Monday, February 12, 2018

My Simple Lent

In my minds eye there is a picture of who I want to be and who I wish I already was. So every year when Lent comes around I see it as a time to become that person. I say to myself, "Caitlin, this year is the year you get your act together. You will wake up at 7am. You will clean your house. You will say your prayers. You will eat healthy meals, repairing your relationship with food. This lent, you will be a saint!" And then I don't. I wish I could say that I even give it the good ol' college try. But typically by the first Sunday of Lent, reality has set in and I get discouraged. And the devil LOVES that. So I pretend that my Lent is going well. I do a good deed here or there. I offer up my daily struggles for a few days. I try to be kinder to my family (which really just looks like me apologizing more). But at the end of Lent, I say to myself, "Boy, that was a fail. Aw, well, there is always next year."

This year, as I was pondering what this Lent will be, I saw myself falling into that trap again. I started thinking how I want to pray more, so I thought about committing to getting up early and praying for 40 minutes in the morning. I started thinking about how I want to use my time better, so I started dreaming up a hard-and-fast routine I would following for all of Lent. I was thinking about how I would like to improve my health and eating habits so, 'naturally,' that would mean I give up all chocolate, chips, tv shows, bread, ice cream, cheese, bacon, popcorn, chicken nuggets, sitting, and I would start waking up early and running outside for an hour everyday.

A few things about me.
1) I love sleep almost as much as I love chicken nuggets.
2) I have an extremely difficult time falling asleep at night, especially before 1am.
3) I am very unfit and I have always suffered from back, hip and knee pain.

Thankfully, God called me to prayer in this moment and woke me up to my folly. My yearly follies I should say. I can't make myself into a different person just by force of will. I will not get up earlier then I have to. Years of throwing my hair in a ponytail instead of getting up to take a shower has proven that. I can't make me a saint. Only God can work in my life to reveal who he created me as. I just need to be open to Him.

So God opened my eyes to my reality right now.

Yes, it would be great and wonderful to pray for 40 minutes a day. REALITY IS: I don't even pray for 10 minutes straight a day right now.
Yes, it would be amazing to wake up early and exercise for an hour. REALITY IS: I don't even do 30 minutes of exercise A WEEK.

SO, my simple Lent plan, which should prove to be very challenging considering where I am right now, is 15 minutes of prayers a day and 15 minutes of exercise a day.

15 minutes for my soul +
15 minutes for my body =
30 minutes of giving all of me to God.

Other Lenten Add-On's:
Every year for lent I strip my house of all decor. I take down all the pictures. I put away all the knickknacks and mementos. I only leave up our crucifixes and one statue of Mary. This acts as like a fast for my eyes.

Also this year I will be participating in the 40 bags in 40 days challenge to help cut the clutter and break my attachment to material stuff in my life.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Reading Plan 2018

Recently, Dare Bear has joined my husband and I in our bed at night. This has made bedtime a stress free event BUT has seriously affected how much reading I do in a day. It would NOT be overdramatic to say that my personal reading time has dropped 80% since we started bed sharing. The one and (almost) only place I would read would be in bed. I LOVE reading in bed. But now that my 'light sleeper' has taken over my reading 'nook' I haven't been reading as much. I need to remedy this. Quickly. So I have come up with a two part plan.

PART ONE: Create a New Reading Nook. I have the room...somewhere. I just either need to start reading sitting up (blah!) or create a comfy spot I can curl up. We don't have a couch or another bed currently. I will have to think on this. Stay tuned.

PART TWO: Create a Reading Wishlist. What I mean by this is get excited about the books I will be reading. Find great books that I can't wait to read, even IF I have to be sitting up. (Honestly, I can not overstate how much I dislike reading sitting up. I just have never really done it.)

SO, here is a taste of what is on my 2018 reading wishlist:
1. The Yes Brain Daniel J. Seigel's newest book, being released on January 8th 2018
2. Love is Patient but I'm Not Christopher West's newest book, released early December 2017*
3. The Read-Aloud Family Sarah Mackenzie's newest book, being released on March 27th 2018

I have also started a "To-Read in 2018" list on my library's website and as I read other people's 2017 favourite book lists I am adding to this list. Currently on my list is the Little House series, To Kill a Mockingbird, My Side of the Mountain and Moon over Manifest.

What is on your Reading Wishlist for the new year? Any suggestions for me?

*This is a very 'easy' read and would make a great in depth examination of conscience. I read all but 10 pages in one night. (I was at my in-laws and was able to read in bed!)

Friday, December 29, 2017

2017 in Review: The Year without Shampoo

2016 was a year of grief and confusion. 2017 was a year of searching and contentment.

I have tried to write "Year Reviews" in the past but they never really get finished. I think this is for two reasons. 1) The timeline for writing it and posting it is so narrow. If I write it before Christmas, it seems too early but if I want until I have recovered from Christmas, it is almost too late.  And the second reason is that I don't think I am good at looking backwards. My memory is horrible and I tend to focus forward. So, here is a simple summary of the year.

What happened this year:
I attended the Pathways to Permanence Program through the Adoption Council of Ontario
Dare Bear went on adoption probation (the time between bioparental rights being terminated and the adoption being finalized)
Dare Bear was BAPTIZED!
G-Man went on parental leave for 5 months.
Our total appointments for the month surpassed 30 and stayed this high for the next 3 months.
The Day of Emergency: Dare Bear injured his front teeth and gums. We went to urgent care, then children's outpatients then the dentist. We arrive home to an ambulance in our driveway. Skywalker had a seizure. We head to the hospital. This was my and Skywalker's first ambulance ride. I will never forget the craziness that was this day or the relief at the end of it when everyone was home, asleep and OK!
Grant changed jobs just to find out he will lose his new job in January, 2018.
Skywalker transitioned to his adoptive home after being with us for 18 months.
We celebrated our 8th wedding anniversary.
Dare Bear turned 3.
I closed Spes FertilityCare Services.
Our foster home closed for the next year.
Dare bear started attending occupational therapy.
Dare Bear's adoption finalized!
My anniversary of starting the Curly Girl Method. I have not used shampoo since Dec 4th, 2016.

I have always struggled with my curly hair. But last year I discovered the curly girl method and my hair has never been healthier or curlier! Essentially, the curly girl method is avoiding drying products (shampoo) and products that build up in your hair (that you need shampoo to clean out). I strongly recommend the curly girl method if you have wavy or curly hair! Curly hair really is an entirely different beast then straight hair. This year I have learned how to love the beast!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Favourite 50 Books I Read This Year

Dare Bear and I love books! I, personally, LOVE children's literature. I can't stand most fiction but children's literature is the exception. Most of my "grown-up" reading is non-fiction so you will see this reflected on my list. Yes, I did read some fiction this year. I actually really got into Nero Wolfe by Rex Stout. BUT, only one fiction book made my top 50.

As I was looking over my library history for the year, in preparation for this list, I realized that we read over 500 books this year. That number certainly made me feel better about the amount of Curious George and Paw Patrol we watch! 90% of what we read comes from the library and we are very blessed to have a well-stocked and easy-to-use library down the street from us. I actually have had to face my library reservation addiction head on this year . My library makes it so easy to reserve books online and pick them up at your local branch! The whole process, between finding the books in their online catalogue to reading descriptions and reviews to hitting that reserve button, is so enjoyable that there were many times this year where my total number of reserved items were in the double digits and it is rare for me to have less then 20 books out on loan. It's like online shopping but without the price tag! Online reservations are the primary reason our total number of read books this year is so high. And it is certainly faster to read children's books then novels.

This list is in no particular order. 
I have linked each book to its amazon listing so you can get more information on the book if you would like. I do not get anything from you following these links.

Those marked with an * are not children's books. 
My top favourites are marked with a #.
Dare Bear's favourites are marked with a +. 
(For reference he just turned 3 years old)

So, without further ado, here is the list of our top 50 books we read this year.

1.       Loud Emily
2.       The Christmas Fox #
3.       Father and Son #
6.       Little Blue Trucks Halloween +
7.       Robinson
8.       Mouse Paint
9.       Love Your Life Not Theirs*
10.   Safe in a Storm #
19.   Swap! +
22.   Jabari Jumps
23.   Fortunately #+
32.   Duck in a Truck#
33.   Hooray for Bread +
35.   Hogwash #
36.   Caps for Sale #+
37.   Rhymoceros

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

From Foster to Adopted: A Pain I Don't Know

From Foster to Adopted Series

1. The Year to Today
2. A Pain I Don't Know
3.On the Eve of Forever
4. The Memory of Trauma
5. Finalization

On the final court date, I was able to attend. I arrived at the court house extremely nervous. I entered the humble seating area outside of the court rooms and I saw BioMom, L, and Bio-maternal grandma immediately. They looked worn. Scared and worn. I knew, in my heart, at that moment, as much as I knew previously in my head, that today was not about my family but about theirs. Something was about to be broken that never should be.

A part of me was expecting more drama on this day since the whole case has always been so unpredictable. But, we had all reached the end of the show. There was nothing left for L to fight against. There was no other path but for her to lose the rights to her son.

L left the court house before hearing from the judge. Grandma, S, stayed. The judge ruled. Done.

I will never forget my conversation with S after court. She asked me in such horrific honesty, 'How did we get here?' I could see in her eyes such confusion. How did her family get here? To the point that a judge legally severs the mother-child bond. She commented that just a few years prior everything seemed to be moving forward for her daughter. Now, there is a tear in their family that will never quite heal.

Staring at this dedicated mother who was grieving the motherhood of her daughter, I discovered a pain I don't know. A pain I hope to never know. And a pain I will strive to honour for the rest of my life.

The facts of Dare Bear's adoption are that he needed a safe home; that his family was not able to provide that for him; that we are able to; that after a year and a half together Dare Bear is attached to us and we are to him.

But adoption is not just addition; one child needing a safe home + a safe home = adoptive family. Adoption starts as subtraction. One family - one child = biological family.

This is what I witnessed on this court day. One family losing one child. And it broke my heart.

Throughout this process, I am continually reminded that there is no resurrection without the cross; there is no hope without pain. My hope is, as always, in the resurrected Christ, who rises, not despite his wounds but because of them. We are all one adopted family of God. And this global adoptive family started from loss as well. "Oh happy fault, that gained for us so great a redeemer."* When the loss inherent in adoption seems too great, I will remember that our God is Greater!

*For more in depth reading on this glorious mercy of our God, read some St. Thomas.

Friday, April 7, 2017

From Foster to Adopted: Part 1, The Year To Today

From Foster to Adopted Series
1. The Year to Today
2. A Pain I Don't Know
3.On the Eve of Forever
4. The Memory of Trauma
5. Finalization

We signed the adoption paperwork last month. A year ago, almost to the day, Dare Bear left us and officially returned to his biological mom, L. The dramatic journey that joins us all together as a forever family has an anti-climatic arrival. One signature and we all move from foster family to simply family.

How did we get here?
How did we survive the 'final' goodbye to the permanent hello?
How do we start to heal from this journey?
Where do we go from here?

These are too many questions to answer in one blog post so over the next little while I will be share bits of our journey with you, starting with a summary of the year.

This time last year, Dare Bear had rejoined his biological mom, L, and Skywalker had just joined us. We missed him every day but we thought everything was as it should be.

Then it wasn't. He came back to us. I will never forget the look of relief that came over his face when the worker removed him from the car seat and handed him back to me. We may never know everything he went through when we were apart. I hope and believe there were good times during the 2 months he was gone. I know there were hard times.

We fell quickly back into our old routines, except now there was a new baby to take care of too. I honestly don't remember much of last summer. Between raising two high need children under two and the stress of not knowing if/when Dare Bear would be leaving us again, I was beyond crisis. I am just now starting to realize how difficult a time that was, as the light starts lifting the darkness.

The truth of last year is that we either said goodbye or were told to prepare for goodbye 4-5 times. As much as we were the regular caregivers in his life, we were the last choice for permanency. What made the goodbyes even harder is that they almost always started out with one of our workers tell us that he would be staying with us. Our hearts were filled with hope only to be mocked.

I have said before and I will say it again because it is an extremely important point: it has to be hard to permanently take children from their parents and biological families. Unfortunately, this means that children pay the price when the road to permanency is long.

Despite the long, painful journey, Dare Bear was baptized and his joining of our family forever was celebrated on the Feast of St. Joseph, March 19th.

Adoption is messy and depends on deep loss. It is emotionally complex as my joy as Dare Bear's mother is dependent on another, just as true, mother's hurt. One of the reasons I didn't blog much last year was because the emotions were too raw. How do I capture in the moment my deep sadness at some of L's choices, my deeper tenderness towards her and my hurt and anger because of how some of these choices hurt our son?

As the dark fog of last year lifts, I can begin to see how far we have travelled. Stay tuned for the whole trip...

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

15 in 4: Foster Parenting Challenges and How Not to Help.

15 appointments in 4 days. This is not the first time that the appointments for my foster babies added up to double digits for less than a week's time.  I don't think it will be the last. It is crazy; border line insane. And every day an appointment gets changed or rescheduled to the next day or cancelled and its slot filled with something else. But we do it. This week we are doing it while Dare Bear got hit with a nasty virus. We had to add in a trip to the doctor, making three trips to the doctor in three days. Next week I'll have two more trips.

Parenting two under two is hard. Parenting two foster babies under two is basically a great way to develop an ulcer. Between the day-to-day challenges, the worry for both their situations, the paperwork and the meetings (oh, the meetings, visits, appointments!!), there are many days that I don't eat until nap time. Then I don't eat again until bed time. Not healthy, but we are in survival mode. Because this too shall pass. Much too quickly it will pass and, unlike other, more permanent parents, all we will have are memories. Sweet memories of sweet babies with crooked smiles and sticky fingers.

Foster parenting is challenging. It is a challenge that needs to be accepted more often. Children are worth it, but they don't make it easy.

So how can you help? Well, today, I am going to be venting on how you can NOT help, how you can add to the challenges of foster parents. Because this is what we are dealing with right now.

Today's post is made possible by the culture of death.

How Not to Help a Foster Parent

1. Share Your Opinions about Foster Care
So many people THINK they know what foster care is.
Comments like, "I couldn't do that, I would love the children too much!" (Really? What does that say to me? Do you think that I don't love them? Do you think they aren't worthy of the pain that comes from love?) or, "Children's Aid just steals children from poor people" or, my least favourite, "Parents that have their children taken away should be sterilized." (Really, which child shouldn't exist? Which of my children's siblings shouldn't exist? And are you going to be the one to decide which person you are going to treat like an animal?) are common occurrence in our life. Please keep your uneducated opinions to yourself. They are not original and they are not helpful. We also really don't need to hear about your cousin's neighbor's best friend who was a foster parent and the child *insert crazy violent action here.*

2. Share Your Opinions about Parenting
Foster children have experienced trauma, pain and loss. They need consciously chosen and connecting parenting techniques. Tantrums mean they are sharing their feelings. Crying means they are expressing a need. What they don't need and what foster parents also don't need, is quick 'advice' without context or relationship. Yes, my child swears, screams and tantrums. We are working on breaking the bad habits without breaking him. Move along.

3. Judge How We're Coping
I had heard from other parents that they can run into conflict between their work and their families. I suppose a certain amount of this is understandable. But the idea that work has to come first and, if it doesn't, you have to justify yourself to your employer, is becoming a huge issue in our lives. I have heard that I (as the caregiver primarily at home) need to "let G-Man sleep more" or "handle appointments and sickness all myself." Now, I do the majority of the night watch and take care of most of the appointments, but I can't do it all. And G-Man, as a good and (becoming) holy man, doesn't want me to. Family needs are not "just my responsibility." And the community's children in need are not only for a select few to take care of. But my wonderful husband gets threatened to have a letter written to HR because he is using his holidays for children's doctor's appointments and he has his daily calendar reviewed since April because the manager was convinced that he owed the company 'time.' (He didn't!) He gets micro-managed because he is loving and caring for children. I get judged, as the mother and wife, for not doing 'enough.'

4. Assuming
Assuming they are healthy, assuming since we 'asked' for this we are fine, assuming we do it for the money (ha!), assuming my children's parents are horrible (THEY AREN'T!), assuming foster care only happens to other families, assuming foster parenting is just like permanent parenting, assuming we'll get to adopt them, assuming that is our intention, assuming we 'must be saints,' assuming we don't grieve for long when they leave, assuming their trauma doesn't become our trauma, assuming we have all the answers, assuming every family you see is biological and permanent.

5. Discriminate Against Us
Recently, we have been looking for a new apartment and we kept running into issues when the landlord would find out that we have two under two and even bigger issues when we found out they were foster children. Basically, we were denied the rental because of our family. I also know of foster parents who have had a hard time getting apartment or car insurance because they are foster parents. G-Man right now is facing issues at work because he is a foster parent. Please respect that we are a family. These are my children. I will fight for their good until my dying breath, regardless of how long they are in my home. They are not disposable or exchangeable. Never make me feel like I have to choose between you and my children. You will lose. Every time. Support my family and welcome my children.  My children don't need to deal with your issues. You are the adult. You deal with your issues.

So, I guess to end on a positive note:

How TO Help a Foster Parent
1. Pray. Pray. Pray. Please. The devil attacks the family. Please pray for protection for foster families and for all families that are involved! Pray for healing.
2. Become an approved babysitter for a foster family you know. It isn't typically hard but there are a few steps. Foster families can really get stuck when they need child care help and there is no one to call.
3. Become a volunteer driver! We have had to use one since having two children and our driver, M, such a wonderful help to us! Volunteer drivers drive children to their visits with their biological families. Since I can't be everywhere, M is an invaluable resource.
4. Get involved in a community organization. Find ways to step out of your safe bubble. Figure out what people or behaviours you are most likely to judge and start breaking down the walls.
5. Smile at children and believe that all parents are doing the best they can!