Tuesday, December 10, 2013


It has been a very long time since I did a post. This post , you may not want to continue reading.....it may become a 'woe is me' post...is that how you spell woe ? Have no idea and in my funk , I really don't care. You get the gist.

A month ago yesterday, Maya slipped quietly into a state of regression....again....after eight months of me watching every move, every action , every word, every sound, every look that came out of her, of being petrified of it happening again.........it did.

The first few weeks were filled with exhaustion as we took turns sleeping beside her...her on the living room chesterfield while us on the floor beside her.....believe me, when you're in your sixties your bones really protest over being on the floor. Sometimes she slept....usually it was in short naps and then she would be up again, talking a non-sensical talk....
During the day, after I made her food and encouraged her to eat, bathed her, dressed her, sat with her as she went back and forth between hysterically laughing or crying.....constantly telling her that she was okay....but she wasn't.

After the first two weeks, she seemed to be coming out of it....we were encouraged...but it wasn't without a horrifying incident .....Maya became violent...if you truly know Maya, you know that this goes completely against her personality altogether...Maya is one of the gentlest people I know. Even when people have treated her wrongly, she doesn't retaliate .....she forgives. This gentle soul turned into someone that we didn't even recognize .

That all changed one afternoon when I heard a 'NO' come out of her with such force that I've never heard before. That night , she poked at me, like she was testing the waters...not to hurt, but to see what my reaction would be.....

The next day, it got much worse, Don had gone to work and I was there with her......she started to escalate....when I would try to go by her in the narrow hallway, she wouldn't allow me to pass, when I would politely and in my most gentle voice, ask to go by she would scream no. Then she started the verbal abuse....she would scream that she hated me......sometimes she would come right up to my face, and in a low tone, angry guttural sound, forcefully say she hated me. She even went out on the front porch , in her bare feet..( it was very cold out) and screamed it to the neighbors.

In all this, I wasn't scared for myself but I was scared that she would start walking down the road in her bare feet, and I couldn't stop her. Maya is about eighty pounds heavier than me, extremely strong and towers over me in height. In this state , she did what she wanted to do. At one point, she wouldn't put her pyjama bottoms on after she had been in the bathroom, she refused. I was so emotionally exhausted that I started to cry and begged her to put them on. When she saw my tears, she immediately became contrite and put them on. It was at that point that I called Don at work and told him that she was escalating and needed to come home.

When he arrived, things became much worse . When he put his hands on her shoulders to try and stop her from going outside , she shoved him....hard...he went flying like a toy doll....unfortunately landing with his heel on my big toe, cracking the nail and causing it to bleed. Don called the police for help. After twenty minutes no one had shown up and since Maya had, at this point , become calm and docile, he cancelled the call.

We made the decision, with much difficulty, to take her into the hospital. We didn't want to but we had no idea what to do....we even at one point turned back, and came home, second guessing ourselves. We weren't home long when it became clear that we had made a mistake and needed to go to the hospital and get some help.

When we arrived, we told the emerg doctor that we weren't looking to have her admitted to the psych ward that she had been in last Christmas,....that we were just looking for some help, some medication for the aggression. He agreed with that but she still needed to see the psych evaluation team. We spent the rest of the day in that ward, while she was evaluated.

We left there at nine in the evening, two prescriptions in hand. I'm pretty sure that both scripts were administered when she was in the hospital last Christmas with poor results but they insisted that since the home environment is different that they believed that she would be fine .

For the first few days she was fine. In fact, she even went to youth group with Ben and Megan.....we were thrilled...until we picked them up and she was slightly confused and emotional....okay, that wasn't a good move...although leading up to it she seemed ready to go.....on her computer ( she always goes completely off her electronics ...computer, cell phone, iPod ....when this happens)....she even insisted on washing her hair! So, we agreed to let her go. It must have been too overwhelming because when we checked on her two hours later she wasn't doing well.

The next few days seemed to go well, she attended church on Sunday, sat with her friends....Monday and Tuesday went well...she was to go for a followup on Thursday. They had said to try her without the daytime meds and see how she did. I chose Wednesday to do that so I could tell them on Thursday what , if any reaction, she exhibited.

Wednesday morning I didn't give her the day time meds....the day went okay, a couple of things made me wonder but she still planned to go for her guitar lesson that evening. After her supper she went down to get her guitar and came up holding a tiny leaf that she was convinced had come through her window....she was in a panic. I immediately went and got her day time meds and gave it to her. She did not go to the guitar lesson , but spent the evening very quiet, the odd time emotional (crying) but watching television.

I berated myself for trying her without her daytime meds and the next day, when we went for her followup appointment at the psych ward, I was sure that they would confirm this. I was surprised when the doctor didn't...in fact, she said when things settled down that I should try it again!

The next few days were a fog....she was back on both meds......I even gave her them together at night to ensure that she would go to sleep...no, I didn't overstep on this, the pharmacist said they could be taken together because they each dealt with a different form of anxiety.

On Friday night, she really wanted to go through with the plans she had made, long before she regressed, with her boyfriend and her youth group to attend a performance of Aladdin in Toronto. We were unsure of this but she was quite upset at the prospect of not going, and we thought that it might make it worse for her if she didn't. We couldn't get an extra ticket so Don took Ben and her to the theatre and waited at a nearby mall in case she needed him. The youth pastor was aware of the situation and did text Don before intermission to say that Maya was asking for him. Don went to the theatre and saw her and gave her a daytime med since she seemed quite anxious but then she willingly returned inside for the second half.

The next day we had a scheduled trip to Petawawa to visit our son Paul and his fiancée ....they had just moved into their first house. Originally, it was just suppose to be Don and I but we couldn't leave Maya so we took her too. It was a whirlwind trip...twelve hours of driving in less than 24 and staying overnight in a hotel, but parts of the trip went well. Maya had the odd meltdown , but the scenery was very wintery and beautiful for the drive and it was good to see Paul and Sara and their new house. Sara's parents were also there and we all sat and discussed upcoming wedding plans.

We returned home on Sunday evening....we were quite tired out but glad we had made the trip. I think if it had been just Don and I, I could have easily convinced him to make a ( huge)detour on the way home, via Parry Sound to help celebrate grandson William's fourth birthday but it was better that we came straight home. This was the first birthday of William's that we have missed. :-(

As we drove it seemed that Maya was telling us about various hallucinations that she had been having of late. That got me to remembering that the night medication , when given in the hospital, ended up giving her hallucinations , after she'd been on it several days.
It dawned on me that maybe, just maybe it wasn't the LACK of the daytime meds the previous Wednesday but the build up of the night meds in her system that caused her leaf imagining. That night Don felt that we shouldn't give her the medication, so we didn't. In the following days, she still talked of some hallucinations but not as much and we figured it was just the meds leaving her system.

Last week, Maya kept asking when she was going to get better. I didn't have an answer for her, since this was going on much longer than the other episodes. Sometimes, she seemed in quite a fog, and quite discouraged that she wasn't getting better.

In the previous episodes I had only kept her on the meds for the first few days and then let her own responses bring her out of it....at this point, except for the few hours that one day, she had been on the daytime meds for two weeks.
I made the decision to try taking her off the day meds to see if she could come out of this.
The next day , Maya had a consultation appointment to see an oral surgeon for a tooth that needed pulling. I wasn't sure if she'd get through the appointment without the need for the medication but I thought I'd try. I took it with me just in case. Except for having to convince her over and over that the dentist wasn't going to pull the tooth that very afternoon , she did quite well.

At this point, we are taking one day at a time....compared to a month ago she is doing a lot better. She still isn't well enough to leave on her own unattended, or to attend her activities. I still have to lay out her clothes for her and prepare her foods but you can, at times , have a 'regular' conversation with her.

The only 'medication' that she is on is supplements and vitamins. When she was at the hospital two weeks ago, they did tell us that they had been in contact with a program that saw Maya last spring...they were going to refer her to a Dual Diagnostic clinic but so far we haven't heard anything from them.

One day at a time....that's all we can do...some days are more difficult then others, some are more discouraging then others....but that's all we can do. Mental illness is an insidious disease that attacks for no apparent reason....we have no idea why...Maya has never used drugs or alcohol....her lifestyle has been fairly innocent.....we'll probably never know why.

Added on Thursday, December 12, 2013
.........on Tuesday night, Maya started showing some 'normal' behaviour.....she actually went down to her room on her own, and put herself to bed......up until that night she always insisted that one of us come and 'tuck her in'. The next morning, I had to wake her up because we had to go out. When she came up she didn't have the vacant look in her eyes, she was focused and conversing normally...I was optimistically hopeful.
Wednesday went well, today was even better...I pray it continues.

~ Marie

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Stealing your Joy.....

All the ladies are chattering in your little group...this little quilting group that gets together every Tuesday morning....we meet to share our work, to share some tea, to share our lives.....

I sit there , quiet.....it takes me a bit to get going....sometimes, your mind is swirling with so many details that it takes awhile to sort them out, you sit there , listening quietly, waiting for your thoughts to unfurl.......

Everyone is sharing, everyone is filled with ideas and thoughts that they want to reveal, some to share happiness, some to share sorrow, others their despair.....

I like to just sit and listen, the weariness of the day has already taken over and it's only 10:00 am,....have you ever felt too weary to talk, as the jumbled thoughts tumble like blocks in your brain, you make the conscious decision to not speak...it takes to much effort, too many details....if only you could just give the Readers Digest condensed version...maybe that would work...you run the conversation in your mind, just how it would go....and then you make the decision....no, I really don't want to get into all that.....so, you stay silent...pulling out your work....a quilt that has been worked on, on and off for two years...between other projects....you're determined to get it done....it's for yourself...you've never done one for yourself...you always give them away....I think that's why it takes so long to complete...there isn't the urgency...it's just for you.

Not every season of motherhood is perfect. Some are colder than others. Some burn straight through you. But those days of extreme make the ordinary average ones gleam with perfection and beauty.

I read that in someone's blog post today....the words jumped out at me......

'Cody saw Emma the other day'....the voice of another quilter breaks through my thoughts.....'he was so shocked....I didn't know she had blond hair'....'it's a wig', I reply......'oh..well, he was so surprised...she's lost weight and he says she was dressed......scantily, like.....' ' like a hooker', I replied....'well, ya', she said.
'Oh, Marie,' another said...'you just tell it like it is....just straight out there'...she laughed.

I didn't laugh...I just thought...ya, where did that come from....I'm a nice person....everyone says I'm a nice person....

My cell phone chimes...an email has come in.....someone thought I should know that my son, the son that has the worst Fetal Alcohol Syndrome of all my kids that have it....this person says that he was taken to jail last night...again....driving while drunk....again....ran over a pole, landed in a field...he was fine...his car and the pole were not.....

I am grateful that it was a pole and not a person.....I wish someone could stop him, some how, some way....they keep on arresting him, but he keeps on doing it.....

These are the burning moments....the moments when you become so cynical, the moments where you would like to say...' No more....no more'....you want to but you don't , because deep in your heart, you know that you don't give up, deep in your heart, they still have a place.....these kids who had their brains messed up before they were even born.....

Others, well they don't understand...they look on in disgust, they ridicule, they laugh.....you just keep all these things, and like Mary, ponder them in your heart.....sometimes you try to make others understand,.... they don't ....they don't live with it....everyday, everyday for almost thirty years....

Some people don't want these kids around them....yes, they feel sorry for them, but a lot point an accusatory finger, putting them down for their lack of control, their impulsive tendencies, their immaturity, and their negative behaviour.....to be honest....yes, they are hard to be around, but society wants the acceptable....not the unacceptable.....

You sit quiet while others are chattering round about you.....you know this can steal your happiness but you try not to let it steal your joy....

Like Ann Voskamp says.....

Let something steal your joy — and you let something steal your strength.

....and I need my strength, I need to keep going, one step at a time....

I need my strength so I can still feel the joy.

~ Marie

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Two Daves

I have two brothers in law named Dave.....it gets a little tricky talking about them at family gatherings....one is married to my sister, Adele and one is the twin brother of my husband. When my kids ask about them we usually have to qualify who we're talking about by adding their last name....and in the last few months we've had to qualify it in our prayers.....

For the last few years we've prayed for this guy, this Dave , who I saw at the same time as I saw my hubby for the first time.....he was loud and boisterous and most people gravitated towards him because he was the life of the party....I chose the quiet one. :-)

The two brothers last January after hubby's surgery

Dave and his wife Joan

Last week, on Thanksgiving Day......

As you can see by the last picture, David isn't doing very well....a few years back he had surgery on his liver...the doctors thought, at the time , that it was cancer, it wasn't.....but when they opened him up, they found the bile duct twisted, and part of the liver destroyed...they did what they could and put him on a list for a liver transplant. The trouble is, we've since found out....you have to be really, really sick before they put you on the active transplant list....as you can see by the Thanksgiving picture , David is really, really sick....he is on the active list....we keep praying every night that he will soon receive a new liver. It's been a long battle for him and his wife Joan. Battling isn't new for David though....a number if years ago David's first wife, Frannie died from cancer, that horrible disease that attacks all people, of all ages....that, too, was a hard road.....

For years we've been praying for the health of hubby's brother Dave...but this past June, we had a rude jolt when our other brother in law Dave became ill. It started with pain in his back, the doctor suggested many things, exrays were taken...the radiologist confirmed it was something else....they were all wrong and in two short weeks sister Adele and her husband Dave had their world turned upside down...a world where they had already scheduled great holiday plans for the summer...the trailer was ready, the canoe, the bikes...all the camping sites booked, their twice a year trip down to Sanibel Island for the fall, their cruise next spring.....all cancelled...because, you see, the doctors were wrong....it wasn't a pinched nerve, it wasn't a swollen disc, it wasn't just extreme constipation....it was cancer....so advanced that it took your breath away.

Dave was in the hospital for a few weeks when they decided to bring him home. The family room was cleared out, a hospital bed set up, a wheel chair brought in....one of the severe consequences of the cancer fractured his spine...he was a paraplegic ....a daily round of palliative doctors, nurses, personal support workers, case managers...became their life.....twice he would be hospitalized with a severe urinary track infection from the catheter he was required to have....

My sister has worked tirelessly to care for her husband, yes,....they've had help but the bulk of it has fallen to her because as I said in my last post....where else would she be.....this past week, things have rapidly deteriorated. Before, except for him being in a hospital bed or wheel chair...he was still same old Dave...he was always a talker, and anyone that visited...and they had visitors daily ( he was a very popular person!) conversation never lagged, it was never difficult to visit...Dave always carried the conversation...you could really fool yourself into believing that this wasn't really happening.....BUT IT WAS, and IS.....Dave has taken a significant turn, just last week we were able to get him out to the local coffee shop...a place he loved to go with my mom and his wife....We all knew, even Dave did, that it would be his last.....a worker told her yesterday that Dave should be in hospice care.....he is sleeping a lot, and when he's awake he is confused...he has moments of rationality but they are becoming less and less. My sister is worn out, exhausted.....time is passing quickly .

This same worker told my sister that it would be difficult but that she had to hand the caregiver role over, that she just needed to become a wife again.

I thought about those words, the more I thought , the more I disagreed....in everything that Adele has done for Dave, she has been his wife...whether it was making special food to encourage him to eat, washing his body and yes even changing his diaper....she has been his wife....something that she committed to over forty five years ago....they agreed all those years ago to be helpmates to one another....and she has been and will be.....so, even if he goes into hospice....that will not change.

Adele and Dave...in happier times

Last week at Tim Hortons with my mom....

With two of his grandchildren....he adores them...he has four...all with a special place in his heart....

Two Daves....two godly men, who love The Lord..... Who have been a great witness to family and friends....who have made a tremendous impact on all who have come in contact with them.....

I sat with Adele's Dave yesterday, while Adele had a nap ( sleep has been scarce) ....I sat and watched him breathe....the impact of the moment is heavy on your chest.

These two Daves, yes, they've been my brothers in law for over forty-five years but I would argue with you that there is no 'in law' status here...they are just brothers. Good, solid brothers.....fighting a fight.....

We are praying that hubby's brother's liver comes soon....and as for sisters' hubby.....

You have fought the good fight, the battle is almost o'er....

Well Done....Good and Faithful Servant.

We will see you again.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Where Else....

'I love you' he says....I lay there, tired....a little confused....hadn't he just said that? As I lay there, befuddled, after a very long day....he says, 'I wanted to say it again...I wanted to thank you for being with me this morning'...

Where else would I be.

He had his surgery last January...surgery that removed about a foot of his bowel, bowel that had been damaged by Crohn's Disease.....bowel that gave him pain and discomfort, that caused him not to want to eat, that had him lose huge amounts of weight in a very short period of time, that caused his skin colouring to be perpetually white, that caused him to have extreme fatigue, emotionally and physically.

We were frightened.....nobody could tell us what was wrong....internal bleeding they said.....they did tests and more tests and more tests......

We tried different diets......nothing really helped, nothing really made a difference....

In the back of our minds was the memory...the memory of another couple, years ago...who just before they were to celebrate their fortieth wedding anniversary, got the dreaded medical pronouncement.....the big C as they call it......they celebrated their fortieth, with their family....and eight months later he was gone...a godly man to meet his maker....

We were fortunate though.....our 'C' wasn't the big one...as they say....but still one that would be with him forever, that he would always be aware of, that he'd always take medication for, that he would always be careful of what he ate, where he went, that a bathroom was always near......

Crohn's is a disease that can come back at any time.....he must have regular check ups, regular colonoscopies...regular appointments with the internist....to check, to see if it was returning....

Yesterday, nine months after his surgery, we awoke early, left the house in semi darkness and travelled back to the hospital.....

The waiting room was cold....why do they keep hospitals so cool....you sit there tense, from nervousness and the temperature, they call his name and off he goes...a brave man, a lot braver than his wife.....

He admits, later on in the day, that the morning reminded him of all the testing that they had done in the year previous, all the uncertainty that we had experienced,...it all came back, swirling around him as he followed the nurse.

Two hours later, my name was called.....he was done, he was ready to go.....he was sitting on the side of the bed, looking pale and sedated.....

The doctor had told him that everything looked good, praise The Lord....they did one small biopsy, but that was just to be sure.....

I kept looking at him, as I drove him home.....he continued to sleep,.....he laid on the bed, when we got home, and continued to sleep.....I made him some tea and toast....he had a little, and continued to sleep......

The day continued on....he slowly started to wake, the colour returned to his face....he was back....back from the ordeal.....he had some soup, we went for a short walk in the October sun......

I was tired...it's tiring watching someone,...watching and waiting....waiting for them to wake up...waiting for them to look like their self again,....so you can breathe.

Forty three years, forty of them married.....

Where else would I be.

~ Marie

Monday, September 30, 2013

The Final Chapter...Really...

When Don and I decided to become foster parents, all those years ago....we didn't have any dreams or magic number of how long we'd be fostering. We used to go to those annual foster parent banquets and be amazed at just how long some people fostered...40-50 years...ya, can you believe it! We knew that we could never do it for that long! When we had to go to court once for Paul and Ben, the judge said to me...'Are there any children that came into your home that you DIDN'T adopt?' , I was able to say, 'yes, there were a few' .....

Lauren introduced me to an author, a British woman that wrote about various kids that she had fostered and adopted. She gave a lot of details, a lot of drama. It made for fascinating reading, but I couldn't do that.

There were many things that I could have written about that I didn't....some things were so private that I couldn't reveal those things to just anyone that could possibly read them. These weren't just foster kids passing through our family.....these were our children, our sons and daughters....there were many private moments that I wouldn't want everyone to know and I'm pretty sure my kids wouldn't .

When Don and I started out there was absolutely no way that we ever thought we'd have nine children! It's kind of overwhelming when you think of it.....family meals are huge....this Thanksgiving we are suppose to have three extra ( non family) guests...if everyone comes the total is 26! Twenty-Six! I'm trying to figure out how everyone will sit at the same time....we don't have a huge house, in fact, before we did our addition six years ago we had around 900 sq.ft. of living space....the addition gave us a total of about 1200.... Still not huge....over the years we did add three bedrooms and a 3 piece bath downstairs.....but ....it's downstairs...not those glamorous basements you see on television....this is a regular basement....bedrooms, bathroom, storage , laundry (not a laundry room) and furnace.

We have looked after and parented many different kinds of kids, with many different challenges..... emotionally damaged, physically damaged, developmentally delayed, sleep apnea, Tourette's, speech delays, cocaine addictions, alcohol effects, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Cutting, Asthma, Allergies ( both food and medicinal) , Lung Surgery, Tonsils, Adenoids, Ear tubes, Croup, heart condition, migraines, Sickle Cell, hallucinations, and drug use....and did I ever think that I'd talk to one of my kids thru that phone system in the local jail...you know the one...when you have the plexiglass wall between you and your kid is dressed in orange? Priceless.

I became pretty good at accessing the system to get the help needed for each child. I knew who to call and when and where to go. I have spent so many hours in doctors, dentists, orthodontist, counsellors, and psychiatrist waiting rooms that I could have written a book...for real.

I learned how to advocate for my kids....I am quiet by nature, standing up for myself is difficult...standing up for my kids?....watch out...I learned a lot. When you have kids with special needs they can fall through the cracks if someone doesn't advocate for them. I would have to give all my thanks to my sister...a teacher and principal in the elementary school system...without her input , I would never have known when I could say no or when I could push for yes.

What I am saying is that I have no idea of what kind of person I would have become without being the mom of nine. Certainly, not as diverse as I am today. I have become a lot more patient as the years have gone by, and somewhat more tolerant. I still draw the line at a few things and my kids know what they are....I'm not entirely a pushover but I will admit to not being as dogmatic as I was when Leslie was a baby!
I've also learned how to cook in very large quantities!

Don and I have always been a team....I would joke that he looked after the finances and I looked after the kids! We are very close and enjoy each others company...we like nothing more than to get away...just the two of us...the younger kids don't understand but I think the older ones do by now. We would really like to see the three remaining kids settled in other living arrangements in the next few years so that we could enjoy our retirement years...but there's a good chance that that will not happen. We're a little bothered by that , not just for us, but we would like to see them settled and happy before something happens to us and there is a huge upheaval in their lives. That would be very difficult for them, and for their siblings.

Would we do this again with what we know now....we've actually been asked this....I've spoken twice now to a group of perspective adopting parents...they have wondered...heck, I have wondered but upon reflection, I would say yes. One of my kids used to get annoyed when I would say this but I truly believe that this is the plan that God had for our family all along. He knew that each child, no matter what there birth circumstance was, would make up our family.

So...would we..ya, we would because even though there have been tough times....there have been way more good times....each child, no matter born to us or adopted by us, had there special moments...times that I can look back and smile....and the times now...seeing them with their own families, buying their own homes, getting married...taking on the responsibilities of adults and we can be pleased that we had a part in all of that. We like to hope that we've set a good example, that we've shown that we love God and have a personal relationship with him. Some of our kids don't appreciate that right now but I hope one day they will because this is the basis for their security, the commitment, and the love that we have for each and everyone of them.

To Leslie, Ryan, Corey, Lauren, Paul, Ben, Maya, Emma and Megan


James, Jennifer, Ryan, Sara....and Jairus, Honour, Verity, Afton, Donovan, William and Samuel

We love you all....this is for you.

~ Marie

Chapter Twenty-Five

We left off at Paul, so next in line is Ben.

Ben graduated a year and a half ago from highschool. In our school system, developmentally delayed kids stay in school til they're 21. It was a wonderful accomplishment for Ben, and he was very pleased. During his last year in school Ben did a co op position at the local drug store...near the end of the term they offered him a paid part time position. We were very proud that he had done well enough to receive that kind of offer!
He also did a bus training course and now he has the confidence to go anywhere in the city, by bus, on his own! This has been a great boost for Ben and we share in this accomplishment with him!
When Ben's comprehension leveled out at around 8-9 years old we were quite saddened by this development. When he was very little they couldn't tell us just when this would happen....we kept hoping it would go higher, but it hasn't.
Ben is a lovely young man...quiet, polite and very caring. Yes, he does have some faults ...like his stubbornness when he thinks he's right about something but on the whole he's turned out to be a pleasant young man.
Ben would love to have a girlfriend but so far that hasn't happened.

Ben can make simple food choices for himself, using the microwave. He knows how to make a sandwich and can fry an egg. He looks after his personal hygiene with prompting, and does his chores. His chores are mainly looking after the dogs needs, helping his dad put out the garbage and cutting the lawns along with Maya. In the winter he's the main snow shoveler in the house...he doesn't always do a good job but he tries.

We are pleased how Ben has grown into a young man, caring, kind and usually considerate.

Maya is our third daughter. Things went well for Maya as she grew. She was always involved in sports, there wasn't anything that she wasn't good at but her main interest was basketball. She played competitively on a rep teem throughout elementary and highschool. In highschool , she also played baseball, volleyball and basketball. She also played several musical instruments....tuba, guitar and piano. She was always outgoing and energetic.

When she graduated highschool, she found it very difficult. She wasn't qualified academically to go further but she was too immature to enter the work force. That summer a position was offered in an intern program at two Christian camps, one of which we camped at every summer. Maya applied and was accepted. She was away from September to the following April, only coming home periodically. For the month of January , of that year away, the team she was on went on a missions trip to Costa Rica. She had a wonderful time and would love to return. At the end of her intern time, she was accepted in the summer camp to work in the kitchen. Finally in September she came home. Reality set in and she had to find a job. Just around the corner from where we lived, is a Tim Hortons coffee shop. She applied for and got a job there, starting in the October. It was a very difficult job and because of her disabilities was treated unfairly and taken advantage of by her co workers. it caused her a lot of stress and unhappiness. By the following spring, she was hoping to further her education and started a training course to become a Personal Support Worker. Unfortunately , the course became too difficult for her and she had to leave the program. She tried to go back to the summer camp the following summer but was turned down for that also. There were a few disappointments at church, one being that she had hoped to be part of the praise and worship team, but was turned down for that also.

Combine that with my father passing away ( that impacted Maya tremendously, he was the first person close to her that she had experienced this with), Don became ill with what we later found out was Crohn's Disease and I fell and broke my wrist...and her sister Emma had a difficult miscarriage...all these things combined together set Maya up for a terrible fall...a fall that nobody saw coming until Christmas Eve day of last year.

Maya woke up in a complete stress breakdown. At first, we didn't realize it, we thought she was confused because she was overtired.....but as the day wore on, we began to realize that there was something seriously wrong. The next morning, Christmas Day, we took her to the hospital. They admitted her to a psych ward for three weeks. Gradually she seemed to come back to us, but she's never quite been the same. She had two relapses...one in February, and one in March. Everyday we are grateful that she seems to be doing okay...we are very careful to keep certain stressors away from her...anything to do with people who are close to her who are ill. We minimize that, which is difficult right now because both my brothers in law are seriously ill. We make sure she gets plenty of rest, proper food and takes the correct supplements. She also sees a wholistic chiropractor who has been amazing in helping her and keeping her balanced .

It was one of the worst times in our lives as parents. It's one thing for your child to make their own choices to destroy their lives with drugs and alcohol...but Maya didn't make this choice, and we could only stand by, helpless as this terrible thing was happening to her. Don and I spent many times in tears and much prayer. We continue to pray that God will protect her brain, and that this will not happen again.
Maya had to quit her job and have a complete break from that kind of stress, and now , six months later, she has finally felt strong enough to try and get a small part time job. She's been getting involved with activities with other kids with disabilities...like a cooking class, and she was recommended by the teacher to audit a university class...and she was so excited! Her and her brother Ben have also started a fitness class run at the university by the kinesiology students. All this interaction in her life has been very good for her.

She also got her drivers license in June and has been enjoying the freedom of driving on her own when her dad's car is available for her to use!

We are cautiously optimistic but we are also very careful and observe her closely.
We pray that she will make a full recovery and be able to lead a productive life. She is thrilled that she has a boyfriend and we are pleased that he genuinely seems to care for her.
Maya is a young woman, with a sensitive heart and a smile that lights up a room. Anybody that has Maya for a friend is fortunate. On her last birthday, in April, Maya turned 21.

Emma is our fourth daughter and for a few years was our youngest.....as I wrote about before, Emma was diagnosed with a rare benign tumour when she was almost ten years old. After her surgery she made a steady and positive improvement. The next few years were uneventful, she had regular check ups with her respirologist to control her asthma ...check ups that were useless because she refused to do as the doctor instructed. She also had annual check ups and lung exray with her surgeon. He felt that since they didn't know why the tumour came in the first place that he wanted annual check ups til she was eighteen to make sure it wasn't coming back.

The year that she was fifteen we were shocked to find out that Emma was cutting herself, the following year she started piercing herself. Emma had always had an extremely high tolerance for pain. In the spring after her seventeenth birthday, she was caught off campus with a small pipe that they use for smoking weed. She also was suspended for physically fighting with another girl at school. We were also called because she was cutting herself at school, they were concerned that she was trying to commit suicide. We took Emma for counseling to two different counselors and a psychiatrist. It became clear in the last sessions with the psychiatrist that it was all a game with Emma....she wasn't trying to kill herself, as people thought but she wanted to control her life...something not uncommon amongst adopted children. She started stealing clothes from stores and trying to say that she got them from her friend. She started losing weight, not eating very much food and sometimes I was sure she was forcing herself to vomit after meals. One of the reasons that she was losing weight was to escape out her tiny bedroom window during the night. She would go and meet friends to smoke cigarettes and do weed. One night, I awoke in the night and felt the urge to go and check her room. Her bed was empty....I sat down in her room and waited. When she came in, crawling through the window, she was not surprised to see me. We sat her down and talked to her, told her that it had to stop. It was about three in the morning when we all went to bed. Emma made a big fuss of getting a drink of water in the kitchen....when Don went to check he found her holding Megan's prescription bottle for ADHD medication....the script was recently filled..I knew how many should be in it....she had taken 17. I immediately called TeleHealth...they advised me to get her to the hospital immediately. I went to our local hospital, close by...told them what she had done but they told her to have a seat...frustrated , I put her back in the van and raced out to McMaster Hospital. Upon arrival, they immediately sprang into action , took her vitals and started an IV. We spent the night and part of the day there and then , they transferred her to the psych ward at another hospital for an evaluation. The evaluation showed that Emma was just trying to once again,to control the situation and not commit suicide. Things quickly went down hill after that. One night she stayed out all night, we had no idea where she was or if she was okay. The next day I called the school and she had showed up there . I met with her and told her that I was done, that I would pack her stuff and she could leave.

Don and I were stressed to the max and could no longer take Emma's actions. The three kids at home couldnt take what was going on either....there were fights where she would be physically abusive towards Don and I when we tried to prevent her from leaving. She did damage to the walls in her bedroom. She tried to come home that evening and we told her no. Approximately, 2:30am, we received a call from the police. They wanted to know if they could bring Emma home, and of course, we had to let her. She had gone to them to report us and thought we'd get in trouble. We were surprised when the police suggested that we put her under a curfew and if she kept the curfew for four nights in a row that we could let her stay out somewhat later on the fifth night. It sounds simple, but Emma couldn't keep her curfew. We told her that if she wasn't that she'd have to go to the youth shelter. We could no longer have her here. In the weeks leading up to this we had already done a tour of the shelter...I guess to try and scare her somewhat....well, it didn't work....she didn't keep her curfew, she packed her things and Don took her into the shelter the next morning. She was two weeks shy of her eighteenth birthday.

For the last two years Emma has been on her own, making her own choices....and she's done a pretty bad job of it. She immediately started doing drugs all the time and drinking. She became very promiscuous . The people in charge of the shelter spoke to her about her choice of clothing. Apparently it was very revealing. We still maintained contact with her, a few weeks later, for her eighteenth birthday, I manage to arrange to pick her up and take her for supper. Don was working and couldn't attend. At Christmas, I went and picked her up and she spent the day. A few months later she called me from Toronto, her and some friends decided , on a whim, to go there. They just went to another shelter. The friends stayed a few weeks but Emma met some guy there and moved in with him.

There were pictures posted regularly on Facebook , showing her doing drugs and wearing suggestive clothing....she was enjoying herself. She was finally living the life that we had tried to stop her from doing. A month later she was saying that she was pregnant...I didn't believe her....and I was correct...time told the truth that she was just stringing everyone along...she thought she would get more welfare.

The fall of that year was difficult. As I mentioned, Don had been unwell for a year and a half...in the April of this year he became much sicker ...the doctors upped the testing they were doing but still didn't have a diagnosis until the September...Crohn's Disease....a debilitating disease that he will have the rest of his life, the effects hitting whenever it chose to....parts of his bowel were diseased.....three days after he was diagnosed, it was Sunday evening, the dogs got loose and Don and I and Ben went out to try to corral them and get them back in the house...it was dark, I tripped and went down and broke my wrist....the next six weeks were difficult for me and for the family....my hands are handicapped and they don't work very well separately...I need both of them together to manage simple tasks......the family was impacted dramatically...I couldn't make meals, or even do the simplest chore....so, there were Don and I, 'limping' along , trying to keep things pulled together.

Thanksgiving came and the older kids decided that we couldn't possible host the meal, so eldest daughter volunteered. We all went to her house...including Emma and the new boyfriend. Don picked them up at the bus terminal and Emma was sick...I figured that she was just hungover from the previous night.....she went to bed and stayed there for the visit.
A few weeks later, we found out that , this time, she was indeed pregnant.

I travelled over to Toronto a few times to take her to a clinic for check ups...she was scared to go on her own, and she had one of the worst cases of morning sickness I have ever seen.

December 11th came and I received a phone call from Emma...she was having some spotting...at this point she was just past the three month mark....I told her to go to the clinic...she didn't. Early that evening, I received a phone call from a stranger....Emma was at the bus station in the town where she lived...an area of Toronto, the stranger said that she was having a miscarriage. There wasn't anything I could do to immediately help...she was an hour drive away, and insisted on trying to get home on her own......the stranger called back a half hour later and said the bus transit had called for an ambulance and the police were there. I spoke with the police and they told me that she'd be taken to the hospital. Once again, Don was teaching and I was on my own to figure out what to do....plus, Don wasn't well having just been released himself from the hospital after requiring a drainage tube to be inserted in an abscess that had developed because of the Crohn's.

A short time later , the police called again, Emma had refused transport to the hospital, they were calling to say she was at home but definitely miscarrying. I asked where the closest hospital was and googled the location before I left home.
When I arrived at the apartment, I could barely get in due to all the clothing and garbage littered on the floor...Emma was hysterical in the bathroom, blood was everywhere....she had delivered the tiny baby, on her own and was now bleeding...a lot.....I got the boyfriend to get her into the van and we drove to the hospital. Don arrived about an hour later. The hospital said they needed the baby, so we drive back to the apartment to get it....the boyfriend took off!

They kept Emma overnight, I knew Don couldn't stay ...he was still not as strong as he should be...we left her cab money to get home, and we left.

The next day she messaged me, asking for help to get to a shelter in Hamilton...where we lived. I made the arrangements , then picked Don up at work, we went back to Toronto, packed up her stuff and brought her back. After we got her settled in the shelter she insisted on walking downtown to get some weed...I tried to convince her otherwise since it had only been 24 hours since the miscarriage but she insisted that she had to...Don and I were exhausted and went home ...the statements on Facebook the next day revealed that she had smoked a lot if weed that night...a lot.

The next day she found her old friends that she had met at the first shelter , Jenn and Justin and mostly stayed with them ...by the weekend, she was back in Toronto for a pre Christmas visit with the boyfriend....coming back to Hamilton for Christmas. That day, of course we spent at the hospital with Maya, someone else got Emma and brought her to our house, where they were all having Christmas dinner. When I saw her briefly, that evening, she seemed very disturbed...I think she thought everyone would make a fuss over her, but everyone was concerned about Maya and the unknown at that point.

She did move back to Toronto , her lifestyle plummeted, worse than it had ever been....working as a 'massage therapist', then running her own escort service...she was quite proud of her entrepreneurial skills with that one......you see, her and I still communicated...I was careful not to pass judgement and voice it, just to keep the lines open.
In the spring she was arrested on assault charges...the boyfriend brought a new girl home, who expected to stay. Emma was not in agreement. A few months later, she left the boyfriend and moved in with an older man she met while bumming a cigarette....he used her to 'favor his friends'...he was also feeding her cocaine and she became extremely paranoid . She called us one Sunday night asking for help...we drove over there and she was a mess...she is now nineteen but looked thirty, she was so skinny that her bones were showing.....we brought her home for the night....big mistake.....it had a very negative affect on Maya. Emma insisted that she return to this man...she was convinced that she'd be killed if she didn't. We took her back the next day.

The next few days were tense, she had a court date for the assault charges coming up. When the day came I drove there and met her at the court house. She was a mess, had neglected to bring the court papers and didn't have any legal representation lined up. The judge remanded it for two weeks....I helped her get more papers ordered and legal aid set up...then , brought her to Hamilton, to her friends, Jenn and Justin's place , where she stayed for a few days. When she went back to Toronto she tried to get me to drive her, I refused, she finally asked for a ride to the GoTransit station...I agreed.....she said she had funds but when we arrived home , I ended up going all the way back because she didn't have train fare. We paid for the train...again. The following week, she called again, desperate to leave her situation, so I caved and went back, got her and her stuff and took her to her friends. A few days later, was court again...this time Don went too..we brought Emma to our home the night before( after making arrangements for Maya to sleep at Leslie's on another pretext....we couldn't let Emma have contact with her)....and early the next morning , we all went back to Toronto for court...again....this time they gave her 25 hours of community service and an anger management course to be completed by the next court date, the beginning of December.

Emma has been staying with her friends the last month , but has caused many problems for these friends, has taken advantage of them and they want her out. She's been looking for her own place but it's been difficult to find anything she can afford on her meager welfare allowance. She's also trying to get her school credits to get her highschool diploma....the only right thing I've seen her do in all this mess.

I've been trying to give some help, but I'm careful just how much...she does take advantage and use people. She did ask to come home for awhile...for a few days or maybe longer...her words...we said no...I was scared of the affect on Maya.

That's where Emma is at this time....her life is totally messed up, I know and accept that this is totally her own doing...Don and I have done our best....like Corey, we will help, when we can but she is the author of her own misery....these are the consequences from the choices that she made when she thought we were denying her 'the good life'.

We do hope she gets things straightened out , that her life will become decent again....I'm not sure at this point whether that will ever happen....we can only keep praying....but, honestly....when I think of what she had, all the benefits she had, when she lived at home....what she gave up to be with her friends and the drugs, well I just shake my head and wonder why.

It's very sad.

Now a short bit about Megan since I just wrote about her at length before....Megan is in her fourth year of a special class in highschool ...she is eighteen and will be going until she's 21. Out of the three kids at home, she is the most exasperating and the most work. She has decided that the house rules are no longer for her and she's going to do what she wants. She's constantly suffering the consequences if her actions but doesn't seem to learn anything from it. Of course, it's nothing like Emma, but it's the simple things....taking electronics to school when told not to, going from boy to boy, just to have a boyfriend, fighting with Ben and Maya constantly , taking things she's told she can't have, just because she wanted it.....and so on. Everyday it is the same...kind of like that Groundhog Day movie where the main character wakes up each morning to the same day...it drive him crazy and this does for Don and I. The older Megan gets, the harder it is...she has a four year old brain in an eighteen year old body, with the teenage hormones....you figure it out!

Whether Megan lives a long life, we have no idea...if she'll ever have or need a heart transplant, we have no idea.....will there ever be a placement in an assisted living place for her, we have no idea...will she still be living with us if we live to be eighty, we have no idea....we certainly hope not, but we have no control over it.

It's hard living with all the unknowns.

Final chapter is next...yes, for sure this time....must wrap it up properly....

~ Marie

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Chapter Twenty-Four

In thinking about this chapter I realized that it may be fairly lengthy and will probably take more than one chapter to update you on everyone.

The date today is September 29, 2013. As of today, we have our last three young adults still living at home as well as, two, very large Old English Sheepdogs. Our home is still quite busy since the three we have here have various levels of need to function in and out of our household.

If Don and I want to go away for more than a day, than we have to find someone willing to come and stay overnite or for however long we plan on being away.

It is not an easy life, but it was one we chose and are committed to until they are all looked after. We are not admirable, or amazing....we are just parents.

So, lets start at the top...where are they now.....

Our eldest Leslie, as was mentioned went to college in Chicago and graduated with a degree in vocal music. She married James and gave birth to five children, one of the five died mid pregnancy and we'll have to wait to see Hayden when we see our Leah. Our grandchildren in their family are Jairus, Honour, Verity and Afton. Leslie always chose quite unique names for her kids! A year ago, they built a home in the country...perfect for four kids to run off steam and grow up on!

Leslie just had her thirty-ninth birthday. She is active in our church and teaches music lessons privately. She also conducts a children's choir. Leslie and her husband have made the decision to homeschool their four kids...a daunting task for sure! Although she is at the age when she isn't climbing trees and tv towers, one of her daughters takes after her and will climb everything in sight....pay back time I think!

Next in the line up is eldest son Ryan. Ryan went the furthest of all our kids in his education. First he had four years at a bible college in Saskatchewan, this is where he also met Jennifer, who later became his wife. Wen he graduated from that college with his B.A., he needed to get his Masters degree, he wanted to teach and this was a requirement. So, off he went..to the United States this time, a little town just outside of Boston....he was there for two years and graduated with his Masters. He had hoped to get a teaching job in a college at this time but unfortunately, the message came through loud and clear that he would need his PH.D. before that would happen. It was at this time that he and Jennifer married, and moved to a small city north of Toronto.

He started working on his ph.d. and his wife started on her masters. When she graduated they moved to a town three hours away from us for Jennifer's new job as a crisis social worker. Since being there, they gave birth to two beautiful little boys, William and Samuel. Ryan also worked very hard on his thesis and obtained his PH.D.! Unfortunately, a full time teaching position has not become available yet for Dr. Ryan but fortunately Ryan found that he had inherited the wood working and building gene passed on by my father and has become very good at contributing to supporting his family this way.
Recently, they moved into their very first home that they were able to buy .....a lovely older home , with enough property for their boys and their dog to run around and have lots of fun!

Corey is our third. Oh my, a whole book could be written on Corey alone. A good number of the general population in prison our people with FAS and I can see why. Corey always means well, but never goes about things in the right way. He is extremely impulsive and has a violent temper. This temper has contributed to him being incarcerated three times...mostly assault charges. I spoke of his motorcycle accident but we were also called to the Emergency of the hospital another time. He and a girlfriend had gotten into a fight, they were both intoxicated and she slashed his face open with a knife. At that time there was a restraining order against him in connection with this woman. ( I have learned that restraining orders really don't mean anything to people like Corey and our other daughter Emma, I think it's like that for a lot of people) Since he wasn't suppose to be around her, he walked himself to the hospital where he collapsed on the floor of the emerg. When we arrived, there he was, drunker then a skunk, sleeping it off, with a huge gash from his ear to the middle of his cheek....we stayed for awhile, and then left...there was nothing we could do...later that morning the hospital called again, wanting us to come and get him. That's life with Corey....you get called upon in these situations...you respond and then he's usually out of your life until the next time.
Corey did meet a girl when he was younger...about ten years ago, he was with her for quite a while and they have a son....they are no longer together but we do see our grandson Donovan from time to time.

Corey just bought a sub sandwich shop with some money from the settlement, he's quite proud of himself....we are waiting to see the outcome. He also bought not one but two cars....neither of which does he have a license to drive....but he does anyway....does he get caught, yes....and spent a week in jail ....has he learned...no....he still drives.

In a few weeks he will have his thirtieth birthday.

Lauren is our second daughter. After Lauren tried a year of college, she realized that she really wasn't ready for that but was determined to make it on her own...so she got a job. Not a great job, not her career of choice...but it helps to pay the bills. I know that someday she'd love to return to school , I hope she doesn't give up that dream.....
The year that Lauren was in college she rekindled a relationship she had with a guy she'd known since her early teen years. I think Lauren and Ryan ( yes, another Ryan, and yes it gets confusing sometimes) have been together 7-8 years, and the last few years moved in together. About a year and a half ago they moved into a really nice condo, just perfect for the two of them. I believe that one day they plan on marrying, her dad and I are looking forward to that! You know how moms and dads are.... they like everything tied up pretty with a nice bow! Most of all we just want our girl to be happy, that's the main thing.
Lauren just celebrated her 27th birthday, the day before it was her Ryan's birthday....it was a birthday extravaganza in our family with Leslie's a few days before that! Lots of birthday cake!
Lauren and I had a tumultuous relationship in her teen years...it was very difficult but thankfully that has changed...we don't always agree but we've learned to get along...I think it's growing into a very good relationship which I'm relieved about....and even though Lauren and Don were at loggerheads a lot in her teens, now, she is her daddy's girl, once again. I think they're both pretty happy about that.

Lauren has seen her biological sister a couple of times since they first met...the last time was just a couple of months ago. It's hard to maintain the relationship since her sister lives in British Columbia, but they still communicate now and then. Lauren has not seen her birth father since she was a teen, and I don't believe she has any intention to do so.

Paul is our third son. Where is he now? Well, Paul is in the Canadian Armed Forces!
He actually surprised us because in his growing up years he wanted to be a fighter pilot...he always talked about it, so we were quite surprised when he enlisted in the army! Actually, this is his second time in the army...the first time he was in the infantry..an extremely difficult course, one that he was ready to dump a few times...but with encouragement, he completed. I'll never forget the day we went to see his graduation. It was at a military base, in Quebec, we all travelled down and stayed in a hotel . The next day , we were all at the ceremony, very excited. At the end if the ceremony, there was a march past of all the soldiers....as Paul marched past I felt like I was going to burst...I was so excited and proud! Paul had gone through a dark time before he enlisted....he had graduated high school and really didn't know what to do...he'd spend hours down in his room on his computer, gaming....he barely came up for meals! One day we talked...I asked him about his dream of going into the military...he didn't think that it was possible....he had looked into it and because he took Ritalin for a couple of years when he was around eight and nine, the military said it was a no go......unless he got certificates saying he was fine and didn't need the stimulant. I told him that if that's what he really wanted , then I would help him. I took him to different doctors and he received the clearance he needed and was accepted into the military. When we went to visit him after basic training, he was a different young man. He had definitely found his niche.

He was in for his three years and towards the end of that time decided that he'd try civilian life and got out of the military. At this time, he also met a young lady named Sara and just recently they have become engaged! He stayed out of the army for a year and became more and more frustrated...trying several different jobs but none really worked out. He decided to try and get back in the army....at first, there weren't any openings....then there was, but not in the infantry, but rather the artillery! So, once again he enlisted, and went to New Brunswick for artillery basic training. When he graduated he was assigned to a base about six hours away from here. He has indicated that this is where he'll stay til retirement age. I think it's a good fit...I think the year away was good....now he's not as impatient with how things move in the army, he just sits back and smiles.
Recently, since Sara had graduated university, she moved into his place on the base. She hopes to eventually get a teaching position as an elementary school teacher. They have set their wedding date in May of 2015 , just before his 27th birthday.

I think I'll leave this chapter now...there are still four to go!

Next chapter....Ben, Maya, Emma and Megan.

~ Marie

Chapter Twenty-Three

In the spring of the year following Emma's surgery, I received a call from Janet , our adoption worker.

The two younger half sisters of Paul, Ben and Maya had been placed in an adoptive home in June of the previous year. Apparently, the parents in this adoptive family had run into a problem. There had already been a teenage boy in the family who was diagnosed with Autism, and he and one of the girls didn't get along. That particular one was the older of the two, she had been born with a serious heart condition and had the double whammy of having two developmentally delayed parents that contributed to her delays as well as delays caused by the heart problem. This girl was seriously delayed and the adoptive parents made the choice not to adopt her. Their Autistic son had some real difficulties being around her and kind of threatened the old 'it's either her or me' line and the couple decided that they couldn't handle a child which such serious delays.
Apparently, they asked the agency if they should also return the younger sister,( who didn't have any obvious delays) . The Children's Aid ( another division, not the one we worked with) decided in their infinite wisdom , that it would be okay if both girls were separated.

I would like to offer my opinion at this time and state that this was the worst mistake that I have ever seen an CAS agency make in the nineteen years that we were affiliated with them.

These girls had never been apart, they had always lived together since the youngest had been born.

At this time, they were 7 and 9 years old.

So, as I was saying, in that spring, we received a phone call from Janet. She inquired about Emma and when she was satisfied that life was back to normal she introduce the subject about which she had called. Paul, Ben and Maya's younger sister had come back into care....there had been what they call an adoption breakdown. The adoptive parents had decided they could parent this girl and she had come back in care....she had been with the adoptive parents for about six months. They chose, and they agency agreed, to keep the other sister, who was two years younger.

Since we had the other three, and since we had shown and interest in these girls, and since we were parenting Ben, who was also severely delayed....they thought we could parent Tamara. We thought long and hard about this...it wasn't an easy decision...we knew nothing about her heart condition...in fact, the foster mother ( who was the same one that she had had before the first adoption) said to me...'why would you ever do this...she's either going to need a heart transplant or she's going to die before she's twenty, you know'.....she even said these words to one of our daughters,...this alarmed her so much that she voiced her opinion that we were foolish to consider this.

We had some visits with her...just Don and I, and then the whole family...the majority were in favour. In our naïveté we thought that if we could parent Ben then we could parent her. That was erroneous thinking on our part. We also knew, that at her age and medical problems that she would never be adopted. CAS only keeps children 'in care' for so long...18 tops...could we leave this child to be brought up in a institutional home the rest of her life....or..do we give her a family? That kind of clinched it and we told Janet..'yes'.

Tamara came to live with us on her tenth birthday. She had only been with us a short time when she started pestering us for a new name, insisting that she hated Tamara....finally we gave in and named her Megan. She was thrilled, but unfortunately the CAS that she was from...was not. In fact they insisted that she be interviewed by a worker and a psychologist....they were convinced that it was our idea not hers. When these professionals handed in their report, CAS was not pleased. They said that Megan had made it clear that this was her new life and she wanted a new name . The agency wasn't impressed but her name was changed from Tamara to Megan Joy Tamara.
In fact, we heard that after our case, this agency implemented a new rule that adoptive parents weren't allowed to change their potential children's names!

Parenting Megan has turned out to be the hardest parenting job I've ever had.

Her delays were significant....Ben was at a nine year old level ...Megan was at a 3-4 year level. She hadn't had any proper stimulation for the first decade of her life, except for school. A lot of neglect had occurred, unfortunately too much to try and make up. It was an impossible task.
Other things, like her teeth had been neglected...even though she was taken to Sick Kids hospital and sedated for any work to be done, they had done nothing to adjust the teeth to the size of her mouth. Both Ben and Megan had very small mouths,...Ben's pediadontist had gradually removed secondary teeth to make room for the ones he needed and so there would be room for everything. To this day, Ben has beautiful teeth...lovely and straight and without any problems. Megan had far too many teeth in her mouth and when I took her to the pediadontist , he examined her mouth and turned to me and said, ' I'm so sorry, Mrs. W........., it's too late, there's nothing I can do'....four years later, braces were put on to straighten out the mess that could have easily been avoided if they had been given the proper attention sooner.

Megan was ten years old but could do absolutely nothing for herself...she couldn't cut her own food, she insisted that the only sandwich she could eat was peanut butter and jam. She had difficulty dressing herself...buttons and zippers presented a challenge. Personal hygiene was a problem ...she couldn't wash her face, brush her teeth or her hair. Everything had to be done for her....it was criminal that this child had been in foster care for three years and never been taught how to do these basic tasks.

She also cried frequently, with little provocation. One of the things she constantly cried about was her younger sister and the people that almost adopted her.....she had no idea why she wasn't with them, she pined for them daily.

The former foster mother declared that she was the only one that could handle and take care of Megan. She insisted that Megan would be back, that I would give up...after all, she said....'why would you adopt her , she's just going to die early anyways if she doesn't get a heart transplant'......

This was a lot to contend with but we took it one day at a time.....I had to work with her as you would a 2 and 3 year old. Every day was a challenge, and eight years later, it still is.

Now, she can look after basic hygiene , dress herself, looks after her own food, does her own laundry, does basic chores around the house, loading and unloading the dishwasher, setting the table, taking her turn cleaning the bathroom that she shares with Ben and Maya, sweeping the basement stairs, making her bed......she makes her own lunch the night before school...( and it's not just P&J), she gets herself up in the morning with her alarm, gets ready for school, packs her bag and gets her own breakfast.

I think she's come a long way...but there are still some basic stuff that she can't do....for instance, she can tie her shoe laces but can not tie something around her waist, she can wash her own hair but quite often forgets to wash all the hair and forgets anything that is hanging down (so, only the hair on her scalp gets washed) , she'll dress inappropriately for the weather...puts shorts on when it's 8 degrees , just because the sun is shining .

Emotionally she is confused......she is eighteen and as her teacher says...'boy crazy' ....but if one guy doesn't work out then she shrugs her shoulders and immediately grasps another victim to smother her attentions on.....she may want a boyfriend but has no idea what that relationship entails.

She has always wanted to have her own baby! Of course, with her comprehension level that would be impossible.....and since she is 'boy crazy' and can be talked into anything...we've had to take safety precautions and every three months she receives an injection to prevent pregnancy. We also have future doctor appointments to hopefully have a partial hysterectomy done, since she can't stay on this hormone forever. Her cardiologist has last stated that her heart could not withstand a pregnancy, so at least we have that on our side!

Since she was adopted late in her life, she really doesn't have the comprehension that this her forever home and family and when she gets upset or angry....she immediately declares that she is packing her bag and is convinced that a friends home would be the better place and that they would be happy to have her. There are days when I would cheerfully help her pack!

As for her heart, it's a fine dance. Megan can be somewhat of a hypochondriac. I have to be very careful what she knows about her heart and how I present it to her. If she really knew how fragile it was she probably wouldn't do anything but sit in a vegetative state! The truth is that her heart is tired...we are in the middle of transferring care from the adolescent cardiac department to the adult care. Time will tell what they will suggest. Every year she has a cardiac check up where she has to where a holter for 24 hours and perform an exercise test. She'll routinely have ECG and electrocardiograms, and blood work done. Recently they thought her thyroid was being affected so now they are watching that. I have to monitor her activities at school and home, and because I try to treat her normally, sometimes I have to stop other people from getting her to carry heavy things, or even shoveling snow!

It is unknown at this point what Megan's life span will be. The Fontan procedure that she had done as a baby was relatively new, about forty years old so that the others that have had it done are full adults and the data is still being gathered. The doctor said the heart is tired and whether a transplant would be required down the road, is anyone's guess.

One of the biggest problems we face as Megan's parents is our own age and mortality. The government has cut back on assisted housing for developmentally delayed adults and even though we're getting too old with health problems of our own, a place for Megan to live and to be helped , is non existent at this time.

It is a situation that weighs heavily on us.

This is also one of the reasons that we were able to convince our son Ben, who is Megan's half brother to have sterilization done. Even though Ben is a wee bit higher functioning then Megan, he could never parent a child. I knew from working with CAS, that if Ben married and had children that they would immediately be apprehended and put into the system. I also knew that, these offspring, since they would have two developmentally delayed adults, would also be delayed. It is not fair or right to bring more delayed children into the world that cannot be looked after properly and just causes a set up for abuse and neglect.

It's a sad reality, one that Don and I never dreamt that we'd face when we agreed to adopt Ben and Megan, but a reality it is, ...you deal with it as best you can, one day at a time.

So, we have gone through everyone....all nine children.....the next and final chapter will look at where everyone is now.

~ Marie

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Chapter Twenty-Two

Paul and Ben had lived with us for a very long time as foster children, but other than the rare visit from a social worker, we never thought of them this way....they were our sons, they were part of our family....Paul and Ben had both come, obviously in different years, but both when they were three years old. Ben had visited on and off since he was a toddler but was not officially apprehended til three.
Now they were teenagers.....still foster kids....the worker kept saying they were going to do something permanent but never did....
Don and I were getting to the point of wanting to get out of the fostering world. It was becoming increasingly difficult to work with Children's Aid....one worker in particular had a reputation in the agency of being a stickler for rules and regulations....unfortunately, she was assigned to us.....I learned very quickly to be careful what I said to her, to never volunteer information. there was a particular time when she prevented the boys from staying with my parents one weekend, ( who the boys considered their grandparents and vice versa) . The worker asked if we had any upcoming plans and I innocently shared with her that we were going away. When she questioned me as to where the boys were staying, I told her that my parents had offered. She immediately questioned the safety issues, the police checks, whether their home had been 'approved'.....we were forced , by her,to scramble and ask an old friend , who had been our 'approved' relief home ten years previous that we hadn't used in as many years. Fortunately, they were available that weekend and graciously agreed to have the boys. I learned, very quickly after that not to share any information with this worker....when she would question me I would be very reserved and cautious in my replies. When she wanted to come for a visit I'd always make sure that I had an appointment that I had to go to thirty minutes after the scheduled visit time and I would have to leave. I dreaded her visits and did everything I could to minimize them. The decision to leave fostering wasn't because we no longer desired to help other children but because we couldn't deal with the social workers anymore and all the red tape!

When we adopted Emma, we were paired with a marvelous social worker named Janet...all the kids loved her and were always excited when they found out that Janet was coming for a visit! Janet had kept us informed when siblings of any of our kids came into the system. This happened both with Emma and with Paul, Ben and Maya.

Emma had a sister who was about five years younger than her. We found out that this little girl had come into care and was going to be adopted out....we applied for her and waited. We really believed that this little girl belonged in our family, and so did Janet. The file kept being delayed and moved from desk to desk at the agency...it was an extremely frustrating time. When the adoption worker was finally assigned for this little girl, it wasn't Janet and even though we already had two daughters 'of colour', and one of them was this little girls half sister , we were denied the adoption. We were devastated, we appealed the decision, but were still denied. The little girl went to a home near Ottawa....this couple were approved because they were dark skinned...the worker felt it would be better if she grew up in a black family instead of with her half sister. It was a dark time in our family as we grieved this loss. We didn't understand, at this time, why it had happened...years later, we did.

As I mentioned in previous chapters,Paul, Ben and Maya had three younger siblings...a boy named Daniel and two girls named Tamara and Kaitlyn . Daniel grew up and I believe was adopted by his foster family....there's a good chance that his name is no longer Daniel because the foster mom said that she didn't like that name. We have had no contact with them at all so we have no further information. Tamara and Kaitlyn lived with the birth mother for a few years. Those years of neglect and exposure to a promiscuous lifestyle caused a great deal of damage. When the girls were finally apprehended at ages six and four, they ended up being in care for three years before they were adopted. We had inquired about having the girls join our family, but a couple from the Oshawa area applied and were approved for their adoption.

When Paul was close to having his sixteenth birthday, the agency, spearheaded by our adoption worker Janet, put the big push on to get the boys adoptions through before Paul's sixteenth birthday. Ben was thirteen at this time but his comprehension level was about eight. It wasn't going to increase, unfortunately his comprehension level had plateaued. When older children are adopted they have to have meetings with the lawyers to see if this is truly their desire. I didn't have a problem with Paul but since I knew Ben wouldn't understand, I didn't know what he would say! Don and I weren't allowed to go into the meeting room with them, but I did convince them that the boys should be interviewed together. I was hoping that Ben would follow Paul's lead in the conversation. When the boys came out, we were informed that they had done well and had both signed the consent papers.

It was a momentous occasion because even though we had parented the boys for thirteen years ( for Paul and ten for Ben) , I felt this cloak of responsibility fall on me that was almost physical when I heard the news that it was all approved...that the boys were officially ours. In our hearts, it had been that way for years but now it was official, now it was real. When I asked Ben how the meeting was, he said fine.....when I asked if he understood it...he smiled and said no.....but he was good with it. He was happy. Paul never verbalized it but I think he was finally relieved....for all those years he had felt this parental responsibility towards Ben and now someone else had that responsibility. It was good.

We continued on, we had our own family difficulties and excitements to contend with...this was the year of Emma's illness and surgery. Corey was living in different illegal situations and periodically had contact with us, to rescue him at times. Lauren was having rough time with her birth family.....our eldest son had married......our eldest daughter had just had our second grandbaby, .......we found out that Corey and his girlfriend were expecting a baby....and on and on it goes.....

But,...we found out that we weren't finished....

~ Marie

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Chapter Twenty-One

The same year that Corey and his girlfriend had a little baby boy they named Donovan was the year that Emma developed a mystery that took the doctors early a year to figure out! It was also the same year that Emma was nine years old and when they figured it all out she was almost ten.

It was actually the previous December that she first showed signs of being ill. Emma came to us with many allergies and asthma.....something that I had never encountered before, and had to learn all about. I never had to watch if one of my kids was around wool ( sheep...when we went to a farm it never occurred to me that she shouldn't touch the sheep !)... Hay/straw also caused a problem...cats and rabbits.....she was allergic to many seafoods and avoided many outside chores with her grass and leaf allergies. She went to a respirologist regularly ad we learned all about the different puffers used by people with asthma.

The day we went Christmas tree hunting, Emma was not well and spent most of the time in the van sleeping. She complained about pain in her chest and shoulder....a trip to the doctor revealed pneumonia . This was the first of four times that we would have this diagnosis in the following year! By August, the doctors were trying to do tests for Cystic Fibrosis ...trying is the operative word because the main way to determine this is a sweat test.....the problem was that Emma didn't sweat....Ever.....the doctor could never get enough sweat to test!...they tried everything!

About this time Emma had another appointment with her respirologist out at McMaster Children's Hospital for her regular six month check up.....on the way home she once again complained of terrible pain in her shoulder and chest....when her discomfort and crying increased, I briefly stopped at home and then headed down to the next small town called Grimsby to go to our local hospital to see if they could figure out what was goi,noon and what was causing the pain...I suspected that she had pneumonia ....again.

The doctors at our local hospital decided not to try and attempt anything...they figured she needed a cat scan and contacted McMaster, the hospital we had just left! They arranged for us to meet a specialist there and the ct scan would be done! Finally, I thought, we'll find out just what is going on.

By this time, Don was home from work and the three of us went back out to Mac. After they did her intake they said her cat scan would be first thing in the morning and they admitted her. When she was taken to a room, we found that she was under quarantine because they had no idea what the problem was.

The next day, the cat scan was done, and we were in her hospital room, trying to keep her amused when two doctors came in...all gowned and masked.....one asked to speak with us ...he introduced himself as Dr. Walton....I recognized the name because he had operated on our first grandson a few years earlier.....he said that Emma needed some surgery...that they needed to go into her lung and retrieve something that they figure she had aspirated and it was now lodged in the lung! They questioned me about whether she had vomited in the last year and I replied no, nothing like that had happened. He assured us that he'd find out the next day when they went in and took a look.

The next day she was sitting there, playing video games when they came in and took her to the OR. We headed to the waiting room to wait for the results.

An hour and a half later, Dr. Walton came o the waiting room with information that sent us reeling. He said...' When I went into the lung a tried to remove th mass, it started to hemorrhage ....she lost quite a bit of blood...'how much'? I asked....he said..' About enough to fill a pop can'...so, says he...' She is in the PICU...pediatric intensive care unit....we have immobilized her by keeping her unconscious and paralyzed...we have to give the lung a chance to stop bleeding.....when you go in you'll see a lot of tubes.....breathing tubes, IV's, wires to monitor her vitals, a tube in her side to drain, a catheter , so she can pee'.....we sat there stunned.

They took us to the PICU and we could only stand and stare .....this little girl who had been happily playing video games two hours ago, was now just lying there, paralyzed and unconscious, tubes coming out of everywhere we could imaging....three different IV's going....we just stood and stared.

Don and I took turns staying with her and going home to look after the other kids. Don stayed with her the first night....the only place he had to sleep was down the hall in the surgical waiting room...that's where he spent the night...just In case.

They kept her unconscious for two days, and when she woke up the bleeding had stopped. P Dr. Walton said he'd have to go back in to remove whatever it was but he'd have to wait for the lung to heal itself so they sent us home.

Two weeks later, in the evening, we received a telephone call...I was shocked when the man said it was Dr. Walton! Since when do doctors call your house, let alone a surgeon....but we were to find out that Dr. Walton was a very special doctor.

He said that when they had tried to remove the mass that they had also done a biopsy. It showed that Emma had a tumour.....a very rare tumour called a Spindle Cell. He was pretty sure that it was benign but they wouldn't know for sure until they removed it. He said that he'd schedule the surgery for two weeks away....just under a month before her tenth birthday.

Meanwhile, they scheduled an MRI, they wanted a better picture of how the lung looked...Dr. Walton described the MRI as looking at a sliced loaf of bread...they would be able I determine better the condition of the lung. After the MRI he said that there was quite a bit of damage from the tumour ....he would try to save as much of the lung as he possibly could. It was Emma's right lung that was affected.

On October 5th, she was admitted to McMaster Hospital, and once again was operated on by Dr. Walton...his time the surgery lasted seven hours, he removed her middle and lower lobe of her right lung. The tumour had done significant damage. Once again she was in the PICU, with tubes and wires everywhere. After two days she extubated herself, much to the surprise of the nurses and started on the road to healing. She was released on Thanksgiving Day and we drove from the hospital to our eldest daughters home for Thanksgiving dinner.

We were indeed thankful that this ordeal was over......and the tumour was benign.

~ Marie

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Chapter Twenty

Life moved on.....Lauren graduated high school , and was tired of the part time fast food type jobs she had for the last number of years. She found herself a job in an office of a company that sold home furnishings at discounted prices if you join their club......for a fee.

Our second son Corey.....he's the little guy that joined our family the same year that Lauren did.....he was all grown up too. Unfortunately Corey was living a life that was less than stellar....he had found that it was easier to make a bunch of money illegally than it was to get a regular job. Corey had met a young woman and they had a child together. Corey spent his days moving from place to place.....sometimes living in an apartment, sometimes a house, sometimes a motel room, sometimes a van, sometimes a tent. He had developed quite a temper that was not evident when he lived at home. He was a verbal and physical abuser. The only way he could make himself feel superior was to put other people down. He grew and sold marijuana, but was never caught and arrested for it. He was arrested for assault....three different times....each time he's been in jail for a longer period of time. He stole from people...he even stole from us,....several times. He wasn't a very good father......in fact he was terrible...it wasn't that he didn't care. As I mentioned before, Corey has Fetal Alcohol Syndrome . People with FAS have a very difficult time bonding to people, they want to do what's right but they don't have the ability to follow through. Corey wants to do what is right but he doesn't have the ability to follow through. He wants to be a good dad but truly doesn't have the capability to do that. I mentioned before that Corey's birth family are Muslim. They are known to the police for their violent explosive behaviour, they run their own illegal cons and are abusive towards each other. They are dramatically emotional. So, not only does Corey have to contend with FAS....genetically, he doesn't have a chance. Corey's birth family consisted of divorced parents , an older brother, two older sisters, a younger brother and a younger sister.

If you had asked me, way, way back....when I first started fostering....which did I think had a greater impact in shaping a child's future....nature or nurture I would have said nurture....after twenty years of fostering and twenty seven of being an adoptive parent....I definitely say nature.

I have watched, I have observed,....yes, there is a difference.....I have loved, I have worked with, I have prayed for, I have cried over......each of our children. I have given them all the nurturing a mother could possibly give but when it came to a child like Corey I couldn't compete with genetics....you might as well just go and beat your head against a wall...it would definitely be more productive.

Don't get me wrong, I do love Corey and I am his mother...I have the papers to prove it.....he's shafted me many times....but....I am here for him and he knows it. Does he take advantage of me...he tries, but he's not successful.

Back to Lauren and her job.....there was a warehouse attached to this office Lauren worked in...sometimes one of the guys that worked in the warehouse came into the office....this young fellow would strike up a conversation with Lauren and one day she happened to say to this guy that she had a brother that looked a lot like this young fellow....this piqued the guys interest.....he knew that Lauren was adopted....the young fellow wasn't stupid.....he knew that he had an older brother that had been adopted out...that he had never seen. This guy went home and told his mom. Meanwhile, Lauren came home and told me what had happened....she was shocked . She felt terrible that she had said anything to this young guy.

After our terrible experience with Lauren's birth family we really didn't want to get into anything with this family. I recalled how dangerous the social worker had said his birth family was. Unfortunately, this young guy had remembered that Lauren had said that Corey worked for a moving company . Corey's birth mother was determined to find Corey so she called every moving company in our area, saying she was Corey's mother and asking to speak with him. When she found him, she talked to him, and asked to meet him.

Corey contacted us, he wasn't sure what to do but he decided to meet with them. Corey had always the mindset that his birth family owed him. He had been the only one singled out when he was two years old as possibly not being the fathers child. The father could not accept this, and by the time the agency had blood tests done to determine paternity, it had been a couple of years. It was too late for Corey to go back to that family.

So to Corey, it was pay back time...they could finally look after him, for awhile.

One time, Corey and his girlfriend came to visit us and then left to visit his birth family. His girlfriend told me later that as thy were leaving Corey said to her....' Okay, that was the good family, now we have to go see the bad one.'

To this day, Corey still has contact with both families, but truly hasn't bonded with either one. He's a troubled young man....wanting to do good, wanting me to be proud of him....I don't think he'll ever live the kind of life that he should have....that he could have if his brain hadn't been damaged by the alcohol his mother drank while pregnant with him. Corey, himself is an alcoholic .....FAS people are easily subjected to addictions......Corey is the prime example.

There have been many times that Corey's addictions have caused some pretty big problems.

It was a warm night in April....unusual for this time of year. Corey and his buddies had finished work early and it was their custom to sit around talking, doing cocaine and drinking. One of the guys had a motorcycle......him and Corey decided they were going to go to a beach....on the bike,...about an hour away. The two of them were so drugged and drunk that they had a hard time just getting out of the driveway. Corey kept falling off the bike, even his boss said that they should stay home.....but they didn't listen and off they went.

That night, Don was teaching one of his college accounting courses and I was at home with the kids. The phone rang and it was someone asking if this was where Corey lived....I said no....then they asked if I was his mother...I said yes.

'Your son has been in an accident. We don't know the details but it involved a motorcycle. We have not been able to ascertain all his injuries yet but he was able to give us your phone number. We are waiting for transportation to air lift him to a trauma hospital in Hamilton '( which is the next city, the hospital Corey had been taken to was just a small local one in a small town).

I was stunned.....I tried to call and text Don, in his class, but he didn't answer. I knew I wasn't in any shape to drive so I called my sister...she came and picked me up and drive me into the hospital. I knew that the hospital that he was being flown to was known for their specialty of head trauma. I knew if they had to air lift as opposed to ground transport that it had to be bad. That's all I knew.
I was finally able to reach Don and he drove in from Oakville, the city down the highway from Hamilton.
When we went into Emergency and said who we were, they immediately put us in a separate room....'the quiet room'.....also not a good sign.

We waited and waited....finally a doctor came in and said he still could not ascertain the extent of Corey's injuries. His body was covered in scrapes from road burn and blood, his face was scraped, and he had a jagged scalp laceration across the back of his head....in fact the doctor said when the emergency crew found him that his scalp was peeled forward covering his forehead! The doctor said that they didn't know if he would live!

They said they would let us know when they were transferring him to ICU.

We waited.

Finally, they sent him upstairs and we moved to another waiting room outside of the ICU.

We waited.

I had first received the call around 6:30-7:00pm.....we were not allowed to see him until 2:30 am the following day.

When we were allowed in to see him, he was unconscious but restless. We spoke quietly to him, staring at his torn up body...he was a mess. He seemed quite agitated so I started talking to him and stroking his forehead....he calmed down...I watched him and every time I stopped talking he became agitated but would calm when I spoke and stroked his forehead.

When Don and I left the hospital to get a few hours of sleep we were exhausted and overwhelmed with severity of his injuries. I couldn't believe that even though he was so badly injured that he remembered our phone number for the hospital to call us...not his birth family, but us.

The next day...well, really later that morning we returned to the hospital. We spent the day, taking turns going into see him, waiting for him to regain consciousness. The doctors were amazed. They said he should have died. We heard the police report. Apparently, Corey had been riding on the back of a motorcycle driven by a young man he worked with, whose license only allowed him to drive himself, not a passenger(that point is important). They were both high and drunk. Corey was trying to fix his helmet (a passing motorist noticed) lost his balance and fell off! When he hit the pavement, his body kept rolling down they highway....the helmet went one way, his shirt was ripped off...and that's how he got road burns all over his body and not just one side, like they usually see.

The doctor in emerg hadn't been sure that he would live, but he did. He was in the hospital for about a week. He was in a lot of pain, but not enough to prevent him from trying to sell his pain meds on the street and try to convince the doctor that he needed more. Fortunately the doctors didn't fall for it.

This story gets better because a lawyer contacted Corey....convinced Corey to sue because the other guy shouldn't have been driving with a passenger. They actually won a settlement.....Corey walked away with over $200,000 !!

It could only happen to Corey that he could take such a bad situation and actually make money on it.

Good grief.

~ Marie