Thursday, March 27, 2014

I Always Never Wanted to Homeschool

We are going to get to a Simon update, (not our foster child's real name) by way of a Claire update...

Near the end of February I received a bad news phone call from Claire's teacher.
>>>> Side note, WE LOVE CLAIRE'S TEACHER!!!

Bad news #1 Claire was assaulted at school, yesterday.  Yep, Claire had been strangled the day before by a class mate.  Her teacher went home sick right after and called the next morning.  While Claire was being strangled her teacher intervened and Claire did not have any marks on her neck.

Bad news #2 Claire's teacher will be back next year but she is not able to finish the school year so a long term will take her place.

I pressed the little red end button, totally stunned, did she just say Claire was assaulted and her teacher isn't going to be in  class anymore?  The conversation kept replaying in my mind but no reaction came to me, should I be disappointed, angry, hurt, hesitant, hysterical... it all seemed appropriate but I felt nothing.  I did however experience all these emotions and more in the following weeks.  After talking to Nate we decided that some kind of plan to keep this from happening again would have to be in place before we sent Claire back to school.

Claire has a hard time communicating what happens at school and how things make her feel.  We are still working on recognizing feeling hungry, feelings of stress are not in her emotional vocabulary.  We had been concerned over the last few months that she was coming home agitated and was hitting and yelling a lot more.  Nate and I try to spend as much time as we can volunteering in Claire's class and we had noticed there were some new kids with very difficult behaviors but we thought that what Claire was going through was just Claire.  We started looking into behavior therapy and counceling for her way before the assult because she seemed to be slipping away.  Claire was much less pleasant to be around, she was constantly sassy and talking back.

After I got the bad news I called a friend who also has a child in Claire's class.  Surprise, her child was assaulted in the same way by the same student weeks before Claire.  This changes everything, if having my child be attacked wasn't alarming enough now we know this has happened before.  I called the other parents I knew in Claire's class, they all had been noticing negative changes in their children over the last few months: more stress, bad language, aggression, disrespectful behavior...

The following week the parents went together to a meeting with the district where the district basically said they had their eyes on the situation and we should feel safe there.  I felt like, sorry ladies, my trust is broken, you are going to have to give be a better answer then that before I send Claire back to school especially without her teacher.

I did go back to school with Claire after the meeting to give them a chance but no, nothing had changed.  Claire said goodbye to her teachers and friends and I tearfully took her home.  My heart was so heavy.  We were loosing so much: an amazing teacher, classmates Claire loves, Claire's first grade gen ed class we worked so hard to have, a great relationship with the school, our ability to choice Makenna into a great kindergarden next year...  I cried every day for a week but I knew we were doing the right thing for Claire.

Long story short, we researched new schools which was a no go after looking into a few options and so I declared homeschooling so we would not be delinquent.  Claire is truly enjoying her time at home and doing her school work with me (that was a pleasant surprise).  I have never wanted to homeschool before but seeing the improvement in Claire over the last month has changed my heart.  When Nate and I made the decision to keep her home we agreed that our first priority was Claire's character.  Yes, we want her to be smart and have socially appropriate behavior but most of all we want her to be kind.  After just a few weeks she was happier, more respectful, more compliant, totally motivated to do her home work (thank you iPad bribe).   It has been such a relief watching Claire relax and enjoy her life and totally worth all the time and energy that goes into homeschooling.

Which brings me to Simon, I wish I could say that we handled all these changes and stress while having a foster baby better but I'll be honest, it was one of the hardest months Nate and I have gone through.  We wondered if keeping Simon was doable with me homeschooling Claire.  Would I be able to get Simon to all his parent visits, appointments and therapy while taking care of Makenna and Alice and homeschooling Claire not to mention Claire's therapy and appointments?  That was the big question, we didn't want to rush to an emotional decision so we gave ourselves a few weeks to sort things out and create a new normal.

One night I was feeling very discouraged and started my bible study, not five minuets in I read this verse 1 Thessalonians 5:24 "He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it."  What a timly reminder, it's not perfect but God knows and so we can move forward in faith believing that he will make a way.  I don't think we have made it to our new normal yet but we are working hard to do our best every day to keep this family together and we are making progress.  Claire's doing great, Simon is doing great and Mommy, well, I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

You Are Loved

Friends, please meet some beautiful people.  This is "Grandma Dani" and "Papa," John.  They fostered Simon his entire life, until Friday.  One of my favorite things about foster care is finding amazing people quietly serving Jesus through their lives.  Dani and John have had nearly 200 babies in their home.  Their love and prayers shine through every conversation I have with them.  God has truly blessed us.

On Friday Morning we got the call we had been waiting for, the social worker told us we could pick up our baby!  Praise God, she called early enough that Nate was able to come.  Nate was headed out of town this weekend so it was a blessing he was able to spend a little time with Simon before hitting the road. 

I have spent the last few days just settling in at home and getting to know our little man.  Simon is so easy to fall in love with.  He is such a happy, easy going baby. 

My heart is so full with love not only for our new son but also for our community.  Simon has been welcomed into the lives and hearts of our loved ones with as much tender thoughtfulness as any child born to his parents.  The prayers, kind words, gifts and true excitement  you have shown has blown us away.  It touches my heart and brings tears to my eyes when I think about how special you all are to us.  You love us so well.  Honestly, some people were like "don't you already have your hands full" and "you're crazy" but it was so easy to smile and say "we are so blessed" just thinking about your response.  When we told you about Simon you asked what you could send over, order on Amazon, pray about... you went totally above and beyond, this shows your heart.  It's not just us putting it all on the line, we are all in this together.  We celebrate together, we morn together and life is sweet in this season because God gave us a beautiful son to rejoice over.  Thank you for being excited with us!  I know it can be hard.  Sometimes a part of me wants to be less excited, just incase, this might not last, I'll protect my heart.  But if I missed this joy by protecting myself from pain, it would be a tragedy.  We will all experience pain and loss and when that happens God is still good, and you will still be here.  With arms wide open we love Simon because love wasn't meant to be rationed out safely.  Who wants to eat one bite of bacon or half a cake pop?  I don't want to say "God, I'm scared so just a little joy please", "only half a medical."  Thank you God for loving me fully, help me love that way.  

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Unexpected Twist!

Did I mention foster care is a crazy, unpredictable system?  It is and we were reminded again today.  As you know we were planning to take Simon home today after the family team meeting.

Side Note: We can't tell you his name but it feels silly calling him "baby" so we are going to give him a code name, Simon, on the blog which may become his actual name if we are able to adopt him.

Expected tention- birth mom was very resistant to moving towards a permanent placement for Simon.  Unexpected twist-  birth mom brought some more things to the table that need to be looked into before the transition.  The foster home Simon is in is just wonderful: a sweet Grandma who is also a retired pediatric nurse.  Her home is loving, warm, calm, quiet and the perfect place for a baby.  If I were birth mom I would want my baby with Grandma too.  Fortunately, the social worker  was very aware that the clock is ticking for Simon and he needs a permanent home. Grandma is not a adoptive option.  The social worker really believes that this "new" information (not actually new) will come to nothing.  We are hoping to take Simon home this Friday.

Claire is in school today and Makenna and Alice were playing at friend's houses during the meeting so Nate and I took the opportunity to get some Chines buffet and debrief.  I can't say we were shocked, foster care is never set in stone and we have been in this situation a few times before.  We talked about how we feel committed to Simon and we will be here for him no matter what.  We are not discouraged and really believe that Gods got it taken care of.

I am often asked "how can you take an adoptive placement knowing it might not work out?" I believe that adoption through foster care is so special partly because of the risk.  Think of this, when my kids are old enough to ask questions about where they came from and foster care I can say, "honey we loved you so much that even though we didn't know you would stay forever we kept you because you were worth taking the risk, I love you no matter what."

It does hurt to think that our baby might not be forever but I know he needs love, he needs a family and we can do that.  Some people say "don't get attached" and I have to disagree.  In the life of a baby it's all about being attached!  Simon will never be 6 months old again and while he is we will love him.

Keep praying... we will be waiting for Friday.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Meeting Our Baby, Transition

Nate and I met our beautiful baby boy today.  My heart is filled with so much emotion it's hard to complete a fully formed thought let alone write one down, but I'm going to give it a try.

Early this week the social worker put me in contact with our baby's foster mom who has had baby in her care sense he was born.  She is a sweet woman, it has been a pleasure to get to know her and learn more about our baby's little life.  The more conversations we have the more thankful to God I am that she has had him.

Thankfully the foster mom was able to convince our social worker (I was unsuccessful) that we should do a transition for baby before he is put in our home long term.   Today is our overnight visit.  We will bring baby back to his foster family Saturday and he will come home to live with us early next week after the family team meeting.

I'm not just saying he is sweet because I can't think of another adjective, this little guy is sweet, very quiet, a little shy, but when he warms up to you he has the cutest little giggle and smile.  We were so blessed to have our friend Bethany come by and take a few photos of our first day together, what a treasure.

How are we feeling??? I'm feeling happy, emotional, a little scared to fall in love with this baby knowing it could brake my heart.  But I do love him already and I can't wait to get to know him.  Nate, how are you feeling? Nate says "It's a big transition but I am feeling very at peace about the baby.  It's exciting and I really believe that God is taking care of us."

Oh, did I not tell you GOD HAS BEEN SO FAITHFUL!  So, we prayed and decided to look into taking a foster-adopt baby this year, and one day later, an inquiry about a baby.  Long story... we got the word that we were getting baby and the very next day Nate's work gave him A DAY JOB! (Seriously, no alert with this baby!) Then we figured out the transition timeline with baby's social worker and Nate's work, not knowing, basically gave him the week we are getting the baby home on call (they never do that) and the day job starts the next week, thank you Jesus!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Waiting For Baby

I do have a little news I should share first.  We heard from the baby's social worker Friday afternoon and she would like to wait until after the little guy's family team meeting to place him with us.  A family team meeting is a pretty informal but often emotional meeting with the social worker, birth mother, current foster parent, long term foster parents (that's us), and whoever is applicable to the baby's care.  For our baby, it's his Speech Pathologist and maybe Dietitian.  We want to make sure all the important information about this little guy is passed over with as few holes as possible, for example: what is his feeding and sleeping schedule, what are his medications and how do we use them, where and when is his therapy, where and when are his visits with birth mom, is he set up with WIC (Woman Infants and Children AKA where babies in foster care get formula), is court coming up or any other appointments we should know about... and most importantly MEETING THE BIRTH MOM.

So, the good news is we have a very thoughtful social worker who wants to make sure baby has the smoothest transition possible.  The bad news is we have to wait about two weeks to get our baby.

We are some where  between intensely excited and freaked out about "going to baby land" as Nate and I have labeled that sleep deprived season of life we are heading back into.

Foster care adoption is different than many other forms of adoption (and of course every case is different) often you form a relationship with your adopted child's birth family.  Please pray this week for our relationship with the birth mother.  We have had some very good experiences with birth parents in foster care.  Often there are a lot of tiers and even anger at these meetings; every one I have been to has been different.  Being "the other mom" is uncomfortable as I am often perceived as taking the baby away and judging the birth parents for their situation.  In reality, that is not what we are doing at all.  We pray for the families of our foster children, that they would be healed and redeemed.  I remember so vividly after a parent visit early in our foster care journey, praying for the situation and feeling so discouraged.  God spoke to my heart "believe I can heal them."  This is our heart for all of the birth families we work with, that they would know our Heavenly Father who gives true healing.

Typically, adoption of every kind involves hug amounts of waiting.  I'm trying to keep my short two weeks in perspective but it's hard to know he is somewhere near by just waiting too.  Sense Nate and I are already foster parents getting a baby was pretty much just as easy as saying we wanted one, no wait required.  If we were starting from the beginning it would have taken us months to get through the licensing process.  The time we wait to get him is short, however the time until he is adopted could be long.  That's one of the blessings and hardships of foster care.  With international adoption you wait while your child is oversees, in foster care you wait while the child is in your care.

Thank you so much for all the love and support.  We are very excited and so blessed by the ways family and friends have reached out to let us know that they are cheering us on, praying for us and just acknowledging that this is a very big, crazy, happy, exciting time for our family.  WE ARE GETTING A BABY!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Put Up the Crib, Get Out the Carseat

Yep, there is an infant car seat sitting in my living room!!

And a crib in Alice's room!!!! 

Everyone is getting ready for baby.  I love watching Nate nesting, he even patched some holes in the drywall today. 

Okay, I'll stop teasing you.  NO, I'm not pregnant.  YES, we are getting a baby.  YES, it's a boy!  YES, he is a foster adopt placement which means his case (CPS) is headed towards term (termination of the parents rights) and he needs a permanent home that he will be adopted into (though I'm sure you will see throughout this story that foster care is a crazy and unpredictable system) anywhere from 6 to 24 months from now.  

As many of you know we have had a few baby boys five and six years ago that all went to be adopted by relatives.  Needless to say we are very excited to hopefully keep this little guy.  

I'm hoping to be able to share this experience with you for many reasons.  The first is to keep our beloved family that does not live close by in to loop.  We also want to encourage other foster families, you are not alone.   Hopefully we can encourage some day adoptive families to grow their family through foster care.

Our 7 year old, Claire was adopted through the foster system in 2008 after nearly three years in our home as a foster child.  Claire is also a relative which made things even more complicated at times.  I didn't feel confident sharing openly about my feelings through the process for this reason. I look back and wish I would have documented her story better and been able to share it but God is full of second chances and we jumping on this one.  Life is so different then where we were when we got Claire and I am excited to do this again, but that's for another post. 

There are privacy laws for foster children and their families so I'm not going to be able to show you pictures or tell you his name but if we are Facebook friends private message me and I tell ;) 

We'll keep you posted.  Please pray for wisdom and that we will get out baby soon so we can start bonding, bonding, bonding. 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Merry Christmas 2013

Dear Friends and Family,

Great Great Grandma’s Scottish shortbread is baking again tonight and the girls are watching The Grinch Who Stole Christmas (the original) after sledding all day.  It must be just about Christmas time!  We are excited to see our friends and family this busy December full of birthdays, gotcha day and Christmas.   

Claire is now seven, I know, wow!  She is doing very well.  Early in the year we transitioned to a different school, which has been a life changing decision.  Life changing in the best way possible: Claire is happy in school, learning, making friends, and when she comes home she is excited to be a part of family life too.  Having a consistently stable place for Claire has made her open up so much more.  We are so blessed by her new team.  Last year was so hard, just not a good fit, and we feel that our prayers have been answered.  God has always had Claire in his hands and is so faithful to make a way for us.  She is exited for this advent season; there is always something to look forward to.  We took the girls to see the Christmas lights in the green house at Manito Park (go if you are in the Spokane area, it’s beautiful!)  When Claire walked in she looked up and said “enchanted garden.”  She tiptoed as if she would find a fairy or elf around each corner.

 Team Claire @ Step Up For Down Syndrome 
September 2013
Makenna is nearly five and is such a joy.   As we unpacked the Christmas boxes of decorations after Thanksgiving she couldn’t help but squeal, “I love Christmas! I loves Christmas!...”  It’s so fun doing Christmas as the girls are getting older; Makenna made her very first gingerbread house with Mom and Grammy this year.  Makenna loves preschool, Kindermusik, drawing, painting, swimming, playing with friends but most of all she loves animals.  We got a very big puppy this year, Olive the Great Dane/Great Pyrenees and Makenna has loved helping Mommy train her.  She came with us to Puppy school and Olive will do all of her tricks for Makenna.  Currently she is saving up her quarters for a betta fish.  Makenna is also very excited to announce that she can now swim, for real. 

 Makenna's first day of preschool

Alice just turned three and, as always, is the sweetest little girl.  She loves everything mini mouse and Rapunzel.  I love her imagination and total faith that if you believe it will be.  Last night I was putting her to bed (all three girls are the most chatty at bedtime) and she told me, while stretching her arms out like wings “when I am big like Mommy I will have pierced ears and when I have wings like Tinkerbelle I will fly up in the sky, outside” as she looks behind herself to check for wings.  She brings a smile to our faces every day. 

Alice waited so long for this cake.  It's rough watching cakes leave every day. 
She knew just what she wanted. 

Nate is entering his fourth year as a Boom Operator (air refueling) with  the Washington Air National Guard.  He was in Guam this spring and Kyrgyzstan/Afghanistan in August and September.  Work is great but his favorite thing is just hanging out with his girls.  They love the tandem bike and going on dates; even doing chores is fun with Dad.  One of the highlights of the year was Claire taking Captain America Dad to her school Halloween party.  The kids were glued to him, they would come poke is stuffed muscles… it was hilarious.  We have been doing foster care after taking a brake for about two years but still no boys for Nate.  Never underestimate a man who is not ashamed to have a tea party with four little girls, dress up included.   

 Green Bluff apple picking

 Home coming October 2013

I have had a big, fun, busy year starting Leitz Delights, a little hobby business making cakes and treats from home.  I love having this creative outlet.  It’s the best job ever!  I started going to a bible study called BSF, it’s all over the world using the same curriculum.  It has been a huge blessing to be in the word with some totally wonderful ladies.  I am still volunteering for PAVE (a parent advocacy group in public schools) and Parent to Parent (a parent support group).  We have met so many amazing parents through these groups and we are so grateful for the opportunity to share our journey with them.

Welcoming home Nate 

Huckleberry Ice cream @ Spokane Interstate Fair 

Merry Christmas,
The Leitz Family

“He puzzled and puzzed tell his puzzler was sore.  Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before.  Maybe Christmas he thought doesn’t come from a store.  Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”         -The Grinch How Stole Christmas By Dr. Seuss