Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Tribute to My Grandpa

Yesterday, the world lost an incredible man.

My grandfather, who had just turned 80 this year, passed away last night from cancer. It was very quick, and unexpected. We didn't even know he had cancer until very recently.

I am so grateful that we were able to go visit him this weekend. We were able to talk to him a little bit, and to give support to my grandma.

I've been thinking about him a lot the last few days, and a scripture keeps popping into my head.

It's in Mosiah chapter 2.
 23 And now, in the first place, he hath created you, and granted unto you your lives, for which ye are indebted unto him.
 24 And secondly, he doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you; and therefore he hath paid you. And ye are still indebted unto him, and are, and will be, forever and ever; therefore, of what have ye to boast? 
This scripture is about our Heavenly Father, but I've really found that it applies to my grandpa as well.

All my life, he's been there for me. He and my grandma paid for my college education when I attended Utah State University and when I went on my mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I am indebted to them for so many reasons. However, it seems like whenever I try to do something for them, they instantly pay me, and I am only further in their debt. My grandparents are the greatest example of God-like service that I know.

When I attended BYU-I, they allowed me and my siblings to stay in their apartments for free. I was able to get a full-tuition scholarship as well, and because of that I came out of college debt-free.
When I married my husband, my grandparents again allowed us to stay in their married apartments for free. Because of that, we were able to pay off all of Kevin's hospital bills even though I had to have a c-section.

I can never pay back my grandparents for all the things that they have done for me.

One of my greatest desires was to someday approach my grandparents with a bunch of money and, at the very least, pay them back for my college tuition. I wanted to show them that the money that had invested in me had paid off, and that I hadn't wasted it.

I know that they wouldn't accept the money. That's not why they helped me out. However, it was still something I longed to do.

It hurts that now I'll never have the chance to say that to my grandpa.

It wasn't just me, either. They have spent thousands of dollars on their children and grandchildren. They were always there, willing to do anything they could to help us be successful. My grandpa leaves behind a legacy of love and service.

My grandpa is also the most intelligent and hardworking man that I know. Even in the hospital, he was still fixing and building computers. How many 80-year-old men know how to run a computer, let alone build one from scratch? His whole life, he's always been at the forefront of technology. He never retired.
This is one of my favorite pictures of my grandpa. He's in his element here, and doing what he does best

He taught me how to work. I began working on his apartments when I turned 11, and every summer I would work with my grandpa, dad, aunt, and siblings.

One of my favorite memories is when we were working all day on apartments, and we stopped for dinner. It was already dark, but we just sat on the porch of one of the apartments and talked. For some reason, that memory just has such a sense of tranquility for me. I loved working with him and I learned so many important skills. I am proud of my ability and strength that I gained from working. He helped me have high expectations for myself, and I've been really grateful that I've been able to help my grandparents again during the last few years.

I was also able to work for him in his computer store for a while, and I treasure the time I spent near him in the office. I learned a lot of important skills about keeping track of money and paperwork.

When I walked into his hospital room for the last time, he told me how beautiful I looked. I was a little surprised, because my grandfather has never really said things like that. He usually showed his love through service, and so his words meant a lot to me. He also told me he loved me. I knew he did, but I don't know that I've ever heard him say the words before that day.

He had the greatest sense of humor. Even though he couldn't speak above a whisper, he joked with my little "Superman" and smiled at my sister's baby. Even at the end, he was giving everything to his family.

We prayed and fasted for a miracle, but we didn't get the miracle we wanted. Instead, we got the miracle that he needed. His death wasn't long and lingering. He didn't have to be in pain for months and months, and I am so grateful for that.

My grandfather taught me about my Savior. He shared his testimony with me, and I loved to hear him pray when we would eat together. He was always kind to me and my family.

More than anything, I want my grandpa to be proud of me. I want him to see that everything that he invested in me was worth it. That I am worth it. I hope he knows how much I love him and how much I'm going to miss him. I want to live the rest of my life in a way that will make him proud.

I know that we can be together forever if I keep the covenants that I have made with my Heavenly Father, and that I will see him again. I have no doubt that my grandfather is resting now, and that Heavenly Father has an important mission for him on the other side.

I love you, Grandpa. Thank you, for everything. We'll miss you.
Until we meet again.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Foster Care Meetings 7&8

The last two foster care meetings were excellent. We finished our classes the Monday before Thanksgiving, and then everything has been a little crazy for a while. Between NaNoWriMo and some family concerns, the blog kind of got put on hold for a while. I'm hoping to do better from now on...but I have said that before.

Goals are good to have anyway.

Meeting 7: Long Term Separation; Adoption Issues for Families

This was a very interesting meeting. One of the primary reasons that we are looking to do foster care is because we would like to adopt some children. However, the main thing that we've learned through all of our classes is: if children can safely be with their parents, they WILL do better with their parents than with you.

In this class, we learned why. For the first part, a teenager in foster care came and talked to us. I can't go into any detail about her situation or most of the things she said, but it was really impressive how far she'd come and how well she was doing. We were supposed to have a larger panel, but the other teenagers weren't able to make it, so it was just one girl. It was really neat to hear things from her perspective though.

Here are my notes from this class:

  • The only way you adopt a a child through foster care is to have their family die. (Literally or figuratively. This was a tough one to hear. You want families to succeed, so in order for a kid to join your family, their family had to be so broken that there is no way they can return to their biological parents.) This point probably had the biggest impact on me.
  • When teens start creating their identity, they want to know where they come from. 
  • Plan how you're going to help your adopted children deal with their search for their bio parents.
  • We DO NOT talk to the children in foster care about adopiton until reunification is NOT POSSIBLE.
  • All questions and issues usually boil over during adolescence. 
  • Validate children's feelings. Don't dismiss the things they feel or say. Especially teenagers. 
  • Have open communication before an adopted child gets to the adolescent stage. They need to know EVERY aspect of their adoption story: the good, the bad, and the ugly.
  • If you lie about anything, to them, you lied about everything.
  • If possible, and healthy, allow them to talk to their birth parents. Continue communication. Base your decision on what is best for the child, not you.
  • Don't push the kids to say "I love you," and don't make them call you Mom or Dad. Let the relationship progress at the child's pace. 
  • Don't be afraid to talk about their parents with them. 
  • Treat them like your own children. 
  • Children will test us to see if we really care. Don't give up on them, NO MATTER WHAT!
  • If someone asks about foster children, don't introduce them as foster kids. Just say, "These are my kids."
  • We are going to mess up. Just don't give up.
  • Let the children guide the discussions. 
  • Honesty is ALWAYS the best. 
  • Don't wait for the kdis to bring things up. Talk about everything. 
  • Foster kids ARE different. Celebrate the differences and help them feel accepted BECAUSE of their differences. 
  • Adoption Loss is the only trauma in the world where the victims are expected by the whole of society to be grateful for it.
  • Children will go through the grief cycle. It may happen at any time adnthe children willtry to figure out what happened to them. 
  • What would it be like to never finish your process of self-creation? To never know the final piece that tell you who you are, and why you act the way you do? What would it be like to have no idea where you came from?
It was a really eye opening class for me. Life after adoption isn't cake. Even when children are infants, there are consequences that come from trauma. 

Open communication is so important for children who are in foster care and who are adopted. I think a lot of these things apply to children who are adopted through other means as well. The fact that they want to find their birth parents, doesn't mean they don't love their adopted parents. They are just trying to figure out who they are, and your biological parents are a big part of that. 

Meeting 8: Transcending Differences in Placements

Our last class was essentially about culture. The way we do things in our home is a culture, whether we recognize it as such or not. When children in foster care enter a home, they don't know how anything works, and everything foreign is another reason to feel uncomfortable. We need to try and incorporate our children's culture into our home when it is safe and appropriate to do so. 

  • What does your child like to eat?
  • Reunification, tell yourself they're going home. 
  • Build a relationship with bioparents. Ask them questions about what their children like and how to help them.
  • Don't focus on the things you don't have control over (like the court)
  • Save clothes receipts (Around $45 of the monthly reimbursement HAS to be spent on clothing.
  • People shouldn't be able to distinguish between your biological children and your foster children by how you treat them. 
  • Try and incorporate children's culture. 
  • Teenagers throw everything out that they've been told, and then they begin cherry-picking and forming their own identity. 
  • When children are given food they don't recognize, the brain's first reaction is to tell the child it isn't safe. 
  • Ask the children what they like to do with their family, and what their family does for things like birthdays. When a child comes into your home, everything is new. Have a flexible culture. 
  • Ask them what they want to do for their birthday, and then do it. 
  • What matters to them, needs to matter to you.
  • Am I aware of and sensitive to their culture?
  • They will be thinking literally. Don't expect them to conform to your culture. 
  • If you allow yourself to give up in team meetings, you eliminate your ability to help. 
  • What you don't talk out, you'll act out. 
  • Kids spell trust "t-i-m-e." 
For the very last thing that we did in our foster class, we watched the following video. The idea behind it is that "every child is just one caring adult away from being a success story."

I would highly recommend watching the video. I think it's applicable to everyone, even if they're not doing foster care. 

Here's the link: 

What next?

We've had a few people ask us what happens next. Our goal is to have foster kids by Christmas. We can't do our home inspection until we get our background checks done, and we can't go in any sooner than our appointment next week. Until then, we need to get our CPR/First Aid class done, and try and get our home ready for inspection.

We've had some pretty neat miracles. For example, we finally found someone who would haul away our hot tub and other garbage for free! It is so wonderful to have the junk that was left by the previous owners out of our home.

Here's everyone loading up the trailer.
Here's the backyard without the hot tub!
 Things seem to be going well. Both brother-in-laws are trying to find an apartment out of our home too. We're not sure how everything is going to work out yet, but I know the Lord is involved in it, so if we're supposed to have children from the foster care system in our home by Christmas, we will.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Foster Care Meeting 5 & 6

Class five and six were definitely easier classes, but they were also very important.

In class five, we learned about the biological parents. After talking so much about figuring out what was going on in children's minds, we were turning our attention to the "abusers" and "neglectors."

However, after talking about asking "why are they doing this," in relation to the children, it was pretty easy for me to transfer that same thought process toward the parents.

First, the instructor showed us a picture of a very messy home. He asked us to try and look at it in a positive way. Instead of finding things to scorn and find concerning, he asked us to look for positive areas in the home. Our job was to figure out what the parent was doing right, so we could work from there. We were also supposed to try and think of the best possible reasons that the house might be in that condition.

He explained that he had been to some extremely disgusting homes when he first became involved in the foster care program, and he had motioned to the mess around him and asked the parents, "What are we going to do about this?"

The parents would look at him with very obvious confusion and say, "About what? You should have seen my mother's house. Mine looks great compared to hers."

A lot of time, they simply don't know that there is a better way. If we are going to work with them, we need to find the good things that they are accomplishing so we can support, love, and care for them.

Some of the notes I took during this meeting, consisted of the following:

  • We need to think "why are they doing this? or why are they acting this way?" instead of "How dare they do this!" toward the parents.
  • If there is a cause for behaviors in children, why isn't there a cause for adults?
  • Never say anything bad about bioparents, especially in front of their children. If the kid wants to talk negatively about their parents, listen and validate their feelings, but don't encourage. 
  • We need to help parents get in a state where they think, "I can do that." Overwhelmed parents are not thinking parents. Don't be fearful, invite and aid. 
  • Try and see things from bioparent's perspective. They are living in the moment. They can't see the big picture, or waste time thinking about the future.
It was really interesting to think about things from a different perspective. We had entered this program to help children in need. I had never even thought about helping their families. However, as we watched some videos of parents who had previously had children in foster care, I realized how important it is that we don't give up on the children's parents too. 

A lot of these parents are no more than children in adults bodies still living in survival mode and struggling with their own abuse and trauma. They need the help as much as their children do. Instead of turning our backs on them and dismissing them as "failures," we need to be their support and encourage the progress they are making.

The instructor talked about how, especially with parents who are on drugs, that the trauma of having their children removed can send them spiraling even deeper into their addiction. By the time they finish the grief cycle, time is almost up (they have a year to prove to the judge that they are making substantial progress.) Often these parents will look at all the things that they are supposed to do and the amount of time they have left, and they will just give up. 

Reunification is the BEST option, if it is safe and possible. We need to treat these parents like human beings and have more empathy for what they are going through. I hope that we'll be able to help a lot of parents and children become reunited and functional.

In class 6, we talked about Managing Emotions & Behaviors and the Effects of Caregiving. In other words, this was the discipline class.

Grig and I had both been looking forward to this class, because we were hoping that it would help us with disciplining our three year old. It was somewhat gratifying to realize that we were already doing a lot of the things that he explained to us. 

For example, a while ago, we were trying to figure out how to help Kevin's reactions. He would start screaming when he didn't like something, and would become physical. We were at a loss, when suddenly it hit me that we could try role-playing. So, when something happened, and he reacted in a way that we didn't like, we would stop and practice the situation in a positive manner a couple more times. 

So it would go like this: 

Random friend: Kevin's Mom, Kevin is blocking the slide!
Kevin: *gives a grumpy and stubborn face*
Me: Kevin, would you like it if your friends wouldn't let you go down the slide?
Kevin: *grunts and doesn't respond*
Me: Would that make you happy?
Kevin: No.
Me: Okay, let's practice. You pretend to block me, and I'm going to ask you to stop. 
Kevin: *stands in front of me with arms stretched out*
Me: Please move, Kevin.
Kevin: Okay. *He moves out of the way*
Me: My turn. Now I'm going to block you.
Kevin: Please move out of my way.
Me: Very good! Let's try again!

It's been working really well for us, and has helped to teach him how he should react in those situations. He's been a lot easier to work with. You can't just tell a child how to stop a behavior, they have to have something to replace that behavior.

There are also some that we definitely need to work on, but overall, I don't think we are doing too badly as parents. 

Here are some of my notes from the discipline class:
  • Effective discipline is more concerned about stopping future behaviors, instead of current behaviors
  • Offer reasons and show child why they will benefit the child
  • Engage in positive discussions
  • The most effective parenting is teaching and showing 
  • You can't tell someone they can't do something, you have to give them another option
  • 3 things to ask before you deal with a child: 1-How am I feeling? 2- How is the child feeling? 3- If I continue with this path, how will this impact our relationship long-term.
  • Every interaction you have with a child teaches something. 
  • Always ask WHY. If we're questioning, we're staying in the logical part of our brain and not dropping into the emotional basement of our brain. The emotional part of our brain is the part that can be out-of-control.
  • Whenever you say, "Don't" you've only alerted their brains to what comes next. Most of the time, they won't hear the "don't." They'll only hear the second part, and they'll do it.
  • Notice good behaviors. Recognize them and praise the child. Acknowledge the progress they're making and help the child be aware of their own progress.
  • Negative attention is better than NO attention. A child will take what they can get.
  • Timing matters (how far along they are developmentally, understanding their age and what they can comprehend, how we and they are feeling in the moment.
  • Every behavior is purposeful. There's always a reason behind it. 
  • Have appropriate consequences, both good and bad. They need to make sense to your child. Control yourself. Our logic brain and our emotional brain are like the opposite ends of a teeter-totter. The higher one side, the less control the other side has. If we allow our emotions to be raised to high in our minds, we are only going to negatively impact our relationship. Wait until you're at least even. 
Image result for teeter totter public domain
  • Help them rewire their own brains. Positive reinforcement with immediate feedback. (The instructor explained it like a game of hot and cold. You're always giving feedback on how close they are getting to the target. Telling them they are colder isn't negative, it's useful. If a child comes in the room and you just stare at them, they won't know how to find the object.)
  • Explain what they are doing well, don't just tell them, "Good job."
  • When modeling a behavior, talk out loud and explain what you are doing and why you are doing it. 
It was a really good class, and I think it has already helped our parenting.

It's kind of funny. I've been training dogs for a long time, and a lot of what they are saying about parenting is pretty similar to dog training. For example, I learned that you should never discipline or train when you are angry. Anger will turn everything you do into a negative experience. If you're feeling your emotions rise, stop training. Resume when you are under control again.

Of course there are differences, but all the things the teacher was teaching us made sense to me.

He also mentioned one other important thing that I wanted to write down.

If you have a two-year-old, and you tell them no, they are going to throw a fit. There is no magic way to fix their behavior.

What did you expect? They're two.


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Foster Care Meeting 3&4

Last week was pretty crazy. We had our foster care meetings on Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday. Then, on Tuesday I donated blood, Friday night we had our Primary Program practice for church (for which I am the chorister) and fed the sister missionaries. Saturday night we also went to the temple. In my personal time, I still trying really hard to keep up with my writing, housekeeping, and my three-year-old.

Is it any wonder that I got behind on my blogging?

The meetings last week were the roughest ones to attend.

Foster care class 3 was about Trauma and Its Effects and Sexual Abuse.

The teacher showed us some pictures of abused children and their injuries. He started off simple (fingerprint bruises) and went all the way to 3rd degree burns on the feet and legs from being held into boiling water. Even as we discussed how children react to trauma, the instructor continued to remind us that we needed to keep reunification in our minds, no matter what state the children came to us in. Sometimes, the parents would only act this way when they were on drugs or drunk, and so the solution for reunification would be to get the parents off of their drugs.

If the parents are willing to do that, then reunification is possible.

I also took some notes. I wrote the following:

  • Before we assume there is a learning disability, remember the circumstances. Kids in survival mode don't care about education,
  • Whatever you experience as a baby will impact you for the rest of your life.
  • Show kids how relationships can be. 
  • If a child initiates a conversation about trauma, listen. Don't ask questions, let them guide the conversation. Then, afterward, write down everything you can remember that they told you and call the case worker.
  • Validate children's feelings.
  • If you burn all of your energy hating the peretrator, you won't have any energy left to help the child. 
  • Don't talk badly about a child's parents.

We also watched a short video called "Removed." It was really sad and taken from the child in foster care's perspective. I learned some pretty important things from the video. I learned that you never give up on a child. They might be just about to open up to you. If you turn away from them then, it will be difficult to for them to ever trust anyone again. 

I also learned that keeping siblings together is so important. Sometimes, older siblings become the parents to the younger ones, and when you separate them, it is another form of trauma that they have to endure.

We also talked about children who are sexually abused. That was a pretty rough segment of class too. The teacher told us that children who are sexually abused will not be returning to their abuser. Their abuser will be going to prison. However, they may be returned to the remaining parent or caregiver if the situation is deemed safe. 

No matter what, if the situation can become safe and the parents can show enough improvement, children will always do better with their biological parents. 

At the end of the class, the teacher had us pair up with someone we didn't know in the class. Once we had done that, he instructed us to decide who was going to talk first. The other person was just going to listen. Once we had decided who was speaking, he said, "Now I'm going to give you your topic...Describe the last intimate moment you had in detail."

Everyone stared at each other, and a lot of nervous giggles broke out. No one spoke. When he asked us why we were hesitating, people explained that they felt uncomfortable, they were embarrassed, or they felt that intimacy was meant to be private. 

After everyone had expressed their feelings, the teacher said, "Now, understand, that is exactly what you are asking these children to do who have been sexually abused. The judge and the courts will ask them to describe something that they have been taught is an expression of love to a group of strangers. Try to put yourself in their place."

He talked a bit about sexual predators and how they knew how to groom these kids into doing what they wanted them to do. They didn't usually threaten, instead they became friends and slowly as the relationship progressed, they will teach them how they want them to show their love. 

The instructor also told us that removal from these predators can be traumatic for the child, and if we were to ask them if they wanted to live with us, complete strangers, or the sexual predator whom they knew and trusted, they would pick the predator.

It was a difficult class, but we learned a lot of important things. 

Foster class number 4 was about Minimizing the Trauma of Placement. 

For this class, we started off with the lights off and we were asked to imagine a scenario with our eyes closed. He told us to imagine that class had been cancelled, so we went home and sat in our favorite spot. Then, as we were relaxing in this area, someone knocked on the door. When we answer it, he was standing there and he told us that we needed to go pack our things and come with him. He was going to take us to a better home with a really nice family. 

As I listened, I began to get really annoyed and frustrated. Basically, in my mind, I was saying, "Make me. The heck I'm going with you."

Then, he described loading us into his car and having us watch our homes disappear. Then he talked about driving for a while and coming to a new house with a bunch of smiling people and having him tell us that this was our new family. I imagined a rundown home and a bunch of maniacally smiling people. The irritation I felt began to become frustration as a sense of helplessness flowed through me. It sent tingles up my arms. 

Afterward, he asked us how we felt and our reactions. After listening, he told us that we really needed to understand how the children were feeling. No matter their home situation, their house was a familiar place. No one wants to be taken from their home and placed at a stranger's home. Was it any wonder that they may not like us at first?

Here are some things I wrote down from this meeting:
  • Allow children to eat what they're familiar with. Gradually, as they learn to trust you, they will try new things.
  • Explain to Kevin that the other children may need special allowances.
  • Don't tell, show. Model proper behavior. Teach through our actions. 
  • Before you can help a child go somewhere else, go to where they are, and then you can move together. 
  • "I'm sorry you're upset."
  • Confidentiality is a BIG deal. 
  • To deal with a sexually responsive child, prevention and observation are the most important thing.
  • Don't give up on children. They may be coming around just as you abandon them.
  • "This is a safe place and I won't let anyone ____ you, so I can't let you ____ anyone because this is a safe place."
  • Create lifebook using child's entire life, not just with you. 
  • Give choices, allow the child to feel control over some aspect of their lives.
  • Ideas for transitions: Allow child to pick one wall color or bedding. Just do normal things. Establish rules before children come. Adapt to child when they come.
  • Keep rules as basic as possible. Address issues as they arrive. Family book. 
  • Ask what makes child feel safe. (Watch, observe)
  • Give opportunities to express themselves freely. 
  • Be mindful of transitions and other emotional "hot spots" (meals, food, bedtime, physical boundaries.)
  • Be honest and open in regards to their future. 
We also finished watching the second part of "Removed." 

The most important thing he kept stressing was ask "Why?" Don't get upset by the child's actions. Simply ask, "Why are they acting that way?" Once you are able to understand where they're coming from and why they are reacting the way they are, you will have more patience with their behaviors and you will be able to help them where they are. 

This meeting wasn't quite as difficult, but it was still sad. It was hard to realize that there is no easy solution for these poor children in foster care. It's traumatic to be taken from your home, no matter how awful your home is. You still have bonds and connections there, and everything is familiar. 

It's really good to understand why children might be acting out. I'm really grateful that we have been taking these classes. It's helped us to talk about things that we may never have discussed, and it's brought us closer as a couple. We've learned a lot about child psychology, and it's helped us to be better parents for Kevin.