Tag Archives: Post-Placement Life

Getting There

Yesterday was our monthly visit with the social worker. I really do like her a lot; she’s so supportive and encouraging. While I will be glad to finalize my adoption of Hope; I will kind of miss my check-ins with Ms. E. She’s been a nice, unbiased, non-familial attached person for me to check in with and actually ask for advice from rather than just getting unsolicited advice. While thinking about our visit, I was able to really give some thought to the goings-on of the last couple of weeks. I haven’t done a recap in a while, so here goes.


Respite and self-care: Where have you been all my life?? To everyone who told me to find a way to take a break to just take a breath and get my bearings; thank you. You were right. After interviewing half a dozen people I wouldn’t leave a houseplant with, I finally decided to use the sitter service that I got a Living Social deal on a month ago. Last week I got myself a sitter for Friday and Saturday and wouldn’t you know it, I’m a new woman. Now I talked incessantly about my kid while I was out, but I didn’t call once to check in and I felt free. We tried two sitters, one who was a late 20s and in grad school and another early 20s undergraduate student. Turns out the younger of the two was a hit with us and we’ll be requesting her on a regular basis, because yeah, I need a break sometimes. The investment was worth every penny.   I came home feeling like a new woman, and after Hope got over the anxiety, she found that it wasn’t so bad since I came home in a good mood.

People do strange things when they know you’re adopting. So, Hope’s teachers know that this is a pre-adoption placement. They have been kind and helpful and understanding. And then things got weird on the field trip. Suddenly, I had no name other than “Hope’s Mom.” No really, while introducing the chaperones to the 140 kids in the auditorium, I literally got introduced as Hope’s Mom, with no name of my own. Every other parent got introduced as Mr. or Ms. Smith/Jones/Rodriguez/Jenkins and 70% of the time their kids’ last name was different. It was almost as if this was some attempt to make sure Hope and I were bound together publicly. It was weird and awkward and well, just kind a weird. Hope was completely nonplussed; she has not called me by my given name in months, so to her, that kinda is my name.

Hope tends to be pretty transparent about being adopted. I try to follow her lead and not disclose unless she has. I’m sure the other parents thought I was a bit weird too. Clearly some of their kids had shared with them that Hope was from the West Coast, but she or they must not have shared that her move was a part of an adoption. In making small talk, I was asked how I was adapting to the East Coast and DC area. Ummmm….Hmmmmmm. Yeah, “It’s lovely here.” “Rough winter.” I’ve lived here forever, and Hope’s adjustment has been…big. Yep….a big adjustment….

I have developed the “Mom” look!!! Holy shizzle! I have successfully managed to master the look that mothers give their kids who are cutting up. You know, the looks that say, “You betta get it together!!” This is huge. I had to use the look while chaperoning my first field trip this week. Before we even got on the bus, I had to snatch Hope up and get her together because she attempted a smart mouthed neck roll in front her little friends in the group. Um, no girl. Midway during the trip she attempted a modest break bad moment and all it took was a LOOK! Hot damn, momma is cooking with grease now.

I need to tackle my anxiety/frustration/anger about being judged. I had an unfortunate run-in this week with someone very close to me because of a comment that felt judgy. The truth of the matter is a lot of things feel judgy these days; I’m hyper-sensitive, and it’s really my thing like 78.8713% of the time. It’s hard (especially for this overachiever) to take critical commentary about something you’re working so hard on and for and is complete and utter mayhem on the inside. It’s easy to become angry and resentful and just all around pissy. You withdraw and the circle of confidants gets smaller and smaller until you really are just confiding into the folks you’re paying to make this thing happen. It’s a vicious cycle because then the less people see, know and/or hear about, the more they come to believe that, well, your little adoptive family must be getting along like gangbusters, while secretly, you lie in bed alone nightly watching the ceiling fan spin, while crying and knocking over the red wine glass you had delicately placed next to you.

Oh, that hasn’t happened to you? My bad.

(Yes, I know that bio parents are probably also watching ceiling fans and knocking over wine glasses in bed too.)

I read an article on the Tiny Buddha this week called “Transforming your Relationships by Assuming Best Intentions.”  Ahh, this article was a bit of church and one that I will take to heart in all of my relationships. There are far fewer people in the world who care enough to wish you harm and failure than those who wish wholeness and love for you. People who don’t care about you actually don’t care about you, and they typically don’t even care enough to comment.   I have people who care about me, and it’s silly to continue to rationalize that they are out to get me. Now, changing this mindset will likely take some doing on my part but I need this transformation for myself and my daughter more than anything.

People are going to say some really unhelpful, sometimes less than constructive things; my challenge is to charge it to the head and not the heart.

Hope is starting to really try on her new identity as my daughter. I already mentioned that she calls me Mom and sees me as Mom, but it’s interesting as we approach finalization to hear the questions that she has. I told her yesterday that I had hired an attorney and that we were heading to finalization in June. She was delighted and said something like, finally I will stay here forever. It was a great response and then the questions started, like, “Will I still be from WA or does that all get erased?” I fielded all her questions and then she asked when would we get her passport and when could we go to the Bahamas; a trip that would require her to show her passport with her new name.

Of course the trying on of this identity also comes with a side of trying me, which is delightfully, annoyingly normal. Amazing how normal can also be painful, but whatever. The girl refuses to understand that there are consequences, positive and negative, to every action. And in three short months the sense of entitlement has rooted itself surprisingly strong. We are at the beginning of a tech blackout since rules have been broken and attitudes have been slung. Sigh…


Overall, things are better. I’m hopeful; I know that we’ll be fine. Things are still very hard; there are moments of anxiety and nail biting and anxiety words and withdrawal and spouts of anger. It still can be overwhelming, but it’s ok. I can see the growth and I know it will continue if I just stay the course.

In the meantime she is punishing me by yelling, screaming and sporadically playing a harmonica. While $10 noise cancelling headsets are not quite as effective as Beats by Dre, they get the job done when coupled with a glass of wine, a pre-dinner brownie and a music playlist. I love her, but I know she’s not ready to be consoled or comforted.

And that’s ok.  We’ll get there.


Three Months Deep

Yesterday, Hope and I celebrated 3 months post-placement, and by celebrate I mean we dined out at a pizza buffet and I let her watch a Netflix movie on my tablet—in her room. Yeah, admittedly Netflix’ing in her room with an HDMI cord is my new reward system that rewards us both! #giftsthatkeepgiving #alonetime

These last couple of weeks have been rough for me. I know they’ve been rough for Hope too. They weren’t the roughest weeks we’ve endured during the last 90 days, but I struggled with issues in our relationship, in my relationship with family members, and at work. I was losing the capacity to have much patience; I was snippy. I parented in ways that I’m not particularly proud of sometimes. I got cussed out. I wanted to cuss out a whole mess of folks. I got things tossed at me. I got hurtful notes. Hope huffed and puffed like the Big Bad Wolf at least once daily. I felt like everyone had an opinion or “helpful” word that they were oh to happy to share when I really just wanted to crawl in a hole and cry, then maybe sleep. There were days when as much as I wanted to be honest with some folks in my life, the truth about the emotional mayhem going on at Casa de ABM was just too much to share. I came to believe that some folks just wouldn’t believe it anyway. The decisions that needed to be made to protect us were at times painful and offensive to others, but critical to helping us press forward. Some days, most probably, I was my own worst enemy as I was plagued with self-doubt, self-criticism, sentiments of failure and worthlessness. It’s been a weary couple of weeks.

It was nothing but grace that got us through the last 90 days, especially since these last few weeks weren’t even the worst of it.

It certainly hasn’t been all rough. There were days, even a couple of weeks when we finally settled into our routine and I would breathe silently each night with a smile, “Yeah, that’s what’s up.” There have been friends and family who’ve checked in on us; patiently given us space or just allowed me to vent, cry and fall apart on the phone, by text, by skype, by email, over coffee. There’ve been fellow bloggers and other adoptive parents who have let me know that all of this messiness is normal, or at least normal for us, as we help our children get settled and begin healing.   I’ve had a lot of positive support and encouragement from my agency and my social worker; the encouraging words helped keep me going on some hitsay days. #piglatin

I saw grace in those moments too.

Then Tuesday, on the eve of our month-a-versary and in the middle of family therapy, I saw Hope through a different lens and consequently saw us through a new lens too. Yesterday, Hope finally decided to participate in our therapy session. Actually she dominated it. She prattled nervously, but made conversation, shared dark things, things that I didn’t know, things I knew all too well and things that just surprised me. As I sat and listened, making eye contact with our shrink and my daughter, I thought, well *now* we’re getting somewhere. Hot therapist would make eye contact back with a subtle nod, “Yeah, we are getting somewhere!”

At one point Hope brought up something from the Easter sermon at church, applied it to the topic of the moment in an appropriate but hilarious way. I nearly cried; I did audibly gasp. I remember the second week when she whined about having to go to church and now she talking about what she learned and what it means. She smiled when she saw my reaction. I learned about how a woman who briefly was in her life years ago reached out to her on social media and how she rebuffed her attempts to connect, saying I have a great mom now, I don’t want you around, and I don’t like how you treated me. I heard her coming into a self-awareness that wasn’t there three months ago. I heard the grip of fear loosening in her life. I heard her trust in me. I heard her making plans for her life here. It was so beautiful to see my girl’s progress in a 50 minute session.

On the way home, I got stung by some kind of insect and Hope sprang into action, insisting that she take care of me. She made me tea, prepped an ice bath for my swollen hand, got the Benadryl and put it in one of the Dixie cups that I use to dole out medications. Then she fixed herself a cup of tea and sat with me, timing how long my hand was in the ice bath and fetching a second dose of antihistamine for me an hour later. Hope clucked about whether or not I needed to go to Patient First and if she needed to get our neighbor to come help. It was a little sting and yes, my hand was swollen like the dickens but after 20 minutes I knew I wasn’t going to die and besides I have some epi-pens in the house. But her care and concern was so earnest, so genuine that I let her fret over me for nearly two hours while we snuggled on the couch watching Swamp People.

It was a beautiful way to spend an hour on our 89th day together. It was us turning another corner together.

Hope is my daughter. I am hers, and she is mine. And it’s kind of cool to think, hey, I had a hand in getting her to this emotional space that allows her to be a bit more tolerant of therapeutic treatment of emotional grief and trauma. Monday night had me high-fiving the Holy Homeboy during my evening prayer. Good stuff.

Her social worker told me to today that they were moving forward to get the adoption finalized. Hope will be mine forever before her birthday in June.

I cling to moments like these. It’s hard for some people to understand that regressive behaviors are a part of the very normal, yet painful process for us. I know that we will continue to wrestle with things. If our pattern holds true, then the shoe will drop by week’s end. Maybe we’ll start a new pattern, who knows. I know that the grief that pervades her life continues to crush a part of her spirit even as she can say that living with me and being my daughter is a good thing. There’s still a strong need to test it by sabotage. She grieves the life she should’ve had with her parents; she’s angry that they failed her, that they didn’t put her first. The nicer I am to her, the more it hurts her some days because she knows that this should all be happening with her biological parents, but it never did, and it never will. It’s hard for a young girl to bear that reality in the face of a new life. She is starting to show gratitude, not for being adopted but just because she’s beginning to appreciate the kindness shown to her. Most people won’t get the subtle distinction, just assuming that our add-water-and-stir family should gel easily because we’re all so happy to be here. The path to permanency for my daughter sucked arse big time. No child should endure what she has.

And yet we are such a different pair than we were 3 months ago. She told me she doesn’t even remember her first two weeks here. It was an overwhelming blur. She remembers my birthday about two weeks after she arrived, but it happened to be on Super Bowl Sunday and it was hard to forget that! It’s like not remembering what happened when you were a toddler; emotionally, she was starting all over again. I can see how she was so overwhelmed now. I was overwhelmed too.

I look forward to seeing where this year takes us. We have grown so much over the last three months. We have so much more growing to do as we continue on our journey.

Onward and upward.

The Importance of Traditions

Happy Easter.

As we wrap up spring break and, mercifully, get back to our routine I wanted to spend a bit of time talking about the importance of traditions for me and Hope. We’ve now had Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine’s Day (not really a major holiday but I made a big deal out of it) and Easter together, spread out across visits and placement. Through these holidays I’ve come to learn more about what Hope has experienced and what she hasn’t in terms of holiday traditions. I’ve also come to learn what kinds of traditions she’s yearned for her in short life.

My traditions are new to her; no way around it. Some of those traditions, those with lots of family interaction, for example, cause her quite a bit of anxiety. There are lots of “why do we have to…;” to which I reply, “because we just do, always have.” She usually falls in line and ends up having a positive experience.

Leading up to Easter I started planting seeds about dressing up in new clothes for Easter. My girl says she hates dresses, but the two I’ve managed to get her in have required a crowbar to get her out of—oh and all the preening! J  We stumbled upon a dress several weeks ago and finally got some shoes yesterday. She may only wear the dress and the shoes once; some may think that doing this with a 12 year old is silly or an overemphasizing the more material aspects of Easter. But for Hope, this is her first Easter with me, but bigger than that, it is her first Easter, according to her, getting an Easter outfit and an Easter basket.

By the time I was Hope’s age, I was no longer getting Easter baskets. I usually still got a new dress for church, but my family downplayed the candy and pretty clothes narrative in favor of greater emphasis on the resurrection. That’s cool, that is the point, right? But there is something delightful about having those child years that included waking up to an Easter basket and pretty new clothes to go celebrate Jesus (if that’s what you believe). There’s an innocence associated with it.

Hope didn’t have that. A few foster families attempted to create that experience for her, but my lovely girl was in such a state that she really doesn’t remember; she barely remembers last Easter. This week she told to me that she’d never had an Easter basket (ever!). I’m not certain this is entirely true, but she believes it. I dare you to convince her otherwise. So does it really matter whether it’s true? Nope, sure doesn’t. The reality is that Hope wasn’t in a stable environment where she was taken to go sit on a dingy bunny’s lap at the mall for an overpriced picture or woke up to a sparkly basket at the foot of the bed or got to put on a new dress and shoes purchased for the express purpose of looking pretty at Easter.

Listening to Hope share a history that had none of these experiences was hard. These are things I take for granted in my own life. They are embedded pieces of my family life that are a part of what made my family a family and what made me feel safe. Imagine for a minute not having some of the trappings of tradition; the thought of not having them made me realize how important those things were structurally to what I understood to be my childhood.

So, this morning I was up driving around looking for white tights—her insistence, not mine— and assembling an Easter basket. She was so excited about her basket! She loved it.


Hope was jazzed about the Glow in the Dark Silly Putty!

She dressed up for church, putting on her white tights that made her look like a freakishly tall 5 year-old. The tights are now my metaphor for her emotional age. I tried to get her to go bare legged or to let me buy some “soft brown” pantyhose, but, no she insisted on white tights. #shrugok #nudedoesntworkforus

She pulled out her “good” jewelry for the occasion and slipped on her new shoes. She put on the sparkly headband. #jewelsforjesus

She wriggled and fidgeted until neighbors and parishioners told her how beautiful she was in her Easter garb. We’ve been home for over an hour, and she still hasn’t changed. Hope insists she hates dresses, but just manage to get her in one and you’ll be hard pressed to get her to change out of it. She is deep in a tomboy phase fashion-wise, but my lovely girl likes pretty things.

I can’t say that I expected to make such a big deal out of Easter, but it became clear that it was important in creating scaffolding for our long term relationship. Hope needs traditions to help her settle in and know that this is real and this is family.

I’m off to go bake a ham and make a few other holiday dishes for Easter dinner.

Have a blessed day for He is risen.

Promises, Promises

So I was hoping for an upswing this week, but it’s really just been more of the same just with extra amplification.   Hope is on an “I’m not worthy of anything good” spiral with the added twist of a dumping by the west coast love interest that represented the last connection to home. Me? I’m on a “Dear God, are you there? It’s me, ABM” Judy Bloom-style depressive episode. The energy in our house sucks arse. The Furry One has resorted to just sleeping to avoid us both.

I need to do some positive talk and make some public promises to myself.


I’m going to stop keeping score. Or at least the scores that do harm. This thing with my mom; I’ve been keeping score on how many times I’ve been hurt. I go over it obsessively in my mind all day, every day. There was something new this week that hit my gut so hard that it felt like the wind got knocked out of me. It was one of those pieces of information that you get at the end of a season of a TV show—total gut-dropping cliffhanger—and I don’t know what to do with it. It seems that the only thing I can really do is let it go, stop quantifying the grief and discomfort. I need to focus my energies on keeping score on my and Hope’s improvements and accomplishments, which include:

  • Hope made the honor roll during her first few months here.
  • We survived and rebounded from a horrible episode that needed more intervention than I imagined I would ever need to deal with.
  • Hope never stopped calling me mom.
  • Hope is starting to make friends.
  • Hope loves her hair.
  • I can see her stabilizing even when things feel really crappy.
  • She finally earned her own phone and her house keys.
  • She laughs and acts goofy more than she is sad.
  • Her emotional outbursts have stepped down in intensity since January.
  • And much more.

The ability to stop keeping score about the bad stuff is going to be hard. But I will have to try. It’s worth it.

I will tell myself that I’m a good mom and that I’m doing better than I probably think I am. It’s easy to get trapped into a cycle of self-doubt and like you effed up first thing in the morning when you swung your legs out of bed and put your feet on the floor. But the truth is, that you didn’t eff up. I didn’t eff up. Yeah, 75% of the time I don’t think I have any clue what the hell I’m doing but then I realize that my instincts aren’t so bad. I know I’m trying hard. I see us improving, and I can take some credit for that, right? I’m going to look inside and find my inner bravado filled rapper and rap to myself about how I’m doing a good job. #MCABM

I’m going to exercise more, and try to stop biting my cheek out of anxiety. I’m two weeks clean from baking stress cakes. I hopped on the scale at the end of last week, and I was completely horrified. I beat myself up terribly. Then I got up the next morning and went for a 3 mile walk. And I did it again and again. One morning I got up at 4:40, strapped on a headlamp and walked. I’ve always been an exerciser; I need to still be that. I’m hopeful that new meds will help reduce my anxiety and depression and help me find my way back to myself.

I only started biting my cheeks about 6 weeks ago. It hurts. And even though it hurts, it takes a bit of mindful awareness for me to realize that I’m doing it. I decided to peek at my cheeks yesterday. Oy. I bite my cheeks so much these days that they are bruised on the insides. Sigh…So I need to stop.


So these are my promises to myself. I will treat myself better for both my sake and Hope’s.


A Stormy Week and a Weepy Mom

Ugh. So the last few days I’ve really struggled. I mean really struggled with Hope. Honestly she’s been fine; I just haven’t. Therapy was rough on Friday, mainly because while I’ve been enjoying the routine and the joy of motherhood the last few weeks; the reality is that I’m not sure how much of it is real. Hope has a way of shutting down or acting out in therapy that rattles me somewhere deep inside. It makes me not trust myself to pick up on how she’s really feeling. It makes me realize how desperately I need respite time away from her that isn’t just me going to work. It just cascades from there…I have learned things this week, but these things feel much darker than in recent weeks.   I’m feeling navy blue and off my game at the moment. I hate feeling like this week’s recap is a slam post about my daughter, but I try to be really transparent about what I’m going through when blogging and well…it is what it is.


I need respite time. So I’m in the process of interviewing caregivers to help out with my little family. Hope is a handful and she exhausts me mentally, physically and emotionally. When stuff goes left, I hit the wall hard and I need a break. My level of resiliency is not what it should be; a horrible afternoon can send me spinning in the wrong direction for several days. I honestly have no earthly idea how I’ve gotten through the last couple of months other than divine assistance. I’m tired…worn out. The need for respite is also a constant reminder that while I have a village of folks who are loving and supportive, the one person I want in my corner is just not there.

I continue to struggle with my own emotions and reactions to Grammy’s visit nearly a month later. I know I have family and friends that read this blog and probably think I’m running my mom down in ways likeI feel she’s done to me recently. The truth is that I’ve concluded I am overwhelmed by grief about the crumbling of this relationship. I’m devastated to conclude that after months of planting seeds of doubt concerning my ability to single parent a kid with a traumatic history that she was the first person to actually cut and run. It hurts to have friends’ parents call me and check on me and offer encouragement while my phone sits silent, waiting for my mother to call. I’m resentful about feeling like I need to swallow the disappointment and anger because I still want Hope to have some relationship with her Grammy and Grandpa. I worry about whether fostering what feels like such a dangerous relationship with my mom is even in her best interest.

So I am deeply grieving the unmet expectations and the perceived abandonment.

I feel like a hypocrite. So I gave a lecture at Iowa State this week. It felt good to get out and flex a bit professionally since I’ve been behind on just about everything in the office for going on 3 months now. The lecture was good and well received. I felt sharp. During the Q&A after my lecture someone asked me a question about success in diversity work on campus, and I found myself talking about the need to have reasonable expectations and different definitions for success.

I often tell a story about a program one of my organizational members launched with a partner institution. Three years into the program the partnership yielded fruit; the secondary partner was delighted that it only took three years; my member was frustrated because it took three years to get this one “fruit” from the partnership. The member took their toys and left the partnership. The point of the vignette is that the partners never agreed on what success would look like to cement the partnership.

Playing that script in my head during a three mile walk this morning led me to believe that I have a skewed perception of what success will look like for me and Hope. Oh sure I know I want to see her be well/better adjusted, safe, secure, fully functional, emotionally age appropriate etc, etc…but what do I see as success for our relationship? Hmmmm. Can I describe what success looks like for me and Hope? Not exactly; not in concrete terms. Everyone says we’re doing really well, but what does that mean? How can I counsel folks on defining success and expectations when my house is such an effing wreck?

Hope gets on my damn nerves like 60% of the time.  My sister was telling me about a comedy show she recently went to, and the comedian joked that he loved his daughter the most when she was asleep. Yeah….that. Ok, the percentage of nerve rattling ebbs and flows, but I’d have to say on a big picture evaluation, 60% sounds about right.

Hope wants to live in a world of absolutes, one of those absolutes being that she wants to be right 100% of the time even on the ridiculously, absurd things she tends to say. She only wears X brand of jeans and utterly refuses to consider any other jeans. She still occasionally breeches the sanctuary of my bedroom without asking. She eavesdrops like a mug, so I’m trapped in my house with no privacy. She whines constantly about phantom aches and pains for attention. She’s gotten comfortable enough to start lying and being manipulative. This week she decided she wasn’t going to go on a class field trip; she sprang the permission slip on me on Friday morning, 10 minutes before she needed to catch the bus. Her manipulation game is crazy weak though; girlfriend needs to call me after studying the Art of War and Machiavelli’s The Prince in a few years. She was furious that I allowed her to miss the bus while I informed her she was taking that damn $2 and that signed slip AND this completed chaperone form ‘cause WE were going to Lake Accotink in a few weeks. Her plan B? To just not turn the forms in to her teacher—I literally could see the plan forming through her forehead. ABM’s end game? Preemptively email her teacher that she has her forms and $2.

It seems that my early rising patterns are rubbing off on her. Initially I complained about her ability to sleep to 11 or 12, but when she strolled into the kitchen this morning at 8:49am, I cursed under my breath because the couple of quiet hours in the house I’ve come to relish on the weekends, being pseudo alone, evaporated into thin air.   She wanted a hug and to whine about something and cereal and…whatever.

I love her madly, but she gets on my damn nerves. I feel some shame about that because I feel like adoptive parents are held on this pedestal where we are supposed to love our kids and marvel that they manage to poop every day after their arrival. Oh well, I guess I fail at staying on that stupid pedestal; I spike her water with miralax so I know she poops, but I can’t say I care or clap about it.

It’s hard living with someone who isn’t capable of even asking if you’re ok. This is an off-shoot of the expectations issue, and I know that to some extent it’s really not fair for me to expect Hope to care much about me. I also hear that the level of narcissism exhibited by tweens and teens is stunning. But it would be so nice just once for Hope to ask, “Hey mom, are you ok? How are you?” Living without that kind of compassion or empathy is hard, especially without a partner in the house with me to offer it from somewhere else. It’s just hard minute to minute, hour to hour, day to day knowing I have to just be ok with possibly not hearing it anytime soon…maybe even never. I don’t know if we’ll get there; maybe we will, but for now, it really hurts. I know I’m not supposed to take it personally; I know I’m supposed to disassociate these behaviors, but ugh.

I am depressed. I’ve been here before. I’ve been a tough adoption soldier these 10 weeks or so, but I have more than the blues. This is something else. My eyes are exhausted from leaking tears. I mean I can only manage a good hard cry every week or so, but other times, my eyes just leak tears. Hope notices sometimes and other times I think she pretends not to notice. It’s time for me to visit doc and look into better living with chemistry. I was aware of this dark cloud sliding over my head, but despite several weeks of really wrestling with these clouds, I know I just can’t shake it by myself.


So, that’s where I am this week. I’ve got to finish working with the dissertation editor, and I’ve got an education module I’m behind on (again) and then tomorrow is picture day for Hope, so there’s hair to do tonight.   Sigh…Ok week, let’s get on with it.

Home and Hope

So my first business trip away from Hope was a bit stressful. There were lots of check in, some Skype sessions, and lots of texting. We were both anxious. I got a note from the math teacher and I had to make calls in the middle of a meeting.

I nearly had a meltdown when my flight from Des Moines to Chicago ran so late that I missed my connection home. I had to spend the night in Chicago. This would’ve been bad enough given that it was after 10pm; my corporate credit card expired on Monday and I didn’t have my luggage or fresh clothes at the ready. But now, such travel drama meant that I wouldn’t be home to see Hope off to school like I promised.

Damn, first trip and I’m breaking promises already.


I was fit to be tied, as we say.

But I called; I skyped and I called again. Hope enjoyed time with her godmother. And Godmommie wasn’t leaving until this morning anyway. The truth is that she was fine. They were fine. We all were fine. Things were fine.

She was thrilled to see me this evening. Even more excited that I brought home high quality bacon from pig country-Iowa. Hope was happy that I was here tonight to take her to dinner at Panera, to pick up a few things for school at Target and to twist her hair.

I wish I hadn’t had to work so hard while I was on this trip and that I could’ve enjoyed the hotel time. But now that I know we can do this travel thing, I’ll be ready next time…which happens to be another overnight next week.

In the meantime, Hope’s hair continues to be gorgeous and some little girl at school wants to touch it all the time (such touchiness annoys me #donttouchthehair). She’s embraced her hair in a way that exceeded my expectations. We tried on ballet flats tonight—that didn’t take long! She’s made friends at school, even if some of those relationships were cemented over bug candy that I purchased for her.

This evening she blurted out a list of things that she was happy about being my daughter and the cool things she’s done since she’s been here.  Whoa!  These are the times when my heart sings. It is precious and everything I dreamed about as I thought about being a mom.

Tomorrow is therapy and we haven’t been in a couple of weeks and so much has happened and so much hasn’t happened. I wonder what will it will be like; I always assume the worst when we go. And I wonder how we will be and what our resiliency will look like tomorrow evening.

Stay tuned.

Turning Corners

So we’re sliding into week three of really lovely, relatively easy times with me and Hope. This respite from drama is so deeply appreciated that I can barely articulate how wonderful it feels. I cling to this time because I know that at any time the shoe can drop and we can be back in stormy times again. But for now, I’m grateful and basking in the light of mommyhood, family time and the ease of life. So, after such a monumental week for me, I’m happy to think about what happened, what didn’t happen and what was learned. Yep, time for the weekly recap!

Watching my kid learn to let go and be a kid is a beautiful thing. Hope’s early years had her really being a caretaker for one of her parents; the experience robbed her of her childhood in so many ways. I find that she really has trouble sometimes learning to get in her lane (the kid lane) and stay there. There are times when she really thinks she is the boss of me. Um, no ma’am. Sit your $5 fanny down before I make change.

In recent weeks, especially since the Great Grammy Visit of March 2014, I’ve really limited her TV/movie watching to cartoons and encouraged all around goofiness. She’s dived into it, and I’ve watched her enjoy all of it immensely. She’s thrived with the restrictions. She’s eager to just not have to worry about ish that she’s really just too young to worry about. She’s learning to trust that I got it, and I’m learning to believe that I got this. too

Earning perks is better for Hope than all out punishments. Hope struggles with negative consequences. You want to really set her off after she’s already pissed, tell her you’re taking tablet time or some other thing that she inherently believes she is entitled to. Girlfriend will lose her ish in 15 seconds flat. Oh I still have to do that sometimes, but I’ve found that “big gets” acquired through earning is a much better way to get her to learn appropriate behavior.

Last week, Hope failed to earn her house key because she insisted that some school kid’s intel on the after school program was better than mine. She quickly realized that momma knows what’s up and you’d better be where I told you to be if you expect to show me that you’re responsible enough for a key. She was salty.

This week she gets her extraordinarily coveted cell phone. She managed to avoid earning the five points that would have prevented cell phone acquisition. She knows that there will be significant restrictions on this phone (so many in fact that I can’t imagine it’s going to be much fun having it), but she’s so proud to have earned it. I’m proud of her too.

Hope is beginning to trust me, like really, really trust me. She tells me things. She tells me how she feels. Sometimes I have to prompt her, but I’m getting better at reading her tells that I can inquire sooner and offer her comfort or safety or whatever it is that she needs to let me in. She looks for me in the house (Lawd, can’t even go to the bathroom by my damn self sometimes); she calls out for me. She asks me what I think.

I’m trusting her a little more too. She asks so many random questions sometimes that my stock answer has become, “I don’t know.” The more she lets me in the more I respond with the answer I really want to say without fear that I’m going to hit a trip wire and send up hurtling right into crazy time.

The amount of self-sacrifice necessary to be a parent and to specifically be a single adoptive parent is starting to get easier. It is really hard though sometimes. Sometimes I really just want to be alone; I’ve had a lot of years alone. I miss my solitude, a lot actually. I miss not having to wait on someone else to get ready to go anywhere and my ability to just pick up and do as I please. I miss sitting down to watch a rated R movie at 7pm on a Tuesday night because I just want to and I needn’t concern myself with exposing a kid to something like that—we’ve watched like 5 G or PG rated flicks this weekend; I really need a cuss word in my life right about now. No really, I do—filth, flarn, filth.  I miss being able to just have some pretzels and a cocktail for dinner because I am too lazy to fix real food. I miss cooking real mac and cheese because Hope actually prefers Velveeta shells and cheese (ick). #wheretheydothat? I miss having time, much less disposable funds, to just go buy myself something random. And yes, <hanging head in shame> I am annoyed that she now wants to keep my favorite headband for her hair. Sigh…I’ve been reduced to coveting my own ish from my 12 year old daughter. It was a loan (in my mind) dammit.

And despite all of that, I found myself on the way to work a few days this week grinning, just grinning because my heart was so full of love for this kid. The fact that my eyebrows look like fuzzy caterpillars didn’t bother me one bit. I really need to get them waxed this week; I can’t go on like this. But watching her heal, watching her learn to trust me and to begin to be happy is so achingly beautiful that if necessary I’ll go on looking like Sasquatch, if necessary (I guess).

Hope has an inner girly girl. Hope rocks hard with the tomboy front, but the truth is that there’s an inner girly girl peeking around the bend. Last month she preened hard in her cute little mint green dress at her godparents’ wedding. Now it’s all about the sparkly stuff. Yesterday at Charming Charlie’s she picked out a tangerine colored dress that she’ll wear for Easter. And then she had to look at all the sparkly stuff.

Hope tried on a tiara. #pagingDisneyprincesses

Ok, we *both* tried them on!  But you see mine is bigger right? #queenbee

Ok, we *both* tried them on! But you see mine is bigger right? #queenbee


And yes, she seems to have it in her mind that my favorite dressy headband belongs exclusively on her head.

I haven’t gotten her out of those gawd-awful sneakers, but I can see it’s only a matter of time before she’ll be asking for a pair of ballet flats.
Hope and I cross new terrain this week as I begin traveling again for work. I know she’s anxious about it, but I’ve done a lot to try to soothe her and prepare her. She’s vocal about the fact that she doesn’t like that I have to go away sometimes, and I do wonder what this quick trip might trigger for her. Time will tell, I guess. I’m about to start interviewing for additional caregiver help for us this week as well. I’m optimistic!  And I’m even ready if stuff goes left this week. It’s all a part of the process, a part of the journey.


Hairy Times

So last night we took out Hope’s braids, and today she stepped out as a full blown naturalista! OMG, she’s so adorable I can barely stand it! It was another 5+ hour ordeal, taking out the braids, detangling, cleansing, conditioning, blowing drying, paddle brushing and dry twisting. Around hour 4, my back was killing me, and I must’ve started huffing a little when my girl said, “Thank you for doing my hair. No one has ever taken the time to take care of it like you. It feels so good when you do it, not like [former foster mom].”

I nearly started crying; then I woman’ed up and kept plowing through. The truth is, I love having my hands in her head; there’s a special bonding that happens when I do her hair.

Look at these lovely blown out locks…

As I began to twist her hair, I could tell she was getting anxious. We took a break so she could get her silly putty, which she uses to cope. After we were done, I sat down next to her on her bed and asked her why she was so anxious.

“Suppose I mess it up? Suppose it doesn’t look like yours? I can’t do anything right, so I’ll probably mess this up too.”

Oh dear, self-esteem, self-worth meltdowns before bed. My sweet Hope has so much healing to do. Good Lord chile, you can’t mess up the dry twist out!!

So we had another chat about it just being hair. #pagingIndiaArie #Iamnotmyhair It’s beautiful if for no other reason than it grows out of your lovely head. It will grow. It is and will be lovely. It will be coily and sometimes kinky and you’ll learn all about yourself through your hair.

“I don’t know what I really look like…you know without braid weave. I am excited about seeing what I look like. But supposed I don’t like it?”

Yeah, ok, so it took me a while to like my hair after I went natural. It made me see myself differently.

“I want my hair to be like yours…you know without the gray. #justalittleshade

I smile, yeah, I know…without the gray. #justalittlesideeye

It will be beautiful, I tell her before tucking her in.  So, fast forward to this morning with more anxiety.

“I’m sure I messed it up.”

Hope, how could you mess it up when all you did was sleep with your cap on?

“I dunno, but I know I messed it up.”

Sigh.  Of course her hair was lovely. I’m jealous actually. Her thick hair embraced those twists, gave off a shine, great definition and is super moist.

She scrunched her nose as she peered into the mirror, turning side to side. I got out the pick and fluffed and fluffed. I got a sparkly headband from my stash and popped it on her head. She smiled.

“It’s so short. Is it nappy? Is this an afro?”  It does appear shorter—shrinkage! No, it isn’t nappy, but there’s nothing wrong with it being nappy. No, this isn’t an afro.

“Hmmm. I like it!”

She didn’t just say it, she declared it. But then she said she looked plain, so I suggested that we style her for our trip to the bank and to the Peeps store. We pulled out all her little jewelry, picked some earrings, a necklace, a ring and some bracelets.

She was blinged out. #happyandyouknowitclapyourhands

“Yeah, I need to be sure to put on a few things when I wear my hair out.”

I smile.

It’s rainy here today, so I told her that it might look different in an hour (or 10 minutes..sigh!), but it will be fine. I told her that her hair would look different tomorrow too, as the hair stretches.

So we head out and bump into our neighbor who raved and the concierge who raved. We talked about how free her head and hair felt.  She enjoyed her hair, her new look.

I know we will have more anxiety about the hair, but today was a lovely hair day. Just awesome. Hope saw herself today and liked what she saw today. She didn’t “mess it up.” She felt good about herself.

Hope was successful today.  I love this kid.


Dr. ABM!!!

Well, I’m done! Yay! My presentation was marred by a few technical problems, but I moved through it and survived. I had a few questions from my committee and the program directors and that was that!

Congratulations, Dr. ABM!

Well, actually the program director doesn’t want to call us Dr. until the dean signs off. Whatever, man!  I’m a doctor!

I had a great dinner with Hope and some cousins, and I’ve snarfed two cupcakes and a glass of wine.

I’m exhausted. I’m four years exhausted. I’m four years, one full time job, one newly, adopted kid with all kinds of drama tired. I am Tie-Erd.  Seriously, my shoulders and back hurt. Today I’ll rest; just rest.

Ok, that’s a lie.

I still was up at 5:30 to make sure the morning routine stayed the morning routine. I’ve folded one load of laundry and I’ve got two more loads going. I’ve changed the bed linens and Febreeze’d the house—tweens smell funny. Ick. As soon as the laundry is in the dryer, I might snooze for an hour.

Hope was happy for me. It seemed genuine. This week she said she was happy sometimes; this is an improvement. The routine is working, even the new bedtime of 9:15 has gone over smoothly. It’s been a good week.

So what now?

On to the next thing, whatever that is!


To my daughter, Hope.

You were only a far away thought in my mind when I initially dreamed of earning my doctorate. I found you near the end of this journey, and now I cannot imagine my life without you. I am so happy you are with me as I achieve this goal.

You have helped me to discover new depths of inspiration, love and compassion. You have given me a new life that I joyfully step into as I end this program.

My hope is that this project will inspire you to realize and know in your heart that you can achieve your heart’s desire, no matter how your journey begins. I dedicate this to you as my promise to always be your biggest cheerleader and champion in realizing your dreams.

Momma loves you.

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