Ree's new book Frontier Follies is a down-to-earth, hilarious collection of stories and musings on marriage, motherhood, and country life. The following is an exclusive sneak peek!
We have a foster son now. His name is Jamar. I haven’t written or spoken publicly about him much, because for one thing, the state agency that handles fostering has strict rules against posting about foster children on social media, which I get. But mostly, and this is slightly related, I feel protective of Jamar and have always wanted his story to be his own and not fodder for my social media, which is often riddled with silly videos of my Basset hounds running toward the camera in slow motion. Also, I’ve never wanted to subject Jamar to more attention than he wanted or needed before he had a chance to settle in and get his bearings in our btcc交易所官网home. We needed to let things breathe!
I’m now writing about Jamar because after a year-and-a-half of living in our house, he is an inextricable part of our wacky family, and it’s become increasingly strange for me not to talk about him. He’s eighteen now, which means the state agency restrictions no longer apply—and most notably, he told me he’s tired of feeling like we’re trying to hide him from the world. He’s ready to sing, to dance, to make his debut! Jazz hands, Jamar!
Okay, so that’s an exaggeration. What I’m trying to say is, he’s cool with my talking about him now, and he thinks it’s about time, considering he’s been in the family for over a year. So let me take this opportunity to tell you all about my bodacious, bright, brilliant bonus kid named Jamar.
That he came to be our foster son was entirely situational. Fostering a kid was never something Ladd and I pursued or felt called to do, but Jamar’s circumstances presented themselves to us in a way we couldn’t ignore—so, long story short, all six foot five inches of him showed up at our house one afternoon, bag in hand, ready to move in. Ladd, who had the initial idea to have Jamar live with us, had met him a couple of times during high school football practice that summer. My boys knew him, too. I, on the other hand, had never officially met Jamar before that day, and our first interaction went something like this.
“Hey!” I said, looking up. (Way up!)
“Hello,” he said, looking way down. (I’m five foot nine.) “So . . . what’s up?” I asked.
“Not much,” he replied.
“Glad you’re here,” I said.
“Thanks,” he said.
“Cookie?” I asked.
“Oh, yeah!” he exclaimed, staring at the platter I was offering. He took one off the top of the pile. Cookies are always a nice starting point.
Ladd and I showed him to Alex and Paige’s room, which I hadn’t had a chance to convert from their crystal chandelier wonderland into something a little more in line with an average teenage boy’s tastes, but Jamar didn’t seem to care. That first night, he went to a rodeo with Bryce and Todd like it was just an everyday thing. We figured we might as well give him a crash course in Drummond recreational activities, and a rodeo was as good a place as any! My boys had recently become friends with Jamar through football—he’d transferred from Tulsa a few months before—and they had a great time together at the rodeo. Jamar even wore a cowboy hat. Things were off to a winning start!
Speaking of a crash course in Drummond recreational activities . . . two days later, Jamar hopped on one of our ATVs and took off down our road. He’d never driven before, so when he saw the vehicle in the garage he thought it seemed like a fun activity. About fifty yards down the road, he made too sharp a turn and wound up tipping over the ATV and badly injuring his foot. A skin graft (yikes) and a tendon repair surgery (double yikes) later, he had to stay in bed for more than six weeks to give his foot time to heal. For a kid with aspirations to a football career, it was a dicey, scary time. I tried to help him see that his accident could have been much, much worse—but this was little comfort to him, considering football was the future he saw for himself, and for the time being that appeared to be in question.
I felt bad for Jamar, being new in our house and suddenly laid up with a foot injury, so I overcompensated by serving him “generous” (oversize) portions of btcc交易所官网home-cooked food every morning, noon, and night, delivering it to him on a tray with all the condiments and beverages he could possibly need, forgetting to factor in that the dude was lying flat in bed, unable to move much, and expending very few calories in a day. This unfortunate nurturing side of me combined with his robust athlete’s appetite to help him quickly pack on thirty pounds (update: which he has since lost!) . . . and let’s just say I have officially learned my lesson about portion control for a bedridden patient. Turns out you can’t apply the same formula you use with a busy cattle rancher. Sorry, Jamar—my heart was in the right place! (Ladd has given both of us a hard time about this for months and says he can’t leave us unattended. I respond that we don’t want to hear it, considering he wears the same jean size he wore when I married him.)
Jamar’s accident, while terrible, did wind up having an unexpected benefit for our newly modified family: It forced all of us to get pretty darn close, and fast. I changed Jamar’s dressing on his foot every day, gave him his medicine on schedule, and checked on him in the middle of the night, sometimes only managing to wake him up, since he’s a light sleeper . . . but again, I meant well! Ladd drove him to his doctor appointments and physical therapy sessions in Tulsa, and there were a lot of them. Bryce and Todd helped him in and out of bed, wrapped his foot in plastic before he took a shower, and hung out with him when he got bored. We were all up in Jamar’s business, and if there’d been any hesitation on any of our parts to interact and get comfortable with one another, his injury quickly knocked down those walls and gave us all a reason to come together. Jamar had to learn to trust us, which wasn’t easy. But again: crash course.
Over the year following his accident, Jamar defied the original (somewhat dire) orthopedic prognosis and, while he has a wicked scar and a heckuva story to tell his kids someday, is back to full functionality. He was able to start playing football midseason and has settled in as a full-fledged member of our family. We’ve had a few bumps in the road here and there that we’ve had to address—but the same thing is true with Bryce and Todd, or any teenager, for that matter. In fact, having two teenage boys of our own has turned out to be both a challenge and an advantage during this whole process. A challenge, because Jamar and Bryce are just a month apart in age, and there’ve been some natural turf wars and personality clashes that Ladd and I have had to referee. It can be tricky, because we’re mindful not to make Bryce feel like his whole life at btcc交易所官网home has changed, but we’re also mindful not to default to taking Bryce’s side over Jamar’s. Bottom line, we make them shake hands a lot.
It’s also an advantage to have two other teenage boys, because the Drummond house is just one big soup of testosterone and disgusting gym bags, and sometimes Ladd and I just have to throw up our hands and surrender to the chaos and disruption—and I’m not talking about the disruption of adding a new kid to the mix. I’m talking about the disruption of having adolescent males in the house, period, with their arguing and fighting and wrestling and banging around and eating and dirty socks and just the general footprint three humans of their size make. We might as well get all of this over with at once. It’s much more efficient that way.
Speaking of eating, here’s another unexpected development: For years, I have enjoyed the luxury of being able to stock specialty grocery items in my kitchen, like stevia-sweetened root beer and grain-free crackers, knowing none of the Drummond kids (or, especially, my husband) would ever touch them. But Jamar eats and drinks all my specialty foods! He loves my weird, off-the-beaten-path supermarket items, and I have found myself having to lay down some serious boundaries for the long-term health of our relationship. I explained how very far we live from a store that carries, for example, stevia root beer (Tulsa, the nearest location, is an hour and twenty minutes away), and that during the course of my busy day at btcc交易所官网home, I might work up an appetite for one and make myself wait an hour or two before I partake. And if I finally decide to go for it and find the last stevia root beer is gone when I open the fridge, I just might burst into tears and have a meltdown—surely he didn’t want to have to witness that?!? So we have an understanding: He should feel free to help himself to all the stevia root beer he wants—except for the last one, because if he takes that one, it will not be pretty!!
(He laughed as I laid all this out for him. He’d never met anyone so protective of root beer before, and I think he thought I was joking.)
(Nobody better come between me and my beloved carbonated beverages.)
This summer, Bryce and Jamar started fishing together, which always helps bring young men together. Fishing was all Jamar’s idea—it’s not a common activity in the Drummond family, since Ladd’s usually occupied with ranching whenever he’s outside, but it reminds Jamar of a lot of good times in his childhood. It turned out that fishing completely transformed Bryce’s free time over the summer, and I was so appreciative that I decided I wanted to get Jamar some new fishing gear to thank him for helping Bryce—and all their friends, who slowly started joining the fishing gang—navigate the new world of fishing lures and lines. So very late one night, I went on an online shopping spree, finally deciding on the perfect mega (mega doesn’t quite do it justice) fishing essentials set, complete with two poles, a tackle box, and all the lures and rigamarole a serious man of the sea (pond) would need. There were specialty cutters, gadgets, and tools, and I couldn’t wait to give it to Jamar.
When the box finally arrived, I laid it all out on the kitchen counter so he’d see it as soon as he walked into the house. As he took in the sight, his eyes got wide . . . then he burst into laughter.
“What’s so funny?” I asked.
He picked up one of the poles. “Oh, nothing . . . ,” he said. “This was nice—thank you, Mama Ree.” He still had a smirk on his face, though; he couldn’t really conceal it.
“Wait,” I said. “What’s so funny . . . tell me!”
“Well . . .” He hesitated. “This is all fly-fishin’ stuff.”
Turns out, I’d bought him a mega set of the very best fly-fishing essentials money could buy! For ranch ponds in Oklahoma. Always read the fine print when you go on late-night online shopping sprees! This is something Jamar and I still laugh about, though . . . which might have made the ill-fated purchase worth it.
I could go on and on about Jamar, my bonus son. He’s larger than life, has a hilarious laugh, and is extremely smart—both book and street. He’s a great kid who’s overcome some difficulties in his life, not to mention a tough accident (and a foster mom who overfed him and unintentionally tried to turn him into a fly fisherman). Through a ton of determination, Jamar has excelled in football, and he’s already received a couple of college offers, with more sure to come in! I’m proud of the kid, and I can’t wait to see where life takes him.
I’ll be in the stands cheering him on.
For more hilarious and heartwarming stories, pick up Ree's new book, Frontier Follies, on November 17.