Friends

Friendship… is not something you learn in school.

But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship,

you really haven’t learned anything.

Muhammad Ali
Athena opting out of Kara's attempt at t-ball with the crew

Athena opting out of Kara’s attempt at t-ball with the crew

Friends are my greatest earthly treasure. I can’t imagine life without them. Some have been around a long time – like Erin who I’ve known since I was a toddler and Kara came along when I was 13. Others I’ve met more recently and we share a more immediate history.

My sister, born two years after me, was my first friend. Through out our lives we’ve always been good friends. I am excited to have her back in relative proximity. Instead of across the country, she’s now living only 3hrs away.

Often, I’ve wondered if my girls would have the same joyous experience of having each other and a close circle of friends to see them through life. There were times when Raine’s behaviour made me mournful. She couldn’t see how vehemently she was pushing away her peers – including her sister.

Raine and Kara's daughter, Ruth

Raine and Kara’s daughter, Ruth

This past year in homeschooling, my focus has been socialization. Yesterday Raine got a passing grade!
We went to the Christian campground I grew up at. Erin and Kara were there with their kids and another friend with her foster children.
There were a few moments requiring correction, but all in all both my girls did great. Athena was talkative and engaging – often she becomes incredibly shy in these situations. Raine was inclusive and patient. Still she emerged as the leader, but had an uncommon flexibility.

a quick dinner along the Grand River

a quick dinner along the Grand River

In the shallow wading pool, Raine organized a game where all the kids lined up at the edge. When she said go, in unison everyone ran into the water. Half way through the pool, at the deepest point, all the children dropped down and began splashing. They did this for what seemed like forever. Though leading, Raine didn’t get bossy. She patiently listened when the other kids talked to her. When discouraged, for whatever reason, Raine responded to her friends with kindness.
It was a beautiful scene. Previously, Raine could only tolerate friends in short bursts. But we were there nearly the entire day. And her good attitude continued as we picked up a foster child to join us for the weekend.
Even I was refreshed after our long day.

Even I was refreshed after our long day.

In the daily grind it’s easy to loose sight of how far we’ve come. Last year we were at camp for a week and it wasn’t so rosy. Sadly we could only go for the day this year, but it was well worth the hour long drive. I loved seeing my girls so happy interacting with friends. Some day they may be sitting at the edge of that same pool with those same friends watching their kids play together.
I am a rich woman, blessed with amazing friends – a few of whom I got to see yesterday.

Good Morning

monday-lets-do-thisIt’s Monday. I don’t mind this day at all. It brings a return to structure – or in this case another day of structure after I mistook Sunday for Monday (It’s Sunday).

Monday are the day I get down to business. It’s our day for serious school work. There are other days with structured learning, but it’s done in the midst of appointments and play dates. My girls are both in Kindergarten (Junior & Senior).

Technically Athena attends the public school down the street from us. But lately she’s been home most of the time. There’s a relatively new program here in Ontario – play based learning. I’m sure it’s great for other kids. Mine, however, require a great deal of structure and guidance. It’s gotten to the point where Athena is clenching her jaw in a strangely skewed manner. Primarily this happens at school and occasionally at home when she’s stressed or upset. The dentist noted her mouth is now growing incorrectly.

“It can be corrected,” she said. “You just need to encourage Athena to put her mouth properly.”

To save the pain and cost of extensive reconstructive dental surgery, Athena’s been staying home so I can get her jaw back to normal.

We’re on our second Monday morning. As much as my girls like structure, I must admit I do too. But I also love the opportunity to drop everything to go visit a friend. In addition to academics, Raine requires assistance in socializing. Somehow any skills she learned in daycare went out the window. She attended a full year of Junior Kindergarten last year. It seems in play based learning children are given the opportunity to work out differences on their own. Raine’s has a strong personality. In the unstructured environment, she tended to resort to domineering her peers. At such a young age, she still needs guidance on how to interact. So we take advantage of invitations to visit friends whenever they come.

But generally Monday’s are spent at home doing school work, laundry, and putting things back in order from my weekend “off”. I like to pretend I have a Monday – Friday job. Often I don’t do laundry or mop floors on the weekend. But Monday I’m back in the swing of things.

I must admit I really like Monday.

 

 

 

A Fresh Start

Seems ages since I’ve posted anything. Recently every waking moment I’ve been putting my house in order. Not to sell, but to better meet our needs.sewing machine My room is reorganized with a sewing nook. In my younger years I used to be quite proficient. Despite filling the basement with fabric, I’ve not sewn in ages. That’s something I’d like to change.

The living room has been converted to a school room. In the distant past, I required expansive seating areas. There was a time when I hosted hoards of people. With those days behind me I’ve created an intimate seating nook with two loveseats. When the occasional friend comes by we can visit while the children occupy themselves.

living room before & after

living room before & after (The empty corner in the before once housed the Christmas tree.)

seating area

seating area

Lastly I’m tackling the basement. With that completed, hopefully in the next couple of days, I’m going to dive into a few projects. One being the furtherance of my on-line coffee & tea business (www.believebistro.com).

All of this has been possible because of Joseph’s*sudden move. A week ago, the social worker called to say she was on her way to get him. In court Joseph’s father was awarded custody. That was not a surprise. The timing, however, was. I had been told court was later in the week. Quickly I scrambled to get his things together. I was mortified to send a box of dirty clothes. And even more distraught when I realized, the next day, all the toys I’d forgotten to send – some from his mom and others I’d given him for Christmas.

So ends my second fostering adventure with the local Children’s Aid. It’s been a week since Joseph’s departure. My phone hasn’t rung yet with another placement opportunity. I’ve made the most of my “time off”.

*name changed

Breaking Through

The One who breaks open the way will go up before them;
they will break through the gate and go out.
Their King will pass through before them,
the Lord at their head.   Micah 2:13

In January my pastor names the year for our congregation. 2013 focused on the Lord of the breakthrough depicted in Micah 2:13. As encouraged by this past Sunday’s message I’m taking a moment to reflect on the breakthroughs this past year.

January 2013 – received adoption finalization from the court. The adoption worker was quite tardy in filing the paperwork. The expected date was March or April 2013. But when the court received the file it flew through the necessary chains.

February 2013 – I met with Sloane* & Elise’s* birth mom. She blessed me beyond belief. At a second meeting, Sloane saw her one last time and received a blessing to move forward (see We Belong Together).

August 2013 – After a message at church reminding us of this year’s theme, I went home to hear Mike Bickle’s call to fasting for breakthrough. I wholeheartedly support fasting but have never exerted much effort in the area. It was high time I did. There were so many things requiring breakthrough in my life. When Sabrina* turned 18 in July I left the private fostering agency to work directly with Children’s Aid (see Ready? Set? Go!). The change came with a significant pay cut which is fine because I’ve never been in it for the money. After several weeks of waiting there were no calls. I fasted not to force the hand of God, but to better hear Him by clearing away the clutter in my own life.

The fast didn’t bring the marked breakthrough I was hoping. In it came a gentle nudge towards homeschooling for Sloane.

September 2013 – Elise began Junior Kindergarten at the public school down the street. Sloane stayed home with me for Senior Kindergarten (see Back to School). Since starting school the previously year, Sloane gradually stopped using the toilet. Come December 2012 she was back in diapers/pull ups all the time. Had the adoption been finalized in September, I would have pulled her out of school. But it wasn’t. So we muddled through. I tried everything. Nothing worked. Being home in the summer didn’t make a difference. But a few weeks into September she was back on track with toileting! It sounds like a small thing, but it was really big. Her anger and defiance was driving a wedge between us.

Homeschooling Sloane has helped us establish a deeper bond. Things really derailed when the adoption

Putting my curlers in her hair, "so I can look like momma!"

Putting my curlers in her hair, “so I can look like momma!”

got underway. It’s been a trying time with and for Sloane. But we’re coming through. Being home together has brought a huge breakthrough. She is becoming secure in our connection.

November 2013 – Sloane is discovered to already be a Canadian citizen!!!!! There were many delays caused by the adoption worker in securing Sloane’s citizenship. Born in the US to American parents, Sloane required citizenship in Canada where we reside. March 2013 I found out the adoption worker had done nothing despite having repeatedly told me the process was nearly complete. At that point it looked like it would be well over 3 years before completion. I was furious. Contact with the immigration lawyer was “graciously turned over” to me by the adoption worker’s supervisor. I remained frustrated. Despite having legal custody of my daughter, I couldn’t leave the country with her. There have been many technical difficulties in this adoption. The immigration is the best example. I started working directly with the lawyer. More complications arose. More time past. I grew weary in waiting. The 3 year process wouldn’t begin until the paperwork was accepted by the government. When it finally was, the reply came: Sloane is already a Canadian citizen. A name change needs to be completed, but it shouldn’t take long – certainly not 3 years!

Like me, Sloane is passionate about traveling. Neither of us like limitations. In this area the Lord has certainly broken open a way!

December 2013 – Despite significant gains in emotional health and, as a result, behviour Sloane still struggled with huge amounts of anger (see My Legs are Tired, These Days). After seeing a minor display, my mom recommended meeting with a friend of hers for some prayer. The result has been thrilling. Sloane’s guard is down and she’s enjoying life for the first time. This is the most significant breakthrough of all – the answer to a great many prayers.

It would be unrealistic to think that we might come into a season of life where breakthrough means it’s all rainbows and gum drops and there’s not a problem at all. I don’t think that is possible…one of the keys to our advancing in God is learning what a previous generation would have called “counting your blessings”…There’s something about what we carry with us that prophesies to where we’re going. ~ Matt Tapley (from the message, Preserving Breakthrough)

This year has not been all rainbows and gum drops. But the Lord has been breaking through. In the midst of my failures and shortcomings, He is faithful. That’s what I’m taking with me into this new year.

* name changed

The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.  1 Thessalonians 5:24

Counting my blessings….naming them one by one…….

Sloane (photo courtesy of Shannon Guiler)

Sloane* (photo courtesy of Shannon Guiler)

DSC_7078

Elise* (photo courtesy of Shannon Guiler)

Back to School!

I was 10yrs old when God dropped the dream of adopting on me (see Adoption). 25yrs is a long time to dream. I imagined bringing tiny babies home, naming them, loving them, and knowing they were mine. Of course reality hasn’t been like that. I got a 3yr old and 21mth old. I was able to give them middle names. And I’m immensely happy with their first names. I loved them slowly and not completely at first, aware that up until the adoption was legalized in January I could lose them at any moment. That’s the reality of foster care. It’s taken all of us quite a while to come to terms with permanency.

I dreamed of traveling to Europe, tea parties, blissful evenings spent reading classic literature, and home schooling. Owing to immigration issues our travel is limited to visiting family within Canada. Several years ago, when I began fostering, I gave up tea in favour of coffee. The blissful evenings may come as we work on building attention spans within the diagnosis of ADHD. I’m not sure how, as a child, I planned to be a single parent and home school…….. Oh, right! I was going to be a writer – penning celebrated novels while my children frolicked in the yard behind our Victorian home. Though that hasn’t happened, the Lord has opened doors for me to be a stay-at-home mom. Between a government subsidy and fostering, we live comfortably in a spacious home circa 1980. There is a yard. Maybe one day the children will frolic so I can write the books running around in my head. In the meantime, one thing on my list is within my grasp – homeschooling.

Sloane* began Junior Kindergarten last year. It was a tumultuous time with the adoption taking place simultaneously. Having been with me over a year, the girls were “placed” with me for adoption the day after school began. This year has been rough to say the least. Sloane began mourning the loss of her birth family. Despite seeming continually angry at me, she hated being away from me. In protest, she took to soiling herself. At different points, once the adoption was finalized with the courts, I debated taking her out of school. It was, after all, only JK. But the thought of having her home full-time was terrifying. School was clearly detrimental but I couldn’t take the endless power struggles, tantrums, and hostility. She did generally come home furious at me but at least I had a few hours of peace.

Elise* is set to begin JK in September. I could, conceivably, be without children most days of the week with a full-day 5 day a week kindergarten program at the local school.

As mentioned in my post, Progress Report, I’ve been thinking. Here’s what I’ve come up with: I’m going to homeschool. Since Sabrina* moved out Sloane has become significantly more receptive

Sloane is excited about biking when school work's done

Sloane is excited about biking when school work’s done

(this past week being an exception). Her heart seems to be opening to me once again. This dramatic and unexpected shift has made homeschooling possible. At first I was going to keep both Sloane and Elise home. But after a few trial runs, thought otherwise. There’s still a lot of animosity between the two. Besides, maybe what Sloane needs is me all to herself for a while.

A fellow foster mom recently shared a quote with me, “The kids who need the most love will ask for it in the most unloving way.”

Praying I’m able to saturate Sloane with love in this season of homeschooling.

* name changed