Getting Relicensed

The following meme is funny but true. We are currently filling out the stack of paperwork to get relicensed. Every. Single.Year. The first time in 2008 was the hardest and took us a year to get approved. Now it’s mostly updates but lots of paperwork nonetheless. Is it worth it? Yes!

Shared from Facebook page Foster Care & Adoption

Haha . . .

‘ARE THEY ALL YOURS?’ This story was submitted to Love What Matters (lovewhatmatters.com) by Stephanie Hollifield of Momstrosity and now shared here

‘Are they ALL yours?’ My husband loves to whisper, ‘Not all of them are mine. My wife went through a wild phase.’

“We have FIVE children. Even as I type that, I understand the image it must provoke in your mind. I must clarify that we have no extreme religious affiliation, and I doubt TLC would even offer us a reality show.

My husband and I love each other, and we love kids. Before we knew it, they multiplied and outnumbered us.

Never what we pictured, but as the wise philosopher Drake once said, ‘God’s Plan.’ I digress.

We get a lot of looks and a lot of comments, every single time we venture into public together.

Look— I get it. It’s shocking. We are loud, we don’t all look alike, and usually at least one of us is expressing a big emotion at any given time. It’s natural to be curious.

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If a younger me saw an outsider’s vision of this three-ring circus I would one day call a family, I would have gladly embraced a life of celibacy.

But the thing is, I love my circus and my little circus freaks (is it appropriate to call my children that?) love each other. Most of the time.

We are happy with our life, and we are happy to answer your appropriate questions about adoption or big families, but please remember my children are always listening. They hear your tone and your inflection. They absorb your happiness and joy. They understand your judgement. Your words are important.

We have lately been having a little more fun responding to the questions we get in public and adding a little spice to our answers. Not because we want to be rude, but because smiling kindly and faking the answer you want to hear is getting tedious. Here are some of our real responses and some of the responses we might just get to use in the near future.

‘YOU DO KNOW WHAT CAUSES THAT, RIGHT?’

‘Listen, lady. Sure, one or two of our pregnancies may have been caused by boredom and lack of quality television, but that is absolutely none of your business. All of our children are part of a bigger plan, even if sometimes that plan wasn’t ours.’

OK, OK! I have never actually said this, but I have thought it.

My husband, who is a bit more rough around the edges, loves this question. His go to answer is, ‘Some were caused by the stroke of a pen on adoption papers and some were caused by what grown folks do after dark.’  I want to crawl in a hole from embarrassment every time, but it also fun to see people’s faces when they hear his crude answer to their crude question.

‘YOU’VE GOT YOUR HANDS FULL!’

This one is not really rude, but more of a…DUH! What gave it away, Captain Obvious? My daughter throwing her shoe at the sales associate, or the fact my son is screaming at the top of his lungs that he has to pee? Yes, I have my hands full! Thank you for the reminder. Unless that line is followed immediately by, ‘let me help you,’ just don’t let the words out of your mouth.

But, because Jesus lives in my heart, and I know they mean no harm, I say in my most precious southern accent, ‘Full Hands, Full Hearts’ while simultaneously pinching my son for calling his sister a poop monster.

‘ARE THEY ALL YOURS?’

My husband loves to get wide eyes, lean in close and  whisper to them, ‘Not all of them are mine. My wife went through a wild phase. Going out every night. Conceiving children in bar restrooms with strange men. But I just loved her through it…’ He really loves an excuse to say inappropriate things. We are working on it, but since he still laughs like a child when he passes gas, I’m not holding my breath for him to mature anytime soon.

‘ARE THEY REAL BROTHERS AND SISTERS?’

This one stings the most. Mostly because I want to protect my children from the notion that our family is somehow less of a family just because we are different. I used to nod politely and carry on, but lately I feel like I have evolved and found my voice.

I have started giving the same speech my 9-year-old daughter gives children at the playground who ask innocent questions about our family. I deliver her words verbatim to the lady at Publix, but because I have yet to evolve from being petty, I speak extra slow and use the most sanctimonious voice I can muster. ‘I understand you are curious, but you need to understand that all families don’t look alike. God made families aaaalllllll different ways, and they are all special. Some families are different colors, and different sizes. Some families live far away from each other. These are all still families, and it is important to treat them with kindness. Does that make sense?’ My daughter is so sweet when she answers questions from her peers. She never gets annoyed, and is unnaturally patient.

I’m sure I shouldn’t use her precious and pure words as ammunition, but it’s just where I am right now in my journey.

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We love our life, and we aren’t ashamed of it. Please remember how your questions come off to impressionable children who are still learning about the world and their place in it.

If you want to say something, how about ‘What a lovely family!’ or, ‘Let me help you clean up that popcorn your son is tossing out like beads in a Mardi Gras parade!’?

When in doubt follow the golden rule my Granny taught me, ‘If you don’t have anything nice to say, say it behind their back!’

I kid, I kid! Just be cool!”

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This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Stephanie Hollifield of Momstrosity. It originally appeared on their blog. Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.

Read more from Stephanie:

‘I vividly remember the crazy looks I got with my huge pregnant belly and a newborn baby draped across my chest. I would stare too. It’s an odd sight, and honestly something I never imagined for myself.’

‘A stranger helped me with my black daughter’s hair. I desperately want to do the right thing. Our world needs more people like this.’

SHARE this story on Facebook to encourage others to cherish every moment and love what matters most.

You Should Just Stop Fostering

You Should Just Stop Fostering 

Many years ago I sat on the deck of a beach house with my step-brother.  We were enjoying an adult beverage, watching the sunset and catching up.  This brother is the quiet one, so having a deep conversation was never really our norm.  This night was different.  On this night he began opening up just a bit about his volunteer firefighter position.  Though he opened up for only a bit, he shared some graphic scenes that he witnessed firsthand…images he can never un-see.   The stories were horrendous.  These tragic scenes changed him.  Without a doubt they hardened him, kept him up at night and haunted his sleep.

I began to view my brother and firefighters differently that day.  I realized how much firefighters protect us. Yes, they put out fires, but that is just scratching the surface.  They protect us from so much more.  They arrive on the scene of horrific tragedies, take that scene in and it sears into their soul.  They shield the general public from this pain.  They bear the weight of witnessing and handling this thing that 99.9% of the rest of us could never do.  They are scarred protecting us from these images.  Then they do it all over again and again and again while trying to maintain their own sanity.  They are the very essence of heroes.  They’re not just rescuing victims and extinguishing fires, but they are heroes to society whom they shield from the pain of this reality.

There is a darkness with foster parenting that foster parents rarely verbalize. I imagine it’s the same reason firefighters rarely share their darkness. The reason we don’t talk about it is because to verbalize it means to hear from others, “Well, you should just stop fostering,” or “You are too stressed out. You need to focus on yourself and your own kids.” To verbalize the darkness is to invite people to discourage you from doing this thing that you know you are meant to do even though it’s hard.

If you don’t foster, then you just don’t get it.  Sorry.  Truth.

To be a foster parent means to take the brunt of many burdens that others can’t handle. Just the mention of “a little girl with rape wounds,” “a baby with throat injuries due to sexual abuse,” or “a little boy who was stabbed with hot needles” and society cringes and says, “That’s horrible. Someone should do something to help those kids.  But I couldn’t be a foster parent.” That’s three out of dozens of equally horrifying stories I could tell you.  Foster parents shield society from this reality.

The darkness that sets in for a foster parent feels much like that look I saw in my brother’s eyes that evening staring out at that ocean. We are handed these fragile little souls with physical, emotional and psychological wounds and we are asked to love and care for them while their situation is being “fixed.”

Their initial story is terrible enough.  When they begin to trust me and more of their story begins to surface, sometimes all I can do is hold on by a thread.   When I tell you that I have lost faith in humanity many times over, that is no exaggeration.

Their story emerges and when the depth of the damage they have endured becomes apparent, I often sink into a sadness that overtakes me.

When the rest of the world hears a tragic story on the news, their hearts ache for a few minutes.  Maybe they lay in bed and think about it for a night or look at their child and are reminded of this sad story, but to hear from the mouth of a tangible, in the flesh child that you are beginning to love…the darkness hits hard and runs deep.

To know this child is to love her.   She is silly, funny, loving, quirky and full of life.  How in the world could someone who is supposed to love her, hurt her so deeply?  To imagine my foster children enduring the pain that was inflicted on them is something I struggle with.  I can’t always allow my mind to go there.  It would drive me over the edge and I fear I would go all Dexter on someone.  You see, I love them.  They aren’t “that foster kid” or a number.  They are mine.   They are this gift that has been given to me even if for a short moment in time.

So here it is.

Don’t tell us to quit.  Don’t tell us that we are in over our heads.  Don’t tell us that you would “send that kid packing.”    Don’t ever try to discourage us.  We get down.  We get angry.  We may need to vent.  We may slip into a dark place for a few days and we may even appear fragile during that time.

But don’t be fooled.

We can bear this load.

We are strong.

We help change lives.

This is our calling and quitting isn’t an option.

Yes, there is a time and season for everything.   I won’t be a foster parent for the rest of my life, but for now, this is exactly where I am supposed to be and exactly what I’m supposed to be doing.  Please encourage me rather than tell me to quit.  It’s okay that you don’t understand it.  And I know that it brings you pain to see me go through the darkness, but this is my choice.  I own it.

All the sadness, muck and darkness is temporary.  In the end, I help change lives and every ounce of garbage I may face while working to inspire change is worth it if I impact my kids for the good.  And the truth is, I am better for having known each of them.

Don’t get me wrong.  Fostering isn’t all dark and depressing.  That’s maybe 3% of it.  The rest is awesome!  I have wonderful memories that I will never un-see that make it all worth it.

-Seeing her walk across the stage in her cap and gown.  Her falling into my arms after the ceremony, weeping with pride in herself that she did it!  She was told it was near impossible, but she did it!  AND she’s going to college.

-Receiving an email from a teacher stating that they have never seen this child so happy.  She is participating in class discussions, her confidence is boosted and she looks so healthy.

-The A on the Spelling Test…for the first time in her life

-Staying on “green” ALL WEEK at school

-The late night chats

-The quiet 10:30 giggles that come from their room when they should have been asleep thirty minutes ago

-The kitchen full of laughter

-The Perfect Attendance Award for this semester…for the first time ever

-Tears and deep conversation after watching the heartfelt movie

-The random email thanking me for loving her even though she doesn’t think she deserves it

-Five kids and a Mom jamming out in the minivan to Aerosmith’s Dream On

-The first Honor Roll

-The first time she tells me she loves me

-Trusting me enough to tell me that her friend is cutting and needs help

-The first A on her report card

-Receiving a donut from her because she wanted to thank me for helping her learn math and she just passed her first math course ever

-When our eyes met with tears and I realized how much I loved her when she opened her “Home” ornament on Christmas

-The first time she referred to me as her mom

-When she admitted to me that she messed up, and she needs me

-The tears that well up in my husband’s eyes because he is so proud of her

-Hearing how much fun she had at camp along with a tearful smile sharing how much she missed me

These moments will be forever etched into my soul.  These are the moments that refuel me and keep me going strong.

It’s hard and sometimes the journey is fierce.  But it’s worth it.  And when you send her off to college or send her back to her family equipped not only to survive, but thrive, you feel the most immense pride in this thing that you’ve accomplished.

For the foster parent who is reading this…good job.  Keep fighting hard, loving harder and don’t allow yourself to become discouraged.  The darkness won’t last long.  You know this.

Remember…the end result is worth the long journey.

Thank a Foster Parent HERE

Thank a DCS Professional HERE

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