Foster Parenting

Monday, March 19, 2018

Kitchen Musings #19/31

I am joining Two Writing Teachers for the Slice of Life Story Challenge.  I appreciate this space for writers to tell their stories and connect with each other.

There are a few things that I can't say no to when the kids ask for something.  One is new books.  The other is baking cookies.  If I bake something for you, it means I like you...a lot.  Baking is therapeutic for me too.  When I asked the girls if they wanted anything to take on our trip to New Orleans, Destiny asked for Rice Krispie Treats and Autumn asked for Snickerdoodles.  I happily agreed.

As I baked in our 1960s era kitchen tonight, I couldn't help but wonder if Mrs. Riebel (the original owner of our house) enjoyed spending time in the kitchen like I do.  Did she bake cookies for her children?  Did she find baking to be relaxing?  Did she thumb through cookbooks looking for new recipes to try?  When I'm working in the kitchen, I get a good feeling, like this kitchen has seen a lot of love.  

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Girls' Day in Cleveland SOL #18/31

I am joining Two Writing Teachers for the Slice of Life Story Challenge.  I appreciate this space for writers to tell their stories and connect with each other.

Each morning, I set an intention for the day.  Today's intention was to savor every single second.  Destiny and I headed up to Cleveland to spend the day with Annie...a girls' day.  We tried a new restaurant, went to the lake, found a playground and ended with ice cream at the famous Mitchell's Homemade Ice Cream.  It was the perfect day!  

Saturday, March 17, 2018

An Unexpected Hug SOL #17/31

I am joining Two Writing Teachers for the Slice of Life Story Challenge.  I appreciate this space for writers to tell their stories and connect with each other.

Today's post is inspired by Kevin Hodgson's 6 Word  Slice of Life posts.  

Autumn and I went shopping today to get her some spring clothes.  I wasn't sure how it was going to go because she's not much of a shopper and I remember what it was like shopping with Molly and Annie when they were 13.  I cringed inside as I vetoed a couple of pairs of shorts and jeans.  Was she going to resent my boundaries?  Did she begrudge that her foster mom is a middle-aged conservative  woman when it comes to clothes?  She took my suggestions well and discovered that with her blond hair and fair coloring, pastels look best on her.  She found several outfits and two pairs of shoes and we left the store happy with our purchases.  

As I slid into my seat and began to buckle my seat belt, I was taken by surprise when she laid her head on my shoulder and gave me a quick hug.  I kissed the top of her head and my heart soared.  You see, Autumn doesn't give a lot of hugs and this spontaneous hug of hers meant the world to me. 

Friday, March 16, 2018

Basically a Dad SOL #16/31

I am joining Two Writing Teachers for the Slice of Life Story Challenge.  I appreciate this space for writers to tell their stories and connect with each other.

"You've got to watch this," Keith said to me last night when I got home.

My heart melted as I listened to her words and watched her face as she said them.  You see, Destiny doesn't really share her feelings.  For the longest time, we just worked on helping her identify her feelings.  She's a tough nut to crack.  For her to say, "I want to show you someone special," is huge.  Saying he's "basically my dad" is even more huge.

Basically my dad...

Keith has shown her what a dad is.  He taught her how to ride a bike the first time she lived with us.  He is the one who reads to her every night before she goes to bed.  It's their thing.  He can throw her over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes and tickle her while she laughs and wiggles around.  She learned how to make popcorn from him and now she's our popcorn maker on Family Movie Night.  She ends her day by picking a number and that's how many seconds he hugs her.  They count it out together and then it's lights out.  

Keith has been able to give her something she's never had: a strong male role model who sticks by even when things are tough.  She knows he's not going anywhere and that he will be here for her wherever and whenever she needs him.  

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Hi/Low Game SOL #15/31

I am joining Two Writing Teachers for the Slice of Life Story Challenge.  I appreciate this space for writers to tell their stories and connect with each other.

Every night at dinner, we play the high/low game.  We take turns telling about the best part of our day and the worst part.  Each person's turn ends up becoming a whole new conversation.  I had had a pretty good day today and was thinking that I might not have a low...that is until about 5 minutes before dinner was ready.  I picked up the plastic container that had chili in it to put it back into the microwave for a quick reheat.

I was not prepared for what happened next....

Yep, the whole container spilled all over our 1960s gold speckled counter.  Ugh!!  

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The Dad SOL #14/31

I am joining Two Writing Teachers for the Slice of Life Story Challenge.  I appreciate this space for writers to tell their stories and connect with each other.

"Keith, help me! I don't get this."  

And he's right there, patiently explaining percentages and discounts.  

She is lucky to have him.  They have a special bond, the two of them.  Where I get frustrated, he stays calm and that's what she needs.  He tells corny Dad jokes and she pretends they're not funny.  He will drop everything to help her out.  He shows her what a dad is supposed to be.  

I watch them and my heart smiles. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The Challenge in the Challenge #13/31

I am joining Two Writing Teachers for the Slice of Life Story Challenge.  I appreciate this space for writers to tell their stories and connect with each other.

When I talk to students about the Slice of Life Challenge, we talk about what makes something a challenge.  Tonight I am feeling the challenges.  I keep my eyes open for stories every day and today, nothing stands out.  What do I write about?  

A nine year-old who is the best procrastinator in the world and is still not out of the tub even though I started telling her it was time to get out 20 minutes ago?

A thirteen year-old who needs cajoling into getting her homework done and heads downstairs to the basement to be alone?  

Crazy funny stories from school that  no one would believe could ever happen (unless you're a teacher, then you know those things really do happen)?

Destiny asking me if the Chinese restaurant sells fish because she notices that there are fewer fish in the fish tank?  

Sometimes it's hard to think of what to write.  We ask our kids to do this every day.  Participating in the Slice of Life Challenge  reminds me again of the importance of writing every day.  

Monday, March 12, 2018

A Not-So Typical Monday Afternoon SOL #12/31

 am joining Two Writing Teachers for the Slice of Life Story Challenge.  I appreciate this space for writers to tell their stories and connect with each other.

So what do you do when you have an appointment in the middle of the afternoon?  

1.  Have your foster mom sign you out of school at noon so you can go to lunch together.

2.  Stop at the library and check out some books.  You can never have enough books.

3.  Go out for ice cream.

4.  Head to your appointment with a full belly and smile on your face.  

Sunday, March 11, 2018

God at the Grocery Store SOL #11/31

I am joining Two Writing Teachers for the Slice of Life Story Challenge.  I appreciate this space for writers to tell their stories and connect with each other.

As I turned the corner of the freezer aisle, I almost (literally) bumped into my old neighbor.  We hugged each other and got caught up on our lives.  

"So, how are things going for you?" she asked me.

I felt myself begin to well up, because I knew she would get it.  She and her husband have 2 adopted children through the foster care system.  They understand the ups and downs that come with caring for children who have suffered trauma.  They were life savers when the girls came to live with us the first time and they continued to support us when they came back the second time.

"I think the system is recommending reunification in May." I told her.  She looked at me with knowing eyes, because she understands that my heart is breaking and I am scared to death.   What if it's too soon and their mom isn't ready?  What if she relapses?  With all my heart I want their mom to beat her addiction and be able to parent her children.  But, I'm scared because I know that if she falls back, her children tumble down too and I can't stand the thought of them enduring any more trauma.

It felt so good to talk to someone who's taken this journey.  As we finished, I said to her, "I think this is a God moment.  I don't come to this grocery store anymore.  The other one is closer to my new house.  For some reason, I felt pulled to come here today. "

She laughed.  "I was just going to say the same thing to you.  We were running late and I almost didn't take the time to stop here this morning.  God brought us together today."

This time we both teared up as we hugged good-bye.  I promised her I would be in touch later this week.  As I turned my cart toward the produce aisle, I felt a sense of peace.  I know that Someone is looking down on us and will give us the strength and wisdom to do whatever we need to do to support the girls on their next steps.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Daylight Savings Time SOL #10/31

I am joining Two Writing Teachers for the Slice of Life Story Challenge.  I appreciate this space for writers to tell their stories and connect with each other.

My husband has had a Daylight Savings Time tradition for the last 30 years.  Every autumn, when we fall back in time, Keith quits shaving.  He keeps his beard through the winter, trimming it as needed.  It gives him a distinguished look, one I like.  Some think it makes him look older.  I remember the year he came to see me at school and Cruz, one of my first graders asked me if Keith was my grandpa.  We still laugh about that.  

Tonight we spring ahead.  That means tomorrow is shaving day.  When the kids were little, it was a big deal.  Daddy's face felt smooth all of a sudden.  To me, my husband looks 20 years younger after he shaves.  It will seem strange at first, but eventually, I'll get used to it.  And as soon as I get used to it, it will be time to quit shaving again.

Friday, March 9, 2018

A New Tradition

I am joining Two Writing Teachers for the Slice of Life Story Challenge.  I appreciate this space for writers to tell their stories and connect with each other.

It never fails. I wake up on Friday morning and tell myself I will come home and cook dinner. Friday afternoon comes around and I decide that it should be pizza night. 

Destiny and I began the weekend with ice cream and then decided to take Pizza Night up a notch. Instead of going to the same place, we created “Try a New Pizza Place” Friday. A quick look at Yelp and we were ready. Tonight’s choice was yummy. It made me glad that I decided not to cook. 

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Thinking of Her SOLC #8/31

I am joining Two Writing Teachers for the Slice of Life Story Challenge.  I appreciate this space for writers to tell their stories and connect with each other.

It's not fun to go to school when your foster mom stays home with your sister when she's sick.  Destiny is used to being able to stop by my office during the day when she needs a quick hug.  Today, I am home with Autumn, so I was not surprised to get a call from the school secretary telling me that Destiny wanted to talk to me.

After we chatted about her visit to the nurse, we talked about what she had done so far in school.  Next I asked her if she wanted to me bake cookies so she would have a treat after school.  That got a big, "Yes, surprise me!"  

Then I asked her what she was going to write during Slice of Life writing time.  She wasn't sure, so we came up with a plan.  I know that they write soon after recess.  I told her that I would write my SOL story at the same time she was writing hers and then we could think about each other while we wrote.

I am sitting on the couch with the dog snuggled next to me and Destiny is at school, writing at the same time.  I wonder what she is thinking about.  When I think of my sweet girl, I think about her infectious laugh and her giant bear hugs, and quick kisses good-night.  I am very lucky to have her in my life.  She makes it richer and much more exciting!

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

It's Not Really Nothing

I am joining Two Writing Teachers for the Slice of Life Story Challenge.  I appreciate this space for writers to tell their stories and connect with each other.

Driving to school, I looked in the rearview mirror and see the sadness in her eyes.  I quietly ask her what's wrong and she tells me, "Nothing."

I don't believe her.

I nonchalantly read the bumper sticker on the car in front of me and she says, "We need to get one of those sticky things for our car."

"What would you pick for our car?"

She replies, "A family.  You can get people and dogs and cats."

"What would we get?"

"A mom and dad for you and Keith and then 5 kids for Molly, Zach, Annie, Autumn and me.  Oh and we need 5 dogs too."

I smile and sigh.  I know where her sadness comes from.  She's trying hard to make sense of what comes next.  She gets regular visits with her mom now and there's talk of them going back home.  Her little 9 year old self is confused.  She loves her mom and she loves us.

The arguing and refusal to do things are becoming more frequent.  We were warned that this would happen.  She has to put up that barrier and disconnect with us in order to be able to protect herself.  I know she has to do it, but it doesn't make it easy.  In fact, it hurts me to my core.  

How do I let her know that it's ok to love us both?  That we will always be here no matter what?  

There are no easy answers.  So for now, we just keep doing what we do.  We love these 2 little girls and we take care of them the best we know how.  

That's all I know to do.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Nowhere to Be SOLC #6/31

I am joining Two Writing Teachers for the Slice of Life Story Challenge.  I appreciate this space for writers to tell their stories and connect with each other.


No where to be tonight.  No appointments.  No practice.  No meetings. 

That means time to...

eat dinner together as a family,

share our gratitudes for the day,

sit together and compete with each other to answer the questions on Jeopardy.

guess the puzzle on Wheel of Fortune.

brush out tangles from freshly washed hair.

give reminders to stay focused on homework.

These nights happen so infrequently, making them even more special.  I appreciate the time to slow down a bit and just be. 

Monday, March 5, 2018

Perspective #5/31

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

Autumn, my 13 year-old foster daughter was snuggled up next to me last night while I wrote my Slice of Life story.  After I hit publish, she said to me, "It's interesting to get other people's perspective."

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"Well, you said I was brave and I don't think I'm brave."

"Tell me more," I prodded.

"Right before practice started, I felt like I was going to throw up.  I couldn't believe that I said I wanted to try out.  Then I started to worry.  Once it got started, I was ok, but I didn't know if I would be."

Perspective is interesting, isn't it?  From my perspective, she is very brave.  When I was that age, I would never have tried out for something that I had never done before.  In addition, she's had to work through things I can't imagine experiencing.  I hope that someday, she'll share my perspective on how amazing she is.  I hope that she'll give herself credit for all the things she's gone through and accomplished.  Until then, my husband and I will be right here to remind her that she is, indeed, a beautiful, brave young lady who has lots to offer the world.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

A Natural SOLC #4/31

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

"Hey Julie, I want to try out for softball tonight after school."

She caught me by surprise with her text.  I was in the middle of a reading group and a million thoughts bounced around inside my head.

Has she ever played softball before?  I didn't think so.
We don't even own a softball mitt.  What will she use?
She has an appointment after school?  Is it ok to miss it?
What is she wearing today? Does she have the right clothes?
Softball would be so good for her.  It would be good for her to join a team and be able to meet some people at her new school.

I texted her back, "We don't have any equipment for you."

"It's ok, my friend said I could borrow some of her stuff."

I finished up groups and ran home to get shoes and shorts and a t-shirt for her.  I was excited for her and a little envious.  I would never be brave enough to try out for a sport that I had never played before.

She came home so happy!  My heart was filled to the brim... this is what we have been wanting for her.  The next day, she and Keith went out to get proper equipment so she could finish tryouts.  I assumed she would be on the Flex team, the team for girls who haven't played before.  It wasn't a big deal to me...I was just happy she had found something that made her happy.

Imagine my surprise (and I shouldn't have been surprised) when I got home Friday night to find out she made the 7th grade team!  I think she was a little annoyed with me when I showed my surprise.  Apparently she's a natural. 

I am excited for the next few months.  I've never been a softball mom.  I guess I'll learn the ins and outs. 

She continues to amaze me.  She's strong and resilient and such a great young lady.  I can't wait to see what opportunities come next for her. 

Saturday, March 3, 2018

The Unexpected

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

I pulled into the parking lot of the grocery store, mentally preparing for the day. Grocery shopping, reading a few articles for class, getting Destiny ready for her friend’s birthday party, and going to a movie with my husband tonight. I knew if I kept on track, everything would get accomplished and I would have an enjoyable, relaxing evening out.

No sooner had I put the car in park, that a text from my husband popped up.

“My Dad fell this morning when he was going out to get the mail. He’s in the ER.”

My heart leapt into my throat. Was he ok?  How soon could we leave for Cleveland?  Our plans changed right then and there.

I called our son and made arrangements for him to stay with the girls and chauffeur Destiny to her birthday party.

We were soon on our way to Cleveland. Keith’s sister let us know that everything was going to be ok.   My father-in-law needed a few stitches above his eye.

When we walked in the house, he was snuggled under a blanket in his favorite chair. I bent down to kiss his rough cheek. “Thanks for coming,” he said as he lifted his head to receive my kiss. A bruise was beginning to appear above his eye. We chuckled over the shiner he was going to have tomorrow.

As we sat and visited, I kept stealing glances at Grant. He is an amazing man. He’s almost 91 years old and still gets around pretty independently. Although he probably shouldn’t go out to get the mail when there is 8 inches of snow on the ground. He is a kind and gentle man, much like his son. He told us over and over how much he appreciated us coming up. There wasn’t anywhere else we wanted to be this afternoon.

Our day did not happen like we thought it would. I would say it turned out better. We got to spend time with Keith’s sister and dad as well as our Annie and her boyfriend. We laughed over memories and new stories. We discovered a new Chinese restaurant and filled up on jelly beans (Grant always has a dish of candy nearby).

Today I was reminded that sometimes unexpected, scary events can turn into something special and bring unexpected opportunities to grow closer to those we love.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Friday Night with the Johnsons SOL#2

I am joining the Two Writing Teachers for the March Slice of Life Challenge.  I invite you to visit their website to read others' stories.


Friday nights.

There's nothing exciting about them, but oh, how I cherish them.

No homework.

No practice.

No appointments.

It's just us.

We pick up pizza on the way home and discuss what our  family movie will be for the evening.  Destiny suggests Remember the Titans which we've been talking about all week.  As soon as we walk in the door, I see that Keith and Autumn have the movie ready to go.  I line up the pizza boxes, get out the paper plates (no washing dishes tonight either) and we dig in.

The lights go out.

We settle in and we let all the stresses of the week melt away.  It's time with the girls with no interruptions and no reason to hurry.  We slow down and savor what we have.

Friday nights...nothing exciting, but somehow, very special.  I wouldn't give them up for anything.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

It's March! SOL#1

I rounded the corner hurrying to a meeting that I was already late for, when two 6 year olds ran up to me with big smiles on their faces.

"I wrote my Slice of Life today, Mrs. Johnson."

"Me too!  I love writing!  I even write at  home every day.  I am writing a book."

My mood lifted immediately, my anxiety melting away.   I looked up at the first grade teacher as her students lined up in the hall.

Grinning, I said to her, "Your girls just made my day!"  I promised the girls that I would come write with them soon.

This is what I love about the March challenge...

Kids excited about writing.

Kids and teachers sharing their stories.

Connecting with other writers.

Stories have been swimming in my head all day.  I wasn't sure which one I would write about, until my encounter with two first grade writers.

So here we 1 of Two Writing Teachers March Slice of Life Challenge.  It's a month of writing, reading and connecting.  I'm looking forward to the adventure!

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Celebrating Normalcy

Thank you to Ruth Ayres for providing a space for our celebrations.  It's important that we find time to celebrate, even the little things in life. 

This weekend, I celebrate the normality that comes with being 13.

Putting makeup on her little sister and then letting sister put makeup on her.

Walking in and seeing her at the computer pinning "cute" ideas for her bedroom.

A trip to Target to buy a new bedspread and "cute" things for the wall and seeing her smile as she added to the cart.

Listening to her sing the lyrics to Hamilton as she decorated her room.

Baking cookies from her new cookbook...Nutella Peanut Butter Swirl.

Watching her carefully place her books on her new bookshelf.

Playing High/Low at dinner and hearing that her high is being with us.

 Although to some this list might seem to be not much, to my husband and me, it is the world.  This 13 year-old who we love very much is healing and for that we are eternally grateful.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Embracing 2018

Thank you to Ruth Ayres for providing this space for our celebrations.  I invite you to read other celebrations and leave some comment love for other writers.

My One Little Word came relatively easily to me this year.  Some big decisions for our family led me right to my word. 

During Thanksgiving, Keith and I sat down with our 3 grown children and told them what we were thinking.  Autumn and Destiny are part of our family.  We couldn't bear the thought of letting them live with another foster family, but we also knew it was important that our whole family was on board.  Even though our children no longer live with us, their input is valuable because our decision affects them.  I so love the honesty of my children...tears were shed...tears for what won't be, but also tears of happiness and love for what can be. 

At this point, we don't know what is next.  What we do know is that as long as we are needed to parent Autumn and Destiny, we will fill that role for them.  My heart is filled with joy, but if I am honest, I'm also a little nervous. 

And that brings me to my word...embrace.

I received this email earlier this week from DailyOm.

As we bob and weave with the ebb and flow of life our roles change, but our true self remains constant. As spiritual beings having a human experience, we go through many aspects of humanity in one lifetime. Living in the material world of opposites, labels, and classifications, we often identify ourselves by the roles we play, forgetting that these aspects shift and change throughout our lives. But when we anchor ourselves in the truth of our being, that core of spirit within us, we can choose to embrace the new roles as they come, knowing that they give us fresh perspective on life and a greater understanding of the lives of others. 

And that's what I intend to do...embrace the changes life brings me this year and take on new perspectives.  I intend to focus on living in the present and be open to new opportunities and experiences.  That's kind of hard for me, so I'm looking forward to what the future might bring.