Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A Letter To Our Adopted Child

Brian was going through old adoption papers tonight.  Among the MAPP certificate, the background check verifications, and the home study stating that we were approved for up to 2 children up to age 12 (haha); he ran across a letter that we had to write to our future child.  I think it was mostly so the agency could assess our understanding of what we were getting into, but I always hoped that they would give it to our future child.  You can tell in the letter that we assumed that we'd only be adopting one child.  But, clearly, the universe had different plans. :)

Brian wrote the letter and I was proud to have my name connected to it.  You know, because he did a really good job.  Anyway, I thought it might be fun to share it. 

So, I guess this makes Brian, my guest blogger for the night! 


"Hello to our adopted child,

This is a letter that hopes to give you an idea of what your life will likely be like once you come to live with us.  It's difficult to say in advance exactly what life with us will be like.  You can be very sure that the basics will be covered.  You'll never want for food, clothing, shelter, medical care, or simple safety.  That should be obvious.  Still, we understand that you may not have had all of those things to this point in your life.  So, we make you that promise from the very beginning.  If you have been deprived of any of the basics of life, that time has ended for you.

We offer you much more than just the basics, however.  You're getting a full family for starters.  You are getting grandparents.  You are getting aunts and uncles.  You are getting cousins.  Plus, the many friends that we have are ready to be honorary aunts and uncles for you, as well.  We, also, feel that no family is complete without some members who are furry, finned, or feathered.  So, being alone is not something that you'll ever have to worry about.

You get a future with us, as well.  We want to give you every opportunity to do whatever you want to do with your life.  We don't know, and don't care, how smart you are or how pretty or handsome you are.  Our job as your parents is to give you the chance to be as good as you want to be.  We'll give you education, at school and at home.  We'll give you respect and compassion for others.  We'll give you as much hope and confidence for the future as any parents can.  We'll give you whatever you need to allow you to become whoever and whatever you want to be.

There's one thing that we'll give you that is just as, if not more, important as anything else  We'll give you our love.  We will always let you know that you are loved in actions, as well as in words.  Our love is and will always be unconditional.  We love you now, even though we haven't found you yet.  In the end, that's the most important thing we could ever give you.  We give you love.  Welcome.

Your new parents,

Brian & Emily"

I love that we actually were not that far off on our thoughts on what life would be like.  True, there's a noteworthy shortage of information on super heroes, how many donuts they will eat, and the number of costumes that they would one day wear.  But, other than that, he did good. ;)

You can't just shop in Academy Sports, you must try on cowboy hats!

My Men In Black


Saturday, December 7, 2013

William Struggles With His Handwriting.

My William.  He's smart as can be, but he had some catching up to do when he came to us with undiagnosed ADHD and minimal pre-school preparation.  In spite of that, he has flourished and most academic things come easy to him.  Because, like I said, he's smart.  All my kids are. :)

But, he has always struggled with his handwriting.  I don't know exactly why.  It could be because he's a leftie.  Being a leftie, too, I know that this is a relevant reason.  It could be because he has ADHD and finds it difficult to take the time to write the letters.  All I know is that it has always been a struggle.  I also know that if he takes his time, really takes his time, he can write perfectly well.  But, he doesn't usually take his time.  And, every year, his teacher suggests that he practice.  And, he does; mostly because we make him.  And, every year, he receives countless reminders from us to take his time.  But, it doesn't improve all that much. 

I really worry about middle school and how his handwriting will affect his school work when he's in such a fast paced environment.  So, lately, I've been working more writing time into our leisure time.  It works out since Antwan and Lizzie's teachers want them to practice writing, too.  This is usually when I lose Kaleb to his headphones and music.  But, I'll give him a pass; his handwriting is awesome.

So, the other day, I had them writing.  I asked William to write a paragraph about anything that he wanted.  Usually, his topics range from Minecraft, Doctor Who, and the xbox, in general.  It takes an inordinate amount of time, as he stares at the paper for a bit, trying to decide what he wants to say.  And, then we spend a few minutes discussing how many sentences he actually has to write.

Not today, though.  Today, he was a mastermind.  After we suggested that he write about Florida, he started writing right away.  Then, my sweet little mastermind brought this to me in half the time that it normally takes him to produce a paragraph.

"I like Florida.  Because of its warm weather.  It has great radio stations.  My favorites are 93.3, 95.1, 97.9.  And the family THAT ADOPTED ME!  I love you"

Well, this does little to assure me that he'll do well in middle school or that he has mastered the art of carefully writing each letter.  And, it definitely doesn't count as a paragraph.  But, it does assure me that he's a happy kid who knows he is loved, so I'll take it. 

Yeah, he scored a hug and a pass from writing any more that day.  Well played, William. :)
I love you, too!



Friday, November 29, 2013

My Boy Is Finally Finalized! He's Kaleb Parker now. :)

One thing can always be said for us.  We never do things the simple way.  Sometimes that's because of random circumstances.  And, sometimes, it's because of me.  You see, there's a reason that Brian calls me Lucy Ricardo. :)

When we finalized with the boys, it was definitely due to random circumstances.  The car overheated which caused us to have to sit in a parking lot, instead of getting to our finalization in time.  The rest of our family was there, but we were freaking out on the other side of town.  Luckily, it was a group adoption event and they were able to pass us over and come back to us. 

Here's that story...

This time, I lost the debit card.  Yeah, that was me.  I didn't realize it until we were getting close to the time to leave.   The kids and I were going to run to the store and then to a friend's work because it's possible that I left my camera in her purse.  You can't go to an adoption finalization without a camera. :)   And, when I went to confirm the location of my debit card, I realized that it wasn't there.  No problem, I thought, Brian has it.  Well, I think that we all know that Brian didn't have it...  Several minutes of pocket searching, van searching, and wallet searching ensued with no luck.  So, then, I decided to panic instead.  Have you ever tried to take a trip to the other end of the state with no debit card and only a few dollars in cash and no access to your money because it's a Sunday?  It's not easy.

So, what does a grown-up, mature woman, wife, and mother of four do in these situations?  I called my parents and cried.  My parents are not the kind of people who lose debit cards, so they don't really know what to do with me, but, boy, do they have my back.  Or, more importantly, they have their grandchildren's backs.  So, a couple of hours later, we were heading out of town with borrowed money and anticipation.

We could now focus on the fact that we were about to officially become a family.  :)

Thankfully, the trip was uneventful.  We made it to Fort Myers at 7:30pm instead of mid-afternoon like we would have without my antics.  But, we made it!  We checked into a hotel that had us in two rooms on separate floors (we got that fixed), got McDonald's to go, only to discover that they had messed up the order (we ate it, anyway), and we collapsed tiredly into our beds (well, Brian and I did, at least).

I laid there in bed, thinking.  When you're going to become a mom, there's a lot to think about.  But, mostly, I thought about logistics.  Are the camera batteries charging?  How early do I have to get up so that I have enough time to dye my hair (I can't finalize with gray in my hair!) and to do Lizzie's hair (if you've ever tried to do a black child's hair in a hotel room with spinny chairs, then you know that it's extra challenging..)?  Would I have time to stop for the pantyhose that I forgot to buy (probably not)?  And, what time should I get the kids up?  I think that's when I dozed off.

I got up early.  I dyed my hair.  I woke up the kids with obnoxiously cheerful songs and it all went as smoothly as it could, with 4 kids involved, and we were on our way.  That is, until I realized that I left the battery charger in the outlet in the hotel room.  So, I went back in, got another key and rushed up to the room.  That's when I realized that I gave the clerk the wrong room number and had to run back down and get another key.  I was in rare form.  It's almost like I had something else on my mind...:)

Finally, after all this, we were actually on our way!

We got to the courthouse with about 10 minutes to spare and found out that you have to take off your shoes to go through security.  This made me regret putting myself, Lizzie, Antwan, and William in boots.  Haha. 

Eventually, though, we got to the courtroom where, of course, we waited around.  Kaleb got a "congratulations on being adopted" quilt, we got hugs from the Guardian At Litem, and the paralegal agreed to videotape for us.  And, finally, we were called in.

It was different from how we do it in Jacksonville.  We didn't stand up, make statements, and I'm not even sure if we raised our right hand.  It was informal, but, at least, it was happening. :)  And, then she started to say the words.  She started to say the words that do make it final, makes him our son and, officially, a Parker.  That's when I started crying. :)  And, when she was done, I went in for my hug. 

(Weeks before the finalization, I had warned him that I was going to hug him and he needed to let me.  I thought it was important because, occasionally, in the past, he had jokingly dodged the hug; even though, we both know that he loves them.  I needed him to know that this wasn't the time for that.  I had earned the dramatic hug, darn it! ;)  He joked and asked what would happen if he did and I simply said that it would break my heart.  I wasn't taking any chances on this one! haha.)

So, it was with confidence that I went for the hug and I could feel him lean into me.  I cried and hugged and thought how awesome this moment was; and, how great it was that he was really in the moment because he wasn't pulling away.  That's when I heard his muffled voice, "Wow, this is a really long hug." 

So, he was humoring me about the hug, haha, but not about being happy.  :)

We all stood up.  Everyone was smiling.  Then the paralegal came over and told me that I had run out of space on my memory card, but she got everything that she could.  So, it is likely that she got the judge talking, but not the actual finalization.  I haven't been able to bring myself to look at it yet and that is my biggest disappointment.  But, perspective is important.  He is still my son, now, even if there is no video footage of me smothering him with a hug. ;)

We left the courthouse, feeling good.  My family patiently posed for several pictures. 

We had lunch with his Guardian At Litem who is the greatest.  And, we drove home.

Kaleb slept a good portion of the way.  Lizzie, Antwan, and William made as much noise as they possibly could because, apparently, they had enough of being cooped up.  Brian and I were over-joyed to be home, get out of the van and out of such close quarters with the children that we love so much.

We went to bed about as quickly as the kids that night.  We were exhausted and Brian was getting a cold.  But, we were going to bed as a family and that was pretty cool.

I sent them all to school the next morning on inadequate sleep and I went to work.  I did a little gushing at work and a lot of thinking.  (Maybe not so much working...)

There has been a shift since then.  I know that Kaleb feels more secure.  I think that we all do. 

If I needed any more proof, I've got this.  The other night, I tucked him in (just like I have been doing for weeks.)  This time, he said "I'm glad that I have a mommy now to tuck me in every night."

I said that I was glad that I had a son to tuck in.  He laughed and said "No, you're not.  You just want to go to sleep."

That was also true.  I am always exhausted when I am tucking him in.

But, there is no doubt that I am really glad that this boy is my son and that he settles for my low energy tuck-ins, every night. :)

And, I'm also thankful to have a husband who finds the humor in the fact that he found the debit card on the floor, a week later.... :)



Saturday, November 16, 2013

What's Going To Change When You Finalize Your Adoption?

I'm kind of quiet at work.  I'm not really sure why.  Well, it doesn't really have anything to do with this story, anyway. I'm just setting the mood. ;)  Anyway, when I mentioned with an oddly calm tone that we are finalizing on Monday, my co-workers weren't ready for it.  But, it didn't take them long to start reacting happily in high-pitched voices.  Of course, I'm not feeling calm.  I'm aware that this is a very big deal.

Then my co-worker asked, "what's going to change?  What can you do now?"  I didn't know how to respond, at first, so she continued "Can you add him to your insurance?"   I confirmed that I could.  Although, I have to admit that it won't be first on my list.  His insurance through the state is actually pretty good and he's entitled to keep it until he turns 18.  I listed a few things that we could do like adding him to our dental, changing his name (that will be at the top of my list), and saying goodbye to the system, in general.  I pointed out that we will now receive a monthly subsidy to assist with living expenses.  This is because he is classified as "special needs."  (Translation.  Because there are so many children in the system; if a child is black, part of a sibling group, or over 8 years old; the child is considered special needs in Florida.  P.S. This is very sad.)  The subsidy and the free college were both things that we had no idea about when we started the initial process with the boys; but, man, have we been grateful for it.  I said that we could do all that stuff.  And, we moved on to the next question.

"Are you going to have a big celebration for him?"  I felt bad when I said "Well, we usually go to lunch."   Sadly, this lunch will be on a smaller scale because we have to travel to Fort Myers for the finalization, instead of finalizing locally.  Although, I'm sure we will get together with the rest of the family at some point.  The fact is, I would love to have a huge celebration.  I would've loved to have one each time.  But, when we became parents, we gave up having extra money to throw parties and extra time to plan them.    So, a lunch will have to do.  But, lunch works out because we all love to eat, after all. :)  I added that he's been with us since the end of June so it's kind of a technicality.  I said this to imply that we had already celebrated, which we have, in our own way.  We've celebrated by doing what families do.  We've watched TV together.  Played games together.  And argued about homework together. 

But, is the finalization really a technicality?  No.
And, will anything change? Yes.

Why does it matter if it's finalized?  It's not just an excuse to have lunch.  The ability to make sure everyone's last names match.  Or the chance to catch up on some bills.  It's because it makes it real.  Really, really, real.  It's the knowledge that just because you didn't give birth to this child, you have complete control and rights to him, just like a biological child.  It means that the only difference with this child and my sister's child is that the biological connection is not there.  But, it doesn't mean that he's not mine.  It means that I don't have to worry when a case worker comes that something will go wrong or that he'll get mad at me for making him do his homework and complain to a Guardian Ad Litem.  (He has never done this, by the way.)  I know that he'll complain about me many, many times, over the years, but it will be in the same way that other kids complain about their parents. won't be to someone who is paid to care about him.  It means that he knows that he is ours.  He knows that he is ours, forever.  He knows that he belongs somewhere.  Sadly, he was promised that before, in his previous adoption, and it didn't work out.  But, I think he knows that it's the case now.  He knows that it's too late for us to change our minds and that we have no intention of doing so, anyway.  It's beyond a choice and has been for a long time.  He knows (I hope) that I can't promise that I won't be overly emotional and sometimes unreasonable, but I can promise that I am always going to be there, anyway.

So, after we finalize, will anything change?  I don't know.  Maybe not in an obvious way.  We'll go to lunch to celebrate, but, also, because we need to feed our kids.  We'll drive home and tell Antwan and Lizzie about a million times not to make sudden high-pitched noises because it scares Daddy when he is driving.  We'll go home and feed our children again.  Lizzie and I will go to her Girl Scout meeting if we, miraculously, make it back in time.  We'll put them to bed.  We'll collapse in exhaustion and then get our second winds and stay awake way too late.  I'll wake up in the morning, grumpily, and get them out of bed.  I'll nag Patrick to brush his teeth, Antwan to get dressed, Lizzie to eat her breakfast, and William to wash his face.  I'll take them to school, wish that I could collapse in exhaustion, but head to work, instead.

It will be like any other day.  But, the difference is it will be 100% our day.  Our future.  Our forever.  And, that is worth celebrating.  Even if that just means, giving hugs as I rush them out of the van.  And, I might grumble in my head and wonder why it takes everyone so long to get out of the van, but, all the while, I will be so grateful that they are mine to rush.


Monday, November 11, 2013

Kids Say The Darndest Things And It Needs To Stop.

We are very proud that we adopted.  Just like I know many others are proud that they adopted.  We have never hidden it from our kids (not that we really had a choice, haha) and never shied away from using the word.  We talk about the milestones.  We talk about the journey.  We talk about it.  With our 13 year old, we don't talk about it in the same way because he's 13 and wants to pretend that the whole thing isn't amazing.  But, it is and we know that he's on board. :)

The other day, I was glad that we talk about it.  Patrick was waiting for me after school.  This gave him a few minutes to talk to other students because it's possible that I'm usually near the end of the line.  (Being punctual is over-rated, right? Right?).  A kid who it turns out lives in our neighborhood was messing with him about Halloween.  We had left a bowl of candy outside the door because, of course, we were all out trick-or-treating. :)   So, the kid was saying stuff about how he and his friends were going to go back and take all the candy.  Blah, blah.  Typical obnoxious teenage stuff.  But, then he said that they didn't because "that's ok, we'll just let the adopted kids be happy."  Then, he, apparently, saw my son's face, thought better of his comment, and headed home.  It wasn't the worst thing that he could have said.  But, it certainly wasn't the best.

When I got there and he told me about it, I wasn't sure what to say.  This might be the first time that anyone had implied that being one of the adopted kids was anything but a good thing.  Even with the elementary school, it hadn't gone beyond a "You're his mom?"  with understandable surprise in their voices.  When that happens, I usually respond with a smile and say something to the effect of "Yep!  How about that?" :)   And, life moves on.

But, this kid said it like it was a bad thing??  I think that's what I said to Patrick.  Or maybe I just thought it.  But, the point is, I don't get it.  You're saying it like it's a bad thing.  When, in all honesty, it's the best thing that has happened to all of us.  We are a family because of adoption.  In this bizarre, exhausting world, we are together because of adoption. 

When Patrick told Brian about it, he responded with something that we have told William; the reminder that we chose them and this kid's parents had to take what they got.  I hope that doesn't sound too harsh.  But, we're just trying to give them a little edge here. :)  And he added the question of "How confident is he that his parents would be happy about that if they knew the things he was saying?"  Later, Jennice (my friend/babysitter/godmother to the kids) had a similar emotional response when she heard about it. 

Meanwhile, Patrick seemed fine.  The kid has a thick skin for the outside world.  He has had to.  Brian and I were still the ones ranting, long after Patrick had moved on to getting his afternoon snack. 

It makes me mad because it's just not cool, but also because I want to protect my kids from all of it.  Everything.  But, I can't.  And, that's, also, not cool.

In the mean-time, I have to take my own advice and try to have a sense of humor about it.  Because, in the end, all of the rude kids in the word can't touch us.  We are a family.

So, the other day, on our way home, the kid was riding his bike in the neighborhood and Patrick made the mistake of pointing him out to me.  In the absence of many other reasonable options, I said that I was going to glare at him.  So,  I did.  As we drove by,  I turned to give him the angry mom look.  And, guess what?  He was looking the other way, totally oblivious to me. haha. 

Greatly disappointed, I continued home.  We got in the driveway and I hopped out to see where he went.  But, guess what?  He was gone.  This kid was really working against me!  Patrick promised that he had glared, on my behalf, and, got ready to head inside; until I started down the driveway, muttering things like "Where is that kid?  Where does he live?"   This led to a jokingly dramatic scene of Patrick dragging me into the house and saying things like "Mommy, get in the house!"   :)

I don't know what I would have said if I actually encountered the kid.  I would hope that I would've let him know that his comments were inappropriate.  But, of course, in middle school, that could've made Patrick's life more complicated.  This is, sadly, the reason that William doesn't want me to email the school about the kid who is messing with him at school. :(

So, all I can do is stay proud of who we are, do our best to keep the kids proud of who they are, remember not to take things too seriously, hope that these occurrences are unusual, be ready for the big and the small talks, and, apparently, put an alarm on the Halloween candy. :)



Sunday, November 3, 2013

Congratulations! It's A Boy! A Teenage Boy!

It’s been a journey.  That’s how people always start these stories.  Going through the adoption process with Patrick has been a journey.  It’s like traveling to a new country by boat or train or some other slow and unsteady form of transportation.  Definitely not an airplane, though.  While airplanes have turbulence sometimes, they are so darn fast.  This process didn’t feel fast.  Anyway, on with my analogy.  It’s like traveling to a new country and then having to live there.  The journey is over and then the real adventure begins.

Through these last few months, I’ve had my share of doubts and concerns.  Just like I'm sure that he has.  Not big, dramatic doubts.  I mean, I knew that I loved him.  I was just afraid that my life would always be like this.  A little chaotic, with constant attempts at juggling, and very noisy.   I never wanted to send him back, but I was scared about how it would be since he was staying.  And, I definitely didn’t like everything that went along with the last few months.  Case workers, fingerprints, physicals…not fun.  While I appreciate the importance of these things, (I really, really do); if I’m going to clean my house, I want it to be because I want to clean the house, not because a case worker was coming.  Well, wait, that would never happen, I would never “want” to clean the house.  So, maybe it’s good that they force the issue. ;)  But, the stress of a virtual stranger coming in and not knowing if she would see or hear something that she didn’t like; well, it wears on you.  Especially, since we were done with our 90 days at the end of September and, there we were, in mid-October, setting up our local case worker visit and arranging for a new Guardian At Litem to come, as well.

Why?  Partially because the case worker from south Florida quit.  Anyone who has ever dealt with the system knows that everything can change when a case worker changes.  We went through 4 or 5 workers with Lizzie.  Yeah, that was stressful.

Our non-local case worker in south Florida changed.  Our local case worker in North Florida received no notification and had to get contact info from me.  Lots of new paperwork was sent.  Our case  was sent to a committee to be reviewed.  Then more new paperwork was sent.  New questions were asked.  I started freaking out a little and  worrying that  something was going wrong??

So, the local case worker made her visit.  (She’s awesome, by the way.)  She didn’t know why the process was taking so long.  She thought that she had read something about them planning to finalize on November 23rd.  She said that she’d be back next month.

The day that the Guardian At Litem came, I think I was almost at my breaking point.  It was a new person and who knew what she would ask, look at, or think.  I was frantically cleaning the house which already looked pretty good because Brian had worked on it that morning.  (I like him.)  I was cleaning what he cleaned.  I was cleaning what I cleaned.  And, I was cleaning what wasn’t dirty.  And, I was cleaning what needed to be cleaned.  I’m not proud of how grouchy I was during the whole thing, but it worked out and it would seem that my family has forgiven me.

She came.  She was super nice.  She didn’t know that we were already done with the 90 days, the paperwork, or anything else.  She thought that the process had just started.  She didn’t know why we were still waiting.  She also won over the case-worker/GAL weary teenager.  That was a first.

I was losing my mind.  Every question that I asked seemed to be greeted by vague or confusing responses.  I was losing my mind.  I know that I said that already, but it bears repeating. 

Finally, on Friday morning, the non-local case worker emailed me, simply saying - “Please call me at the office.” 

My dramatic thoughts -- What does that mean?  What did she find out about us that I didn’t know existed.  Something has gone wrong!  Are they going to take him away?

So, I called and spoke to my case worker for the first time.  (We had communicated via email up to this point.)  I have to admit that I was a little surprised by her pleasant voice.

And, she said “Congratulations, it’s a boy!”
As it dawned on me that she was telling me that we were officially approved, she went on to discuss logistics, finalization dates, and lawyers.  I hung up the phone and said goodbye to a lot of anxiety that I didn’t realize that I had.  Months of anxiety –gone.  I didn’t realize how much of my stress was just about the uncertainty of it all and not about him at all.  

It might be my imagination, but I think that he feels better now, too. 

The next day when we were out and about, Patrick told me that Brian had a talk with him about Lizzie and his jealousy towards her.  Patrick doesn’t understand why Lizzie gets so much attention.  Usually, I respond un-helpfully by pointing out that she’s 5, the only girl, and darn cute.  (This was after several unhelpful talks where I explained that we loved them all, but people tend to address young children with a different tone, it's no reflection on him, etc.)  So, I asked Daddy to talk to him!  And, thankfully, It seemed to help. 

Then Patrick said “I always wondered why you didn’t have children of your own.”

I had heard that expression and been asked that question, but never had it hit so close to home.  And, never had it been more important to answer the right way.  I responded with “I do.  You are all my own.”

In the middle of a pumpkin patch that he was vaguely annoyed to be at, I told him that they were all my own and not being biological had nothing to do with that.  I put my arm around him and told him that he was my son, already, and that soon it would be legal, and then he would be completely stuck with me.  I don’t know if it meant anything to him, if it helped, or if he just thought I was being dramatic again.  But, I know one thing, I know that I needed to say it and I needed to hear it.  Because I definitely felt it. 

Now I realize that it was silly to be afraid that my life would always be chaotic, unsteady, and noisy.  I’d be better off just accepting it.  It was all of those things before Patrick and it will continue to be all of those things, just a little more so.  I like a challenge, anyway.  I mean, my blogs would be pretty boring if I had time to think things out in my head. ;)  I’d end up writing about clothes and shoes, if I had time to think about them or extra money to shop for them. 

So, here we are.  We have traveled to our new country.  Let’s call it 6 Parkerland!  The boat made me sea sick, but had a pretty view.  Our journey is almost over and our adventure is about to begin.  The good news is that I think I’m finally ready.  No, I know that I'm finally ready.    :)



Monday, October 7, 2013

You Don't Have To Be Perfect To Adopt A Teenager. Got That Covered.

Why don't people want to adopt teenagers? Is it because my teenager got mad at me several times the other day for reasons that didn't seem reasonable to me (but obviously to him)? Is it because they come with memories and issues and firmly established personalities? Is it because it's harder to entertain them? Is it because they are more expensive, eat all of your food, and change their opinion of things every 5 seconds? 


Is it because they are typical, normal teenagers, but with extra baggage?  Is it because if you adopt a teenager, you are expected to jump right into the tumultuous waters that a typical parent usually has time to ease into?


So, when people think it will be harder, they are right.   When they think that it will be frustrating to deal with issues that are not your fault, they are right.

I've been trying to post this blog for a couple of weeks.  When I initially wrote it, I was feeling introspective and positive; despite the fact that he wasn't speaking to me at the time. :) But, when I went back to proof it and post, I was feeling less optimistic and kind of scared that this was going to be a disaster.  So, I changed it.  Then when I went to proof and post that one, I was feeling better!  So, I changed it again.  I don't know what was frustrating me more.  The fact that his moodiness was affecting our home life or that his moodiness was affecting my blogging.  haha.

Then, this morning, it occurred to me.  This is what it is.  It is ridiculous of me to expect all of his days to be good.  And, it is likely that I'm not noticing that William, Antwan, and Lizzie are having good and bad days because I'm so focused on his. 

Patrick has been with us since the end of June. We've been through a lot, but I am aware that it could be worse.   He hasn't tried to burn the house down (he has stuck with the occasional burning of scrambled eggs).  He hasn't attacked the dog or stolen our money.   In fact, he has been fairly wonderful.

In the past month or so, I think we hit the "honeymoon is over" phase.  I want to say that it's just him that shifted, but, in reality, I probably did, too.  He has seemed moodier, grumpier, less patient, and sometimes, just unpleasant.  But, truth be told, I've also been moodier, grumpier, less patient, and, although it seems unlikely, haha, maybe a little unpleasant.  I'd like to say that all my emotions are a response to his, but I'm guessing there's some kind of wacky give and take.  Last week, he bent over backwards to be nice to me when I was feeling stressed.  Today, he's gone to his room twice because I apparently offended him; even though, I've been making an effort to be nice and pleasant. 

I just think, now that it's getting closer to finalization, there's a little bit of a worry (on both sides) that things won't stay the way that they were or that we'll change.  And, therefore, they are.  Or maybe this is just part of it all.  Who knows?  I try to look back on the transition with William.  I remember feeling some similar emotions and concerns, but when it comes down to it, it's just different with a younger child (he was five).

If Patrick's worrying about things changing, it's understandable. In his former adoption, that's what happened. By all accounts, his adoptive parents changed as soon as they finalized.   They went from forming a family unit to leaving him at home while they took their biological daughters out on outings, feeding him separately, and locking him in his room at night.   So, yeah, it makes sense if he has fears.

One night, several weeks ago, I tried to talk to him about it.   As we were in the kitchen, I said to him, "You know, we're not going to change, right? After we finalize..."   Patrick responded, dismissively, with a grin, "I know, I know."   Translation: I don't want to talk about it.  :)

And, I thought he meant it, but now I think I'm wrong.  I think that he isn't nearly as secure as he wants to be and wants us to believe.  And, who could blame him?  So many people have let him down.  It makes sense that he's sensitive to whether he's getting enough attention.  Or whether my tone is positive enough when he asks me a question.  Or whether I answer his voice fast enough when everyone is talking to me at once.  Or whether I can stay awake, too, when I let him stay up a little later because it's a Saturday night. 

It makes sense,  but it doesn't make it easier for me. 

He's spent a lot of time (from my perception) accusing me of not taking his opinions into account, not listening, and just plain being unfair.

I've spent a lot of time telling him that I'm sorry, that I very much care how he feels, or explaining that sometimes he has to just go with the flow and do what I need him to do because I'm mom.   My other favorite response is to remind him that we're both still trying to figure it all out.

AdoptUSkids has a slogan.  "You don't have to be a perfect to be a perfect parent.  There are thousands of teens in foster care who don't need perfection, they need you."  Well, I definitely am not perfect and, neither is he.  So, I guess that works out. :)

No, I'm not perfect. But, I'm the one who tucks him in at night. And, we're the ones who nag him about his homework. I'm the one who he has been forbidden to volunteer at his school, but I'm still the one who was willing.   And, Brian is the one who has him doing wacky impressions of famous people.   Could someone tell me how to make that stop, by the way?  ;)

No, he's not perfect.   But, he's the one who rushed over from across the street when the power went out in the neighborhood to make sure that we were ok.   He's the one who helps me with the groceries.   He's the one who proudly calls me his mom in public.   He's the one who wants me to tuck him in at night and secretly loves that someone cares if he does his homework. (Maybe love is a strong word.)  And, he's the one who makes the effort to speak in a gentler tone to William, Antwan, and Lizzie because we asked him to.

So why should people adopt teenagers when it is clearly more of a challenge?  Simple.  Because they are children who deserve homes.   They have been wounded by the world and some of the people in it.  And, they deserve to be happy.  Because our children in our country are growing up without actual families and that's not ok.

Since he came to us. His grades have improved.  Moodiness aside, he seems happier.  And, I hope his personal self worth has improved.   Being in a stable home is why he has a better chance at a successful future.   And, in our case, being in a home with three of his siblings is why he will have less of a hole in his heart from now on.  And, when I watch him wrestle with Antwan or strawberry Lizzie's belly, I know this is an absolute good.  

And, I have noticed that there are a lot of advantages to having a teenager. And, it's not just that I have someone to help with groceries or bring me a Cherry Coke at bedtime.  He does both of those things, though, without being asked.  :) 

What I love is the relationship that you can have with a teenager.   Hearing how his mind works. Watching him learn.   Cooking dinner together.  Seeing him play with his siblings and make up for the times when he didn't get the chance to play with them hen he was younger.  It all kind of rocks.

The other night, Brian noticed that there was a new "Teen Titans Go" on that we hadn't seen. He immediately paused it.  In minutes, the kids had brought out blankets, turned out the lights, and we all watched the show together.   Patrick was right there, laughing with us, because the show is hilarious. I looked around the living room that was cluttered with toys, blankets, random snack cake wrappers that no one seems to know how to throw away, and smiling faces; and I felt happy.

So, here's me; officially trying to stop taking things so personally (Brian's advice), be a little more patient, and try a little harder.  Because he deserves that and so do William, Antwan, and Lizzie, for that matter.

And, when I get mad and frustrated and scared that it's always going to be so hard, it's not going to be so easy to do all those smart things that I just wrote.  So, that's when I'm going to try to take a page from Patrick's book.  Here comes a page from Patrick's book!

It was morning time and he was not speaking to me because I snapped at him.  It happens.  I'm not proud of it, but it's not easy for me to stay chilled while trying to get 4 kids to school in the morning.  I had apologized, but hadn't quite been forgiven yet.  But, when I asked him if he wanted to go along on the boys' eye doctor visit (after school) or stay home.  He only pondered it briefly and said "I'll come along.  Because, even though, I'm very mad at you right now, I still want to be with you."

As much as I hate to admit that I kind of got schooled by the 13 year old (Am I too old to say "schooled?"), there it is.  So, if he can be so unconditionally committed to this crazy family, so can I. :)


Monday, September 30, 2013

Four Years Ago, We Adopted Our Daughter.

Yesterday was the anniversary of Lizzie's finalization!  On September 29, 2009, she became officially ours and our family was complete!  Of course, that was until Patrick came along to re-complete it. :)


I could go on and on about how awesome it was to adopt Lizzie, but I've basically already done that in this blog post. ---->  :)  So, I'll just say, I love her and I am so grateful for her.  (I'm also pretty darn grateful for those boys of mine, too!)

And, if you are in the mood for seeing me cry, haha, here's the video of the finalization!

You'll have to forgive the initial shakiness of the camera, I'm pretty sure that Jennice, a.k.a. our historian, was already crying. :)


Friday, September 13, 2013

I Remember The Day Lizzie Came To Us.

Last Wednesday (September 11th) was the five year anniversary of the day that Lizzie came to us, forever and ever.  Of course, we didn’t know that, at the time, that wasn't necessarily true.  But, that’s what the case worker told us because she sincerely believed it to be true when she said it.  And, that’s what we told the boys.  Thankfully, we did get to keep Lizzie, forever and ever, but it was a long year before we knew for sure. 

But, this is not a post about how difficult it is to not know if you will get to raise the baby that you love dearly.  This is about her first days.
I feel like my memory gets worse and worse as the years go by, in general.  I'm lucky if I remember where I put my keys, where my debit card is, or where I put my keys... Oh, wait, I used that one already.  See what I'm talking about??

But this day, I remember. 

I remember being worried about whether we were doing the right thing.

I remember being stuck at work when the case worker brought Lizzie.  I remember the case worker staying as long as she could so she could meet me before she left.  But, I was with a client who was having a colonscopy and it seems that you can't rush that,  So, she had to leave before I got home.

I remember calling Brian to check in and hearing his voice, full of awe, as he said, “She’s beautiful.”

I remember finally getting off work and rushing home as fast as I could.  I was very upset that I had missed the homecoming, but mostly just focused on meeting my daughter.

I remember walking in and unceremoniously saying “Give her to me.”  It wasn’t sappy, but it was informative and I had waited a long time for a moment like this.  Brian understood and was happy to hand her over. 

And, then I held her. 

I looked at this little thing in my arms and couldn’t wrap my mind around the idea that I was now in charge of her.  I had successfully kept the boys alive since February.  On some days, that was the best that I could hope for. ;)  But, a baby??  She was so tiny!  And, wow, she was swimming in her outfit that her foster mother sent her in because, you know, she was so tiny!  I was busy being convinced that I had no idea how to take care of a baby anymore when Brian said something about bottles and then I realized, hey, I know how to make those!

I remember all my friends and my sister and her kids coming over to "ooh" and "aah."

I remember people coming over with baby items over that friends of friends had sent.  Antwan had already been a year old when we got him and we had no inkling that Lizzie was coming, so we had very few baby supplies.  By very few, I mean nothing.  Lizzie's caseworker called on a Tuesday and brought her on a Thursday.  But, our payday was Friday.  So, we were freaking out a bit.  But, since people are amazing, we soon had clothes, bottles, diapers, blankets, a basinet, and a car seat.  The car seat was even pink. J  Like I said, people are amazing.

I remember that we had pizza and the pizza guy asked me questions about one of the neighbors’ houses.  I don't know why I remember that.  Maybe it was because I was holding her while I paid for the pizza and that was so surreal.  Or maybe it was because the pizza guy was cute.  Hard to say... ;)

I don’t remember eating much pizza, though.  I can’t imagine that I did.

I remember trying to give the boys extra hugs so they wouldn’t feel left out.

And, I remember when everyone left and it was just us and Jennice.  She showed us how to swaddle Lizzie, I had forgotten.  She laid a swaddled and sound asleep Lizzie down.  We all gazed at her lovingly and then finally took a breath. 

I remember sitting down and thinking that we had awhile to relax.  Of course, that was when I remembered how short infant naps are.  Right around the time that I was pondering going to sleep, she woke up, of course. :)

In the days ahead, I remember being tired, all of the time, and wondering how I was going to make it through.  I remember singing to her, kissing her belly, and wishing that she would just sleep. I remember waking in a panic the first time that she slept through the night.

I remember the year of angst, visitations, laughter, love, and revolving caseworkers.  I remember being terrified that we were going to lose her. 

And, I remember the day that we finally knew that we wouldn’t. 

Finalization Day!

But, most of all, I remember that she was amazing.  That's not hard to remember because I get daily reminders of it.

We didn’t know she was coming.  I ended up having to quit my job because I couldn’t juggle home and work.  I learned new levels of exhaustion and financial struggle.  I watched a driver drive off with her once a week for a visit with her biological parents while I was left feeling like part of me was missing until she came back.  And, I remember knowing then, like I know now, that she was worth every second of it.


Happy birthday, Lizzie!

Last night, I danced with my daughter.   When Tori sang on "Victorious" or the new "Honey Nut Cheerios" commercial came on, she said "Mommy, get up and dance!”   And, sometimes, I got up first and told her to "get up and dance!"   I spun her around and kissed her belly.   I looked at her smile and listened to her laugh.   Basically, I had my own little anniversary celebration.  The best part was that she was smiling at me and laughing because she was dancing with me.

I’m so glad that I get to dance with you, everyday, little girl.  You have some awesome moves. J


Monday, September 9, 2013

The Unwanted Facebook Connections Continue...

If you've been wondering what happened after the bio facebook request, your wait is over.... ;)

And, if you don't know what I'm talking about, here you go.

So, after I moved on past the crying and freaking out (well, the crying, anyway), we decided to be proactive.

The night that the biological mother made her request, I blocked her from my facebook account and Brian's. Mine was already private, but Brian's wasn't. But, I blocked her from both, anyway. It broke my heart a little, but I also unfriended our kids' oldest brother because I knew there was a chance that he was in contact with her and I have to protect my kids. I couldn't figure out how to block her from my blog facebook page, though. :( So, technically, she could be reading this.   But, I don't know that she's interested in going through all that effort....

The next day, I contacted Patrick's case worker in south Florida and explained the situation.   I asked what this woman was legally allowed to do.   Yes, she had officially lost all parental rights, but I doubted that they included "no facebook" in the TPR report. I asked what our rights were.   Since I was trying to be neutral, always afraid of rocking the boat; she ended up missed my point and said that if we wanted him to have visits with her, it would be up to us. I was screaming, in my head, "No, I don't want her anywhere near my children."   But, I did like the "it will be up to you" part.   But, a few emails later, it was clear that she didn't think visits would be a good idea, anyway.

Then, I asked my former caseworker friends on facebook.   They were unsure of exactly what could be done, but agreed that it was not a good situation.

Then, we had a monthly check in with our local case worker.   We walked outside, so we could privately ask what our rights were and what the biological parent was allowed to do (yes, this was our official question).   She seemed confused at our alarm and then, of course, I got nervous and tried to downplay my hysteria over the whole thing, but I don't know if it worked.   Of course, it's different for her.   She works with the biological parents just as much as the adoptive.   She's used to visitations and reunifications.   This is way beyond that, though.   She ended up saying that it was up to us and that we could tell her to stop if she contacted him again.   This was a far cry from my ideal "We're going to find her and take away her computer, phone, or library card.   We're then going to pack her up in a box and ship her to China!"   But, I guess, it wil have to do....

As the days passed, it faded. I never fully stopped worrying about it, but there were so many other things to worry about on a daily basis.   Until one day, we were pulling out of the driveway and he abruptly told me that she had sent him several more facebook requests.   He told me that he finally sent her a message and said "Please stop sending me requests.   I really don't want to talk to you."   She responded with "Ok, be blessed."

I drove on, pretending not to freak out, and marveling at the fact that she didn't realize the best way he could be "blessed" was for her to leave him alone.   I was painfully aware that I had been living under the misapprehension that she wasn't contacting him, but also aware that he was being honest with me and that he had told her to back off.   And, I was frantically texting Brian at every stop light. It took me several minutes to get the text to him, but he finally got the message. :)   His response was that maybe we needed a lawyer.   I agreed.   But, in the end, we wondered what a lawyer really going to do?   Tell us that it's up to us if we want visits and tell her that she should stop?

I thought about it all day.   I knew what I wanted to ask him, but wasn't sure if I should and wasn't sure how he'd respond.   I knew that we needed to get her out of our lives, as much as possible.   But, I wasn't sure how he was really feeling about the whole thing, deep down.   It was after bedtime for the younger three kids and Patrick was showing me how to play a random cell phone game.   I sat there with the question on the tip of my tongue and played it out in my head a few times before I finally said "I need you to do something for me."   I paused, a little too long, as if I was on a soap opera, then said "I need you to block her."

I think I said something about her not being a safe influence.   Yeah, I've used that line before, but it mostly sums it up.

After messing with me for a few minutes and pretending that he didn't know how to block someone, (he is a teenager, after all, ha), he told me that it was done.   I thanked him and he went back to showing me how to play the game.

So, that was it. It was done.   As it would appear, everything that we could do had been done.   Short of that shipping to China idea, there really wasn't much else for us to do, unless she showed up on our doorstep.

I'm still really upset, but there's apparently nothing not much to I can do.   Patrick has made it clear that he wants nothing to do with her and, as far as I know, she's currently out of the picture.   So, I can't ask for much more from the situation.

I know that this is partly a sneak preview of similar scenarios that might occur with the others.   I know that she still has that part of them that I never will.   But, I also know that to them, I am Mommy.   I have to hold onto that. Because that really is the most important thing.

All I can do now is focus on us and hope and pray that we never have to deal with her again.   But, never is a big word and forever is a long time for things that you hope will never happen.  So we'll see.

Man, time's like this, I wish there really was a Batman.   He would totally know what to do. ;)

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Six Degrees of Facebook Separation

Life is funny.  Never did I think that I would grow up, become a mom, and carry a constant fear; albeit, in the back of my head (most of the time), that I would have to look into the face of the woman who gave birth to my children, ever again.  Never did I think I would adopt, although I never thought that I wouldn't.  I just assumed that I would biologically have children. 

I'm very glad that I adopted.  I know that I'm glad that I don't personally relate to the labor and delivery horror stories that I have heard.  I am a bit envious that I don't know what it feels like to feel a baby kick inside you.  But, hearing the judge say that a child is all yours, forever and ever, is pretty monumental, too.  

Yes, they're all mine.  Except for one little thing.  I wasn't the one that gave birth to them.  That experience belongs to someone else and she's out there, somewhere.  Not somewhere in the world, but somewhere in my city.  And, I'm not a fan.   

I know that there are others who have positive feelings towards the birth mothers of their children.  And, in many cases, that's a good thing.  But, not for women like this birth mother.  Not for women who put drugs before their children.  Women who neglect and endanger their children, and, here's the important part, have no remorse, don't really deserve my positive feelings.  I understand that addiction is complicated and that drugs change who you are.  But, I also understand that children are the priority.  And, in our case, on her last supervised visit with Lizzie, before it was all over; she slept on the floor while Lizzie crawled around her and  the biological father's 80 year-old blind mother tried to wake her up, from her wheelchair.  

So, yeah, when she was out of our life completely, I was thrilled.

And, even though, she lives in the same city, we don't exactly run in the same circles; so we've never run into her.  But, whenever I find us at an event downtown, I can't help but look at the faces around me and worry that she's among them.  I've pondered a million times what I would say if I encountered her.  It usually involves me yelling, dramatic movie-style, "Stay away from my children!?!"  But, it's never happened.

Enter Patrick.  Her parental rights have long since been terminated and he only has vague memories of her, but he has inadvertently brought her back into our lives.

One night, I had just come home from work.  I was a little grumpy, a little hungry, and I had to pee.  I was rushing to  the bathroom, when Patrick stopped me and showed me his phone and asked "Do you know who this is?"

And, there she was, his biological mother on facebook.   Well, it wasn't exactly her.   The picture didn't look anything like her.  If it was her, it was a very old picture.   But, I knew right away who it was because of the name and, who are we kidding, I also recognized it from when I had looked her up myself.   I already knew that she was facebook friends with the oldest daughter of the sibling group who was facebook friends with the oldest son of the sibling group who was friends with Patrick. (Did you follow that?) So, this really shouldn't have surprised me.

And, yet it did. 

Thinking that he knew exactly who she was, but wanted to know if I knew, I simply said "It's not the right picture."  Then he asked, "But, who is it? She sent me a friend request."

That's when I realized that he was going to make me say it.  I took a deep breath and told him that it was his biological mother and tried to fight back the nausea.

Then, he casually said "Oh, hi" and clicked accept.

"You accepted it?" I asked in a high-pitched voice which was supposed to sound calm.  But, I wasn't.  I felt like my world was crashing down around me.

He asked, "Would you feel better if I didn't talk to her?"

I said "yes" and he said "ok." 

In my head, I was screaming that wasn't good enough.  I wanted her gone, but I was trying to weigh my words carefully.  I don't really remember what was said after that.  It was such a blurry mess in my head.  I think I made some fake joke about how in 90-ish days, I could tell him that he couldn't talk to her.  I remember that because I remember thinking "Oh, yeah!  I'm the mom, I can tell him no!"  But, I didn't say it and I was also wondering if that would make everything worse if I did.  I was trying to think of reasons that a teenager would understand for why she shouldn't be in our lives.  I needed something better than "You are mine!  Mine! Mine! Mine!"  I think maybe I mentioned that she wasn't a safe influence and that I didn't really want her seeing William, Antwan, and Lizzie pictures. 

Then he said, "Would you feel better if I wasn't friends with her?"

"Yes, that really would make me feel better."

He said, "Ok" and clicked unfriend.

I thanked him, gave him a hug, and rushed to hide in the bathroom.  And, of course, by this time, I really, really needed to go...;)

What had just happened??  She had just invaded my world and been kicked out of it, just as abruptly.  I knew that she had a facebook and I guess it was naive to think she wouldn't go looking, but there I was shocked, freaked out, and hiding in my bathroom. 

Finally, I got myself together, came out of the bathroom, and "casually" motioned to Jennice to follow me into my room.  Jennice had been distracted by the other three kids, the whole time, and had no clue what was going on, but she got up and followed.

We closed the door and I had a really good cry.  Lucky for me, Jennice gives good hugs because I needed it. 

Then, I wiped my eyes, got myself together, again, because there's only so long that you can hide in the bedroom when you have four kids in the living room, and headed out into the trenches.

It was a nice, relaxing evening.  (As relaxing as it can be with four kids in the house, anyway!)  It was like it had never happened.  I knew that wasn't the case and I knew this wasn't the last of her.  But, for the night, apparently, it was. 

Brian came home.  I cried, again.   We wondered if we should contact his case worker and find out what our rights were.  We pondered whether we needed a lawyer.  We thought about having a big sit-down talk.  You may be aware, teenagers don't really love big sit-down talks, though.  It was officially uncharted waters and I was a little motion-sick (I love an analogy!).  We weren't sure what to do. 

But, we knew one thing.  When it came down to it, Patrick chose me.  My boy chose me.  He wants me to be his mom.  It doesn't cause her to disappear from existence, but it's still pretty cool. :) 



Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Every Kid Needs To Be Tucked In.

It's 10:20.  The case worker is coming tomorrow for the monthly check-in visit.  I've got a pile of laundry on the couch that needs to be folded, dishes in the sink that need to be washed, and dog hair that needs to be vacuumed out of the floor.  So, naturally, I'm going to write a blog. ;)

I just finished tucking Patrick into bed.  This is mostly because he's roped me into it.  When I brought him an extra blanket one night and made a production of tucking him in; he discovered that he really liked it.  So, now, every night, he gives me the puppy-dog eyes and, of course, I reluctantly agree to come tuck him in.  It's not that I mind, of course; I'm just lazy and a little bit (extremely) exhausted. ;)  But, I go in and cover him up.  Then, I kiss his head and hope that it makes up, just a little, for all the nights that his head wasn't kissed. 

We've gone through a lot of stages of bonding over the summer and different lifestyles, for lack of a better word.  We've taken a family trip.  We had to adjust to that.  We came home and I worked for way too many weeks of the summer.  We had to adjust to that.  I finally went part-time and I was home a lot more.  We had to adjust to that.  And, finally, the kids have started school.  And, we had to adjust to that. 

There was all kinds of adjusting going on!

Looking back, I think the major bonding happened during the second part of the summer when I was home more.  That just makes sense.  But, we definitely had our moments when I was busy resenting the fact that I didn't have a lot of moments with the kids. 

So, as we've established, I was working. :)  This meant that there was a lot of tag-team child care going on.  Brian covered when he wasn't working.  I covered when I wasn't working (translation: the weekends).  And, Jennice, the poorly paid/overworked/god-mother/long-time friend covered the rest.  She saved me, this summer, because she stepped in and came over whenever I needed her to and only asked for some occasional gas money. 

This was not an easy time for me and I'm not thrilled with how I handled all of it.  But, thankfully, that time has passed.  While at work, I spent my time feeling sad that I wasn't home with the kids.  But when I got home, I was exhausted and, let's face it, more than a little grumpy.  My grumpiness would pass, usually after getting some food in my tummy.  And, then I'd have an hour or two to hang out with the kids before sending them to bed and falling asleep in the chair as Jennice tried to tell me about the day. 

It sucked.

I, of course, tried to boost the quality time factor up on the weekends and enjoy the kids as much as I could.  And, I did.  But, it never felt like it was enough. 

Whether I deserved it or not, Patrick tried to do things to make my life easier.  In the mornings, he offered to watch William, Antwan, and Lizzie until Jennice got there.  This is because Jennice is generous, but she's also always late...;)  He also cleaned counters, mopped floors, and helped get breakfast ready, in the mornings.  This did make my life easier and, also, made it slightly less frustrating that he, apparently, didn't know how to close the pantry door or put any of his dishes from the day in the sink. ;)

One night, I had one of those little moments.   I had one of those little reminders about the kind of mom that I wanted to be. 

When I left that morning, Patrick had said that he would vacuum.  When I got home, Jennice and the kids were still off galavanting around.  It was clear that the floor hadn't been vacuumed.  I promised myself that I wouldn't say anything; that I wasn't going to start the night complaining.  I wasn't even particularly mad.  But, when they came home, out it came, anyway.  I made a comment that he hadn't vacuumed like he said that he would.  I tried to make it light and jokey-jokey, but it was definitely getting lost in translation.  We went back and forth a couple of times.  And, before, he angrily walked back to him room, I saw the hurt in his eyes.

I wanted to be annoyed that he had an attitude, but I knew that I couldn't really blame him.  And, I knew what I had to do.

I went to his room and told him that I was sorry that I was harsh.  I told him that I was aware of all the ways that he had been helping and I really appreciated it.  Finally, I asked him if he forgave me.  He nodded and I left. 

A few minutes later, he cheerfully came out and all was well.

I felt like he respected the fact that I owned my behavior.  Or maybe he didn't think anything about it, either way.  But, I do know that I was proud of myself for realizing that I screwed up and going in and acknowledging it.  That's not my favorite thing to do, by the way.  

Either way, we continued to bond and, hey, I learned a little something about myself. :)

From that point on, I tried to be more aware of my tone.  Sometimes, I was aware that I nailed that supportive, patient, understanding tone.  Sometimes, I was aware that my tone wasn't so great.  But, I keep trying and sometimes, that's all I've got.  I might try, but still do a lousy job.  But, the cool thing is, I think he gets it.  Yeah, sometimes, he just cuts me a little slack and knows I'll do better next time.

He says that I'm the best mom in the world.  I know that's not true and, I'm fairly certain that he's buttering me up for something, haha, but I sure don't ever get tired of hearing it. :)

It's not going to be simple, but I think we're going to be ok. 


Sunday, August 18, 2013

Summer's Over And I Never Got Any Rest.

Last night, I was cooking dinner and glancing out the window at Patrick who was playing basketball with some neighbor kids.  Then I thought to myself, "I'm cooking dinner and glancing out the window at Patrick who is playing basketball with some neighbor kids?!?!"  I was keenly aware that I have a teenage son.

I have four kids.  I love them all.  And, I am exhausted. 

It's been an interesting summer.  I've wanted to write a blog so badly.  I've wanted to get all these thoughts out of my head.  I've composed numerous first paragraphs in my head.   I've opened up the laptop and got the page loaded up.  And, then, guess what?  (If you were one of my kids, and, admittedly, me, you would now say "chicken butt!")  But, that's not it.  The answer is that I would almost immediately fall asleep.  And, this frustrates me to no end.  I have not enjoyed giving up an hour of my Emily time because, apparently, you can't send 13 year olds to bed at 8:30-9:00pm....  It would seem that 10:00 is more reasonable.  And, much like 10, 6, and 4 year olds, when they go to bed at 10:00, they don't actually get settled until 10:15-10:30.  I didn't always manage to stay awake until he went to bed.  Darn comfy recliner!  And, then, if Brian wasn't already home, he would be home by 11:00.  Aargh.

Ok, now, here's the part where I acknowledge how ridiculous that sounds. :)  While, every parent feels my pain.  Every parent also knows that's all part of the job.  And, here's the best part.  We added a teenager to our house and this is my biggest complaint.   Translation:  He's pretty awesome. 

Here's the part where I try to say only the really important things or no one will make it through this blog.  Well, except for Brian, but he's obligated to read it. ;)

We took a trip to Brian's parents' farm and it went great.  We picked blackberries, fed cows, ate my mother-in-law's yummy cake, and ate at Long John Silvers as many times as we could get away with (because Patrick now loves it, too!). 

Picking blackberries with PaPa.

Patrick's blackberries!

MaMa made blackberry cobbler!

I wanted to take it with me!

Long John Silver's!

It wasn't all cake and cows, of course.  William and Patrick bickered.  This was mostly due to William freaking out a bit about the change.  He has never liked change.  Beginnings of school years, end of school years, and even birthdays freak him out.  You can imagine how suddenly having a full-time big brother messed with his mind.  Several talks later, he seems to be doing ok. (Fingers crossed1)

And, that full-time big brother decided that he had enough of being a big brother on the Fourth of July.  So, he decided to stop speaking to all of us.  Seeing as I had everyone in patriotic colors and a camera ready, you can imagine how much I didn't like this.  Eventually, he acknowledged that they were getting on his nerves.  I assured him that was totally normal, but that he couldn't just shut down; he needed to tell us what was bothering him or tell us that he needed a few minutes.  (Last week, when he did tell me what was bothering him about me at the particular moment, I kind of missed the Patrick shut-down, haha.)  Anyway, once he talked to me about it, he perked up and I did get my 4th of July picture. :)

So, all in all, some bickering between brothers and one teenager freeze out.  Not bad. :)

So, we came home.  We got settled in.  Brian and I went back to work (boo).  And, we started to really figure out what it's like to be a family of 6.

Through the summer, we learned how to function as a big family in a 3 bedroom house.  I learned that I only thought I knew how much a teenager eats.  We found out that facebook isn't so cool when a biological mother uses it to friend request your son.  :(   We all figured out how to deal with each other in the best way possible, most of the time.  And, I got to enjoy the moments of signing him up for school, hugging him goodnight every night, hearing him call me "mom" for the first time, and hearing him say that he loves me.  And, it's also pretty cool when he tells me that I'm awesome, especially since I know that he won't always feel that way, haha.  And, through it all, I tried to master giving the other three kids all the attention that they need and want, too.  Tricky.

So, here comes the part where I realize that I can't fit it all in one blog.  There's just too much to say!  So, I'll have to stop here and write a part 2 (and maybe a 3).

I guess I better get to bed, my teenager has to be at school by 7:40.  7:40???  I'm probably not going to enjoy that moment so much. ;)