Casaubon's Book

What the Heck Happened?

In my last post, more than four months ago (oy, that’s bad!), we had just acquired four new children, 11, 3, 3, and 16 months, and were settling in and getting adjusted.  And then I didn’t blog all summer.  Or for most of the first month of autumn.  A few people wondered whether I was eaten by a Yeti or had gone entirely feral.  Neither is true (that I know of – I’d probably have noticed the Yeti thing.)  It just turned out that going to nine kids, four of them 3 and under, several with major disabilities, pushed my limits a little.  Or a lot.  We pulled it off.  We settled in, we did it, but the blog and quite a few other things were casualties.

It has been five months almost since the “Gang of Four’ arrived, and a lot has happened.   It culminated last week with 11 year old D. going to live with relatives, leaving the three younger ones with us.  The relatives are wonderful people, but we were heartbroken that D. didn’t get to be raised with her siblings, and are still sad about that.  The little ones are struggling to understand yet another loss (they are part of a sibling group of six, and two brothers already live elsewhere).  D’s move was the end point of rough September and early October that included a bout of pneumonia for little Q., now 21 months, some major challenges with Eli, my autistic eldest’s school placement and 11 year old Simon’s first foray into public school (entirely by his choice), which he hated and which only lasted a few weeks.

I know I’m a bad blogiste, but every time I have sat down to write this post something major has changed, and I’ve had to start it over.  I’m hoping I get to the end this time/

And a lot has changed, both in our family structure and our lives generally.   This is likely to be an extremely long term placement, and the settling in process has been a long one – but over the last five months, we’ve become a family.   It is a somewhat different family than the one we had before – four bio boys, Baby Z. (who I can no longer call “Baby” Z because he’s almost 15 months old and starting to walk), and a rotating cast of a couple of additional foster children.  Instead of preparing for kids to come, stay a few months and leave, we’re preparing for the long haul – not sure yet what that will mean for the Gang of Three, but no one expects this to end soon, and it is possible that they will stay permanently.

Z. is headed rapidly towards permanency – I may be tempting fate by saying this, since nothing is certain in foster care but that everything is uncertain, but barring a bolt from the blue, the odds are that Z will become our son legally within the next year.  He’s been with us now since he came home from the hospital, and the legalities will just confirm the fact that he is ours in every way that matters.  At 15 months he’s a peanut with a mop of curls and a huge personality.  He’s the smallest and loudest personality in the house.

The oldest of the Gang of Three, K. (boy)  and R. (girl) are boy-girl twins, going on four.  Both have some significant delays and behavioral challenges, K more than R.  Things started out tough – during the first month in our home both twins tantrumed for HOURS daily, their speech was almost incomprehensible and their behavior was the worst I’ve ever seen in a preschooler (and that’s saying a LOT).  After four months of structure and consistency, their tantrums are down to a comparative minimum, their behavior is like night and day, and they are thriving and learning.  R. is my little shadow and helper,  - she loves positive attention and does a great job helping me cook or set the table.  K. is sweeet, impulsive and gentle, and loves to help take care of the two little ones.  Both are a joy to be around…most of the time now.

21 month old Q. is a tiny, sweet,  tough cookie – she’s definitely feels the world revolves around her. I’ve seen her walk up to 13 year old, 6’1 Eli, whack him on the knee and grab a toy away from him.  When she came to us she didn’t expect much from grownups, who hadn’t given her much, but she’s become our funny, snuggly, heart-of-gold toddler, the one we never knew we were waiting for.  She is smart as a whip and   She and Z. are home most of the day with us, and at 5 months apart are best buddies, except when they are hitting each other.

Eli is 13 now – we celebrated his bar mitzvah a few weeks before the Four arrived.  He’s taller than I am and a fairly good natured teen.  Simon his heading rapidly into adolescence and will be 12 soon, complete with eye-rolling and sarcasm, but also with that teen sweetness – he’s 5’3, obsessed with old movies (yes, he can tell you about the earliest version of Ben Hur, in case you wanted to know) and happily back to homeschooling.  Isaiah at almost 10 wants to be a professional baker and keeps our cookie jars full, and keeps us laughing – he’s a natural comedian.  Asher is our fix-it guy in training, unusually strong for his nearly-8 years, and also the best big brother in the world.  Three years ago when we began fostering Asher’s only request was that he get to be a big brother.  He is, and he’s great at it.  All of them are/

What’s changed for us?  Less sleep, less free time, of course.  We broke down and bought a refrigerator after six years of fridgelessness – we’ve used ice and an old fridge as an ice box to cut energy use, but with so many little people drinking milk and such expanded food bills (our kids came to us tiny and radically underweight – they’ve all grown at least two clothing sizes and sometimes much more in five months), during the heat waves this summer, we decided we were wasting food, and it was worth the additional electric usage.

During the  first few months we did more grocery store shopping than we ever had before, simply for lack of time and energy to make multiple stops.  My four little ones were all in diapers when they came (R. is nearly out now), and I had been cloth diapering Z, but had to stop because I couldn’t keep up with the laundry with four kids in cloth and a 12 person household.  I’m hoping to get R. completely out of diapers and K. day dry, so I can go back to cloth with Q. and Z.

We had a hard frost on Memorial day weekend, the day after I laboriously planted all our tender plants – and then added the kids that same weekend, and mostly never replanted.  My garden was the smallest it has been since our first year here and I did less preserving than I ever have.

All of which sounds bad.  Except here’s what we did do.  We taught children not be afraid that there wouldn’t be any more food, and feel safe and secure in our home.  We have children who now appear solidly on the weight charts, and instead of wearing 24 month clothes at 3 1/2, wear sizes appropriate to their ages.  Kids who tantrumed hours each day now can go to a restaurant with us and sit nicely waiting for their food.  Long-neglected health problems are resolved or resolving.  I didn’t grow a garden.  I didn’t give my farm the attention it deserved.  But I grew four children, sent one off into the world and made three a secure part of our family.  The garden will come around again in the spring.

Gradually we’ve come back to things – there was more preserving and local purchasing these last couple of months, and things have settled in fairly well.   We are cutting back on our animals to have time to concentrate on our family for a bit, but the genetics are still there and we will come back to it again (see next post – hopefully an opportunity for some of you!).  The truth is that we can’t do it all – but we’ve done what we can and there will be more to come.

So that’s where we are – there will be more writing now, I think/hope/intend.  I’m longing to have that outlet back in my life.  I hope a few of you are still around to hear, and that all of you are well.  We are.  And hey, I finished the post!

Sharon

Comments

  1. #1 Janis Conard
    United States
    October 17, 2013

    Sharon,
    I was just browzing on the internet and I came across your blog. I really enjoyed reading everthing your family is facing and accomplishing. I am a grandmother raising two grandchildren. I really admire everything you are doing for the children. May God continue to Bless you and your entire family.
    Janis

  2. #2 Janis Conard
    United States
    October 17, 2013

    Sharon,
    I was just browzing on the internet and I came across your blog. I really enjoyed reading everything your family is facing and accomplishing. I am a grandmother raising two grandchildren. I really admire everything you are doing for the children. May God continue to Bless you and your entire family.
    Janis

  3. #3 Janis Conard
    United States
    October 17, 2013

    Sharon,
    I was just browzing on the internet and I came across your blog. I really enjoyed reading everything your family is facing and accomplishing. I am a grandmother raising two grandchildren. I really admire everything you are doing for the children. May God continue to Bless you and your entire family.
    Janis

  4. #4 Janis Conard
    United States
    October 17, 2013

    Sharon,
    I was just browzing on the internet and I came across your blog. I really enjoyed reading everything your family is facing and accomplishing. I am a grandmother raising two grandchildren. I really admire everything you are doing for the children. May God continue to Bless you and your entire family.
    Janis

  5. #5 Janis Conard
    United States
    October 17, 2013

    Sharon,
    I was just browzing on the internet and I came across your blog. I really enjoyed reading everything your family is facing and accomplishing. I am a grandmother raising two grandchildren. I really admire everything you are doing for the children. May God continue to Bless you and your entire family.
    Janis

  6. #6 Janis Conard
    United States
    October 17, 2013

    Sharon,
    I was just browzing on the internet and I came across your blog. I really enjoyed reading everything your family is facing and accomplishing. I am a grandmother raising two grandchildren. I really admire everything you are doing for the children. May God continue to Bless you and your entire family.
    Janis

  7. #7 Janis Conard
    United States
    October 17, 2013

    Sharon,
    I was just browzing on the internet and I came across your blog. I really enjoyed reading everything your family is facing and accomplishing. I am a grandmother raising two grandchildren. I really admire everything you are doing for the children. May God continue to Bless you and your entire family.
    Janis

  8. #8 Janis Conard
    United States
    October 17, 2013

    Sharon,
    I was just browzing on the internet and I came across your blog. I really enjoyed reading everything your family is facing and accomplishing. I am a grandmother raising two grandchildren. I really admire everything you are doing for the children. May God continue to Bless you and your entire family.
    Janis

  9. #9 Janis Conard
    United States
    October 17, 2013

    Sharon,
    I was just browzing on the internet and I came across your blog. I really enjoyed reading everything your family is facing and accomplishing. I am a grandmother raising two grandchildren. I really admire everything you are doing for the children. May God continue to Bless you and your entire family.
    Janis

  10. #10 Susie Erdey
    United States
    October 17, 2013

    So glad to see you blogging again — and I’m in awe of all that you’ve been able to accomplish with the children. I can’t imagine doing even a small fraction of what you’re doing — and I just have the two Hairy Hooligan malamutes!

  11. #11 Francisco
    Asuncion, Paraguay
    October 17, 2013

    I’m still around!

  12. #12 NM
    Northwestern Oregon
    October 17, 2013

    Welcome back! And congratulations on all of the wonderful accomplishments.
    Please accept my condolences for the loss of daughter D; for your sakes, and for the siblings; such a terribly sad thing, to separate children. I hope very much, for all of you, that you will, at least, have the opportunity to remain close, rather than losing each other entirely. Maybe even sleepovers, and multi-day visits? If good wishes make any difference, you have mine, and, no doubt, many others.
    Have been madly preserving here, and very, very ready to be done with that, except there are always just a few last things to finish up. Learning more about lactofermentation, which is new to me. Not crazy about sauerkraut, or pickles, and the green beans are mostly causing frustration at this point, they may be a fail before even being tasted. But brined green tomatoes have been a revelation; those are definitely staying on the must-make list. Continued Independence Days reports to myself, through e-mail, and that has been quite useful. Currently we’re doing a pantry challenge; focusing on eating All of the food I’ve spent all these hours preserving, and for some reason, giving it an official name is helping to keep me from giving up and stopping for takeout or something processed, on the way home, just because I’m tired. Absurd, but whatever works!
    Am looking forward to reading about your continuing adventures.

  13. #13 Jo
    Tasmania, Australia
    October 17, 2013

    Wow, what a summer you have had. Never mind, growing children is more important than growing vegetables, especially while there are still supermarkets for our convenience.
    Did you ever read the third book in the Little Women series? You remind me so much of Jo in Little Men, with her big house full of children who need love, food and a future. Blessings on you and yours in the glorious chaos!

  14. #14 Lisa in MN
    October 17, 2013

    Welcome back! i’ve missed your writing!

  15. #15 Raye
    New England
    October 17, 2013

    Have been thinking of you often, as is my habit. Chalking it up to the changing seasons of life. Nice you can check back in.

    I have been doing more food growing and preserving, still keeping up wit da duckies, still a long list of projects yet to begin or complete.

  16. #16 Bonnie
    Chicago suburb
    October 17, 2013

    I am so happy to learn that you are well and that all of the children are thriving. I have been reading and re-reading “Making Home” all summer to keep my mind in Sharonland
    of course, you have made the best possible decision to put the children first. Please keep us informed when you can. A few lines will do! It was worrying not to hear from you, but I should have known that you would do a wonderful job.
    Blessings on your head, Bonnie

  17. #17 Kate
    Upper Midwest
    October 17, 2013

    So glad to have your voice back! You always inspired me to be a better person, ecologically and personally, and I have really missed that.

    I am happy to hear that your family is growing as you had hoped! Hope to hear more from you, maybe before February this time. :)

  18. #18 Heather
    canada
    October 17, 2013

    I’m so happy to see you back blogging. 8) I miss hearing about your life and adventures. You are doing wonderful things and making a difference in the lives of children who need it the most. The plants will always be there next year.

  19. #19 Ann Owen
    Wales, UK
    October 18, 2013

    Always knew you’d be back. But I have no words to describe how awesome i think you and your family are. Wish I could pop over to lend a hand with your garden while you’re busy growing more love in the world.

  20. #20 knutty knitter
    October 18, 2013

    Nice to have you back :)

    viv in nz

  21. #21 Robyn Morton
    United States
    October 18, 2013

    Welcome back! You have been sorely missed, but never doubt that we all knew you were up to Very Important Work. It just fills my heart like crazy to hear that there are children who have found a loving home with your family.

  22. #22 Brad K.
    Ponca City, OK
    October 18, 2013

    Blessed be!

  23. #23 Chris B.
    Ann Arbor, MI
    October 18, 2013

    Oh so glad to see you back! Have missed your posts tremendously, and wow, bless you for loving those children.

  24. #24 Mary Ellen
    State College PA
    October 18, 2013

    So glad you’re back. Children are the most important, gardening and everything else, comes next.

  25. #25 Yvonne Rowse
    Sheffield, UK
    October 19, 2013

    You being back has made my weekend. I’ve been checking and worrying regularly. So pleased that everything is OK

  26. #26 Joseph Ormond
    Arcata,CA
    October 19, 2013

    Nice to see you posting. Hope you have a little time to do some more. I recently read a paragraph out of your book about church model to a Transition Humboldt Group.

    Love the description of the kids.

  27. #27 Claire
    suburban St. Louis, MO
    October 19, 2013

    Glad to hear from you again and to learn what has been happening! I’ll look forward to reading more about everyone whenever you have a chance to blog.

  28. #28 Greenpa
    October 19, 2013

    Crunchy Chicken just announced she’s taking up blogging again, too- after a year off- I understand the urge… :-)

  29. #29 Eric
    Overland Park, KS
    October 20, 2013

    Great to see you back and that you and the family are hale and healthy! Awesome work with your bonus kids :)

  30. #30 Kate Mc
    United States
    October 22, 2013

    I figured it was something like that. I am glad to know that I am not the only one who has to change to adjust to members of the family. We had to sell and process many of our animals last fall due to lack of money to feed them. It was hard and is still hard to have empty pastures. But it is what we needed to do for now. I am hoping that some day we can go back to some of it.
    Congratulations on growing four children and making them feel secure. I understand how hard it is on a household to have toddlers who are in constant tantrum mode ~ or least that is how it feels. It can be very unnerving. I am glad that that period has scaled down a lot.
    Take care and know that I will be here when you can come visit. Give the little ones and the big ones hugs from me.
    Take care!

  31. #31 Michelle
    Canada
    October 22, 2013

    I’m so glad you’re back! We just took placement of our 2nd daughter, our 5th child, and our 2nd child by adoption. And we had a major flood and lost our basement along with our store of extra food. I can very much relate to things falling off the priority list. I am actually just re-reading your Independence Days book and it’s giving me the motivation to get food things back together!

  32. #32 Rowena
    Australia
    October 23, 2013

    Welcome back, it is lovely to hear things are slowly becoming easier. Must be the year for it – we have had a tough period too, so it must be time to find an outlet for all the pent up passion.
    So good to ‘hear’ from you again!

  33. #33 Margaret Nock
    Wales, UK
    October 23, 2013

    Great to have you back. I did wonder and I did worry a little as you weren’t too well on your last post.

  34. #34 Christine S
    England
    October 23, 2013

    Thank goodness you are back. Really missed you. I was quite worried.

  35. #35 David McFarlane
    United States
    October 23, 2013

    Sharon, it is impressive and brave of you to undertake this foster care work. I’m sure your home community is proud of you for what you’re doing to ameliorate some of the suffering you see around you. Maybe you can hire a responsible teenager or two to help out periodically with the babies? I imagine there are some who would be happy to help in your homeschool community. As former homeschoolers we appreciate the value of support. Don’t let burnout deprive you of your important communications with the world.

  36. #36 Teresa
    October 24, 2013

    Welcome back. It sounds like a wild few months, stressful and blessed at the same time. Glad the new little ones are much healthier and happier now.

  37. #37 Rita
    Oregon
    October 27, 2013

    I knew exactly why we have not a heard a peep from you all these months, but am so glad to get your news. I am also glad you had sense enough to let the farm go a bit, although it was probably not god sense… just the inevitable.

  38. #38 Karen from CT
    October 27, 2013

    So funny ,I was just thinking about you this morning as I was working in my garden. Wondering what was happening with your expanding family. So happy to have you back-missed your posts immensely. What a summer you had-you are all so lucky to have one another. Looking forward to more updates. Welcome back!

  39. #39 Annie
    October 30, 2013

    Welcome back! I’ve been checking in every once in a while, and just generally hoping you were ok. You are–and better than that, you’re helping others to be ok. Good for you.

    You don’t need to apologize for ANYTHING!