I am ready for a new season. I love the winter, the snow, the crisp air, the holidays, and especially the posole. But for some reason, this year I am ready for spring. I crave longer days so I can watch the sunset after I get home from work. I want to play outside with my kids without putting on coats and boots and gloves. I keep looking at my closet and just can’t find “anything to wear” except my spring clothes and strappy sandals.
This yearning for spring may be fueled by the fact that from Thanksgiving through the New Year, the Schroer household experienced all that this sick season had to offer, including the stomach flu, strep throat, RSV, and some other strange virus that ended up giving my daughter, Aviva, and I ear infections. Our family doctor told us it was normal this year, given both of our kids were in school and childcare, but it was tough balancing work, our responsibilities, our kids’ health, my health, and keeping enough healthy food and medicine around to manage our symptoms. My ear infection was so bad that I lost about 80% of my hearing; I ended up borrowing my dad’s hearing aid so I could function at work and home. (I never thought I would ever do that!) Hopefully, we are almost through to the other side, and our bodies built up some immunities for next year’s sick season. I am so thankful for Justin picking up the pieces and our parents for their help.
Despite the infections, we had fun experiences and significant milestones. The family went sledding at Little Tesuque. Aviva, age 3, finally decided to wear her big-girl panties (but only pink ones) and is using the potty. We are almost done with diapers; she just wears them at night! Woot! Ryker, age 5, got his first report card, and he received a rating of achieving in all development categories. Woot! Woot! Justin made some wise lifestyle changes and lost over 20 pounds! He found an early morning, three-times-a-week bootcamp workout that he loves, and he started eating clean. As for me, I took some time off work and spent it doing self-care —reading books, taking long walks with our dog, having long lunches with my girlfriends, playing with my kids, and having a couple date nights with Justin. Reflecting on this past winter, we managed to have fun and make some progress.
In February, one of my girlfriends’ sons, Christian, was honorably discharged from the Navy. Christian stayed with us as he traveled across the country from Southern California to reunite with his mom in the Emerald Coast of Florida. I first met him when he couldn’t even tie his own shoes (about 5 years old) and now he is a full grown man (22 years old), about to start a new life chapter. As a boy, Christian was so shy, low-spirited, and unsure of himself. It wasn’t without reason: His dad was an alcoholic and abusive. The dad ended up kicking Christian, his older brother, and mom out of the house when he was about 6 years old. The dad abandoned his children and disappeared. Years later, my girlfriend got a call from the police that her ex husband had died in an alcohol-related car accident.
My girlfriend did her best as a single mom to start a new life, provide for her sons, and get therapy for them all to deal with the trauma. Friends and family came together and all stepped up to help her and the boys. Justin and I helped her move several times, picked up the boys from school now and then, invited her and the boys over for barbecues, and made holidays a big deal. One of the most impactful contributions was when Justin encouraged Christian to join a basketball team that he was coaching, which ended up being Christian’s sport throughout middle school and high school. It really helped him develop lifelong friendships and stay motivated to stay in school.
Talking with Christian in our living room this February, I couldn’t help but think about how far he’d come. He was confident, social, and informed, and he had clear direction on his next steps. As we chatted, I couldn’t help noticing that he had an unusual accent. When I asked him about it he laughed and explained that his best friend from the Navy was from Tennessee, and he spent considerable time in the Boston area and Southern California, resulting in the “Navy fusion accent.” It was a perfect metaphor for life, and how the people and experiences through our journey mold us in ways we’d never expect. I am so proud of my girlfriend for doing her best despite difficult circumstances and of Christian for working through his trauma, living a full life and his service to our country.
I share Christian’s story because versions of it are not uncommon. He was fortunate that his mom was able to cope and provide for him both financially and emotionally. Northern New Mexico has many families struggling with poverty, mental health, food insecurity, stable housing and surviving day-to-day. For too many kiddos, social services must step in to ensure child welfare.
While the spring issue of Tumbleweeds features a Family-friendly Restaurant Guide, Spring and Summer Program Directory, and articles about STEM books, performing arts and early childhood development, we are excited to introduce a new local contributor, who uses the pen name Momma Kiki; she shares her story about becoming a foster mom in Northern New Mexico. I hope her story moves your heart as it did mine. Please consider sending her a quick e-mail and thank her for sharing her complicated journey with Tumbleweeds readers.(email@example.com).
Justin and I were foster parents years ago. It was hard, really hard, and we ultimately stopped. Not all of us can or should become foster parents, but we can all help take care of kids. There are several ways to contribute. We can donate some snacks to our kids’ school, so teachers can have them on hand for those kids who don’t get breakfast at home. We can offer to babysit on a Friday night for the single mom (or dad) who lives down the road. We can deliver some groceries just because. We can sponsor a kid to play soccer or basketball. We can volunteer for a mentorship program. Whatever you can contribute, it will make a difference. It will take our community coming together with small and big acts of kindness to help break the cycle and help kids heal.
Thank you to all the social service workers who have the impossible job of making the best decision for our kids when there are only complicated options. We admire your courage. Thank you to all the foster parents that pour love into children who are not biologically yours. We admire your heart and patience. Thank you to all the families who volunteer and donate to the numerous nonprofits in our community. All of your contributions matter and are making a difference in many lives and future generations.