My One and Only

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I’m going to let you in on a well-known secret: I don’t like to watch TV. I don’t like the lights. I don’t like the noise. And I hate realizing that I just lost 30 minutes of my day because I sat through an entire episode of Kid Danger- again.

My aversion works well for my kids because, in general, I don’t torture them with boring, adult programming. They are free to argue amongst themselves about whether they want to watch Disney, Nick, Boomerang, or Cartoon Network.

On rare occasions, I do take over the TV. My kids all moan as I turn on the History Channel or PBS. If I really want them to scatter, I turn on Downton Abbey. Nothing sends them fleeing like the theme song of that lovely, British drama. But even the lure of watching Maggie Smith play the Dowager Countess does not have me turning the TV on very often.

I do have one show, though. One that has had me captivated from the first episode. One that I will fight to watch. Once a week, that TV is mine. And no, I don’t care if it IS the middle of March Madness. We do have a DVR, for goodness’ sake!

At 8:45 on Sunday evenings, I make sure the littles are in bed. The middles are sent to go do something- anything, as long as it doesn’t disturb me. Evening meds are distributed and everyone is warned that, “This is My Time. Do NOT disturb me. If you bother me the house had better be on fire or someone better be bleeding out.”

I think those are clear instructions. What is difficult to understand about that? Why do they have such a hard time following those simple directives? Even their father warns them to leave me alone. It’s for one freaking hour! How hard is that?

Apparently, too hard, as this week Shaun had a TOTAL meltdown ten minutes into my show because- get this- his ears were hot. What the heck? Mind you, he was fine all day. He had no pain, no swelling, nothing other than a slight redness on the tips of his ears that completely went away by the next morning. He had been in bed for almost an hour at that point. What could he possibly have been doing? Thank goodness for my DVR.

Now, do you think the drama ended there? No. Lizzie, who is always worse at night, had a full flare-up. Her head started pounding. She started hallucinating and having delusions. Then, just for fun, she had a seizure. I had to fight to get her meds in her and then monitor her until she finally fell asleep on the small sofa. Again, my DVR came to the rescue.

About the time my show was supposed to end, things calmed down enough for me to sit and watch. It was also about the time for Simon to go to bed. He was, as usual, in the basement irritating his big brothers.

Trey and Joe took Simon’s bedtime as their moment to exact revenge. The hollering and riotous laughter made it nearly impossible for me to hear what was happening on my show. I had about had it. I threatened to take away everything they hold dear- namely, their electronics.

The big boys were exasperated. “But Mom, your show is supposed to be over. We’ve been waiting to watch the game!”

My eyes shot daggers and smoke started escaping out my ears. Wisely, they backed away, into the kitchen to look for a snack while they waited to take control of my TV.

Here’s the thing about Trey and Joe. They are low key and soft spoken all day long, but in the evening, they come to life. After 8 pm, the two of them are incapable of doing anything quietly, and their noise level rises exponentially when they are together. They barely escaped the evening with their lives- and more importantly, their electronics.

So, I ask you, am I asking for too much? Should I give up on my time to escape reality to relax in a post-apocalyptic world ridden with Walkers and Saviors? I’m sorry. I can’t. I just love The Walking Dead.

 

 

 

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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.

Chaos Interrupted

This has been an unusual few days, even for us. Our normal chaos was rudely interrupted by several trips to the ER, a short hospital stay, two trips to urgent care, and multiple doctor visits. I have had more conversations about bodily functions than I care to count. We have had sleepless nights, fevers, chills, rashes, pinched nerves, infections, and kidney stones. My medicine cabinet could stock a small pharmacy, and because I’m the momma, I manage it all.

It all started two weeks ago, when I started having upper abdominal pain. I tried to ignore it. Then Bea, my young adult daughter, started having severe pain and unusual symptoms. That was our first ER trip. She ended up having a UTI.

Over the next couple of days, my symptoms got worse. I became lethargic and the pain started radiating to other parts of my body. I had a difficult time eating or drinking anything. I made an appointment to see my doctor, but the earliest available was two days out. That evening, I developed a fever and chills and began having pulsating pain in my lower right abdomen. That made me angry because I know those symptoms always need to be checked for appendicitis. That was my second trip to the ER. I HATE going to the ER. Nine hours later, I was diagnosed with a kidney stone, a UTI, and an embarrassing case of constipation. (TMI?)

I rested the best I could most of the next day. By evening, I was still having trouble consuming anything and the fever was back accompanied by a headache. I was still backed up, so I took my meds along with a laxative, and went to bed. Stupid, I know. By midnight, I woke up with horrible chills and stomach pains. Duh, right? The laxative had kicked in. Anyway, I took care of business, wrapped myself in blankets, and went back to bed.

At three AM, I woke up with whole body tremors, terrible pain in my right foot, and a fever. I could not stop shaking. I woke Mr. M, and we headed back to the ER. By the time I got there, I could barely stand. They wheeled me back to a room and hooked me to monitors and an IV. My blood pressure was dangerously low, my pulse was really high and I had a low grade fever. The doctor came in and immediately admitted me for observation. It took two bags of IV fluid to get my body to stabilize. I spent the day resting in my peaceful hospital bed. The nurses would come in and apologize for it being a noisy and bustling place to rest and I would laugh at them. I don’t know how to rest in quiet. By the evening, I was feeling much better and all of my tests came back OK, so I was discharged. Apparently, I had somehow pinched a nerve in my right foot, but otherwise there were no new diagnoses.

The next afternoon, I received a phone call from Marie’s school. She was in a lot of pain and needed to go home. I picked her up, gave her some Motrin and watched her symptoms. The next day, when she was still in pain, I took her to Urgent Care, where we discovered that Marie had a large and intense Candida rash from the prophylactic antibiotic she takes. Thankful that it was nothing more serious, we went home and I planned for a nice, peaceful weekend where we had no plans and everyone could recuperate. In the mean time, Bea had developed a Candida infection as well.

I know that making plans rarely works out for me. I don’t know why I even try. At midnight, Jimmy had a nightmare and crawled into our bed. At three, Mike came in to our room complaining of horrible abdominal pain. I dragged myself out of bed and went to get him Motrin. By the time I got downstairs, Mike was doubled over and moaning in pain. I did a quick check of his symptoms, and when he pointed to his lower right side, I cursed under my breath and ran to get dressed. We headed to the hospital; by the time we got there, Mike was incoherent. A police officer helped me get Mike into a wheel chair, and we rushed him back into the ER. Mike has no recollection of the events that happened over the next hour or so. The doctor gave him several doses of pain meds before Mike was even able to talk. The nurses were taking bets over what could possibly be causing my boy so much pain. The tests came back — a kidney stone. The male nurse had won the bet. The doctor was fairly certain that Mike would be able to pass the stone on his own, so we were sent home with several prescriptions and instructions to see the urologist in two days.

The next day was Sunday, and for the first time in over a week, everyone seemed to be stable. I took the day to relax a bit and catch up on some of the important things I had missed during the week. SJ’s birthday was coming up and I needed to prepare for that. I finished my course of antibiotics and made sure that Mike and Marie were taking the appropriate meds all day. Sunday was nice.

Monday morning, I woke up determined to write a blog post, being that I hadn’t had a chance to write for over a week. I had missed the first week of my Blogging 201 class and my first week of Writing 101. I so badly wanted to catch up, but as I sat at my computer, my hands started to burn and tingle. Then they started to itch. I watched hives develop first on my hands and then they spread over my entire body. I hurried to take Zyrtec and Benadryl, but it didn’t help. Nothing I did calmed the reaction; thankfully, it hadn’t spread to my tongue or throat. I managed to make it through the day; I even took Mike to his urology appointment, though I scratched the whole time. That night was miserable. The hives grew into huge, swollen welts that stung and itched. I took Benadryl around the clock, but was hardly able to sleep.

Yesterday morning, I went to my appointment with the police department to set up a safety plan for Lu. I managed to keep the scratching to a minimum and hid most of the welts under a hooded sweatshirt so nobody could see the rash. As soon as the appointment was over, I went straight to urgent care. It’s not usually a good sign when the urgent care doctor gasps when he looks at you, is it? Anyway, the doctor thinks I’m allergic to the antibiotic I was on. Unfortunately, the antibiotic stays in your system for up to two weeks after you finish the course. The doctor gave me a steroid shot, put me on a steroid burst, and told me to keep taking both the Zyrtec and Benadryl. He gave me strict instructions to head to the ER if my throat started to react.

It took all day before I saw or felt any improvement, but it was SJ’s sixth birthday, so I had no time to sulk. This house is always bustling. I can’t stay down for long. We celebrated SJ last night. We enjoyed watching him play with his birthday presents. But as soon as it was time for him to go to bed, I went to bed too. It took a while for the itching to calm down enough for me to sleep, but at least I got to rest.

This morning, my hives were much lighter. Thankfully, the steroid and Benadryl combination finally kicked in. Unfortunately, I woke up with a migraine, but I would take a migraine any day over full body hives. I had a follow up appointment with my doctor today. She just shook her head when she heard my story. I wonder what she would think if I told her the whole thing? Life is an adventure, isn’t it? I love my big family life.

The Visitor

We encourage our kids to have friends over. It’s pretty common for there to be an extra kid or two hanging out for a few hours or spending the night. That’s why I didn’t think much of it when Mike brought a new friend home last Thursday after school.

“Mom, this is my friend, Darius. Do you mind if we go downstairs and play video games for a while?” Mike asked.

“Sure, sweetheart. Go ahead,” I replied, then I went back to making dinner.

About an hour later, Mike came upstairs and told me that Darius was going to need a ride home. I thought that was strange, but sometimes Mike offers our help without checking with us first, so I didn’t think too much of it. I told Mike that we were busy then but someone could take Darius home after we were done with dinner. Darius texted his mother and let us know that she was ok with that. Later that evening, my husband drove the boys over to the apartment complex where Darius lives. When they got there, Darius noticed that his Mother’s car was not there. He texted her again and she replied that she had to leave and wanted to know if he could just spend the night at our house because he couldn’t get in his apartment. We thought that was weird, but we weren’t about to leave the boy alone in the parking lot, so he came back to our house and spent the night.

On Friday morning before school, I pulled Darius aside and tried to get some more information about his home life. Mr. M and I had an uneasy feeling about the whole situation. As foster parents, we are required to report suspected abuse, but I refuse to make that call unless I am fairly certain abuse is actually happening. My gut told me that Darius was not being truthful, but I couldn’t tell what the truth was.  Darius assured me that his mother would be picking him up later that day, then he and Mike left for school.

Friday was a busy day in our town. It was homecoming week, and there were events all day long. I was busy taking care of My Littles and My Middles. Lu was not feeling well, and she was taking a lot of my attention. My Bigs and my Olders (whom I still need to write a post about) were all busy doing other things, so my day was completely consumed with caring for my family. Late in the afternoon, in the midst of the chaos, I noticed that Darius’s backpack was in the kitchen.

A while later, Darius walked into the house with Mike. I asked him why he was here and not home.  He explained that he was hanging out between homecoming activities and that he and Mike would be leaving for the parade and football game in a little while. His mother would be picking him up after the game. That seemed reasonable to me, so I wished him well and went back to my day.

The rest of the evening was busy but typical, that is until bedtime. I was exhausted, but I waited for Mike to get home before climbing the stairs and heading to my bed. When Mike came home, he was not alone. Darius was with him. I looked at them both in utter amazement. Darius stammered. He explained that his mom never came to pick him up and when he texted her, she had told him that she had gone to work. He sheepishly asked if he could spend one more night, insisting that his mother would pick him up here when she got off work the next day. I shrugged and told him, “That’s fine, but when she picks you up tomorrow, I am going to talk to her.” Then I went to bed.

The next morning, I woke up refreshed and determined to get to the bottom of our strange visitor’s story. I assumed he had been lying, but I was hoping to get a glimmer of the truth. I still was not sure if a call to protective services was warranted. I questioned Darius several times that day. I watched closely for signs of trauma and abuse. I repeatedly asked him what time his mother would be coming to get him, reminding him that I was determined to speak with her when she came. I had already asked for all of her contact information, but Darius was being less than helpful.

As the day wore on and the time came closer to when we were finally going to get to meet Darius’s mom, his story suddenly changed. Apparently, Darius’s mom had messaged him and needed him to be dropped off at the mall. I looked Darius in the eye and firmly explained that I would not allow that. He was not leaving my home until I met his mother. Darius squirmed. He stammered and came up with a lame excuse as to why he needed to be at the mall. I gave him another chance to be truthful, but got nowhere. I left Darius playing video games with Mike and went upstairs. Mr. M and I discussed all of the details and decided that since we really had no evidence of abuse, I would call the police. The police could take it from there.

Not long after my call to the station, an officer arrived at our home. (I really need to bake our local officers cookies or something. It seems like they are out here to help us out quite a bit.) We called Darius upstairs. He seemed shocked to see an officer there waiting for him. Darius started with some of the same stories that he had given us. The officer had him collect his things and get in the cruiser. They were going to drive around until they found Darius’s mom. As they left, I breathed a sigh of relief.

In the mean time, we had found a Facebook account that we were pretty certain belonged to Darius’s mother. We sent her a request. She responded the next day and asked why the police had been involved. I explained what had happened on our side. She explained her side, sending copies of the messages between herself and Darius. He had refused to go with her after school on Thursday and had gone to the basketball court instead. That is where he met Mike.  Once he came to our house he decided he was going to stay here as long as he could. No one knows why. Some mysteries are never solved.

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.

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.

Enjoying the moment

IMG_5175 “Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.”

Two years ago, our lives changed forever. Our Lu came down with strep throat and suddenly everything changed. Overnight, she went from a straight A Honor Roll student on track to attend a prestigious academic high school to a girl that could barely function, let alone concentrate on schoolwork. Her body has turned on itself and her immune system is attacking her brain. For the first few months we were just trying to get a diagnosis. Finally, we found a specialist that could give us answers. Our Lu has PANDAS, pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorder associated with strep throat. Thankfully, through a PANDAS parent site, we were directed to a wonderful neurologist that has become a PANDAS expert. But, even with months of treatment, our Lu still could not stabilize. That’s when we learned that she also has Lyme Disease. We are on a big learning curve. I am hoping to share what I am learning, but most of all, I want to say . . .

Find joy!

Look for small moments that make you smile. Hold on to these treasures, because in the end, these are the things that matter.

IMG_4250

Our Lu is finding joy. Last autumn, in a desperate search to find anything to help our girl, I contacted a service dog company. Miracles happened, and our daughter was matched with a dog immediately. Noel has been a life line to Lu, even in some very dark and scary places. The two are inseparable. Noel keeps Lu safe and gives her something to feel good about. See, Lu can’t go to school. She can’t be left unattended. She has seizures, memory loss, her eyes have trouble focusing and that’s not the half of it. But Lu is really good at training her Noel. So good, in fact, that we got two more puppies for Lu to train. She may not be able to go to the high school she had heart set on, but she is a darn good dog trainer. Right now, this is where she finds her joy. And watching Lu work magic with these dogs fills my heart to overflowing.

IMG_4256This evening, like most Wednesday evenings, we were at dog training class. Lu had a seizure and collapsed to the floor. Noel jumped into action doing exactly what she has been trained to do. Noel has a vest that she wears in public to identify her as a service dog. We all agree that her vest is really a cape because Noel is a super hero.

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.