I have sat down many times since then to write about this last year but I never felt I could properly describe it so it always got deleted. But here I am, just turned 38, it has almost been a year since we started this job so I decided it was time to REALLY write a "recap".
and quick overview of this place and my job. Sunshine acres has 7 kids homes, with room for up to 10 kids in each, 3 of the homes are Boys and 4 of them are girls. Each home has one full-time set of houseparents that are ON (duty) 5 days a week (most weeks) and then there are 6 relief couple. each has a set house that they are in on the full-time parents 2 off days (one couple has 2 houses) and the other 3 days of their work week they go where needed (in any house, or on "support" helping everyone). Me and my husband are a relief couple and our "set" house is a girls house where we spend every Monday and Tuesday.
I feel in many ways that my whole life prepared me for this job and with that being said it is both the easiest job I've ever had AND the hardest job I've ever had. We started just as covid effectively took over anything and everything normal at Sunshine acres, as well as in Arizona (& the world really) so it was a bit like trying to stand up-right on a rocking boat.
Fear and confusion and sickness and death was all around, quarantine and hand sanitizer and facemasks, social distance- these became a part of everyday life and we learned to find our place here, as everyone struggled to find a new normal ( not unlike adjusting to life after losing a loved one)
At first I could not remember anyone's names, not just the kids but the other house parents too. I still mix up names occasionally but for the most part I know most everyone here.
My favorite things about living and working here are
- having a dining hall that cooks 95% of the food for the kids (& us)
- driving around in our golf cart
- no snow, no frozen icy roads, no REAL winter
- my commute from home to work is very short
- prayer and God are a part of everything and not just something I bring to the job like every job I had prior
- and I work alongside my husband
- the dr I found because of this job that is so very awesome and actually listens when I talk, and works with me to fix any issues I'm dealing with
- coloring and crafting and taking pictures are all a part of this job
- I get to braid and create fun hairstyles for countless girls
-and at the end of the day, when I'm tired, I know and feel that I made a difference and I can see the impact of my job and that is wonderful
-I have no doubt that this is where I am meant to be, that God called me here and has equipped me for this job
My least fav parts of this job
- waking early for school days (I am allergic to mornings)
- with a job like this, on my off days I run errands and do stuff around the house and I’ve not really had any social life outside my job, covid has NOT helped this
-it can be difficult to cultivate relationships with the kids when there are so many of them, it takes time, and lots of patience and it can be really hard to NOT compare ourselves to other houseparent's
-its equally hard to build relationships with the other adults here, our focus is first the kids and so conversations are short and broken and can be few and far between.
- emotionally it can be hard, and draining
- I am not a part of a local church anymore where I volunteer and soak up the word and worship (we have a church here but it’s not the same, and covid has kept me from visiting outside church on off time)
I cannot really tell you what a typical day is like here, at sunshine acres, as a relief houseparent, cause there really is NO SUCH thing as a typical day. Every day includes lots of kids, usually at least one “meltdown” or “attitude problem” , snacks, homework, laundry, chores, meals in the home and at the dining hall, goofy/silly/fun stuff, and boring/blah stuff. Its a bit like my live-in nanny job from a decade ago but on steroids (instead of one kid, it’s 8,9, 10 kids) , instead of one house, I work in many (mostly the 4 girls houses but occasionally a boys house for a day or two).
I find myself answering the same questions again and again “what’s for snack?”, “ can we go to the park?” … and the like, but I have found that over the weeks, months (over the last year) we have developed relationships with these kids, we love them, I love them, so very much. I don’t ever want to say that I know where I will be 5 years or 10 years from now because I always want to leave that up to God but I could see myself, (and so could Tim, he’s said so often) being here for a long time. And I’ll just end by saying one little thing.
You might not be able to pick up your life and come work at a children's home, and it’s probably NOT your calling but you can do something (so many things) to provide love for a child who needs it. I talk to people all the time about how my parents did foster care, and how I had so so many foster brothers and sisters over the years, and usually what they reply with is - I could never do that, it would be just so hard to fall in love with those kids and then to have to say goodbye.
And I will add - JUST because something is hard - should NEVER be a reason why you don’t do it. You don’t have to foster, maybe just volunteer with an organization that works with foster kids, or other kids in need, find out what their needs are and work to help or fill a need, or if you are doing great financially then look around and see where you can send that money to help kids.
And that’s all I have for my ONE YEAR RECAP. Come back next year and I’ll write another one.