The Backwoods

Where we teeter between our love of modern convenience and the yearning for something long past; a world where neighbors knew your name and a “Friend Request” was eye contact and a smile.

Happy Birthday Robin

Posted · 23 Comments

Robin on her fifteenth birthday

Robin hit the magic age of fifteen today. There’s something about fifteen…not quite the landmark of sixteen, but somehow not a little kid anymore either. It’s a big day.

In celebration of her day, I think I’ll tell her story.

Robin came to us when she was six. Her brother, Billy had come to us six months prior and one day he said, “Can I call my sister?”  He had a sister?  First I’d heard of it and he’d been with us two months.  And so I learned he had not one, but four sisters and Robin lived just six miles away.

Billy and Robin shortly after they moved in, 2004

Placed with a relative about a year before, she and Billy had been separated in the midst of one of their ten foster placements. Robin was placed with a relative who, though well meaning, had only taken her in as a sense of obligation.  After a few visits to our home, we told the caseworker we would gladly take Robin as our own and keep the sibling group together. And so it was.  In March of 2004, Robin moved in.

Robin, 2004, the week she moved in

Robin was one of those who called us “Mom and Dad” right away.  It was cute, in a totally dysfunctional way, how she loved the way it rolled off her tongue. “Mom and dad, can I go to the bathroom?  Mom and dad, do you want some milk?  Mom and dad, mom and dad, mom and dad…” she’d say for any and all reasons just days after moving into our home.

Born into drug addiction, Robin didn’t have much of a start in life. Her birth parents were arrested for a methamphetamine lab when she was 21 days old and she was taken into States custody for the first time, barely out of the womb.  For the next six years she was bounced around from various foster homes, dropped back into her parent’s custody multiple times and landed in a relative’s house when her birth father went to jail for domestic violence and her mother chose an abusive boyfriend over her children.  Finally, she came to us and her caseworker breathed a sigh of relief when we said we would keep her.

Robin, 2006 while camping. Never a bad photo...

Two years went by before the adoption was finalized because that’s just how the system works.  The State of Oregon proceeded with terminating her parent’s rights and though her mother signed off her parental rights with little fight, Robin’s father got out of jail in April of 2004 and filed an appeal, thus delaying the adoption another two years.  It’s frustrating, the parents rights to appeal.  They can abuse, neglect, destroy their children for years, go off to jail for beating the crap out of someone, test positive for drugs over and over and still the state will provide them an attorney and delay permanency for a child who desperately needs the feel of commitment offered by that word, “adoption”.  Hardly seems like that’s in the child’s best interest…but don’t get me started on our broken system.

So Robin became a legal Riley at the age of nine and blended right into our family as if she’d always belonged.

Robin on her fifteenth birthday

Now, at fifteen, she exceeds my expectations. Robin is a natural athlete who loves to write, who cherishes her family and tells her mommy everything.  Who says to me last week, “Apparently my friends were all drunk and puking last night…” with disgust on her face and pain in her heart as she watches them fall from the cliff…and realizes there is nothing she can do.  And my girl, who knows what alcohol, drugs, and irresponsible sex can do, holds her head high and says, “I’ll just find new friends.”

A voracious reader, a practiced smart-ass, a good girl, Robin represents success in every sense.  From a six pound meth addict to beautiful young woman, Robin is the epitome of the overcoming, the shining example of what can happen when a throw-away soul is simply given a chance to survive.

23 Responses to "Happy Birthday Robin"
  1. LisaC says:

    I am so drawn to your stories. You are an incredible writer who draws the reader in with your emotions. Those children are lucky to have you as their champion.

  2. Kristi says:

    I have been following you on FB for a bit, but this is the first time I have visited your blog. Robin and Billy’s story breaks my heart. My children were both adopted at birth, but when I can convince my husband of it, there will be some children lost in the system who find their home with us.

    Your life in Alaska sounds like my kind of Heaven. My husband was stationed on Adak and would love to get back to Alaska. Think there is room to throw up a house near yours? :). We would all love it!

  3. Brittany says:

    Awesome!!! You go girl!

  4. Jessica Corcoran says:

    “I’ll just find new friends” – so proud and she’s not even mine!! LOL Good job mom and dad!

  5. Heather@French Press says:

    what a beautiful girl and such a moving story!

  6. Sara says:

    Beautiful post about a beautiful girl!

  7. Susie Gemeinhardt says:

    What a beautiful young lady. I feel like I know her just from seeing pictures of her with my grandson on various visits to his home town. As a parent, you have a right to be proud! I hope to meet her very soon.

  8. Marcia says:

    She looks like your biological daughter,too. That’s so cool!! I hope she likes 15 better than I did. Middle school and high school were awful for me. Of course, I wasn’t homeschooled, either. : ) Hope she had an awesome day. Happy birthday, Robin!

  9. Gayle says:

    Thank you for sharing the story. Happy Birthday Robin!! How blessed you are to have that sweet child put into your life so that you could provide her with the tools to grow into such a beautiful young woman. Sounds like she has a good head on her shoulders. Best wishes.

  10. kiristine Fields says:

    Backwoods mom, I was so intrigued by the photo of this beautiful, blond haired, blue eyed little girl, that I wanted to know her story. I read your Story yesterday about the scars, and the rescue from lions, and it made me laugh and cry at the same time. Then today when you posted it, I had to read it! What a bitter sweet and lovely story! You are an amazing woman with a heart bigger then all the back woods in all the world! Because of this heart of yours, Robin and her brother, as well as every other child that has crossed your doorstep, will go on to become productive and wonderful adults. You are truly an inspiration! I agree with Karen Phillips! You need to write a book!

  11. Jann says:

    Happy Birthday Robin – what a beauftil and SMART girl you are — you have a great life ahead of you!!!

  12. Chalea Edwards says:

    Happy birthday, Robin!

  13. kami says:

    So eloquently written. A beautiful story. Thank you for sharing.

  14. Chris van Soolen says:

    Thank you for sharing her story. You are truly an inspiration, as is she.

  15. Karen Phillips says:

    Happy Birthday to Robin! She was a beautiful child and is a beautiful young woman! What a great job Mom ( and a great job Robin ) ! If only all of the lost neglected and abused children in the world could end up with parents like you! You are so respectful when telling stories about your children , no matter how terrible their beginning you make it so clear it is or was not their faults and always tell wonderful inspiring things about them ! I cannot say it enough I LOVE this blog! And you are amazing ! Please, Please write a book ! You are like Chicken soup for the soul , but better!

  16. AniAZ says:

    Happy Birthday, Robin!! Your story brought tears of hope to my eyes for my sweet girls who have come to us from similar circumstances. I often get stuck in the idea that they are totally scarred for life and there is nothing we can do. But if you can overcome and shine so brilliantly, I know they can too. Thanks for sharing your journey, Backwoods Mom. It means so much to so many of us struggling in the same trenches.

  17. Andrea says:

    First, I didn’t know they were siblings. I so hope to adopt siblings one day. Also, those are the most beautiful blue eyes I have ever seen. And I was in love with a blue eyed boy once upon a time. Billy and Robin win hands down! I love your family!!!! You are such an inspiration to us and our family! (we have three bio and two fosters, hopeful to adopt them)

  18. Liz says:

    Happy Birthday Robin!! You are an amazing young lady! Your parents are blessed by you! Have a day that is special and sweet! ENJOY

  19. Rita Porter says:

    I fee kke I know Robin not, she and her brother have the most hauntingly blue eyes I have ever seen! Happy birthday Robin!

  20. Absolutely agree with Eleni! May the Force be with you!

  21. Lori says:

    What an amazing, talented, and beautiful girl you have. You must be so proud, and she should be proud of herself. And I agree, 15 is a very special year. My older daughter hits that milestone in just a few months and I am already amazed each day at the delightful woman she is becoming.

  22. I always love hearing your children’s stories, as hard as they are to hear. Robin is gorgeous and you’ve clearly done a marvellous job raising her. You are both amazing 🙂

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