Although my main duties here at the mission are teaching and doing the secretary work, I do spend some time helping with our foster children. Most of the time we only have school 4 days a week, and so between Friday and Saturday I get one day off and spend the other day “on duty” with the other nannies, helping with cleaning or cooking or taking care of the kids.
one recent Friday I was on “kid duty” with our foster children. We have 5 of them at the moment—Christopher is 4, Kenroy and Ruth Ann are both 3, and Patrick and Oneisha are 2.
So by 6:20 I’m out of bed, clothed and in my right mind, all cozy on the couch in the living room with my Bible and journal and an iced coffee. I love this morning time, all quiet, when I’m the only one up. I need to be there just in case the kids wake up, but it’s usually at least 7, or often later, before the first of them are awake.
This morning it’s 7:45 before I hear anything. Chris is crying, so I go in to see what’s the matter, and hear Sharon talking to him. Oh dear. Evidently he went out the back door of their room, and into Sharon’s room, and woke her up, on this day, her day off, the only morning all week that she gets to sleep in. She goes back to bed, and my day with the kids begins.
Kenroy’s awake too, and so with lots of noise and energy and clothes flung all over the room we manage to get them both dressed. The boys turn off their fans, and of course the ceiling fan doesn’t completely stop right away. Chris scrambles up on Kenroy’s bunk bed to stretch out and try to make the slowing fan blades stop completely. Kenroy frowns at him. “Don’t you spit on my bed,” he says in a menacing tone. I giggle. Kenroy generally does not showcase his most pleasant side first thing in the morning.
Breakfast isn’t ready yet, so we settle down on the couch for some reading time. The older boys love to be read to, and I enjoy it so much, because when I first came they didn’t have the patience and focus to actually enjoy a book. Chris pulls out an abridged version of The Velveteen Rabbit, of course. It’s his current favorite book—and so we read it over and over again.
Finally I persuade him to read a different book. This one mentions fishing, which reminds Chris of something. His eyes get big, and he starts to stutter, as he always does when he gets really excited, as he tells me about the “very-very-very-very-very-very-very-very-very big crab!” he and Sharon saw at the beach.
And then it’s breakfast time and the little ones are awake by now, and as the kids finish eating I haul them off to get all “ready to face the day” as my mother used to say. Chris and Kenroy are done first, and we head to the bathroom to brush their teeth. I get them started, and everything is quiet, except for normal teeth-brushing noises, until Chris randomly starts his own unique version of beatboxing, utilizing his stuffy nose. He starts bobbing up and down to his beat, and pretty soon, there we are, all three of us, just dancing away in the bathroom.
When everyone is clean and dressed and out on the veranda, I look around to make sure they’re fine before scurrying off to quickly brush my own teeth, and Neisha announces, “I pee!” Sure enough, there’s a puddle around her feet. Ugh. We’ve just started potty training her, and she hasn’t really gotten the hang of it yet. I knew I needed to be on top of it, but thought I could wait a little before sitting her on her potty.
Once I’m ready and Neisha has on a dry pair of pants, we head outside.
The morning passes, with giggles and screams and a snack of hard-boiled eggs. Neisha uses the potty correctly, but manages to get her pants dirty again anyway when I’m not looking, and has to be changed again. Jordan and Samuel come hang out with us for a while, and play with the kids, and give them rides in the wagon, which they love.
Sara brings lunch out to us, since she just finished cleaning the house.
When lunch is over, we all head inside. On Friday evenings all of the girls go out for supper, and Mark and Karen take care of the kids, so we bathe the kids before their naps, instead of at bedtime, so Mark and Karen don’t have to do it.
The two big boys love movies, so my game plan for bathing all 5 looks like this: put on a movie to keep the boys out of mischief, and put the other 3 in the tub. Once they’re all bathed and dressed, put them down for naps, and then bathe the boys. Simple, right?
Unfortunately, it isn’t. All 5 kids mill about me as we choose a movie and I put it in the DVD player. Neisha grabs the remote, and starts pushing buttons. I snatch it back, but she evidently pushed on of those mysterious buttons that just messes up everything, because I cannot get the movie to play. As I frantically push buttons, trying to undo the damage, Chris shoves his way in. “I do it! I do it!” he says, and pushes the button to open the DVD tray. Before I can stop him, he grabs the DVD, breathes on it, and rubs it vigorously back and forth on his shirt. He pops it back in, and shuts the tray again, but before it’s all the way in, Patrick grabs it, and the tray jams, stuck halfway open. Meanwhile, in the midst of the hubbub, Ruth Ann has fallen off the couch and hit her head, and is wailing, that “I’m-not-hurt-that-badly-but-I-want-attention” cry.
Aaaaah! I feel myself fighting to stay sane, to hold myself back from screaming and running away, or being too harsh with the kids. “Everybody go sit on the couch!” I command in a frustrated tone, as I try to get the DVD tray unstuck. Finally I succeed, but it still isn’t working. Thankfully Sara is close by, and she comes in and finds the right button on the remote. And then the disc is dirty, and won’t play right, but finally, thankfully, with a little cleaning, everything is ok again.
The 3 little ones go into the tub then, and Ruth Ann is still a rather upset about the attention thing, and tired too, and she cries and cries. I wash her first, and once she’s dressed, she just lies in bed and watches and talks while I get the others.
I love this part, when they’re all clean and smell nice–rubbing lotion into their soft, perfect skin, and getting them dressed. When Patrick is done he stands up and gives me a hug, and I wish I could bottle up this moment and save it forever—the feel of his arms tight around my neck, his head scratchy under my chin.
When they’re all snuggled down in bed, it’s time to shower the boys. Kenroy is first, but when it’s time to get in the shower, he announces he has to go do-do. I sit down on the little stool by the sink, and wait for him to finish. My mind drifts back over the morning, and I smile ruefully at the memory of the chaos of trying to get the movie started.
Kenroy frowns at me. “What’s so funny?”
I grin. “You guys,” I say. “You’re awesome.”
He glares harder. “No, I’m NOT!”
“Well, what are you, then?” I ask.
His face softens as he thinks about it. “I’m just a man,” he announces solemnly.
This sends me into a fit of giggles. “Just a man, huh?”
“Yes.” He pauses. “And you’re a man too!” He grins, as if he just gave me the best compliment ever. I burst out laughing again, all the while attempting to set the record straight. What a kid.
Soon the boys are both showered and in bed, and I breathe a sigh of relief. I love taking care of the kids, but I don’t know what I’d do without nap time. During the next few hours I get cleaned up and ready for the night out, and then curl up on the couch with a book, so that I can hear the kids when they wake up. By the time they are up and have a snack, it’s nearly time for us to leave. We kiss them goodbye, and they holler and wave as we drive away for the evening.
It is such a privilege to be part of these kids’ lives—every day with them is an adventure. 🙂