The Ugly Side of Foster Care/Adoption

This.  This right here was the final straw that broke my freakin' back.  A vase, thrown out of anger.  The closest thing in reach in a moment when all he saw was red.  All because he needed to go to bed 10 minutes early for biting his brother.  It wasn't the ceramic bank in his room that he shattered a few minutes later, or the water he deliberately poured on his bed in a rage, or the fact that he threw his ladder and every item we allow him to have in his room out of spite.  It was this vase.

I don't often get real about what goes on in our daily lives.  Some of you hear bits of it, but even through the frustration I try to spin it in a joking manner.  Maybe I shouldn't, because the truth is I don't know many who could live like we've been living.  I've been watching my daughter slowly crumble under the pressure of living in a house that feels a bit like a hostage situation.  Held captive by the never ending tantrums, and the destructive path of three little boys who unknowingly ruin every fun and special day with their inability to cope with emotions, good or bad.  I know they can't help this.  I know the cards were stacked against them even before they came into our care, but the truth remains that there is a very, very ugly side to all of this.  

A boy, pooping in the bath, just because he didn't want to take the time to get out.  A different boy spending 30 minutes in bed for repeatedly hurting his brother over a toy.  A different boy etching letters into my wooden piano bench, and subsequently lying about it.  That same boy peeing in the heating vent in his bedroom, because he was mad he had to be in time out; raining urine in our living room and ruining our ceiling tile.  A boy hitting his sister because it wasn't quite time to go to Cole Family Christmas yet.  A boy, spitting in his brother's face because he doesn't want him to look at the toy he just got.  A ten minute tantrum from a boy who didn't want to leave the party.  A boy biting his brother over a toy.  A boy breaking a vase and screaming at me that I'm stupid.  A boy tearing his room apart in a rage over an early bedtime.  

All of this happened today.  In a 12 hour span we experienced all of this, and much more, but the insane part is I could write something similar for almost every day of our lives with them.  Three boys with three very different sets of needs.  Three emotional boys constantly on the edge of explosion.  

We choose to smile while we are out in public, and we try to make the best of what we've got, and we work hard not to let the cracks show.  But the cracks are there, and widening.

The birthdays and the holidays are the worst.  Days of celebration quickly turn into days of frustration and regret.  This countdown to Christmas has been the longest 3 weeks of the year.  The teachers have seen it, and they are getting a small glimpse of what we deal with on a regular basis. Throw an adoption day into the mix and things can get pretty rough.  

I'll be honest, hearing that "boys will be boys", and "they are just being kids", or "they'll grow out of it", or "it will get easier" feels like a slap in the face.  I get it that raising kids is hard.  I've been doing it alone since Elsa and Michael were 6 and 8.  I know it isn't easy, and I know that I chose this, but let me make it clear that this is very, very different.  When you see three happy-go-lucky boys out in public, and can't understand why I'm not smiling, you can't begin to understand what happened 5 minutes before we walked out the door, or I might be worried they may run into traffic because they are mad, or I'm trying not to cry because up until this point in this day they have had nothing but nastiness for all of us.  

I'm not really sure why I'm putting this all down into words.  I think writing it makes it real, and I feel like I'm not going quite as crazy as I actually think I am sometimes.  Seeing the written words of what we went through today (really everyday) is helpful in knowing that I made it through, and I will make it through tomorrow. 

I love these boys, I really do.  I want the best for them.  I want to be the best for them.  I want them to know love, and compassion, and all the goodness that comes from a family.  

I also desperately want to feel normal again.  I think I signed away my rights to normalcy when I entered into foster care, and if that's the case I'll make the best out of this crazy life that God has given me.  I cried harder today than I have in the past 11 years.  The vase broke me.  I sobbed in front of the boy who tore his room apart.  Through tears I told him I can't do this anymore, and he finally stopped throwing things, stopped calling me nasty names, and he settled.  I stood stone-still downstairs for many minutes afterwards, just staring at the wall, and told God "I can't do this anymore.  No one should have to live like this.  I don't want to live like this.  I can't do this anymore." and then I too settled. 

I don't know what our future holds.  I don't know what will make a difference.  I don't know where we will end up, but I know I have to keep trying, and we have to keep hoping for healing for their hearts and for ours.  


Elsa Signs her National Letter of Intent for Lipscomb

Elsa chose to do an early signing of her National Letter of Intent, making her decision to attend and run for Lipscomb University official!  It was a great day, and she was surround by those that love her and who have supported her all along the way.  Underneath these pictures I have included a letter I read at her signing.  So proud of you, Elsa!  Go out there and be the very best Bison you can be!!!

"Elsa was 5 years old when someone first mentioned how speedy she was.  The gym teacher tracked me down at her Kindergarten Open House to let me know that Elsa was the fastest kid in all of the K-6th school, and her athleticism was very apparent.  Of course I was flattered and proud.

2 years later I received an email from Gene Ayers, who I barely knew at the time, to tell me he saw her playing a game of tag in a parking lot and was so impressed by her speed.  He said if we were wise we would never let her pick up a softball glove (sorry, Jon).  Track was in her future, or so Gene said.

7th grade modified track came and went, with a broken school record in all of her meets that season.  But still, no one knew if this would translate into something great or on what level she could realistically compete.  Her grandfather and I sat her down after her first season of track and asked her what she wanted out of running.  These were the goals she stated:

Win a NY State Title
Run for a Division 1 track program
Go to college for Free
Run and win at NCAA D1 Nationals
And finally, run at the Olympics

Needless to say, she has always had rather lofty goals.  We promised, with no guarantees, to do our best to help her reach those goals.  It wouldn't be easy, it meant 7 days a week-year round training, and even if she did everything asked of her, she still might not realize her goals.  We promised to push her, to keep her accountable, and to encourage her all along the way.  But, if at any time she wanted to quit, all she had to do was say the word, and we would all walk away.  No questions asked.  And so, with the help of my father, and the coaching staff here at Fillmore, she set out to be the fastest she could possibly be. 

4 years later, with 2 State titles, 7 State medals, 10 varsity records, 18 meet records broken, 14 sectional titles and 7,554 training miles under her belt, she today, will fulfill two of her greatest goals: signing to run for a great NCAA D1 track program, and the chance to get a college degree at no cost to her (or me, thankfully).   

Elsa, I am so proud of you.  Not only for this moment, but for every bit of who you are.  When statistics told you that you had only a 2.7% chance of making the leap to a Division 1 program, you didn't give up, you only determined to work harder.  You have fought through fatigue, boredom, injury, and some pretty significant lung issues.  Yet, here you stand, defying the odds, and accomplishing what so many will only ever dream about.

And so, as you sign today, and as blessed and lucky as you might feel for this opportunity, I feel it is Lipscomb who is actually the lucky one.  They gain one of the most honest, hardworking, and determined girls I have ever met.  Plus, as a bonus, God made you fast, and you run for a higher purpose.  I am so very proud to call you my daughter.  You have made all of us here at Fillmore proud, and we can't wait to see where this opportunity will take you in the future.  Signing today is only the beginning of your story, and we can't wait to read the whole thing!"


Her Final Season of Soccer

Fillmore had another outstanding year on the field.  Going undefeated in the regular season and ending with a record of 16-1-1 is surely something to be proud of.  This team did not lose one regular season game in the past two seasons, and ended up ranked 15th in the State this year.  Although they fell short of a Sectional Title for the second year in a row, this was such a great group of talented girls, and I know Elsa will very much miss playing soccer in the future!

Elsa accumulated some nice honors along the way this season:

Bolivar-Richburg Tournament All-Star
Section 5 Player of the Week (September 12-18th)
Allegany County D1 MVP
Allegany County Overall MVP
Big 30 All-Star
Selected for Section 5 Exceptional Seniors Game
Fillmore MVP
Fillmore Heart-Focus-Energy Award
Fillmore Career Excellence Award

She also ended up cracking the top 10 all-time point leaders for Fillmore, coming in at #9

Section 5 Exceptional Senior Game:

Great group of guys who always showed up to cheer the Lady Eagles on!!


Halloween Costumes

We have done things a little differently the past few years, as I have let the kids pick out their own costumes.  I will admit it was easier to do group themed costumes, but they really get excited about what they want to wear!

Noah the Astronaut:

Chase the Politician:

Easton as Robin Hood:

And Elsa the Adult Coloring Book with functional markers:


Chase Turns 7!

Chase is all about the Holidays. He decorates with whatever he can find, and is always disappointed in our lack of Halloween decorations.  So for his birthday, we decided to surprise him with a Halloween themed party.  The thought originated after he asked for an "orange cake with eyeballs that have red lines on them".  He was very happy!