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Thursday, October 11, 2012

House Parenting: In the Beginning

    Last week we came to Mississippi to begin our new job.  John and I feel led to be House Parents.  If you are new to our story, then let me tell you, this job picked us.  John went to Seminary for the last two years and graduated with his Masters of Divinity the day Jonah was born.  I taught first grade for the last 3 years.  Our little human plans were for John to find a job in a church, and I would be his ministry cohort and stay-at-home mom instead of going back to work.  One ministry job after another looked promising and then fell through. We even accepted a position at a sweet church, but on John's first official day, he went in and had to tell the pastor, "I just don't feel like this is where God wants me to be right now."  John and I were at our wits end and praying God would lead us to the ministry job in a "church" where He wanted us instead of us continuing to hunt for one on our own.  We had been foster parents for a year, and knew we wanted to adopt eventually, but that's as far as we had thought we'd go in child/orphan care.  As the days went by though, John felt less interested in the church positions he was offered.  I just prayed God would direct us.  One day John asked, "What do you think about being House Parents?" and it felt like life just clicked into place like the charger on your cell phone.  I knew that was our next step and had instant and complete peace.  We made up a cover letter, combined our resumes, and then sent them all over the south east states to different Children's Homes.  Alabama offered us a Relief parenting position, but it was working 3 days in one house, 3 days in another house, and 3 days off to go live in our own place somewhere.  That's a lot of moving for a couple and a baby, and not a lot of one-one-one bonding time with a specific group of kids.  Then Georgia called our references and we thought we would get a call, but then found out the position had been filled "in-house" by people already working there.   Then one day Mississippi called, and we set up an interview.  We hadn't even completed the application process and we were basically hired.  We had a month before starting for our background checks to clear and for the house to have some maintenance done on the land.  We spent time with family and took the trip to Boston. That month flew by. We started working as House Parents last week!

    First we sort of got some "On-the-job-training" while we stayed at another campus and sort of shadowed the parents there and got to see their daily life in the "cottage" with their kids.  This was fantastic, and we loved getting to know the other two sets of House Parents and meeting their cool kiddos! I asked several of the kids for pointers too on what they liked and didn't like about House Parents so we could be cool. :) Favorite moment: Imagine several adolescent boys sitting around watching some TV show where a woman is giving birth all by herself on the screen (appropriately of course, only showing her shoulders and face and she's totally faking, I mean acting). One boy says to no one in particular in the room, "Who's baby is that?" He's obviously asking about the father on the show, but without missing a beat, completely serious and straight faced, another boy answers, "That's HER baby!" LOL!!! John and I laughed so hard.  

     Then we came to our new home on Monday afternoon, and immediately set about trying to get the house ready because we were told we would be getting our first residents on Wednesday. For privacy and safety for the children here, we are not allowed to publicly share any information or pictures about them.  Sorry.  I will tell you there are some older ones, some younger, and a baby.  I can tell you about them as far as it would be the same no matter who they were.  So, when we get new kids here the first thing we do is a clothing inventory to see what they have, and what they need. These needed a lot, so we spent all the next day shopping at Wal-Mart and JCPenney's.  I do mean all day: we left the house around 10am for ole Wally world, then shopped like crazy, came home and took a nap, then went to Meridian, where we shopped for hours and literally ate taco Bell for dinner at 10:30pm, and rolled into bed at almost midnight.  Yes, we're great parents already, haha! Then the kids had to register for school and get a physical, so we spent almost 3 hours in the doctor's office with them and their social worker the next day.  Their social worker is an angel.  I have never met a kinder person.  This man is obviously being a social worker because he feels this is what God has led him to do with his life. He is a breath of fresh air to work with and communicate with about the kids.  Good social workers are a blessing! Thank you Lord! Then Friday night, the mayor paid for us to go to the town fair.  The kids had a blast. It was so good to see them having a great time!  I had fun until the babies got tired and cranky, at which point I was ready to go home.  It is a little rough having another baby around again, especially when they both wake up twice in one night. We're working on that. For now that means we take naps if we can after taking older kids to school. 

    Our kids seem to like us so far! I can't give details about them, but I can tell you that they are great kids. We are blessed to be their parents for now. We have already got a good household routine of chores, and mealtimes, and play-times, and it's going really well for the most part.  Although our bedroom looks crazy because we haven't even finished unpacking, the rest of the house is neat and tidy, and the kids are very good at doing their chores.  It's so nice to have a little help! It has been a little weird to cook so much though. I like cooking, I just haven't made big meals this many days in a row before.  Tonight our new church had a Wednesday night fellowship meal, and it was the first time I haven't had to cook since our Taco Bell trip last week. It was a welcome break!  When we get another set of house parents for the other side of the house we will alternate cooking days, and that'll be a little easier too.  We are quickly adjusting to small town Mississippi life.  I'll tell you all about that soon. :) Thank you for your prayers and encouragement! We miss friends and family but we can already see that God is using us here, and that feels good.  Here's what a typical school day looks like in our household:

6am - I  turn off the alarm on my phone.

6:20 am - I frantically realize I turned off the alarm instead of hitting snooze, slap John a few times, and we jump up and wake the kids.  I set out their water bottles, juice boxes, and snack choices, then make coffee.  John and the kids get dressed, grab their things, and are out the door by 7. He drives them to school, prays with them in the car, and then comes back home.
7:05 am - feed a baby, depending on which one is awake, maybe eat my PB&J waffles and drink the coffee.
7:25 am - John is back home and we either have a little quiet time together, or one or both of us goes back to sleep to make up for the baby-interrupted night before. 
9:30 am -  either take a nap, feed a baby, or do some laundry.
   Even if we've taken a nap, we are always up by 10:45. Then we spend much of the day trying to set the house in order as far as where we want our furniture and things in our bedroom, and doing laundry, and feeding babies and changing diapers. One day we actually ran a mile.  This is difficult out in the country living on a highway.  We have to start at one end of the driveway and run to the mailbox and back 4 times to equal a mile.  It felt good anyway.  I think next week I will make it a goal to run that mile at least every other day.
2:45 pm - John goes to pick up kids from school.  I feed a baby and put out an afternoon snack. 
3:25 pm - John and kids walk in.  The kids tell stories of how other kids get in a lot of trouble and get paddled in the hallway. We are continually surprised by the very public paddlings that take place here.
4:15- This is supposed to be homework/study time but so far the kids have said they have no homework because this is the 9 weeks testing time. I've fought the urge to call this "Reading Time" and force everyone to go somewhere and read for at least 30 minutes if they don't have homework. I'm still contemplating it but I don't know if it's just the teacher in me or if it would actually be a good parenting move.  John says he'll go with it if I want to.  I'd LOVE some thoughts/feedback on that! Parents and teachers advice welcome!
5:00- I begin to make dinner.  Some of the kids like to watch and help, sometimes John helps if he's not playing with the kids outside or watching/feeding a baby. 
6:00 - We pray in the kitchen and everyone assembles their plate and we go eat in the dining room. At dinner we play the "Hi/Lo" game and everyone shares their best (Hi) moment from the day and their worst (Lo).  This keeps dinner conversation interesting while allowing us to learn more about each other.  Toward the end of the meal John or I read the daily devotion and discuss it with the kids then pray. Lately devotions have run long because the kids ask a lot of great questions and we love being able to talk and discuss God's word with them.
7:15ish - Chore time, where the kids help us get the "cottage" back in order (or as much order as you can get with random baby paraphernalia scattered about for their use). When chores are done the kids have some more free time before their different bedtimes.
8:00 - younger kids' bedtime - take a shower and "lights out" by 8:30.
9:00 - older kids' bedtime - take a shower and "lights out" by 9:30.
  Lights Out is in air quotes because all of the kids are afraid of the dark and leave their bathroom light and a small lamp on their room, so the phrase really means they can't get out of bed after that time. 
10:00 - Hopefully all kids are tucked away and John and I can actually be alone for a second to catch up and unwind. Although lately this seems to happen much later.
midnight-4 am - one or both babies wake up wanting to be fed at least once. 
6 am - it starts all over again! Yay! :) 


  1. I've never been a mommy or a school teacher, but in my house, both my mom and dad ALWAYS had a book in hand or very close to them, they would start reading as soon as they got a chance, so I guess that's what make me a book worm also.
    I know you don't have time to read that much, but even the gesture might help.
    Although I should mention, this did NOT work on my brother, he has never liked reading...

  2. Sounds like a lovely structure for those kids who have probably been lacking it. I love your Hi/Lo idea and might steal it. :)

    I think instituting a short period of quiet reading instead of homework is a good idea--doesn't have to take as long as the homework would, but gets them in a routine of doing something academic.

    Hope you are doing well!

  3. It sounds like you two are loving this new adventure the Lord has set before you! And its sounds like you're doing a fantastic job! Miss you and praying for you and all your kiddos!

  4. Thank you for the feedback, advice and ideas! We have been really enjoying this! We did try "Reading Time" this week and it went well! We do miss our friends though! Thank you guys for all the encouragement!