goodbye begins

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

IMG_0131I don’t know how to say goodbye. So when I dropped Baby D off at his relative’s house for the very first ‘transitional’ visit, it just resulted in a big sobbing mess of a drive to the store where we walked around until it was pick-up time. The littles asked a lot of questions – why wasn’t Baby D’s mom and dad there, why was I crying, were we going back to get him, why was I crying…I don’t have the answers for the questions they’re really asking. All I know is this is the beginning of the end of Baby D’s time with our family, and I don’t know how to say goodbye.

I struggle with judgment. My standards of living are just that, MY standards. Just because this isn’t my culture or my practice doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Can I really say Baby D is better with strangers than with biological family just because they sweep less often than I do? It appears to be safe. Sanitary. His sister is there. He seems to really, really love it. It wasn’t a reaction I expected. I expected the visits would go fine; he’s pretty easy-going, and he’s not scared of strangers. I just didn’t expect his excitement. When I pick him up, he runs to meet me, arms outstretched, but then he jabbers away, telling me and showing me his surroundings. Look! a kitty! Look! a baby! Look! toys!

I struggle with fear. Can this woman take care of him? I’m sure she can. But will she love him? Will she cuddle him close and kiss his face all over? Will she play his lullaby CD when he goes to sleep? Will she smile when she gets him up in the morning? Will he fall asleep on her shoulder when he’s tired?

I struggle with grief over something that hasn’t yet happened. I imagine our sweet boy waking up in a strange house, going to sleep in a strange bed, wondering where the family he’s shared half of his life with is. Half his life. That’s how long he’s spent with us now. He’ll miss us. We’ll miss him.

It’s best. Really and truly. He has a sister that he deserves to know, that he deserves to build relationship with. Our kids are separated from their sister (and several other siblings too), and it is a trauma and loss that should be avoided if possible. There’s a chance here for these babies. If they are separated for long at this point, they will likely never be reunited. We want them to have a chance at a life together. They deserve to be with family.

I hate saying goodbye. I hate saying no to forever for this child who barely remembers a different reality than the one he lives at our house, but I also hate the idea of him saying goodbye to his first family. His family by birth. He’ll forget us completely, that much I do know. This will never be a cognizant memory for him. But we’ve loved him. We’ve loved him since he arrived here, and we’ve loved him well. I know that he knows what love feels like. And that counts for something.

mourn with those who mourn

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Today, I bore witness to unimaginable grief. The kind of grief that literally caused everyone else in the room to turn their faces away. I don’t quite know how to process it. I’m uncertain in my prayers, in my feelings. Just when I think that this life we’ve been called to has caused us to plumb the depths of brokenness and pain, there’s something new. Tonight, I feel a bit broken myself. There are things you experience, things that you see that you can never erase from your mind, and this was one of those days.

Tomorrow, while I give thanks and celebrate with my family, I am acutely aware that there are others who are not feeling celebratory, who are dealing with grief and pain and anger and loss. I remember those who are spending the day without.

I think I’ve posted this before, but it bears posting again. This prayer is from Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals. It’s a prayer for the “Death of Someone Killed in the Neighborhood” That isn’t exactly what happened today, but it seems appropriate as well. Please take some time, pray with me, remember those who are struggling through this holiday weekend.

Lamb of God,
you take away the sins of the world.
Have mercy on us.
Grant us peace.

For the unbearable toil of our sinful world,
we plead for remission.
For the terror of absence from our beloved,
we plead for your comfort.
For the scandalous presence of death in your creation,
we plead for the resurrection.

Lamb of God,
you take away the sins of the world.
Have mercy on us.
Grant us peace.
Come, Holy Spirit, and heal all that is broken in our lives, in our streets, and in our world. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

music for the last Saturday of fall

Saturday, November 17, 2012

I always consider the Saturday before Thanksgiving to be the last Saturday of all. We run a Christmas tree farm, and we open the day after Thanksgiving, so Christmas comes in full swing that day. This is one of my favorite fall songs. (It’s not really about fall.) And I love A.A. Bondy a lot. If you’re not familiar with him – go ahead and get familiar.

triggers revisited

Thursday, November 15, 2012

My sweet boy doesn’t go to therapy much anymore. He’s sort of been discharged with an “as needed” return policy. The action plan for the next while is just going to be a mental-health well-check of sorts with appointments every few months or so. Today was one of those days…

I know that 80% of our therapy visit benefit is derived from the fact that it’s just him and me. When you have five kids, any time alone is cherished beyond measure, and with the littlest getting weekly therapy appointments now, I know that Brenden is feeling left out and missing his connection time with me. So he was more than a little excited when I told him that’s where we were headed. Things went swimmingly; best session we’ve had maybe ever. His therapist and I spent most of the time talking through how things are going: recent successes (like this one), IEP plans, how to address some recent disclosures Brenden made to us about his past, SPD, attachment in babies, and everything and anything in between.

We are blessed to have been placed right out of the gate with a therapist who believes, as all good therapists should, that the primary agents of healing in a child’s life are his parents. She can teach us skills, she can give us advice, she can work with Brenden as often we go to therapy, but all of that means nothing if we’re not implementing those things in love and safety here at home. There is also nothing that she ever does in therapy that I am not present for or directly involved with. I’m not waiting in on hard waiting room chairs while my child is taken back to ‘talk’ with this virtually unknown adult. We are always right there, doing the therapeutic interventions ourselves. If you’re looking for a therapist for your child, this is the kind you want. If your kids’ therapist isn’t this kind of therapist, can I just suggest to you that you should maybe look for a new one?

That’s a long lead up to the real point of this post which happened after the therapy appointment. We headed out to the foster care nurse’s office to check in since Brenden hadn’t seen her in a really long time. (She is in charge of scheduling, managing, and a myriad of other –ings for the kids who enter foster care in our county. Every kid who goes into care gets to know and love Nurse Shelly.) We did our standard hugs, looted the candy drawer, spent 10 minutes choosing two stickers, and when it was over, we turned around to see his case worker kneeling on the floor behind us.

(Now’s the point where if you don’t typically read this blog, you should refer back to this post for some reference on the negativity that was triggered last time we saw the case worker.)

You learn a lot about triggers when you go through foster care training. These triggers cue the brain to gather and send memories to the part of the brain which will then be in control. Smells, sights, sounds, people, places – any number of things can trigger a traumatic response in our kids. Given this, I felt my heart skip a little when I saw Brenden’s case worker because I knew how big of a trigger was going to be, I knew what his response had been in the past, and I was, well, scared.

Brenden turned around, saw her, and…nothing.

He said hi, told her how he was doing, and asked me if he could offer her a piece of candy. She looked up at me, and said, “He’s not scared.” I said, “No. Clearly not. Did you notice what happened last time we saw you at the fair?” She replied, “oh, GOD, yes. He was terrified.” She got up, Brenden was heading towards the door, and she looks at me and says, “This is BIG.”

I smiled, and all I could respond with was, “yes.” I proceeded to smile through my tears all the way to the car and partway home. And again when I told Wendell on the phone. And again when I talked with Brenden about it at naptime. Now, while I’m typing this out: still tears. Happy, relived, relishing in the continued healing of my small child tears.

It. was. BIG.

friday post-apocalypse five

Friday, November 9, 2012

Our school district failed to pass yet ANOTHER levy this past Tuesday. According to my facebook feed, between that disappointing news and the presidential election, it’s a wonder that we all woke up Wednesday morning.

So, in honor of life going on, I offer you this friday five for your information, comfort, and enjoyment:

1) 7 Things to Do When You're Feeling a Little Sad - Addie Zierman: “Sometimes, you can’t see it change, but sometimes, if you’re looking, you’ll notice that change is everywhere, striking and beautiful….Sit out on the last warm day and notice all that is good and all that is beautiful, and feel your heart rise just a little. Just enough.”

2) The Walking Dead: If you need to survive the coming zombie apocalypse, there is no better show to prepare you. Watch and learn.

Lesson #1 (from last year) – If there is a pharmacy that you can get stuff from, clean that sucker out the first time. Don’t go into the zombie danger over and over and over.

Lesson #2 – Please be a likeable enough person that when you die from an unanesthetized c-section, there won’t be a significant amount of relief and rejoicing.

3) Skyfall: I have seen every James Bond movie there is. At least twice per movie. They’re not particularly apocalyptic, I guess, but this is, without exception, the best one there has ever been. Seriously, I wanted to applaud after the opening sequence. It was the perfect storm of casting, acting, cinematography, plot, and let me just say that Adele was BORN to sing Bond themes. I loved it. The end.

4) The Winds CafĂ©: This is where the husband picked for his birthday dinner. It was fantastic. I had the walleye, he had the pork chop, and of course we had Jeni’s ice cream for dessert. Terrific choice on his part. If you’re in this area of Ohio, you definitely need to stop by and have a meal. When the zombie apocalypse hits, then this is the food I want to be eating.

5) Someday soon I’m going to try this hairstyle: No heat curls. It’ll be a nice tool when all the electricity goes out and none of us can use our hair styling equipment.

happy birthday to the man I love

Thursday, November 8, 2012

446_98898785155_2199_nToday is my husband’s birthday. I’ll refrain from sharing his age. (He’s so sensitive.) I will however share this photo of him in his fire gear. No reason, really – it’s just that firefighters are sexy, and this one’s mine.

Moving on…and more importantly (I guess), I will tell you that he has lived his years with grace and courage. He has loved through much sickness and little health, through more poverty than wealth, through good times and bad, through great joy and suffering. He’s endured the hard things with dignity. He’s walked the difficult road with his character intact, and he lives with integrity. I am humbled by him daily, and I am blessed to share his life.

He loves our children well. He works two jobs, stays out past dark working even once he finally gets home, and still makes the time to go to ball games and school concerts and children’s parties. He camps with them in the backyard, wrestles with them on the floor, reads books to them on the couch, prays beside them on their beds. He teaches and loves, encourages and plays.

He loves me well. We’re not give and take, winners and losers kind of people when it comes to our marriage. It’s both of us winning; it’s all giving. All of ourselves – with no reservation. He doesn’t hold back, and he inspires me to do the same. We married so young, still children really, and when I started sharing that boy’s life, I never dreamed that I would be married to a man, let alone such a good one. We’re living a hard season; so many small children lends itself to more exhaustion than enjoyment, and yet, he still makes time for fun, for learning, for teaching, for giving of himself.

It’s difficult, yet effortless. Absolute trust, unconditional love. Our lives entwined, two become one – a mystery and a miracle. Tonight, our celebration will look less like a raucous party and more like a freshly swept floor, sleeping children, comfy couches, candles lit, warm drinks to ward off the chilly night. Quiet moments alongside relentless laughter, enjoying one another just as we have been these last seventeen years together. Our hearts woven together, sharing the load, bread and wine…my friend.

all of me

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

There are more moments now when I catch my breath at the uncertainty and coming storm of it all. The lump in my throat, heart skips a beat moments come often and unexpectedly. With every logical, heartbreakingly certain discussion, we are at peace with the pain of not being able to say ‘Yes, forever.’ to this baby.

We feel like the end may be close, and so we hug him tighter, kiss him more, gulp back tears. Eyes meet over blond baby hair, words are not needed. We’ve done this before, this waiting game, this anticipation of finality. That time, we thought we were losing a child our hearts had already claimed as our own. We don’t love this baby less, but we feel he’s not meant for us forever. In spite of that, I’m surprised by how similar it feels. The temptations are the same. Wanting to hold on too tightly juxtaposed with wanting to pull back in protection – all the feelings are there, pain and joy and love and heartbreak intertwined.

We’re bedtime music people here, and Baby D’s playlist is getting a lot of play lately even during the daytime. The opening song is this one, and the lyrics have been echoing in my soul for weeks now:

So let me recklessly love you, even if I bleed
You're worth all of me, you're worth all of me

That’s where our hearts are finding their home right now. Even though we know the pain that’s to come, it’s worth it. As always, the freedom and grace and beauty of it all is found in surrender. Holding close without clenching too tightly. Recklessly loving and letting go. Sacrifice. Surrender. It’s where we start. It’s where we end up. And love remains.



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