The Day My Kids Got In A Fight

It’s MINE!

No, it’s NOT yours, ITS MINE!

Do these words sound familiar?

I bet if you talk to any Mom, anywhere, at any time, they have heard this phrase shouted over and over again throughout the course of the day.

It’s enough to make any Mom roll her eyes back in her head and question why she decided to become a mother.

But in our house? It’s a completely different story.

This was the first time my girls have ever gotten into a fight. This was the first time that my two girls were looking at each other and feeling unable to tolerate one another. This was the first time that my girls were acting like sisters.  Real, true, life-long siblings. The first time. It took five weeks for our Heavenly to feel comfortable enough around us all to let loose and yell at Tera. It was the first time that emotions won over politeness and courage won over fear. It was so much more than an argument between two sisters.

No, I’m not a supermom and I didn’t jump up and down and throw confetti in the air because I was so happy they were fighting. In fact, I reacted just the way any ‘ol Mom would react and began to rebuke Heavenly for her harsh words. Before I could turn to Tera and also reprimand her, Heavenly began to react to me. It escalated far enough that Theo sent us all to our rooms (lol, even me) and talked individually to everyone.

Turns out our sweet Heavenly needed to erect a wall around herself as quickly as possible because she felt that Mama Bear was just lashing out at her to protect Tera. I can totally see where she got that from. And within the course of five minutes, we quickly learned what our Heavenly’s coping mechanism is when she is feeling threatened. It’s not the healthiest of coping mechanisms, but all in one fight we learned some of the most crucial parenting need-to-knows. What her triggers are, what her defensive mechanisms are and what she is like when she is experiencing big emotions.

It’s something we as biological parents take for granted. I’ve been with Tera every single day of her life and know her feelings and emotions sometimes even better than she does. I know her tendencies and her triggers and I also know when her buttons are being pushed and when she is pushing buttons.

We don’t have that advantage as foster parents. We don’t even know that the child exists 24 hours before they show up on our doorstep. We don’t know what they have been through or what they have built up as their defense mechanisms. We don’t know their triggers or the things that most push their buttons.

So when things like this go down…it’s hard. We might yell and fight and many tears are shed. We are not immune to all the emotions, in fact we probably have them all in excess.

But, in hindsight, I’m thankful. I’m so very thankful that y girls got in their first fight. I’m so glad that Heavenly feels safe enough in our home to fight with her sister. I’m so glad that Tera didn’t think twice about yelling at her. I am so glad that we have a safe home to learn safe coping mechanisms.

So every time my girls fight (they do it quite often, now), I need to remind myself of this. They are acting like sisters, and that is a beautiful thing.

What are you thankful for this week?

 

Why We Have Chosen to Foster When Our Kids are Little

I want to start this post off with a HUGE disclaimer: foster care is a serious commitment and one that should not be taken lightly. It’s a hard road to walk and only a family who is fully being led to do it should do it.

I do not expect every family I run into to become foster parents. I do not think that’s even slightly realistic. However, I wanted to address something that has come up frequently in the last three years that I have been in the role of foster parent.

Many, many people tell me that they would really like to pursue foster care….when their kids are older. Now, I totally get it. It makes sense- older kids are more independent, can defend themselves against the words and actions of kids from tough backgrounds, older kids are usually out of the home for long periods of time during the day, and are just far less demanding and hands-on than younger children. Plus, young children are EXHAUSTING and adding foster children to the plate does not seem feasible.

But I think that there are downsides to fostering while having older kids, and they are not talked about as often. Sometimes it seems that the people I talk to are using this idea as an excuse- thinking about becoming a foster parent is terrifying, and putting distance between us and that decision with the age of our kids helps bring comfort to the idea of doing this job.

Listen- there is no formula for the perfect time to become a foster parent. What works for one family absolutely will not work for another family. What works for our family will not work for yours. However, if the Lord has called us to fostering, he will also provide for us every step of the way- whether our kids at home are younger or older.

Perhaps you are thinking about doing foster care, but you aren’t sure that having young kids while fostering is a good idea. I just wanted to share several reasons that having young kids while fostering has worked so well for us. Again, I do not think that these are blanket statements, and while they are true for my kids, they may not be true for yours. But perhaps there is someone out there who has really felt led to pursue foster care but have heard so much about waiting until the kids are older because it will be “easier” then. I have not found that to true, and I am so thankful that we have chosen to be involved in the foster care system while our kids are younger.

  1. Kids are a healing balm in the bandaid of foster care. Every child in foster care has been through trauma- this might be reoccurring trauma, or perhaps it is just the trauma of being removed from their parents and their home. I have found that foster care doesn’t often solve these problems, but instead slaps a bandaid over it, hoping to heal the wounds of the child and the family. Both children we have taken in through foster care have bonded almost immediately with our biological children, and have therefore felt almost immediately comfortable in our home. I can’t imagine how much different and harder the bonding and comfort level would be if we didn’t have younger children in the home to ease this transition. Even if foster care doesn’t solve the deep set problems, I have found that my children are like healing balm to the child who is going through this difficult time.
  2. Kids are a bridge to the birth parents. With both children I have fostered, the biological parent has relaxed immediately upon seeing me with my biological children. Abi’s Mom even commented: “I know that you are not trying to take her from me because you already have your own kids”. Heavenly’s Mom held Kiah the entire PCP meeting. Again, it makes everyone just a little more comfortable and relaxed when there are cute babies in the room. It allows people to have conversation and ask questions and see one another as people and parents, not just statistics. And, yes, both birth parents of my girls have indeed met my children.
  3. Kids are resilient. Another reason that fostering while the kids are younger is because they just take it for what it is. Did my two year old grieve when Abi left last summer? ABSOLUTELY. But she is resilient and bounced back after just a few months. She still talks about Abi and loves looking at pictures of her, but she easily understands and accepts that these children coming into our home are here for a short time and then will move on. Of course, as our bio kids grow older, we will continue to reevaluate if the grief and constant goodbyes are having ill effects, and proceed carefully.
  4. Kids are accepting. One of the hardest days of foster care is the first day. An absolute stranger is brought into our home and we are expected to parent, love and provide for this child who has probably had the worst day of their life. I find that with my young ones around, this transition goes so much easier. They throw open all the cupboards. share their toys and are more than happy to give a tour of the house. Tera plopped down in Heavenly’s lap almost immediately, asking to be read a book. They don’t ask what her past history is or what behaviors we can expect or why she doesn’t have any clothes. They don’t ask what happened to Mom or why her Dad _______. They just see a new sibling and are good to go.
  5. Kids are equipped. I truly believe that if God is calling a family to foster, he is calling the entire family, parents and children- older or younger. Our sweet Tera is an introverted and on paper would be a terrible foster sister. She doesn’t do well with new people, she doesn’t do well with change. And yet she does fabulous with all the ins and outs of foster care. I can’t help but watch her and know that God gave her some special coping skills for being a foster sister.

Bonus: It is so good for my kids. My own biological children have already learned so much through this journey of foster care. They have learned what helping is, what sacrificing is and what it’s like to literally be the hands and feet of Jesus to those who have nobody else. They are learning that life isn’t always easy for everybody, and that the whole world doesn’t have to revolve around them for it to keep spinning. They are learning how to share time and space and toys and how to be accepting of everyone no matter their language, skin tone or background. I assure you that for every moment of questioning why we would do this, I am so thankful that my kids get to participate in one of the greatest love stories in the world.

I know that whatever your family circumstances, if God is calling you to foster care, he will lead you through it. It’s not easy to find the balance of wisely protecting our biological children from the harms of the world while taking in children with ‘colorful’ pasts. There is no magic formula of what is right and wrong, and to be honest it’s always terrifying. I hope that this post does not come across as condescending, but instead will encourage you to think about foster care with biological children in a slightly different light.

 

I’d love to hear from you- if you are a foster parent with biological or adopted children, how do you manage the age dynamic? How old were your children when you started fostering and what are your thoughts on this? Have you ever mixed up your birth order?

Please, as always, feel free to reach out to me with any questions that you may have. You can leave a comment here or on any of my social media accounts as well as by sending me an email at [email protected]

For those of you who are new around here, we are Theo and Suzanne Hines. We began the process to become foster parents just two years into our marriage. Shortly after beginning the process, we became pregnant with our first daughter, Tera. This was totally planned and expected- we always wanted both biological children and to use our home and our lives to foster children as well. When Tera was 13 months old, we got our first placement- a newborn baby girl (yes, the girls were 13 months apart!). Several months into fostering Abigail, we got pregnant with Kiah. Also totally planned and rejoiced over. When Kiah was 7 months old, we welcomed our 10 year old foster daughter Heavenly into our home. We currently have Tera, Kiah and Heavenly and still maintain contact with Abi, too! Yes, I know that we are crazy blessed.

Hezekiah James: 8 Months

Our Kiah man turned 8 months old last week! It doesn’t seem possible that I have the sweetest chillest and most adorable baby boy who is now crawling…but I do! Oh, King, we sure do ADORE you!!!

Weight: 16 pounds!

Eating: He has finally found his groove with eating. He sits at his high chair with us and eats everything we are eating at our meals! He’s still drinking 5-6 oz of milk every 4ish hours. It’s so nice to hit this stage where they kind of start feeding themselves and I don’t have to do 110% of the work. Except for sweeping the floor since he probably gets at least 75% of what I give to him on the floor. You win some, you lose some.

Sleeping: The week after Heavenly arrived, Kiah started sleeping through the night and I think it was a direct answer to prayer. I could not physically handle the rigors of three children while being up all night with Kiah. So I’m SO THANKFUL that he is now sleeping through the night. He takes 2-3 fairly solid naps during the day, although the time and length of these naps greatly varies! Mostly he just gets hauled around with both big sisters and whenever we have a short break at home he squeezes in a nap. Poor kid.

Clothing/Diapers: We just moved into 6 month clothes! I love the summertime when he really only needs to wear a onesie or even just a diaper. It saves me so much laundry!!

Personality: This kid is the sweetest and most content baby. EVER. He loves to be held and talked to and loved on. He smiles at everyone and just cuddles himself into my neck whenever I pick him up. He’s seriously so happy and so, so, so chill. We went mini golfing with some of Heavenly’s friends, who all happen to be her age. We were putting him down in the grass at all the holes because I forgot my carrier. He was just so content sitting there in the grass.

Developments: WE HAVE A CRAWLER! He’s moving everywhere now!

I have seen him pull himself up once or twice on things, too. It’s all going to go super fast into the world of toddler destruction from here on out!

I’ve heard him say both Mama and Dada but I don’t think he knows what he is saying yet.

Eating, Eating, Eating!

Likes: Kiah likes pretty much everything, but mostly he LOVES his two sisters. He loves smiling at people and playing peekaboo with anyone.

Dislikes: We had a rough week or two where he wanted to crawl so bad but he just couldn’t get it. He wasn’t content to just sit because he wanted to move, but then he would get on his hands and knees and be completely stuck. He cried a lot during that week!

He has started to dislike bedtime and started to give some attitude when we lay him down for naps/bedtime.

What We Are Loving: I love watching him respond to us! And to find his own way around the house. He’s so proud of himself for crawling!

What We Are Struggling With: I honestly love this stage, so I have no complaints! I am, however, 100% ready to be done breastfeeding/pumping. I’m hoping that I will make it to one year, but four more months sounds really daunting to me. Meh.

1 month//2 months//3 months//4 months//5 months//6 months//7 months

Tera at 8 months

Abigail Nicole: One Year Since Goodbye

It does not seem possible at all.

One year ago today, we drove Abigail Nicole to Children’s Services, where we signed a few papers and then went out to the parking lot to hand her over to the couple adopting her. Her new parents.

We took a few pictures and then climbed into the car and drove away from the baby we had given our all to.

One year later, I think my heart is still broken. It’s still grieving.

I know that I signed up for this, and that there will be many more goodbyes in the future.

I know that she is alive, happy and with a good family who loves her to pieces.

I know that I only had her for nine brief months.

But I still miss her everyday.

I still feel like a piece of my heart was taken from me that day.

I know that she will never remember us or the time that she spent in our home, but I hope that she knows that I did everything I ever could to love her, cherish her and get her into a safe, happy and healthy home.

We love you and miss you every day, Abigail Nicole. You will always be our second baby!

A few pictures from the nine months she was with us:

 

June 2016

May 2016

 

April 2016

 

March 2016

 

February 2016

 

January 2016

 

December 2015

 

November 2015

 

October 2015

 

September 2015

And some shots by my dear friend Tam when she visited us in October.

We love you, Abigail Nicole. And we are so thankful that we got to be your parents for nine months.

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Bonding While Not Breastfeeding: 4 Tips to Create that Bond

Let’s face it: in the original design, breastfeeding was made to happen.

I know it doesn’t always work like that, and I’m not trying to say that it is the only way for baby feeding to happen, but it’s true that it is the way our bodies were designed to feed our babies.

Trust me…I know it doesn’t always work that way.

In case you missed my (lengthly) breastfeeding journey story, I have exclusively breastfed our first baby, I have exclusively formula fed our second baby and I have exclusively pumped for our third baby.

I truly believe that one glorious and wonderful thing about breastfeeding is the bond that is created between mother and child. When a woman is exclusively breastfeeding, it forces us to sit down with our baby every few hours and just be with them. They can look at us, smell us, touch us and bond with us during the feeds. I’ll be the first to admit that breastfeeding doesn’t always feel lovey-dovey, but there is that beautiful moment of connection that is unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced.

When Abi arrived in our home, I quickly realized that we didn’t have the same connection as I did with Tera. I hadn’t carried her or anticipated her arrival for 10 long months. I hadn’t birthed her and I hadn’t seen many of her firsts. I hadn’t even known that she existed three days before I brought her home. When we did bring her home, I struggled to bond with her. I loved her almost immediately, but the bond took longer to build. 

When Kiah arrived on the scene, I thought for sure the bond would be immediate since he was biologically mine. It didn’t happen that way, however, and I have to contribute some of that to the fact that our breastfeeding journey was over before it even really began.

Through my three experiences, I can now see that feeding the baby is vital to the breastfeeding experience. I brainstormed for myself and have gathered a list of several ways to help facilitate bonding with my baby, even if I am not breastfeeding. 

  1. Limit who holds the bottle. It is very important to establish attachment and a bond with the baby that I am the one that is feeding the baby. A baby has a need, he/she cries and then the need is met. If the need is met by whoever happens to be closest to the baby, and that is a different person every time, there is no attachment formed. If the need is met by the same person each time, the baby learns to attach and depend on that person. I learned with Abi that I was too quick to hand the bottle over to someone else so I could get a break. I was frequently letting other people feed her and not gaining that attachment. Of course, it’s ok to let hubby take a few midnight feeds here and there, but an attachment bond needs to be formed.
  2. Sit Down to Feed the Baby. It is so tempting when bottle feeding to either let someone else do it or prop the bottle up so I can keep getting stuff done. However, I have found that I need to be intentional about taking those frequent pauses throughout the day to sit down and feed the baby myself. It takes a lot more work and it’s not quite as convenient, but in the long run that bond is established and that is so vital to the babies development and the parent/child bond.
  3. Find a Private Location. This does not always have to happen, but it should be intentional, especially at the beginning. Many women feel perfectly comfortable nursing in public, but for many,  it is far easier to retreat to a private corner or room. Privacy encouraged the mother to relax, it keeps the baby from being distracted and it facilitates that bond that there is no one else in the world right at that moment. With a bottle, it is so easy to just feed the baby wherever we are. It is so easy to be having a conversation with someone and just pop the bottle in the mouth and ignore making the feeding the one on one priority. Whenever possible, I will retreat to a private location just to feed my baby his bottle.
  4. Skin to Skin. When a person breastfeeds, they are always doing at least a small amount of skin to skin. With bottle feeding, this is not the case. Whenever possible, I tried to take off my shirt and lay the baby on my skin to feed her/him the bottle. I also encourage Theo to do the same thing when he is giving the feedings. Skin to skin releases endorphins and is found to be crucial to a baby’s circulation, bonding and even health!

I am not an expert on breastfeeding, but I have personally found these methods to be incredibly helpful in bonding, be it with biological children or foster children.

If you were unable to breastfeed, what were some of the ways that you found to create a bond with your baby? If you breastfed, do you think it helped you bond?