Bouncing balls

I sat on the couch the other day….taking in the perspective of the house….watching the boys bounce around in an active game of football. (Super Tall Guy throws it to Flipper 1315168797_Bouncing_Ballswho tries to make it around the inside track of the house one or two times before his flags are ripped off. The “less-essential” members of the team pretty much just run and jump and pick up a toy and play with it for a few minutes then rejoin the team – pretty much, they are less than essential to the scoring capabilities of the team.)  The image of little rubber bouncing balls came to my mind – that’s what my household is almost continuously – a set of bouncing balls.

Naturally a set of balls bouncing about in a finite space lends towards occasional collisions. When you have a particularly large ball like Super Tall Guy who also thinks it’s fun to bounce into and off other balls….it’s quite a bit less fun. And when he’s in one of his pesty moods, like he was last Monday before school, it’s really not fun at all.

After he careened into multiple children and finally sent a shooting ball into my mother’s abdomen, I had had enough and chased him at top speed upstairs. He knew he was in trouble. I knew I was in trouble as I wondered how to wrestle him to the ground and wait for my anger to subside so that I wouldn’t actually harm the poor kid. Practically sitting on him, I looked him in the eye and informed him that he was grounded from all fun this week – including the parent-child last practice soccer game, the Halloween party at the gym, and the party with his favorite friends just outside of Cleveland. That got his attention.

Now I had a good week. Having him in the position of not getting his fun activities, we came up with a star system to earn them back. Then, if he wouldn’t listen to me this week, I could threaten to take away a virtual star that existed mostly in my head, but sometimes on the dry erase board hanging on the refrigerator. Of course, he worked hard to get 5 stars to go to the soccer game….and it got rained out. And then worked for another 10 stars to get the day of activities and parties on Saturday.

Now I had to do that oft-recommended parenting technique = catch them at doing something good. You can imagine the challenge of singly out a bouncing ball and informing it that it’s on the right track and doing well. So, a star for brushing your teeth in the morning when you hate doing that. A star for getting dressed without me reminding you. One day, I realized I was pretty desperate when before the bath, I said, “Wow, Super Tall Guy, you actually wore underwear today – you get a star for that!”

I’m liking this system….so then I realized I need another big carrot to dangle. Fortunately, my sister bought tickets to the circus – of dragons! – now, that’s a great item to have in the back pocket!

Celebrating the Foster-to-Adopt completion

I’m not going to lie – parenting is exhausting…especially if you’re starting to get a cold (two weeks of wiping aside snot and I’m finally starting to succumb). So hosting a party of 15 boys (under the age of 9) and 2 girls was definitely tiring – and yet so much fun. Yesterday we had a party to celebrate Noah’s 4th birthday and Seth’s adoption. This brought together the 17 kids for the birthday and about an equal number of adults for the adoption. Today I reflect on how wonderful it is to be surrounded by so many people who care about my boys and our family.

For many people, families and friends celebrate the birth of a child. Friends gather around the new baby and the beaming parents, visitors come and go (and people make you food!), and gifts pour in. Mothers stay home from work for some time (and it would be nice if we let fathers do so too)… cooing over how gorgeous the baby is, who he or she looks like, and “napping when the baby naps” (or at least that’s what people say they do!). It is very different when you adopt a child through the foster care system.

This week I have looked down at Seth every night as I plant a kiss on his forehead and say “goodnight, my son.” It is the first time that I’ve been able to call him my “son.” And it is the first time that I realize I can bond with him as my son. It is a very strange thing. As a foster parent, you are asked to “love the children as if they are your own” and yet to “keep your distance” as your job really is to hand them back to the biological parent (when at all possible).

So there’s this closeness of rocking them to sleep every night, and this guarding of your heart in preparation of possibly losing them. You pick them up when they fall and kiss the “boo-boo,” and wonder how long they will still be in your house. You bounce them and tickle them. You praise their every milestone as they grow. You hold their hand and protect them. You take them to day care and pick them up. You take them to doctor appointments, you sit and pray over them as they recover from surgery, you worry about every cold or fever or wheeze. You ache, you agonize, you cry, you comfort….you love. You know the baby needs a “mother” and you play the role of the “mother,” but you never know if you are the one who will be the forever mother. Until that very moment, years later, when a complete stranger in a black robe declares you to be the mother.

Then you sigh. Then you cry. Then you gather your friends and family around you and say “Celebrate with me. Sing with me. Dance with me….on the “birth” of my son.”

Micah – I met you May 22, 2006, and became your forever Mommy on February 26, 2008.

Noah – I met you Feb 27, 2009, and became your forever Mommy on February 23, 2010.

Seth – I met you on June 2, 2011, and became your forever Mommy on February 12, 2013.

Tonight I lay on Micah’s bed beside him as he snored and looked around the room at my sleeping family. My sons. Beautiful each one.

And I love each of them….

now with my whole heart.

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