An Imperfectly-Perfect New Arrangement

“Every time I change the way I explain myself to myself, I have to rearrange the story of my life.” ~Mason Cooley

 

It’s been said we can never step into the same current twice, yet for most of us we can at least predict the level of the water and how it flows.  – That is until a child like Kiddo comes into your life . . .

Nine months ago our river was redirected and our lives overturned. Little did I know my life would look the way it does today.

After Kiddo arrived, I had to grieve on and off in order to mourn my old life and give room for celebration of the new.

A marriage counselor shared this some time ago: “When a child comes into the picture, it’s like mixing up a mosaic. All the pieces you started with are still there but the perception shifts because the pieces are rearranged.” ~ Gina E.

Even today I keep breathing around each river bend. . .

Accepting that clients are okay with waiting and are ready as time allows.

Accepting that our spare bedroom is no longer a place for motorcycle garb, camp gear, or seasonal clothes but rather a toddler’s hang out filled with flashlights, books, and forts designed for laughter, play and sleep.

Accepting that the bathtub is no longer a private sanctuary filled with candles, soaps, and oils, but more of a hang out for rubber ducks, squirt guns, alphabet letters, and toy boats.

Accepting that the toothbrush holder does not have to have a designated spot and that it is okay to share brushes because after all, the baby teeth are at least getting brushed.

Accepting that morning meditation includes a second set of hands and little feet with lots of hugs and kisses in between.

Yes,

I am accepting our imperfectly-perfect new arrangement, filled with lots of sticky twists and gooey turns.


ete

(Note: For confidentiality reasons, “Kiddo” and “them” refers to the child in our foster care at the time of this post.)

Life Is A Gift

“Synchronicity is God sending us messages anonymously.” ~ Deepak Chopra

In the summer, a doe visits us on our mountain property. We call her Mandi. This is her 4th year so far, and I know this because when Mandi was just a fawn she was curled up under some willows down by the creek. I would hear her cry out every now and again.

For several days I listened and I prayed, all the while remaining hopeful her mom would return, but she never did.

Around day four, Mandi began to move around. Her legs were wobbly and her white spots were fresh. I could sense her hesitancy as she gained the courage to venture from out of her hiding spot.

Slowly, she made her way over to our bird feeders. I joyously watched her munch on some fallen corn and downed seeds. From a distance, I began to quietly talk to her, reassuring her that everything would be alright.

I knew Mandi’s chances of survival were slim, but that didn’t stop me from having hope. I kept telling her again and again that she was safe and that so long as she stayed close to our house and remained tucked into the shrubbery every night, her chances of survival would be good.

My heart so wanted to walk near her, yet I intuitively knew the importance of keeping my distance so that Mandi could thrive in her natural environment.

I continued to trust and to pray.

Around day seven, God-Source sent in a mama doe with a youngling. This doe allowed Mandi to nurse for awhile, and it was beautiful to watch. I had thought for sure they would all walk away together as a family, but for whatever reason the doe and her youngling moved on after the feeding. This went on for several nights until Mandi was strong enough to make it on her own.

Today it is not uncommon to see Mandi two to three times throughout the day. She often returns to lick off the salt block or roam through the grass, munching on wild clover or leftover seed casings from the lawn.

Last month Kiddo noticed this special deer for the first time when I began talking to her from our front porch.

“Hello, Mandi,” I said knowing it was her, because unlike the other deer who wander in, she is not the least bit fearful of our dogs.

“Mom, who’s Mandi?” Kiddo whispered in awe.

I smiled then explained the story of how Mandi and I first met.

After a moment of silence, Kiddo’s reflecting eyes lit up.

“Mom, guess what? Mandi’s birth parents couldn’t take care of her so God brought her here where she is safe –She is just like me!”

I embraced Kiddo with a nod while silently giving thanks to God-Source for sending such a gentle creature with a beautiful reminder of the gift in everything.


ete

(Note: For confidentiality reasons, “Kiddo” and “them” refers to the child in our foster care at the time of this post.)

Abandon’Meant’

“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”
~ Dr. Wayne Dyer

These past few weeks have contained a lot of emotional release for Kiddo. I recently came back into the house to witness “them” curled up in a ball and sobbing uncontrollably.

I had told Kiddo I had to leave the house for just a minute, but somehow “them” interpreted this as my leaving for good even though I was just running to the end of our driveway.

After some hugs and a talk to clear things up, Kiddo began crying even harder letting me know “them” was still afraid. “Don’t ever leave again, okay?” Kiddo said, somewhat bossy but mainly insistent.

I gently pulled Kiddo up so I could look deeply into “them’s” eyes. “You are safe,” I said. “I know you were feeling scared because I left you for a moment, and I’m sorry about the confusion, but I was gone for just a minute and then came back.”

We cuddled a little more as I began formulating a question to help shift “them’s” perception.

Knowing “them’s” history plus having worked with many private clients whose inner child had become wounded at some point from the belief of abandonment, I lovingly asked, “So when you think about your last family, does it bring up memories of being left all alone?”

Kiddo sobbed even harder. After a little love and some coaxing, “them” shared how past parents had left and never came back.

“So you believe they left you?” I asked

Head deeply buried in my armpit, Kiddo nodded.

“Are you sure about that?” I asked, using the collar of my shirt to wipe “them’s” tears and runny nose. (yes I did)

Kiddo’s eyes met mine with a look of confusion.

“So you believe your last family left you?” I asked again.

Before Kiddo could answer I continued, “Or is it possible that YOU left them?”

Kiddo’s face shifted from confusion to contemplation.

“Just maybe,” I ventured to say, “They didn’t leave you, but YOU left them? Just maybe you knew deep in your heart that you were not safe and so you prayed hard to God who heard you and then an angel came to get you and helped you take some of your clothes and toys, and you both drove far far away.”

I could tell by Kiddo’s face this new perception was a healing one, and, so I instructed “them” to stand up in front of our full length bedroom mirror and repeat the following after me . . .

“I left you (X) because I wasn’t protected. Though I miss you lots, it was MY idea to leave. God heard my prayers and sent an angel to help pack up my things so we could drive far, far away. I left you because I deserve to be safe. I deserve healthy love. Thank you God for answering my prayers.”

Kiddo then stared in the mirror for quite some time before running back into my arms to declare, “Mama, I just said goodbye to (X). It was my idea to leave.”

Yes! Thank you God for helping Kiddo finally see that this was all “meant” to be.


ete

P.S.
Time to go wash the shirt 😉

(Note: For confidentiality reasons, “Kiddo” and “them” refers to the child in our foster care at the time of this post.)

The Rainbow in the Storm

“Childhood trauma does not come in one single package.” ~ Asa Don Brown

So the kicking, hitting, and spitting are now being replaced with angry words and tears. As much as I welcomed the change, I wasn’t convinced this new path was any easier.

I mean at least when Kiddo was sending me unexpected blows to the face, arms, and legs, I felt somewhat in control. Lately I have been barely able to hold the space whenever Kiddo opens up about past childhood events that are so gruesome and disturbing, I nearly lose my lunch.

Thankfully we have the assistance of a child counselor who is guiding me through it step-by-step.

One late afternoon Kiddo was triggered by another memory so heavy it hurt my heart. For privacy sake we’ll call this particular perpetrator “X.”

“Aren’t you angry at “X”, Kiddo?” I asked, slapping a cushion for emphasis.

Kiddo turned and slapped the cushion too. “Yes, Mama, I mad.”

Knowing the importance of giving this pain a healthy outlet, I led Kiddo outside and together we took turns naming each abuser, including “X”, as we kicked a soccer ball “to the curb.”

Once there was no more anger left to give, Kiddo started walking toward the house only to turn and run into my arms.

Sobbing, “Mama,” Kiddo said in between each spilled tear. “I feel very sad ‘cuz I miss “X” a lot.”

I held and rocked Kiddo for several minutes as we spoke about confused feelings such as loving and loathing “X” who was a primary caregiver in recent past.

A little later as our day was winding down, I intuitively asked, “Kiddo, are you ever angry with God because of all that has happened to you?”

Kiddo thought about this for a moment. “Yes, Mama. I angry at God and the angels ‘cuz they made very bad choices.”

“Do we need to go kick the ball again before bed?”

Without hesitation, Kiddo’s kind eyes met my soul. “No, Mama. it’s okay. God and the angels are making good choices again because I am safe with you and Papa now.”

(Be still my heart.)

ete

(Note: For confidentiality reasons, “Kiddo” and “them” refers to the child in our foster care at the time of this post.)

‘Moms’ The Word

“Everything has changed and yet, I am more me than I’ve ever been.” ~ Iain Thomas

It’s been nearly 6 months since Kiddo walked into our world. Never could I imagine that such a little soul could change my whole life in such a short amount of time.

In all honestly “them” has been both a blessing and a pain in the you know what depending on the day, and from what other moms have told me this is pretty typical.

Add in past triggers such as trauma, abandonment, negligence, and abuse, and this might explain why Kiddo has been acting out in such dramatic ways.

Numerous times in the last few weeks I have been kicked, hit, and spit on whenever things do not go “them’s” way.

“Given all this little one has been through I am not at all surprised,” the child psychologist recently said. “Kiddo is finally feeling safe, so consider these behaviors a huge compliment.”

Hm. Okay. Maybe after I get past my surprise of how hard a little kid can hit, and then beyond my shame and guilt for having to hold “them” in a restraint for several minutes so we can both stay safe and until “them” is calm enough to receive love and reconnect.

Even though the fostering classes warned us that kiddos with special needs can be a challenge, until I actually experienced it, I had no idea how trying it could be.

Yes, the honeymoon is over so-to-speak, and now “the shit is getting real”: two to three doctors appointments per week; night terrors; temper tantrums; and lack of sleep – all are taking its toll.

“Have you considered giving “them” back to the state?” – This is a question that has come up more than once from some other moms who are close family and friends.

“Oh, Yea,” I honestly reply. “On more than one occasion.”

I then laugh to release my stress and say “but I just can’t. I committed to do this, and besides, Kiddo has been through much too much for me to walk away.”

The other person then usually replies, “You are such a gift to this child,” or “You sure are a good mom.” or “I don’t know if I could ever do it.”

Then at some point in the conversation someone asks, “How much help are you getting from others?’

I again laugh for release. “When you are a foster parent you are expected to stay home and watch the child, so other than some half days of daycare to shop or work with a client, not much at all.”

I then get asked, “Is your husband Steve around to help?”

“As much as he can muster,” I reply. “Right now he’s going through a training program for his job so Kiddo and I get to spend about 10-15 hours a week with him on average which isn’t as much as any of us would like.”

Recently a mom friend reminded me how important it is to have others who can relate. “Michelle,” she said, “if I were in your situation I would want someone to ask me if I have had time to grieve my old life and process all the new changes. So have you?”

No sooner than she finished, my eyes started welling up with tears.

I knew this was my clue to start asking for some help. And so I began with my mom friend who was kind enough to listen when I began to unload. She then opened her own backpack to share some of her personal fears, vulnerabilities, and experiences.

This really helped a lot. Not only because I appreciated the adult conversation but because it felt good knowing I wasn’t the only one who worries they’re messing their kids up or wonders if their parenting techniques are any good.

As the days went by I began asking for more help from other moms who then came forward with their own backpacks and experiences and vulnerabilities. Together we dumped, unloaded, and sorted things out.

Since then I have come to appreciate why it is said being a mom is the hardest yet most important job one can ever do.

Thank you Mom Club (Regina, Bonnie, Kellie, Gayle, Naomi, Lindy and many more) for helping me lighten my load.


ete

(Note: For confidentiality reasons, “Kiddo” and “them” refers to the child in our foster care at the time of this post.)

Mother Lode

“Little souls find their way to you whether they’re from your womb or someone else’s.” ~ Sheryl Crow

In some cultures, there is a belief that children choose their parents so as to teach them whatever lessons they need to learn in this lifetime.

I am beginning to see the truth of this, because having Kiddo in my life these past four months has been some of the most magical and most difficult days of my life.

A huge KUDOS to all you parents reading this because I had no idea how time consuming or how challenging this would be. Juggling kids and career and spouse and pets plus making time for family, friends, and the upkeep of the house . . . Holy Moly. It’s a good thing I have been working out.

Seriously.

Also, things have been way more amazing than words can say such as being able to witness all the new ‘firsts’ and rapid growth spurts as Kiddo gets bigger before our eyes.

Yet as grateful as I am to God-Source for allowing me to parent this little miracle, I would be lying if I told you I have been patient and accepting this entire time.

Let me tell you there have been days where I couldn’t help but wonder “what the heck am I doing?” and “why did I ever say yes to this?”

Not only is this a child we are fostering with special needs which means we have very little history on record to refer to when we are asked questions like “did “them” have chickenpox or how was their delivery, but also I have no idea how long Kiddo will be with us, and this very idea has caused me to keep putting up protective walls as a crazy way of hoping it will keep me from getting hurt.

Yet the more I do this, the more Kiddo nestles deeper into my heart. Just a few weeks ago “them” started calling me mom.

The first time it happened I froze. I wasn’t able to accept this endearing term at all.

Why?

Well, at first I had myself convinced it was because I was afraid that God-Source might separate us again and I was keeping myself from being hurt.

But then I was reminded by the caseworker that “them” doesn’t remember meeting the birth mom and has no ties yet to anyone specifically. And that if I don’t allow a bond to form, the child may never attach to anyone.

Wow. This is a really big deal, so, why then have I been resisting it?

The truth is I have waited for this for a really long time, and now that I have it, I am having a really hard time allowing myself to be loved as a mom.

Though it’s beautiful and miraculous and honoring, it is also a huge responsibility.

Quite honestly I want to run and yet I want to stay. I love the role yet I also fear it. So there are days I want things to go back to the way they were but I know I would miss what I now have.

I have heard this is normal, yet I still feel afraid, and so I will do what I have taught so many others to do when they feel fear — I will keep moving through it one day at a time and continue to trust knowing I am doing the very best that I can.

Merriam Webster’s defines mother as “a female parent”

Parent is defined as “one that brings forth offspring (i.e.: parents to twins)”
OR
“a person who brings up and cares for another (i.e.: foster parent)”

Happy Mother’s day to all of you moms reading this.

Though admittedly I have been having difficulty allowing myself to be called MOM, I know it’s because I have had a belief that only the woman who gave birth to our Kiddo was deserving of this.

And so I take it one day at a time, slowly giving myself time to process it while allowing the possibility that Kiddo has really chosen me to be her mom. As I take this all in, I smile from within and simultaneously need to take a breath just to accept the enormity of it.


ete

(Note: For confidentiality reasons, “Kiddo” and “them” refers to the child in our foster care at the time of this post.)

Sink or Swim

“Children are the anchors that hold a mother to life.” ~ Sophocles

For the past few weeks Kiddo has been part of a kid’s program that takes ‘them’ on lots of different adventures including a recent visit to the local pool.

Parents take turns volunteering during certain field trip events and for this particular one, I sat on the sidelines and stayed home.

Kiddo came home with a reminder note from the program that said:

Dear Parents, Please have your child arrive with their swimsuits underneath their clothes so they are ready to go.

A date and time then followed along with instructions for transportation.

I pinned the note to my refrigerator being sure to set out a swimsuit for Kiddo the night before the big day arrived.

Come the day of swimming, Kiddo was ready to go and just as instructed, ‘them’ was in their swimsuit with clothes on top.

A few hours later, Kiddo returned. “How was swimming?” I asked.

Kiddo shared it was fun.

“Where is your swimsuit?” I inquired.

Kiddo shrugged.

I pulled up ‘them’s’ clothes to have a look. No swimsuit.

Oh No! As I peered down Kiddo’s pants, it then hit me that I forgot to send undershorts along.

Quite, honestly, it never even occurred to me given I was so focused on remembering the day, the time, and the swimsuit.

What makes things even more strange is Kiddo WAS wearing undershorts but whose?

They were not any that I recognized.

“Who’s undershorts are these?” I kindly inquired.

Kiddo’s head fell down with guilt as ‘them’ then said, “Are you mad?”

I held back a laugh by biting down hard on my lip.

“Nope,” I grinned. “I’m not mad. Now please tell me who’s undershorts these are?”

Kiddo was reluctant at first, face a pout. With a little more coaxing and a hug, Kiddo finally blurted out, “They’re Sammy’s”

A cackle erupted from my mouth.

“Honey,” I said, doing my best to compose myself. “Does Sammy know you have these undershorts?”

I had to hold my stomach now I was laughing so hard.

Kiddo began backing away, probably unsure of how to react.

Composing myself, I asked again, “Honey, does Sammy know you took the undershorts.”

Kiddo shrugged, “I dunno’”

I began to imagine some poor child in the swimming room frantically looking for their undershorts because Kiddo felt the need to steal them off the floor.

Talk about sink or swim. And call me crazy, this caused me to laugh even more.

In all honesty, laughing is a coping mechanism on my part to release strong emotions.

I mean come on. I send my child to go swimming without a towel or dry undershorts.

“Okay, Kiddo,” I said, shaking my head in disbelief, “Thank you for telling me. Let’s take off these undershorts so I can clean them and you can return them to Sammy.”

As Kiddo pulled them down, the shorts were streaked with “bacon strips” and I have no idea if they were Kiddo’s or not.

Who was laughing now?!

ete

(Note: For confidentiality reasons, “Kiddo” and “them” refers to the child in our foster care at the time of this post.)

In Sickness and In Health (Conclusion)

In addition to dealing with the flu, Kiddo has some physical and emotional issues that have required my husband and me to get ‘them’ to different medical appointments at least two times per week.

So after seeing two physicians over the course of nine weeks, it was suggested we then see a specialist.

Lucky for us, the five hour drive was close to our second residence, so away we went for a few days.

Making the drive over the mountain pass was rather rough. Not only was it below zero temps, we also got stuck in deep snow twice and did not arrive to the bungalow until early evening.

“I hafta go potty,” Kiddo said.

Though normally we would have proper accommodations for this, our porta potty was buried in two feet of snow.

“Okay,” I smiled, grabbing the next best thing. Then I quietly left the room.

Unbeknownst to me, Kiddo was pooping in the pail.

When I realized what had happened, all I could do was laugh.

My amusement disappeared though when I realized I had no running water to clean the mess.

My husband helped me melt lots of snow so we could rinse out the pail.

Then would you believe, it wasn’t long after Kiddo had to go again!?

UGH.

At least this time we were smart enough to put a liner in the pail.

The next day we all headed down the mountain and into the city so we could go to the specialist’s office.

“I hafta go to the bathroom,” Kiddo said.

No problem. Since I had a lot of paperwork to fill out, I thought it would be a good idea to let Kiddo go into the bathroom by ‘them’ self.

But after turning in all the forms, Kiddo still had not come out.

Another 2 minutes passed.
Then 5,
Then 10.

I quietly knocked on the door. “Kiddo, you okay?”

No response.

I jiggled the knob.

The door was locked.

Several people in the waiting room were now watching me.

“Kiddo,” I quietly begged, “open the door and let me in.”

No such luck.

A minute or so later a nurse began calling Kiddo’s name.

“I’m sorry,” I said, my face turning red. “Any tips on getting a kid to come out of the bathroom?”

The nurse just shrugged and then looked down at her clipboard to call out the next patient in line.

Trying the bathroom door again, I began knocking even harder. “Kiddo, open up. The doctor is ready to see you.”

A few seconds later the door flings open. Kiddo is standing there with pants around the ankles and then loudly yells, “I was Pooping, okay?!”

Everyone in the waiting room laughs.

When we get into the exam room I say to the doctor, “I apologize for keeping you waiting. I think Kiddo may be a little bit nervous about today.”

Kiddo quickly disputes with a shake of the head.
“Uh. Uh. Nope. I just had to go poop, that’s all!”

🙂

ete

“And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have ye never heard, Out of the mouths of babes and infants thou hast perfected praise?”
– Matthew 21:16

(Note: For confidentiality reasons, “Kiddo” and “them” refers to the child in our foster care at the time of this post.)

In Sickness and In Health (Part 2 of 3)

“Parenting is not for sissies.”
– Jillian Michaels

Thank you to all of you wonderful parents who sent me messages letting me know my reaction to Kiddo’s illness was natural and normal. It means a lot.

The hubby and I are now 9 weeks into parenting, and our household is finally establishing some routine. Yet as my spouse will attest, we had to go through a lot of crap just to get here — literally.

For you see, the morning after Kiddo came down with the flu, I was scheduled to get my hair cut.

“Should I cancel?” I asked my husband.

“No,” he lovingly said, “I know how much you’ve been looking forward to this, and I don’t have to be to work for several hours yet.”

So, off I went, leaving my spouse tend to our sick kid.

An hour later, I was back in my car just about to send a text to my husband to let him know I was on my way home.

As I picked up my phone I saw there was already a message from him.

“I am up to my ears in shit,” my phone screen read followed by an emoji of a pile of poop.

I could only guess what that meant, and I began to laugh out loud.

For you see just as vomit is my nemesis, my husband Steve freaks out from fecal matter.

“I felt the little one hanging on my leg” he told me when I got home, “so I picked ‘them’ up then smelled an awful stench. That’s when I knew Kiddo crapped their pants.”

I bit my lip to prevent myself from cracking up.

“Oh, you haven’t even heard the half of it,” my husband grimaced. “So I figured the best thing to do was to throw Kiddo in the shower and hose ‘them’ off, right? Not only was there crap everywhere, shit was dropping in the tub!”

I broke into hysterics

“So then when I finally get everything cleaned up,” my husband said, “I round the corner and nearly step on a turd.”

I was dying laughing now.
“Whaaaat?”

“The only thing I can figure,” my husband said, “is that Kiddo must have been knowingly shaking out ‘their’ shorts when a deuce dropped out on the floor.”

(Even as I write this I am roaring . . . I shit you not.)

ete

(Part 3 coming soon)

(Note: For confidentiality reasons, “Kiddo” and “them” refers to the child in our foster care at the time of this post.)

In Sickness and In Health (Part 1 of 3)

“Being a mother is learning about strengths you didn’t know you had and dealing with fears you didn’t know existed.”
– Linda Wooten

I awoke in the middle of the night to the sounds of retching and heaving. I was hoping my husband would tag himself in, but he opted to stay asleep instead.

As I rounded the corner half awake, I was stopped by an odor so nauseating I had a hard time staying composed. — We are talking the sour guts, ‘what the heck died in here?’ kind of smell.

Yep, Kiddo was really sick, and it was now up to me to assist.

So far I had dealt with uncontrollable coughing, slippery snot, diarrhea butt, and poop on the toilet seat, light switch, and wall, but now I was being put to the ultimate test. I was facing my nemesis . . . VOMIT.

Now, I don’t know about you, but seeing someone else’s regurgitated stomach contents has always made me want to start spewing too.

And this time wasn’t any different. I was ready to barf.

Gagging several times, I wiped up the mess and did everything I knew to do to stay calm.

After giving Kiddo a drink of water with peppermint oil to calm the tummy, I put a cool washcloth on the head, them tucked “them” in for the night, asking if there was anything more I might do.

Kiddo looked up at me with big sad eyes letting me know, “I want my mom.”

I softly kissed Kiddo’s forehead. “Oh sweetie,” I whispered, “I know you want your mom, and I am so very sorry things are not the same, but I promise you I am doing my very best to help you feel better, okay?”

Big alligator tears fell down Kiddo’s cheeks, and in that moment my heart was hurting in a way no words can possibly describe.

I felt both helpless and sad. Kiddo was sick and there wasn’t anything more I could do.

As I crawled back into bed, my thoughts became a jumbled mess. You might even say they began to HURL lots of fears and meanness:
Let’s face it.
You’re in over your head.
You can’t even handle vomit without upchucking.
You suck as a parent and you know it.
Kiddo needs a mom.
And it’s not you!

ete

(Part 2 coming soon)

(Note: For confidentiality reasons, “Kiddo” and “them” refers to the child in our foster care at the time of this post.)