Sleepy Saturday

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Sirius is ready to hibernate.

 

Sirius has the right idea. Baby, it’s cold outside, and I plan to stay in.

Yesterday, our grass was green and my children were outside playing, wearing light jackets and sneakers. Before the sun set, we dutifully scoured the yard to pick up anything that shouldn’t be there. Mostly that meant picking up random dog toys, balls, sticks, and socks. Lots and lots of socks. (I don’t know why my kids feel the compulsion to remove their socks as soon as they get outside, and I don’t have the energy to ask. Honestly, I don’t think they even know.)

This morning I woke up to a dusting of snow on the ground. But the warnings had been given, and as the day progressed, the snow continued to fall. My little area of the world is now covered in white.

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The snow as of earlier this afternoon.

 

I have a love/ hate relationship with winter. I do enjoy the coziness of a nice warm house with snow falling outside while cookies bake in the oven. It is fun to watch the little kids play in the snow, making snowmen and sledding down our hill. I also welcome any excuse to have another cup of coffee. But the joy is short lived. The kids spend less time outside than they do getting their gear on. Inevitably, a little one loses a mitten or a boot and comes in screaming with frozen fingers or toes. Snow ball fights end in hurt feelings and occasional bruises. Snowman wars end with dismembered snowfolks and whining children. And then when the outdoor fun is finished, they all come in and want hot cocoa. Do you know how big of a mess these kids can make with hot cocoa mix?

Already, I have piles of snowy boots, coats, mittens, and hats making puddles all over my house. The frantic search for matching mittens and boots has begun. Speaking of that, they lost one of MY boots! How do you lose one boot? And why the heck did they have mine?!? I spend a small fortune on winter gear every year. The only pile that comes close to my matchless mitten pile is my matchless sock pile. (In fairness, I seem to be the only person who cares if socks or mittens match, as the kids will wear anything that even comes close to fitting with no regard to color, style, size or texture. They torture me.)

Anyway, in an effort to make the best of the situation, we are starting our Christmas activities a little early. My tree won’t go up until after Thanksgiving, but the carols have been playing all day and now we are watching some of our favorite Christmas movies. Marie and SJ have begun to plan which cookies we should leave for Santa, even though there are no cookies in the house. My oven is warming- today is a good day to make brownies, I think. I’m determined to enjoy the winter, for now anyway. I have little ones that are full of excitement and wonder to enjoy it with.

Expect me to have cabin fever by February.

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Princess enjoying her first snowfall.

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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.

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.

Jimmy & Boris the Tortoise

Jimmy loves Boris.

Jimmy loves Boris.

If you came over to visit, you would notice that we have a lot of pets. I would totally buy a zoo if my husband would let me. For now, I am content begging him to buy me a farm – – just a little one. And of course, it would have to have a kennel and pond for our goldens. And I have to have chickens, maybe some goats, a dairy cow would be nice. But I digress.

Among our pets, we have a bale of turtles and a tortoise. Jimmy loves our tortoise. My guess is that if Jimmy had to pick his favorite animal, he wouldn’t have to think long before he answered with “Boris!”

Boris, our Russian Tortoise.

Boris, our Russian Tortoise.

It is not unusual for me to remind Jimmy that he needs to leave Boris and his tank alone. Several times a day, I find Jimmy staring into Boris’s habitat, talking to him and telling him all sorts of important stories, most of which I can’t understand. But Boris and Jimmy have a relationship. They are friends, and who am I to keep a boy separated from his tortoise pal? Though I do remove the toys and other paraphernalia that Jimmy sneaks into the tank on an almost daily basis.

A friendship like theirs does have its challenges — mostly for me, though Jimmy would insist that I just don’t understand. Last weekend I wrote down some of the things I actually said during a Jimmy and Boris play date.

Boris is our resident vegetarian, which is good because at least someone here will eat their veggies.

Boris is our resident vegetarian, which is good because at least someone here will eat some veggies.

“No! Don’t lick Boris! Oh, yuck!”

“No! Don’t write on Boris!” I don’t even know where the pen came from. I don’t think I looked away for a second.

“No! Don’t kiss Boris. Oh gross. Ok, whatever, kiss him, I’ll take a picture.”

“No! Don’t take Boris’s grapes, those are his grapes.”

“No! Don’t eat Boris’s lettuce, you don’t even like lettuce!”

“Put him down. No, you can’t hold him. Be careful!”

‘No! Don’t pour your orange juice on Boris. That’s not nice.”

“No! Don’t poke Boris.”

“No, you can’t give him a hug. We don’t hug tortoises. Oh, that was a nice hug.”

Jimmy trying to kiss Boris.

Jimmy trying to kiss Boris.

“Here, I think Boris wants to go back in his tank now. Say “Goodbye, Boris.'”

Actually, Boris didn’t seem to want to return to his tank at all. He was fine and seemed to enjoy the crazy antics of the 2 year old that loves him. But I couldn’t take anymore. Jimmy keeps me busy. He is fun and inquisitive and a joy to be around, but that kid can get into mischief as fast as any I’ve ever seen. Wish me and my little Russian tortoise friend luck. We need it.

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.