Another week of workouts is in the books, and this one was great! It looks like half marathon training is actually happening since I have now done two long runs in a row. Even though it has been warmer this week, fall is such a fantastic time of year for running. After struggling all summer, it really gets my spirits up when those temps drop a few degrees!
Monday, September 18, 4 mile run, personal training – deadlifts: I started the week of right with a 4 mile run on Monday morning. AJ takes our foster son to school on Mondays and Wednesdays, so I don’t have to run quite so absurdly early on those days, which is excellent. My personal training session included tons of deadlifts – one of my favorite days of the week! I never go super heavy, but I could tell I’ve really progressed because my trainer told me it was time to…drum roll please… take my shoes off. As I’ve mentioned before, this is a power lifting gym, so a lot of people there don’t wear any shoes at all when they work out, just socks. I guess it makes you more stable or powerful or something, I don’t know. It’s pretty weird at first, but I felt like I had really made it when I finally got the approval to take my shoes off. It’s the little things! (PS, AJ made fun of me for like 2 hours and has sworn never to remove his shoes)
Tuesday, September 19, personal training – chest and tris: This was a huge workout for me! As I mentioned last week, I’m working on doing dips, and this week I did 3 sets of 10 and 1 set of 5 with no weight assistance at all. After completing my entire workout, my coach said “Ok, we’re going to finish up with some pushups. Do 10, then 30 seconds rest, then 8, then 30 seconds, 6, 4, 2, etc.” And because I’m a smart ass, I was like “30 pushups total? Can I just do them all at once?” And he was like “Well, I guess, hot shot.” So I did 35 instead (real ones), non-stop. Boom. Then I went home and challenged AJ to a pushup contest. He did not accept.
Wednesday, September 20, 4.25 mile run, personal training – back/ biceps: Pearce and I made it out the door and managed to squeeze in a little over 4 miles before starting the day. Our runs are getting progressively faster, even though they don’t really feel any easier! Personal training was a good workout, even though I don’t really love back days. My back is a weak spot for me and it never really seems to get easier, even though I know I’m making progress. Maybe one day pull ups will be easy, but today is not that day.
Thursday, September 21, personal training – legs: The theme of the days was lunges, lunges, lunges. Weighted lunges, non-weighted lunges, lunges everywhere. I was a sweaty mess by the time it was over! There’s something uniquely gross about the amount I sweat on leg day. It’s pretty next level.
Friday, September 22, 3 mile run, personal training – full upper body: I woke up a little earlier than I had planned on Friday and decided to go for a run. It was PITCH black when I left and for some reason, I had the bright idea to run outside of my neighborhood, where there are no lights. I am not typically one to worry a whole lot about running safety where I live, but on this particular run I was like “OMG THIS IS HOW I DIE.” For My Favorite Murder fans, I kept thinking “Georgia and Karen would be SO MAD at me right now.” Obviously nothing happened and it was fine, but I think I’ll be sticking to my lighted neighborhood until the morning sunlight returns. I also had personal training and physical therapy on Friday. Why physical therapy? Long story short, I’ve been having problems with my neck and shoulder for months now and they are getting progressively worse. My physical therapist thinks I have a torn labrum, but only time will tell. A light full upper body workout (with no movements that hurt my shoulder) was on the menu for the day.
Saturday, September 23, 8 mile run: Woohoo! Half marathon training is really underway, and I am feeling good! Pearce and I did 8 miles, including 4 with her 12-year old son. It went great and it has been nice to get back to weekend long runs now that the weather is a bit cooler. I’m fully looking forward to the Spinx Runfest now!
Sunday, September 24, OFF – and 1 mile with my foster son!: My foster son woke up this morning and asked if he could run with me! “Of course,” I said. “Whenever you go,” he said. Bless his little heart! We set out to complete a mile. Of course, 5 year olds aren’t so great at pacing (then again, neither am I), but we had lots of fun as we ran, walked, and picked up sticks. You don’t pick up sticks when you’re out for runs? You’re missing out.
LEAVE A COMMENT: Do your kids enjoy running with you? Have you ever lifted weights barefoot before?
It can’t be emphasized enough – becoming a parent via foster parenting has turned my world upside down. While that may seem like a negative description, it’s actually all-encompassing. I’ve learned a lot about myself, my husband, and parenthood in general in just a few short weeks. The learning curve is steep and the adjustment is fierce, but the effort has been more than worth it. Besides the hours of lost sleep, of course. Can I get that back?
1. I drink less water and more wine (oops). In my previous life (two weeks and one day ago), I carried a gigantic water bottle everywhere and drank at least 100 oz a day. Now? I’m constantly running around after my foster son and not lugging that bottle around with me. A 64-ounce day is now the norm. As for the wine? Well, I think that is pretty self-explanatory. I’m working on the water thing, but the wine can stay.
2. I’m much more patient and much less neurotic than I thought I’d be. Full confession: I had a considerable fear that I would make a terrible parent. Not in an abusive or dangerous way, of course, but more in a neurotic, helicopter, perfectionist type of way. I thought I’d freak out over small misbehaviors and constantly be the “bad guy.” The opposite has actually proven to be true. I’m far more patient, compassionate, and kind than I ever thought was possible. I honestly think my level of empathy grew 500% overnight. I actually really like the person that I am when I am parenting, and I hope that this newfound patience and calm infiltrates all areas of my life.
3. AJ is the disciplinarian: For those of you who know AJ and I in real life, you know that he is generally quieter and more reserved than I am. He’s the calm one, the unflappable presence, the person who never worries. Logically, I think we both expected that I would be the stricter and tougher parent and the one more likely to get upset. In actuality, he is far tougher than I am. I’m not sure either one of us really expected that. It turns out that punishing kids is kind of hard and I am a little bit weak in this area. I tend to over-empathize and over-think the reasons behind different behaviors to some extent, where he just has a standard and sticks with it. I don’t think one way is better than the other, but it’s been interesting to see this side of ourselves unfold.
4. Sugar? What sugar? Maybe I’m just busier now, but I am eating a lot less in general and definitely much less sugar. I think it’s because when I am home, I am usually playing, making dinner, doing bath time, or whatever – not as much time is spent thinking about all the yummy dark chocolate in my pantry. We also of course limit the amount of sugar that our foster son has, so it is not constantly in my face. That said, I am now thinking about it, so it’s time to go get some chocolate. BRB.
5. Foster kids ask tough questions…and I don’t have the answers: We have had our foster son with us for a little over two weeks now, and the reality of the situation is starting to dawn on him. He is starting to ask more and more questions about when he will go home, why he can’t be with his family, why his house isn’t safe, and things like that. There are no easy answers to those questions ever – and as foster parents, we often don’t know the answers to them anyway – but there’s really no easy answer to those questions when you are 5 years old and just want to see your mom. It’s heartbreaking. I do the best I can to be honest and reassuring at the same time, but sometimes, it’s just about letting them be sad (or angry or scared) for a little while.
6. It’s easier to get out of bed and go run now: You guys know I’m not a morning person. Quite frankly, I thought that my running might end up getting thrown out the window entirely when we became foster parents because I knew my only running time would be super early and I thought I might just quit altogether. I didn’t want that to happen, but I was also sort of ok with it if it did. After all, there are seasons in life for everything. The opposite has proven to be true! It’s much easier to me to get out of bed now (even at 5 am) and go running because I see very clearly how much it helps me to focus before starting the day. Since we are still adjusting to parenthood, it can feel really overwhelming to wake up in the morning and immediately be confronted by the reality of taking care of a child. Taking an hour to run before I start my day makes a huge difference in how I approach everything – I’m in a better, more focused mood when I’m done!
7. No kid ever wants to leave the park: The first weekend that we had him, our foster son threw his very first tantrum (with us) over leaving the park. We handled it and got through it, but the shock of that moment (again, as a near parent) stuck with me. I relayed the incident to another parent I was talking to at the park, and he laughed. “Oh, my kids throw a fit every time it’s time to leave the park, and they’re 8,” he said. “Welcome to parenting.” In my scientific-ish research observing other kids at the park since then, I can now say that this is pretty much true. At least it’s not just us.
8. The appointments suck: Something I didn’t really grasp before we received our first placement was just how many appointments foster kids go to when they first come into the system. There are doctor’s appointments, hearings, visitation, developmental assessments, interviews, mental health evaluations, dentist appointments, and more. They seem endless! While I do not have to provide transportation for all of them, I do have to transport a good portion of the time. It’s not only challenging for me trying to juggle a full-time job, it’s also hard because the kids miss SO much school. Fortunately, our foster son is 5 and developmentally on track, so we are not too worried about it right now. If he was in middle school or high school and already behind, though, this would be a really tough obstacle to overcome. I understand why the appointments are necessary, but it seems like they could be spread out a bit more or scheduled better so the kids don’t have to miss so much school.
9. Kids take forever to do anything: I thought AJ took forever to eat dinner. I was wrong. Our foster son takes forever to eat dinner. And put his pajamas on, and get out of the bath tub, and pick out a book, and pick out a snack, and the list goes on. This situation has been easier to mitigate once we learned this, and we’re now better at scheduling the appropriate amount of time needed for bedtime (or whatever), but holy crap. Seriously, just pick a book. We can read the other one tomorrow.
10. I like who I am as a parent: I have seen a lot of positive changes in myself since we took our placement in, and honestly, they have really surprised me. I wasn’t sure how I would handle the adjustment, but I am more patient, more kind, more silly, more joyful, more productive, more motivated, more…everything. I don’t know how long this will last or when the other shoe will drop, but right now, I feel like Superwoman. I have to say, I really like the person I am as a parent. I hope it stays that way.
LEAVE A COMMENT: What did you learn about yourself when you became a parent?
In case you haven’t figured out from the title of this post, AJ and I have a big announcement! Probably the biggest announcement in the history of my entire blog. We will be opening our home and becoming foster parents at the end of this month! We started the licensing process back in April 2017 and figured it would take about a year to complete, giving us plenty of time to wrap our brains around the prospect of our entire lives changing. Spoiler alert: it did not take that long. I have a whole separate post coming on all of the nitty gritty details of the licensing process, in case you’re curious. But today, I want to tell you about what led us to this decision, how our feelings about it have changed, and what we think about it now. Brace yourself, this is a looonnngg post.
As long as I can remember, I have always wanted to adopt children. I guess you can say I feel “called” to do it. I would consider having biological children if it was important to my partner, but the one thing I knew for SURE was that I would adopt someday. I didn’t know from where or what ages or genders or races, but adoption was non-negotiable. I have made this abundantly clear in every relationship I have ever been in. Over the years, I’ve been very intentional about checking items off my bucket list (like trekking in Nepal, visiting New Zealand, hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, seeing Victoria Falls, and going on safari in Africa) because I knew that I did not want to start a family feeling like I had missed out on something I really wanted to do. As I’ve now checked most of the HUGE things off my list, I’ve started feeling more settled and a little bit more ready to slow my life down, so AJ and I started tossing around the idea of starting a family. Without getting into every detail of the conversation, we decided to start by becoming foster parents.
Talking it Over
I’m not going to lie – there were mixed feelings about this decision at first. I feel extremely called to foster/adopt, whereas AJ came from a place of what would best be described as ambivalence. He wasn’t a hard no, but he also wasn’t super excited about it. We decided that it would make sense to start the licensing process, go through the required training, and see what we decided at the end of that process. If we were not both fully on board, we would not go through with it and would explore other options instead. To make a long story short, AJ got on board pretty quickly. Once he saw the statistics and numbers, started hearing what these kids go through, and started learning about what we could actually expect (versus the extreme horror or unrealistic success stories you usually hear), he agreed – we have to at least give it a try.
This is not a decision we came to lightly. We have thought through and discussed every aspect of this change that we can think of time and time again. After all, our lives are pretty cake right now – we travel whenever we want, go out to dinner, have expendable income, etc. It’s easy, you know? But then I think – how can we not take this opportunity? We have the time, the means, and the space. How can we turn away from these kids, just so we can travel more and go out to dinner whenever we want? There’s nothing wrong with making that choice, and of course, nothing is that simple. I know we will miss the way life was before, probably a whole lot. But I feel like we have to try, because there are kids suffering and not enough good foster families out there. We feel like we can be a good resource for kids and families in need.
At the beginning of the licensing process, we (although mostly me) were extremely nervous about what we might be getting ourselves into. Part of that was just having no experience with parenting in general (what do kids even do these days?), but another part was a deep-seated fear of being totally ill-equipped to handle behavioral issues that might arise due to trauma that the kids have faced. We (and again, mostly me) wanted this to work so badly – we see fostering as a long term thing – and I was terrified that we would become parents to a child with behavioral issues well above our pay grade and we would fail them. After reading more books on parenting kids from trauma backgrounds and attending numerous training sessions, I can now say that we don’t really worry about that anymore. We believe we have the tools and resources we need to help these kids unpack their emotional baggage. That’s not to say it won’t be hard, because of course it will! But now, it seems possible. Now, we (and again, mostly me, because AJ worries about nothing) worry about things like not knowing how to register a child for school. Does anyone know how to do that, by the way?
One thing I’ve noticed over the course of my research and attending the trainings is that we have come to foster care a bit differently than many families in our area do. There are all sorts of reasons why families foster children, but here in the Upstate of South Carolina, there seem to be two big ones based on our experience: Christians feel called by the Bible to do it, or people struggling with infertility hope to grow their families through foster care and adoption. Neither one of those apply to us since we’re not Christian (AJ is Catholic, but that’s not Christian in the south – seriously) and, as far as we know, we are not struggling with infertility. So, that has left us in kind of an awkward spot. We have entered foster parenting with the simple intention of helping children and families who need it – nothing more, and nothing less. We are not fostering with the intention of adopting, although we are open to the possibility if the right circumstances presented themselves. The reality is that something like 50-70% of children who enter the foster care system are reunited with a biological family member at some point, and reunification is the goal of the foster care system, as it should be. We view foster care as hopefully a long term commitment on our part and not something that will end when our family, adopted or biological, reaches a certain size.
There’s a whole lot that happens when you begin the licensing process to become foster parents, but one of the big things is that you decide what ages and genders you would like to foster. When we started thinking about it, we had absolutely no idea! Our application initially said we were open to kids ages 0-18 which, needless to say, is a pretty big range. We had no clue what was right for us! After talking with our licensing coordinator and doing a lot of soul searching, we ultimately decided to open our home to boys and girls ages 4-11. Basically, elementary school age (kids here can start kindergarten at 4). Our primary reason for choosing this age range had to do with a couple factors. First, with both of us working full time and the logistics of the day care system as it pertains to foster care, we felt that we could not reasonably care for children that were below school age. Second, given the fact that we are relatively young (31 and 29), we felt that taking on teenagers would be challenging with no parenting experience whatsoever. We definitely see ourselves working with teens in the future (there is a huge need!) but we wanted to get some experience under our belts first.
After deciding on an age range, gender, and the number of kids (we are starting with 1 but will eventually bump up to a sibling set) you are willing to accept, you then fill out an expansive checklist that talks about a huge range of medical issues, behaviors, and more that you are willing or unwilling to accept. So, for example, the checklist might ask if you are willing to accept a child with a learning disability or a family history of learning disabilities. If you say yes, you then have to say whether you are willing to accept mild, moderate, or severe forms. The list covers everything from cancer to hearing loss to food hoarding issues and mental illness and everything in between! This list helps the licensing coordinator write your home study (the giant report that talks about what you would be like as parents), which the Department of Social Services uses to match a family with a child. Of course, there are many times when a child may come into the foster care system and have issues that are not immediately known about or discovered, so there are no guarantees, but the list helps frame what you do and do not feel comfortable handling.
One thing that is super important to note is that there are very strict rules about sharing identifying information online or on social media about the kids in our care. Namely – we can’t do it at all. So there will never be identifying photos, names, or stories on this blog or any of my social media accounts. I will share some of the ups and downs with you as I can, and I’m happy to answer any questions about the process, but if you are looking for juicy stories about the biological families and why the kids are in care, you won’t find them here.
As I mentioned, we’ve been reading, training, watching videos, and more for months now to get ready. Are we really ready? No, definitely not. But at this point, we feel as ready as we possibly could without having any parenting experience. We have got the kids’ room ready and are slowly accumulating all the gently used clothes, toys, and books we can find. After all, 4-11 is a big age range! We will be opening our home at the end of August but have no idea when we will receive our first placement or how long it will last. We know it will be a whirlwind trying to adapt to becoming parents overnight, so we are trying to enjoy the calm before the storm for now.
The Answer to the Question You’re Asking Yourself Right Now
“Are you really prepared to give up travel?” Of the few people who knew we were becoming foster parents prior to me publishing this post, every single one of them has asked me this question. It’s a fair question, to be sure. And the answer is “sort of.” I am fully prepared to give up traveling the way I do right now, which is constantly and by myself to crazy places for weeks at a time. I’m ready for that because, as I mentioned, I’ve checked the big things off my bucket list already – that was intentional and planned with parenthood in mind. However, one thing we believe we have to offer kids is the opportunity to see and experience the world, and we are hopeful that we will be able to take trips with our foster children as often as the circumstances allow. There will be some kids who are not in a place where they can handle the stress of a changing environment, so in those cases, we won’t. But when possible, we fully intend to take them with us, whether it is to a wedding in New Jersey or Washington DC or out to Utah for a marathon. That said, we also plan to take breaks between each long term placement in order to take a breath and regain a sense of “normal life” for a while – probably a couple months. So, I’ll do big trips during those breaks. Don’t worry, your favorite globe trotter is not giving up the travel lifestyle anytime soon! It just might look a little different.
What about running?
To be honest, I have no idea what my workouts will look like once we become foster parents. I know that my days of two-a-day workouts are probably over. I know I’ll likely be doing early mornings and lunchtime workouts only. But I also know how important working out is for my body and my mind, so I plan to make it a priority to the extent that that is possible. It will depend on the child in our home, but I know I will be healthier mentally and physically (and a much better parent) if I can workout regularly. So, we’ll just have to wait and see what that ends up looking like!
Yup, it’s happening.
At this point, we’re just ready to get started and figure it out as we go. We vacillate between feeling ready and excited and completely terrified and like we’re making a huge mistake. I think that’s probably normal. I don’t know how long we will last or how good we will be, but we’re ready to give it a try. I look forward to taking you along for the ride!
LEAVE A COMMENT: I’d love to hear your questions or thoughts about foster care. Have you ever considered becoming a foster parent? What information do you want to know about the process?
As you might remember, my trips last year took me to some pretty interesting places. For the two big ones – Nicaragua and Nepal – I would be traveling in developing countries where I wouldn’t exactly have all of the comforts of home. In fact, one big thing that I take for granted every dayRead more