Tuesday, April 29, 2008

We WILL finish this Core. Oh, yes ... we will.

We made it to week 31 of Core 4 today, after a bit of blitzing through history. I condensed several days worth of Story of the USA readings into one longer session to accomplish this, but I don't think we missed out on anything, really. Story of the USA isn't my favorite SL resource (I find its pre-packaged workbook format dull and dry--decidedly un-SLy) and I have been known to bypass it altogether when I have better readings on hand. This week, though, the read-and-answer-these-preselected-questions format has been exactly what we needed to fast forward through a bit of history that really hasn't captured the imagination of my children. Part of me feels like I'm shortchanging my kids somehow by not making this period more appealing through the "extras" I usually tuck into our Core: picture books, extra readers, videos, crafts, games, websites, etc. Since Oliver came home, I've been much more slack about culling those resources that have always rounded out our Sonlight experience. Thankfully, no one seems any the worse for the wear. Maybe spring fever has set in early?

Friday, April 25, 2008

Blue is more than a color

I get depressed after giving birth.

I don't know the actual percentages of those who experience post-partum depression, but I know that I am firmly in that category. After Jo was born, I felt wave after wave of sadness. I was convinced that it was related to my imminent return to the working world, or perhaps even my anxiety over being left in charge of this little creature for the rest of her pre-adult life. The whole thing abated just as I made the decision to stay home full-time, so I shrugged it off. When Atticus--in all of his refluxy, screaming glory--hit the scene, though, I went into a full-on tailspin of depression that left me sobbing in my ob's office four months after his birth. I went on an antidepressant and boom! Life evened out within six months. It may have evened out too much, actually--Logan was conceived when Atticus was 16 months old. See? I was happy! So happy that when I felt the familiar pangs coming on after delivering Logan, I got myself in to the doc post-haste. Fill 'er up, guys ... I feel a storm coming on.

Here I am now, holding a not-quite 17 month-old angel that I have fought tooth and nail for since before his bio parents even met. I prayed and waited and pined for my three bio kids ... but this one ... you have no idea how my heart has longed to feel the weight of this child in my arms. Almost four years have passed since I first felt the pangs of wanting to meet this little man. And you know what? I'm starting to slide.

Apparently, I get post-placement depression, too.

I realized it earlier this week, when the sun wasn't shining and the days seemed a bit too long and nothing seemed to taste quite as good as say, a nap. In all honesty, I feel a bit entitled to an episode of the blues. My hormones have been adjusting to their pre-pregnancy levels since my most recent miscarriage. My entire family has been wracked with ongoing illness. Dealing with social workers is the pits. I drive 72 miles roundtrip twice a week to take my baby to visit with the people who put him in the hospital when he was an infant. And yeah, it's still raining in the NW.

Reasons aside, I don't want to feel this way. So I'm fighting it. Instead of running for my friendly bottle of chemical relief, I'm praying like mad for God's own version of relief. I'm boosting certain vitamins and exposing myself to as many UV rays as these cloudy skies can manufacture (and my fragile system can take). I'm playing more and obsessing less. And I'm leaning hard on the people who I know love me enough to prop me back up.

I feel very vulnerable even posting this, but I want to be as real as possible for those who may be walking the same path. What they tell you in adoption planning classes is true, friends: it is just like giving birth. It just hurts differently.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Three homeschooled kids and a library

Four hours to kill in a city we know only for its mall. Where to go? What to do?

Hit the library, of course!

During Oliver's Bio visits Wednesday, I entertained the remaining three kiddos for the better part of a morning at a massive, beautifully designed and well-stocked downtown library. We showed up at about 10:15 a.m., just as a toddler story hour was breaking up. The newly-fre
ed tots wandered around with their hands full of Wiggles videos for a few minutes before their nannies ushered them off for their pre-lunch KinderGym appointments. As soon as the area cleared a bit, we found a child-sized table and settled in for the long haul.

Not that it felt like a long haul. All in all, we were there nearly three hours --but we could have stayed much longer had the grumbling in our stomachs not started to disturb our peace.

At the library, Jo immediately took up residency in the reference section, where she was thrilled to find huge
, heavy volumes devoted to the presidents, branches of government and Robert's Rules of Order. What can I say? Both her father and I majored in Political Science in college. She comes by it honestly. At any rate, she was perfectly content filling a notebook with collected bits of information for our entire stay.

Atticus wandered the fiction shelves, finally settling on a novel entitled Robin's Country. He brought it back to the table and began to devour the book ... finishing just in time for our exit.

Logan was slightly more squirrely. After humoring me through a h
andful of very easy readers (Go, Dog, Go! was one of the selected titles), he pointed out that everyone else had been allowed to find their own amusement, while he was subjected to a reading session with me. Ah, fair enough, son. I decided that pinning him down on his current "I'd really rather not read right now" trend was probably better done somewhere else, and let him loose. He followed me to the World War II section and spent some time leafing through a collection of photographs from the homefront. When he'd had his fill of that, he wandered to a section boasting books on Ancient Greece and poured over that for quite some time. Sensing his waning interest some time later, I resorted to a fifteen minute session on a library computer with the website Brain Pop, Jr. I use that site from time to time to remind me that I really do need to make sure Logan gets the kindergarten basics as he whizzes through U.S. History.

I counted that morning as school instead of lost time. Just a further example of how a love of learning is far more important than any fact or figure you can stuff into your children's minds.

And that's all I'm going to say about that

Bio visits suck.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


Double visits for Oliver today; Bio Mom from 10 a.m. until noon, Bio Dad from noon to 2 p.m. Did anyone change his diaper? Yes ... at 1 p.m., the contract worker overseeing the visit changed him. Did anyone feed him? Yes ... at some point, he drank four ounces of rice milk. Nothing else in his snack bag was touched, nor was any food reportedly brought in by Bio Mom or Bio Dad. (Four hours people. Four hours with a sixteen month old. And no food.) Did he nap? Yes ... he screamed for forty-five minutes at the first visit, then slept for nearly an hour. Then he screamed an hour at the first visit, then slept forty-five minutes.

Heaven help my poor baby boy.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Good drugs

Well, it's official. Five out of six members of our household are on antibiotics. Two batches of Keflex, two prescriptions of Zithromax and one lone hold out for amoxicillian to treat five cases of strep that have presented themselves in all ways various and sundry. In addition to the already reported cases of scarlet fever, we have added impetigo, strep rhinitis and one good old fashioned sore-as-heck throat to the line up.

Thank goodness for good drugs.

"School" today has consisted of listening to an especially good audio version of Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne. Jo and Atticus--both healthy enough now to be ready to reenact anything that catches their fancy--have been enjoying the tale. While they're listening, they've been tracing the journey on our TakeOff game map, and coloring in the route on some world maps I printed off the web. I found this ThinkQuest website, which I'll let them tool around on later. I figure that this is pretty darn good for a sick day. Classic literature and geography? Somebody pass me the Homeschooling While Momma Is Sick Award!

Friday, April 11, 2008


I thought that I'd post about something other than sickness, just for kicks. How about, I don't know ... school?

On Tuesday (when it looked like we were all on the mend), I found Logan playing with Oliver and his dinosaur refrigerator magnets.
Oliver is quite fond of them; he likes to take them out of the box, slap them on the stove, fridge or dishwasher, and them take them all off again, placing them back in the box. This kind of basic play is boring for the likes of a not-quite-six year old mastermind, so Logan had resorted to snatching the misplaced dinos from the floor and placing them in groupings. I noticed that he had put all of the bipeds together, then all of those with claws, then the long necks, etc.

"Nice job sorting, bud. We're doing a science lesson on that today," I told him.

His eyes flashed.


"Uh, no. Sorry to disappoint. We're doing the Botany book, remember?"

"That's right!" He's actually really excited about botany. Go figure.

Sensing the opporunity to give him a rare chance at being the family whiz kid, I leaned in close.

"Can I tell you a secret?" I asked. He was game. "What you're doing is called taxonomy. Tax-on-o-mee. Think you can remember that?"

He thought he could.

"Well, when I start reading the Botany book later, I want you to say, 'Are you talking about tax-on-o-meee, Mom?' And the big kids will be surprised. They'll think you're brilliant. What do you think?"

He was grinning, rocking on his heels and pursing his lips. "Yeah!"

Fast forward half an hour or so. Oliver was safely secured in his booster seat with a sheet of paper taped to the tray and three non-toxic crayons to chew--I mean, color with. Jo, Atticus, Logan and I were gathered around the kitchen table, which was littered with lined paper, drawing paper, crayons and pencils. I had "Exploring Creation with Botany" in hand.

I began reading.

"Ummm, Mom?" Logan ventured.

"Yeeeesss?" I smiled.

"Are you talking about Tack-ona-nee?"

Close enough.

"Why, yes! I am!" I said, beaming at him. He beamed back.

Jo's jaw hit the floor.

"How do you know about taxonomy? You're a very smart boy, that's what I think!" she said, awed.

Atticus was impressed, too. "Good one, Logan."

Just for the record, we did share the set up. Later--after Logan got all the props an oft-looked over little brother deserves from his older siblings. But I made sure to point out for our audience how Logan had been employed in taxonomy at his own volition ... he just needed someone to tell him that's what it was.

Quarantine extended

Not to belabor the point, but Jo now has Scarlet Fever, too. She is on antibiotics and we are praying for a speedy recovery.

Atticus is looking a little better. He's walking around today, red as a lobster and nearly as contrary. You can't guess how happy I am to hear him sniping at Logan over swords again.

We may never emerge into the germ-ridden world again ... at least not voluntarily.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

I bet you thought we were almost through

Yeah, we did, too.

But Atticus proved us wrong yesterday when his fever spiked over 105º and a suspicious red rash began creeping all over his achy, tired little body.

At his healthiest, Atticus--who is a month shy of his eighth birthday--weighs a paltry 58 pounds. He is a very tall, thin, lithe little man who exists mainly on bread, milk and his mother's good intentions. While many a physician would say that Atticus is underweight, the fact is that he is built and proportioned exactly like his father. He is as healthy--maybe healthier--than your average kid, and proves it by being imaginative, active and creative. He's a thinker and a reader, yes--but he's also the first to grab his bike and head out for a brisk ride, or to pull out a soccer ball and kick with his brother.

But this is Atticus at his sickest:

Barely 54 pounds, face flushed, bird-like body covered in a carpet of red, eyes glassy and arms limp. Oh, my heart.

I had suspected that Atticus' healing curve was well behind Jo's, especially since her fever seemed to be dipping faster and lower than his. Her cough, though, was of concern--especially since she experienced a particularly nasty bout of Reactive Airways Disease last spring that took what was most likely a permanent toll on her health. But up until yesterday, Atticus seemed to be on the mend--albeit slowly--and I was looking forward to delivering the news that he wouldn't miss yet another baseball game this week.

He spent the better part of yesterday, though, huddling on the couch. Uninterested in movies, books on CD or drawing his beloved X-wing fighters, he was listless and hollow. I did some catch-up reading in Landmark History of the American People and that sparked him a bit; what boy his age doesn't get a little squirrely when there's talk of Nazis and air raids afoot? After lunch (which he did not eat), I tucked him in for a nap.

Which he took ... for three hours.

He woke up sporting that 105º+ fever and a rash that told me precisely what was going on. I'd seen it before in Logan during his StrepBoy days, though admittedly nowhere near as badly. (Nothing is ever as bad on Logan. He is the ultimate "It's just a flesh wound!" boy.)

A trip to the Walk-In Clinic confirmed it: The flu had given way to strep, which had in turn produced a very nice case of Scarlet Fever, which had then decided hey, let's set up shop here for the long run by brewing up some strep pneumonia.

All in 8 days, people. Eight days is all it took to take my happy, robust boy and turn him into a gaunt, feeble little skeleton. It takes longer to get a letter from my house to my grandmother's.

Atticus is now undergoing an extensive, 10-day round of Zithromax at the highest possible dosage in the hopes of wiping this bug out of his system. While we were there, I paid the extra co-pay and had Jo's oxygen levels tested. Sure enough, she was moving into another nice case of RAD, so we are heading that off with some inhalers, too.

And me, well--I'm just glad that a) it's only 1/2 of my kiddos that are sick and b) that I have health insurance. In the end, they'll be fine--even poor little Atticus will come back to himself given time. All of this will be a distant memory, though not one I'll revisit often or with any fondness.

In the midst of all of this, there was one shining example of God's love and provision that I wanted to share. This morning, before I could call and cancel Oliver's visit with his Bio Mom, the caseworker who was assigned to oversee the visit called me and canceled. She's sick, it turns out. So the onus for the missed visit is on her, not us. Not that it really mattered--I was canceling regardless. But the way God worked it out, it has nothing to do with us at all. Isn't that just like him? :-)

Wednesday, April 9, 2008


Bio Dad canceled today's visit. He wasn't a no-show; he called in ahead of time to cancel outright. That means that the smiling, giggling baby that I woke up to this morning will still be a smiling, giggling baby when I put him down to sleep tonight.

Not sure exactly how to process all of this. Is it o.k. to be happy when someone else is clearly allowing their life to fall apart? What if that person has no desire to make it better? What if it's a forgone conclusion that said person wasn't up to the task to begin with?

Lots of holes, I know, readers. I wish I were at liberty to fill some of them in, but honestly, I probably still wouldn't. This is Oliver's story, not mine. There are some things that belong to him. I am only the caretaker--and I need to guard them as jealously as I can for him.

Tomorrow is Bio Mom's second scheduled visit.

Monday, April 7, 2008

In whose best interest is this, exactly?

Right smack dab in the middle of our slow waltz with Sir Influenza, we had yet another ray of unpleasantness: Oliver had his first visits with his biological parents.

In case you're as in the dark as I was to the entire process of foster-adoption, let me give you a crash course. A child who is not yet legally free, but who is approaching the end of the federally-mandated limitation of time in foster care limbo, is placed in a home that has been accepted as a "pre-adopt" situation. The reasoning here is that something along the lines of 95% of people who have failed to comply with court-ordered services (such as substance abuse counseling, mental health evaluations, etc.) or follow through in the court-approved visitation of said children within the generous length of time set forth by the law fail to ever come into compliance. Want that in English? No problem: people who are not absolutely set on fire by threat of losing their kids rarely manage to get their acts together. The children of these people--the ones who fail to show for visits, who refuse psychological evaluations, who fail drug tests again and again or can't seem to make it to the parenting class they were ordered to take--these kids are singled out to be placed in homes open to adoption before their parents rights are terminated, in the hopes of not losing precious months and even years to the slow grind of the wheels of process.

The catch here is that these children still, legally, belong to the parents to whom they were born. And those parents still have rights. Chief among these rights for those who haven't already blown it is the ability to visit with their kids on a weekly basis.

Going into foster-adoption, this is the part that made me get a lump in my throat. I can't imagine that you're shocked. What will probably be shocking is why I was afraid. I'm going to confess it: I was afraid that I would meet and like the child's biological parents. You know, really like them. Want to maintain some dreamy contact where my family and I somehow serve as this conduit to Christ for these wayward folks, and manage to help them begin picking up the pieces of the mess they've created. And then, of course, we'd have to give them their child back because well, there was no more issue in regards to their ability to parent.

Yeah, I actually thought that. Call me a romantic.

Actually, call me a fool.

The fact is, Oliver's records make for some pretty heart-wrenching reading. By the time I had spent half an hour scrolling over the horrors to which some people feel justified in inflicting on their infants, I was actually nauseous. And trust me, Oliver's case is no where near the worst I've heard from other families who have adopted from foster care. The point is--it would take an absolute act of God to compel me to befriend Oliver's bio parents beyond the level of common courtesy. And it's only Christ in me in the first place that stops me from spitting every time I say their names.

No joke.

But back to Oliver's visits with his bio parents ...

Last Tuesday, I drove an hour or so to take our little guy to his first visit with Bio Dad. Got him there just a touch early in the hopes of a social worker whisking him away into a back room before he could see me crying as I walked away. Imagine my shock and horror as I walked into the office, baby on my hip, diaper bag on my shoulder and saw a taller, older version of Oliver sitting in the only occupied seat in the tiny waiting room.

You guessed it. Oliver's biological father and I ... in the same 12x12 area.

Because I can come off as a pretty cold fish when I put my mind to it, I managed to act like he was completely non-existent as I made my way to the glass-enclosed sign-in area.

"Hello," I greeted the elderly lady at the desk through the little vent. "I'm here with Oliver X."

"WHAT?!" she yelled through the same little vent.

"Ol-i-ver!" I yelled back, pointing at the baby boy. "Visitation!"


She shoved a clipboard at me through the sliding tray door. I noted with increasing revulsion the name in the last space. Identity confirmed: Bio Dad. As if I needed confirmation. Seriously--the guy is an absolute picture of Oliver. Only with really tacky bleached hair.

Being the cautious/paranoid type that I tend to be in such instances, I wrote only my first name on the line. When I returned the clipboard, the elderly woman nodded at the man in the waiting area.

"I THINK THAT'S WHO YOU'RE WAITING FOR!" she bellowed helpfully.

"Uh-huh. Thanks," was my rueful reply.

At this point, I had absolutely no polite choice but to select a seat relatively close to the man and try, try, try to make come sort of conversation. The first thing that came to mind was completely inappropriate ("Well, you made it! Lovely of you to show! What's different about today that you actually grace us with your presence?") so I went with plan B and commented on the fact that he must be very happy to be seeing his son after more than a month.

"Yeah." His voice was flat and toneless, not unlike my heartbeat.

How warm and engaging, I thought sarcastically. What a softie.

We continued on like this for a few more minutes before I managed to excuse myself (and Oliver) for a trip to the bathroom. It was there that I hit my knees--literally.
"God, I have no idea why You have me here right now, but I do not like it! I'm not going to whine, and I'm not going to beg for it to be over, but You know that this is the most uncomfortable I've ever been in my entire life. So I really need You! Help! 911! What on earth do you want me to say to this man? How can I even look him in the eye? Give me words, Jesus. Give me words!"

Again, I'm just being honest about the tone of things here. This isn't a word for word translation of what I brought before the Lord, but it's pretty darn close. It wasn't a pure prayer, and it wasn't an especially eloquent one, but it was real. Probably one of the most real prayers I've ever prayed.

It worked, of course. I walked back in that waiting room with a shaking heart and fear that turned my knees to water ... but I did walk back in. That's proof enough of Divine Intervention right there, if you ask me. But the real answer to my prayer was this: on Bio Dad's right hand, in the webbing between his thumb and forefinger, are Oliver's initials. I saw it, and I knew that this was God showing me a piece of this man. A piece I could grasp onto as being more than a rundown of evidence of neglect gleaned from a court document. A tiny glimpse of him as a person. More than that, really; a vision of him as a father. Not a great one, but somewhere inside, still ... a father.

With this digesting in my mind, I managed to direct a fairly innocuous conversation around the finer points of Oliver's life for the next few minutes. Got his birth weight (5 lbs., 14 oz.), saw a few pictures of a tiny, wasted version of Oliver that were saved in his father's cell phone.

And then the social worker came. I handed Oliver over, spoke a blessing over him right there (hey, the state knows I'm a Christian and if they don't like me blessing kids, they ought not give me any!) and fled. Ran to my truck, shook so hard I couldn't get the keys in the ignition, and sobbed.

An hour later, Oliver was back in my arms. Face puffy from tears, breath jerky from the exertion of it all. I buckled him into his car seat and listened to him wail the entire way home for the first time in five weeks.

He was a pill the next day. Out of sorts, clingy and often inconsolable. We geared up for Bio Mom's visit the following day with nothing short of loathing.

Sure enough, it was another bitter pill--this time, though, I didn't find myself face to face with the parent. Honestly, I think this was a direct answer to my prayers; Oliver's bio mom was the greater perpetrator of his neglect, and is also noted as being hostile and aggressive. Not meeting her was a massive blessing.

But not for Oliver, of course. When I picked him up, he was high on caffeine from the can of soda she had given him for lunch (allowed by the person overseeing the visit in the DSHS office) and glassy-eyed. He refused to nap that afternoon (you're shocked, I know) and spent the entire next day
vacillating from fits of anger to shrieks of terror.

And Saturday, our baby boy returned. Woke up bright eyed, happy, and full of joy. Sure, he was a bit less inclined to stray very far from my side than he had been a week before, but still, he was himself. The Oliver we've come to know and love.

Of course, it all goes back around this week. Wednesday and Thursday are visit days, I've been informed. For the next two months, I've cleared them on my calendar to accommodate the wishes of the court.

But I'm going to admit that I'm praying it all ends sooner rather than later. While I hate these visits (I'm the mother, after all, who doesn't even leave her babies in the church nursery, let alone with folks who have abused them) I can't help but feel that they sincerely damage Oliver. Seeing his biological parents clearly caused him to revert to survival mode. The progress of the last month was completely erased until he quite literally rebooted his entire system.

What is this doing to his heart? I don't know. But I know that it's breaking mine--and I asked for this. Oliver didn't. He's an innocent bystander ... in his own life.

Flu update

Atticus and Jo are still being battered by this awful bug, but Logan and I are definitely (dare I say it?) on the mend. Oliver has, praise God, avoided it all together. I've heard that this is one of those monstrous 9-10 day viruses, so we're on day 6 and praying for single digits.

Friday, April 4, 2008


Our family has been hit hard with a nasty flu bug. Poor dh has been the hardest hit, with Atticus a close second. You never really know how hard you can pray until your baby boy's head is on your lap sobbing his way through a 104.7º fever. Jo is very sick, too. Logan has been teetering on the edge of it, and I'm right along with him. Praise God, Oliver is unscathed.

I'll be back when the flu has flown.