March Madness

March madness has nothing to do with basketball. In my house the mayhem this year beats all others. Marcus* and Flora*s mother is expected to regain custody of them March 18th. The kids are excited but with that comes heightened anxiety. For Marcus it manifests in toileting issues and a need to control. Perhaps in anticipation of being back with an often absent mother, he’s attempting to parent the children in our home. That doesn’t go over well with me. I like being the boss. When I tell 4yr old Elise* to pick up a banana she dropped on the ground Marcus need not reprimand her for being off her seat at mealtime. What he really needs to do is start using the toilet.

Added to this excitement is an ornery 3yr old. His foster mom is on vacation this week. That’s what people do over March break. As a rule I’ve always taken in extra children. It’s not much of a break. The social worker described this little boy as, “well behaved but very shy.” His foster mom agreed, adding Eric* doesn’t have much of an appetite.

Monday night Eric was up until 10:30pm. His bed time is 7pm. “He has no trouble going to sleep,” his foster mom assured me. That’s not been the case. Since his arrival Thursday evening the earliest he’s slept has been 9pm. For reference, I’m an introvert. The time after 8pm when all children are in bed is something I deeply covet. It helps keep me sane. Five nights with little to no alone time is not making me a happy camper.

Tuesday morning, Eric was up at 6:30am. I must add that Sunday the

Eric & Elise picking out some cars to play with

Eric & Elise picking out some cars to play with

mainfloor toilet became clogged. Contents from Eric’s diaper refused to flush. Despite a few attempts I’ve not been able to fix it. This necessitates me hustling everyone into the upstairs bathroom to pee before I shower in the morning.

At the breakfast table Eric’s muffled speech became crystal clear as he shouted repeatedly, “I hungry!” Since arriving he’s hardly left the table. All day long he demands to be fed. His foster mom mentioned he generally won’t eat meat. But he’s definitely a carnivore here, gobbling up second and third helpings of meatloaf at dinner on Saturday. He has toast while Elise, sitting beside him, has cereal. When Eric’s done he shouts for more. I’ve not yet served the other children. He must wait. This doesn’t go over well. He becomes enraged. Eric whips his cup of juice at me. This isn’t the first time he’s thrown dishes at me because I’ve given him something he doesn’t like or don’t move fast enough for him. I decide it better be the last.

“That is not allowed,” I say. Picking Eric up, I take him to his room. He screams. Better there than at the table. Downstairs I have a hard time pulling myself together. I’m annoyed and letting everyone know.

Somehow I get us all dressed and out the door for a 10am dentist appointment. Marcus assures me his pull up is clean and dry. But my nose says otherwise. The stench furthers the bad mood I’m already in. Since we’re in the area, I stop by WalMart with five children. There are a 1,000 things I have to say no to. All I really need is something to unclog the toilet and butter. I buy an excessive amount of frozen pizzas for dinner. Then remember I must feed them lunch. Back home that becomes overwhelming. Marcus really has soiled himself. He refuses to change his pull up. Eric needs to be changed. Children are arguing all around me.

It’s a beautiful day. I should take them to the park. Another snow storm is due tomorrow. Marcus has again soiled himself. We go through the usual routine. Just before lunch I discovered a recently discarded pull up under his bed. Again he denies needing to change. I insist pointing out the incident before lunch. Marcus is not convinced. This exchange goes on far too long. Time is getting away from us. The lawyer is due at 3:30pm to meet with Flora and Marcus. I give up.

Sloane*, Elise, Flora, and Eric go into the backyard. I try to rid Marcus’ room of the horrible stench that’s settled upon it. Sloane’s hardly out the door before she’s stirring up trouble. I give a warning from Marcus’ window. Then I have to go downstairs to bring her in. It’s not without a fight. I win but am covered in mud. With her squared away in her room for some “quiet time”, Eric decides to come inside. I get his boots off, but he isn’t happy.

Flora comes in. She pretends to go the bathroom, but it’s already too late. She leaves wet undergarments on the floor and goes back outside like nothing happened. I find the items. While debating what to do, Eric lets the dog in (did I mention we’re dog sitting this week? Let me also tell you the dog keeps waking me up at 3am for no apparent reason.) Eric retrieves his muddy boots from outside. Eric and the dog run about the mainfloor making parallel tracks of mud.

Sloane decides she can “really fly” with the wings from her butterfly costume. She’s climbing on tables and attempting to jump off. “Maybe I’ll try from on top of the house!” I don’t have time to explain why she can’t. The answer is simply, “No! And get off the table.”

I mop the floor. Marcus then Flora shower. They’re not fully dry when the lawyer arrives. But I do have the other kids quietly watching a movie upstairs. I’ve bribed them with chips.

Eric comes down wanting more to eat. I give him a banana. He devours it. When I refuse him more chips he throws the bowl and banana peel, narrowly missing the lawyer. “He’s a visiting foster child. I don’t know what to do with him,” is what I’d like to say to everyone who encounters us.

When the lawyer leaves I lay on the couch for 5 minutes checking facebook hoping to find something interesting in someone else’s life. Giving Eric another banana and a piece of bread I tackle the toilet. Locking myself in, I ignore his cry for more food. Eric throws shoes at the bathroom door. He overturns chairs. He continues to shout, “I hungry!” I continue working but to no avail.

On a brighter note, Eric was asleep by 8:40pm! Mind you, it wasn’t in his bed. But I did get him there. Thank goodness there’s an end in sight. By this time next week, it could be back to just Sloane, Elise, and I.

*name changed

sisters early in the morning

sisters early in the morning (too early for Elise to put on a smile)

Far From Ordinary

When my children grow up the life they tell of may be unbelievable to their contemporaries. We live very far from ordinary. Let me share a splendid example.

Last Wednesday I was asked to help with the desserts being served before the annual church business meeting. This sort of thing used to be common place for me when I worked at the church – before becoming a stay at home mom. Since my girls are now 4 & 6 and the foster children currently with me are 7 & 9, I agreed to help.

I announced to the children they would be taking part. A cheer ensued. They couldn’t wait for the day to arrive. A friend and I cut the squares and piled them on plates. The four children carefully marched to the foyer with the plates. I made the final round with them. There were concerns as little Elise* lifted a dish of fruit onto the table. I wasn’t worried. She performed the task beautifully. At the end, each child got to select one dessert (or fruit in Sloane*’s case since she can’t have wheat). That was the reward for their work. They were all deeply pleased with themselves.

There aren’t many kids around who can say they helped prepare the desserts for a meeting at church. Among other things my kids clear their dishes after meals, unload groceries, put away their laundry, vacuum, and tidy up their own toys. It’s not always done perfectly. That’s ok, I’m not a perfectionist. In the article 10 Common Mistakes Parents Make Today (Me Included), Kari Kubiszyn Kampakis says,

I think about the kind of adults I hope my children will be and work backward to ask, “What can I do today to foster that?”

I want my kids to know the joy of contributing to society. I want them to understand the reality that life is work. It takes effort and investment. So I involve them in whatever I can. And, even though they were so very cute walking out of the kitchen in a straight line with plates of goodies, I didn’t snap a picture. I probably should have. But I was busy making sure we kept to the schedule. Oh well, let’s add the lack of photos to the list of differences between my children and their contemporaries.

*name changed

A Lesson in Lying

Truth seems to be an unfathomable concept for foster children. Sloane* has been with me over 2yrs (now no longer a foster child but adopted). Despite my best efforts she still doesn’t get it. Partially it’s the age – she turned 5 in February – but mostly it’s something else.

I’ve started playing a “game” Truth or Lie? with all of the kids. I will make a statement, for example: “Sloane has blue eyes”, they will answer: “truth” if it’s true “lie” if it’s a lie. This has been working great with 3yr old Elise*. She’s quick to blame everything on Sloane. When I ask, “Who coloured on the wall?” her answer is “Not me! Sloane did it!” There such conviction in her eyes, I believe her. Then I say, “Truth or lie? Elise coloured on the wall.” She hangs her head and replies, “Truth.”

Our lives have been fixated on truth or lie lately. It’s come to light 17yr old Sabrina* has been lying about a lot of things for a very long time. I’ve had suspicions but no proof. When I asked her response was so sincere I believed her. Her deeds may not seem that bad – she’s had an ipod for nearly 2yrs, stole my internet password, has been texting boys at all hours (telling me she’s doing things like folding laundry in her room). When caught, Sabrina’s response was, “You won’t let me date so I had to lie.” It’s not that I’m opposed to dating. But after some shocking revelations when Sabrina first began high school, I did ban it for her until she was willing to be honest about her actions so I could mentor/guide her. Unfortunately Sabrina’s approach to dating includes a large degree of secrecy. She’s never gotten to the point where she wants to be honest. I suppose banning it made no difference. Were she allowed she’d still lie and keep it a secret.

Anyways, some things have come to light. I’ve been unraveling Sabrina’s web of lies. We’ve been playing Truth or Lie? all the live long day which makes working a rail road seem incredibly appealing (for those unaware, there’s a children’s song that goes, “I’ve been working on the rail road all the live long day”). But instead of the back breaking work of railroad building, I’m here making Sabrina cry when I tell her she’s filled our house with lies and grown a spirit of deception in our family. It’s been an intense week.

Yesterday as Sloane returns from school, she’s excitedly shouting, “Look what I found! It’s a real bird’s nest!” That’s exactly what it looks like in her precious little hands. I let out a shriek. “Get that out of her!” I scream, chasing her down the hallway. Angrily, she dumps it out the front door.

Instantly I’m sorry for overreacting. My explanation of why I don’t want her touching birds’ nests is cut short. “It’s not a real bird’s nest,” Sloane says with distain. “I made it at school. We have things to make nests with there.”

“Oh my Lord!” I exclaim in all sincerity. Honestly, how can I teach her the value of truth? At a  loss I refuse to let the manufactured birds’ nest in the house since she lied about it being a real birds’ nest. It remains a few feet from the front door.

Let that be a lesson to you, children.

Sloane's birds' nest

Sloane’s birds’ nest