for things and put things in their place.
-The laundry is endless. Thank God for my Mother-in-Love, who has taken on the laundry for us countless times in the last two weeks.
- Each child is different. And what works with one might not work with another.
- Having five kids makes you talk more. I have nearly lost my voice. And our little Steel, who we are lovingly calling #3 now, has never talked so much. It’s great to have older kids in the house to teach him the ropes.
-The TV has been on more for the kids. Not in a babysitter way, but the #1, 2, & 4 are use to watching a lot more TV at home. We are really into Veggietales, and educational programs on Netflix. Oh and we toss a Disney Princess in for #1 every once and awhile.
-5 kids on WIC is a lot of milk. If you are not familiar with WIC, I’ll have to write a post on it soon, but it stands for Women, Infants, Children, and it provides nutritional food for women, infants and children up to the age of 5. So each kid qualifies. Which means we receive 15 gallons of milk a month……and we have been using every bit of it.
-It’s hard to go anywhere. No, not hard, exhausting.
Exhaustion doesn’t even cover what I have been feeling the last two weeks. The first days are always the hardest, tying to figure out the kids needs, wants, signals. Dealing with all the appointments, the court dates and the caseworkers dropping by. Trying to learn to cook for 7, keep up with the laundry, talk people into naps……And all the emotions. I am learning about self-care and leaning more heavily on God these days.
And now, I must be off to bed. It’s just a few short hours until I have to start making breakfast and dressing 5 children so I can make it to work on time.
Shout out of Joseph, that happy smiling man at the top of this post – without him I would be a puddle on the floor. Not once over the last two weeks has he wavered over having 5 kids under the age of 5. He has walked through this life change with Grace and peace, and each day I fall more in love with him – this daddy figure, this bearded fellow, this cheerful giver, my partner in crime, breadwinner, leader of the pack. Joseph – I love you.
*8 if you count Dixie, which of course I do!
So many of us wander from one path to another during our lives. We fret over this class and that party. We consider this college and that job. We choose this friend and that home. We like this food and do that activity. We wonder over the power of our choices while trying to explain away the fateful coincidences that often define our lives. To different degrees, we see these same considerations and possible paths in the lives of those we encounter. This transcendent perspective is an amazing part of our human experience that has allowed generations to identify with the stories, histories, and novels that make up our culture, tell us our past, and speak to our futures. These decisions, these possibilities, these stories are wonderful markers in our lives that are made possible by the community which has fostered us to this or that point. And yet, right now there are hundreds of thousands of kids who have had this world and these possibilities torn apart.
I am speaking about the approximately 400,000 children who are currently in foster care. These kids did not choose this or that – they were torn from their homes and sent out to strangers and strange places. Blame their parents, the institution, human nature, social sins – I do not care. Foster children are in need of relationship regardless of the reason they have ended up where they are. Worries of acceptance, food and clothing, being removed again, never seeing a loved one again, abuse, neglect, new schools, etc. make future considerations of this and that path a bleak and nightmarish ordeal. Yes, there are amazing success stories for these kids (and I pray for this every day) when a family and their community rally around these kids to create a loving arena that allows the child to feel and live until reunification or transition into a new permanent home. Yet for far too many this is not a reality. Take the following statistics into consideration:
- The average stay in foster care is 1 year for a child
- Roughly 1 in 2 foster kids do not graduate high school
- Only 3% of foster kids graduate college
- 40% of foster kids aging out of the system (18) will be homeless within one year
- Many foster kids statistically will end up having their kids in the system as well.
- Every year kids have their parents rights terminated, but for some reason or another do not have a permanent home. Their profiles are compiled into an adoption profile for families to peruse and choose who gets life in their homes. (I know this sounds sarcastic, I am blown away by those families who choose life for these kids. I am just angry that this plight has so many visible, uncared for victims in the wealthiest country on earth). Please pray for these beautiful kids if you choose to enter Indiana’s version of the site.
- Many counties do not have enough families for placement to the point where kids are placed many miles from home.
The causes behind this darker side of society are multi-faceted, complex, and many layered. They are worth discussing and combating. I am not calling for this here and now. Right now, you, yes you reading this post can enter into relationship with those kids around you who have some brokenness in their lives. Yes, I am specifically talking about foster kids, but right now you may only know some kids at church or nieces and nephews or a kid down the street who have lost a parent to death, divorce, drugs, or some other diversion. If God is still leaning on your heart, breaking it for these kids, then bear your soul, sign up for foster care and be ready for an adventure that will change your life. If that is too much for you right now, consider becoming a respite/emergency care house. This can allow you to give reprieve to this overloaded system by taking foster children for short term periods. If you are over 18, you can go out and get a background check so that you can babysit the kids while the foster parents run errands or get out for a much needed date night. If you are more interested in the legal proceedings, consider becoming a CASA (please peruse this site for more information ). At the very least, please take some time to pray for all of those involved in the system.
May is foster care awareness month. The picture from their website speaks truth to this process. If you get involved in foster care, you will be changing the future of that little one and this birth parent…
It will not all be wonderful success stories. There will be hardships. Your time will not be your own and you possessions may get broken. Sleep may come and go. Tears will flow. Yet, as with most problems that we allow ourselves to see…if you do not work at it, no one will. It has been an awesome thing to have our church and extended families rain their love down upon our small Indiana home, and we are so grateful. I am still amazed at the journey Jen and I have been on since she heard God’s voice through the following lyrics and answered His call:
Open up my eyes to the things unseen
Show me how to love like You have loved me
Break my heart for what breaks Yours
Everything I am for Your Kingdom’s cause
It is my prayer that many more will set their feet upon this adventurous trail.