I Like a Quiet House

A friend of mine is considering fostering. It’s a dream that’s been on her heart for a long time. As we discussed it in the presence of her son, his response made me think.

“I like a quiet house,” he gave as the reason he wasn’t fully on board.
“So do I,” was my response when I was done laughing.

As a quiet, contemplative person, I love a quiet house. It’s something I long for and032 work hard to get. Still, with two very loud children, it isn’t generally achieved.

Life as a foster mom is much louder than I ever imagined. I don’t really like that.

As my friend pointed out her son, it isn’t always what we want that’s important.

It’s a well known fact that I’m a foster/adoptive parent. My daughters are quick to explain to perfect strangers how they became mine. I’m continually surprised by the number of people who tell me, “I’ve always wanted to adopt,” or “I really feel like God’s calling me to foster.” My answer is always, “You should!” If it’s God calling, you definitely should.

In reality most of these people won’t adopt or foster. Most will choose the comfort of a quiet home, a predictable life, safe encounters where there’s little chance of heart break.

After encouraging people to pursue fostering/adopting most answer, “It would break my heart to have kids leave.” Yes, it really might. Even if it doesn’t – because sometimes kids going isn’t all that hard – you will be required to sacrifice. It may be a quiet home, a part of your heart, the lifestyle you enjoy, or any other number of luxuries.

I do like a quiet & tidy house. Without special/high needs kids I could have that. Instead I’ve chosen to dive deep into a world full of turmoil and pain. It isn’t always easy or fun. But, pushing against the concern for comfort that dominates our culture, I’ve decided to make the sacrifice. You could, too.

Small Graces

Yesterday I took Jake* for a hair cut. Just before dropping him off to me, Jake’s foster mom finally got permission to trim his hair. It’s been too long since he came into foster care but the go ahead from his birth mom was required. Finally getting it, Jake’s foster mom didn’t have time to complete the task before leaving for vacation.

“If you want to you can,” she said. It did seem wise, he was looking unkept and hair blocked his view. But it was frightening. I didn’t know how he would respond. Baths and showers bring on absolute panic. Jake kicks, pinches, and screams. I was anticipating something of the same with a haircut.

My plan was to put it off as long as possible. Then when I woke yesterday with an urgency, “We need to do this today.” So we set off, stopping at the park briefly. The local chain of discount hair cutters wasn’t too busy. We had to sit through the cut of one other customer. I brought ketchup chips, cheesies, and pretzels. Not ideal – they were pretty messy – but novel so it kept everyone occupied. My own kids don’t have much experience with hair dressers so I was expecting a million questions.

Then there’s Jake who is a handful in the best of moments. We all managed beautifully. The male hair dresser was kind and enthusiastic. His parents fostered when he was growing up. He understood and was willing to work with the situation. I held Jake trying to keep him still which never happened. The hair dresser did what he could any way he could.

Just before we began that balancing act, a lady from church arrived with her grown daughter who needed a haircut. The lady kindly occupied my own girls, answering their questions and carry on a lengthy conversation with Raine. That enabled me to completely focus on Jake without Raine & Athena feeling neglected. They were very happy to have someone else enjoying them.

The urge to go to this place at this time was a small one. It could have easily been ignored in favour of fear. I’m glad I listened. We got the right hair dresser and the Lord even provided someone to help with the other kids. These small graces remind me the Lord is mindful of my situation.

*name changed

new hair cut

Jake recovering at home on the floor after his hair cut

 

*name changed

Knowing it Won’t Work

Jake* has been with us the past three weekends. Today he returned and will be staying for 10 days while his foster family are on vacation.

Tuesday, August 5th my social worker met with me to do some training. Then she announced my probation period had come to an end. It was supposed to be 6mths but, thankfully, has been shortened. The reason for the leniency was the hope that Jake could move to my home.

Thanks to some inquiries made by my friend who works for the same fostering agency, I was ready for the offer. And had my mind made up. “For the same reason it’s not working where he is, it won’t work for us.” His current foster mom is requesting shared care. Between the two of us we could likely manage. But Jake, without school or daycare, is a little much for anyone.

He’s sweet and caring. When he goes non-stop then doesn’t sleep all night, it’s tiring for his caregivers. There’s no way of knowing if he’ll sleep or for how long. Being on call 24hrs a day, 7 days a week isn’t feasible. It’s just not.

Jake snacking on tomatoes while I try to can spaghetti sauce

Jake snacking on tomatoes while I try to can spaghetti sauce

So I said no. The social worker didn’t really understand. She used to work with autistic children in a school setting. Her suggestion is reward charts and using candy as an incentive. That may work for Jake in the future. At the moment he’s not able to understand. So that means endlessly redirecting and trying to anticipate what he might do. And sitting up with him into the wee hours of the night, waiting for him to fall asleep so we can wake in a few hours and start it all again.

I know he needs a home. He deserves to settle down, in a loving environment. But I’m not able to provide that long-term.

There are three things I need to pull off this single parenting gig I’ve gotten myself into: a good night’s sleep, time alone each evening, the opportunity to connect with friends. With Jake, I don’t get any of those things. We will make it through the next 10 days. But I can’t commit with no end in sight.

Sorry. That’s just the way it is. Still, knowing it won’t work doesn’t make the decision any easier.

*name changed

Farewell

we all dieAfter rallying briefly, my grandmother passed away the evening of Tuesday, June 24. I was glad we made it out to say goodbye. The funeral was brief and small.

Truth be told, my grandmother was often stern and forthright. Sometime in my early adulthood, smiling stopped coming naturally. Then my daughter, Raine, came on the scene. The moment the 3yr old walked into the retirement home, a smile overtook my grandmother. Though vivacious and engaging, Raine hadn’t said or done a thing to warrant the grin. Since this was long before any thought of adoption, the response was significant since Raine was possibly only a passing figure in our family.

My grandmother developed a connection with Raine that reminded me of who she was in my early childhood. Early on, she told my mom, “I’m not going to be a typical grandmother. I won’t be around to babysit all the time.” It’s true, she was busy with commitments in her community – a small town not far from the city where I grew up. Still, grandma folded my sister and I into her life.

Often we’d spend weekends with her and my grandfather. Both hard workers well past retirement, they brought us along to their various jobs. My grandfather cared for racehorses. My sister and I got to brush the animals, feed them apples, and play in the hay loft while he did whatever else needed to be done. He was a quiet, gentle man who never said much. But his eyes were full of joy whenever he saw us. Grandma cleaned the large, traditional church she’d grown up in. Saturdays my sister and I went with her. We crawled under the pews dusting as we went. Then we got to sneak through secret passages from the sanctuary down to the basement.

Behind their country home, was a vast field and forest. My grandfather had special permission from the landowners to travel through the area. A former farmer, he needed to walk the land on a regular basis. As we grew older, my sister and I were allowed to explore the forest on our own. We made up fanciful stories while sitting by the small creek.

In the evenings we’d watch Wheel of Fortune or Dallas after snacks of cinnamon sugar on toast. There was a quiet hush in the house. I think my sister and I both appreciated it. Many mornings we’d silently look through the antique books on art and local history.

In our early years, my grandmother wasn’t harsh. But she wasn’t bubbly or gushing like other grandmas we knew.

In some ways I’m a lot like her. She was strong and independent. Often, without much fanfare, she went against the flow. The legacy she’s left me is one of commitment and confidence.

We’re both adoptive mothers. My dad came to her the same way my daughters came to me. So much of our stories intersect. Intentionally on my part, I’ve extended our family through adoption. I’ve continued something she began. Flawed and human, she embraced a child not born of her own body. My dad took their name. It’s remains with me and has been given to my daughters. They in turn may bestow it on other children who don’t share our DNA. This is our unusual family tree. This is what my grandmother unintentionally granted me – the freedom to love and grow outside of convention.

me as an infant with my grandparents

me as an infant with my grandparents

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.