Thursday 30 May 2019

She was strong and taught me to be.

In one of my favourite photos of myself I am about 4 and standing in my Nana's garden among the flowers most of which are taller then I was. I am smiling and happy because when I was with my Nana I was the centre of the universe and she treated with me with so much value and respect as a person.

She was 5 feet tall and rode a three wheeled bicycle to the grocery store with me riding in the basket. She made her own clothes and sewed for her family and friends. She grew her own food and made root beer in her cellar. She was perhaps the strongest woman I will ever know and she walked her path with integrity and compassion.

She came to this place as my Nana down a path that many people have only ever read about in books.   She was born in the early 1900's to immigrant parents who were farming in the middle of nowhere on the prairies because they knew that life would be better than the one they had in Eastern Europe. She was one of 10 kids and although there was often not enough of anything they always had something to share with a visitor whether they knew them or not. She was raised to serve and to care for her the people in her family and in her community.

At about 16 she began teaching school and in the coming years she left the farm to be a nun. It was the expectation of her parents and since she was always one to listen to her parents off she went. She stayed for a number of years but as the time came to make her final vows she declared that she was not going to be able to make that commitment and she left the religious order. Her family was devastated and would not speak to her for some time. She was far away from them in large city and the nuns gave her a job as a teacher in a school that they ran. She taught as a layperson along side her former sisters and spoke fondly of those years as she moved into being an independent young woman.

Eventually she met a man and fell in love. She got pregnant and they got married. They had a son and two years later they had another son (my dad). At some point soon after they married my Nana discovered that her new husband was addicted to alcohol and gambling and when things did not go well at the club he would come home and hit her. She put up with his abusive behaviour for as long as she could but after about 10 years which included a move to the west coast so he could escape his bad debts she finally realized that he was not likely to change.

She kicked him out of their home and told him he could only his sons when we was sober. It was the the 1950's and she faced so much criticism for her choice to protect the physical safety of herself and her sons. It was hard but she made it work, she sewed for people and washed clothes. She encouraged her boys and threw herself into her church community and sang in their award winning choir. She held her head up high and walked forward showing the world that she had made the right choice.

This strong vibrant woman was the one I would come to know as a child, fiercely protective of all of us she would do whatever was needed to keep us all happy and healthy. There is a story about my Dad being responsible for the laundry and his solution being to take to his Mom's house so she could do it for him. Which of course she continued to do until my Mom found out! She would cook me whatever I asked for and sewed for me including making elaborate outfits for my dolls when I was there either after school on the weekend. Her home was my favourite place to be.

When I was about 8 my Uncle died. My Nana was devastated, she loved him with every fibre of her being even though he was a drug addict and much like his father had become quite abusive towards her. I vividly remember her profound grief as she tried to lift him out of the coffin at his funeral. I could not then, at 8, understand that her grief was so wrapped in the choices and decisions she had made and wishing that she had done things differently. All I saw was her tears and profound sadness at the loss of her son even though I did not understand why she was upset that this man who was often quite scary to me, had died.

But now as I miss Kevin and wish that we could have made different choices with and for him I understand her grief. I understand that as strong and courageous as she was she still thought that she could have changed things if she had just loved more, done more, changed her decisions. The reality is there was nothing she could have done to change the way that my Uncle lived or died.

This week I am trying to give myself the grace that I gave to her as a teen and young adult when she would talk about her regrets at the way things had turned out with her husband and with her sons. I remember talking about the cycle of addiction and how she could not of changed the choices that those men made and that she was brave and strong to leave her husband when she did. How she was a  good courageous person who had made a difference in the lives of so many people with her actions and her love.

My Nana taught me everything I know about compassion, commitment and forgiveness because no matter how badly she had been hurt she still never spoke badly of any of the men who hurt her and instead hoped that with time they would heal and come back into relationship with her. There is a part of my heart that holds out that same hope for Kevin and hopes that next time I see him will not be because his choices meant the end of his life.

Wednesday 29 May 2019


As I continue to struggle with how to move forward in this insane reality that is now my life I am often struck by how insane my new version of normal is. Yesterday without even thinking about it I told a director at DCFS that I was afraid of Kevin and of what he might do to Randall if given the opportunity. I also informed her of the many times that Kevin physically assaulted me and that the reason the restraining order is in place is because it keeps us all safe. When I actually think about the feelings and emotions that go with those very true and matter of fact statements I get pretty sad because I wish my whole heart that this was not our reality.

That being said, this person we spoke to yesterday was the first one to actually acknowledge that this is a terrible situation and that Jack and I must be devastated and how this has all turned out. Yep. It was a pleasant shift to hear someone actually look at he big picture and then to have a conversation about the impact it is having on all of us and how our desire to build a family has actually destroyed all of our lives along with so many others who have been affected by what has happened.

I also found out from her that Kevin is not living in our small town and instead in the nearby city which is also where Randall is but I doubt that they travelling in the same circles so I am pretty sure that Kevin is safe where he is. As I explained to her my concerns and the reality of the assaults by Kevin her whole demeanour and attitude shift from defensive to compassionate. We are not the enemy and we care deeply for our children and ultimately want them all to get the help the need and not punishment from punitive system that disregards the fact that hurting people hurt other people.

At the end of the day I have zero control over anything with either of my boys but I will shout at the top of my lungs to make sure that someone hears that the choices they made in my home began when they were abused in foster care. Children who were removed because of neglect and then were physically and sexually abused in a home that was supposed to be safer than the one they had left.

It breaks my heart that all three of kids were hurt in homes where they were supposed to be safe.

Thursday 23 May 2019

to be honest...

So yesterday I wrote about being brave, I wrote about how I thought I was brave and don't feel very brave and it was not what I wanted to say and yet it was all I said.

I wanted to say that I am scared, often terrified of what is going to happen with my life. I am afraid most days that my eldest child is going to show up to hurt me or one of my other kids.  I am scared that people are going to judge be for being a bad parent. I am afraid that I am never going to lose the weight I have gained this year as I have eaten all my big feelings. I am worried for Kate and Randall and the choices they are going to make to numb some of the overwhelming pain that they feel. I am scared my marriage is over because I am not sure I can ever forgive Jack for not watching the kids more carefully. I am scared of trials, assessments, meetings and explaining again and again that I really did do my very best and my heart is shattered because my best wasn't good enough. I am afraid that no matter how hard I work we are never, ever going to be able to be a family again.

I am scared all the time.

I go to therapy every week and we glide around the issues because I am afraid that if I speak of how profoundly scared and sad I am I will not be able to recover in time to be present for my kid. I am afraid of the days where I feel so profoundly sad about my life that I contemplate changing it in the most drastic of ways. Sometimes when I feel a little less scared and I see a glimmer of hope I write to my therapist about it and in those moments I do feel brave and courageous but underneath that is fear.

Fear that I am not good enough. Fear that no matter what I will never feel safe. Fear that my selfish desires to parent are what got us to this place. Fear that I am bad person and this is a punishment. Fear someone will find this place and know who I am. Fear, fear, fear.

I am full of fear.

Last week I went away for a long weekend and I am glad that I went but as the time to go approached I was so nervous because I was terrified of being judged. I was afraid that these women who are brave with their lives would see that I was a fraud and that I was not brave but instead just really good at pretending to be brave. We have gathered together since our children were young and they know me, they have been there and supported me through so many things and yet I was afraid that this would not be the case given what has happened in my life. I was wrong, if they judged they did not share it and instead where supportive and compassionate. I was relieved.

I came home and real life started again, Kate having nightmares, court dates, therapy, meetings and endlessly advocating for our kids who deserve so much more than they have received. As it all fell into the normal swing of things I tried to pretend it wasn't an issue but it is.

If I am actually honest with myself and with the world all I have at the moment is fear.

Wednesday 22 May 2019


I have been brave before.

 I moved away and lived alone to go to University.  I travelled though much of Asia by myself. I worked and supported myself until I was 28 and moved in with Jack. I chose to adopt children from foster care not once but twice. When parenting got hard I found other parents on the internet who were living my life and became friends with them. I travelled throughout North America and made those internet friends real in life friends. Their kids played with my kids and we hours talking about why we made the choices we did. I advocated for my kids with schools and therapists and was bold when I needed to be.

I could do brave.

Then in September the bottom fell out of my world and I felt like I would never be brave again. I felt like I lost my brave in the days that came and that my life as I knew it was over.

Today as I sat in a courtroom with Randall I did not feel brave. I felt defeated. I felt small and scared and unsure of my choices. I felt like this is not a place that I want to be and yet here I am trying to figure out which way is up in a situation where I have very little control.

Yesterday as I thought about supporting Randall in court day I had a panic attack. Last night as I held Kate as she cried because she has a nightmare that involved Kevin killing her while she was school I could not believe this was my reality.

When I chose to be brave with my life I had no idea it wold turn out like this. Today I wish that I had been less brave and perhaps a little more like my peers that I grew up with who had pretty regular middle class lives.

Instead I chose to be brave and now I wonder why.

Monday 13 May 2019

That Day.

Yesterday was Mother's Day. It was fraught with big feelings both good and bad for me as I celebrated parenting my girl and mourned not parenting my boys in the way I want to be. I heard from Randall after I texted him and thanked him for making me a Mom. He has been super sweet lately about thanking me for being his Mom and it makes me reflect on just how far he and I have come together.

There was a time when I was sure he would never attach to me, a time when I thought I would never be good enough in his eyes to be his Mama. It shattered me for years and then when we moved away for two years for a job he and I finally grew together. It was a hard time for me as I was so sick and dark time for him as his brother was sexually assaulting him and the behaviour I saw response to that was impossibly hard to manage.

But now his behaviour makes so much sense. All of it, from the day I met that terrified little boy eating peach as he started at me with his big eyes unwilling to make eye contact with Jack or I until Jack pulled out his phone to add their birthdays to his calendar. Once there was s screen involved he was interested and we had an "in" with him, a tiny crack in his thick armour to begin working with. From that day to the day the police had to go find him after he cut up his arms with a box cutter or the day last spring when he lit our yard on fire - he was silently screaming  - help me -  but I could not figure out why.

Randall, I'm sorry that I could not hear you and will do everything I can to make sure that you can heal from the trauma others have forced you to suffer.

I did not hear from Kevin and I did not really expect to but there was a part of me that was the tiniest bit hopeful that maybe he would come around and send a text. I know deep down that is not going to happen and I know that none of the people who are in his life are going to encourage him to talk to me.

But I chose to be his Mama, I still choose to put myself out there for him and love him even if he can not love me back and because of that I will always have a small glimmer of hope that he might eventually say something. I told him my love was unconditional and although this past 8 months has tested that immensely at the end of the day I will still always love him and my heart will continue to break for the immense pain that he in because he was hurt first and then chose to hurt others as well.

Loving someone with your whole heart means that you might get your ass kicked and it has hard for me to learn to be okay with the but I am working on it.

Kevin, I will always love you and I am so sorry that you were hurt. I hope that one day you will find it in yourself to hear that I will always love you and that eventually you will be healthy enough to be able to hear those words.

Thursday 9 May 2019


When things are at their worst I tend to get quiet and hide because it is just so overwhelming to be living this life some days and in between the tears of sadness and sheer exhaustion I do not have the physical stamina to sit down with my computer and write.

Last week one of my kids made a disclosure about something that happened while they were in foster care and it literally shattered me. There was a part of me that knew it, that sensed it, that understood it was probably the case but hearing the words come out of their mouth was so very hard. I moved through those moments with my kid in a daze, shocked and scared for them and wishing with every fibre of being that this did not have to be their reality.

I was brave and strong and then I as soon as I was alone I lost it. How much worse can this get? How many more things can they share? When are we going to stop falling in the darkness and hit the bottom so that we can begin to find out way into the light again...

As we move in the darkness and I try to support my kids my own trauma keeps getting in the way and making it even harder for me to manage to get through the day. There are days and times when it feel as though I am never going to see light again and that this version of reality is destined to be my new normal.

That is not what I want.

I desperately want to find the light. I want to be able to heal and support my kids in healing. I want the foster care system to learn from this and to change so that kids are not broken by a system that is supposed to protect them.  I want hurt kids to get the help they need before they recreate the cycle on another child. I want the workers who neglected to see the the signs in my kids to learn and grow so that they do not miss this again.

I want us to heal and learn to be family in a way that keeps us all safe and allows us to grow into something we never knew we need to be.

I want to be brave.

Wednesday 1 May 2019

I know it could be worse.

For me one of the most frustrating parts raising kids who have experienced trauma and neglect is constant battle for honesty. I lied as a kid, I had my own trauma to contend with in the family I was living in and so a part of me understands but another part of me gets so defeated every time Kate tries to pull some dumb stunt and gets caught.

I keep trying to give her opportunities to be trusted, little things like getting ready for the day without my eyes watching her every move. She does well for a couple of days and then randomly screws it up, seemingly just to see if I watching.

I am watching. I am going to call you on it and then I am going to be mad and frustrated because I do not have the energy for this battle anymore. I know that I could just let it go and not fight with her about bedtime or eating breakfast but she has to function in the world each day and I know that she is often a disaster when she is tired or hungry. She lacks the introspection needed ( like most 13 year olds) to realize this and so we battle far to often about the most basic things.

I would love to stop fighting about things and just leave it be but I fear that the consequences of that would be so much worse then fighting about them.