Thursday, January 30, 2014

Are You Paid To Have Us?

Yesterday, Kaleb was talking about wanting to go to the movies and he mentioned Thor.  I, obviously, support the viewing of Thor so I said that maybe we could see it next weekend when Daddy would be off.  Anyway, he didn't seem convinced and just said that it would be expensive.  That's when I pointed out that the end of the month is the best time to do things like that because that's when we get the subsidy (for the younger three).  I thought that he already knew about the subsidy, but, apparently not because he asked me what it was.  That's when I got uncomfortable.  I don't like talking about money.  But, I explained that the state gives us a certain amount, each month, to assist with expenses.
"Oh, so, basically, you're paid to have us?"

Then, I got really uncomfortable.
 I tried to be casual and just said, "I wouldn't put it that way, at all.  It's something that the state does to help.  And, it definitely helps.  That's why I can afford to work only part-time.  And, eventually, not at all."
He didn't say anything.
I added "But, we're definitely not paid to have you.  It's a help, but it doesn't cover everything.  And, Daddy and I didn't know about the subsidy when we got ready to adopt, but, of course, it was a pleasant surprise."
I braced myself for a reaction, but none ever came.  He went back to playing the Xbox and didn't mention it again.  
Apparently, he was satisfied with my answer.  But, as he played his game, I had plenty of time to obsess.  I do that.
There have been times in our society when foster parents have been accused of fostering for the money.  As someone who gets 80% of the official foster care rate, I can tell you that it if you are trying to make money from fostering, you are not succeeding.  Kids are expensive, after all.  
No, we didn't know about any of the adoption incentives when we started out.  In fact, we didn't know until we were done with the classes, home study, and background checks.  We only knew that the adoption, itself, would be free for us and we could afford free.  We didn't know that, in Florida, kids who are classified as special needs receive monthly subsidies, that all of them are eligible for Medicaid until they are 18, and they all can go to college in Florida for free.  Free college, people.  We have 4 relieved were we??
When I get on my soapbox and tell coworkers, friends, neighbors, or fellow customers in the grocery store about foster care adoption, I try to tell them these things.  These conversations happens a lot because people tend to have questions.  Since, most people don't know about these incentives and they might make a difference, I tell them.  There are a lot of people out there with a lot of love to give, but not a lot of money to spend (a.k.a. The Parkers) who might take the adoption plunge if they thought they could make it work, financially.

I am always uncomfortable talking about the subsidy, though, and I always, always, mention that we didn't know about it until we started the process.  Most of the time, people are surprised and impressed.  Everyone thinks that the free college is cool.  And, sometimes, I feel weird for telling them about it at all.  Brian doesn't share my paranoia, but he does share my passion for letting the world know.  And, since he finds himself in these situations, too, he's had a quite a few soapbox moments of his own.  

So, a couple of months ago, I got into a conversation with a coworker.  She said that she'd like to adopt, but was probably too old and too single.  There, in the bathroom, I quickly pulled my soapbox out of my pocket, climbed on and told her that there was no age or marital requirement.  I had a live one, so I kept talking! ; )  And, because, she works non-profit, like me, I knew that some of the incentives could benefit her.  But, when I told her about the subsidy, she said "Well, I don't care about the money, I just want to adopt."
Then, I felt greedy.
Now, I know that she was probably just making sure that I didn't think that she cared about the money and I was definitely paranoid that she would think that I did.  But, I still felt like I needed to defend myself.  But, beyond, pointing out that we didn't know about it, etc, etc, I just let it go.  
Besides, when it comes down to it, I'm pretty sure that everyone knows that it's not about the money with us.  Most importantly, though, the kids know.  The kids know how much we love them.  As I might have hinted a couple of times, ha; the kids are our world. :) 

But, because of the adoption subsidy, I can get away with buying more matching shirts than I might have been able to, otherwise.  I can sneak in a couple more trips to McDonald's.  I can buy some more donuts.  And, when I'm feeling extra festive, I can pay the electric bill.  Oh, shoot, that reminds me, I actually do need to pay the electric bill?! 
So, no, Kaleb, we are not paid to have you.  Assistance or not, you are my son and I love you.  Now, sit down and have a donut in our house that now will continue to have power.  But, first, make sure that this shirt fits you; we are all wearing blue shirts tomorrow when we go to McDonald's! 


Saturday, January 25, 2014

Your Mommy Adopted You, Mommy, Just Like Me!

Over the weekend, the kids and I were on the way to the park to meet some friends.  My friends have also adopted through foster care.  They have a daughter, but, sadly, just had to say goodbye to her biological twin baby brothers when they were reunited with their birth father.  It is not my story to tell, but, suffice it to say, I don't think that the safest decision was made for those boys. 
But, as I was driving, I realized that we hadn't hung out since the boys left and there was a great potential for an awkward and painful moment if one of my kids asked about them. 
So, I got their attention, or tried, anyway.  I was competing with one cell phone, a rainbow loom, and 2 Nintendo 2ds's, after all.  I explained that the babies were not with them, anymore; that they had gone back to their birth father.  I told them that my friends' were sad about it and it would be best not to bring it up. 
They simply said ok.  To make sure that they understood the difference, I reminded them that they had adopted the daughter, though, just like we had adopted them.  And, that meant that she would not be going anywhere and would be with them, forever.  Just like them.
Then, Lizzie said, "You adopted me, just like Grandma adopted you when you were a baby, Mommy."
That's when I realized that Lizzie assumes that everyone is adopted.
Since, I'm not adopted, I tried to explain that my mom gave birth to me.  "There are different ways to become a mommy," I said.
Lizzie, with vague annoyance, "Can you just tell us, Mommy??"
I thought I just did, but I went ahead and started to elaborate, anyway.
For my own amusement, I started with, "First of all, Lizzie, thank you for giving me my next blog topic." ;)  Then, I started to talk about how some mommies have babies in their bellies, some adopt them, etc.
As I tried to form the words to explain this somewhat complicated concept to my 5 year old, I realized that she was talking to Antwan. 
"I've lost her,"  I said, apparently to myself, because no one answered.  I asked, "Lizzie, are you listening?"
She didn't answer, though, because she and Antwan were playing explosions in the seats behind me.   "Boom!!! Boom!!! BOOM!!!"
So, I went back to driving.
I'm so glad that we talk about adoption openly and honestly.  I'm glad that it's regarded as a positive word.  Of course, in our situation, there was never a question of whether we would tell them.  But, I'd like to think that we would have handled it the same way if our adopted children each had pale skin and dark hair like us.  (I can't even imagine!)
Lizzie and Antwan might not totally get it yet.  But, I will save the big explanations of the difference between biology and adoption for another day and stick with what they all get.  They get it when we tell them that we are glad that they are ours and that we love them.  The sad situation of my friends' made me want to hug my kids a little tighter and, thank my lucky stars, that they are all mine.  So, I did. 
And, I also hugged my friends' daughter a little tighter when I saw her at the park, too.  I'm glad that she's here and I'm so grateful that I get to see her grow up with her parents who sure do love her like crazy.


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

My Son Wants To Be Amazing.

The other night, at dinner, I went around the table, and asked the kids, “What are your goals for the week?”  I don’t really know why, but I thought it might be interesting.

Kaleb, the ever-humble, said “To be amazing!”

William, the slightly insecure, said “To try not to upset Kaleb so much.”

This, obviously, was a bit of a downer and not really a fair statement.  After explaining that I was hoping for some positive goals and that he doesn’t really upset Kaleb all that much that Kaleb’s just a vocal teenager who tends to have an opinion about everything, we tried again.  To his credit, Kaleb has made great efforts to be gentler with William who I lovingly refer to as my “delicate flower.” 

William struggled with coming up with an idea, so I finally suggested a few and he settled on “To have a good week.”

Antwan, the head-strong, “To stay up until 11pm, in my bed!”

And, Lizzie, the boss of us all, said "To sell more girl scout cookies and get my triangle patch!"
(She has now earned it, by the way.)

I was going to tell them that we would discuss it at the end of the week and determine if we had achieved the goals as I secretly hoped that Antwan wouldn’t, (sigh, he did), but I got side-tracked by who-knows-what.  Lots of things happen in our house.  

But, I’m going to try to remember to re-visit the topic and it will either be a fun little conversation that might turn into a tradition or it will be of no consequence and I’ll squeeze it in between talk of minecraft and questions of "is there any more food?" (They really like to eat.).

Since no one asked, last night, I’ll just tell you my goal!  Haha.  There’s the ever present goal of catching up on the dishes, making Lizzie and Antwan clean their room (translation: cleaning their room myself), and finding the time/energy to shave my legs (Sorry, Brian, I didn't...)  But, what I really want is to be a good mom, the best mom that I can be.  

I’ve talked about that before.  But, since it's an important goal, hopefully, it’s ok to repeat it.

I’ve been working on stepping it up, this year.  There is nothing, nothing, more important to me in the world than being a good parent.  And, yet, sometimes, it is the hardest thing in the world.  I’m preaching to the choir, I know.  

It’s so weird how quickly the days go by; even though, they seem so insurmountable when I wake up in the mornings.  Each morning, I grumble and lament the fact that I have to get out of bed and, then, I sometimes moan melodramatically which I'm sure is not annoying at all to sleeping Brian... ;).  But, when I do get out of bed, I tell myself that I’m going to do better.  I’m going to play more, smile more, hug more, laugh more, listen more, etc, etc, etc.

Sometimes, I succeed.  Sometimes, I do better. 

Because, sometimes, I make Man of Steel burgers!

My super new cookbook!

Cheese S shields!

The kids loved them and didn't care at all that I forgot hamburger buns.  Who needs buns, anyway, when you've got mustard.

I probably shouldn't have turned my back....

We saved some for Daddy. :)

But, sometimes, I don't do better. 

Sometimes, I allow myself to get set off by the fact that Kaleb has left his socks on the floor again, William has left his underwear on the floor again, Antwan has left his pop-tart wrapper on the floor again, or Lizzie has lost her shoes...AGAIN.

Sometimes, I feel like they don’t take me seriously, unless I raise my voice.  That gets a response, of course.  But, the next time that I look around, I see that Kaleb has left his socks on the floor again, William has left his underwear on the floor again, Antwan has left his pop-tart wrapper on the floor again, or Lizzie has lost her shoes again.  So, what’s the point, anyway?

On a side note, after I wrote that, I was inspired to type up some household rules, Super Nanny style!  It's amazing how much losing 2 minutes of lights on time at bedtime can motivate a kid!  But, anyway, back to my point. :)

Sometimes, I’m somewhere, in between.

I was playing Checkers with Kaleb, a couple of weeks ago.  While I held my own against Antwan, Kaleb had brought me down pretty quickly.  And, with one checker left, he repeatedly, didn’t jump over it to end the game.  I thought that he was torturing me, throwing it in my face that he could win any time.  It’s not that crazy of a thought when you consider that he’s a competitive teenager.  Being a formerly competitive teenager turned competitive mom, I know about these things.  And, it sure didn’t help that it was late at night and I was a tired mommy.

Anyway, when he finally won, I was relieved.  Then, he said, cheerfully, “Yes, I dragged it out because I like playing games with my mommy.”

Thud, I felt like a jerk.

Another "fun" example.  Kaleb loves to cook with me, but I get so cranky when I’m hungry, so it’s the hardest time for me to do the good mom thing.  Saturday night, he came in and asked if he could help.  I grunted something and he said ok and left the kitchen.  That’s when I caught myself.  These moments matter, you idiot, I thought.  Sure, you can pat yourself on the back for making them tacos since they really like tacos.  But, if they don’t think that you want them around, then you’re doing little more than reassuring them that you’ll feed them. So, I called him back in and he browned the beef for me.  This really was a big help, actually.

So, the other day, Kaleb offered me unsolicited advice.  He said that one suggestion that he would have for me would be to stop and think before I react.  Too often, I react and then fix it.  Saying that I want to cook alone and then cooking with him, anyway, is a perfect example.  I don't love unsolicited advice, as a general rule.  But, this, I took to heart.

I love to ask the kids what they have learned.  Well, what have I learned?  This.  Treasure the moments that I have and don't sabotage the ones that I could have.  If I want to be a better mom, I'm going to have to actually do a little better. Or try, anyway.

Yesterday, I  saw this really great meme on facebook.  It’s so true.  It got me thinking and reminded me that I'm not alone.


I will forgive myself.  But, I will really, really try to do better, too. 

But, maybe, I'll start in a half an hour because, right now, they are playing Minecraft and I'm really enjoying my break. ;) 


Saturday, January 11, 2014

Moving Past The Past

Lizzie.  I don't write about her a lot.  In a way, there's not a lot to say, but, in a way, there is.  It's just that, I don't think that people come to my blog to read about how totally awesome I think my five year old is.  I really do, by the way.  But, that's what Facebook is for.  :)

But, the thing about Lizzie is that I can't help but still be a little amazed that she's mine.  I'm amazed that they are all mine.  The difference with Lizzie is that we waited way too long to find out that she was going to be ours.  Antwan and William came on February 15, 2008, and we finalized on May, 9, 2008.  Kaleb came on June 28, 2013, and we finalized on November 18, 2013.  There was some red tape and bureaucracy involved in both, but, in hindsight, it was pretty simple.  And, totally worth it, I proclaim from my soap box.  Everyone go adopt now.  I'll wait... ;)

Then, there was Lizzie.  She came on September 11, 2008 and we finalized on September 29, 2009.  I think that a year is probably pretty quick when waiting to adopt while the birth parents are still involved.  But, it was rough for us.  And, totally worth it, I proclaim from my soap box.  Everyone go adopt now.  I'll wait... ;)  I won't go through all the drama about how we had deliberately looked for  children who were already available for adoption so we wouldn't go through a year of hell like we did, but we ended up there, anyway.  That's not the point.  Besides, she needed to be with us and her brothers and I'd do it all again in a heartbeat. 

But, going through something like that changes you.  Watching a baby being driven off for visits with birth parents who don't seem to understand what a gift they've been given hurts.  Hearing them lie in court while you helplessly watch things happen is hard.  And, then there was my worst moment when I brought Lizzie to a visitation, myself, because I wanted to be cooperative and I had to leave her there.  I went to my parents' right after where I had left Antwan and promptly vomited.  Then, I continued vomiting for two days with some crazy flu-like illness that everyone was convinced was stress-induced.  Since no one else in the house got sick, I'm thinking that they were right.  Yeah, it was rough.   And, totally worth it, I proclaim from my soap box.  Everyone go adopt now.  I'll wait... ;)

Sometimes, Kaleb feels threatened by Lizzie.  He thinks that we are more amazed by her than him.  And, it's true that it's exciting when a 5 year old writes a word or reads a book. 

But, if he had looked over, he would've seen me crying as he played his clarinet during his concert, a few months ago.

So, hopefully, the emotional Mommy reactions even out.  :)

He thinks that we like her better.  That's not true.  But, I'm just a little surprised and relieved, each day, that she's still here.  Not on a conscious level.  I don't wake up and rush to check.  But, it's hard to shake the back-of-the-mind feeling that it's not permanent.

But, it is.  She's ours.  They're all ours.  And, regardless of the angst and my lingering paranoia, my baby is my baby.  All of my babies are my babies.  And, that's good enough for me. :)

Did I mention that it's totally worth it and everyone should go adopt now.  I'll wait... ;)

Today, she is happy.

She's stubborn.

She said that her backpack was too heavy.

And she's beautiful.

She absolutely gets away with things like Kaleb says.  But, we try to call her on the stuff that matters. And, when we do, she doesn't like it... 

Getting a mini-lecture from Daddy.  She wasn't pleased.

And, sure, sometimes I have to cover my face and pretend to be really sad so she won't see me smiling, but I make it through.  Life would be easier if she wasn't tremendously cute when she's mad.  Much like she's tremendously cute when she's happy.  But, it's my cross to bear. haha.

Offended by the time-out

All I know is that I am so glad that she is getting the chance to be a little girl and I get to be there for it.  She gets to sell Girl Scout cookies, ride her bike, eat a ridiculous amount of ramen noodles, occasionally watch tv with a hanger on her head,
and, yes, sometimes, yell at her mommy who will love her forever and always put her and her brothers' first.



Monday, January 6, 2014

Our First Christmas Together

This was a significant Christmas.  This was our first Christmas as a family of six.  Kaleb was with us last year, but he was visiting.  He was on his best behavior.  And, even though, we were trying to treat him like a member of the family.  And, he was acting like he was a member of the family.  Technically, he wasn't. 

I remember feeling heartbroken because we weren't able to get them many presents.  We were struggling a bit financially and, then, we found ourselves completely in charge of another child's presents.  I was in tears on Christmas Eve because I wanted to give them all more.  But, no one seemed to care and they just enjoyed the time together. 

Apparently, they understood the true meaning of Christmas a bit more than I did, in some  moments....

This year was different.  We are a family.  Legally, emotionally, and technically---we are a family. 

And, that means that he wasn't on his best behavior.  I'm not saying that he is a bad kid or anything like that, I'm just saying that he is my kid.  There are no more performances.  There is just us.  :)

We were able to give them a better Christmas, this time, in terms of presents.  Of course, this made me very happy.  Hearing the kids exclaim as they opened presents and saw what they were hoping for or what they didn't know that they wanted, but were thrilled to get; that was a great feeling.  But, the best feeling, of course, was that we were together.

After opening presents, we went to my sister's house.  We had lunch.  We opened more presents.  We spent time with family.  The kids and the husband, haha, patiently posed for a ridiculous amount of family pictures.  This was very sweet, even though, I never really got a good one.  This broke my heart a bit because I'm a little obsessed with pictures, haha.  But that's the thing, that was basically  the worst thing that happened that day.  Not too bad. :)

We came home and we watched the Christmas special of Doctor Who and then called it a night.

I was ready!

I went to bed, wishing it would never end. 

But, before all that, I had a brief conversation with Kaleb.  That morning, we were in the hallway and I was stalling the kids there while we waited for Daddy to come out. 

Kaleb told me that he had a dream.  I've been wracking my brain trying to remember what he said and I can't remember exactly.  I'm sure he'll remind me after he reads this post. ;)  But, it was something to the effect of dreaming that everyone got presents and he didn't or he ate dinner alone while we all ate in the dining room.  I can't remember, but what I do remember is that it was, clearly, his subconscious bringing up a page from his past.  It was a memory of a time when he was separated and not always considered worthy of being part of the family.  Sadly, this past causes him to be sensitive to moments when he feels discounted or shoved aside.  But, here's the thing, that time has passed.  Undoubtedly, I'm going to screw up a lot of things, but I am never going to deliberately treat him as less than.  And, I'm definitely never going to think of him as less than.  And, I think he consciously knows that, even if his subconscious has its moments of doubt.

Yep, he is one of us now.  One of us.

And, if I have to put us all in matching shirts for the rest of his childhood (and maybe, after!) to prove that point; well, then, I will do what I must do! ;) 


Friday, January 3, 2014

I Don't Want To Be Grumpy Pants.

I wrote this blog right after Thanksgiving, but, for some reason, never posted it. And, since one of my resolutions, this year, is to be more patient, I thought I'd slip it. in. :)

I hate it when I yell at my kids.  I know that I'm not the only mother that does it, but I hate it.  And, I don't mean that I completely lose control and turn into the incredible hulk mom, but, sometimes, it does all get to me.  I definitely don't like admitting on a blog that I'm not perfect, haha, but, for the sake of my point, I'm going to. 

I look back on my childhood and I can't remember a time when my mom yelled at me.  But, surely, she must have.  I got even grumpier then when I was hungry than I do now.  So, she must've wanted to wring my neck more than a few times, but I don't remember it.  I remember the love.  I remember the singing and the dancing and how all of my friends wanted to come to my house because they loved my parents.  That is how I hope and pray that my kids will remember their childhood. 

And, I do sing and dance.  And, they sing and dance with me.  And, I will welcome my kids' friends to the house and not just because it gives me a good excuse to make them clean up their stuff. ;)

But, what if it's not enough?  What if they remember that I was a moment away from a snap because I didn't eat soon enough?  Or that I occasionally cry out of frustration because they won't pick up their toys? 

I can explain/defend it.  Adding another child to the mix makes everything harder.  I am so very glad that he is part of the mix, for the record.  But, it has been an adjustment.  And, I decided long ago that I would rather my children love me than fear me.  So, if I sometimes give too many chances, the trade-off of not remembering me as the angry mom might be worth it.  But, sometimes a little fear might be nice...;)  But, if I finally snap at them after calmly giving them several chances then what's the point, anyway?  What if "No one listens to me until I start yelling!" is the catchphrase that they remember? 

Each day, I look at their smiling faces and I have to believe that all the smiling, laughing, and hugging that I also do, off-set my frustration moments.  They are happy.  They are silly.  I've got to be doing ok, right?

That was my story until the other night.  I had just snapped at the younger three because they were all asking me questions instead of quietly playing in their rooms until lights out.  I used to be able to deal with this better, but now I have trouble separating the voices and answering their questions.  So, I yelled at them to go to their rooms.  And, then I came out to the living room, fuming a bit.

Kaleb looked at me and said "I was going to tell you this earlier, but I'll tell you now....  Just remember that when you're mad at us and being a grumpy pants, we all love you." 

He said it with a smile and calling me a grumpy pants was evidence that he did, in fact, love me and I wasn't traumatizing him.  But, it hit me in a different way.  I sat there, thinking about it.  They do love me.  And, they don't have to; especially William and Kaleb who had to get to know me and then decide to love me.  I have been given this gift and, shame on me, for getting mad that William, Antwan, and Lizzie wanted to talk to me. 

I was definitely not a grumpy pants the rest of the night.  I went to bed thinking about it.  I woke up on Thanksgiving morning and thought about it.  And, I thought about it, as I quietly made pies and hoped they wouldn't wake up until I was done.  And, when William came out to go to the bathroom and impulsively and loudly called my name from the hallway (potentially waking everyone up); I resisted the urge to lose my cool and invited him out to help me make the pies instead.  (That was definitely the best decision that I made that day.)

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving.  I spent the day marveling at our good fortune. 

That afternoon, when we came home, Kaleb got right to practicing on the violin that my sister loaned him.  Brian and I were standing in the driveway exchanging sentiments about how lucky we are when Kaleb came out to play us a song that he had just learned.  He played and it was beautiful.  I praised him and tried to casually walk into the house.  But, I only made it as far as the kitchen when I started to cry.  Brian hugged me as William rushed in to hug me, too.  Undoubtedly, he was wondering what Mommy was worked up about now.  I was quick to tell him that they were happy tears and that I just felt very, very thankful.  I then attacked all of them with overly dramatic hugs and sat down to enjoy the rest of the night.

I don't want to be a grumpy pants, anymore.  And, I know that I will sometimes.  But, when I do, I'm going to try to remember my teenager's wise words and throw my grumpy pants out of the window.  Instead, I'm going to put on my happy pants and dancing shoes.  :)

(And, because I was feeling very inspired, this morning, I started a new blog to keep me on track!  Please, check it out!)