Category Archives: Denise Beeman Sasiain – foster/adoptive mom blogger

“I can be a normal kid now”

Guest post by Denise Beeman Sasiain, foster mother to Summer, 17, who will stay with her foster family as she enters adulthood; Isabella Hope, 3, who they’ve had since birth and adopted last year; Xavier (aka X-man), 2, who they are in the process of adopting; and Daniella Joy, 1, who they’ve also had from birth and recently adopted.

Summer and Karly

Summer and Karly

Many firsts are inconsequential, but others serve as memorable stepping stones: A first day of school, a first speech or a first love. Tonight something spectacular, a first, will happen in the life of our daughter. It might be considered the norm for many, but for Summer, our 17-year-old foster daughter, it is a significant FIRST.

Tonight, while Pierre and I are here at the Child Protection Summit, she will be staying overnight at her best friend’s house.  This first sleepover, for Summer, is symbolic because it heralds in one more way in which she is living a typical teenager’s life.  It has been so much fun to see her excitement and hear her express the joy she feels: “I can’t believe I finally get to stay overnight with my best friend.”

Often when children come from a history of abuse and all the control and secrecy that surrounds it, it is not uncommon for parents to keep their children on a tight leash. For abusive parents, not allowing sleepovers, or even play dates with friends comes not from a posture of keeping kids safe, but from one of keeping secrets in.

But in the system of care, we know that historically not allowing sleepovers stems from our desire to protect children. But to foster children, the end result is the same. To them, it signifies one more way in which their life is not the same.

As a foster parent, I am grateful for the recent changes in the law, championed by Gov. Scott and Sen. Nancy Detert, allowing me more discretion in my parenting to determine what activities are appropriate and beneficial for the children in my care.

Summer’s best friend, Karly, who knows nothing of normalcy or the recent Let Kids be Kids Law, summarized this event succinctly, “Oh, so you can be a normal kid now.”

Here’s what Summer said: “To the average teenager, getting to spend the night at a friend’s house may be something they’re able to do on a regular basis. However, for me it is a privilege I’ve never had.  By law children were only allowed to spend the night IF the other parents were finger-printed and licensed as back-ups. Now, because of new laws in place many children and teens will hopefully get a chance to just hang out and be kids! I know I will enjoy spending the night at my best friend’s house! As she put it, ‘’I’m glad you can finally be normal!’’

On another note, my husband, Pierre and I are ecstatic to be attending our first Summit. We feel like we are a part of history, in which a palatable change has ignited in Florida’s system of care. Laws like Let Kids be Kids, Independent Living  and initiatives like the Quality Parent Initiative all serve as a strong foundation to usher in a new era of enhanced care.

Restart

Guest post by Summer, daughter of foster parents Denise and Pierre. Summer will be entering her junior year of high school at the Academy of Arts & Minds in Coconut Grove, FL.  She majors in creative writing but also loves to draw.  She has chosen to stay with her foster family as she enters adulthood.

Summer's beautiful smile!

Summer

Often times I find myself in a situation that seems all too familiar, yet somehow foreign. I find myself caught, so to say, between one world and the next. I don’t know which road to take or whether I’m doing something the right way or the wrong way. All I can do is follow my gut feeling and wing it (which is normally not the best thing to do).

I get told a lot that I don’t need to make all of these decisions on my own.  Or that it’s okay to screw up here and now. But what people fail to realize is that I often feel as if my previous track record is too much for yet another ‘’failure.’’ I feel like I can’t mess up, like it’s me against the world.

A therapist would say that those ‘’mistakes’’ weren’t your fault – actually most people would. And most of the time, if you’re anything like me, you’ll just brush off what people say. They can’t possibly know what they’re talking about right? Right.

Not a single person in this world will ever come close to facing the hardships you have faced as an individual. No one has lived the same life as you. No one has faced the same constant chastisement or neglect. So the next time someone tells you that ‘’it’s alright,” go ahead and tell them they’re wrong. But remember they are only wrong for falsely sympathizing.

Under most circumstances a youth should never be blamed for the outcome of his/her life. It’s not fair. You weren’t asked to be created and you sure as hell didn’t ask to be put through whatever it is you did go through. You didn’t ask to be beaten or molested. You didn’t ask to go to school every day in long sleeved shirts so that you could cover up the bruises from last night. You didn’t ask to be alone, or to be teased on every day for being the quiet, disassociated freak in the corner. You asked for none of it.

You didn’t ask to be abused or neglected no matter how little or how much it was. You didn’t ask not to be loved. You didn’t ask to be born to a pot-head and a prostitute. You didn’t ask. You asked for none of it, so why the hell does everyone around you keep dishing out such a big plate of hate? No one really knows why. You could search a thousand years and still never find the answer to that. And that’s because there is no answer to it.

The only possible solution is to keep on living; to overcome. To put your best foot forward and forget everyone who set aside their lives to make your own miserable: to restart. Trust me there is a restart button in life, but you’re only going to find it if you really want it.

For a good portion of my life I wallowed around in self-pity, always afraid of what would happen if I stepped outside of my box. I wanted change but I wasn’t willing to take the steps necessary to do so. I couldn’t take them because I was locked in a perpetual chaos. I was stuck floating in some sort of survival mode, and I was afraid.

Christmas photo with my new family.

Christmas photo with my foster family.

That part of me changed shortly after arriving in foster care. I felt safe, and most importantly, I knew I was safe. I knew there were new people in my life that were more than willing to do whatever it took to make sure I would never go through what I did before.

It’s been more than two years since my placement in foster care. I no longer need to worry about whether or not I’ll be able to live, rather I find myself thinking about how I will live.

A wise man once said, ‘’The circumstances of one’s birth are irrelevant. It is what you do with the gift of life that determines who you are.’’ Often times I find myself reflecting upon those words in moments of weakness, because I know that they are true.

One of my baby sisters in my new family.

One of my baby sisters in my foster family.

You are safe, secure and loved

Guest post by Denise Beeman Sasiain, foster mother to Summer, 17, who will stay with her foster family as she enters adulthood; Isabella Hope, 3, who they’ve had since birth and adopted last year; Xavier (aka X-man), 2, who they are in the process of adopting; and Daniella Joy, 1, who they’ve also had from birth and recently adopted.

 

Denise and Izzie

Denise and Izzie

It is just past midnight and Isabella, our 3 year old, has woken up three times since we put her to bed.  Instantly upon waking, she will loudly cry, then call mommy, and come running in a panic.   Each time she gets up, I hold her, rock her and tell her, “You are safe, you are secure, you are loved and you are mommy’s dream come true.”  She nods her head sleepily, and I tuck her back in bed.   Some nights she sleeps uninterrupted and peaceful, but tonight has been particularly challenging and her fear level is palpable.

Isabella’s inability to readily fall asleep and stay asleep is not a new development.  She was exposed to cocaine and prescription opioids while she was in her mother’s womb. In addition to going through withdrawal as a newborn, she would sometimes sleep only three or four hours in total during a 24-hour period.  She experienced jittery and suffering tremors, poor feeding, stiff muscles, a very high startle response and colic.

When Izzie was about 15 months old, she started occupational therapy.  Evaluations showed she had significant sensory motor dysfunction in both tactile and auditory processing arenas.  She also displayed chronic feeding sensitivities and a slight fine motor delay.  At about 18 months, she started speech therapy for her language delays.

Izzie, Pierre and X-man

Izzie, Pierre and X-man

Izzie improved quickly in regards to fine motor skill development, but it took a longer time for her to catch up in regards to the intelligibility and development of her speech.  But this last spring, at 3 ½ years old, she had a princess tea party with her speech pathologist, celebrating her graduation from speech therapy.

However, things like the texture of food is a still a significant challenge and major deterrent to her eating.  Isabella raises the bar in regards to the term “picky eater.”  There are only a very few foods which she will consume.  Her occupation therapist worked with her consistently during a two-month period before she was willing to eat a banana.

All the noise at Disney really affected Izzie.

All the noise at Disney really affected Izzie.

Her auditory processing abilities are still a challenge – ordinary things like running a vacuum cleaner or a blender make her extremely agitated. We have learned to be prepared for the inevitable triggers and  volume-reducing earmuffs have made a huge difference. At our recent trip to the Magic Kingdom at Disney, the high volume hand dryers in the restrooms sent her into a major panic and tantrum. When we go to a performance like the Nutcracker ballet or a Disney show, we plan ahead which parent will more than likely spend the duration of it out in the lobby.

In the big scheme of things, if Izzie doesn’t like loud dance clubs as a young adult, we as parents won’t be too upset!  But we are hopeful that her tactile and auditory sensory motor challenges, as well as her sleep issues, will continue to improve.   She is now average in height and weight and thriving.    Her day school teachers rave about her, saying, “If only all our students were like Isabella.”  In all respects, now at 3 1/2  years old, she is happy, outgoing, intelligent, warm-hearted and funny.  As parents, we could not be happier and prouder.   In every way, she is our dream come true baby girl. In recognition of our hope-fulfilled adoption in May of 2012, we named her Isabella Hope Sasiain.

A true princess.

A true princess.

As with all our children, we educate ourselves on their particular challenges, procure the healthiest amount of positive intervention possible, expect a miraculous outcome, but prepare ourselves if the end result falls short of our hopeful expectations.  Moreover, life has taught us to embrace our shortfalls and weaknesses, especially when the outcome is not within our control.  Our weaknesses can make us stronger.

If you or someone you know are pregnant, or may become pregnant, and are taking prescription pain medication, visit www.BornDrugFreeFL.com or call 1-877-233-5656 for information and resources. 

“Success is determined not by whether or not you face obstacles, but by your reaction to them. And if you look at these obstacles as a containing fence, they become your excuse for failure. If you look at them as a hurdle, each one strengthens you for the next.” 
― Ben CarsonGifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story

 

 

A Night Out

Guest post by Denise Beeman Sasiain, foster mother to Summer, 17, who will stay with her foster family as she enters adulthood; Isabella Hope, 3, who they’ve had since birth and adopted last year; Xavier (aka X-man), 2, who they are in the process of adopting; and Daniella Joy, 1, who they’ve also had from birth and recently adopted.

Pierre and X-man. Yum!

Pierre and X-man. Yum!

My husband, Pierre, and I planned a much-needed dinner night out and brought X-man along with us. 

The restaurant was an amazing Italian place in the Grove, with a young man crooning live to Frank Sinatra songs.  Pierre was tired from a long week, but we felt that a night out would encourage and recharge.

Unfortunately, being more disturbed than pleased by the busy restaurant and the Micheal Buble look-alike, X-man started to whine … and then howl. I saw the struggle in my husband’s eyes as he said, “This was a bad idea.”  With Xavier in his arms, Pierre stood up and walked over by the bar. That’s when something magical happened …

Pierre starting singing “a la Frank Sinatra” while he danced with X-man in his arms. Across the room, I could see the frustrated toddler disappear in front of my eyes.  With X-man’s arms around the back of Pierre’s neck, they looked each other straight in the eyes. Xavier grinned and stared, mesmerized as his father sang to him.

So much love!

So much love!

I was so proud of my husband. He dug down deep and found more to give. That “more” was enough to entertain and transform our boy for the rest of the evening.

Back at the table, Pierre continued to play and interact with X-man. He kept him entertained by chewing on his arm and razzing his neck . X-man gave back with smiles, laughs and sparkling eyes.

Xavier, who normally has to compete for our attention along with our three other children, felt like the center of our world for the evening. Instead of a quiet night out for my husband and me, we had a bonding time with our son.

One of the great things my husband and I love about being foster parents is that it helps us each of us to continually grow and become “more” as a person.  In order to meet the ever-changing and challenging needs of our kids, we feel a constant drive to become better parents and better people.

The most important reason to become a foster parent is to dramatically change the life of a child. But as a bonus, it’s a great road to self-actualization and an impetus for personal growth.

Editor’s note: If you are interested in becoming a foster parent, please visit www.fosteringflorida.com

The Storm

Guest post by Summer, daughter of foster parents Denise and Pierre. Summer will be entering her junior year of high school at the Academy of Arts & Minds in Coconut Grove, FL. She majors in creative writing but also loves to draw.  She has chosen to stay with her foster family as she enters adulthood.

Denise and Summer

Denise and Summer

Today is a day, just like yesterday was, just like tomorrow will be. For some the days are filled with joy and laughter, for others sorrow and pain. Every day someone dies, while another is born into the world. One man may be a CEO, while another is his over-worked employee.  Day in and day out, people thrive, no matter what their circumstance of living is.

My life – the life that seemed impossible of escaping, was among certain circumstances that made it seem as if I was alone. I believed that I was weak and that I was nothing. I thought that if I just closed my eyes and wished it away everything would vanish. Fact is I spent every waking hour trying to earn the praise of people who were not well enough to give it, that is until the day I awoke to a new reality.

Summer's beautiful smile!

Summer’s beautiful smile!

I don’t ever think I will part with the raw emotion that evoked me that day I was placed into foster care. I was confused and in utter denial. I hated the people who were saving me because I had gotten so used to the way I was living. I blamed them and hated them.

I knew what was happening and why it was happening. However, I couldn’t accept what I had been given. How was I supposed to accept that there were people out there who genuinely cared about me?

The moment I arrived at my original (and current) placement I forced myself into thinking I was on a vacation of some sort. I protectively avoided associating myself with my foster parents and spent hours on the computer. I did this for months until I felt comfortable enough to reveal my secrets.

Summer's artwork - she is such a great artist!

Summer’s artwork – she is such a great artist!

The purpose of this article is not to explain my past, but to hopefully relate to you, as the reader. In this labyrinth of a world we live in it is important to know that you are not alone in your endeavors. It is true that no one will ever go through what you did but there will always be people who have gone through similar things.

I whole-heartedly believe that my journey in foster care has been one that has and will continue to change my life. There is not a day that has gone by that has made me wish to not be where I am today. At some points it has been difficult, however, I find myself able to continue to live, and to breath- all under this new light.

If I were to describe the process of emotion I went through during the separation of my family and me, I would compare it to a storm. When the storm begins it is angry at the world below it, much like I was. The winds and rain continue to hold out for some time before eventually calming, and when they do you are left with a new horizon. A horizon much clearer.

Christmas photo with her new family.
Christmas photo with her new family.