Saturday, May 17, 2014

Piecing Together Our Family



Now to him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or imagine, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the Church by Christ Jesus, to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Ephesians 3:20-21


Sometimes I'm afraid.  Often, really, I am scared that the things I have to do are too much for me.  I spend a lot of time agonizing over decisions, wondering about the future, trying to control things that I have no ability to control.  For a while now, I've had Ephesians 3:20-21 as the home screen on our iPad, because I need the reminder, a lot, that I am not in control.  He is.  And He is able to do "far and above all that we dare ask or think, infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes or dreams."  [AMP]
Just in case anyone was wondering, it was never in mine or Allen's wildest dreams that we would have another child. We had plans. We would sit in our spotlessly clean house and eat some fancy healthy food.  We would work in quiet peace in our home.  We would travel to visit our children at college and maybe take a vacation all by ourselves (gasp!).  Those 153 million orphans in the world have always been on our heart, but maybe we could foster babies in between the other important things in our lives.
Yeah.  
Then we met our little guy.  When he came to live with us he wasn't quite two months old.  He wasn't doing anything except eating and sleeping.  Since he joined our family, he has smiled, rolled over, reached for a toy, discovered his hands and that he could put his toes in his mouth.  He learned to sit up, eat baby food, and crawl.  He learned that he doesn't like avocado, that bath time is his favorite time of day and that he's the happiest when everyone is in the same room.  He's learned to pull up, to cruise around the furniture, to sleep through the night, to feed himself, and walk.  He laughs all the time.  He's learned to say mama and dada, ri-ri and kate and about 20 other words.  And he's 100% amazing.
He's been a part of our lives for the last 18 months, which in the scheme of our lives is a very short time, but is almost the entirety of his.  We know that we are his foster parents. But to him, we are just his parents.  Riley and Sarah Kate are his brother and sister.
So, we are trying to make it official.  We hired an attorney and filed for custody, with the intent to adopt him into the Newton family as quickly as the courts can accomplish it.  This action is not something we take lightly.  (There is, obviously, a lot more to his story. Those details are not ours to share.)
We would like for you to be a part of our story of becoming a family of five, if you would like to.  There are two ways that you can help:
1-you can pray for us, for our little guy, and for all the people who are involved in this case, that God's will be done in all situations and that things go smoothly as we proceed with the adoption.
2-you can help us financially by sponsoring a piece of our adoption puzzle.
We must be completely honest--this is very much a legal risk situation.  There is no guarantee that our little man will end up being a Newton, although that is our hope and prayer.  Our cost will be the same, regardless of the outcome.
If you'd like to join our journey, you can sponsor a piece of our adoption puzzle by donating $20 per piece.  Your name will be written on the back of the piece and when the puzzle is complete, it will be framed in a double sided frame and hung in the nursery.
To sponsor one or more puzzle pieces, just click on the DONATE button at the bottom of this post.  (You don't have to have PayPal to donate)  
All of the funds raised will go toward making our baby a permanent part of our family.  Should there be any excess, that money will be donated to Root Ministries and Morgan Hayden, who is adopting three little ones of her own in Honduras. 
Thank you so much for your thoughts and prayers, for your encouragement along the way, and for your gifts.  We are honored and blessed to be following God's call, to be stepping out in faith to accomplish something bigger than we ever dreamed, and we are so thankful for you joining us on this crazy-amazing journey.  

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Ready, Set...Wait.


I haven't been able to write about what happened two weeks ago for a couple of reasons.  One, most of what happened is confidential, so I can't share it.  And the other reason is that I'm really still trying to process it.  The bottom line is that the baby is still with us.  And that is an adjustment in itself.  We had grieved, cried, tried to prepare ourselves for him to leave.  I sobbed and wailed.  We prayed, and prayed, and prayed, that God's will would be done in this situation.

We are, of course, overjoyed that he is with us.  I listen to him breathe on the monitor while I'm going to sleep and think everything is as it should be.  But there is something not quite settled within me.

I was struggling to trust God when it was devastating to be losing him and now I'm struggling to trust God when I don't know what is going to happen.  I'm trying, and maybe that's the problem.  I'm trying.

I have to trust that God loves our little guy more than we can possibly imagine.  More than we do.  And that God has this little life safely in His hands.

We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love.  1 John 4:16a (NLT)



Saturday, October 19, 2013

Foster Heart



Rebecca, who also writes at Fosterhood in NYC, wrote an article for Babble wondering what her foster daughter should call her.  It's a weird question because for babies in foster care, their foster parents are often the only parents they've ever known.  It's also sticky because while we love these children as if they were our own, they do have biological families.  In the comments for that article, one of her friends, Ruben Rangel, wrote a poem.  It touches on the heart of foster parenting and makes me cry every time I read it.


Should she call me (Foster) Mom?
she should call you agua
call you bed-time story
she should call you dream-catcher
call you morning glory.
she would call you butterfly-kiss
and call you amazing grace
call you applesauce, carrot-juice
and hands hugging face.
she could call you elephant
call you encyclopedia, thesaurus
she might call you Baby Beluga
even call you apatosarus.
and to the end of days
and eternities she will call you corazon.
and from the tiniest places in her heart
she will not be able to tell you and mom apart.

ruben rangel 

Monday, September 30, 2013

Being Broken Hearted



Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me.
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger 
In the presence of my Savior.


My heart is broken that our sweet foster baby will be leaving us soon.  He's been a part of our family for nearly a year--laughs, hugs, wails, and all.  We have been enchanted by him.

It was such a natural thing to be his mom.  There was never a question whether he would be loved.  He has been cherished.  We've experienced all his firsts with him--first food, first tooth, first time pushing up, sitting, sleeping through the night.  We've made every decision with his best interest at heart.  We've soothed his tears when he didn't feel well.  And we have prayed over him, every day of his life.   

Everyone asks me how we could possibly let him go.  It's an understandable question because it's not natural for a mother to let go of her children.  No one in the world knows our children as well as we do.  Our every instinct is to hold them close, protect them.  How do you stop being a parent when you are one?

Letting go is hard.  Something I glibly admitted it would be before I knew what it would feel like to hand the child I've mothered for nearly a year into someone else's arms.  So yes, my heart is broken.

I am broken.

I know Jesus called me to this hard place and I asked for it-- in every prayer I prayed for God to use me.  In worship, when I sang Spirit, lead me where my trust is without borders, and meant it. When I told God that I wanted to be sold out, that I would do anything.

C.S. Lewis writes in his book A Grief Observed, "Your bid—for God or no God, for a good God or the Cosmic Sadist, for eternal life or nonentity—will not be serious if nothing much is staked on it. And you will never discover how serious it was until the stakes are raised horribly high."

Fostering isn't about me.  It's about the children who come into my home--and the stakes could not be higher.


We will let this sweet baby go, because truly, he is not ours.  He belongs to God, just like the children we birthed into our family.   We were blessed to parent him for a while and  we will have the honor of praying for him for the rest of his life.   And He will have the Creator of the Universe on his side, looking out for him and leading him, relentlessly pursuing him.  

We will still be broken, but that's okay.  Psalm 34:18 says, "The Lord is near to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit."  Being near to the Lord, in the presence of my Savior, is where I long to be.


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Food for the Crunchy Baby

Our crunchy baby is now eating mostly solid food.  I've tried really hard to keep his diet clean (although I have to admit, the kiddo loves a donut).  One challenge early on was that he did NOT like vegetables and fruits that I cooked and/or pureed.  I'm sure there might be others in the same situation I am, so thought I'd share what we've been feeding him at different stages.

FOUR MONTHS-SIX MONTHS

  • Organic baby cereal (we started with rice, but quickly moved to oatmeal) mixed with formula...breast milk would be best, but remember, we're foster parents.  ;o)  We worked up to three times a day.  I like Earth's Best.
  • Single pureed foods--applesauce, pears, bananas, squash, sweet potato, carrots.  Since our kiddo didn't like the foods I cooked for him, we went with Plum Organics, Happy Family, Ella's Kitchen, Sprout...luckily there are lots of options out there these days for picky babies! 
  • Avocado 
  • And of course, bottles--at this stage, every three to four hours--solid food is still a bit of a novelty and most of his nutrition will still come from his bottle (or breast milk)
Just a little note here...our pediatrician told us to start feeding him with a spoon at four months.  The recommendations vary, but we waited a little while and it was closer to six months before he was eating all the things above.

SIX MONTHS-EIGHT MONTHS
  • Organic baby cereal two to three times a day
  • Some pureed pairings...our little one's favorite is pumpkin-banana by Plum Organics.
  • Frozen mango in a fresh food teether (he LOVED this)
  • Organic "puffs" by Plum Organics (closer to eight months)
  • And of course, a bottle of formula--at this stage, every four hours, five bottles/day, approximately 30 oz.
NINE MONTHS-TWELVE MONTHS
  • Organic baby cereal once/day
  • Other organic solid foods that are baby friendly
    • banana
    • cheerios (not organic)
    • frozen blueberry waffle
    • black beans and pinto beans
    • tiny pieces of cheese and grilled cheese sandwiches
    • soft canned pears and peaches 
    • yogurt
    • organic chicken, small pieces, mashed
    • frozen green peas
    • green beans, canned
    • egg yolk
    • frozen berries, softened
    • pieces of dehydrated fruit (may be too chewy for some babies)
    • large, soft lima beans
We started offering the cup when he was about six months.  He doesn't like juice (which I think is a good thing).  He will drink water out of a cup, but does not like to drink formula out of it.  That's going to be our challenge before he turns a year old!

As far as feeding a baby goes, I'd say the best thing to do is not make a battle over it.  I learned with this baby, probably more so than my biological children, that he has to choose to eat.  I would try things and if he wouldn't eat them, we'd just go on with our day.  He's a great eater now!

Failure or Forward Motion?


I was watching the Today show this morning and caught a brief interview with Mike Tyson.  One of the things he said, and the interviewer reiterated was this, and I'm paraphrasing:  In order to experience great success, you have to be willing to endure great failures.

I'm an optimistic person by nature, but the word willing really caught my attention.  I definitely think that failures in life can be a springboard for the future and try not to get bogged down in them, but willing?  That word takes optimism to a whole 'nother level.

Tyson's not the first person to talk about failure's relationship to success.  Winston Churchill famously said, "Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm."

Frankly, that enthusiasm or willingness might just be the key to success.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

If Not Me, Then Who--Thoughts on the Foster Crisis in America

Okay, my friends, I know that the last few posts are far from being about a slightly crunchy lifestyle.  Sometime soon, I will write about how to choose healthy fish to eat or whole food lunch ideas for vegetarians (because I know you'd all be interested in that, haha!).  For now, though, I feel compelled to write some things that I've been mulling over and wrestling with.

Someone quoted this to me last night:  "The orphan crisis in America was so much easier to bear before I knew their names."  For some reason, that statement stunned me.  I knew that there were 400,000, give or take, children in foster care in the U.S. on any given day, but for some reason the idea that we have an "orphan crisis" going on here never crossed my mind.  But think about this:  research shows that foster children are more likely to experience homelessness, poverty, compromised health, unemployment and incarceration after they leave the foster care system.  Only about half get a high school diploma, 2 out of 100 get a bachelors or higher, and 84% have their own children too young, therefore continuing the cycle of poverty and, too often, neglect. (www.angelsfoster.org)

There is a cycle of abandonment, neglect and abuse rampant in our society, and I believe that it comes down to this:  We are not respecting other people as humans.   Otherwise, how could there be 18(19?) murders in a town the size of Montgomery, Alabama in a three month period of 2013?  How can 1 in 5 children be the victim of bullying?  We don't value each other.  We don't stop long enough to think this is a person before judging them for disagreeing with us, wearing the wrong clothes, having the wrong skin color, or the wrong family background.

I said in my last post that every baby deserves a family, to be loved and adored just because they are who they are.  But doesn't every child deserve a family?  I'm really wrestling with this as we are called about placements.  We love being foster parents, but it is hard.  Do I want to do this more, take on more, love more, hurt more?  And then I think about James (1:27):  Pure and genuine religion means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.

Which leads me to ask this question, "If not me, then who?"  Who will step in and stop the cycle?  Live and let live is not good enough.  We have to be willing to wade in where life is messy.  Jesus never turned away from a person who needed Him, never backed away from a challenge, never, throughout centuries, left us to fend for ourselves.  We must look at these needy ones through the eyes of love and have the nerve to say, "I will."  There is an orphan crisis in America and every one of the 400,000 of them is a person, with a name.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Transitions

We're trying to make the transition from the cradle to the big crib right now.  The little one is cranky about this change, waking up more often and needing reassurance.  When the baby cries, I go to his rescue.  I am the one he looks to for reassurance, the one he relaxes into and feels safe with, the one who provides for all his needs, from loving words to the physical needs.  It's such an honor to be able to stand in the gap for him, to be a mommy when he is in need of one.

These were my thoughts tonight as I settled him back into sleep once more this evening.  It's so much how God responds to me, I think.  I am continually calling out and He continues to reassure me.  I'm sure there are times when He wants to tell me to get over it already, but He is there, coming to my rescue when I call for help.

Thank you, Jesus, for letting me be afraid and for reassuring me, every time.





Saturday, March 23, 2013

Preparing for Baby on a Budget

With one child already in college and the day that the other one goes hurtling toward us, I have very little disposable income.  I do get a stipend for being a foster parent, but not until after I have a child living with me for awhile.  It's important to me that I have a warm inviting place for a baby, so as soon as I knew we were going forward with this, I started planning.

Things have changed a lot since we had our biological children nearly twenty years ago, so I needed to start out by learning about what I really wanted to have. While I was still thinking about all this, my cousin posted on facebook that she was ready to give away some of her baby things and asked if anyone wanted them.  I jumped on it!  When she came south for summer vacation, she brought a car loaded down with baby items:  a pack-n-play, a swing, a bouncy seat, an exersaucer, a play mat, and a bunch of little clothes!  Woo-hoo!  So, my first bit of advice would be to ask around...you never know who might be giving things away. 

Next on my list was a car seat.  A new infant car seat starts at around a hundred dollars and goes up from there.  If you want the travel system, you're looking at more than three hundred dollars.  I had a very specific model of car seat that I wanted and finally found the deal I was looking for.  I bought a Chicco Keyfit 30 carseat, which has a couple of years left before it expires, with an extra base and a Baby Trend Snap-n-Go stroller for a hundred dollars.  If I had bought this new in the store, it would've cost three hundred and eighty dollars.  Once I washed the cover on the infant carseat, it looks brand new.  Experts will say that you should always buy a car seat new because you never know if it was in a crash before being sold.  I bought mine from a military family and trusted that they were truthful, but it's definitely something to consider.

Finding a baby bed at a bargain price was difficult.  Baby beds start at around one hundred and twenty dollars.  The biggest problem for me was that drop-side cribs have been phased out and since I'm a foster mom, I have to comply with current safety standards.  I wanted a used bed, but had a really hard time finding one.  Finally a fellow foster mom called me with the perfect bed she had found on a yard sale list on facebook!  I paid forty dollars for a beautiful fixed side wood crib. I enlisted my dad to help make sure everything got screwed in tightly and it's great!  Another mom from church gave me her mattress, so I didn't have to pay anything for that.  

Some other friends gave us their changing table/dresser that they didn't have room for when they moved into a new house.  All I had to do was buy a changing pad and cover for the pad.  My total out-of-pocket cost was around thirty dollars.  (Plus some pizza I had to pay my son and his friend for going to pick the dresser up).

I bought bedding for the crib for sixty dollars at Target and I went with it because it blended with the orange walls I already had in that room (not my choice, we are renting!  I have to admit though, it looks really cute).

I found a really nice diaper bag for half off on Amazon.com and borrowed an extra from my sister whose youngest child is now almost four.  I bought a couple of little church outfits off of eBay for a quarter of what I would pay retail, and some expensive bottles for much less than I would pay at the store.  I made the art for the nursery myself.  I bought a cute rug on Overstock.com for forty dollars.

All in all, I've probably spent four hundred dollars, which seems like a lot until you start adding up what I would've paid had I bought everything new.  The total comes to over eighteen hundred dollars.

So, to recap, here are a few strategies for saving money when creating a nursery and collecting items you will need.  
  • Make a master list of things you are looking for.  Be specific.
  • Know how much you want to spend and don't go over that amount.
  • Ask your friends if they have anything they are wanting to clear out of the attic!
  • Join local yardsale facebook pages and recycle groups.
  • Shop Craigslist and eBay, but be prepared to ask about recalls and expiration dates
  • Follow Baby Cheapskate for good deals on baby items.
  • Check Amazon Outlet and Daily Deals for low prices.  Be willing to take any color.
  • Target has great daily deals, too!  Also, check the end of the aisles for clearance items at Target.
  • Spend a little bit each week or two so that it doesn't seem like a big expense at one time (like college, ack!)
  • Find out when the big consignment sales are in your area.  Take your master list and a cash amount you are willing to spend.
  • Start collecting coupons and joining baby clubs.
I've had great luck shopping this way, but it does take some time to hunt the best deals.  In this case, I think it was worth it.  Now, since my little one is eating cereal, I'm off to look for a good deal on a high chair!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Five Things I've Learned as a Foster Mom



The baby with us now is the sixth that I've had a hand in raising.  I have two biological children, two babies that I was a nanny for, and two that I've been a foster mom to (so far). 

I've always been pretty good with babies, but being able to take someone's crying baby in the nursery and calm them doesn't always translate to home life 24/7.

Things I've learned from my babies:  

1.  If I'm calm, my baby is more likely to be calm.  Babies look to their mum for how they are supposed to react to things.  If I'm tense and upset, babies pick up on that tension and are fussier and harder to calm.  

2.  All babies are different.  This sounds like a no-brainer, but if you read some of the parenting or sleep books, you might get the idea that if you only did this schedule or that one that magically your baby will sleep all night and take two hour naps during the day.  It may work that way, but if it doesn't, your baby's not weird, just different.

3.  Babies cry.  Yep.  Sometimes you've fed them, changed them, given them a nap, checked to make sure nothing's scratching, poking, annoying them, and they still cry, and that's okay.  

4.  Every baby deserves parents who are fully devoted to them.  Whether we have a baby for a week, six months, only during the day, or for life, that baby deserves a parent who thinks he or she is the cutest, sweetest, most precious thing ever.  Yes, we have to let go of our foster babies, either to be reunified with their family or to go on to another forever family, but while they are with us, we are their real family.  

5.  Some days you just have to let go of your to-do list and hold the baby all day.  We are all busy. Between church and school and work, sometimes it seems like we only meet ourselves coming and going.   But there are days when the baby didn't sleep well or is teething or going through a growth spurt and on those days, the best thing I can do is just relax and snuggle.  Then we both feel better.