Friday, December 9, 2011

Candy Land

Last week we introduced our daughter to the classic toddler board game Candy Land. It has been a lot of fun seeing her get excited about playing the game; she asks to play it at least 3 times a day! However, as an experienced Candy Land player there is some work in teaching my little rookie how to play. I find myself constantly repeating the following phrases: “draw a card”, “what color did you get”, “stay on your path”, “it’s your turn to move”, “oops, you skipped a color”, etc. Having played this game so many times the past week I couldn’t help thinking about how teaching Kaylee to play Candy Land is a lot like working with the kids placed in our Cookson family.

“It’s your turn to move”-
We can love the kids and encourage them all we want; but it’s up to the child to move. They are the ones that have to own their own stuff and decide to make a move toward positive change. We are constantly praying that God will change their hearts and give them the power to make the right decisions.

“What color did you get”-
Much of what we do here involves helping the kids learn how to play with the cards they were dealt. Some of our kids were dealt a bad hand and some chose one for themselves. We work on building trust with our kids. That trust allows us to have conversations about the choices they make and to get them to think about the possible consequences- good or bad- that may come as a result.

“Stay on your path”-
Each child that comes to Cookson Hills gets an individualized plan of care. The family of origin, the houseparents, and the social worker work together to help the student develop goals for themselves. This plan of care then becomes the path for the student to follow. We constantly refer to the plan of care to make sure the child is staying on the path.

“Oops, you skipped a color”-
As the students are traveling on the path, they sometimes miss some steps toward their goal. Referring back to the plan of care reminds the child of what they are trying to accomplish during their time with us.

We have kids all over the board. Some days our kids are doing well and moving along fine. Some days they choose the gingerbread card by making poor choices and they have to start back at the beginning. We have a couple of kids who are past the ice cream cone and are very near the end of their time at Cookson. We pray that they will take the skills they learned here at Cookson and use them as they walk though the rest of their life.

I am thankful for Cookson Hills. It is truly a place where children can grow and change if they want. It’s a place where it is safe for them to make a mistake and they are given the opportunity to learn from their poor choices. I’m thankful that children have a safe place where they can find help for their current situation, healing from past wounds, and the hope that they can change and have a better future. Most of all I’m thankful that I get to be apart of God’s work in this place.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Highlights from the past month...

So I have to be honest. The post below was started in October. Yes, over a month ago. I would get a chance to sit down, then the phone would ring, a knock on the door, a “mom, I don’t feel good”, or “can you take me to basketball practice?” Life as a house mom to 8 teenagers and a 2 year old is NEVER dull and the fact that I am talking about Halloween in December should prove that!

Around Halloween we had the infamous Cowboy Jamboree. I should have known that it was going to be a fun day when one of my boys spent all morning gluing toilet paper to his clothes in hopes of being a mummy who we affectionately referred to as “two-ply”. I laughed a lot on Saturday and greatly enjoyed the time we got to spend together. The singles ministry from Southeast Christian Church is Louisville, Kentucky came down to Cookson to run our annual Cowboy Jamboree. They brought candy, contests, candy, games, and more candy, in other words, everyone had a good time. J The day started off with a costume contest and chili cook-off lunch. I don’t think I have ever seen so many crock-pots with various chili varieties. Then the senior class held a pie auction and was able to raise right around $1,800 for their senior trip in the spring. After the auction, the group from Southeast organized stations for us to go to compete with our family. We did the sack race, baseball bats dizzy race, pumpkin slingshot, cow mugging, greasy pig catching, and many more things that required teamwork and laughter. We ended the night with a bonfire and dancing in the road by the barns, so needless to say, everyone went straight to bed when we got home. Thank you Southeast!

Each month we try to all go out as a family and do something different. With an age range from 13 to 17 with a two year old in the mix, sometimes we have to be creative. For November, we went to a corn maze in Arkansas. For two Indiana people, it was great to see corn again, but of course, the cows weren’t far away. For some of the kids it was their first time being in a corn maze and after spending lots of time being lost we made our way to the finish line. There we had a picnic, took a hayride, and lots of other “fall on the farm” type things.

A couple of weeks before Thanksgiving the Christian church in Grove, OK invited all of the Cookson childcare homes to an annual Thanksgiving Feast. We didn’t have to do anything but eat and there was more food then we could have imagined. Then they sent us home with leftovers and a large bag full of necessities for baking. Thank you for being a blessing to us this holiday season Grove Christian Church!

For Thanksgiving some of our kids got to go on a holiday visit to family or guardians while others stayed home with us. The “Jackson 5” that were gathered together on Thanksgiving went to a neighbors to enjoy the company of a total of 25 friends. We pigged out and ended the day with many games of Taboo and some CRAZY Black Friday shopping with Brandon. The holidays are good for the soul and an opportunity to give an honest reflection of all the blessings we have here on Earth amongst the chaos.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Thoughts from last night...

I'm in my room minding my own business when all of a sudden I hear..."Mom... (giggle).... Mom... MOM!!! (giggles) Come here! Hurry! (giggles) MOM SERIOUSLY, COME HERE!" More giggling... so I am thinking... Oh good gravy what kind of prank have they pulled on each other that they think I will think is funny. I walk into their room to music playing on the radio and, "Mom!!! They are playing our song!" It's "Under Pressure" by Queen. Just the thought of that being "our song" made me giggle a little because I like to randomly do the beat that Vanilla Ice stole. Then I got to listening to the words as I am dorky "mom dancing" around the hall and heard this part... maybe for the first time. " dares you to care for the people on the edge of the night and love dares you to change our way of caring about ourselves..." It dawned on me how much that part spoke to my life. God told me a year ago to go out on a limb on love. Loving God and loving people. Maybe that's why it's "our song". Because both of us "gave love a chance". Blessed.