Mystery Lane

Mystery Lane

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Holiday Craziness

It’s Christmas Eve and we are in sunny (actually it’s raining) Florida for the holidays.  Family is arriving, shopping is done, presents are wrapped, and food is being prepared.  It’s the most glorious time of the year.  That’s what’s advertised anyway.  Our non-traditional family, with foster kids and a child with special needs, doesn’t always follow the typical holiday customs.

One thing about having children who have lived a lot of their lives in dysfunction and the foster care system is that they have a skewed version of what the holidays are.  You don’t know why and they can’t really tell you why.  It’s frustrating to say the least.  What we do know is that behavior seems to be the outlet for their holiday anxiety.  Unfortunately for us it has been an issue of bad behavior.  The time out chair has seen a lot of action lately if you get my drift.  Despite my attempts to sit and talk things out in an effort to get some answer as to why the behavior is the way it is, I’ve got nothing.  I wish I could understand and help ease whatever it is that is going on in their minds but I can’t.  One good motivator is Christmas gifts.  You be good, one gift goes under the tree.  It has worked a little.  In my heart I feel for them because I know that it is a reaction to their past.  But on the other hand I am now their parent and I need them to understand that bad behavior is unacceptable and we won’t allow it.  I have to be the bad guy and that sucks!  They have only been with us for 9 months and I have to continually remind myself of that.  At this point we just have to get through the holidays and hopefully next year they will have a better sense that things will be okay for them.
One tough decision my husband and I had to make yesterday was to not give them our big gift.  The kids didn’t know but we planned to take them to Disney World for one day this week.  After this past week of bad behavior we knew we couldn’t reward them with such a fun opportunity.  It wouldn’t be fair to any of us.  I’m sad about our decision but I know it is the right one.  We could only afford one day anyway so now we have a whole year to save for another day and a hotel room.  Plus in one more year I think we will have a little more stability in our family.  In my quest to give them memorable experiences this year I think I forgot that having a new family might just be enough experience.  I mean a couple of years ago they were living in a tent having never left the town they were born in.  Now they are flying on airplanes across the country, seeing the ocean, going on boats, going to amusement parks, experiencing summer camps, and on and on.  It’s been an entirely eventful 9 months for them. 
Being a parent is hard, no matter who your child is.  We have to make tough decisions, enforce rules, be the bad guy, all while making sure they feel secure and loved.  A balancing act so many of us put on every day.  I hope for the kids’ sake that “Life’s most painful losses can lead to life’s most beautiful findings.” (Rusty Berkus)

Thursday, December 12, 2013


There is an analogy that a woman named Emily Pearl Kingsley wrote about becoming a special needs parent called “Welcome to Holland” (I posted it on the blog a couple of years ago).  It’s about how you believe your journey as a parent is going to be like going to Italy.  Then you have your child and realize you aren’t going to Italy.  Instead you are diverted to Holland.  At first Holland doesn’t seem as great as Italy.  And while everyone else is going to Italy, you are stuck in Holland.  Slowly you realize that Holland isn’t so bad and has a beauty that others don’t see.  The other day I came across a follow up to “Welcome to Holland” called “Celebrating Holland – I’m Home”.  It’s written by a mom who has been in Holland for a while.  No matter how hard our journey is when we have special needs kids, I think most of us are able to get to a place where we realize that we no longer wish for Italy.  That as far as we are concerned, Italy is overrated.  The most beautiful country is indeed Holland.  Holland is where the action is!  Holland has a love like none other.  Holland is the hardest, most rewarding school where lessons are taught that we had no idea about.  Holland is beautiful.  I love Holland and the beautiful little boy named Jackson who took me there.    

Celebrating Holland- I'm Home
By Cathy Anthony
(my follow-up to the original “Welcome to Holland” by Emily Pearl Kingsley)


I have been in Holland for over a decade now. It has become home. I have had time to catch my breath, to settle and adjust, to accept something different than I'd planned. I reflect back on those years of past when I had first landed in Holland. I remember clearly my shock, my fear, my anger, the pain and uncertainty. In those first few years, I tried to get back to Italy as planned, but Holland was where I was to stay. Today, I can say how far I have come on this unexpected journey. I have learned so much more. But, this too has been a journey of time.

I worked hard. I bought new guidebooks. I learned a new language and I slowly found my way around this new land. I have met others whose plans had changed like mine, and who could share my experience. We supported one another and some have become very special friends.
Some of these fellow travelers had been in Holland longer than I and were seasoned guides, assisting me along the way. Many have encouraged me. Many have taught me to open my eyes to the wonder and gifts to behold in this new land. I have discovered a community of caring. Holland wasn't so bad.

I think that Holland is used to wayward travelers like me and grew to become a land of hospitality, reaching out to welcome, to assist and to support newcomers like me in this new land. Over the years, I've wondered what life would have been like if I'd landed in Italy as planned. Would life have been easier? Would it have been as rewarding? Would I have learned some of the important lessons I hold today?

Sure, this journey has been more challenging and at times I would (and still do) stomp my feet and cry out in frustration and protest. And, yes, Holland is slower paced than Italy and less flashy than Italy, but this too has been an unexpected gift. I have learned to slow down in ways too and look closer at things, with a new appreciation for the remarkable beauty of Holland with its tulips, windmills and Rembrandts.

I have come to love Holland and call it Home.

I have become a world traveler and discovered that it doesn't matter where you land. What's more important is what you make of your journey and how you see and enjoy the very special, the very lovely, things that Holland, or any land, has to offer.

Yes, over a decade ago I landed in a place I hadn't planned. Yet I am thankful, for this destination has been richer than I could have imagined!