Summer Days and Autism

Aw summer. Time for relaxing by the pool, drinking mimosas, and sleeping in.  Oh wait I forgot I don’t have a pool, nor do I drink, and my six year old is autistic so sleeping in to him means 5AM.  Oh the joys of long summer days.

We started our official summer break two weeks ago.  And since then I can’t recall a single shower or trip to the bathroom that I’ve not had an audience of some sort. I swear I know more than get in the bathroom door and they line up knocking to ask me life’s important questions: Why are you in there?   Did dad go to work?  Can I eat these?  Can you open this? Why does the baby smell so weird?   All questions that to them can’t wait five minutes for me to get out of the restroom.

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With wild man he needs a routine.  He needs to know what is going to happen from the time he gets up till the time he goes to bed.  He likes it that way.  So with the school days behind us he has started his own daily routine of things that I thought I would share.

Thanks to the Sprout channel, I am reliving the all famous Teletubbies.  The kids love them.  I thought for sure my time with these brightly colored singing wonders was long over after my older children out grew of them.  I was sadly mistaken.   Wild man loves the Teletubbies, the bright colors, the songs, the movements.  He takes it all in.  And now he is sharing this love with his younger siblings.  Elmo loves the color green so naturally he is Dipsy.  Big Al is the tallest so he is Tinky-Winky.  There’s not a pink but red is close enough for diva so she is Po.  That leaves yellow Laa-laa for wild man. Baby girl just dances around and giggles. They spend the mornings, while waiting for the sun to dry the dew off the grass, acting out their favorite parts of the show or making up their own story lines.

telletubbies

And then we have the name and question game.  While he loves Teletubbies he also loves annoying orange.  (I know completely different yet he loves them both.  And yes I know its not the best thing for him to watch so please keep your negative comments to yourself)  Since the Annoying Orange trend started with him, he has given everyone in the family and a few close friends nicknames that we all go my now.  For instance he calls me Apple now.  His dad is coconut. The list includes his siblings which he has named: Kiwi = big sissy her boyfriend is banana, Tug boy= big bubby, little apple= diva, marshmallow= Big Al, Tomato= Elmo (because he hates tomatoes and wild man finds it funny, and baby girl is Pear.  My parents are Onion (my mom) and cabbage (my dad)  while my husband’s parents are blueberry (husbands mom) and blackberry(husbands dad).  My brother is cookie while his kids are carrot and bindi. My grandmother even has the nickname of candies. And a few close friends are pineapple and peach.  One of my best friend and her daughters are potato, butter and gray.  While another is cheese (or cheese head but in all fairness she does live in Green Bay, WI) Every day, I mean every day, he will stop what he is doing to come climb on my lap and ask what each and every person is doing.  Where is kiwi and banana today? Are they coming for a visit?  Is onion at work? Is cabbage at his house?  He starts at the top of the list and works all the way down.  Asking something about each and every person he has nicknamed.  After the questions stop then this conversation starts:

wild man” HEY APPLE” “HEY APPLE”

me: What?

Wild man “blender”

me:  AYYYYYYYY

kids: laughing

It’s an Annoying Orange thing.  He says blender( or any object for that matter) I yell the kids laugh it repeats.  Sometimes for minutes sometimes for an hour.  Just depends on them.  Again I know the show is not great, don’t judge me.  We all have our weak moments in parenting.  It makes him happy and to me that’s important.

Once the grass drys its time to get outside and play.  He loves to be outside more than anything.  He could swing for hours.  Baby girl is still getting use to having everyone home all day everyday.  She is not liking sharing momma with the rest of the kiddos.  So while the bigger kids are outside swinging and hunting for dinosaur eggs she is all cuddled up trying to squeeze in a quick nap on momma’s lap.  She has defiantly become more clingy over the past few weeks.

After lunch its time to play school.  The school system here is fantastic.  The kids received backpacks filled with coloring books, easy read books, math, reading and social studies work books, flash cards and crayons.  Everything they would need to keep up with their studies over the summer. The funny thing is they love to do their “studies” after lunch, even the two little guys.  They actually ask for it.  While they work hard doing their math sheet or their coloring page, I pull out one of the books and read to them.

 

The fact that wild man is doing any of this things with his siblings this year amazes me. He does more parallel play than actual playing in most cases.  He has come so far since the move.  A year ago he would have been in another room while they watched TV, or if they came outside he went inside, or if we were at the table he would be wondering around the house.  But now he is trying to be with us, in his terms.  And his siblings and I love it. This could turn out to be an amazing summer.

At night he has a routine as well.  After he is all tucked in under his airplane sheets he has three things that must be done. First he sings his ABC’s both forward (A,B,C,D,E,etc ) then in reverse (Z,Y,X,W,V, etc). Second he recites the Pledge of Allegiance. And then he prays. While he says his prayers he thanks God for his apple and his coconut. He thanks God for his siblings, kiwi, tug boy, little apple, marshmallow, tomato, and pear.  He thanks God for the good day he had and asks God to help him sleep.  It’s the same prayer night after night word for word but it is the sweetest prayer I have ever heard.

My days may start early and my bathroom breaks may now draw a crowd, but I love being their mom.  Some days are down right exhausting but I would not trade them for anything.

His superpower is Autism what’s yours?

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We Had a Breakthrough…He tried Pizza!!

When wild man was two, he ate like any normal two year old.  We could go out and eat just about anywhere. By the age of two and a half he had stopped eating.  Back then we knew something was different.  He did not talk like other two year-old’s, he did not make eye contact, he would sit and line cars up for hours, he did not play with others he preferred to be by himself. He is destructive. He can tear through a clean room faster than anyone I know leaving a trail of broken toys and books in his path.  Back then we knew but didn’t want to know.  We contributed his delays to his unique begin and brought in early intervention workers to help get him caught up.  By the age of three we had a diagnosis, he was autistic.

My older two children were what I would call picky eaters. But even they would eat chicken, pizza, and pastas. I have had many people tell me, “If he were mine he would eat what I fix or not eat at all” or “Why don’t you  just make him eat.”  Autism does not work that way.  Wild mans diet consists of Stage two Gerber peas, orange creme yogurt,  KFC mash potatoes ,bread sticks, Cheerios, Trix, Pringles honey stix’s, fruit snacks, french fries,peanut butter and chips Dill pickle flavored or cheese flavored.  That’s it.  He will drink water, apple juice, Kool Aid, and milk.  He just turned six.  And even though his food choices are limited he is a happy healthy little boy.

I packed his lunch everyday this school year.  He ate with the regular kindergarten class and it did not take long for one of the little boys to make fun of him eating stage two peas.  Those are for babies are YOU a baby?  He came home and said, No eat peas momma I no baby.  I called the school to see what happened and was told the story.  The teacher talked with the little boy but the damage was already done.  And with one child in the class allergic to peanuts wild man’s limited list of foods was now down by two.  But we managed and made it through the school year.

For the last few days, he has been on this “Let me made food” kick.  He has help cut up vegetables, buttered bread, and tried his hand at making smoothies.  He is becoming a fine little chief.  If only he would eat what he made.   Well yesterday he decided he wanted pizza.  We turned on the over and got all the ingredients ready.  I keep it simple, pepperoni and cheese. He was so excited.  He arranged the pepperoni in straight lines and made sure there was enough cheese to cover all the sauce and crust.  He watched it bake while he reminded me it was the longest 15 minutes of his life.   When it was done I removed it from the oven so it could cool.  That’s when it happened.

 

      HE ASKED FOR A PIECE OF PIZZA!!!!

Pizza, Food, Italian, Cheese

At first I thought I misunderstood him.   I looked at him and asked, Did you say you want  a piece of pizza?  Yes momma,  I want that one (pointing to the square piece perfectly in the middle)  Alright then, let me get it for you.  Thanks momma, thanks alot. He was all smiles.  My husband and I stared at each other.  I quickly got everyone’s plates together and told my husband to get a plate for wild man.  If he asked for that piece of pizza he was going to get it.  My husband placed the plate in front of wild man at the table.  He looked at it and then sniffed it.  Again he smiled.  He looked over at me and asked, Me eat now momma?  Yes baby you can eat now.  So he touched it, he moved the pepperoni around, he pulled the cheese off, and then he took a bite.  And he swallowed.  Momma me not like the bread.  He said.  That’s okay buddy you don’t have to eat the crust.  Okay momma thanks.  So he sat at the table, picking at the pepperoni and at the cheese.  He licked the sauce off the crust and he ate dinner with us.  For the first time in over four years all of my kids were at the table eating the same thing….pizza.  And it was wonderful.   We have had pizza many nights for dinner over the last six years, why he decided last night he would eat it I will never understand, but I am ever so grateful he did.

To most this might not be a big deal.  It may sound silly.  To us this is huge.  For him to be able to try a new food without throwing up is a major accomplishment.  For him to sit at the table with us and staying with us for the full dinner is major.  The whole night was a miracle. For in that twenty minutes we were just a normal family.

 

Nothing about autism is normal.  Some days are just plain hard, but nights like last night give us hope.  Doctors told us he would not talk, yet at five he said his first sentence.  We were told he might not walk or run do to injuries that took place before he found his was into our home, but he not only runs he climbs and jumps.  When man says you can’t Our God says YES YOU CAN!! It’s all in His precious timing.

Wild man may never eat pizza again, or it could become one of his stable foods, only time will time. It may take another four years before he tries something new.  And that’s okay also.  For now we will celebrate the small victories because life is about the small victories.

 

From our beautiful chaos to yours celebrate in all things big and small.

Summer Vacation

via Daily Prompt: Survive

 

The school year has come to an end.  We survived our first year in our new state and in our new schools.  While most parents get excited that the longer days of summer are quickly approaching I for one almost dread it.  Summer means all the children will be home 24/7 and this year, this summer will be the first summer I will be without the help of my older two kids.  Lord give me guidance for I am in uncharted territory.

Let me start off by saying, my kids are my world, anyone that knows me knows this to be true.  However I have one child with RAD and ADHD and one with autism and three under the age of four.  Sometimes, most of the time, their is no peace in the house if they are all together.

We have reached the point where our almost seven year old (RAD) notices that our six year old (autistic) does not have to do the same things she does and does not have the same consequences she does.  This has become a daily problem for her.  And to be honest how do you explain to a seven year old that her brother is treated different because of his disability?  All she shes is that he does not get in trouble for things like she does.  We try our best to be fair but we are human so I am sure we have messed up from time to time.  We have been out of school for four days now and the time out chair is already getting its workout in.  And don’t get me started on her thoughts about the other three little ones.  I know its not her, I know its all the pain from her birth parents, I know she takes it out on me because in her eyes I replaced her mom so therefore I am as bad as she is, but man some days are hard.

Last summer, I was fortunate to have our oldest daughter with us.  She came down after her junior semester was over and helped us get settled in to the new house.  It was nice having an extra set of hands during the day.  She does so well with all of them, especially with our wild man.  The two of them can spend hours together lining up his cars or playing with his Lego’s.  She is his favorite thing in the whole wide world.  He feels safe to just be himself around her.   With her here I was able to take care of our other little ones. Of course there were days that meltdowns happened, but having someone else here to help buffer was a blessing.  I already miss her this summer.

My husband helps when he can, however he is the one that provides for us.  He works a 40 hour a week job that normally turns into closer to 50 or 60 a week.  By the time he gets in he is exhausted.  He comes home most nights around 7pm sometimes later but rarely at the 5 o’clock hour.  He helps with baths and helps get them to bed. He is looking forward to our family vacation to the beach in a few weeks.  I wish I could say the same.

Vacation to most means relaxation, fun, sleeping in, dinning out at new places, and taking a moment for yourself.  Vacationing for me makes me anxious. The packing and repacking.  The food list.  The activities to take for the car ride, the 7 hour car ride. I know wild man’s sleep pattern will be off because he will not be in his own bed.  It will be days before he gets a good night sleep if it happens at all.  I will spend the first few hours at the house we rented child proofing and making sure he can’t hurt himself and making sure our three little ones can’t get into anything either.  I will check and recheck the locks on the doors to makes sure he can’t get out.  I will make sure the fence around the yard does not have any holes he can dig under.  I will stock up on stage two Gerber peas, because those are his comfort food and we will need his comfort food when he realizes we are spending the night in the strange house.  I will end up in the same room with him and baby girl I’m sure because when they wake up in the middle of the night they will not know where they are and instead of them trying to find me in the strange to them house it will just be easier for me to sleep in the extra twin bed.  Correction I will not sleep that week, for I am sure he will not sleep.  If he does mange sleep we will be up at his normal 4AM, autism does not sleep in even on vacation. We will not go out to new restaurants for dinner or lunch because the noise will be much to loud for him to handle.  And as for a moment to myself, well I have five little ones I can’t even go to the bathroom by myself.  I am thankful our oldest son is going with us.  The kids(and I) miss him not living here so it will be nice to have him with us for a week.

As for Diva she will be in heaven for her daddy and grandparents will be with us.  I know that the first day or so will be fine for she will be on her best behavior, like she always does around them.  I know though her behaviors will surface.  They always do.  Unless you live with RAD everyday you can’t understand the struggle’s we face daily.  The mood swings, the screaming, the always fighting are real and painful.  What if I’m not enough for them by myself this summer?  What if they need more of me than I can be? I really miss home in times like this.  My parents, friends, and in-laws.  Here its just me.  I hope we can survive  summer vacation.  GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA

My prayer is that God will show me the way to make the most of this summer.  That He will show me how to be the best mom to each of my kids.  They all have pasts, they all of troubles and yet God chose me to be their momma.  Maybe He sees something in me that I don’t see.  Most days I think I’m an okay mom.  Some days however I know I’m not so great.  I don’t want to be perfect just better.

Earlier today I read a blog “Eighteen summers: It’s all we get, so this is my promise to you” over at simpleasthatblog.com  And it got me thinking.  With my oldest daughter I had 21 full summers, with my oldest son 17.  Time does go by so quickly.  I’m not going to lie and say that I am excited now to go on vacation since I read this blog, but I will say it opened my eyes.  I do want to see baby girl’s eyes when she sees the ocean for the first time.  I want to watch the boys run freely on the beach with the sand between their toes.  I want to hear the giggles and laughter coming from their rooms as my husband tucks them into bed each night.  I want to steal a moment under the stars with my head on his shoulder and breathe in all that God as blessed us with.  We will survive we always do, sometimes it just takes a little more work and patience to get to the end.

From our beautiful chaos to yours.  Summer can be hot, long and hard.  Not everyday will be sunshine.  God washes us with the rain from the storms.

A Mother’s Worst Fear

As a mom I worry. I worry about my kids all the time.  I worry about if they are eating enough fruits and vegetables.  I worry about if they are getting enough sleep.  I worry if they are making friends at school or if they are struggling with math.  I worry about everything, it’s kind of my job. Most of these worries however I turn over to God. I ask Him to help guide me along the way. I seek His presence in situations and I trust that He is with them when I can’t be. Take tonight for example.

We had just finished up dinner. My two three year olds were running around as diva and I cleaned up the table.  My husband had went outside to move the car into the garage, there was a storm moving in. I told the boys to stop running before someone got hurt, of course they were in a big game of chase and either did not hear me or chose not to listen. Baby girl decided to join in on the fun and took off after Big Al as he rounded the corner. Diva finished picking up the plates just as the crash happened.   All I heard was the loud thud and then the screams from Big Al and Baby girl. When I turned my head there was a pile of kids in my floor. Elmo on top, baby girl in the middle and Big Al on the bottom with blood coming from his mouth. I jumped up and ran over, quickly grappling a towel to stop the bleeding and tried to calm down the two that were crying.  About the same time my husband walked in and saw the situation as it was unfolding. He took baby girl, she was fine just scared from the fall I imagine, as I worked with Big Al.   Thankfully it was just a busted lip that took just a few minutes to stop bleeding.  As he realized he was in fact not dying he quickly gathered his things back up and headed back to the living room.  That’s when we realized Elmo was missing. It had only been a few minutes since the incident but still we could not find him and that was not like him. My husband and I both called out his name….no reply. He took the downstairs, I ran through the rooms upstairs….nothing.  I came back downstairs and found Todd searching. My hear started to beat faster. Where was he? I started searching again. First the kitchen, then the piano room, nothing. Todd met me back in the living room and our eyes met. We yelled again this time a little louder. I went downstairs and tore throw the closets and opened the bedroom doors….nothing. Panic sat in. I ran up the stairs and could hear Todd yelling “come on out buddy your ok”  Fear was taking over as I flew up the second flight of stairs. This time I went in every bedroom, checked every closet, and under every bed…..nothing.  Back down the stairs I went.  We made another sweep through the main floor before it hit me.  The garage door had been opened. I grabbed my keys and we went out the door.   Todd checked the car as I ran outside and looked in the van.  Todd ran around the front of the house as I looked up and down the street.  My heart was beating out of my chest and it was becoming hard to breathe. We ran back in the house frantic not knowing what to do or where to look, when we hear diva say “I win I win I found him” We both ran towards her voice and there in between the chair and the wall curled in a ball was our little guy.  Frightened and alone. 

I was never so glad to see him. I picked him up and held him tight as the tears ran down my face. My heart was beating so hard my chest was physically jumping.  In a small voice we heard “is they ok? ME’s sorry me hurted them. I don’t like blood. Blood gross” He had been hiding the whole time because he was scared he had hurt his brother. He was never in any danger. He had been in the house the whole time.  It’s crazy how fast your mind can take you to the darkest fears if you allow it.  Why had I allowed fear to take over? 

My worst fear is not that something bad will happen to me. No my worst fear is that something bad will happen to one of my children. For those that say “One can’t not love an adopted child like one would love their own” I have this to say.  You are dead wrong.  They are my children in every way possible. I laugh when they laugh, I cry when they cry and I hurt when they are sick or are in pain. I love them as my own for they ARE MY OWN.  In those 20 minutes this evening my whole world was turned upside down. I could not breathe. I don’t even want to consider things if he had not just been hiding by the chair. As I was running from room to room and looking outside all I could do was pray dear Lord help me find my son.  

After I held him for several minutes he climbed down and went off to see if his brother really was ok. I walked to the kitchen and lost it. I started crying and thanking God we had found him. Thirty minutes prior I was ready to place him in time out for running and now I was just thankful he was safe.    

After everyone had calmed down and all eyes were dry and heart rates were back to normal we sat down and had a talk about when it’s ok to play hide and seek and when it’s not.  

I held him a little longer tonight after he fell asleep in my arms. I just needed that extra bit of time with him. He will never know just how much I love him.  Thank you Jesus for keeping him safe tonight and every night. 
From our beautiful chaos to yours fear is cripl stand strong and trust in God. 

The Unexpected Connection

via Daily Prompt: Catapult

 

As a mom my number one job is to love and protect my children.  Part of that includes making tough decisions.

Back at Christmas my husband and I decided to do DNA tests on the kids.  As their adoptive parents we know that one day they will ask those hard questions: “Where am I from” “What were my birth parents like” “Do I have other brothers and sisters out there” All questions that I simply don’t have the answers for.  So in order to help my children when the time comes I ordered the test kits.

The kits came in and we made a game of it.  After all how do you explain to kids under six you are sending off their DNA?   So they all gathered around and we had a spitting contest.  The first one to fill their tube to the black line won.  Our wild man loves to spit so he filled his tube quickly.  Diva came in with a close second.  Big Al is our germaphobe so he took his time spitting into the unknown tube, while Elmo had more spit in the floor that in the tube. Our baby girl was to little to spit in the tube for the test, maybe next year she can play the spit game.  We will see.  We sent them back to the lab and waited patiently for our allotted 6 to 8 weeks.  Our results came back and my husband and I looked over the results and were amazed by what we saw.

There in the mass colors of yellows, blues, reds, and greens highlighted the different countries of our children’s backgrounds.  Three of them had similarities, stemming from their birth mom I assume, but even though they were similar their were still very distinctive differences.  We spent the next few days looking over the pages and then I placed them in their baby books where they could be found later if or when my children need them.  002

So imagine my surprise when a few days ago I received an email telling me one of my children had a match.   I must have read that email twenty times.  This was not what I was expecting.  I was not ready to meet anyone from their families.  I finally clicked the link and read the message.  Again I read the message over and over.  The lady was very sweet and honestly just looking for family.  I don’t think she had any idea that she had stumbled upon a half sibling.  I didn’t know what to say so I stated that we had only done the test so that our kids would have a starting place when they were ready to look for their birth families.  img_1665

 

What I discovered is that she too is doing the same thing.

 

So I made the decision to talk with her.  Was I nervous? Yes.  This whole experience has been overwhelming. I never thought I would hear back from anyone, let alone a whole group of someones.  I want to stay open minded and I like the idea of having some contact with his half siblings so if the time does come and he wants to meet them it will be easier.   But part of me feels that I have catapulted us into the unknown and it is terrifying.  He and his sister are mine now.  I know that might sound mean to some of you, and maybe it is. I am the one they call mom.  I am the one who has rocked them to sleep, stayed up with them when they are sick, and cuddled with them on the couch.  I have loved them from the moment I held them in my arms, from the moment the call came in to tell me they were on their way to my house. I am the only mom they have ever known.

Fear can be crippling.  I want to do what I feel is right and what I feel is best for my kids. So for now I will cautiously proceed with our new findings. So from a distance their new found siblings can check in from time to time.  We will see where this goes.  Not all foster care stories have to end badly.  Our story ended with five little loves in our forever family. They have a mom and dad that love them, an older sister and older brother that adore them and thanks to adoption they are able to be raised together in one home….our home. How beautiful is that?  And now with these new results who knows what lays ahead ten, twenty or thirty years down the road. After all a child can never have too may people to love them.

 

 

 

The Empty Room

I told her I would be up to see her off.  No need to set an alarm, JR seldom sleeps past 5am.  True to his norm, we were awake at 430.  I had him lay beside me. I turned on Netflix so he could watch cartoons, I laid there with a thousand things going through my mind.  This was it the day we (she) had worked so hard for, and yet somehow I thought if I just stayed there in bed time would stop and she would not have to go. I did not want this day to start.

I heard her downstairs around 6.  She was trying to be quiet, so she would not wake any of her siblings.  I stayed in bed trying to dry the tears that had already found their way into my eyes.  Pull it together, you can’t let her see you like this.  This is a happy occasion. I listened to my inner voice and got out of bed.   She was trying to smile when I rounded the corner to the kitchen.  There were a few boxes that she had to have and asked if we could bring them up in the van.  I nodded my head and told her we didn’t mind.  Her boyfriend loaded them into my van as we said our first set of goodbyes.  It was raining and the drive back to her college is long.  Graduation practice was later that day so they had to go.  I hugged her and kissed her and said see you soon.  I watched as they drove away.   Warm tears slowly trickled down my checks, you will see her this afternoon, its okay.  I told myself.

I went to pour myself some coffee so I could start the day.  When I went to add my creamer and my container was empty.   Perfect.  An empty coffee creamer container and an empty room.  My day was off to a wonderful start.

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The trip went as easy as it could when traveling with five children under six.  There was laughter, there was screaming, there was kicking, there was yelling and there was the all so famous “Are we there yet?” question asked every two minutes of our 6 hour trip. My mind was spinning and my heart was breaking.  Don’t get me wrong, I understand that as her mom my job is to raise her right. My hope is that I have done so and that  she has a good head on her shoulders and a heart that wants to help others, but see she is my first.  My baby girl.  Letting her go off to college was hard enough, watching her graduate and move even farther way is overwhelming.  So while my younger kids were being….well kids my mind replayed moments of when she was young.  Her first day of kindergarten, piano and dance recitals, taekwondo belt tests, school achievements and color guard trips all flooded my mind.

We made it to the hotel just in time to unload and make it over to the park where we were to met her, her boyfriend and his family for lunch.  The park was a perfect place for the kids ( she always looks out of them) not sure if the others really enjoyed it or not it. The sun was hot and there was little shade.  Her dad and I said some quick hello’s before we had to start catching the kids around the park.  Not the introduction I really wanted to make, but its our life and we have kids….lots of kids.  The kids were excited to see their big sissy again and were ready to take on the new to them park swings and jungle gyms.  It was just what they needed after the long trip.  We were getting ready to wrap things up after having been there for two hours, before diva had her meltdown.  Things were not going her way and she did not want her 18 month old sister playing with her.  We are use to her throwing her fits, my daughters boyfriends family not so much.  I think they all said something about her not being happy or about her not getting her way.  I know it embarrassed Sie, she was wanting to make such a good impression.  Diva could not help it, her medication had ran its course for the day. Nothing any of us could have done or said would have stopped the outburst from happening.  We said our second set of goodbyes at the van as we loaded up upset kids to take them to the hotel.  Sie was crying because JR was upset.  Elissa was still throwing her fit and the other three were just crying because they were tired and didn’t really want to leave the playground.  Her boyfriend wrapped his arms around her and told her it would be fine, that “We aren’t saying goodbye forever just goodbye for a little while.”  She was taking it hard, this was the last time she would see them for who knows how long and I think the kids could sense it, I know JR could anyway.

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playing at the park
Later that night we attended her Baccalaureate service.  With great pride my husband, our oldest son, my parents and I watched as she walked a crossed the stage to be hooded and recognized for her achievements.  She would become the first in our family to graduate college with a four year degree.  She was paving a new road for her siblings and future generations to follow.  She surprised us all when we saw her design of her cap.  She truly loves her siblings and wants to make them proud.

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We snapped a few pictures after the service and headed back to the hotel to relieve my in-laws who were on babysitting duty. (A huge thank you to them for doing so, the kids would not have made it through the service without someone having a meltdown) My mom and I made a quick run to the store to pick up some snacks and juices for the kids ride home in the morning and then it was off to bed.  I didn’t sleep.  My emotions were all over the place.  Thankfully JR could not sleep either and joined me in my alone time at 3am.  Together we stared into the darkness of the room.  Neither really saying anything to each other. Occasionally he would ask if it was time to wake up daddy and when I would reply no, he would settle back into my arms and let me rub his back.  Sie use to do the same thing.

Morning came and it was as if a tornado had hit the hotel room. At 6:15 we discovered that we did not pack enough pull-ups.  How in the world does a family of five forget to bring pull-ups??? So while I was packing things up and while the children were running through the hotel as if they had never been in one before, my husband made a store run to buy the illusive Lighting McQueen pull-ups we so desperately needed.  Nevertheless, by the time my in-laws arrived to our room we had somehow managed to have everyone ready to go.  We loaded them up, handed my father in-law the keys to my 12 passenger van, got all of the snacks ready to go and watched them drive off.  We then loaded up in my in-laws car and headed over to the college for graduation.

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My girl and me
Graduation was a success.  Seeing her smile after receiving her diploma is something I will never forget.  We did not have time for a fancy dinner after graduation, we needed to get to my in-laws to pick up the little ones, but she wanted to go eat at KFC so we agreed.  Not exactly the most glamorous place to eat a graduation dinner but it made her and her friends happy.  Looking back at the four of them brought back so many wonderful memories, it was nice to have most of “Momma C’s” girls together again.

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Sie with her grandparents
As we sat in KFC eating I could not stop smiling.  There at the table next to me, were four young, beautiful ladies and my handsome son, talking about future plans and catching up on the latest news from back home.  As bad as I wanted them to all be ten years old again having slumber parties back at the house, eating pizza and dancing to Kids Pop CD’s, this sight made my heart rejoice.  It was nice seeing most of the original Momma C girls together again.  I hope they all know just how much I love them and how proud they make me as well.  It has been a joy watching them grow up into wonderful, caring, beautiful young ladies.  I can’t wait to see what their futures hold.

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Momma C and her girls
As we walked to the car, I could feel the tears burning my eyes.  I quickly hugged her and went to get in the car.  But as I went to get in the car I could not move.  Pull it together, you can’t do this right here right now.  My inner voice was screaming at me to just get in the car.   Screw the inner voice this time.  I slammed the car door and ran across the parking lot and pulled her into my arms.  This was our third and last goodbye.  Tears ran down my face, just as they are now while I type, I told her I loved her and how proud I was of her and that if things didn’t workout with him or the job she always had a place to come home to. I tried to fit in 22 years of advice into a five minute hug. I’m not sure she understood a word coming out of my mouth because by this time I was ugly crying.  Her boyfriends words, “Its not goodbye forever just goodbye for now” echoed in my mind.  But He don’t get it.  He is moving back to his home city, near his parents and family.  She is not.  He will be able to see his mom anytime he wants, she will not.  He will be minutes away from his family, she will be over six hours away from hers. So yes, I know this was not goodbye forever but it sure as hell felt like it.   We hugged a for a few more minutes because I simply could not let go.

This morning I found myself sitting in her room, surrounded by emptiness.  Not really sure how I even got in there.  It was just me, the walls, my thoughts and my tears.  Not all the tears were sad.  We have raised a wonderful young lady.  Yesterday as I talked with her professors they not only told me she was a wonderful student but they also talked about how great of a person she was and how much she will be missed. 

Today has been hard on me, dare I say I have even been a little bitchy.  But as her mom I am entitled to that.   I know she will be okay and in a few days so will I.  I know she will succeed in whatever she does.  I know that no matter how far away she is or how old she becomes she will always be my baby girl.  And most of all I know she loves me just as I love her.   The room maybe empty but my heart is full of memories that will last a lifetime.

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The Grocery store experience 

We all eat so therefore we must go to the grocery store. As a mother of five little ones I try my best to go when most of my little loves are at school. It’s both easier and cheaper on me.  However some days things don’t workout like I plan and I end up taking a few with me.  I’m sure we are entertaining for our fellow shoppers to watch. Which leads me to this blog.

A few days ago my youngest and I made a quick run to the local Food City before picking up the boys from preschool (I had ran out of coffee, I don’t function without coffee) Naturally she had been fighting sleep all morning so as soon as I placed her in the car she was out.  At this point I had a decision to make: go to the store anyway and hope she did not wake up or go get in the preschool pickup line early let and let her sleep and then take my three youngest to the store.  I did not feel like spending twenty extra dollars on cheap matchbox cars or whatever toy happened to catch my boys’ eyes so I opted to take my sleeping beauty to the store.  

I know we would not be long so I carried her. She did look sweet with her little head rested on my shoulder as I made my way up and down the aisles.  People stopped and let me cross in front of them or just stopped to smile at her.  The words “she precious” and “look how sweet she is” came out of more than a few mouths.  When I got to the register to checkout there were only two lanes opened. As I waited patiently a young clerk, early twenties max, came over and asked if I was ready to checkout. I told him I was, after all I was standing in line, and he took my little shopping chart and walked it over to lane 3.  He offered to carry my things out, but I told him I could manage and smiled. I grabbed my three bags in my right hand(I always buy more than what I go in for)  and out the door we went.  As we were walking out the door two more people stopped me and asked if they could help me to my car.

Why can’t people’s response be this way when I have my son with me?  

This question has made me both mad and hurt me over the last couple of days.


JR loves to spend time with me. The problem if we are anywhere other than our home his system goes into overdrive.  When I found out the grocery store had special needs shopping charts I was ecstatic.  The normal charts he can no longer get his legs in and if I place him in the chart there is no room for the groceries.  Does not sound like a big problem, but to an autistic six year old trust me it is. So about a month ago I decided to take him shopping with me.  Just me and him while my husband stayed home with our other kids.   He was so excited.  When he saw the chart his arms started flying. He giggled and said ” hey momma look at me” all through the store.  He is loud, he can’t help it.  He covered and uncovered his eyes a thousand times for the fluorescent lights hurt them. He covered his ears as we passed the cooler because the humming rolling off of them was loud.  He screamed when he saw the lobsters in the water tank. He didn’t notice the people starring at him. But I did. Some shook their heads while others whispered.  Times like these I am thankful for his autism for he does not see that they are judging him.  I even passed a store employee and I watched as her eyes traced my son as to say, ” why are you using that chart he looks perfectly normal”  I tried to let it go but I could not. I went up to the employee and told them to thank the store manager for getting the charts in. I made it a point to tell her he was excited to be able to go to the store with his mom and that I wished every store, not just grocery stores, had these charts.   She facial expression changed a little and she said she would be sure to tell the store owner. I thanked her and proceeded to go check out.  We waited our turn in the long line and not one person offered to help me and me wailing six year old to the car they were just happy to see us go.

I get it, babies are cute and sweet and everyone makes over them.  And for the record my daughter is adorable, however so is my son.  I’m so tired of the stares. And he is only six.  What will it be like when he turns 10, 16, or 21?  Why could they not see that he was just enjoying the day with his momma? Why would you ask a mom if she needed help with a sleeping baby and not ask to help a mom who’s child is having a meltdown?  I get so tired of the If you took him out more he would learn to behave comments.  It does not work that way, he does not work that way.  Why can people see what I see in him? 
From our beautiful chaos to yours look past the differences of others we are all beautifully made. 

The Faces of Foster Care

via Daily Prompt: Bitter

 

May is foster care awareness month.  And while foster care receives mostly negative attention I want to share some positive moments from our foster care journey. With the permission of their mom’s I would like to put a face (or two) to what foster care has meant to us.  At one time they have all been in my home and they will forever hold a place in Momma C’s heart.

A little dark before the light:

The statistics are alarming and on the rise. And things are only looking to get worse.  The children are the victims in all of this. The drug busts, the neglect charges, the overdoses that you hear about on the news all have one thing in common, children that did not ask to be placed in the situation.  They are removed from their home and placed, in many cases, with a family they know nothing about.  Thanks to all the negative stories the news and TV shows share about foster care, they are terrified what the foster family may do to them. Will it be worse than what was going on in their home?  Will they feed us? Will they hurt us? All questions as a foster mom I have dealt with in those very critical first hours after a new placement arrived in our home. You have to prepare yourself not only for the mental abuse but also the physical abuse ( which may be visible) they have faced.  It’s not easy. In fact sometimes it’s down right hard.  But if we don’t open our hearts and our homes for these precious children who will? God wants us to be His hands and feet what better way than to help His children when they need us the most.

It takes time. It takes patience. It takes love. It takes Jesus. It takes smiles and giggles. It takes funny voices to get them to eat. It takes prayer. It takes support from your family. It takes a team of people; their caseworkers, a judge, a GAL, a visitation supervisor, the birth parents, and yes the foster parents all working together for what’s best for the child.  The trauma they have witnessed and or suffered will not go away over night if it goes away at all. Every case will be different so what worked for “Billy” may not work for “Zac” it will take everyone working together to help them overcome and start moving forward.

Sie and Devin holding the girls on one of our vacations

We didn’t plan on adopting when we became fosters back in 2010, at least that’s what I tell myself.   However I know deep in my heart I longed for more children and I wanted my new husband to experience more than just the hard teenage years he had been thrown into when he became dad to my children (at the time 13 and 10) The feeling of just wanting to foster changed when I fell in love with our second placement, a set of sisters.  They had my heart the moment I laid eyes on them. For close to nine months I was their momma.  I took them to their doctor appointments, I took them to church, on vacation, but most of all I loved them. The day I found out that an aunt from out of state had been found and wanted them my heart sank. I had this bitter feeling inside me that I could not shake.  I had raised these babies how could the court decide to just give them to someone they didn’t know? That’s when God stepped in and took my hand.  That’s exactly how I had got them He reminded me. He removed the bitterness the moment I met her.  She was a kind, loving soul. Their family was much like ours. The way she held the youngest in her arms reminded me of myself. The way she talked about her kids, her son was in band like mine, and the way she gushed about her daughter all reminded me of me.  They were active in the church, even went on mission trips, something we have always talked about doing, as bad as I wanted to not like her I felt drawn to her.

Our family Photo with the girls

I’m not going to lie the day the girls were transferred was one of the hardest days in my life.  But I am grateful. Their now mom (aunt and uncle were able to adopt them 😊) and I are friends.  And thanks to the wonderful world of social media I get to see the girls. And they are growing up to be beautiful young ladies.  There is not a day that goes by that I don’t pass this picture in our hallway and smile.  Maybe one day when they are old enough to understand we will get to see them in person. What I would give to hold them one more time and tell them I love them.  I did not understand it then but God did not intended for them to be ours forever but just for a season.  I am thankful, for it what a beautiful season it was.

The next two little ladies brought me much laughter and introduced me to one of my very best friends.  Just thinking about them makes me smile. Man were they spunky.  I have never seen two sisters so different from each other.  One quiet and backward, the other the exact opposite.   In a broken system sometimes things happen and for these two girls we were told their case looked to be moving towards adoption. We were in the process of adopting Elissa and JR and at the time thought we were done. I think God used that “thought” to get them to my now friend.   The transition from our house to their house went smooth and we kept in contact after that.  When she found out the girls were going  to their father’s she called me.   These girls have been prayed over more than they will ever know.  I am thankful their step mom has a good relationship with my friend.  I love getting the updates on how they are doing in school and how they are adjusting to the new little ones in the house.  Friendships and families can grow out of ashes.  

The last little girl will forever hold a special place in my heart, well they all do, but she was the only placement we saw go back to her home.  The only one.  Her mom was young and in some ways reminded me of my oldest daughter, I couldn’t help but want to be her biggest cheerleader.  She was around the same age I was when I had Sie, the big difference I had a support system she did not.  The one thing she did have was an awesome aunt.  The aunt brought her to the visits, helped her with the baby, and did all the things a mother is suppose to do for her daughter. She was lucky to have her.  We worked on basic parenting skills and life skills and when it was time for her to go home, I was the one who got to drop her off.  The tears in both the mother’s and aunts eyes is an image I will forever remember. Simply beautiful. The words “Is this really happening? Is she really coming back to me?” repeated themselves over and over as I got baby girls things out of my car.  After a few long hugs I wiped happy tears off my cheeks and climbed back into my car.  I told them all that I would always be just a phone away.

And I meant it.  I still talk to them, again through social media.  She is getting so big and learning to do so many new things.  JR still asks about her all the time.  Foster care changes the lives of all involved.

We have had several other girls and many boys in care as well, but for now their families are not ready to share their stories.  And that’s ok.  I still get to see them and I know that even in the darkest of times God makes all things beautiful.  Foster care is not about stealing someone’s kid away or taking in kids to make a quick buck.  For those of us that foster we know what it’s really about.  It’s about opening your heart to a child knowing it could get broken.  It’s about working together with people we may not like for the good of the child. It’s about loving that child with all you have and possibly not getting any love back. It’s about comforting them after a nightmare and then cleaning up pee or poop from the floor or bed because the fear scared them to the core. It’s about being there for them in every possible way.  It’s about loving them just as God loves us.   Foster care is selflessness love.

 

From our beautiful chaos to yours do you have room to open your heart to a child in need? I promise you it may not be the easiest but it will be the best decision you ever make.

Parenting is hard 

Yesterday was the worst. Plain and simple. Since we moved our children have been somewhat isolated from visitors.  Don’t get me wrong, we have had grandpa’s and grandma’s come down and a couple of family members have stopped by.  We have even had a few really close friends make the trip down to see us.  But the constant traffic of caseworkers and in home therapist have since came to a stop. 

And for the record, I am not great at making friends. Add on five kiddos and it becomes almost impossible.  I know I can hear some people shaking their heads right this moment while they say “she asked for it when she took in so many kids” and yes I know what I got myself into thank you.  I’m not trying to blame the kids in anyway, all I am saying is it’s easier to stay at home most of the time rather than tackle the chaos that is my little loves.  Trying to find time to make new friends is just not high on my priority list. But it’s been almost a year and I was thinking I needed to step out of my comfort zone and invite someone over.  After all what could possibly go wrong?   

I’m not sure what I was thinking when I had this brilliant idea.  It started off fine.  The kids and I were outside playing when our guest arrived.  They were running and playing and being normal fun loving children.  She and I sat in my living room and talked for a few minutes before things started going downhill. Diva and Big Al had gotten into an argument that somehow resulted in Elmo getting smacked in the face. So he was crying and the other two were screaming.  I excused myself to defuse the situation and quickly returned to my visit.  Within minutes Diva was slamming the door asking if she could play on a tablet because she “just hated her life and wished she lived somewhere else”. Thats now two crying.   I gave in and gave her the tablet (she normally does not get to just play on one but I really wanted some adult conversation) Biggest mistake ever!!!

As soon as she got it the fight was on.  And things only got worse. By the time my husband got home wild man was running around in his underwear (normal autism behavior but we have been trying to keep him clothed) Both of our three year olds were screaming, one had decided he was only eating candy and pop (soda) for dinner while the other one was just tired.  As for the baby she had graciously covered my soon to not be new friend in cheese puff dust. Diva was still screaming because life as a six year old is apparently the worst thing ever.  Oh and how did I forget to tell you that when my husband asked the kids to come inside so he could get them ready for dinner my wild man called him a Mother F@&$@r.  Yep the whole word. And repeated it three times (again one of his autism ticks) Plain as day, of course it was why wouldn’t it be.  The look on her face told me it was as pronounced prefectly. Lucky me. Apparently he unlocked the parent lock on his tablet and…..well he found Caillou. A very inappropriate version of Caillou. I assumed he was watching the PBS version. Lesson learned the hard way.

I was never so ready for someone to leave my house in my life.  And I’m pretty sure that possible friendship was over before it started.  Why oh why could they not behave for just a few hours for me? I mean seriously was it to much to ask? After a quick dinner, not the candy and pop the kids wanted, but cereal and juice. I’m sure it had just as much sugar in it as the candy would have(I know mom of the year but I just could not at that moment)

By 7:30, wild man, diva and Elmo were asleep(part of the problem I am sure) By 8:30 baby peanut was out. My husband and I had not said a word to each other since our friend left, I looked and him and said “I’m taking her to bed, you got him?” Pointing at Big Al who was tired but still going strong. He nodded his head yes, kissed me and off I went. I was embarrassed. I was angry . I was emotionally drained and I was at a loss for words. I know my kids are no angels but man, that was rough. 

I woke up this morning still in a funk. Still doubting my parenting skills and wondering why in the world God picked me to be their mom. Yesterday was a perfect example that I am not cut out for the job.  I went through our morning routine. Diva was still in a mood as well so she was running late.  My husband had to leave for work and could not wait any longer so I had to take her when I took the boys to preschool, which made her even more angry.  After dropping them off to their schools I headed over to the doctors office to get peanuts 18 month well child check up and shots.

I was still kind of upset with how my kids had behaved as I sat and waited for her to be seen. In the waiting room were two other families. One, a young mother and two kids. Her daughter about four years old and a newborn boy. The other, also a young mother, her mom, her newborn daughter and her son who was 15 months old.  The little boy quickly made his rounds over to my daughter and the four year old. The young moms started chatting about being moms and how it was now even harder with two.  As I held peanut on my lap I smiled a little at the conversation. The one young ladies mother quickly jumped in and said  “Well at least you waited a few years these two are barely 15 months apart” to the other young mom.  The conversation continued about how the little boy was so full of energy and how grandma was to tired to chase after him all the time.  The little girl spun around and around begging for juice while her mom dealt with her very fussy baby brother.  I could see the stress on both families faces.   The one mom was called back and grandma was suppose to watch the rambunctiousness little boy and his sleeping sister while mom went up and filled out paperwork. He was fast on his feet and before the grandmother knew it he was headed for the door.  She was able to grab him before he made his daring escape but she was winded.  She came back over to the waiting area and said ” I’m to old for this. I raised my two girls. All he wants to do is run run run. I’m 43 I’m to old to chase him down”.    43 is to old to chase a toddler?   I just turn 41. I sat in the waiting room with my daughter who is just a few months older than her grandson and let her words sink in.  She continued to complain about raising kids and talked about everything that could go wrong. When the other young mom committed that it was just her and her two kids (no dad in the picture I’m guessing) the grandmother quickly started down the “how are you going to do this by yourself? Parenting is hard” lecture. The young mom was fidgety in her seat and I guess that’s when grandma realized I was looking at her. In a very rough voice she looked at me and said “You’re lucky you just got the one” That’s when I opened my mouth.

I smiled and said that I actually had seven children. And I rattled off their ages “22, 18,6,6,3,3& this one is 18 months”. The room got quiet.  I went on to say that yes parenting is hard but it is by far the best thing I have ever done and that some of my kids were close in age and even though we had bad days the good days far out weighed them. I rambled on for a few minutes until she got my point. Both her daughter and the other young mom were smiling by the time I finished my little soap box talk. 

Peanut was called back, vaccination was given and out the door we went.  I had started off the day angry that my kids had misbehaved so badly the night before but by the time I was finished with the appointment I realized even they are entitled to a bad day every now and then my kids just picked the same day to have their bad day. I get in bad moods and don’t want to do anything. Aren’t kids just little humans? They have the same feelings and emotions the only difference is they don’t know how to express it. 

I did make a few rule changes and tonight was rough but we managed. The tablets and phones are gone, for now no more games or video watching on them. My husband threw out what was left of the Easter candy so that the kids (or us) would be tempted to eat it. Instead of them playing video games while I cooked they played with play dough and drew pictures, daddy worked late so we had to make due with what we could.  It was a long night but we made it through. 

That grandma was right, parenting is hard. There is no right way or wrong way. No matter what we do some will say we are to hard on our kids while others say we are to easy on them. Our kids are going to be good one day and not so good the next. And it does not matter if you have one child or if you have 20 children they are going to act up at some point when you really don’t want them to.  Their kids it’s what they do and how the learn. 

I’m thankful God placed that lady in my path today. By hearing her negative view on kids and live in general it reminded me just how blessed I truly am. And for that I am thankful. 

From our beautiful chaos to yours here’s to more peaceful tomorrow’s.

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