Today was relatively uneventful.

We ran a bunch of errands earlier in the day and the spent the rest of the day playing with Sophie. She does pretty well using a puppy pad for going to the bathroom. Since she is so little she can't really go outside right now.

We rang in the new year by watching the ball drop on TV and drinking sparkling cider.

It was a quiet family was nice.

Praises for quiet family time!
Today we got the newest addition to our family...2 pound 6 ounce miniature dachshund, Sophie Ruth.

Younger Boy went to daycare today so that we could get some things done around the house. Occassionally Younger Boy helps around the house, but most usually he just complains about having to do anything.

Middle Boy and I couldn't get along to save our lives. It was NOT a good day. There was a ridiculous amount of tension.

We were trying to make some snacks for a game night we were having in the evening and also trying to get the house cleaned up. No matter what either one of us said the other just got mad or frustrated.

We ended up just taking a break from each other. It was a little bit disappointing, because part of the goal was to spend one on one time with Middle Boy since I had nine weeks of one on one time with Younger Boy.

Praises for getting along better!
Tonight we had a quick dinner and then went to the pet store to "just look" at puppies.

We held the puppies in this order...long haired dachshund, short haired dachshund, and a husky. Both boys would have gotten whatever dog anyone would have said they could have.

We left without a puppy, because I am not convinced we are capable of taking care of a pet.

Both boys were incredibly well behaved tonight. I think they are trying to prove they are responsible and trustworthy so they can make a stronger case for a puppy.
Tonight after Younger Boy settled down and was in bed Middle Boy knocked on my door and asked if he could talk to me. He sat down and said "It's Wednesday. You visited on Wednesday and we got to spend an hour just talking. Just me and you."

We did. We talked for an hour every Wednesday and Sunday during the two months he was in the juvenile center. We talked every day on the phone for at least an hour...including Wednesday and Sunday.

He went on to tell me that is the only thing he misses about the juvenile center and could we just talk for a little while.

Honestly I don't know a lot about parenting, but I do know if your teenager is asking you to sit and talk with them you don't skip the opportunity.

He wanted to talk about his bio parents. I was SHOCKED. He never wants to talk abou them or anyone in his bio family. We talked about his mom and his dad. We talked about the person he is named after and his grandma. We talked about how much he loved his grandma and how she died of lung cancer when he lived with her. We talked about how he was abused in two separate foster homes...physically, emotionally, and sexually in one...physically and emotionally in another.

Words just kept pouring out of him. He is finally starting to heal. He finally feels loved and secure enough to open up. It didn't take us a lifetime to develop that trust.

Prayers for healing for Middle Boy. Tonight was the first step of many. I am glad I was there with him for it.
As soon as we got home it was like a switch went off with Younger Boy.

When we were eating a snack it was like he snapped. Honestly I don't know what was said, but the next thing I know he was locked in the bathroom screaming at the top of his lungs after throwing his ice cream bowl across the table.

I asked him to calm down and take a shower. He came out of the shower laughing and singing.

I am scared for Younger Boy. I think I know what we are witnessing the start of simply because I have a basic knowledge of the family health history. Tomorrow I will know what out course of action might be.

Pray for Younger Boy.
Tonight we had a relatively good night. The boys and I went bowling with J, his daughter from Tennessee and one of her friends. The girls were 10 years old, but we were teasing them about it being a double date.

They had a great time. We ate dinner, bowled, and raced go karts.

Younger Boy is a good bowler...not a good driver. Middle Boy is a good driver...not a good bowler. At one point one of the girls cut Younger Boy off in traffic and he literally got his car stuck under the guard rail. The staff had to use a crowbar to get it out.

It was a good evening. It was good to see both boys having a good time. On the way home they decided it would be a good idea if I married J. In fact Middle Boy suggested I just ask him. They really like him and want to hang out with him more. I explained that all they have to do is ask J. I don't have to marry J for them to hang out with him.

Praises for a good time and laughter!
Pray for Younger Boy. He is on a rapid downhill slide.

He is one strike away from being kicked out of his daycare. There was continued bullying today and then when he received a consequence for it at home he was self-harming. He did not bang his head against the wall which is what he has been doing at home recently. He was pulling out fistfuls of hair and biting himself. They called, because they couldn't get him to stop.

Therapist J maybe an emergency visit to see him this afternoon and Younger Boy cried the entire time. Generally speaking he is incredibly superficial with Therapist J.

Obviously everyone is very concerned for him. I talked to Service Coordinator's boss and we are going to try to get him in for an emergency psychiatric evaluation. We are hoping it can be an office visit, but if the waiting list is too long we will likely go to the psychiatric emergency room. I don't want to do that to him, because it will be scary and he has bad connotation associated with it because of Older Boy.

He needs help.

Please pray for him.
Since Service Coordinator left for vacation without finalizing plans for the reporting center this week for Middle Boy we have had to come up with alternate plans.

Middle Boy has spent the majority of the week helping out at the company of Mentor R. He has been cleaning, helping with inventory, and helping make their product. He comes home energized and feeling really good about himself. I think it is doing him a lot of good to actually be productive after sitting at the juvenile center for the last two months.

He asked Mentor R if he could work there after school and over the summer. As usual transportation is a HUGE issue for us. Over the summer...NO PROBLEM. After school...AARGH. I HATE that middle school gets out at 2:40pm. I am going to start trying to figure out the possibilities. Mentor R and I are going to discuss the possibilities in the next couple of days.

Mentor R and I have certainly have our differences of opinion, but I am very thankful for him helping us out this week. It has been such a HUGE blessing.
Younger Boy had another day of bullying today at daycare. He is also having increased aggression during his time there. His consequence there was to turn over his Nintendo DS to them and to spend time in the office.

He was aggressive and kicked some toys, punched a wall, and threw a ball at a little girl in anger.

The center director had called me about it during the day and then two different teachers told me about it when I went to pick him up.

When I asked him about it he told me that he didn't do anything and that everyone who works at the center is a liar. We had a discussion about how the adults at the center all had the same story and so it seemed to me that maybe it was Younger Boy who is not being truthful. He immediately exploded at me and kicked the wall.

I am going to talk to Therapist J about it and check on the possibility of getting him in to see a psychiatrist. My first choice would not be medication to help with the aggression, but Younger Boy admits every week during therapy that he is NOT trying to make changes in his behavior.

Prayers for behaviors and decreased aggression.
Every time Younger Boy prays now he has been throwing in the sentence "Please watch over the people on the streets."

I started noticing it two or three days ago, but tonight at dinner he said it twice in the same prayer.

I asked him about it and he said it is just on his heart. I wonder who these people are that he is praying for.

Praises for a tender heart.
Tonight we went to the movie as a family. We decided to see "We Bought a Zoo".

We all loved it. It was funny and touching and had some great quotes in it. It also had a tactic in it that Middle Boy and I have already tried.

In the movie the father and the son have trouble communicating so instead of saying the things they want to say to each other they say the things they want the other person to say to them. When we tried it last night it was interesting to me what Middle Boy said.

The quotes I absolutely loved were:

"I love how loud your happy is!"

"If you can just have 20 seconds of insane courage I promise you everything will be amazing."

It was a nice treat and good way to end the holiday weekend.

Praises for the ability to spend time as a family.
Mentor R to the rescue...

Service Coordinator didn't get the reporting service set up for today for Middle Boy. Mentor R is going to have his help out around his business this week.

We are extended family. I am thankful for that. I wonder what foster parents who don't have a MASSIVE support system like mine do.

Praises for a HUGE EXTENDED family of friends who are willing to step in and help at the last minute.
Therapist A came over tonight for family therapy with Middle Boy and me.

We need to work through some things and she is usually pretty helpful. The biggest things we need to start working on are what to do after school and what to do during the summer. At this time it isn't clear if he is able to be home for any length of time unattended legally. I am also unsure if he is ready for it emotionally right now.

Since he has been home from the juvenile center he wants to spend a significant amount of his time with me and needs a lot of reassurance that I am not going anywhere.

We talked through some potential options for him and he is going to also think about the types of things he is interested in doing. In the past he hasn't had much input and tends to shut down when decisions about him need to be made.

Praises for the help of Therapist A. She is one of our strongest advocates and has become an amazing friend.
We spent the better part of the day organizing our kitchen. It isn't necessarily done yet, but it had been a disaster since the boys moved in.

Younger Boy was even fairly helpful. He was in charge of throwing things away and combining things that needed to be combined. He was also responsible for washing out everything that could be recycled.

Middle Boy was in charge of emptying the cabinets and moving things to boxes to go to the homeless shelter and doing an inventory.

We were productive. We are going to do that type of work regularly until we are at a point where we don't have a bunch of extra stuff anymore. It isn't going to be instantaneous, but we are getting there.

Praises for good help and following directions.
We went to the M's for Christmas dinner.

Younger Boy said the prayer before our meal and it was beautiful. He does an amazing job with prayer.

What I found is that you should not invite us over if you want help eating your turkey or ham. I will eat turkey...not ham. The boys will eat neither. If you need help with desserts though, the boys can take care of it.

We had a really nice time with the M's and their other two guests. It was nice to have some other interaction for the afternoon.

I was super happy that one of the other guests brough Middle Boy a Christian rap CD. I have been praying pretty regularly that he would start to like some Christian rap music. For YEARS he has been listening to Eminem. He knows all of the words to all of the songs. Middle Boy LOVES the CD he got. He and J like the same type of music so J is going give him the names of other artists. This truly is an answer to one of my prayers.

Praises for answer to prayer and for amazing friends who feel like family.
I have to admit...I was a pushover yesterday and let the boys open the majority of their gifts. In fact all that was really left were their stocking.

As a result no one in this house was up early on Christmas morning. In fact we all saw about fifteen minute of Christmas morning.

When we finally got up the boys opened their stockings and then we made brunch. Younger Boy set the table and made orange juice while Middle Boy and I made pancakes, eggs, and bacon.

Middle Boy prayed at breakfast. I was surpised, because he doesn't like to pray out loud in front of other people...including me and Younger Boy.

Praises for a good night of sleep and a peaceful morning!
We decided to stay up until midnight to celebrate the first minute of Christmas.

Shortly before midnight Middle Boy came downstairs with a ring box from my jewelry. Younger Boy had three wine glasses and the sparkling grape cider we had purchased on the way home.

Middle Boy sat down beside me and opened the ring box. He said, "I love you. Will you be my mom forever?" A tear slid down my cheek as I gave him a hug and said "yes".

Right at midnight we toasted to our first Christmas as a forever family. Although no adoptions have taken place in the courtroom they have absolutely taken place in my heart.

After we finished our toast we read the Christmas story from the book of Luke and headed for bed.

Praises for our new family. For the love that the boys have for God, for me and for each other.
We were greeters at the door for the early Christmas Eve service at church.

It is not Middle Boy's kind of thing. I was proud of him for wearing the shirt and being very polite while welcoming the people.

It is VERY MUCH Younger Boy's type of thing. I think he told EVERY SINGLE person through our door Merry Christmas. He didn't want a single person left out. It did get a bit awkward if it was a family of six and he repeated "Merry Christmas" to each of the people.

After the service the boys helped a little bit with clean-up and then helped one of the pastors out to his car. He was trying to wrangle four boys under the age of six all with his hands full. Younger Boy and Middle Boy each took the hands of one of the boys and corralled the other two and got them safely to their car. It makes my heart smile to see them being so helpful and loving.

Younger Boy wants to sign up to be on host team every Sunday. That is Middle Boy's worst nightmare. I am goign to have to think about it.

Praises for an amazing church family and for the ability to celebrate our Savior's birth.
We needed to get ready for the Christmas Eve services at church mid-afternoon. I got in the shower and asked the boys to put on jeans and a nice shirt for church. We were volunteering for the host team so my preference was that they didn't look like they just rolled out of bed.

When I finished getting ready Younger Boy was wearing the t-shirt he had worn from three straight days before that and some silver athletic pants. This is what he had changed in to. Middle Boy had on black pants and a long sleeve t-shirt. I asked Younger Boy to change.

At that point he went in his room and started screaming about how I am asking him to do too many things. He banged his head on the wall at least four times and then threw his shoes at the door.

Middle Boy went in to try to talk to him and he three a book at him.

It was kind of like he snapped. When I asked him about hitting his head on the wall he said that he fell and hit his head. I explained that if that were his head would have only hit the wall once...not four or more times.


He finally changed his clothes and put on shoes and got himself to the car.

Prayers for anger management. With Younger Boy it comes on incredibly quickly.
This morning Grandma and the boys were going to make sugar cookies. As it turned out the boys didn't get up in time to actually make cookies or frost cookies. The only thing they got up in time for was to eat the cookies!!

Grandma made two pans of the sugar cookies and left the rest of the dough for us to bake later.

Both boys loved the cookies. Grandma is using a different recipe than she did when I was a kid. Although the cookies are really good they don't remind me of my childhood!!

Praises for family and tradition.
So before Eve came today at our house was Christmas Adam.

Our Christmas Adam tradition is going to be driving around looking at Christmas lights while drinking hot chocolate and opening one small gift. In the future it will be pajamas. Today it was beyblades. They are having fun dueling and playing together.

Praises for family.
Tonight we opened the gifts from Grandpa and Grandma since they are leaving to go home in the morning.

The boys got some pretty cool gifts and were super excited about everything they got, especially Younger Boy. With each thing he opened he pretended to faint. It was pretty cute.

Praises for family and being together over the holidays.
Middle Boy and I are learning how to communicate with each other and talk about frustrations.

Middle Boy hates any amount of what he deems clutter. He wants to clean it up. Admirable? Yes. Frustrating to me? Yes.

He wanted to clean off the breakfast bar. His method...throw everything on the floor. My method...go through it and put things in piles according to where they belong and then take them there. His method...start every project simultaneously. My method...FINISH a project before starting the next.

We were about to kill each other halfway through the project. So much so that we had to stop and talk about why we were getting so mad when we had the same goal. Ultimately it boiled down to him thinking he wasn't being heard and me feeling threatened because what I was doing wasn't good enough. It occurred to me that this is no different than learning to live with some one once you are married...except we are all three trying to figure it out.

I was actually impressed with our ability to talk it through. Praises for open communication and willingness to participate.
I spent the better part of he morning talking to a friend about my frustrations regarding relationships for the boys. My expectation for those relationships is that those people would respect me and my wishes as a parent. I wouldn't speak poorly of someone's mother to their kids.

K pointed out that I made a choice to be a single parent and people will judge that and look at what they think the boys are missing. K did keep me from making a call and screaming "You aren't talking to the boys...ever again!"

Do they have earthly fathers? Technically...yes. Biological had rights terminstead and the other relinquished. Will they have one in this home? Hard to say...only God knows. Do they have a heavenly father who loves them and protects them? Absolutely. Do they know Him? Absolutely and we continue to build that relationship EVERYDAY!!

More prayer required on what to do. I want to set a good example of how to deal with frustration in a respectful constructive way.

Pray for wisdom. Pray for discernment.
Termination is a phrase used quite often in foster care. It is often times what happens to a parent's rights when the court removes their children from their care.

In our case I am talking about a relationship one of the boys has.

I am so frustrated and saddened by a relationship that we all have in our lives. It seems like a battle and I don't want it to be.

First let me start by saying this. My boys need strong male role models in their lives. I totally get it and whole-heartedly support that. What I don't support is those same role models undermining my role as the parent or telling my boys that maybe they shouldn't be in my home because there is no male role model. Maybe I wasn't the right home for what they needed. I AM THE PARENT. I don't appreciate others making parenting decisions and executing them for me...without my knowledge. I have the state for that right now until these adoptions are final.

I am praying through the termination of this relationship. I am hurt. Maybe we could focus on the things my boys have that they have never had before. Maybe we could focus on God as the perfect father. Maybe I don't do things the way you do, but that doesn't mean your way is perfect. I doesn't mean my way is wrong. I don't need any more input. I just need to be left alone to celebrate our first holiday together.

Prayers for wisdom in this relationship both in what to do and in how to move forward.

Prayers for healing of my heart in this relationship.

Prayers for discernment for the boys who have both talked to me about the information they got regarding the male influence in their lives. In one boy it has undermined the trust in me and in the other it has undermined their trust in the male role model.
We got home tonight and Younger Boy was so tired. He went to bed pretty early.

Middle Boy and I decided we would play Grandma and Grandpa in spades. We have been playing at every visit and we are both fairly strategic players. Alledgedly Grandma and Grandpa had never played before.

Middle Boy and I believe they are card sharks. Of course they have 40+ years of marriage going for them in non-verbal communication. We have to do a rematch tomorrow. We ended the night three to three. When Grandma and Grandpa won they won BIG. When we won it was alway by one.

Praises for family and the ability to enjoy each other's company.
I am so grateful for my family. Grandma and Grandpa and Youngest Sister and her family came to visit and go to church with us. Most importantly they were here to help welcome Middle Boy home.

We went out to dinner after church and Niece A insisted on sitting in between Middle Boy and Younger Boy. She was so excited. Middle Boy played with Niece I and downloaded music on his iPod for Nephew W to listen to. The most touching part was when he sat and held the hand of Baby Niece C. He sat there and talked to her and held her tiny little hand. She smiled at him. It was adorable.

Praises for family.
So many things touched my heart many things.

Middle boy told me that as soon as he put on his clothes to come home he could smell "our house" and it made him start to cry. He said he was so excited he could hardly stand it.

We spent the evening just hanging out as a family. We had dinner and went to the grocery store. We went home and wrapped some Christmas gifts.

When it was time to go to bed I read the Bible story and we prayed. After we were finished Middle Boy wanted to do a group hug. While we were hugging he said "this is how a family should be".

Younger Boy fell asleep and Middle Boy and I talked for a while. He had a lot of things he wanted to say. Finally I needed to sleep. I told him that this home is FOREVER. We have time to talk tomorrow.

It is SO GOOD to have Middle Boy home. So amazingly good. It is perfect.

Praises for family...whatever it looks like!!
We were supposed to have a family team meeting this afternoon for Younger Boy. Mentor R had taken him shopping all afternoon and they were at our house already. Foster Care Specialist was there and we were waiting for Service Coordinator to bring Middle Boy home.

When they got there we had Younger Boy open the door for them. We just heard him yell "Middle are home. I love you!" It was BEAUTIFUL!!

It was the most awesome homecoming. It was sweet and joyful.

After all of the specialists had left Younger Boy let all of the stress of the last couple of months come flooding out as tears. He cried for about 20 minutes straight while I just hugged him. He said he didn't know why he was crying.
As I sat with my two friends who also visit at the juvenile center we started talking about the Bible study the boys have been doing. The three of us were talking about the verses they were memorizing. All three were memorizing Psalm 2. D thought it was Psalm 51. Both L and I thought it was Psalm 2. We decided one of us must need to hear Psalm 51 so I got my Bible out and started to read it out loud. When I had read the second verse the chaplain came out and heard us. He took over and recited the remainder of the psalm from memory. He went on to tell us that it was the Psalm that changed his life when he was in jail. He left the room and all three of us just said "Wow...God."

Today I got to be the one to tell Middle Boy that he is going to be coming home. I went to Wedlnesday visitation just like every other Wednesday. I expected Middle Boy to ask me right away if I had heard anything. He waited fifteen full minutes to ask me. He said, "Have you heard anything?". I said, "yes". He just sat and stared at me. After a couple of minutes I said "Yes, you are coming home in a couple of hours."

He started to cry. Then he was so happy. The visit seemed to last FOREVER.

I can't wait until he is HOME.

Praises for the friends I have made at the juvenile center. Friendships that I think will last a lifetime.

Praises for the best Christmas gift I could have hoped for.
I just got a call from Attorney N.

Middle Boy is coming home TODAY!!

Praise God.  He is good...ALL THE TIME!!
Today was filled with tears.

I cried, because Middle Boy might be coming home tomorrow.

Middle Boy cried, because he might be going out of state.

Younger Boy cried, because he misses Middle Boy and is just sad.

It was not a good day emotionally at our house.
Middle Boy had a day of lows, highs, and lows.

I knew leaving court that he was disappointed to not be coming home today.  I knew that as soon as he heard that he didn't hear anything else that was said in the courtroom.  He thinks the judge just completely dismissed the fact that people were recommending him to come home.  He also things the judge isn't planning to rule until some time in February.

He is convinced he is going out of state and in his words, "why don't they just send me to the penitentiary, because I am going to give up?"  I explained that even if he goes out of state for treatment at the conclusion he is coming back TO MY HOUSE.

I explained what was said in court AFTER he stopped listening and how it looks hopeful for a release this week.  I explained that while we just need to keep praying about it we could still find ourselves apart at Christmas.  This brought the comment, "This was going to be my first Christmas I can remember where someone actually loved me."  That crushed my heart.

Our last converstaion tonight had him back on a low, because he just wants to come home.

Prayers for peace.  Prayers for the ruling to actually be made on Thursday...EARLY.  Prayers for his heart.
Younger Boy and I FINALLY got our Christmas tree put up.  It takes up our ENTIRE living room.  We are going to have to relocate it somewhere where it isn't LITERALLY in the middle of the floor.

Younger Boy had a great time putting the ornaments on.  I somewhat question his "design strategy", because we have a section of gold ornaments, a section of green, and a section of red.  In the grand scheme of doesn't matter.  Just not how I would have done it.

He also wrapped the garland (or garlic as he calls it) around the tree like a straight jacket.  Again...doesn't really matter, just an observation.

Finally our house feels a little bit like Christmas.

Praises for Younger Boy and family!!
Middle Boy has on his approved contact list a state senator.  She was the foster sister of his biological father.

She just called me for an update on Middle Boy's case.  She is praying for us and said that she is impressed that common sense entered into the court proceedings today.

She asked to be invited to the adoption.

Praises for a support system that reaches far and wide.
The outcome of Middle Boy's hearing today was the best possible outcome we could have hoped for today.
The results of Middle Boy's psychiatric evaluation recommended residential treatment.  Unfortunately the type of treatment recommended does not exist residentially in our state.  The closest locations are over 1000 miles away.  Judge questioned the likelihood the state will pay for this and ordered Service Coordinator to have the answer to him by Thursday morning.  Everyone present in court today believed that they will not because Middle Boy does not have a history of violent behaviors.  In fact they don't even think he would be admitted to that type of program in another state.
The option presented by Middle Boy's attorney was a 14 week outpatient program here in town with him residing in my home during his completion of the program.  There were other associated conditions as well.  This will require participation in therapy with Middle Boy by both Younger Boy and I which in all honestly would probably be a good thing.  This way he could get the help he needs and we could be a part of it as a family.  The other thing this does is starts the six months toward the adoption sooner.
Middle Boy's Guardian ad Litem told the court that she has known Middle Boy since he entered foster care and that her recommendation is that he would return to my home and complete the outpatient program.  She said that he is finally attached to an adult (something he hasn't done before) and that it would be detrimental to his well being to have him institutionalized again and risk breaking that bond.  She said I have proved I will be there for Middle Boy and that I am planning to provide permanency.  All of which are true.
All charges against Middle Boy with the exception of misdemeanor assault were dropped.
The judge will rule on Thursday morning whether or not he will be coming home on Thursday.
Thank you all for your continued prayer.  Pray for wisdom for the judge.  Pray for the best outcome for the interest of Middle Boy and our family.
Middle Boy called tonight FURIOUS with me. 

His original attorney showed up to see him at 8:30pm.  He claimed to have not ever received any email or communication from me regarding discontinuing his services.

I don't even know what to say.
Attorney N called to tell me the recommendation of the evaluation.  Recommendation is to go to a residential treatment facility and then return to my home.  Obviously it is unknown if this will be the outcome tomorrow, but it is unlikely Judge will go against the recommendation.

The question is this...what is the duration of the stay at the treatment facility?

In many ways it is a relief to just know the direction we are headed.  Not necessarily the direction I was hoping for, but at least we will be moving forward from the juvenile center and closer to adoption.

I am not certain whether Middle Boy already has this information or if I am supposed to tell him that is the recommendation.

Pray for peace for Middle Boy.  I KNOW this is not what he is expecting or wanting.
Another foster parent told me that our agency goes above and beyond with the Christmas gifts for the kids.  I wasn't really prepared for what that meant.  Foster Care Specialist just dropped off SIX MORE BAGS of gifts for the boys. 

We have ENOUGH.  In fact we have TOO MUCH!!  I am going to go through it quickly, because we are going to the homeless shelter tonight and I am sure they would think this is a blessing.

Praises for the generosity of others to foster families.  It means a lot!!
Right now is a time when I can't decide if I should laugh or cry at the absurdity of the system.

The psychiatric evaluation is done.  It has gone to the attorney.  Service Coordinator can't tell me what it says, because I am not a legal part of the case.  So...I am going to go in to court not knowing whether it recommends further treatment or return home or what.  I think it is unreasonable that I am unable to make an educated decision with the information that is obviously available.  I also think it is unfair that I am able to make preparations either physically or emotionally.

I just talked to Foster Care Specialist about it and she is going to see what she can do.  It's late in the day, but we might be able to find out.

I also have a message in to Attorney N.  She is really good about responding.  So I could know that way.

I have to stop thinking about this. 

Prayers that I can just relax and know that God has this in His control.
I keep hearing this song on the radio by Steven Curtis Chapman.  It reminds me of my boys.  It reminds me of the campers.  It reminds me of all of the foster kids in the system.   It reminds me of orphans all over the world.

What I Really Want
by Steven Curtis Chapman

Well I don't know if you remember me or not
I'm one of the kids they brought in from the home
I was the red-haird boy in an old green flannel shirt
You may not have seen me - I was standing off alone
I didn't come and talk to you, 'cause that's never worked before
And you'll probably never see theis letter anyway
But just in case there's something you can do to help me out
I'll ask you one more time

All I really want for Christmas
Is someone to tuck me in
A shoulder to cry on if I lose
Shoulders to ride on if I win
There's so much I could ask for
But there's just one thing I need
All I really want for Christmas is a family.

Well I guess I should go ahead and tell you now
If it's really true about that list you have
Somehow I always seem to end up in a fight
But I'm really trying hard not to be bad
But maybe if I had a brother or a dad to wrestle with
Well, maybe they could teach me how to get along
And from everything I've heard
Sounds like the greatest gift on earth would be a mom.

All I really want for Christmas
Is someone to tuck me in
A shoulder to cry on if I lose
Shoulders to ride on if I win
There's so much I could ask for
But there's just one thing I need
All I really want for Christmas is a family.

If someone who'll be there
To sing me "Happy Birthday"
For the next 100 years
And it's OK if they're not perfect
Well, even if they're a little broken, that's alright
Because so am I

Well I guess I should go
It's almost time for bed
And maybe next time I write you
I'll be at home

All I really want for Christmas
Is someone to tuck me in
A shoulder to cry on if I lose
Shoulders to ride on if I win
There's so much I could ask for
But there's just one thing I need
All I really want for Christmas is a family.

Just a family

That's all I really need

That's my prayer...that all kids everywhere can one day have an earthly family.
I am so very thankful for all of the support and prayers our family has received the past few months.  We feel truly loved by each and every one of you.

I wanted to let you know a few things you could pray specifically for in the upcoming week:

Middle Boy has a new attorney.  Pray for wisdome for her as she helps Middle Boy to navigate the legal system.  Since he is a ward of the state and not living in my home I am not able to be a part of their meetings togther.  I trust that his attoney is helping in the best way possible and that he understands those things she is telling him.

Tomorrow Middle Boy has both his arraignment and another detention review hearing.  Pray Middle Boy can come home following the detention review.  It seems to be highly dependent on the outcome of his psychiatric evaluation which was done in two parts last week.  We should know the outcome early this afternoon and have a good feel for what might happen tomorrow.

Pray for wisdom for the County Attorney and the Judge.  Both are doing an important job in our society and often times don't get the credit they deserve for their hard work.

Pray for Younger Boy.  Pray he has peace this holiday season.  He is getting increasingly restless being an only child and reminds me on a daily basis that he thinks it "sucks".

Pray for my heart.  I know that God's Will is going tob e done in all of this, but that doesn't mean I am not sad and that my heart is not breaking for my son.  I am NOT at all mentally prepared from him to not come home.  I have been praying expectantly tha the would come home...yet I can't seem to trust.  I have changed my prayer in recent days that Middle Boy would be where God needs him this Christmas...wherever that is.  It is a hard prayer for me to pray...I'm human.

Pray for all of the boys at the juvenile center and their families.  Some of those people I have come to love.  Pray they would have peace this Christmas season and that they would see God's love for them.
I sent out our Christmas cards last week.

I got multiple comments and email telling me that the boys were adorable and the picture was beautiful.  There were tons of comments about how Middle Boy looks like my biological child.  I kind of see it, but not as much as everyone else seems to.

The photos were taken by a senior in our high school youth group.  Her work is amazing. 

Praises we got the photos taken before Middle Boy moved to the juvenile center.  Praises for all of the kind comments about our family.
The irritation and tension we were all feeling seems to have gone. 

Younger Boy had a great time today with Babysitter J.  They made Christmas goodies.  Actually according to Babysitter J she had a good time making them.  Younger Boy spread peanut butter on five or six crackers and taste tested everything.

Middle Boy is in a better mood. 

I am so thankful for this day.
I have had a couple of good discussions with Mentor R and his wife in the past few days.

I am very thankful for them...VERY THANKFUL.

As usual the relationship is a work in progress as we navigate the roles they play in Younger Boy's life as we pursue adoption and beyond.  There are still some times when I get frustrated by Mentor R, because I think he thinks what I am doing isn't good enough or right.  I have started (FINALLY) to let that go.

Praises for this relationship.  Praises for how much they love Younger Boy.
I got a call from Mom J today.  She wanted to give me an update on Older Boy.

Older Boy has been on a downhill slide at school.  She said behaviors at home have been fine, but that it seems he has chosen school as the place to meltdown.

Every day last week they received a call from the school and throughout the week the problems were escalating.  One day it was teasing someone.  One day it was poking someone with a pencil.  One day it was name calling and another it was swearing.  Friday he topped it off with smoking in the school building.

He had stolen a pack of cigarettes and a lighter from the next door neighbor.  Apparently he went in their home when they weren't home.

Older Boy is getting a three-day in school suspension as a result.  He originally told Mom and Dad J that the neighbor gave him the cigarettes so he smoked them.

Pray for Older Boy and Mom and Dad J.  Pray for peace in their home and behaviors to de-escalate.
Every time I talk to Middle Boy one of us ends up mad, frustrated, or crying.  This is NOT how I want our limited daily contact with each other to be.

The selfish side of me would like to say that he is the cause of it more than half of the time, but if I were honest I would have to admit that it is probably pretty equal.

He gets mad, because he thinks I don't understand that it stinks to be in the juvenile center.  I do understand.  He doesn't understand that my heart is breaking for him, because to me it is like I am there as well.  He hasn't ever had anyone stick with him or love him unconditionally so when I say those things it is completely foreign to him.  In makes him MAD.

Pray for peaceful conversation and a common understanding that we ultimately want the same thing.
Middle Boy just called me with a two minute call.  He wanted to remind me that he loved me.  That was the whole reason for calling me.

More than sand in the beaches, Middle Boy....that is how much I love you.
Younger Boy and I wrapped gifts for our adopted family from the shelter.  He wanted to learn to wrap gifts and was having a great time writing on the labels and being in charge of taping all the packages.

It was a nice time.  We haven't had that in a while.  Most of our time together has been filled with him being angry and me being frustrated. 

We are going to move our tree into the house tomorrow night and decorate it on Tuesday night.  All of the decorations are in the house now.  We are ready to hang the stockings. 

I got an email from Foster Care Specialist that she has ANOTHER carload of gifts for us from the agency.  I tried to get her to keep them,  We don't need them.  We didn't need the first set.  We will donate these.

This holiday has been so hard for me to get into the spirit of the season.  Joy hasn't really been my strong suit.  Tonight...wrapping the gifts and watching a Christmas movie with Younger Boy...finally I felt like celebrating Christmas.
Today was our normal visit at the juvenile center.  Generally speaking we chat while we are either playing cards or dominoes.  It usually makes it easier for Middle Boy to open up.

Today he wanted to just talk.  He said, "I don't know if I am coming home on Tuesday, but if this is our last day of one hour of just me and you hanging out without interruptions I want it to be special."

We talked about his new attorney.  He swears she is only 20.  I explained that mathmatically that was unlikely due the amount of education required to be an attorney and the fact that she used to work in the county attorney's office.

We talked about him coming home.  We talked about what if he doesn't come home.  We talked about adoption and how the attorney's goal is to help him get soon as possible.  We talked about keeping in touch with D and her grandson.  We prayed for everyone in his unit.

It was a beautiful visit...I am so thankful for the visit...without distraction.
I cried through the entire church service this morning.  Every song made me cry.  The sermon made me cry.  Everything made me cry.

Holidays are generally hard for me for a whole lot of reasons.  This year might be the hardest yet.

Prayers for a peaceful heart.
I'm irritated with Younger Boy and Middle Boy is irritated with me.

Younger Boy is doing everything possible to be disrespectful right now.  He is almost going out of his way.  Every time the phone rings he grabs his trumpet and starts playing.  Anything I ask him to do I can count on the opposite.

Middle Boy is irritated at me, because he thinks I don't listen when he is talking on the phone.  I listen, but the connection is usually bad and he almost always sounds like Woodstock from the Peanuts cartoon.  I generally can guess half of the words, but lately it is unacceptable to say "what?" or make any sort of guess.

Prayers for harmony.
I have a dilemma...I have NO IDEA if Younger Boy believes in Santa.  No idea.

There have been many things that have happened in the last couple of days that make me think he absolutely does believe in Santa.  There hasn't been anything that really makes me think he doesn't...except that he is eleven.

He has asked how Santa gets into my house.  He has asked why people would need to buy stocking stuffers when Santa fills stockings.  He jumped up and down with excitement when he got to see Santa at daycare.

I can't even figure out how to figure it out.  I asked Mentor R what he thinks.  I need to call Mom J and ask her if she knows.  He lived there a couple of Christmases ago.  Maybe she has an idea.
Over lunch today I was reflecting back on the events of the past couple of days and everything they have entailed.  I have been so focused on doing what I "needed" to do to get our family back home and together that I was forgetting to focus on what I should be doing now as we are walking THROUGH this.

I was thinking this I remember that as I awoke yesterday morning I had the thought that I just needed to let what was going to happen with Middle Boy's case and Younger Boy's adoption happen and stop trying to "make" things happen.  I prayed that God would help me surrender the control to him.  As I prayed through all of my feelings about both things I felt a huge sense of relief come over me.

I already posted that yesterday things really started moving on both fronts.  Positive things.  I didn't have anything to do with any of them...other than prayer.

What is in our future?  I don't know.  When will Younger Boy's adoption be final?  I don't know.  When will or will Middle Boy come home?  I don't know.  God does.  He knows. 
Middle Boy called three times today.  The maximum amount of time we can talk is 15 minutes per call. 

The first two calls today were less than 10 minutes, because his unit was leaving to go somewhere or he personally had to go and do something.

The third time he called one of the first things he said was "I'm sorry, Mom."  I was confused.  Sorry for what?  He said that every time he had called recently that he had to go before the end of the call and he was sorry about that.  He just called to tell me that he loves me very much and that he would try to call at times when he was sure they weren't leaving the unit. 

I'm just thankful to talk to him so often.  He doesn't have to call me...ever.  I told him it was okay.  I appreciated the call any time and for however long.

Praises for relationship.  Praises for compassion and caring.
Younger Boy has been feeling sick to his stomach tonight.  I am not sure if he has some sort of "bug" or if it is just nerves about the adoption and the holidays.

He didn't have any homework tonight so we sat down to watch a Christmas movie.  He loves them and so do I. 

All of a sudden he ran upstairs.  I was pretty sure he was getting sick.  He didn't come back downstairs right away and I went upstairs to check on him.  At first I couldn't find him.  I noticed that he had gotten sick in the bathroom, but tried to clean it up.  I called to him and he wasn't answering.

I finally found him under some blankets hidden in the closet crying.  I sat down on his bedroom floor and asked him what was going on.  He told me that in a former foster home he got in "big trouble" for getting sick and not cleaning it all up.  The story he told me brought me to tears.

We went back downstairs and I rocked him to sleep and hugged him.  I wanted him to know that he isn't in trouble for being sick.  Everyone gets sick.  He's a kid.  He doesn't have to worry about cleaning up.

At times like these I am reminded that we have YEARS of baggage to overcome.  There are so many times when I am caught off guard by a memory flashback that changes the tone of everything in an instant.

Prayers for healing.
First off it has become apparent that Younger boy either didn't pay attention or didn't understand when we did the adoption study that the adoption is NOT happening this week.

When I picked him up today he asked what he could do to get the adoption back on track.  I was kind of confused by the question.  I asked what he meant and he said that he knew the adoption was being delayed, because he had been such a "j*** a**" recently. was difficult to not laugh.  He kind of has.  For a minute I was actually conflicted between letting him think that it was delayed to see if behavior improved.  Then I realized that he needs unconditional love...just the same as everyone else.

I reminded him that we told him on Monday night that it would take a couple of months to finalize the adoption.  Whether or not he gets adopted and the timeframe have nothing to do with his behaviors.  I did remind him that his behaviors haven't been good lately and we need to work on it, but that isn't going to change whether or not he is adopted.

You could see the relief in his face.

I thought a lot about this how we feel toward God?  He loves us unconditionally yet we still question and wonder if we are worthy. 

Praises for the unconditional love of God.
We have a new attorney...Attorney N.  She is AMAZING.  I should have hired her a long time ago.  She has made a BUNCH of calls and done a lot of things in the ONE HOUR I have had her on retainer.

She has talked to County Attorney.  County Attorney does NOT support Middle Boy going home.  Attorney N thinks it is going to be highly dependent on the outcome of his evaluations.  Evaluations should be done by the end of the day tomorrow and typed up on Monday.  Probably won't know the outcome until late Monday/early Tuesday.  Attorney N promises to move the case as quickly as possible to get him out of the juvenile center.  She said basically all that has been happening until now is wasting time.

What I should have done is hire her earlier.  I didn't...I have to let that go.

Prayers for all things to fall into place as God's plan would have them.  If Middle Boy needs more help in the interim before coming home, let's get that started.  If not, let's get him home.  I am in support of what is best for Middle Boy and the rest of our family.
Tonight we are going to try to call Older Sister.  We were given the go ahead today in court that we could contact her without having to go through Judge or Service Coordinator.  All of the other siblings are calling tonight.  We will as well otherwise Younger Boy will hear about it and I don't want him to think we are keeping things from him.

I have no idea what to expect from Younger Boy emotionally.  We (Mom J and I) have been trying to figure out the last time they would have all talked.  Maybe 2007 or 2008.  Younger Boy was only six or seven then.  He claims to remember her. 

She does live with Bio Mom and Dad (I think) so we need to only talk on speaker phone on our end so that I can hear who is on the phone. 

I honestly have no idea if Younger Boy will even want to do this.  Tonight we will try.
We have gotten Christmas gifts from my foster care agency.  A crazy number of gifts.  The boys agency still has stuff for us.  Honestly it is ridiculous...almost embarrassing.  One thing that is NOT a gift for me is that I have to wrap them all.  Hmm...wonder when I will do that?  If I were a betting person I would probably take the afternoon of December 24th.

I still have a little bit of shopping to do...for the family we adopted.  We are delivering their gifts on Monday evening.  Younger Boy has really gotten into it.  He has really wanted to make sure that the two kids are taken care of.  It makes my heart smile that he is having fun doing this.

Praises for donations to the agencies and the ability to pass along our blessings!!
Middle Boy is frustrated.  He wants to come home.  Today during our visit he was laughing and making jokes...tonight he is like a different person.

He cried twice tonight on the phone.  He is angry.  He wants to know why everyone waits until the last minute for everything.  I can't answer that for him.  I wonder the same things.

It breaks my heart to hear him cry...absolutely breaks my heart.

Prayers he can come home before Christmas...pray for a miracle.
Middle Boy had the first part of his psychiatric evaluation today.  He said he thought it went well.

I was told earlier today that it is a two part evaluation.  Middle Boy told me during visitation that it is a two part evaluation, but that the evaluator isn't going to do the second part until he admits he did some of the charges.  Why does that matter?  The evaluator told him that the judge ordered the evaluation during the wrong phase of the trial so no one is paying for it.  What difference does it make?  It is court ordered.  He is a ward of the state. 

Middle Boy said he told him "fine it did a little of it" so now the evaluator is coming back later in the week.  I hope that doesn't come back to bite him.  He said he wasn't specific.  I'm sure he wasn't.

Middle Boy is in better spirits.  There is a glimmer of hope that he will come home on Tuesday.

Prayers for this to go smoothly.
Younger Boy doesn't follow directions...EVER.  I have heard that you should ask a child to do things once and then expect them to do it.  I have tried that.  If that is the case Younger Boy would not eat, do homework, shower, or go to bed.

I have started timing how long it takes to follow a direction.  He admits to Therapist J that he doesn't follow directions and he isn't trying.  Therapist J explained last week that not following directions is disrespectful and purposely not trying to follow them is also disrespectful and that he is constantly choosing that.

It isn't like I am even asking him to do what the average 11 year old person has to help out with.  He is spoiled...we have a cleaning person and a laundry person.  He honestly doesn't have to do much around the house.

I would welcome any sort of suggestions to get him to follow any kind of directions.

Pray for me to have wisdom.
Trust issues...everyone in our three person family has them to varying degrees.  Everyone is working on them.

Middle Boy doesn't fully trust I am going to be there for him.  Younger Boy doesn't trust that I am going to adopt him.

I don't trust that Younger Boy will do anything I ask him to.  Not a single thing.

How do we build trust?  I thought it was getting better.  It isn't.

Pray for trust.
Tonight Middle Boy called and all of a sudden I was sad.  Sad about the situation.  Sad about all of the things going on in our lives.  Just sad.

I did something I promised myself I would NEVER do when talking to him on the phone...that is cry.  I just started crying.  I thought I was hiding it well, but literally 30 seconds later Middle Boy said "why are you crying?".  I didn't know.  I was just sad.  The emotion of all of this is exhausting.  The holidays are exhausting.

I feel horrible about crying on the phone with him.  Maybe it shows that I am real.  I don't know.
When I went to pick up Younger Boy at daycare today I was told that he had really been a problem the past few days.  He hasn't been following directions and has been doing things that he thinks are funny, but makes the younger kids cry.  Apparently this is primarily happening on the way to and from school each day.

I asked him about it on the way home and he threw his backpack and said that they told him they weren't going to tell me.  Not that he hadn't been doing it, but that they weren't going to tell me.  So in his mind he couldn't be accountable, because this is the fault of the daycare for telling me.

We got home and he asked if he could watch TV.  Our rule is no TV until after homework is done.  It hasn't changed the entire ten months he has lived with me.  He told me to f*** off and that he was watching TV. 

More misdirected anger.  More consequences.  It is like we are stuck in a loop and it is hard to give someone a consequence, even a natural consequence, if nothing is ever their fault.

Prayers for Younger Boy.  Prayers for me.  This is so exhausting.  It is every night.  His anger and behavior is escalating lately.  In many ways he is exhibiting a lot of the behaviors of Older Boy...very many ways.
Before I arrived at work this morning I received a call from Younger Boy's daycare.

He had earned his cell phone privileges back last Friday and so he had his cell phone at daycare with him.  This morning at daycare he was playing music loudly on his phone and being disruptive.  They asked him to turn down the music or they would confiscate the phone.  They asked him three times (their policy).  When he did not follow directions on the third time they requested the phone and he THREW IT at the assistant director of the center.

She called to tell me she had taken it and that it would be in the office when I came to pick him up.  I assured her he wouldn't be bringing his phone to daycare any longer.  In fact he likely won't be taking his phone anywhere for quite some time.

Prayers Younger Boy can start to realize when his anger is unwarranted and over the top.
As court dates grow nearer Middle Boy's insecurities come out.

Today we had THREE calls specifically about whether or not I wanted him to come back to my house when he is allowed to go home.  It breaks my heart every time he asks me the question.  Of course I do.  I would be crushed if he chose to go somewhere else.  I am working against YEARS of people giving up on him...pretty much everyone...ever.  I get the insecurity.  I want so badly for him to understand...for him to know have to worry about it.  We'll get there...when he comes home.

Pray for Middle Boy and his ability to focus on hope and coming home.
We had our home adoption study tonight.  Basically it was an update of our foster care study which was done a year ago.

There was a question session for me and a question session for Younger Boy. 

Most of the questions for me were things like:  How has being a parent changed your life?  What is your daily schedule like?  What do you think your parenting style is?  How have you acclimated Younger Boy into your family?  Describe Younger Boy.

Younger Boy's questions were things like:  How do you know your mom loves you?  What is your opinion of adoption and foster care?  How does living here make you feel?  What are the expectations of you here?

His answers were really interesting.  I will be interested to hear Middle Boy's answers to those same questions.

The interviewer told me that most adoption studies have much younger kids and so it is fun to do them with older kids, because they actually have answers to the questions.

There was a question and answer session at the end and Younger Boy only had one question.  When is the adoption going to happen?  I explained the steps we had to go through to get there.  He was disappointed that it wasn't going to be this week.  We told him it would likely be in February or March.  We gave him the list of things though so he can check them off as they happen.  He seemed excited to do that.

Praises for the adoption study going well.
Today we had a family team meeting for Middle Boy.  I was REALLY disappointed with the attendance.

Middle Boy called in from the juvenile center.

Attendees:  Me, CASA, Service Coordinator
Not Attending:  Guardian ad Litem, Attorney, Therapist, Adoption Specialist (home sick)

We are still waiting for psychiatric evaluation and Attorney to visit Middle Boy.

I was given the authority by Middle Boy and Service Coordinator to release Attorney of responsibility as soon as we have another one with a retainer.  Waiting to hear back from two attorneys now.

Arraignment is next week.  Check hearing is next week.  Doubtful for release next week.

Prayers for Middle Boy.  He needs them now.
I just agreed to an as needed emergency respite placement.  In fact I said I would ABSOLUTELY help out this foster family.  They have a seven-year old who spirals downward in the evenings and they often need a change of scenery to get him to de-escalate.  Often times this needs to be an emergency respite placement to get him out of the house.

This scenario is so familiar to me.  This is what I went through with Older Boy.  I want to help them preserve the placement if I can.  Placement disruptions are stressful for everyone involved.  Foster Care Specialist isn't sure they will ever call me, but she wants to give them some informal support.

I'm all in.

Pray for this foster family as they go through behaviors that are all too common in foster care.  This is a tough time of year for these kiddos who feel like they don't belong.
Today was an interesting day at the juvenile center.  Honestly some of these people are like family now.

Pray for D's grandson, Clementine, he has court on Wednesday and may be going home.  I will miss her dearly if that is the case, but I know that I will think of her often and pray for their family.

Pray for the mom who visits every Sunday just to have her son sit there and not say a word.  Today her son was on lock down so she wasn't even able to just sit with him.  Pray that her son would see her love for him.

Pray for the mom who cries through every visit.  They have court this week as well.  Their attorney told her he is likely going to be sentenced to eight years.  She hasn't told him that.  He has tried to hang himself twice in the juvenile center and she is afraid this will push him over the edge.  Pray for hope...for both of them.

Pray for the grandparents doing their best to raise three teenage grandkids who moved in with them when their parents became incarcerated for drugs.  Both boys are at the center and the girl just had a baby.  They are beside themselves.  They need support and prayer.

Pray for the Mom and Sister who are there every Wednesday and Sunday visiting their son/brother who is at the juvenile center for the third time.  Prayers for wisdom.

Pray for the two boys in the unit who had an altercation last week and now are facing assault charges as a result.  Pray for the boy who was a bystander yet ended up with a broken nose during the altercation.
As adoption is nearing Younger Boy is contemplating a name change.  His reasoning is that he starting an all new life and his name has some bad memories with it.

He has decided he would like his initials to be AAA since my last name begins with A.  He needs suggestions.  He does claim to have his first name chosen.  He wants to be called Asher.  It is the middle name that seems to be presenting the problem. 

I told Middle Boy about it and he said he is keeping his first name, but changing his middle name to be my middle name.  He also said to tell Younger Boy that he would probably keep calling him by his current name, because it was going to be confusing.

Praises for fresh starts.  It is just like what we are given with our life in Christ.
Younger Boy is a charmer.

Tonight he went with C to her parent's house to play games while I was visiting Middle Boy.  We had been invited there for a late Thanksgiving/early Christmas dinner.

When I arrived they were all enamored with Younger Boy.  They were teasing him and he was charming them right back.  He was using amazing manners...he actually has them.

They LOVED him.  He had a great time.

He played outside.  He gave F a gift when he put huge 12" diameter snow balls lining the railing of their porch.  That was his "treat" for F, C's dad.  There were probably 15 of them.

We had an amazing time.

Praises for friends who are like family.
Middle Boy and I made a deal when he moved in with me.  Complete honesty to the best of our ability all of the time.  We will not provide less details in an attempt to spare the others feelings, but we also won't be purposefully rude with our honesty.

Today we asked each other a lot of questions which required honest answers.  It was a good visit.  We laughed a lot and we had a lot of pretty serious discussion.  We talked about disappointment and anger.  We talked about the walls we build up to protect ourselves from being hurt.  We talked about letting people inside those walls.

We talked about whether or not he will be home for Christmas.  We talked about our hopes and what we think is probably real.  We are still praying for what now seems like it might be a miracle.

We talked about God.  We talked about trust, forgiveness, and commitment.  All of these things have been topics about family in church in the past three weeks.  It has given us great discussions for our afternoon visits.

This morning at church it was mentioned that we should ask our kids what our number one priority is.  Honestly...I didn't have the courage to ask Middle Boy.  I will though.  During the visit on Wednesday.

Praises for honesty and relationship.

Prayers for wisdom and discernment.  Prayers for a miracle.
Let me start by saying this...I have NOT had a Christmas tree since I was in college.  I am not Scrooge.  I just haven't had a tree. 

I do have nativity sets...I collect them, but they do not make it out every year...or even every other.

This year I am being forced to change my thoughts about the Christmas tree.  We each rated our desire to have one on a scale of one to ten.  I said two.  Middle Boy said four...I knew there was a reason I love him.  Younger Boy said TEN.  Really, ten? we went and got a Christmas tree...and ornaments...and garland...and a tree stand...and a star...and a tree skirt.  I was able to convince Younger Boy that it was better to have the pre-lit tree.  He wasn't able to convince me that we should decorate outside the house as well.

We will be decorating our tree later this week.  I hope Younger Boy gets really into it or we may have a tree that has a lot of white lights and a star!!

Praises for the joy of Christmas!
Middle Boy called seven times today.  He wasn't having a hard time...he was giving me a hard time.

He has wanted me to drop off glasses for him since Wednesday afternoon.  They are NOT prescription glasses.  They are for FASHION.  I do not deem this an emergency.  He does.  He was calling to see if I was planning to bring them.

I told him I would bring them during my Sunday visit.  In his sarcastic way he said "I'm surprised you are going to do that.  It isn't a necessity."  That's isn't.  However I WILL be there every visiting day until you are back in my home.

Praises for Middle Boy keeping his sense of humor during this tough time.
This morning we had a lot of errand running to do. 

Younger Boy has a really hard time following directions while in stores.  He had on a hoodie so I told him before we entered two different stores that he should keep his hands in the front hoodie pocket the entire time.  Little did I know that you can actually wind music boxes and shake snow globes all with your hands in your pockets.

Younger Boy decided he wanted to buy his own Christmas cards to send to his friends and cousins.  We bought them, but judging from how much Younger Boy hates writing it will be a Christmas miracle if he sits down and works on them.

We had to stop by his doctor's office to pick up his monthly prescription and then drive to multiple pharmacies in order to be able to fill it.  Every month that is an AMAZING adventure.  It is almost like winning the lottery if the pharmacy closest to us is able to fill the prescription.

We were going to continue on to shop for the family we adopted to buy their gifts, but we were both tired.  We decided to do it later in the day...which we didn't do.

Younger Boy LOVES the traditional Christmas shows.  I'm not sure he has ever seen any of them.  He tells me about every single one in great detail with wide-eyed wonder.  I love it!

Praises for a good day with Younger Boy.
My friends, M and K, both commented last weekend about how they thought I should write on the weekends...

Ladies...this weekend is for you!
Another visit from Attorney or evaluation.

Middle Boy gives me a report every night on the phone.

Today I got my first two letters from Middle Boy.  One made me laugh...the other made me cry.  I will keep both of them FOREVER!!

Praises for family!!
For a while now Younger Boy has been asking me if we could go on a date.  Tonight we went out for dinner.  We had burgers, fries, and milkshakes.  It was a lot of fun.

We came home and watched Frosty the Snowman and three other Christmas shows.  He hadn't seen any of them before and it had been YEARS since I watched them.

We drank hot chocolate and then read the Bible story and went to bed.

It was a good night and he was a great date!!

Praises for nice times together as family.
Last night Middle Boy and I had a discussion about group homes.  Apparently he and Therapist A had a discussion yesterday about the possibility of an intensive group home stay following leaving the juvenile center. 

He asked what I thought about it.  Here's what I think...we are going to do whatever it is that Judge tells him he needs to do.  We will just meet the requirements that are the consequences of what happened and then we will move on.  If it is a group home for 30 days, 60 days, 90 days, a year...whatever...that's what we'll do.  If it is incarceration for that length of time...that's what we'll do.  Do some of them stink more than others?  Yes.

Arraignment is now less than two weeks away.  Attorney has still NOT met with Middle Boy.  We can't hire a private attorney until he fires Attorney.  He can't fire Attorney if Attorney doesn't take his calls or come to visit.

Evaluations are NOT done.  Supposedly they will be by the date of the check hearing in ten days.  I have my doubts about it.  Originally they stated a time frame of six weeks to two months to get the evaluations completed.  What is the likelihood that it is going to occur in under three weeks...during the holidays?

Middle Boy has upped the number of calls per day again.  We talk quite often.  Way more than we would be talking if we lived in the same house.  We talk about everything.  We take turns picking the subject.  We have had some pretty serious discussions.

Prayers for Middle Boy.  He is really doing well emotionally right now.  He has earned the maximum number of privileges he can have at this time.  The next one requires him to remain at his current level for four weeks.  If he reaches that level we get to have a third visit per week.  Honestly though...I hope he isn't there long enough to achieve that level.

Prayers for Middle Boy.  The holidays are probably going to be rough regardless.  Foster kids tend to really struggle during this time, because of new traditions, new homes, not feeling a part of things, etc.  Add to that everything that has been going on in Middle Boy's life.  Prayer for Younger Boy, too.  It is a little lonely with just the two of us.
Younger Boy had tutoring today after school today.  He is getting tutoring at school every Thursday in reading.  He seems to really like it.

Right afterward he had therapy.  Therapist J is working with him on not being so impulsive.  Impulsivity is really what is causing a good deal of the issues we are having right now.  Right before he does anything or says anything during their sessions Therapist J says "take a deep breath".  Younger Boy has to actually concentrate to do that...really concentrate.  It seems to take things down a notch.

When therapy was over Younger Boy wanted to watch a cartoon on Netflix.  I told him I had cancelled Netflix earlier today, because he told me he didn't care if he couldn't watch it or not.  He was NOT happy, but he didn't explode or stomp off.  Instead he took a deep breath and apologized for his behavior over the last few days.  I thanked him and told him in a month I would reconsider having Netflix.

Younger Boy "announced" that he wants to be more responsible and that he would make sure he got himself in bed by 8:45pm.  I reminded him that included showering.  He didn't want reminders.  I told him it would go a long way if he could do this.  He tried...really hard.  He underestimated the amount of time he is usually in the shower.  He got himself to bed and ready for the Bible story by 9:03pm.

He wants to try it again tomorrow night.  It would be AWESOME if he could self-regulate bedtime to some degree.

Praises for Therapist J, tutoring, and all of those things that are helping Younger Boy.
Middle Boy LOVES the glasses I picked out for him.  Apparently they are EXACTLY what he wanted and he couldn't have picked them better.  His friend, Z, who I have met through visits told him that he looks really smart in them and that I did a great job.

It is a small victory, but it made him happy today when he finally got them.  That makes me smile.
If you continually take things that aren't yours without asking and either hiding them, losing them, or just keeping them you are guilty of theft.

This is what is happening multiple times a day with Younger Boy.  He is taking things at school, daycare, and home.  I have caught him on multiple occassions taking things that are Middle Boy's and putting them in his dresser drawer.  Tonight we are going to clean out closets and drawers and write a letter to Middle Boy apologizing for taking his things.

Younger Boy told me it is "jacked up" that he has to ask about using Middle Boy's stuff.

The only thing Younger Boy seems to care about right now is if he can't watch cartoons on Netflix.  We have racked up so many consequences lately that I cancelled Netflix tonight.  I'm sure it will cause an outburst tomorrow.

Prayers for better behavior. 
Middle Boy called this morning wanting me to stop on my way to visit to pick up the following things:  a composition notebook, a folder, and reading glasses.  Not only that, but he had an EXACT description of what the glasses should look like.  I knew that my chances of getting this right were VERY LOW.

I did end up having time to go get the items he wanted.  The glasses part made me NERVOUS.

Of course I can't just give him this stuff when I get there.  I had to register the glasses with the medical department and the notebook and folder with the education department.  The education department has to approve that he can have a folder and a composition notebook.  I imagine they will, because they are approving kids to receive People Magazine as educational materials.

When I got to the visit I was surprised to see that Middle Boy is now wearing his hair slicked back like Elvis...using lotion.  It isn't the best look I have seen.  It is better than his roommates look of about 40 really small ponytails though.  He needs a haircut.  One of the staff who works in the unit is a barber and cuts hair, but Middle Boy doesn't want his cut.  He hasn't had a haircut since before he moved in with me.  I did tell him that I am going to start wearing my hair in really crazy ways to visits, but he made me promise not to embarrass him.

We had a great visit...we laughed a lot.  That hasn't happened in a while.

Praises for Middle Boy and his renewed hope.
Middle Boy has started calling a lot more recently.  Honestly I am not sure how many times he called yesterday.  He generally calls some time while I am at lunch and then again as I am leaving work.  After that he usually calls to talk to Younger Boy at least once and then me again multiple times.

I enjoy talking to him.  He doesn't have to call.  He chooses to.  That is a big deal.  He also chooses to continue to work on his relationship with Younger Boy.  That makes me happy.

We made a deal today about calls and letters. 

Again he asked if I am going to visit tomorrow.  Every time I tell him that I WILL NOT miss a visit for anything unless me dying.  He asked if I would miss one if I had a meeting at work.  NO.  I will not.  I asked if he thought work was more important to me than he is and he said he didn't know.  We still have some work to do in this.  Work will NEVER be more important than he is...NEVER.

Prayers for trust.  As with Younger Boy there are a lot of years of bad examples to overcome on this one.  I am thankful for the opportunity to be able to show him he can trust me and that I will be there.
So...homework went fairly well for about a week.  The stretch was a longer stretch than in the past, but we are now back to the old behavior.  Therapist J thinks it is fear of doing well, because it seems uncomfortable.

Younger Boy did ALL of his homework for a week.  He got ahead.  Monday it started falling apart...tonight was a disaster.  On Monday night Younger Boy told me he had math homework due on Wednesday, but that he didn't know the assignment.  He assured me he was going to get it today.  Tonight when I asked about it he said his teacher didn't give him the assignment so he didn't bring home his book.  I asked why not and was shocked at the response..."shut the f*** up".  Really, that is the response you chose to why you didn't bring home your math book.

I explained that is COMPLETELY unacceptable to talk to me like that under ANY circumstance.  His choice of words were something I never wanted to hear him say again.

He kept saying "I don't care."  I gave him a consequence to which he replied "I don't care."

I asked if he intended to try to work on his behavior or anger.  This has been a big topic during therapy for him.  Each week he has to rate the amount of effort he is putting in toward implementation of the things they are talking about.  They rate it on a scale of 1 - 10.  Every week he gives himself a 1.  I agree with his assessment. 

Younger Boy NEVER shows remorse.  It is one of the characteristics of the disorder he has been diagnosed with.  It is frustrating.

Prayers for Younger Boy understanding that his language and actions are inappropriate.  There are a lot of years of bad examples to overcome, but I believe he can...if he wants to.
Older Sister M has contacted Mom and Dad J multiple times and is considering a visit over the holidays.

On December 15th we have court for Older Boy and Younger Boy.  At that time Mom and Dad J are going to pursue the rules for sibling contact with Older Sister.  She is legally allowed to talk to Younger Sister H now, because H has been adopted.

Here's the quandry we find ourselves in.  Is now a good time to have a MAJOR disruption like reintroducing Older Sister M back into the mix.  Older Boy cries about her often.  I don't recall EVER hearing Younger Boy mention her.  I kind of want to ask him if he would want to look for her.  I don't want to raise his suspicions though.

I don't want to keep them from having sibling contact.  Therapist J thinks we should hold off for a few months, because of all of the changes they have gone through recently.  I just hate that this is so complicated.

Prayers for wisdom regarding the timing of the visit and contact with Older Sister M.
I keep forgetting to post about something that has been on my heart since Sunday afternoon.

When I went to visit Middle Boy all of the unit visitors were sitting in the waiting room when a child was released.  According to the person picking him up he had been there a couple of weeks.  You could literally hear everyone gasp when this boy walked through the doors.  There is NO WAY he was more than seven or eight years old.  NO WAY.  The boy looked terrified.

I just pray for that boy and for his family.  I can't believe that the juvenile center is equipped to handle kiddos that young.  Maybe he was deceptively young looking...I hope that was the case. 

Continued prayer for all of the kids in the juvenile center.  Continued prayer for the families of those kids.

I have become acquainted with a number of the families who visit at the same time as I do.  There are the grandparents who have custody of their three teenage grandsons.  Two of them are there in the unit.  There is the mother and sister who visit someone who is on his third trip to the center.  There is the mom who cries every time she visits for the whole time.  There is the mom who is dutifully there every Wednesday and Sunday and her son won't talk to her.  They just sit silently at a table in the room, but she is there every time.  There is friend...who I have laughed with and cried with.  As a group we all pray together before visits.  Something I would have never expected, but have come to embrace.

It seems everyone has court between now and the end of the year.  Each time I pray that someone from our visiting group will be gone.  That means someone got to go HOME.

Prayers for all of these people.
I haven't heard anything back from the attorneys I called last week.  I have left all of them another message.

I did call Attorney today to find out if he was actively working on the case and to have him explain some things to me.

The process now is as follows:  arraignment, adjudication, disposition.  In adult court the similar terms are:  arraignment, trial, sentencing.  Typically the evaluations we are doing now are part of the adjudication process so we are getting a jump start on that step.

I asked if kids typically go home at arraignment and he said no, but as soon as the evaluation is done we can do another detention review.  We will have to address everything on the evaluation in our plan.

I asked the typical length of time between the arraignment hearing and the adjudication.  He said with the court system the way it is now that adjudication will be toward the middle of February.  For now I am not going to tell Middle Boy that.

Attorney has agreed to send me all of the updates on Middle Boy's case so that I can understand what is going on and not have to get the information through Middle Boy or Service Coordinator.  That helps me out a lot.  Middle Boy does an OK job of telling me who visited, but I know he is going to therapy at the juvenile center and he hasn't ever made reference to that.

Prayers that this whole thing can be expedited as much as possible.  Prayers we can do the detention review before Christmas and that he can be home for the holidays. 

Prayers for wisdom for Attorney.  I am still wavering on if he is the right person for the job or not.  Middle Boy is vascillating on it as well. 

Prayers for a quick evaluation.  I want the evaluation to be accurate and if Middle Boy needs help I want to make sure he gets the help he needs.
Following directions is the nemesis of Younger Boy. 

Sometimes he starts off well and gets right up to do things and becomes distracted.  Often times the distraction is stomping or dancing or laying on the couch.  Sometimes he starts to do it whatever the direction is and then does the exact opposite.

Last night I told him he could watch one cartoon on Netflix while I was making dinner.  He didn't have any homework and was all caught up.  I told him that after the one cartoon was over he needed to turn off the TV.  Our floor plan is really open.  I could hear the cartoon end.  I heard the next one start.  I asked what he was doing.  He said that the directions I gave him were confusing.  What?  How is "turn off the TV when this episode is done" confusing?  He had even repeated it back to me.  I asked him to explain it to me.  He then said he was actually just "getting ready" for the next time I let him watch.  Nope.  Try again.  He ended up going in his room and slamming his door, because I am stupid and don't want him to do anything.

He ended up apologizing after sitting in his room angry for ONE HOUR.  I asked him if he thought he got too angry for the situation.  He said yes and that he doesn't know why it happens.

Prayers for anger management and following directions.
Today I had two boys who were excited about life.

Younger Boy volunteered at church for Bethlehem and was a junior tax collector.  He thought it was the coolest thing he had EVER done.  He loves volunteering for things and helping others out.  He had gone through Bethlehem the evening before and begged to volunteer the next evening.

Middle Boy called seven times today PLUS we had a visit.  He called when I was in the waiting room for the visit.  He called while I was driving home from the visit.  He had a ton of things he wanted to talk about.  We talked about jobs, cars, rearranging his room, college, and school.  I love that he was initiating conversations that seem hopeful about the future.

I love these boys.  I am excited about the future with them.

Praises for these boys and their excitement and hope.
Younger Boy has decided since it is snowy outside he should make "hot" chocolate for us every night.  He likes to be responsible for doing things like this.

He went to the kitchen to make our drinks for us and brought me my hot chocolate.  It was instantly cool enough to drink, because Younger Boy likes to make it with hot water from the sink.  It is warm-ish at best.

We talked about how we could make it warmer. 

It was so sweet that he wanted to do this.  He wanted to do something special.

Praises for sweet little things done by Younger Boy.
This afternoon was the camper Christmas party.  It was so much fun going through Bethlehem with the two little boys I went with.  They were funny and had fun making coins and bracelets.  We laughed when they were eating stew and one of the boys said "This is disgusting."  The other adult in our group offered to throw it away for him and he said "No, I'm going to eat it."

To see those little faces just standing staring at the manger scene in awe of the baby.  That made my afternoon. 

It made me remember the awe and the reason for this season.

Prayers for these campers.  Prayers for their safety, for hope, and for forever families for each and every one of them.
Middle Boy is getting picked on in his unit at the juvenile center, because he is one of the few kiddos there who is not already a father.

He talks to me about it a lot.  The boys there have him convinced you are not a man unless you have a child.

First of all...a 14 year-old is not a man in the first place.  Second...a man actually does the right thing and doesn't have children when he isn't married and that he doesn't intend to care for the remainder of his life.

I hate these bad influences and the misdirected thinking.  His roommate is 17 years old and has two kids with a third on the way.  I told Middle Boy to ask his roommate what he is doing to provide for them both when he is in and not in the juvenile center.  I told him to ask him if they all had the same mother.  He doesn't want to ask him any of those questions.

Prayers that the influences in Middle Boy's (and Younger Boy's) lives will get better.  Also, pray for all of these kids who have kids.  Pray that something will click with them and they will step up and be responsible.  Also pray for all those babies and their mamas...they need all the support they can get.
Apparently last night I was VERY TIRED.  Younger Boy and I sat down to watch a movie he picked out.  I don't remember seeing more than about five minutes of it before I feel asleep in the family room.  At some point he turned off the basement TV and moved upstairs to the living room and changed to watching cartoons on Netflix.

I woke up at 4:05AM with a horrible charley horse in my leg.  When I could finally walk on it I went upstairs and found Younger Boy WIDE AWAKE and still watching cartoons.

I sent him to bed.  This morning we discussed that when this happens he MUST get in bed NO LATER THAN 10PM unless I have given him special permission to stay up later.  I don't think he has that much self discipline, but we'll see.

Unfortunately at the end of the week I am usually that tired.  It will probably happen again.

I am very tired this morning.  He woke up at 9AM and is not.  The kid literally needs no sleep.

Prayers for good habits regarding sleep...for both of us.
I just talked to Middle Boy about Attorney and said whether or not we hire one is his decision since it is his attorney.  He said, "Isn't this Attorney's first case?  I don't want to get someone else if it is his first case, because I kind of feel sorry for him.  He is really bad, but I didn't want to fire him if no one had ever given him a chance."  This has to be Middle Boy's choice since I technically have no legal connection to him.
I don't think this is a good reason to keep your attorney.  He said that if he has had other cases and is this bad we should hire someone else.  His only concern is that this would slow the case down.  His arraignment will still be at the end of December and that isn't going to change.
Good grief.  I suppose I should be thankful for compassion.  In fact, I am thankful for his compassion.  It is one of the things I really love about him.  However...there are better times to show compassion than when your freedom is on the line.
Prayers for the right attorney to take the case and that Middle Boy will comfortable with the new attorney.