New Year’s Rearview Mirror (where Ordinary Acts are Larger than they Appear)

Mama's Little Pie-Eating Monster

Rather than looking ahead to goals and changes, I’m looking back to say thank you to the many people who have helped my family to remain a family as we near the 2.5-year mark with the Little Monster (a term of endearment that he loves, lest you worry that I’m traumatizing my eight-year-old, a job that was already efficiently dispatched by others, unfortunately). It truly does take a village. So much has gone right for us when initially it looked like so much was going wrong, that I’d like to express my gratitude to those who have been there for us—one kind, encouraging word can make a difference. I am a truly blessed and lucky person. Please excuse my effusive and repetitive use of adjectives in the list below, but they are all true, and sometimes a writer is simply forced to fling superlatives about.

To Kathy E, who gave us respite when we most needed a break and who was also wise enough to nudge us away when she knew we’d be okay without her. Kathy has inspired me to someday offer occasional weekend respite to parents (foster or otherwise). It is a necessary service that can make or break a family, but there is no one out there filling this gap. You may not know that foster parents are entitled to two 24-hour breaks from their children every month, but even living in the major metropolitan area that we do, there is no one who actually provides that service.
To all of our neighbors who help us to support LM and keep him safe, especially Melanie, who gives him books and biscotti and love.
To Julie Wicklund, who phoned me on her birthday to express her shock that anyone couldn’t “get” the difficult parenting job we face and to tell us that we are the best parents ever.

To Meredith, for saying, “I am so proud of you for what you’re doing with LM.” I don’t know why it’s so important to hear those words, but it is. 

Presenting Awards in Bed to All of You

To Ellie and Doug, new friends who spoiled us rotten for a weekend at their “B & B.” As Ellie said when I expressed my surprise and gratitude at such lavish treatment, “Hey, I’m not raising a foster child and you are.” We were exhausted and needed a break, so thank you.

To Jackson for listening, and listening, and listening, especially during LM’s early days, when I wasn’t sure we’d make it (and I knew he wouldn’t judge and would keep on listening even if we didn’t make it). And he still listens and is always supportive of this journey, although surely it must bore him at times.

To Mindy and John, for our new family Christmas Eve tradition (which brought us our little dog) and for being part of Team LM.

To Aunt Margaret for hugging me and confessing two years after-the-fact, “When I first met LM, I didn’t want to say anything, but I was really worried for you. He’s looking so much better now.” And for the horseback riding.

To Tod, who drove me to the ER and took care of LM without LM ever knowing I was sick, and for his constant little gifts and attentions to LM, who adores him.

To Wendy, who gets it, and gets it, and gets it. And for inspiring me with her own unique and generous “adoption” of a child whose family needed support. And for Hot Wheels!

Happy as a Boy in a Cowbarn

To Roger, for giving Max a peaceful end, a sporty last ride, and a pleasant resting place, and for taking my boys away for a weekend so that LM could feed calves. Holy House to Myself, Batman!

To my big bro Bob, who always understands with a laugh and a joke and who offers realistic but tough advice, and to Connie for being the best auntie a boy could hope to have, not to mention a sister-in-law who is more sister than in-law. Quite a bargain for a Kansas Picture Bride!

To my boss Bill, who gave me extra time off to support my family when he didn’t need to, and always offered a supportive ear and shoulder. To my co-worker who picked up extra work while I was gone and gives gifts to LM. To everyone at work who still regularly ask me how my son is doing and who give me advice, support, and encouragement.

To the tremendous “professional” team who support us and validate our every move: teachers, school counselors, social workers, therapist, psychologist, rock climbing instructors (funded by Treehouse), and daycamp counselors. If anyone can overcome a difficult beginning and go on to lead a successful life, it’s got to be LM, who despite early disadvantages has been blessed with this amazing foundation of support and constant guidance and reassurance and faith in him and us.

Fresh Air Does a Boy Good

To Mac, for giving LM a place to roam and for lending an ear (and wisdom and encouragement and validation and even a tractor) to MIM.

To Seattle Center for all of the free/cheap entertainment that is much needed for families that don’t have a lot to spend. We’ve spent countless weekends there seeing all manner of ethnic singing and dancing, which helps to educate, inspire, and entertain LM at no cost. For kids growing up with constant electronic entertainment, it’s invaluable to be able to watch real humans perform and make art even if we can’t afford expensive kid’s theatre.

To the community center, another resource that I had no idea provided such incredible support to families. From Elaine at the front desk who gives dog books to LM and who helps us with billing difficulties, to the artists who paint their canvases every Tuesday all summer long for the kids to watch, to the free bread from Essential Baking and the free newspaper from Seattle Times (Sunday comics for LM!) and the free popcorn machine, and of course to the camp counselors who stuck with us even when they didn’t have to. Please support your local community center.

To the businesses who accept LM’s medical card. It was a real wakeup call to find out how few dentists or eyeglass shops accept foster kids (shame!).

To Treehouse, an amazing funding program that allows LM to learn rock climbing every week.

Again to Tutu (see 12/15/10 Mele Kalikimaka post) and Granddad, who have always supported my dreams and goals. I hope to do the same for LM.

To the Little Monster himself. No child should have to work as hard as he does, and he inspires me daily with his cheerfulness, optimism, resolve, generosity, resilience, exuberance, love, and kindness. He has every reason in the world not to be any of these things, but he will be a survivor, thanks to all of you.

Give Me Liberty or Give Me Chocolate, but Don't Give Me Guff

To the Man I Married, whom I believe was put on this earth to be the Little Monster’s father. I’ve been with him for 23 years and have never admired or respected him more than in the last two (despite the beard).

To everyone who offers expressions of kindness, support, love, and encouragement, or even constructive criticism and mature dialogue about concerns, whether it’s over coffee or wine or email or Facebook, your thoughtful words and understanding matter. Thank you to My Village. It’s easy to feel helpless with all of bleak news in the world, but your small voices and gestures make a big impact. Kind words resonate, while hurtful words—so easily tossed off as a reaction to secondhand misinformation in this era of virtual communication—go unheard beneath the overwhelming resonance of generosity.

Strangely enough, negative words can have a positive impact as well; the ones I heard this year set me free, and now I can focus on the burden on my okole instead of the one on my shoulders.

 Thank you, thank you, thank you for being part of my wonderful life. Happy New Year.

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