Foster Parenting

Friday, March 24, 2017

Sweet Tea...My Secret Love Affair SOL #24

I am joining the Two Writing Teachers in the March Slice of Life Challenge (most days!).

I am an iced tea drinker.  There is always a pitcher in our refrigerator, no matter what time of year it is.  It's not unusual to see me with a McDonald's styrofoam cup in hand (or on my desk in my office) filled with unsweet tea.  Yes, unsweet tea.  I don't drink my calories.

That is until I come to the south.  I began the trip keeping true to my unsweet tea.  Everywhere we went, I ordered my tea the usual way...unsweet.  Then after a few days crossing the Georgia line, I relented...half unsweet, half sweet.  Oh, it was so good.  I kept to the half and half for two days and then this morning, I caved.

"I'll have the sweet tea," I told the waitress as she took my order today.  And the rest is history.  Every. single. meal.  Sweet Tea please.

I'll be heading home on Sunday. I'll hop back on the wagon then.  For now, I'll follow my heart and order that sweet tea.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Present Over Perfect SOL #22

I am joining The Two Writing Teachers for the March Slice of Life Challenge.

I'm in the middle of reading Present Over Perfect:  Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler More Soulful Way of Living by Shauna Niequist.  I'm not sure where I got the recommendation, but I'm glad I got it.  It's just what I need right now in my life.

After vacationing vicariously yesterday and taking a cue from my Present Over Perfect, I decided to close the books for today (ok...I did a little reading in the car) and join Keith and the girls for today's adventures.  Today we explored the natural side of Florida.  My sister introduced us to the St. John's River Cruise last year, and we knew we had to take the girls this year.  Keith's cousins joined us and we spent 2 lovely hours meandering down the St. John's River. We saw a myriad of birds, native Florida plants and lots of alligators.  Mama Alligator showed us her displeasure by hissing at us when we got a little too close.

Next was a trip to New Smyrna Beach, one of my favorite Florida beaches.  We soaked in the warm sun, played in the waves and had fun in the sand.  Destiny built her first sand castle with the help of Keith, who can never turn down the opportunity to build in the sand.  

We ended our day sun-kissed and happy.  Today I was present to the beauty of Florida and the company of some very special people.  It was a perfect day!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Vicarious Vacation SOL #21

I am joining The Two Writing Teachers for the March Slice of Life Challenge.

My husband asked me what I was going to write about tonight.  You see, I spent the day sitting on my sister's sun porch working on transcribing an interview for my ethnography class.  I know that procrastination is a problem of mine and apparently, I've taken it to a new level.  Transcribing a 20 minute video took me about 5 hours and I have about 6 more videos to transcribe.  So, I've got some more sun porch sitting to do.  While I worked, Keith took the girls out for the day.  My transcription got interrupted by regular texts from them showing me all the fun they were having.  They had a lot more fun than I did.

Lunch at Planet Hollywood

Yes, they are still having fun!

Destiny, who is afraid of heights, wanted to go on a hot air balloon ride.  

Building and racing cars at Lego Land.  

I'm pretty sure their day was a lot more fun than mine.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Let Me Introduce You...SOL #20

I am joining Two Writing Teachers for the March Slice of Life Challenge.  I fell off the wagon, but decided to forgive myself and get back on.

Today was one of those days that just make you smile.  It began bright and early when I opened the curtains to our Florida hotel room and coaxed  two sleeping girls out of bed to get their first glimpse of the Atlantic Ocean.  I've been looking forward to this moment since we planned our Spring Break trip.  I wish I had recorded their voices as they both let out  a sigh of "Oh, that's so pretty," as they peeked out the window.

I'm sure the Floridians thought we were crazy as we trekked out to the beach in the 70 degree weather.  The girls were eager to get their feet in the water.  I warned them that it was chilly and they might not want to go all the way in.  How silly of me. There was no keeping them out.  I relish watching them just being kids, all their troubles forgotten.  They squealed with delight as the waves crashed over them.  They got up over and over again, only to get knocked back down.

As the day winds down, I am listening to the girls laugh with my sister and brother-in-law.  I knew they would all hit it off right away.  It's been a good day for introductions to new people and new things...Life is good.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Saying Good-Bye SOL #16

I am participating in the Two Writing Teachers' March Slice of Life Challenge.  I am joining other bloggers and writing each day in March.

Last night was bittersweet.  Seated in a circle, some of us on the bare hardwood floors, other on the empty hearth, we ate our last meal together at our house.  With pizza on plates that we had propped on our laps, we shared our favorite memories of the house.

Keith:  Putting up the tire swing for the girls and watching them play

Autumn:  The first time she met Caroline when Annie brought her home

Destiny:  Camping out

Me:  Bringing Callie home

There are a million more memories I could write about.  The girls ended the evening by taking the dog outside, running through the yard and taking one more swing on the tire swing.  It was a good way to end the evening.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Pi Day Means Pie for the Day

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for hosting the March Slice of Life Challenge.

3/14 is Pi Day, which means that the Johnsons had to go out for pie.  If you have to go out for pie, there's no better place than Der Dutchman.  And if you're tired and it's been a long day, you may as well go out for dinner too.  We sat in the Amish buggy, a first for the girls.  Their food always tastes better when you sit in the buggy.  It was a lovely evening which ended in pie for dessert.  I was in luck too...rhubarb pie is in season!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Third Time's a Charm SOL #13

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for hosting the Slice of Life Story Challenge.  I am joining other bloggers in writing every day of the month of March.

They say you'll know which house is yours the minute you walk in.  We found our house (again).  It's the third house we've put a bid on in the last 3 weeks, so I'm hoping that 3rd time's a charm.  It has everything I wanted..

  • 1960s era ranch
  • fireplace (and there's even a fireplace in the kitchen)
  • nice neighborhood where we can walk and the girls can ride their bikes
  • window to look out while I do dishes
  • backyard for a garden and a place for the dog to run
  • hardwood floors
We found it accidentally when we were actually looking at another house.  I'm glad we decided to drive through the neighborhood to see what else was around.  Fingers crossed that the owners will accept our offer.

Check it out!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Sunday Night Blues

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for hosting the March Slice of Life Story Challenge.

Molly, Zach and Annie always said they hated having a mom who was a teacher. I don't think they really hated it, and even if they did, it's worked out well for them as adults.
 A got a taste of it today. At 7:00 pm we discovered that her homework wasn't done. I am pretty sure both of us would have chosen to get into our pjs and dive into a good book, but we took the high road and got to work. I have to say I enjoyed reading her essay and talking to her about her thinking. It ended up being a nice evening after all. 

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Love Notes SOL #11

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for hosting the March Slice of Life Challenge.  And thank you to Ruth Ayres for hosting Celebration Saturday.

Today was the day that all of our belongings got packed up and put into storage. We have the bare necessities with us at our apartment.

A and D are sad that we are leaving this house.  A says it's the first place she's been happy.  We try to impress upon her that it isn't the house, but the people in the house that make the difference.  But, I'll give her the benefit of the doubt.  I believe our home has been a refuge for her.

As I glanced through each of the bedrooms tonight, my breath caught in my throat when I looked behind A's door.

Curled up and barely sticking to the door was this little love note D had written to her sister shortly after they moved in.  It has been stuck to A's door for the last 5 months.  These two girls have been through so much and sometimes they've only had each other to rely on.  

Tonight I celebrate safe havens and the strong bond between siblings who can depend on each other when there is no one else to depend on.   And I celebrate little love notes, quickly scribbled on a sticky note and left as a reminder that no matter what, a sister's love is always there.  

Friday, March 10, 2017

Kindergarten Writing Workshop SOL #10

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for hosting the March Slice of Life Challenge.  I am joining other bloggers and posting a blog every day in March.

I am in my happy place every time I'm invited into a writing workshop.  There's nothing I like more than sitting next to young writers and talking to teachers about the work their students are doing.  I've been especially lucky this past month because I get to work with kindergarten.  Here's a little snippet from today's visit.

The students set off to write. Some were on the carpet, while others chose to write in their seats.  Mrs. Seguin and I settled in to talk to writers.  D approached me, "Mrs. Johnson, do you want to hear my story about Space Girl?"

Of course I did.  He's been working hard on this story for over a week.

I sat down with D.  As he began to read his book,  H interrupted us.  Tapping on my arm, he said, "Mrs. Johnson, Mrs. Johnson."

"What?" I turned my attention to him.

"Do you want to know why I was in the bathroom so long?"

Before I could answer, he continued, "I was in the bathroom a long time because I had to poop.  I know how to wipe now."

I didn't even have a chance to respond before he turned around and went to his spot to write.  I looked up at my friend, Mrs. Seguin and laughed out loud.

D stepped closer, not even phased by what H shared with me.  "Are you ready to listen to my story now?"

I gathered my wits about me and turned my attention to D's story.  Yes, I was ready to listen.

Only in kindergarten!

Thursday, March 9, 2017


Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for hosting the March Slice of Life Challenge.

It's 8:15. The girls are tucked into bed and sound asleep. The dog has scrunched herself under our bed and is softly snoring, maybe dreaming of big back yards where she can run freely. The house (apartment) has settled down and I relish this time of peace and quiet. While I'd love to dive into a book and read for hours, I am pretty sure I will soon be joining everyone else in peaceful slumber before the clock reads 9:00. Good-night. 

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

I Was Going To... Slice of Life #8

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for hosting the Slice of Life Challenge.  I am joining other bloggers and writing a Slice of Life story every day in March.

I was home today with Autumn.  I breathed a sigh of relief because I had a lot of course work to catch up on.  I had all day to get it done.

That was my plan...that's not what happened.  

I was going to tackle transcribing my interview with the classroom teacher.

Instead I...

Took the dog for a walk.
Checked email.
Read my new Bon Apetit magazine.
Worked on a bit of transcription.
Checked Facebook.
Worked on scheduling reading groups.
Sent some emails.
Cleaned up the kitchen.
Cooked dinner.
Changed laundry.
Made toast for Autumn.
Did a bit  more transcription.

I didn't get the work done that I wanted to do and now it's time to get to class.  I guess I'll try again tomorrow.  

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Ups and Downs of Writing SOL #7

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for hosting the March Slice of Life Challenge.  I am joining other bloggers and writing a Slice of Life story each day in March.

Tonight I sit with our Teachers as Writers group, a group that has been meeting once a month since October. We all came for different reasons, and at the same time we all came for the same write. Our group has come together like writing communities do. I so look forward to these Tuesday evenings. As the rain spattered against the windows, we all began to write about what we've learned about ourselves as writers these past months. I knew right away what I wanted to say.

I’ve learned a lot about myself as a writer these past few months. Shortly after this group began, the girls came to live with us and our lives were turned upside down.  In the process, I stopped writing.  Never in our wildest dreams did we think our lives would change so drastically. People tell us all the time what a wonderful thing we've done. I don't look at it as anything special. In our hearts, there was really no other choice. The girls are very important to us and we wouldn't do anything differently. From the outside, it may appear that now that the girls live with us, all is well.  

From the inside; however, that is not the case. There have been ugly, scary times and this is when my writing came to a standstill.  Why is that?  Some of the stories were raw and not mine to share publicly.  However, I could have written in my journal, which I chose not to do.  Something continued to hold me back.  I still grapple with what that "something" was. Fear?  Writing would make it real?  It would force me to feel things that I didn’t want to feel or to acknowledge things that I didn’t want to acknowledge?  Like the realities of what drug abuse does to a family?  Like maybe we're not equipped to deal with the mental health issues facing us. Like how angry I am at the system and at a mother who doesn't see what she's doing to these beautiful girls. These are not pretty subjects to write about and I worry that I sound like a broken record.

Not writing hasn’t been good for me.  Thoughts swirl and tumble around, building anxiety and fueling negativity.  It's time to write again. Returning to the Slice of Life challenge gives me the space to come back to writing. I remember now why I write.

I write to think.
I write to process.
I write to connect.
I write to heal.
I write to celebrate.
I write to make sense of the world.

So, what have I learned as a writer? I've learned it's ok to be vulnerable with my words. It's ok to share the not so pretty stuff. People will treat my words with compassion and empathy because that's what community does.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Another "Destinyism" SOLC#6

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for hosting the March Slice of Life Challenge.  I am joining other bloggers and writing a Slice of Life story each day in March.

At dinner each night, we play the High/Low game.  Each person tells his high and low for the day.  We've played the game since our kids were little. After they moved out, Keith and I ended our day sharing our highs and lows before we turned out the lights. We have continued the game with the girls.  

When it was my turn, I shared my highs and lows...I got to work early this morning and got caught up with some things I've been promising teachers.  My low...I needed to email Dr. Bloome.  After everyone else had shared, I told the girls that Keith and I had made a big decision.  

"I'm not going to go to school full time next year."  

The day has been a little emotional as I grieve the loss of a dream I had, but celebrate that a decision has been made and it's what's best for the girls.  I'm not quitting, just taking it  slower than I had anticipated.

Destiny asked me what I meant.  I told her that I was going to take a bunch of classes, but now I wasn't.  I would just take one at a time.

A little smile emerged as she said, "Good, now you can spend more time with us."

That was my new high.  My heart filled as I knew for sure we had made the right decision.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Kids Say the Funniest Things Slice of Life #5

This month I am joining Two Writing Teachers for the month long Slice of Life Story Challenge.  I will be joining other bloggers in writing a Slice of Life story each day in March.   I am cross posting with Margaret Simon from Reflections on the Teche for DigiLit Sunday.


Manners are kind of a big deal at our house, especially table manners.  

Eat with your mouth closed.
Put your napkin on your lap.
Use the napkin in your lap.
Don't talk with food in your mouth.
Ask for things to be passed instead of reaching across the table.
Wait for everyone to sit down before you start to eat.
Don't ask to be excused until everyone has finished.  

Today we took the girls out for pasta at our favorite Italian restaurant, Ann and Tony's.  It's a family owned place, with green checkered table cloths and white cloth napkins.  It's not super fancy, but it's still a nice place.  

I watched Destiny pick apart her pizza, literally.  First she ate all the cheese, little pinches at a time, licking her fingers between each pinch.  Sauce dripped off her fingers as we reminded her again and again to use her napkin.  Next, was the crust.  She nibbled at it until each piece was gone.  

In the middle of one of her pieces, she announced, quite emphatically, "Keith, you're not doing your job."

Surprised, he looked up.  "What?"

"You didn't tell me to stop chomping.  I am chomping," she replied.

I laughed out loud.  I was so busy watching her deconstruct her pizza that I hadn't even picked up on the chomping.  I guess she was  a little disappointed  that no one noticed.  

Keith looked at her and said, "Quit chomping Destiny."

"Ok," she quipped back and then went on to eat her pizza very quietly.  

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Saturday Morning Pillow Talk SOLC #4

This month I am joining Two Writing Teachers for the month long Slice of Life Story Challenge.  I will be joining other bloggers in writing a Slice of Life story each day in March.  I am also cross posting with Celebration Saturday hosted by Ruth Ayres where we can celebrate even the little things. Today I celebrate that I have choices.

"Maybe I'm not meant to go back to school full time," I rolled over and whispered to my husband in the early morning darkness.  "Maybe God has a different plan for us."

"But this has been your dream for a long time."

We wrestle with decisions.  We are in our mid fifties.  Our children are grown and doing well.  In August, I began a doctoral program with the plan of going to school full time next year.  Two short months later, we found ourselves parenting young children again.

These two little girls have wiggled their way into our hearts.  There are hard days, days that I want to quit.  And yet, I can't ignore that we have been given the opportunity to provide a new path for two precious human beings.

So, maybe instead of embracing the world of academia, I'm meant to let the walls down and fully commit to riding out this adventure where we have no idea what will come next.

"I don't see why you can't still go to school full time while we take care of the girls," he said to me as he pulled me closer.

Anxiety fills me as I imagine juggling my studies  with what the girls need and deserve.  I don't want to be the foster mom who has her nose in a book or fingers on a keyboard while the rest of the family is out having fun.  I don't want to be the foster mom who is ready to throw in the towel when one of the girls has a setback and I am freaking out because I have a paper due.

I know deep in my heart that the safer the girls feel, the more hard behaviors emerge.  I want to have the energy to help them through these times.

We snuggled in closer, holding on tightly to each other.  "If we can offer the girls even a little chance to break the cycle, it will make it all worthwhile."

As the day brightens our conversation is interrupted by a knock on our door from an eight year old.  We hug each other and promise to come back to this discussion.  For now, it's time to get up and start the day.  We have girls who need us.

Friday, March 3, 2017

House Hunting SOLC17 #3

I am joining the Two Writing Teachers this month for the Slice of Life Challenge.  Along with other bloggers, I am committing to writing each day of March.

Lucky for us, we sold our house in one day.  Even luckier, we found a short term lease apartment that is roomy and clean where we are now staying for the next 3 months.

We have a few months to find a house, but I'm someone who likes to be settled.  It seems that I am getting lots of opportunities to learn how to live an unsettled life.  Houses are snapped up in a day, which makes me nervous about being able to ever get a house.  My husband and I scour the realtor apps and send texts to our realtor asking to see one thing or another.  I'm pretty sure I am driving him just a bit crazy.

Tonight was another night of looking at houses.  We had two on our list. To call the first one a fixer-upper is an understatement.  Chip and Joanna Gaines would have a heyday there.  We checked that one off our list right away.  The second house was lovely, but no backyard.  I need a backyard.  As we chatted with our realtor and his wife, good friends of ours, Keith suggested we go out to eat to continue the conversation.

We took them to one of our favorite Indian restaurants.  It was a first for them.  The waiter suggested a combination of dishes to try which were delicious!  The evening was spent laughing, sharing stories, eating delicious food, and putting the stress of house hunting on the back burner.  It was just what we needed.  

We didn't find our new home tonight, but we were able to spend a wonderful evening with friends.  I am trusting that our house is out there somewhere.  When we find it, we will know.  I am learning to be ok with a little unsettledness.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Together We are Stronger Slice of Life #2

This month I am joining Two Writing Teachers in writing a Slice of Life story every day in March.  

Today was hard for my girls.

A conversation about topics that an eight year old and a twelve year old shouldn't have to have.

And yet, they did.

They were brave and honest.

And now it's out in the open.  No more secrets.  No more pretending that all is normal.

We move forward, not knowing what comes next.

For now warm baths and cuddles under the covers bring a sense of security and stability.

There will be more hard conversations, but we know that together, we can get through them.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Slice of Life Challenge #1: Change of Heart

I had decided to give myself permission to not write this year, or at least to not make my writing public.  I told myself that I could join the others in my school and write in my journal.  Curling up around my writing, keeping my stories to myself seemed the safest way to participate this year.  I was going to be OK with saying "no" to this opportunity.  I've participated in the Two Writing Teacher's March challenge for the last 5 or 6 years and I've always gotten so much out of it.

But this year seems to be different.

I haven't been writing.

Fostering an eight year old and a twelve year old in this stage of my life is taking a toll.  And I haven't written.  I ask myself why.

Their stories are personal and not mine to share, and yet, their stories are becoming my stories.  Some stories are joyful, while others are so very painful.  Are these stories ones to share?

My role as a foster parent is a roller coaster.  The uphill climbs drain me, while the downhill rides sustain me.  Fostering requires me to dig deep into a reservoir of strategies, feelings, resources that I'm not sure will be there.  Does anyone really want to hear these stories?

I Voxered back and forth with my friend Cathy.  She'd cheer me on whichever way I decided to go.  As I left class tonight and  walked back to my car, I knew I was going to do it.

Writing helps me make sense of the world.  The community here supports and encourages.  I need to write.  I've missed writing.  I have so much to figure out and make sense of, that it only makes sense to do it through my writing.

So, here I am...ready to share my stories.  And even more so, excited to read and connect with others.

Here's to a month of slicing!