The make it or break it is the support system built for the girls in Seattle so I started with phone calls before arrival and hit the ground running with face-to-face contact once we got to Washington and before I was admitted to the hospital.
Micala, Korrina and Kayla attend Hutch School every day from 8:30 - 2:00. Hutch is part of the Seattle School System and is built adjoining the Pete Gross House. Students at the school are dealing with cancer themselves or have a parent or family member in treatment. Hutch is finished with classes on June 15 and begins the daily Hutch Summer Camp program June 28. Gilda's Club Camp Sparkle will pick up the slack between the Hutch conclusion of classes and the Hutch Summer Camp program start.
Critical to the whole picture and totally unanticipated as we waded into this is Kathy LeClaire. Kathy is from Two Rivers, Wisconsin. She volunteered as my care provider for one month. When she arrived, she opened her heart to our three girls and shepherds them dailey. All the while I've been in the hospital, Kathy made it possible for the girls to remain in Seattle. She took care of them. There were many nights when I heard they vacated their room to climb into bed with Kathy. She made room. Rather than return home on June 1 as planned, Kathy has given us all the gift of her ministry presence for the duration. This morning, when I walked into the living room from my bedroom, Kathy was on her knees by her bedside beginning her morning in prayer.
Through the University Presbyterian Church, the girls have been assigned a volunteer mother and daughter team -- Debbie and Megan -- through a program called Side-By-Side. Trained, vetted, and fully funded for all expenses, Debbie and Megan pick up the girls once a week for six - eight hours. Debbie and Megan call themselves experts in fun. Zoo, the latest Shierk movie, shopping, dinner out. A weekly treat.
Through the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, the girls have been assigned a volunteer named Brittany who comes to be with the girls 6 - 8 hours a week. Brittany can't be alone with the girls but with Kathy LeClair to accompany there have been weekly outings. Today they are at Gilda's Club for teen cooking and Small Talk.
Volunteer Beth picks the girls up for shopping and Wednesday night dinner at Beth's country club. Beth's friend Mark frequently takes photos and is creating an album for the girls and me.
Volunteer and paid helper, Kathy Garner is a P.K. from University United Methodist Church. She has the girls kayaking, playing at the park, regular visits to the library and church.
No wonder there are days when the girls want to sleep in and roll over to no itinerary.
When I arrived at the Pete Gross apartment last night it was after 10:00 and the girls were asleep. Every square inch of the front door of our apartment was covered in a Welcome Home Mom sign that Beth helped them construct. I touched the word "mom" with my fingers before knocking. Inside, Kathy was waiting to give me a hug. The girls had hung "welcome home" signs on the wall and put yellow, silk flowers in my room and envelops on the window sill from Micala and Kayla addressed to mom.
This morning when I woke, Micala came into my room and shared what is going on in her life. Oh how sweet to be a mom.
When I went for labs this morning, I sat in the chapel for a while and came across Kayla's handwriting in the prayer book:
Dear Lord anser my pray help momy hell her amen love kayla age 7
Korrina's was in the book too:
Dear Lord and Christ help my mom get better and fight cancer and live please, please help my mom fight out of cancer please please hep her. amen. love Korrina age 10
The girls have left dad, friends, Island home, Washington Island School and life as we knew it to be here with me. They uprooted and made a home on the west coast to be with mom and to be together, just the girls.
Years ago, when I adopted the girls, an adoption trainer told me that one of the best things I can give my adopted children is to make grief normative. She explained that the loss of birth mom is ripping and shattering of all life that the child knows. During separation and loss the child hears messages of "You are in a good home now. This is so much better than where you were and aren't we glad." The foster and adopted child usually doesn't find much safe space to grieve.
When coming to Seattle, I figured that live or die, the girls didn't need another mom to fall off the edge of the earth. Instead of separating, we could come closer together, face challenge and grow as family. When they heard my invitation, Micala, Korrina and Kayla threw their arms around each other, started packing their bags and called it adventure.
Micala wants to be home on Washington Island for her birthday August 17. Let's make it happen. Boost, boost, boost this fledgling immune system.