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The Purest Love

"The gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of transformation. It takes us as men and women of the earth and refines us into men and wom...

Friday, May 26, 2017

The Sound of Music

Eight months ago, all my kids started taking music lessons for the first time. I let them each choose which instrument they wanted to play most: Miriam and Micah chose violin, Kaylee chose piano, and Chandler chose EDM (electronic dance music). 

Dale is Miriam and Micah's violin teacher. He's such a happy guy and so comfortable for the kids to talk to, they really like him. He says that Miriam is a natural and learns faster than most of his students. Micah enjoys violin but a couple of weeks ago has started to learn to use it as a fiddle. Dale says that fiddling is harder but it really seems that this is where Micah has much more interest. 

Kaylee's piano teacher, Ann, is the sweetest lady, full of praise and encouragement- Kaylee loves her. I've been impressed with how quickly Kaylee is moving through her lessons these past eight months - she's already in her third piano book! She sounds so awesome!

Chandler has always loved music and with a wide variety of interest. His greatest passion is writing his own music though, especially EDM. His webpage is https://soundcloud.com/chandlerrawlins 
I'm pretty sure he's destined for stardom. 







Thursday, May 25, 2017

Micah and that Magnificent Number









Micah turned twelve this last month. He wanted only one friend for his party to hang out with for the entire day. Micah has know Lex since he was three-years-old. They used to be only a few houses away from each other until they moved... and we moved. Now Lex lives several cities away but when these two get together, they act like they've never been apart.



We have a tradition that when our children turn twelve, Joseph and I are the first ones to take them to do baptisms at the Temple. Micah was so happy and so fun to watch.

The brethren at the recommend desk told Micah to hit the wheelchair buttons on both the entry doors. Then the men ducked behind the desk and told us to snap a picture with Micah and the stain glass behind him.  He thought that was so fun. The workers really love the youth here.



We have another tradition when our kids turn twelve, it's sort of a "coming-of-age tradition". We buy them a plaque with their full name engraved on it, along with a scripture that we feel will serve as a very personal guide through life, and the date of their 12th birthday.

The scripture we chose for Micah was Alma 38:12 "Use boldness, but not overbearance; and also see that ye bridle all your passions, that ye may be filled with love..." This one was perfect for him because Micah is such a deeply passionate boy.




Monday, May 22, 2017

A Basket Full

My friend, SaraLyn, paid me a surprise visit tonight. She's a next-door neighbor of mine from my old ward. We were outside as a family eating ice cream "Sundays" after Micah's fabulous Family Home Evening lesson, when I saw SaraLyn walking up the sidewalk toward our house. I waved and ran to greet her at our gate.

In her arms she held a basket full of gifts. 
"What brings you here, my friend?" I asked.
"This is for you," she said with a sparkle in her eyes.
I was shocked. "Why? What for? I don't understand."
"Because, I love you," she said sincerely and smilingly presented me with one gift at a time: 
A beanie hat, "Something whimsical." 
A journal, "Something thoughtful."
Then, she held up some lotions and essential oils, "Something relaxing." 
Next, she pulled out a couple of books, "Something educational and uplifting." 
And lastly, she pulled out two large bars of Moser Roth chocolates, "And... something indulging." She winked.

I couldn't believe it. It was just so random. "Wow! Really?! Why all of this? I know I don't deserve it, any of it. Why?"
"Yes." She insisted. "I enjoyed sitting next to you and talking with you in Stake Conference yesterday, I just wanted to express how much I love you."
"That's interesting." I said. "Because, after Stake Conference, I was telling my husband how much I love and adore you. But here you are doing something wonderful for me. You're incredible!" I invited SaraLyn to sit on the porch and talk a while but she couldn't stay. I thanked her again as she prepared to leave. Hugging her as tight as I could, I said goodbye. We both had tears in our eyes. 

After she was gone, my kids crowded around to take a look at the basket full of thoughtful gifts. "Look mom, there's a card." Micah pulled it out and held it to my face, "Open it." 
In the card was a beautiful thank-you note wrapped around four twenty-dollar bills. My jaw dropped to the ground! "Seriously!!" I laughed and shook my head. "I just don't get it."

I don't know why my friend, SaraLyn, felt to be this generous with me. I honestly haven't done anything fantastic. I think she's just one of those people who love so freely. She has always been this compassionate and thoughtful though. Last summer, when she found out we had to leave our apartment, she made me dinner, collected boxes for the move, invited me over to talk, and let me cry on her shoulder. She has been a God-send on a number of occasions. Maybe yesterday, she recognized that my soul was weary and I needed some sort of outreach. I don't know.

I pray that I can be more aware of others, that I can rise above my own sorrows and recognize when people need me to do for them what SaraLyn did for me. Wow, what a blessing!

-Alicia


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Micah and Mitty



For the past week or so, Micah has been on a huge Mitty kick. I'm not sure why but almost any chance he gets, he's been listening to The Secret Life of Walter Mitty soundtrack. Of course, I don't object at all -- It's my favorite movie ever!


Truth be told, it will probably always be my favorite movie because there are so many meanings and memories I've attached from it to my own life.

I really liked hearing the whole soundtrack again today, even though it made my heart ache.

-Alicia

Support

My heart is filled with gratitude for the foster care support page. Yesterday, a flood of people sent me messages of encouragement, people who have also made the difficult decision to remove a child from their home. What a blessing to me their words have been!!



"You have to do what's right for your family and for those kids. Sometimes your home just isn't the best fit or maybe it's just not the right time. I know it hurts. And it's okay. Hurting shows that you love them and tried. I have seen families request a removal and get placements later down the road that were a much better fit. It's okay. You will get through this."

"Yes we have had placements moved. This is super hard. Not all placements fit in our families. Cry it out and move on. You will be ok. They next one could fit better. Good luck! (((HUGS)))"

"Non-fostering friends don't get it and that's because they aren't in the trenches like other foster parents. Other foster parents are your tribe, we get it, we know what it's like, and we know it's not a heartless decision."

 "In the end you have to do what is right for your family. The most experienced foster parents will tell you that we have all been in this same position at some point in time with our experience. You have to decide if this is best for your family, without allowing outside people to influence this, because at the end of the day you have to be okay with your decision. There is no shame in saying this is not a good fit."

 "I felt the same way when we asked to have a placement move, it ended up being a must for us due to safety concerns and we were torn and worried that dcfs would hold it against us! It ended up being far better for the child the home he went to was a much better fit and we have a placement now that fits us better!
It's hard but you will be ok!"

 "I am so sorry you are going through this! All I can say is ditto to everyone else. I am on our first placement so I don't have near the experience as others on here but my kids are a sibling group that is broken up. I have the 2 youngest and the 3 oldest were together. The very oldest was really struggling and so was his foster mom. Their personalities just didn't work together. He ended up being placed in a proctor home. It started really rough but the neighborhood has taken this kid in with open arms and he is thriving far and above what the whole team expected. I know the other foster mom really struggled with guilt at first, but honestly it just wasn't a good fit and this new place is. So, try not to feel guilty and do what you need to for you and your family."

"Stay strong and know that you are making a difference, even caring for them until a better fit is found. Some placements really are just harder than others."

"It's hard. We love the foster kids we asked to have moved, and we're pretty sure they love us too, so it was a difficult heart-wrenching decision to make. Once the decision was made we did feel some peace with it. And of course some regrets and second-guessing, too... we're sad if we hear things aren't going well for them in the new placement, but we just have to trust the Lord that he will put them in the place they need to be (we don't have to trust DCFS for that, they can't see the future)." 

"After having done this over 10 years I have learned a few things, with that said. It is never easy to move a child from your home, you will will feel sadness, failure, and honestly a bit of relief. You will have forgotten what a non stressful home feels like. You will cry and grieve that this child was moved and go thru lots of the what if's.....BUT will you be placed again with another child? YES!!! We have to remember this isn't about us this is about finding the right fit for the child to grow and develop and hopefully return home. If that isn't the case then you want the child to be adopted into a home where they fit and belong. There are 100's of foster homes and each child does different in each home, we all have strengths and weaknesses and sometime we don't know our weaknesses till we take that child who brings them out. You and your family have done amazing things for these children but when it isn't a good fit you just cant make the square fit into the round circle no matter how hard you try. With each placement you learn something new about yourself, your family what you can and can't handle. I believe any time a child is moved or goes home it is a great idea to re connect with your family and take a look at what worked what didn't work. Taking time to re energize your family is ok to do as well. Huge hug as this is a hard decision but do what is best for the children in your home and your family."

"About your​ pain of asking for removal, we get it! We've got you! Our kids needed so much more support and services than we were able to get (beg) for them, and once the 9yr old truly snapped I finally faced the fact that she couldn't be happy with us. We had taught her enough coping skills for so many facets of her life and then suddenly she began abusing me physically, which devolved into my 11 bio kid self harming to cope with the stress. I had to start protecting myself and my family from her and her out-of-controlness...which doesn't create a loving environment. She'd given signs and symptoms for so long, and I found myself trying harder and harder to be what she needed until we broke. Sometimes failures are more valuable than success, because it lays bare the true extent of the need and proves to DCFS the Foster children need more than they're getting."

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Mother's Day Highs


My husband is so good to me. In honor of Mother's Day, he made a wonderful BBQ dinner tonight and got the kids to do all the clean-up. He's awesome! The weather was perfect to be outside. Our rose bush is in bloom and the huge tree in our front yard gives perfect shade to enjoy a ride on the swing. I had a sweet moment enjoying it all with the kids.



 At the end of mine and Joseph's fast together, my husband I both felt tremendous peace with our decision to move our foster daughter out. It doesn't mean that my heart is not broken about the matter.  I still ache for this girl but I know we've done our best.

Lovely Skittles bouquet Kaylee made me for Mother's Day 
-Alicia

Mother's Day Lows

It's so strange. I've never had a Mother's Day where I've felt like this, so depressed. My husband was going to make me breakfast but I don't feel well and I certainly don't have an appetite. He's fasting this morning because of the difficulties we have been facing with foster care - he's especially fasting for me to be strengthened.  He asked what he could do to make this Mother's Day more meaningful. I expressed sincere gratitude for his wonderful thoughtfulness and told him that I would actually like to join him in his fast. I pray with all my heart to be better. I know I can do better as a mom.

This is the first time in my life that I've really struggled with Mother's Day. I think it's because this is my first one as a foster mom.... and not just any foster mom - one who feels like giving up. After the experiences we've had with foster care, my eyes have been opened to exactly how difficult it can be to express love to a high trauma level child. Our foster daughter has a very thin threshold before she flies into full-scale panic. The trick is to try and catch her, to calm her, in that small little window before she ramps up. Unfortunately, that window usually only lasts a couple seconds before she's screaming at the top of her lungs and flailing her arms uncontrollably. 

It's daily, over small things. For example: Yesterday, she told me she wanted an apple. I sliced her an apple and handed it to her. As soon as I did that she changed her mind and said she didn't want it anymore. I told her to take at least one bite. "NO! I'm throwing it away!" she demanded.
"Honey, you don't need to throw it away. just set it on the counter." She set it on the counter.
I called out to the other kids, "Does anyone else want these apple slices?"
"I do, I do, I do!" Three of my kids came rushing in the kitchen for them.
As soon as my foster daughter saw this she screamed, "No! MY apple!" She tried to grab them back.
I interceded, "You wanted to throw it away, remember. I'm letting them have it now."
And the meltdown began. 
She proceeded to kick and scream uncontrollably for 30 minutes straight.

In the van a couple days ago, she wanted chips. "I want more chips!" she insisted. (I had two different kinds.) She had been eating the spicy ones.
"Okay, how do you ask nicely?"
"Please, can I have more chips?"
"Wonderful, Thank you for asking nicely." I said. "Here you go." I placed a handful of spicy chips in her cup holder.
"No!!!" She started screaming and shaking her finger rapidly at the front of the van, "Give me the other ones!!"
I looked at the bag by my driver's seat. "Those are sweet potato. You don't like those ones."
She insisted, "Yes! I want those! Give me those!"
"I can, but how do you ask nicely?" I prompted her again.
Her body was still tense as she wiggled impatiently and stammered out, "Please, can I have those ones?"
"Yes. Here you go." I placed a handful in her other cup holder and then made my way back to the driver's seat.
As soon as I turned the ignition, buckled myself in, and began to pull away, I heard, "I don't like these chips!" She began throwing the sweet potato ones on the floor. 
"Hey, don't throw those." I objected. "You just threw a huge tantrum saying you wanted them."
She changed her mind again, "No, these are yucky! I WANT the spicy ones!"
I sighed, "You have spicy ones in your other cup holder."
"I want MORE spicy ones!" she shouted. 
I was not about to pull over and get out of the driver's seat again so I said, "Well, you'll have to wait until we get home to have more. I'm sorry."
Hearing that, she began to go completely ballistic. She screamed bloody murder and kicked the seat in front of her violently the entire way home.

I've had hard moments with my own children but I've never had a child as difficult as this little girl. She throws violent tantrums all the time for things she wants, and when she gets it, she throws an equally violent tantrum stating she no longer wants it. This back-and-forth is a constant pattern with her. It's lose-lose all the time. What I've mentioned above are just a couple of examples of moments where she has gone into full-scale uncontrollable, almost epileptic, tantrums. And they happen several times a day, every single day. 

It has become too much to bear! We finally told the social worker that we need to have her moved from our home. My own kids are terribly fatigued from her behaviors too. The supervisor over DCFS had a phone conference with me and my husband a couple days ago. He told us that most foster children aren't this way and that we happened to be placed with an extreme case. 
I don't know if that was meant to comfort us.

Soon, she will be removed from our home, maybe in about a month. We said we wanted to continue to foster her brother. He's doing really well and he certainly doesn't want to leave. DCFS doesn't like to split siblings though. We hope he can stay. This breaks my heart. 

Making this decision to move her on has been so painful. I can't help but feel like somehow I've failed. 

-Alicia 

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Don't Be Supes Selfie

I've been reading about the pride cycle in the Book of Mormon. Today, I read Helaman 12:2&5 and it reminded me of the General Conference talk from April 2016 by Elder Stephen E. Snow, "Be Thou Humble".

I absolutely love this talk because it is so applicable and needed for today's disgustingly obsessed selfie world. As I write this, I laugh, because I'm reminded of this very funny cartoon that illustrates our society's grossly self-centered obsession in social media.


As we raise our own children, we need to help them remain humble as they mature into adulthood. We do not do this by breaking their spirit through unkindness or by being too harsh in our discipline. While nurturing their self-confidence and self-esteem, we need to teach them the qualities of selflessness, kindness, obedience, lack of pride, civility, and unpretentiousness. We need them to learn to take joy in the successes of siblings and friends. 

President Howard W. Hunter taught that “our genuine concern should be for the success of others.” If not, our children can become obsessed with self-promotion and outdoing others, jealousy, and resentment for the triumphs of peers. I’m grateful for a mother who, when seeing I was becoming too full of myself as a boy, would say, “Son, a little bit of humility right now would go a long way.” - Elder Stephen E. Snow

That's some might fine advice!
-Alicia

Monday, May 8, 2017

Down to the River





Micah turned twelve over the weekend. I let him choose how he wanted to spend the afternoon together on his birthday.  He's incredibly easy to please.  All he wanted to do was eat Little Caesar's crazy bread and walk along the Provo River.

As we got out of the van and started heading toward the parkway that runs along the river, I had a weird sense of  déjà vu.
"It feels like we've done this exact same thing before," I said to him.
Micah replied, "That's because we have, mom. This is what we did together on my eighth birthday too."
I laughed as I recalled the four years previous, "Oh yeah, we did... didn't we?"

It was such a perfect afternoon. Micah found a log to rest on and enjoy the shade of the narrowleaf cottonwood trees. I smiled adoringly as I watched him soak up the sound of rushing water accompanied by the cheerful chirping of birds. He has always loved this kind of stuff, more than any of my other kids.

His dream is to have a little cottage someday tucked away in the solitude of the mountains, where he has a porch with a wooden rocking chair overlooking a freshwater stream. There, he'll close his eyes, breathe the fresh crisp air, and relax to the sounds of nature.

I like that dream.

-Alicia





I

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Together


Lately, Joseph sends me a email randomly about once a week with expressions of love and encouragement. I've thanked him graciously but words fail to describe how much his little notes mean.

As we work side-by-side with this particular foster case and monitor our own children's behavior as a result, we are facing some very difficult choices. This past week, Joseph sent me a couple of links to some conference talks as encouragement. These are some of the quotes that really stood out to me in them:

"[Life’s journey] is a pathway marked by forks and turnings. Decisions are constantly before us. To make them wisely, courage is needed: the courage to say, “No,” the courage to say, “Yes.” Decisions do determine destiny." - President Thomas S. Monson

"It isn’t as bad as you sometimes think it is.
It all works out. Don’t worry. …
The Lord will not forsake us.
He will not forsake us.
If we will put our trust in Him,
if we will pray to Him,
if we will live worthy of His blessings,
He will hear our prayers."
-President Gordon B. Hinckley

I'm so grateful for Joseph, for his companionship. These past few years, he has learned to give simple gestures, affection, and expressions that truly sustain me. I commit to doing the same for him. This is what it's all about.

"It is so rewarding to be married. Marriage is wonderful. In time you begin to think alike and have the same ideas and impressions. You have times when you are extremely happy, times of testing, and times of trial, but the Lord guides you through all of those growth experiences together." - Richard G. Scott

-Alicia

One of Joseph's many emails :)

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Grateful

I don't have much to write today.  I'm just grateful for the Gospel in my life: for the scriptures, for prayer, for living prophets, for my Savior, for the Atonement. I'm grateful for the peace that comes from hanging on to principles of truth. And there is a wellspring of truth overflowing in this Gospel.
-Alicia


Tuesday, May 2, 2017

I'll Take It

I drove up to be with my niece yesterday. She wanted her cousins there too and since my kids are homeschooled, I was able to bring them without any problems!  (My foster son was at the Elementary and my foster daughter was at preschool. So it was just me, Alexa, and my bio-kids.) We spent the entire afternoon with her. She said it was exactly what she needed.

Here's a few pictures from yesterday.  We met with Alexa minutes after her appointment with the dentist. Half her face was still numb and she couldn't talk well--My kids thought it was absolutely hilarious listening to her. Alexa snapped a shot with Kaylee trying to do the pouty pucker look. I was laughing so hard because you can see her lips weren't working right.

The last picture of Alexa in the dentist chair is a selfie she sent to her boyfriend, Conner right after she got her shot of novocaine. I love that they can have fun with each other like that.  He's been such a strength to her and stayed at the hospital with Alexa all day on Sunday. We really love him and you can see why he loves her.  She's wonderful!

Right when we got home from hanging out with my adorable niece, we turned around and left with everyone (including our fosters) to go hiking for FHE up Battle Creek Falls. It was a very full and a very good day.

I'll take it!
-Alicia