Tag Archives: Post-Placement Life

Pushing For More than Performance

A week has passed and I’ve met with Hope’s counselor, her teachers and consulted with Absurdly Hot Therapist.

It’s true, Hope has issues. Everyone is willing to help Hope develop better strategies to manage her shortcomings in executive function and pull her across the finish line of this school year.

Hope’s reaction?

After we got through the excuses about why she can’t do stuff, and she was confronted with my newfound knowledge about her bad behavior at school (which really should have resulted in detention by now) and the realization that she might not make it to 10th grade…well, she at least expressed some interest in turning things around.

When I realized that her ADHD and issues with executive function seemed to be a problem last fall, I took a lot of time sifting through my own “stuff.”

What are my expectations? Are they too high? Do I expect her to be like me? What if she had to repeat the grade? What if she didn’t go to college? What did Hope want out of life? Did she know yet? Did she know what she might need to do to get there?

Were our hopes and dreams even in the same universe?

Well, the answer to the last question is kind of. The reality is that Hope is finally emerging from the childhood fantasy that she will be the next Beyoncé and settling into pursuing some kind of career in music. I’m totally cool with that. She still has no appreciation/understanding for what kind of persistence it takes to achieve.

And the absence of this appreciation/understanding is where I see my gaps in appreciation/understanding as well.

I had numerous luxuries growing up—not monetary, but I had both of my parents, a safe home and home life, a supportive community, access to good schools with teachers who recognized my talents. I had no shortage of encouragement to achieve anything. I also had the luxury of self-determination. I’ve always had a sense of what I wanted to be and what it took to get there. Sure it evolved over time, but, directionally I had the internal drive and the external support.

It’s strange to think of those things as luxuries, but each one is a unique luxury for a child.

For most of Hope’s life, she didn’t have any of this stuff, and two years is simply not enough time to believe that what exists now is true permanence.

I get that.

I have a lot of hopes and dreams for Hope, and like her own hopes and dreams, they are a work in progress, an evolution.

But there are a few things that are crystal clear in my desires for Hope.

I want her to grow up to be self-sufficient and independent. I also want her to have the additional social-economic and political protections that come with being educated. I want her to have some kind of privilege that might buffer her from succumbing to racial profiling, stereotyping and police brutality.

There.

I wrote it. #realtalk

I’ve been struggling with articulating this for months, and very much so since my last post.

As a mother to this beautiful cocoa hued kid, I am terrified for her. I see whatever privilege outside of race that I have managed to amass as a set of wings of protection for her right now—even if they can’t stop all of the foolishness, they can protect her from a lot of it.

I want—no need—her to do reasonably well in school in order to create the base for her to step into this privilege as an adult. I worry about the cascading effect of academic underperformance in how she’s treated, how she’s perceived, how she feels about herself and how that in turn affects the decisions she makes. She had 8 years of a messy home life and she’s got multi-generational baggage of involvement with law enforcement and the criminal justice system. I know that when she’s a mess emotionally she creates chaos around her; as an adult, not only are the stakes even higher, but given all that’s happened over the last couple of years, I sincerely worry about her very life.

I lay awake thinking about it.

Just so you know, this is what living in a structurally, marginalizing system looks and feels like, and what persistent exposure to racism and perceived racism looks and feels like. It doesn’t matter if you think I am overreacting or if you think that failing algebra can’t possibly turn into all of this—it is my reality as Hope’s mom.

I am sincerely afraid for her, and the potential absence of privilege associated with education and class makes me feel like she will be even more vulnerable than she already is.

I am afraid.

But there is a selfish component as well.

I struggle with my and Hope’s struggle. Honestly I don’t know where the strength comes from some days. There are still times when I go into my bedroom, close the door, then go into the bathroom and close that door, and sit on the side of the tub and have a snotty nosed cry about how hard this path is.

It is lonely. It is painful. It doesn’t always feel like there’s a silver lining and sometimes when you think it can’t possibly get worse, it does.

There are times when I wonder if Hope will make it. Can I really help her heal enough to be self-sufficient, to be independent? Or will I spend my latter middle and gold years, supporting her financially and physically. Will I ever have to bail her out? Would rehab ever be in our future?

In another 10-15 years, I’d like to be in a position to wind down the formal part of my career and start shifting to do other things I’m passionate about. If I can’t help her be a blended version of successful (philosophically hers and mine) will I be forced to sacrifice those personal dreams?

This is real, existential ish, I’m talking about.  When I talked about this post with my therapist this week I just melted down into sobs.

Man…sigh.

So, really this isn’t just about making sure that Hope gets the help she needs, this is about the long term set up. I do need to be careful about making sure that she feel supported and that she knows that I believe in her and that my nagging doesn’t undermine her already fragile sense of self. But I can’t help but feel like so much is riding on everything.

I am trying to take a step back and breathe. To make like Elsa and let it go. I want to feel safe and that I can find other constructive ways of protecting my daughter from a world that undervalues her life. At the moment, I’m hung up on this.

I do think that since last week, we’ve found some tools that can provide some additional supports and I’ve strengthened relationships with teachers and counselors at Hope’s school. I work on my delivery so that it’s less judgmental. I’ll pray even harder for her safety and well-being. I’ll pray for Hope’s security and for her motivation as well.

I believe in a bright future for her…and for me. I just need to help us get there.

It is about a lot more than performance.

I need to go lie down. Chronicling my fear has exhausted me today.


New Car, New Chapter

Yesterday I bought an SUV.

Other than the exterior color, it’s really amazing. It’s fully loaded and pretty lux. But the truth is that while I am happy about the new car, and new car smell and all of that, I kinda hate my new car.

Or rather, I hate what it represents, which is another piece of pre-Hope identity kicked to the wayside.

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In recent months I’ve really embraced motherhood and really tried to meet Hope where she is. We both have benefited from this effort.

But there’s something about this car purchase that sits on me like a giant thud.

Yesterday morning I was the owner (free and clear by the way) of an adorable little red Mini Cooper that I called, the Chili Pepper. “Chili” was my dream car. I’d wanted a Mini for years, but really never thought I’d get one. I’d had a sports car right out of college and then I had a cute sporty wagon. So when I started my doctoral program, I took the plunge and headed to the Mini dealership, where I fell in love with Chili.

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I loved that car. Me and Chili had seen a good chunk of the east coast. Like all of my previous cars she was a stick shift. and I loved the handling and the power this little car channeled. She was distinctive with her little personalized plates. People would walk by Chili and  smile. People would ride in Chili and marvel at just how awesome she was. When Hope moved here, my ownership of Chili was definitely an indicator of my potential “coolness.” She was different.  Did I mention that I loved her?

I owned Chili for 5 years, almost to the day. Her warranties were just about up and repairs and upkeep can be pricey on Minis.  She’d just endured a repair that would’ve been about $6K but for the fact that it was covered under the warranty.

Then there was Hope’s instrument; she plays a tenor sax. The dang thing took up the whole boot trunk. If I ever offered another band kid a ride they couldn’t be from the low brass or percussion sections, that’s for sure. And Hope plans to take guitar lessons this year so there’s really a need for more room.

Finally, there’s the trip to Boston and Martha’s Vineyard of 2015. I had to get a roof bag to accommodate all of the luggage. We stayed at the sexy Boston W hotel for a few days, and when we drove up, we looked like the Beverly Hillbillies traveling in a clown car. It worked, but it was clear that it wasn’t optimal and that something was going to have to change. I was simply too cute to look like a traveling vagabond on vacation. The faces of the uber hot valets when they saw up pull up invoked all kinds of shame.

Sigh.

So yesterday, I cleaned Chili out and sold her out for an SUV—a Nissan Rogue. It’s gray, which I hate, but it is what it is since the deal was just something I couldn’t walk away from.

So, what’s the rub?

Losing Chili for a much needed family car is another way my life has changed since becoming a mom. It was the end of another chapter. It was another thing I gave up for the good of my family.

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I don’t regret it, but I’m so sad, so so sad. I’m all in my feels. Cause I’m a wee bit selfish and petty.

I knew trading Chili in would be hard for me, but I teared up as I stood in CarMax, looking at her one last time, reminiscing about our good times and how I was sad to close this chapter on my pre-Hope single, footloose and fancy free life.

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Since then, I’ll admit that I’ve had two all out snot-riddled sobbing sessions since coming home with the new car.

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Grief is a beeotch and it hits you in the worst ways at the worst times.

I know it’s not about the car; it really is about what the car represents.

Now, instead of this distinctive cute car, I’ve got a great car that is just like everyone else’s great and reasonable car. . Heck I’ve already tried to break into two other cars like it while shopping ,and it’s not been quite 24 hours since I signed the papers.

I always knew where Chili was in a parking lot. <snif>

And did I mention that Hope is unimpressed?  The source of disinterest in part stems from the fact that I deviated from my intended purchase plan.  In essence, she’s salty because I didn’t buy the car I originally intended to test drive and purchase and plan changes generally don’t make her feel safe. So, there’s all that drama left to unpack too.

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The new car is new and different in a cool way, but it’s another change, it’s another accommodation required of this life, that frankly I didn’t give a lot of thought about until about 6 months ago. Another naive parenting pothole for me, I guess.

I will fall in love with the new car. It will get a name and develop a personality, and I will learn to find her in the parking lot.  In time the new car will allow me to cart Hope and some friends around, take her to summer band camp and maybe even take her away to college. This will be a great chapter. I know it will.

And in time, I will be able to remember Chili and our time together and not be sad. I’ll remember it for what it is—a chapter in this life—and I will think about when I’ll be able to get another Mini. It will happen, and we’ll all be happy.

Until then, I’m a bit sappy about this required change.


Away, Away We Go

OMG, my first week away from Hope! Lots of mixed emotions about being away. I’m really excited about jumping into work and having evenings free. I’m getting a fancy award and Elihu is coming to join me for a couple of kid free days. I’m taking a couple of days to just lounge and rest when I get back. I’m excited. #treatyoself

And I already miss Hope like mad. She’s texted me a dozen times about all manner of things. She’s anxious and excited, but mostly anxious. I know the challenges that exist when she’s anxious, and that makes me anxious.

But somehow it will be ok. It will. In the grand scheme of things it will be good for both of us for lots of reasons. I need this time to try to really get my work mojo back. She needs this time to be with extended family, have some fun and learn to stretch a little bit.

We’ll have some hiccups, but we will survive.

I’ve been thinking about how far we’ve come since I hit the airport yesterday. She’s such a different kid than she was 6 months ago. Despite her anxiety, she’s more confident about her place in this world now. She has a mom and a family. Permanence has created so many opportunities for growth during the last two months.

Each day I see Hope grow a little more; even on the days that are challenging. She asks questions; we have conversations. I see her happy, I see her sad. I see Hope, and somewhere along the way, her realization that I actually see her made a difference. She’s not a number or a statistic or just some sad story anymore. She’s my kid.

Meltdowns don’t look anything like they used to; I mean nothing like they used to. In fact I’m more likely to have a mini meltdown than Hope is. She is increasingly poised. When Hope melts down, she seizes any opportunity to right herself and show what she’s really capable of to everyone around her. This week her camp teacher pulled me aside and just gushed about her and how well-mannered she is, how delightful she is and just complimented me on what an amazing kid she is. I fought to hold back tears because my heart nearly burst; hell, I’m crying right now thinking about it.

And she’s my number one fan. Last week, we ran into Monty Durham from Say Yes to the Dress at the local Starbucks. She didn’t know who he was but she was amused by my little star stricken moment. When we got home I googled him so she could see who he was. She got the idea to google me, and well, my job is at a national organization and so I popped up on google. By Hope’s definition this means her mom is famous. She has told her friends, her camp classmates, camp directors, people at church the therapist, the checkout lady and the bagger at the grocery store and anyone else who will listen that her mom is the bomb.com. It’s nice to know my cool factor has gone up, but beyond that, Hope sees me too. She sees me like I see her.

I realize how much trust capital I’ve earned over the last 6 months, but especially in the last month. I’ve tried to be consistent. I’ve tried to be judicious in creating opportunities for new stuff—recognizing that to some degree it’s all been new. I’ve wiped her tears, watched squeaky band concerts and bad magic tricks; I’ve sat through creaky voice lessons. I’ve done a balloon release in honor of her dad because she needed to have her own ceremony celebrating his life and their relationship, even if it was really, really complicated. I’ve dragged her to church, figured out ways of answering tough theological questions and discussed her desire to be baptized because I’m no longer dragging her to church; she looks forward to going.

When she recently referred to me as “mom,” distinctive from her “birth mom” it all came into focus that we are really doing this family thing. We are really a “we.” It’s a stunning thing in many ways. On Tuesday it will be one year since I first got an email about Hope from my agency as a possible match. It’s hard to believe that she’s mine and I’m hers a year later.

I just talked to Hope and virtually tucked her in. Earlier today I got a few anxious texts, by this evening she was giving me confident updates on The Furry One, who’s dealing with some serious health issues (sad face). The realization that I might have anything to do with this transformation in her is humbling, beyond humbling. She is hands down the most amazing person in my universe. I’m so proud of her. I’m so excited to see what we do next.

I think this trip away marks the beginning of a new chapter for me and Hope. That’s a pretty exciting.

Gosh, this funny smelling Denver air has got me all extra introspective. No really, the contact that I accidentally got walking down the block…so serious!


See, What Had Happened Was…

Um, so, I, um, kinda got into a *thing* at the Bruno Mars concert. Yeah, I did. Some inebriated woman started pushing and shoving folks when she was confronted about being in the wrong seat in our row. It happened so fast and the next thing I know, this 50-something, stumbling drunk woman pushed Hope hard as she was swinging on someone else. Hope, on one of the happiest days of her young life, started to cry because it was going down in the seats next to her while Bruno was getting his Michael Jackson-Prince-James Brown-Elvis on a few rows away.

Awww hells no!

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I quickly donned my angry wolf mama face, deftly switched seats with Hope and assessed the situation. I had to hold the lady back from swinging on the dude who was explaining she was in the wrong seat. I leaned over and spoke in her ear, “Hey, settle down, you are a little out of control, get your ish together, take a break.” I let her go, and she spun around and swung on me, and pushed to try to get past me, stopping in front of Hope.

Say what now? Awww double hells naw.

Hope was now in hysterics (God only knows what kind of trauma memories this all triggered); 3 rows of people were trying to get this lady to settle down or exit.

And I pushed her away from my kid. Yeah, I did. And I’d do it again.

Not proud of putting hands on her but she was out of control, and all I could think was that if she swung on me and a full grown man, what would this drunk lady do to my kid?

She, um, flew, kinda, out of the row (I had about 100lbs on her). After a couple more Bruno songs and several complaints filed by people all around us, crazy lady was tossed out of the venue.

Hope was scared and for a while inconsolable. Seatmates all around were so kind, and for a while, when it looked like security was going to let the lady stay, I thought there might be a full on melee (at a dang Bruno Mars concert??? All the crazy concerts I’ve attended and a melee was going to break out at a Bruno Mars concert?)

And then Bruno started singing Hope’s favorite song—Grenade—and she grabbed my hand and we started to sing.

I’d gladly take a grenade for this kid.

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It’s been a crazy week, and I haven’t done a lessons learned bit for a while. So, let’s dig in!

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I now know what heaven looks like. Bruno Mars is Hope’s all time, favorite celebrity. Oh she loves him. She was anxious about the concert, freaking out about what to wear, asking questions galore. I spent an absurd amount of cash on those tickets, but the moment that the curtain went up, the pure ecstasy on her face…really, there aren’t words to describe it all. I can tell you nothing else mattered in that moment. It was better than her arrival, it was actually on some short term level better than finalization. It was better than Disney. It was a snapshot in time that I will take with me to my grave. All I could think was being able to give Hope this very moment, this very experience has just crystalized my concepts of the joy of motherhood. There were moments of just watching her that just seemed like bliss. Heaven must be like that. Sign me up.

In my quest for normalcy, I forget that Hope has developmental problems. My wanton forgetfulness about her social anxieties, random phobias and developmental delays, is no good for us. I can see so much growth in her over the last six months, but I also am aware that it’s hard to see the invisible things that still make her different. Many of her little issues are little and over time may, with love and support, may self-correct. But right now it’s hard to deal with meeting new kids and sometimes acting age appropriately. The OCD behaviors pop and things go off the rails quickly. And you know what? It can be embarrassing for both of us. Even more so now; I feel like others feel like we should be “normal;” I mean we’re finalized, we’re legal, there’s permanency, right? It’s hard sometimes being reminded that we aren’t normal, especially in the presence of others.

Someone once called me territorial when it came to Hope. It wasn’t meant to be a hurtful comment, but I’ve struggled with this characterization for a while now. I tried not to be offended. I understand how it must all look from the outside; maybe it’s true. It’s hard creating a therapeutic home where Hope can be safe trying to heal from years of abuse of various kinds and years in the foster care system. It’s hard creating a space where she can wrestle with the invisible problems privately, where I can wrestle with it all privately too. It’s hard realizing that the addition of a new family member isn’t what folks thought it would be. So yeah, I’m territorial and protective even against some of folks closest to me. It’s hard getting side eyes from people who don’t understand why we stay in or why things go nutty when we go out with other people. Six months in and I jarring reminders about how far we still have to go, while celebrating how far we’ve come, which in reality is so very far. Sometimes it feels like we just can’t win. So I escape to the land of denial.

I’m not sure what’s less fair, ascribing feelings of pressure to be normal to others or wishing so hard that we were actually normal, or putting Hope in positions where her behaviors seem characterized as failure when she’s really doing the best she can. It all kinda sucks.

Single parenting is hard. This isn’t new, but when I’m trying to figure out who a backup will be for pickups or trying to plan for fall business trips, it’s a reminder about how I have to try to line things up far, far in advance because I’m alone. I’m working on getting my team of sitters in place so that I can resume some business travel this fall. I don’t know what role family can/will play in helping out over the long haul. I worry a lot. I worry about money a lot, even though I seem to be financially ok. Sure things are tighter than they used to be, but we’re fine.

I appreciate not having to consult folks on many decisions, but I wish I had someone to consult with on others. I selfishly like not sharing Hope, but see such an awesome kid who would also benefit long term from a positive male role model that I wish I had one for her.

The early need to be “territorial” made it difficult to create close sustainable, safe relationships for me and Hope; the expectations about how things were supposed to be were just too much to live up to. We were both burned and got burned, and we’re still recovering and trying to build trust. Consequently, I don’t reach out to folks I thought I would reach out to. I hope that will change. It’s easy to forget that it’s only been six months, so much has happened.

I’m still depressed. Oh, it’s not as dramatic as it was shortly after placement and during our major crisis in Feb/March, but it’s still there. I manage it. I have gotten better as self-care, mostly in getting time away to just be. I still have lots of room for improvements in taking care of me, though. But often, if I’m honest, the blues are just below the surface. The blues oddly coexist with joy in seeing her earn an award at camp, enjoy a concert and get on with a new friend when social anxiety makes things so hard. I’m delighted by those things, and even though my controlled cries are much less than they used to be, they still happen every few days. I wonder when they will vanish.

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I am doing well. I’m managing and learning how to ask for help. Of course I have no idea how this coming week is going to go down—why did I agree to a camp that starts at 9:30 and ends at 3:30? Don’t they know people work???


The Other Side of Happy

So, yes, I’m happy. I am. I’m screaming happiness. Just screaming it! So happy. So stinking happy.

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And I plaster that poop-eating, heel-clicking grin on anytime someone asks, because really, let’s not kid ourselves, no one really wants to hear about the other side of happy when so many great things are happening in your life.  #tripsondenialriverforeveryone

So, I’m so overwhelmed that there’s a part of me that is just miserable and empty in spite of all of the happy, and I really am happy.  I wasn’t lying about that.

I marvel at how all these feelings can just coexist.  The duality of emotions on this journey will forever stun me.  #getsmeeverytime

So much has happened in my life in the last four years, the last two years, the last 18 months, the last 4 months, the last month. In fact the last month represents the time when so many things have come to fruition. So many hopes and dreams and things I’ve worked hard for and prayed over have  come to pass. And it doesn’t stop there.

Next week, I’ll finalize Hope’s adoption.  Yep, we have a court date.

When I got the date from my attorney by email yesterday I actually started sobbing.

OMG, this is happening.

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I was happy but I was also scared schnittless. If I hadn’t been illegally reading my email while sitting at a traffic light, I probably would’ve passed out. Instead I cried. But in the moment, they weren’t tears of joy. They were tears of fear, of the smack of reality, of wondering what was next, of hope that things will get easier, of wondering will I ever feel confident enough, of wondering if and when all of my own supposed support systems will ever feel stable, supportive and safe enough.  Will I fail her?  Am I really, really that selfless?

I am exhausted and despite my happiness, I am back to a week of not being able to stop crying. Maybe I need a med adjustment, because this is just ridiculous.

A few weeks or months ago I wrote about feeling down and some folks pointed out that I was possibly suffering from Post Adoption Depression. I didn’t even know that was a thing. I just knew I couldn’t stop crying, and I was driving a broke-down fire truck from one fire to the next and then role playing ALL of the firefighter jobs that must exist with a small water gun. I barely felt like I was functional.

About two weeks ago, I just started sinking again. The crying and crankiness returned. I just wanted to sleep or at least pull the covers over my head and be left undisturbed. I just mourn the ability to come home to peace and quiet and snuggle with The Furry One and decide, because I could, to just have a martini and cheese toast for dinner. I mourned the days when I didn’t need a sitter. I mourned the ability to pick up and go to the Caribbean for a long weekend if I found a good deal. I mourned the days when I didn’t have to do teacher conferences about questionable grades and behavior or anticipating the mayhem of being a chaperone at the upcoming band trip. I missed the days of less village drama. Life literally changed overnight, and I haven’t adjusted.

And yet, I can’t imagine life without Hope, and Hope comes with all of that and then some.  She’s a game changer.

Then, last evening I got a response email from a colleague who finished her PhD about six months before me. I’d shared in an earlier email that I was feeling like I should be doing “something” (school related) and was feeling guilty about not doing whatever it was I was supposed to be doing. Heck, one time I wrote a final class paper from a hospital—sure I’m supposed to be doing something? Surely I can’t be experiencing some post-EdD completion let down.

Uh, yeah, she wrote back—that post-doctoral listlessness is normal. Yeah, there’s a let-down period with a risk of depression after the euphoria of being done passes.

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Really, now this is a thing too? GTFOH!!!

Awesome, my doc and shrink are going to love this. Could be worse, I could be a new Dr looking for a job. So there’s that.

A lot has happened, and a lot is happening. All happy things, but things that require or recently required huge amounts of cognitive and emotional energy over sustained periods of time.  And my brain is just tired. I’m emotionally tired.  And the number of folks with whom I can share this, completely unedited, unfiltered, uncensored at all, is a pretty small number. I’m grateful for them, I am <thank you if you’re reading, you know who you are and each of you are godsends>. But I find myself mourning about the censoring I am doing; the censoring I’m required to do in some core areas of my life.  It’s really just like folding into yourself over and over again, like a bad piece of origami and you’re just waiting for the someone to toss you because the folds didn’t come out right.

Never in a million years would I think that when my dreams come true, mostly in the span of a few weeks, that I would not be wholly ecstatic and bouncing like Tigger.

Happiness isn’t without a price, and it can exist with sadness.

Here’s hoping I can swing back and stay on the topside of happiness and soon.

For now, I’ve got a Gotcha Day party to go plan.


Big Holes to Fill

I had a lot going on this week; much of it left me exhausted and cranky. Despite my bad attitude, I really, really tried to practice better “therapeutic” parenting. It’s paying off, even if sometimes things just seem weird. So, here’s the highlight reel.

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The mask is finally coming off. Four months in, Hope’s mask is finally coming off. I hate to say her behavior is regressing, because in truth, it’s not. A few weeks ago, in the middle of a conversation about something she dropped some baby talk on me. Yeah, baby talk, like goo goo gaga kind of stuff.

Huh?

Say what now?

Whatchu

Whatchu talkin’ ’bout Hope?

I just kept talking and she just kept babbling, and I tried to just pretend it was no big deal. And she did it for the rest of the conversation, and I nearly came unhinged on the inside. What in the holy hell is this???

Since then, she’s tried to climb into my lap several times. Now, you need to know that I’ve got body space issues. #getoffmegetoffmegetoffme I need a buffer. I love hugs and stuff, love them, love them, but um, on my terms. Sitting on me is not on my term list, but I’ve tried to be comfortably uncomfortable for now. Then there’s the bedtime stories, which is actually a lovely ritual. And then this week, she asked could she do some arts and crafts with macaroni, glitter, construction paper and glue.

Seriously, all I could think was, “There is going to be effing glitter ALL. Over. My. House.”   I have no poker face and Hope knows it.

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Um…glitter? #icant

She looked sad and I was all like, “But wait…I was just thinking…um, sounds like an awesome idea (#fauxenthusiasm)!!!”

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With each of these things Hope always includes her rationale for wanting to do it: “I never got a chance to do this when I was little.” It’s actually really sad. She needs these memories and developmental markers to move forward. That’s the best motivation I could possibly think of for tolerating glitter in my house.

It does require some kicking around in my brain. Years ago, when I was thinking about what my adoption life would be like, I envisioned a 5 or 6 year old kid in the house. As I went through the process, I realized that in order to actually get a 5 or 6 year old I would probably need to foster or wait years and years and years. Fostering was too emotionally risky for me and years and years, well, I don’t have that kind of patience. I made a very conscious decision to adopt an older child and along with that my whole vision changed about what I thought would be going on in my house. I never dreamed that macaroni and glitter artwork would be a thing that would happen.

I’m guessing you should all place your orders now for kindergarten style glue ornaments…you *know* you want one. Don’t be jelly when my crafty ornament covered Christmas tree is better than yours, all courtesy of Hope’s Crafting Bonanza.

But seriously, all of this stuff is good news, she feels safe. She knows I’m going to help her fill in the gaps; that I’m going to help her create childhood memories that she has a right to have and to still want. I’ll try to be mindful of that every time she tries to crawl into my lap. It’s like cradling a granddaddy long legs. Love her.

I am searching for information about Hope’s bio parents. Now this is a sticky issue. I really have zero interest in these folks, but Hope is an older adoptee and as much as she’s wrestling with healing and filling the gaps that her bio parents left neglected, I also see her tossing things around in her head about who she is and where she came from. There are also things to which she is entitled that I’m intent on trying my best to make right. Things like knowing where her father rests and having the flag she’s due from the VA is important to her. She grieves deeply over the losses that lie within the loss. I can’t make everything right and I don’t think she’s ready for the info right this moment, but I want it for her.

I’m fortunate to have a friend and colleague who does extensive genealogy research. In short order she’s found lots of info—some of it not good, but valuable nonetheless. I’m grateful for my friend and her efforts to help me just get some info. I’ll print it, put it in an envelope and put it away. I have no idea when the time will be right, and I have no idea how that conversation will go. But my gut tells me that getting and saving this info for her to have if she wants will be important at some point.

I’ve come to think about bio parents a lot. I am on several online support sites and most focus on relationships with bio families who have selected families to adopt. These stories are so different from those of us who go the route of foster-to-adopt or in my case focusing my search on children who were already legally free to be adopted. Hope has lived a lifetime already. She had a life that she remembers—the good, the bad, the ugly—before me. That life is real and includes real people who she remembers, people she wonders whatever happened to them. I just want to be able to hand over some things if Hope’s curiosity ever blooms into something more. And I’ll be there for whatever comes after that, because I’m certain something will come after that.

I wish my curfew was later. So in my 20s I stayed out all night on the regular. Leave the club at 3, in the office by 8. In my 30s, I hit the club less and less. Leaving the club at 3 could only happen on a Friday because I needed the weekend to recover and I only had two cocktails. I eventually just fell madly in love with my couch, my bed and one of those backrest things. By the time I turned 40, my regular curfew entailed figuring out how fast I could get home from work and into my PJs—my goal is usually about 6:30 since I have to include time to walk The Furry One. I felt like I earned a gold star if I could find an episode of Law and Order and grab dinner by that 6:30 goal line.

Now I’m almost always home or Hope is always with me. On school nights we need to be home by 8:30 so I can get Hope to bed on time. The weekends are a little more flexible, but Hope’s phobia of bugs is worse at night and she hates being out with all the moths (really this is a thing) such that staying out really can be a miserable endeavor. Respite care allows me that that time out, but I try to be back at bedtime. I’m just getting hype, and it’s time to head home at 10:30 so I make it on time.

soul-train-dancing-o

Just when it’s time to turn up, I’ve got head home and miss the Soul Train dance line. Mess….

Suddenly I have all the energy in the world, and I really want to be out late. Sigh, but I can’t stay out later yet. Hope just isn’t ready and we haven’t found the right sitter. We have a couple we like, but we just haven’t found “the one” yet.

There’s something ironic about the fact that less than a year ago I knew I could go out if I wanted to but preferred to stay home on the couch, and now I have limited opportunities to go out and I want to be out all night. Those are the brakes of parenthood.

I am happy. Sometimes it is so, so hard to be mindful of what’s going right in life. It’s easy to just get mired in how hard it is; I mean really, just look at the first sentence here—I’m whining about it being hard to be mindful. Ugh!

But seriously, I was talking to a good friend this week. Several of my closest friends are going through mayhem of their own; but this friend said to me a couple of days ago that in spite of whatever mess exists, she’s happy. Well, it was such a lovely statement. I was so happy for her. I was so proud of her. It was just such great thing to hear from my friend about her life and about her outlook.

A few hours later I was thinking about this conversation while walking The Furry One. I was thinking about my current state of affairs. Was I…Am I happy? I don’t mean like really right this moment, but rather from that 30,000 viewpoint?

Yeah. I am.

Happy doesn’t always come the way you think it does and it doesn’t always have a silver lining. It might come with several side dishes of crazy, frustration and “you’ve got to be kidding me…”

But yeah, I’m happy. I have the family I wanted, even if it’s not the way I thought it would be constructed. I have a kid that I love, even if we’ve got issues. I’ve got a dog who has been a beloved companion for many years. I have family whom I love and who love and support me in ways that actually build me up. I have accomplished many of my life goals at a relatively young age. I have a great career that I love and which feeds me intellectually and creatively. I have friends who have been with me through thick, thin, cray, sane, poverty and comfort and so much more. I love and I am loved. Yes, I’m happy.

It’s nice to take a breath and just be mindful enough to see the happy.

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So we’re brunching and traveling today. It’s a beautiful East Coast day and tomorrow I’ll take Hope to see the bikers in Rolling Thunder. It’s a real sight to see and noisy as all get out; I think she’ll get a kick out of it, and it will be a great opportunity to see some DC monuments on Memorial Day.

Be blessed.


What Happened and What Didn’t

I just did a lessons learned recap that covered more than a week so I thought I’d share some highlights of the last couple of days that just seems to be a good commentary on where were are on our journey.

Our Super Bowl trip has been booked! The end of June promises to be a time for big celebrations around these parts. My degree completion, the end of Hope’s school year, her birthday and finalization of our adoption. So what do folks do to celebrate so many events? Go to Disney World of course.

I actually hate Orlando (no offense to anyone who’s from there or currently reside there). But Disney is a bit of stimulation overload coupled with an outrageous mouse tax. Fortunately, we’re staying with a friend and we look forward to the days enjoying the sun, beach (Daytona) and the big rat’s park.

God has jokes. I know I mentioned on a previous blog that Hope recently asked me to read her a bedtime story at night. This is something that’s been integrated into our evening routine. This weekend we hit the library to check out a few things and I picked up some evening reading for us. At some point yesterday I found myself rooting around in a closet where I found this gem.

God's got jokes making me buy this book years before I needed it.

God’s got jokes making me buy this book years before I needed it.

I bought it years ago. Actually I bought 3 of them. I gave two away and have been searching for a kid to give this book to for several years now. Ha! Well, I don’t have to look any further since I read my lovely princess a story from it tonight. You just don’t know the plans God has for your life. He had me scoop up this book probably 4 or 5 years ago, only to have me trip over it after my 12 year old daughter asked me to read to her nightly. I have long believed that God is going to send an Isaac into my life since I am so aware of how he jokes me.

Hope’s hair is growing. So Hope’s hair has been out of the braids now for about two months. We’ve got a routine down now—full wash on Sunday evenings in preparation for the week. I’m a lazy naturalista. I don’t fret over products. I don’t put too much heat to my hair because I’m lazy not because I’m afraid of heat damage. I’ve taken increasingly to wearing fro’d out twist outs and when my hair is stretched scooping it back into a banana clip.

I have to blow Hope’s hair out for her twist outs. We’ve tried wet twists, and let’s just say no one is happy about the results—lots of sucky sighing. We’ve discovered that el cheapo ORS Smooth and Hold Pudding works well as a styler for both of us. It’s great; not too heavy and leaves her hair shiny. Not my favorite product on my hair, but it’s good.

Hope wants long hair. She’s is frustrated by shrinkage. I have to blow her hair out again mid-week just to loosen things up a bit. But I’ve been snapping pics along the way. Top left-first day post braids before I trimmed those see through ends off. Pink shirt about a month ago. White shirt is today.

So much hair!

So much hair!

I can’t wait to show her the progress, especially when every few days she’s stretching and saying, “I think it’s to my jaw line now.”

She wants to do a memory project with me. While standing in the Dollar Tree today, Hope describe a craft project in which we capture memories in a wooden box from this time and put them away to show to her future kids. It was so sweet. She has written out a plan and everything. Next weekend we’ll hit the Lowe’s to make this project a reality.

I put together an emergency anxiety kit. I should’ve done this ages ago. It’s got a silly putty, a stress ball, a backup external charger for electronic devices and a granola bar. Into a Ziploc and Into the purse it goes. We had a bit of a social meltdown on Friday and I thought to myself, “You’re a mom, you don’t even have baby wipes, what the hell is wrong with you???” Now I’ve got things that help her manage stress, which helps me manage my stress.

Movies in her bedroom are the gift that keeps giving. She really would prefer to watch things with me on the big tv but there is something decadent about watching a DVD in her room that is a special treat. It’s a treat that gave me 5 hours that included an adult beverage, 5 chapters of a trashy novel, several episodes of Will and Grace #justjack and several episodes of Designing Women #lightsoutinGA. She actually went to bed on her own and fell asleep watching Finding Nemo. It was awesome.

We had not one fight. Not one fight or bickering moment. I’m starting the week with such a positive outlook. I can’t wait to see her smile tomorrow.

In the words of Ice Cube, “Today was a good day.”


I Just Want a Nap

It’s odd to not do my weekly rundown, just because it’s my own way of reflecting and figuring out my improvement metrics (I like data!). So, this week I’m getting it done midweek.

Things are ok around here; we have little lightening rod things that drive us both nuts. But overall, we are doing better. Here’s what’s going down.

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­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Mom needs some attention. So, Hope has some issues with attention. When she’s doing something she really dives deep into the focus; it’s so deep that it’s like nothing else exists and she’s in a trance. The living room TV has become a hot point for several issues. 1) It’s a distraction that makes her late in the morning—on average she’s missing the bus twice a week. 2) The TV a distraction at dinner. We can’t have a decent conversation because I might as well be talking to a napkin. Also she won’t eat because she’s so into the TV. 3) Multiple episodes of Adventure Time, Anthony Zimmerman and Big Bang Theory drive me nuts. 4) I can’t watch grown folks TV on my couch anymore.

So I’ve made a plan to restrict the time the main TV is on and will be moving cable boxes this weekend and downgrading the cable. Cool, right?

Ah but then an external voice of reason, let’s call him Elihu, says, “Hmmmm, ABM, so can we talk about reason number 2 a bit more? Sounds like you were peeved she didn’t want to kick it with you? Were you?” #ihateitwhenhesright

Ummm, there are perfectly legitimate reasons for me making TV changes, but ultimately, yeah, I was so looking forward to enjoying dinner with my girl and she totally dissed me. There’s some part of me that was crushed because I really, really wanted to kick with her that evening. So, some part of me is taking it out on the TV.

But I’m still right about the TV.

When Hope wants to talk, it mentally exhausts me. Oh it’s cool that she wants to talk, but Hope’s attention issues also head to the other end of the continuum where we can change conversation topics, like every 3-5 sentences. In the span of twenty minutes we’ve touched on the following: Bieber, Bruno Mars, has her Seventeen magazine arrived? What’s transgender? Why are people trippin’ about Michael Sam kissing his man when he finally got drafted? When am I going to wash her hair? There are probably another 5 topics that I missed. Ohmygosh.

But here’s the thing, as exhausting as some of this chatter can be and as irritating as the Bieber conversations can be, I LOVE the fact that she wants to talk and that she feels comfortable enough with me that she’ll ask me about all the touchy topics.   I do wish that she had an “inside voice” and asked some questions at home or in the car or somewhere where we had some privacy. I totally wasn’t fazed by the content of LGBT questions—I’m committed to raising an inclusive-minded kiddo. What did trip me out was the fact that she asked the questions about Conchita Wurst and Michael Sam at Gate K19 at O’Hare on Sunday morning at 5:30am on volume 37 of 50. The surrounding ear hustlers were so serious, and it was too early for all that.

Someone is always doing worse than you. This is a recurring life lesson, but it’s something that I keep coming back to on this adoption journey as well. I hit up my agency support group last night where other waiting parents were bemoaning waits of 4 months to 2 years for a match and other parents struggling with the demands of new parenting and specifically parenting their child’s specific challenges, while still other parents wondering if they are really going to jump in and do this thing. Then another parent I met through social media posted a link to this Tumblr page: Parenting Confessional.

Hope was the first profile I received and we were formally matched about a month later. I managed to write a dissertation during this process, finishing the last chapter during one of the darkest weeks of my life while trying to survive an event that threatened to disrupt our placement. Family drama. Drama of varying sorts. And yet, I’m actually ok. Hope is actually ok. I’m not sure we’re thriving (yet) but we’re stable or at least as stable as a 3.5 month adoptive placement is probably going to be.

I mean I think about how the parent of a friend of Hope’s responded when I asked if it was ok if I took her daughter to the movies with Hope a few weeks ago. That woman sounded like she was going through IT and I don’t know her from a can of paint. All God’s children got problems. I would say that my and Hope’s problems are probably not all that bad all things considered.   I’m finding folks doing way worse than me; heck I see them in the blogosphere all the time.

Sometimes emotions really, really suck. I’m reading Beyond Consequences right now, and it’s all about how our kids have not developed an ability to self-regulate their emotional states through appropriate behavior.   In a super condensed nutshell, kids who’ve experienced trauma will flip out when their emotions are overwhelming; parents are more likely to focus on the inappropriate behavior that drives us up the effing wall rather than the deep-seeded emotional baggage that underpins it even when it isn’t apparent. We’re more likely to use a punishment paradigm than to emphasize a “You’re safe, let me help you be more safe” paradigm. Yeah, ok, got it. Makes sense, right?

Yeah, until your kid is going the hell off on some random ish that you have no effin idea what triggered it.   You’re saying safety crap and “There, there, let mom hug” you while you’re ducking blows and trying to figure out what the hell is going on. When this happens for us, sometimes it’s days before Hope can get herself together to say what’s really going on. Hell, we just deconstructed the whole Don King episode from two weeks ago last night.

It’s heartbreaking to find that your kid really, really doesn’t have the regulatory skills to just not go the hell off or be reduced to tears because you said no to getting a Slurpee on a Tuesday. It’s also guilt ridden, especially with the older kids who just by virtue of their age and size, you expect have some crap together. They don’t; not even close.

Emotions can just be like a really, really bad storm when they take over. Bless Hope’s heart; she has improved this skill area so much, but ugh…I have no idea when or how or if she’s really going to get to be able to master/muster the emotional –behavioral thing. Time will tell.

Adoption related judgment fear notwithstanding, I really don’t give two damns about what other people think. Hope and I’ve been talking a lot about friends, bullies, the whole relationship milieu. I only somewhat recall how much I fretted about what other people thought and the possibility of being talked about, judged or bullied. But it’s a constant life issue these days around these parts. I am trying to work on building Hope’s self-esteem, but ugh, these little bad arse school kids are wrecking her flow. There’s lots of soothing hugs and internal desires for me to go up to that school and end up doing something that will end up having me go viral on YouTube before getting arrested.

But, I’m learning that my general self-esteem is pretty solid. I understand my flaws but they’re mine. I can fret about my body, but it’s mine. I don’t really care much about what other people think or have to say about me. That’s a liberating realization.

A liberating realization until I think about how awful I feel when Hope is doing something publicly that draws negative attention and reckless, shady looks in my direction that say, “Aren’t you going to check your kid? Aren’t you going to snatch her up? Why haven’t you “fixed” that yet? Are you going to *do* something because she’s ruining it for everyone?” Fear of parenting judgment is my current “thing” that I just get nervous about. I know in time it will pass. So much has happened that it’s hard to remember that it’s only been 3.5 months since Hope moved here. I’ll get better at not caring about what people have to say at some point.

_______________________________________________

We’ve got a busy weekend planned, but I hope to enjoy a bit of rest. Now that things are done with school, I long to just enjoy an hour or two just chillaxing on the balcony on my lawn chair snoozing with The Furry One. Let’s bow our heads and cross our fingers that it happens this weekend.


Mother’s Day Musings

It’s Mother’s Day; my first one. Hope and I just returned from my graduation trip where we had a great time, and I got the best gift ever. Throughout the ceremony, I saw my sweet girl snap-happy, clicking away with her digital camera. After the ceremony after I met up with Hope and my sisters, my daughter hugged me repeatedly and said, “I’m so proud of you.” I had to hold back tears. #shehadmeathello

I’m sure she’d never gone to a graduation before, certainly not one for a doctoral candidate #gobigorgohome, but she was delighted to see my name and dissertation title in the program, happy to take many pictures and jazzed to hear my name as I was hooded by the university president. It was the culmination of a long journey for me and I couldn’t have been blessed with a bigger cheerleader. I will always drop a tear thinking about the moment she told me she was proud of me. (It was super, super awesome special to have my sisters with me too, by the way.)

Yesterday was really my Mother’s Day. Today is just a do-over for me that includes the need to cram in some errands, a family therapy appointment and take-out for dinner (my present to myself for the day) before doing Hope’s hair for the week. #mothersworkisneverdone #apparentlyever

Our trip to Chicago triggered “better” times which always make it easier for me to say yes, to have patience, to just have fun with Hope. After the last few weeks, I needed us to hit a stride of “better.” I hope it lasts a while.

And yet, there’s something about days that honor parents that brings tinges of sadness for Hope and other kids like her. This weekend we touched on issues of curiosity about the wellbeing of her birth mother, grief about the loss of her dad, the good and bad parenting she experienced in her short life, and a chat about me as mom.

We navigated things well with lots of reassurance and lots of openness. We don’t sugar coat things in our home; her experience is her story and she remembers the good, the bad and the ugly. I learn something new, and often heartbreaking, every time we have one of these talks. I also know that these talks are evidence that we’re doing ok, maybe even better than ok.

I see my job as, in part, trying to help her remember that her birth parents loved her, but they just couldn’t take care of her for lots of different reasons. Bad things happened but it wasn’t her fault and while people have maligned her birth parents most of her time in the system, they are no threat to me and they are no longer a threat to her. It’s ok for her to remember the happy times and to be free to talk about them. It’s ok for her to talk about the bad times and to try to reconcile how all this history could involve the same people. It’s ok for me to try desperately to teach her that nothing was her fault, that she is now safe and loved, even during the times when she is being a real pain in the arse.

I’ve heard about the bitter sweetness of days like Mother’s Day for some adoptive parents. I couldn’t understand it before, but I get it now. There’s a celebration of us as mothers and fathers, but it’s laced with a sadness and grief about how our children ended up needing us in the first place.

So, with that, I’m glad that I had a great day of celebration yesterday, before the actual holiday that represents a bit of both joy and pain for me and Hope.  It really is a privilege to be Hope’s mom.

Happy Mother’s Day, whatever kind of mother you may be.  xoxo

MotherDayPrivilege


About Last Night

Last night I just lost it. Last week, our pattern broke and there was no downturn in moods or behaviors. That was super awesome. But this week has been an exercise in challenges day after day, moment after moment. We had a tech blackout for couple of days, there were hours where she was sent to her room. The defiance, the yelling, the anger, the lying…oh the lying. By last night I was over it, so over it. So I went to bed.

After a back and forth related to a couple of what should’ve been minor issues, I just threw up my hands and said something that seems unthinkable. It was a mixture of truth and a lie all rolled into one.

I said, “I don’t care.”

I’m sure in one of the dozens of books I’ve read that I’m not supposed to say that. Ever.  And of course I do care, but I consciously just threw up my hands and told her that I didn’t care how long she stayed up, didn’t care that she wouldn’t do her chores, didn’t care that she found the need to retwist her hair last night inconvenient, I didn’t care that she got nasty with a teacher requiring a phone call from the school and I just didn’t care what she did last night.

I went to my room. Did a couple of work emails, twisted my hair, showered and went to bed at 9pm. Lights out and everything. For a few minutes I lay in the dark thinking, “This is so absurd. I know this is a mistake. I know there must be some other kind of way to deal with all of this.” But I just couldn’t will myself to get up and deal with one more minute of any of it last night.

I woke up a couple of hours later and the house was dark. I thought of all the things in our routine that I do to make sure she is ready for bed. The hair twisting, the water bottle filling, setting the alarm, closing the blinds, making sure the closet door is closed, fluffing her pillow, fluffing her bedding when I tuck her in, kissing her forehead, clicking the light, asking her to tell me “when” as I draw the door closed and putting up the doggie gate so The Furry One doesn’t go wandering.

I didn’t do any of it last night. It bothered me; I’m sure it bothered her. I missed kissing her forehead most of all.

I got the petitions from my attorney yesterday to finalize my adoption yesterday. Coincidence? Probably not. Of course I’ve already signed them; I need to drop them off at FedEx later today. I’m so excited about this next step. I didn’t even hesitate to sign the papers; mailing them seems to be another story. There’s just a lot of emotions and it all boils down to less than 10 sheets of paper and a check to my attorney.

Ten sheets of paper and there’s a 12 year old in my house. That’s so crazy.

Seeing that paperwork just has me…wondering what the hell I’m doing. Oh I’m not backing out; I’m all in, but it’s kind of like buying your first house or car and you love it and it’s so exciting, but you harbor questions about whether you can really handle this even though you’ve run the numbers a million times. Even though you are handling it.  You just wonder what the heck are you doing and how the heck did you end up here.

I’ve read that this emotional hiccup is normal and passes, but ugh. I can see, in the light of day, how my brain and heart just needed to shut down.  For some reason it was just too much.

This morning I had to deal with a scared kid who looked like Don King. I sent Hope to school rocking her first puff today. #irockroughandtuff

Her thoughts?

“I’m going to get picked on today.”

Hey, I did decorate her puff with a lovely flower. But yeah, I’ve got to do hair tonight.

Over breakfast, I prayed for peace over this house and I silently prayed for peace in my heart and patience…dump trucks of patience.


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