July 23, 2014

Raising a Child With a Severe Nut Allergy

Interview with Julie
Introduced by Amy

My sister, Julie is one of the people I look up to most.  She is such a good momma, sister, and friend! (Oh, and an insanely talented artist, can't forget that!)  I asked her to talk to us about her daughter's peanut allergy, because I think it's so important for others to understand.  Sometimes it's easy for us to roll our eyes or get impatient when we are asked to make accommodations for other kids, such as only taking certain kinds of snacks to nursery, daycare, school, a birthday party, etc.  I've even heard moms complaining on Facebook about these requests, and even hinting that the moms are being "over-the-top" or paranoid.  And, ya know what?  I totally get where they are coming from.  We all have our routines and it's hard to adapt or change, especially when we're dealing with picky kids and what they want to take to school for lunch.  Plus, sometimes it's just plain tricky to figure out how to avoid certain ingredients when making something to take to a party or potluck!

But, my perspective has changed since I've watched my sister and her family adjust to dealing with a severe food allergy.  It's kinda crazy, since these kind of allergies are to products that are so commonplace in most of our homes.  Yet, this everyday product is deadly to their child.  I found it interesting to hear my sister's experience--I am amazed by how vigilant they have to be with their daughter.  It definitely causes you to feel more compassion for these children and their families.  Here are her thoughts!
--Amy

Julie's family!
---
Ok, Julie, who in your family has the peanut allergy?

My 4 year old daughter, Emily.

Julie with Emily
So what makes a peanut allergy so serious? 

A peanut allergy is one of the most severe.  You go into anaphylactic shock, which is where the person's airways swell, cutting off their breathing, and their body goes into shock.  They break out in hives and their blood pressure drops.  Basically, your body shuts down--your heart is slowing and your airway closes so you can't breath.  Without an epinephrine shot (epi-pen) to re-start your nervous system, you will die.

Yikes!  So, how did you find out your daughter had this allergy?

A little while after she turned one (they recommend you wait till one-year-old to feed a baby peanut butter) I gave Emily a piece of a peanut butter sandwich to try, not thinking much of it.  Suddenly, she went bright red and started screaming.  She stayed swollen and puffy around her mouth and eyes--it looked like she had been stung by a bee on her face.  I took her in to be tested by an allergist, and she is allergic to all tree nuts, like peanuts, walnuts, almonds, etc.

When we found this out, I cleaned and vacuumed my entire house well, vacuumed under everything, including the couches and the car floors and seats so I knew there wasn't any nuts or crumbs from something with nuts in it.

How does having a child with a nut allergy affect your everyday life?

I keep an epi-pen in my purse at all times.  Every time I have a babysitter, I show them how to use it, and leave it on the kitchen counter just in case.  I have a paper with an action plan and phone numbers to call according to the level of the symptoms/exposure.  Once the epi-pen is given, they have to go to the ER, because it can't solve the issue, it just gives you a little time.

I have to read every label.  We have to be so careful, we can't even have products manufactured in a plant which also processes nuts, because of the risk.  I take other food and treats with us wherever we go, cause I can't risk her eating food at someone else's house.  I try to take yummy things that she likes, so she doesn't feel like she's always left out when others have treats that she can't have.  When we have a family party, I email everyone beforehand to remind them not to put any nut products in any food that they bring, since Emily will be there.  Everyone is great about it, and I can enjoy the party knowing my daughter is safe.

What can others do that is helpful?

Be understanding.  If you aren't sure about a certain product being ok, bring the labels so that the mom can read the ingredient list.

What would you say to other moms of kids who deal with this?

If you have reason to think your child might have a nut allergy, or any other allergies, go to an allergist and have them tested.  That's much better than finding out the hard way.

Ok, I have to ask: How do you not live in constant fear?

When I found out that Emily had this allergy, I found support.  I found other moms who have children with peanut allergies and asked them the hard questions to prepare myself.  That's what I would tell other moms in my situation to do.  Ask them about different scenarios, like when they've been in an ambulance, when they've had to rush to the ER, and then you can plan ahead.  You can't freak out in an emergency--it's so important that you are calm so you can act quickly.  You want to be able to be the calm mom in a moment of crisis.  Just prepare and prevent and be careful.  I keep the epi-pen near her at all times.

The most dangerous time for a child with a nut allergy is during their teenage years.  They are expected to carry their epi-pen with them and sometimes they forget.  Plus, they are risk takers and sometimes impulsive or just absent-minded.  Mistakes can happen so fast, so they have to have their epi-pen with them.  There was a teenage boy with a nut allergy in Utah who recently died because he absently grabbed a handful of pretzels and popped them in his mouth, not realising that their were nuts in the mix.  He spit it out immediately, but his body was already reacting...Since he didn't have his epi-pen with him, he went into shock and died before anyone could do anything.  But, my doctor has seen epi-pens save lives, so we have to teach our kids how important it is to be aware of what they eat and to always have their epi-pen.

Emily and my son hunting for Easter eggs at Grandma's house!  Of course, my sister carefully chose the right candy for the eggs...lots of jellybeans and smarties!
Once you've done all you can to be prepared for an emergency, you try not to worry and just keep living life!  :)

-Julie

---
Wow, pretty crazy, huh?  Can you imagine if people kept cyanide or arsenic accessible in their cupboards, on their counters, and in their kids lunch boxes?  I mean, that is extreme, but for a child with a severe allergy to a food, that food is just as deadly.  I mean, a 15-year-old girl from Canada died after kissing her boyfriend who had eaten a peanut butter sandwich hours earlier!  It can be that severe.

Please don't think I'm trying to say that we should ban every product that someone could be allergic too...that isn't realistic or fair or even possible.  But, I am saying, it's good to think about the perspective of others.

So, next time you feel annoyed when you are asked not to bring a certain food to a classroom or party, maybe you could think of this: if you saw another person's kid hanging over a cliff, screaming for help, how fast would you run to pull them to safety?  You'd do it in a heart beat.  It's not even a question, huh?  And, most of us would put our own life in danger to save a toddler from an oncoming car.

Well, when someone asks us to not put peanut butter in any treats that are given to the class, it's pretty much the same thing.  We are saving a life.  Why is that such an inconvenience, when we would do SO much more in another circumstance to save a child?  So, please remember compassion.  These families aren't trying to be anal or too protective, just like you aren't being anal or too protective when you don't let your toddler play in a busy street.  It's a parent's job to protect their child from harm.  These parents just have to worry about an extra danger that most of us don't.

Ok, Ok, I'll get off my soap box now!  :)  Sorry, I just love my sweet little niece so much, and the thought of harm ever coming to her makes me sick.  I just hope that we can all support the kids, mommas, and families affected by severe allergies.  It isn't easy for them, but we can ease their burden by being kind and helpful, and looking out for their child, like we would protect our own from harm.

How about you, friends?  Do you or anyone in your family have a severe allergy?  What precautions do you take?  What is the hardest part?  How can others support you?  (I am allergic to Nitrous Oxide--aka Laughing Gas--and I found out when I ended up in the emergency room when they tried to take my wisdom teeth out!  It was so random and unexpected!  I was puking, and quit breathing like 5 times before they got me to the ER...pretty freaky!)

If you appreciated this post, please LIKE/SHARE!  Also, if you know of anyone who is has a child with a nut allergy or other severe allergy, please pass this on to them!  It can mean so much just knowing that you're not alone. :)





July 17, 2014

I Survived Camping with a Toddler

By Amy

FRIENDS.  After a week of being M.I.A. from the blog I have returned.  (You were waiting all week by your computer, huh!?) :)  This was the first time since the beginning of SOM that I didn't post at least once in a week.  And, let me say, I missed you!  I love your input, stories, and just the coolness that is you.  It means so much to me to be able to Stop, Collaborate and Listen with awesome ladies.  To be heard and validated feels good.  Plus, everytime I get to share a guest posts, I get to help YOU be heard too!  :)  Yep, I missed this cool little space on the internet. :)

So, let me tell you the cause of my MIA.

I attempted the insane: I went camping with a toddler.  

Many of you may be rolling your eyes right now, thinking: "Big whoop, camping with a toddler is no big deal.  In fact, I climbed Everest, carrying my 3-day-old infant in a sling."

If this is you, just know that you blow my mind, and that I am not as cool as you.  I mean, I'm not this ultra pampered girl who is scared of nature...nope--I love hiking and the great outdoors, and I am definitely more comfortable in the country than in the city, but...I have never loved sleeping in nature.  Sad, I know!  What kind of Idaho girl isn't a fan of camping!?  Well, it's simple really.  I like quick access to a toilet at all times (I have IBS), I like a sink so I can take out my contacts, brush my teeth, and wash my hands and face in WARM running water, I like to sleep comfortably, I like to feel clean.  I love day trips in nature, but at night, I crave the security and routine of home.  Oh, and I really don't like to be cold.

But, the fact that I truly do love the campfire and the songs and uninterrupted time with family away from the bustle of normal life usually lure me to the campground despite the physical drawbacks of camping.

But, with a toddler?

I gotta admit, I was quite intimidated about camping 12 hours away, with my husband's family, 34 weeks pregnant, with a 2 year old.

I worried a little about my own physical discomfort being this preg (trying to sleep well on a cot, having to run to an outhouse all through the night, the long trip to get to Washington, and just generally being exhausted at this point in my pregnancy....and HELLO!? what if I GO INTO LABOR IN THE WILDERNESS!?!?!)

But, I figured I'd be fine.  However, I really worried about my son--who takes comfort in his normal routine--becoming an emotional basketcase.  So many things could go so horribly wrong: What if he wakes up all through the night cause he's not used to sleeping in a tent and we are all MISERABLE?  What if he falls in the fire?  What if he has a blow-out or pukes in the middle of the night and we can't just plop him in the tub then switch his sheets?  What if he throws insane tantrums like he sometimes does at home, and the whole freakin campground can hear him and I look like the world's most incompetent mother in front of my husband's entire extended fam?  What if he runs off and gets lost?  What if he won't sleep past 5 cause the sun comes up early and he's not in his bedroom with dark curtains?  What if it's too noisy/bright for him to take naps so he's a cranky mess?  What if he eats poisonous berries?  What if a bear, or some hairy camping hippy, steals him in the night?  (I know, I know, my fears were getting pretty out of hand by this point.)

But, I wanted to support my husband and I knew how much he would love to go to this reunion.  Plus, I genuinely enjoy his family, so I wanted to go too!  I was just nervous about how Hayden would do and if it would really suck for me camping and traveling during my third trimester.

So, I told my husband that if I could fly, I was game for this trip.  Ha, I know that makes me sound like such a prissy diva, but you may remember a few months ago I had a pretty serious blood clot in my leg, and ended up in the hospital.  I am on blood thinner shots which I've injected in my belly twice a day since then, and I didn't feel good about the risk of sitting in a car for 12+ hours.  (Long car rides can cause blood clots for pregnant women!) It just seemed unwise, since I already got a clot during my pregnancy.  My doctor said flying was a much better option.  (2 hours vs. 12!)  So, Patty got me the tickets!

Oh, AND....of course I was just getting over the sinus infection from H.E. Double Hockeysticks right before the trip.

But, ya know what?  The trip went surprisingly well!  We had a ton of fun with Patrick's family, and the camping was even pretty good!  Luckily, they chose a rockin campsite...there was a big bathroom with hot showers and flushing toilets.  Heaven!!!

I mean, we did have a couple rough patches.  One night I had to run to the bathroom four times with a flashlight.  Hayden threw some massive fits, (I had to give him quite a few time-outs in our tent, and once we even sat in the car cause he wouldn't stop screaming!) but he also had a blast playing with cousins and rooting around in the sand and dirt.  (He was soooo filthy.  Haha!)  He did wake up crying with a crazy, nasty blow-out at 5 a.m. the first morning (I just cleaned him up best I could with a bunch of wipes and changed his pjs) and then he didn't go back to sleep after that (he climbed out of his playpen and smeared my lotion all over the tent floor while Patrick and I were desperately trying to get a bit more sleep.)  Oh, and he freakin lost it at the beach after a couple hours, cause he was cold, wet, and covered in sand.  And he started puking during the family dinner of all my mother-in-law's family, so I hung out with him in the bathroom close to the toilet for a while.

But, despite my worries and a couple crappy parts, it was a really awesome week!  I am really glad we went.  It was so good to be with my hub's family, who live far enough away that we don't get to see them very often.  We laughed our bums off, ate delicious food, played games, and just enjoyed being together.  I got to spend time with my sis-in-law, Alyssa and meet her boyfriend, AND, she took beautiful family and maternity pics for us!  (She's a rockin photographer...if you live in the Portland area, seriously, she is so good!)  I got to play with my son on the beach and he was blown away by the "big, big water!"  :)  We got to stay a few days with Patrick's Aunt Jen and Uncle Brett who were so fun and hospitable, we talked waaay too late around the campfire with his Aunt Anne and Uncle Garth who we love (they are super close in age to us!) and we got to spend time with my hub's hilarious and cool best-friend-since-elementary-school Brandon.

Heavenly Father answered my prayers by blessing me to get healthy just in time for the trip and helping us all to be safe.  Hayden did well in the car with my mother-in-law and teenage bros-in-law, (Thanks to an I-Pad loaded with Daniel Tiger episodes, ha!) and my husband and his dad were safe on their motorcycles.  And, I slept amazingly on my cot with the thickest sleeping pad in the world, which Aunt Jen let me borrow.  And, besides a couple hours where I felt really crappy, (the heat really got to me and I think I became dehydrated) I felt great the whole week.

And, best of all, I didn't have to birth a baby in the woods!  Yay!  :)

So, I let my phone go dead, I only got on my laptop once, and enjoyed a fabulous trip. :)

But, enough talk...I'll just show you!  Here are pics for days...I took a couple, but most are Alyssa's.

Alyssa, my momma-in-law, and I!

Football on the beach!

Haha, to be realistic, I had to include a cranky moment.  









Riding a scooter with Papa! (My dad-in-law)



I love this one! :)  My little Fam!!!
I even got to spend two days with my sisters after flying into Salt Lake City, while my husband, my son, and his fam drove home.  It was so nice to laugh, talk, and be with them! (We missed you, Laura!)  We also went to Ikea, and I spent too much money...it was awesome. :)  I also found that one day away from my son is super relaxing and carefree, but the second day sucks and all I want is to hold and cuddle my little babe!

Then, after driving back from Salt Lake to my Idaho town, it was so fun to reunite with my hot hubby and sweet son, be in our home again, and back to our happy little routine of life.

...Along with loads of unpacking and laundry.  :)

So friends, have you ever braved camping or taking a lot trip with a toddler?  Good experience?  Bad experience?  I'd love to hear!  :)   Any great tips or advice for making travel with little kiddios successful?  (Ha, my uncle recommends Benadryl for long car rides...)


July 2, 2014

Trials, Blessings, Cancer.

By Hannah
Introduced by Amy

Hannah is my friend who my son may love more than me.  (Kididng, Not Kidding. He asks for her and tells me that he loves her--no joke!  Pretty bold for a two-year-old, huh?  Ha!)  My husband met her in their grad programs, and he heard that she is amazing with kids (she's the oldest of six kids--she's had a lot of practice), so we asked her to babysit.  Seriously, I remember thinking watching her interacting with my son, "Crap, she's better with my baby than I am!" 

Hannah is mature beyond her age, super talented (she's got a gorgeous, soulful voice and some mean piano skills) and she truly is beautiful (to use the cliche) inside and out.  One night after she came over for dinner with us, we talked for hours, and she told me about her battle with cancer.  I was blown away.  Not just that she'd already faced such a trail (she's only like 21!) but I was amazed by her attitude about the whole thing.  Most of us would be so angry with God, with fate, with destiny, or whatever to have to deal with chemo and hospital stays while the other girls our age are crushing on boys and planning for prom.  But not Hannah.  So of course, being the weirdo blogger lady that I am, I begged her to share her story here on SOM. :)  

I hope you find her story as uplifting as I did!  Enjoy! :)
-Amy

---
January 24, 2009 was a day that began one of the most treasured experiences of my life: My cancer. 

Wait, what?

Just keep reading.

I was sixteen years old, was finally coming out of my awkward stage, had just gotten my license, and was two weeks into my second semester of college. (I homeschooled so I was able to finish my coursework and graduate from high school early.) I was on top of the world. I'd always had a plan for how my life was supposed to go, and things were right on track. Life was perfect.

Out of nowhere on a Sunday evening, I felt a dull pain in my lower left side. It was like it was just underneath my ribs, but I didn't think much of it. By that Wednesday I could tell it wasn't just going to go away. Over the course of that week my pain got much worse, and by that Saturday morning I was convinced I was dying. My mom took me in to urgent care and demanded that they do a chest x-ray. We were taken into the doctor’s office where she showed us the x-ray on a computer screen. She pointed to the picture as she said, “This is your right lung, and this is where your left lung should be, but it’s not.”

My thoughts started racing. I only have one lung? I’ve only had one lung for a whole week?! My mom and I were sent directly to the emergency room where a team of doctors was waiting for us. People were throwing the term “chest tube” around, and in my mind I was picturing something similar to a bike pump that they could just put down my throat, pump my lung up, and send me home. So I was confused when I was told to don a hospital gown and lay on the stretcher. The doctor explained that they were going to have to make an incision in my side to insert a chest tube which would hopefully drain the fluid they were guessing was there which had probably caused my lung to collapse. However, because I had had some crackers within the past hour, they weren’t going to be able to give me any general anesthesia. They could only numb the skin they were going to cut into.

They cut me open, and I remember it feeling like someone was running an ice cube across my skin. Then I felt all of it. They shoved a tube through my muscles and ribs, and immediately three liters of fluid began to drain from my chest cavity. My mom sat by my side as my body racked and jolted with the pain. I remember thinking I needed a distraction, so I screamed for my mom to tell me stories. Thankfully, they gave me something to make me forget what I felt.

I was then life-flighted to a bigger and better hospital about an hour’s drive from where we lived. I spent a week undergoing countless number of x-rays, MRI’s, CT scans, blood draws, having a second chest tube placed, and a bone marrow biopsy taken all of which only told us that there was a “mass” in my chest. Our last resort was to take a biopsy of the mass, or tumor, which confirmed my diagnosis of Non-Hodgkin’s T-cell Lymphoblastic Lymphoma.

I had cancer.

I didn't really know what it meant. I just knew my grandpa had died from it, and it was what the cardboard signs at McDonald’s with bald children on them asked you to donate to. Over the next two years I received chemotherapy and became much more acquainted with what it means to have cancer. 

My little brother and sister visiting me in the hospital.

It means that some things matter and others don’t. One day after I'd come home from a chemo treatment, I went straight to my bed. I was exhausted, but was distracted by my siblings fighting over something inconsequential and my mom yelling at them for it. I got out of my bed and walked down the hall to the top of the stairs so that everyone in the house could hear me. I screamed at the top of my lungs for them to stop it and that it didn't matter. I’m sure my mom about had a heart attack to hear me exerting myself that way.

It means that appreciating the little things can make all the difference. For about three months I barely left my bed, and I lost about 60 pounds. All of my muscle was practically gone. I remember the first time I put my pants on by myself, took a shower without assistance, made a meal for myself, and even just sat up for an entire day rather than lying down. Can you imagine how elated I was when I ran for the first time? Occasionally it still hits me when I'm doing something as simple as brushing my teeth… “I used to not be able to do this.”

It means that acts of service are the greatest ways for us to become closer to our Savior, on both the giving and receiving end. One night I was craving pickles, and my friend brought me a baggie of them the next morning. Another night I wanted ice cream, and a friend who was visiting ran home and back again to bring me some. I craved yummy potatoes, and a friend made us two giant pans so we could freeze some. Another friend helped me wash my hair as chunks of it fell into her hands. So many other acts of service were rendered, and each one helped me feel how mindful the Lord was of me in that time.

When I started growing back a little fuzz...

Wig shopping!
It means that there are more people within our sphere of influence than we can ever imagine. When I was almost fully recovered, I was out and about with my grandpa when he asked me to make a phone call for him. I explained to the man who I was, and he immediately asked if I was the granddaughter with the cancer. I laughed and said that I was. He told me that he and his wife had been praying for me for a good long while, and they were glad I was doing alright. Crazy, huh? I’d never met these people, but their relationship with God was being strengthened as they prayed for me.

It means so many things. I could not hope to list all of the things I learned through that process, and the things I am continuing to learn because of it. To name a few: It’s all about perspective. Life is beautiful. Your level of gratitude is directly related to your level of happiness. Everything that happens to us can benefit us if we let it. Family will always be there. God’s plan for me is far better than anything I could ever plan for myself. I am in control of my attitude. Your best tools are optimism and positive thinking. 

My family!
The biggest lesson I learned is that love wins. 

Nothing is more important than true, pure, eternal love. Love without judgment or reserve. Love the people you don’t know, and remember to love the people you do know.

Love your trials.

Love yourself.

Love the Savior.

Love life.

But most of all, know that you are loved.

Hannah

---
Isn't she amazing?  I am continually inspired by her attitude...sheesh, I get a sinus infection and I'm about ready to give up on life!  Ha!  Thank you, Hannah, for sharing your story with us!

Friends, have you ever dealt with a long-term illness?  How did/do you get through?  How do you keep positive in such a heavy trial?  We'd love to hear your perspective!

I am amazed by those who constantly battle a chronic illness, but continue living their lives.  What a struggle!  Especially mommas who have a family to care for...wow.  Not only physical illnesses-- mental illnesses would also be such a difficult struggle, because many times, no one fully knows the extent of what you're going through since it's not something that can be seen on the outside.  It makes me want to be more aware of those around me and be quick to serve, like the friends and family in Hannah's life.  I love her motto: Love Wins.  I agree.  Love wins, because after all is said and done, the acts of love and service given during a trial, as well as our increased reliance on the Savior, give meaning to what could have otherwise been just pointless suffering.  We will all have times when we get to be God's hands for others as well as times when we will be on the receiving end of loving service!  Heavenly Father is pretty darn smart for designing life that way. :)

Please leave your comments, Like and/or Share!  Love to you all!  





Meet Hannah!

I am Hannah. 

I was born in Idaho and lived here with my family until I was eight years old, then my dad’s job transferred him to a little town in Minnesota where I grew up. I loved it there, but big part of my heart was always in Idaho. I moved back in 2011 to attend college at BYU-Idaho, and then ended up transferring to ISU where I graduated with a degree in University Studies and Sciences.

My plan was to complete my master’s degree to become an Occupational Therapist, but due to a series of unforeseen events I am no longer taking that career path. I now work as a Habilitative Intervention Therapist with mentally challenged children, and I absolutely love my job.

I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and my faith is the biggest and best part of my life. I know Jesus Christ to be my Savior and Redeemer, and I am forever grateful for His atoning sacrifice for me which will allow me to return to live with Him someday. I know that He lives and that He loves me more than I will ever be able to comprehend. I love Him with all my heart.

I play the guitar and piano, and I love to sing. I love the outdoors and playing sports (it doesn’t mean I’m good at them). I have a pet parakeet named Adelaide. I am the oldest of six children. I love to play games and have fun with my friends and family. I absolutely love kids. I am a cancer survivor. I love horseback riding. My pet peeves are twisted seat belts, when people say “I used to could,” and pointy spoons. I’m searching for my prince charming who I am hoping to have lots of babies with and live happily ever after. I believe that the most wasted of days is a day without laughter, and that love wins. Always.

Read Hannah's amazing SOM post: "Trials, Blessings, Cancer."

With my brother

June 24, 2014

Is Foster Care Right for Your Family?

Interview with Delilah
Introduced by Amy

You know how you meet certain people and you can just tell that they got smarts?  Like they just know what's going on.  That's how Delilah is.  She is funny, capable, thoughtful, and welcoming to everyone...she is such a cool momma!

I met Delilah at church when my husband and I moved to our town about 2 years ago.  (Remember the Epic Treehouse Playdate post?  Delilah and her kids came!)  As I got to know her better, I was amazed at her journey to motherhood.  She has four kids; the first three are adopted-- each of them came to their family first through foster care.  Then the miracle baby, Jasper, came unexpectedly when Delilah became pregnant after experiencing years of miscarriages and infertility.

This is Delilah! With baby Jasper at my parent's treehouse.
I was so interested to hear about her experience being a foster parent, especially since she also has the background of a social worker/foster care educator.  My personal interest in foster care started when I met my friend Lawanna, a sassy, hilarious girl from inner-city, Little Rock, Arkansas.  She was living as a nanny with a family in my town.  When the nanny job ended, I invited her to stay with my family until she knew what she wanted to do next.  She stayed for two months...we laughed our heads off every day!  It was fun being roomies, even though she made fun of my white girl dance moves. (ha!)  As we became close, she told me stories about her difficult childhood and I was appalled to hear about some of the foster homes she was in.  Most homes she bounced in and out of, and she often dealt with neglect and abuse.  I remember being so frustrated thinking, "These kids deserve and need sooo much better!"

I've thought about foster care ever since meeting Lawanna.  These children need safe homes, they need love, and they need stability--especially the older ones who people aren't generally clamoring to bring into their homes.  When I was teaching Jr High and High school Art, many times it was the troubled kids who gravitated toward me and confided in me.  It was pretty heartbreaking to hear their struggles. I was so glad I could be a trusted adult in their life, but I felt so limited in the amount of practical good I could do as their public school teacher.  It made me want to do more; even one person's positive influence can change a life!

But foster care is a big choice.  Sometimes you hear the sad stories where there is a foster child brought into a home, and then that child abuses one or more of the other children in the family, because they are just acting out on what they have been victims of themselves.  I have to admit, this scares me.  I would have such a hard time forgiving myself if I had allowed harm to come to one of my own children, even in trying to help another.  I think that is a valid concern and one that takes careful consideration as to the ages of the children you will have placed in your home, their genders etc. in comparison to your own children, as well as the specific struggles in their background.

But, the one question I've wondered, over and over is: Can I (can we--my husband and I) do it?  These children are  coming from hard situations.  Can I be patient, loving, and firm enough to be a good foster mother?  Do I have the emotional resilience myself?  It's been a wake-up call to have my own child...parenthood is not easy.  So am I really a good fit for the extra challenge of foster care?

But then I think, "These children!  They have lived through so much suffering by no fault of their own. No child should grow up without knowing security and peace."

It's a big decision, one that my husband and I are not ready to make right now, having a toddler and a baby on the way.  But it has been so nice to talk to Delilah and get a realistic idea of what it actually entails to be a foster parent, for that time in the future when we are ready to make a decision.

I am SO happy Delilah agreed to share her insights here at SOM; I hope that you find this interview helpful, whether you've ever wondered if foster care would be right for your family or even if you're just curious about the process.  Enjoy!
-Amy

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Ok, Delilah...How did you first get involved in foster care?

Well, I was a social worker and a lot of my friends worked at child protective services. I was working at the domestic violence center and I had a friend who was frustrated looking for a family for a child--we often talked about our jobs and she expressed this need. I was newly married, for about a year, and wanted kids.  I thought, "Ya know, I can be a mom to these kids till my family comes." So we signed up and took the classes and did the background check and we got a baby within two months of finishing the training. It wasn't overwhelming cause I worked in daycare all through college and I am the oldest in my family so it wasn't a big deal to me. It was really fun and we had him for 8 months. He ended up being adopted by one of his relatives. Now, he’s growing up with his cousins.

What is the goal of foster care?

Reunification. That means, you are caring for kids temporarily while the parents have the time they need to get healthy. And foster parents need to know and be ok with that. We want the children to be able to return to their parents. Most kids go back to their families, but that number is dropping everywhere in the nation. There’s a big push nationally for kinship care, so when a child has to be taken from their home, they try to place them with kin (blood relative comes first) or anyone that the family deems as kin (like a neighbor that the kids have grown up with, someone close to the family.) When a kid goes into care, they hold a family meeting and everyone who is connected to that kid can come to have a say. Even their school teacher can be there. They are trying to see what support there is for this child.  It’s usually at that meeting that someone will step forward to say that they can care for this child.  If there isn't someone among the kin who is able and willing to take in the child and be their foster parent, then they will look for another foster family to place the child in.

How does a child get put into care?

There has to be a law broken for a kid to end up in care. A super dirty, unsanitary house is considered endangerment of a child. Law enforcement declares a child in imminent danger, then they press charges, and then the social worker comes in with law enforcement to take the child into custody. A neighbor may call in who is worried, who knows something is up, and a social worker can come in and visit the family. If they see a problem they will contact the law.

How can you know if foster care is a good fit for you and your family?

When you come to the foster care training it lasts 9 meetings and that’s really where you can go through the process of deciding if it fits or not. Sometimes people think "I’ve always wanted to do this," then in the classes they realize it’s not what they thought it was. And’s that’s totally ok. We would rather people go into that class and opt themselves out, then go through the whole process, then we place kids with them, and then they change their minds and we have to move the kids again. We are trying to prevent as much loss and change as possible for these children. We need to keep the kids in a stable place, that is the goal.

Foster care is hard. There’s nothing easy about it. The families that do well are those who want to provide a service for kids in need. Sometimes we have couples who have already raised their kids. But they may have limitations because of their age, so maybe they could have a 10-year-old, but not an infant. They can do well.  They have the skills. They are talented parents. They are calm and let things roll. They understand child development. And they do a great job.

But you don't necessarily have to have already raised your kids. Every couple has to decide during that training what age of children they can take.  They have to look at their own families needs.  And there are guidelines: for example, kids of opposite sex can’t share a bedroom. Any foster child has to be in a room that has an egress window so a firefighter can get in and out. It depends on space and what the family wants. Most families want a baby or a younger kid. But, will we call you if we have a sibling group of 10, 11, 12?  Absolutely. When there’s a need, we call. And, you completely have the right to say no.  You wouldn't end up in any situation you didn't agree to. But, we want people to know, when you sign up for a service, sign up for a service. If they are really narrow in what children they are willing to take, they just sit on the list. We can't utilize them for the need. Most often, we have sibling groups who need to be placed and we want to keep them together. My family has mostly had younger kids, but we also had a girl come at 14, and she stayed till she was 18.

In the training we coach foster parents what questions to ask, so that they don't end up in a situation that they aren't aware of.  Like “Has there been sexual abuse?" or "Are they behind in school?”  Whatever info the caseworker has about the child that would be helpful, then they will give that information. They don't always know about all the problems, but they can tell what they do know. Sometimes a child will start talking more about what was going on in their home once they are in a safe place and feel ok talking. They don't always talk through words though, they talk through behavior. They are little--they don't know how to communicate what they are feeling. I mean, even as adults we have a hard time with communicating!

So what then would you say are the most important characteristics of someone who would make a good foster parent? How can someone know personally if they can hack it?

It takes desire. They need that motivation: they want it to work. If that’s there, it seems to be ok. They figure it out. And really, all parents are figuring it out as they go. Oh, and they need endurance. Cause there’s a honeymoon stage at first, and then it gets real.

What are the hard parts?

Foster care kids have counseling, behavior workers...your appointments double.  They have visits with their birth parents to go to, doctors and dentists, cause usually they are behind and you're catching them up. They may also need tutoring. And court dates. Your schedule is busy.

From my personal experience, a really hard part is the bad behavior. I didn't struggle with the system or rules or the regulations…the things I struggled with personally are when it really got real. And, surprisingly, that didn't happen till after adoption. Tayja finally realized she wasn't going anywhere else. She was so angry at her situation (she was 5 when we adopted her)--it was a living hell. She was so mad, and since I was the closest person to her, she was mad at me. She was mad at this mom idea, and here I was standing in place of the mom that she wanted, and I was the mom that she got. It wasn't her fault. And I was having my own process at the same time. I was tired. I got two infants, one after another. Draden was a year and a half old, and then I got a brand new baby, Chloe, and two weeks later I got Tayja. I was alone, because my husband is a firefighter, and he was away fighting fires. It was sad too, cause Tayja's mother did all the work to get Tayja back, but the night before she was supposed to get her daughter, she ended up in jail. I think she got scared that she couldn't do it, so she sabotaged it for herself. Technically, a child can only be in care 18 out of 22 months consecutively--they file termination of parental rights at that point.  But, because Tayja's Native American, she was in two different systems, and she had been in care off and on till she was 5. They have to try to place native kids in native homes, (they try to keep a child within their culture) and my husband is native, so they called us first.  So after thinking she'd finally be back with her mom, it didn't happen.  She was also losing a sister, cause she had a sister who was placed in another home. Tayja was angry because of loss. She was grieving. It was hard.

So as intense as the problems were, that's how intense the behavior will be.  They are communicating pain. For most of the kids, in the homes they came from, there’s love there, but it’s not a matter of a lack of love. I want foster families to understand that. It’s not that simple. We are people and we are not that simple. It’s harder than what we understand. There's problems and addictions that are so hard to overcome, even if they want to. When a child has to be taken from a home, it is very traumatic for the child and the parents. But, there is usually some small amount of relief on the parent’s part. But, for the kids, it is always just loss. They are grieving. And they often go into shock the first night, like it’s not truly sinking in until the next morning.

I would say though that truly the hardest part was recognizing that I had limits--dealing with the bad behavior brought those limits out. I needed more education and learning. It was very humbling. We both were in different processes at the same time, and it was really emotional. I was angry for Tayja too. I had known and worked with her mother for years. I loved her mother. It was hard to see her not succeed.

What are the parts that make foster parenting worth it? What makes you passionate about foster care?

It’s all worth it if a child isn't sad or hungry for the night. You make a difference in their life daily. You can show them that there’s love and hope and goodness in this life.  They have seen the bad and the ugly, way too much for their age, and they want to believe that good exists, but they are having a hard time believing it, because of the actions of others. They are little people living these big problems. If we can help them have good in their life, then it’s all worth it. You instill that there’s another way to live. You're lifting the weight. It’s totally wrong for kids to be in pain.

I love this family!

How can someone get started as a foster parent?

In Idaho you call 211 (the Idaho careline) and they will help you get an application-- paper or online. When you complete that, it is sent to the coordinator, then phone calls are made, and fingerprints are taken. And then you go to the classes. You can also check out informational meetings, typically held at a local library about every two months. These are a great introduction. You get to talk to foster parents and ask them questions.

Ok, final words!

Not one of my children came easy. God’s hand was with every child through the whole process. That’s what helped me to keep going--God's little testaments to me that said, "This is my plan."  And now, Tayja believes that we will be there for her. She believes that her family is permanent. She believes in God. So there’s a life changed. Foster care is harder than I ever imagined, but more worth it than I ever knew. Sometimes I would think, “I'm failing, I'm not good at this.”  But, my outlook changed when my husband’s friend said to me, “That doesn't matter. Because whatever their life was, they are doing so much better than they would be. You are making a difference.”  And it's true!
--Delilah

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Thank you SO much Delilah for sharing your wisdom and experience!  I know personally that she is making a difference.  Her daughter, Tayja, was one of my art students...she is loving, respectful and kind--an amazing girl who has come so far!

I hope you found this as helpful as I did! :)  I love that Delilah reiterates the fact that this isn't for everyone, and that's ok.  It's an amazing service of love to give to a child in need, but there are many factors that go into a decision like this, and it needs to be the right fit for your family.  Personally, I am grateful for prayer....if the possibility of foster care continues to be in my heart in the future, that is a decision that my husband and I will spend a lot of time praying and thinking about.  I'm sure God will guide us in that choice--and if I can be His hands in reaching out to a child or children in need that we specifically can help, then I would count that as a privilege.  I'd probably be super scared going into it, but, I'd know that The Lord would be by our sides to enable, bless, and guide us in serving one of His precious children.  After all, He said "Even as ye have done it to one of the least of these, ye have done it unto me."

Friends, thank you so much for reading!  Posts like this help me to feel excited and fulfilled in keeping this blog going.  Sometimes I wonder if I really make a difference or if the time I spend writing and managing the blog is worthwhile when there are so many other things to do in life.  But, I SOO appreciate providing a platform for other women to share their stories and knowledge about the things that matter most to them.  Don't get me wrong, I love to hear and tell funny stories--life is awesome, we gotta enjoy it!  And there's all sorts of fun, hobbyish interests that I love gabbing with you about.  But it's hearing your voice--sharing the real, important stuff--that keeps the bloggy fire aburnin' in my heart. :)  So if you'd like to hear more stories from awesome ladies, (Or share your own!) then be sure to click the "Join This Site" or "Like" button, or follow along through BlogLovin.  We'd love to have you!  :)

Friends, please share this post!  I feel like foster care is such an important topic that most (myself included) just aren't very experienced or knowledgeable about.  And there are so many kids in need!  For many of us, the current time and season of our lives isn't right to look into it ourselves.  But, maybe you sharing this post could touch the heart of someone who will decide that the timing is right for their family to look into foster care...ya never know!  :)  Anything we can do to help one of these children, is worth doing. :)

Thanks for caring, thanks for reading, thanks for sharing!  And please leave your comments and thoughts below!

I love you peeps. :)

PS. Read this incredible post by a momma who is currently a foster mom to 4 sisters, as well as caring for her two own kids. (Amazing, huh!?)  I loved it.
PSS. This post is linked to the Be.YOU.Tiful link party...go check it out! :)






June 19, 2014

The Art of Knick-Knackery!

By Amy

I'm a hopeless home decor junkie.  I love it SOO much.

But, being married and sharing a home with a male occasionally brings up some minor conflicts of opinion and preferences when it comes to home decor taste.  My hub and I share a lot of similarities in our style, but now and then he's less than thrilled about one of my design choices.  One thing we don't always see eye to eye on:

KNICK KNACKS. 

I love to peruse thrift stores and garage sales for awesome, quirky little objects.  The thrill of the hunt is half the fun!  Cause there's a LOT of useless, ugly crap out there to sift through.  I just like the useless, pretty crap!  Ha!  Especially if it's cool and vintage.  Or weird.  Or funny.  Or weirdly funny.   And there's a small amount of knick knacks in my house that are kept around purely for sentimental value.  Like the rather hideous cat that came from my Great Grandma.  I just can't get rid of the wall-eyed monstrosity!  I don't have anything else from my spunky, short, opera-singing Great G-ma.  Plus, I kinda like it....do you ever just love something just because it is so hilariously ugly?  (I wonder if this is why people are into those flat faced cats that look like they got their mugs slammed by a door.  And, I even like cats!)

So Patrick rolls his eyes and heaves great sighs of pain when I bring home any little treasures.  (He loves me, though, so you'll notice they are still in our house!)  And, here's the thing, I actually agree with the clutter argument...I don't want a bunch of silly figurines filling up every surface.  SO, I keep my knick knacks in designated areas, usually specific shelves.  That seems to keep Patrick pacified.  

But, I have to admit, I need to practice the art of editing.  Cause when I bring home an awesome fifty cent brass figurine, something else has to go.  I don't want my treasures to overrun our little home and suddenly we look like Aunt Ethel's cluttered parlor room.  Neither do I want to become a candidate for "Hoarders."  Too much is too much.  (Profound, I know.)  Knick-Knackery is an Art that has to be coupled with restraint, otherwise, it becomes a little puky.  But, tasteful, controlled knick-knacking awesome.  It adds character, warmth, personality, interest, and a sense of history into a home.  

Ok, I am done waxing philosophical.  Here are a few of my little treasures that I love most!  (PLEASE ignore the dust.)

My Knick Knack cupboard!  

Patrick made that little ceramic piano when he was a boy...hee hee!  Isn't it so cute and OCD?  His careful attention to detail never ceases to amaze me.  I bought that beautiful teacup at a student art sale in college.  I had to have it.  (Isn't it insanely good!?  And, a cute little thrift store bowl, along with the most adorable, tiny little porcelain kitty.  

The little globe ringholder was a gift from my mom (I've collected globes since middle school!) and the little "See No, Speak No, Hear No Evil" monkeys I bought when I went to Japan for a two week summer exchange program, and the little stone carved container was from my Grandma June when she visited Israel)
Cool little ceramic box, only glazed half-way down...it has great texture!  And a sweet vase from my sister, Sherie, but it's probably too big to count as a knick knack.

Elephant from my Grandma and Grandpa Brown.  A sweet little bugle from the thrift store and the key to my heart I gave Patrick to put on his key chain while we were dating.
Thrift store whittled deer!  It's on a high shelf and apparently it's dusty up there, folks.
A glass globe that my two cooperating teachers gave me when I finished student teaching.  I love it!  

Jewelry...some of it I never actually wear, but it is sentimental, so I display it, like the amber beads were a gift from an elderly lady I knew on my mission.   So, the purely ornamental is mixed in with those necklaces I actually wear.
I made this top hat man in my college ceramics class!  I love him so much.  If my house was burning down, first I'd get out my son and make sure my husband was safe, then grab important documents....and this dude.  His hat comes off and you can put cookies inside!

...And with the other hand, while sprinting through the flames, I'd grab this pig.  Oh SWOON!  Patrick doesn't really like it, but the pig and I are a package deal.

This vase is cracked up the back--I pulled it out of the dumpster at the ceramics lab--and it holds our change.  The cool ceramic succulent and the shell were both TJ Max.

I love this crazy metal fish!  I found it at a thrift store.
 Ok, so my son was taking a nap when I snuck in to snap these pics...that why the lighting is all weird, cause I had to use a flash.

Thrift store whale penny jar, and a gold owl from the decorations at Hayden's baby shower.  Thank you, Heather!

Little Squirrel from my mom and that tiny hedgehog (GAH! ADORABLE!!!) a little girl was selling at a craft fair/rummage sale.  She had a bunch of other tiny clay animals she'd made, and I wanted to buy them ALL!  

This sweet little bear was made for my family by one of our Japanese exchange students.  I swiped it from my parent's house.  haha!
A lop-sided ceramic pencil holder that a friend made for Patrick in Jr. High.  I love the color!

A sweet, old recipe tin.
Well there's my useless crap.  But, they bring me joy, so they can't be useless, right? :)

What do you think about knick knacks?  Love?  Hate?  In the middle?  What is your favorite/coolest/weirdest knick knack?  Why do you love it?  I'd love to hear! :)  

PS. This post is linked to the Be.YOU.tiful Link Party...go check it out! :)