Saturday, February 15, 2014

What People Think Of Us

"I think you're amazing!" she said as the others agreed.  I was sitting in a meeting at the kids' school.  They had done some assessments on the boys and I was there to learn whether or not they thought that they thought that they could give them extra help.  I thanked them and gave a little back-story for the lady who had only recently started working with the boys.  Amazing.  I've heard this a lot through the last several years as we've become who we are.  After we became the couple who adopted kids from foster care. (That's how I imagine that we are described around town.)  We have found ourselves in many conversations with many different people and they tend to have the same reaction.

I'm not going to lie.  I really like being told that I'm amazing.  I mean, who wouldn't?  ;)

And, yes, we're very proud of what we've done.  We didn't set out to change these children's lives.  But, I will admit that we have.  We didn't set out to have the majority of a sibling group in our house.  But, we do. And, truth be told, I think we would've tried for all 6 if it had ever been an option.  We didn't set out to be the racial minority in our family.  But, it's kind of hilarious that we are. 

It wasn't our plan, but, clearly, it was someone's plan because here we are.  And, despite my efforts through my blog posts, there really are no words for how grateful I am that we are. 

But, I don't feel amazing.  I don't feel like a person who did a noble thing.  Or the mom to my "adopted" children. 

I feel like a mom to my children.  Most of the time, I feel like a frazzled mom to my children.  I feel like the mom who noisily drove her van through the parent pick-up line again, today, because she forgot to put power steering fluid in the van again.  And, I feel like the mom who apologized to Lizzie's teacher, today, for not turning in her valentines box yet.  I feel like the mom who dressed her kids up and took a little extra time on Lizzie's hair, today, for the school pictures; but, couldn't find the checkbook or the order forms so they weren't called to get their pictures taken, anyway.  So, you might say, they were all dressed up with no where to pose....

Yes, that all happened in one morning. I am that mom.

But, in my defense, it's not always like that. I do occasionally redeem myself. After the meetings, that day, I was also the mom who, much to the cafeteria staff's amusement, went through the line 3 times so I could have lunch with my younger three.  I also pondered what Kaleb would do if I surprised him by showing up at his school, next door.  But, I kind of doubt that it's as cool when your mom surprises you at your middle school. (Move over, kids! Ok, now, who likes Batman??)

And, thankfully, I got to feel like the mom who squeezed in a nap before going back to the schools to get the kids and then play the "do your homework" game with them.

No, I don't think that I'm amazing.  I'm not going to say that Brian's not amazing because, well, that would be rude.  And, I need him to open a jar for me later. ;)   But, this much is true.  We have given them an opportunity for a better life.  They are getting an education and a loving family.  They have a dad who knows a startling amount of trivia about absolutely everything and a ridiculously unorganized mom.  Meanwhile, they have given us the chance to build our life around them, to love them, watch them grow, to dress them up in costumes, and, also, to ponder the eternal question: how do we get them to pick up after themselves? How??

Do you want to know what I think is amazing? I'm guessing that you do since you are still reading! I think our life is pretty amazing. Our quirky little family has just the right amount of, well, quirk. I think it's amazing that we found each other and that I've kept my kids alive and well for this long. I think it's amazing that the life that they have now was not the one originally planned (for lack of a better word), but it is clearly the one that they are supposed to have.

You know, when I stop and look at them, I am blown away. When Kaleb tackles me with an unexpected hug, when William lingers in the kitchen while I wash dishes because he "wants to be with me," when Antwan pats my back to reassure me after he kicks my butt (repeatedly) in Kinect Sports, and when Lizzie smiles a big smile when I surprise her at the school; I can see that they love me. They love me just as I am.

Yeah, I know, I'm over-using the word, but, seriously, how amazing is that??

Well, I better stop discussing all this amazing stuff and go help my little girl decorate her Valentine box. Or she might have a different word to describe me... ;)

"You Don't Have To Be Perfect To Be A Perfect Parent"


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Growing Up Too Fast

I thought that I had this mom thing under control.  And, then, we adopted a teenager.  Being a mom to a teenager is different.  And, being a mom to a teenager who is still just a little boy in so many ways is definitely different.  I have learned a lot about myself as I've learned to parent a teenager.  (This is not to suggest that I now have it figured out, by the way.) I haven't liked everything that I've learned about me, but, maybe (Just maybe!), if I pay attention to all of it; it will make me a better mom and person.  And, with all my jokes (that aren't really jokes) about wanting them not to grow up; I sometimes expect him to act more like a grown up than he is.  But, when you think about it, he's had to be a grown up for most of his life.  So, maybe, it's time for him to act like a little kid.
Kaleb is a force of nature.  I thought that William was a force of nature and I thought that Antwan was a force of nature.  And, they are.  But, I didn't really know how forcey nature could be until there was Kaleb. 
He talks.  He sings.  He hums.  He whistles.  He drums.  He hates the silence.  Where as, I kind of think a few minutes of silence would be pretty cool...  (Well, I can't really remember it, but I think it was kind of nice.)  I didn't realize that he hated the silence, though, until recently.
We were driving in the van and I realized that he wasn't talking.  Since I spend a lot of time reacting to him, I took the opportunity to ask him a question.  I wanted him to know that I genuinely want to talk to him.  I wanted him to feel valued.
So, I asked him what the difference is between the old Assassins Creed and the new Assassins Creed.  Xbox games is not my favorite topic in the world, but I have to admit that I'm intrigued by the rather life-like manly and, often shirtless, pirate characters in the game. ;) 
I could tell that he was pleased.  He answered the question.  I listened.  I commented.  It was all very pleasant.
A few seconds of silence passed as I basked in the glory of doing the right thing, haha.  Then, he said, "Well, I don't like the silence, so I'll keep talking."  And, he did.
Oh!  Mystery solved!  He doesn't like the silence.  I don't know if it's because it was always noisy in his foster homes or because it wasn't.  Maybe no one listened before.  Maybe it's just his nature.  Or maybe he just really likes his voice.  But, he definitely doesn't like silence.  This is why he asks random questions "what if" questions and blurts out non sequitur comments to me.  It all made sense.  Well, it didn't all make sense, but this part did, anyway.  :)
As time has passed, Kaleb has gotten better about waiting his turn to talk, they all have.  I think that has been one of the biggest challenges; trying to make sure that everyone has a chance to be heard.  But, it's so important that they are all.  Adding one more person who wants to talk to me means that it sometimes takes a little longer to get to everyone's turn.  I really notice it in the afternoons.  I sit in my "homework helping" chair and marvel at the rotating door of questions and clarifications that I receive.  One after another, they ask me to sign their planners, check their homework, listen to their stories, and approve their snack requests.  Believe me when I say that homework time takes hours.  And, at the end of the day, I sometimes feel like that is all that I have done.  I know that I'm not alone in this, though, of course.  Welcome to a multi-child household, Emily! ;)

But, what makes it all worth it is the other times and when I remember to seize opportunities to create moments.  For example! --- It was a few minutes before Kaleb's bedtime and we were just sitting around.  For some reason, the song "My Bonny" popped in my head.  If you don't know it, the main point of the song is that you have to stand up or sit down, every time a "B" word is sang.  Here's a hint- there are several.  So, I got up and made Kaleb do it with me.  We barely made it through the whole song.  Wow, it was easier to jump up and down when I was a little girl in girl scouts!  But, it was fun. :) When we were done, I had a "smart mom" moment and instead of going back to my comfy recliner (also known as my homework helping chair), I sat on the couch with him and he put his head on my lap. 
I sat there, rubbing his head as he fell asleep.  And, I thought about how amazing our reality really is.  With all the challenges, the mess, the noise, and the general chaos; he is here with us and that is an absolute good.


So, what do I do with a little boy who pretends to be a grown-up, but then insists on being tucked in and who, yesterday, roped me into feeding him his yogurt with a spoon because I didn't "have the chance when he was little?"
Love him, that's what I'll do.  I'll love him!


And, also, apparently, I'll listen to a lot of singing and humming.  But, that's ok, I like to sing, too. :)
And, P.S, check out this new ad from AdoptUSkids and The Ad Council!  I love it!  It reminds me of Kaleb and me.  And, I love that they are representing transracial adoption!