A Little Time for Me

Hello everyone, it’s been a little while. I took a few days (weeks) off from my blog to prepare for all that this summer will hold.

My little loves are now on summer break. We don’t have any major vacation plans so that means for the next few months the majority of my time will be spent at home with our kiddos. So far the first week of their summer break we have spent most of our time inside due to the massive amount of rain we are receiving. Needless to say they are ready for some prettier days so we can be outside. I’m ready. Bring. It. On.

We have all heard the saying In order to care for others we must first take care of ourselves. I for one am not the type of mom that normally goes off to do “fun things” without her husband and children in tow. But this year I took some time for me before our summer actually began. Before the judgement starts let me explain.

My mother has always wanted to go on a cruise. So with her recent retirement and her birthday in mind, my oldest daughter and I planned a Girls Trip for just the three of us. We gave her a photo of the ship for Christmas and giggled as she thanked us awkwardly for the piece of paper. When we explained to her what the paper represented she was in tears. For the next few months my oldest and I planned out the details of the trip to ensure my mom’s first cruise was a success. And it was. From the moment we left the house, to seeing mom see the ship for the first time, to her birthday drink, to her clogging to the country karaoke, to celebrating a young couples engagement and everything in between it was a wonderful trip. I’m so thankful we took it together. I needed some time to just be Crystal and not “that mom of seven” or “the foster mom”

We returned home and my little loves were on their first day of summer break. My wonderful husband, amazing dad, and fantastic son took care of the little ones while I was cruising the Bahamas. I could not ask for a better support system.

When I returned home I was hit with news from not one but two of my doctors offices. News I knew was coming but had kept to myself and tried not to think about it. First I was given my date for my hysterectomy. Mid June. I can do that. And then the insurance company finally approved my next round of injections for my spine, also in June. As I made preparations for both I could not help but think how perfectly timed our girls trip was. I needed that trip to just be me and relax and not worry about all the chaos in our lives. I needed that time so I can be the best me I can be for my kids, my husband, and my family.

As a wife and mom my job is to take care my husband and our children. I can’t do that if I don’t take care of me first. I know things will be fine, I have the best doctors around. And I know that there are far worse things going on in the world, even in our family, that God needs to focus on. I don’t worry about me I worry about how things will affect our family. I guess that’s normal. The next few weeks are going to be crazy around here. Definitely not the summer I had planned but it’s what we have been dealt and we will make the best of it. Together.

It’s important for moms (and dads) to take a little me time every now and then. Most of us can’t take vacations all the time, and even if you can I’m sure your children go with you. I’m just saying it important to spend some time by yourself, come think about it I still had my twenty three years old with me so I was technically not childless but you get my point. I do take a few minutes each day for me. Read a book, watch the sunrise, sip a Dr Pepper and eat a donut in the bathroom, read a devotional, go to the bedroom and just sit in the quiet, or whatever you need to do just make sure you take a few minutes to focus on you. Your husband and kids will thank you. Be the mom you want to be and the your kids deserve. I hope everyone enjoys their summer. Time to go watch a movie with my little loves. Until next time,

TAKE CARE OF YOU! You are smart, you are loved, you are beautiful inside and out, you deserve to be the best you you can be❤️

Autism Isolation

As autism awareness month comes to an end, I can’t help but look at our family life. Autism is not something we think about just in the month of April, we live it every day.

The wind is a little chilly but the sun is shining bright. Our little loves were eager to get outside and enjoy all our backyard had to offer. We don’t go to public parks much especially on pretty days. They are normally to crowded for our little guy. The noise can be to much for him and trying to keep him safe while allowing the others to play freely is stressful. The stares and the whispers from the other patrons should not get to me, but it does. So our backyard is our sanctuary. Here he is safe and here our other four can run and play and I don’t have to worry.

Four are dressed in their play clothes while one is in his standard pajamas. It maybe 70 degrees outside but you will always find him in his magic long sleeved flannel pajamas. They are his safety net at home. While our other little loves run and play tag he sits on the sidewalk lining up his cars. He seldom looks up, but when he does it’s for a quick Look Momma look what I did. He loves his cars. He spends hours lining and relining them up. He is perfectly happy doing so.

Today, while we played ball with our youngest daughter, JR came over to watch. We tossed the ball back and worth to our two year old and she giggled as it bounced down the hill. Out of nowhere JR decided to engage and went after the ball. He laughed as he throw it to his dad and giggled as he tried to kick it. For the next ten minutes he played with us and it was wonderful. It was perfect. Then just as quickly as he had joined in he stopped and returned to his cars.

Autism is so isolating at times. I truly believe he wants to be part of everything, he simply can’t. We have had people tell us, Just take him out or Just make him go he will get over it? As if they think we don’t want to go out and do things. But the truth is his happiness and wellbeing are important to us. We know what he can handle and what he can’t. Days that we can make it to church as a family, or trips to the grocery store without a meltdown are considered victories in our house.

If the outside world just took a few minutes to get to know our little guy they would see how truly wonderful he is. He is the sweetest most loving little guy you could ever meet. He is the best big brother to his two year old sister and he loves to cuddle babies. At his school he is known as the hugger because as everyone comes through the doors he is there to welcome them with one of his giant bear hugs. He is not less because of autism he is so much more.

As a mom I love days where we have moments like today. To hear him laugh and to see him run and interact with his siblings is something I will never take for granted. Today was a good day and for that I am truly thankful.

JRs superpower is autism, what’s yours?

Side note:

Thanks to everyone who has bought my book Beautiful Chaos Our Story about Foster Care, Adoption, Faith and Love. If you haven’t done so yet you can go over to the new website at http://www.beautifulchaosmomma.com and pick up a copy. My prayer is that our story inspires others to become foster/ foster to adopt parents.

I’m a Kid too… A Foster Child’s Point of View

I am more than a foster child.  I’m a kid too.

I could be a newborn, a toddler, or a teen or maybe somewhere in between.

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I may arrive at noon or in the middle of the night.

My clothes might be to small or not fit me just right. 

I’m full of emotions. I could be shy, angry, frightened, or scared. I could be crying, withdrawn, and may even avoid eye contact.

I may be hungry I may be cold. 

School could be hard for me.  New place, new faces, new friends, and new rules.

Don’t judge me because I am in foster care…

                                                          I’M A KID TOO!!!

I laugh 

I sing 

I play 

I dance

I like sports.

I like music.

I like hanging out with friends.

I like watching cartoons.

I like to eat ice cream 

I like to play video games

I like going to the movies 

I need to feel safe

I need food in my tummy

I need to feel wanted

I need a warm place to sleep

I need to feel excepted

I need to know I am not alone

Above all, I need to be loved.  After all I am a kid too.

There are over 700,000 children in foster care across the United States, over 100,000 of them are waiting to be adopted.  These children are dealing with things that most adults could not handle and yet they are expected to “deal with it”  They don’t want to be seen as ‘”the foster child”, they want to be seen as a kid.  Don’t assume that because he or she is in foster care they are a bad kid.  Most children in foster care are in the system because of what their parents or caregivers done NOT because of their own actions. All they want is to feel safe and know that someone is looking out for them.  They want a normal life just like every other child does.  Let them have that life.  Let them be little.  Let them live a life without labels.  Let them be a KID ❤

 

 

 

I can’t live a “What If” life

The last few weeks have been full of questions. Will we foster again? Will we stop? Will she come back? Being a foster parent is emotionally draining.

I ran into someone today while taking our new little guy to the doctor. We made small talk and then she asked “Well what if baby Peaches comes back into state custody? What will you do then?”

What if? Such a small question with a huge meaning. We can’t live in a what if world. Do we miss Peaches? Yes, we miss her terribly. Do I wish she would come back to us for a third time? Yes. But that’s not how foster care works. My wants are just that mine, they are not part of the big picture. My part in this is to love them while they are here. To protect them, feed them, hold them, sing with them, and pray with them. If I lived in a what if world then I would not have my Wild Man. Without him we would not have his half siblings. What if we would have waited to see if Sweet Syd, or Fanni, or Chasers, or Princess E or Princess N were coming back? Did part of me wish they would come back? Yes, when you love someone you never want to see them leave and you catch yourself thinking what if they were still here? What would our lives be like? What if they do come back into State care? Will the worker call me like they promised? Or was that just a lie? We would not have meet half of the children we have and our family would not be who we are today if we focused on all the what if’s.

And for the record; We are not replacing any of them in our hearts. I know we can’t save them all, but just like the little boy on the beach throwing the starfish back on the ocean we can safe one more. Choosing to reopen our home after a child is reunified with family or moved to their forever home is one of the hardest decisions we have to make, it does not mean we are heartless. In fact it’s quite the opposite. As much as our hearts ache for those little ones we know we were just a small part of God’s big plan for them. We also know that there are other children that need us. With children coming into the system every single day the need will never go away. We miss the ones that have been in our home we miss their smiles, their giggles, their snuggles, and their presence in our home. But God had a different plan for all of us.

If we focus on all the What if’s we will never be able to move forward. Do I worry what this is doing to my children? Yes, all the time. I pray that they will see we are only doing our part in helping Gods plan unfold for these precious children. I pray that one day they look back and remember how much Love was in our home. I pray they grow up and find their place is Gods Story. I pray they learn to love others and hope they serve others when they are older. I pray we not only shape their lives but also he lives that come through our home.

If we would have focused on the what if I would not be here rocking this little guy to sleep tonight. His time with us will be short but while he is here he will be loved. He will receive my whole heart just as she did. He will know he is safe. And that is how it is meant to be.

Beautiful Chaos is now AVAILABLE!!!

Hello everyone,

For those of you who have been following the release of my first book Beautiful Chaos Our Story about Foster Care, Adoption, Faith and Love, the wait is over!! It is now available.

I want to thank all of you who have supported this project in some way. For those that helped me fund the project THANK YOU!! For those that have prayed for the book and for me Thank you!! For those that gave me the encouragement to get it started and then to get it completed Thank you!! I am truly humbled by what is taking place.

Thank you to my beautiful family for allowing me to share a glimpse of our life with the world. Thank you to my wonderful husband who not only lives this crazy life with me but also has had to listen to me over the last few months give him play by play details as our story became a book reality. Mostly I want to thank God for allowing us to be a small part in His beautiful masterpiece. He has allowed us to be part of some many lives on this foster care adventure. He has been my comfort when a child is placed back with a birth parent or relative, He has been my guide when I did not know what to do, He has been my protector when situations have become unsafe, but above all He has been my friend that has walked with me every step of the way. To You oh Lord, be ALL the glory.

This book is for you!

If you have ever thought about becoming a foster parent or have ever wondered what it takes to foster a child, if you have ever thought about adopting, or if you have ever questioned your plan in Gods story I encourage you to read our story. My hope is that it inspires at least one person/one family to open their heart to the idea of becoming foster parents. If one child gains a safe place to lay his or her head at night then everything struggle and every worry in making this book a reality was worth it. It’s all about the kids. Always

You can find the book at the following websites:

WestBowPress.com

Barnes & Noble

Amazon

Check it out and let me know what you think

From our beautiful chaos to yours, may you find a way to make your mark In this great big world. One act of kindness at a time

Grieving a Foster Child

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I looked over at the empty crib and tears ran down my face. I need to take it down but my heart is just not ready. Being a foster mom hurts sometimes.

We loaded up the van this morning and headed off to church, daddy T and I both had this empty feeling we were forgetting something. But we were not, you are no longer here. Being foster parents brings sadness sometimes.

As I washed up last weeks laundry I ran across your favorite outfit and I lost it. Tears ran down my face and all daddy T could do was hold me and tell me everything would be alright. But he too had tears in his eyes. Being a foster parents is painful sometimes.

The kids have looked for you since you left, Wild Man does not understand why you are not here and keeps saying Momma go get Baby P bring her home please. I force a smile and tell him you are so happy at your new home and that I’m sure you are doing just fine. But my mind races and wonders if you are ok and if you are safe. Being a foster mom makes one worry sometimes.

I found myself wide awake at 2 am, that was our one on one time. I wonder if you were awake and thinking to yourself where is she? Why is she not singing to me? Why is she not holding me? Again I find the tears rolling down my face. I grab your favorite blanket, I’ve not washed it yet so it still smells like you, and I cry myself to sleep. Foster care is not easy sometimes.

In all our years of fostering we have had to say goodbye to many little loved. You my little love have been to hardest to let go. God blesses us not once but twice to be part of your story. We know that reunification or placement with a family member is always the priority, but when you came back to us we could not help but dream. I allowed myself to see you as part of our forever family. I allowed my mind to dream of first days of school and dances and family outings. I allowed myself to go where no foster parent mind should ever go. I saw our future and you were in it. This journey can be cruel sometimes.

So I didn’t see it coming. As I sat there in the courtroom listening to the judge I heard words I did not want to hear. I was not prepared for the change of events. I went in thinking you would be here forever and left with an hour to pack all your things for you to leave. Being a foster parent is heart wrenching sometimes.

But that’s how this goes. The system is not perfect and I pray those that do not know you those that have never held you those that do not love you like I do I hope they have made the decision God would have made. I pray He looks after you and keeps you safe. I pray He gives you comfort and that you feel Him near you. I pray you will always know how much we love you.

If we would not have stepped out in faith and followed Gods plan for us we would have never met you. We would have never seen your smiling face. We would have never held you or seen you crawl. We would have never falling in love with you. Being a foster parent is beautiful sometimes.

We will grieve for you and we will miss you. We will find things through the house over the next few weeks (maybe months) that will remind us of you. It will be painful but also such a blessing. For these things will remind us of YOU. A smile will cross my face and I will get to dream of you again. And that will make me happy. Foster parenting can be a blessing sometimes.

If we open our home again to the next little one who needs us, we are not replacing you. You could never be replaced. We are just answering Gods call to help one more. But that decision has not been made; for now we will just take time to heal from losing you.

Fostering is not for the weak but in our weak moments God gives us comfort and strength to carry us through. Thank you Jesus for allowing us to be part of her life over the last six months. Thank you for allowing us to see her smile and hear her laugh. But mostly thank you God for being You. Thank you for allowing us to be your hands and feet. To You oh Lord be the glory.

The Worry of the Unknown

I lay here in bed and I can hear her stir in the crib. She whimpers for just a moment then she finds her bottle. My mind takes me to the day I picked her up from the hospital. Where has the time gone?

I could never do what you do, I would love them and not want to give them back. Why put yourself through the pain of losing them? You’ve done your part let someone else do it now. You are such a blessing/saint to do what you do. You must be nuts to take in another kid. Aren’t you afraid you will become to attached? I have heard these questions or variations of them for the last eight years. My reason I do what I do is sound asleep in her crib. Her tummy is full, her clothes fit her and they have been freshly washed. She giggles at the sound of my voice and she is already saying da da. She squeals with delight as our children play around her. She is safe and she is loved; oh so loved. This is normal for her, we are all she knows. Here she is surrounded by love from our children and love from us. The idea that it could all change with the next meeting hangs over us. But that’s foster care.

No one said it would be easy, if it were there would be more people willing to step up. I’m not heartless I feel pain. Over the years as children have come and gone from our home my heart as felt the sting of a broken system. We don’t just love the child while they are in our home, they become a piece of our hearts. And once they are gone that piece never quite heals. They will forever be part of us, part of God’s masterpiece for our lives for He allowed us to love them for a season.

Baby girl does not know what my worries are about things coming up. She does not understand that her fate will be decided by someone who has never met her, or held her, or seen her smile. Her life is in the hands of people that see her as a case number. They are not the ones who have rocked her to sleep, or kissed a boo-boo, or heard her laugh. But God knows her and He loves her.

She may never remember any of the things that led up to her coming to us. She may be here one day and gone the next. Will it hurt, YES it will, but God has a plan for her. I don’t know what her future holds but I know who holds it. And it is His Will, not ours, that we must follow.

I would not trade my time with any of our fosters for anything. I grew as a person with each placement. I can only hope they remember the love we have for them as they go on with their new lives.

As for this sweet little one we will take it day by day. The months have passed so quickly but these next few days will drag by as we wait. Foster care as taught me so many things one is a huge lesson on patients. Lord help me, guide me and protect her this week.

Until then I will hold her, I will protect her and love her as my own. I am a foster mom

Today was a Good Day

What a great day, just what we needed. Today was well overdue so I am thankful.  The last few months have been brutal.  This was the first weekend in over six weeks that everyone in the house was feeling well.  The month of February alone our little loves had four double ear infections, three cases of the stomach bug, two upper respiratory infections, four fevers, one cutting teeth, and then my husband had the “man cold”.  We all know that last one was the hardest on all of us, right ladies?  I don’t know how we didn’t catch the flu, but praise God it spared us.

On top of all of that we received test results back from the geneticist for Alex.  It has been confirmed he has Alcohol Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND).  Eli with his chronic stomach issues was given the diagnosis of Underdeveloped Bowel Syndrome. And I was told I would have to have back surgery again.  When it rains it pours.

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Today it was time to get out of the house and forget about all the bad stuff and just have fun.

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I stumbled across a local autism group called Autism Site Knoxville (ASK).  They were hosting their fourth annual Day at the aquarium today.  When I saw the invite last week I thought it would be the perfect way for us to spend a Saturday morning. And how could we pass up the low cost of only 10 dollars per person?  As the day came closer however all the normal mom worries started coming to the surface.  We had not even made it to church in two months how in the world would the kids do at the aquarium? Would it be to crowed for JR?  How would he do with the noise? What is he had a meltdown? How would my husband and I handle it with all the other little loves in tow?  This would be the first big outing that we had done in months and we would be doing it without the help of our older children or grandparents.  Not going to lie I was a little overwhelmed.  But when your four hours away from family you got to go out on your own at some point. With our family its just a much larger challenge than most.

So this morning we loaded four very excited and two very sleepy children into our 12 passenger van at the wee hour of 6am so we could drive a little over two hours to be there when the aquarium at 8:00.  The event ran from 730 to 1030 but of course we were free to stay longer.  I am so glad we went.  The staff was super sweet and handed out goldfish, gummies, and water to the kids as we came in.  Being that early in the morning the kids were able to walk around and enjoy all the different tanks without being ran over by other people.

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The event organizers had different sensory stations set up throughout the aquarium so if JR or even our other kids wanted to take a break they could.  The lights were softened and the background music was turned off. Everyone there got it.  Everyone there was living in the world of autism.  There were no nasty remarks about behaviors, or looks when he made his unique noises, and no one stared at us.  Okay some people did look at us but it was not because of JR it was because of the size of our crew lol.  He rode in his stroller for a while then walked with me for a while. He pointed out the scary sharks and the huge sea turtles.  And he made it known he did not like the seahorses, after all real horses don’t look like that.

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He made friends with other people waiting outside and made sure to tell all the moms we passed just how cute their babies were.  And no one cared that he was talking to them or touching them.  Most told him thank you or even told him he was a cutie as well, to which he would just laugh and smile.  He really enjoyed himself. Our other kids had a great time as well.  We don’t get to do things like this often unless we have our backup team to help us in case he has a major meltdown or takes off running. He has no safety concerns at all.  So thank you ASK for making today possible.  Thank you for hosting events like this so that children and adults with autism can go and do everyday things.  Thank you for opening it up to all of our children so that we could attend as a family. Thank you for a day we will not soon forget. Thank you for giving us a day were all of our kids could just be kids. Thank you for helping this mom see her son really enjoy himself today.  Today was a good day and we so needed a good day.

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Then Jesus moments

Hello my friends. I hope the New Year is treating you all kind. So far it’s been good to me.

I was excited to get to back to church as the new year unfolded. I had surgery on my back in November and between the recovery and holidays I had not been able to go. (No worries the kids and I still got our Jesus on with songs and praise here at the house. They love “Jesus music”) I hate missing church and was thrilled to be back surrounded by fellow believers.

The message was out of John. A message that I have heard many times over the years. Short version: Jesus is away teaching when He receives word that his friend Lazarus had fallen ill. By the time Jesus made it back to his friend, Lazarus was died. Then Jesus spoke “Lazarus come out” and Lazarus did. (You can read John 11 1-44 for the full scripture text)

That’s the power of Jesus. That’s the beauty of miracles.

What are your Then Jesus moments? This was the question our Pastor asked. And I have pondered the answer to this question for over a week. Have I even had a Then Jesus moment? The answer is yes. Many actually. They might not be as big as Lazarus rising from the dead, but they have saved my life in more ways than one.

The night my husband (now ex-husband) tried to end my life comes to mind. In the mist of the attack I begged for my life, he laughed and said he could throw me over the banister and everyone would assume I had fallen down the steps. I dangled over the staircase with thoughts of my children and family racing through my head Then Jesus spoke to me and said “You are not alone I have you.” As I felt Gods presence I found myself back on the floor. He had changed his mind about throwing me over.

After my divorce I focused on my two children. I had no interest in finding someone. I would not put myself or my kids in a position to be hurt again. Then Jesus brought Todd into my life. He made me smile again, laugh again, and love again. Things I thought I would never do again. For the first time in years I felt safe, loved and wanted.

Then Jesus placed us on the journey of foster care. Our world has changed in so many ways not only by the children we have been blessed to adopt but also with the children that were with us for just a season. Our eyes and hearts have been opened to things I did not expect. My older children have grown in the process as well. They take their roles as Big Sissy and Big Bubby very serious, it warms my heart just thinking about it.

With our children we have experienced Then Jesus moments countless times. From car accidents to illnesses, college acceptances letters to working IEP’s, from autism diagnosis to RAD diagnosis, and everything in between. The fact is Then Jesus moments happen all the time, we just need to recognize them. They may be moments were you decide what job to take, or how many kids to adopt. They may be moments where you get to make an unplanned trip back home to see your mamaw. You get to sing with her and she asks about all the kids. The following week you get the call she’s gone. They may be moments of healing from illness, or cancer, or pain. They may be moments your autistic son says I love mom. They may be moments of all your kids get along. Then Jesus moments happen everyday everywhere. We have to open our eyes and see more of what is going on around us.

We may not all of moments like Lazarus, and that’s okay. Our moments make us who we are who God wants us to be. Take a few minutes (or days) and think about all the Then Jesus moments in your life. I’m sure it will bring a smile to your face.

Thank you Jesus for all of my Then Jesus moments. You have been with me through my darkest nights and brightest days. Your unending love brings me comfort when I can’t make sense of this world. Thank you for believing in me and providing me comfort when I need it the most. I look forward to seeing what you have in store for us next.

Love and prayers always

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