So Different

58626-Change quotes and sayings mean

February 2013 I took my daughters to Winnipeg. Sloane* desperately wanted to see snow. We’d hardly had any at that point. So we packed up for an extended weekend with my sister, brother-in-law, and nephew. In snow covered Winnipeg the temperatures ranged from –10 celcius to -30. We attended a festival, ice skated, and hiked all out of doors. Elise* and I were not fit for the climate. Sloane, however, loved the frosty temperatures.
Last year my life was complete different than it is now. The change in weather this winter seems to accentuate this fact. It’s been bitterly cold – often -20 – and there have been more snow storms than I care to count.
This time last year my house was full with four girls. Most weekends there were one or two extras. Sloane was struggling in school and refusing to use the toilet. Most days were challenging beyond belief.
Now I’m homeschooling. There are a few accidents here and there – but out of carelessness not the defiance Sloane exhibited last year. In the midst of last year’s challenges, it was difficult to image a way out. For some, change is subtle and hardly detectible. For me it’s dramatic and extreme. And I do it all the time.
After great reflection on my plight with the local Children’s Aid, I’ve decided to return to the private agency. I fostered with them for five years. Somewhere deep in my heart was a dream of rocking babies to sleep. That hasn’t happened. The closest I came to a baby was the 16mth old who was bigger than my 4yr old – Elise (see from 2 to 4).
So here I am – back where I was – only everything has changed. There are new policies and procedures. Regardless of my five years of spotless service, I have a six month probation period where I can only provide relief for other foster parents. “There aren’t any exceptions to the new policy,” the director informed me. I’m accustomed to being exceptional. Everything about me is exactly that – exceptional.
I don’t like this new rule. But at least I’ll be able to provide relief for my friend’s three girls. They’ve been coming to me weekends and vacation time since she got them – one 5yrs years ago, the other two 4yrs ago. It’ll be another 4yrs before two of them age out of foster care. And 8yrs before the other turns 18. The girls and their foster parents have become like family. Though we’ve still spent a great deal of time together, my girls really miss having them over “to sleep. It’s so much better,” Sloane tells me. I’m happy to be having them back on a regular basis. But I really don’t like this new policy.
At the same time, I can’t do another round of 6wks. That’s how long all the children from the local Children’s Aid have stayed. I’m not cut out for the coming and going, nor are my girls. It’ll be better for us all when someone comes to stay.
Here I go changing again. I can promise you next year will look nothing like this year.

*name changed

What I Accomplisehd Today

Forgive me for posting again so soon.

As a stay at home mom, most nights I go to bed feeling like I’ve accomplished absolutely nothing. For everything I did do, there are twenty things I didn’t get to.

Today, I decided to make a list of all I did. I’ve also included a few snap shots of the thoughts running through my mind and some of the action going on around me. You don’t have to read it all. But making it the list did help me feel marginally more accomplished than I do most days.

Today I:

Got up (long after the alarm went off)

Picked out clothes for two kids (picked out the other two last night)

Showered

Dressed

Got one kid into the shower

Dealt with Sloane’s rude attitude towards her sister

Got breakfast for four kids

Made lunches for three kids

Brewed coffee

Got four kids out the door

Dropped four kids off at school

Came home with one kid (have been driving the neighbor girl in addition to my three who are at school)

Made marinade for tomorrow’s roast

Drank coffee

Ate breakfast while formatting a bi-monthly newsletter I send out for a local minister

Checked facebook

Checked to be sure I had paid the natural gas bill (which I had)

Worked through two early reader books with Sloane

Put in a load of laundry

Encouraged Sloane to take down streamers from foster child’s birthday on Monday (she was super eager since it involved lots of climbing  and problem solving)

Put away two loads of laundry from the other day while facebook chatting with a friend. We brainstormed about marketing our small businesses.

Watched two videos on parenting adopted children while putting laundry away and facebook chatting

Started another load of laundry

Encouraged Sloane to finish with the streamers (She insists upon putting them into a tiny candy machine and carrying that over to the garbage. This is taking forever!)

Made a raw chocolate mint pie

Made gluten free banana muffins

Start some organic bread in the bread maker

Made lunch for Sloane (gluten free toast with homemade organic peanut butter)

Loaded the dishwasher

Got Sloane started on some math work

Put in another load of laundry

Worked on rhyming words with Sloane

Put some laundry away – discover one of the foster children peed the bed last night (feel like a failure for not noticing sooner. Really, what have I been up to?)

Strip foster children’s beds. Bring sheets to the basement to be washed (may not have mentioned I live in a two story house with a basement laundry room)

Edit a friend’s first blog post.

Suddenly feel incredibly overwhelmed and in need of a bath (not something I usually indulge in)

Work with Sloane to tidy up her school work and colouring items left out from days past (sometimes I hurry the kids off to bed instead of making them clean up)

Watch some profile videos from an adoption funding program in the US. Contemplate the ridiculous cost of international adoption. Remember my sister saying years ago, “These countries should cover all the costs. In the end it will save them tons of money.” I consider the long term cost of children in orphanages who grow up to be struggling adults.

Take dough out of bread maker. Shape it into a dozen buns and one loaf of bread. Set it to rise.

Announce that I will have a bath.

Sloane decides she will not watch a movie after all. She’s been talking about doing so all afternoon. Now that I’m going to be doing something, she decides she won’t go to her room (which is the spot for movies)

I check on the rising bread and buns.

I run a bath and decide to finally give Downton Abbey a chance. People who know me are absolutely shocked that I’ve not seen it yet. I’m expected to be an avid fan.

Sloane goes to her room with much fanfare. After some choice words, she looses the “privilege” of watching a movie. She screams for her window to be shut (I’d been airing the rooms on this first nice day. Did I put that on the list? Sometime this morning I opened most of the windows.)

I shut Sloane’s window with a reminder that there’s a proper way to speak to me.

I check on the bath. It’s nearly ready.

Sloane screams for her window to be opened again.

I close and lock the bathroom door.

By the time I turn the water off and get situated – with my computer perched nearby so I can watch Downton Abbey – Sloane is happily playing in her room.

I think of all the things I should be doing: dishes, vacuuming, mopping floors, organizing my room, organizing the basement, working on my coffee/tea business, working on my income tax for last year, shopping at Ikea because the coupon I have expires this week.

I remember why I don’t bother taking baths. It’s not relaxing in the least.

I continue messaging a friend about her new blog. We discuss names.

I get out of the bath and hastily dress.

Summon Sloane out of her room.

Put the buns and bread in the oven.

Get out the door to pick up kids from school.

Remember the volunteer driver coming for the foster children (taking them to birth mom’s to celebrate a birthday) will likely be there a moment or two before we turn.

I go back inside, write a note, pin it to the door. It blows away. I secure it better.

Drive to the school. Park in the adjacent church parking lot.

Run across the field in pouring rain. Sloane decides with my glasses getting wet, I can’t see properly. She tries to guide me.

The bell rings. I locate the foster children.

I can’t find my own child. The neighbor girl usually brings her out. They’re nowhere to be found.

I herd the other children toward the car. Flora* worries the driver will leave without them if we’re not back soon.

Sloane ignores my instructions to leave the snow alone. She doesn’t have gloves. Her hands are freezing. I try to get her to walk with me. She resists and falls backwards into a pile of slush.

I don’t have time for this. I can’t find Elise*.

Putting the foster children in the car, I head back towards the school. There I discover the neighbor girl went home sick. Elise is waiting by the door with her teacher.

We trudge back across the field. Sloane again starts picking up snow. Again I try to take her hand. Again she makes a big scene. I talk to her. She refuses to comply. I pick her up. She kicks and screams. I put her down. She throws some snow at me. I pick her up again.

Eventually we make it to the car.

I calm Flora’s fears and assure her I really am trying my best to go quickly. I buckle Elise.

We drive home. The volunteer driver is in our driveway.

I park on the street. I get the foster kids out of the car. Three times I tell Flora to go get the bag with her birthday outfit from the house. Finally she understands me. (Although we went over this plan endlessly last night, before school, and on our short drive home she’s still unclear.)

I greet the driver, explain where Flora’s headed, get Marcus* into the driver’s car.
When Flora emerges from the house, I get her into the car.

They drive away. I pull into my driveway.

I get Elise and Sloane out of the car.

In the house, I get the bread out of the oven.

I talk with my daughters while they eat some fruit.

I serve up raw mint chocolate pie.

Sloane spits out the first bite. She wants to try more. I insist she doesn’t because I don’t want anymore spit all over the place.

Elise makes a mess of her pie – insisting she likes it but not taking a single bite.

I eat some pie. I check emails and facebook posts. I continue chatting with the friend I’ve been in contact with all day. We discuss her employment prospects.

I announce we will go out for dinner.

Elise and Sloane announce they must change from track pants into dresses. They bring down an assortment of their fanciest. I try to explain where we’re going – a local independent, diner. They go upstairs and come down with another assortment of formal wear.

Eventually I get them appropriately dressed.

My friend I’ve been chatting with suggests we go for dinner with her.

We drive to her nearby town.

We have dinner. Sloane is less than well behaved. She’s angry I won’t let her have pop.

I discuss who I can possibly get to watch my kids when I go to California for a week in May (need to do some training for my volunteer position at the church)

Elise drinks ketchup from her plate with a straw. Somehow I miss this at first.

I pay and discussing with Sloane how long the waitress we had has been working there (the woman mentioned she was new). Elise wipes the specials off the white board beside us.

We drive my friend home.

I drive home. Elise tells me repeatedly she hopes the volunteer driver drops the foster kids off before we get there. I assure her that won’t happen, but then start to panic. What if they come back early?

I stop to get the mail.

We go home. Elise and Sloane decide not to come out of the car. After several giving several rational reasons for them to, I go to the front door alone. Reluctantly they follow.

While they get their pjs on I make the foster children’s beds with their sheets fresh from the dryer (obviously went to the basement to get them).

I brush Sloane & Elise’s teeth. I put them to bed. I hug and kiss them. I make sure they know they’re loved.

I start doing dishes.

The foster children return. I hear about all the fun they had at their mom’s. I assure them I’m very happy and interested in everything they have to say.

When they’re done, I send them to put on their pjs.

I wash a few more dishes.

I got upstairs to get the foster kids to bed – no hugs or kisses, seems a little soon when they’ve only been with me a week. But I make sure they know they’re cared for and wanted. (Not that I want to keep them from their parents, or rejoice in the calamities that brought them into foster care – but you know what I mean and so do the kids)

While washing the rest of the dishes I watch a short video from someone in the Ukraine. I realize I should find out what’s going on there. I wonder how the political unrest will affect adoptions that are underway. I worry about children languishing in orphanages. I wonder if my life of fostering and raising my two adopted daughters is really enough. There’s so much more I could be doing. Maybe I should move to the Ukraine. I tidy the kitchen.

I decide that’s enough for today. I’m ok with the fact that the floor isn’t swept. I’m going upstairs so I don’t have to look at it.

I write this lengthy, useless blog. I post it. I watch a bit more of Downton Abbey. I eat some more raw mint chocolate pie. I hope it’s healthy.

I go to bed.

Tomorrow I get to do it all again.

*name changed

 

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

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