Moving Past Normality

Last weekend we had a 3 1/2 yr old little boy with us. I knew what I was getting into, but his foster parents didn’t when they said yes to the placement call. 3 1/2 sounded good. According to the social worker, there was a “slight possibility” of autism. The diagnosis hasn’t come yet, but autism seems fairly certain.

The little boy is vocal (makes noises) but non-verbal (doesn’t say any actual words). He’s much like an 8mth old in the body of a 3yr old. He can run, climb, and maneuver around. But like a young baby, there’s no consideration or comprehension and everything goes in his mouth.

bedtime snack after the splash pad

bedtime snack after the splash pad

It was challenging but we made it through the weekend. Monday I got a call asking me to take him for 2 1/2 weeks at the end of August while his foster family are on vacation. With nothing else coming along, I said yes.

Today his foster mom called the social worker begging for some extra support. He’s only been sleeping a couple hours each night. That wouldn’t be so bad if he stayed in his crib. But he climbs out and escapes from his room. Obviously it’s not safe for him to be wandering around alone. So his foster mom has been up with him all week.

He’s back with me this weekend so she can get some sleep.

Forgive me, if you saw me at the splash pad this evening. He loves water. It’s the only thing that captures his attention for more than a fleeting moment. Jake* did really well running and playing. Periodically he’d check in with me as I watched from the edge.

Then I shifted position to say hello to a lady from church. After a while Jake began looking for me. He rarely responds to his name. Words seem to float outside of his comprehension. So, after saying his name I clapped. Gasp. It generally works in getting his attention. Like a typical, healthy 3yr old he can run like the wind. Not wanting him to bolt, I tried to get his attention. And I did. Please forgive my method.

Raising unique children, often I need to move past normality. I wouldn’t normally clap or snap at a child. But for Jake the clapping works (not great at the splash pad where there are lots of other loud noises, but at home it’s effective.) Snapping works great with Raine. Sometimes she’ll get herself in a tizzy where words can’t reach her. Then I snap and she can hear me again.

Sometimes in this life/job the rule book has to go out the window.

*name changed

Friends

Friendship… is not something you learn in school.

But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship,

you really haven’t learned anything.

Muhammad Ali
Athena opting out of Kara's attempt at t-ball with the crew

Athena opting out of Kara’s attempt at t-ball with the crew

Friends are my greatest earthly treasure. I can’t imagine life without them. Some have been around a long time – like Erin who I’ve known since I was a toddler and Kara came along when I was 13. Others I’ve met more recently and we share a more immediate history.

My sister, born two years after me, was my first friend. Through out our lives we’ve always been good friends. I am excited to have her back in relative proximity. Instead of across the country, she’s now living only 3hrs away.

Often, I’ve wondered if my girls would have the same joyous experience of having each other and a close circle of friends to see them through life. There were times when Raine’s behaviour made me mournful. She couldn’t see how vehemently she was pushing away her peers – including her sister.

Raine and Kara's daughter, Ruth

Raine and Kara’s daughter, Ruth

This past year in homeschooling, my focus has been socialization. Yesterday Raine got a passing grade!
We went to the Christian campground I grew up at. Erin and Kara were there with their kids and another friend with her foster children.
There were a few moments requiring correction, but all in all both my girls did great. Athena was talkative and engaging – often she becomes incredibly shy in these situations. Raine was inclusive and patient. Still she emerged as the leader, but had an uncommon flexibility.

a quick dinner along the Grand River

a quick dinner along the Grand River

In the shallow wading pool, Raine organized a game where all the kids lined up at the edge. When she said go, in unison everyone ran into the water. Half way through the pool, at the deepest point, all the children dropped down and began splashing. They did this for what seemed like forever. Though leading, Raine didn’t get bossy. She patiently listened when the other kids talked to her. When discouraged, for whatever reason, Raine responded to her friends with kindness.
It was a beautiful scene. Previously, Raine could only tolerate friends in short bursts. But we were there nearly the entire day. And her good attitude continued as we picked up a foster child to join us for the weekend.
Even I was refreshed after our long day.

Even I was refreshed after our long day.

In the daily grind it’s easy to loose sight of how far we’ve come. Last year we were at camp for a week and it wasn’t so rosy. Sadly we could only go for the day this year, but it was well worth the hour long drive. I loved seeing my girls so happy interacting with friends. Some day they may be sitting at the edge of that same pool with those same friends watching their kids play together.
I am a rich woman, blessed with amazing friends – a few of whom I got to see yesterday.

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.

The Fun of It All

This weekend my friend’s three foster daughters were with us. Two are 14, one is 10. Overall it was a really great time – perhaps the best we’ve had. There were two minor meltdowns. Raine and one of the 14yr olds were able to pull themselves together after small setbacks.

I didn’t bother questioning if 14yr old Emma* had all her belongings before leaving. That avoided a lengthy battle. Inevitably she always leaves something behind. Last time it was her curling iron. Me pointing out the overlooked items fills her with rage. Though I see it as doing her a favour making sure she has everything, Emma disagrees.

The new plan is to ignore any forgotten items. But that didn’t quite come together. The girls departed without me checking their rooms or the bathroom. Then I discovered Emma had taken my toothbrush and left hers. I text. My friend called and we had a conversation including Emma. The girl pulled a toothbrush out of her bag. With certainty she claimed it as her own. It was orange. Emma’s is green.

“What did you use when you brushed your teeth this morning?” my friend asked.

“The green one,” Emma answered.

“Then why did you bring the orange one home?”

“Because it’s mine.”

Oh the fun of it all – trying to understand her muddled mind.

“I have an extra. I don’t need it back,” I told my friend. “But just thought I’d let you know so she doesn’t use it.”

Thankfully that conversation wasn’t mine to have – why using someone else’s toothbrush is not a good idea. I’ve had my fair share of those types of conversations with Sabrina* (foster child with me for 5yrs) and Megan* (foster child with me for 2yrs). Like Emma, both of them suffer from intellectual limitations. No doubt I will have similar conversations in the future as I prepare to again foster special needs children.

Off the phone I had to laugh. I’ve resolved to start finding the fun in it all. Not at the children’s expense. I expect when she she fully realized the situation, Emma was laughing as well.

*name changed

Having-funn-Quotes-work-hard-have-fun-make-a-difference

On My Way

Last night I couldn’t sleep. My mind raced with everything yet to be done.

sipping coffee from my California mug (a gift from a friend after her recent trip)

sipping coffee from my California mug (a gift from a friend after her recent trip)

This morning I woke frightfully early, pulled myself out of bed and got to work. At 11am I leave for 6 days in California. Since becoming a mom my trips have been brief – I’ve not been away from my kids for more than a weekend – and primarily within Canada.

I’m excited to be going somewhere completely new. California has always been on my list of places to visit. A lover of old movies, many times I’ve watched characters drive along the coast and long to do the same. My reason for being in California relates to prayer training. The city I’m headed to is very far from the coast. But hopefully we can fit that in at

my favourite tulips grown along side Queen of the Night black tulips. A stunning pair.

my favourite tulips grown along side Queen of the Night black tulips. A stunning pair.

some point.

My bags are packed. I used to bring an excessive amount of reading material with me whenever I travelled. This time it’s electronics. A GPS, tablet, laptop with exterior fan (since it keeps overheating), and a cellphone are all coming with me. The book I recently began reading is not. It’s a frail paperback printed in the 1960’s not up for the trip. I’m combing through my vast supply of well-loved novels looking for something else to bring. Despite all the technology, I still like a story before bed. And there’s nothing comparable to the look and feel of an actual book.

Some tulips have burst forth to bid me farewell. My daughter, Raine, is

a burst of purple to herald the soon coming lilacs

a burst of purple to herald the soon coming lilacs

ever so excited. “You’re not missing it all,” she shouts when we pass by blossoming tress or the tulips show a bit of colour in the mass of green.

There are a great deal of things being left undone, like weeding the garden. But there are limited hours in the day. Knowing that I’m going, my girls have been quite out of sorts and, therefore, demanding my full attention.

I won’t have any fun stories to share about them this week. But watch for a guest post from my friend who is staying with them. That’s sure to be entertaining. She has a knack for catching the comedy of the situation. Too often I get caught up in the details, like getting dinner on the table or another load of laundry put away.

Well, the children are starting to stir. I still need to print my boarding pass among other things. See you tomorrow in California!