dear return of the school year: you’re not going to win

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

On the heels of one of the better summers that we’ve ever experienced, in spite of adding a newborn to the mix, has come one of the roughest returns to school that we have ever experienced. Transition time this year has been…intense.

Part of the issue is the failure of our district’s levy (again). As a result, they cut high-school bussing, which means that K-8 all ride the bus together. Which wouldn’t be that big of a deal, except that our district recently went to grade-level schools. My kids go to three different schools, yet all get on and off the bus together. There’s a complicated transportation shuttle system involved, but the end result is that they are getting on the bus well over an hour before school starts. Early wake-up time with summer daylight hours and weather is not making for very happy children. Or parents.

We’re going to persevere. I might want to quit. Hunker down, circle the wagons, and such, but I won’t. Hormones and attitudes and rough adjustments are not going to get the better of us. We’re working on better sleep patterns. We’re figuring out new chore assignments to make things go smoother. We’re helping our littles through a really rough adjustment period, both in school and out. We’re making hard medical decisions, dealing with an increasingly complicated foster care situation, and we’re doing it all with as much grace as we can. One day at a time.

the beauty in risk

Monday, August 26, 2013

My sweet boy packed his brand new backpack and tried it on so I could adjust the straps. Try as I might, there isn’t a growing up moment in this little man’s life that I do not cry over. I am reminded day after day how strong he is, how far he’s come, what a beautiful story he is living right now.

He put himself to bed early out of sheer excitement. He told me he needs to get lots of rest because he goes to school on the bus tomorrow. He took his shower, brushed his teeth, kissed me goodnight, and I could barely breathe. He’s had half the time of our other children to prepare for this day. We’ve known him for only half as long as we knew our two biggest. It feels too quick, too soon, like we’re all not quite ready.

He got on the bus anyway, following his big brother and sister, snack bag securely tucked into his backpack, stuffed animal secreted in the front pocket, a small blue star clipped to the zipper. Wendell and I have matching ones on our briefcase and diaper bag, respectively. Ours bear his name written in Sharpie, his has our names per his request…in case he forgets us during the day. On the front side, it reads ‘Stand Strong’, a remnant from vacation bible school this year where we learned about how God’s love and prayer, family and friends help us to be brave, to make good choices, to never feel alone. We’ve done our very best to set him up for success.

It’s been our job for the past three years to protect him with everything we had, to help heal the brokenness his little life had to endure before he joined our family. We’ve done so fiercely. We’ve worked hard. He’s worked hard. The sheer strength it takes to be vulnerable enough to trust, to give yourself to another in abandoned love – it’s incredible. The sacrifice has been enormous for both of us. It’s paid off. He’s secure. He loves. He trusts. He’s fearful and anxious about school but eager to try. He recognizes some of his weaknesses and has asked for help to handle those big feelings and insecurities. That’s a hard-won victory, and I am intensely proud.

So through tears and with my heart in my throat, I hugged him, we prayed blessings over his sweet head, and promised to be waiting when he gets off the bus this afternoon. I told him how proud I was, how much I loved him, how much I will miss him while he’s gone, and how I will always be here for him. It’s a risk, this school thing. I won’t sugarcoat that part for him or for us. But this home, this family: we’re his safe place to come back to no matter where he goes, no matter how far he roams, no matter what decisions, successes, and failures he makes along the way. No matter what.

This morning, in the early morning haze of the late summer heat, our son got on the school bus. His little face was anxious, the stress blinking in full force, but he got on anyway, brave and pushing forward through the fear because he knows in his heart of hearts that he’s not alone. Beauty rises.

it’s worth it

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Yesterday, I dropped off Sweet M for a visit with her mom, then we drove across town to a park where we spent an hour or so with Baby D. It’s been around four months since we’ve seen him. I know his family shows him our pictures and talks about us still. I knew we wouldn’t be complete strangers, but I didn’t really expect that he would remember us. Yet he did.

IMG_1611We came in two vehicles since Wendell was coming over just for his lunch break, so the kids and I arrived and got our reintroductions out of the way first. When Baby D, who is very much NOT a baby anymore, heard Wendell’s voice as he got out of the truck a while later, his little face perked up and his eyes sparkled. If there were ever any doubt whom he loved best (there wasn’t), this erased all question. The whole visit was sweet and too short, and boy, do we miss that little guy. The opportunity to see him again is just such a blessing. The benefits to ongoing relationships in the foster care system are numerous, and the value of letting a child you cared for know that you’re still around, that you didn’t abandon him, that you are on his side for his future is inestimable. It’s worth the pain of saying goodbye to a child you loved as your own.

When we drove off from the park, the kids were emotional, and I told them how proud I was of them. How what they did and continue to do is so very important. There aren’t many kids out there who are doing the kind of hard things that those four children in the back of my van do, and I’d be willing to bet there are even fewer who are doing them with the kind of grace and compassion and full-out commitment that my children exhibit. (well, for the most part. they are still normal kids, so grace and compassion are apparently mostly reserved for others, not their parents and permanent siblings) I am honored to be their mama, and I am humbled by their sacrificial spirits.

We left that park with an equal combination of joy and sadness, knowing that that sacred moment makes this whole foster care thing worth it. Then we drove across town to pick Sweet M up, her story yet being told, what’s happening in her life and in her family yet to be determined. Will it feel ‘worth it’ for her? Even if we don’t leave her case with these same bittersweet feelings of having done meaningful work, does that make it any less important? That part is still unwritten. I’m hanging on to this moment with Baby D with everything I have – it’s what I needed to keep moving forward.

from this valley

Saturday, August 3, 2013

This song has long been my favorite of The Civil Wars catalog, and now there’s this pretty, pretty video to match. Plus, this recording is the best they’ve done of this particular song.

I’ve been streaming the new album all week, and I love the whole thing. I think it’s better than their first, but fair warning: you will want to shoot yourself in the head before it’s over. It is dark. The new album comes out on Tuesday, so grab yourself some hard liquor and cigarettes so you can cry into your glass all night long. Or if that cliché isn’t up your alley, follow my lead and put your cranberry juice/Diet Sprite spritzer in a wine glass because at least you’ll feel fancy while you cry because the baby spit up on you three times in the past four hours and you haven’t showered in two days and you only slept for four hours of the past 36.

No worries right now – this is a happy song.

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