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!