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.

20151117_141932794_iOS

 

 

Advertisements

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.

20150929_115532843_iOS

Where’s Jimmy?

“Jimmy, GET OUT of the pantry!!!

IMG_5773

Let’s see if the Vaseline top will flush.

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

IMG_5778

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.”

20150928_200217553_iOS

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.)

20151003_132217284_iOS

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!”

20150927_194502359_iOS

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

“Night night, Grandma.”

20150927_194456795_iOS

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.

20150704_152516253_iOS

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.

20150520_233220278_iOS

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.

20150619_193132287_iOS (2)

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.

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.

Everywhere and Nowhere

the-road-not-taken

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

Excerpt from “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost

I have always felt different, like no matter how hard I tried I never quite fit in. When I was younger, this made me uncomfortable. I just wanted to be accepted and part of the crowd. But as much as I wanted to be normal, I didn’t want to be either. As a teenager, I fell in love with Robert Frost’s poetry, especially “The Road Not Taken.” I knew I wanted to live differently. Eventually, I became comfortable in my own skin. Being different became a blessing, not a curse.

As a teen, I knew that I wanted to adopt some day. I also knew that I wanted to have a large family. I told anyone that would listen that I wanted to have twelve kids. Now, I want more than that. I hope that I can continue to adopt older children for a long time to come. But, having a large family with children in many different age groups and from different backgrounds, races, and cultures makes me far different from the other mothers I know. I fit everywhere, and nowhere at the same time.

I have a toddler that will be potty training soon, but I am not a new mother. I have a child that will be going off to Kindergarten next week. This is the seventh child I’ve sent off to school for the first time. It’s lost its nuance. I have another elementary aged child and two middle school aged kids. One of my daughters is home bound. She cannot attend school so a teacher comes to her, but I am more than just a mother of a chronically ill child. I have one child in our local high school and one in a charter high school. I get requests to volunteer frequently, but that is usually not possible. I am not a mom that has the freedom to plan ahead. One of my kiddos is in a juvenile detention program. Some of my kids have histories filled with severe trauma, abuse, and neglect. Some of my kids have been abandoned. My kids have a lot of needs, but I am not just a special needs mother. I have a son that is a young adult in an independent living program, and two more young adult daughters that are out on their own making a way for themselves in this world, but I am not an empty nester. I have three grandchildren that are precious to me, but I am not just a grandmother. I have host sons from all over the world, and one host daughter. They worked in professional baseball or were exchange students. Some came and went, some stayed for a while and then went on their way, and some stayed and became permanent fixtures in our family. They are all my host sons, some are more than that. But I am not just a host mom. I am all of these, but by fitting in all of these categories, I fit in none. My brain and heart are too full to concentrate on just one or two of my mothering duties. I’ve seen too much.

My hope is that I can encourage other mothers out there. Ours is a difficult job, but well worth the price. Let’s lift each other up. Let’s help the moms that don’t quite fit in.