Archives for category: Foster parenting
harmoney

Harmony’s Baby

We are taking some time off from foster parenting and I have had time to do some sewing recently.  I made quilts for three new babys whose Moms I have gotten to knew at the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe.  It is such fun to make a quilt for a baby!  And these are real cuties.

Karleigh

Karleigh Rose

Anika

Anika and her baby boy.

I also finished quilts for our daughters, Holly and Heather, which I delivered when we visited them in Arizona a couple of weeks ago.

Heather with Dad

Heather with Dad

Holly

Holly with her quilt

I made a Halloween quilt, just for fun and finally finished the quilt for our bed at the house in Ocean Shores.

halloween

Halloween quilt

Tumbler

New quilt for our bed at Ocean Shores

Now I am working on  some new projects, the tulips are made from completed blocks I was given.

tulip

Tulip quilt in process

In other projects, the little 4-H sewing club we started three years ago has grown to 11 members.  Here Marilyn, my helper, is helping the kids make “burp pads” for moms in the First Step program.  This is the kid’s community service project.

4-H sewing 2015

4-H Club

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Cedar Baskets

This weekend I took a basket weaving class.  I have always admired cedar baskets made in the Native style.  With lots of help and support I completed these four projects.  My favorite, the one in the center, is made with cherry bark and cat tail as well as cedar.

I miss the foster kids but have to admit I am enjoying having time to be creative!!

 

stack of fabric

I was driving home from Port Townsend where I had delivered Nyima, the friend who lives in the Himalayan mountains in simple a hut and practices the Buddhist lifestyle there. We had discussed her philology and her words for me were:

Learn what is essential

Learn what is enough.

On the way home my phone rang, Ted telling me that there was an estate sale of a quilter going on and he had checked it out, there was lots of fabric and they were selling it cheap.

Hoping to add to my collection of scrap fabrics, we met and drove there when I returned to town and I gathered an arm full of lovely fabric, large pieces, being sold for a very good price.

fABRIC1

Enjoying the smooth, colorful fabric

Bringing it home I soon realized that it had a strong smoky small, the owner had been a smoker. No matter, I began washing, drying and ironing the fabric, enjoying the feel and the colors of the lovely fabric, sorting and stacking it, and thinking about the quilts I would soon be making. Feeling that surely I would put the fabric to good use and  I could consider it “essential.” After all, I make a new quilt for each foster child who stays with us and recently that had been a lot of children!

On Sunday Ted reminded me that everything left at the sale would be sold for half price so we went back, and saw that there was still heaps of fabric to be sold. I picked out another armful.

And then I heard Ted, he was negotiating to buy ALL of the remaining fabric.  And in a flash it was ours.

We filled boxes and bins and fortunately he also bought a nice rack suitable for storing fabric.

Piles of fabric

Our bedroom was covered.

Our bedroom, which is also my sewing room, was covered with stacks of fabric. I began washing and ironing the piles, a project that was to take me over a month to complete.

Three hundred twenty four yards! Now all folded and clean on my new shelf. A friend told me I had reached the point of FABLE, Fabric Accumulated Beyond Life Expectancy.

And Nyima’s quote from Lau Tzu “Do the difficult while it is easy.” Now I have the easy, part, creating beautiful quilts with this beautiful fabric.

 

Andrea with Merrily

Merrily with Nyima on her recent visit to Lake Dawn.

See my blog “My Advisor, my Mentor, my Friend” for my information about Nyima

FABRIC SCRAPS[

These “scraps” remain to be washed and sorted. They will make great accent pieces for my quilts.

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playing

Rough housing

 

The blog I had planned for today isn’t ready. So instead I am going to fill you in on a little of what is happening here.

s and R on the Elwha

Seneca and Raven at Olympic Hot Springs with friends

 

For some reason I don’t completely understand, we now have 8 kids here. Seneca and Raven of course, and the 17 year old who has her baby. The baby is now a year old and walking and the girl will turn 18 this week and is moving to independence.   She is packing her things and will be saying good bye very soon.

The four year old who has been with us for 6 months or so remains in our home. She is a sweetie most of the time and if finally speaking some words. Yea!!

A gentle 11 year old girl has been with us for a couple of weeks. She had an aunt that she will probably be going to live with soon.

Then, last week we got a call about a sister and brother 10 and 13 in need of a place for “just one night.” We knew the children, we had cared for their older sister a year or so ago. They were a welcome addition, very nice children and when we were asked to keep them until after school is out, we agreed.

All this means taking two cars for deliver everyone to school in the morning.  We sit shoulder to shoulder at our little dining room table, and kids are all enjoying each other.

We had planned a camping trip for the weekend and decided we could do it, and the kids had a great time playing in the silt deposited along the banks of the Elwha River. As we sat around the camp fire and talked and laughed I marveled again how new kids could seem like family so quickly.

So, I’ll write my planned blog for next time, meanwhile I am enjoying the children as they come and go.

 

Anna with Joy

Holding one of my precious dolls.

 

quilt finds a new ho,e

Each foster child gets a quilt and she loves hers as you can see.

 

Niyama with her quilt

Nyima (Andrea) with a baby quilt she hand stitched in India. A quilter will know how complicated it would be to set this many small blocks in a quilt like this.

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She stitches a label in a quilt

When I asked my friend Nyima for some words of wisdom for living a good life, she replied:

Have courage.

See the humor

Be useful.

Be kind.

Nyima Lhamo  is a Buddhist nun living simple life in Mongoo, a village high in the Himalayan mountains near Darjeeling in India. Until 12 years ago she was Andrea Balosky, quilter and good friend living at Camp Sherman near Sisters, Oregon. While there she made the decision to begin to learn about Tibetan Buddhism and she needed to be closer to those who practiced it to do that, she sold everything and moved to India. She says she has never looked back. Recently she was in the U.S. to attend to her visa and she stayed with our family last week. We spent the time talking about life in the remote mountains, and about our kids, and about quilting.

andrea with anna

Andrea plays with our little foster daughter

Andrea Balosky was a well-known quilter, and is the author of the book “Transitions.”   This is my “go to” book I need an inspiration for a new quilt. I met her when I was looking for someone to hand quilt a Hawaiian quilt top I had purchased. Andrea was born in Hawaii and her first quilt was in the Hawaiian style, done for her mother. She said she loved to hand quilt while watching sports on TV on the long snowy evenings in Camp Sherman. She estimated would take her until Christmas to finish, and actually it took her a couple of years but the result is spectacular.

andrea with hawaiian quilt

Andres stands behind the Hawaiian quilt she hand quilted for Ted and me.

hand quilting

An example of Andrea’s fine quilting.

She is famous for her small quilts, which she calls “doll quilts” and an exhibit of 100 of them was displayed at the Latimer Quilt Museum in Tillamook Oregon.

quilt show

Latimer Quilt Museum display

dolls and  quilts

The museum displayed my dolls with Andrea’s quilts

doll quilt

One of the Small Wonders collection

When she left the U.S. she sold her collection of small quilts and Ted and I purchased this charming collection. They can be seen in this book, “Small Wonders.”   We don’t receive income from the sale of the book, only have satisfaction of sharing them. She doesn’t quilt much now, she doesn’t have access to good fabric or batting in India, but in preparation for her trip, she made 50 small potholders which will be sold by the Pine Needler quilt group in Camp Sherman to raise money to purchase a defibulator. And she made one for me! pot holder

And her additional words of wisdom, for me were:
Learn what is enough.
Learn what is essential

Oh my. What am I doing with all of the “stuff” in this house?

And her final word—

“Do the difficult while it is easy.” — Lao Tzu

Andrea with Merrily

Friends

jerry's garden

“Cross Currents #2” by Andrea and now belonging to Bill Volkening

salute to the Sun
“Salute to the Sun” a small quilt done by hand in India for the Alzheimer’s Quilt Project.[/caption]

Some of the photos in this blog are by  William Volkening

This and that, I have a few different things I’d like to say.

I am taking a class on blogging this week and expect to be able to do new and wonderful things with blogging very soon. So stay with me.

I have finished some quilts recently, and am sharing the photos. In the class next week I hope to learn about lining up photos, but meanwhile, just keep  scrolling down.

asia close

Asian Circles up close, I hand quilted this one.

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strip stripe (2)

Strippy Stripes

stripes

strpes close

tiffany's quilt

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Apples to Apples

pinwheels

Pinwheels

My younger brother Jack is visiting from Thailand this week. He has lived on Phuket Island for 12 years and considers Thailand his home. He comes to visit once a year and it is always fun to visit with him and my sister who lives South of Seattle. Jack especially enjoys bring up obscure memories about things that happened in our neighborhood when we were growing up.   I am beginning to think he makes  some of them up. In two years he will turn 70 and he is planning a party and we are invited. We are planning to go, Ted Seneca Raven and me. I have been there three or four times and it is a wonderful place to visit.

My brother Jack

My brother Jack

We have been promised our renewed foster home license. We completed the 36 hours of required training, plus an all-day first aid class. We got the currently required immunizations for us and the kids AND the pets. We put a fence across the lake in front of the house to meet current safety standards.

gate

Gate to our new foster kid fence

fence

Ted and rolls of fencing

However we were told that the bedroom Raven uses was not suitable for foster children.

This room is on the second floor, is large with a vaulted ceiling and has lots of windows and is a great room for kids. However we were told it couldn’t be used because it contained a washer and dryer. A check of the Washington Administrative Code revealed nothing that would prohibit the use of a bedroom with a washer and dryer in it, and so the battle began.   For seven months we went back and forth, until Ted finally contacted our State Legislator, Steve Tharinger and his office made some calls. This week Ted got a call saying that we have been approved to have children in that room, since doing laundry there does not pose a health or safety hazard and we have been using it for the past six years. Dealing with challenging children is nothing compared to dealing with the government.

The thing that is so puzzling is that they are crying for foster homes.   This weekend we are caring for an extra teen age girl on an emergency basis and since Friday I have gotten three calls asking us to take another child, (yesterday a two year old girl) yet they make it so difficult to become foster home licensed—doesn’t make sense.

We have recently lost two good friends. Husband and wife, both deaths unexpected and sudden. It makes us appreciate all we have.

“Go for it” said Ted, and I knew he was right, the family could get along without me very nicely for five days.   Right?

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St. Andrews on Hood Canal

 

A chance to sew all day, get to know some new people and relax in a beautiful setting was too much to pass up.

Set at the foot of Hood Canal, the setting is magical. The log “mansion” called St. Andrew’s was built by a wealthy Seattle family who came here for the summer in the 1920’s and it was fun to think about that family with kids running up and down the stairs to the balcony and sitting in front of the fireplace. It was tempting to walk on the beach, but I was focused on sewing.

I decided to start in something new, fresh fabric from my stash and a new but simple pattern, something I could finish in a couple of days. Ted helped me cut the fabric before I left so when I got there I was ready to sew.

apples full

Apple quilt

 

apples up close

Apple quilt up close

 

I drew the lucky seat, the best view for sewing. There were beautiful views in every direction, however.

view from my seat

View from my sewing table

 

quilting room

The quilting room, this had been added to the original house.

 

The cook was amazing. He is a priest whose mission is to feed folks local, healthy and nutritious food, and that he did. Vegetables, herbs, cheese, ice cream, yoghurt, meat, and seafood were all grown or produced locally. He created his own salsa, granola, and special herb tea which he served cold. We feasted at every meal.

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Lining up for a wonderful meal

 

Our room was tucked under the rafters, set up with bunk beds, though there were only two of us so no one had to climb. Each bed was made with a homemade quilt, made by a previous quilter.

For fun, I made a cloth paper doll for each of the 13 other women attending and we had fun choosing outfits for each of them. Then they got creative and began making quilts for their dollies.

paper doll 4

Playing with paperdolls, this one was doing a dance

 

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This paper doll now decorates a sewing machine

 

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Brenda with her paper doll

I am an early riser and I enjoyed sitting by the fireplace and doing some hand sewing as folks assembled each morning.

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Early morning quilter

 

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A view of the fireplace

 

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An experiment

Many beautiful quilts were sewed during the week.

Each of us also made a “Joy Quilt” a small quilt to be wrapped around a stuffed animal and given to a child in a time of crisis. Some of our foster children have arrived with animals wrapped in “joy quilts” so this was a project I was committed to doing!

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Some of the cheerful joy quilts.

 

anna with joy quilt

A foster child received a stuffed elephant wrapped in a joy quilt.

 

The joy of sharing with other women, creating beautiful things while being fed tasty and healthy food, in a beautiful setting, it can hardly get better than that!

 

Thea sweat shirt

Here are Thea and Knox. Thea is our 16 year old granddaughter and Knox is now a Seeing Eye dog through Guide Dogs for the Blind.  Thea volunteered to raise Knox from puppyhood until he was ready to be trained.

First she had to participate in a training program with is offered in her school.   She learned that puppy trainers provide love and socialization to the puppies. Each year Guide Dogs for the Blind dog produces about 900 puppies which are placed with caretakers in the Western States.   The puppies are born so that in June they have reached the age where they are ready to leave their mothers. Knox arrived at the Holcomb household ready to learn and the first thing he was taught was to relieve himself on demand. This is an important skill for a guide dog. Knox went to school with Thea in the fall, wearing his little harness. Thea met with other classmates and their dogs several times a week as training progressed.

Guide Dogs for the Blind is a non-profit organization based in California. About 500 of the 900 dogs raised each year will actually be found suitable to work as guide dogs. Other dogs will be trained in other services or will become pets.

Knox was an eager learner and his training progressed very well. Thea loved him, but knew that at the end of the year she would be faced with parting with him so that he could go on to actual guide dog training in California and eventually be assigned to a blind or visually impaired person.

It was a sad and happy day when Knox was put back on the puppy truck for his return. Thea said, “It was exciting to realize he would go to do something fantastic that would change someone’s life.”   Four months later he had received his training and it was time for him to graduate and to meet the person spend he would spend his life serving. Thea and her mother and sister flew to California for the graduation. After the ceremony they met this person, a visually impaired woman from Arizona.   She felt especially lucky to meet Thea and to thank her.

They went for a walk together and Thea was pleased to see Knox behave perfectly when guiding her across the street. Knox, of course, recognized Thea and was excited to see her but knew his duty was to assist his new partner.

thea capitol

Odette, the dog Thea is training now

Thea is considering a career in guide dog training. It requires a college degree and a three year apprenticeship. Was this a good experience?   Yes, it was, Thea and her family are now involved with training a second dog, Odette!

 

ted ping

Ten Ping, a tiny favorite

 

dolls

Dolls on display from our shop, Apple Tree Dolls and Bears

 

girls in booth

Young customers

 

My doll club held its annual doll show last weekend and Seneca enjoyed herself as usual. The doll show is the  place she can get new outfits for her dolls and she brought her American Girl doll along for fittings. She was right in line to have herdoll’s hair styled by one of our members.

 

diana

She helped with our little foster girl who was gifted with a doll and another toy by some kind dealers.

seneca and anna

Seneca with our foster daughter, playing with new dolls

 

Seneca found a special doll she wanted and luckily she had enough money left from her birthday to make the purchase. On the way home she hugged her new doll along with her old favorite. I love it that she loves dolls!
new doll

A few weeks ago Seneca was talking about wanting to work on a cruise ship someday. She asked me if you must go to college to do such work. I suggested that she write to the cruise people and ask them. A few hours later she had created a very sweet letter to her favorite cruise line, Holland America, asking her question and throwing in a few details.  She mentioned that she has been  on four of their cruises and that she had a birthday coming.

holland america

Two weeks later a FedEx box came for Seneca and inside was a model of a Holland America ship along with a letter. She was advised to go to college if she could, and to apply on-line when she was ready to go to work. She was also wished a Happy Birthday. Nice to have a company with a heart, and the letter certainly created a lot of excitement at our house.

Quilt up close

Quilt up close

I love being a foster mother.  I never know what a new day will bring.  We have had mostly babies and preschool aged children the past six months but now we seem to be getting older children.

I was at the After School program at the Lower Elwha Tribal Center, doing my weekly volunteer time there when I got a call on my cell phone.  It was a case worker from Tacoma saying she was desperate for a bed for a 13-year-old boy, she was searching everywhere, and could we take him even for a day or two.  I asked a few questions such as whether has he harmed younger children and does he have any major medical issues.  Receiving a negative I agreed but told her we were leaving town  for the weekend and could not keep him past noon on Friday .    It was already 4 on Monday but she said she would start driving our way and would call me when she got to town.  We live about two hours from Tacoma.

Monday our 4-H club meets at 5:30 and about an hour into the meeting she called to say she was nearby.  I told her how to find the church and I met her and the boy, who I will call Jay, in the parking lot.  I shook his hand and told him my name.  He didn’t say anything.  “He doesn’t eat much” she told me and she said she would be back on Friday morning to get him.  She helped him move a plastic tub of his belongings from her car to the back of our van.  He sat outside the room where we were meeting for a half hour until we were finished, listening to music on his iPod.    He didn’t say much when introduced to Seneca and Raven, he wasn’t sullen, he just didn’t react.

I had planned to meet with my small quilting group on Tuesday morning but I emailed the hostess to explain the situation and said I wouldn’t be able to attend.  Next morning I had an email back saying to come anyway and to bring him, he could watch TV while we quilted.  And so I did.  He was disappointed to learn that we don’t have TV so I told him to get his fill while we were there.

He said he wanted to be in school, so I called the principal of the middle school, who I know, and explained the situation.  He said that though Jay would be with us only four days, if he wanted to be in school they would enroll him.  So, I drove him to the middle school that afternoon and completed the paperwork.  People were so kind and positive in their response to him but he continued to have very little reaction.

That night he said he was not hungry when called for dinner.  We explained that he didn’t have to eat but at our house everyone gathers for dinner.  He sat at the table without eating a bite.  Next morning he went to school, I picked him up after and we had a repeat at the dinner table, he did not eat or speak.

By then, we had acquired a new little girl, 10 years old who I will call Kay.  She came with a smile on her face, loved our house, chatted with Seneca and Raven, ate everything she was offered and happily took seconds.  Totally opposite from Jay.

Thursday I picked up Jay afterschool, then Kay at her school and then went to the Elwha for Seneca.  On the way back in the car there was a breakthrough, Jay actually laughed at the girls and began visiting with them a bit.  He came to the table, ate dinner and asked for more.  Whew, he was not totally weird.

This morning, as the case worker had asked, we drove Jay to the middle school along with his tub of belongings.  He didn’t say good-bye or thank you and by then I didn’t expect that he would, but such a contrast to Kay who wished us a good day as we dropped her off.

Tonight I gave Kay a quilt that a friend had made for me to give to a foster child.  She was overwhelmed, saying that no one had ever made anything like that for her, and she gave me a hug.  I told her I hadn’t actually made it but that I would put her name on it tomorrow.

Wrapped in her new quilt

Wrapped in her new quilt

These two represent the extremes in terms of kids adjusting to foster care.  We take what we get without preset expectations.  When we get a child like Kay it is like frosting on the cake.  She will be with us a week while her regular foster mother makes a necessary trip to California.   We will probably will never know what happens to Jay, we wish him well and hope that the right family will be found for him to help him come out of his shell.  But it won’t be ours!!