Our Middle Schooler

Julian started sixth grade last week, and so far so good.  He is attending Lakewood Montessori Middle School.  To find out more about Montessori education click here.

It just seems like yesterday that Julian and I were sitting on our couch reading through a pile of picture books and my belly was round with Madelyn.  My how time flies!

When I tell people that Julian is starting middle school, I get some curious responses.  I have had folks say to me (with Julian present), “There is just nothing good that can come from middle school,” and “Oh, God bless you.  This isn’t going to be fun.”

Really?

I remember middle school.  Sure, it is a new and different time in a child’s life.  It can be full of awkwardness and plenty of trial and error.  It can also be exciting.  It presents new chances for independence, responsibility and choice.  With all that we (Scott having a major upper hand after teaching 6th grade for eleven years) know about this time in a child’s life, we are quite hopeful for Julian.

[Side note: In the past few weeks I’ve sent my baby to kindergarten and my firstborn to middle school.  It’s been exciting and hard at the same time.  They are spreading their wings.  This independence is what we want for them, but it can been quite a tug on a mama’s (and daddy’s) heart.]

Julian has such a special place in our family.  He is our firstborn and the older brother.  He is a builder and a nature and science lover and he is crazy about books.  Throughout his eleven years, we have seen him grow in ceaseless ways.  I hope within his new learning environment he will be accepted and celebrated.  There are many things I want for Julian as I see him starting this new chapter of his life: confidence, humility, thoughtfulness, enthusiasm, acceptance, respectfulness, strength, hope, responsibility, happiness, a generous spirit, openness, and diligence.

So far Julian’s favorite things about his middle school experience has been waking up early, getting to ride to school with just his dad, eating lunch at 10:30 am, having a teacher with purple hair (no joke), meeting lots of new friends, sitting anywhere he wants in the cafeteria, and getting the chance to learn to play the cello.

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About Fostering

I could write post after post about our fostering experiences.  Each day is rich with its own lessons, joys, struggles, highs, lows and golden moments.  Today, I will share some reading literature that I have come across pertaining to this journey.

I have found that in the midst of fostering children, it is helpful to read books about fostering.  Recently, I have read a book by Kathy Harrison called Another Place at the Table and a memoir titled Three Little Words by Ashley Rhodes-Courter, a former foster child.  Currently, I am reading a book by Cathy Glass, a foster parent for over twenty years, entitled Damaged.  It is (as the front cover reads) the heartbreaking true story of a forgotten child.   Cathy writes about her fostering experiences, especially those with Jodie.

Here is an excerpt from the second chapter that is about her take on fostering:

Fostering, I discovered, is by no means easy.  If a carer goes into it expecting to take in a little Orphan Annie, or an Anne of Green Gables, then he or she is in for a nasty shock.  The sweet, mop-headed child who has had a little bad luck and only needs a bit of love and affection to thrive and blossom and spread happiness in the world doesn’t exist.  Foster children don’t come into your home wide-eyed and smiling.  They tend to be withdrawn because of what has happened to them and will often be distant, angry and hard to reach, which is hardly surprising.  In worse cases, they can be verbally or even physically aggressive and violent.  The only constant factor is that each one is different, and that they need attention and kindness to get through their unhappiness.  It is never an easy ride.  

Later she writes….

I’d found something I had a talent for, and that was extremely rewarding and I wanted to carry on, even while I had my own children.  I found that the difference I made to my foster children’s lives, even if it was a small one, stayed with me.  It was not that I was the most selfless being since Mother Teresa, or that I was particularly saintly.  I believe that we do these things for our own ends, and mine was the satisfaction I got from the whole process of making things better for children who needed help.  

For more fostering books check out a previous blog post.

11.5 Miles

Yesterday, Scott had this grand idea to take our family of eight on a bike ride.  This would be no ordinary bike ride.  We have access to a trail, the American Tobacco Trail, on the outskirts of our neighborhood.  This trail goes many places, but Scott’s idea was to take it downtown and end up at one of our favorite Durham hot spots, Mellow Mushroom.  Honestly, I bit my lip a little when I heard this idea as it quickly spread throughout our home.  This would be a huge endeavor.  Scott began getting water bottles and pumping tires.  He was serious.  So, the question came…”Anna, are you coming?”  He must have sensed some hesitation.  I nodded yes and joined the giddy troop swarming on their bikes outside.  We saddled up, telling each other that whenever we needed to turn around and head home, of course we could.  

It was a gorgeous day and the greenery that surrounded the trail was just breathtaking.  Brady and I stayed more toward the back of the pack.  Julian was our fearless leader.

You must know that I am not a biker.  I know how to ride a bike, it is just that I don’t spend time doing so.  I don’t have a real adventurous spirit.  I am working on that though.  It is important to know how to have fun, to let loose and laugh.  In this case (taking this bike ride), it was important to breathe deep, enjoy the breeze, savor the family time, forget the what ifs, sit back and enjoy the ride.

My sweet husband had our foster kids riding in our new bike trailer behind him.  He kept checking on me to make sure I was good.  He had such an amazing attitude.

Our foster little beauties did an amazing job.  Sure, all they had to do was sit, but for a 2 year old and an 18 month old, that can be tough.  There was the occasional swatting, but they’d recover and really rolled with the whole trip.

Brayden and I were cracking up as we rode together.  He is a hoot.  Take a look at that back tire, it changes during our grand adventure.

Madelyn Virginia taking a break for water.

 Scott showing that we had then travelled four miles.  Again, for our family, this was huge.

Me with Mads

Glamorous right?

This was the most exciting point of our bike ride.  If we were in movie, it would be the perfect time you would hear the hallelujah chorus.  We reached a clearing and saw downtown Durham.  We had almost achieved our goal!

Still smiling and so proud.

Here we are crossing the street in front of Mellow Mushroom!

So happy, proud and hungry!

Julian is totally in his element when it comes to being out in nature, riding bikes and being the leader.  I think he was pleasantly surprised that our family made it.

Kalen, with his wide eyes and adventurous spirit, was in heaven.  He is the type of guy that loves a challenge.

The picture within Mellow Mushroom didn’t turn out.  We had a wonderful time eating, laughing and celebrating.  We would not soon forget those moments.

Our trek back home was then under way.

This is Brayden just before his tire blew.  Poor little fella.  He was such a trooper though.  We did make it home.  And the timing was perfect.  A rain storm came just after putting our bikes away.  Whew!