Thursday, April 28, 2016

Please don't refer to me as Michelle...

Please don't refer to me as Michelle... I'm her Mama.

Our county social worker swung by this morning for her brief, monthly visit. She has to hold her, play with her, check for any developmental milestones/delays, and see if the baby has a diaper rash. She also tells me about any court updates regarding our baby's case.

Well it seems like Baby A's stay is nearing the end...with maybe a month left. So now I hold her a little tighter, a little longer, blinking back tears that threaten to overflow. The social worker, in a motherese sing-song voice, cooed to Baby A:

"You're going to miss Michelle, huh? She loves you."

Inside my head, I was protesting: No, I am not Michelle...I'm Mama! 

We've never met her birth mom and she has never known another 24/7 caregiver. She's been my daughter for almost 6 months now. I'm the one who calms her, feeds her, deals with her tantrums, plays with her, LOVES HER!  (Yes, raw unfettered, selfish emotions here.) How can you refer to me as just Michelle? I'm her Mama.

And this is just what the Lord has called us to do. To care for orphans in their distress. To love them as our own. For we were once orphans until God called us His own through Christ Jesus.

But in this broken world, there is foster care, temporary placements of children waiting to be reunified with their birth families. My heart breaks for them so we love them as our own. And at the end of their stay, our hearts break even more. 

We know this going in. We know they will leave one day...but it never gets easier. Parents and children are meant to attach. God made us that way. And it hurts immensely when they leave. He then bandages our hearts and eventually sends us another sweet baby. 

"Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." Philippians 2:5-8
DISCLAIMER: Birth moms do love their children who get taken away into foster care.  Sometimes the most loving thing for them to do is to let someone else take care of their children.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Our new daughter Baby A

Oh yes, sleepless nights once again...but it is so worth it! The text from our agency came on Monday, just 3 days after our new house passed inspection. God brought another precious baby girl into our hearts and home last Thursday...Baby A...only a month old.

I picked her up from a beautiful temporary group home about 45 minutes away from our house. Her 30 days were almost up and if a foster family didn't take her, she would be transferred to another group home. How could we say no?

The boys fawned over Baby A and fought over who would hold her, feed her, and play with her. They absolutely love her and their help allows us to continue fostering. :) After a stinky diaper blowout today, I went to hand wash the stained pajamas while my eldest (10-years-old) joyfully brought her upstairs to clothe her in clean pajamas. Praise God for my helpful sons!

We pray for the Lord to work in the relationship we will develop with the birth family as we establish regular visits. Baby A might only stay for a couple of months before moving in with a family member. For now, she is ours through the holidays. 

Friday, October 30, 2015

We are ready...almost!

"Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord." 1 Corinthians 15:58 (NASB)

And toil we did this last week, scrambling to make everything foster "safe" in the house according to regulations.  Although it is heart-wrenching to see our babies go and frustrating to deal with difficult birth family members and ridiculous foster rules, we know that God has called us to this family ministry of caring for "orphans". 

We miss our babies! The boys keep asking when we will get another baby. Well...possibly as soon as next week if we provide respite for a fellow foster family. :) After saying no to a few calls over the summer due to our move to a new house and having nothing in place, we are finally ready to share the love of Christ again with children in foster care and their families.

Taking a break from fostering gave us time to move and also provided necessary rest from living the ins and outs of throwing two polar opposite families together and the extra time needed for birth family visits.  We also fell out of compliance with certification...

Having a deadline really puts things into motion. A case manager from our foster agency called me a few weeks ago and scheduled a home inspection walk-through for TODAY. 

This is what was still happening when she rang the doorbell and even after she left. Gotta finish lock up our cleaning agents, knives, and medicine!

Amazon indicated that our new cabinet and drawer locks would be delivered two days ago, but they were delayed and appeared on our doorstep WHILE our inspection was happening. I found some locks at Babies R Us this morning and Jeremy hurried to install them.

Along with a ton of paperwork, here are some other required home safety measures we had to complete in order to get re-certified as a foster family. 

Fireplace screen (thanks Ryan and Steph!)

Smoke/carbon monoxide detectors outside all bedrooms 

Home and vehicle inspection checklists

Pool fence 

Fire extinguishers upstairs and downstairs

Emergency rope ladder for the second floor

But alas, we didn't realize we needed to secure all windows in rooms that provide direct access to the pool so that they cannot open more than 4 inches. :( So a dowel or latch of some kind will suffice. Easy fix. Praise God everything else is done and approved!

So now we wait for that next phone call or text...all in the Lord's perfect timing.  We are excited to meet our new child. :)  Soli Deo Gloria

Friday, July 10, 2015

Goodbye, Yeh-Yeh

Allen Mah
June 13, 1925-July 6, 2015

My Yeh-Yeh (paternal grandfather) lived a hard-working life, achieving the American Dream of providing a better life for his family.  As a young boy, he was adopted because his family was too poor to keep him.  At age 13, he journeyed to America for a month on a boat and entered through Angel Island during the time of the Geary Act, which was an extension of the Chinese Exclusion Act.  Immigrants had to prove they were already residents of the US in order to enter the nation.

During his 3-month stay at Angel Island, they found out he was a "phony" (Yeh-Yeh's own words) and sent him back to China.  A little while later, he bought papers once again, claiming he was a family member of an already established immigrant family and became a Paper Son, entering America through Los Angeles.

Eventually, he chose his picture bride (literally from looking at pictures of young women) and married my grandma, bringing her back to America.  My dad was born in China and immigrated to California at age 6.  He and my grandma had two more daughters.  The first one passed away as a young child due to disease.  I never knew her.  I grew up with only Aunt Kathy, who is 18 years younger than my dad.

Yeh-Yeh became a chef at the Shadows Restaurant in Stockton, CA, and eventually owned the business, working hard, long hours.  Most of my memories of him from my childhood are in the restaurant with his tall chef's hat cooking and cutting prime rib and other delectable entrees.  Unfortunately, I did not learn how to cook like my grandparents or my dad.  He always offered us food with a smile.

My two brothers and I are his only grandchildren and we saw him all the time.  He picked us up from school all the way through high school when my dad wasn't available.  He never complained about anything. A mild-mannered man, he loved to make us happy.  Every once in a while, we were allowed to pick out a toy from the Best catalog and he would pick up our choices one day to bring to us.  :)

My dad passed away from lung cancer in July of 2006.  Almost immediately after burying his son, my grandfather showed symptoms of dementia and experienced a slow decline in health since then.

I am so happy Yeh-Yeh was able to meet and play with my boys, his great-grandsons.  He loved children and looked forward to our visits to Stockton every couple of months.  When we would drive away from their home, the photo below was often the view I had from the car.  My grandparents and my aunt seeing us off on our long drive back to Southern California.

We are proud of him and honored that he is our grandpa.  I miss him so much and pray that he heard and received the gospel that we shared with him, the good news that Jesus died for his sins and offers the only way of salvation and reconciliation with God.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Goodbye, my sweet baby girl

There is a time for everything. "A time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance." (Ecclesiastes 3:4) Today we weep.

We stayed home all morning to maximize our time with Baby M. The county social worker would pick her up before 2:00. I was running around trying to remember last-minute things to pack.

The boys played outside in the rain while Baby M watched for a bit. I sat down on the floor with her, stared into her huge eyes, and gave her lots of hugs and kisses. It's been a wonderful three and a half months with you, precious girl.

She had seemed extra clingy the past few days and I wondered if she had a feeling that things were about to change. 

My mother-in-law stopped by to give Baby M kisses and hugs. Jeremy also came home for a moment and held her one last time.

I put Baby M down for a nap and quickly printed out a sleep and meal schedule to pass onto her aunt. The social worker came at 1:45 and took the huge drawstring bag that had originally came from Orangewood. Now, it was completely full. The diaper bag and the car seat also went out to her car.

My boys took Baby M out of her crib and played with her for just a few last moments as I changed her diaper.

We walked out to the car together but my tears didn't come until after I had buckled her in, watching my 3 boys say their goodbyes and give her many kisses. Josiah had already started sobbing. 

As we reentered the house, Jadon went straight to his room while Josiah and I sobbed on the couch. I heard wailing from a bedroom and called for Jadon. He didn't come. He was in this:

The boys had been building forts on their bunk bed the past few days.  I would have laughed if I wasn't crying already and if it wasn't the perfect example of how he felt. Crawling into a tight space like a cocoon to curl up and grieve. He came out of his hammock to me and we joined Josiah back on the couch. I told them they are the perfect big brothers for all our foster babies because they know how to care for and love them.  Questions about Baby X and when would we see him again...would we ever see Baby M again? Probably not because we hadn't known her family for that long.  More tears.  Baby X's family was willing to keep in touch. 

Josiah: Why don't we ever get someone our age? 
Me: Well, because we wouldn't be able to homeschool him and it's easier for me to take care of a baby. 
Josiah: I wish we could move into our new house quicker.
Me: We'll be moving in just a couple of weeks. Why?
Josiah: So we can get another baby again.

Oh, my dear sons I love your tender hearts. We hurt because we love. 

Judah had been finishing up his lunch this whole time and didn't know what to think of the rest of us huddled on the couch for 30 minutes talking and weeping. I called him over to pray.

Prayed for God to take care of Baby M, that she would be loved, that she would transition easily to her aunt, that she wouldn't grieve for too long, that she would one day know her Creator and give her life to Jesus.

Yes, with love comes grief. It is inevitable. If we didn't love, grief wouldn't come. She is the Lord's and we entrust her to Him. But right now, our hearts break as we learn to hold loosely all over again. Goodbye, sweet baby girl.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

A mother's touch

We traveled about half an hour west to a visit with Baby M's birth parents yesterday at a library.  Our prearranged meeting time was 11:00, but due to bus delays and such, they still had not arrived by 11:30.

So after calling back and forth, I decided to meet them where they were and have the visit at a park near that bus stop instead. Both mom (I will call her Karen) and I looked forward to having Baby M's hair properly done. After 3 months, I still haven't gained much expertise in this area. I was ecstatic about a private tutorial! 

My poor baby had such dry hair compared to what it's supposed to be! I watched as Karen skillfully worked the Olive Oil "grease" (that's what she called it) through her daughter's hair. It looks like a translucent green gel. I wanted to capture more of the step-by-step process on camera, but Baby M was so distraught by the hair grooming and being with her parents, who are now strangers to her, that I had to end up holding her in order for her hair to be done. My heart went out to her father, who wanted to continue to hold her, but she kept wailing.

Little ponytails were eventually gathered and tiny braids woven. I hadn't dared to use a comb on Baby M's hair for fear of it tearing out her hair. But Karen used both combs and brushes to get those stubborn knots out. Mental notes were taken...

Just beautiful! Karen didn't finish the little loop on the top because she wanted to spend the last few minutes of her visit with Baby M in her arms. So it was my job to split it into two little braids when we got home. I could handle that! 

The last moments were spent holding their precious baby girl and taking photos with her.  They love her so much. I pray that God will bring Baby M and her parents to Himself one day through their faith in Christ. 

Thankfully, over the past 7 years, the Lord has given us birth parents who have been appreciative rather than angry. It makes things so much easier when they realize that we are here to help them, not take their children away. 

God can redeem their mistakes. He can redeem our mistakes. What a masterful plan it is when we know that we are all broken people in need of a Redeemer's grace and mercy. Two families from two very different worlds working together to bring a child home. Crazy, isn't it? 

"Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; for His lovingkindness is everlasting." Psalm 118:1

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Little hands, little feet: Our new daughter

I received the call just before 3:00 in the afternoon last Thursday from our foster agency. A 6-month-old African American baby girl needed to be picked up before 8:00. 

Jeremy said, "Why not?" So he picked her up at 7:00.  

A great loss for our little one. Who was taking care of her? What happened? Why did she take to us so easily and why does she sleep so well? Was she moved around or did she have a parent for her first half year of life? She must miss them, yearn for them, but she can't tell us. I shed tears of sadness for her tonight.

Oh, the weight of sin in this world. But she is precious, known and created by our Father in heaven before she was even born. 

"For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb.  I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well." (Psalms 139: 13-14)

She needs a mother, a father, a family. And God has chosen us to receive such calls. We would never have chosen to foster. We are not perfect parents, nor are we without our prejudices. But God chooses to use broken people to complete His purposes.

So for now, I will clip her tiny fingernails and toenails. I will attempt to braid and care for her hair. We will grow to love her as our own...until God determines the best time for her to go...and we will weep for our loss, which will be yet another loss for her.

We've had such wonderful support from my MOMS Club, our church, neighbors, family and friends. Thanks for all your prayers, well-wishes, baby clothes, meals, help in our home, and even a stroller.