“Somebody Else’s Kids”

Somebody Else’s Kids. That was the title of the message at church this week. It was a good message by the CEO of World Vision calling the church to follow the Biblical call to care for “the least of these” and the “stranger” and “foreigner living among you.” The primary focus of the message was about the Syrian refugee crisis and the need for the church to step in and help. Half of the 12 million Syrian refugees are kids. Kids who are loved by their family and loved by God. Kids who have seen war and death and need a hope for the future. My heart breaks for what breaks God’s heart.

The title struck me in a different way, though. Somebody else’s kids. I looked down at the almost 10-year-old Super Tall Guy, sitting on the floor of the church creating a military battle scene on the back of the message card. He’s huge. He’s almost up to my nose in height. He’s wearing size 10 men’s shoes. He can lift me off my feet. He looks absolutely handsnothing like me. He’s Somebody Else’s Kid. Or, he was. He was born somebody else’s kid, but he’s my kid now. He never lived with anybody else. He spent two days in the hospital, but other than that, and a day here and there, he’s always been with me. He’s my boy. My son.

But it was a long process. For a while, Super Tall Guy and his brothers each were somebody else’s kids and the “somebody” was the state of Pennsylvania. I loved them and kissed them and rocked them to sleep every night, but I couldn’t make any major decisions about their care, including whether they needed a haircut. It took a court visit, an “I do,” and a signed piece of paper to remove the “somebody else” and make them my “kids.”

Yet I know that they started out as somebody else’s kids. They know it too. We don’t mention it frequently but it does come up every once in awhile.

The Little Guy will be five in a few weeks. At the dining room table the other day, he looked up at me and said, “I want to see my birth mom.” I don’t remember him ever using the word birth mom before. I don’t know why he was thinking about her or what sparked any thought about other moms. Maybe he was thinking about somebody else’s kids. Maybe he was thinking about adoption. Maybe he wasn’t really thinking about anything. Maybe he was just being five. But it’s something all of these kids are going to think about at some point and probably over and over again as they contemplate their journey and their place in the world.

And I’ll be right there alongside them as they go, figuring it out myself as we work on it together, grateful for Somebody Else’s Kids.

 

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Just a little patience….and grace…..and joy.

One push of the pedal…

Two pushes

Three and he was off

Training wheels gone and Micah was soaring…and I’ve heard nothing else for the past two days than “Can we go ride our bikes?”

It’s so fun to see the joy on their faces when they learn something new. Micah knew he was ready to do it this time. Any other time that the training wheels even wobbled a smidge, he would get upset and unwilling to ride his bike. But the other day, it was Ryan’s new bike and it just seemed so attractive to Micah. And there were no training wheels on it so it was the perfect opportunity to try. And he did it – around and around the church parking lot he went, testing out his speed, figuring out how to slow down to make the turns, learning to put his feet down to stop. He was in heaven. I hope he soon learns to use the brakes rather than the tops of his shoes to slow down the tires!

As there was a wrench handy and sheer joy in Micah’s new accomplishments, Noah brought his little bike over and demanded that his training wheels take a hike too. I knew Noah had the balance for it so a few hard twists of rusted bolts, and he was ready to try. His bike is a little big for him so he needed some steadying of it until he got peddling and then kaboom! He was gone. I ran alongside him wondering if I really intended to be helpful in any way should he start falling. Probably not. I shouldn’t have worried – he never even wobbled – and after a few seconds, he said “Next I’ll ride with one hand!”  Tiny little 4-year-old whizzing around on a tiny little bike. With grit and determination and a whole TON of tears, he finally taught himself to start peddling on his own without me holding the bike. It was a mix of his desire and my “planned ignorance” to encourage him to learn.

Such a fun evening for both of them (and they were wiped-out asleep by 7:30!). However, I was not interested in taking them back to the parking lot at 7:10 the next morning and so promised we’d take the bikes to the park after church. Given a little bit of inappropriate running in church (“Geesh, M and N! I JUST told you as we drove in to the parking lot to NOT run in church!!), the bikes were required to spend 10 minutes in the car contemplating their misbehavior before they could get out and cruise around the pond.  Soon, though, the two boys were learning such things as how to avoid casual pedestrians and zippy little toddlers, how to keep their eyes looking forward, and to keep the two bikes away from each other to minimize scrapes and falls. These are lessons that will need to be learned in a very repetitive fashion I can tell.

While the bike excitement lapped the pond, I chased little Seth. As we passed a few people, an older guy caught my eye after he clearly noted the older boys. “Yes,” I said in one of those I’m-the-proud-mother tone of voice, “they just learned to ride two wheels yesterday.” My smile smoldered when he cut “oh, they’re yours, eh?”  I walked on wondering how a total stranger can dash parental joy and wondering what issue he had with the boys (though a few minutes later I noticed him beckon them to slow down and I realized he was probably trying to protect his dainty toddling granddaughter from the vicious bike gang).

It’s amazing how every life is a little thread that goes and goes, intersecting with other people’s threads and getting bumped or jiggled…or totally derailed as a result. My boys’ threads were in the joy of a new skill and the freedom of bikes without training-wheel drag. I rejoiced in their new ability….and “the” stranger’s thread bumped into ours with dismay….but, he does not know their joy. And he does not know that they are still learning. That one day soon they will realize their responsibility as a bike rider to not clip the back of someone’s heel. They will know to keep it slow around other people and kids. They will learn to slow down to make a sharp turn. But yesterday, their thread was so early on in their learning process – they were still working on slight shifts in balance.

As I think about this, I wonder about the times when my life thread bumps into other people and I grump at them or snap impatiently. I knowingly at times or unsuspectingly other times cause a shift in their life. It’s a good reminder to give a little grace as I don’t know where the other is coming from, how far along they are in their thread and what direction they’re actually going in. The word of the month for Micah’s karate class is “patience.” I think I need to work on it a little bit more sometimes.

Okay….the truth….I know I need to work on it more!

So, today I “patiently” lifted bikes in and out of the back of my car (I hate how the wheels turn and pinch your fingers, the grease marks up your hands, and the trunk of the van beeps its refusal to close when it thinks something’s in its way!). And I patiently watched them ride around for another hour.  And I patiently put the bikes back in the garage.

I can’t wait until we get to the beach next week so the boys can walk out of the house, hit the boardwalk, and ride and ride….(and for the sake of innocent pedestrians, I hope they soon learn to dodge people!).

Saving the world

I’ve seen a few “writings” in the past couple weeks about “What I Should Teach My Son” or “What every Girl Needs to Know”….or more along those lines of what’s the right/best/perfect way to raise your children. It stems from the recent stories of violence particularly in our teens. I know these articles have valid points and there’s probably a couple more really good parenting books I could go read.

But it’s had me thinking a bit about what I “need” to do to raise my three sons.

First, of course, it would help if I knew how to tie a tie.  I hope there’s a YouTube video out there somewhere to teach them how to shave (because I already see a bit of hair on Micah’s upper lip and that’s a bit disconcerting so early). There better be a guide to understanding their blossoming humor (other than acknowledging that most of it stems from body parts or the bathroom).  I could use “A Boy’s Guide to Obnoxious Noises” and “How to satisfy your teen’s voracious appetite.”

But when it comes down to it – what I most want to teach my sons is exactly what I would teach a daughter if I had one….and that is – how to be a Superhero!

superheropic

What is it about a Superhero?  Well, they’re amazing. Incredible powers – they’re strong, they can fly, they can make water turn to ice, they can run super fast….they’re “so cool.”  But they are also totally compassionate. They spend their day helping people.  Hmmm, all that power and what are they doing? Saving people. Repairing buildings. Fixing roads.

I want my sons to have the feeling that they can save the world – and the heart that makes them want to. So if I see them just once, if ever so briefly, be a Superhero – I will be very happy.

Celebrating the Foster-to-Adopt completion

I’m not going to lie – parenting is exhausting…especially if you’re starting to get a cold (two weeks of wiping aside snot and I’m finally starting to succumb). So hosting a party of 15 boys (under the age of 9) and 2 girls was definitely tiring – and yet so much fun. Yesterday we had a party to celebrate Noah’s 4th birthday and Seth’s adoption. This brought together the 17 kids for the birthday and about an equal number of adults for the adoption. Today I reflect on how wonderful it is to be surrounded by so many people who care about my boys and our family.

For many people, families and friends celebrate the birth of a child. Friends gather around the new baby and the beaming parents, visitors come and go (and people make you food!), and gifts pour in. Mothers stay home from work for some time (and it would be nice if we let fathers do so too)… cooing over how gorgeous the baby is, who he or she looks like, and “napping when the baby naps” (or at least that’s what people say they do!). It is very different when you adopt a child through the foster care system.

This week I have looked down at Seth every night as I plant a kiss on his forehead and say “goodnight, my son.” It is the first time that I’ve been able to call him my “son.” And it is the first time that I realize I can bond with him as my son. It is a very strange thing. As a foster parent, you are asked to “love the children as if they are your own” and yet to “keep your distance” as your job really is to hand them back to the biological parent (when at all possible).

So there’s this closeness of rocking them to sleep every night, and this guarding of your heart in preparation of possibly losing them. You pick them up when they fall and kiss the “boo-boo,” and wonder how long they will still be in your house. You bounce them and tickle them. You praise their every milestone as they grow. You hold their hand and protect them. You take them to day care and pick them up. You take them to doctor appointments, you sit and pray over them as they recover from surgery, you worry about every cold or fever or wheeze. You ache, you agonize, you cry, you comfort….you love. You know the baby needs a “mother” and you play the role of the “mother,” but you never know if you are the one who will be the forever mother. Until that very moment, years later, when a complete stranger in a black robe declares you to be the mother.

Then you sigh. Then you cry. Then you gather your friends and family around you and say “Celebrate with me. Sing with me. Dance with me….on the “birth” of my son.”

Micah – I met you May 22, 2006, and became your forever Mommy on February 26, 2008.

Noah – I met you Feb 27, 2009, and became your forever Mommy on February 23, 2010.

Seth – I met you on June 2, 2011, and became your forever Mommy on February 12, 2013.

Tonight I lay on Micah’s bed beside him as he snored and looked around the room at my sleeping family. My sons. Beautiful each one.

And I love each of them….

now with my whole heart.

IMG_4703

 

Glimpses of love

A Steeler fan

I am a sucker for plush baby animals…..squishy….delightfully comforting softness.  I just am.

So, after an absolutely perfect morning at the zoo the other day, I decided that of course, Seth needed a new stuffed animal.  I have a monkey theme occurring in his crib – but the white polar bear was just too precious.  (You have to inspect all of them and pick the face that touches your heart.)

Seth smiled and clasped it to his body….for all of 3 seconds and then he shoved it aside and concentrated on the live animals.  Oh well, I thought, pushing the white softness into the bottom of the stroller.

But later that night, Noah found the little polar bear.  He lifted it high into the air with a huge smile and said “Did you buy this for me?”  “Oh yes,” I replied happily (I try to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, except in cases like this little white lie.)

He spent that night and the next day playing with the polar bear.  When he brought the adorable little creature to bed last night, I asked “So, what is your bear’s name?”  He replied “Mawzi.”

And Mawzi it is.  Mawzi gets lots of loving.  He likes to have his belly scratched.  He loves it when you rub his ears.  And he’s particularly happy when you go fishing over the edge of the bed with a pole of glow-in-the-dark wands to catch him some fish.  And if he seems to be getting full, you can just put the extra fish in a bucket for tomorrow.  Mawzi will be so happy, apparently.  I’m learning a lot about polar bears.

I was actually a bit surprised that Mawzi was still getting attention on day 3 of his adoption.  Apparently he is also ideal for monkey-in-the-middle games and doesn’t seem to mind being bounced on the floor, landing behind the TV, or snagged from mid-air by screeching 6 year olds.  Mawzi is very adept at fitting into the household of boys.

I was at a meeting tonight and when I returned, I did my typical “tucking in” of the boys.  I put the covers back on, kiss them goodnight, and linger for a minute in peace.  I walked into Noah’s room wondering if Mawzi had made it upstairs with the babysitter.  As I leaned down to kiss Noah, his eyes fluttered open.   “I love you,” I said.  He sleepily replied, “Can you get my Mawzi?”  I just smiled and went downstairs to answer the request….only to find Mawzi sitting upright joyfully playing with a little red fire truck.  He seemed ready to get to bed, though, so we trudged back upstairs.  Noah tucked him under his head as a pillow and drifted off to sleep.  Mawzi seemed to understand.  I’ll make sure he gets some extra fish in the morning for being so gentle.

The Pediatrician in Me

Sometimes it really pays to be a pediatrician as well as a mother.  Take yesterday afternoon for example.  At precisely 3:51pm, Micah looked at me and said “this ear really hurts.” (“Darn!” was my first thought – “oh, honey” were my first words.)  Now, there are very few lessons from my residency training program that I remember verbatim, but I do remember a senior doctor telling me, “If a child older than 4 says their ear hurts, it’s likely to mean something real.”  So I went to the “medicine bag” and pulled out my otoscope (very handy to be a pediatrician), smiled happily that the battery was charged enough that the light turned on, and looked in Micah’s ear.  Yep, that eardrum was screaming red.  So, I thought through the options….see a doc?  Hmm, pediatrician’s office is closed…could go to the hospital’s urgicare satellite clinic….seems like a pain because it would take the rest of the afternoon (and I’m planning on cooking up some yummy Thai food!)….hmmm, Target pharmacy is open until 5…. Picked up the phone ….. “Hi, this is Dr. Lynne…”

And that is pretty much where the limit of me treating my own kids ends (my sister will vouch for that – I don’t even treat her kids…..and no one else in the family either!).  I will do ear infections on the weekend.  That’s it.  Anything else – “go see a doctor.”

You see, I can’t be objective when it comes to my kids.  This winter Micah fell in basketball and naturally cried for a bit afterwards…but was soon back in the game.  The next day (yes, after paying no attention to his hand for well over 30 hours) I noticed that his right thumb was swollen 3 times its normal size and was black and blue.  It looked ugly.  It was Sunday evening.  Seth was to have minor outpatient surgery on Tuesday.  I had a day to figure out what to do.  So, I spent most of Monday driving him around wondering how best to get the thumb evaluated.  His pediatric office?  The emergency room (over 3 hour wait time per some inside sources)? Does it need anything at all?  What if I ignore it and then it’s actually broken and we go 2 more days?!?  We ended up at the hospital’s urgicare center where he was fitted with a very nice little splint…more to help him feel better, the doc said (but I knew it was actually more to help me feel better).

I get stuck in wanting to do everything I possibly can to take care of the kids as well as I can.  But that’s in the midst of not knowing sometimes what the best care is for them.  And believe me, this is only mild stuff we’ve been dealing with.  A little asthma.  A little ear infection.  Colds.  Fevers.  Nothing serious – no real emergency room visits (though I was sure Noah was trying absolutely positively EVERYTHING he could to require an ER visit before he turned two – “how about a few stitches, Mom??” – and I give myself full and unending credit for thwarting that plan!) and no hospital stays.  I am very thankful.  Because I have decided that I will either overreact with the kids (oh yeah, it’s clear, that’s one of those can’t-catch-your-breath, have-10-seizures, fall-over-and-get-a-concussion, lose-a-kidney, break-the-thumb and end up in the hospital kinds of situations) or completely under-react (oh, just rub it!).  There’s no middle ground.

Which is why, unless it’s a weekend evening and they are complaining that their ear hurts…I drag my kids to go see a doctor every time.  (Though I will confess to being a tad late on this last guy’s well child check-up….um, 15 month visit?…. or 16 months ….who’s counting?!?!)

Anyone else have this trouble of under- or over-reacting??