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this blog is mostly a personal peek into my thoughts, anywhere from my husband and kids, to the photography industry, client work and random musings. glad you're here. :)

fostering: two months in


It’s been almost a month since my last blog, I’ve sat down a hundred times to write how we are doing now, but either the words wouldn’t come or there was someone who needed me. I finally have a little bit of time (knock on wood!) and just reading the last post feels like a million years ago.



The first month, and even after that first post about the boys, there were some hard conversations between Nick and I. We argued and fought more in the last two months than ever before in our relationship. There is just so much that we simply weren’t prepared for–there was no WAY we could have prepared ourselves for the roller coaster we got on. From lack of sleep, nerves being shot from parenting five kids, schedules to keep up with…some pretty dark marriage moments happened. I won’t lie, there were conversations that actually involved giving up. Real conversations because we simply couldn’t do it. It’s one thing to fall in love with a child, and want to help them—and another thing to actually do that. Nick and I each have our “favorite” boy. I bonded fast to Dimples (FS5) where Nick felt like he understood Grizzly (FS2) better. So while it’s great that we each can manage one kid better, it’s the frustrations we each had with the one we didn’t connect with that drove a wedge between us.


I can’t put my finger on what finally clicked…time, I guess. It’s such a cliché saying, but time really does heal all/most wounds. Slowly, Dimples came out of his shell for Nick. It wasn’t easy for him, he trusts slowly and loves fiercely, something I feel like we all can relate to in some way. But over and over I reminded Nick that none of his behaviors are his fault. He’s five. He didn’t ask for any of this. He is comfortable with us, says he loves us, but oh how he loves his mommy and daddy. Visitations are all day on Saturday and the best part of my day is watching him run into their arms. The worst part is bribing him into the car. The pain is etched on their parents’ faces and you can see it in their eyes. It’s awful. I can’t imagine only getting to see my children one day a week. So I think Nick finally got that part of it. If Josie, our five year old daughter, was taken from us…no matter how nice the house was or how lovable the people caring for her were, she would throw fits, she would be scared, she would do things that would frustrate someone who couldn’t empathize.


Speaking of his parents, his mom and I have become pretty close over the last month. They are doing everything the court is asking them to do, and then more. To keep Grizzly bonded to his mama, we try to get together midweek every week for them to hang out. So not only have I been able to watch the boys grow and heal, but also their beautiful mom. Last week she texted me about possibly doing a Bible Study with me on these days together and I just can’t wrap my mind around how insanely amazing that is!


I did a shoot with their mom and Grizzly on one of our outings, the right picture is Grizzly swinging between our hands 🙂


There is a tentative reunification schedule their mom told me about, and we’ll be going to court this week to support their parents in mediation. So I look at these two foster sons of mine and have a thousand conflicting feelings. I love them both and my heart catches and breaks into a million pieces when I stare at their sweet sleeping faces sometimes. Right now I have a sleepy Dimples curled up at my side…rosy cheeked and puffy eyed from the nap he took on this lazy Sunday afternoon. I can hear Grizzly upstairs annoying Brynn and the friends she has over, and I realize that months from now, these moments won’t be my reality anymore. And that is hard to think about.


But for now, we are living in the now. Embracing the craziness that comes with five kids. The messes, the laundry, the screaming, the tantrums, the McDonalds (gag, I know), the lack of sleep, the bartering, the “GET YOUR FIVE BUTTS IN THE CAR RIGHT NOW WE ARE ALREADY FIFTEEN MINUTES LATE!”, the lessons being learned by all of us, the patience I never thought I had, the kisses, the hugs, the tears, the accidents and spills, the laughing, the bed jumping…all of it. Some day, it will be just Nick and I, and this time in our lives, we’ll look back and say, “Did that really happen? Did we really sign up for that?” and I’m hoping we’ll get to see these boys grow into men. That we’ll meet their girlfriends/wives and hold their babies. But mostly I just want them to be happy and safe, and I’m thankful that for however long, we get to be a part of their journey through life.


and two more make seven

All of a sudden, we are a family of seven.

On December 22, 2014, two brothers, five and two years old, came to our home. I can’t tell you why they were removed and eventually placed in our home, and I can’t tell you how long they will be with us. What I can tell you is that our lives were flipped completely upside down, shook violently around, placed upright again. Now our lives balance on a see-saw, delicately resting for now, but without any warning, at any moment could go topsy turvy again.

The first day they were here, I probably cried a total of two hours. Mostly after all of the kids were in bed. I had the crazy notion to just carry on life as usual, which meant cooking an actual dinner. In between meltdowns (our kids, the boys, and me), diaper changes, runs to the store for baby things, and a general dream like stupor I floated around in, I did manage to make dinner. We sat down two hours later than normal and hardly anyone ate anything.

Let’s not forget that we were days away from the biggest holiday of the year, and everyone’s emotions were off the chart. It’s very romantic for people to imagine, “Oh, this will be those boys best Christmas ever!” on the contrary, before we even got them I imagined it wouldn’t be at all. We were strangers, period. No amount of presents, magical traditions or even just being in a nice house with a cozy bed could erase the pain that comes with removing a child from their home. The evening of the day the boys arrived, Santa was due to drop in to check on our kids. I wish I could remember it as all good, but I remember feeling very chaotic. I remember crying, a combination of seeing the wonder on the children’s faces and from sheer emotional exhaustion. Dimples was visibly uncomfortable with the excitement, and knowing him like I know him now, looking at the pictures I can see the stress all over his face. It was a hard day and I hope that seeing Santa was a bright spot for him.

RVP_6353After an hour and a half long bedtime wrestle, I came downstairs nearly shaking I was so emotionally jarred. I told Nick through choked sobs, like the kind of sobs you hear small children make, “My heart is too soft to handle all of this pain.” I felt it so strongly. Dimples- the five year old and Grizzly-the two year old both coped in their own way. Our own children, wide eyed and scared at what they saw that first day. Thinking of the boys’ parents and their heartache. It was like an avalanche of grief and pain that was suffocating me. I couldn’t make it better, for any of them, at least not that night, and that killed me.

I’ve always been the kind of person who takes so much joy in tucking in my kids at night, smelling sweetly of lavender and cedarwood essential oils from their nightly foot rubs. We read books, sing songs (In the previous post I wrote about how each of my babies has their own special ones. Brynn’s is “Baby Mine” from Dumbo, Nicholas’ is “The Way You Look Tonight” by Frank Sinatra, and Josie’s is “Go to Sleep You Little Baby” from O Brother Where Art Thou?), I pray over them and then it’s lights out. Then it’s a glass of wine with the husband, catching up on a show and each others’ day and lights out for us. My days are hectic, but between 7:30 and 10:30 pm, all is right in the Vanoven home.

So when our first night felt more like a war zone, and my eyes were puffy slits on my face from crying, and Dimples wanted nothing to do with anyone in our family…I didn’t think I could do this. I had real thoughts of what the foster system calls “disrupting” which is code for “giving them back”. I felt utterly unqualified and unprepared.


That was three weeks ago. Oh, how I wish I could jump back in time and show that Rachel just how much would change in three weeks. How bedtimes resemble a manageable circus rather than a battlefield and that Dimples loves oils just as much as my own babies. That his song is the simple “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” and he sings along with me every time. That his favorite part of nightly prayers is when I ask God to send angles to f-o-o-o-o-ld their wings over him to protect him and make hand motions that show great feathery wings making a canopy over him, and if I don’t do it, he pretends to be scared until I say it. That out of all the books in our house, Grizzly loves “The Owl and the Pussycat” the best, but hardly ever stays awake through all of it.


I thought I had ruined our “perfect” family and my kids would never be the same, yet the exact opposite happened. It has brought out the best in all three of our own children. Brynn is having less meltdowns herself and showing us how tender she can be with little ones. Nicholas is realizing that little brothers, while super annoying, make better wrestling partners than little sisters. Josie has a sidekick in all of her shenanigans–who loves tea parties and plastic dinosaurs as much as she does. I’m a much more patient mother to a toddler than I remember being with the kids, and my heart just melts to pieces when I see Nick teaching Grizzly how to hold a football the right way in his chubby little arms, or twirling around the kitchen just to hear his growly little laugh (earning him the nickname Grizzly!)…every day is a challenge, but it’s so freakin’ beautiful.