Thursday, March 22, 2012

Thanks Mom for the Life Lessons!

There are times in our lives (and admit it we all do it) that we laugh at our moms. We laugh at things our moms do. We I'll never do it that way. I am sure A and D will do the same to me. I know I have done this plenty of times. Well now I find my self thinking, "Okay what would my mom do?" The answer I usually arrive at seems to be the very things I once laughed at.

Here are a few things I have laughed at or at least thought, is that necessary?

  • When kids come over she covers her dining room chairs with towels- I now have 5 towels covering my dining room chairs and am ever so thankful. I am pretty sure I would have already had to buy new chairs if I had not taken this action on our upholstered chairs! 
  • As a kid we (and all those who spent lots of time at our house as kids know this because even neighborhood kids had one at our house) had "busy boxes". Busy boxes were shoe boxes with our own set of crayons, markers, glue stick, and scissors.- Well guess what I was shopping for last night on a late night trip to the store? Yup, three sets of markers to place in the busy boxes I am creating. It is my way of dealing with the "She didn't put the cap on the marker and its all dry now!" "He took the black marker and I was using it!" "I want the box of markers at my place!" I am all about sharing, but I am also all about peace too! 
  • Color coding- there was a lot of this. Green towels at my parents are just for the kids to use as napkins, etc... You know the messy stuff kids need cleaned up! I also always had the same color tooth brush growing up. I get it now! Color coding with kids can make life easier. Laundry has doubled (okay tripled!) When we use wash clothes to clean kids up from dinner I hate to throw them in the wash because it just creates more laundry. But, it is hard to keep track of who is using what. My solution, every kid has their own color towel. Works like a charm. Sippy cups-- yup everyone has their own color sippy cup as well. 
So the moral of my story, Mom's know a lot and it seems guaranteed that everything I once laughed at I will find myself doing one day. Maybe next time I laugh I will just write down what I am laughing about so I know exactly what to do when I am ready to do it to. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Bound and Determined

The teacher in me always wants to be doing something fun with my kids. I love when I can come up with new activities, cook, let everyone get messy with paints, and simply watch my kids become excited about what we are doing. This is why I was so excited when a friend introduced me to Pinterest. All these fun ideas right at my finger tips. I have a ton of pins, just not enough time to try everything (or lately anything)!

  This is why I was feeling a little sorry for myself the other day. I was looking back at my week and I discovered I hadn't worked on any projects with the kids, there was way more TV watching (for the kids) than I cared to admit, and I frankly just wasn't creative. So, after allowing myself to feel sorry for a little while, I realized that going about my old creative ways was going to be difficult with 5 kids. However, being creative is what makes me happy so I just needed to find a way to make it happen! I am bound and determined to try my Pinterest finds and be the creative person I want to be!

Here are a couple small ways I got myself back on track!
D and our new baby love to get a hold of the wipes. I took an empty wipe container and filled it with felt rectangles. Now they can pull away and not waste anything. When its empty, I just put the felt back in the box and they start all over again! A was inspired to bring out her baby dolls and start changing diapers. Now I had three entertained children.. Works for me! 
For a Saint Patrick's Day treat, the girls and I made green fruit dip (cream cheese, vanilla yogurt, a little cinnamon, and a few drops of green food coloring). They loved stirring it together and watching the color turn from while to green. They also cut up all their own apple pieces to use with the dip.

My first cooking projects with the 3 "big" kids were corn muffins for a family BBQ. We made 3 batches so each child got to do everything equally (one thing we are learning- triple of everything if you want to keep everyone happy!) They were all so good at listening and helping. It was cute to see them excited to tell our lunch guests that they had made the muffins!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Testing testing 1,2, 3, 4, 5, 6

So a few people have said to me, "Can you imagine what it would be like if all the kids got sick at once?" I gave a little laugh and responded that yes that would just be awful. But, really what were the chances? Especially now that the weather is getting warmer.
Well...spoke too soon. Maybe it was a test to see what we can really handle. You see it started on Thursday and one at a time everyone got sick minus one child (who I just keep waiting to join the in). On Monday we had a big family sick day. This meant no school for the oldest child. Let me tell you, by 8:00 AM I totally understood why some parents send their kids to school the day after they are sick and don't wait the 24 hours. (Which drove me crazy as a teacher) It crossed my mind that he would have been just fine at school and our sick day would have been so much more a sick day! Yes, I know, not the most loving thought. But, just being honest. He was jumping off the walls!
So, the statement I made that it would be awful was very true. I was tired, short tempered, and the house looked like one big laundry pile. One of the challenges of foster care is you are not allowed to leave the children with anyone unless they are agency approved and have gone through an interview, a home inspection, and have been finger printed. Being brand new, we don't know anyone. After a plea to the agency, they found us a family to take the kids for a few hours, and our kids went to hang out with the neighbors. We scrubbed and scrubbed the house and tackled the laundry. The whole time I was thinking, "This better not happenagain!" 

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Week One

 Ava loves to retreat to her own space for a while. We have a recliner in the dining room set up with books and a few special activities like a Leap Pad. One person in that area at a time is my rule. Of course the three bigger kids seem to know how to really annoy each other by trying to hang out there anyway. My sister and brother would probably disagree, but I might have been annoying like that too : )  Sometimes I wish I had some time to curl up in the chair with the rule that no one could bother me while sitting there!

One week in:

So our "new friends" have been with us for one week (In someways it feels like much longer!) I can say that I have learned a TON! I didn't get my weekly cooking time with Ava, but I think with a little planning it can still happen! Each day we get a little more organized. 

  • Establishing a routine that helps the day run fairly smoothly
  • Learning how to prepare meals for 5 hungry kids and actually being able to sit and eat all together without getting up 500 times
  • Having everyone in bed by 8:30 PM (A whole new appreciation for quiet evenings!)
  • Sitting down for dinner and seeing our newest little guy (1 1/2) smile and start clapping to the beat of our dinner prayer.  
  • Witnessing Ava and Dominic adjust to a very different situation then they are used to. 

  • Keeping my own children's lives as normal as possible with 3 additional children (who require a lot of attention) in our house
  • Remembering that I cannot change 4 years of learned behaviors in a week. 
  • Having to listen to multiple tantrums a day 
  • Our "new friends" love to wake up between 5:30 and 6:00. Ava has spoiled us with all the times she has slept until 8:30. I used to think Dominic woke up early at 6:30! 
  • Dealing with homesickness. As a child, I was always so homesick. But, I knew I could always call home, have my parents pick me up, or at least would know why I was away from home and when I would be returning. I can't answer any of those questions for my kiddos. All I can tell them is that we promise to take really good care of them until mommy is able to bring them home. It's so sad. 

Just gotta laugh moments: 

Our first outing was going to mass. 5 kids, 5 car seats. When the last child was buckled, we were on our way. As we were driving Kyle asked if we locked the door. We hadn't even shut the front door. Oops. 

That same afternoon I opened the microwave to find the veggies we never served with dinner the night before. 

Our 1 1/2 year old foster child loves hugs and always wants a hug from Dominic. Dominic can't stand it and makes it known. I think Mr. Huggy does it on purpose. It is really kind of funny.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Our New Reality (For now)

I just had to add this picture because all the kids did a painting project and Dominic had his first  painting experience. He was way too cute! 
Organization and boundary setting has been key to helping our newest little ones adjust to our family. Sticker intensive charts decorate the walls, and a picture daily schedule helps them to see what they can expect throughout the day. Since this was a typical daily schedule for Ava and Dominic,  the daily routine pretty much stayed the same. The oldest of our new three likes to check the chart when we start to switch activities.
5 pairs of shoes- kind of feels like a little shoe store. I had trouble keeping track of socks for two kids. I imagine I will have many more unmatched pairs along the way.   
The idea of sharing gets a little tricky. For Ava, pretty much overnight she was expected to share everything.  When  our new little one's brought a few special items from home after a family visit they understandably did not want to share. This was difficult for Ava to understand. A friend had a great idea. Each of the older three (the Dominic and the baby don't really have a clue about sharing yet) decorated their own box. (Two are the boxes are turned to keep names confidential.) Anything special that comes from home that our foster children don't want to share can go in the box. Ava will add her own 5 or 6 items that she doesn't want to share. If they want to use items in their box they need to sit in a quiet place away from the others. If they want their items in the playroom, then it is understood that they will need to share. The kids had fun decorating their boxes. It is also a great way to cut down on the extra clutter!

Things I have a new appreciation for:
  • The fact that some people do this everyday alone with little support. I have a whole new appreciation for single parents with large families. Things are running smoothly here because Kyle and I can do it together. 
  • I used to think sleeping past 7 was great. Our newest little ones love to wake up at 5:30AM. So I guess now my new sleep in time is anything past that!
  • The fact that I have a dryer and dishwasher. How people with large families  kept up with laundry and dishes without them I'll never know! I don't think we are that talented! : ) 

Sunday, March 4, 2012

A Turn of Events

I somehow feel this blog may be turning in a new directions. At least for now. Let me explain. After months of preparing to be foster parents, Kyle and I were licensed on Thursday. On Friday afternoon we received a call that three young children were in need of a home. Were we nervous and a little scared? Yes. But, this is what we had prayed about for a long time and we were ready to jump in. This all happened in the midst of a tornado watch turned tornado warning and while Ava and I were having our weekly cooking time together. We had been prepping Ava for months. She had helped us set up a room and knew that someday we would have other girls or boys stay with us sometime. When I told Ava that new friends would be coming she was very excited. Of course, she didn't have a full understanding of what that would mean or look like. But, then again even after months of planning we didn't either.

Our three "new friends", as Ava refers to them, arrived right before dinner. After our caseworker left we were now responsible for caring for 5 children all four and under. Gulp! But, with 3 preschoolers and 2 toddlers there wasn't really time to think about what this would mean. We had to jump into action.  The first dinner was a bit crazy. As Ava and Dominic ate the older of the two children didn't stop wiggling, shouting out, getting up and down up and down. I think I ate half a pancake the whole dinner.

I didn't sleep that whole first night. The kids slept great. I just kept waiting for one to wake up scared and a thousand thoughts raced through my head.  Was this the right decision? How would we balance our time between all the kids? The result of no sleep and the task of trying to set a routine and set behavioral boundaries with our new kiddos was a mommy who pretty much cried whenever anyone called to check in.

The first day was rough. Ava and Dominic were troopers. The youngest of the three went with the flow. The older two struggled to follow directions and understand boundaries. We remained firm, but kind. There were more time outs than I can count. And by mid morning we already had sticker charts and incentives in place (Ava included because we don't want to leave her out).We got through the first day with a lot of team work and an awesome neighbor who went to the grocery store for us to stock up on "kid friendly food". Funny how the night before I was making beet pancakes with Ava in an effort to introduce new veggies and nutrition but fun dinners. The next night I was cooking an entire bag for french fries and box of chicken nuggets because it was a fast and easy way to feed a family of 7.

We have been at this for only 48 hours and I have already learned so much. Are we crazy for taking on 3 more children very close in age to our own? Maybe. But, I do have to say that it felt right to answer the call. We don't know how long our "new friends" will be with us. Whether its for a few days or even months, I know it won't always be easy. There will be more tears and it will be frustrating. But, there will also be positive moments too. Those moments will be little gifts from God reminding us to keep going and to continue to share our love with not only our own children, but our "new friends" as well.