Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Thing-Osis Resurfaced

Today I was trimming down a picture to fit into a frame. It was approximately one quarter of an inch wide. It had nothing of significance on it because I, like most sane people, made sure the people in the picture were not cut off. I then picked the scraps up to throw in the garbage.

And my daughter's thing-osis reared its ugly head. She wanted to keep it. She could see no reason why it should go in the garbage can. When asked why, she said that "she hated to see anything go in the garbage".

My usual compassionate self told her it was too bad. She wasn't keeping it, so she may as well kiss it goodbye (well....I didn't exactly say it that harshly, but I certainly thought it).

At supper I told her comrade about it. Again, rare compassion surfaced when he asked his beloved why she wanted to keep it. She again relayed that "she didn't like to see anything put in the garbage", to which he kindly told her that "because this thing didn't have feelings, it would have to go in the garbage, but that we would be happy to let her cut some trim any time she desired to use it for some art work".

Hmm. I admit that I never thought of that. In my defense, I am compassionate in about 80 percent of the situations (to his 20 percent), but because of my particular hatred of STUFF, I am somewhat lacking in this area.

So, comrade, beloved and barracuda were all content.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas and Other Stuff

Here is my son, posing as Pajama Sam (without the cape - I think he'd strangle himself if I actually tied it around his neck, which is why we haven't made him one yet). Daddy made him the mask (which he calls darkness ??), and he had his Batman lunch bag and his flashlight (to scare away darkness) as props. He is totally content.

And here is my girl. She loves helping by regularly sweeping my floors, washing and/or drying my dishes (I have never had a dishwasher), dusts my walls (imagine that? - she actually asks to do this), puts away my groceries, and generally anything that she can find to make my life easier. She has been like this since she was three, and only rarely is too absorbed in something else to help. I absolutely love this about her and hope she never changes.

On to other stuff......We had two very nice days. We spent Christmas Eve with my entire family (I cannot remember the last time we were all together, my dad, his wife, my grandma, my mom, and all of us siblings and families - WOW!) at Lana and Will's. The food was great. There were games, laughter and generally a great day.

Hannah had a blast playing games. She even played foosball and was just as good as some of the adults. She also played crockinole, checkers and Skip-Bo. Seth just basked in plenty of attention from his older, beautiful female cousins and was content.

Today we slept late. Very late. Like 9:00 (ahhhh, for the days when noon was late). It would have been later if I had my way, but Seth decided he couldn't just cuddle me. He had to put his cheeks right on top of mine and lay that way, making it kind of impossible to sleep any longer. Dave and I were of the same mindset that a big breakfast was in order, so invited my mom to come over for brunch.

After the kids had a much needed rest after the late nights, my girl and I played Skip-Bo and Uno in the late afternoon. I am very impressed with her ability to play games. She holds her own and plays just as well as the adults I know (and even better than some). I am looking forward to the day when Seth can play because Dave and I will partner up with our kids and have games nights. Dave and I very much enjoy games as well. While playing these games, Hannah spouted off a few facts (unverified by myself) about the solar system. She woke up this morning with a sudden interest to look at the planets on line and as a result, I discovered that, according to her, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn are the three most dangerous planets to live on. Mars has the most volcanoes, Jupiter has ammonia (although at first she called it pneumonia), and Saturn has storms. Interesting huh? True or not, I really don't know, but I love her inquisitive nature. I was nothing like that when I was six. Which cartoons were on on Saturday morning was about as inquisitive as I got.

After supper, we went for a drive to see the lights and ended up at my grandmas. Christmas day can be very lonely if you're all alone, so we wanted to make sure to have a visit with that grand lady.

And finally, we ended with the usual bedtime routine of a snack, brushing the teeth, and story, which was undertaken by daddy as follows:

With a flashlight under the blanket, to the delight of the kids. Dave is very game when it comes to these kinds of things.

And that ends our wonderful two days. Maybe tomorrow I'll actually get some work done, but this extra rest and time with family has been much needed. Goodnight.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Foster Care System

Today is my last day of driving bus until the new year and I'm finding that I desperately need the break. I am worn out physically, I've been sick off and on for a couple of months (right now my ears have been plugged for EIGHT days and I'm sick of everything sounding muffled), and I'm also worn out emotionally.

As I've said before, I believe I'm where I should be, but it doesn't comes without a cost. I'm emotionally worn out because I've seen so many troubling situations. I suspect that four of the kids I pick up from the same family are in a desperate straits. I know that dad is not in the picture. They miss more school that any of the other kids - on BOTH bus routes. The older two, a boy and a girl in grades six and eight, stayed home this week "to stop the person at the door from getting any money", according to the youngest. As I said, I'm troubled.

This morning I found out that Chase, the boy I had to expel from the bus for one week, is no longer at that foster home and no longer at my school. It came as a surprise when the other five got on the bus this morning without him, and when I asked if he was coming, they said, nonchalantly, that "Chase moved last night to another foster home and is going to a different school". When I asked where he moved or what school he was going to, NONE of the other kids knew. And again, I was troubled. That Chase could move out without anyone caring is heartwrenching.

I realize that for self-preservation sake, these kids have to disconnect. And that is the biggest problem with the foster care system, in my opinion. The kids are moved around from home to home and have learned to cope the only way they know how, by shutting down emotionally. And this cripples them as adults.

I know there is no simple answer for this. There are far too many kids in need of care and far too few people who care. I believe there are some excellent foster parents, but the vast majority are not doing it for the right reasons.

The woman who hired me to drive bus is a foster parent. She told me her story a couple of months ago, and the two of us sat in her office and cried. She said that she was given charge over an autistic boy (I think he was 9 or 10) who was taken away from his parents because he ate, slept and went to the bathroom in front of the TV in the living room. He only ate junk food and because of this, he was 50 pounds overweight and severely malnourished. The parents had no clue how to deal with this child and the child's health was in danger.

Within one week she had him going to the bathroom IN the bathroom. Within six months, after completely changing his diet and going on daily walks, he had lost ALL of his excess weight. Needless to say, he still lives with her today as a teenager and the parents have never been able to get him back. She took on a second foster child in a similar situation with similar results, and he is living with her as well. She is so successful as a foster parent in helping troubled children, that the province is buying her a duplex, she and her family are living on one side, and the most severely troubled, suicidal kids are living on the other side with round-the-clock supervision. She would be their full-time mentor, friend and help. This is her passion.

I asked her what she thought of the foster care system versus orphanages and she said that in her opinion, if an orphanage was run by someone like herself (and she was speaking modestly), she believed that kids would be better off than in the present foster care system. And I must say that I agree.

We all know that the best doctors, teachers, etc., are passionate and compassionate. They have a "calling" to do what they do. So should the same be for foster parents. Nothing less than this should be good enough for those kids. Think about this: If the foster parents were as passionate as my boss, how many would need to get moved from home to home? Never truly connecting with people? Causing enormous problems in society as adults?

I know this is all idealistic and I don't have all the answers. But, I would much rather have several smaller "orphanage-style" homes run by men and women "called" to be a foster parent than have the system that is in place today.

By the way, I found out that those three children (my adorable kindergartners) that I just posted about are, in fact, in a foster home and that *Marion is their foster-mom.

And that is why I am so burdened. I really have much to pray about.

Friday, December 12, 2008

These Three Children

A couple of weeks ago, three new kindergarten children registered to ride the bus. When I saw the address of these children, I realized that they were three full blocks from my closest bus stop. It was also assumed by the office (and relayed to me) that this must be a daycare, because all three of these kids were the same age and had different last names. It turned out that that was a BIG mistake.

When I called who turned out to be the mother - ??? - must be some step-parenting or something going on here (as well, her last name is different from all three of the kids), I was stupid. I actually asked her if this was a daycare. She was incensed and quite huffily told me NO. She was the MOTHER.

I was off to a bad start.

I then asked her if she realized that my closest stop was three blocks from her house, to which she again angrily replied that, "they told me at the school that you could change that!" The conversation was heading from bad to worse.

I explained to her that it wasn't impossible to change a bus route, but that it would have to go through the proper channels. This took some time to get through her head. I was not saying it couldn't be done, I was saying that I would try my best to make the necessary arrangements and get back to her. The conversation did not end on a high note. It ended up with her cutting me off because "she had to go now" mid sentence.

I talked to my employer and I talked to the principal of the school. The principal told me that "the mom was sinking fast" and needed help getting these kids to school. So, for the sake of these children (and realizing that I could be headed for a tough situation dealing with this mother), we changed the route.

For some history, this school dismisses at 3:00, I usually leave by 3:10, drop off the kids and make it to my second school by 3:20 (because they are not too far apart). The second school actually dismisses at 3:10, but has kindly agreed to let me drop off the kids from my first school and wait the extra ten minutes for me to arrive before they get on the bus. I find that set-up preferable actually, because when I pull up the kids are waiting for me rather than the reverse.

However, now that I have changed the route, I am very late getting to the second school. In fact, today I didn't arrive at the second school until 3:30. Twenty minutes is a long time to expect children to wait for the bus after school and consequently, I've put in a request to review the route of the first school and perhaps drop some other stops altogether.

All for the sake of THESE THREE CHILDREN. Because these three children have totally captured my heart.

I had to call Marion*, the mother, the night before I started picking up these three children to let her know the stop times, to explain bus safety rules, and to stress the necessity of someone meeting these children at all times at the stop. I also told her that because the route was changed, the schedule was very tight and therefore it was very important for her not to be late at the bus stop.

The next morning they were waiting and I met the children. Tyler*, Tara* and Jaylynn*. I helped them on and explained how important it was for them to stay seated on the bus. And I met Marion*. Marion* explained to me that Tyler* liked to wander and she didn't think he would stay seated. She then stood on the bottom step and yelled at her children:


Not a real good first (or should I say second) impression. I determined with everything inside of me that those kids WOULD NOT get kicked off the bus. I would work with them endlessly before that would happen.

And for the last week and a half, I have become smitten with them. Tyler* especially, who has a twinkle in his eye, a huge grin and a wonderful curiousity. All three chat my ears off, tell me about themselves, and ask questions about me and my children. And all three of them follow the bus rules bee-u-tee-full-y. Even Tyler*. In fact, some days if I don't tell Tyler* how fantastic he's done on the bus fast enough, the little imp says to me, "I done good today sitting, didn't I?" with a big grin. How can you not love a kid like that?

But I was struggling with Marion*. And that bothered me because I didn't want to feel that way. After she yelled at them on the bus, I knew I was really going to have to pray about this woman, for both of our sakes.

Things were going perfectly until Wednesday. No one was there to pick them up at their stop. They live in a duplex just two houses from the corner, but I couldn't see their door from my stop. Because it would have made me even later to drop them back off at the school (and I was scared they would get into trouble if I did), I made the decision to back the school bus around the corner to the spot where I could see their door so that I could let them out and watch them go to the door. Fortunately someone came to the door and they got in safely. However, technically I am not supposed to back a school bus up without an adult spotter (because I can't see behind me) and only did it because I backed it around a bend and could see around the bend first. But I knew I could not do that again.

So, I knew I would have to call Marion* that night and was not looking forward to it. I made the call and very kindly asked her why nobody was at stop. She told me she left it to her older kids because she wasn't home, and that she even called them once to remind them. She sounded a little bit contrite and I was hopeful. I explained to her that in the future I would have no choice but to return them to the school and that she would then have to go and pick them up.

I then told her that I adored her children and I found them delightful. I told her that they were very good at obeying the rules and, in fact, were some of my best behaved kids. I ended by telling her was that it was a real pleasure having them ride on my bus.

I don't know if I can find adequate words to express this, but after I said this, Marion*, the very hard, angry woman who mothered these three adorable children, used a tone I'll never forget when she said, "Really?". Not of shock, but more of wonder. And not at all the hard tone she had been using with me.

And suddenly I realized that it wasn't so hard to like Marion*. That Marion* is likely the product of a difficult childhood (because that's usually the case), and abusive relationships and hasn't yet figured out how to get out of the "pit".

And I also realize, again, how much I've come to love this new place I've come to in my life. It's unexpected. It's heartwrenching. And I believe it's the perfect will of God. I am content.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

My Son, The Delight

Although my son manages to push my buttons every day - yes, every day (if there are any perfect mothers out there - you know, the ones who can manage to go several days between the knickers-in-a-knot stage, please identify yourself because I would like your autograph), he also makes me laugh and smile several times a day. So you see, it balances itself out.

Today, while saying goodbye to grandma, he turns to me (and I wasn't even the one going anywhere), strokes my cheek and says, "Mom, you sure are lovely."

Yup. My son, the Charmer.

Tonight after church, while changing into his jammies, he was having trouble getting his shirt off.

"Mom, I need your help getting my shirt off," he asks. Daddy, who was standing right there, told him that he could help him and proceeds to do just that. A delighted Seth then turns back to me and says,

"Mom, dad sure is a good man!"

Yup. My son, the Irresistible.

After getting ready for bed, the kids were constantly trying to scare each other. I told them to quit because I'd had enough of the scaring. Seth informs me, with furrowed eyebrows and all, that he has to "scare people away from all of his friend girls!". (Not girlfriends).

Yup. My son, the Knight.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Missing The Point

Oh how I love my girl. She is so sincere and earnest, and she takes things so literal. I have NO idea where she gets this from.

While listening to Odyssey on the road today, the story was about Nick, who defended Nathanial from the bully Rodney Rathbone. Nathanial was in such admiration of Nick for rescuing him the he started to emulate Nick, imitating everything he was doing. Unfortunately, he caught Nick smoking and decided to try that as well, hurting himself in the process (much to Nick's chagrin).

As parents often do, I thought I would use this story to enforce a principle that I strongly believe in. Hannah is very bright and, although only six, doesn't usually "miss the point". I said:

"Now do you understand, Hannah, why it's so important for parents to monitor their children's friends? It's because some children are willing to do anything to keep a friend, like Nathanial did."

Oh how wise I was! Teaching strong principles. Guiding my child so eloquently. Enjoying my soapbox while my daughter sat in rapt attention.

And her response?

"But mom, none of my friends smoke!"

And they don't. I am comforted.

From the mouths of babes.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Francine The Bully

Seth chose an Arthur story tonight for bedtime. I like Arthur. I like the Brain. I like DW. I like Muffy. I like Sue Ellen. I like Buster and even Binky Barnes.

But I cannot stand Francine.

Have any of you parents of young children (or used-to-be young children that remember the Arthur stories) ever noticed how nasty Francine is? She is usually so nasty that I find myself shocked when she is actually nice about something.

Tonight's story was no exception. It was Francine who had to stand up in class and SHOW OFF because her tooth fell out. It was Francine who mocked Arthur because he hadn't lost any teeth yet. It was Francine who invented a game ONLY FOR KIDS WHO LOST A TOOTH, leaving Arthur out. And, it was Francine who spent all of her money from the tooth fairy, while at least Muffy saved it to earn interest.

Francine is one kid who is very difficult to like and whom you have to work very hard at finding something good about.

As we were reading the story tonight, after every Francine incident, it became a catch phrase for me to turn to Seth and say, "Don't ever marry someone like Francine". Hannah caught on and joined me, so I turned to her and said, "Don't ever, EVER be someone like Francine". I challenged Hannah to find all of her Arthur books and see for herself how mean-spirited Francine was.

Now, I realize this seems like a simple post, but the character of Francine always strikes a chord in me. Francine represents everything nasty that a girl can be. Girls can be catty. Girls can be mean-spirited. Girls tell "tall tales" better than anyone. And girls NEVER FORGET.

Although boys can be all of these things, I would bet the farm that if you put a nasty boy and a nasty girl in the same room, the nasty girl would win every time (not speaking physically).

I will continue to use the Arthur books to teach lessons to Hannah of how NOT to act. And even though I was joking tonight when I told Seth not to ever marry someone like Francine, believe me, when he's older it is something I will not joke about. I do not want him strapped for life with some loud-mouthed, nasty, mean-spirited, show-off for a wife.

Now a woman with a strong opinion.............that's another matter entirely :).

Monday, December 1, 2008

Fabulous and Funny

I very much admire FANTASTIC singing. Therefore, I cannot help but post this clip that I found on someone else's blog (last year at Christmas time) because I think it's one of the best acapella vocals I've ever heard. This is the comedic version of The Twelve Days of Christmas by Straight No Chaser, a men's group from the University of Indiana. If you've never heard it before, enjoy.