Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Foster Care Licensing

I have been receiving a lot of questions from people lately about Jacob's new sibling. I still don't have an answer. I can tell you that I have seriously been considering foster care. I would do what is called concurrent foster care. That means that I would help the social worker, child and birth family in a reunification plan. If that plan fails, I would agree to consider adopting the child.

After much thought and deliberation, it seems this is a good thing to try. I really enjoy working with children and am usually patient (Jacob challenges that belief from time to time.) Foster care will give me an idea of what to expect when adopting an older child who has been involved in the foster care system and a better idea of what I can handle. If it doesn't work for my family and me, I can always stop after the first child. I won't stop before the first child's case is concluded in my home (either reunification with the birth family or an adoption plan is made and our family is not a good fit). I believe strongly that every child has a right to a safe and secure home and will not disrupt that for any child if possible.

Some people have expressed concerns over how difficult it would be to allow the child to go back to his/her birth family. I don't doubt it is extremelly difficult. I will always be open to being involved in the child's life but also know that it is best for the child to remain with the birth family when possible. Children feel tremendous guilt, grief and anger when removed from their birth families. The children may feel responsible for their parents' problems or believe that they caused social services to come into the home. They love their parents and want to be with them. It is always good if a child can be spared the grief and trauma of losing parents. If that is not possible, the next best thing is to find a loving home for the child as soon as possible.

I also believe it will be difficult for Jacob to say good bye to the child. They will be like siblings and also bonded. I will have to explain to him that the child is/was only living here for awhile but is going back to his/her family now. I will also always reassure him that he will never be forced to leave our family and will always be my son. It may be difficult but hopefully it will also teach him to be compassionate and reach out to others in need.

It comes down to the simple fact that Jacob and I have room in our hearts and home for another child. It doesn't rule out possible pregnancy or adoption but does give us a starting place to examine some less conventional options. I have never been one to be afraid to buck the norms or do what I believe God is calling me to do.

The licensing process is just beginning. I sent in my application yesterday. I have some work I need to complete around my home before the home visit and some classes I will need to attend. I believe this process will make me a better mom and a better person. I hope it is what God wants from me and know it will work out the way it is supposed to.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Enough Halloween!

I realize Halloween isn't for a couple more days. I have to say Jacob has definitelly experienced the holiday. Not only did he go trick-or-treating at the zoo, he also went trick-or-treating at area businesses with his babysitter on Friday and to a halloween party at our church on Saturday. I wasn't there but heard the stories. He went around to the kids handing out candy at church stating "I need" while holding up his hand. He ended up getting over half a bag of candy and still wanted more! I guess we will have to begin learning not be greedy.

Halloween isn't over yet though! He painted a pumpkin at the church and still has to carve one at home. He also is going trick-or-treating at his preschool class on Wednesday. They are just going around the building but he already has a ton of candy! I am definitelly not feeling guilty that I have to work Halloween and won't be able to take him door to door that evening. He even woke up yesterday morning asking for more candy!

I am glad he is having fun. He walked into his new preschool room this morning and began playing. After a couple minutes, he decided he needed one more hug and then I could leave. I was pretty impressed since he only knew one child in the room and I don't think they recognized each other. Now, if only he remembers his promise to listen to his teachers and use "gentle hands" while playing with the other kids. Both are difficult tasks for a young 2-year-old but also something he needs to learn.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Halloween Fun!

We went to the zoo today for Trick-Or-Treating. It was a lot of fun. We are having abnormally warm weather this year and it was in the 70s. Normally, parents fight with children and make sure costumes are big enough to layer clothes underneath. This year we are fighting to keep our children cool in costumes bought for colder weather. It was still a beautiful day and a lot of fun.

As the above pictures show, Jacob was a dog. It was very fitting. Jacob practices being a dog several times a day and loves to sit and pant with the dog. The first picture is of Jacob panting like a dog. His grandmother bought him the costume when we found it at Walgreens earlier this fall. It was a wonderful buy. Jacob just stared at himself in the mirror after Jasmine finished putting face paint on him. All of the candy was just an added bonuses.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

And Grandpa Is The Winner!

Jacob has been perplexed lately. Who would he rather grow up to be? A doggy or Grandpa (Bampa)? He has spent plenty of time practicing to be both. He still pants and barks like a dog. I still catch him trying to drink out of the dog's water bowl when I am distracted. He still loves to play with our dog (the large one in the background) and any other dog he can.

The problem is that Grandpa is so special. For Jacob's birthday, he received a construction hat just like the one Grandpa wears in the Summer. He also has a couple of adult size baseball caps that look like the baseball caps Grandpa sometimes wears. If I want him to do or wear something, I tell him he looks just like Grandpa. If someone in a store tells him something looks like Grandpa's, I end up either buying it or hearing the protests as we walk away. Jacob has no trouble telling me no but when Grandpa gets upset so does Jacob. No one can change Jacob's behavior and mood faster than Grandpa can.

So who's the winner? Right now it is Grandpa. Jacob idolizes his grandfather and loves to spend time with him. I am jealous. I never lived near my grandparents growing up. I was always jealous of my cousins who got to spend a lot of time with our grandparents. I grew closer to two of my grandparents as I became an adult. I will always cherish the times that I did have with them and remember our long phone calls and visits. I hope that Jacob will grow up to realize how special these days with his grandparents are. I am so happy he is able to have the relationship with his grandparents that I always dreamed about having with mine.

Getting Better

I was thinking about how lucky Jacob and I have been. He had not had more than a bad cold since he came home over seven months ago. That ended this week. He came down with a cold early in the week and an ear infection Wednesday night. After a couple doses of antibiotics, he is now on the mend.

One thing that amazes me is that being sick doesn't seem to slow him down. He was a little whinier than normal but otherwise still played, ran and jumped. If he didn't have a fever, I never would have guessed he was sick. I am happy to see him feeling better and back to his old happy self though. Here's to another seven months without illness :)

Monday, October 15, 2007

Grateful For What We Have

I have been spending quite a bit of time lately worried about money and the upcoming holiday season. It's not just the holidays. After the holidays, overtime historically drops at work and is much harder to find. That means my paychecks will be even smaller as gas and electricity bills rise. This isn't a post about how hard my life is though. It is about how grateful I (and most of you) should be about what we have.

I received two envelopes in the mail I have been waiting for. The first one is a new coupon book for my mortgage payments. The second is my renewal notice to pay the yearly sponsorship pledge for a little boy in Ethiopia. Looking at both of those envelopes led me to think today. I was dreading both envelopes. The coupon books because it is my largest monthly bill but also my most important (in regards to living comfortably). The second I dread because it is money that I just don't have.

So why do I still pay it? It's simple. Even in my toughest and most frustrating financial months, I still have more than this child and his grandfather have. I may not have as much as some of my friends or neighbors, but I have enough that I can still dig a little deeper to help this child.

K lives in Ethiopia with his elderly grandfather. K is an AIDS orphan losing both of his parents to the dreadful disease. It is a disease that they most likely never received the life saving medications available to AIDS patients here. It is also the disease that not only made K an orphan, but caused him to have to quit school after only one year. His grandfather is too ill to take care of their fields and produce enough food for them to survive. By giving a small amount of money to K through Wide Horizons For Children, I am able to help him attend school and have enough food for him and his grandfather.

It is a small thing to me but a huge thing to K. So I pause today and look around me. I have a nice car that is almost paid for, a nice house with food and heat, clothes on my back and medical care available when I need it. So why do I worry? I don't want to lose those things I am accustomed to. I don't want to suffer. Why do I give? In hopes that K and children like him will suffer less.

Today is a day to pause and be grateful for what I have. Tomorrow I can continue to worry about money, presents and trying to make ends meet. Today and tomorrow I remember to thank God for the many blessings I have. Including the one in the back bedroom crying because he doesn't want to go to sleep.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Fall Fun and Down Time

Our child care crisis seems to be over for now and life has begun to settle down. The above picture was taken at a festival about an hour from our home. My friend was babysitting while I was at work and sent me this picture. Jacob has been having lots of fun while I work and doesn't even look back when I leave. It makes working and being away from him much easier when I know he is being well cared for and having fun.
So life around here is finally settling down. I have bee able to get started on some cleaning projects that have been on hold. I have reliable child care and am able to work overtime during the week off. I might even be able to go out with a friend later this week without any children! I just need to convince someone to watch Jacob while I am gone.
Jacob and I are preparing for his first Halloween here. We bought a small pumpkin at a farm last week and he has his halloween costume. We are going trick or treating next weekend. I think a friend is taking him trick-or-treating on halloween but once again I will be at work. I will probably try to take off work in the future so I can be with him but I am happy I will be able to be with him next week to celebrate. I am anxiously looking forward to experiencing Jacob's first American holiday season with him. Money is tight but we will still have fun making cookies, decorating and buying small gifts for family.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Socializing As A Single Mom

A topic has come up lately amongst some of my on-line and real life single friends. How do you find time for yourself as a single mom? I wish I had the answer. As you can see by the above pictures, most of my socializing involves my son. I have heard several suggestions and some of them I like more than other. One of the problems is the cost of hiring a babysitter. Another problem is deciding that it is ok to allow myself to sacrifice more time away from my son.

Ok. So I admit that I feel guilty leaving Jacob even for just a few minutes when I am not working. Money is very tight right now and I am working overtime on some of my days off. I make sure that I leave one full day that is just for Jacob. It is a day that I am willing to share with friends and family but Jacob must be included. This day is non-negotiable. I hate not seeing him for more than a few hours on the other days and feel like we both need this time together. I am blessed to have friends who understand this and help to come up with activities we can all do together.

One way around the money issue is to go out on a Monday-Friday evening that I am off. Those are the days that I have already paid for childcare so it won't cost anything to take him there. The only problem with going out these nights is that I cannot work overtime on those days since I still need to leave at least one day for Jacob. It is an option that I will have to explore now that our daycare situation has changed.

So the answer is not simple. I get 1 1/2 hours alone on Friday morning while Jacob goes to preschool. This time is my time to go somewhere and just relax. It doesn't really matter what I do as long as it is quiet and alone. Sorry, but it really is my only time alone during the week.

I have hired a house cleaner to help out with chores. I really don't know how long I will be able to afford that though. I need to really think about if it is worth it. It is one more bill that I don't have the money for and am not sure I need. I plan to cancel my home phone and go with just my cell phone soon. That should free up some money but not all of it. It does save one morning a week and makes me feel better about my home and mothering skills.

I love my son and one of the sacrifices I knew I would make is my alone time. In reality, it is a small sacrifice to make. He brings so much joy and fun to my life that I rarely miss time with friends. It has been about 3 months since I went out without him and I am beginning to think it is time again. Hanging out with Jacob is a blast but sometimes I get tired of asking "What's uh oh" or "Honey, please don't throw toys/food at our friends." A meal where I don't have to check the temperature of the bowl and food or cut anyone's food except my own is a fond memory and not something I experience often.

If anyone has any great ideas for spending time with adults and filling my adult needs as well as Jacob's needs, I would love to hear them. In the meantime, I will continue to look for opportunities to see my adult friends. Even things like attending playgroups once a month help. The children are occupied and I get to see other people who struggle with many of the same issues.

Even with my lack of alone time/adult time, I would not change a thing. I am still hoping to have another child soon and just wish I could afford one now. More children will mean even less adult time but the rewards far outweigh the negatives.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

A Sad Few Days

Things have been difficult around our house lately. The woman pictured above is experiencing signifcant health problems. Mrs. G is experiencing serious memory problems and is no longer able to live on her own. She lived next door to us until yesterday when she moved in with her daughter. Jacob and I both loved Mrs. G. and will miss her dearly. I still keep looking out the window wishing I could see her walking down her driveway. I will miss our long talks and her advice whenever life started to feel like it was getting too difficult. Jacob asked where she was this morning and I had to explain why we would not see her anymore. Good bye Mrs. G. I hope you are happy in your new home.

Our former au pair is still living with us. That is a difficult situation as well. It is difficult to explain to a small child why his nanny and friend no longer wants to play with him or even talk to him. I guess I don't completely understand it either but we are moving on with our lives. We have a new babysitter that Jacob adores. It is nice to have someone he enjoys being with that I can completely trust and depend on.

So now, we are adjusting and grieving. It may be a little while before we feel like the adjustments are over and life slows down. In the meantime, I am concentrating on thinking about the many blessings I have. Beginning with my biggest blessing who is currently sleeping with his Diego doll and under his new Cars sheets. Life has many ups and downs. We are in a low spot now but we also know that there are many highs to come in the days, weeks and years ahead of us.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Our House Has Gone To The Dogs!

I am ready to run away and move out! My friend is out of town for a few days this week. I have agreed to take her two dogs while she is gone. They are two yellow labs ages 9 months and 14 years. Talk about extremes! Our house is a fun zone of chaos.

The puppy is full of energy. She spends a large part of her day wresling with my four year old, 70 pound, dog. The older dog spends her time wandering the house or sleeping. She also loves the back yard and spends most of the morning out there. It is a lot of chaos and a lot of fun to take care of the dogs.

My friend returns tonight and I will be happy and sad to see the dogs go. Jacob loves all of them and greets each one individually when we return home. I will be happy to be able to come home at night and just go to bed without fighting to get three dogs outside and then back inside and to stop playing on the bed so we can sleep. The dogs have kept our lives interesting and it is fun to watch them play. I enjoy dog sitting but definitelly will not be getting another puppy for our house any time soon.