Mike’s Day

20151117_130847282_iOSToday has been a big day for us. One that has been long awaited. This morning, the whole family piled into 4 vehicles and headed to the local county courthouse to take part in Mike’s adoption.

He’s ours! He’s finally ours! Forever!!!

It feels like I have been waiting for this day for ages; like Mike has always been mine and I have just been waiting for everyone else to realize it. This is the 4th adoption we have finalized. None have been easy. The adoption process is exhausting. Home studies are invasive. Foster parenting is tedious. But, oh my, this child is worth it. I love him. I always have. I always will. He is my son.

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20 Minutes of Mayhem

Last evening, I sat at the end of the table and watched the chaos around me. There are currently 16 people staying in our home. We come from different races, cultures, and backgrounds. Some of us are biologically related, but we are all family.

It was around dinner time and the commotion in the house, as usual, had reached its peak. Earlier in the week, Mr. M measured the sound level in our home during our normal dinner routine. It measured at 100 decibels. To put that in perspective, 100 decibels is equivalent to the noise of a chain saw, jackhammer, or a speeding express train.

Thankfully, most of the day is not as chaotic as our evening routine. Often the kids are in different areas of the house or yard, doing their own thing. But dinner time in our home is gathering time. As a general rule, anyone at home is expected to come to dinner. Friday evening is less rigid, as it is traditionally sandwich night, and anyone big enough to reach the counter makes their own sandwich. Most of the family shows up around the same time anyway. They like the food and sometimes I suspect they like the company.

So last evening, I sat and observed what I am usually in the middle of. We numbered 15 as we gathered around the kitchen, snacking, laughing, bickering, teasing, chatting, preparing, and planning.

The first thing I noticed was Love, walking around pulling her suitcase behind her. She was primped and perfect, ready to go visit her other grandmother for the weekend. Bea, her mama, was trying to keep Love looking pristine until she could pass her over to Goddess, which is what the other grandmother prefers to be called. Love did not share her mother’s concern as she was trying to sneak Doritos any chance she could.

Over by the front door, Leo and Jimmy were playing a game where Jimmy would run toward Leo as Leo would run and jump over Jimmy. They both thought this was hysterical and their laughter filled the room.

Marie and her best friend had just decided that they needed a new game on Marie’s iPod, so they were in the process of needling Mr. M until he would give in and install the game which they would soon tire of and would be deleted before the evening was through.

Lu was standing in the middle of the room, holding Noel and Quincy by their leashes. She was prepared to go out with Mr. M for a while to train the two dogs in assistance work. While she was waiting, she was asking if her best friend could come over and spend the night.

Alex was in the dog crate. He had been a bad dog and we all needed a break from his antics for a while. Sirius was looking longingly into the crate that he likes to nap in.

The babies were crying.

Misha sat across the table from me, nursing a hard cider and trying to ignore the commotion around him.

Mr. M was trying to explain to me in detail which computer he needed me to go buy later on that evening while he was chaperoning an event for Leo’s baseball team.  Bea decided to come along and help me because we both understood the gravity of my mission.

Eddie was walking around wearing his new, warm and fuzzy pajamas. He began bugging me to be able to come along to the store insisting he would carry the computer for me so I wouldn’t have to. Again, the gravity of our mission weighed heavily on us.

Jimmy had tired of the game with Leo and had run over to the computer desk where he found a glass of water left unattended. He immediately spilled the water everywhere.  Bea scolded Beth, our oldest daughter and newest addition to the house, because Beth had left the water there. Beth snapped at Bea. The two of them are currently sharing a room. Things can get tense between them. Beth took her baby and went downstairs.

Jimmy was again skipping through the house when he suddenly noticed he needed to use the potty . . . a little too late. He stood still and said, “Oh, I peed.” We hurried to clean the mess. Love saw her opportunity and took it. She was up at the table reaching for handfuls of Doritos as Goddess pulled in the driveway. Bea was exasperated.

Mr. M headed out the door with Leo, Lu, Noel, and Quincy.

SJ started to whine because Marie and her friend would not let him play the new iPod game with them. He started to cry loudly and yelled, “Everyone is breaking my heart!”

Eddie went to make a sandwich.

Misha let Alex out of the crate.

Bea began looking for super glue because Love broke Bea’s glasses earlier in the day.

SJ came to the table when his whining didn’t get him what he wanted. He picked up his cup and started to slurp as loudly as he could. Eddie threatened violence if the slurping continued. SJ laughed.

Jimmy had been climbing on Misha and saying, “Pow, pow, pow!” It’s their favorite saying. Then Jimmy got down to climb up to the counter and get some bacon. Misha asked Jimmy to get him some bacon as well. Jimmy ignored him.

SJ started to slurp loudly again. Eddie stomped over and took SJ’s cup. The whining began again.

Jimmy found another drink on the counter and accidentally spilled it. “Mommy, Jimmy’s sorry,” he said. Then he climbed down to go play with Alex. “Alex, sit! Good boy!” Alex stood by Jimmy’s side without a thought of sitting. Jimmy moved on to see what Princess was doing.

Bea had put Princess in her car seat and sat her on the kitchen floor. Jimmy was loving on Princess when my 20 minutes were up.

I passed Jimmy and SJ off to Misha and told Bea, Princess, and Eddie to get in the car. It was time to go get that computer.

Hope

“A great hope fell

You heard no noise

The ruin was within.”

— Emily Dickinson

I sat in the courtroom, holding my son’s hand, both of our eyes fixed on the boy sitting in front of us. Our hearts were begging for mercy. The situation was beyond us. We had no control. My mind flashed to tender moments from the weeks before. We had had a hard time of it, but the tender moments gave me hope, kept me going.

“In joined hands there is still some token of hope, in the clenched fist none.” — Victor Hugo The Toilers of the Sea

A cloud of sadness loomed over the courtroom. The boy sitting in the chair in front of me was no stranger to moments like this. Dark days had defined not only his life, but also the life of his brother sitting next to me. It had been a fight, but we had finally won the battle to get custody of Mike, his adoption scheduled for later this year.  Mike was thriving for the first time in his life. We had so hoped the same would happen with his little brother. But, at least for now, it was not to be. The sadness inside had been too frightening for the boy; he chose anger instead. With anger he felt less vulnerable.

We had been given six weeks to try to be a family. I treasure the memory of those weeks. There had been progress and glimmers of hope. But it had also been an exhausting journey. The boy needed so much. He watched my every move, searching for signs of insincerity. A battle raged in his mind– could this be real? Could he trust us not to give up on him when everyone else had? Would we be able to love him at his worst? Could he really be successful as a member of our strange and diverse family? He tested our limits and tried to make himself unlovable.  He pushed me away all while watching to see if I would stay. I loved him harder as he continued to push. I also loved him carefully. Too much affection would frighten him and set him off. He had learned that adults could never be trusted. We had been walking a tight rope.

Then there was that moment, the moment when rage blinded the boy I so badly want to call my own. He did not want to be this way, but as he became overwhelmed with emotion, he returned to old behaviors. Logic, love, hope, and trust were invisible to him in that moment. There was only rage, and the boy I love acted on that rage without an ability to think of the consequences.

The storm blew over, but the damage was done. Thankfully, there were no physical injuries but the emotional ones were immense. There was damage to our house, but that didn’t matter.  It did not compare to the pain in my heart. I saw the hope disappear from the boy’s eyes. We both knew that his chance was over. The court would take him away.

So Mike and I sat, holding hands and daring to hope that the judge would make a decision that was different than the one we knew she had to make. But it was not to be. The boy we love was taken away before our eyes and we were powerless to stop it.

Then, in the middle of the gloom, another ray of hope emerged. Our boy would not be allowed to come home immediately, but he would be able to receive another chance. There is a program designed to help children like him. If our boy completes the program, then he can come home again. Mike and I have a job to do. We need to keep on loving and encouraging our boy. He has work to do, and our job is to help him never give up on the hope of a family.

Moments from My Week

Don't bother me, I'm concentrating.

Don’t bother me, I’m concentrating.

It’s been a busy week here, as usual. I thought it might be fun to post some moments, in photos and quotes, to give my readers a glimpse of what I hear and see in a normal week’s time. I hope you enjoy.

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Where’s Jimmy?

“Jimmy, GET OUT of the pantry!!!

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Let’s see if the Vaseline top will flush.

“Mom, he just flushed your good pen down the toilet.”

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Because there is no bad place for a monster truck.

“Give that to me! Do you want me to bite you?”

One tired Princess.

One tired Princess.

“Mom, my body and my brain don’t like my teachers. I like my teachers, but my body and brain don’t.”

What? I'm just reading a book.

What? I’m just reading a book.

“MOM, he’s in the dryer again.”

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Let’s hide the chips in the toy cabinet. Mom will never find them in there.

“I need more blood.” (Fake blood- that’s for a later post.)

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Quincy both resting in and chewing apart his toy bin.

“I got in trouble at school today because I burped in my friends’ faces.”

You mean it's not supposed to hang like that?

You mean it’s not supposed to hang like that?

“They locked us out!”

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Because you can’t have too much of a good thing.

“Night night, Grandma.”

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Jimmy couldn’t wait to try the zucchini. He didn’t like it.

“Mom, he put my toy in the tortoise tank!”

Because putting the toilet paper on the roll is just asking too much.

Because putting the toilet paper on the roll is just asking too much!”

“Mom, do you hate me now?”

“He wants to see you. He does not want to see his workers, but he wants to see you.”

“Mom, I’ll stay with her. You go rest on the couch and I’ll get you if I need you.”

“I love you, Mom.”

Believing in My Bigs

My Bigs

My Bigs

These three are my teenagers. They keep me up to date on the latest apps, games, music, and pop culture. They are smart, funny, artistic, and completely different from each other, but they have a close bond and, boy, do they have each other’s back.

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Mike enjoying the ocean.

Mike is our 16 year old. He is one of the most resilient people I have ever met. He joined our family almost 2 years ago, after months of visits, meetings and preparation. I can’t imagine our family without him. He is brave, loving, and kind. I am proud to be his mom; thankful that he chose to allow us to adopt him. Because the adoption is not finalized, I cannot post any identifying pictures of Mike.

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Mike & Sirius

Mike loves dogs. He has taken a special liking to our 10 year old husky/ lab mix, Sirius. Sirius now enjoys sleeping in Mike’s bed and lounging in the quiet, though messy, solitude of Mike’s bedroom. Like most teens, Mike is a video game enthusiast. He also loves basketball, pizza and sugar. Mike is well spoken, and because of his history with foster care and adoption, he speaks at events encouraging other foster children not to give up hope.

Leo

Leo

Leo is our 15 year old. He is tall, smart, athletic, charismatic and engaging. He loves history, architecture and science as well as video games. He hates having his picture taken, so I don’t have a lot of photos to choose from. Though, I’m fairly certain he uses Snapchat without a problem. Leo attends a charter school and is enrolled in an IB (international baccalaureate) program. More importantly, he just received his driver’s permit. If you think of it, say a prayer for us.

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Leo catching in a tournament.

Leo also has an intricate knowledge of baseball. He has played travel baseball for several years and is developing his skills as a catcher, pitcher and first baseman. This year, he will be trying out for the local high school team.

Lu

Lu is our 13 year old. I wrote about her and her service dog, Noel, here. Lu is our artistic one. She is sweet and empathetic and wise beyond her years. Her illness has exposed her to a darker side of life, which has given her an even deeper compassion for others, especially those with mental illness. She was on track to attend the same school as Leo until she became ill, just under 2 years ago. Since then, Lu has worked on finding other areas to excel in. She has become an amazing dog handler, she has applied for and was accepted as a co-owner in 1 of her favorite band’s Instagram fan sites, she is learning photography, and her new passion is special effects make-up.

Lu loves coloring her hair.

Lu loves coloring her hair.

Lu is home-bound most of the time, so we do things here that help her to feel better. One of those things is changing the color of her hair. Lu has so much fun picking out the new colors and changing her make-up to accentuate her features and her hair. Her hair has been blue, green, pink, purple, red and mixtures of all of those. Right now, Lu’s hair is bright red. I love how it accents her skin color.

Mike, Leo and Lu keep this house filled with fun and laughter. They are quick with sharing a joke, a meme, or a funny video. I love watching their personalities grow and develop. They have so much potential. I really do believe in them.

Mad For My Middles

My Middles

My Middles

Oh, these three. Life is never dull with my middles. I was trying to come up with words that start with “M” to describe them. I thought about words like mischievous and misunderstood. But I think I would do better to think of a list of most likely to do. Most likely to say anything. Most likely to join in the adventure. Most likely to try something new. Most likely to think outside the box. Most likely to speak up. Most likely to help someone in need. Most likely to be ok with who they are. These three are heroes in my book.

Eddy is clearly awesome.

Eddy is clearly awesome.

My oldest middle is Eddy. He is 12 now. I have never met a kid so concerned about helping others. If Eddy sees a person in need, he helps. It’s just who he is. It’s not unusual for me to find him running to open doors for people, or carrying things for strangers, or going out of his way to help a little kid in need. He is my biggest helper in taking care of Lu. The two of them have been inseparable since he was born, and when Lu got sick, Eddy took it upon himself to stay by her side. I don’t know what I would do without him. Eddy doesn’t want recognition. He is happy to keep to himself, preferring time spent on his own projects than being with groups of friends. Not that he doesn’t have friends, he just needs time alone to recharge.

Eddy reading to Jimmy.

Eddy reading to Jimmy.

Besides being a Minecraft junkie, a computer whiz, and just a regular old smart kid, Eddy is an adventurer. He recently joined Civil Air Patrol. The program fits perfectly with Eddy’s thirst for adventure, love for aeronautics, and his desire to serve his community. I love that he is learning leadership skills and has found an activity that is his own.

Marie

Marie

Next in line, comes my Marie. She is 8 years old and in the 3rd grade. Marie is my tender hearted, animal loving thespian. When she was 2, she would perform during the 7th inning stretch at baseball games. Most recently, she played the role of The Ace of Spades in Alice in Wonderland Jr. at our local theater. Unfortunately, Marie has a milder form of the same autoimmune disorder that Lu has. We caught hers much earlier and so far have been able to keep her stabilized.

Marie and Lu after the play.

Marie and Lu after the play.

Marie is an awesome sister. She is good at keeping SJ and Jimmy entertained and she is Lu’s sidekick. She knows how to change diapers and feed babies. She can also make a mean cup of tea. Few have the capacity to love others like Marie has.

SJ

SJ

Do you see this kid? Can you see the mischief in his eyes? SJ is my fun loving, question asking, everything moving all of the time kid. He doesn’t stay still, even when he’s sleeping. He loves trucks, cars, planes, super heroes, and most of all . . . Dirt! If there is a pile of dirt, you will find SJ in it. Last year, he came home so covered in dirt and sand that he infested his bedroom with sand fleas, and that was after we showered him and took his dirty clothes- we think the culprits hid out in SJ’s shoes.

SJ is going to school.

SJ is going to school.

This is the big year that SJ joined Marie on the school bus and headed to the big kid school. I figure the sign SJ’s holding is fair warning. Thankfully, I haven’t received any calls from his teachers yet. The notes home don’t count.

My middles baking a treat.

My middles baking a treat.

I mentioned that these kids are heroes in my eyes. They really are. This crew has been through a lot. They know how to love hurting kids that join our family. They know how to encourage a chronically ill sibling. They know how to follow safety plans and how to react in crisis. They know how to have fun and the know how to make me smile after a hard day. My middles are amazing.

Loving My Littles

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Most mornings these days start with my little guy, James, rising before the sun. If he isn’t already in our bed, Jimmy climbs in, dragging his blankie behind him, and announces that he wants to go downstairs. This is my cue to get up and go because this kid is a bundle of energy and waking his siblings is the first thing on his agenda for the day. If he wakes his siblings, it is NOT a good day.

My granddaughter, Love.

My granddaughter, Love.

Introducing Love, my oldest granddaughter. Both she and Jimmy are 2 years old, and they are best friends and partners in crime. It doesn’t take long for Love to hear Jimmy’s antics and come down to join in.

Breakfast

Breakfast

“Wuv, do you wanna eat?” Jimmy asks. Then they both climb into their seats. We can’t put their seats too close to each other or there will be a battle, stolen food and sippy cups, dumped cereal, and a brawl.

Coffee, you complete me.

Coffee, you complete me.

Most mornings start off with a Leapfrog video while the littles eat breakfast. That’s how I get my coffee and quiet, well almost quiet, the two essential things I need before I can function.

My 2nd granddaughter, Princess.

My 2nd granddaughter, Princess.

Princess is my littlest little in the house. (I have another little grandson that is younger, but he hasn’t been here yet.) Princess brightens our days with sweet baby smiles and coos. She stole my heart the moment I laid eyes on her. Thankfully, she is an easy baby, because Jimmy and Love keep us busy.

Jimmy, Love, & SJ playing with water on the deck

Jimmy, Love, & SJ playing with water on the deck.

We try to have fun and keep the little ones busy. Pouring and stacking is one of their favorite activities, so I thought it would be fun to set up a water station the littles could stand at to play.

It's NOT a pool!

It’s NOT a pool! Get DOWN!

Jimmy had other plans. I can’t turn my head for a second with this kid.

One tired little boy.

One tired little boy.

The poor, sweet boy tired himself out. Doesn’t he look innocent? Adorable, even?

You're resting there?

You’re resting there?

And this is what he was really doing.

Jimmy opening the diaper rash ointment.

Jimmy opening the diaper rash ointment.

 And seconds later, he was into the ointment that was left on the table.

Jimmy warming his blankie in the dryer.

Jimmy warming his blankie in the dryer.

And then he decided to warm his blanket in the dryer.

I won’t show you the pictures of Jimmy in the dog’s crate, swinging on the stairway gate, undressing himself, and escaping up the stairs. He also had fun reading some of his favorite books, playing on SJ’s iPod, pouring Princess’s formula from her bottle into my Pepsi, feeding the dog from his plate at dinner, and throwing his sister’s iPod in the toilet. (Yes, this was all today.) Jimmy walks on the wild side.

Love and her Combos.

Love and her Combos.

Love usually just tags along behind Jimmy and watches. She doesn’t want to get in trouble, she’s a good girl. But don’t eat chips or snacks near her. She will give you big, sad eyes until you give her every last one.

Trying to get a picture of the three littles.

Trying to get a picture of the three littles.

These little ones certainly keep us busy. But oh, how we love our littles!

Court Review

Yesterday, we had a court review scheduled for 1:30. This is a regular thing in foster care. Case reviews are generally scheduled every 3-6 months. I didn’t attend court hearings for my younger foster children because it was not necessary, although I was welcome to go if I wished. The hearings were just formalities and there was not a need for me to be present. My little ones definitely needed me to be home with them more than I needed to be in court.

It’s different with older foster children, generally anyone past the age of 14. Although teens have the right to miss case reviews, I encourage my foster children to go. I encourage my kids to advocate for themselves and to be present when adults are making decisions for them. After, we talk about the proceedings and I make sure my kiddo has a good understanding of everything that took place. Yesterday was Mike’s review hearing.

I have to admit that I went to court with a feeling of frustration. I was so hoping that Mike’s adoption would be finalized by now. For some reason, it is taking FOREVER! We started the process back in February. We worked steadily, gathering and compiling everything we needed, and it was a lot. We submitted the last of our forms in May. Our home study, the official report on our home and family, and the adoption petition were sent to the state capitol for review on June 30th. It wasn’t until the first week in September that we received word that the state approved our petition. That’s a long time for us to wait, but for Mike, who is taking a huge leap of faith by joining a family again, it seems like an eternity.

We arrived at court on time and sat in the waiting area. We sat with our adoption worker and waited for our foster care case worker, who was in a different hearing, to join us. We also waited for Mike’s lawyer, known as his guardian ad-lidem or GAL, to arrive. We waited only a few minutes for our case worker. Then the real waiting began.

While we waited, we talked about Mike’s upcoming adoption, the high turn around rate in the child welfare agencies, and the frustration of time wasted in courtroom waiting rooms when case loads are so high that workers barely have time to visit all of the children on their load every month, let alone finish their paperwork. Our worker is one of the best I’ve ever met. Her load is almost twice the legal capacity. So much for laws.

More time passed, still no sign of Mike’s GAL. The prosecutor tried tracking the lawyer down, so we could just get our case heard. We knew it would be a short hearing. Finally, the GAL was found,  she was in another courtroom on another floor of the building. Upon further investigation, it was discovered that she had scheduled 4 hearings for 1:30. Apparently, ours didn’t take precedence. That didn’t surprise me. Mike has lived with us for 2 years and in that time, the GAL has never been to our house or so much as discussed Mike’s case with him on the phone. Usually, she pulls Mike into a side room a couple of minutes before we enter the courtroom and asks him if there is anything he wants to discuss. Sadly, the GAL represents this child to the court. She makes the legal recommendations and often, the judge listens.

Over two hours later, the judge got sick of waiting and called us in to her courtroom without Mike’s lawyer. The prosecutor was astonished; she had never seen that happen before. Our hearing was brief, about 5 minutes. The judge congratulated Mike on his upcoming adoption. (Our worker filed the adoption petition with the court that morning. It won’t be long now!) When it was Mike’s turn to speak, he expressed a desire to just have this adoption done. He’s been waiting so long.

Soon Mike will be done with court reviews and family team meetings and social workers coming all the time. We won’t have to get agency permission for him to spend the night at a friend’s house. I will be able to sign his medical paperwork and I won’t have to update the agency about every little bump. scrape, or bruise. Mike will be taking our last name and making a few changes of his own. I’m so excited to be on this journey with our son.

Runaway

I’ve been a mother for a long time . . . A. Long. Time. There are things I just know after all of these years. I know that each child is different and that you can’t parent them all the same. I learned the hard way that parenting adopted and foster children is a lot different than parenting biological children. I have learned to read my children’s body language and behavior because most of the time behavior is a clue to underlying issues. If we address the issue, the behavior can then be addressed. I am also keenly aware that, as the mother of the home, my attitude sets the tone in the house. I KNOW all of this and I’m usually decent at parenting with this knowledge in mind. Then there was yesterday.

Yesterday was an exhausting day following two overwhelming weeks. September is always a tough month here. All of the kids are getting used to their new school schedules. The month is full of triggers for my kids with PTSD and emotional impairments. Illness runs through the house making its victims miserable but also exacerbating symptoms in my two daughters with autoimmune disorders. Then we add in our normal meetings and appointments plus school meetings and the month is full. This year is tougher because our young adult daughter is staying here while she gets some things settled and we are helping care for her two babies. Yup, I’m just a little stressed. No excuse.

Back to yesterday. Mike, our almost adopted 16 year old, has had a rough week. He is struggling to get back on a school schedule, work through some pretty tough therapy, deal with the stress of his upcoming adoption, manage some serious trauma triggers, and is balancing the heaviest academic load he has ever had. Normally, I try to see things from Mike’s perspective. He’s been through more than any 16 year old I have ever met and he’s an incredible kid. I am extremely proud of him, he has accomplished so much since he has been with us. He is MY SON! But yesterday, after the 5th e-mail from the school, my patience had worn thin. Mike hadn’t really done anything wrong, but he was becoming increasingly agitated, and in the process annoying his teachers and the school staff. These were clues that I needed to step back from the situation and get to the root of what was causing Mike’s agitation. But I wasn’t watching the clues. I was at the end of my rope.

Mike walked in the door as the 3 month old was screaming. Immediately, I began interrogating him. Why was he annoying his teachers? (Foster Parenting 101: Never ask Why.) The argument commenced. Soon, Mike was blaming the whole situation on me and as our voices raised he said something that struck a nerve. I had had it!

“That’s it! Go to your room!” I yelled.

“I’m leaving!” Mike spat back.

“Fine, then leave!”

“Fine, I will!”

“FINE!”

“FINE!”

“Mike, you can’t leave. Just go to your room.” I said as I determined to bring my emotions back under control.

“You said I could leave, so I’m leaving.”

“Go To Your Room!” my voice again raised.

Mike walked into his room, threw some clothes in his backpack, and headed toward the door. I again told him to stay, but he was set on leaving. He walked out the door as I stood there seething with anger. I sat and tried to get my emotions under control again. I knew I would have to go after him, but in the state I was in, it would do no good. After about 5 minutes, I walked outside to see where Mike had gone. I saw him walking down the sidewalk with Leo, our 15 year old. I figured Mike would walk it off and as long as he was with Leo, there was nothing to worry about. I would apologize for acting like a crazed lunatic later, when we both had a chance to cool off. I went to give the baby her bottle.

About 20 minutes later, Leo returned to the house alone. Mike told him that he was going to keep walking. Rolling my eyes, I decided it was time to go find my wayward teen. It took a while to get all of the kids set so I could leave, but I was reasonably confident that it wouldn’t be too hard to find him. Wrong again. After an hour of driving around, I went home and started making the necessary calls. I made dinner and waited for the police to show up.

Thankfully, the officer that came is an old friend, so I was able to relax a little as I told the story. We drove around to check a friend’s house and some other areas that Mike might go. Still no luck. The officer came back to our house and made sure that he had a detailed description of what Mike was wearing when he left and then updated dispatch. I went back to watching the little ones and began their bedtime routines while my husband took Lu and Marie driving around to look for our son. Leo printed out a map, estimated how fast Mike was walking, and drew circles around how far Mike could make it every 2 hours. Then he took a bike and rode around, joining the search.

As the hours passed, me heart sank further. I watched out the windows hoping my boy would come home. I thought of the story of The Prodigal Son and understood how the father watched the road every day. Finally, at the little ones’ bedtime, Sergey was able to take over for me so Eddy and I could rejoin the search. We drove around until it was too dark to see. With a heavy weight on my heart, we returned home. I sat at the window and watched some more. I tried hard to push away the frightening thoughts that kept popping into my mind. Five hours had passed, then six, then seven, still no word. I fell asleep.

After midnight, there was a knock on the door. I don’t think I have ever jumped up so quickly. Through the window I could see an officer standing there next to my son. Waves of relief and joy passed over me as I saw my boy standing there in one piece. The officer told me that he had been found walking along a major highway. He was hungry and exhausted and just wanted to come home. Mike had told the officer about some of the bad things that had happened in his past but then told him of our home, how good he has it here, how we love him and take care of him. I thanked the officer as he left and turned to Mike. He looked at me apprehensively, waiting for me to start scolding. I reached for my son with trembling hands, pulled him to me, and held him. He is my son. He is home.

Just Keeping On . . . to whom I write

I write to parents, to encourage them to keep on, because this parenting thing is hard and we never know what is going to come our way.

I write to new parents that are just starting this adventure, to encourage them to keep on through the sleepless nights and the long days and let go of guilt and just enjoy this time while their little ones are still little.

I write to the parents of children with chronic disorders, to encourage them to keep on fighting for their kiddos, to do what it takes, though the battle is long.

I write to the parents who have adopted their children, and daily fight the monsters of trauma and loss, to encourage them to keep on helping their children to heal and become whole.

I write to the foster parents who are ready to take in a child at a moment’s notice, those that give their love, time, money, and resources to help a child in need, to encourage them to keep on though the road is rough and uncertain.

I write to the host parents of international exchange students who take in teens from a different culture and show them love and give them a family while they are away from everything they have ever known, to keep on loving, learning, and teaching.

I write to the parents of teens in difficult places, who know the feeling of helplessness when their children make decisions that hurt and destroy, to keep on loving through the pain.

I write to the parents of large families, whether biological, adopted, foster, host, or a mixture of any of these, to keep on smiling through the chaos that their lives bring.

I write to share my story so that I might encourage others to keep on, because I’m on the journey too.