Red flags and three year olds

We were laying in our VRBO master bed made from six old-growth trees and trying to sleep in. Various early morning request were floated and fulfilled including one from Noble asking for a damp wash cloth. That kind of request from a three-year old should raise some red flags- but I cared more about getting back to bed than figuring out the mystery.

Later we were in the bathroom getting ready and talking about what we needed to do to leave. I remembered the washcloth, “Oh, hey, we need to be on the lookout for a damp washcloth somewhere in the house – Noble asked me for it this morning”.

Kaety paused washing her hair in the shower, “Oh god! Seriously?”

At that moment I looked down and noticed a washcloth right on the edge of the sink where I was brushing my teeth, “oh! I found it”. When I picked it up a large turd rolled out and landed on my bare feet.

Awesome.

Symbols of marriage

Symone and I were sitting in the hot tub last night out in the snow. She was talking over a wide range of topics – one of them was her reluctance to get get married.

“Why is that honey?”

“I’m freaked out that the ring will get stuck on my finger and I won’t be able to get it off”

“There are all sorts of symbols you can use, a ring is just a popular traditional choice”

“I still like the ring…but I’d like to put it somewhere else. I think a nose ring would be cool!”

“Umm…that may not be the greatest symbol of partnership”

Then we talked about symbols and meanings – as well as how annoying it is to run out of hair conditioner.

High Desert Museum

While half our party was monitoring the double-ended blowout the other half made a quick stop at the High Desert Museum to see lizards, turtles and have a somewhat confrontational visit with a historic reenactor in the pioneer cabin.

Afterward we sucked in any possible germs carried on our bodies from exposure to Emmett and paid a visit to Mark and Cindy McConnell. Mark introduced Noble to an ancient Japanese poetry game that ended up being used as a game trail for his rubber lizard.

Mark and Cindy it was great seeing you guys!!

Barfing in Bend

We had a wedding to attend in Bend and since Oscar was just beginning his transition plan to his new family we were up for a distraction. We piled everyone in the car for the four hour drive to a mystery VRBO in Bend.

The car trip involved a lot of “dying” of various things like boredom, thirst, hunger and lack of Wi-Fi but through some miracle we arrived at the southern most tip of Sunriver at 11 at night to the coolest log cabin ever. As we opened each door we kept expecting the Cartwrights to jump out and ‘howdy’ us.

The kids were thrilled with the place and mostly went to bed and stayed there. We all slept in beds made of whole logs.

We ventured out for breakfast and then came home to Emmett complaining that his stomach hurt. Emmett’s stomach always hurts when he’s reluctant to participate in an upcoming activity, so we mostly ignored him…until he puked all over the bathroom. And by all over I mean at least three times his total body mass area multiplied by PI.

Plans for the day changed at that point…

The Slow Goodbye (no photos)

I spend a lot of time in the meeting rooms at the DHS office. The walls are peppered with posters meant to lend hope, guidance, caution or wisdom to the highly diverse audiences that use the rooms. I have to admit, I wander off focus a lot during trainings and find myself staring at the posters, thinking about their messages and who they are targeting. Last night at the foster parent support group I looked over at one I’d not noticed before. “Attachment is not convenient,” it said.

The statement triggered a twist of reactions within me.

Our time with our foster baby “Oscar” was coming to a close. Our attempt to adopt him had failed and after a year as our baby and a member of our family he would be moving on to another home.

Our family vacation had fallen right on the heels of the adoption committee decision. We talked about canceling the trip, wondering if our emotional state would be productive for the trip. We decided we wanted to go and take him. We believed that the quality time as a family would be good for everyone as we prepared to say goodbye.

This trip was a big collection of delightful ‘firsts’ for him. For us, as his parents, it was a confusing and bittersweet collection of ‘lasts’.

In the midst of fun vacation activities a sad shadow would often pass over us. Oscar would be belly laughing and splashing his hands as we zoomed him through the water, and Kaety and I would meet each other’s eyes—we each knew this would be the last time we’d be in the pool together. We broke our eye contact with each other before we took the next set of thoughts together. When would it be the last time we would hear him laugh? It was agreed between us, without even talking about it, to stay in the moment and feel the grief as it came. We didn’t need to borrow the grief of tomorrow. There would be plenty of time for that.

Kaety and I have struggled to make emotional sense of this transition. We realized that we aren’t wired up as people/animals to let go of children.

Years ago I lost a dear friend to a lingering cancer death. I found myself making parallels between the bizarre situation of losing our baby and that death. During the grim march through terminal illness you start having thoughts like, “This will be the last time we are able to take a walk together,” “This will be the last time we will talk,” and eventually, towards the twilight… the last kiss and the last goodbye.

But our baby is not dying. He is leaving because of policy. My mind, even thought I do not agree, can understand policy and law, but my heart does not.

In the last month people have cautiously and callously asked us, “You chose to foster, you must have known this would happen. Aren’t you used to losing children?”

Questions like this require a lot of patience. How do you explain a child that is a “good fit?” How do you explain that they all hurt… and that eliminating the factor of hurt is never the point? How do you explain that not feeling make us monsters? How do you explain the resilience of the heart, or the big picture of need and giving, or the plain fact that we are made to love no matter the consequences? How do you explain that the privilege of loving is the greatest gift to one’s soul?

Kaety and I are often asked to speak about fostering at civic groups. The sentiment always comes up, “I could never foster, I could not bear to give them up.” We have a pretty good response developed to this statement.

“We’ve all seen that news story of the naked little three-year old running down the middle of a busy freeway at night? Right?”

“I’ve been watching you all while we’ve been eating and chatting, and I know in my heart, without a single reservation, that if any of you came across that scene you would slam on your brakes, fling yourself out into traffic to get that child. You would not for a moment think of your own safety – your mind would only be filled with reaching that child and bringing her to safety. And if you got clipped by an on-coming car and you broke your leg, would you have regretted saving that child? No. You would consider it a small price to pay.

“Fostering is that exact scene in slow motion. We get the child to safety. That safety is always inside our hearts. Yes, they need food, shelter, and care… but they mostly need love. Love leads to attachment. Attachment is the foundation for life-long emotional health. We’ve seen children come back from the most horrific abuses to their bodies and minds, but we rarely see children come back who’ve not had any attachment.”

Choosing to be foster parents means we put our hearts in harm’s way to save a child. Most of fosters Kaety and I take in are short term. We love them and give them what they need to thrive but we know they will be with us for only a day, a week, or a month. But a year or more? That changes things. No, we are never prepared to break the most fundamental thing: the bond of parent to child.

What will we do as we transition to him leaving? What will we do afterwards? We will cry, we will snuggle him for the time we have left, we will celebrate who he is and the joy he brought to our family, and we will have faith that every bit of love and reflection we gifted his spirit will bloom in his life to guide his journey to finding himself.

We will take a break for a while to heal, and to support the kids in the loss of their baby brother. Will we open our hearts again? Of course we will.

As the poster says, attachment is not convenient – nor is it causal.

Nor should it be.

 

The slow goodbye

I spend a lot of time in the meeting rooms at the DHS office. The walls are peppered with posters meant to lend hope, guidance, caution or wisdom to the highly diverse audiences that use the rooms. I have to admit, I wander off focus a lot during trainings and find myself staring at the posters, thinking about their messages and who they are targeting. Last night at the foster parent support group I looked over at one I’d not noticed before. “Attachment is not convenient,” it said.

The statement triggered a twist of reactions within me.

Our time with our foster baby “Oscar” was coming to a close. Our attempt to adopt him had failed and after a year as our baby and a member of our family he would be moving on to another home.

Our family vacation had fallen right on the heels of the adoption committee decision. We talked about canceling the trip, wondering if our emotional state would be productive for the trip. We decided we wanted to go and take him. We believed that the quality time as a family would be good for everyone as we prepared to say goodbye.

This trip was a big collection of delightful ‘firsts’ for him. For us, as his parents, it was a confusing and bittersweet collection of ‘lasts’.

In the midst of fun vacation activities a sad shadow would often pass over us. Oscar would be belly laughing and splashing his hands as we zoomed him through the water, and Kaety and I would meet each other’s eyes—we each knew this would be the last time we’d be in the pool together. We broke our eye contact with each other before we took the next set of thoughts together. When would it be the last time we would hear him laugh? It was agreed between us, without even talking about it, to stay in the moment and feel the grief as it came. We didn’t need to borrow the grief of tomorrow. There would be plenty of time for that.

Kaety and I have struggled to make emotional sense of this transition. We realized that we aren’t wired up as people/animals to let go of children.

Years ago I lost a dear friend to a lingering cancer death. I found myself making parallels between the bizarre situation of losing our baby and that death. During the grim march through terminal illness you start having thoughts like, “This will be the last time we are able to take a walk together,” “This will be the last time we will talk,” and eventually, towards the twilight… the last kiss and the last goodbye.

But our baby is not dying. He is leaving because of policy. My mind, even thought I do not agree, can understand policy and law, but my heart does not.

In the last month people have cautiously and callously asked us, “You chose to foster, you must have known this would happen. Aren’t you used to losing children?”

Questions like this require a lot of patience. How do you explain a child that is a “good fit?” How do you explain that they all hurt… and that eliminating the factor of hurt is never the point? How do you explain that not feeling make us monsters? How do you explain the resilience of the heart, or the big picture of need and giving, or the plain fact that we are made to love no matter the consequences? How do you explain that the privilege of loving is the greatest gift to one’s soul?

Kaety and I are often asked to speak about fostering at civic groups. The sentiment always comes up, “I could never foster, I could not bear to give them up.” We have a pretty good response developed to this statement.

“We’ve all seen that news story of the naked little three-year old running down the middle of a busy freeway at night? Right?”

“I’ve been watching you all while we’ve been eating and chatting, and I know in my heart, without a single reservation, that if any of you came across that scene you would slam on your brakes, fling yourself out into traffic to get that child. You would not for a moment think of your own safety – your mind would only be filled with reaching that child and bringing her to safety. And if you got clipped by an on-coming car and you broke your leg, would you have regretted saving that child? No. You would consider it a small price to pay.

“Fostering is that exact scene in slow motion. We get the child to safety. That safety is always inside our hearts. Yes, they need food, shelter, and care… but they mostly need love. Love leads to attachment. Attachment is the foundation for life-long emotional health. We’ve seen children come back from the most horrific abuses to their bodies and minds, but we rarely see children come back who’ve not had any attachment.”

Choosing to be foster parents means we put our hearts in harm’s way to save a child. Most of fosters Kaety and I take in are short term. We love them and give them what they need to thrive but we know they will be with us for only a day, a week, or a month. But a year or more? That changes things. No, we are never prepared to break the most fundamental thing: the bond of parent to child.

What will we do as we transition to him leaving? What will we do afterwards? We will cry, we will snuggle him for the time we have left, we will celebrate who he is and the joy he brought to our family, and we will have faith that every bit of love and reflection we gifted his spirit will bloom in his life to guide his journey to finding himself.

We will take a break for a while to heal, and to support the kids in the loss of their baby brother. Will we open our hearts again? Of course we will.

As the poster says, attachment is not convenient – nor is it causal.

Nor should it be.

The reality of the new road kill laws

When we got off the plane I found that my vaguely sore throat had become a volcano of burning fire that had crept into my ears.

Kaety wanted to stop in Albany to do a little late Black Friday shopping for the Foster Kids Association. While she did that I opted for a visit to Urgent Care – Noble came with me as my medical advocate.

He wasn’t much use as my advocate – as I got my throat swabbed he covered his eyes. While we waited for the culture to finish baking and heard about all the different types of strep I could possibly have, he recreated all the gagging sounds I had made while getting swabbed.

We were released a few minutes later, strep free, to search for mommy in the Black Friday madness.

Even with the shopping interlude the kids had been cooped up for way too long and had turned to constant and vigorous bickering. I was in the co-pilot seat for the drive home, and in charge of telling everyone to knock it off and delivering ‘looks’. After threat-laden speech two-thousand I turned back around to hear Kaety say, “shit, shit, shit” as she clipped a huge deer with the right side of the van. The deer limped off, and we drove on intact. We spent the next few minutes sticking all our scared parts back into their places and breathing. During the whole life threatening event the kids never missed a beat in their bickering.

We spent the rest of the drive home talking about the logistics of the upcoming road kill take laws. If we’d had a road kill permit, we would have pulled over on the dark and foggy road with screaming kids in the car, found and tagged the animal. Put it out of its misery with our TSA approved set of tweezers, gutted it with the same set of tweezers and then hefted the carcass onto the roof rack of the mini van. The rest of the ride home would have been fun for the kids as they played “what’s that look like” as the blood drained down the side windows of van and made cool patterns.