A different kind of Thanksgiving {DHS children’s shelter}

“Thanksgiving.”

Webster’s defines it as ‘the act of giving thanks’. The act…so it isn’t just a thought or an idea being tossed in my head. It is an act….it makes me think about what I want for my life and for my family. When my kids think of Thanksgiving, I hope they have great memories of meals together, football in the yard, and enjoying family. But, I long for their little heads to fill with memories of acts of being grateful. When they think of Thanksgiving Day, I want the biggest highlights to be full of meaning and substance…I yearn for it for them.

We have a fun family. Sure, there are days full of arguing and lost patience. But, that is just normal life. Beyond the ugly normal, is the beautiful. I’m am daily aware of the tremendous gift I have been given to be called Mommy by four little people. I am so grateful for my family, for stability, for safety, for fun, for laughs, for the crazy. There are days I long to have just an hour of complete silence, but I also know the lack of silence in this home means a lot of life is happening. For that, I thank God.

This Thanksgiving was very different for us. I’ll be honest, I hesitate sharing about it here because I don’t want anyone to read this an think more highly of Chris & I than they should. I’m not sharing to say “look at me…look at what we did”.  I am going to share….in hopes that there is someone reading this that will be sparked to get involved in the lives of displaced children. Children that for whatever reason cannot be with their parents. Children living in shelters or bouncing around the foster care system.

This year our local DHS children’s shelter did a pilot program to get all the eligible children out of the shelter for Thanksgiving & Christmas. The minute I heard about the program, I signed us up…knowing Chris would be all about it too. We had to do backgrounds checks, referral, and a home visit. We got the call asking us to host a set of brothers. Ages 2 & 4…that don’t speak english. We don’t speak Spanish, but we speak Boy pretty good around here. Perfect.

When Chris picked the boys up the oldest had a meltdown at the shelter. He had been in the shelter for way too long and thought his mom was coming to get him. Instead he saw a bald white guy. MELTDOWN. Break your heart in a million pieces meltdown.  Not too much later, he walked in our home. I won him over with car shaped pancakes. All boys speak the language of food!
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We also won them over with a Dora guitar. FireCracker wasn’t too thrilled to share it with a 2 year old boy.
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The thing about boys is they all really speak the same language: Food and Active Play. We did a little coloring and playdough, but it didn’t last long.
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Before I knew it all 6 kids (remember they are ages 2, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7) were out the door with a tornado left behind them.
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One of the highlights of the day was seeing my oldest rise to the occasion. He took those little boys under his wing and led the way. Early in the day, he was trying to talk to them and began talking in Gungan. Oh you haven’t heard of Gungan? These are Gungans:

Gungans are Star Wars characters. One special Gungan starts his sentences like this, “Me-sa wants…Me-sa gonna…”. So my oldest, instead of speaking in Spanish, tried starting his sentences like a Gungan. Me-sa want to go outside and play? Me-sa like pancakes? So funny.
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Little boys are active. Chris and I knew going into the day we would not be relaxing at all. It would be all hands on deck all day. In many ways, hosting two little guys would have been so much easier if our kids were older. On the other hand, having kids the same age made it easier in other ways. Sometimes as a mom it is easier to think, “I’ll wait till the kids are older”, “this is just such a crazy phase of life”, “one day things will be more calm”….but, I don’t want to live in plans for ‘someday’. I may not get ‘someday’.
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The boys got to meet our extended families. They got to eat a lot of food and probably too much apple juice. They were great little guys. Content. Warm. Friendly. Active. Well behaved. We will always be grateful for the gift of getting to spend this Thanksgiving with them.
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The day came to a close. Chris and our oldest two took the boys back to the shelter. Before they left, I had to say goodbye. When they understood they were leaving with Chris, the crying began. My heart rejoiced that they had a great day, but my heart broke. They were returning to a shelter. Not a home. Sweet boys, not enough foster families. They returned to the shelter. Hard stuff.
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I knew my older boys would ‘get it’. What I didn’t know was how much my 3 year old would understand. When the little guys left, my little guy began crying. He asked if they could live with us. He asked why they had to go back to the shelter when their mom & dad weren’t there. He couldn’t understand why they could only spend the day with us and not live with us. Hard stuff.

I spent a lot of time thinking about their mom. She has 2 wonderful little boys and it was my honor to get to spend Thanksgiving with them. My heart broke for her. For whatever reason, she was separated from them. I also thought a lot about my little one across the ocean. I wondered what the day looked like there. Did anyone show love to my little one? Did anyone take time to really see the beauty of my little one? Did anyone there care?

I won’t lie. Hosting the boys was hard work for Chris and I. It was the first Thanksgiving that I ended the day with a stomach that did not feel full. Keeping up 2, 2, 3, 4, 5, & 7 year olds was EXHAUSTING.  Chris and I didn’t have any down time or any moments of relaxing. Instead of kicking off our shoes, we were constantly helping little ones put on shoes….

and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Those sweet boys were a treasure and gift this Thanksgiving to my family. My kids continue to talk about them. My kids continue to pray for them and ask how they can help other kids in the shelter. Now when we talk about foster care and DHS shelters, my kids have two sweet faces to put with those topics. ‘Kids in the shelter’ aren’t just faceless images, but for my kids it is two very real, very fun, spanish speaking active boys.

It was a good day. Thanksgiving.

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If you are interested in volunteering at your local DHS shelter, I encourage you to contact the shelter and see what volunteer opportunities are available. If you are interested in foster care…take your first step forward and see where it leads….just remember not everyone speaks Gungan 🙂

 

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