After the first two foster kids, we began to question whether we really wanted to do this again. The answer was “NO”. Very clearly … until over 6 months later when we got a call. It was the first time either of us even thought about possibly, maybe, perhaps saying, “Yes.” Due to some details, it didn’t work out and the kid went somewhere else before finally going back home.
A few weeks after the call, which I wondered if we had made the wrong decision on, we got the call were we finally did again say “Yes. They can come here.”
It has now been 2+ years and they are still here. We are actually in the process of adopting them. Some days I’m thrilled that I get to see them continue to grow and blossom. Other days I’m sad their birth families don’t. Some days I have to remind myself how crazy it was when they first moved in, and that the crazy now would have appeared quite calm back them. Other days I sit and tell myself to relax, they aren’t going anywhere and that little detail which seems so important in this moment can be worked on next week/month/whatever. And if you see me be excited about the kid finally getting something that seems small, such as finally being able to jump, try to be happy with me. I can’t tell you about their past and all the sad things and the tough start their lives experienced. What I can tell you is that they are tough, determined, smart, funny, caring and their thinking brains are growing leaps and bounds every day.
The most recent kids to move in, and yes it was more than one, had the greatest impact on my gardening, preserving and meal planning. They moved in right at the time I should have been starting my plants for the garden. That didn’t happen. Due to their needs I almost didn’t get any garden in that year. I had quickly given up the idea of canning that year. It just wasn’t the season for it. I was doing well to get in a shower a few times a week, and that was usually with a kid within ear shot of the shower.
This was also the season that I was so thankful for the stores of food and paper items I had put up in the pantry. I’m not sure I even did much shopping those first few weeks. The kids weren’t up for the onslaught of their senses a store would have brought – bright lights, loud music, bright colors and labels everywhere you looked, large pictures on the wall and strangers everywhere you turned. Add to that food issues and it was just not something I had the energy for. At the time, I wasn’t even sure how to take a preschooler grocery shopping, let alone more than one.
We also quickly found out that they weren’t used to being in a car. Anything past ten minutes resulted in (very loud) screams from the back seat. This meant few trips to Big Town. Thankfully, so very thankfully, we have worked past that little quirk.
2 or 3 months into them living with us, I realized I had almost no food left in the pantry. I had to go grocery shopping, to do major grocery shopping. The bill that month was even larger than when teenagers lived here. I was shocked. “Why did I spend so much? What did I do wrong? Am I really that out of practice?” The answer was that I hadn’t done anything wrong. We had used up all the extras I usually have on hand and so I was starting from scratch. I was also shopping in Small Town with almost no coupons. While this saved on gas and my sanity, it showed up in the grocery spending.
5 months into them living here and I thought I would be up for canning something. I started with one item and was immensely proud of myself. Now I can laugh about it, it was kind of sad. The person who used to can sauces and jam was thrilled to be able to can one simple item for her pantry. At the time though, it helped show me that all was not lost in my future, that I would still be able to do the things I loved.
This was also a season where having a meal plan became a necessity. With kids who couldn’t entertain themselves, refused to watch t.v., who always needed to be right where you were, and who had some un-diagnosed food issues, I couldn’t just stand in the pantry or in front of the fridge to figure out what would be put on the table that night. Well, I could have if I wanted screams and tantrums of, “I’m hungry now!” to erupt all around me and continue through the cooking of said meal. I didn’t.
In an effort to create security I looked for areas where there could be routine and consistency. I looked for ways to create things they would anticipate.
Breakfast became the choice of one thing: eggs, toast, milk. Every night the one kid would ask what was for breakfast. I was so glad I knew the answer to that question. For almost a year it was that way before I thought they might be able to handle a change in breakfast foods without freaking out on me. Yeah, they don’t like change.
Now, they are so used to Monday=cereal, Tuesday=eggs/toast, Wednesday=carb, Thursday=shakes, etc. that when I changed to all cereal for the month of August I rocked their world. Not in the good way.
I went through a few trials on the menu planning front, trying to find what worked for us. Obviously, this was not the time to try a lot of new, complicated recipes. We stuck to ones we knew. The tough part came down to when should we eat what, and how often.
Also to create consistency –
- We had pancakes for breakfast on Sunday mornings, ate out at the same restaurant every Sunday after church (so thankful the waiters didn’t refuse to serve us when we pulled out our own, non-breakable tableware for the kids), and leftovers for supper.
- We had breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, supper and dessert every day. Yes, yogurt can be a ‘dessert’.
- We sat at the dinning room table to eat all our meals. Together. In the same seats. Every meal. Even breakfast since they decided that 6 am was a good time to wake up, even if they hadn’t gone to bed till 8/9/10+ p.m.
- We ate our meals at the same time every day.
Oh how I wish had known about Plan To Eat back then. It would have saved me so much time and effort. Additionally, having a shopping list created for me would have been such a time, energy and sanity saver. But I didn’t. I had to do it the old fashion way. Writing it down.
It wasn’t until months later that I looked into freezer meals. Again, something I wish I had known about from the beginning. Not only the beginning of our current kids living with us, but also from the beginning of our marriage. A rabbit trail – I also wish I had known how to utilize the crock pot more. These are details I am trying to pass on to my kids, as well as new brides. In bridal shower cards I share websites and books that will help them learn these things. Not all take advantage of this sharing of knowledge, but if even just one does then it is worth it for me.
Okay back to where we were. Ah yes, meal planning. That is as much as I am going to say about meal plans and this season of life. I know not all of you need this sort of detail around you meals, but we did. That is how I came to planning out breakfast, lunch and dinner for every day. It may also explain some of the consistencies or lack of variety in certain parts of our meal plan. That is what works for us. Right now. Remember, your meal plan works for you. Not the other way around.
In the past there have been times where I have wanted to explain a detail or expound upon something involving or concerning my kids. It never seemed like the right time to do so, until now.
At this stage, after our current kids having lived here 2+ years, I sometimes forget we aren’t actually related by blood. They finally understand why worms are so important in a garden, what happens when you plant a seed, how to put tomatoes in the food mill (though they are not yet allowed to actually turn the handle) and the different parts of a canning lid. They sure can make a mama proud.
I also forget that not every parent out there has monthly home visits to see how things are going, needs to take photos when their kid gets hurt (just in case someone makes an issue out of it), has to call a case worker to explain why the kid is not in school that day (if it is something besides them being sick), ask permission to take out of state trips, record how visits went with a parent/sibling, send copies of doctor reports to someone else, notify someone else of when dentist appointment are, get approval to go the E.R., arrange bedroom furniture to follow safety rules other have never even heard of, keep all medicines and cleaning supplies up high, etc. Some of it is second nature now and I wonder how everyone else seems to make parenting look so easy. Then I remember they don’t have to do all the above.
I haven’t yet written the post for the above photo. It is in the works. Just know it took a lot of convincing before the kid in the photo would go near the caterpillars. I had to promise they wouldn’t eat kids. Even then tears were produced when I left the room to get a jar and said kid was worried they would escape. Not worried enough however to overcome the fear of touching them so they could be pushed back down into the bowl. We still have some work to do in this area.
Not everyone will have this particular season in their life, but everyone will have A Season where things just aren’t going the way they thought they would. A Season where gardens may need to be put aside or where it is much harder to keep up with that part of life. A Season where others need you more than you think you can give. A Season where you need those around you more than you care to admit. A Season where you learn to view the small accomplishments with great joy. A Season of personal discovery and growth. A Season where _____.
I’m not perfect. I won’t ever be. I am doing the best I can, stopping to enjoy the beauty and the wonder of God’s creation. I try to encourage and serve others where I can, including my family.
My gardens aren’t perfect. The flower beds have weeds. The water in the bird baths keeps evaporating before I can refill it. There are toys in my yard and the porch ceiling is still not painted all the way. And that is all okay.
I am a Beautiful Mess.
My hope and prayer is for me to be able to share with you by the end of the year that we are no longer foster parents to my kids, but just parents. I would love, love, love for that to happen. Please pray for us in this if you would. It has been a long journey, one that should have been completed months ago. The details of why it wasn’t aren’t important. At this time we are looking for a quick finale of the process.
What our role as foster parents holds after the adoption is complete remains to be seen. Again, it is complicated.
I have found many people hold preconceived notions about foster care, the foster care system, foster parents, foster kids, etc. Some good. Some not. We all come to this topic with a variety of backgrounds which cast their shadows onto the topic. Even me. For this reason if you choose to leave a comment, please be respectful.
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