Friday, October 14, 2005

Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you!

Happy Birthday dear R, Happy Birthday to you!!!!

My baby is 9 today... it just doesn't seem possible!

We tell her she is a miracle baby, and I believe truly is... in every sense of the word. R was born at 26 weeks and only weighed 1lb 14 oz. She spent her first three months in the hospital, struggling through the "normal" preemie problems. She had heart surgery when she was three days old, needed a ventilator for almost a month and had retinopathy of prematurity.

I didn't know R then, but I can guess that she just took each day as it came...fighting through the set-backs and pain...slowly working her way to the point she was ready to come home.

She came home to "Granny and Papa's" house... They are the foster parents who loved her and worked with her until she came to us just before her second birthday. They saw her through the months when she still depended on oxygen to breath, and through the physical therapy she needed for her muscles to loosen up enough so she could begin to learn to use her body. They saw her through all the illness, and trips to the ER because her lungs were so fragile and she got sick so easily. They really gave R her life...

Once all the really hard work was over, we got R... and she has continued to be a miracle. Despite developmental delays, she is a pretty typical 9 year old (and, believe it or not, does do other things beside ride horses!) She is starting to read fluently, and read her first Amelia Bedelia book the other evening. She can work through both addition and subtraction problems (although she'd rather not...) and she never complains (well almost never) when what we are working on in school is difficult for her. Her doctor describes her as very resilient... and she is.

She's also a very good person... She has many friends (both human and equine) and is unfailingly kind to them. She has gracefully accepted that often she is the "older" and more capable child of the two still at home, even though she is four years younger than M. She forgives him when he is unfair to her, and she tries to take care of him when he seems to need it. (The other day while taking a walk, Michael became very anxious and "froze"... too frightened to continue walking. At the time R (as usual) was bouncing along way ahead of him. As soon as she realized that he was scared, she walked back, gently took him by the hand and... talking calmly to him... got him moving again.)

Fortunately our sweet little princess has a rowdy side as well... This picture was taken yesterday, after a mud fight between her and M. (funny how quickly all the pretty snow turns into all that gooey mud, isn't it?!) From the looks of things, I think R got the better of him.. what do you think?


Well, I could do on and on about our little miracle... but I have party bags to make, and cakes to frost, and I can already hear the kids moving around upstairs. One last note... the judge from last weekend's horse show called R's riding instructor to ask about the cute little girl with all the barrettes, and mentioned how cute it was that the horse matched the child (so I guess you all were right!) The judge was so impressed with the kids that she's writing an article about the program for the dressage magazine she writes for!!

Saturday, August 6, 2005

Green Acres is the place for me...

Farm living is the life for me. Land spreading out so far and wide, Keep Manhattan just give me that countryside. Remember the TV show, "Green Acres"? Eddie Albert and Zsa Zsa (Eva?) Gabor were a big city couple that moved to the country... (he wanted to go, she didn't) His name was Oliver Wendell ("darling") Douglas, her name was Lisa. (Thank you Rubies!) He wanted nothing more then to move to the country, and bought a run-down old farm (in Haneyville?) where he bumbled his way through each half-hour episode...
It's time for me to fess up.. I'm Oliver Wendell Douglas.

I've wanted to live in the country for a long time... I've yearned to be able to look out my window and see something beside my next door neighbor's house. I love watching the wildlife, and the way the kids can play outside without me worrying that something is going to happen to them (speeding cars, bad guys, etc.)

But, I'm really a city girl, and sometimes I'm just clueless about this living in the country stuff.

There are grasshoppers as big as small rodents in my front yard, rabbits as big as small dogs in my garden, and this morning R found a bird in the swimming pool. (a BIRD?!) I felt terrible as I fished the poor thing out... as though I'd somehow murdered it because I hadn't covered the pool last night. (luckily it wasn't one of "my" hawks!) Needless to say the kids are refusing to go anywhere near the pool, for fear of finding another "victim".

Mouse droppings keep appearing on my front porch, and I wonder.. Do they run up there for some reason when they have to go? Has my front porch been designated as a mousy latrine? Why my front porch?

Isn't there enough open land surrounding my house for that kind of thing?

Really, I'm not complaining... I honestly do love it out here, and know we are very lucky to be living in such a beautiful place... But, I sometimes have the unsettled feeling that if I leave my front door open too long, my house will be inhabited by critters... and we'll be living out in the gully!

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Houseguest, you have room for one more?

I have a little house guest for awhile. 

S came to stay with me on Thursday… I’m not sure how long she’ll be here. 

She’s 11 and in foster care, and I’m providing emergency respite care for her foster parents. S can be a challenging kid, but she also breaks my heart. Like so many other older kids, she is in the system waiting for an adoptive home that will probably never come.  

Often when people find out we’ve adopted (pretty easy to figure out since R is Black, and the rest of us aren’t!) I get the comment that they always wanted to adopt… but coudn’t for some reason (too expensive, don’t know how to get started, etc).  So think of this as my blanket reply to all those people who have said they have thought about adopting…

If you really want to adopt, there are literally thousands of children waiting in the foster care system for you. If there are age requirements, they are generally very relaxed (I know a couple in their 50’s who recently adopted a young child), and single parents can adopt. 

You can adopt if you have other children… in fact that parenting experience is often seen as a plus. 

It’s not expensive to adopt through the system, often all or part of the adoption expenses are subsidized by the agency you are adopting through, and many of these kids come with health insurance… some even come with monthly stipends to offset the financial costs of raising them.  

Once the child is available for adoption, there is virtually no chance of birth parents coming back to reclaim the child. Unless you agree to a “legal risk” adoption, all parental rights are terminated before the child is ever placed for adoption.  

There are children of all ages available for adoption, although as the child gets older they become harder to place (most people would rather adopt a little one)… so there are more older children then younger ones available.

So, do you have room for one more?Adopting from the system isn’t for the faint of heart. It usually means making a “do or die” commitment to a child because you love them, it’s the right thing to do, and because you know that you may be their last hope. (I’ve found that adopting out of the foster care system almost guarantees that you’ll be spending lots of time in prayer!) 

These kids bring their own baggage with them, of course… My little friend S (sitting next to me on the floor as I type, combing her toy horse’s mane) is here because of a 2 1/2 hour rage she had Thursday afternoon. During the rage she screamed herself hoarse and threw her things all around her bedroom. A long rage like that is unusual for S, but her foster parents are worn out…  and that long rage was the last straw… so I was asked if she could stay here for awhile. 

I’ve known S for four years, so she is comfortable here and her foster parents know we’ll take good care of her. She hasn’t raged since she’s been here… but I know it’s a possibility. 

In a funny way though, I understand her anger. S is cognitively delayed (she’s 11 going on about 7), and she spent her first 6 years bouncing back and forth from grandma’s house to the streets. This is a child who remembers living in seedy hotels and standing around a fire in a trashcan trying to stay warm in a snowstorm.. because she and her mother were homeless. Eventually… mom abandoned her, and the system stepped in and placed her in a foster home.  

Most foster parents are very good people, but some aren’t… and she was badly abused, for over a year, in her first foster home.  She’s safe now, but will never be adopted…have a “forever family”, and I guess I really don’t blame her for raging from time to time. I think I’d rage too, if I’d been through all that she’s been through.

Despite the misery she’s lived through, she is still just a kid. She’s been doing school with us (and is a little confused because our schooltime looks so much different from the public school classes she’s used to!). Right now my “classroom” is a wreck of beans, construction paper and glue… but I have a really nice new piece of artwork . (blue construction paper with “I love horses” spelled out with beans) S and R have been playing dress up and Barbies and visited a friend with me yesterday and spent a happy hour with her horses.  

So, if you are one of those people who has thought they might like to adopt someday, I would ask you to seriously consider whether you have room for just one more…  and if you decide you do, contact your county social service agency and ask about their adoption program.  

You and your family could be a miracle for some child like S…