This is Why

“You need to go play,” I told Raine again. She hovered around the entrance to the kitchen. When I shooed her away, she ran down the hall to the other entry point.

Her booming voice listed off all the details of her imaginary horse, Sarah. Dr. Phil was rolling on my laptop and the radio was playing in the background.

“Go play upstairs,” I’d said more than a few times. Up there Athena and J were building dragons with Lego. Raine refused, remaining close by and vying for my attention. I ended up giving it more than I should. Her complicated story line drew me in.

The enchiladas took forever to make. But were met with shouts of joy when the kids arrived at the dinner table. After a few bites they were strangely quiet.

“What’s wrong?” I asked from the kitchen where I was trying to tidy up a bit before sitting down with them.

“It’s spicy,” J answered.

“It’s fine. Eat.”

I sat down and had a taste. It was spicy. Eating a few more bites, I wondered why. I’d not done anything different. It was the same brand of enchilada sauce we always bought. But it was definitely spicy.

The kids pushed things around on their plates. I loaded them up with more sour cream and glasses of milk. They picked at what is usually their favourite meal. I gave up on encouraging them to eat. Clearing the enchiladas, I gave them apples and cereal.

After dinner, putting the empty sauce can in the garbage, I discovered it was hot sauce instead of mild.IMG_20150923_172957

After a good laugh, I told the kids, “This is why you need to be quiet in the grocery store when I ask you to.” Our trip to the store had been particularly frenzied as three ADHD kids shouted endlessly, “Look at this!” What they pointed out had nothing to do with what I was actually trying to find on the shelves. Seems I accidently grabbed the wrong sauce.
“And Raine, you should have gone to play upstairs,” I added. Seems I’m not as good at multi-tasking as I need to be.

“Otherwise we end up with a spicy supper,” J commented, through peals of laughter.

“Exactly. This is why I need you to be quiet sometimes.

I’d like to say, ‘lesson learned’ but that’s unlikely.

A Vacation of Sorts

In the midst of challenges unique to our sort of family, we made it to the cottage. Getting here wasn’t easy. I over extended myself, deciding to prepare some freezer meals for a friend before departing.

That left me short on time to pack. Squabbling kids and their anxiety that blocked everything I said made the short time far from sufficient. We – really just I – was rushing when our visiting foster child found it impossible to get her shoes on and get out the door. She’d been with us 10 days while her foster family were on vacation. Though eager to return, she was struggling.

J had been at her birth mother’s overnight and the volunteer driver was to drop her off at the cottage. Because we were supposed to be there long before the drop off time and the cottage was on the way back from birth mom’s, this made perfect sense.

The trouble was, we didn’t get out of our house until dangerously close to the drop off time. Then there were further complications and there was no way we could get there.

I cried when the volunteer driver called to say she was at the cottage. We were still an hour away. The driver was understanding and took J out for dinner while we made our way to the cottage. I apologized profusely and tried to pay her for her time and the dinner. The life I live shouldn’t cost anyone. Graciously, she refused my payment.

We returned our visiting foster child, her house being quite close to the cottage, bought groceries I hadn’t managed to pack and started our vacation.

The Christian campground is one I grew up going to. This week and next there’s kids church morning and night. That’s why we’re here. While the kids go to church, I sit outside reading or, finally, blogging again. In the afternoon they swim while I sit by the pool. They’re happy – splashing in puddles, exploring fields, and visiting riverside cafes between church and swimming. These are the moments I pray stay with them – the beauty of nature and joy of being together.IMG_20150628_193037IMG_20150629_095232IMG_20150630_085657

The Gift of Concentration

Although Athena has not been formally diagnosed, I’m certain she has attention deficit disorder 012like her sister – and practically every child who has been in foster care. Sitting still is not becoming common as it should the older she gets. So we’re using a light weight (bean bag neck warmer) to keep her from jumping around during meals.

The early learning kindergarten program perfectly masks Athena’s lack of concentration. She moves from one activity to another without much investment in anything she does. Next year, I plan to homeschool her. But this year it’s nice to send her off to school on occasion so I can work with Raine.

Still, Athena ends up staying home at least one day a week. The main focus is on concentration. Shortly after she came to me at 20mths of age, the pediatrician said Athena needed to be taught to concentrate. “Put her in a high chair and give her some toys to play with for a little while.” I did. And did things like putting her in the high chair when meals were not quite ready. Athena would have to wait. She also stayed in her high chair when she was done and the rest of the family still ate.

Now, she stays in her room playing Legos each morning while I shower and dress. She’s making necklaces as part of her at home schooling. In addition to concentration, this helps with her fine motor skills which I wonder about sometimes.

I’ve been reading The Believers by Janice Holt Giles. It’s a novel about the early Shaker movement in America. Living communally, each member is given a monthly task – working in the garden, laundry, meal preparations, etc. For a month they devout themselves to this job. Then move on to another posting.

I worry I’m not up to the task of teaching concentration. I bake cookies while doing dishes, watching Dr Phil, and giving instructions on how to create button art (in hopes of occupying the kids for a few minutes). My house is a series of started projects. My room is forever turning into a disaster. I’m not overly organized or great at concentrating.

The Shaker lifestyle is becoming increasingly appealing as I evaluate my own way of doing things. There’s a great deal I disagree with in their theology but I enjoy the concept of being fully devoted to a single task. It’s something I’d like to incorporate into my own life.

Fail as I may, concentration is still a gift I’m working on giving my children and myself.

beading

Everyday Miracles

For the next couple of months I’m dog sitting. Not much of a dog person, I don’t

Raine is really excited to help take care of Duke

Raine is really excited to help take care of Duke

mind this one. Four years ago, I watched him perform the impossible right before my eyes.

A 2yr old foster child was with me for 2 weeks while his foster parents were on vacation. He was on an excessive amount of medication for Attention Deficit Disorder – perhaps too much. The child’s eyes were glazed and he was completely lethargic. For two days I tied to connect with him or spark his interest in something. Despite my best efforts he walked around in a fog.

Then Duke arrived. A few minutes after his owner dropped him off, the dog sauntered over to the kitchen table. The little boy was there in a booster seat. His arm hung limply by his side. Duke’s nose nudged the child’s hand. When nothing happened, he kept on gently asking for a response from the boy.

thankfully he doesn't mind doing double duty as a foot rest

thankfully he doesn’t mind doing double duty as a foot rest

Slowly a smile overtook the child’s face. Then – miraculously – his eyes lost the glazed looked. He laughed! And his entire being came to life.

The child remained lively and joyous, as a two year old should be, for the rest of his time with us.

So, when Duke needed somewhere to stay this summer I couldn’t refuse.

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