When they brought us the sibling group a few weeks ago, Nathan went back to his parents once more and traded our little Kia for their big van.
I haven’t even driven it once since I paid it off.
But I have been grateful for it.
We don’t mind driving two cars when we are both here, splitting up girls and boys or different sibling groups. But when only one of us is here, like this week, we have to be able to get all the kids in one trip. I can’t do that with a little sedan car. I am grateful to the parents for letting us borrow their van again these weeks.
I was especially glad this week in particular, when it was just me while Nathan was gone, and me on my own while carting around my most precious cargo. I tell you, for any concerns I ever had driving in the weather, and any fears I had after mom’s accident, nothing feels the same as having a van load of sacred little ones that you are trying to get moved safely from one place to another. Several times this week the giant van began to slide, and I would have been afraid, except it did something fancy, and put up a little orange window screen on the dash that said something about traction, and it was like the car drove for me for just a minute until it was safe again.
I like that.
It was like the Holy Spirit for my van.
My driving could use a little Holy Spirit.
Anyway, because of this little feature, my kids have been safe thus far all week, and I have been unafraid. Cautious and careful, but unafraid.
The main streets are mostly clear now, but our neighborhood is still a two inch sheet of ice. And now it is snowing. Again.
Some places I have lived can have all kinds of weather and they don’t close the schools, so it still surprises me when schools are closed here. I remember living in Iowa and having to walk to school (uphill both ways, no doubt) in a blizzard, and wishing we still lived in Arkansas where schools would have closed at the sight of a snowflake! But here, they do not have as good of equipment to clear all roads as quickly, and drivers do not know how to drive safely on it as much as other places used to this weather. So I am grateful for the safety, and stay home as much as we can.
I was worried the ice and sleet would smell like the day mom died, but the snow came so fast that it felt different. It got that “first” over with, but without it being very traumatic. Obviously I thought about it, though, but how can I not?
It’s been eleven months now, this week. I can’t believe it.
This time last year she was moved into her new house around the corner, and Nathan was moving home (finally!) from New York, and we were having Jessica on weekends.
I miss Jessica. A lot. They haven’t let her stay since mom died, and don’t want her to come since we have foster kids. Or maybe it is just me. Or maybe they are just busy being their own family, which makes me happy. But it was another layer of grief there, all at once without any warning, and one we don’t get to talk about much. I miss her.
That’s back when we still went dancing every Thursday night.
Life is different now, so very different. We don’t dance on Thursdays, but we still dance in the kitchen. Ballroom dancing will come around again someday, when it is our season for it once more. It is an autumn kind of lifetime season, and we find ourselves pushed right into a springtime of life we had no idea was going to burst forth.
And this year, springtime came right in the middle of this cold, cold winter.
Yesterday morning at church was a little intense, handling all six kids at church by myself. They did okay, mostly, during Sacrament, and then most of them got kicked out of Sunday School. Makes me proud. We are learning, all of us, and trying so hard. We have come a long way, and we know this, but it is hard to remember when we are still in the trenches and when the 7 year old ties herself to her chair again and the 5 year old is sitting in the hallway in time out again.
He said to me, “Mama, you know I am very naughty if Jesus Christ puts me in time out.”
“It is true,” I said.
The 7 year old that is such a mess, the one who breaks at least one dish or glass every single day, the one who knocks over entire pieces of furniture just because she dances by, the one who managed to knock over the baby because she was running backwards, the same one who tied herself to her chair in primary, that one – she knocked my wallet out of my bag on Sunday after church, right as the crowds pressed us against the wall and we were trying to squeeze our way to the door. Someone saw it happen, but couldn’t get to the actual wallet.
I found a young woman in the foyer and asked her to stay with my kids while I went back for the wallet. If it had been anything else, I would have just let it go. But my wallet was necessary, and this was one of the Laurels I trust, and she was already playing with my kids. I felt terrible abandoning them with her for the moment, because I know how much work they are. But she was willing and eager, and they were happy and content, so I slipped away to get my wallet.
I did find my wallet, and when I came back, she had done more than just contained my kids in the foyer. She had gotten them all dressed in their mittens and hats and coats, walked them carefully to the car, and got them all seated with seat belts on – even the baby strapped in.
I cried. I cried like a girl.
Somehow this very simple thing had lightened my burden beyond words, and I just stood there in the snow and cried.
On Sunday evening, we went to the Johnsons for dinner. They have been good parents to me, and now are good grandparents to our foster kids. This feels good to me, and nourishes my spirit, and gives our kids family of mine to visit besides just Nathan’s parents. It eases the sting a bit that I have no family left, except my brother who gives good philosophy about my kids being family no matter where they came from, but who lives in Springfield and is busy with his own gaggle of kids.
I miss him, too. I used to see him every Friday night when we swapped kids or the weeks I picked up Jessica or took her home.
So many things change when someone dies, when you have kids, or when big life cycle things happen.
It’s not bad, and there’s no drama. It’s just different.
But they let the kids play upstairs, and talked with me, and it gave me breathing room so all the kids will still be alive by the time Nathan gets home. They had a blast, I got fed food (while it was still hot!), didn’t have to cook for eight thousand little hungry faces, and we watched the Christmas devotional. It was a respite for me, and we were all so glad to visit them. I love them in my heart.
I am such a terrible friend, and such an introvert, and so lost in my schedule between work and trying to be with my family as much as possible. But those who have seen me beyond the barriers, and loved me anyway, and love me still, my heart cries tears for missing them when we move.
I had to turn in PTO for missing work today when school was out, and now again tomorrow. When Nathan gets home, we can switch and I can go back to work and see my patients. I will probably have to work some of the weekend, especially if they are out of school on Wednesday, too.
Our kids’ visits with their families got cancelled, too, and that was some tearful drama.
This was abated, however, by the announcement that the DHS Christmas Party for the foster kids in our county was still being held, snow or not, and that because of the fancy traction-action, I was braving the roads and making sure my kids got to go.
It was amazing! They had these tables and tables and tables of toys, and the kids got to sit with Santa for a picture, say what they wanted for Christmas, and then go pick it out! And then, because not many people made it with the weather, they let all the kids go through the line again! It was crazy exciting!
And then they took the kids to the other room to pick out presents for us, and help them wrap them, and keep them busy – because then they let all us parents go through the line and pick out two things for each kiddo! So they got two presents tonight that they know about, but two more they don’t know about! They had us wrap them and put them in the car before letting the kids come back in to give us the presents they picked out. How crazy fun is that?! I did not know that gifts were part of the party, and I just sat there and cried and cried. I couldn’t believe it.
We have a miracle house about to close, twins with birthdays next week, and a new sibling group that just arrived and who used up our entire foster savings to get them clothes and coats, so I couldn’t even begin to think how we would pull of Christmas. It was amazing, and gave us a good start. Nathan didn’t believe me when I called to tell him I got two presents for all six of the kids!
We got home just in time to send them to bed because schools were not listed on the closings, and by the time that was done and I came back in here to type, the schools were closed after all. They were so worn out that they were all asleep already, so I will just surprise them in the morning. I will let them sleep in, and then when they wake up they will see the presents they picked out already under the tree.
Whew! We have a Christmas tree up, homemade stockings hanging, homemade decorations on the tree, and legit gifts for each one under the tree. That makes me feel worlds better in the mom department, and I am so grateful for such creative ways in providing for these kiddos. It really is a miracle, with so many angels in our community. I am so grateful, even if it makes me cry like a girl.
Merry Christmas, indeed.