Wednesday, December 9, 2015

There ain't no elf on my shelf!

No, we don't celebrate santa.
Yes, we do celebrate Christmas.
Do we care if you celebrate Santa? Nope.
Do you care if we choose not to? Yes.
- Anonymous


Before you gracefully ::eye roll::, allow me to explain. 

I grew up in a Santa believing home. I was around 7 years old when our parents confirmed his fictitious status. I was extremely devastated and dissapointed. So much so, that I ruined it several years later for my little sister. Something she has never let me forget to this day.  My husband grew up in a home that was Santa-less and he doesn't have any regrets. We decided that when we had children, we would forgo Santa. It wasn't until a year ago, that I now see why that decision was the best one for our family. 

Why are we lying to our children? 
A little over a year ago a new foster child joined our home. Prior to us, his most pivotal years were spent in complete uncertainty. He blocked out his past so much that he truly believed he was living in a fantasy world. He lived each day in total confusion and needed reassurance over what we know to be the simplest things. We have spent the last year on alert to what he watches, hears and is influenced by; it is physically and emotionally exhausting. Helping him relearn these things was a process that was not fixed overnight and is still a battle. This is a child who can't afford to believe in something that doesn't exist. His overstimulated imagination has caused him more harm than good. Before you get all Judge(y), we absolutely encourage using your imagination in our home. We just make sure there is a healthy balance between reality and fiction. 

We spend the better part of a childs adolescence instilling values of trust in our children, but why is Santa the exception to the rule? In our home, we treat Santa Claus like we do Spider-Man, Buzz Lightyear or Cinderella. They are all fictional characters in movies and stories. I mean, no one goes out of their way to lie to their children and tell them Mickey Mouse and Simba are real. Believe me, Christmas spirit is not lost at our house. We still watch Christmas movies and read stories that have Santa in them. In fact.m, Elf and Polar Express are very popular in our home...gasp! 

Don't worry, my kids won't tell your kids. 
We may not believe in Santa, but we certainly aren't bitter. So we can still hang out. 

Shouldn't we expect good behavior all year long?
We have three rules in our home:
1. Listen the first time. 
2. Everyone gets to be safe. 
3. You can say anything, with respect. 
These rules are posted, can be recited upon request and apply 365 days a year. Christmas presents in our home are not based on behavior. Truth is, behaviorally, December is probably the toughest month in our house. Transition is a daily struggle for our foster and adopted kids. Holidays and special events tend to bring up both good and bad memories from their past. The trauma they've experienced has affected the way they deal with their emotions and acting out is their coping method. 

I'm selfish. There, I said it.
We work incredibly hard to give our boys a great life. So if its ok with you, we would prefer the credit for their priceless smiles on Christmas morning. 

The Nativity
If Family Feud surveyed 100 people for the top 5 answers related to Christmas, I predict this is what the board would look like:
1. Santa 
2. Presents
3. Lights 
4. Stockings 
5. Jesus
Our culture has completely shifted from the values that America was founded on. I want my children to grow up knowing that Christmas isn't just what society has commercialized it to be. Its about our Savior. I want my kids to remember Christmas as a time that we focused on the birth of Christ more than just gifts. 

It's not popular but it works for us. 

Do you do Santa...why or why not? 

Monday, December 31, 2012

A Year In Review

We are just hours away from the anticipated new year and while I'm neither thrilled nor disappointed, I find myself quite relieved. Relieved that I survived what was quite possibly the hardest year of my marriage. The dreadful infertility journey of 2010/2011 held the top spot well, but undoubtedly came in at a close second to 2012.

For me, 2012 was full of new adventures, anxiety, excitement, tears, uncertainty and a whole litter of other things. Ben and I were challenged and stretched way beyond our breaking point and yet we managed to come out unscathed. Only the handful of people truly closest to us could really vouch for the struggles that we overcame this past year.

The junk we've endured, the people we've encountered, the situations that we've faced has arguably made me the strongest I think I've ever been. I'm not holding myself to an elite status because I've added "foster parent" to my resume, so please don't misunderstand me. I can never truly describe what it's like, without designating an entire book on the topic. Just know it has the ability to drain you of everything and leave you feeling completely empty and confused. But it also has the ability to make you feel rewarded and special like you've just won an Olympic Gold Medal.

While 2012 was one of the toughest years, I truly wouldn't trade it for anything. I'm especially grateful for the amazing and patient husband that The Lord chose for me to walk this journey with.

Here's to a year full of miracles and new challenges!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

All Good Things Must Come To An End!

Disclaimer: Due to HIPAA laws, all blog posts related to our Foster Care experiences will have limited information when referring to the children and their cases. Their names will remain private and I will use generalizations when writing. I will not be posting any photos of the children that are in our care. My blog will remain public so people can stumble-upon it and so you can share with your family and friends. My FB page (close friends & family only) has the proper privacy settings in place per our licensing coordinator and I will be posting photos on there. It's basically Fort Knox! :)

It's finally happened, the unavoidable, inescapable, preordained, inevitable reality of what it means to be a foster parent. I can't help but wonder if what I'm feeling and experiencing is what a parent who has lost a child feels. Granted, I didn't birth this child, so I never had that initial bond that a mother has when meeting their child for the first time. But I think it's safe to say there was certainly a bond. 

I am writing this as I choke back tears, because in some strange and twisted way, writing about it helps. I'd like to think that I've prepared myself mentally for this moment from the very beginning; and maybe in a way I have. However, what I'm feeling doesn't feel like any preparation has taken place. No matter how many times you're reminded of this possibility, it doesn't in any way cushion the blow. 

I tend to be the person who packs away emotions, until I eventually bust at the seams. It's not my most endearing quality. I was doing really well being in denial of saying goodbye tomorrow, that is until tonight...in the middle of Publix. That's right, it was a "Murphy's Law" kind of evening and it all came tumbling down on our poor cashier. She was incredibly sweet and patiently listened while I unloaded on her. I'd like to think there's a special place in heaven for people like Manuela!

The possibility of him leaving was discussed a week ago but it only became official on Tuesday.  It's crazy to think that the past five months is currently sitting in my living room jammed in a duffel bag. The one thing that is keeping us going is the memories we've shared with him and how much he has grown these past months. I know that it will get easier with time, and I also know that despite how difficult this is, it's what we are called to do.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

A Few of My Favorite Things...

"The Sound of Music" is one of my all time favorite movies, not to mention I absolutely adore the soundtrack. There is one song in particular that I especially love and it just so happens to be the song that I sing to our littlest one, on a very regular basis.  Here's a little hint...



I have been itching to do a post dedicated to my favorite things. While my list of favorite things is not as innocent as Governess Maria's, they do include my can't-live-with-outs and mommy must-haves! 

Burt's Beeswax
The magic behind my supple lips.

Blackhead Remover
This is a terrible habit to get into, mainly because it's very hard to stop.

Purpose Face Wash
My name is Naomi, and I am a face washing junkie! I have tried a thousand different brands and this is so gentle and leaves my face feeling perfect. 

TRESemme Curl Products
I've got to tame the locks somehow.

Publix
Let's face it..it really is "Where Shopping is a Pleasure"

Portable Speaker
I'm pretty sure they were invented for the convenience of jamming out in the shower.

Seriously I'm Kidding - By Ellen Degeneres
Instant remedy for a funk.

iPhone 4
Do I really need to explain why?

RSVP Fine Point
Heaven in the form of a pen. It's like floating on air.

Sun Visor
Look, if I am going to live in this heat bubble of a state, I'd prefer not to burn my hands on my steering wheel!

Pampers Diapers
After trying out a few brands, this was the obvious choice.

Parent's Choice Wipes
Truly God's gift.

Vicks Humidifier
With two children who suffer from constant respiratory issues, this is a wonderful relief. 

Born Free Bottles
A bit pricey, but worth it. They are completely convertible and grow with your baby.

Formula Dispenser
Obviously not useful for a breastfed baby, but convenient for your less traditional mom.

High Chair/Cart Cover
For a germ-a-phobic, it's a little slice of heaven.

Fisher Price Swing
For those inconsolable midnight encounters



and last but not least...



The Love of my Life
He keeps me sane and is the calm, cool and collected voice of reason in our relationship!Not to mention, totally SMOKIN'!


Thursday, August 30, 2012

To Each His Own

Disclaimer: Due to HIPAA laws, all blog posts related to our Foster Care experiences will have limited information when referring to the children and their cases. Their names will remain private and I will use generalizations when writing. I will not be posting any photos of the children that are in our care. My blog will remain public so people can stumble-upon it and so you can share with your family and friends. My FB page (close friends & family only) has the proper privacy settings in place per our licensing coordinator and I will be posting photos on there. It's basically Fort Knox! :)


Disclaimer: Although we are pro-corporal punishment, we do abide by the Florida Statutes for Child Care (Pg 19) and use the required discipline for our foster children.


As foster parents, we are required to log sixteen hours of training each year to keep our license current. There are a few different ways to complete those hours, watching approved movies (particularly The Blind Side), training classes, online training, FAPA meetings, etc.

Being the new kids on the block, we were approached about a 5 week behavioral assessment class and assumed it was a requirement for all foster parents. They would meet every Tuesday night for 3 hours. Needless to say, 5 weeks later, we still aren't sure if it was actually a requirement.

When it comes to discipline, we've had many discussions about our views prior to having kids. I think its important to make sure both parents are united in that decision because it has the potential to be a sticky situation if you're not. We both agree, if executed properly, spanking (yes, I said it) proves to be an effective form of punishment. I know it tends to be a taboo topic, but I am here to tell you I am a survivor of spankings and I turned out just fine. I'm not saying that's the only form of discipline we will enforce in our home, we believe there are an assortment of appropriate forms of discipline for certain behaviors that spanking may not be effective for. But just so we're clear and I don't offend anyone, the purpose of me bring up spanking isn't to tell you what to do, I understand everyone chooses to discipline differently and that's fine too.

We found ourselves in a pickle once we got our newest foster child. He is at the age that discipline should be enforced and unfortunately In the world of foster care, spanking is a no for obvious reasons. In the absence of spanking, time out is our alternative go-to punishment. He came from a home with zero structure so we had our share of challenges in the beginning. About the time we started our class, we were finally making major progress is his behaviors, which was quite rewarding considering we'd never done this before. The class opened our eyes to different ideas to help us with some problem areas and also gave us reassurance that what we were already doing was good too. Even though the the instructors don't really teach time-out (go figure) as a proper punishment, it's definitely worked for us. Oh yeah, and they don't use the word punishment either because it apparently gives off a negative connotation. Call me crazy, but isn't bad behavior negative? Their theory is ignore the junk behavior and praise the good - to each his own I guess! Did I forget to mention the instructors aren't actually foster parents?

One thing Ben and I have in common is we aren't afraid to speak our mind. It's not our most promising attribute, even if it's contradicting everyone else. In fact, on more than one occasion we were the cause of open debates between the instructors and fellow attendees. Although off base at times, overall the training was full of great tools that we have already incorporated in our home.

I would absolutely love feedback on what forms of discipline work best in your home. You can do that by leaving me a comment below or emailing me privately at naomishari@gmail.com 

The book the curriculum is based off of is called "The Power of Positive Parenting" by Dr. Glenn Latham.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Billy...I mean BeeWee!

Disclaimer: Due to HIPAA laws, all blog posts related to our Foster Care experiences will have limited information when referring to the children and their cases. Their names will remain private and I will use generalizations when writing. I will not be posting any photos of the children that are in our care. My blog will remain public so people can stumble-upon it and so you can share with your family and friends. My FB page (close friends & family only) has the proper privacy settings in place per our licensing coordinator and I will be posting photos on there. It's basically Fort Knox! :)


Disclaimer: I may or may not care if offend anyone with my next statement. I officially HATE the name Billy. Yeah, hates a strong word..blah, blah, blah! But seriously, it makes me cringe and let me tell you why. As I stated in my last post, right off the bat it was clear that our newest foster child has a speech problem. As soon as he walked through the door, He was instantly taken to our dog. We introduced her as Mollie and gave him some toys to let her fetch. It was the most exercise our dog has seen in her 3 years of existence.


It wasn't till later that we realized he was calling her Billy. You're probably thinking, "Aww that's cute!" Well it was, the first 450 times! Its not just that he calls her a different name, its the way he pronounces it - Beewee! Before you say, "Maybe he doesn't know how to pronounce the letter M?", you're mistaken, because that was my initial thought. Here is a list of some "M" words he does know...
 - Mama
 - Move
 - Moo
 - More
 - Make
 - Milk


I'm not sure why something so silly drives me crazy. Maybe it's because I now call my dog one of the following name on a daily basis: Mollie, Billy, Bollie, BeeWee or Millie! If it isn't bad enough that she's been a bit neglected since we got kids, she is now struggling with an identity crisis and I can't even get her name right. Oh the joys of motherhood! 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

I am sick of sick!

Disclaimer: Due to HIPAA laws, all blog posts related to our Foster Care experiences will have limited information when referring to the children and their cases. Their names will remain private and I will use generalizations when writing. I will not be posting any photos of the children that are in our care. My blog will remain public so people can stumble-upon it and so you can share with your family and friends. My FB page (close friends & family only) has the proper privacy settings in place per our licensing coordinator and I will be posting photos on there. It's basically Fort Knox! :)


The past two months has been a very busy and stressful one for this Mom. Quick recap: Ben and I went on a fabulous 7 day Eastern Caribbean cruise, came home to a sick baby, I got Pneumonia, we moved our business office, we got a new foster child and inherited a ton of appointments, Ben got sick with what they thought was appendicitis, both kids got sick again - one with a upper respiratory infection and one with Croup, Ben and I got sick again, the baby was hospitalized with pneumonia, the new guy now has early stages of pneumonia and the clincher...BEN AND I ARE SICK AGAIN! Frankly, I'm not sure how I've kept it all together. 


As a mom, I'm beginning to realize we have many "OMG" moments. But when my 7 month old started to turn purple because he couldn't breathe, my "OMG" moment was a little less conservative and a lot more freaking outWith the obvious common denominator being "sick," Ben and I were beginning to wonder if we should be classified as what they call "Medical Foster Parents." When the receptionist at the doctors office says "We should just reserve you a room" and all the nurses know you by name, that's borderline ridiculous! I can be a bit dramatic at times, but I assure you that is not the case. We were at the doctors at least 2-3 times a week. If we weren't distributing medication we were giving both kids breathing treatments every 4 hours or waking up to a puking child because he was coughing so much he was choking. Although, having sick children is never fun, It all goes back to being incredibly thankful that I have the job flexibility to take the time off I need to care for our children. 


Fun Video Clip:
Ellen Degeneres will disagree with me and say pickle juice in the eye is the worst thing (Fwd to 6:10), but as a mom, having a sick child takes the cake. Talk about emotionally and physically exhausting!

(I know I said I wouldn't post photos, but the back of their heads are just so cute! Technically no children have been compromised with this photo)


Lets talk new addition - the experience thus far can be summed up in a few words...Active, Exhausting, Whiny, Unresponsive, and Billy! All of which are fairly reasonable adjectives to describe a child in their "terrible twos", don't you think? My guess is you're confused by "Billy." My plan is to keep you in suspense just a little bit longer. I promise I will shed some light on why I used that to describe our new addition. Trust me, it deserves its own blog entry!


Our newest foster child came to us two months ago and right off the bat, it was clear that he had a significant speech problem. My guess is, it's the unfortunate result of a family that was too busy caring about other things than taking the time to teach a child how to communicate. I have found that to be my biggest challenge with him. With all the children I have come into contact with my entire life, I've never been put in a situation with that kind of disability. How do you start from the very beginning with a child that should be 3/4 of the way to having steady conversations? Having a younger sister and babysitting all through my youth, I know there are basic things that a 2.5 year old should know, that this child had no clue about and it completely broke my heart. Here are just a few of the basics...


 - Please and Thank You
 - Yes and No
 - Identifying Colors and Shapes
 - Counting to 5
 - Repeating
 - 2 to 4 Word Sentences
 - Following Simple Instruction
 - ABC Basics


I quickly realized how much one-on-one time and patience he was going to need. I am the first to admit that patience is my biggest flaw. In fact, on many occasions I tried to convince Ben he was too much for us to handle and we had to give him back. I know it sounds harsh, but I was serious. I'm sure anyone with a toddler shares my same sentiments from time to time. It took Ben reminding me several times how hard it was when we got our first foster child, but after a couple of weeks we established a schedule and it got easier and easier. I am happy to report that in the short time that we've had him, he has shown MAJOR progress! He is on  consistent schedule, speaking clear sentences, identifying animals and their sounds, following instructions, using his manners, singing nursery rhymes (just to name a few) - talk about rewarding! We certainly still have our work cut out for us, especially with two kids, but I'm confident in our ability to make it work!


Its situations like this, that puts everything that Ben and I do into perspective. It sucks sometimes and its a lot of hard work, but throwing in the towel isn't an option for us. In a world full of chaos and confusion, these children need stability and consistency. In fact, its shown proven that they strive in that kind of environment.