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Friday, April 18, 2014

Five On Friday: Trying to Show My Family I Appreciate Them

At the end of my essay from Wednesday I said . . . "Now I know what I can think of that helps me remember to value these relationships that I treasure so dearly—next step is making sure I reflect that in my words and actions so my loved ones know, too."

So for today's Five on Friday I've come up with a list of ideas for myself to do just that:

1. Thank Daddy-O for all that he does, from working hard to fixing things to being a great husband and a fun Daddy, even though I've thanked him for these things before. Especially because he remembers to thank me for things I do more often than I remember to thank him.

2. Listen to my big kids even when I don't really get what they're talking about ("blahblahblah-Minecraft-blahblahblah-Star Wars-blahblahblah-and it's not even Marvel, it's DC, so dumb, right?" or "blahblahblah-reference to something I already told you about but you forgot--blahblahblah--Beatles trivia--blahblahblah"); even though sometimes my ears feel like they're going to start to bleed. Especially because they still tell me things.

3. Say "yes" to my little kids when they ask me to read or play or help them with something, even if I'm trying to get something done. Especially because they keep growing even though I tell them not to.

4. Continue to put effort into feeding my family as well as I can, even though the kids don't really appreciate it now. Especially because their bodies are growing and eating habits are forming.

5. Seek out ways to have one-on-one time with each of them, even if it's just five minutes. Especially because this is the best way to show them how much I love them.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

My New Set of Tools

On Sunday we had a long overdue, highly anticipated, greatly enjoyed visit with extended family. What made this get-together particularly special was that it was with biological family members of our adopted children.  

We’ve gotten together with them a bunch of times before so it doesn’t always occur to me how remarkable it is. But that morning before they came, I began telling some online friends how excited I was about the impending visit. What started out as just an explanation of who we were expecting that day took a surprising turn for the sappy when these words came out of me:  I always think back to the one photocopy of their Birth Mom's signature that I clung to, imagining it was the only bit of their biological family I'd ever have. So to be all, ‘hey, I'm having their Auntie over today’ is mind-blowing when I think about it. And I know I'm so lucky, we have such nice relationships with them all. They've always expressed so much acceptance, love and gratitude to us (for making the effort to find them). There is never any drama or stress. As soon as we met, we were family. I’m starting to get misty but you know what? This is our normal, and this is beautiful.”

Whoa. I didn’t know I still had that in me. But I thought, “Isn’t it nice that I have that little tool to use to remember how special these relationships are? All I ever have to do is to think back to that photocopy and it fills me with so much gratitude. Wouldn’t be great if there was one thought or memory for each member of my family that could remind me of how lucky I am to have them?” Because for me, as for most people, those that I love the most and spend so much of my time with are also the ones that have the opportunities and tendencies get on my nerves and be taken for granted the most.

When I thought about it, I realized I do have those little memories for each person in my immediate family. For ten years Daddy-O was one of my best friends. There were times we were interested in each other romantically but never at the same time. When I was in my early twenties I remember thinking to myself, “Why can’t I just fall in love with him? It could be so perfect if I could.” And then there was that day he walked into Babci’s house on Christmas Day and I suddenly did just that. Next time he puts something away in the wrong place or does something else I find annoying, I will try to funnel my frustration into recalling how happy I was to fall in love with him.

I can reminisce about being reduced to tears listening to a song about a Mother’s love for a child while I was pregnant with my first whenever she gets mad and stomps away from me. I can recall painting my round belly and feeling so impatient about meeting the person inside with my second when he’s being (the very frustrating) Captain Oblivious.  (I could also remember feeling like his head must be between my knees at one point in labor and screaming, “WHY DON’T YOU JUST PULL THE BABY OUT?” before finding out he was still waaaaay up there, but those memories probably aren’t helpful in feeling grateful for him are they?)

I remember so much about bringing our third baby home from the hospital and marveling at how even though I didn’t give birth this time I had all the same feelings that I had the first two times I left hospitals with infants. (Mainly how surreal it all was and that responsible-looking adults at the hospital let me just leave with this baby!) I know what song was on in the car as I sat in the backseat with him touching his soft little face. I’m going to try to think of those times when he leaves his toys all over the kitchen table and floor.

I remember I used to let myself sob in the shower about once a month, overwhelmed with the not knowing if our sweet fourth baby was going to stay with us our go to his Biological Parents.  I remember what the kinds of things I said to myself to get through it and then again crying with equal parts of joy (for us) and pain (for them) when it was determined he would be staying after all. I can reflect back on how happy that made us when he stomps and cries about doing homework or tells me he “accidentally” punched a sibling.

Lastly there is our youngest. Oh, she knows how to push this Mama’s buttons! I do not want to admit how many times I’ve thought to myself that I just don’t like her.  But how could I take this strong-willed little girl for granted when she’s another one we gave our hearts to without knowing if they’d be broken? She came to us and then left after three short days and even that brief stay took its toll. My oldest sobbed for her lost chance at a sister. I walked around in a haze, feeling unsure of what just happened. But when the chance came to take her back even though we could potentially lose her again, we did not hesitate. We loved her as soon as we learned of her existence and we’d have gladly had our hearts broken again and again.

Wow, that was important for me to remember that--because this little child no longer breaks my heart but often it seems she is trying to break my spirit. And I love her, I love her, I love her.

I’d do it all over again without any hesitation. The decade long friendship that proved to be the best sort of courtship possible, the birthing of two babies seventeen months apart, the saying yes, yes and yes to more babies even when we didn’t know if they would stay.

I see a lot of saccharine memes shared on Facebook about not taking our loved ones for granted but I always wondered how exactly do you do that? Now I know what I can think of that helps me remember to value these relationships that I treasure so dearly—next step is making sure I reflect that in my words and actions so my loved ones know, too.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Five on Friday: Snapshots of My Week

1. From "Things We Do When Mommy's Not Home Productions" . . . a new taste sensation. (Luckily I came home in time to witness the making of it.)

2. Found in the box of Easter decorations . . . a letter from the Easter Bunny after the kids left some surprises for him:

3. An after school scene that made me insanely happy:

4. I really suck at making parts. But I'm trying.

5. My kid born in 2010 playing with a toy from thirty years ago. . . best part was when she took one of the little plastic records, breathed heavily on it and wiped it on her shirt (like she's seen people cleaning CDs)

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Picking at the Scab of Grief

I know there’s not a right way to grieve but sometimes I still question myself on how I’m handling it. I really haven’t done it before…not like this.

I found I was feeling guilty for not thinking about her but knew I was avoiding it because it was going to hurt.

I thought it was sort of like picking a scab when I know it’s still going to make me bleed but yet something compels me to do it, just to test the waters, just pick at it a little and see if it still hurts.

So I found the time, when I was up too early so I was laying in bed in the dark, quietly allowing my mind to go back to her last days.

Her last night
Sleeping by her side
Listening to her uneven breathing
The gasps
Wondering each time if that’d be her last
Remembering that some of her very last words and actions were things that made me laugh, totally apropos for such a funny woman (and at whose viewing my friend came to and remarked “It's sort of like a party atmosphere in here”)

And I lay in the dark thinking of those last days, that night, the next day when I helped the home health aide clean and care for her dying body. How I sobbed as I handed my cousin a thoroughly soiled pillow, crying, “just throw it away” before pulling myself together before closing the door and turning back around to help more.

And I lay in the dark thinking of those last days, that night, that time helping the home health aide and nothing. Nothing happened. No crying. I thought maybe that meant the scab was ready to fall off and leave a scar.

But there was something so unsatisfying about not having the release of a good cry and she continued popping up in to my thoughts. Then my sister posted a picture of us together with her and it hit me so hard I had to lie on the couch and sob so hard and so fast that it nearly made me vomit.

And then I knew that the wound wasn’t completely scarified yet.

A friend shared this quote on Facebook the other day:
“What if we never ‘get over’ certain deaths, or our childhoods? What if the idea that we should have by now, or will, is a great palace lie? What if we’re not supposed to? What if it takes a life time…?”~ Anne Lamott

And I let myself sob and then dried my tears and looked that quote up again.

I know there’s no right way to grieve and I can take as long as I need. 

I just had to come to the realization that it might be for the rest of my life.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Five on Friday: Double Feature!!

The five best things about going away without our five kids:

1. So many naps!
2. Not having any concerns at all about how the kids were doing. (Thank you Grandparents!)
3. Getting to act like a grown-up with my husband. Also, getting to act like a kid with him and spend time playing in the ocean and cracking up at immature things like:

Test your maturity: does this make you snicker or not?

Not even that funny but I still had to take a picture of it.

Who doesn't love a good Bob?

4. No whining. No entertaining small people on a plane. No constantly doling out snacks. Being able to eat as much mofongo as we possibly could without hearing anyone complain, "Not again!"

5. Not having to do this while hiking the rainforest:

The five best things about coming home to them:

1. Making it home before bedtime.
2. Finding out all the kids did great in our absence and knowing they were adequately loved up and spoiled. ("Mommy, we had dessert EVERY night at Grandma's!")
3. Whenever I spend time away from them, they always seem so magical and amazing to me when I get back to them. It's good to see your kids like that again.
4. Z-man's first super wiggly tooth did NOT fall out in our absence.
5. Three-year-old A hugging me and saying (completely unprompted by anyone), "I so glad you home!"

Friday, March 28, 2014

Five on Friday: Full of Gratitude

I'm awake entirely too early today, surely in anticipation of getting the rest of my insanely long "to-do before traveling" list done (not to mention my excitement about my trip this weekend). But I'm going to sit here in the quiet with my coffee and have a moment of reflecting on what I feel most grateful for this morning. Here it is:

1. For my husband's job for not only providing enough for us to live comfortably but also occasionally having clients in exciting locations that need him to travel there

2. For the funds to make it possible for me to tag along to said exciting locations

3. For my in-laws and parents for being willing and able to take care of five children for two days each

4. For the opportunity to spend a few days alone with my husband to explore, relax, finish a conversation, eat and drink to excess

5. For a few days of not having to take care of anyone else and to recharge. This Lady of Perpetual Motion could use a little rest.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Why Other Families' "Disrupted Adoptions" Hurt Mine

The first time I had heard about it, it was about a rich diplomat in a foreign country. It was a sensationalized news story that happened far away. It was an anomaly, for sure: normal people don’t just “un-adopt” their children.

Then came similar stories featuring regular people in my own country. Next came the exposé on a major new source reporting on the growing trend of “rehoming*” adopted children, particularly internationally adopted ones. Perhaps the most troubling part was the lack of oversight in the securing of the new homes: some parents had taken to looking online to find a new family for their adopted children. Stories emerged of children already twice traumatized being sent to pedophiles and abusers.

Each time my heart ached for these children and then I’d be filled with outrage at their parents. How dare they? How could they give up these children they said they were dedicated to for life? A few of my friends tried to help me find sympathy for the families, to save my disgust for those adoption agencies that saw dollar signs before warning signs. They encouraged me to direct my anger at those organizations that did not provide adequate screening of families before placing children with them or proper follow-up and support afterwards. I tried.

Then last fall it happened in my local extended adoption community.

This time my outrage came coupled with anger and pain. Again and again I tried to find sympathy for the family that made this decision; again and again I failed. I had countless conversations with friends about it: improper screening. Poor decision-making. Lack of familial support. Repeatedly I dipped into my wells of compassion and came up dry. I asked myself how could I, a woman who could find a way to forgive the stranger that held a knife to my throat and raped me, not find compassion for this family?

And when I was asked the question: “What are you going to tell your kids about it?” I realized why--because ultimately this isn’t about hurting me. This affects what I hold most sacred: this hurts my children. This harms my family.

As an adoptive parent, I fight against the notion that I’m not my adopted children’s “real” mother or they’re not my “real” children. I see more and more stories online about families deciding to keep their biological children and “rehome” the adopted ones. There is outrage, yes, but there are also growing numbers of commenters pledging understanding and support for the family’s “brave” decision. As this acceptance becomes more commonplace, it chips away at the public’s perceived validity of my family. It promotes an idea that when it gets too hard, we can give them away—but just the adopted ones, of course. Never would there be such widespread acceptance of the giving away of the “real” children.

Each time we went to court to finalize our adoptions, I found it odd how many times the Judge asked us, “Do you understand that from now on, it will be just as if you had given birth to this child?” Of course we understood! When we adopted them, yes, we meant they would be our children for life, just like when we gave birth to the others.

It’s true our adopted children each came to us as infants and none of them have had any atypical behaviors for us to deal with so far. They’ve never acted out in any ways that have physically or emotionally hurt anyone else in our family. They’ve never needed any specialized therapy nor have we due to parenting them.  But they are young yet; those challenges may be coming in the future.

Guess what else is true? The same exact statements could be made about our biological children. Who’s to say which of these five children will ever cause us heartache and strife? If there comes a point when raising any of them becomes insanely difficult, we will find the resources needed to stay together. This is our family. Adoption Having children is forever, no matter how they come.

So what are we going to tell the children? We’ve decided that, for as long as possible, we’re not going to tell them anything about it. Just like we protect them from stories of murder or kidnapping, we will shield them from this until they are older. We don’t want to worry their young minds with this. For as long as we can, we won’t let them know that “un-adopting” is a possibility.

Because in our family, it isn’t.


*"Rehoming" and "Disrupted Adoptions" have become the euphemisms for voluntarily relinquishing one’s adopted child.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Five on Friday: Celebrating My Oldest Son

I tease my oldest son a lot, in person and online, because he really does and says the most outrageous things (a total "absent-minded Professor" type). But he's also a great kid and it's his birthday this weekend so here are five great and funny things about him:

1. He's really honest. He came home from school yesterday saying, "The carrots in my lunch were kind of hard so do you want me to eat a different vegetable now?" (Once when he was small and I demanded to know why he threw a rock at his friend he said, "MOM! I was AIMING for my sister!")

2. He's a great big brother, particularly to the 3 year old.

3. He only likes cheese if it's melted. (Huh?)

4. His favorite sandwich is one of his own creation: peanut butter, apple and pretzel.

5. He makes incredible comic strips. Likewise with Lego creations. Last night he made this TARDIS (from Dr. Who):

Happy 12th Birthday, G!