Saturday, December 22, 2012

Adjustments

After several visits with the foster family, K10 officially moved into our home the week of Halloween.  It was bittersweet.  We met at our usual McDonalds about 1.5 hours from home, pretty close to the middle of our houses.  K10 was already indoors playing in the playplace.  She recognized us right away and run over to give us hugs.  K8 and K9 quickly ate their lunch and began playing with K10.  I chatted with foster mom for awhile and observed her son.  He has autism and was clearly struggling with the volume of noise.  He had visited with us before, but this visit he was clearly more agitated. He kept repeating "oh no!  We left her."  Foster mom kept reassuring him that nobody had been left anywhere.  She kept talking to him and showing him that she could account for everybody.  It didn't take long for us to understand that he had figured out that this would be the last time he would be with K10 and was worried about leaving her.  As we loaded up our cars, foster mom was very matter of fact.  She handed me paperwork of previous dr visits, vaccines, savings account funds, suitcase full of clothes and bags full of toys. Her adult daughter gave K10 a huge hug and started to shake with tears. K10 caught some of the distress and became agitated. We had taken K10 on weekend visits previously, but this was the first time K10 expressed concern with saying goodbye.  The foster mom gave K10 a quick hug, told her to be good, and said goodbye. K10 said, "No, Mommy" and held her arms out. The foster mom just said "I love you", turned and got in her car.

I was a little confused.  Foster mom had seemed abrupt and somehow off. We waved goodbye and I looked at hubby.  "Well, that was odd." I said.  As Robert turned to look at me he caught a glimpse of foster mom in her car.  "I don't think so," said Robert as he raised his eyebrows and tilted his head in the direction of the other car.  As I glanced over my shoulder, I could see the tears on her children's faces and I could see the complete devastation on foster mom's face.  She had held herself together as long as she could.  She was being strong to hold her other children together.  Her autistic child was screaming full bore as she backed out of her parking space.  Her love for our shared child was evident and I will forever be grateful to her for her many efforts with K10.  She was proactive in gaining many services for K10 which helped put K10 on the road to healing.  We have a lot to do still, but she got the ball rolling.  Never again will I question the reaction of a foster family saying good bye. I have not walked in their shoes and I do not know what it takes for them to hold their family together.




Taking on another kid means lots of adjustments.  Kids that had previously had private rooms are now sharing a room with a much younger sibling.  Sometimes this works...sometimes it doesn't.  Currently we have the 15 year old and the 2 year old sharing a room (NOT working) and the 12 year old and the 5 year old (most difficult of the 3 children) are sharing a room - working VERY well.  The two boys, age 6 and 4 are sharing a room and it mostly works...except at bedtime when they talk and giggle into the night. I guess that's just being brothers.

Although I am not making any immediate changes...mostly because that requires effort and time, something I am lacking in my days right now, I recognize that things moved so fast that we made quick arrangements to get the newest kids moved in quickly.  I hope that soon we will have a good routine and I can devote some time to find a better solution for room space.  Right now my best option is to wait until K1 (now 18 and in college) decides that so many kids in the home is cramping his college life and decides to move out.  This allows K5 to regain her private room without a 2 year old getting into her stuff.  I can then put K10 in K8's room and move K3 to K1's room.  This gives each teen their own room, while the "under age 6 crowd" shares with a sibling.  Truly, this is ideal.  So how much more noise will it take for K1 to run out of the house screaming "I just want some peace and quiet!!!"...  Hmmm.  Well, since K1 adores kids and has committed his life to opening a business specifically to play with kids, I guess I will have to come up with a better plan.

In the meantime, we adjust.  We adjust to new routines and new chaos.  It is 2 days before Christmas and we have the tree up.  It has lights on it and some candy canes.  It is a minimalistic view of a christmas tree and is devoid of our usual traditions.  I hope that next year we will reinitiate our beautiful ornament tradition (each child get a new ornament that reflects something of their year - giving us an ornate tree of memories) but for this year...I think I am ok with the simplistic tree.  The youngest kids are excited and the piles of presents under the tree remind us how blessed we are to have loved ones in our life.  I have purchased .98 cent stockings to hang by the fireplace...I think I will give the kids glitter, pompoms and glue and let them decorate at will.  This might not be a Christmas filled with our traditions, but it will be a Christmas filled with our love.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Reunification

Wow.  Apparently life is moving in fast forward in our household.  How on earth did it get to be the weekend before Christmas?  Seems that I have been remiss in my blog!

So...long story or short story.  Hmmm.  Well lets be honest, I can be verbose and drag out a story.  ;-) But hey, at least I can admit to it.

So in my last blog...several months ago, we announced the addition of K10.  A beautiful 2 year old girl with big loopy curly hair and lovely brown eyes.  She is the half sister of K8 and K9.  It is been so amazing to watch the children reconnect and rebuild their relationship but...it has been exhausting as well.  More on that in a future blog.  For this blog, I thought I would just share with you how it felt to help siblings find each other again.

The first time we met K10 was in October.  K8 was beside herself with excitement.  She had been talking about K10 since long before we knew they would be reunited.  "Mommy...I have a si-her," she would tell me.  "I know honey.  Do you want to tell me about her?"  K8 would have a haunted look in her eyes and sadly say, "No.  Her gone now."  It broke my heart.  The day I told her we knew where K10 was and asked her if she wanted to visit her little sister, the scream of excitement nearly blew out the house windows.  "Right now?!  Can I see my si-her right now?"  In that moment, I knew beyond any shadow of doubt that reuniting K8 to K10 was absolutely the thing she needed most to begin her healing process.  My biggest concern was the fact that K10 was so young, I doubted she would even remember her siblings.

The day we were to meet K10, we picked K8 and K9 up from school.  Their energy was contagious and we started the  nearly 2 hour drive.  Within 30 minutes, both kids were fast asleep which allowed the hubby and I a small amount of peace and quite.  As were neared our destination, K8 awoke and started telling us all about K10.  The words were coming out so fast, I couldn't understand them.  At one point I heard, "I will teach her to walk and I will give her a bottle..."  It saddened me that her memories of her sister were over a year old.  The sister she remembered was an 8 month old baby.  The reality of who she would see would be a nearly 3 year old walking/talking toddler that could down chicken nuggets and french fries like a linebacker!  I tried to explain to K8 that K10 already knew how to walk now.  I told her that K10 had been growing just like SHE had been growing.  K8 clearly didn't understand.

We pulled into the McDonalds parking lot and waited.  Within a few minutes the other foster family pulled in.  Hubby left me getting kids out of carseats as he met the other dad and saw our soon to be daughter for the first time.  As I came around the corner of the van, he smiled at me and mouthed "Oh my God...she is so cute!"  I smiled and then nearly tripped on K8 who had come to a complete stop in front of me.  She had a look of panic on her face and so I squatted down next to her.  "Sweetie, look in mommy's eyes."  As her frightened eyes found mine, I asked her if she recognized her sister.  She sadly shook her head no.  "Honey, this little girl is your sister.  I promise you.  Remember I said she got bigger while she was gone?"  K8 quietly nodded her head and reached out for a hug.
At this point we suggested heading into the building to let the kids run and play in the playplace.  It didn't take long for the kids to adjust to each other and start running around.  We laughed as K10 would  grab foster dad's straw and throw it to the floor before he could stop her and by the time it was time to go, the kids were smiling and laughing.  "Mommy?!!!" Asked K9.  "Can we play with my sister again?"  It was the first indication K9 gave me that all of this was important to him too.

"Yes, my love.  Mommy and daddy will make sure of it."

To be continued...

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Future Blogs...


I truly want to make this a blog that other adoptive families can connect with for understanding, perspective and maybe even some ideas on how to manage and work with behaviors from their adoptive children.  Please feel free to comment and make suggestions for future blogs!

I currently have a request for more information on working with ICPC for out of state adoptions.  From looking at my stats, it appears that a few people have stumbled on my blog while researching "disrupt adoption."  Please let me know how I can make my blog helpful to you!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

This is going to take some getting used to.

I should just start every blog with ... "This morning the phone rang..."

In my last blog I announced that we had been asked to consider adopting K8 & K9's little sister...as if I needed to consider it...as if I could say no.  We have literally just been waiting for the phone call that we knew in our hearts was inevitable.  And when that call came...I had accidentally left my iPhone at home.  So I had a missed call at 4 pm last night and a voice mail saying "I wanted to talk to you about the baby sister...call me."  Of course, I didn't get home until 6 pm so there was no way I was going to catch the social worker at work anymore!  I called anyway and left a message promising I would glue my phone to my hand so I could take her call at any time today.  Robert and the kids are constantly harassing me about losing my phone.  Maybe they are right and I should be better at keeping track of it...  But in my defense, I really do TRY, but I am kind of busy.

This morning the phone rang at 8:16 am.  I glanced at the incoming number and my heart skipped a beat.  There was no doubt in my mind who it was or what she would say.  And yet, her simple question, "How do you feel about being a mom of 10 kids?" dropped me to my knees and reduced me to tears.

How do I feel?  Sad, happy, angry, overwhelmed and excited.  All at the same time.  I am sad that K10 is losing another family.  I am happy that she is regaining her biological siblings.  I am angry that life is such that her previous placement couldn't make it work.  I am overwhelmed as I look around my house at the chaos of laundry, dishes and toys that have piled around me in the past 3 weeks... threatening to consume us.  But mostly I am excited.  Never will my house be empty of the sound of children's laughter, I swear it gives me energy.  Ha!  Disney's Monsters Inc suddenly comes to mind.  Life is just better when you can share it with the joys and wonder of exploring the world though the eyes of a child.

Ok...that last picture is SO ME!  I am the little old lady living in a shoe with WAY more kids than I know what to do with.  This wasn't the life I planned for myself, but it is the life I am happy to live.  Wow.  10 kids.  This is going to take some getting used to.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Speechless...

I don't even know where to start.  I have been an advocate for children in foster care for years.  I have been frustrated with what doesn't work in the foster care system and saddened by the impact of those short comings to the children that we are supposed to be protecting.  In an earlier post, The Importance of Connections, I discussed the difficult decisions that social services has to make when it comes to separating siblings.  There are no easy answers.  Truly, siblings are separated because social services has no choice.  Trust me, no social worker WANTS to separate kids but it happens all the time.

This country is in a crisis with these kids in state care and most people are not aware or believe that it doesn't pertain to them.  I know if feels like I am beating you with this information but I know there are a many of you that read my blog and yet I know that I have not yet made a difference in the number of people stepping forward to love these children.  I know not everybody is cut out to take on some of these kids but for 12 years I have tried to help recruit families and somedays I wonder if I am making a difference at all.

Again, I don't even know where to start...

I need to stop answering the phone.  Lets start there.  Two weeks ago I got a phone call and was asked to take a 3 year old boy.  We had just accepted K8 & K9 as a placement and with 7 kids in the home and 2 married and out of the home, we felt right in saying "no."  As always, it is hard to know that I just turned away an amazing child that has the ability to do great things in this world if SOMEBODY would just show unconditional love, commitment and stability.



I hope somebody is looking for him...waiting to love him, smother him with kisses, and wipe his tears.  I hope there is somebody that wants to hold him when he is scared and help him with his homework.  I hope that he isn't just another kid that gets bounced through the system only to age out at 18 and end up as one of the homeless statistics or worse...one more criminal in jail.  Harsh words I know.  I imagine that you are thinking "come on!  He is 3!  Somebody will adopt him.  He won't be one of the ones bounced around."

Ya right.  Remember, K5 was 4 when she was taken into care.  We did not find her until she was 11.  And yes, she went through several homes first.  She is an amazing young woman and I missed out on the first 11 years of her life.  Those were spent with somebody else.  Somebody that couldn't provide stability and permanency.

Yesterday, the phone rang again.  I am still in shock.  Speechless really.  From the moment we heard about K8 & K9, we were told that they had a sibling that had been separated from them.  That sibling was placed immediately into an adoptive placement.  There were very good reasons for this to happen and all the kids have made tremendous progress during the time they were in care.  But as happens all too often in the system, something changed.  Something so big that now that sibling is in need of a new home.  Seriously.  I have GOT to stop answering the phone.  "So, I know it is a wild and crazy idea and you don't have to give an answer right now...but I wanted to ask you something so that you could think about it over the weekend.  Is there any chance you would be interested in reuniting the siblings and adopting all three or at the very least provide temporary care to this adorable 2 year old while we find another family?" asked the social worker.

Seriously?  How can I ever justify saying no?  How can I look K8 & K9 in the eyes and say "we had a chance to adopt your sister too but we said no."  We are an enormous family by today's standards.  We stick out in a crowd and are starting to look "old" for raising children in this age group.  People talk about us behind our backs and yet we are selected as the best option for this young toddler and my 2 youngest children.  Social services knows when they have a family that will do what it takes to make it work.  They know that this child now will have a failed adoption attached to her file and that will play into the minds of future prospective placements.  People will wonder if it is the child's fault and if she is somehow defective.  The child is TWO for crying out loud!  How can this be a 2 year olds fault?  Still think there is no crisis here in the US foster care system?

There is a lot that will have to happen before I will know for sure if social services will reunite the children in our home.  Safety comes first as always...as it should.  But I already love this child and will fight for her.  She deserves it.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Just a mom...

With the addition of K8 and K9, our family certainly sticks out in a crowd.  Well, I guess we always did, but apparently now with bi-racial children it is even more obvious.  Obvious enough that I now notice people looking at us at the mall for instance.  Robert says that people have looked at us for years, but I never noticed, but I am forced to notice now - more on that in a moment.

My newest munchkins have been with us for a few weeks now.  They are settling in well.  In other words, there is a lots of screaming and tantruming as they learn our family routines and rules, there have been many time "ins" and a few time "outs."  (Time ins when their behavior is clearly based on their fears of loss, time outs when I am witnessing normal preschooler behavior around learning basic social skills.)

There is the chaos of weekly therapy appointments to squeeze into our already tight schedule.  School enrollment and the various testing that occurs with children such as mine to ensure that they can be successful in the classroom is taking up most of my days.  Then there are the requirements of social services that the children must be seen by the pediatrician and dentist within 2 weeks of the placement.  Well, fortunately the fine print really says the appointments have to be scheduled within 2 weeks, the actual appointment can be scheduled a little further out.  Then there is the meal planning for a large family.  Digging out the crock pot has helped, but we are definitely not eating healthy right now as we try to figure out what is going to work for us.  Then we have the monthly social worker visits and guardian ad litem visits to plan around.  Yes it is a lot to organize and not let my other children fall through the cracks and miss out on their important activities as well.  But, we are managing and this kind of chaos seems to be something that I even thrive in.  I jump in with both feet and write all over my calendar and enter info into my iPhone.  I would drown without these basic household management tools.  But, please know that I am not complaining.  Nope...I am just a mom and all of us moms struggle with these issues.



Speaking of just being a mom, I know I am not alone in hating the dreaded "they are so lucky" comments adoptive parents are forced to hear.  I know it is always well intentioned...but really?  My children were lucky?  They were lucky to have been removed from their birth families?  They were lucky to spend time in foster care?  I am the lucky one.  I was given a chance to love them.  Of course, the lucky comment is followed by the "you are a saint" comment which again, might be well intentioned, but drives me up a wall.  I am no saint I can promise you that.  Feel free to ask any of my kids if they feel "lucky" to live with "Saint" Mom.  I don't expect them to feel grateful or lucky.  I expect them to be angry, feel hurt, scared and abandoned.  I anticipate years of them not trusting me, and hating me when I stand firm on house rules.  I don't tolerate my kids in a "saintly" way, I love them as a mom because they are my children.  

My children.  I like the sound of that.  So much so that it cuts me to the core when other people question my role as mom.  As I stated earlier, we seem to stick out in a crowd.  Ever since k4 joined our family, I would be asked "are they all yours?" to which I would smile and say yes.  With the addition of K8 and K9 now, that has changed.  I have always struggled to understand racism, but for the first time in my life, I FELT it.  It was subtle and I am trying to not make too big of a deal of it because I seriously doubt that the person was even aware that her comment put me in a defensive position about my children's race!  But there it was.  We were playing in the park, my caucasian, hispanic, korean and bi-racial children.  It was a beautiful day full of the children's laughter and smiling faces.  As I walked across the playground to check in with the youngest kiddos, another mom looked at me as said "are you a foster parent?"  Again, not necessarily a racist comment, but let me explain.  In 12 years of adopting children of various ethnicities, I have NEVER been asked that question.  People have always assumed I adopted them (or had many men in my life...) but the children were clearly identified as MY children. This was the FIRST time I had been asked about foster care.  I didn't think much about it at the time and simply answered, "no these are my kids."  But it gnawed at me for hours.  Later I finally talked to Robert about it.  I pointed out that at the time, I was surprised but as I thought about it, I was offended at the question!  Not that there is something wrong with being a foster parent, in fact I admire the people that can give their hearts in that way.  No, I was offended that it is only when I have bi-racial children that I would be asked such a question.  Is it because they are black that the assumption is foster care?  Are my beautiful bi-racial children not worthy of adoption in the eyes of this woman?  I will never know for sure what exactly went through her mind.  But it makes me sad to know, that to some people, my children and I will have to defend our right to be a family.  And defend I will, because I am just a mom.  Their mom.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

How DOES she do it?



I can't tell you how many times I am told "I don't know how you do it!  I only have 1 (or 2 or 3) and I can't ever seem to..."  So with 2 new kids entering our family, it seems like now is an excellent time to convey just HOW I do this.  The secret is pretty simple actually.  My house is messy and I wouldn't want it any other way.  We don't always eat the healthiest food because somedays are filled with too much crying, tantruming, homework, after school activities or illness to take the time to cook for this many people.  In other words, sometimes I just have to let it go.  But perhaps the real secret to how I do it is family and friends.

I do not do this alone.  I have a couple of gals that I hired that come in 2x a month to help power scrub the bathrooms and the kitchen - I am not ashamed to say I love them.  My husband sometimes cooks, my kids load and unload the dishwasher (only after being told) and some of them even wash their own laundry.  When we were surprised with a weekend visit with soon to be K8&9, K6 showed up and cooked meals and cleaned the kitchen so that I could focus on the kids.  I couldn't have done it without her.  K4 showed up and helped soothe K8 when she was scared and couldn't fall asleep for her nap.  K2, K3 and K5 jumped in and rotated 30 min turns to help supervise so K8&K9 had 100% supervision while I tried to do laundry and other household chores.  K1 took K8&9 outside to play ball and wear them out on the trampoline.  They spent over an hour rough housing in the yard.  My parents stopped by for a brief visit with their newest grandchildren.  The same grandparents that once a year come to stay with my motley crew and let my husband and I get a weekend getaway.  As parents we sometimes forget to be a couple.  I am bless with parents that remind us of the importance of reconnecting.


Then there are my friends.  The ones that remind me that "mom" time is important and make sure I do a nearly weekly girls night out.  Sometimes we just sit and talk and sometimes we watch our favorite shows.  Always we support each other and brainstorm.  Everybody needs friends like these and I really hit the jackpot with my friends.  Last May as I was sitting at K2 & K5's middle school graduation, my iPhone (couldn't survive without this wonderful organizational tool) reminded me that I had a dr appointment in 1 hour.  Who knew middle school graduation would be longer than 2 hours!?!  Anyway, a quick text to my best friend, and she was calling the dr's office for me to cancel so I didn't have to leave the ceremony to make a phone call.  This is the same friend that showed up to jump start my car in the rain one morning to help me get my kids to school on time.  Then there is my husband's best friend and wife (honorary Aunt and Uncle to my kids.)  When things took a sudden scary turn with K5's adoption, they were there for us.  They held our hands while we cried and rejoiced with us when K5 was finally home safe in our arms.  When K7 appeared on the scene, another friend started passing on her son's clothing, high end brand name stuff!  I haven't bought a single outfit for K7 since he moved in!!!  When my son had foot surgery and his wisdom teeth pulled, and my daughter had throat surgery and my MOTHER was having shoulder surgery all in the same week, my friends showed up with meals.


No, I don't do it alone.  It is because of my family and friends that I can continue to reach out and love these children.  I can't say it enough, but once again, thank you my dear family and friends.  From the bottom of my heart I appreciate your compassion, your time and your love.  You mean the world to me.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Destination...unknown.

We delude ourselves.  We think we can carefully plan and control our lives.  We think we know what is good for us.  We believe that life is our play ground and we can do what we want.  I guess from certain perspectives this is sort of true, but sometimes we have to accept that things just happen because one happens to be in a certain place at a certain time.  And if we accept THAT, then we have to accept that maybe we control our life's direction....but not it's destination.

Robert did his annual volunteering with the Adoption Exchange on Wednesday.  Children currently in foster care waiting for an adoptive family are invited to this event to relax and have fun.  Many activities are set up for the children to engage in and many volunteers are there to help supervise the kids.  Volunteers also help introduce prospective adoptive parents to social workers and foster families praying that some connections are made and more adoptive parents will find a child to love unconditionally.  Every year Robert comes home and talks about the amazing kids he was blessed to spend time with.  I smile and love him all the more for his big heart....then I raise my eyebrows and say "no.  You can't adopt them all" and he smiles sadly and says "I know" and then we are usually interrupted with one of the many children currently in our home.  This year was different though.  Robert returned home but was more subdued then usual.  I asked how it went and he chuckled and said he didn't play football with the teenage boys this year (the ONLY day a year he DOES play football) but instead was given the privilege of managing duck food by the pond.  This year he was mobbed by youngsters excited at the prospect of feeding the ducks!  There was one little girl that could actually quack in a way that sounded like a duck.  He told the story and was clearly taken in by this little girl.  He was convinced that given the number of people following this adorable 4 year old around that she was going to find her forever family sooner rather than later.  It wasn't until much later that he started talking that I started to understand his strange mood.  He spoke of watching the prospective parents follow the younger kids around.  Being the analytical person he is, he started watching for people to take interest in the older kids.  Apparently not playing football leaves him with more time to observe people's actions...at least during the occasional calm between duck feeding mobbings!  What he saw saddened him. Several older kids wandered about sampling the various activities, their social workers giving these teenagers some space. The volunteers would interact and help them, but the prospective parents would only smile and pass them by. In particular, a girl of about 16 was just sitting watching her 10 year old sister play in the creek.  Robert sat and chatted with the worker and the teenager, while all of them joked about the strong possibility of the younger girl falling into the creek.  All of the prospective parents missed the careful patience of the younger girl first just feeding each duck a single pellet to make them last, and then her utter joy at being shown how to feed them a whole handful so that their nuzzling bills tickled the palm of her hand. They also missed how her older sister was content and happy for nearly an hour just to watch her play. Robert was devastated by the observation that these charming, beautiful girls had no one interested, and that they almost certainly recognized that no one was interested.  What usually happens to similar sibling sets is that they are split up to give the younger sibling a chance of making a match. But, at age 10, the younger girl may still be left bouncing from home to home until she ages out with no one to count on forever.

So I did what I always did.  I said "we can't adopt them all" and he said "I know"...but then none of our kids interrupted us like they usually do.  So I said, "did you get the social worker's name?"  And he said yes.  Turns out these kids are in the same county as the other kids we are wanting to adopt.  Ya...don't forget we have another sibling set that we are currently waiting to hear back on.  The 3 & 4 year old I wrote about in my last blog.  Oh how their smiles haunt my dreams.  It has been 4 months since we set out to adopt them.  Yes we were asked to meet them 3 weeks ago, but it seems that still no decision has been made and we have lost hope that we will be their forever family so I tell my husband, "fine.  Let's talk with the social worker and see if we might be a match for these girls"...both of them.  Because each other is all they have right now and they should have the chance to stay together.

So that brings my story to Friday, Aug 4.  As I packed my suitcase minutes before leaving for the airport for a weekend of R&R while my parents turn my home into some sort of super secret grandparents playground (which apparently involves lots of laughter, silliness, video gaming, shopping and trips to iHop) I got a phone call.  I glanced at the phone and immediately recognized the caller.  A social worker.  The social worker.  And in my heart I know what is going to happen if I answer that phone.  I actually hesitate because I know my husband will be walking in the door in the next 5 min and I so desperately want him there when I answer this call...but I can't ignore it.  This worker has had too many unanswered phone calls to other families, too many unreturned messages.  Besides, it has been 4 months since we first made contact with her.  I can't leave her hanging so I reluctantly answer the phone but I know what she is going to say.  Somehow, the words still shock me, somehow I went on automatic and made plans, agreed to meetings, asked questions and now, suddenly, we are the parents of 9 children.  God has blessed me once again and entrusted me with a precious gift to love and cherish while helping guide them through their healing process.  I only pray that the choices I make will serve to teach my new children that they are loved unconditionally and that I will protect them so they no longer have to feel afraid.  12 years ago, Robert and I set a course in our lives that would include loving children we had not given birth to.  K3 was our first adoptee and gave us our direction...to this day, I wonder where my final destination will be.

Robert and I are extremely excited and proud to announce that we are the proud new parents of a beautiful 4 year old girl (K8) and her 3 year old brother (K9) and rest assured, we won't forget the girls at the creek...



Friday, July 20, 2012

marching on...

Well, 4 weeks later and we still don't have a final decision on the sibling set we want to adopt.  It is strange to me that the system always works so slowly.  I have to believe that God has a plan here...and I might, for once have an inkling what it is - I was too busy before...

Four weeks ago, we were talking with social services and trying to get our home study updated.  After fighting through a lot of red tape (the state won't allow our private agency to place foster children) we finally had to except that we needed to find a new agency.  But by this point we only had about 1.5 weeks until my oldest daughter's wedding.  We had to put adoption stuff on hold while we frantically finished our final preparations for K4's wedding.  She was a beautiful bride and in the end, I think we pulled off a beautiful wedding...but I would not have been able to focus on the sibling set had they been placed with us.

Since it had been so long since the social worker had contacted us, we actually assumed the other family had been chosen for the sibling set.  In some ways, we just had to let go and move on.  We allowed our thoughts to be consumed with the wedding so we didn't have to feel disappointment at not being chosen.  But then the strangest thing happened.  We received a phone call a couple days before the wedding (literally just after I had completed all the florals, the baking etc...) and the social worker stated that they still had not decided but that they wanted BOTH families to meet the children. Those of you that have worked with social services will recognize immediately what a bizarre request this is!  We set a date for July 17 and returned to our wedding plans.  

On the morning of our planned visit (4 days after the wedding), I was filled with so many strange thoughts.  In the past when we have met a child, we already knew that they were matched with us and would be our child.  For Robert and I, that means that we are 100% emotionally committed to the child before we meet.  We have spoken with all the care providers, have read the history, have been given "full disclosure" by the social workers and have decided to love the child and accept them as a member of our family.  Thus, our first visit is often full of adrenalin and nervous anticipation.  This visit was different.  We haven't been identified as the parents, and have to accept that the other family may be chosen over us.  As I said earlier, that morning I was filled with a lot of thoughts, but actually very little emotion.  I think I simply didn't know WHAT to feel.

As we walked up to foster mom's front door, I watched several cars drive by and an elderly gentleman slowly make his way up the street.  Robert and I were clearly the minorities in this neighborhood, but it wasn't uncomfortable by any means.  The home was a modest single family home that was tidy but clearly filled with children.  Comfortable is the way I can best describe it.  As we walked to the back of the house, I saw the children sitting on their own blanket or "island" as the foster mother referred to them.  As Robert and I sat on the floor, the little girl picked up her doll and said something I couldn't understand.  The social worker translated that her doll was her best friend.  The girl then picked up a hairbrush and said her doll's hair was "nappy" which made me smile.  I understood THAT one.  About that time the little boy started to get a little wound up and started jumping across the room.  He was all boy and reminded me so much of K7 - the protective wall around my heart started chipping.  The social worker than suggested that the kids show us their rooms.  The girl grabbed my hand and the boy grabbed Robert's hand and we were off to the races.  They had much pride in their own beds and toys.  When we returned to the living room, the girl wanted to play "hair" and was very busy arranging my hair in a more pleasing configuration while I tried to engage the little boy with his dinosaurs.

The children were darling and I know I could love them.  When the little boy started rolling around on the floor, I reached out and quickly tickled his belly and he responded with instant and delightful giggles.  But I couldn't understand what he said.  I was saddened by the extreme speech delays due to their neglect.  I was only able to understand about 30% and that was ONLY if the context was known.  It is clear that they will need continued speech therapy  and PT and OT but that is not a huge surprise.  I felt that cognitive thought processes were age appropriate but that communication was difficult due to speech delays.  It was a shock to see children at age 4 & 5 wearing diapers due to lack of toilet training.  Foster mom has had them for a year now and has made much progress in this area, but there is clearly much more work to be done.

Socially, they clearly struggled as well.  They clearly wanted and needed attention and desperately tried to play together.  If I was focused on the dolls with the little girl, the little boy would join us.  If I turned my attention to the little boy and his dinosaurs, the little girl would want to play dinosaurs.  They were not trying to be the "center of attention" but rather just wanted to be a PART of the attention.  When they played together, there was much "tattle tale."  More so than what would be normal for children. They literally were constantly reporting to foster mom what each other was doing wrong but then asking for reassurance that THEY were being good.  Suddenly the need for each child to have a blanket "island" became clear.  Again, foster mom has made much progress with them, but there is much more progress that needs to occur.

Sadly, our assigned time slipped by quickly - too quickly,  and it was time for us to leave.  I wanted so desperately to gather these children in my arms...but it wouldn't have been appropriate.  The girl moved to the corner of the room and was clearly upset.  She refused to walk with us to the door at first.  I laid on the floor next to her and in a soft voice thanked her for combing my hair.  She smiled, stood up and followed us to the door.  She just needed reassurance that we cared.  She and her brother stated that they didn't want us to leave...but it also appeared that they say that to everybody...otherwise known as indiscriminate affection.  They desperately need a loving, safe and permanent family in order to learn true attachment and bonding.
They aren't my kids and I have to keep a small wall around my heart to protect it.  But somehow, I left a piece of my heart in that living room.  The social worker has stated that the other family has not returned phone calls...is it wrong of me to hope that the other family has changed their minds and WON'T return phone calls?


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

MIA

I know I have been missing in action for a while.  Life gets in the way of a good blog sometimes.  Last month my 17 year old graduated high school, my 14 and 15 year olds graduated middle school and my 6 year old graduated kindergarten.  On top of that my dear Uncle passed away.  And right now I have 3 weeks left until my 22 year old's wedding for which I had to make all the floral arrangements.

Apparently this was not "busy enough" for us so we thought we would throw in a little social services action too.  Yes, I know, I know...we are crazy.  Trust me, you are not telling me anything I haven't already thought about.  But really, these two munchkins are too cute.  Oh wait...did I say 2...at the same time?  Well, that will be new for us at least.  We have never taken on a sibling set before.  Of course, social services never makes these things easy and we are battling our way through red tape even though we don't even know for SURE that these children will become OUR children.  But, I decided we are close enough to a final decision by social services that I should at least let all of you know so it isn't a TOTAL shock.

We are apparently 1 out of 2 possible matches for this sibling set and I trust that God will help these worker's make sure that these children are placed with the BEST possible parents, even if that is not our family.  The social worker called me today to let me know that they had not made a decision yet because they feel like both families are so experienced and so perfect that they can't make a "wrong" decision...and they can't figure out what the "right" decision is.  If only it was this way for every child in foster care.  It certainly should be.

Unfortunately, there are hundreds of children that never find a home because there is never a good match or in many cases...no family ever even shows an interest in them.  The guardian ad litem for one of the children we are hoping to match with stated that she had another sibling set with similar stories in another county that she had been trying to get placed with a family for over a year and they have never even come close to a possible match...and yet, this sibling set has TWO excellent families to chose from.  It makes no sense to me why some children are so well recruited for and others are not.  We found these children on the Adoption Exchange web-site...and inquired immediately.  Was the other county's sibling set even ON the web-site?  I don't know.  In the year that the county has supposedly been recruiting, I certainly haven't SEEN any sibling set that matches the description the guardian ad litem gave me.  Regardless, even if a kid IS placed on the web-site, that is not a guarantee that they will find a home.  One girl, (we will call her "A") has been on the Heart Gallery every year for 3 years!  My husband has literally watched "A" grow up on a web-site because she first showed up at the end of elementary school and is now starting high school.  And we have to wonder did anybody EVER inquire about her?  Beautiful, bright eyed, intelligent, talented Caucasian female...and no family?  If she had been an infant, she would have been placed with a family right away...but just because she was around age 11 or 12...she was no longer the "perfect age" to adopt and now that she is 15, her chances are reduced even more.  Sadly she may very well be yet another kid that ages out of our foster care system with no family to spend Christmas and other family holidays with.  If only I believed I could handle 3 kids the same age...  But to be honest, they cost of car insurance alone for 3 kids learning to drive ALL AT THE SAME TIME, would bankrupt us!!!  And so I pray for her.  I pray that somebody finds her and loves her and gives her the family that she so rightfully deserves.

Well, that I guess that is my soap box for today....

Until tomorrow my friends...and by then perhaps I will be able to share with you some news about K8 and K9.  Ya ya ya....I know, 8 is enough...but they are cheaper by the dozen you know.

Hugs to all!   Yes...I know my pictures have nothing to do with the blog...I just thought they were cool!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

She looks just like you!!!

I have been told that I make my readers cry...a lot.  This is NOT my intention!  So today, I thought I would take a slightly different tactic.  Humor.

I had the privilege of spending some quality time with good friends the last couple of weekends.  Actually, friends doesn't quite summarize it...they are family.  They are the family we chose for ourselves.  My children call them Aunt and Uncle and there is no doubt in my mind that I love them the same way I love the brother I grew up with.  I realize that may sound odd to some people but the fact of the matter is, I have no blood relation to most of my children, so for me, family is made up of the people that we love unconditionally.  I have several "brother and sisters" that fall into this category.

As I was watching "J" play with her 2 year old daughter, "S", I was astounded to find myself saying something that I laugh at others for saying to me.  "She looks just like you!"  Please understand that K and J adopted baby S almost 2 years ago so obviously there is no genetic reason for them to look like each other.  Their ethnicities are not even the same, and yet there is was!  Baby S clearly LOOKED like them.  J's wild hair was played out in Baby S's blond curls and J's booming laughter and voice filled the room as Baby S's voice escalated to be the center of attention.  K's quick laughter was evident in his daughter by how Baby S played with my children.  It was suddenly obvious to me that MANNERISMS are a part of a family ...and apparently a large part of why our children look like us sometimes.

Just this morning, I was pondering all the similarities of adoptive children to their adoptive families while watching K7 practice his reading.  It was darling so I took a short video of him.  It wasn't until I was watching it later on my computer that I noticed something funny.  About 30 seconds into the video, K7 stuck his right pointer finger into the silky mass of hair above his ear...and started "twirling" his hair.  Clearly one of MY mannerisms.  I wonder how long he has been doing this and I didn't even notice!

All of this got me to thinking of all the times people would make comments to me about MY children and it forced me to wonder what other people saw.  I mean after all, I am pretty sure I stick out as an oddity in my community when driving a gigantic white creeper van and hauling around numerous children of various ages and ethnicities.  As I thought about the many comments made to me over the years, I thought it might be funny to blog about it and list some of my funniest memories.

Just after K3 was placed in our home...and I mean like a couple of DAYS...I was walking down the sidewalk with all 3 children.  K1 ran ahead while K2 held my hand.  K3 was strapped securely to my chest in a baby carrier.  About halfway down our street, a neighbor was working in her yard.  I had seen her before, but didn't know her at all.  In fact we had never even exchanged words!!!  But as soon as she saw the carrier on my chest, she was on her feet and headed my way.   She hollered from across the yard, "I didn't know you were even pregnant."  She peeked at 4 day old K3, glanced at my boys and me and then said, "Well, that baby doesn't even look like you!  Who is the father, the mail man?"  Now this struck me as very funny due to the fact that, a: I don't KNOW who the father is and b: our new baby was a beautiful filipino, hispanic and Caucasian mix - and our mailman was clearly filipino so he MIGHT be the father of my child.  

Another time, shortly after we had left Los Angeles to move to Colorado, I was standing in line at Target and a little old lady was standing behind me.  She was making "googley eyes" at 6 month old K3 trying to get her to smile.  The little old lady smiled at me and said, "well, at least she has your smile.  I think the rest of her must look like her dad."  Without thinking of what I was implying about myself, I politely responded with "I actually don't know who her father is."  Her eyes widened to gargantuan size and she turned her back to me.  Yup...that is me, the town slut.  As K3 grew, people started commenting more and more about how much K3 looked like Robert and I.  Things like "oh, she has her daddy's dark skin...but where did those dark eyes come from?" and then more and more it was things like "she has your laugh" or "she is active like you guys" or "she has your personality."  I guess it is just human nature to find likeness in families.

Three years later, when we adopted K4, we had entirely different problems.  OK, my problems were funny, but my husband's problems where downright insulting at times!!!  My favorite moment was a day at the mall while I was attempting to purchase the famous "croc" shoes that were all the rage.  I had all four children with me.  The gal at the kiosk looked at my children, 2 clearly Caucasian, 1 clearly hispanic and 1 clearly asian and said "do they all have the same father?"  My response..."nope" and in my head I thought "ya, think about that one for awhile nosey."  Whatever lady, pick your jaw off the floor and move on.  What I really wanted to say, was "I don't remember, I was too drunk."  or "Well, her dad was hispanic, and her dad was Filipino and his dad was German and his dad was Scottish."  Again, I am labeled the town slut.  

But my husband's story tops them all.  One day while walking through the grocery store with K4 and K3 he was assaulted by little old lady with a purse!  What IS it about little old ladies?!?!  Anyway, they had just left check out when this lady walked up to my husband and started hitting him with her purse.  She had the nerve to yell "she is TOO YOUNG for you!!!"  Hubby did the smart thing, he grabbed the kids and ran!  When he first told me the story I was horrified, but over the next several days I realized that here was a 30+ year old man walking around with a young asian woman of uncertain age with a young asian/hispanic toddler that was calling him dad. I am certain the whole world would have thought that K4 was MOM to K3 in that moment.  Even if people identified K4 as a 20 year old, he still would have looked a more than a decade older!  Poor man can't even go grocery shopping with his children!

I could go on about this topic for awhile, and I don't know what K and J's experiences will be as baby S grows up, but it is my hope that they can find the laughter in it all.  I hope they document some of the stories to look back at in later years.  And I hope that today's blog inspires you to leave comment sharing some of your favorite "nosey people" stories.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

I thought it would never end...

High school graduation is just around the corner for K1.  Of course, K4 graduated 4 years ago and K6 graduated 3 years ago.  Adopting out of age order really messes with my mind sometimes.  Regardless, K1's graduation has caused me to spend some time reflecting on my 3 oldest children and their achievements.  You see, there were times I thought it would never end, I thought these children would be with me forever.  But life went on...

K4 came to us at age 14.  She was a hurt and angry teenager and that was a lot to take on.  She was in 8th grade and there were days that I was hurting so badly that I thought the day she would graduate and move out of my home would never happen.  But there was also many days that were good, and I couldn't imagine life after she grew up and moved out.  After she graduated, we really started to develop our relationship.  There are many reasons she was resistant (as was I) to bonding and attaching while she lived in our home.  She came to us with fears that I didn't know how to handle, and I am certain that I handled many badly.  But I loved her then and I love her now.  The only difference now is, she loves me too.  She is less afraid of me.  She is less afraid of life.  She moved out, had a horrible experience with a room-mate and moved back in.  In that moment, she realized that our family was truly forever.  She finally understood that family meant more than a place to live until age 18.  She is about to marry now.  A terrific guy that we will be proud to have as a son-in-law.  I look at the confident young woman she has become and I am so glad that we didn't give up on each other - I am proud of the fact that we survived those hard years when she was so angry that her anger threatened to consume her and pushed her into many less than desirable behaviors.  Those high school years were hard, and I thought they would never end...but they did end, the hard parts anyway and now we have something much better.  Trust, strength, love.  I am not saying we have a perfect relationship...but our relationship is developing ... perfectly.  Together, we are putting together her dream wedding...but just a few years ago, she would go days, even weeks, without speaking to me.  Working on a large project like this wedding would have been impossible.  She has grown into a fine woman with a loving heart.

K6 came to us at age 18, and I thought it would never end.  I thought she wanted to be with us forever and I was excited to offer her my home, my family and my love.  But it came to a dramatic end when she decided she needed to be closer to her "people" in her home state.  I was devastated and depressed.  I guess she did what she needed to do, but our relationship suffered for it.  Don't get me wrong, we don't fight or anything.  She is my daughter and I love her...but in many ways she is a stranger to me.  She never stayed around long enough to truly develop a deep relationship.  Although there is now talk of her and her husband moving closer to us - so maybe there is more hope.  Yes, she is married now, to a really nice young man.  I have only met him twice.  The first time was the day of their wedding and the second time was at Christmas that same year.  He was then deployed to Afghanistan and only returned last January.  So really they are both kind of strangers to me, but they are my family and I love them.  K6 recently found out she is pregnant.  So come November, I will become a "Grandma."  This is a strange thought to me since I am currently raising a 6 year old.  When did I get old?

I gave birth to K1 17.5 years ago.  On that day, I looked into his eyes, and I couldn't imagine a day that he would be a man and ready to leave my home.  My heart swells with pride as I think of his accomplishments over the years.  I remember his first steps.  I remember him learning his alphabet on the computer - before he could talk.  I remember him swinging a bat in t-ball and I remember his first crush on a girl.  I remember arguing with him in the car.  I remember trying to stay calm when he was trying on "independence" in the teen years through defiance.  I remember how hard he worked to logically work through our problems once the anger had left us.  He has a wonderful heart, a strong sense of ethics, he is goal oriented and has a wonderful girlfriend (for the last 2 years) that I adore.  He is turning out to be a good man; and one day, he is going to be wonderful husband and father.  But again, I thought it would never end. Ya, ya, ya...he will always be my baby.  Except, he isn't my baby.  He is a fine young man about to embark on the world.  I know I have taught him a lot in life, but there is still so much I should have found the time to teach him.  I just thought I had more time...

I know that my adult kids are still here.  It hasn't really come to end.  But this era of their life as come to an end.  The era in which they need me.  I am sure there are many things I have done wrong with them, but the one thing I did right, was to love them passionately.  Passionately enough to argue with them, to make demands on them and do everything in my power to guide them into adulthood.  Despite all the frustrations that I thought would never end, I am proud of them and I can't wait to see what they achieve in life.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Letting Go...

I recently read a pretty good book called "The Girl in the Italian Bakery" by Kenneth Tingle.   It started off as a cheap book from Amazon for my Kindle (snatched it for .99!!!) ...and ended up having a large impact on me.  The story was the type that I find myself reading a lot of...kid has struggles at home, those struggles bring out negative behaviors, kid ends up in foster care...kid eventually grows up and has to figure out how to be an adult and not let his past dictate his future.  I am drawn to these books, often a true story, trying to find the magical solution to helping my children from foster care overcome their past.  I have attended private and family therapy sessions,  trainings, meetings with school administrators, meetings with social workers.  I have attended, shoot, I have HOSTED, adoption support groups trying to find this elusive solution that will change the world for these children.

For the first time since college, I found myself using a hi-lighter in a book!  Well, a digital hi-lite on my kindle...oh how the times have changed.  But really, there were certain lines that resonated with my observations of children.  Like this insightful little snippet (look!  I even used my digital "hi-lite" - pretty cool!):

I try to teach my children not to stand on the sidelines in life, to get in the game; don't let that little voice of doubt get the best of you.  Give everything your best effort; you may not have that chance again.  Believe in yourself; you are no less important than anyone else on the planet.  Treat other people the way you want to be treated.  Don't look down on anyone.

Wow.  Now, I realize that these are all statements that we have heard from various people over the years, but at the exact moment I read it, my mind was ready to receive it.  I thought about the fact that THIS is what I try to teach my children.  All summed up in one small paragraph.  My children have come to me beat down and so low on self-esteem, that getting in the game is not an option.  They are too busy just trying to survive.  And that little voice of doubt, well, it is not so little.  It is SCREAMING at my children.  It probably sounds a lot like what adults in their life have screamed at them.  How about "you are no less important than anyone else on the planet"?  These kids have been kicked to the curb numerous times, unloved, unwanted.  Battered and abused.  Too me, teaching my kid that they have VALUE and WORTH and are IMPORTANT is the hardest part of my parenting.  Treat other people the way you want to be treated and don't look down on anyone.  The adults in their have have TAUGHT them to be angry and hurt other people. And now, they are only behaving in a way that follows the example they were TAUGHT.  They have been looked down on.  Don't believe me?  Think about the fact that foster kids often wait YEARS to find an adoptive family.  How often is that true of infants?  Why?  Ask your friends their impression of children in foster care.  I bet you hear about their "baggage" and they aren't worth the heartache and trouble.  I could be wrong, but I seriously doubt it.  So how do I combat this devastation and low self-esteem with my children, this negativity that has been shoved down their throats for years?


As emotional as I was pondering all this, I still had more tears to shed.  The many issues I faced raising difficult children, the battles I fought with teachers, the battles with government agencies it all boiled down to a lot of anger inside me.  And the next line from the book, nearly took me out.

I have no anger or hatred left toward anyone.  In the end, it only hurts you, not them.

So...my anger is NOT punishing those individuals that have been so difficult?  Reading this line over and over again, I realize that it is so true.  Our anger eats us alive - and the person that we are angry with has moved on and probably couldn't care less.  This anger builds resentment and frustration, it increases our stress level and hinders our ability to bond and attach. And yet, my children live with this day and day out.  They are angry that they were abandoned and abused.  They are angry that they didn't get a "normal" childhood.  They are angry that their case was not managed better or that teachers don't understand why they can't stay organized when their whole LIFE is disorganized.  They are angry that we don't understand why they are so angry!

So here I am again, wondering how to help these children.  And the only magic solution I can find is love.  Plain old, unconditional, whole heart love.  Loving them when they are hitting me.  Loving them when they are screaming at me.  Loving them when they won't do their chores or homework.  Loving them when they are defiant.  Loving them enough to stay calm when they can't.  Let me say that again, loving them enough to stay calm with they CAN'T.   Can't...it isn't a choice.  Loving them enough to talk, not yell, with them when I am frustrated.  Loving them enough to give them a chance to speak instead of deciding that they must simply comply with what I want.  Sometimes, we need to step back and hear them before we can truly know how to help them.  Love will teach them to let go of their anger and without the anger, many of the behaviors will go too.  I don't always get it right, but when I do, I see the confidence in their eyes.  I feel the love in their arms when we hug each other.  Yes, love is the answer.

I think Kenneth Tingle says it best in his book:

It's all about unconditional love for our children, our wives or husbands, our mothers and fathers, our sisters and brothers.  Where there is love there is always hope.  So we hope someday we'll live in a a world where children don't disappear.  That one day we wake up to a world free of wars, where everyone has enough to eat.  We hope that diseases will be cured and loved ones made whole.  We hope one day we're reunited with our mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters; that somehow our broken families are brought back together.  We hope someone will accept us and love us-no matter how messed up we are.  We hope our children do better than we did.  We hope there is a God, because without Him we know the law of the jungle will eventually prevail.  But most of all, we hope there is a heaven, because then it all makes sense.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Family...a beautiful language.

When we met K5, my husband and I fell in love with her immediately.  She was a little shy at our first meeting, but I quickly asked her if she would like to see some pictures I had put together of what our family was like.  She smiled and nodded her head.  I pulled the photo album out while she cautiously moved away from her foster mother to sit next to me.  We slowly flipped through the pages and K5 tried to soak up information of all the kids that were anxiously waiting back at home with my parents.  I discussed the various memories that the pictures brought up, but of course, it was all new to K5.  She was excited at the idea of having older AND younger siblings.  She asked a few questions about my other children and then asked if she could hold onto the photo album.  It gave me a little chuckle since I had made the book specifically for her, not knowing if her social worker would even match us!  To be honest, we had not expected to hear back from the social worker until after we had returned to Colorado!  But after interviewing several families in one day, K5's social worker called us on our cell phone and said that they decided to do a quick vote after the last interview to get an idea of where the staff stood...and we were unanimously voted as the best match for K5.  They discussed this for a few minutes and decided that since we were still in the state until the following morning, that they would try to let us meet K5 that evening.  After meeting with her and flipping through the photo album, we were allowed to take K5 out for dinner and return her to the foster mother's house by 8 pm.

We sure made the most of those couple of hours!    We played at the park and grabbed dinner at K5's favorite restaurant.  The moment I knew for certain that K5 was meant to be with us was during dinner that very night!  We ran through the buffet and squeezed into the booth to begin eating.  K5 and dad sat on one side and I sat on the other side facing them.  Suddenly, my husband and K5's faces lit up and at the same time they said "I want to show you something!"  They then turned their backs to each other and grabbed their straws.  I sat there watching them completely shocked trying to process what I was watching!  They both tore off half the wrapper and then checked to make sure the remaining paper slid easily up and down the straw.  Like an old fashioned gun fight, they turned face to face and blew through their respective straws and wrappers flew everywhere - although dad was a little faster on the draw.  With stunned looks on both their faces...I lost it and started laughing so hard I thought I would never stop.  Then the two of them had to nerve to look at me with their baby blue eyes as though "I" was the crazy one!!!

The next morning, we picked K5 up from her foster mother's house and took her to breakfast before dropping her off at school.  She introduced us to administration and her peers as her mom and dad...and by lunchtime, she was crying because we had to leave for the airport.  We left her with the school counselor and promised to make arrangements to fly back in couple of weeks with some of her siblings for a visit.  We knew it would take a few months to finalize the paper work to move her to a new state.  ICPC is certainly not efficient - but that is a blog for another day.  It broke our hearts to leave her that day, sobbing in the arms of school staff.

As soon as we arrived home in Colorado, we started making plans to return to K5's home state for a visit. Within a few short weeks we were headed back.  After collecting K5 from the foster mother, we headed to the hotel.  We had K5 all to ourselves for the whole weekend!  K1 adored K5 and, at least for a few months, thought she walked on water.  He spent a lot of time laughing and joking with her in the back of the car and teaching her about video games.

She politely smiled and tried to follow everything he was saying...but sometimes just couldn't keep up.  At one point, K1 was imitating memories of spending time with his siblings watching comical videos he had found online.  He had everybody in the car laughing so hard at the memories that we had tears rolling down our faces...except for K5.  She had a confused look on her face and finally shrugged her little shoulders and said, "I am sorry, I don't speak your language yet."  We all chuckled and K1 took the time to explain the memories.  That night K1 pulled out the laptop and showed her some of the youtube videos he had been imitating.  But her words stuck with me over the next several months as she transitioned into our family.

How hard it must be to suddenly land in a home and be told this is your family.  A family with a history of shared memories and interests - and yet none of them shared with you.  Even when somebody gets married, the couple generally takes months getting to know each other, building memories and falling in love.  When an older child is suddenly placed in your home, everybody is expected to "be in love and be a family."  But, it takes time to build that love, those connections and certainly it takes a lot of time to build shared experiences and inside jokes.  That child is bound to feel like an outsider until you make new family memories.

K5 said it best, "I don't know your language yet."  Family language is unique to each family and it takes time to learn the lingo...and with each child added, we add a bit of new language to our dialect.

Family, what a beautiful language it is.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

The joys of children...

I spent a couple of hours this morning hanging with my wonderful children.  K1 went up to the park to help set up an easter egg hunt for our dojo while K5 vegged out in front of the computer and K2 made banana bread - by HIMSELF.  K7 and I wandered up to the park so the little guy could collect some eggs.

I worried about his ability to enjoy this since last year was such a dismal failure.  No really, I am serious.  He was INCAPABLE of participating and just clung to his father and cried and cried for the entire event.  It was unfortunate that we did not realize the extent of his traumatic past at that time.  We later learned that his previous family had ALWAYS found a reason to punish him at "exciting" events like this and he would be punished by not being allowed to participate.  It stands to reason he would have a lot of anxiety around such an event.  Two weeks later we saw a repeat of the behavior...at his 5th birthday party.  Well, his age 5 party...but apparently his FIRST party from what we can tell.  Anyway, with the hubby and K3 on a special "one-on-one" trip to California, I was worried about managing K7's strong emotions by myself.  I waited until the last minute to walk to the park to minimize his excitement level. I was stupid to worry.


As soon as he got the "ok...go!" he was off and running.  My heart swelled with pride as I reminisced on the growth I have seen in this guy in the last year.  A little unconditional love, some undivided attention from loving parents, being doted on by numerous siblings for a year, and some extra help from some amazing school interventionists has truly led to an energetic, athletic and confident little boy.

I don't often share personal pictures and videos, in part to protect my children, but also to respect their privacy.  However, today as my heart swells with love and pride, I can not resist sharing these images with you.  In fact, here is one last one...a video.  I dare you not to laugh out loud.



Perhaps we should rethink our advice to "use your head" when you run into difficult tasks.


Friday, March 23, 2012

The controversial name change...

This topic often comes up in the adoption world...is it ok to legally change your adopted child's given name?  There are many reasons for keeping a given name, and an equal number of reason for changing a given name.  It is interesting to me because I personally don't have an opinion, even though I have 5 adopted children...and 4 of them legally changed their names during the adoption process.

K3 was an infant when she came to us.  Her 1st mother had chosen a beautiful first name and I saw no reason to change it.  I literally fell in love with the name the first time I heard it.  Of course, it was spelled "incorrectly" in my mind because the birth mother spelled it with a "C" instead of the more common "K." Regardless, this was my first adoption and I, in my newly acquired adoption education, was of the strong opinion that names shouldn't be changed because it was part of a child's identity.  K3 was not given a middle name by her 1st mother so we added a beautiful family name and then changed the last name to reflect our last name.  See?  No problem.



When K4 joined our family 3 years later, she was a little more established with her name and wasn't even sure she wanted to change her last name to reflect ours.  We had no opinions on this and since she was 14, told her she could handle her name however she wanted.  She chose to keep her full name, but hyphenate her last name with our last name.  The made for a rather long name.  Over time, as K4 worked through her abandonment she came to understand that she didn't want to be that person anymore.  She didn't want to be a reflection of her birth family but rather wanted a name that reflected her permanence in OUR family.  Eventually she stated to us that parents have the honor of naming their children at birth but that her dad and I had been denied that honor.  She asked us what we would have named her if we had given birth to her.  At first I thought it was just general conversation, but over time I realized that this was of major significance to K4.  Ultimately, K4 chose to walk away from "who she used to be" and legally changing her name was symbolic to her of becoming who she WANTED to be.  She stood in a court room and flat out told the judge that she wanted no more ties to her  previous family and that she was concerned that by retaining her given name, they could easily search for her.  She wanted a way to walk away from that family and create safety for herself.  So, in the end, my child CHOSE to change her name.

K5 refused her birth name before we ever even met her!  Although all the documentation we had been given on her reflected her birth name, a name I loved by the way, the moment we met her she introduced herself by her middle name and requested that we do the same.  Now her foster mother and her adoption worker pretty much ignored her request while she was in state care, but my husband and I felt that it was important to her and so we simply accepted that to be her name.  When finalization day came, she requested her name be legally changed.  So for the 2nd time, I had adopted a child that CHOSE to change her name.

My strong willed K6 had also refused her birth name before we met her.  In fact, she was so desperate to walk away from her birth name that when we met her she had stubbornly refused to let the state care providers refer to her with her given name.  She made it very clear that she would be changing her given name when we finalized the adoption.  She spent many hours choosing a middle name, well 2 middle names actually, to go with her chosen first name and added our last name.  At this point, I had come to realize that the controversy surrounding a name change of an adoptive child was mostly being fueled by adoptive parents...NOT the child that was stuck with the name!

SO....by the time K7 came knocking on our door (literally as you recall from my previous posts) I just assumed that he would be given his choice about changing his name...because as I said before, I really don't have an opinion.  People should be called by whatever name they want to be called.  Anyway, he seemed pretty happy with his name...a very...unusual name actually that I really didn't particularly like.  It was the kind of name that gets a kid beat up on the playground.  But I kept my opinion to myself because he seemed to like it.  Anyway, 5 months later as we filled out the paperwork to finalize his adoption, I just asked him if he wanted to change his name.  He surprised me by saying, "yes."  Now he was 4 at the time, but was adamant that he wanted to be called a certain name.  His previous adoptive family, well the father anyway, had frequently played with K7 and would teasingly call him this name.  Now how could I refuse since it was such a positive memory for my son, and he didn't have many positive memories of being with his "old family."  Besides, he had inadvertently chosen a family name...my husband's!  We talked with him about his middle name, which was his birth name from Korea and he wrinkled his nose.  He said he hated that name and wanted to be "Ken Bobby."  We threw up our hands and let him change his name.  I love his new name, it reflected my dad AND my husband.  It was only a few months later that I realized that Toy Story 3 had influenced my child's thoughts on being renamed.  As "Kenneth Robert" was watching Toy Story 3, he started jumping up and down and saying "that is my name!!!!!"  And I realized for the first time that with his speech delays, I had misunderstood what he said he wanted his name to be.  I stared open mouthed at the TV as "Ken Bobby" pointed to Ken and Barbie and said he was named after them.  =)  Oops.
That being said, I do not regret changing my children's names.  Joining our family was THEIR new beginning.  Rather than shoving other people's opinions down my children's throats, I chose instead to listen to their stories and hear their desires.  Ultimately, they chose to change their name because they wanted a fresh start in life...but most importantly for my older adopted children, they wanted to take control of their life and although I don't have a strong opinion on adoption and name changes, I DO have a strong opinion on empowering our society's traumatized children.