All I want for Christmas, I won back from CPS

Do not give up! If you are facing this holiday season without your children, know that our hearts are with you and that the view on the other side is not only beautiful but also reachable!

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We thought we were in a never-ending nightmare. We felt the depth of the gorge and saw the height of the mountains that we were determined to climb. We questioned the view from the top and wondered about what would come on the other side if we were to ever make it out of the valley.

I know many of you feel this now. The holidays are overwhelming for your children or grandchildren, for any number of reasons either real or false reports, are dreaming of sugar plums in a bed that is not their own. For those of you who have not experienced this, imagine the emptiness of a stocking on Christmas morning because there is no child to shriek with excitement. Imagine seeing other parents urge their children to sit on Santa’s lap and wondering if your own is scared or excited. The magnitude of this cannot easily be portrayed but I am here to tell you that the view from atop that mountain, what lies beyond the valley, is beautiful!

I mean, look at this smile!

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We just saw Chase and Marshall from Paw Patrol!

They tried to tell me, in the valley, that this smile would not be over that ridge! But on a Friday night at a local Christmas tree lighting, Chase and Marshall from Paw Patrol told them that they were wrong. She smiles and I smile!

But wait, they also said that my daughter would never smile again and that she would no longer get “mommy moments” but they were wrong.

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Banana Pudding: Just Because!

Of course, they did not count on me snapping a quick photo while the children made banana pudding with their mommy! They did not know that, on the other side of that seemingly insurmountable mountain, my daughter would smile again!

In fact, they did not count on library craft mornings or ice cream afternoons!

But the smiles are real and so is the view! Do not give up! If you are facing this holiday season without your children, know that our hearts are with you and that the view on the other side is not only beautiful but also reachable!

Many blessings and prayers to all of you!

“Gigi”

Tonight, I pray: Please pray with me!

Okay, I know on #48 I stated that we do not attend church. I am not changing that statement but please know that this does not mean that we do not pray. In fact, I was raised in a Pentecostal church and know that when 2 or more come in accord our prayers are heard. With 592 followers, I only ask that one of you that follow our blog say this prayer with me.

Dear heavenly father, tomorrow is a test of our faith. We must have faith in a system that once failed not only us but all members of this family. We ask for a peaceful transition. We ask for the love for the children to supersede the feelings of anger and entitlement. We ask for God to be there so that all parties recognize the that He, not man, paves the way to peace. We pray that our family will be safe and that everyone will turn to His guidance in approaching this day. In Jesus’s name, we pray…Amen and Amen

I cannot provide more details than this but I hope, that on faith, you will speak these words with us tonight.

From my grandchildren and I, thank you for joining us on our journey and our prayer!

“Gigi”

 

Books and Family: Does it get any better?

Look at these four! How blessed am I!?!? I was in the kitchen getting lunch ready and the four children were being very quiet. Scary, huh?! But they were not fighting. They were not destroying the house. They were not into any type of mischief. Nope, they were sitting together doing the one thing that their English major Gigi has prayed that they would love to do….Reading!

All four of them were huddled around a book and taking turns pointing to the pictures to give their own rendition of the story either through words or sounds. It was 101 Dalmations so there was a lot of barking followed by a few “oh no’s” from Elliott who has recently been explosive with his imagination and everything that looks a little scary is met with this expression.  (He brought me a toy spider this morning saying “oh no!” and then chased me with it. Remember, I HATE spiders!!!)

Anyway, the words and sounds were not nearly as important as was the fact that they were all together (something we once thought would never happen again) and they were enjoying a book together by taking turns and sharing. It is amazing what togetherness does for cousins. It helps them to grow, learn, and form true emotional bonds. It brings them comfort and joy in a way that no other relationships can. It strengthens their sense of self and forms their sense of citizenry.

Every day, I get to sneak a little peek into their world. Truly, how blessed am I?!

“Gigi”

Understanding Needs: Toddler Talk

While sitting at my computer, I can anticipate Clarabelle needing to use “Gigi’s bathroom” at least 3 times per hour so that she may enter the room and say “sooooo, what’s up?” I smile and ask what’s up with her and she toddles off to the bathroom only to repeat the conversation as she finishes and exits the room. It’s a thing we do.

So, anyway, today she enters, does her little exchange, and goes into the bathroom. I hear “Gigi, I need you.”

I jump up from my computer and open the bathroom door. She seems just fine. She is adjusting her pants as she pulls them up and so I asked, “what do you need?”

“You,” she responded.

“What do you need me to do?”

“Nothing,” she smiled, hugged me, and said, “sooooo, what’s up?” She then toddled off to the living room.

I stood there for a minute and reflected on this odd exchange. She did not need me to do anything. She just needed me. What an amazing concept!

 

During the year that the children were in foster care, I remember going to eat at Cracker Barrell with my son, Zach, one Sunday afternoon. Across the room from us, I looked up and saw them! My heart dropped. I wanted so badly to go to them but I was afraid. I didn’t know the rules about these things. I did not know how the foster parents would act. I did not know if it would cause a scene. The ache of being so close and yet unable to reach them was unbearable! It was like drowning just below the surface of the water where you can see the way out but you are held down so as to not be able to gasp in the air that is just above you.

 

Before we left, I took a deep breath and approached the table. I spoke cordially to the foster parents and their family and then turned my attention to the children. I was happy to see them. I wanted to stay in that moment. But I knew I had to be brief. As I leaned down to tell them by, Clarabelle stated, in the same matter of fact tone that she had in the bathroom today, “But, Gigi, I need you and Elliott needs you, too.” I held back the tears. I wanted to meet that need. I wanted to be with them every moment of every day to help teach them and guide them through life. I wanted to tell her that I was trying so hard to bring them home. I wanted to take them from their high chairs and run as far away from the nightmare that we were living as possible. But, instead, I looked in her sweet face and said, “I know, baby, Gigi needs you and your brother, too. But I have to go now so I can keep working to bring you home.”

After a few more times of her stating that she needed me, I turned and the tears fell.

It was a terrible feeling to know that I could not give her what she needed. But, in the same breath, it was a beautiful thing to know that she did then and still now knows that our needs are essential to our wellbeing and those needs include being with one another.

A child does not need a fancy home or an abundance of “things.” They need love, time, and attention.

May we always Meet the Needs of Children

“Gigi”

Halloween Moments! Things that we no longer have to miss!

Oh, how I dreaded the holidays last year. It was absolutely painful to view all of the decorations in the stores and lining the houses on the streets. I did not want to feel that way, (I had always loved every silly tradition) but I could not help it. Nothing was the same. The grandchildren were not home. My oldest son had moved to Florida. My daughter was unable to form a smile without her children. My youngest son could not find a way to make it better. It was a miserable time!

Generally, every holiday gets a whole month. I know. That’s extreme but we have a lot of traditions and I do not intend to miss a single one this year! Today is the kickoff for Halloween and we certainly enjoyed ourselves!

My advice to everyone, do not take a single moment for granted! During the last year, we managed to do holiday crafts and implement a few traditions into our visits. But, I tell ya, there is nothing better than having them “home for the holidays.”

To the return of our family and our traditions!

“Gigi”

Yes, You Will Always be a Princess! Happy Birthday, Clarabelle!

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First and foremost, guys, isn’t she beautiful?

I mean, yes, she is physically the epitome of beauty (perhaps a little biased here) but, if you have read any of our “Toddler Talks”  then you know she is beautiful from somewhere within. She has the ability to see the world through the eyes of a child as well as the eyes of someone who could easily have been shattered by the adult world but chose to not let this smudge on her life define her. She is the inspiration that I hope everyone takes from the CPS stories that we tell because, yes, they stole her, tried to remove her concept of family, and tried to teach her that the world is an ugly place, but she refuses to hold on to those lessons. She turned three on 9/13/2017 but, today, since we had been evacuated for Hurricane Irma, we celebrated her birthday at home with family. Today, we celebrated the ability to do so!

You see, last year, we celebrated at the local bowling alley under the watchful eye of her foster parents. Granted, we were there. We brought the cake and the food. Her mom, Ashley, had carefully ironed on the patch of the number 2 onto her birthday outfit. We brought gifts. We brought love. We brought a birthday to remember (but we try to forget). Her face looked a bit sadder than usual. Her demeanor, by this point, was slowly slipping away. Her awareness of what was going on in her world was taking over her innocence.

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Of course, she is home now. She is no longer monitored for her actions. We are no longer monitored in our ability to love her. She can now smile! AND SHE DOES!!!!!happy.jpg

Clarice Isabelle (AKA her “Princess Name”) was born on 9/13/2014 with eyes wide open and ready to take on the world. In her three short years, she has endured more than most people will in a lifetime. And yet, she lights up the room with a love for life that we could all stand to learn from. Just as royalty, she may be a little spoiled (oops) but she sees the world for what it is….a place that needs more love and laughter. And, just like a true princess, she does her part to make this a reality. So, yes, Clarabelle, you will always be a princess. You will always have the wisdom that comes from hardships and the heart to make a difference. You will always be Clarabelle!

Happy Birthday, my sweet girl.

May you always be strong but never again have to prove it!

“Gigi”

The World Changes: Prepare your children for what will be

I have spent a great deal of time with older members of my hometown this week. Keep in mind, that this is a generation of retired miners, farmers, and generally Appalachian good ole’ boys who love their momma’s, Jesus, and trucks and I mean that in the most positive manner. These people who helped to shape who I am are honest, hardworking men and women who have never harmed another person. They are good people. They bring casseroles when someone dies and help to shovel each other’s driveways simply because they finished their own a bit faster. They sit with the sick and care for the young. I am super blessed to have been raised in a hometown that emphasized so many strong values in my upbringing. However, I am not here to be raised at this point. In fact, I am here having raised my own children and now helping to raise my grandchildren. I am now part of the older generation yet I see something that they cannot.

Having left home and traveled, I realize that not all communities are as frozen in time as is my hometown. They raise children to become mirror images of themselves which, regarding the basic concept of taking care of one another, is not the worst thing that one could say about Appalachian living. The issue is that these small communities are afraid of change. They sit around the table and try to find ways to prevent change but the fact is that we cannot. Change happens.

While discussing the differences between how I view the world and how I am “supposed” to view the world based on my childhood teachings, I quickly realized just how much I had learned after childhood. You see, people believe that they are to raise their children based strictly on the values that they had when they were children. Now, I am not speaking of religious values or ideologies but rather on the way that they assigned values to other people or objects in their environment. The problem with this philosophy is that our children, our grandchildren, will not grow up in the same society.

I always said that I was not raising children but rather that I was raising adults who would function in the world outside of their childhood. In order to do this, I had to anticipate what that world would look like. Slang words or stereotypes that may have been acceptable in my grandparents’ young adulthood were certainly not acceptable during mine and the same would be true for my children and grandchildren. We are not raising children who need to survive in OUR society but rather who must survive in THEIRS.

I realize that we are parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles. I realize that this means that we are likely not psychics! We cannot know exactly what their society will look like but we can be certain that it will be different from our own and that this is okay. This is expected. This will be their time! So, instead of teaching children what your grandparents thought of same-sex marriages, teach your children tolerance and acceptance. Instead of telling your grandchildren about the racial division in your high school days, talk to them about the importance of unity. Instead of highlighting all of the negative characteristics that you were taught about a certain gender, ethnicity, or even socioeconomic status, teach about lifting up one another and the importance of all members of society succeeding.

We do not have to teach these things with a specific characteristic in mind. In fact, it is better than we do not. We do not have to remove history but rather focus on the future. We do not have to teach through words but rather we should speak through actions because, if we are lucky, we will still be around to watch our children and grandchildren flourish in their society and know that we gave them the foundation to do so.

We do not design the world for our children. We prepare our children for their world.

“Gigi”