Chevron Background

Monday, January 7, 2013

Party of 2 becomes Family of 6

     July of 2011, two social workers brought these kids because they had two kids in each car.  They followed each other and pulled in to our apartment within minutes of us walking in the door from camp.   (see Camp - the post that would come before this in order of time) We were greeted by a jabbering, curious, bouncing-off-the-walls little boy, who asked lots of questions and picked up anything he could reach to touch and examine it.  His three little sisters were only slightly less invasive, with high pitch little southern drawling voices we could barely understand.  The baby was the most surprising.  She was 14 months old, but so skinny and little with huge doe eyes, and seemed lazy because of her lack of movement.  We had not had much experience with babies except for Miss Adorable 2 weeks earlier, so we actually had no idea how little/malnourished she truly was.  Now that Jonah is 7 months old and weighs around 20 pounds, it is shocking to think she was twice his age and weighted far less.  14 months old and 14 pounds heavy is bad.  The kids walked in with the clothes on their backs and nothing else.  We fed them cereal around the coffee table and tried to figure out how to pronounce their names.  I have changed their names slightly here for some privacy.  Their names in order, were something a little like this, but more home-spun: Tomarious (called Tom), Tasha, Tessa, and Taysha. They did not ask about their parents, and happily explored our apartment and climbed all over us. This was that first night:
Left to Right : Tom, John and Tessa, Tasha
Taysha - 14 months and 14 pounds, clinically diagnosed as "Failure to Thrive"
     Going from 0 children to 4 is a little more difficult than I expected.  I'm not sure if it's a blessing or a curse that I have an eternally optimistic and positive attitude about huge life undertakings that most other people scoff, shake their heads, look disturbed, and say, "Bless Your Heart" about, but this was one of them.  Before the kids showed up I was like bouncing off the walls excited to meet them.  This "wildly thrilled about it-can-do attitude - where do I sign up!!!???" applies to all of the following events in my life thus far:

1. Becoming a Teacher
2. Getting Married during Student Teaching
3. Moving to Memphis for John to go to Seminary
3. Becoming Foster Parents
4. Deciding to continue to be a Foster Parent while Pregnant
5. Giving birth Naturally with No Epidural
6. Becoming House Parents

Each time I have been crazy excited about one of the above events, totally trusting God to get us through it, only to be met by serious negativity by a considerable amount of other people around me. This was no different.  Here's what many conversations sounded like,

Me: "We have 4 foster kids."
Other People: "Are you CRAZY!?"
Me: "No, there's a really big need for foster parents here, with over 1000 children in foster care every single day."
Other People: "But 4 kids! How old are they?"
Me: "1, 2, 3, and 5, and they're really good kids."
OP: "Wow! You have your hand's full!"
M: "All the time!"

-Really - telling someone - anyone - especially a parent of more than one child "You have your hands full," is a VERY ANNOYING UNDERSTATEMENT!!! Yes, our hands are full.  Yes, we are extremely busy.  Yes, we have almost no spare time.  Yes, our lives consist of cooking and cleaning for small humans constantly.  No, I don't need you to tell me. However, I was still surprised how strangers everywhere acted like they were paying us a complement by saying this little gem of a cliche phrase "You have your hands full," sometimes multiple times within a short amount of time/space. This happened so very often last year that I realized I was clenching my jaw when people said it. Please instead say something HELPFUL or ENCOURAGING, like, "You are doing a good job, they all have their shoes on today." or "I can tell you are a good mom because there's spit-up on your shirt." or "I like the way you dressed them all in matching colors." or even, "It will get better as they get older." - So many people say mean things like, "It only gets worse!" Just please don't say "You have your hands full." Okay, off that soap box.-

     SO, all 4 kids are crowding around us constantly, exploring the house, following us, trying to figure out what's happening, and we realize it's like 10pm and we have little kids who should obviously be in bed!  The rooms are all ready, and we announce, "OK it's bedtime!" Crying ensued.  All three older kids burst into tears.  John and I look at each other.  He may have said something like, "This was your idea." (lol!)  I remember we just kind of held them and said "Aww it's OK, it's just bedtime, you have to get good sleep! Here, we'll sing to you."  After we had changed them all into some PJs, the John-and-Kelly Bedtime Concert began.  I call it that because we had no idea how long it should last, and for some odd reason we felt that we should sing until they all fell asleep.  For about 3 weeks we put on this little throat-exhausting 20-40 minute show, before we decided there had to be a song limit and then we turned on a children's music CD. Ahhhhh, the sweet relief of walking out of their room at bedtime! Tom stopped crying at bedtime when he realized there was nothing to be upset about if we were making them all go to bed at the same time.  Tasha always hated bedtime, and often threw such a screaming tantrum that she had to spend some time in timeout alone while we got the other kids ready for bed.  Tessa didn't verbally resist bedtime, but would literally bang her head against her pillow for about half an hour before falling asleep.  Good thing those were some soft pillows!  We took turns rocking baby Taysha to sleep.  John adored rocking her to sleep on his shoulder.  They quickly developed a sweet bond.

     We got them, and it was 4th of July weekend.  I wanted to learn how to do their hair, and a sweet lady from our church volunteered to teach me a few things.  She showed me a lot about corn-rows though, and I struggled to teach my fingers to move between such thick hair so quickly.  A few weeks later one of the excellent teachers from my school actually came over to our apartment, bought all the supplies with her and taught me how to do sections and plaits.  I will forever be grateful to these two women for teaching me how to take care of the girls' hair.  I am still using those skills today! Here are a few pics from that first weekend:
Before Hair
After with Miss Princess 'Tasha'

     Becoming foster parents to a sibling group of four meant suddenly learning how to be parents.  We didn't get many breaks at all.  Thank goodness it was July and neither of us had to go to school (I taught first grade and John was in his second year of Seminary), so we had one month to figure out a lot of basics, and my mom was able to come and help (she's a school nurse so she was out of school too). Our house was quickly taken over by children's toys and furniture.  We were constantly cleaning up enormous amounts of bodily fluids.  Two kids in diapers and two kids having frequent potty accidents meant an enormous increase in:
1. Trash (as a couple we had about one bag every 5-7 days, now we had a full trash bag every single day which John had to carry to the dumpster),
2. Laundry (we managed to do our own laundry maybe once a week before - now we had to do at least one load every day to stay on top of it), and
3. Awful Odors (seriously bad smells that often made us gag).

     However, having four kids under age 5 teaches you
1. Kids really do say the funniest things (how the word "lasagna" got turned into "bagina" that rhymes with human anatomy, we will never know), but Tom sure did love it when I cooked bagina!),
2. Jesus loves children for a reason (when they told us some of the horrific things they had gone through, our hearts melted at their lack of innocence), and
3. You really do turn into your parents at some point (I realized as I shook my finger at the babies and said "NO NO!" then began to say nonsense words like "I swanee" because it's not something you would be embarrassed of your child repeating.)

     We learned so much more from them than that, but I'll have to tell you later as it comes to me. They stayed with us for a wild, hectic six months.

Picture Courtesy of Hannah - showing off my mad hair skills, lol
Late August, 2011


  1. you can tell in the last picture, how hard Tom is trying to behave :D I met them once but I loved them despite the short visit. You guys are amazing and regardless of religion and beliefs, you are the definition of being "human". I'm proud to be your friend :)

  2. Aww Ghazal, I am proud to be your friend! Love you and wish we could see each other more!