Hooligan Zoo

Two Zookeepers… many Hooligans… It's always feeding time at this zoo!

Lost

When I was small I wanted to be a ballet dancer.  I danced everywhere.  My mom likes to tell stories of me pirouetting down the aisles of the grocery store.  Jettes across the yard.  When I was small, it was all about dancing.

When I was a teen, I wanted to be a lawyer.  Arguing, the excitement of the courts, making connections to put those criminals behind bars…  then, I took a law class, and that was out.

When I was newly married, I said I would never stay home with any future kids.  I would work, the kids would go to school.  My identity would not be wrapped up in being a stay at home mom with a pile of kids.

I’m sure that the Lord snickers over that one.  Here He has me, comfortably ensconced among my five homeschooled children.

There were other things along the road too.  Watching my own kids try to decide what they want to do, trying things out, wanting desperately to hear God’s voice, it all takes me back to my own days of figuring out who I am.

Difficult pregnancies.  Post Partum Depression.  A realization that maybe I wasn’t supposed to birth anymore babies, but a strong desire to care for more, to hold more, to raise more.  Difficult decisions that we had to make, and in the back of our minds, the idea of becoming foster parents was always lingering.

We have fostered eleven children over the years.  Sent nine on to forever homes, and two found their forever homes right here with us.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Our identity, MY identity was completely wrapped up in being a foster parent.  Fostering was what we did.  It’s what we were known for.  We are good at integrating children into our family.  We are good at creating relationships with biological families.  At creating relationships with forever families.

I have spoken at foster parent training courses.  I was asked to take part in becoming a trainer for those courses.

We were well liked by CAS.

It’s where I felt I was gifted.  That fostering was what we were going to do for a long time.

Our adoption was finalized, and we were put back on the list for fostering.

And then we got a call for a high needs baby.

My initial reaction was actually no.

Kai doesn’t sleep at night.
Zayda needs some therapy.
Keyzia, Ephraim, and Talya are all full on homeschooling.
But, fostering is what we do.  It’s who we are.  How do you say no to a baby that needs you?

We had time to discuss this placement, and it seemed to me that everyone had more faith in me and my abilities than I did.  We heard a lot of, “this baby needs you.”  “Of course you can do it.”  “It’ll be fine.”

Even Ja thought that maybe God was asking us to do the hard thing and help this baby.

And still I worried.
And I gave that worry to God.
I gave it to him hourly, daily, even minute by minute.

I did all of the things I was supposed to, discussed treatment options, figured out a plan, talked to people who had had a baby just like this before.

But still, still, I wasn’t sure, and I worried.

How do you say no to what you’ve created as an identity for yourself?  How does a lawyer not practice law?  A teacher not teach?  How in the world does a foster parent not foster?

So, we prepared all of the physical things for this baby.  The crib was ready.  The clothes were washed and folded neatly on the shelf.  Bottles sterilized.  Wraps washed.

The baby came for a trial sleepover, as soon as she was dropped off, I think I knew.

She is beautiful.  A precious child of God.

But, BUT, we were not the family that was supposed to have her.

I allowed the opinion of people to override what the Lord had placed on my heart.  I thought I had peace, but it was not a true peace.  It was not peace from the Lord, it was peace heaped on me by the opinions of others.

And oh, how I am humbled.

And now I am lost.

I feel so much guilt at the relief that I feel that we don’t have this little one in our home.  I am so thankful that another better equipped home was found for her, and I have guilt in that as well.

We took ourselves off the placement list indefinitely.  We are no longer foster parents.

Now who am I?  JUST a mom?  A wife?  Is that enough?  Is that what God wants of me?  And isn’t that what we all want to feel?  That we are Enough?

Things are changing all around us, and the only way to hold on is to ground myself in who God says I am.

I am His child.
I am beloved.
He says I am Enough.  Just as I am.

Do we want more because we want people to think highly of us?  Why does our selfish human nature make us think that Jesus isn’t enough?

A good friend said to me yesterday that the Lord is weaving a tapestry of our lives, that one thread is not the sum of who we are.  Our fostering thread is woven into that tapestry of who we are, but, it is not the sum.

She also reminded me that we don’t know what God’s future plans are.  What he will call us to three years from now, six months from now, goodness, we don’t even know what he will call us to tomorrow.

I know that, of course.  In my head I know that and understand that God’s plans for me are farther reaching and bigger than I can possible imagine.

Yet, I still feel lost.  I still cry for that baby that was never mine, and that was never supposed to be mine.  I cry for needing to be humbled.  For pride getting in the way yet again.

And while I’m lost, there’s still some little hope here in this place.  And I will look for Jesus, and I will follow Him out.  Because His plans are bigger than mine.  And His plans for me are Enough.

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.
Jeremiah 29:11

 

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Fight the Apathy

I’m a feeler.

I cry a lot.

I cry when others cry, I cry when a sad commercial comes on, I cry when I watch the news.  When I’m mad, I cry.

And there’s no controlling it.

I used to hate it, the crying.  It used to make me crazy.  But now, while I’ve not necessarily embraced it, I have accepted it.

I cry.  I feel.  It’s who I am.  It’s how God made me.

But, it also makes things hard.  The feeling.  Feeling everything, feeling everyone’s hurts.  Especially when you, whether correctly or not, start to feel as if you’re the only one feeling for everyone else, but no one is feeling for you.

Then, enter loneliness.

Even though, even THOUGH, my head, my brain, tells me that it isn’t true.  That while we often can’t count on people, God is always there.  Always on my side.

People will let us down.  I will let people down.

But there’s Grace.  So much Grace if we just choose to reach out and accept it.

However, even knowing all of that, I seem to have entered this stage of apathy.  Of exhaustion.

Fighting is hard.

Fighting for yourself when you feel as if no one is on your side is hard.

Apathy is easy.  Not feeling is easy.

Until it isn’t, and then all of those feeling whoosh back in and take you.

And the devil, he whispers that you aren’t worthy, that you have no one, no one, and that no one cares.

And you try to keep that cloak of apathy on, because having that, instead of dealing with the truth, of dealing with those whispers, it’s easier to not.  It’s easier to just be, to just go through the motions, to just feel as if you can do it without others, as if you can just keep trucking.

But it slips, that cloak, because it’s not true.  You do care.  You care far more than you should.  And you want to feel valued, and you want to feel important to someone for more than just what you do for them.  You want to feel loved for who you are.  Just as you are.  Flawed, feeling, crying, you.

And still, that voice it whispers, it whispers that you aren’t enough.  That no one will ever find value in you.  That you are not worthwhile.  That you are alone.

And you have to drown out that voice with the truth.

The truth needs to be louder than the whispers, and you have to keep going back to them.

Grace, it’s here.  You just have to reach out and grab it.  You just have to believe that it’s yours.  And even if you need to be reminded every. single. day.  It’s there.

Fighting is harder.  Fighting means feeling.

But fighting is better.  I don’t have to fight for grace.  It’s been freely given.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:8-10)

 

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And then there were Seven

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I’m sitting here in front of the blank screen of my laptop, watching the cursor flashing, and trying to figure out how to put into words the feelings and emotions surrounding the expansion of our family.

A few weeks ago, standing in front of our family, our church, our loved ones, we promised the Lord that we would do our very best to raise these two babes in His name, knowing Him, and loving Him.  Our families, church and blood, also promised to help us do so.

It was a beautiful and emotional service.  I felt the weight of the responsibility, and then the easing of it, as I settled into the knowledge that we would not have to do this alone.

Yesterday, in a quick and crazy ceremony at the courthouse, we legally and officially made Zayda and Kai a permanent part of our family.

People keep telling me how lucky these kids are.  How great it is that they get to stay with us, but I keep thinking about how lucky WE are to have THEM.  They chose us.  God chose them for us.  He made it happen so that we would be given the privilege and honour of raising them.

As foster parents, we teach our foster babes to call us Uncle and Aunt.  From the beginning, Zayda always refused to call us that.  I would try to get her to say, “Auntie Jamie,” and she would gently pat my cheek, saying, “Momma.”  She knew from the beginning that she was ours and that we were hers.

Yesterday, at the courthouse, surrounded by (some) of our amazing family, blood and chosen, there was laughter, there were tears, and there was an inexplicable feeling of joy, of finality.

The judge insisted on shaking the hand of every one of our loved ones in attendance, he wanted to know who they were, and what brought them to be part of our special day.  He gave each of the little ones a beautiful stuffed animal as a gift, and was beaming the entire time.  As much as he made our day, I think we brought some joy and light into his as well.

Underlying that joy, at the same time, I couldn’t help but have a piece of my heart that was broken for the littles’ biological mom.

On this day of greatest joy, of acceptance, of gain, she would only receive loss and grief.

She gave birth to these children.  She then, in love, gave these children to us.  She gave us the greatest gift that she could possibly give, and I will forever love her for that.  She is a lovely woman, and we have the privilege of continuing to know her, and of continuing to be able to have her a part of our lives.  Her story, and her children’s story is not mine to tell, but I will say this, she loves her children so very much, and that is obvious in every interaction that we have with her.

This story isn’t just about us, about the gift that was given to us, but it is also about loss and tragedy.  About the failure of a broken system.  And I am torn between my joy at our gain, and my sadness at her loss.

I always come back to this quote,

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We have been given the responsibility, the joy, the hardships, the aches, the complete and utter beautiful privilege of raising five children.  Five different and loved children, who, whether they were born to us or whether they were adopted, ultimately belong to the Lord. And the Lord, even knowing us as we are, even knowing our faults and our struggles, trusts us enough to give us His children to raise.

I am so thankful.

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When it has to be hard.

A year and a half ago, we got a phone call from real estate agent.  She told us that since the house we were living in was for sale, she needed to show it the next day.

We hadn’t been told the house was for sale.

We had been there for seven years.

It felt like a betrayal at the time, we had thought we had a good relationship with our landlady, and the fact that she hadn’t even bothered to tell us that the house was for sale was a huge blow.

Less than six weeks later it had sold.

And we not only had a new baby placed with us, but we were soon going to be homeless.

After some significant panicking, a lot of tears, hunting on kijiji, being told no for a mortgage by every single major bank in the area (we had no credit.  Not bad credit, but no credit at all…  they would have worked with us if we had have had bad credit.), we finally found another house to rent.

It was a hard year.  A year where I felt like the Lord just wasn’t hearing me.  Where we had been pushed to the side, left in this purgatory, too far from what had been our home base for years and years, but not stable enough to create a new home base.

But then, oh then, we had the opportunity to apply for a down payment loan from the City.  I called wonderful Trudy, asked her how she felt about racing to buy a house, and she immediately said that she was all in.

The City loan is really a fantastic thing.  There are rules to follow, and it really is a first come thing.  28 people applied for 16 loans this year.  The most applicants they’ve ever had.  We were approved, and the hunting began in earnest.

Trudy drove everywhere for us.  She was a sometimes irritatingly encouraging rock of support.  When I just wanted to curl up in the corner, and resign myself to living where we were forever, she dragged me out again, always saying that this might be the one!

And then.  After a frantic couple of months, we found the house.

It was the very first house that both Jason and I loved.

It had been sitting on the market for more than a year.

It was within our price range.

We made a non-negotiable offer.  There were only two loans left for the taking at City Hall.  We needed to get an accepted conditional offer to them asap.

Waiting on the other agent was excruciating.

Then there was one loan left.

In spite of the other agent being told the urgency of the situation, our offer had still not been presented to the sellers.

And then we got the call that all the loans were gone.

We had missed out by about two hours, and now all of the loans were gone.

But the Lord, oh the Lord.  He wanted us to know that we were foolish to think we could do this without him.  He stepped in and a couple of days later we got notification that the City had FOUND MORE MONEY.

A government agency had found more money.

And it was ours.

And this house.  Oh this house.  We both fall in love with it more and more every day.  It’s the perfect balance between livable and needing some work.  Livable for me, stuff to work on for Ja.

Some days I wander around this 120 year old house, and I think about how the Lord knew, how he knew when it was built that one day we would write our story on top of the other stories already here.

There were a few other things that crazily happened that the Lord had his hands all over.  In such an obvious way.

My favourite bible verse, and one that for some reason I had forgotten through the past year of uncertainty,

When you go through deep waters,
    I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty,
    you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression,
    you will not be burned up;
    the flames will not consume you.

Isaiah 43:2

As believers, we are not promised an easy life.  We are not promised that because we believe, the Lord will wipe away all of our troubles, and make it a cake walk.  In fact, we are promised that there will be trouble.  It is going to be hard.  We will struggle.  But.  He is with us.  Always.

I needed to Be still.  I needed to know that He is God.  I needed to see Him in this.  I had forgotten, and I needed it to be hard in order to jolt us out of our complacency, to take steps, to lean on Him, and to trust Him.

That’s the hardest part of being a Christ follower for me.  The trust part.  The Being Still part.

But when we trust?  That’s when we really see Him.  That’s when we find Home.
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The Wrap that Beat them All

 

Let’s talk about wraps for a minute, shall we?

I’ve been mocked about my, er, stash of wraps…  Mocked fairly mercilessly, in fact, in spite of being able to tell you in detail why I “need” every single one of them.

((ahem, hike?  Blues hemp indio.  Out on the town? Size 4 Girasol.  Quick in and out?  Robbins Nest Weaving grad dyed Ring sling.  Headed to the beach?  Chimparoo Fiesta.))

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The very very small stash we took to Great Wolf Lodge Recently.  (Shorter Girasol, I forget the name, Chimparoo Fiesta, Didy Hemp Blues Indio, Two ring slings, and a Lenny Lamb Buckle.  Not pictured, a Mai Tei for using in the water.)

((These are mere examples…  I would be happy to go into more details on each and every carrier in my stash if need be…  in fact, sometimes I do that for Ja.  Just to make sure he understands the importance.))

Babywearing is such a big part of what we do as foster parents.  It’s been an amazing bonding tool for the babes we’ve had come through our home.  I honestly can’t think of one child that has joined our family for any length of time that hasn’t been able to reap the benefits and security of being worn.  It soothes the hurts that child is suffering, the withdrawal from the only life they’ve ever known, the missing of their parents, the shock of being put with complete strangers.  As such, we have been gifted with a few different wraps, ring slings, and etc. which has enabled us to pass some carriers on to the forever families where our babes have ended up.

We’re right now in the process of adopting two of our foster toads (look for a post about that later…) Foster toads that have been worn regularly since the moment they came into our home.

But this.  Oh this.

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This wrap.

This wrap is handwoven by a wonderful friend of mine.  A friend I’ve watched grow her business from a little bitty bit of an operation, to one where she has to hire help.  A friend who whenever I say, CRISIS!  Helps to hold me up.  Who weeps with me when our little ones leave.  Who rejoices when we decide to adopt, and fully supports that decision.  Who in spite of her own goings on, always, always makes time to chat… even if it’s just to make each other laugh.

Rebecca owns Robbins Nest Weaving, and in SPITE of the fact that I do some sewing for her, she kept this warp a complete and total secret.  For months I’ve been teasing her that her next warp should be a blue/green grad, with a rainbow down one side.  I’ve always loved blue and green together, and the bible says that the rainbow is a promise from God.  For me, in the case of adoption, the rainbow symbolizes our promise to the little ones.  Our promise to try our best to be the rainbow after the storm of their early lives.

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She sent me the pictures and broke the news on a hard day.  And this wrap?  This wrap beats all of the wraps.

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The texture on this is so nice to the touch.  It’s an all cotton pebble weave bit of gorgeousness.  It grips, and yet tightens like a dream.  Ace bandage comes to mind when I try and think of wrap qualities for this beauty.  That boy there?  He’s a tank, and he was virtually weightless on my back when I wrapped him the very first time.

He cried when I took him down that first day.

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Pie keeps stealing the wrap and wanting to put her bear “huppy.”

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((can you have TOO many pics of a gorgeous wrap?  I’m going to go with no.))

Did I mention that Rebecca called this wrap “Adoption?”  Doesn’t it go hand in hand with the rainbow symbol?  Such a promise.  Such a responsibility.

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This wrap epitomizes for me the feelings around adopting these babes.  They are ours.  They were ours the moment they walked through the door, just like all of the others.  We have wrapped all of our babies in loving arms, and had to let so many of them go.  But these ones?  These ones we don’t have to let go of.  These two we are privileged to make permanent parts of our family.  And they are, they so are.

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Thank you, Rebecca, for this wonderful and tangible celebration of our family.  “Adoption” will always remind me of the privilege, tragedy, and promise that adoption is.  It is amazing, and much like I cherish your friendship, I will cherish this wrap always.

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The First One

Waaaay back in September we started the process to become foster parents through CAS.  We’d been wanting to do it for a very long time, but then Ja’s brother Kenny died, there was drama with his children…  etc… etc…

We signed the paperwork about a week and a half ago.  Our lovely worker told us that it would be 6 months, maybe even a year before a child came into our care.  

Five days after we signed the paperwork, I got a phone call…  a little two year old boy might be coming into care, 50/50 chance, were we interested. 

Um.  Well.  Ja and I hadn’t discussed how we would decide if we would take a child.  Would I say I had to talk to him first?  Would we just have me make the decision?  I told her that we were interested, and she said that she would phone me with more information.

A few hours later, I got a call from her again, the little guy was definitely coming into care, and if we’re interested, his worker would be calling me in a few hours.  I said yes, we’ll take him.  

I had barely hung up the phone when his worker called, could she bring him over in an hour?  

Wow.

Talk about jumping into things!

But, this boy.  Oh, this boy!  He is just the sweetest little thing.  He fits into our family so nicely, and is an absolute joy (other than when he says no to absolutely everything…).

The learning curve is large, I’ve learned by just having this one little fellow in our home.  I knew nothing about naps, what he likes to eat, what he drinks.  It’s all been trial and error.  We had one night when he was up until 11:30 because I had let him have a two hour nap that day.

But, the things I have learned… like his love for Thomas.  Emily is his favourite.  He loves to say Talya, and he points at all the kids and laughs when they walk in the room.  He does better at bedtime if he has a bottle of milk first.  He likes to be rocked.  He loves it when I smell his feet and pretend they’re stinky.  It took him two days before he laughed, even though he had a smile ready from day one.  He thinks it’s hilarious when someone farts, especially himself.  He loves the cat, and thinks that the cat plays trains with him.  He says no to everything, even when he means yes.  He loves to be outside, and cries when he has to come in.  He loves his bath, and if you hold the shower head close to him, he’ll stick out his tongue and giggle when the water hits it.

We had our seven day meeting with his worker today, and she updated us on the family.  The little guy will almost certainly be going to live with some of his family very soon.  

I have torn feelings about that.  I really sincerely do want what’s best for him.  I think that in most cases, children are better off with their relatives if they can’t be with their parents.  I think the hard parts are not knowing what’s going to happen, and not knowing if it’s what I think is the right thing.  I don’t know these people.  I will probably never know these people.  I don’t know how they live, if they love him, how they’ll treat him.  

And that’s where faith comes in for us.  We have to trust that God knows what he’s doing.  That God has a plan.  That ultimately?  He is in control.

But it’s still hard.

In the meantime, I’m going to snuggle a wiggly little two year old who says no to everything and laughs when he toots.  And I’m going to enjoy every minute of it.

 

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Annnnnnnnnd…. take two.

So, here we are.  The new “secret” blog.  If I have given you the address, then you should consider yourself high on my likability scale!  If I didn’t personally invite you… well, there’s another blog you can read over there somewhere.

It’s funny because I’ve been sort of setting this beast up, and there is a BUNCH of stuff that I totally totally don’t get.  Do you think I can get a picture in the sidebar over there?  Nopers.  Just a little box.  I was spoiled rotten over at the old blog with Cynthia to do everything for me.  (she probably just heaved a HUGE sigh of relief that I won’t be bothering her much anymore…)

 

(((I totally figured it out!!  Wheeeeeeeeee!!!)))

 

Apparently there are a lot of things you CAN’T do with a free WordPress blog too that I could do with the old blog.  I still think it’s totally worth it to just let the oldie go… along with the feelings of censorship, performance, and whatever else became the reasons for writing on that blog.

 

I’m not sure if I’ll write frequently over here, but I already feel so FREE.  So very free.  It’s glorious.  If I want to tell you, oh anonymous internet, that my family and Ja’s family were all boobs over the holidays (they weren’t ALL boobs…) then I can.  heh.

 

I promise not to go back to writing in all lower case letters, however…

 

*shudder*

 

I also promise an overuse of elipses….

 

….

 

….

 

And some poorly written nonsense while I get back into this thing.

 

Zonino!  As Ja would say!  Onward!

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