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 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'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 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? 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 was dark, I tripped and went down and broke my wrist....the next six weeks were difficult for me and for the 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, 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 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 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, 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 get called upon in these 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 wasn't an easy decision...we knew nothing about her heart 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 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 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, 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 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 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 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', 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 fact he was 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 might as well just go and beat your head against a 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 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

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Chapter Nineteen

There have been times in our lives that have been extremely difficult as adoptive of the worst was when the biological father of our second daughter appeared one day.
I remember that it was a had started out as a regular Sunday.....we had all gone to church...we hadn't been home long, and we were in the process of getting our lunch when the phone rang. Sixteen year old Lauren answered the phone, the person on the phone was a man asking for Don. After Don got off the phone he took me down to the bedroom and closed the door.....I was alarmed ...wondering what the heck was going on! He said the man on the phone, his name was Brian, that he was all the way from British Columbia......that he was Lauren's biological father......
That he wanted to meet with us.
These words put a cold chill of fear into our hearts. Lauren was the little girl that we had gone to court for all those years ago, when the father refused to come to Ontario. Unfortunately, all those years ago, the father had found out our names, and where we lived. He must have held onto that information because now he was staying at a motel about five minutes drive away. He claimed that he didn't want to see Lauren, he just wanted to talk to us. Of course, that wasn't true. In great fear and trepidation, we arranged to meet him that evening at a local coffee shop.
He was waiting for us when we got there...a tall, thin man ...he looked like he had seen better days. Apparently , his mother had passed away recently, and this spurred him on to find Lauren. We talked for about an hour, him asking questions...we were reticent to answer, we didn't want to reveal to much. I had slipped a recent picture of Lauren into my pocket before I left the house. Near the end of the meeting, after he had been asking what she looked like, I asked him if he'd like to see a picture. I pulled the picture out and he stared in surprise. He claimed that she looked just like her older sister that had lived with him.
As we drove home we discussed our options....which were few.
Everything in our hearts and minds, told us not to do let this man fly back to British Columbia, to let us go back to our lives the way we were. We struggled with this decision. Our greatest concern, if we did that, would be if Lauren found out. Legally, this man didn't have any rights to Lauren, he shouldn't have even approached us or Lauren until she was eighteen. But.....and it was a huge but......out of all our adoptive kids, Lauren was the only one that ever expressed the desire to 'know who she looked like'......when she'd come out with this, I would always try to put her off by saying that she got her curly hair and her crooked tooth...(Don has always had curly hair and one eye tooth that was a little out of alignment).... from her dad..(Don)....of course, she was never satisfied with that answer...she had known all along that she was adopted, and she wanted to know who she looked was very important to her and many tears had been shed over this very fact over the years.
The other piece of news that Brian shared with us was that Lauren's biological mother had passed away a number of years ago....since Lauren was little, and this is not uncommon for adoptive kids,....she had always wondered if her bio mom had remembered her at her birthday or Christmas...if she had thought of her at special occasions ...graduation and such....she had envisioned one day, sitting down with her and talking about these special moments....but now, we also had to tell Lauren that this wouldn't be happening. We had to tell her that this woman, that she had dreamt about for all these years, had passed away when Lauren was about three years old.
With heavy hearts, we arrived back home. We knew the answer. We knew that if we let this man return home, without Lauren meeting him...and down the road, after she was eighteen, and he showed up ...again.....and she found out......we knew, we just knew that she would never forgive us.
We all sat down in the living room and told Lauren. We knew how strongly it impacted her by her response and the stricken look on her face.....she asked what he wanted. We told her, just to meet her....if she wanted to. She asked if he had mentioned about her birth mother.....we tried to gently break the news to her...the news that she had already died . She was devastated.
Lauren did decide to meet Brian....we arranged for the meet at my sisters home. Our oldest son Ryan, wanted to be there and drove over from where he lived....a little town called Aurora, about an hour and a half away. Our oldest daughter Leslie, who had been present when we told Lauren the news , waited at home with Don.
While the visit happened , I sat in the kitchen with my sister....on pins and needles....waiting....just waiting.
When the visit was finally over, Ryan drove Brian back to his motel. I can't remember if Brian and Lauren visited again but there were subsequent phone calls....Lauren was invited to fly to B.C. for part of Christmas break, to meet her sister and extended family out there. She was very excited, we were cautious.
The next few months passed quickly. Unfortunately, all this happening had an overwhelming affect on Lauren's school work. She did quite poorly. She had difficulty concentrating....
Christmas break came and we put Lauren on a plane for British Columbia. Unfortunately, Don also had a business trip, so he left too. It was a very difficult time.
Lauren was pleased to meet her sister but unfortunately the rest of the visit didn't go well at all. There were many phone calls back and forth ....the birth father, could be more appropriately named 'the sperm donor' ...he was definitely not a father, or a dad or anything....he became verbally abusive and Lauren called us in tears. Don was stranded in Buffalo, due to the weather, waiting for his flight out west in the states. I desperately needed him here with me as I listened to Lauren, frightened and upset, on the phone , thousands of miles away.
She returned home a different young lady....her behaviour plummeted as well as her grades at school. At the end of the first semester, at the end of January, the school office called. They were putting her in a special program that took place at another was called Super was anything but super. We worked with Lauren to get her grades up and by the end of the school year I went in with Lauren to the school office to request that she be put back into the regular school. They agreed and she was very relieved to begin her final year of highschool back amongst her friends.
It was an extremely horrible time for all of us. We were all profoundly affected by what happened as a result of that Sunday phone call.
Lauren has maintained a distant but caring relationship with her older sister. It has not been without difficulties though as the sister was greatly damaged by her father, and sought refuge in a life of drugs and transient living. Even thought she was able to break from this lifestyle, the lasting damage is evident in her speech and actions. Lauren's contact with Brian is strained and she really hasn't any desire to have a relationship with him.
When we chose to adopt, we always knew that there was a chance of our children meeting up with birth families when they were older. We always thought we'd support them, we always thought we would. It is difficult, you want them to be happy, you understand their need to seek out birth families....but I always remember the words of a young man who grew up in the foster care system.....when the subject of contacting birth families came up, he said.....' There's a reason that kids are taken away from birth families and put in foster care and most situations, the reason never changes' in other words...the birth family usually doesn't change over the years, the reasons that they couldn't parent all those years ago usually doesn't change.....they are still not ready or able to be parents....
And unfortunately in this case, it was true. The happily ever after adoption/ birth reunion stories you see on television are rare......
One of our other kids met up with his birth family also....but that is another story to tell.
~ Marie

Monday, September 2, 2013

Chapter Eighteen

One thing I neglected to mention, and I don't know how I missed it except that it does get a little complicated to keep everyone's timeline straight! Maybe I should have done a huge spread sheet to begin with!
The year was 1996. We had a lot of changes the year that Maya was four. I believe that would mean that Ben was five, Paul was eight, Lauren was eight and a half, and Corey was 11-1/2 years old.
It was a big year of changes in our household.....our eldest daughter Leslie, who had left home two years previously to go to college in Chicago was getting, Don went away on a business trip for ten whole days...believe me, a very long Poland, and then, when he returned, a few days later we loaded up our full size van that we had , and took eldest son Ryan and a friend, out to college in Saskatchewan! Yes, it was the year of changes to be sure....looking back, I don't know how we all survived....emotionally or financially!
First, the wedding.....Leslie and James, had become engaged at the place they had met, FairHavens Bible Conference grounds the previous summer. It was their wish to get married there in an outdoor was a little difficult to plan and execute....for one thing, Les and James were in it was a lot of long distance planning, with myself doing a lot of the leg work to acquire the materials needed for the wedding....and the wedding itself was two hours away.....that meant we had to transport everything, as best we could to pull off an outdoor wedding, in the middle of June. With the help of friends, bringing the flowers the morning of, and getting everything up there in our huge van....we did it.....and it was a lovely wedding. A few weeks later Don, went to wasn't easy being on my own , with five young kids for the ten days...the time difference alone between here and Poland was tricky since one of us would be getting up when the other was going to bed! Communication was key to me maintaining my sanity and Don made sure he called daily.
Two days after he returned, we once again loaded up all the younger kids, plus Ryan, plus his friend James Hartwick.....and drove out to Saskatchewan....Ryan and Hartwick took over the very back of the van and by the end of the three day trip out, had made a wall of pillows and anything else they could find to block out the younger kids! Ben and Maya were in booster seats and Lauren, Paul and Corey shared a bench seat. I had purchased suitcase type plastic boxes for each child. We called them their buddy boxes....into each box went their treasures which were important to them, plus different toys, books, colouring materials....anything that I could think of to keep them occupied. They were kept under each child's seat where they could access them, and even use the box itself as a little desk for colouring or drawing. It was quite difficult keeping a balance though....the college bound men wanted their music played, the middle kids had their preferences and the youngest two were happy with Robert Munch and Fred Penner! We stayed the first night in Sault St Marie......all in one hotel room...the kids spread out on the floor with sleeping bags and pillows!
Our second night was in Thunder Bay, the third night, we pushed through, arriving in Caronport, Saskatchewan about 1:30 am! We got the guys unloaded into their dorm rooms and we collapsed in our little hotel room. We stayed for the next day and then left to travel back through the states to get home. The return trip was a little easier since I had gone to the library of the local church and borrowed many Adventure in Odyssey tapes which we all listened to and enjoyed! We went through Montana, North Dakota, stopping in Fargo for the night...then Minnesota, Wisconsin and then Illinois where we stopped in to visit with the newlyweds! Then the next day we arrived home.....a week later....a long,..... very long week. I questioned why anyone would want to go on a long road trip with kids and swore up and down that I'd never do it again!
That was certainly the year of adventures!
~ Marie

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Chapter Seventeen

As Maya was getting older, we became concerned about how difficult it might be for her to grow up in an all white family. One of our other daughters , who was Caucasian had a lot of difficulty with the idea of not looking like anybody else in the family, so we thought, ' good grief, if she had this problem, than how would Maya handle it'.......she really didn't look like us! Maya has the most beautiful shade of brown skin....kind of like creamy coffee. I started to worry that as she got older, what if she had difficulty sharing emotions and thoughts with us because she didn't feel we could possibly understand. ( now that Maya is grown, I see that I worried for nothing because she's never had a problem with sharing with us)
So, when Maya had just turned eight , we approached our adoption worker and asked if there were any older girls, still younger than Maya, that were also biracial, like Maya that were available for adoption. I knew that there was a good chance because as a child gets older the chances of them being adopted become less.
A while later, the worker called....she said that there was this little girl, 6-1/2 years old. She had been in foster care for three and a half years......she asked if we'd like to look at her file and her life book....a life book is an album that foster parents put together for a foster child while they're in care. If the child goes to more than one foster home than the life book goes with them...kind of like an ongoing history.
We agreed to look at the information and one morning I went into the agency and picked up the file and book. I drove to Dons' work and we looked over everything during his lunch hour. We thought and prayed about it and agreed that we'd visit the foster home and meet this little girl.
Her name was Alexia,...she was quite slim, and very shy. She agreed to come to our house for a visit to meet the rest of the kids. Everyone was very nervous! We had never done this was very strange to go through all the visits, and getting to know a new child this way.
In the year leading up to this I should mention about one of our older sons, Corey. We had a lot of problems with Corey that seemed to get only worse has he grew older. Corey had been seeing a pediatrician since he was five years old, and this doctor believed that Corey was ADHD.....the doctor put him on many different kinds of medication, so that, by the time he was 16, he was taking 4 different kinds , every four hours! At one point the pharmacist questioned all the meds, he said it was enough to drop an elephant! We also started taking Corey to see a counsellor.....he needed help....we needed help. Corey saw the counselor for many months, probably at least a year, but it really didn't make a difference. Corey knew how to work the system and knew how to give the right answers, the answers the counselor wanted to hear. We were at our wits end.
We heard about this place down in New York was a facility that took youth who were getting into trouble and helped them to straighten their lives out. They had a very high percentage rate of kids that turned themselves around. We were desperate, Corey was getting into trouble at school constantly, at home he was always stealing from us, lying all the time, ....he was a constant stress that we didn't have an answer for......
We applied to the place in New York ...and, after awhile Corey was accepted...we were so relieved because we finally thought he was going to get the help that he needed to turn his life around. This placed required a certain dress code and we had to buy him all new clothes because certain things were not allowed, plus linens, blankets,pillows and towels and outer wear. We were shocked when we got there and they told us that we would have to pay something every month and we didn't know what we were going to do....we had already spent several thousand to outfit him to go there. We promised a certain amount, not know how we were going to keep that commitment. ( it turned out that whenever we couldn't make this monthly amount, my parents helped us and paid it...we were so grateful) .
Corey was there for a year and at first we did see a big change in him, for the better...but by the end of the first year he became very frustrated with the school caused him to 'lose points' and he was penalized....he finally acted out so severely that the facility called us and told us they were putting him on a bus and sending him home! Corey was barely home for a month when he deliberately ignored the guidelines we had set out, plus there was evidence that he was doing drugs. We couldn't have that happening with the other kids in the house so we told him that we'd have to find someplace else for him to live. Before we could do that, he left, struck out on his own. The only good thing...if you want to call it good, was that we finally figured out that Corey had been misdiagnosed all these years....he wasn't ADHD, he was FAS....Fetal Alcohol Syndrome .....his birth mother had drunk alcohol during her pregnancy and now Corey was permanently brain damaged because of that.
If anyone ever thinks that they can consume alcohol during pregnancy and not cause damage to their unborn child then they should just come to turns out that Corey wasn't the only one of my kids afflicted with this terrible fact, out of the seven we adopted, five of the seven have either full FAS or the FAS spectrum...meaning they show some indicators but not the full blown damage.
Corey lived with different friends and on the street for several years....but I'm getting ahead of myself.....back to little Alexia.
We started having regular visits with her, then weekend visits, and then finally , about three months later , the day after her seventh birthday , she came to live with us for good.
It was a very traumatic day for Alexia.
Don and I drove to the foster home to pick her up...the worker arrived...everyone was excited and happy....except for Alexia....she had buried herself under the chesterfield cushions and a blanket and had fallen asleep. When we woke her up she clung to her foster mother. We felt terrible but the worker said we had to follow through so we took her home. We had planned to stop at her favourite restaurant for lunch on the way, as a celebration but Alexia was so upset that we continued home. When we got home and I was showing her the bedroom and how we had fixed it up just for her, with all her stuff she became very the point that she was physically sick. She spent a good part of that first day in bed, but the following days became better as she adjusted to her new family and we adjusted to her!
A few weeks, after she came, I was in her room with her....she had asked me to play Barbies with her( that was her favourite) and while we were playing she asked if she was going to get a new name....I was very surprised. I had secretly wanted to change her name but thought that it might be difficult. I also knew that she didn't know that we had changed the other kids names so I was surprised when she asked. I remember saying to her....why do you ask that....she said because she would like a new name....I had read this before about how some kids want a new name with their new life....that the old name had negative, I told her that we could if she wanted to....she said she did. So , we discussed the name that I had picked out....she liked it right, we started calling her by her new name.....Emma Rose Alexia......I thought it was very pretty...and so did she!
~ Marie