Monday, October 9, 2017

Stone Soup

I will start with a photo of one of our sons, one who knows what it is like to stand by an empty pot waiting on broken promises. 

I said that I was going to start blogging again, but the reality is that I haven't. I have been busy, I have been tired, I have been unmotivated. Today, maybe I just want to vent. Or should I say I need to vent? 

I am that foster parent who shows up in facebook foster parent support groups and says things about how we need to bridge, we need to encourage, we need to support reunification.  I am that annoying person that tells people that if all they care about is adoption then they should not be fostering. I believe every word of it. But... today I am not there. I just don't want to bridge, I don't want to support, encourage or show grace. 

Stephen and I attend a group at our church on Wednesday evenings, it is called Oasis. The pastor's wife felt lead to start the group, not just for foster parents but for parents in general. It is a place for parents to get support, vent and talk about the crazy and insane reality of parenting. It just happens to be a great group for us because we are not the only foster parents in the group, so when our kiddos are struggling with being in foster care, we have a place to get support for ourselves, so that we are better able to help them. There is a downside though. Like right now we are doing this course on Grace Based Parenting. It is interesting, it is helpful, but it has made me realize that I can't attempt to parent our children in grace if we are not showing the biological parents of these children grace. I mean how contradictory can we be? To attempt to teach the children that come into and out of our homes about grace, yet not show grace to their parents. 

Reality is that these kids love their parents. So far, for us, we have seen children who love their mothers,  children who are bonded to their mothers.  If I am telling little Johnny that grace is this important part of life, but treating his mother like last week's garbage, how convincing am I going to be in this child's eyes? 

I get it, I am saying it, I have tried it, but today....I DON'T FEEL IT! 

In elementary school, 3rd grade maybe, my class did a play where we acted out the old story about Stone Soup. You know the one where everyone is short of food and a man fools the community into putting bits and pieces of food into a pot of stones and suddenly the entire community is eating wonderful stew. ( I have pasted a short version of the story below for anyone who hasn't ever read this fable ). At the moment  I feel like this fool standing out in the middle of a community with an emotional pot full of stones and water. Waiting, just waiting on the parents of these children to come by and drop in some carrots, or cabbage or beef. Something, anything at all. 

The problem is they are not there, they are hiding out, living their lives and eating their hidden food, enjoying it and all the while knowing that their child is standing with me next to this big stupid pot hoping and praying for anything. Not a promise that maybe tomorrow someone will pull a carrot out of their garden, especially when they never really bother to even look at their garden.  

I don't feel like showing grace. I feel like telling this child that we only share our stone soup with those who actually contribute to the pot.  I don't want to be kind and forgiving, I want this child to have a real stinking meal and I want it today. 

I know as a Christian we should turn the other cheek, I get it. I know we need to show grace, but I don't comprehend when our grace is no longer grace. Surely God doesn't expect these children to stand here in the middle of their lives waiting on broken promises.

There is a part of me that sees a greater plan, a life that these children could have, a possibility of life that even Stephen and I couldn't give them. But there is a part of me that knows that these children don't want that picture perfect picket fence life, they want their family, their mother, the person that they bonded to at birth.

How do you look at a child and say " sorry, your community has chosen not to contribute to your stone soup, so today, tomorrow, 10 years from now they will not be putting potatoes in your pot? "

We are not talking infants that were left at the hospital, I am talking about a child who is well aware of what is going on. A child who can look into that huge pot with stones in it and recognized that there is no food in there.

I realize that  I don't get to  choose what the future holds for these children. As one of these very wise children told me recently " we can only make suggestions and pray for them to make good choices". But how fair is that? No life is not fair, but knowing that does not make it easier to watch a child go through the steps of realizing and accepting that the only potatoes and carrots going into this pot of soup is going to be coming from strangers. Strangers that they will learn to trust, strangers that want to give them a community that will fill their stone soup pot full of all sorts of nurturing things.

I am looking at the possible life these children will have with these strangers and there is a part of me that is full of excitement because I feel strongly that these strangers want to love these children., They want to be part of God's plan for their future. But at the same moment, I want to scream at the parents that I am mad at them for being so selfish and ungrateful for the amazing children that God gave them.

I don't get it, I never will and if ever I do I think I will stop fostering. I never want to be okay with biological parents who don't want to get their children back. 
Side note:  This is my emotional rant about some parents, not all of our foster children's parents are sitting by munching on carrots from their stash while their children go hungry. Some are contributing to the soup pot and for them I am grateful, they give me hope that more parents will fight and do what is right for their children. 

The Story of Stone Soup

Once upon a time, somewhere in post-war Eastern Europe, there was a great famine in which people jealously hoarded whatever food they could find, hiding it even from their friends and neighbors. One day a wandering soldier came into a village and began asking questions as if he planned to stay for the night.
"There's not a bite to eat in the whole province," he was told. "Better keep moving on."
"Oh, I have everything I need," he said. "In fact, I was thinking of making some stone soup to share with all of you." He pulled an iron cauldron from his wagon, filled it with water, and built a fire under it. Then, with great ceremony, he drew an ordinary-looking stone from a velvet bag and dropped it into the water.
By now, hearing the rumor of food, most of the villagers had come to the square or watched from their windows. As the soldier sniffed the "broth" and licked his lips in anticipation, hunger began to overcome their skepticism.
"Ahh," the soldier said to himself rather loudly, "I do like a tasty stone soup. Of course, stone soup with cabbage -- that's hard to beat."
Soon a villager approached hesitantly, holding a cabbage he'd retrieved from its hiding place, and added it to the pot. "Capital!" cried the soldier. "You know, I once had stone soup with cabbage and a bit of salt beef as well, and it was fit for a king."
The village butcher managed to find some salt beef . . . and so it went, through potatoes, onions, carrots, mushrooms, and so on, until there was indeed a delicious meal for all. The villagers offered the soldier a great deal of money for the magic stone, but he refused to sell and traveled on the next day. The moral is that by working together, with everyone contributing what they can, a greater good is achieved.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The "Clean Your Room " Syndrome

One may think that showing all our dirty laundry is a bit TMI. But for me it's not. This is the reality of our life, the path we choose and the choices our children, forever and temporary, have made.

 A couple weeks ago we made the decision to add a 6th child to our home. This particular child's mother did provide me with some clothing items. However, she had her own serious issues to deal with and it took a while for her to get her bearings and provide me with a bag of clothes. In the mean time we bought some clothes and shoes for this child. Almost instantly, this child lost his new shoes. I have been looking for them for several days now. Yesterday I gave up and called all 6 children to the living room and announced that is time to  "Clean our Bedrooms". Less than a minute later this pile of "dirty" laundry landed in front of the washer. Now mind you I don't believe that 90% of it has been unfolded let alone worn since it was last washed. But I do feel confident that all of it has been walked on, rubbed around in their floor and probably used to wipe up what ever drinks they have managed to sneak to their rooms.

Now our new "Shoe Boy" looked at me like a deer in headlights. He even ask  me 3 times if he has to help clean. Did I really mean "him"? Seriously? Well yes,"Shoe Boy" as long as you are living in this house you will help clean up after yourself. I still got "Really? But I didn't make a mess ". Sorry for your bad luck of landing in what I feel may be the most cluttered foster home ever, but yep, everyone here cleans up.

I will say, once he was over the shock he cleaned up without much hassle, just the occasional redirection but what kid don't get distracted when cleaning.

Often times I wonder what we are thinking taking all of these children into our home and being repaid with complaints, messes, poopy diapers and piles of laundry.

First let me say that I would love to be able to quote a verse from the Bible and go on about how we are commanded by God to take care of  orphans.  However, even though it is true that the Bible says all this.... That is not why I personally foster. I do it because I believe in people, I believe that people can change, and that even though we all mess up our lives at times, most people are good.

I also do it because I was once a single mother, struggling to manage life with two girls who were struggling with life after divorce. I didn't have a drug or alcohol addiction, I wasn't codependent and I had a decent job, but life was hard. I barely kept my head above water financially and emotionally I lived on autopilot. I don't know how I would have managed life in general if I had of also been burdened with addiction or a victim mentality. I do know what it is like to be in over my head and feel like there is not one person around that is willing to throw me a life preserver.

And then there are the kids, Misunderstood behaviors, distracted, broken kids who have been broken by poor choices and bad actions of a lot of people other than themselves. The kids that are making my house a mess and my life complicated and at the same time giving me hope that they can at some point return home to their parents, or be adopted, but most importantly break the cycle of poor choice making that landed them in foster care and their parents at rock bottom. Maybe I am delusional to be believe in them all, but I do and therefore I stay on this roller coaster.

So for me, a full day of washing not exactly dirty clothes is not my ideal way to spend my time. But it is what I will do in order to survive another chaotic day in this life that we have chosen..or this life that chose us.. either way laundry is the reality of our life today.

Switching Gears

I have decided to give blogging another go, It's been a while, so I probably need to start by backing up. This particular post will be short and sweet.

 I have made all of my previous blog posts private. This was done because I needed to be less public about some personal stuff due to us fostering. Not that I am ashamed or hiding those past entries but I do need to ensure that my children and foster children are not compromised by my need to rant. And because I want to switch gears from some old issues to the life we currently live. Believe me those old post paint a picture that is very different than our current life. And that is a great thing!

A little over a year ago, after adopting our foster children,  we made the decision to convert from a kinship foster home to a traditional foster home. It has been a long, crazy, roller coaster of a ride.

You should expect chaos, and mayhem in my future blogs, because that is where we are in this life of fostering.  I wish I could share the photo that will be hung on our wall but those are not allowed due to respecting the privacy of not only our foster children but their parents as well.