Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Mommy, Our Hair Is Different.

Being the Mom of children of a different race than my own means the random conversations that I have with my kids can be a little different.  This morning was no exception.

I was doing Lizzie's hair and she said "My hair is different from yours, Mommy."

I said, "Yes, your hair and my hair are a little different.  But, both are pretty."

She nodded and added, "My skin is brown and your skin is white."

Searching for the right words, I said "That's true.  We're a little different, but that's ok.  We're still family.  That's what matters."

Then, I added, "We're the same on the inside."

She seemed to like that and, happily, said "Yeah!  You're a little brown on the inside, Mommy."

Well, that wasn't exactly what I meant, but I figured, what the heck, I'd go with it.

So, I said "Yeah, and you're a little white on the inside, right?"

She then looked at me, like I was completely out of my mind, laughed, and said "Nooo!"

And, that was the end of our random, but meaningful, conversation of the day. :)

I know that this is not the last conversation that we'll have about this and I might be feeling a little overly optimistic, but, I can't help but think that she's going to be ok. :)

On an official side-note.  Brian and I recently joined a gym, in hopes of getting in better shape.  So, I started a blog about my adventures of working out.  It's not really meant to be inspirational, I just thought it might be fun to document my antics. :)
If anyone's interested... :)

Friday, April 12, 2013

Teenagers Need Homes, Too.

This is not my typical blog post,  but when I was asked to share a video and blog post about a family who adopted a teenager from foster care, it was a no-brainer.   Out of the 104,000 children in foster care who are waiting and hoping to be adopted, 33,000 of them are teenagers.  That's a lot.  Teenagers make such a big population of kids who need to be adopted, and, sadly, they are also among the least desirable candidates.  They have become less desirable simply because they had the audacity to get older. 

Teenagers don't really have good reputations.  They are dealing with hormones, the angst of growing up, and just trying to figure it all out.  So, they can be moody, dishonest, impulsive, and, did I mention, moody?  ;)  It's hard to be a teenager.  It's hard to feel like you know everything in a world that knows that you actually don't know a darn thing.  It's even harder for teenagers in foster care.  They are trying to figure it all out and deal with the fact that they don't have a permanent home and a forever parent.  There are many wonderful foster parents out there, of course.  But, foster care is only foster care and not permanent; nor is it supposed to be. 

So, why don't people adopt teenagers?

Some people worry that at a certain age, kids are "ruined."  That's exactly what I was told once.  I didn’t believe it then and I don’t believe it now.   It is true that teenagers might have more issues.  They've had more time to collect their issues, but they've also had more time to wish that they had a family.  We've had the opportunity to get to know our kids' older (biological) teenage brother who is currently in foster care and after only a few visits with him, he has blossomed.  He has let us in and his whole outlook has changed.   

Some people worry that you can’t form a connection with an older child.  But, I know that’s not true.  I feel very bonded to my kids' brother.  At first, yes, he had a wall around him.  But, once he opened a door for us, it was open and there was no turning back.

Some people worry that it’s hard to start with an older kid. And, you know what?  It is.  They come with their collection of baggage and issues.  They've come with the expectation that you will let them down.  So, yes, they might be a little more work.  Therefore, they don’t deserve a chance to be loved and to be happy?  I never met a parent of any child, of any age, who thought it was easy, anyway. 

Some people worry that they've missed all the exciting firsts.  Yes, they have already had a bunch of firsts.  But, they haven't had firsts with you. And, in many cases, the firsts that they had were kind of lousy.  So, it's an awesome chance for a do-over for everyone.  

As I get to know my kids' brother more and more, I'm excited that he's going to be part part of our family, one way or another. And, I know that starting with a teenager is not the same. He'll most likely never run into my arms like the little ones do and I'm pretty sure that he won't curl up on my lap.   But, he still needs hugs. And, feeling him relax his body and let me squeeze him hard for the first time was pretty awesome.   He's not going to dance with me to silly music (at least not without some sort of bribe), but he has been known to walk around the house singing songs and, before long, the rest of us end up joining in.

"No one said that it was going to be easy, they just said that it was going to be worth it." - unknown

Yes, definitely worth it.

So, this blog post and video are about the Dickey family who opened their hearts to a teenage girl and have no regrets.

Please take a few minutes to read this blog post and then watch the video from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, AdoptUSKids, and the Ad Council’s Adoption from Foster Care.  It made me teary eyed.  :)

My Life with Brittany How I became a “perfect” parent to a teen.

By Paige Dickey

Two and a half years ago, an extraordinary young woman entered my life. When I first met Brittany she was 13 years old. It was clear that she had great potential, but she hadn’t received enough love. She got along with my two sons, and we could tell that she would make a great big sister.

My husband Travis and I decided to adopt a teenager because we wanted to give back. We wanted to provide a child with a loving home and a supportive environment for the rest of his or her life. We’re not super wealthy or a perfect family, but I’m a pretty good mom, so I thought that it was something I could do. I spent weeks on the AdoptUSKids web site looking for the right addition to our family. Since we already had two young boys, we thought it might be good to have a girl and in a different age category. Travis joked that if we adopted a teen, at least we would know who we were getting; her personality would already be formed.

When we first adopted Brittany, she certainly had a lot of personality, but at the same time, she had a lot of room to grow. She was just about to start 7th grade and was probably on about a 4th grade level academically. We got her tutors, and her dad worked with her a lot. She worked hard in 8th grade too, and when she went to high school she was recommended for honors Biology and honors Math.

You may think that you can only experience milestones when you adopt babies and toddlers, but that’s not true. Brittany was a tomboy when she first came to live with us. Since then, she’s made the cheerleading team and won Miss Congeniality. There have been so many other “firsts” we’ve shared: Brittany’s first hair highlighting, her first school dance, first kiss, first date (parent chaperoned, of course), first day of high school, first high heels, first back hand-spring, and first time crying tears with a parent there to provide comfort.

We’ve had some challenges with Brittany, of course, but nothing outside of the ordinary. She’s fun and chatty and a little sassy sometimes. After all, she is a teenage girl! And now, I can’t imagine my life without her.

"Did you know that there are more than 33,000 teens currently available for adoption from the U.S. foster care system? ”You don’t have to be perfect to be a perfect parent” to a teenager.* You don’t have to be rich or married; you only need to provide a child with love, patience, stability, and a healthy environment so they can succeed.

Want to learn more? Visit or call 1-888-200-4005 for English-speaking staff or 1-877-236-7831 for Spanish-speaking staff, to receive current, accurate information about the foster care system and the adoption process." (From Paige Dickey's post)

About Paige Dickey
The Dickey family is a Caucasian, two-parent household. The Dickeys have three children; Brittany (15), Walker (10), and Conner (8). Brittany was placed with the Dickey family in September 2010 and the adoption was finalized in April 2011.

*“You don’t have to be perfect to be a perfect parent,” is the slogan of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, AdoptUSKids, and the Ad Council’s multimedia public service advertising (PSAs) campaign that encourages the adoption of children from foster care. PSAs have been developed with a specific annual focus, including teens, preteens, Spanish language, African-Americans, sibling groups, and children 8 and older."


Thursday, April 4, 2013

Mommy, Can We Keep My Brother?

A few days before Patrick was scheduled to leave, Lizzie looked at me, and asked "Are we going to keep Patrick?"

I don't even know what I said.  I was too busy emotionally reacting and unsure of what in the world my response should be.

Then when I let her know, the night before, that we were taking him back, she said, sadly, "Aw, but we have to keep him."

I told her that he'd come back again and she accepted that response, for the time being.

So, we took him back.  It was a quick, anti-climatic good-bye because he instantly became guarded around his new case worker who he doesn't trust yet.  Oh, those walls.  But, he hugged us (or let us hug him) and I hugged him for at least 3 seconds longer than he (acted like) he wanted me to because I was getting my money's worth.  And, they drove off.  The whole things took 5 minutes; less time than it took me to get the kids back in the van.  And, we headed out.  No one really said anything because I don't think any of us knew what to say. 

So, he's back in his foster home.  The laptop and phone are all mine again.  The house is back to its usual routine.  And, everything is a little calmer.  But, I miss him. 

It was pretty amazing to Brian and I how everything fell into a routine. Of course, the routine involved him constantly wanting to listen to music or play Ruzzle on my phone because he forgot to bring his 3DS.  It included constant trips to the pantry and the fridge for more snacks and drinks.  This meant that I was constantly out of snacks and drinks.  It included his shoes on the floor, no matter how many times we pointed out that there is a shoe bin in the living room.   
But, it also included him wrestling with Antwan and William and hearing them shriek with joy.  It included him repeatedly covering Lizzie with her blanket because she thought it was hilarious.  It included dying eggs.  It included Jennice and I dictating the wonderful things he should post about us on facebook and him actually doing it.  It included watching him solve Blue's Clues as he pretended to think the show was ridiculous.  It included seeing him wear his new Batman shirt that the Easter Bunny brought him.  It included seeing the pride on his face when he solved part of his Rubik's cube (another Easter goodie).  It included countless sweet moments that I never thought, in a million years, any of us would have with him.
It even included him knocking on the door when I was going to the bathroom.  Because, as every mom/dad/caregiver knows, you are never more popular than you are when you make a phone call or run to the bathroom.
It never occurred to me that it was him when I heard the knock, but then I heard him say, "I've got something to show you when you come out."
It turned out to be a commercial that he had been telling me about.  When he saw it, he instantly rewound and paused, so he could show me.  If I didn't know it before, I knew it then.  We were bonded.  No matter how it play outs, we'll always have the Axe Apollo commercial. :)

Now that he's gone, I'm free to start obsessing.   This is not to suggest that I ever stopped obsessing, but now I have a little more time to focus on it. ;) 
It's clear that it's easier without him.  It is quieter, calmer, and slightly cleaner  (but not actually quiet and calm).  The shoes are in the shoe bin, I haven't had to go to the store nearly as much, and no one (besides Lizzie, of course) has begged for my phone, in days.
But, all of the other stuff is gone, too.
I miss him.

When we left the house on Monday morning, Lizzie called to me from the back seat and asked " Mommy, Patrick is going to come back again, right?”

I promised her that he was.  The fact is, I didn't particularly want him to leave.  I just want him to keep his mitts off my phone. ;)

I have many regrets in my life and things that I don't like about myself, with three obvious exceptions. 

Well, maybe four exceptions. 

I didn't finish college.  I'm a terrible budget-er.  I'm clumsy.  I'm a terrible housekeeper.  I talk too fast.  I fidget constantly.

But, I know how to love.  I'm really, really good at that.  And, if this kid wants me to love him, that's what exactly I'm going to do.

Now, excuse me, while I try to stop myself from sobbing in Wendy's.   Maybe I should have written this at home. ;)