While I've often written about the four children we've cared for in foster care, I haven't often written about its impact on our family until recently. Even though we certainly have times that are difficult or frustrating, most of our experience has been extremely positive, and we're glad to have the experience. I love being able to help the kids, Eli has thoroughly enjoyed having other kids around, and I can honestly say that, for the most part, it's made our house come alive with energy. I can say, too, that the best part of the journey so far has been the placement of Itty Bitty and the ability to watch him grow and bond with all three of us. We are still praying fervently that we get the opportunity to adopt him.
However, I can say officially, with certainty, and with only a twinge of sadness, that we will soon be closing our home to new foster children...at least for a little while. Though we ARE re-certifying our home for foster care this year, Scooter will officially be the final foster child that we plan to take for quite some time (and yes, I know God likes to laugh at my plans...). Though our experience has been mostly positive, foster care has certainly taken exhaustion to a new level...we're tired...and need a break just to be with each other. At the same time, I still champion and admire the families who are able to keep going without breaks...and I envy their energy and organizational skills!
Eli has been a champ through this part of our foster-care journey. I am so proud of the kind, responsible, patient big brother he has been to all of the boys who have come to stay in our home (and for some reason, we HAVE had all boys...). While the coming and going of other kids has been stressful and occasionally difficult, it has not been the traumatic experience I thought it would be....it is certainly what I'd worried about from the very beginning of this journey. But, he's learned a lot about how to relate to other kids from different backgrounds, and our experiences have really opened his eyes to how some families live and act.
BUT, Eli also has a lot of big changes coming up in his life...for one, he's starting Kindergarten in the fall (I can't believe he's almost FIVE). And, while he's handled most changes smoothly, he has had some struggles that indicate he may need a break. In addition, he is already starting to realize that his preschool days are numbered, and he's starting to think about missing his friends and current teachers...he has been in the same classroom for three years now! This continuity has been one of the things that has helped him so much in the midst of all of the changes in our household this year....but now that's it's changing, I don't want to overwhelm him. I also feel like I didn't get to spend as much time with him as I've really wanted to this fall/winter, and I want to give him a little more time/freedom for after school activities and things that simply aren't as easy with caseworkers constantly coming over to our home. As it is, it's sometimes a struggle to get him to piano lessons and church choir each week while juggling these caseworker visits and Scooter's visitation schedule. But, his friends in choir are an incredibly important, loving, and stabilizing influence, and piano is giving Eli an outlet that I think is going to be critical in the future...so we will continue to do our best.
For now, Scooter is still with us; we are hoping that he will reunite with his family in late spring or early summer. In the meantime, I have a lot of concerns about/for this little guy. His caseworker recently stated that he would soon have a developmental assessment, for which I am very, very grateful. He does great participating at preschool, and he is certainly a very sweet, gentle, and good natured little boy (though we've recently discovered his naughty side). However, he seems to have some issues that need to be formally identified and addressed. Thankfully, in most areas, he is beginning to make a little bit of progress.
Itty Bitty, on the other hand, is continuing to make fantastic progress. He is now 8 months old, starting occupational therapy and is thriving. He can sit alone dependably (though I still put a pillow behind him), and is learning to crawl. He likes it when we stand him up and hold onto his hands, and he adores bouncing. He DEFINITELY has favorite toys now, and, when sitting in his high chair, likes to get our attention and grin mischievously before dropping his toys to the ground. He has no problem letting us know what he likes and doesn't like...and he's starting saying "Oma," which is Korean for "Mommy", though he doesn't yet associate the word with me (he's repeating what he hears). "M" is still the only consonant in his repertoire, though he babbles with strings of vowels almost constantly, and he loves to have "conversations" where we "ooh" and "aah" at each other. He LOVES to eat and has liked almost everything we've given him (except for baby food peaches and rice cereal!).
As far as Itty Bitty's physical issues go, his nursery teacher is really working with him daily to help him stretch and reach with his arms, and so am I. We're already seeing a big difference; he's really trying to use his arms a lot more. While he still can't *quite* reach out to be picked up, he can raise his arms a bit and bounce on his bottom when he wants to be held. I did originally scoff when he "flunked" his early intervention exams for not playing with his toes...but I am now incredibly grateful that EI services exist and that they've helped us identify that he has a real issue that needs to be addressed. It wasn't until the therapist pointed some things out to me that I realized that Itty Bitty really did need help. He has met almost all of his milestones, and is making great developmental progress...but there are certain things that are very difficult for him, and should not be. He is very affectionate, though, and gets sooooo excited when we pick him up at the end of the day. I love walking in to the nursery school at the end of the day and seeing his face light up with a huge grin. I'm so excited for when he learns to walk and talk (hopefully in the next couple of months). In the meantime, he's growing so big....he's actually now wearing some of Eli's clothing that I saved from when Eli was a young toddler....and though Itty Bitty is now average sized for his age, he is heavier than Eli was at twice his age!
Here's to hoping that the next few weeks bring great news and down time for relaxing!