As autism awareness month comes to an end, I can’t help but look at our family life. Autism is not something we think about just in the month of April, we live it every day.
The wind is a little chilly but the sun is shining bright. Our little loves were eager to get outside and enjoy all our backyard had to offer. We don’t go to public parks much especially on pretty days. They are normally to crowded for our little guy. The noise can be to much for him and trying to keep him safe while allowing the others to play freely is stressful. The stares and the whispers from the other patrons should not get to me, but it does. So our backyard is our sanctuary. Here he is safe and here our other four can run and play and I don’t have to worry.
Four are dressed in their play clothes while one is in his standard pajamas. It maybe 70 degrees outside but you will always find him in his magic long sleeved flannel pajamas. They are his safety net at home. While our other little loves run and play tag he sits on the sidewalk lining up his cars. He seldom looks up, but when he does it’s for a quick Look Momma look what I did. He loves his cars. He spends hours lining and relining them up. He is perfectly happy doing so.
Today, while we played ball with our youngest daughter, JR came over to watch. We tossed the ball back and worth to our two year old and she giggled as it bounced down the hill. Out of nowhere JR decided to engage and went after the ball. He laughed as he throw it to his dad and giggled as he tried to kick it. For the next ten minutes he played with us and it was wonderful. It was perfect. Then just as quickly as he had joined in he stopped and returned to his cars.
Autism is so isolating at times. I truly believe he wants to be part of everything, he simply can’t. We have had people tell us, Just take him out or Just make him go he will get over it? As if they think we don’t want to go out and do things. But the truth is his happiness and wellbeing are important to us. We know what he can handle and what he can’t. Days that we can make it to church as a family, or trips to the grocery store without a meltdown are considered victories in our house.
If the outside world just took a few minutes to get to know our little guy they would see how truly wonderful he is. He is the sweetest most loving little guy you could ever meet. He is the best big brother to his two year old sister and he loves to cuddle babies. At his school he is known as the hugger because as everyone comes through the doors he is there to welcome them with one of his giant bear hugs. He is not less because of autism he is so much more.
As a mom I love days where we have moments like today. To hear him laugh and to see him run and interact with his siblings is something I will never take for granted. Today was a good day and for that I am truly thankful.
JRs superpower is autism, what’s yours?
Thanks to everyone who has bought my book Beautiful Chaos Our Story about Foster Care, Adoption, Faith and Love. If you haven’t done so yet you can go over to the new website at http://www.beautifulchaosmomma.com and pick up a copy. My prayer is that our story inspires others to become foster/ foster to adopt parents.
Spring has finally arrived. The birds are singing, the frogs ugh the frogs that noise, and the kiddos have discovered the creek that flows beside my parents house. I love spring time. Spring also means out with the old and in with the new….clothes that is. Does anyone else dread trying on new shorts and bathing suits as much as I do?
My oldest daughter, mother, and I are taking a cruise next month. My mother has never been on a cruise so, my daughter and I thought it would be fun to take her on one for her birthday now that’s she retired and can actually take a few days for herself to relax. All three of us are looking forward to it. My daughter was just excepted into grad school so it will be nice for her to get away before she’s bogged down with work and college and for me well, I jumped at the chance to spend five days with only adults. I love my little loves but every mom needs some “me time” every now and then.
Our passports are in order, our luggage bags are prepacked with the essential goodies, all we need now are a few new pairs of shoes, some new shorts and of course the bathing suit. With only a month to go, I can’t wait any longer to go pick one out. It is time.
We made a quick trip back to our hometown this weekend to get on our parents and to take part in a birthday celebration. While there I found a few hours to go shopping. The fitting room can be such an interesting place, especially during the the changing of the seasons. Today was no exception.
I hate trying on clothes, but I hate buying clothes only to get them home and them not fit more. So like half of the shoppers in the store today, I gathered up my wish list items and made my way back to the tiny off white cubical’s that make up the fitting room. What is it about those little rooms that make people act so crazy? In one stall, was a little boy maybe around the age of nine, he felt he was to old to be in the fitting room with his mom and definitely to old to have her pick out his clothes while his mother seemed to think he was still two by the was she talked to him. Sweetie, are you doing okay in there? Do you need mommy to come help you? Sweetie, make sure the shorts aren’t to tight in your crouch area. In another stall an exhausted mom was trying on dresses with her two very active toddlers. The little girl was full of complements as her mommy tried on dress after dress, Mommy you look beautifulest in the flower one. I love that one too mommy. Let’s get them all. While the little boy was not as impressed and entertained himself by crawling under the wall to the stalls next to him until little sis ratted him out and then he started crying, correction screaming. Screaming that he was bored, screaming that he was starving. Screaming that he should have stayed with daddy instead of coming with the girls. I heard the mom let out a sigh. I’ve been in her shoes more times than I care to count. Shopping for yourself with the kids in tow is hard. (Side note thank you mom and dad for watching my kiddos so I could get out of the house by myself for a few minutes today) Still in another stall was a young lady, I’m guessing 15 or 16, with her cell phone in one hand and ten pairs or short shorts in the other she made her way to the fitting room. She looked aggravated, and by the speed she was texting I’m sure she was telling someone about it, but that’s when I noticed her dad. He clearly had no idea what he was doing but he was trying. As the swarm of mother’s came in and out of the waiting area handing in new clothes and taking back clothes that didn’t fit here was this dad holding short shorts for his daughter. She would bring a few pairs out and tell him to go get her some more and he would. Clearly he did not feel comfortable doing what he was doing, but he was doing it for her. He loved her enough to take on the chaos of the fitting room. I had to smile. I don’t know their story, maybe he told her the shorts were to short or maybe her mom got called out to work, or who know’s what was going on, but I do know that in that moment that dad was willing to take on one of the most hated places on the planet for most women for his daughter. And that was my reminder that there is still good in this world for the day.
I finished trying on my items and liked the way a few of them fit. As I left the fitting room the one mom was still handing her son clothes over the top of the stall just as fast as he was shoving them under the door. He was done trying stuff on, she just hadn’t figured that out yet. The mom with the two toddlers was trying to load the little boy in the buggy while the little girl now cried because she was not getting a new dress like her mommy. As I passed the brave dad, he smiled, Nice day out there isn’t it? , he said as his daughter handed him a few shirts. It sure is, I said as I smiled back.
I made it back to my parents house and my little loves were ready to go outside. If the fitting room taught me anything its that we all of things going on. We need to take time and enjoy what’s in front of us. Our fussy little ones will be annoyed teens before we know it. Take a few minutes to enjoy the present, be in the now. I may be taking a cruise next month but until then the creek life is fine with me.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I looked over at the empty crib and tears ran down my face. I need to take it down but my heart is just not ready. Being a foster mom hurts sometimes.
We loaded up the van this morning and headed off to church, daddy T and I both had this empty feeling we were forgetting something. But we were not, you are no longer here. Being foster parents brings sadness sometimes.
As I washed up last weeks laundry I ran across your favorite outfit and I lost it. Tears ran down my face and all daddy T could do was hold me and tell me everything would be alright. But he too had tears in his eyes. Being a foster parents is painful sometimes.
The kids have looked for you since you left, Wild Man does not understand why you are not here and keeps saying Momma go get Baby P bring her home please. I force a smile and tell him you are so happy at your new home and that I’m sure you are doing just fine. But my mind races and wonders if you are ok and if you are safe. Being a foster mom makes one worry sometimes.
I found myself wide awake at 2 am, that was our one on one time. I wonder if you were awake and thinking to yourself where is she? Why is she not singing to me? Why is she not holding me? Again I find the tears rolling down my face. I grab your favorite blanket, I’ve not washed it yet so it still smells like you, and I cry myself to sleep. Foster care is not easy sometimes.
In all our years of fostering we have had to say goodbye to many little loved. You my little love have been to hardest to let go. God blesses us not once but twice to be part of your story. We know that reunification or placement with a family member is always the priority, but when you came back to us we could not help but dream. I allowed myself to see you as part of our forever family. I allowed my mind to dream of first days of school and dances and family outings. I allowed myself to go where no foster parent mind should ever go. I saw our future and you were in it. This journey can be cruel sometimes.
So I didn’t see it coming. As I sat there in the courtroom listening to the judge I heard words I did not want to hear. I was not prepared for the change of events. I went in thinking you would be here forever and left with an hour to pack all your things for you to leave. Being a foster parent is heart wrenching sometimes.
But that’s how this goes. The system is not perfect and I pray those that do not know you those that have never held you those that do not love you like I do I hope they have made the decision God would have made. I pray He looks after you and keeps you safe. I pray He gives you comfort and that you feel Him near you. I pray you will always know how much we love you.
If we would not have stepped out in faith and followed Gods plan for us we would have never met you. We would have never seen your smiling face. We would have never held you or seen you crawl. We would have never falling in love with you. Being a foster parent is beautiful sometimes.
We will grieve for you and we will miss you. We will find things through the house over the next few weeks (maybe months) that will remind us of you. It will be painful but also such a blessing. For these things will remind us of YOU. A smile will cross my face and I will get to dream of you again. And that will make me happy. Foster parenting can be a blessing sometimes.
If we open our home again to the next little one who needs us, we are not replacing you. You could never be replaced. We are just answering Gods call to help one more. But that decision has not been made; for now we will just take time to heal from losing you.
Fostering is not for the weak but in our weak moments God gives us comfort and strength to carry us through. Thank you Jesus for allowing us to be part of her life over the last six months. Thank you for allowing us to see her smile and hear her laugh. But mostly thank you God for being You. Thank you for allowing us to be your hands and feet. To You oh Lord be the glory.
I lay here in bed and I can hear her stir in the crib. She whimpers for just a moment then she finds her bottle. My mind takes me to the day I picked her up from the hospital. Where has the time gone?
I could never do what you do, I would love them and not want to give them back. Why put yourself through the pain of losing them? You’ve done your part let someone else do it now. You are such a blessing/saint to do what you do. You must be nuts to take in another kid. Aren’t you afraid you will become to attached? I have heard these questions or variations of them for the last eight years. My reason I do what I do is sound asleep in her crib. Her tummy is full, her clothes fit her and they have been freshly washed. She giggles at the sound of my voice and she is already saying da da. She squeals with delight as our children play around her. She is safe and she is loved; oh so loved. This is normal for her, we are all she knows. Here she is surrounded by love from our children and love from us. The idea that it could all change with the next meeting hangs over us. But that’s foster care.
No one said it would be easy, if it were there would be more people willing to step up. I’m not heartless I feel pain. Over the years as children have come and gone from our home my heart as felt the sting of a broken system. We don’t just love the child while they are in our home, they become a piece of our hearts. And once they are gone that piece never quite heals. They will forever be part of us, part of God’s masterpiece for our lives for He allowed us to love them for a season.
Baby girl does not know what my worries are about things coming up. She does not understand that her fate will be decided by someone who has never met her, or held her, or seen her smile. Her life is in the hands of people that see her as a case number. They are not the ones who have rocked her to sleep, or kissed a boo-boo, or heard her laugh. But God knows her and He loves her.
She may never remember any of the things that led up to her coming to us. She may be here one day and gone the next. Will it hurt, YES it will, but God has a plan for her. I don’t know what her future holds but I know who holds it. And it is His Will, not ours, that we must follow.
I would not trade my time with any of our fosters for anything. I grew as a person with each placement. I can only hope they remember the love we have for them as they go on with their new lives.
As for this sweet little one we will take it day by day. The months have passed so quickly but these next few days will drag by as we wait. Foster care as taught me so many things one is a huge lesson on patients. Lord help me, guide me and protect her this week.
Until then I will hold her, I will protect her and love her as my own. I am a foster mom
What a great day, just what we needed. Today was well overdue so I am thankful. The last few months have been brutal. This was the first weekend in over six weeks that everyone in the house was feeling well. The month of February alone our little loves had four double ear infections, three cases of the stomach bug, two upper respiratory infections, four fevers, one cutting teeth, and then my husband had the “man cold”. We all know that last one was the hardest on all of us, right ladies? I don’t know how we didn’t catch the flu, but praise God it spared us.
On top of all of that we received test results back from the geneticist for Alex. It has been confirmed he has Alcohol Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND). Eli with his chronic stomach issues was given the diagnosis of Underdeveloped Bowel Syndrome. And I was told I would have to have back surgery again. When it rains it pours.
Today it was time to get out of the house and forget about all the bad stuff and just have fun.
I stumbled across a local autism group called Autism Site Knoxville (ASK). They were hosting their fourth annual Day at the aquarium today. When I saw the invite last week I thought it would be the perfect way for us to spend a Saturday morning. And how could we pass up the low cost of only 10 dollars per person? As the day came closer however all the normal mom worries started coming to the surface. We had not even made it to church in two months how in the world would the kids do at the aquarium? Would it be to crowed for JR? How would he do with the noise? What is he had a meltdown? How would my husband and I handle it with all the other little loves in tow? This would be the first big outing that we had done in months and we would be doing it without the help of our older children or grandparents. Not going to lie I was a little overwhelmed. But when your four hours away from family you got to go out on your own at some point. With our family its just a much larger challenge than most.
So this morning we loaded four very excited and two very sleepy children into our 12 passenger van at the wee hour of 6am so we could drive a little over two hours to be there when the aquarium at 8:00. The event ran from 730 to 1030 but of course we were free to stay longer. I am so glad we went. The staff was super sweet and handed out goldfish, gummies, and water to the kids as we came in. Being that early in the morning the kids were able to walk around and enjoy all the different tanks without being ran over by other people.
The event organizers had different sensory stations set up throughout the aquarium so if JR or even our other kids wanted to take a break they could. The lights were softened and the background music was turned off. Everyone there got it. Everyone there was living in the world of autism. There were no nasty remarks about behaviors, or looks when he made his unique noises, and no one stared at us. Okay some people did look at us but it was not because of JR it was because of the size of our crew lol. He rode in his stroller for a while then walked with me for a while. He pointed out the scary sharks and the huge sea turtles. And he made it known he did not like the seahorses, after all real horses don’t look like that.
He made friends with other people waiting outside and made sure to tell all the moms we passed just how cute their babies were. And no one cared that he was talking to them or touching them. Most told him thank you or even told him he was a cutie as well, to which he would just laugh and smile. He really enjoyed himself. Our other kids had a great time as well. We don’t get to do things like this often unless we have our backup team to help us in case he has a major meltdown or takes off running. He has no safety concerns at all. So thank you ASK for making today possible. Thank you for hosting events like this so that children and adults with autism can go and do everyday things. Thank you for opening it up to all of our children so that we could attend as a family. Thank you for a day we will not soon forget. Thank you for giving us a day were all of our kids could just be kids. Thank you for helping this mom see her son really enjoy himself today. Today was a good day and we so needed a good day.
We had our mid-year parent teacher conference for Wild Man last week. I knew by the marks on his papers things were not going great in the traditional classroom. As a mother of a child who has autism, these meetings are dreaded. I know he is not on the same level as the other children his age, I know that he is falling behind, and that bothers me.
As I chatted with his speech therapist and his autism teacher before going into the meeting I addressed my concerns. They both shared stories about my little guy that brought smiles to their faces and told me it was natural to be concerned but he was really doing great. When his teacher was ready we walked in together and sat down. His teacher went over his test scores which were extremely low. She explained that he does not do well with timed test which was part of the problem but the test are mandatory so she had to give them to him. She then explained that even though it does not show up on the written test my Wild Man has grown leaps and bounds in class. He is starting to use full sentences, he is holding a pencil, he is engaging with other students, he is setting in his seat for at least 10 minutes at a time, he is making friends, and he is making eye contact here and there. All wonderful new skills for my son but all things that standard testing do not look at. I was excited to hear he was doing so well, relieved in many ways.
But I still questioned things like his spelling words, he has spelled one correct out of the last sixty. Only one. Math is a struggle. And homework when he does have it is a nightmare. I don’t want him passed just to be passed. I also don’t want him overlooked. He falls in the middle. He is doing to well to be in the autism room full time but he is not up to level with the regular class. He is somewhere in between. I am thankful he has an aide to help him through the day.
As we discussed plans for the remainder of the year one of his therapists said they wanted to help give him his best possible life. His best possible life. That phrase hit me hard.
As a mom I have thought about all of my kids futures. I see them all doing things like going off to college, getting jobs, moving out, getting married and starting a family. With Wild Man I want these things as well but I also know they may not be a reality. He may never go off to college or hold a traditional 40 hour a week job. He may be with us for our life time. If something happens to myself and my husband who will care for him? There are so many questions and concerns I have about his future, I worry but I can’t let it consume me.
He is in good hands right now at his school. They understand my concerns and they are working on goals they feel he can reach. They genuinely care about him and his education. I could not ask for a better staff of teachers and therapists to be working with him. he has been blessed with wonderful teachers since his preschool days. We will take this one day at a time. I have a life time to worry about his future, for now I will enjoy my silly, loving, crazy little boy. We will get through this together just as I promised him the first time I held him. After all autism is not who he is, autism is just a small part of what makes him my son. My wonderfully, sweet, amazing, brilliant son. I am so lucky to be his momma.