"Mom, next time we have a stay-at-home day, can we go to Alaska?" asked Logan (not his real name).
When he wasn't destroying things, he could be really sweet. Constantly on the move, this endearing blue-eyed, 7-year-old wore a buzz cut and glasses.
Clad in action-figure pajamas, he slowly made his way to the breakfast table.
Rubbing sleepy eyes he'd announce, "I don't want to go to school. Can't I stay home instead?"
Saturdays were spent building rockets and forts out of cardboard boxes and costumes from paper bags. If we didn't keep him occupied, we would regret it.
Like the time he melted a hole in a LEGO base plate on top of the lamp in his room with the light bulb on, a rock rested on the plastic square.
"I wanted to heat up the rock," he said.
I've been told it's the smart ones who get into the most trouble.
Logan was full of potential. But in his young life, few people had been there with instruction and guidance for developing that reservoir of potential.
My husband and I took turns visiting his classroom. We spoke with his teacher often, and helped with homework. He was in kindergarten, for the second time.
He didn't like following rules. Not in school, not at home, not anywhere. But when we took the time to explain, and applied appropriate consequences or rewards, his tender heart responded well.
After a few weeks Logan decided he wanted to stay with us, because his dad didn't always treat him right.
He developed a crush on our daughter, who was 5 years older. Valentines kept appearing from underneath her bedroom door.
Nestled on the sofa after dinner, he pressed himself as close to me as he could while I read to him and squeezed me tight for bedtime hugs.
I called it my blessed craziness.
What greater gift can a person give than a home and family? This one thought nagged me for years before my husband and I decided to become foster parents. Once we received certification and took the plunge, this same thought reminded me over and again why we had volunteered.
It's sort of like the Peace Corps the toughest job you'll ever love except there were times when we didn't love it.
Foster parenting turned our life upside down. Too often we were treated like the baby-sitter, rather than mature adults who longed to be part of a solution in these young lives.
Government was not established for the purpose of rearing children. Many difficulties we faced could have been eliminated without piles of regulations, with improved communication between all concerned parties, and if foster kids didn't have more rights than foster families.
A nation's greatest resource is its children, when they are nurtured, guided by values befitting all civilized cultures, educated, mentored and instilled with a strong work ethic.
Children, though, who are unloved, neglected, abused, undisciplined, and passed from one caregiver to another, will become a nation's most cumbersome burden. Caring for them will not cease at age of 18. Too many will move in the wrong direction, and our taxes will continue to finance their care.
As simplistic as it may seem, real security comes with the consistency of regular mealtimes, clean clothes, genuine concern from others, shared laughter and firm boundaries accompanied by unconditional love.
Watching how families can get along and work out differences without violence is a new concept to many foster kids. Yet they are drawn to what's good, even though the strangeness of it may be somewhat uncomfortable.
Kids do have a desire to belong to someone who will care for them. But conflicting factors bring divided loyalties. They want to be loved, yet if they reach out to accept love from foster parents, it may threaten their relationship with their own parents, fragile as it may be.
One afternoon our 12-year-old foster child returned home sooner than expected. She explained, "My mom loves drugs more than me."
Failing the drug test, her mom forfeited the visit. Her daughter's depression lasted for days, and nothing we did would console her.
In general, kids don't just want somebody to love them. Foster kids are no different. They want their parents to love them enough to do right, to stay off drugs and out of jail, to meet their needs and to be there for them. They want all the good things they found in the foster home to be in their home, so their family can stay together.
Did we accomplish anything? I'm not sure, but I'm grateful for the experience. I learned much that remains with me still.
As for the kids, I'm told they will carry the influences and memories with them for the rest of their lives. It may not be huge, but possibly it was enough to show them there is something better.
And there are people who believe something better is worth striving for.
Editor's Note: Columnist Debbie Croft writes about being a foster parent, the effect on her family and the children they brought into their lives with all its challenges, love, pain and uncertainty. Last in a series.
Debbie Croft writes about life in the foothill communities. She can be reached at email@example.com.