Thursday, September 4, 2014

First Day of School

I didn't really intend to take a break from blogging ... and suddenly it's the first day of school!
So apparently I took a break.
Oops.
How was your summer? (That's what you ask on the first day back to school, right?)

It's funny going through the first day of kindergarten ... when you unschool
.
Yesterday was an orientation for Child F and the principal asked the crowd of parents: "Just by show of hands, how many of you are doing this for the first time, sending your oldest off to school?"
Wait. Can you ask those questions again, more slowly? I think those were two different questions and I have two different answers.
I just kept my hand down.
I asked the nutrition specialist, in charge of the cafeteria, pointed questions about their food system. Not because the answers mattered (although I was curious), but because I wanted to raise awareness and point out that these were issues to be concerned about (where is the food being made? is it made from scratch? where is the food being sourced?).

Child F.'s mom came for orientation. We've had more reasons to be together lately (Child D. had dental surgery recently, for example) and it's nice to co-parent in real-time instead of catching each other for minutes before and after weekly visits.

Child F. is really excited ... and pretty nervous. I woke her up before her sisters, and she was still asleep in my arms as I quietly carried her downstairs. She sleepily got dressed, but was ready for breakfast. I packed a snack (panicking a little - what do I send for a snack!?) of yogurt and homemade strawberry syrup/jam and some homemade granola. Might this child live with hippies?


I found myself feeling all adrenaline-y when we were waiting for the bus. I'm excited for Child F. - she's ready. And the last few weeks have been challenging. I attribute this to the fact that we are very close to the anniversary of her removal and the weather took a sharp turn for cold at the end of August. The last few days have been better, but I'm assuming the break where Child F. is at school and away from us will be a good thing (but only half believe).


Child F. was mostly worried about the cat being in the road.


I'm nervous about her academic skills ... we haven't done anything over the summer ... on purpose ... that is purposefully academic. She was in headstart with special ed services and as we unschool, I'm a firm believer in "kids will learn what they need to know when they need to know it". For Child F. that was: how to heat food in the microwave, how to go to the bathroom, how to stay out of harms way, how to fill a bottle with milk when the baby was crying ... not: how to count, what sounds some letters make, or how to organize by shape. So I asked her to count last night. It was on a survey thing the teacher sent home. And she counted to 11 - without missing one number! This is huge! I've been told over and over that kindergarten teachers have a wide range of student ability that enter their classroom on their first day - and this girl isn't going to be the one needing the most academic forward movement. I took some deep breaths ... and then the child counted to 11. So cool. I'm really proud of all the gains she's made.


Here's the thing: she's going to be fine. Better than fine. She's going to excel. I know it. But it's hard (and I've only known this kid a year - imagine if I'd been with her day in and day out for the last 5.5 years!) to let her go do this by herself. She was nervous about where she was supposed to go when the bus dropped her off (there will be all kinds of adults there to help her on her way as she walks to the very end of a long hallway to her classroom). But she's got this. And you know how I know? Even if she would love to have a familiar hand to hold as she steps into the next big change of her life - she doesn't need it. She's done far bigger and scarier things than any other kid in her class (I'm guessing). Last year, she was taken from all she knew and brought to a brand new house with more questions than she could even articulate and no one answering in a way that made sense. And this was the scariest thing ever - even scarier than anything she'd experienced at home.



And she's done awesome. She can count to 11. She can check in with others who are sad. She can voice her wants and needs. Kindergarten is going to be easy-peasy.



Her teacher seems awesome and Child F. is excited. And the house is relatively peaceful with one less kid for the day. I can't wait to hear all about her first-day-of-school-adventures in about two hours!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

3 examples of disrespect

I will use Headstart as the example, although similar (or the exact same) things have happened through other service providers.
I assume this is a low income thing - you are treated disrespectfully in these ways because you are presumed low income (a correct technical assumption for us, but not the same, I don't think as culturally low income).

Example 1:
Our child comes home smelling like sunblock. This is the first we knew about sunblock use at our child's preschool. In our past experience, we would have received a note home for us to sign giving permission to use a certain brand (likely organic and "all natural") of sunblock on our child. Not at Headstart. Kids are sunblocked up with knows what, without our consent.

Example 2:
Our child is provided breakfast, lunch, and snack. The food could be worse. But ours is better. By far. But we bite our tongue, and minimize the fuss we want to make over the food choices (graham crackers and juice for snack anyone?), food sources (what's seasonal? what's organic? what's local? what are these questions?!), and food preparation (the person who cooks the food smokes regularly in her car and does not pre-wash her hands). At one point, we asked if Child F. could be limited to one serving. She was gaining weight very quickly (that's what happens when you are not fed adequately and then suddenly a buffet appears) and we knew we would prefer to fill her at home with whole foods. We were told that the policy is for every child to be allowed at least seconds (the children serve themselves so choose their own portions) because for many children this is the only food they get all day. Apparently the policy is rigid. We didn't talk about perhaps sending Child F.'s food home with another child. We've never been asked for input on the menu choices.

Example 3
:
Twice we have received notice of a parent-teacher conference days before the conference. The first time, we were told when the conference would be and that it would be happening at our house. Um, okay. Thanks for respecting me with a CHOICE. The second time, our child missed the day the notice was sent home and I was called an hour ahead of our conference time with apologies and stating we could reschedule. No, that's fine, we can do this. Oh, and this time it's at the school.



The assumption that one can put sunscreen on a kid with who knows what chemicals in it. The assumption that any food is better than no food (which I would concur with, but you can't tell me you can't do better - grow a garden at the school! That's a start!). The assumption that parents are sitting around with nothing on their schedules available at a moments notice for a meeting.
This all feels completely disrespectful. Except no one says anything (I'm guessing). Because they don't know? Because they are so beat down? Because there are bigger issues in life?

It's not hard: think ... Would I like it if someone did this to me?

Would I like it if someone made the choice to put a cream on your kid?
Would I like it if someone fed your child substandard food and insisted they have access to all they wanted?
Would I like it if someone sent me a note informing me of a meeting time without any input from me ... and worse, only sent the letter giving me minimal time to rearrange my schedule?

Monday, May 26, 2014

Returning empties. Grr.


Let's start by saying that my dad is an all around great guy.
But he has this thing, this "addiction", you could call it, and it's a bit maddening.
It could be worse.
It's not smoking after all.
It's Pepsi.
It's kind of a security thing. He always has a bottle with him when out and about and goes through about a bottle a day.

We're clearing out the "not-garage" and there are five bags of empties - or there were - mostly pepsi bottles.
The whole cleaning-out-the-not-garage is overwhelming. There is an awesome wooden chair we've had since forever ago, a kite, some camp chairs, various summer outdoor toys, some tools, etc ... and also these five bags.
I can do the five bags.
That would be huge.
So I load up the bottles into the back of the van.
My dad had suggested I bring them to the local redemption outfit in conjunction with driving Child F. to preschool.
We have no restaurant, grocery store, or bank - but we have a redemption center.

So on Monday I pick up Child F. and go a little out of our way on the way home to drop off the empties.
Only to find that the redemption place isn't opened on Mondays.
It's a small squat building painted red with a laundromat attached. It's dwarfed by the neighboring Methodist Church.

Grumble grumble.

On Tuesday I arrived with Child F. and found the front door unlocked. There were overpriced dusty bags of chips and a carpet that let's just say I was thankful to be wearing shoes. There was no one at the register, but I could see a small women at the back organizing many many bags of bottles.

"Hi," I began, "I have empties - where should I bring them?"
"How many bags do you have?" she asked.
"I'm not sure," I replied.
She looked around at the small mounds of bags surrounding her on the concrete floor and rough plywood tables.
"They have to be in clear bags," she informed me, "Are they in clear bags?"
"I don't know," I said, "I can check."
"And if there's glass, they can't be in the bag - they have to be in a box."
"Oh," I said, feeling less than confident about this transaction.
"Why don't you see how many bags you have and if they are clear," she suggested. "You can bring them to this door and I'll get you cardboard boxes to put your glass in."
"Okay," I replied, feeling hopeful.
In the van I discovered that there were 5 bags to be precise, white garbage bags with a mix of plastic and glass bottles.
I returned through the front door and reported my findings. After glancing at the bags in the store I said: "They aren't clear bags, they are like those ones," I pointed to be clear.
"Oh, as long as I can see through them, that's fine," she assured me. Phew. "How many bottles are there?" she asked.
"I don't know," I said, surprised at the expectation that I should know this information.
The woman looked uncertainly again around the room. "Well, I can't get to them right now ... maybe tomorrow morning. Leave your name and number and I can call you when I'm ready," she said.
"Okay, thanks," I responding, feeling certain that this was was not worth it.

It's impossible to fit all I need to fit into the van with the children when I need to bring them to their weekly visit - the only time I would be near another return-your-bottles-here option (a grocery store?). But I have a foster-training I need to go to with enough time between the visit and training to drop the girls off and switch cars. So I transfer all of the bags to the other car.

After a quick drop off of kids (one of whom was pretty sick, another one almost-sick, and all of the kids begging me not to leave (Del's exact words were: "you stay with us more, so tell them Daddy has to go instead of you!")) I made it to the training only 5 minutes late. Not bad. And there's free pizza. Yay.

The training ends, I talk to all the people who will let me (adult interaction is limited at times, and these are those times ;) )
I noticed that Target had a return station, so I try there first. It's closed. Grr.

Price Chopper is a short distance away and open 24 hours. So I head there. I lug the first two bags in and begin inserting the bottles. All the lids need to be off, a sign informs me. The bottles are all capped. I dutifully remove every cap, burning my hand with the friction. After a dozen, I give up on following the rules and just place them gently in the receptacle (you can't throw them, the machine informs me, even when I want to argue and say that I didn't throw!). I remember that I've seen others use a cart to move their many empties and I know I can only carry two bags at once and still have three more to go.
I find an empty cart and fill it with my remaining bags and ramp up the sketchy. I choose a different machine, hoping it's more tolerant of my throwing placing gently. I'm feeling slightly embarrassed realizing that it's not going to look so good if one of farm customers sees me returning five bajillion soda bottles!
But it's late, and the store is empty, more or less.
Most people probably choose to frequent the grocery store during daylight hours, at least this time of year.
Finally, finally all the bottles the machine will accept (they are ornery, these machines!) have been swallowed up by the machine. I print my receipt. Between the glass bottles and plastic ones (they have to go in different machines) and my two-trips-to-the-receptacles, I have five receipts. I do some quick addition and the grand total is $9.70.
It costs us approximately $8/round trip to go into town - town where the grocery stores, banks, and restaurants are.
One day, a long time ago, say 20 years ago, that was a decent amount of money. In the future, I will inform my father that his soda habit is going to cost him an extra .5/bottle. It's worth it to me to have the convenience of tossing the empty in the recycling bin at our house!
But I'm here, so I might as well bring the receipts to the service desk.
The lights behind the service desk are off.
I see the hours sign.
The service desk is not opened 24hours.
It's a warm dark night and it's time to go home.



p.s. In an ideal world I'm going to discover a beverage recipe that replaces my dad's desire for Pepsi. If I can find the time. And maybe maybe if I put it in a Pepsi bottle, that will help. Because Coke doesn't do it. He's specific.
In case you're interested, here's the first recipe I want to try.

p.p.s. I'm trying to blog, honestly. This post took no less than 4 days of me writing here and there. Busy life, you bet!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Busy in 4 paragraphs

Yep.
So it's busy.
Actually - speaking of that, I've had two people in the last year who don't know me very well say: "oh, but we're all busy!" and I just smile and let them think that my busy is the same. There are busier people and people not as busy and it doesn't really matter. But so often I hear: "wow - you're REALLY busy!". So when someone has a small picture into our life (as the "farmer" or the "mom" etc), I think - everyone else can't be wrong.

Having said that, I don't feel too busy or even necessarily busy. So maybe everybody is right :)

But lately, we're busier. The weather has been spectacular so we've had a ton of outside work to attend to. So blogging (and computer time in general) has been minimal.
I know you need an update, even with the busy (or maybe especially because of the busy).
So here's the solution: quick paragraphs with updates in no particular order ...

Camper - The front and one side is off and the water damage isn't as bad as I thought. The bottom and top of the framing have the most damage. I need to remove some more luan from the ceiling inside and then remove the back and other side to repair the damaged framing that I'm sure is there. So camping in June will be tent camping, I'm sure. Fortunately I found two tents at a recent town-wide yard sale. Score! And less pressure!


Cows/farm/creamery
- Ren Man (mostly) is busy cleaning out above the "not garage" and organizing to make room for the stuff stored in the not garage to make room for the creamery. Slowly but surely. In the meantime Ren Man picked up a cheese vat at an auction for a really awesome price - and that's the biggest equipment piece we needed. So yay.
The cows are all out of the barn, which makes for much more pleasant chores. Last week Ren Man went to an auction intending to pick up three cows ... he came back with five. He likes to point out that he came back with three cows and two heifers and somehow that's supposed to make me feel less overwhelmed. But this is all another giant step forward. So I'm excited and it's motivation to keep working on the creamery build!


Fostering - There's a back-and-forth on if I think reunification will happen or not. Depends on the day. I'm increasingly frustrated with the girls parents, which I hate to say. I want what's best for the girls and when I see parents making decisions that are damaging to their chance at reunification or when they say things that show they really don't see why the children were removed in the first place - I feel very frustrated. When they offer parenting advice or insist that the kids need this or that - something that is so not needed and was not provided in any way shape or form when the kids lived with them, I feel angry. But I remind myself that they are doing the best they can, that they really feel they are doing and have always done enough, and pointing at our shortcomings as parents helps them avoid face their own shortcomings. Having said that, I really like them and from what I can tell (and have been told) that feeling is mutual. The girls have now been with us for the better part of a year and the longer it is the more I'm dreading the transition process. We'll be okay, we'll heal - but I hate that the girls are going to have another loss to live through.

Photography - so fun, as always. I'm pretty excited because our wedding calendar this year is as full as I want and we have bookings for next summer coming in. This is so awesome because moving the business twice in 3 years definitely had it's toll. But the word is getting out, and it's all exciting.

Reading - I keep reading dystopian novels and I'm loving them. I realized I love young adult fiction. The latest series I'm reading is the Last Survivors series, about the moon getting pushed a little closer to earth by an asteroid and all that follows - a librarian said the book is like an explanation of how we get from here to something like Hunger Games,Divergent/Incarnate/Etc. I'm on the third book in the series, and yeah. Awesome. Thankfully got me out of the Divergent funk too.

What else?


Friday, May 9, 2014

Kid Speak

She's a fan of Nina
-Del speaking of the dog's preference for Nina

Del: Is it a "cupboard" or "covered"?
Me: Cupboard
Del: That doesn't make sense! "Covered" makes sense.

I know how to ride a horse, Noah told me! If you want the horse to stop you kick it in the sides hard!
-Del

PillowSheet=PillowCase
-Del

I want the naked!
- Child D. in pre-bathing mode

Let's check the paper and see if it's a school day!
-Child F.

I'm a cowboy so I'm fixin' things!
-Child F.

Tortito = accidental mashup of tortilla and burrito
-Del

Octomber = accidental mashup of October and November
-Del

Poobah: You're a monkey! Are you a monkey?!
Child D: Yes! Oooh! Eee!

Mommy: We're going to Grammy's tomorrow to celebrate Child D.'s birthday.
Child F.: Is it her birthday tomorrow?!
Mommy: Just her pretend birthday.
Child F. (disappointed): are we having a pretend cake then?

Just because we look the same, doesn't mean we like all of the same things.
-Del to me explaining why she doesn't like grits

Child F: Chickens make eggs!
Mommy: They do! Chickens give us eggs. What do cows give us.
Child F: HAMBURGERS!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Dear Noah :: 8 years

Dear Noah,
I've been trying hard not to be amazed that you're eight. Every year your birthday surprises me - not that another year has passed but that you're actually X years old! So I've been trying to think that this is normal - of course you're eight now. After all, you were born eight years ago and all that. But it's still hard to get my head around. It feels like you've been here forever, but then it's hard to remember the baby you were and fit that into the person you are now ... except, of course that baby turned into you. It's all very mixed up.


So you're eight and I still feel like I'm not that much older than eight. But then I think of how old my mom seemed when I was eight and she was almost the age I am now. So I know you see me as a grownup even if I don't always feel like a grownup. And then I can see in you that it's not too long until you'll be feeling this way too ... except, you'll only be 16 when you have 8 more years on you. Only 16. Ugh. I can't imagine! And yet, I'm excited to see you grow and mature.


The cool thing is, I get to see you every single day. Every 4-6 weeks you go to Grammy and Grampy's and I'm always surprised when you return, somehow bigger and more mature. But generally your growing and maturing is so very gradual because we hang out every day. Just like when you were a baby, you don't need much sleep. So you stay up late listening to Mommy or Daddy read (recently more Daddy because he's reading the never-ending Redwall series and you love it). Sometimes you stay up and we play boardgames instead or watch a movie. And like when you were a baby you still love to snuggle. So really, you haven't changed much, I suppose. Except, you talk some and you have figured out running, walking, biking, swimming - that sort of thing. Oh, and fine motor skills - that you'd like to use strictly for video game playing and detest writing of any sort ever.


You're a pretty awesome big brother, but you are passionate about your books, legos, boardgames, and your alone time (or also known as "thinking time"). You'll pick up the baby, ride down the driveway on bikes with your sisters, being sure everyone waits for the preschooler who runs in the grass beside the drive. You'll also let them all know in uncertain terms when you've had enough.
I never realized that you ate much. You're the first kid, so you set the precedent. If you eat an elephant every other day, then that's just our normal. Last summer you spent the night with friends while we did an out-of-state wedding. When we picked you up they said that they knew why we started farming - to feed you! I was a little shocked. I didn't think you ate much. But they were right. I think you'd gone through five peppers over the 15 hours or so you were with them. Apparently that's not typical.


If the world was precisely how you want it, you'd choose constant video game playing. I really don't think you'd stop for anything. No bathrooming, showers, clothing changes, eating, reading, or sleeping. You live and breathe and obsess video games. You save what little money you have for video games. You talk video games. You live video games. You are video games. So we set limits which is a big heartache for everyone. But when you are all video-game, you turn into a video-game-monster. You notice this about yourself and we all agree that you feel much better when you have a mix of life instead of all one thing.


A year ago you could barely read. Now you're sneaking away to lose yourself in the magic of Harry Potter or on a pirate ship or a treehouse or wherever. While I try to be as enthusiastic for your passion for videogames, it really warms my heart when you share your latest read in an animated fashion.
Speaking of warming my heart - when you carry the baby, hold the preschooler's hand, wrestle with the almost-kindergartner, or snuggle in with Del to read together, I just think I might melt into a proud warm mommy puddle. I always wanted younger siblings (okay, I have three - but they don't count as younger, I don't think, because they hardly are any younger) so I love seeing you enjoy your role as a big brother.


Recently I realized you're living my dream life. You're on a farm with not just one dog - but THREE with a whole bunch of siblings and a pretty free range life. But even if that's what I think is ideal - it's not necessarily what you think is ideal! So I'm curious to see if you decide to live in a city eating fast food and making a big salary. I can't really imagine my introverted, compassionate, stubborn, thoughtful kid doing that - but maybe!


I can't wait to see what the next year brings. We're all excited about the never-ending-winter finally showing signs of letting up. So camping adventures are on the brain as well as swimming lessons and eventually soccer! Our winter hibernation has been long, but it makes the summer more sweet. The older you get, the more homeschooling seems normal and I forget that it's not everyone's normal. And then at other times I am reminded that having an 8-year-old out and about in the middle of the day during the week is not the norm. But it's working for us - and mostly working for you and I'm so glad we get more time with you during your childhood.

I love you always,
Momma

Monday, April 28, 2014

A snapshot of life


With the warmer weather (or maybe more accurately: lack of snow?) the three older girls are spending more and more time outside - which is awesome. Mostly it's Del and Child F. exploring while making big make believe plans, that often dissolve before coming to fruition.
Baby E. REALLY wants to go out with her sisters.
It's been muddy and wet and cold - so less than ideal conditions for a baby who is pretty confident on her feet but not that great at uneven terrain. So she stays inside and looks out the window.

Yesterday I asked if Del wanted to play with Baby E. outside.
"Yes!" she replied enthusiastically.
"You have to stay with her," I said.
She earnestly promised.

So I brought Baby E. out and put her on the front walk next to Del.
Del picked up the baby who smiled, waved, and said "byebyebye" to me - a first for being happy to see mom go.
Off I went, back into the house unencumbered to tackle the winter-outerwear-laundry-marathon.

Time passed. Minutes or an hour.
I peaked outside.
No kids in the front.
I checked through the laundry room window - I saw Child D. holding herself - she needed to pee, and NOW.
I saw Del.
I saw Child F.
I saw no Baby E.

Quickly I opened the window and called out: "Child D., you have to pee! Inside NOW!"
Half-way between the front door and the back, she stood looking back and forth, unsure what to do with herself.
"Del!" I called out, "Where is Baby E.?"
She looked left.
She looked right.
She looked worried.
"I don't know! I lost her!" Del said horrified.
"ugh!" was my frustration and I ran to the mudroom, rushing into farm boots and out of the back door.

"Mom!" Del called as I bolted out the back door, "She's with dad with the chickens!"
Sure enough, I could see the baby's dark magenta fleece sweatshirt against the brown-turning-green pasture as she stood inside the chicken netting.
Phew.
"Where's Child D.?" I called out.
"Behind the trailer!" Del replied.
I made my way around speedily, hoping to avoid an accident.
There was Child D. slowly waling towards the back door.
I scooped her up from behind, as I pulled her pants down and held her up in a squat so she could pee - we weren't going to make it to the house!

"And poop," Child D. informed me.
"What?" I said. "No poop! We have to go inside, we can't poop out here!"
All pee gone, I pulled up Child D.'s pants and we made for the house.

"What the heck!??!" Ren Man called from the chicken camper-coop.
"What?!" I asked. Now? Really!? I have a peeing-pooping emergency and have only just recovered from the-baby-is-missing emergency!

"Why is the duck coop opened?!" he called back.
"Child D.?" I asked. "Did you open the duck coop?"
"No," she replied all passionate innocence.
"I did!" Del piped up.
"Del!" I said. "Daddy closed the ducks inside, please don't just let animals out without checking with a grownup."
"Okay," she said.

In the end, the ducks returned to the coop and the poop made it into the toilet and the winter-outerwear-laundry-marathon is successfully completed. Oh, and the baby hasn't gone outside again yet.

Friday, April 25, 2014

There are no books left


I finished the Divergent series and now my life is empty.
I've lost my purpose.
Yes, I'm embarrassed about this.
Oh.my.goodness!

I've tried to pick up two (and I just started the third) books since, and I just can't.
At the same time, I can't face reading this again.
Not yet.

I think the writing and detail outshines Hunger Games, Incarnate, and Twilight. For all three YA series, I was ready to fly through the third book just to finish it!
Least of all with Incarnate.
Not at all with Divergent.
I've now not only finished the series but also every scrap of extra material I can dig up - because nothing is as compelling.

Eventually I will be able to move on.
But until then, you can find me in the Divergent bubble.
Sigh.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

We started fostering because ...

(already "parenting" my sister)


From way way way back when I wanted to adopt.
That desire to adopt evolved from wanting to operate an orphanage ... until realizing that children would move away from my home, and I really wanted to raise kids to adulthood (and beyond).
So I decided to adopt 50 kids and birth 50 kids.
Then I realized that was a little impractical or more accurately: impossible.
I then discovered India and decided I wanted to go there and care for children.
In fact, I wanted to do everything Mother Theresa did (except the Catholic part).
And then I found out about Mother Theresa and was pretty upset that she lived the life I'd dreamed for myself.

And my hopes and dreams were dashed (apparently this drive for the "first" one to do x, y, z started at birth, being the first born).

But adoption stayed with me. An important goal in life. I wanted to adopt. So much, that it was one of those things I stated when Ren Man and I started "dating". I wanted to do good in the world and I wanted to help those that would need my protection the most.

Ren Man was adamant that he wanted to birth one kid first - because he didn't think it was fair to "screw up" someone else's child (in hindsight this is a loaded term and says that children are "owned", something we're not so comfortable with. Also, Ren Man has turned out to be the best dad I know. Hands down. I'm not (too) biased. Objectively speaking, he's only matched by one dad in how involved he is in day-to-day-life of childrearing. That's how much his fathering excels in our culture, which is sad, because he's just parenting).

I was adamant I wanted to start raising babies asap.
So we made Noah.


And then we met a friend who had a baby very close in age.
Adoption quickly came up ... because it was next on life's "to-do" list, in my mind.
Coincidentally this friend was adopted.
And, this is shocking, she was: anti adoption. Did you know there was such a thing? There is. I didn't know either. I was amazed.
Through hours and hours of respectful and gentle debate she pointed out that:

- if there was such a need for adoption, the cost wouldn't be so great. Somebody is making money off of adoptions. In other countries (Australia, in particular) the adoption culture is different and while not perfect, may be worth considering.
- while adoption may feel like a "blessing" to the adopting family, it's a loss for the child and their original family. In fact, in the case of infant adoption, the child's first experience is loss.
- if one has that much money to go through the adoption process, why aren't we using that to help that parent raise their child? (although, it takes more than throwing money at a problem to solve that, I know)
- there is evidence to suggest that the "supply" (of adoptable children) is not always available to meet the demand, and unscrupulous (to say the least) measures have been taken
- this idea that original families are all drug-using, uncaring, homeless ruffians feeds an industry, but isn't necessarily accurate. (There are parents who are pressured into relinquishing their parental rights for all sorts of reasons.)

But.
But.
But.
But she was right. All of this was food for thought.

I had just come off of nine months working closely with pregnant and parenting teens. I'd seen 15 year olds living in their own apartments with pealing linoleum tiles in the living room, sandy grit beneath my feet, a toddling diapered child with smeared faces sucking juice from a bottle. I'd seen bugs and rodents, clutter and squalor. I'd seen bruises from fists and heard 2 year olds use swear words I didn't know could be used so frequently in one sentence. I'd met a mom in the homeless shelter and had her 18mos old cling to me when she woke from her nap, not reaching for her mom. I'd listened as the 18 year old told me she was pregnant again, and the 19 year old as she explained that she'd slept in after being in the ER with her one year old late into the night - not because the baby was hurt, but because she'd been whacked with a tire iron in the head at 1am, with the baby awake in the room with her. I'd heard the 30 year old mom mention to the 15 year old girl holding her infant, how she'd also tried to get her GED.

In other words: I'd seen evidence for the cycle of poverty that included babies that could have a better chance at life if not raised by their original family.
But was that true? Is it better to be raised by your family of origin and end up like them for better or worse? or better to be raised by another family with the chance of becoming more than a teen-mom-trying-to-avoid-the-abusive-boyfriend-and-get-her-ged?
I still don't know the answer.

And here's the thing: every.single.one of those teen moms would shudder at the suggestion of "adoption". They saw that as a loveless choice - they would never give up on their baby to some stranger! And they ostracized peers who did choose adoption.
And I don't know that I blamed them. I was a teen not so long before, and I knew that desperate desire for a baby to call my own.

Teens are supposed to be self-involved, selfish even. That's their job. That's essential to their maturation process. And what I realized was: these teens couldn't make a selfless choice. And the selfless choice would be taking a deep breath and hoping for better for their child. But it's a risk. For sure. Adoption doesn't mean happily-ever-after automatically. And being a teen parent doesn't mean sadly-ever-after. But the parents who would mostly likely see positive outcomes if they chose adoption, won't choose that for their children. They can't.

But those that do choose adoption - just by making that choice - indicate that they can or could in fact raise their child satisfactorily. (And the whole idea of what is "satisfactory" in terms of parenting is tricky too - who gets to decide ultimately, if a person is parenting well enough?)

It seems that the issue isn't your age or economic stability or job potential or anything like that. It seems to me that the number one indicator of your success as a parent is your support network.

This whole process of grappling with this complicated morality of adoption (or not) took a few months of many-houred conversations.

In the end fostering seemed to be the most "right" or "moral" way to adopt. No one (as far as I can tell) is making money through the fostering system. And these are kids who have families who have consistently shown that they can not keep their child safe. This doesn't mean they can't keep their child in organic clothing or even clean clothing. This doesn't mean they aren't feeding their child healthy foods or even 3 meals a day. This doesn't mean they aren't reading to their child every night. All of these things would (and ... should I say: worse?) are completely acceptable parenting methods in our culture. These are parents who aren't clothing, feeding, interacting with, supervising their children - if we're talking about neglect. And these are things we've decided, as a culture, are essential to child rearing. So much so, that we'll remove your child if you do not clothe, feed, interact with, or supervise your child.
Yes, this is a broken system too (like adoption) and yes there are mistakes made (that's what happens when people get involved).

I want to do good in the world and I want to help those that need protection the most. To me, children in foster care fit that. It's not that their parents don't want to do good or don't want to protect their children. But for whatever reason (and so often it seems to be from lack of support, not lack of desire to care for their child(ren)). And this whole thing is so cyclical. Often the children in foster care have parents who were also in foster care. I want to break that cycle - by parenting children forever, or not. Sometimes it means parenting children as a way to provide support and time for their parents while they learn how to parent.

So that's why we foster (as with most everything we do), because we want to leave the world a better place than when we arrived.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Farming, farming, and more farming!



Spring arrived briefly, before making a hasty retreat.
I'm not sure if it's coming back, honestly.
But even so, the farm work pace has picked up dramatically.
There are seeds to be planted, most importantly.
And animals to be moved - but not too soon - outside.
Poop that was solid and frozen is now a mucky mess and needs cleaning up.
With the melting of snow we've discovered a feed bag here, a baler twine there, and numerous cracked cinderblocks in a stack we left outside last fall, revealed.
So there's cleanup to do.
There's decisions to be made about when to combine animals or separate them.
There are puppies to walk around as they enthusiastically follow underfoot.
The first batch of meat chicks arrived, so a brooder to establish, and chicks to introduce to their water dish.

But among all that - we got our loan approval for the creamery!
It was all anticlimactic in the end.
We'd applied awhile ago and we're feeling discouraged that the person handling our farm loan seemed to be putting us off.
It came out that she has to process loans as they come in and the type of loan we applied for is very hands-on.
The application that arrived right before ours did, on our farm-loan-person's desk happened to need a lot of hand holding.
So our loan waited. And waited. And then waited some more.
Finally, finally our farm-loan-person arranged to meet with us at our farm.
Yay!
We answered the few questions she had in order to have her fully prepared when she presented our application to the deciding-committee at the end of that week.
"If we are denied, will they tell us why?" I asked, "So we can improve our application in the future?"
"I'm not sure," was her answer, "I've never had a loan denied. "The committee meets Friday and they will have an answer to me by noon on Monday."

To me, that was good enough. I assumed it was a done deal.
On Monday (one of the days Ren Man works off-farm), I didn't hear anything. Late in the day I thought to check Ren Man's email (the account he'd been using to correspond with our farm-loan-person).
Can you contact me some time after 1pm? said the email subject line, with no information in the body.

This was around 3pm so I called our farm-loan-person.
She explained that our loan was approved but she had some questions from the committee. I wasn't too sure of the answers so we arranged for her to come back to the farm the following afternoon.

When she arrived on Tuesday, we worked through her questions and signed the documents that needed signing.
And that was that.
We had the loan - but it didn't feel solid because our farm-loan-person still had to get answers back to the committee.

On Thursday evening, we went to Ren Man's parents' house for a birthday celebration. Ren Man's dad mentioned an auction that was happening Saturday - did we know about it?

An auction where a cheese-making-goat-dairy-farmer was retiring and selling his equipment.
Friday was a mad dash of requesting that a portion of the loan be overnighted to us.
While I was rushing to fedex the moment it opened on Saturday, Ren Man was driving 3 hours to the auction.
Only to have the bank say that a check of that sum would be held for a week before the funds would be available (this is apparently normal).

Thankfully the retiring farmer was happy to hold our check (and Ren Man's parents were willing to write checks for the max we were allowed to deposit and have access to immediately, knowing we could pay them back after the hold-period set by the bank). And even more happily: Ren Man scored an incubator (for aging certain cheeses), a chest freezer (so we'll convert our smaller chest freezer into a "can cooler"), and most most excitingly (!!!) a vat for cheese making!!

This is HUGE! The vat was the biggest equipment expense. So we're feeling on our way!!

Now the ground needs to thaw. The biggest project now is getting the renovations done on the "not garage" and the barn to get the creamery up and running.

In the meantime, blog posts might become more sparse ...