Being a foster parent is quite time consuming, with constant challenges. It is not for the faint of heart. The children they get have their own set of problems because of their previous environment or the situation they were taken out of, be it abuse, drugs, neglect or any number of other things and there are far too many of them. One needs to be patient, flexible and have hearts full of love while still taking care of the needs of their own children as well.
I recently spent a week with my son and family in the Dallas area in March.
The kid’s of course surrounded me and lead me to all their handiwork, so that I understood…
There were also little signs for where my stuff goes and where I would stay. It was one of the best times I’ve spent with them. There is so much love in this household, you could burst.
Then, I got to share my space with Piglet or perhaps I should say, he had the honor, reluctantly, of sharing his space with me. Piglet was a most gracious host and was kind enough to not snore or smell bad. You can see him snubbing my son here. Had I had my video going, the scene that followed after our first night together and him refusing to go back to his room was like a scene out of comedy capers. He got over it. By the end of my visit, we were conversing like best pals. Yes, he talks…snort of.
Granted, my primary goal was to get as much quality time with those youngsters as I possibly could in one week and we sure did. With spring break on, we were free of school schedules so had lots of time to do things. The children were more fun now because they are older and far more interesting to me as I was to them. They competed daily for my attention.
Their new little foster child will be headed home soon, but in the meantime, she’s just one of the bunch. I cannot share stories, but I can share you what this foster family’s home is like. Every child deserves to get what they get here. L O V E
Because of their responsibilities, their travel-ability is restricted and unfortunately I don’t get out that way nearly as often as I would like to. We do, however, Marco Polo regularly so the tots don’t forget they have this other grandma way out in California. Right now, they only have one foster child in their home but that varies.
In their short marriage, they have fostered 12 children, of which they’ve adopted one and had two during that time.
It can sometimes be heartbreaking letting the little ones go, but they hope that however short their time may be with them, that they will have impacted their lives positively. Each of them has a place in their hearts and on their wall.
I know the latest one is going to be a toughy to give up. Do you think Ry likes her?
On occasion, the parent or whoever gets the child in the end will come back to complement them for their good work with their child. Parent’s on occasion will express how much they hope they too will one day be able to parent as well. One parent lets them have monthly visits and that’s always special to them.
Sadly, not all children go back to the parent. Sometimes they get split up in the end, either going to different relatives who feel they cannot handle them all or to separate “homes”, which always hurts.
I think I wrote about Antoine in an earlier post. He was not their first foster but he is their first adoption. He’s a hoot and only recently realized he was black. A little girl pointed it out to him one day and told him how he’s different than his siblings. She was black. So understandably he asked about it and they explained. They reassured him he is still their child and will always be loved. He was about 1 1/2 when he first came to them. He is now six.
We attempted to, at one point, go to the zoo, but it being spring break and like everyone else in this country having suffered unusual weather, everyone and their brother had the same idea to take advantage of the beautiful weather we were blessed with. Because we would have had to walk a mile just to get in, not to mention all the walking you do once in and then walking tired youngun’s back to the car (no shuttles!), we adults vetoed that event. So instead, we went to Crayola land!
We also got to see how they made Crayolas and got one each in our favorite color with our names on it. Did you know they can make 5,000 Crayons in 6 minutes? It was actually quite fascinating. The downside here was there were so many little ones and adults running around, it was all I could do to keep track of the ones in my charge. Not to be negative, but child populated places are prime targets for abductions.
My daughter in law is a school teacher and her specialty is special ed. She at one time had her own classroom but is now training teachers on how to work with special needs students. Even though she can put in long hours, she comes home to give each of these kids her undivided attention up until bedtime, which is fortunately at 7.
MaggieM loved the doll I got her. It is a china doll, which is breakable and she took it everywhere with her, even to bed. The doll had been on my shelf for years. Cute, cute.
I knew Hunter loved puzzles, but I guess the one I got him was too complex, but we took it apart anyway. They both love super heroes, so I got them some super hero things. The two boys are two months apart. So, it’s like having twins.
Hunter as I’ve mentioned before has autism and attends public school with his brother, By parental request, they are in separate classrooms. If I understood correctly, it was so they could rely less on each other. As it is their two classes came together one day and the two boys zeroed in on each other and began wrestling roughly with one another, as is their norm, much to the alarm of the teachers. ooops! Hunter’s teacher later expressed her gratitude for them having made that choice. LOL
Hunter and Antoine enjoy sports. Antoine loves cars and trucks. Hunter loves puzzles and dinosaurs. When he was younger, his form of communication was a growl. So learning to speak and motor skills were learned at a slower pace. He is fortunate to have parents with the skills to aid in that development, although Candace gives credit to his many other teachers and therapists. I think he’s perfectly fine now and quite verbal.
He also likes to draw and so it’s quite apropos that this chalk drawing would be of his favorite animal. Quite good for only six, don’t you think?
They have camp out night once a week and each child snuggled up at days end for the night.
On each child’s bedroom door are little hearts, where positive affirmations from each other are regularly posted. They are encouraged to encourage one another.
This household has a motto as you enter the front door that goes like this.
And, in case you don’t know what it says next to loud… it reads “really well” in swirls.
As I’m getting ready to leave, Hunter asks me, when I will be returning. I replied, “I don’t know.” He knew though.
He says, “March”.
“But, it’s March right now.”
That meant one of three things, I either don’t leave or I turn around and come right back or I just come back next year, same time.
I’ve talked at great length about my girls, their tats and other things, but surprisingly said little about my boys.
I was extremely more connected to my girls, I will admit that. I got to wondering why that was.
Perhaps it is the fact that boys are just different. As boys they of course have different needs, different from me and different from each other. As any parent can attest, all children are unique. I had mostly sisters and I was the eldest and always in charge. I never really understood my brothers much, plus the youngest two were young enough to be my children, the youngest is only 5 months older than my oldest daughter. So I didn’t have a great deal of experience with boys.
Perhaps it was the fact too that I had the luxury of being a stay at home mom with my girls, whereas when the boys father and I divorced they were still young and I had to go to work. It’s not ideal, but that’s how it was.
I remember how much I’d struggled to support them. There was no child support because we had joint custody. His custodial obligation was to maintain insurances and pay for any medical. At least I didn’t have to worry about that. We lived a block away from one another “for the kids” sake and my home was the one closest to the bus stop so they managed to be at my house more than their dads.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
My eldest, Ry, was the most affected by the divorce. He was totally devastated and embarrassed. He had always been so proud that of all his classmates, we were one of only a couple of parents not divorced and he liked that. He was only seven then when he became aware of the difference and he would be nine or ten when we divorced. Even though it was I who left, he didn’t forgive his dad for not being man enough to keep me. We all lost.
It wasn’t until he joined the Marines that he learned to forgive and let me be a part of his life again. God Bless the Marines.
Oh, I did things with him, took him on camping trips, track meets, fishing, hiking, mountain climbing and school functions but it wasn’t enough. There was still this enormous emotional chasm. But I didn’t give up. I bulldozed myself into his life. I did all the things a dad should do with his boys because that’s how I am and his father didn’t. That was the only leverage I had. Thank goodness I was such an outdoorsy person. He was outgoing and popular but after a time, he separated himself from his closest friends.
Now Ian is a total opposite.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
He is not sporty or terribly coordinated. He was also very shy. So shy, he couldn’t even talk on the phone! Terrified if anyone spoke to him. I know, you’d never guess that by the above pictures. He spent most of his time hiding behind my “skirt”, afraid of his own shadow. He’s also ADD and fortunately not ADHD. Bright but inattentive or so it would appear. I don’t think a complete diagnosis was ever made clear, but he was delayed developmentally. Today I’m inclined to think it may have been a form Asperger’s.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Ry had a fourth grade teacher that I thought should have retired long ago. She didn’t make over him like all his previous teachers had, so he liked her the least. Ian was to get her the following year. We dreaded it.
It was she that identified he had a problem. I knew about dyslexia and other learning disabilities and had been around children with ADHD but this was different. She suggested we have him tested. She said he couldn’t sit still for a minute, homework was a chore and half the time it appeared he wasn’t paying attention, yet he was learning. He tested grade 15 in reading, spelling and comprehension but double entendre’s escaped him. He was unable to get jokes yet was extremely intuitive. Science tested out at about grade 8. He was at grade 4 in math which was at grade level and grade 2 in physical abilities. In second grade, his teacher said his delayed motor skills were affecting his learning, but we didn’t know what to do about it. His father was not into any sport other than cycling which he did rarely and that was only because his dad’s business was bicycles. This new teacher loved him though and he bonded with her and at years end they both cried the last day of school. I’m guessing he challenged her and made teaching interesting rather than mundane. That’s the teacher you want for your special needs child.
After that, we kept getting pressure to medicate, which I was totally against. Ritalin was relatively new on the market and I didn’t want my son to be a guinea pig. As it is, they did find years later many young people succumbed to it’s negative effects including drug addiction*. “the government classifies the psychoactive drug (Ritalin) with cocaine and morphine because it is highly addictive.”**
Ian and I bonded more for the same reason his teacher had, his needs demanded more. I was also closer to Ian in many other ways as well. He was extremely affectionate and we liked the same things. Both boys have amazing voices but only Ian seemed to like singing. I like singing. We connected further when I told my acting coach how shy he was and she suggested letting her help.
She started out running lines with him in the back of the room. Eventually they worked their way to the front. Not all at once of course, but a little at a time. He was 12. Eventually, he got so good that after playing a scene from Moonstruck where he was Nicholas Cage, she yelled at the rest of the men in her class and said,
“That is how it’s done! This kid at 14 convinced me he wanted to take me to bed and, I know he didn’t mean it.” Everyone was silent. But, that’s acting and he was darn good at it.
Both boys could be quite funny. Ry more than Ian but it was rare they were funny together.
Once Ian was singled out as “different”, Ry pulled away from his brother and even became his arch enemy adding insult to injury by parroting his peers, which only brought Ian and I even closer together. This he regretted later. Kids called Ian “dummy” even though he was smarter than they were and the popular kids especially picked on him. To make their life easier we sent them to different schools. Ry could do his sports in public school and Ian would go to a private school for awhile. There he actually fit in and found friends. He could do his artsy things and not have to worry about being compared to his brother. It took a load off Ry as well. I don’t think he meant to be mean, he didn’t know or understand his brother’s special needs, but then neither did we. Today they are fine.
To be fair Ry had begun to have his own issues to contend with. His deciduous teeth had not fallen out on their own and his adult teeth were crowding in on top. Some refer to it as “popcorn teeth”. It was one more nail on the coffin for him. By ten he began the process of tooth extractions and years of orthodontia and the once gorgeous, confident kid felt like a freak. Add the physical pain that went with it and his inability to eat comfortably, he withdrew from his friends and hooked up with a neighbor kid from the wrong side of the tracks. His home life was a revolving door for drinking, drugs and who knows what else, so the company his mom kept left much to be desired. But, his friend liked to fish, so they went fishing all the time.
I felt like I never saw him, but it kept him busy and it gave him so much joy plus he was good at it. The “kid” was basically a good kid and he was always polite, so I figured maybe being around us could help him but I still sensed trouble, not right away but eventually. Because of that I kept my mom radar up and was always on alert. As signs were realized, my greatest fear was affirmed. Drugs. Mostly, but not just pot. For all my intent, it was a friend of ours who actually spotted it first.
We then put him on notice. No more friend. Drug tests would be at random intervals and he wouldn’t know when. At first he balked and angrily fought me on it and yes I hit him well, slapped him. I was in a rage, frustrated and devastated but not certain at what or at whom. I had always vowed I would never do anything out of anger, yet anger did get the best of me. When I saw Nick’c mom from “Fear The Walking Dead” go after her druggy son, I understood. The emotions are complex, I felt helpless but mostly I felt so guilty. I’d let him down with the divorce and I felt guilty about Ian. I think too that out of all that his parents suddenly unite against him. He eventually acquiesced. In truth, I think he was actually relieved. I felt so sorry for him. So many things had gone wrong – his teeth, the friends he no longer had, a brother he didn’t understand, his broken family and he’s lost and perhaps afraid. Everything that could be wrong in his life, was and he was overwhelmed.
Finally and I believe it was God’s intervention, but he met a classmate at school that brought it all together. They started lifting weights and Ry started going to church with the boys family. All Ry ever talked about was how this couple had married young and were still married and what an amazing family they were. More guilt. We didn’t exist for him. I remained guarded and I was jealous but I would swallow my pride because at least he wasn’t on drugs.
My heart couldn’t have been more broken. I wanted him to feel that way about us. I wanted us to be a family.
I knew he wanted to go to college but I couldn’t afford to send him to school and his dad said he couldn’t afford it either. Rys grades were good, but not good enough for scholarships although they might have been had he not gotten waylay-ed. His friend, the young fishing friend joined the army and Ry races home one day and announces he’d joined the Marines.
Interestingly, I believe all that history made Ry a better Marine. He wanted to do something that was punishing yet redeeming. At least that was how I saw it. When he completed his training, he came out forgiving and loving his family more than I could have hoped for. He said, the Marines taught him that family comes first. He still loves his surrogate family but he now included us in his world.
Ry was not a big guy so he had to fight to get and stay in. His DI’s told me at his graduation that they had not expected him to make it, but he did where others had failed. They said he had inspired them and everyone else in his platoon. I could not have been more proud. I remembered his track coach saying the same thing. “Not the best but certainly the most enduring.” His drill instructors bestowed upon him their own globe and anchor, the highest honor a recruit could receive from his superior officers. He was applauded for his tenacity and determination.
Because he had scored so high on the aptitude tests, they singled him out for embassy duty. In the meantime the Iraqi war had begun and we thought he’d have to go. For sure they would send him to Iraq. Surprisingly they didn’t.
At one point he said he was unsure he’d make the cut because of the drug incident. After several interviews and psychiatric evals they asked the big D question. His saving grace was that he didn’t lie. We all worried and waited. Finally, he got word. They told him normally that would have prevented him from being accepted as a candidate but they appreciated more than anything his honesty. They had conferred with his DI’s and other superior officers he’d worked with and came back with his acceptance. Next step was off to Quantico for the CIA training all MSG’s must pass. His training was grueling but he made it. They outfitted them all with variations of the same wardrobe, looking pretty much like clones. Boy did he look handsome though. They ran more background checks but now of the entire family before his selection was complete.
Ironically, my brother, who also works on high security clearance projects was due for his series of background checks. So our family and friends were hit with simultaneous scrutiny. Our closest neighbor approached us one day and teasingly asked us, “What in the hell have you all been into?!” This is one occasion where they do check. No worries, we’re good. We cleared them all. He would later get pulled from his post in Kiev to secure the grounds and guard the president for the NATO summit. What an honor!
Ry is now out of the military. With the GI bill, he was able to graduate college and is now a father of three, two of his own and a foster child they will be adopting. He also has a child recently diagnosed with mild autism, smart like Ian but with learning issues. He is three and Ry loves him to death. Fortunately, he married to a young lady who is a teacher that just happens to specialize in children with special needs. I think now too, Ry not only because he is older and wiser and remembering his own shortcomings dealing with his brother, he will no doubt redeem himself with his son. Until the adoption is formalized, I cannot include a family picture as foster children are protected by HIPPA.
Over the years Ian has bounced around living with various family members. His dad, sister and us and for a brief time attempted to live on his own but failed at it miserably. When he came to live with us for awhile, he and I did dramas at church. Our church loved hearing him sing so he was frequently asked to perform and occasionally we’d sing duets together. Despite his trepidation, he always came through magnificently. At 33, he is now finally on his own for the first time in his life. He is attending Full Sail University off and on and still has difficulty staying on task but he’s doing better. He was studying gaming and digital animation but may reevaluate his major in that. It’s the learning that challenges him the most. He has an on and off again girl friend who seems to be extremely patient with him and seems to be motivating him to find his niche. His mind still wanders but he’s exploring art and finding he does it well. Even so, he’s an awesome young man. They both are and I love them immensely.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Ryan doing the Lewa Marathon while stationed in Nairobi, competing with barefoot Kenyans. The group picture is Ry with a Peace Corp group he met and with fellow Marines that also love to run. He also got to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro while stationed there which is 19,340 feet high. He says it was grueling and at times wasn’t sure he’d get to the top, but he did. Of course.
Ian and I at High School graduation and a before and after moving out on his own and getting fit. The last being Ian today.