Tag Archives: Adoption Lessons

The Wins

Each week has ups and downs, but this week I’m choosing to focus on the ups, the wins. We had a few that I can celebrate and that I can acknowledge taught me somethings.

The plastic snack container and lidded trash can resulted in no stolen/hoarded food and no wrappers in Yappy’s lair. Thank you to commenters on last week’s post for that recommendation! Of course, Hope crushed, like, $30 worth of snacks in like 3 days. I will refill it today for the week, but oy, I’m hopeful that this will help us move past issues with her and food and the issue with Yappy.

Hope is majorly crushing on a boy I think might be actually worth the crush, and she is working really hard to break her pattern of chasing her crush down like a lion/gazelle interaction on the Serengeti. I’m proud of her restraint, especially since she’s really down on herself and what she thinks not having a boyfriend says about her. You really could *not* pay me to be a teenager again; it totally seems to suck arse.

Hope is starting to be able to better distinguish between friends and associates (aka—people you know and occasionally hang with who aren’t really friends). It’s a hard lesson, really painful, but she seems to be trying to develop an inner circle of real friends. Band is helping with this a lot. I pray that it sticks. The sooner she develops that inner circle and has a robust group of close friends, the sooner I can reconnect with some of my own friends. Some relationships have really began neglected.

And speaking of band, Hope’s fine band director (aka Band Bae) told me to call him by his first name. Yowza.v#HeyBooHey But, no worries, Elihu is still my bottom bae. I love he and believe him to be the yin to my yang! (But Band Bae makes this whole band lifestyle more….entertaining to watch at least.)

After complaining for nearly 4 weeks I finally took Hope to see about her bummed hip. A suspected stress fracture turned out to be just an absurdly overworked group of muscles.

The family physician and physician assistant both lectured Hope on the importance of exercise and the need to work on her flexibility. I humble bragged that I can put my hands flat on the floor without bending my knees because I’m petty and wanted to rub in my workout prowess. Truth is, that I look forward to working out with Hope when the muscles heal up.

My commitment to keeping my fitbit numbers up and trying to stay limber has resulted in my now fitting into a jumpsuit that was unzippable and, um, camel-toed (apologies for the imagery, but this is #realtalk), this spring. Just the motivation I needed to keep working out. I still eat and drink what I want, but the more I work out the better I tend to eat—don’t want to really undo all that work, right?? I’m about that self-care life. I also treated myself to a new Nalgene 32ox bottle and have been chugging water; now I’ve got skin on fleek, as the kiddos say.

After realizing that my afro was beginning to look a bit too much like Cornel West’s and that my barber had relocated, I hit YouTube and an hour later had a nice tidy shape up that made me proud. #Igotskillz

I love teachers, I do, but Hope’s teachers didn’t post info about their supply list before school, but have like $100 worth of stuff that they specifically want for their classes after school has started. This means that the notebook that was .75 last weekend is $3.99 this weekend. And why does the math teacher need a pack of AAA batteries??? And a new fancy ruler??? Really? Ohhh, and don’t forget the $160 graphing calculator!

I think I have found an English tutor for Hope! She missed so much school while moving around in foster care that she missed really foundational grammar and sentence structure stuff. I’ve been concerned that these gaps won’t be masked anymore while in 9th grade honors English. Now, just trying to convince Hope that this is designed to help and is not a commentary on her intelligence. The former foster kid ego is so very fragile. Getting help for her can be such a challenge because she takes it so very personally. Sigh.

Participating in marching band makes Hope tired. I mean like exhausted. For the second week in a row, on a Friday night, she is ready to go to bed earlier than any other night all week. She is kissing me good night at 10pm or so. It’s shocking. It’s also blessedly merciful.

So, it was a good week for the first week back to school. I think that things will smooth over as time goes on. I’m hopeful for more wins.



On Christmas Eve nearly two years ago, Hope called me “mom” for the first time. It was the most precious gift I could have ever received since it was entirely her choice to call me mom instead of my given name.

I love the sound of her calling me mom. It’s become so routine, so natural now that I almost take it for granted.

And then something reminds me that mom, and other names or terms of endearment, are Hope’s little presents to me. I don’t know if she knows they are presents, but they really are.

In moments when Hope and I are really connected and things are good, she calls me mama.

On nights like tonight, when I’ve been out to a group meeting talking about this adoption journey and I call her on my way home to check in and see if she needs anything, she answers the phone excitedly, “Hi mama,” and I smile.

I know she’s excited I’m on my way home. I know she’s fine, but she missed me. I know she loves me. I know she’s been thinking about me.

I know that no matter the funky BS we may have been going through, she loves me.

Mama is music to me.

Mama reminds me that we’ll be ok.

I hope to be worthy of being called mama every day by my daughter. Most of the time I feel unworthy. Like a lot of parents I fret over whether I’m doing any of this parenting well at all or if I’m just really, really effing everything up and failing miserably.

I guess I’m doing ok. I’ve had a string of mamas this week. I’ll take that as some validation.

Tomorrow, I’ll try to earn this epic term of endearment again.

I think I can.

I think I can.

Beauty and the Beast

Houston, we have a problem. I might’ve mentioned recently, the Hope has started sneaking food again, but I probably didn’t mention that she has generally stopped eating lunch. She’s stopped eating lunch at lunch, but still wants me to pack her a lunch. Usually, Hope will wait to pick through her lunch at home in the evenings and snarf the bits she likes and leave the bits that she doesn’t.

It drives me nuts for so many reasons. I get up early to pack lunches that often don’t get eaten. I buy snacks that last only about half the time they are supposed to, and I find food wrappers all over the place because despite my constant exhortations, Hope leaves wrappers strewn about and/or stuffed in her clothing and desk drawers.

This thing of Hope’s—the sneaking, hoarding and lack of cleanliness—seems to be a mixture of food security issues and teenage junk food cravings and nastiness.

Hope is my lovely Beauty in this story.

Yappy is the beast.

Our lovely little terrier mix is a hunter-gatherer. He has an absurdly strong nose and can root out possible food treats like we’ve been starving him and he’s about to have his Last Supper with the Holy Homeboy. Typically we ban Yappy from entering Hope’s room because of his hunting/gathering desires. One of personal highlights is when Hope leaves the door open to her room; he has that rare opportunity to hunt for treasure.

I bet you can see where this story is going…

Recently, I found chunks of a three day old chicken sandwich under my bed. Yappy had sought out the food from Hope’s open lunch box on her floor, dragged it to my room, dispatched with the cling wrap and tried to devour the old sandwich. Of course it made him sick.

Just awesome.

I found these lovely presents under my bed (aka Yappy’s Lair) while fishing him out to put him in his crate for the night.

Me: Hope did you put a sandwich in your trash can?

Hope: No.

Me: Did you put food wrappers in your trash can? (She’s not allowed because of the risk of bugs and because Yappy roots through her trash).

Hope: Nope.


I clean the mess under the bed.

I open the door to Hope’s room. I find the remnants of last week’s lunch and wrappers. Oh and the trash is full of wrappers.


Me: Hope, there are wrappers in the trash and all over the floor.

Hope: Oh, I forgot.

Me: Hope, your lunch from last week is strewn about the floor.

Hope: Bad Dog.

Me: Bad Hope and bad dog. You lied and you left food out.

Hope: (not meaning it) Sorry.

We have worked on the food stuff in therapy. We have had brief periods of dormancy. I have tried calm responses. I have tried outrage. I have given consequences, I have pitched fits, I have taken to just cleaning her room myself on a regular basis because it seems she can’t or won’t. I have even tried banning food in the room, but she always finds a way—I think she gets up at night to sneak food. I’m wondering if I’m going to have to move all the snack food to my closet so they are inaccessible. But that doesn’t solve the messiness or the Beast’s treasure hunts.

I’m not sure what else to do. The next stop seems to be full on food poisoning leading to a vet visit along with an infestation of pests.

I really need a vacation.

Suggestions [not for the vacation; for the Beauty and the Beast problem]?????

A Setback Forward

Setbacks are hard. Actually they can be crushing.

There are always signs that a setback is imminent, but it’s easy to get somewhat complacent about life. You see the signs, rationalize that it’s not really that bad or that serious. You see the signs; you just deny that you see them at all. You see the signs, and you can’t really stop it so you just hop on the rollercoaster and hold on for dear life.

I saw signs, but I didn’t put it all together until it was too late.

Hope is really anxious about starting high school in a few weeks. She’s also struggling with romantic relationships in ways that are pretty dramatic. She’s also really wrestling with family issues. Now any of these on their own might be enough to upset the apple cart.

I was so busy tackling micro-level issues that I missed how the constellation of issues might be viewed holistically as a sure sign of imminent disaster.

On the upside, I didn’t spend a lot of time this go ‘round beating myself up about being myopic about problem solving. No time to waste doing that mind game.

On the downside, our setback was so epic in the moment of discovery that I was scared that it was going to really, really, really take Hope and I to a bad place.

The difference with this setback is that Hope told me about it on her own. And that…that’s a huge step forward. I try to be honest with her; I do. I try to kick it straight as much as possible in ways that meet the needs of the 7 year old, the 14 year old and the young adult Hope strives to be. She tells me a lot of things, as I mentioned in my post last week. I know it’s edited, but it’s still so much more than what I dreamed of sharing with my parents.

In college I really engaged in some self-destructive behaviors. It took me years to tell my parents. By comparison, Hope told me about some things she tried within 24 hours. She would not have done that a year ago or even 6 months ago. It’s really amazing in these moments to see how far we’ve come.

Yeah, in the midst of new chaos, there is still a metric for progress.

She trusts that I’ve got her back, even if I have to fight her to save her. That’s pretty cool.

In an effort to switch things up and try to alleviate pressure at home while building confidence, I have suspended the chore chart for the foreseeable future. I realized as she was telling me things about herself and things she had done recently, that she can’t handle the things I’d expected of her. It took me so long to get to this realization. I am so sorry that I really tried to make that round peg fit that square hole. Hope needs hope and success, not a spreadsheet/paystub. One day I’ll bring it back, but she simply isn’t ready.

I also realize, that she’s simply unable to manage to keep up with her room by herself. She simply can’t do it. She doesn’t know why, I don’t know why, but my moaning and groaning about laziness and messiness only sinks her into the mess more deeply.

So, I overhauled the way I manage this family, by simply giving her a list of things to do every day. The list doesn’t have much on it; there’s a couple of chores, there’s piano or sax practicing, some sentence diagramming and math worksheet activities, dog walking. The goal is to get more than half of the things done each day. Most of the activities require my engagement, adding to our daily quality time.

I have finally, after 18 months, properly calibrated my expectations to her abilities. And guess what, she is working those lists and accomplishing more every day than she ever did before this week.

I took off on Monday morning to set the house to rights, make emergency appointments and clean her room. Hope was grateful. I tossed a bunch of her stuff; nothing with deep emotional attachment, but things she was hoarding. She never once asked what I did with it. I see her working as best she can to be tidy. I can actually see the struggle, when before I just refused to see it or acknowledge that it could even exist.

Last night, we stayed up late, made brownies and ate them while watching TV. It was a treat. The control freak in me was screaming “You’re staying up tooooooo late!!!” (I imagine my control freak persona being akin to the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland.) The fun, reasonable mom in me told the control freak to hush, while telling Hope, “Let’s just watch one more episode.”

Seeing her relaxed and giggling while having peanut butter and chocolate brownies at 11pm was worth a lost hour of sleep.

The setback was scary, messy and just traumatic, but ultimately it was allowed us a huge step forward. I have a bit more hope than I’ve had for a while. I’m proud of us. I’m proud of Hope for being courageous. I’m proud of me for being adaptable and finally, finally perceptive.

I feel like for once, I actually got it right.

The First Year

The last month or so has been really challenging for me. Certainly I was struggling with self-care, but it’s more than that. I realized over the last month that Hope and I were entering a new phase, and I am having trouble adjusting to our realities.

I remember reading, what seems like an eternity ago, how you go through the honeymoon phase, the rough phase, a smoothing out phase and then, potentially rougher phases.

I think we’ve hit a rougher phase. And I think we’re both just roughing it.

I am realizing that so much of Hope’s challenges are largely invisible. Sure, she has some physical scars, but the emotional, psycho-socio scars…they are so hard to tease out sometimes. It’s easy to forget they are there sometimes until denying their existence is simply impossible.

Nearly 18 months of love, therapy, medical help, stability, routine, hard fighting, and it’s finally safe enough for Hope’s deeper issues to show themselves.

That’s a huge win to celebrate on the anniversary of our finalization, even if it doesn’t feel celebration worthy.

It’s kind of like opening the closet and finding one of the lighter Stephen King stories.

And interestingly, I feel more alone than ever in my on ground life, save for my most amazing couple of lifelines. You see a year after finalization and nearly 18 months after placement we couldn’t possibly have problems, right? Nope, no problems here.

I just lie and say we’re doing great, perpetuating the myth that post-adoptive families don’t struggle.

I was doing some reading this week about parental expectations, ahead of the recent episode of Add Water and Stir; the articles I covered explored adoptive parents’ emotional health. General findings were that APs with misaligned parenting expectations were at greater risk for depression, lower resilience, more challenges in bonding, and an extensive list of other depressing ailments, which all in turn trigger more challenging behaviors from adoptees. And the cycle continues.

Just awesome.

Oh and did I mention that most of these studies were done two years post placement and/or finalization? Hope and I are only 1 year out and these last two months have me feeling like I’m clawing my way through life.


Now I know those studies don’t *have* to apply to me and Hope, but I am increasingly aware that my expectations of parenting and of Hope are just…just off.

I thought they’d be more realistic after our first year together.

They are better than they were, but I’m thinking they aren’t as low as they should be.

Yesterday was my and Hope’s “gotcha” anniversary. It’s beautiful, but it’s also bittersweet. We kept things fairly low key with manis, pedis and brow taming, dinner and dessert on Friday and dress shopping today for the 8th grade dance yesterday.

Shopping for the dress was such a nightmare that she asked to stop shopping, and I silently cried on the way home. Oh and we left the mall with no dress and Hope debating whether she should even go to the dance because she is ugly with no friends and no style and it will probably be awful anyway. No one wins.

Lately I’m crying almost as much as I was right after the initial placement. I’m feeling not very attached. I’m not even wanting to hang with her as much. I’m just having trouble dealing to our normal right now.

Yeah, this is our normal, and it kinda sucks. My kid doesn’t have many friends; she runs them away. She doesn’t get invited to anything; she differentiates the group she hangs with from school as just being that rather than true friends. But the kids at the new church? One couple hour block of hang time, and they are friends. I hope they become friends, but it concerns me that she thinks they are already friends.

I had and have so many hopes and dreams for us, together and separately, but I think they may just be too much. I’m trying to let go some of those hopes and dreams because I am not sure Hope will course correct, whether I can get her there (wherever there actually is), that I can be emotionally ok with not meeting milestones when they are supposed to be met, that I’m terrified about what the future holds.

I’m not sure I’ve ever been so pessimistic about the future, even if I do believe we will make progress. It all makes me so very sad. Really it’s grief.

I’m disappointed that commemorating our first finalization anniversary turned into something that brought in the gray clouds. I’m hopeful that the coming weeks will bring more sunshine. I’m hopeful that the coming year brings more progress.

The Struggle is *Still* Real

A year ago, I published a post called The Struggle is Real.

A year later, it still is. I could reblog that post and one of the few changes I’d make is to note that I traded stupid parenting books for stupid parenting podcasts (not Add Water and Stir, of course!).

A year later I would add the following:

Imposter syndrome is real in parenting. I am making it only because I’m faking it. And by “it” I mean parenting. For all of the parenting wins and Jedi mind-tricks that were wildly successful, I am beaten down by the epic failures I feel like I succumb to on the daily. I am beat down and down trodden.

And there is no end in sight.

It is stunningly easy to forget to practice self-care. Every few weeks I manage to remember I should be taking care of myself and within three days I have forgotten again. In those moments of clarity I plan to log on to the sitter site and book the nannies for regular visits, but an hour later I have forgotten, having gotten caught up in more drama than I care to write about.

It’s affected my waistline. It’s affected my relationships. It’s made me feel weary and teary more than I ever feel happy or joyful. And even though I know if I just take the time to create the structures I need to be ok, I simply push them down as I jet to problem-solve the next crisis. I really do worry at times whether I will simply get sucked all the way into the drama that is Hope, and lose myself.

This month’s self-care win was finding a new therapist who takes my insurance. Her initial reaction to the craziness that is my life was validating.

Now to call the sitter agency and schedule some regular respite.

I think I can. I think I can. I think I can…

Scarred kids do dumb, risky things sometimes. Sure I may know how to deal with it in the moment, but I still have enormous trouble understanding the misfires and disconnects that exist in Hope’s mind. I intellectually get it.  I’ve read all the research about PTSD and the PET scans of kids with trauma. But damn, son, this ish is mind-boggling when it’s not a journal article but a real, live human being up in your ish. I know we are building and rebuilding, but holy crap, it just never seems to end. It’s like a bad video game with thousands of villains; you kill one and there are 30 in its place.

Hope starts high school in a few months. I have no fears about her academic performance, but her social interactions are increasingly risky given this need to have more people like/love her. It’s devastating to know that I’m not enough; even though I knew I wouldn’t be. But I can’t get her to just be careful or even to know that her behaviors are often what drive good people away and draw scary people close.

It’s messy and terrifying.

I have no idea what’s next. None.

I’m not even sure when we tripped into this crazy period. I’m sure that I probably could’ve predicted it, but I didn’t. And I can’t even say that it’s really her; maybe it’s really me with all the problems. Maybe she’s really doing better than I think she is. She probably is.

I don’t know. I know that I’m tired. I am sad.

I was not prepared for this level of sustained challenge. I wasn’t prepared to have my heartbroken over and over again. I wasn’t prepared for just how lonely I would be. I wasn’t prepared for how many people around me would ask questions about my daughter, kindly, and how often I would lie and say things are fine or great.

When I first started doing diversity work, I went back to therapy just so I had a safe place to dump all the ugliness that comes with wading through racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia and the like. I didn’t want to dump it on friends or family. I remember a colleague asking me how I did managed to do this kind of work and not flinch, and one of my mentors who was standing nearby saying, “She wears the mask.” It was a reference to a Paul Laurence Dunbar poem that I love because it’s so true, We Wear the Mask.

I think of that moment and that poem whenever someone asks me how Hope is doing, and I say we’re doing great. In many, many, many ways we are. But in many ways we are not. It is still a very real struggle.

We Wear the Mask

Paul Laurence Dunbar

We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.

Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask.

We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
We wear the mask!

And I know I’ll keep wearing the mask.

I have no idea what’s to come. I hope that the struggle has changed a bit a year from now. I hope the struggle isn’t quite as real a year from now.

Lessons Learned: Vacation Edition #2

Day two of Montreal brought us to the absurdly confusing underground/upper ground mall situation.  We spent hours there and just went I thought it was time to shuffle somewhere else we tripped into a whole other section of the area.  All this wandering about gave me time to think of new lessons.


I hate the word, “Oooooooh.”  No, really I hate hearing Hope go “ooooh” when she sees something because she invariably follows it with “I need this…”  Really, you need a $29 Hello Kitty wallet that will be on the floor with the mirror crushed inside of a month?  “Oooooooh” grates on my nerves like I cannot explain; it is a red herring for me.

I like shopping, and I like to take care of my things.  Hope is in a phase of life in which taking care of things from this life; as opposed to her pre-adoptive life–just doesn’t happen.  Stuff ends up on floor, broken all the time.

In recent months I’ve started working on helping her take a minute to think about the difference between need and want.  I also found it necessary to downsize her food orders because she tends to order everything and eat nothing, which triggers an emotional response from her about wastefulness.

I heard “oooooooh” a lot yesterday and I am now really aware that everytime I hear it, I cringe a little bit inside.

Size matters.  Hope is very tall, statuesque, even.  In the face she still looks pretty young, but in this busy world, who really pays attention?  It is shocking to me how adults are rude to each other because we can be.  I am guilty of this sometimes; at times I’m in a hurry or just want what I want and I might get snappy.

Observing Hope yesterday interact with clerks in shops let me know that she is subjected to a bunch of adult pettiness on the regular because it takes folks a minute to really look at her and realize she’s just a kid.  Oy!

Hope is practicing her French while on this trip (amazing how it’s coming along!).  A lot of practicing is just in building the confidence to ask questions; Hope has so little confidence.  In one shop she started to ask a question and she stumbled a little bit.  The clerk sniffed, rolled her eyes and grunted, “I speak English.” Hope grimaced and physically stepped back.

I stepped forward and tersely stated that my daughter was attempting to practice, might she show just a wee bit of patience with her?

I saw the light bulb go on.

The conversation proceeded in French, haltingly, but in the end I congratulated Hope on trying again and nodded my thanks to the formerly shady clerk.

I realized that Hope probably gets some form of these size based assumptions on the regular and that makes me kind of sad.

Vacation sleep is a beautiful thing, when you can get it.  Last night we got take out and I let Hope watch something dumb while I caught up on magazines from last month.  I eventually just fell asleep.  I need want 6 pillows and nice bedding back home.  I slept so wonderfully.


Of course the fact that my fitbit says I walked nearly 18K steps yesterday probably has something to do with my sound sleep. Fitbit says I had 100% sleep efficiency last night; apparently I only rolled over once.

I still have so much to learn about teen communication. Yesterday over croissants, cocoa and a latte, Hope opened up about being lonely at school.  I’ve fretted quite a bit about her social skills the last year.  She does act a bit young for her age, has some issues with anger and just struggles with friendships.

So, I listened to her open up about being lonely on the boyfriend front.

Having these conversations is kind of like having the best cup of coffee and then putting your hand directly on the red eye of the stove with no Ove-Glove.  They don’t end well.

I love it when she opens up to me. Love it.  But it’s tricky and I feel vulnerable.  One wrong move can trigger sighing and protestations of “YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND AT ALL.”

Yesterday I initially started with trying to parse out whether she was lonely because she wanted a boyfriend or was she lonely because she felt left out because “everyone else” (which really could be only one person) has one and she didn’t.  This brought me a few minutes of an explanation that leaned more to the latter then to the former.

I asked what does a 13 year old’s relationship look like?  I had to ask because from my vantage point so far, it appeared to be a lot of texting with emoticons, followed by crying and gnashing of teeth. I was happy to hear that boys still walk their SO’s to class and sometimes carry their books was a visual indicator of being coupled up.

Hope asked me about Elihu, which as a pretty big deal that must’ve shook me a bit since I wasn’t expecting it and while she knows he exists and has seen him, I don’t really talk about him. Then I realized me and E were included in her tally of “EVERYONE has someone EXCEPT ME.”

For reals?

Yeah, Hope is sitting in this cafe looking at me, thinking, “Even my mamma got somebody.”

Well dangit.

I steered things back and shared that my love life at 13 was similar to hers, and in fact most girls would say that it was similar.  Things aren’t always what they seemed.

Whelp, that was the end of that.  “No mom, they are.  You don’t know, you don’t know anything, just never mind.”

With my now 3rd degree burned hand, I went back to my coffee and croissant, and we didn’t speak for nearly an hour.

Sharing is caring.  I stay in touch with Hope’s extended first family.  I send them letters and pictures with some regularity.  I do tend to keep them locked out of social media stuff; not that I pust much stuff about Hope on my personal page, but like any parent I do.  Given how things all went down for us on Facebook, I still am leery about sharing too much there.  I’ve posted a photogrid each day we’ve been here, and it is heartwarming to open it up so they can see our adventures.  One aunt left the sweetest message yesterday.

It felt good to lift the veil.

Hope is still not ready to have her own contact but is so appreciative of my efforts to keep that door open and to keep her family somewhere in our world.  I’m hopeful that one day we’ll get there and that there will be some positive, healthy relationship amongst us all.  But for now, it’s amazing how lifting a privacy setting on FB can mean so much to people.


Today is museums and a promised horse and carriage ride, maybe a nice dinner too.


About That Church Thing

So, the prayer about having an adoption blessing at my church is still unanswered.


Over the years I have had a lot of issues with churches.  I grew up in “the church.”  I went through periods of deep resentment about the expectations placed on me as the daughter of a church officer.  Then as a college student I got disillusioned when I felt the church I was attending was just wayyyyy too conservative for me.  Then there was a time when I just practiced via televangelist.  Then I was more spiritual than the religious foolishness (truthfully I’m still in that camp). Then there was the church that frowned on an event that a few of us 20/30-somethings hosted called Christian Afterparty, which was a clean movie night with young, Christian adults who wanted to just hang out.  I routinely had 30 folks in my living and dining rooms on the weekends just hanging, but the young adult pastor just got pissy so we stopped.  Then there was another period of disillusionment.

After the first semester of my doctoral studies I realized I needed to probably link up somewhere spiritually. So, here I am, back in fellowship, recognizing that “church” is never going to be perfect and that the Holy Homeboy has his own timeline. Yeah, I get all that, but I’m still feeling icky about how the request to bless my family has been handled.  Is it really that out of step from what other families get?  Is it really that I feel marginalized?  Is it that I know if I had adopted an infant a dedication would’ve happened by now?  Is it that I have an unwarranted sense of entitlement as a member to be recognized?

Yeah, maybe it’s all of that.

Recently, I sent off an email asking, “So, um, about that dedication thing…” I got an email right back, saying that I needed to reach out to someone else.  Oh, ok.  So, I get around to sending that person a long email recap with a side of angst.

I really wish I hadn’t asked.  I do.  I hate this.  It’s painful.  It makes me feel all un-Christian-y.  I don’t want to be a trailblazer anymore.  I also don’t want to be unhappy at my church. I want to enjoy being there.  I want to worship happily, without feeling like I’ve been rejected in some way.

This is a really layered issue for me from a diversity perspective and from a member perspective.  My dad, who is an officer/elder type in his church, and I were chatting recently about what membership means in a church; what does that entitle you to?  Does it entitle you to anything at all? We both like governance issues, so we concluded that if a church’s constitution is silent on denying privileges, those privileges convey to members.  So I see all kinds of different kinds of families in my house of worship; this whole dedication thing makes me wonder are we all equal under my church’s constitution?  I mean, I’ve seen single, unwed parents cast out of churches with big ole Hester Prynne-style scarlett letters, and don’t get me started on church and same sex marriage.

Oh I get it, folks want to put some boundaries around things, but I have long wondered, in my periods of disillusion, what do the application of boundaries mean for different and, apparently in my case new, kinds of folks/situations?  I’ve often wondered how many people like me, a believer just working her life walk with the Holy Homeboy on their terms, are turned off by the emotional, electric fencing around “churches” and “religion.”  I don’t know.  But it makes me wonder because I’m really struggling sitting up somewhere every week hearing about God’s love for everyone and feeling like I should probably just sit in my car in the parking lot, you know, where I can hear the Holy Homeboy without a side dish of alienation and lip service inclusion.

Yeah, I’m hurt…really, really hurt.

Boo Hiss.

The Background on The Church Thing

An Amazing Dedication

Being Gracious

An Adoption Blessing

Radio Silence

About Face

Surfboards and Whatnot

Lots of snow days and cold weather have lead to lots of reflection and lesson learning this week.  Oh and a ton of laughs.

Parents have lots of ‘splaining to do.  In the year that Hope has been here I’ve had to break down song lyrics for her because it was clear that my blissfully naive daughter had no clue what the devil she was saying, often in public, often at a fairly loud volume.  I made a strategic mistake last year not breaking down what a “surfboard” is in the context of Beyonce’s Drunk in Love song. Quiet as kept, it amused me.  Tonight she was on speaker phone with a friend and started singing “surfboard” and my fun was over.  I had to explain.  She was peeved that I didn’t say something before.  It was kinda hilarious. Um, it was really hilarious. #surfboard

I also had to explain what the Kama Sutra is this week thanks to some song lyrics.  It was hilarious.

Because I’m brutally honest, we can talk about errrthang.  I really am proud of the fact that Hope asks me all kinds of serious, important questions.  It’s true what they say about kids talking during car rides.  We have covered some serious ground in the car.  And honestly I wasn’t ready for 97% of the questions she has asked during the last year.  We’ve talked sex (in such detail that I took to my bed with a nerve pill in hand afterward), relationships, who we like, who we don’t, how we feel about social issues, religion, politics, race, sexuality and on and on.

I promised Hope when we met that I would always kick it to her straight, and I do.  I’m clear about word choice, concepts, metaphors, context, as much as I can make perfectly plain, I do. For opinionated conversations, I share mine but give her space to come to her own conclusions.  I try to bridge seriousness with humor, and despite not being blessed with any kind of poker face I try really, really hard to not show a lot of emotion other than, “Heeeeyyyyyyy now, I’m glad you asked that, so um…Yeah!  Let’s do this!”  Now on the inside I might have reactions ranging from “WTF, I ain’t ready” to “LOLOLOLOL” to “Well, now that’s a really pithy question, there.”

I know that’s when we bond the most.  That’s the ultimate reward.  The bonus?  She tells her pals I’m a cool mom because she can ask me anything and I won’t freak out and I will give her an answer even if I have to find one. #whosaboss #coolmom

Teenagers tell time differently than adults do. Seriously, it’s like a time warp that is utterly non-sensical to me.  Over the last few weeks Hope has been a party to all kinds of foolishness.  Consequently, I have gone on high monitoring alert.  NSA ain’t got nothing on me.  We had to have a conversation about privacy rights in Casa d’ABM last night.

In Hope’s mind, certain infactions occurring more than 72 hours ago, or there about, are indeed prehistoric. They happened in a completely different era. Consequently she is regularly perplexed as to why I conclude that she has not addressed and/or repaired any trust concerns in that time frame–the same time frame in which she was asleep for approximately 30 hours of the 72.

We’ve discussed it with our therapist. We look at each other with furrowed brows like we not only don’t use same clock, but also speak different languages.

Apparently we do use different clocks and speak different languages.

It’s gotten so crazy that I’ve told her that if she could just go one week without some crazy, then we could talk about my NSA-like behavior.

Her response?

So is that a week without weekends?  A week with weekends?  Does that includes snow days? If school starts late how does that work in the week count? Are you counting the hours I sleep? What about if I have an all day program on the weekends, where you know I won’t cut up?  Do those hours count or do I have to keep it together other hours too?

#WTEntireH #whatkindaclockisthat

Body issues are the devil. I’ve struggled with body issues and self acceptance for most of my life.  I have never been skinny; heck I’ve never been slim. At best I’ve been fit because of decent eating and exercise.  Years ago I fell into eating disorders trying to deal with my poor vision of self.  I can reflect and say now, that the beauty of the last few years just preceding motherhood and settling into it and being over 40 have freed me from that burden.

I try to eat well and I exercise regularly, but listen: I am not about that self-denial life. If I want it, I eat it and I enjoy it.  I might need to hit the gym at 8pm to mitigate the splurge but dammit I’m splurging.

And I’m enjoying everything. I recently declared to my doctor that I will NOT diet; I will not self-restrict to excess.  I will up exercise in terms of time and intensity, but dammit I now know what this body is capable of and I have a better understanding of the psyche and soul that it houses.  I respect that package.

I’m blessed to have arrived here as I begin to raise a teenage girl into a self-loving/self-assured woman. She has so many self-love issues to work through.

I want to model healthy habits for her.  I also want her to enjoy dining, to enjoy trying different things.  I would love for her to become more active. But most of all I want her to love herself and to appreciate how amazing she is and that the invisible “chubby belly” that she complains about is a figment of her imagination.

I have a chubby belly that I love, so I know what I’m talking about.

Perfection is the enemy of the good.  So sayeth Voltaire and cosigned by numerous other philosophers.

Hope and I struggle mightily with the need to be perfect.  We both have exacting standards about things we do, things we like, things we wear.  We’re quite well suited in that respect. Or not, I guess.

I’m over 40, and I’ve learned to manage this personal flaw a bit over the years.  I’ve experienced so many disappointments that I’ve been conditioned to know that perfection is elusive and that expectations should be realistic. I remember when I started my dissertation, someone told me that 1) the dissertation was just a project, 2) it didn’t have to be my life’s work, 3) it didn’t need to be a bigger BHAG–Big Hairy Audacious Goal–than it already was, 4) the project needed to be manageable and finally 5) it did not need to be perfect–it just needed to be approved as solid work by my committee.

It did not need to be perfect.  So, then I became a member of #TeamGet’erDone.

Our latest perfection drama has been getting Hope to take care of her own night-time hair care rituals.  For the last three weeks I have painstakingly (I’m not joking or exaggerating–my arthritis is killing me) blown out Hope’s hair and flat ironed it.  She has been rocking that old school mushroom like the good Deaconess/First Lady, holy and sanctified from that church over in yonder township.

For the first week I put the rollers in at night and I took the rollers out in the morning. Last week I put the rollers in; Hope took them out in the mornings after I convinced her that removing rollers would not result in failure.  That took several days of coaxing, but we mastered it by the weekend.  This week I was hellbent on getting her to learn to put the rollers in at night herself. Yeah, yeah, those moments could be bonding time, but it really is something at nearly 14 that I need her to add to her skill set tool box.

There were tantrums.  Ugh.  There was door slamming, audible moaning, throwing of rollers.  It was bad.  These tantrums served their true purpose–to get me to put the rollers in instead.  The first night, I asked her to do one roller, then two, then ultimately three.  She fought and threw hissies all dang night and you know how many rollers were set?

Just one.

Before the start of this week’s Add Water and Stir Podcast, I announced that she would be responsible for rolling her hair while Mimi and I were broadcasting. So, during the podcast I hear rollers snapping, grunting, heavy sighs and just random noises related to  the roller struggle. #thestrugglewasreal At one point a picture crashed onto the bathroom floor.

After we wrapped the show, I tentatively opened my door.  She almost knocked me down with excitement!

“I did it! I did it” #thatswhatsup

She explained that it wasn’t perfect; she told me about her technique and modifications. She was so excited and so proud of herself.

Yes! And frankly, her hair looked fabulous the next day. #flawless

I might have to lock her in the bathroom more often to get some stuff done!

So, that’s what we’re rocking this week.  I haven’t been writing about these lessons as much lately, but I’m still learning and loving around these parts. We’re in for more snow today, so I’m planning a Black History Edutainment movie marathon.  We’re beginning with Spike Lee’s Malcolm X, in honor of Brother Malcolm’s assassination 50 years ago today.

Peace be upon you.

Looking Forward, Looking Back

Last week Hope and I celebrated her placement with me one year ago.  I read other blogs in which I was cautioned to not expect her to want to celebrate what was a rough transition for us.  I started to let it ride, but then thought better of it.  I mentioned it.  She smiled.  Hope was surprised a year had passed already.

So, we did dinner at the fancy burger place nearby and settled in watching tv.  Nice low key and easy.  Maybe we’ll do something special to observe our finalization date, maybe, maybe not.

Adoption is tough.  Adoption of older kids who have lived a lifetime before meeting you is rough, tough and awesome.  It’s all awesome, really, somewhere in there, but make no mistake, it’s rough and it’s tough too.

Since the new year, I’ve been working on getting some of my parenting swagger back.  I’ve learned a lot this last year, but I have so much more to learn.  Parenting Hope is…sigh…well, I suppose it depends on the day.

We have come so far, but the tentacles of that previous life are always threatening to pull her back in and drag me with it.

I see the impact of neglect in how she engages me sometimes.  I see her easing in to this life with me evidenced by her low desire to care for herself in some ways; she wants me to take care of her, almost baby-like at times.  I see her joy in having a mom to talk girly stuff with.  I see the social struggles that come with a lower emotional age and her Saraha-like thirst for attention, accepting negative attention in lieu of positive reinforcement of more mature behaviors. I listen to her abuse disclosures, stuff that never made it into the files or were so epically understated that they could be characterized as nearly lies. I see developmental delays revealing themselves as her hard shell softens, and I try to figure out how to balance them with my own academic expectations. I work with her through lingering legal issues from her life before me; decisions that make me question all kinds of things I’ve said believed about the criminal justice system for all of my adult life.  I sometimes feel the effects of all the trauma just rolling off of her likes waves in an ocean.

Yeah, my therapist says it’s secondary trauma.  Nice…not really.  It sucks.

Sometimes all of the messy is so clear and evident; other times I’m just hanging on for dear life moving from one crisis to another.

I don’t cry so much now, but I do cry.  I fell out of praying for a few weeks not long ago; I just was tired, I was (am) still pissed about how my church treated us..  Didn’t really lose my way, but just really couldn’t say anything to the Holy Homeboy without being furious that the space I felt safe in was no longer safe.

As we mark a year together, it’s a strange time, trying to figure out what the future looks like.  Older child adoption is special; there’s something really, really different about showing up with a teenager who is taller than you when just last week you didn’t have one.  To some degree we are open about our story; sometimes less so.  Hope and I appreciate the ability and choice to just blend in and be mistaken for biological family.  We like to give each other knowing looks when it happens.

We’re considered a success story.  I’m not sure I know what that means or how I feel about it.  We constantly get requests to use our image on adoption awareness and promotional items.  On the one hand, it’s flattering, on the other hand, it makes me wonder if we will be able to maintain our ability to hide in plain sight.  We’re comfortable with disclosure now, but what about 6 months or more from now?

Aside from that, I don’t feel like a poster family.  We have struggled this year.  We’re still standing and we love one another, but success?  I guess.  We finalized…so there’s that.  We haven’t killed each other…so there’s that.  My vocal cords from the epic NY’s day meltdown seem to not have sustained permanent damage…so there’s that.

The parenting counselor from my agency told me recently that now that we’ve been together a year, ish is about to get really, real.  Dear Holy Homeboy help me.

I worry about my own attachment with my daughter.  I wonder (full of guilt just thinking it) if I made the right choices.  I ponder what my life would be like, now, 2 years in to this adoption journey if I had made different choices.  I wonder what new trauma will surface next week, and whether my mouth guard will survive the pressure when I am grinding my teeth trying to maintain my composure.

It’s crazy that it’s been a year already. I look forward to many more years, but that anticipation is mixed with some fear and anxiety probably from both of us.  This ain’t easy, but she is worth it.  We’re worth it.

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