Perfect Love

Raine is absolutely in love with horses. Before ever having ridden one, she’d already planned her life around having one. Everywhere we go, despite my discouragement, she asks people how much they get paid for the work they do. She’s gathering information to select a career that will give her enough money to own a horse (and buy me an electric car – but that’s another story).

When a friend told me she was putting her 3 foster children in horseback riding daycamp, I decided to send Raine as well. I was sure she’d have the time of her life.

heading to camp Monday morning

heading to camp Monday morning

Monday went ok. But Tuesday was a disaster. She refused to listen to the teachers – repeatedly running away from her group into a small cluster of trees. My friends girls went after her. That didn’t help. When my friend’s husband arrived to pick the kids up, Raine was completely out of sorts – telling people to leave her alone and shut up. There’s a lot of power in her verbal punches.

At home, I sat Raine down to talk to her. She dished out more of the same attitude telling me it was none of my business what she did at camp.

Instead of being happy about camp,  Raine took it as an act of rejection on my part. She thought I was pushing her away when in reality I was giving her an amazing opportunity.

The more I talked the more hostile Raine became.

“If you keep acting this way at camp, you won’t be able to go back,” I said.

Apparently, the camp instructor had been completely overwhelmed by Raine. I know how forceful she can be. I thought her love of horses would prevent any major upsets. Clearly, I was wrong.

Raine’s attitude stopped when I told her she wasn’t going the next day. Suddenly she relaxed. Then we could talk about the real problem.

“It’s too long to be away from you,” she explained.

“She needs to get used to it,” I’ve been told before by friends and social workers.

It’s true. At 6 1/2yrs this type of separation anxiety isn’t natural nor is it healthy. Before the adoption, when Raine was my foster child, she did really well at daycare two days a week. There were never any issues. But something happened with the adoption. It introduced a deep rooted fear in Raine. Likely because she was completely cut off from her first mother she worries about loosing me. She knows it’s possible. At the age of 4 1/2 Raine found out parents can change. You can be disconnected from one family and attached to another. Staying with me soothes some of the fears.

So she stayed home on Wednesday. Maybe I should have pushed her. I don’t know. Were she plagued with a physical illness, no one would think anything of me deciding camp turned out to be too much for her. Wounds of the heart are not so easily forgiven.

Our time of being together on Wednesday wasn’t pretty. Raine unloaded all of her anger. She was down right furious that I’d sent her to camp for two days. I wasn’t much help, feeling like a failure. After all this time together, my daughter should be doing better. At least I think she should. I want her to because I can see how the fear cripples her. I know my God is capable of instant miracles. That’s what I want for Raine – a miraculous healing of her heart.

After a few hours of lamenting the state we were in, I realized in many ways we’re ahead instead of behind. Attaching to adoptive parents can be difficult for children – especially in the case of older child adoption. The fact that Raine values our connection so much she’s afraid to loose it is a good thing. Fear isn’t helpful, but the valuing is incredibly significant. She really loves me and wants to be with me. As we move through our day, Raine intentionally imitates me. So much of her pursuits mirror my own interests – gardening, cooking, sewing, and so on. She wants to be like me and wants to be with me. Those are healthy signs of attachment. Maybe we’re not doing as poorly as I thought.

Yes, Raine’s behaviour is completely unacceptable. I’m not excusing the outbursts at camp. In speaking to her about it, Raine reminded me, “I live in fear.” We prayed together. I prayed breaking off fear of rejection.

Thursday Raine was ready to go back to camp. She managed without incident.

Friday, we got to watch her and the other children perform their new found skills.

I wish, for Raine’s sake, the week had gone better. I hate that fear holds her back.

“How do I get it out of me?” she asked.

“The Bible says: perfect love pushes fear out,” I answered. “You need more love.”

“From Jesus.”


love fear








The Risk of Love

quote-about-lossRaine has been struggling since my grandmother passed away. There have been some good days but mostly she’s been very off. The herbal medication that’s been working wonders for nearly a year is no longer making any difference. Most of the time, Raine is edgy and filled with anxiety.

When I ask how I can help, her answer is, “Can you change death? That’s all that can help me now.” Loss has marked her life in a variety of ways. Losing her great-grandmother is likely opening old wounds.

To cope, Raine and Athena play “funeral”. Athena pretends to be dead. Raine races around the house “trying to get to the funeral on time!” No doubt this has to do with the concern about being late for my grandmother’s funeral. As we were about to leave, the dog we’re watching escaped from the backyard. Piling the kids and the babysitter into the car, we drove around to find him. Then I brought them all to my parents’ house where the babysitter was to watch my kids and my nephew. Arriving slightly later than I’d hoped, my brother-in-law was no where near ready. So we waited. With whispered speculations, I wondered if we’d make it on time.

In the children’s game, there are several versions. In one, Raine makes it on time and is unsure how to mourn the loss of her sister. Another involves Raine being so late she misses the funeral and Athena is already buried – under a blanket or the dinning room table. In the third version, “Jesus makes Athena come alive again.” Then there is much rejoicing and no need for a funeral.

Hoping to ease Raine’s grief, we visited my grandmother’s grave last Friday. I graveside2brought daisies from our garden for the girls to put there. We parked by the funeral home, then walked across the bridge and over to the cemetery. That way Raine would have the full picture of the funeral and graveside procession.

I don’t know if it helped. But we did it.

Mostly, I’ve been telling her how brave she is. “You love even though your heart’s been hurt. That makes you especially brave.” It is remarkably brave for Raine to open her heart to so many when she’s lost so much in her short life (birth parents, other birth siblings, the home she knew, the country she was born in, friends of mine who have moved on with life, Sabrina* and Megan* – foster children who were with us for a very long time – and the list goes on).

Still Raine greets everyone with confident exuberance. She’s sure she’ll be loved and is ready to do the same. Even in the midst of grief, Raine is choosing to love.

*name changed





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


Yesterday at church Raine did not fare well. On our way to the JK/SK class, we

Raine excited to go to church

Raine excited to go to church

ran into her teacher from school. Although homeschooling is doing a world of good, taking Raine out of public school has caused her to suffer another round of loss. She misses her teacher and the other students. But she wasn’t able to function there.

With a fresh reminder of that loss, Raine refused to conform. In her class, she rolled around on the floor, unresponsive to the teacher. Our church’s preschool director is a former foster parent and retired school teacher. He’s quite patient with Raine. So I was surprised to find him marching her over to me before the service began.

I had a talk with my daughter about listening to her teachers. She committed to the idea. But half way through the pastor’s sermon, her number flashed up on the big screen.

In the hallway she waited for me. The preschool director’s daughter informed me, “I’m not sure why she’s out here.”

I took her upstairs to the bathroom – because I’d forgotten to have her go before we left the house not for the reason my mom used to take me back when spanking was acceptable. Turns out I was too late. Raine had already peed her pants. For some reason the dress she was wearing hid it well.

“Pastor Michelle is leaving,” she informed me.

Aware that our children’s pastor has resigned, I’d discussed the imminent change with Raine earlier that week.

“They wanted us to make pictures for her. But I’m not.”

With gusto, Raine had refused. She ran around the classroom and rolled on the floor. The last straw was when she locked herself in the bathroom and kept the water running for over 10mis. Despite being told to, she did not exit in a timely manner.

a museum visit Sunday afternoon

a museum visit Sunday afternoon

Some losses are necessary, inevitable, and even beneficial. But that doesn’t alleviate the pain. Raine doesn’t know the children’s pastor very well. Likely the loss is reminding her of many other losses. In six short years Raine has suffered a great deal.

So later when Tim Horton’s didn’t have any gluten free macaroons, I let her have a donut with the other kids. She bore the wheat pretty well (since January 1st she’s been completely off wheat, before that she only had it on rare occasions when out for Chinese). Our night wasn’t any worse than I was expecting given our off morning.

“Maybe Jesus has healed me and I can have wheat again,” Raine said when she made it through today without any meltdowns. Normally a bit of wheat will upset her for days.

With her doing well, we managed to get out today to get some stain for the deck. Raine picked out wildflower and watermelon seeds. She’s aware that I’m trying to blog daily and wanted everyone to know about her seeds. She’s very excited.

Her ability to recover is improving. For that I’m grateful.

Raine's 1st donut since June 2013.

Raine’s 1st donut since September 2013.