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The many roads to family: fostering love

family reading book

Today we are lucky to have a guest post from entrepreneur and mother of three, Sharon Munroe. For some of us, motherhood started early (I was in college when my first two were born). For others, whether by choice or circumstance, motherhood comes a decade or two later.

It can be hard to know what to expect from pregnancy or parenthood at any age. But older first-time moms face even more hurdles. We’re glad to have Sharon share her story of pregnancy, foster parenting and adoption in her 40’s. And now…here’s Sharon!

“When asked about why I have three children ages five and under, I tell a story about my hopes and dreams and that I very much wanted to provide my son with a sibling. At age 41, with the potential of limited fertility, and the fact that my son (now 5) looks just like I did as a child, made me very open to other ways to give him that sibling. There are choices for adding to a family through foster care, domestic and international adoption.

My husband and I are keenly aware that there are many underprivileged children in the U.S., including thousands in our hometown of Austin. At any one time there are hundreds of children in foster care in our county that need a loving and stable home life, a forever family. We were open to learning more and went to an orientation with our state agency “CPS” in January 2010.

In March of that year we were selected to begin training in Texas’ PRIDE Program with the hope of being certified as a foster and adoptive home and being able to care for a child. (Many similar training and placement programs exist in our city and across the country, including those with private agencies.) As training progressed, we grew more interested in fostering with the hope of finding a child who was a great fit for our family, followed by their adoption if they were not meant to be reunited with their birth family.

PRIDE class was fascinating, spanning all-day each Saturday for six weeks.

Our trainers were an experienced social worker and numerous guest speakers invited to the class to cover all aspects of childhood behavior. We learned about attachment theory and the unique challenges of dealing with a child who has experienced trauma (so many foster children have been moved from their homes due to neglect or abuse). We were taught about the minimum standards for foster homes and given a very large binder of the rules and procedures.

In that six-week period, we had lots of homework, including paperwork to complete, home and fire inspections, a first aid and CPR training class and of course, a home study. Early in the process, we also had the mandatory criminal background checks.

Home studies are scary to many prospective foster and adoptive parents, but ours was relatively short – only about four hours. During that visit, we talked about a variety of topics including our own childhoods, and our values and plans for the placement. Importantly, we were asked about our support network and how our families, friends and neighbors would react to a foster placement and adoption of a child.

We also learned that this process wasn’t a one time thing. A foster home is certified initially and every two years to be sure that is a safe environment for a child. Mandatory refresher training is part of the process to remain a certified foster home.

Our son was just two years old when we were certified as a foster family and though we were interested in many children of all ages and ethnicities who were awaiting adoption, we were told over and over again by social workers that we would not get a placement of a child who was older than our son. I was surprised at first since the children who are older than age 6 are harder to place. Teenagers, sadly, have a hard time in the system.

But, a younger child suited us well as we were very comfortable with baby care as well as routines for toddlers.

Certified and Waiting

Once we were certified as a foster and adoptive family in early June 2010, we were excited and a bit anxious. My mind raced daily thinking about when would we get a phone call. What child would be waiting for a new home? The waiting was hard.

Our call came one Wednesday morning in August. I was working and answered the phone immediately. It was a social worker from our local child protective services office calling and a healthy baby girl needed a home, today. She was five days old and coming to our home straight from a local hospital with a caseworker in just a few hours.

Fast forward to today

ChildThat sweet baby who arrived with only a few hours notice is still in our home, a perfect fit, and now part of our forever family. Her adoption was finalized in September 2012. We think she never experienced trauma, is healthy and developmentally on track for her age (3 years old). We are lucky to have her and love her as our own daughter. Our older son has called her his “sister” since he could say the word. In September 2011 we welcomed our younger son, a second biological child, and her best friend into the family. The two are just 13 months a part and inseparable.”

Is foster or foster-to-adopt for you?

Lots of potential foster families think they won’t meet the requirements to foster or foster-to-adopt. But the truth is, becoming a foster is a lot easier than most people think.

For instance in Texas, there is no requirement that foster families are married (although, if you are, you have to provide a marriage certificate.) You can be gay or straight. There is no upper age requirement (21 is the minimum age for a foster parent.) You have to be employed or financially stable, but not wealthy by any means. You don’t have to own a home, or even have a separate bedroom for the child in most cases. Child care is provided for foster children under kindergarten age. You do have to pass a criminal and prior child abuse background check, but you don’t have to be perfect.

You can learn more, and find out if foster or foster-to-adopt is the right way to build or expand your family at the State of Texas website, or your state’s Child Protective Services website.

Bio: Sharon Munroe is the founder and editor of The Advanced Maternal Age Project, a nonprofit website and research program that provides support to women of age 35 or better, their health care providers, and younger women contemplating their future plans. Sharon is the owner of Little Green Beans, a children’s and maternity store, as well as a marketing executive. She, her husband and three children live in Austin, Texas.

You never know…

My daughter showed me this video today. Forget the what language it’s in. There are subtitles and it’s not long. What matters is that the message is universal. We never know how a small act will change someone forever. We hear that, but I’m not sure it really sinks in. So, if you’ve ever doubted it…here’s a reminder.

Teach it to your children. Live it. We just never know.

My sensitive child. How we’re learning to own it.

I have a sensitive child. She has always been this way from the minute she was born. But she’s also resilient. You can see her working it all out in her head, trying not to lose it in situations that for other kids are easy or at least bearable, but for her take all the strength she has to get through them.

mamadelilahToday was Delilah’s third day of school but her first day of drop off where I didn’t walk her to where all the kids congregate before they head into school with the rest of their class. She was brave but scared as hell. She didn’t want to do it. But she did. I watched her walk slowly by herself and my heart ached for her as we drove away. I wanted to bust out of the car, run over to her and hold her tightly and tell her everything was going to be okay. But I didn’t. Instead I stayed in the car weeping, as Homer patted my leg and reassured me that both Delilah and I will be just fine.

In Glennon Melton’s TEDx talk, and often on her blog, she talks about sensitivity and how when she was growing up, sensitivity was something to suppress and to hide. Because we’ve all been taught to keep our issues and anxieties to ourselves, to be outwardly courageous, even when on the inside we’re climbing out of our skin, our sensitivity shows itself in different ways whether we like it or not. For Glennon, it with drugs and alcohol and through binging and purging. For others, it’s through cutting, sex or other risky behaviors.

I don’t want my daughter to have to go through years of suppressing her feelings because she thinks she has to in order to survive in this world. So I’m working on balancing my messaging to her. She can be brave while she’s outwardly crying, she can tell me and others she’s scared, she can let people know that she’s not into large crowds and loud noises, that she’s slow to warm up, that it takes her a little longer to let people in and that she doesn’t like letting go before she’s ready, but she’ll do so anyway because being sensitive doesn’t mean she’s not capable.

Glennon says that all these years later, she is still the same sensitive person that she was when she was eight, she has all the same fears and anxieties, the only difference now is that she doesn’t hide it or run from it. She feels her bad days and her good days, her highs and her lows and she speaks that truth every day.

I want this for my five year old. I want her to be able to feel her own pain, to experience her vulnerability, and rather than have shame about it, to own it wholeheartedly and with compassion for herself and for others. I want this for her right now. Today.

Running on empty

Mom and kids at the airportToday’s guest post comes to us from Nicole, blogger at MyFitFamily.com. There is no way to improve on what she wrote, so without further ado…here is Nicole and “Running on Empty”

“In the event of an emergency put your own oxygen mask on first, and then assist others if the cabin loses air pressure.” ~Every Flight Attendant on every flight

One day I happened to notice a conversation happening on Facebook. The scrolling posts on the side of my news-feed showed a friend had commented on someone’s status update. She seemed to be defending herself because the other person made a comment that essentially called stay-at-home moms selfish for taking their kids to the gym daycare so they could workout. Selfish?!

My fourth baby was born with reflux but he wasn’t diagnosed until he was 2.5 months old. So I spent the first few months of his life holding him upright so he could sleep. Which meant I wasn’t.

One afternoon I went to a birthday party for one of my daughter’s friends and after hearing how I wasn’t getting any sleep another mom made the comment, “well I guess that means no more running for you”. And that couldn’t be the farthest from the truth. I had to run. I needed it. I could be dead tired and lacing up my shoes wondering how in the world would I have the energy to run a mile, let alone 2 or 3 or 4, and yet I knew it was what I needed to do. Because my days and nights are spent taking care of my kids–I needed that hour to clear my head– to take care of me.

And yet when I went to the gym after seeing that Facebook exchange, as I ran on the treadmill while my kids were in the gym day care, all I could hear as my feet pounded the belt was: selfish mom, selfish mom, selfish mom.

Awake all night holding my son upright in a chair in the living room because even lying back on my bed wasn’t enough to help his reflux. But I’m a selfish mom?

Making sure my kids have warm and healthy meals every day when sometimes I forget to eat my own breakfast because mornings get so busy taking care of them. But I’m a selfish mom? My husband and I deciding to forgo gifts for each other’s birthdays so we could enroll our kids in swim lessons instead. But I’m a selfish mom?

Developing PUPPS at 37 weeks pregnant and my OB offered a c-section so I would haven’t to suffer, but I declined, knowing the best thing for my unborn baby was to let him grow inside me. But I’m a selfish mom?

I’ll never forget the time our family went on vacation to Florida. What was most memorable was the flight over. Actually, it started with the drive to the airport. My son threw up in his car seat four times during the drive. So by the time we unloaded the twins car seats and fumbled with a double stroller, two convertable car seats and three kids through security, installed the car seats on the airplane, I was a frazzled mess when I finally got to sit down.

I immediately started handing out snacks and sippy cups while the flight attendant gave her safety speech. I vaguely heard what she was saying. As she walked by my row, she looked down at me and said, “Mom, you have to put your oxygen mask on before you even think of helping your kids”. I mumbled an ‘hmmm hmmm’ as I was picking up goldfish crackers off the floor while searching for the lollipops to help with the pressure at take-off. She knelt down and looked me directly in the eyes and said, “I mean it. You can’t be supermom if you don’t put your oxygen mask first.”

I got it.

She was giving me permission to take care of myself first. My eyes welled up with tears. Probably because the whole trip (and we hadn’t even taken off yet) had been so overwhelming and about taking care of everyone but myself. Because everything I packed in my carry on was for the kids. Sippy cups, snacks, stickers, toys, extra clothes, blankies–for them. And when my son had thrown up all over the car seat and we realized we didn’t have anything to wipe it off, I took my sweater off to wipe it clean. For my kids.

Because a mom’s life is about being anything but selfish. We spend our days serving and giving, many times without a thank you. And that’s ok, because most of us knew what we were signing up for when we decided to become parents.

But when moms start calling other moms selfish for working out, for taking an hour out of the 24 in the hours in the day they spend being the most selfless people on earth, I have to stand up and say, no.

We have to stop with the mommy-bashing. We have to take care of ourselves and support each other. Working out gives me the energy I need to face my days and to be the constant giver. I can think about nothing or everything, I can worry about my kids, make mental to-do lists, I can clear my head. And yes, I can be selfish and take care of my body– inside and out.

Just this once, I’m putting my mask on first so I can be a better mom, wife and woman. Maybe your mask isn’t running, but it’s escaping with a book while your husband watches the kids, or maybe it’s going out with a girlfriend for a coffee. Whatever it is, I’m kneeling down and looking you in the eyes to say: it’s ok to put your mask on first so you aren’t constantly running on empty.

Never Give Up,

Nicole

About Nicole Scott
Born and raised in California, I’m currently living in Austin, TX with my superman husband,  a quirky 7 year old daughter, hilarious and sweet 4 year old boy-girl twins, and the happiest 6 month old baby boy on the planet.   I’m a marathoner, health and fitness enthusiast, wanna-be ultra-marathoner, cautious writer, former teacher and currently a stay at home mom.  I’m wordy on paper but never in person.   And I’m unapologetically raising my kids to be my mini-me’s: big dreamers and hard workers.  In my ‘free’ time I can be found blogging at myfitfamily.com and runningintoawall.blogspot.com.  You can also connect with Nicole on Twitter at https://twitter.com/myfitfamily.

Ready, Set, Improv! Megan Ortiz & the surprising role that changed her life

Megan OrtizToday’s profile is of  Megan Ortiz, a Mom proving dreams don’t end when the baby comes…an inspiration for moms with big dreams and little kids!

How  many kiddos do you have?

I have one beautiful baby girl who isn’t really a baby anymore. She started her first day of 2nd Grade and is making me feel “old”.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I’ve wanted to be a performer for as long as I can recall. Whether it’s singing, dancing, acting or all 3 at once. My sister recently found a ton of cassette tapes that she’d recorded of me throughout my childhood and has a pretty stellar version of a 3 or 4 year old version of me singing some Bon Jovi.

How did motherhood change your priorities?

This is an incredibly intimate question, but something I’m beyond thankful for and more than willing to share. I found myself unexpectedly pregnant at 21. I had just graduated from a musical theatre school in New York City and had truly just started to head out to auditions in earnest. A family was the furthest thing from my mind, and if I’m being entirely honest, I’d never intended on having children.

I’d planned on stealing my friends babies for a “fix” and then handing them back when they needed something. So, to say that my whole world was turned upside down is probably an understatement. It’s interesting how quickly that mind set changes. My initial reaction was panic. I was 21 and unmarried. What was I going to do? The next question was…No, seriously, what are you going to do?

I’d been blessed with a gorgeous little girl and loving husband/father that made my life far more fulfilling than anything I could’ve ever possibly planned. My priorties changed vastly! My body, my career, my lifestyle were all no longer within my realm of worry. Just that I didn’t mess up this beautiful little persons life that I was about to be in charge of. At 21, and feeling like you hardly even know how to properly take care of yourself, motherhood, I assure you is a terrifying prospect.

However, I find it amazing how the universe, God, what-have-you really knows exactly where and what you need. My priorties went from all about Me to all about my child. The balancing act came later.

What are you passionate about?

People. Community. Anti-bullying. Chocolate. Theater. Music. Dance. Art. Food. Equality. Love. Forgiveness. Open Minds. New Experiences. Travel. Family. Those moments that make you FEEL something, good or bad. Pie. Friendships. Singing in the shower. Just to name a few.

How have you made motherhood and your dreams work?

It took a few years before I even considered reentering the entertainment field. Depending on what project you’re working on you can be away from your family for pretty long hours. I didn’t really start working on projects until my kiddo started pre-school.

I’ve been very blessed with an incredibly supportive husband who has always been my biggest cheerleader (well, outside of my Mom and Dad) My husband was really the one who pushed me to start going after my dream again. I’d all but given up. He literally found my first audition I went on after our daughter was born.

Due to the nature of my job I really get to interact with her. We dance, sing and act together ALL the time. She’s always excited for when I have a new project coming as it means she’ll be learning a new song or coming to see a show. It does get difficult when rehearsals run late or often but we make sure that we have plenty of Mommy/Daughter time to balance out that time away. She’s a really amazing kid.

You are in a theater production this week, what is it?  

I am indeed! I’m currently playing Rizzo, in Grease at The City Theatre! It’s a super fun and quaint theatre off of Airport Blvd. and Manor. We are running until Sept.15th Thursday-Saturdays starting at 8:00 and Sundays at 5:30. We had a sell out weekend, so get your tickets while you can! This cast has been amazing. I’ve had to bring my daughter with me to a few rehearsals and she’s always been welcome with open arms! However, I will say this is not your Mother’s version of Grease. It’s the original Broadway version, and a little PG13.

If you could have a super power what would it be and why?

Probably the ability to heal people, both physically and mentally. I think it’s something every mother wishes they had. I’ve already watched my kiddo scrape her knees and have a kind of crummy day at school where she was feeling a little blue. I know it’s only going to get tougher. I’d love to be able to have that power to make it all better. REALLY make it all better.

So who’s in your school year support network?

mom and kids with vanOn Tuesday, I took my daughter to pick up her schedule and books for school. While she was in line, someone suggested that I start working on some of those endless forms we parents get every year when school starts. I jumped at the chance to avoid some of the first-day-of-school mom homework, and dived in.

Name, address, insurance information…all the standards. And then I came to the emergency contact forms. And I was stumped.

When we moved to Austin, we left our extended family and life-long friends behind.  Those names that would have quickly been listed were gone. And now, two years later, the void largely remains. I listed my daughter’s local best friend’s mom’s name and contact information, and then walked back up to the counter.

“I only have one person for this section,” I told the receptionist.

“Don’t worry about it”, she said. “Most people only have one. Some don’t have any. That’s life these days. No support network.”

I went on to the rest of the forms, but I couldn’t get that comment out of my mind. Most of us enrolling kids in school have no support network.

Of course, odds are, no one will ever need to pull out that piece of paper and call an emergency number.  Thank goodness. But I started to think about all kinds of support networks that might help us as moms during the school year. And I thought it might be a good list to share.  How many of these do you have?

1) Emergency contacts – Two or three people who really know you and your kids and could act in an emergency (or a pinch) to pick up a sick child from school, answer questions about you or your child, or know how to contact other family members. Make sure your contacts know that you’ve listed them, and are okay with it.  Once you have their permission,  provide them with a list of numbers and other information they might need if you couldn’t be reached. Giving them a signed “permission to treat” is a good idea, too.

2) Academic help – By the time kids need help in math or English, you might not have the time to look for a tutoring service. Spending time now checking out the various academic help services will allow you to address any problems quickly and efficently.

3) Health care – If you’ve moved recently, you might not have picked out a new pediatrician yet. Or your child’s records might not have been transferred yet.  Before school starts, or as soon as possible, make sure you’ve selected a medical professional, and that they have complete information about your child’s health needs and medical history.

4) Parents of your kids’ friends – As much as your kids need their friends, you need to get to know their friends’ parents. Even if none of those people never make it into your list of BFFs,  they’re an important part of your support network. Chatting with another mom at the grocery store or while waiting for the kids after school can be a great way to find out about that field trip your child didn’t mention or an upcoming book fair you forgot about.

5) Your own friends – You might not think about your friends as part of a school year support network, but they truly are. These are the people who will understand your frustration when science fair time rolls around  (how can a 3rd grade science fair project cost $150?!) or you don’t think you can face one more bedtime battle. Even if they don’t have kids, spending time with your friends helps you de-stress and relax. And that can be exactly what a busy mom needs when she hears “But I need it tomorrow!” just one time too many!

Other moms might add other catagories to their list. Work friends who could cover for you if you needed to run to pick up a sick child. Spiritual leaders who could provide guidance. Household help to pick up the slack when work and the school year leave you running too much to handle cleaning or other chores.

Add whoever you need to feel covered. And maybe, just maybe, less of us will fit in that sad statement of parents having no support network.