Foster Children

Our first Christmas as foster parents…

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I wrote this while we were living in Turkey… we moved there from Colorado Springs and I was missing our foster kids.  I’m going to write about that experience as we go along, but here is a glimpse into what it was like with our first foster child.

Our “Extra” Child Christmas

It had been a crazy, chaotic, but wonderful six months in the Feeser house in Colorado Springs, CO. We had completed our foster parenting paperwork in June, and got a call the very next week about a boy. He was already at the DHS (Department of Human Services) office, and they wanted me to come get him. I loaded up my own boys, Price(4) and Wesley(1), and we drove over. When I first saw him I fell in love. He had straight, blonde hair that stuck out from his head in all directions, scared and confused blue eyes, and the cutest little nose that I can still see three years later when I close my eyes. He was holding a backpack bigger than his nearly three year old body, and holding a blanket that the DHS worker had given him. My kids were so excited that a new boy was coming to our house, and we soon had him loaded in a car seat and on our way. They played all afternoon together and I had dreams of how easy and great this would all be.

Of course, the “newness” wore off, and he began to act like the little boy he was. A sweet little boy who had been neglected for most of his three years. He wanted to be loved by anyone who would, and in turn, he loved everyone he saw. He was always shy and apprehensive at first, but after just a few minutes he would feel comfortable and come out hugging everyone.

We had more foster children come and go during those first six months with *Ethan, but when Christmas came, it was just him. We had already decided to just make him as much a part of the family as possible, so he participated in everything we did, and we loved him just like our own. We also knew that the time was drawing closer and closer that he would be taken from us and sent to live forever with his grandmother in another state. I tried to make everything about that Christmas as special as possible, and I tried to sear the memory of everything we did in my mind so I would never forget it. I always take pictures anyway, just of everyday things (even random butterflies and sunsets), so I have many pictures to look back on that time and remember.

We didn’t do anything that year that we wouldn’t normally do, but there was still something more special about it all. We tried not to buy him more things just because he was leaving us soon. We tried not to let him get away with bad behaviors just because he wasn’t going to be around next Christmas.

Christmas morning was a special time that I will never forget. He came into the living room and saw the tree with all the gifts around it. He just stopped and stared. Price, our oldest son, who knew what this was all about, ran straight to the tree and started asking which pile was his. But Ethan just stood there and looked. He had never gotten anything from Santa that he could remember, and wasn’t sure that anything was for him. I went over to the tree with Wesley (who had just turned two) and led Ethan to his pile of toys and clothes from Santa. His face lit up when he realized it was for him, and he never stopped smiling as he and the other boys played with everything they had gotten.

Just two weeks later, I packed up all those toys and clothes and everything else he’d gotten in the six months he was with us, and I loaded him up on an airplane with his grandmother to move away from us forever. He hasn’t been with us physically for a Christmas in three years, but those sweet blue eyes and spiky blond hair are in my memories every Christmas morning.

*his name has been changed for protection purposes.

  • It’s been 7 years now since he left us, and his picture hangs in the hall with the rest of them.  I know when his birthday is still and I think about him more than I thought I would.  I think of them all… can tell you all of their names and birthdays.  Tell you what I loved most about each of them and what drove me craziest! 🙂  They are mine… at least part of them is… and part of me will always be theirs…

 

Welcome to my world… it’s pretty great around here!!

Amanda

Will You Marry Me? – Part Two

The proposal…

If you missed Part One, you can find it here!! 🙂

So… we hung out Halloween night and spent a lot of time talking.  This is where I’m unsure what happened next.  I’m not sure if we exchanged numbers at this point or not, but somehow he was invited to my house to watch movies.

  • We need to take a break here so I can explain that my house (aka a trailer!) was a place that lots of people gathered to hang out.  I bought the trailer when I transferred to UAM (University of Arkansas at Monticello), and I lived there with different people over the next 3 years.  Carly, my cousin… Sara, a (non-traditional student I randomly met in Priscy’s Video store in Hamburg)… and Stacey (she only lived with me for a little while, but not long).  Sara was called a “non-traditional Student” because she was already in her 20’s and we thought it was hilarious, so we called her that all the time.  Anyway, I’m not even sure who all lived in my house at this time, but I think it was Carly and Sara.  The point was that we always had people over all the time for movies or just to hangout, so I made sure Ron (cute dude) was invited one night not long after Halloween.

Okay… so he comes over to the house and we do the normal flirty things that teenagers who are pretty shy always do.  We held hands on the couch surrounded by tons of other teenagers who were pretending not to notice that we were holding hands! 🙂

After the movie, he hung out a little longer than most of the people.  I walked him outside and he actually TOLD me he was about to kiss me.  He wasn’t the first guy to announce the kissing thing, so maybe it’s not as weird as I think, but he was just so sweet about it, and I think that’s when I fell in love.  I remember thinking how soft his lips were… 🙂  Okay… that’s enough about that, so we’ll jump forward a little… he left and I ran back inside waking everyone up to tell them I had just gotten a kiss!! 🙂

Writing this and thinking about it makes me think that I was more of a normal teenager than I thought I was.  Oh, and I keep saying teenagers, but I was already 20 and he was 21.  It’s okay… I was still acting like a teenager, so it’s okay! 🙂

The next couple of months are a blur… I know that somewhere in there I had about a million moments of fear and suspicion.  I was just the most insecure person in the world.  I kept waiting for the phone call saying that he had found someone else (that happened to me before).  I kept waiting for him to break up with me the whole time.  We spent so much time together and when we weren’t together I was constantly wondering who he was with.  I don’t think he knew that I was worried about this.  I mean, I didn’t call him all the time or stalk him or anything, but I was trapped inside my own head and so scared the other shoe would drop at any moment.

I was starting to feel a little better about our relationship at Christmas time.  I had already met his parents and grandparents (I’ll tell this story another time).  He gave me diamond earrings (I have no idea what I gave him… maybe a book).

Well… I don’t need to spend any more time trying to express the amount of relationship anxiety I had during this time, and really probably throughout the first years of our marriage, but it would be redundant.  I spent a lot of time worrying about things that weren’t even worth worrying about.  I think this might be a theme for the beginning of my adult life.  I’m still working on this, but I’m sooooo much better! 🙂

So… it is spring break 1999… We took a trip with the MBSF to help a church do a vacation bible school.  I was so excited because I just knew the proposal was coming anytime.  We had discussed marriage and we had talked about rings and I just knew it was coming any time.  So I spent the whole week feeling really neglected because he was being a great bible school teacher/counselor and playing in the snow, and I spent the whole week being anxious and waiting to be proposed to.  I was so sad and depressed all the way home because I was so disappointed.  I thought he was just going to break up with me.  Gosh… my now-self wants to tell my then-self to just stop it!  I was so much more dramatic than I ever would’ve thought about myself.   The story is that he wanted to propose during out trip, but the ring wasn’t ready yet, so he didn’t want to propose with no ring.  I spent a lot of time worrying about nothing… (this also is a theme of my adult life).

March ends and it’s Easter Sunday.

  • We can pause right here again to say that my grandfather died on Easter Sunday morning before I was born.  He went to church that morning and during the church service, he had a massive heart attack and died right there in church.  Needless to say, Easter Sunday wasn’t ever a great holiday in our house.

Easter Sunday morning.  I had stayed with Ron’s parents.  Any time I stayed there, I slept in his bed and he had to go somewhere else.  Either his brother’s room or the couch.  So anyway, I’m sleeping and he comes in and wakes me up to give me an Easter basket.  I’m pretty sleepy, but I sit up and begin to open the basket and see what’s inside.  The ring box was in the basket and he was already on one knee when I found it in there.  The proposal was awesome and I was so excited!! I couldn’t wait to get married.

He had talked to my parents ahead of time, so they knew it was happening.  When I called my mother she told me that my daddy was so happy that it was done on Easter because now he has a good memory to help with the bad memory.  The proposal could not have been better…

Part Three – WHEN do we get married??

Welcome to my world… it’s pretty great around here!!

Amanda

Sunday Sermon Recap

Take Time by Turning Off…

1 Corinthians 12: 1-11

“Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed.  You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols.  Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, ‘Jesus be cursed,’ and no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.  There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them.  There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.  There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.  Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.  To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.  All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.”

The sermon this week was all about turning off our electronics and focusing on people face-to-face…

Going into the hospital scared me.  I was just minding my business… shopping for Christmas gifts (we were almost done… just a couple more things for the kids)… then BAM!  I’m having emergency surgery to remove a baby I didn’t even know I had been carrying.  I’m being transferred to a hospital while unconscious, waking up to find out I had no idea what was going on and no way of talking to the people around me… I was scared.

I came home almost a week later and I was different.  Things looked different.  The closer I got to my house and my children, the more I cried.  I had been a weepy mess since it started, so I knew that wasn’t changing much, but that wasn’t the only thing different.  I laid in bed that night (pretending to try to sleep), and just listening to my kids laughing.  I let their little laughs put me to sleep that night.  And I realized I had been taking them for granted.

That’s not something I ever thought would happen.  I mean, I worked HARD for those babies.  I suffered through awful things to get pregnant with them and give birth to them.  I was one of the lucky ones… fertility treatments worked for me… and I had been giving my kids the left-overs.  I was always just a little too late when one would say “Momma look at this!”  Because whatever I was doing was too important to look away from a second sooner.  “You missed it… that’s okay!”  They are so forgiving… even when I fail them time and again.

Not anymore… I still do the things I did before (crocheting… listening to podcasts and audio books… reading actual paper books or books on my kindle), but I try to look the FIRST time… “Momma look!”  And I do…

The distractions around us might not be the same ones that Paul was talking about when he wrote this letter to the church at Corinth, but they had distractions also that kept them from the same things that ours keep us from… we don’t use our gifts because we are too busy being distracted.

No one is saying to stop using technology… we couldn’t function, right!?!  BUT we can definitely use it less… “Take Time by Turning Off”… that’s my new motto…

If I am engaged in something that I don’t want to be interrupted while doing (that really is only my bible reading in the mornings), then I tell them ahead of time that I’m putting headphones in to listen to music while I read and reflect… please don’t interrupt.  They are old enough to take care of themselves, so they leave me alone for that time.  Any other time, I try to be available to them.  I just do… no excuses… none…

They’re only going to be in my house for a very short period of time… I want to actively enjoy the crap out of them while they are here… and I am!!

Welcome to my world… it’s pretty great around here!!

Amanda

Will you Marry Me? – Part One

How we met…

I wondered if he was EVER going to ask me to marry him… and I’d only known him four and a half months.  CRAZY!!  Let’s go back a little….

I was 20 years old, and thought I knew everything.  Well… I thought I knew what I wanted to do with my life.  I was going to continue in college and get my English degree, then I was going to go overseas and teach English as a second language.  My husband would be a missionary and I would teach English and we would live in some third-world country and be surrounded by lots of our babies and babies we had adopted from the country we were living in.  I’d be able to speak whatever language was spoken by the people there, and we would live happily ever after.  Spreading the story of Jesus and working together to improve the lives of other people.  THIS was the dream of my 20 year old self.  THIS is what I thought God had planned for me.

I was at a bible study in the beginning of the school year in 1998.  I was there with my boyfriend (Let’s call him Joe).  We had been dating only a couple of weeks, I think.  He worked at a car shop where they installed windows in cars and trucks.  My window had some scratches, so he told me I could get a new windshield and I wouldn’t have to pay anything because insurance would cover it.  I don’t know why I remember this because I’m not even sure that’s what happened, but I know I took my car there and I got a new window.  When I came to pick it up, he was introducing me to some of his co-workers.  I guess it’s safe to say it was common knowledge that I had a “type”.  I liked bald heads and goatees.  Joe and I had been friends for a while before we started dating, so I’m sure he knew this about me.  There was a large group of us who hung out quite a bit during this time, and I’m sure they all knew this about me.  So… Joe, who didn’t have a bald head or a goatee, thought it was really funny to point out bald guys to me and ask if I thought they were cute.  He wasn’t doing it out of jealousy or anything like that.  Really, I think we were just better as friends, and now that we’d added kisses into the mix, we were just friends who kissed each other.  Where was I, oh yeah… I was picking up my car from the shop and he’s showing me around.  His boss, probably in his late 50’s, was bald and had a goatee… Immediately, I suspect what’s coming as we walk up.  Joe introduces us and then says TO HIS BOSS! “She likes bald guys with goatees… don’t you?”  Gesturing to me!! I was so embarrassed, but I just laughed and didn’t really answer him.  I got over it pretty quickly I guess because I’m not even sure I said anything to him about it afterwards.  I just thought he was weird to bringing that up all the time.

So, now back to the bible study group.  Joe and I walk up and I notice immediately that there is a new car in the parking lot with an Atlanta Braves license plate (I love the braves, so this caught my attention).  I also notice there are a few new people in the buidling when we walk in.  I’m a junior now, and I assume that the new people must be Freshmen.  I also notice that one of them is bald… with a goatee… he is hot!  But I’m with Joe, so I just appreciate that he’s cute and move on.  Not Joe… he walks over to introduce himself, calls me over to introduce me, and then… he did it… he said “she likes bald guys with goatees!” I turned right around and walked over to the bible study leader to ask some random question to get away from Joe and Cute Dude!

After the bible study we were all sitting around talking and I found out he was a junior also and had been living at the Wesley Foundation (The building right next door!).  He was a business major, and that Atlanta Braves car did belong to him.  Okay… he’s got a lot going for him, but I’m with Joe.

Beginning of October 1998 (a couple of months later)… Joe and I break up, and now we are friends who no longer kiss… Neither of us are very sad about this.  I know I’m not, and I know he’s not because the day he told me he wanted to break up with me I went to a concert and he was there with another girl.  At least he told me a few hours before he went out with someone else.  Anyway… I’m not bitter at all… really….

Halloween night 1998 – I was a peanut M&M and my cousin, Carly, was a plain M&M… or I was plain and she was peanut.  It doesn’t matter… what matters is that same car was in the parking lot of the MBSF (Missionary Baptist Student Fellowship).  I was excited about doing our canned food drive that night (Food Bank-o-Ween), and excited to be hanging out with my cousin/best friend.  We were getting settled in the trailer and ready to be driven around when Cute Dude walked up.  He was dressed as Stone Cold Steve Austin (if you didn’t watch WWF/WWE during this time, you should probably google him.  He was bald… with a goatee…)  So we talked the whole time, and I had so much fun…

We will finish part two with the proposal… unless I ramble too much, then there will be a part three to this story! 🙂

Welcome to my world… it’s pretty great around here!!

Amanda

To Cry or Not to Cry…

Don’t pass out…

I used to pass out… like… a lot!!  A little bit more history about my childhood.  I have one sibling.  An older brother.  He’s six years older than me.  My mother had secondary infertility.  Meaning that she didn’t have a problem getting pregnant the first time, but when he was three or four and they decided to have another baby, they ended up having to have fertility treatments.  In her case, she took clomid… and got pregnant with me!

So… I’m six years younger than my brother.  I always tried to do whatever he did and go along with anything he would let me do.  I had three cousins who were about the same age as my brother and they were all boys.  I tried everything I could think of to make them like me… especially Boyett, my brother.

I don’t remember how old i was, but I was young… and he had done something mean to me, as most big brothers do!  And I was crying… I remember him telling me that “only babies cry”… and i wanted to be anything but a baby, so this began the period of my life where I would hold my breath to keep from crying… and I’d pass out!

I don’t know the first time this happened, but I remember the last time I did it…

At the house I lived in from age 2-16, we had holly bushes in the front yard across the front of the house.  I passed out one time and fell into those bushes.  There was a really big ditch between our house and our neighbor’s house.  I passed out and fell down that ditch one time.  Maybe there were more times, but I don’t specifically remember those times.  🙂  I do remember the last time, though.

We were at the deer camp.  I hope you all know what that is, but in case you don’t, it’s a camp where you stay when you are hunting deer. 🙂  Okay… it is a piece of land that usually has a place to sleep (sleep shack) and a place to eat (kitchen).  My grandfather and some of his friends leased some land a long time ago to use for hunting and were allowed to put a “camp” on it so that they (usually just the men) could come stay and be able to head out to hunt earlier.

I LOVED the deer camp as a child.  We were there a lot and so were most of my cousins.  We played all kinds of games and could really do whatever we wanted as long as we stayed at the camp and didn’t go into the woods.

This time… the last time I passed out… we were at the deer camp.  We were all running from the kitchen (where the adults were), to the sleep shack (where we would go play cards or other games).  The screen door had a spring on it so it would stay closed and as I was running into the sleep shack behind my cousin, the screen door started to slam closed and I tried to catch it.  I missed and it slammed on my fingers.

I couldn’t go inside because I thought I was about to cry (and i didn’t want anyone to see that), so I turned around and walked around the side of the sleep shack.  I was holding my breath so I would cry, and this time when I passed out, I fell into the side of the sleep shack and busted my head open.  It was actually on my face, near my eyebrow.

I, obviously, don’t remember this next part, but one of the adults left the kitchen for some reason and saw me laying unconscious with blood all over my face.  In case you weren’t aware, head wounds bleed easily and profusely, so my cut probably looked worse than it was.

He picked me up (still unconscious) and brought me into the kitchen.  He laid me on a table, and this is when I woke up.

I remember opening my eyes and everything was really bright and I could see my mother’s back right beside me and she was screaming for everyone to “back up and leave her alone”.  I’m not sure why she wanted this, unless it was so she could examine what was wrong, but that’s what I remember.  Anyway, she says she was completely freaked out and not even sort of in control, but I just remember her yelling for everyone to back up, and then I don’t remember much more than that.  I do know that I decided that crying would probably have been better than what happened.

So now… I just cry it out!! 🙂

Welcome to my world… it’s pretty great around here!!

Amanda

Teaching – Part One

New job… day One!

Let’s review this timeline in case we want to go back and see what music was popular during this time in my life 🙂

July 1999 – I got married and was taking summer classes to finish my degree

2000 – I had graduated from college and was living in a tiny town in Northeast Arkansas (near West Memphis) where Ron was preaching at his first church and attending seminary in Memphis.

2001 – I tried the whole “stay-at-home-wife” thing, but it just wasn’t working for either of us, we were trying to get pregnant on our own at this point (meaning, no fertility treatments), and I HAD to do something to get out of the house.  This is where today’s story begins…

I’ve always liked teaching, so that seemed like a natural thing for me to do as I found myself living about three hours from my parents with not much to occupy my time (you can only watch French Kiss so many times), so I headed to the local public school.

I didn’t care what subject I taught (although I preferred English, since that’s what I knew most about), but I just wanted to teach.  I went into the office (there was only one office for the Kindergarten through 12th grade because the whole school system was in one location — I told you it was tiny!)  I asked about a substitute position, and they told me that they had someone who was substituting now until they found someone to fill the position full time.  I asked what subject and grade and was told it was high school English.  This seemed fortuitous and maybe predestined, so I accepted it.  There was no application process, no interview except for a quick one with the superintendent of schools after I said I would take the job.  It was about lunch time when I was finished talking with him, and he told me I could join the afternoon classes and meet some of my students before I took over the class in the morning.

This is where I tell you that this was the FIRST day of school for the year.  So the kids were having their first day at the same time as me, and I had NO summer planning time or anything.  The superintendent’s secretary told me that there were books in my classroom and I could bring them home and start my planning.

I took exactly ONE education class in college.  We got to the part where we had to make lesson plans and those types of things, and I quit.  I dropped out of the only education class that I had and majored in English… not education… for this very reason.  And now I’ve stepped right into a job that requires the very thing I dropped a class because of… so I’m super excited! 🙂

Lunch is over for the students and the superintendent walks me into the high school building to meet the principal.  We’ll call him Larry because he will feature prominently in my teaching stories.  Larry seems friendly enough, and pleased to have a permanent teacher for his English class.  So he leads me down to my classroom.  We have to walk all the way through the main building and out to a smaller building at the end.  There are four rooms in this “extra” building (not counting the bathrooms), there is the band room, the high school science room, junior high English room, and my room… the last room in the last building on campus.

We walk in just as the kids are coming into class.  I quickly learn that this is my 11th graders.  They are the only class big enough to be split into two classes for English.  I will have one class of 11th graders who will come 2nd period, and then the rest of them will come right after lunch for 5th period.  If you didn’t have a school with seven periods a day, go find a history book or google is and see how things used to work! 🙂  I know they still have it in some schools today, but most of them have changed the way the day is scheduled.

Anyway, I meet the substitute teacher.  A VERY nice woman whom we will call Pinky.  I ended up growing quite close to her and her daughter (who happened to be in this class).  She tells the kids to sit down and maybe assigns them something to do, but I don’t really remember.  I remember thinking they were really loud, and feeling overwhelmed that I was going to have to get them to sit down and listen to me teach them.

Pinky sat with me at the teacher’s desk and got out all of the books I would need.  I was looking through the books and feeling even more overwhelmed as it really began to sink in that I would be in charge of teaching a lot of children every day.  My schedule looked like this…

  • 1st period – planning (this came in handy when I wanted to sleep late… I had first period off… it was a pain though that I really had NO break for the whole school day)
  • 2nd period – 11th grade English (only 9 students in this class!)
  • 3rd period – 12th grade English (the entire senior class had about 22 students)
  • 4th period – 10th grade English (the entire 10th grade came to this class… around 25 students)
  • 5th period – 11th grade English (the rest of the junior class… 28 kids… the bane of my existence)
  • 6th period – Speech (yeah… I had to teach speech… a lot of the 11th graders from 5th period just stayed for speech)
  • 7th period – Journalism (umm… really??  Again… a lot of the 11th graders from 5th and 6th just hung out)

I had about 11 or 12 of the same students from 5th through 7th periods… I enjoyed having some of them all afternoons, but some of them were just stuck with me because no one else wanted them.

What does this mean as far as planning goes?  I had FIVE different lesson plans to do for EACH DAY!!

So… I’m sitting at the teacher’s desk, next to Pinky, looking over the teacher’s guides for my classes and trying to block out the noise from the students.  It finally gets too loud and I look up to see Pinky pulling two children apart!! She’s not that big to begin with… well… she’s not that tall!  And she is pulling these children apart and yelling at them for trying to fight “on the first day of school”.

The kids were screaming and cussing at each other and still trying to fight, and I sat at the desk, uncomfortably staring at the scene in front of me… I should’ve run out right then and never looked back…

Welcome to my world… it’s pretty great around here!!

Amanda