Sometimes right in the middle of a low point, you realize how much lower it could really be. Foster care has grown Bob and I in ways we never thought possible. We have been forever changed in areas of our lives that we didn’t even know were broken and our family has been humbled to find that even in our absolute hardest and lowest moments that we were still far more blessed than we realized.
There was a time in the beginning of our journey that we were flat broke. Like, the mortgage company is sending notices, the lights are kept on by “promise to pay” agreements, and food was a whole lotta’ noodles with sauce for dinner. Scary times considering we had just been awarded custody of four more mouths to feed in addition to our three. Things were REALLY hard. And I know there is all this talk about how people live off the system and get foster care money, how they don’t spend it correctly, or they don’t spend it on the kids… but let me make something very clear. We were NOT yet foster parents… we were a kinship placement of children who were in a rough spot, and every intention was that they would return home when they were able. This was a semi-short term solution for friends (family) of ours that we were just in the right place at the right time in their lives to help. Bob and I were broke but we were going to be OK and we knew we could make it work somehow because it was something we were determined and passionate enough to figure out.
AND it was Christmas.
We had seven kids, ages eight and under that year- there was no reasoning about whether or not Santa was real and who was packing the sleigh. These kids were all in.
But our elementary school stepped up. They absolutely went all out and not only offered the help with gifts, but we really felt that they were so happy to do it! They knew our kids and even got things for them that Bob and I didn’t even know they wanted! Most of the gifts were even wrapped with beautiful bows and ribbons… and Bob and I could just breath for a minute while enjoying the season and working on our bills. That’s not to say there was no effort on our part, there was still plenty to help with but for the most part, as we finished out the end of that year, we felt like it might all be OK.
So Christmas Eve had come and we did the cookies with milk, the letter, the reindeer food out front- all of it. We made sure to tell the kids there was NO peaking in the morning, that we would be up bright and early waiting for them but they had to wait for us. We might’ve been more excited than they were. The school did an amazing job and we didn’t want to miss that first reaction in any of the kids’ faces so we decided to put out a baby monitor to catch any little investigators who might sneak in the night to see everything.
Christmas morning. 2009. Oh, to relive that moment again. Baby monitor on. We are upstairs sleeping in the loft bedroom. It’s about 5am and we hear them. They are choosing who will sneak out of the back bedrooms and see what might be under the tree. Ciera being the oldest is the chosen one. And she is anything but graceful and she’s trying SO hard to be quiet. Imagine an elephant tiptoeing down a hallway in a house built for 5 but holding 9. We don’t stop her, we just listen, still really half asleep but listening. And we’re almost annoyed that they have completely ignored our rules. Then she makes it to the living room.
No holding back, there was no longer a single thought of being caught, of waking others up, all of the pretending to be quiet is gone. She runs back to the bedroom.
“Guys, Guys!!! He knows where we live this year!” comes across the monitor.
Try wiping the tears out of your eyes to get down the stairs and start the coffee.
Man what a Christmas morning that was! I don’t think we were able to clean everything up for about a week, and there still may be remnants of wrapping paper under the floorboards.
There is just a deeper level of humbleness that comes with kinship and foster care- because as tight as money had been, and in spite of our bills at that time, our kids knew that still Santa could find us. He had always figured it out at our house. We really just expected them all to be excited- not surprised. It had never crossed our minds that Santa may not find some houses at all. That maybe Santa didn’t know where everyone lives and that in some houses, not even a small gift falls off the back of the sleigh.
So when I see those Christmas tag posts go viral it just warms me right up. There was a time that you were all giving to people like us – and the gifts were the least of what we got out of it.
Happy December Folks, I’ll be sharing more of our Christmas stories throughout all of December so check back often!