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Changing seasons

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WOW.. I’ve been gone for forever… (or eight weeks, which is like forever) we swam, drove, read books,visited therapists, met with caseworkers, camped, fought, and laughed our way through the summer. Tomorrow is my first day back at work, and the kids start school  in just a few days.  This year two out of five will leave for school year, only to be home for holidays and school breaks.

Our house right now is a flurry of packing, sorting and cleaning… soooo, I headed to work a day early to relax! 🙂

Looking back on our summer it feels as if we were in a continuous sprint. I remember having forced “down days”,  where we would not leave the house, but despite those,  I don’t feel rested and relaxed at all.  In trying to keep everyone entertained, happy and loved, I have worn myself out!

Even though meteorological summer technically has three weeks left, I am feeling the change now… after tomorrow we will be down to four.. and in a few weeks down to three. My house will seem very quiet. We will still have soccer practice, open houses, scouts, church, and countless volunteer commitments, but I can feel a change in the air.

Girlie only has two weeks until she heads back to  camp college in Florida.  My oldest grandson is going to spend his first year of high school away at a private school geared toward therapy and healing.  It was a hard decision, but one we needed to make for everyone.  The courts, in their infinite wisdom, determined that his father’s house wasn’t the best place and our grandson needed to stay with us, but he also needed some help dealing with all the pain in his heart from his life before he came to us.

apparently I cannot heal the children on my own.

Kids who enter the foster care system and who stay in it for any length of time have scars.   They crave attention and love, yet act out in ways that seem completely irrational to the rest of us.  They become masters at hiding emotions and telling people what they want to hear. They try hard to hide the scars of neglect, abandonment and heartbreak.   Unfortunately, sometimes they do it so well, we forget the scars are there and are surprised when we see them.  This is how it was for us.

When our grandson acted out and hurt those around him, we couldn’t understand where it was coming from.  My husband and I felt betrayed by his lack of feeling.  We couldn’t understand why he would act this way when we had given him everything he had never had.   We were reminded to look at the scars and see the pain that still dwelled in the hearts of all the children.  The oldest had by sheer seniority seen the worst, so it stands to reason that his scars are the deepest.  We stopped his acting out, but he needs more than just love, stability and boundaries.

We found a good school in the mountains which will help him heal and the time away will help us heal as well.   The therapists have told me that despite what the littlest have been through,  they are doing great and we have handled everything as well as can be expected. It was unanimously agreed by all that time apart will help us all to have some distance heal.

We will all grow up a little more in that year.  We will have new experiences, some good, some bad,  but family is family and hopefully in ten months we will all be healthier, happier and see each other with a new outlook.

The broken promise

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When we first got the kids, they were rough.  They fought and screamed. They stole and lied.  They had boundless energy they didn’t know how to control.   All thier lives, they had bounced around between parents and in and out of foster care.  At one point all three had  lived with the biodad of the two youngest children, but after a few months when things got too tough, the oldest was sent away. Eventually they were all taken away and sent back to biomom and then again to foster care.

The angel foster mom kept them for much longer than she was supposed to because she knew they needed stability.  She was able to get them into therapy and onto medication. When they came to us, they were housebroken, and heartbroken.  They didn’t know what life held in store for them, they only knew a gypsy lifestyle and pain.

I promised that was over.  I promised that our house was a safe place and a permanent place.  When they lashed out and said they wanted to leave, I lashed back that I loved them and this was their home forever.  I promised that no-matter what,  they had a home and they would grow up in our town.

Now the promise is broken.   Despite my promises I couldn’t keep the littles safe from the oldest and I couldn’t save him from his own self destructive choices. On Monday we have our first court date for the assault charges against my oldest grandson.   On Monday he faces the judge with a public defender by his side.   Juvenile Justice is willing to work with us.  Oldest’s biodad and stepmom are working hard to make sure they can take him into their home, but that is a hope, not a reality.  They have created a wonderful stable home and they have developed a good relationship with him over the past four years that he didn’t have before he moved here.

Only the state’s attorney and a judge will make the final decision, and then the other state has to accept him into their juvenile justice system.  He will have a record, he will have consequences, we are just hoping those consequences can be met, while he is being supported by someone who loves him.  His father will have the extra financial burden and responsibility to make sure he gets to his therapy and meets the requirements of his sentencing.

His deceptively sweet personality hides his rage. His compliance and willingness to help makes me forget his dark side.  Instead I see a stretched out little boy.  I see an almost six foot child who yearns for a forever home.  He understands that he is in very deep trouble, but he cannot fathom how far the charges will reach into his life.  When we speak of the crime, his eyes glaze over and he shuts himself off from me.

I don’t know if he can be rehabilitated.  I don’t know for sure that some day he won’t make the horrible choice to take his own life or someone else’s life.  Will he make the choice to prove us wrong and turn his life around, or will he use the anger inside him to lash out at the world.    I am an educated woman,  but I still believe in the goodness of people.  I cannot fathom the darkness of his heart or the depth of the pain in his life which put it there.  I can understand the premise of his actions,  I can logically explain what I believe to be his motives, but only he knows for sure.

I do know that he has friends here, and was making plans to be in the high school marching band.  I know that he had friends in Scouts and wanted to help other kids.  I know he has frequently helped a friend with her son who has severe autism.  I know it will be good for him to be with his father.

my heart is breaking.   I made a promise to always love and protect them and I failed.   I made a promise that he would always have a home with me and now I have to break it.  My dear friend Arthur says he hates when parents promise children they will always be with them and they will always be safe, because we never know what is going to happen and if something terrible happens, the child sees a broken promise and the adult feels his/her own anguish, plus the anguish of the child.   I hate proving him right.

20 days and counting… to the unknown

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Twenty more mornings of making lunches, twenty more shaking the beds to get everyone moving. Twenty more days of “I can’t find my backpack and Grandma you have to sign this permission slip”

The school days since spring break have been much tougher than the ones before. A little strife is healthy for us to truly appreciate the good times, but I promise to appreciate the good times if everything will just settle down.  In the last two weeks alone we have been on a whirlwind schedule.

We’ve had two trips to the ER, three school referrals, one detention, two days of ISS, three sick days, prescriptions to be filled, therapy appointments, doctor appointments , soccer games, baseball games, work commitments , girl scouts, boy scouts and a myriad of day to day drama that just keeps us running from dawn til dark.

Lucky for me, my village is full of wonderful people who have stepped up to help with appointments, airport pick ups, weekend logistics and sick children. I don’t know how I would get through the weeks until the end of the school year with the help of wonderful friends.  Twenty more school days til summer…

BUT THEN WHAT?     In my crazy brain last fall, I planned out a summer of travel for all of us.  Girlie is heading into her junior year of college and manchild is going to be a junior in high school.. I am on borrowed family time now as it is.   I dreamt of a trip to Texas to visit my brother, a camping trip to New England to see family ,  several long weekends with extended family in VA, SC and NC, culminating with Girlie’s drop off at college in the fall…. (Presumably we would all travel in a big painted bus singing kum-ba-ya)      I was relatively serious that it was a plan I hoped to carry out.   The reality of life is that both Girlie and Manchild are working this summer and my oldest grandson will have high school marching band camp.   I have already been asked by the church to serve as the skit coordinator for Vacation Bible School.  Let’s not forget a week of Girl Scout camp to start everything off right.   That leaves just a little over three weeks for swimming lessons,  hikes in the woods, visits to family and relaxing before we have to head back to school.

I’m sure summer will be kinder and easier on the schedule than the school year.  Maybe I will get some time in at the pool and read some trashy novels before I have to gear back up for the school/work/scouts/sports marathon.   We may not be heading out in the bus with our tamborines rattling, but  I just may get to pull off one more big family road trip if I plan it right.

My little peace of heaven

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I’m hiding in a corner of the kitchen, near the laundry room.   The ever present sound of the appliances drown out the noise of the tv and bickering in the next room.  There are two baskets of laundry waiting to be folded (to be then heaped on someone’s bedroom floor). Newspapers stacked and ready for recycling …(that will probably be pressed into service to sop up dog vomit).   A lunch bag, some mail and parts of dinner still sit on the table while dust bunnies twirl at my feet…but it’s ok

Today, this is my quiet little peace of heaven…it may only last the length of one load of wash, so please  don’t give it away.

Fourth Mother’s Day x 5

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So although technically this is my 20th Mother’s Day, it is my 4th with the extra kids.  It’s been a long road, but it’s a good road.  It started with the traditionally with me being held hostage in my bed so they could “surprise” me, then we transitioned to a hike in the woods and then a quick trip to the urgent care center for me and my lovely bullseye and of course ended with some wine and laughs with some wonderful friends.   It was the perfect Mother’s Day.

I always knew I wanted to be a mom. I remember writing my daughter’s name in my high school notebooks years  before she was born. I dreamed of sitting in the stands at little league games from my son.  I got to do that and so much more. we had wonderful adventures and I loved watching them learn and grow.  My children made me so proud and so happy I couldn’t believe they were almost grown.

My husband pretended he was good with leaving childhood behind as our teenagers started to grow…but then he arranged for us to coach a 4 yr old T ball team.  We spent the spring laughing and high fiving little hands.    He started taking more and more pictures of friends’ babies when we were at events.  We willingly babysat for anyone who asked and took to hosting events for our kids and inviting younger siblings of friends.

We were made for kids.  We love sports and scouts and the smell of babies.  We wanted more and more time with our VA grandchildren..but they were growing up fast too….they had friends and activities and they lived four hours away.

and then Divine Providence.  We were given the charge of three young children.  They blended  so easily into our lives..making friends with our friends’ children and sharing our love of life.

We met new friends and expanded our social circle.  We listened again to three blind mice being played on recorder and mediated disputes over who’s seat was who’s on the couch.   This morning I opened cards made with little hands, colored with crayon and lovingly glued into place.    Five years ago my daughter was already in high school and my son was in middle school. Hand made cards were a thing of the past  tucked away with belief in the tooth fairy and Santa.  I am so grateful that I still have little people who pick dandelions for me and are willing to curl up in my bed while I balance scrambled eggs and coffee on my lap.

Making the dog catcher laugh

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So, we are feuding with our neighbors…it’s a long crazy story and I can’t tell it as crazy as it really has gotten, but the newest volley they have thrown is to call the local animal control officer.  We have committed the mortal sin of not scooping our poop. (Well our dog’s poop)  when we walk them around our very wooded neighborhood.  Mind you, we never let them go in anyone’s yard and we never let them poop on the street, but somehow, our letting our big stinky dog poop sit in a wooded abandoned lot where no one plays is unforgivable. They have even videotaped the event and signed an affidavit.

YES, I know, it is wrong and shameful, and when we first heard that the out-of-work-creepy-sex offender neighbor was bothered by it, we contacted  the officer and promised to always scoop from here to forth!   We don’t need to play into their little dram..we can be good poopscoping Americans.

We were certainly surprised when the aforementioned neighbor called the authorities again!!  Again, the authorities left a note…so this time I called and invited the officer over.   I will admit that this large county we live in has a very small town atmosphere, and I figured I knew either the officer’s wife or his kid…and BINGO…..as he pulled in, he said …HI Cturtle! (my Girl Scout alias) I know both his daughter and his wife.  we laughed, he shook his finger at me, told me all neighbors are crazy and I should make sure to keep well away from them.  He said animal control officers are often thrown in the middle of neighborhood disputes…it is the nature of the business.   He went through the motions of checking the dogs’ records and told us tales of other  neighborhood squabbles, since they keep him busy on a dull afternoon.

Just for fun, I walked him to his truck.  My crazy neighbors were perched on the porch, feverishly smoking Marlboro lights and drinking something from a red solo cup while the barefooted feral children ran in the street.

I don’t even remember what the officer said, but I gave it my best bar-fly head toss and deep throat laugh.  I touched his arm and waved a cheery hello to all the neighbors.  I stood talking to him a for a few more minutes, laughing away….  As he drove away I turned and waved again at my neighbors.   I heard him give a hearty laugh and shake his head ….  It’s good to know I’m at least good for a laugh.

***some events may have been exaggerated for my own entertainment

a nuthin/everything special kind of day.

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Its just a regular day in the house of chaos. It is field trip day for one, field day for another. I haven’t lost any more weight in two days, but I’ve been on plan for a whole week now.  Its a Friday (which is always good). We’ve got two soccer games, an Eagle project to help with, a swim class to get to and DH has a meeting all day on Saturday, and I’m just now trying to figure out the  logistics.    It’ll work out.. it always does.

I won a bottle of wine yesterday and a bookstore gift card in our Teacher Appreciation Week prize drawing, Girlie will be home in exactly one week and this weekend is Mothers day.  Its crazy terrible busy and wonderful all at the same time.  There is nothing too spectacular about this day, but at the same time everything is spectacular about it. I hope everyone has a day as blessed as mine.