Good Byes Suck

Probably the worst kept secret in my life is that I have a favorite aunt. I probably shouldn't, but I do. I love all my aunts and uncles, but one is my favorite, and has been for as long as I can remember.

Her given name is Lenora, but I've always called her Aunt Norrie. As a librarian, she helped fuel my love for books, often recommending things and then asking my opinion on them.  Thanks to her advice, my mom was able to navigate my teen years, so I'm pretty sure I owe my continued existence to her!

She called me "Ducky" following a rather memorable visit to her house when she and my uncle attempted to show me a good time and took me to a duck pond. Apparently, when my mom asked if I had fun, my response was something to the effect of "all they did was show me some dumb old ducks."  It's been a running joke ever since.  My rudeness at that moment never once changed how she felt about me.  And having had a 5 year old in my house, I now see that they all can be bluntly honest - even when you're trying to do something cool for/with them.

After I started working in financial aid, she would call to ask for advice as her son & grandsons looked into furthering their education. We'd talk business for a while, then catch up on life, each conversation the highlight of that particular day.  She adopted Bill into the family as though he had been born into it.  They too had thought-provoking conversations during our all too infrequent trips to visit.

Roughly 3 years ago, Norrie was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.  I was sure she would beat it, because she was really too stubborn to do anything else.  Nothing kept her down long, so why should this? And she fought, oh how she fought.  Treatment after treatment. Hospital stay after hospital stay.  All with the most courageous attitude I've ever seen. She'd get sick, then she'd get better. She lost her hair, so naturally she bought a wig. She continued to be active in life, refusing to let cancer tell her what she was going to do. She was like that.

Ovarian cancer is an insidious disease, one often caught too late and one that spreads quickly to other organs.  To fight it for 3 years is amazing.  Most people don't get that opportunity. She kicked it in the teeth for as long as she was able.

Today, my Aunt Norrie is cancer-free, pain free, and I'm confident has a huge smile on her face.  She fought the good fight and is now in the presence of Jesus.  She has earned it.

I'm going to miss her intensely, but I know that she's waiting for me and I'll see her someday.  All I have to do is find the duck pond.


Numbers (Followed by Thoughts)

Some numbers for you:

42 - the number of children currently in Older Brother's 4th grade class.  Nearly 2 months in and the school still can't seem to find a 4th grade teacher to replace one that left.  I don't think there's an IA in there either.

3 - on average, the number of behavior related calls about Older Brother we receive from the school.  

1 - the number of IEP requirements that state that Older Brother is to have a place to go to calm down when he gets worked up over something - which I'm not sure is being provided.

And now some thoughts:

This foster mama understands that Older Brother is a handful and a half.  She also doesn't think he's as special needs as the school thinks he is, but isn't going to fight that because of reasons.  However, because he does have a current IEP - that I helped create - certain things need to happen.

Older Brother has complained multiple times that he will hear the instructions given, and he will have questions about completing the assignment.  So he does what he's supposed to, raise his hand.  However, (again based on what he says) his teacher appears to take the long way around the room before helping him.  In the mean time, because he does want to do his work correctly, he gets upset at what he perceives as being ignored.  In reality it's probably just that it's difficult for her to get around to 42 students.  Regardless, I can understand his frustration.  

Does it justify his actions today at school?  Absolutely not.  Is there some cause and effect to his behavior?  Absolutely.

Parent teacher conferences are on Wednesday, and I'm going to ask about both the calm down spot and hopefully will find either the principal or asst. principal to ask about the status of the new teacher.  We'll see what happens!


Leading or Following?

It's my opinion that Christians should worry less about honing their leadership skills and work more on developing their ability to follow.  To those who believe that we are all called to be leaders, I say this:  Jesus never said "Come, lead with me," He said, "Come, follow me."

Discipleship has taken a backseat to leadership development.  Peter was discipled by Jesus for three years before he ever had any sort of "leadership" role, yet some churches don't even have a plan for discipleship.  We simply say "Ooooo, he/she has leadership skills, let's put him/her here so they can run XYZ program," and we don't always think to ask about things such as the person's Christian walk, their spiritual discipline, whether or not they are even capable of creating a culture of discipleship.  We assume that they do because they have a testimony of when they became a Christian, and we're afraid of offending them by asking those questions.  We don't even care about that "culture of discipleship" thing, because we don't even know what that is ourselves.

An un-discipled person cannot disciple others, yet we have so many in positions of authority who, if they were being honest, don't have a personal devotional time, and wouldn't know how to go about starting one.  And because the church doesn't have a plan for how to help them, it spirals downward quickly.

Could you imagine if we spent three years discipling people before ever letting them teach children's church, or be nominated for the board?  Three years seems like an eternity in our "if it doesn't produce immediate results it's not worth the time" mindset we have gotten into.  Except in extremely rare cases, LIFE CHANGE IS NOT INSTANTANEOUS, something that as a foster parent I am keenly aware of.

The process goes something like this: sermon preached, invitation given, hands raise, service closes.  No follow up, no direction given, no roots established.  Is it any wonder we don't have quality volunteers or even a next generation to pass things on to?

Thanks to people extrapolating more from the Bible than what it actually says (Prayer of Jabez anyone?), we have entire college majors devoted to leadership, but barely anything on discipleship.  We have leadership institutes who study these things and spew out information that gets studied more than the Bible.  We have made people like John Maxwell the expert instead of actually seeing what Jesus did and said.

As a result, we have spiritually shallow people providing leadership in an organization where being a [Christ] follower is the goal.  A blind leading the blind situation if ever there was one.


My Thoughts on Frozen

I've seen the movie a bazillion times, just like everyone else.  My foster children have the music memorized thanks to the soundtrack playing in my car.  I've read the blog posts about this, that, and the other morale to take from the story.  Everything from why the words of "Let It Go" should be sung loud and proud from the North Mountain, to why the song shouldn't be an anthem for our children.  However, everything I've read and heard have centered on Elsa's attitude about life.  There's a side not being discussed, so I'm going to tackle it now.

"Frozen" isn't a movie about a queen with a bad attitude.  "Frozen" is a documentary about what happens when parents don't do their job well.

The movie introduces us to Elsa and Anna, two princesses who are best friends.  Elsa has a special gift in that she can make snow with her hands.  A pretty nifty trick, say, when you want a sno-cone and have no cash.  The girls like to play with the snow in the house, and as a result of some over zealous playing on Anna's part, Elsa accidentally hits her in the head with a snow laser while trying to prevent her from crashing to the ground from quite a height.

As is the usual series of events, Elsa calls for help, they see what she's done and immediately assume that Elsa's at fault for the situation.  They all go to the trolls to have them fix the issue and here's where it begins.  Dad tells the troll king that Elsa will learn to control the power.  Except she doesn't.  The King and Queen immediately move Anna out of their shared bedroom, shut Elsa up in her room and begin the "Conceal, don't feel" mantra. Just my thought, but that's not learning to control it. That's just suppressing a talent.

And Elsa, like most good-hearted kids, does what she's told.  She hides her talent, withdraws from society and becomes a recluse, doesn't get to be herself.  So after she turns her kingdom into the arctic, she starts singing the big number we've all been singing since.  But her anthem isn't about shirking responsibility and living a happy life in her ice castle without the stress of being queen.  No, she's singing about finally getting to be herself.  About not having to fear what others think about what she can do.

Parents have so much power over their children, whether realized or not.  A comment like "It makes Mommy sad when you cry" will cause a child to think that crying is not appropriate.  Then when said child grows up, he/she is generally going to be angry because of the inability to manage emotions correctly.  When a parent celebrates their child's gifts appropriately, the child grows up with self esteem, a sense of satisfaction, and a generally good outlook on life.

Elsa shouldn't have needed to hide. She needed to learn that she had a gift that had it's appropriate uses.  Then she could embrace her difference and see it for what it was, a gift, not a curse. Although, then she wouldn't have had anything to sing about....because there would have been nothing to let go.



Being a stumbling block is not biblical.  Check Romans 14:13 and 1 Corinthians 8:9. If your actions result in you being a stumbling block to others, then you may not complain when you get tripped over.  To reword a song, Check yourself before you wreck someone else.


Just Some Clarification

Thanks to some recent comments on a Facebook status I put up recently, it appears that Bill and I haven't been sharing our foster parent story clearly enough.  Here's the back story:

A little over a year ago, Bill and I finished all the paperwork and training to become licensed foster parents for the state of Indiana.  We did so after coming to the decision that being biological parents would be both expensive (fertility help would be required) and potentially health threatening to me (a Type II diabetic with blood pressure issues). Add that to the growing number of children in the Marion County area that are in need of loving, safe, temporary homes.  June 12, we received our first placement, a terrified brother/sister pair who couldn't believe what was happening in their life at that time.  They've been with us ever since, and until recently had a pretty rock solid reunification plan in place.

For those who aren't aware, the purpose of foster care is to be a TEMPORARY home for kids whose parents have been deemed unfit to care for them.  The goal of foster care is 99.9% reunification, not adoption.  There are laws in place to keep kids from being in the foster care system forever, one of which provides for the termination of a parent's rights should it be obvious that the parent isn't going to get it together.

Our goal with becoming foster parents is to be a revolving door of sorts.  I've joked that we want to be able to decorate our rear car window full of those stick people decals.  We entered this process specifically to be foster parents, not foster parents hoping to adopt children.  There are those out there who want to foster only adoptable children, and those parents are just as necessary as the ones like us, who want to help as many kids as possible during our foster parent journey.  That being said, we did, as part of our license renewal process, take a class that discussed the adoption process and are technically able to adopt children from the foster system.

I posted on Facebook that I was looking forward to a meeting that would hopefully provide us with a new timeline for our placement, as the reunification plan had to change drastically given some pretty heartbreaking circumstances.  For the past 9 months, we have been aware of the lack of effort being put in by one parent towards getting the kids back, and with the changes could have been looking at making a forever decision regarding our current placement in the very near future.  One of our friends commented that it wasn't fair of us to be "test driving the kids" which did more to expose his ignorance than make us look bad.  However, it should be noted that foster care isn't test driving anything, unless perhaps you're talking about Ozzy Osborne's crazy train.  It certainly isn't test driving kids.

A forever decision has to be one that works best for all parties involved, and if forced to make a forever decision today, we'd most likely say "No."  First of all, because there's not any sort of agreement among the siblings regarding being members of our family forever, and second of all because one of the two members is beyond disrespectful, bordering on verbally abusive towards me.  For my self care, and the welfare of my marriage, that sort of thing isn't going to fly on a permanent basis - especially given the aforementioned blood pressure issue.

We are more than willing to talk anyone's ear off regarding our decision, our goals, and our plan for our time as foster parents.  Just ask, and we'll tell you as much as you want to know.  Please know, however, that if you don't ask, and you say something that displays your ignorance, I have an entire support system that will call you out on it.  So while I could do it myself, I don't even have to!


And Now What?

***NOTE: The commentary on this particular post is going to be raw, and I am not at any point going to apologize for it. ***

Three weeks.

That's all we had left of our current foster placement.  Things were going splendidly, and reunification was on track for Spring Break. Then last week, there was an incident at a visit that moved reunification back to the end of the school year.  Bill and I were bummed, but still hopeful for some much needed "only us" time that included a vacation, a move, and a whole lot of quiet evenings at home.

And now this.

Yesterday in the early morning hours, birth father passed away.  The whole house is devastated, though for vastly different reasons.  The kids (ages 10 & 5) no longer have a dad.  Bill lost a friend, someone who was trying desperately to put his life back together.  And I lost something to look forward to.

Last week I said that the light at the end of the tunnel turned out to be a train.  Yesterday, the tunnel collapsed.

We don't know what's next.  We don't know any details. We don't know how much longer we'll have the kids.  We don't know when our next "kid-free" moment is going to be.  I don't normally have to be the kind of person that has it all planned out, but I do need to know when/if an end is in sight.

I've cried tears with and for the kids. After about 5 minutes of feeling guilty about it, I started crying tears for me and Bill.  And I'm not sorry that this is the case.  We are mourning with the kids, and mourning for ourselves.  And at some point we'll figure out the details.