Back to School: Newbie Mom Firsts

elaina avalos, foster care, this is foster care, boy mom, mommy blogger,

Monday is my {foster} son’s first day of second-grade. The other day we attended his Back to School night. We met his teacher, saw his classroom, and turned in paperwork. I was a little overwhelmed. I’m not going to lie.

But as we took a photo in front of the PTO’s “selfie station,” and I talked with one of the parents about volunteering, I had this overwhelming sense of gratitude.

I never dreamed that being a mom would mean starting my parenting journey with a six-year old boy who is not mine and yet, may be.

But picking out his first day of school clothes, getting his backpack, and buying his school supplies, I am overwhelmed by the beauty of this time, in spite of how . . . mundane it all could be under slightly different circumstances.

I’m not sure I’d ever be a good helicopter mom. There are just some things I think he’s got to experience – even in failure – on his own. But I’m fiercely protective. In case you’re wondering if the mama bear thing only happens with children you give birth to, it doesn’t.

I worry over this year for him. In just a few short months, the court could decide that reunification efforts will be ceased. His plan could change to adoption. In just a few short months, it may be very clear that he will be with me forever.

I want him to have people in his life who will see how sweet and precious he is – even when his behavior is sometimes rooted in trauma. I want them to invest in him, in ways that so many kids just don’t experience. And so, as this school year begins – a year that could change everything for him, I pray that his teacher will invest in him.

I pray that I will know how to support him. And I pray that those who are part of the team of professionals that provide additional support, will know how to help him {and me}.

Here’s to a new school year – and hopefully soon – the permanency that my little guy deserves so much.

Are you ready for your kiddo’s new school year?

Thankful,

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Healthy Attachment

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My son’s last day of school was more than a week ago. On the 7th, I was there for his end of year awards, which I shared about, here. The following day, I left work to pick him up at 3:30. When I arrived in the parking lot of the school, I realized there was a text from his teacher – he’d been crying for a half-hour – inconsolable, really.

I asked her if I needed to come in. Her initial response was no. And then within a couple of minutes, as I waited in the “car rider” pick-up line, she said he’d begun crying again. I parked, signed in at the office, and walked to his classroom, nervous about why little guy was feeling.

I could hear him before I saw him. When I walked in, he fell into me. He was weeping – body-wracking, sobbing, tears falling down his face, weeping. There were a couple other kids crying too. But my little man was beside himself.

He sat on my lap and I rocked him as his teacher walked the other kids to the bus and then the car rider line. We sat alone in the class as he wept. My heart has never ached so. The pain he was feeling was so real and intense.

And yet, this foster mama who knows, also knew this was a beautiful moment.

My little man is learning healthy attachment.

It hurts to lose people you love. But when you get yanked around from place to place and the people in your life can disappoint you, you don’t always know how to form healthy relationships and attachments. You build a wall. You don’t know what’s a good relationship or a bad one. You may feel intense emotions, but they may not always be about the actual thing you’re expressing emotion over.

My kiddo is so tired of not knowing a permanent home. He wants that so desperately. He aches for it. Truly. He wants forever. He tells anyone and everyone that he plans on living with me “forever.”

But after what he’s been through, attaching and forming the bonds and relationships most of us take for granted, is not easy. To say the least. His sadness over “losing” his teacher and his friends, was so very painful for him.

And as weird as it is to say it, that was such a good thing for him. His pain poured out of him and it’s like every pent-up emotion from the last few years of his life flooded to the surface.

Though I believe his emotion came from a few places, underneath it all was the awesome reality that my little guy is learning, in just a few short months in my house, what it means to form healthy relationships.

As I held and rocked him, I said so many times, “It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to be sad.” My heart has never ached more over the emotion pouring out of anyone. And yet, I felt it was a turning point for him and for us.

My little man is learning what it means to form healthy relationships. I am so proud of him.

He is a warrior.

He fights through some tough stuff (most adults don’t know how to work through), to be strong, smart, sweet, and full of joy.

He is brave. He is hilarious. And though he can be quite fearful at times – he’s actually fearless at the end of the day because he will not let anything hold him back.

I am convinced that I’m in the presence of a boy who will be a great man, someday.

What a sweet privilege I have to love on him and be there for him on days like his last day of school. He is learning what it means to love, form bonds, and say goodbye in a healthy way.

I am so very proud of my boy.

First Grade – Kiddo Update

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Today was my kiddo’s first grade awards & end of year party. He has been so excited about it all week. Yes, he asks about the last day of school. But he also asked how many days until the 7th.

He came to my bedroom door at 6:15 this morning, knocking loudly. I thought something was wrong. I got up & opened the door and before he could say anything else, he said, “Today’s my party!”

I picked out a shirt & shorts and left them for him while I went back to my room and got ready. When I opened my door again, I could see him going through his clip-on ties. A couple of minutes later he walked over to me wearing a mis-matched tie. He beamed.

He felt it was important to wear a tie today. So I gave him a little fashion advice and encouraged him to find a different color. He came back with it on. He looked adorable. He said, “I look handsome,” when he checked himself out in the mirror.

He is so precious and sweet.

When I arrived at his classroom, I got a, “Mommmyyy!!!!” He ran to me and threw his arms around me. It was the sweetest thing. He’s never called me mommy though he’s used a variety of “mom/mama” names for me. He tells the kids in his class that I’m mom. But 9 times out of 10 here at home, he calls me “Miss Elaina.”

He was so proud to show me his desk (which I’ve seen of course…lol) and his art projects. He could not contain himself. He was so excited. His “award” for the year was the “Snicker Starter” because he’s always snickering and making the class and his teacher laugh too.

His classmates voted him as having the “best laugh.” Between his smile and his laugh, it’s hard not to feel joy around him when he is happy. He is such a sweetheart. I’m grateful he had a teacher that was patient with him after all the changes he’s gone through.

I do have to say, I got a little teary-eyed. I was emotional not only to see him so happy, but because there was a time in my life when I’d doubted I’d ever have the opportunity to do something like that. He’s not “mine.” But how sweet for us both to have each other today. I had fun experiencing something I haven’t as a “parent.” But I also enjoyed seeing his joy at having me there.

I’m so proud of this little man and his determination. I have a playlist for him because he loves music so much. I put a few songs on it that he didn’t know, like “Overcomer” by Mandisa. I explained to him what that song means. We watched the video on YouTube.

I told him, “You’re an overcomer!” This morning I told him that I thought we needed a motivating song on the way to school. He said, “How about Overcomer by Mandisa?” I said, “YEP! That’s the one.”

He’s an overcomer.

His heart is so tender. And I know God has great things in store for him. I don’t know how long he’ll be with me, but I have a feeling that if he leaves my home, I’ll see his face somewhere – doing something incredible & awesome.

Love that little guy.

Trauma Mama

to my foster child

I haven’t provided much in the way of foster care updates on the blog. I’ve been trying to figure out the balance between privacy and what I want so badly to write about (because that’s what writers do). I have a private Facebook group of family and some friends. In that group I share some blog-like updates.

It’s challenging to be in the midst of something you’ve waited decades for and not be able to share. So I’ll do my best to update without diving into too much detail.

This afternoon through 9:00 PM was a little rough up in here. Trauma parenting is a thing. Hello, my name is Elaina and I’m a Trauma Mama. Most of the time I think my son’s past therapy, prior to meeting me, has made a significant and positive impact on him.

And then something like today happens and I wonder how I could possibly have the skills and abilities to help him through what remains. I do (in Him) but I still question these things.

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Today was not good. Today was a day that made me hate being a single foster parent. Today was a day that made me long – desperately – to be free of a 9-5 so at the very least, I’ve stripped off one layer of stress in my life – so I can be more present for him.

Truthfully, we’ve had some very hard moments since the week of Mother’s Day. I’ve wondered who this kid is lately, because the little boy his teacher knows, my mom knows, I know, the kids our street know – is not the little boy I’ve been seeing.

It hurts my heart for him. He bears so many burdens. I sometimes wonder how he keeps it all together. Today was hard. Recent weeks have had some very hard moments.

And then there is the rest of the time. I literally laugh out loud at him constantly. He loves being silly. He loves making people laugh. His smile lights up a room. He is sweet – so very sweet. He talks from the moment he knocks on my door in the morning until he falls asleep, at night. He talks about everything and anything.

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He is conscientious and anxious and must understand everything. His why questions are rooted in this inquisitive longing to understand…everything. Boy does he ever stump me. There are so many times when I’m like…huh. I don’t know. Let’s look that up. 🙂

Since the week of Mother’s Day, he isn’t far from my presence – ever. Until that week, he would happily play in his room, with me across the hall, before bedtime (our usual routine). Now, he needs to be with me. In the evening, after his bath, his cars and trucks have found their way to my room where he plays until it’s time for reading, prayers, and sleep.

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He’s only been with me a few months. But it seems like there wasn’t life before him. And honestly, I can’t imagine life without him in it. So I wait for what comes next. We have six more months of the status quo – per the judge.

Six more months of limbo for him.

I know. Three months with me and six more months of waiting, is nothing in foster care land. But for him, he has been in limbo for far longer (two years). He longs for security, safety, and the stability of his forever home. I want this for him so badly. Six months will pass in the blink of an eye, right?

I hope so. I hope that at the end of the six months, whatever happens, the little boy that stole my heart, will be a step closer to his forever home.

Are you a foster parent? What strategies have you found to help you and your kiddos out when the trauma rears its ugly head?

Life with a Six Year Old Boy

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Yes, this is how I often feel in the mornings too, Buddy.

My foster son is so very smart. He’s also a six-year old boy. Which means he says and does gross things and he almost never stops moving. Luckily, I have a high tolerance for sometimes gross boy behavior (see working with a couple hundred Marines every day for 8 years). He also has a lot of fears and anxiety. He’s much too old for his six, going on seven, years. But I’ll just keep working on giving him a stable, safe home so he has space to be a kid.

Now that it’s just the two of us, we’ve had some great days doing normal kid/family stuff. He’s been riding his bike in the cul de sac, doing his chores, and learning what not to do with the dog (he took her bone from her and she nipped him), while also learning how to care for her. He was upset, but that’ll never happen again. She absolutely adores this kiddo. Abby the Wonder Dog has totally forsaken me (except when we go to bed). She even “tucks” him in at night when I do. She has to get right there, in between me and the bed. You think I kid. She really and truly loves him. They’re pretty adorable together.

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FS6 was riding his bike ahead of us. This was a BIG deal to him!

We went to Fort Macon last weekend. He literally could not contain his excitement and questions. He has a ridiculous amount of energy which is exhausting (haha) but we’re doing our best to keep up with each other. It has been much better since I have gotten rid of most of this bug that followed me all of March. Thankfully, I got a remicade infusion last week and my joints already feel better – which helps everything.

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Standing on top of Ft. Macon

It is the best feeling to see how excited he gets when I pick him at school or at childcare. It does my heart good. In recent days he’s:

  • Asked if he can have a dad.
  • Asked if we can have a baby come to live with us (and/or a little sister or brother)
  • Asked if he can change his name (that was today).
  • Asked if I can give him a nickname & referred to himself as his first name & my last name.
  • Has informed me that “flicking” boogers is not okay (Thanks, Bud. I wasn’t clear on that before.).
  • He’s obsessed with tobymac which has meant we’ve watched videos on YouTube and listen to him on Spotify nearly every time we get in the car. I so need a break. Haha.
  • He eats constantly. But he never stops moving (so there you go).
  • To quote his sister’s foster mom, “He’s a jolly one.” He sure is! His smile lights up a room.
  • My mom fixed his alarm clock. He said, “She knows magic.” LOL. And then at dinner he said, “I wish your mom lived next door so she could walk over here anytime.” I can’t even.

I’ve had some moments. Last night was one of them. I took him to Cub Scouts to try it out. I was overwhelmed. It’s hard sometimes to know what he’ll be able to handle and what he won’t get. There are just some things he’s never learned. It may be too soon for Cub Scouts. I’m not sure he’s ready  – and I’m not sure I’m ready.

But adding to the struggle was being around the family types. You know those two-parent household types. Haha. I so wished for him that he’d have a dad that will teach him what it means to be a godly man. I might’ve cried all the way home. Okay, I did. And now I’m crying again.

Today, his teacher walked him to my car in the pick up line to let me know he’d had a really great day. It has been a bit of a hard week. He was all smiles and told me that he stayed on green all day. She told me he’d had a great day and she just wanted me to know. I am so thankful he has such a caring & understanding teacher.

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We went to the beach today after school. He was the most excited I’ve ever seen him. I wish I could share the photos and videos. He was ecstatic. The first thing he said, “Oh, so that’s the ocean?” I think he’s been to the beach before. But he was fairly young. He had so much fun.

I love his little heart. I’m exhausted most of the time. But super thankful we are finding our way and that God has given me the gift of building into this little guy’s life. I don’t know where this path leads us. But for now, he’s home.

Mama

foster care, adoption, love makes a family, elaina avalos

I don’t know about you, but for me, there are things I know I am meant to do and be. I am a mama.

I have spent a lifetime looking forward to motherhood and to the family I prayed for, for so long.

My future family & being a mama looks a little different from where I stand now. I never dreamed I’d be here.

I have been on a long path to be a foster and {or} adoptive parent for decades {about three of them}. But I never saw myself embarking on this journey as a single woman.

But here I am.

I started foster parent training last year. I had to put the stops on that but knew it was “temporary.” I’ve kick-started this thing again with a new foster parent agency. They’re a Christian agency & I feel at home there. My training will be complete in December. The remainder of the licensing process will continue on for several months after.

As I’ve jumped in again, I’m even more convinced today than I was a year ago that God has put the pieces of my life together in such a way that I was made for this.

Did I want to do this alone? No. Did I plan it this way? Oh heck no. But here I am. I am a mama. And there are little ones {and not so little ones} who are precious in His sight who need a mama. They desperately long for a home and to be loved and cared for as we all need.

So without all the answers and uncertain about how to juggle singleness and parenting, I’m jumping into the fire again. I’ve been thinking a great deal about the babies or children that will make this their home – for a time – or forever.

I don’t know their stories. But I know that God will take the brokenness that brings them to me and will give me the gift of breathing hope, healing, and love into their lives for a season or forever.

I still have moments of grief over what isn’t or what was lost long ago. But here I am. With four bedrooms, a huge backyard, and a passion for the lives of his most precious ones, I am opening my heart and home.