Sunday, December 20, 2015

Our Kids' Oldest Brother And Us.

When I stop and think about it, I am aware at how differently my life turned out from what I expected..  I always visualized marrying a man with brown hair who would make me laugh and feel safe.  I would get pregnant immediately.  We'd have 2 or 4 babies (I like equal numbers.)
and a houseful of animals.  We would probably live on a farm.  And, we would definitely be rich. 

Well, I married a man with brown hair who makes me laugh and feel safe.  I definitely have a houseful of animals whether that brown haired man likes it or not. ;)   (He doesn't really mind, for the record.)  There is no farm...yet.  And, we are so not rich.  I didn't give birth to babies, but I do have them.  Four noisy, silly, and adorable babies of all shapes and sizes. haha

But, really, I don't spend a lot of time dwelling on it.  I guess that's why I am re-surprised (if that's a word) every time that I do. ;)  But, most of the time, it seems perfectly normal.  Well, as normal as life with us involved could be.  My point  is that my life didn't go as I expected.  But, it went, nevertheless, and is still going in a pretty cool way.

And, it definitely doesn't go in any typical order.  And, every time that I think it has settled down and gotten "normal," it gets interesting again.

When we got the boys and thought that we were settling down and starting a happy ending, we were aware that there were two older brothers (and an older sister) out there somewhere.  At the time, the older brothers were together in an adoptive placement in south Florida and, we were told that the oldest sister had aged out of the system and was headed off to college.  We thought, "Great! Everyone gets their happy endings!" (Although, admittedly, the oldest sister's should've gone better.)

Around the time that Lizzie was born and  had come into our lives to re-start our happy ending plan, the oldest brother was leaving his adoptive placement and opting for returning to the system  (creating a rift between he and Kaleb which continues to this day).  The would-be parents were ok with this because they didn't realize yet that all the trouble that they thought he was causing was primarily Kaleb's antics. The oldest brother was covering for him.  Later, as Kaleb's adoption was falling apart for a variety of reasons, not just his antics and not all of his fault, we were getting to know the oldest brother who was living at a nearby group home.  We're gonna call the oldest brother, Frank! 
All was well until the group home that he was at decided that he was getting too attached to us and started restricting contact.  At the time, I didn't understand why they would discourage contact between him and his siblings and us who were not going anywhere.  Particularly, since one of the people involved was me who secretly (not so secretly to Brian) hoped to adopt him as soon as we were in a better position to do so.  (We were still waiting to see if we got to officially adopt Lizzie.)  I get now that part of their motivation was probably to protect him from getting hurt if we stopped visiting, but at the time it just stunk trying to explain to William why we hadn't seen him lately.

Anyway, as our contact was being restricted, he bonded with a family who did adopt him. Despite my feeling of loss, I knew that it was a happy ending and it was certainly his turn for one of those.   

We hung out a couple of times, but as life goes; they had theirs and we had ours.  
Contact was lost and I told myself that was ok. 

A couple of years later, we learned that Kaleb was back in the system and, well, you know that story. Oh, if you don't know that story, we adopted him! :) And, we re-started, again, our happy ending.

Somewhere in the midst of all of that, Frank left his (adoptive) family. He was 18 but still in high school.  He says that they kicked him out, they say that he left. There are more details involved, but, of course, it's not my place to share them.  But, basically, it boiled down to an "If you don't like it, you can leave!"  moment.  He heard them say to leave now and they watched him leave now.

Very sad. Even sadder was the fact that he was suddenly on his own with no G.E.D, no job, and no emotional support.  He reconnected with some of his biological family, but since not a lot has changed there, it hasn't exactly increased his chances at success.

That's all I will say about that. The point is that he found himself in a situation with little to no support. He is working dead-end jobs, scraping by, walking to work, losing those dead-end jobs when he gets there late due to late buses or miscalculating how long it will take him to walk, sleeping on random people's couches...basically,
living life as a high school drop out. He is living the life of a kid who aged out of foster care without any of the supports. Because it turns out that he can't get them.  (I checked, he doesn't qualify.)

We didn't realize how bad his situation was, until now. He would send me messages here and there and then disappear.  And, although I cared, I would get wrapped back up in my life, not realizing that he might need us and not realizing that I needed to reach out to him if I wanted him to stick around.  He was living with the belief that people don't stick around so I'm guessing that he was assuming that we wouldn't either.  But, t
hen we started to realize that he might need us.  So, then I started reaching out and he started communicating more.  That's when we started to understand how bad the situation was.  That's when we decided to be involved.  Because as far as we are concerned, we are his family, too, even if it's not true from a technical or legal standpoint.

It's been wonderful being able to connect him with his 3 youngest siblings again.  I'm trying to patiently wait for Kaleb to come around (I know that he will) and haven't forced him to see his oldest brother...yet.  ;)  Frank embraces the big brother role perfectly and is a natural at it.  He also is very tolerant of my need for pictures and smiles for each and every one. haha.

We've helped him financially as much as we can which is tricky for a paycheck to paycheck fam.  We've fed him.  I've marched him through Walgreens, buying a variety of cold medicines and cough drops because he was sick and I hated the idea that no one would be there to take care of him.  In an effort to try to help him get his car all registered, tagged, and licensed and to get him in a safe, stable living arrangement, we created a gofundme on his behalf and some wonderful people have donated. And, I am so grateful for the donations, the shares, and the words of encouragement!
We're not doing this because we are great or anything like that.  We're doing it because someone should be and no one else was.  And, of course, because we love him. :)  And, even though, he's a legal adult, he's still a kid in many ways.  I can't imagine trying to get by at age 20 without support and I'm so glad that I didn't have to. 

So, here we are with our 4 kids and our whatever the heck Frank is in our new version of reality.  I embrace the unofficial mom position because it's just kind of what I do and he needs someone to love him.  And, I do.  I always have.  And, I think he's starting to believe that.  So many people in his life have let him down and I don't intend to be one of those people.  (As long as he doesn't equate me being perpetually late to me letting him down. haha.)  Because Frank (just like my kids, everybody's kids, kids who were/are in the foster care system, and kids who grew up in stable homes) deserves to be loved, really, really loved.   

Monday, December 14, 2015

I Wish Someone Else Had Adopted Me!

"I wish that someone else had adopted me!"

I looked at my little girl, laying in a grouchy heap on the couch.  I thought briefly about how it is better not to react to hurtful statements like that, how she didn't actually mean it, and how it's totally normal.  But, since I was already in the process of reacting (I mean, really, really reacting), it was too late to consider that option. 

"What??  There's nothing that you could say to hurt me more, Lizzie!  Go to time-out!"

William and Antwan immediately came rushing out asking "What did she say??" and "Do you need a hug?"

I didn't repeat what she said, but took the hugs.  I took a moment to quietly sob in the kitchen, then got back to it. 

Now, this is not how I would have planned to respond if I had the opportunity to prepare the script ahead of time.  But, in this improvisational life that we all lead, that is how it went down.

In some cases, this may have had some profound negative effect.  But, luckily, in this case, it just led to an annoyed 7 year old flouncing to the time-out chair.  After all, she wasn't trying to hurt me or give me a clue of some mixed emotions that she was feeling (not this time, anyway).  She was really ticked off that I intended to make her go to homeschool P.E. class.  Despite the fact that we go every Tuesday and Thursday, she is still surprised and irritated by it each time.

When I went to the Time-Out chair, explained to her why she was there, and asked her to say she was sorry; she did and we moved on.  I knew that she hadn't learned a valuable lesson and I also knew that I was too emotional to try to explain it to her at the time.  Plus, we were going to be late to P.E....again.  Why are we always late every where??

I had always known that, at some point, I would hear "I hate you" or "You're not my real mother."  And, I knew that I wouldn't react well.  But, for some reason, "I wish someone else had adopted me" hadn't occurred to me.  As if we were just random parental units that could be switched out for better models.  I also assumed that comments like that would come later, in the teen years.  You know, when I didn't let her go to that party, spend the night at her friend's on a school night, or leave the house wearing that outfit.  I didn't think I would hear something like this when I was trying to insure her physical health at the YMCA.

I sent a dramatic text to a friend and dragged my kids out of the house...metaphorically speaking, thankfully.  By the time that we were in the van, everything had shifted, and everyone was cheerful.  And, by the time that I got a response from my friend, I wasn't even particularly upset anymore.  I saw it for what it was. 

To paraphrase myself in a previous blog post, adoption adds another layer of stuff to deal with.  Sometimes that means that you are dealing with your child's deeply instilled insecurities and they say hurtful things or make inexplicable bad choices out of reaction to those insecurities.  But, sometimes that means that you have heaped so much love onto your child that she feels totally secure and comfortable lashing out at you when you have the audacity to take her to a P.E. class.

At the end of the day, I'd call that a success.   But, that sassy little girl better not ever say that to me again. ;)

Do we wish someone else had adopted you, Lizzie?  Not for a single moment of a single day....

Monday, November 30, 2015

Ten Things You May Or May Not Know About Foster Care Adoption.

The other night, I came across a post in my newsfeed about a family who was going through the process of adopting a 12 year old boy from another country.  I think it was China, but now I can't find the post to verify.   But, that's not the point.  It was a sad story with a soon-to-be happy ending.  I was reading the comments and someone said that they would love to adopt someday, but wouldn't be able to afford it.  She went on to say how awful it was that money would keep a child away from a loving family.  It bothered me because this is not the case with foster care adoption.  I didn't want to jump on a stranger's comment, but I felt obligated to tell her because what if my comment planted a seed that one day connected a child with a family?  So, I politely told her that foster care adoption is virtually free.  Then another person commented with the same thing.  Then, the original person cheerfully said that she would have to look into it.  So, who knows... :)

Then, the next morning, there was a post in an adoption group about a family seeking advice on how to go about adopting.  He made a point of saying that foster care adoption is not an option.  One person politely asked why not and a few people jumped on her for it and said things like it's his choice and how painful it is to foster a child, only to have to say goodbye.  The lady who commented said she meant no harm, was in the foster care field and was just curious.  My protective instinct (and a little bit of my soapbox tendency) kicked in and I backed her up by saying that it was a fair question and that there are kids in foster care that are immediately available to adopt, no fostering necessary.  I made sure to wish him luck with everything no matter what he did and said nothing else.  After all, I was just looking to educate not insult.  No one responded after that so I'm thinking that I didn't change any lives there. ;)

And, before all of that, I was at the doctor with my younger three.  It was a new doctor (for us) so she was asking me questions.  She did well with terminology but when she was checking William out, she started to make casual conversation which ended up starting with "So, do you have any children...of your own?"  I quickly and politely answered with "I have these and my teenager.  They are my own." It might have seemed like a reasonable question but to an adoptive parent (and more importantly, to the children who were adopted), it is a dismissal of the deep connection they have to their children.  I know that she didn't mean anything by it.  Even though adoption is really quite common, it still throws people off.

Anyway, all of that inspired me to make one of those "Ten things that you don't know about foster care adoption" lists!  Some of it is factual, some of it is emotional, some of it about terminology, and some of it is probably me just running my mouth...but all of it is educational, kind of!  And, education is pretty awesome, right? ;)

Disclaimer.  I am not an expert (but I did borrow my first statistics from the AdoptUSkids website and they are experts!) and this is my information based on foster care adoption in Florida.  So, there might be some differences.  But, in general, this is the gist... ;)

Here we go.

1.  Did you know that there are about 104,000 kids in foster care who are currently available for adoption?  These are the kids whose biological parents' rights have already been terminated.  They officially need a family.  So, if you are worried that you will bond with a child who will then be returned to their biological family, that is not the reality.  Yes, in general, a major goal is biological reunification.  But, if that is already off the table, if the parental rights have already been terminated...there is no going back.  Then you have children who are simply living a foster care life until if and when someone decides to adopt them or until they age out of the system.  I have heard horror stories of people waiting for years to be matched and I have no idea why.  I just know that in our case, we were matched with our younger boys on January 21st, 2008.  They were placed in our home on February 15th, 2008 and we finalized on May 29th, 2008. The case worker did come out once a month until we finalized, but, as my husband always told me, they were not looking for a reason to say no.  So, once we were matched, it was really easy-peasy.

2..  You don't have to spend thousands and thousands of dollars to adopt.  Not counting the toys that we rushed out to buy for our initial visits and the McDonald's lunch that we took them to for our first unsupervised visit, I think that we spent $55 for a background check.  The home study was free, the court costs were free, the lawyer was free, whatever other random expenses that I can't think of right now were free.  See, that's the thing with adoption from foster care, it's non-profit.  They are not looking to make money.  They are trying to get these kids out of the system.  I mean, if you want to be practical about it, it probably costs the states less to cover the court costs, etc, than to continue to completely financially support a child.  So, yes, you should make enough money to take care of a child.  But, no, you don't have to hand over that arm and leg to be given the opportunity to do so.

3. Free college.  Let me say that again, free college.  Kids from foster care are eligible for free college tuition in many states.  This is definitely true in Florida, but other states have programs, as well. We found this out after the boys were already with us and, man, was it  awesome news.  Knowing that their college is covered is a major relief.  Now we can focus on making sure that they go.  And, believe me, the kids have already heard their fair share of "why college is so important" lectures. :)

4.  In many cases, you will even get some financial help.  I don't know if other people know this, but we sure didn't.  Many kids come with monthly assistance until the age of 18, especially sibling groups and kids with special needs (this includes disabilities and those that have a harder time getting adopted, i.e. minorities).  This saved us, particularly when it was clear that I couldn't keep up with my job and my parenting duties.  When our daughter entered the picture, I was able to stay home with the kids and we were able to stay afloat.

5. Adoption Tax Credit.  Another little benefit that we learned about as we were signing some of our final paperwork.  In Florida, for five years per eligible child, you get a tax credit.  That's good stuff.

6. While it may not cost you money to adopt, you do need to pay up in commitment because it will not always be easy.  Much like it would not always be easy with a biological child.  It can be difficult and frustrating to deal with issues that someone else caused.  I would give anything to have been able to have all four of my kids from day one so they (and, who are we kidding, I) would have been spared all that angst.  But, life is not that way and you can't rewrite history.  So, yes, it is challenging sometimes, but a lot of the times, it's random life with no angst involved.  It's family dinners, begging them for the millionth time to put their stuff away, playing with toys, arguing over school work, cuddling in the's life.

7. If you have heard that it's hard to get a baby through foster care, you have heard right.  If you are determined to start with a baby, then you might consider fostering first and waiting to see if the parental rights are terminated.  That is an option.  But, you will find yourself risking having to say good-bye if the biological parents work the case plan and get their lives together which is a good thing, of course.  If you are a stronger person than me and can handle the potential loss to get the eventual gain, then it could work out.  After all, babies need loving homes, too. 

8. This is your real child and you are the real parent.  Don't let anyone tell you different.  And, if you are not adopting, but know people who are or did; please, please do not ask about the kids' real mom or dad.  Please understand that, yes, the biological connection matters, but in our reality, there are things that matter more.  Love and commitment.  If you do ask, please use the terms birth mother, biological father, etc. 

9. This is your own child.  Again, don't let anyone tell you different.  And, again, if you are not adopting, but know people who are or did, please, please do not ask if they have kids of their own.   It may seem like nothing and I may sound overly sensitive.  That's because I am overly sensitive. ;) But, children who have already suffered so much rejection should not be given the message that they are less than in any way.  When you asked if I had children of my own, what my children heard was "Do you have any children that are really yours or is it just these adopted children?"  That's what they hear because that's basically what you are saying, even though, I totally understand that you probably don't mean it like that.

10.  Finally, one that is close to my heart.  Race.  Statistically, there are more African American children in the foster care system.  I don't know the number and I don't know exactly why.  We can talk about socio-economic levels, educational levels, etc.  But, the point is that minorities, especially African Americans are not the minority in the foster care system.  But, all the time, there are more and more transracial families being created through adoption.  Some people think that it's a big deal, some think it's not, and some don't know what to think.  But, if you consider adopting from foster care, you have to consider whether you are ok with adopting outside of your race if you are, in fact, white.  For us, we knew that we didn't care.  But, we did worry about whether others would care.  And, one of the first things that we worried about was hair care.  We went right to the practical issues.  :)  And, when we got the call from the case worker, asking if we would like to be considered for our boys and she stated that they were African American; we knew one thing for sure.  We didn't care.  Not a bit.  Yes, there will be issues involved and it does add another layer of "stuff" to deal with.  But, there is stuff to deal with no matter what your parenting situation.  We have had awkward and complicated conversations about race.  We have worried about them and obsessed about whether we are exposing them to enough of their culture.  I don't know whether we have or not.  I just know that when you're home, doing your thing, it won't matter.  When you are watching a movie, playing a board game, or yelling at them to brush their teeth; the color of their skin won't be a blip on the radar.  Believe me, it won't.

Life during and after foster care adoption is not always simple and, sometimes, will drive you crazy.  Like when you are biting your tongue in a Doctor's office.  But, it is without a doubt, the best decision that we ever made.  Ever.  It brought these kids into our lives.  I wouldn't have it any other way. 

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Should My Children Be Grateful For Being Adopted?

Adoptive parents are sensitive folks.  Really, every group is.  There are some things that will get us all revved up.  My "triggers" are asking about "real mom," asking if I have my own children, or really anything that suggests that I or my children are "less than," in any way.  I've tried to lighten up over the years.  Luckily, the people around me are supportive of me when I don't succeed.  But, one thing that I see a lot is adoptive parents or adoptees complaining about people saying that the kids were lucky to be adopted or that the parents are saints/angels/heroes for adopting.  They say that children shouldn't have to be grateful to have a family or feel like they owe their parents something for being their parents.  The theory being that it puts a lot of pressure on the child to be good enough to deserve such a gift.  It's a valid theory.

But, I never knew that this was supposed to offend me.  I can't count the amount of times that I've heard that I'm an angel.  Quite frankly, I enjoyed being called an angel. ;)   I have always said, though, that we are lucky to have each other whenever someone would tell the kids how lucky they are.  Because that's what I think.  We ARE lucky to have each other.  In this world full of random coincidences and confusing, complicated universe plans...we found each other.  How lucky is that??

So, here's my take.  I do think my kids are lucky to have us.  I do want them to be grateful to have been adopted and have a family.  And, I do think it's ok for random people who mean well to point that out.  But, not because we are such wonderful, perfect people.  We're not awful, but we sure aren't perfect.  Not because they should be perfect.  How could I live up to that if they were?  But, because everybody should be grateful for what they have.  And, everybody should be aware of what blessings are in their  life.  Because like one of my favorite books as a child reminded me, it can always be worse.

They should be aware that every child will not be adopted so they should be grateful to have a family.  Because every child won't. 

Do I want Kaleb to understand that while he's upset that he contributed $26 to his $150 replacement phone after he broke his...again; his oldest biological brother is working his butt off on the other side of town, just trying to make ends meet, save for a car so he doesn't have to walk an hour to work every day, and do it on his own with no support (except us, but that's for another blog)?   Yes. 

Do I want all four of them to understand that while they are making up excuses not to wash their dishes, they are fortunate to even have food to eat.  And, that there are kids who aged out of the system living on the streets or kids in foster homes who don't get to eat what they want when they want?  Yes.

They should be grateful for that.  But, they're not always.

But, here's the thing.  We should be grateful, too  We should be aware that every adult will not be a parent so we should be grateful to have children.  Because every adult won't.

When my kids are driving me crazy or I am frustrated with how demanding this whole mom gig is, I try to remember that.  Sometimes, Brian and I will just sit and talk about how it was before (you know, when we had more money and freedom, haha) and how much we wanted this.  We remember the moments that we met them and the relief when we knew that they were 100% ours.  It's important to remember these things and feel grateful for how fortunate we are. 

So, yes, they should be grateful.  Yes, they should count their lucky stars that they don't have to doubt that they will be loved forever.  Yes, they should try to be the best little humans that they can be, but then feel secure in the knowledge that they will be loved no matter how many times they mess up.

Because we all should.  We should all be grateful for whatever we have.  A loving family, a great job, or the elusive jeans that actually fit.  We should all be grateful and we should all try to do our best.

So, no, if you tell us we are lucky, I won't get upset.  If you say that I'm an angel, I won't be offended.  Because, again, who doesn't like hearing good things about themselves, haha?  And,  the reality is that we did do a good thing that not everyone would (but, more people should) and I am proud of that.  But, we weren't trying to do some great selfless act.  We just set out to build a family.  And, my kids should be proud of how we came to be that family and they're part in that.  And, they should know that we are all so very lucky. 

I can't guarantee how others will react, though, so if you're not looking to be an angry topic in some other adoptive mom's facebook post then you might want to stick with safe comments like "your children are beautiful" or "congratulations on being a family." ;) 

They have a point.  Every child really does deserves a loving family.  They really are entitled to that and should have the luxury of taking that for granted.  But, sadly, that is not the reality.  No matter how much I wish it was. 

So, I'm going to keep trying to raise happy, healthy, and, yes, grateful kids.  Because we sure are grateful for them. :) 

Friday, October 30, 2015

Home School, Take 2.

Wow, homeschool.  I've been homeschooling since August and I've learned a few things.  I've learned that I have much to learn, I've learned that homeschooling takes up a lot of your time (hence the serious shortage of blogging and posting), and I've learned that I really do love having my kids home with me. 

In the myriad of facebook homeschool groups that I joined, I have read many times that it's normal and ok to try different things until you figure out what works for your family.  So, that's just what I'm doing,  I'm trying something different.

We started out with the virtual school.  It really is a good program, but for the elementary school age, it is very structured.  I understand why, but with 2 days of skype class time and specific assignments on the other days; one long weekend trip and we were behind on our work.  One of the best things about homeschool was the idea of being able to make our own schedule. 

But, we hung in there and tried to adjust to the virtual school schedule.  But, I found myself giving them a lot of worksheets to do and struggling to make sure that they got them done so I could send them in to their teachers.  And, I didn't find myself doing a lot of the creative learning projects that I had planned because there  wasn't time or the kids were tapped out when they were done with their official work.  This was all very different from William's much more flexible middle school schedule.

There have been some fun moments, though.  Like when Lizzie's teacher assigned the Ivory Soap microwave experiment.  She had to put a bar of Ivory Soap in the microwave for 90 seconds.  And, it turns out, it doesn't melt.  It expands like a souffle!  Go to your microwave and do this now, right now.  It was cool. :)  It was so much fun for all of us, including my parents.   That made me realize that I wanted more of that. 
Experiments are fun for grandparents, too!
Lizzie was impressed! :)

Then I started hearing more and more about unschooling.  At first, it sounded odd, then it sounded cool, then it sounded perfect.  Unschooling is what you make of it.  I have the option to be creative with education, but also to be as traditional as I want.  They can have more control in what they learn. We can do crazy experiments and still use the workbooks that Grandma got for the kids.  (The ones that I hadn't had time to use much yet). I can keep William in his virtual classes but take Lizzie and Antwan out.  Because I may not be able to find creative ways to teach Algebraic equations, but I can creatively teach elementary school math. :)

I'm really excited and feel very empowered.  Since making this decision, I have taken a nature walk with the kids, worked on several pages of the workbooks, watched educational videos on skip counting and the Spanish alphabet, took them to 2 doctor appointments (without ending up behind in school) and written two blog posts.  (Admittedly, blog posts have nothing to do with home schooling, but, man, did I miss writing!)  Not bad for 3 days.  :)

So, I feel like I'm just now starting to homeschool.  Because as Brian said, with realization, as we discussing it, I wasn't so much homeschooling as I was doing their regular schoolwork at home.

Not anymore.  I'm all in. :)

And, another new adventure begins!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Matching My Kids

Sometimes, I wonder if I have such a fascination with color coordinating and matching my family because we don't match. 

Star Wars shirt day!

And, I do enjoy the fact that when we are in costumes, everyone knows that we are together.  When we are in matching costumes, it is convenient.  There is no getting separated in a crowd because it is obvious that the kids should be with me or Brian.

But, really, I don't care.  I honestly don't think about the fact that I'm white and they are black.  It seems so natural to me.  Almost more natural than families that are all one color.  Occasionally, I get a pang when I hear people gush about how other children look like their parents.  But, it passes quickly.  And, since I have a fairly low self image, I don't really think that I would want my kids to look like me.  haha. They are beautiful, so beautiful.  And, because I had nothing to do with that part, I can say it without sounding too conceited. haha.  Ok, maybe a little conceited. ;) 

But, you know, the interesting thing, the majority of the time, people (adults, at least) know right away that I am their mom.  There is rarely confusion about my role when they see us interacting.  Cashiers, for example, refer to me as mom without hesitation.  That makes my heart happy.  They might not look like me, but still they are clearly mine.  I don't know how they know, but they do.

I mean, sure, I have had to clarify it, on occasion.  It's confusing when we are not literally together.  Like, one time, when I went to a school event and encountered someone who actually didn't know me.  Or, one time, when I was waiting for Antwan outside during a kids' library program and the librarian came out and stared at the group of parents, looking for a black mom.  Or, one time, when I had to do a pick-up after a church youth night and the volunteers didn't know me.  I finally said the black kids were mine.  I don't like labeling them as the black kids, but we live in a very white area and if they are the only black kids in the room, it seems silly not to expedite the process by identifying them that way.  But, then, of course, everyone gets uncomfortable because you can't say that people are black.... 

But, back to my point!  When we are already together, it's usually pretty clear that we are a family.

Last weekend, at DragonCon, my belief was validated, in a weird way.

We were at a hotel.  A hotel that had terrible customer service, but that's a whole other story.  We were trying to take advantage of their complimentary breakfast, but Antwan and I were totally stumped by the waffle maker.  (Hey, we're smart people, but those waffle makers are TRICKY! haha).   It didn't want to flip over and because I was afraid to break it, I asked for help.

Me - "Ma'am, I'm sorry.  The waffle maker is too smart for us.  We can't get it to flip over."

Ma'am comes over, flips it over effortlessly, and walks away.  (Don't you love it when that happens?)

I ignored the fact that she was rude and laughed at my inability to flip a waffle maker.

Really, this has nothing to do with the story, I just want to complain about the crappy customer service at the Residence Inn.  But, we'll call it, setting the scene. ;)

So, Antwan and I sat down as a little girl (black) walked up to get some food.  The same employee turned to us and bellowed, "You have to watch your kids up here!"

I responded with clarification that I had my kids.  She was so rude (and the fact that she snapped at William, a few minutes later, for no good reason, suggested that this was her go-to tone).  But really, I was amused.  I had experienced explaining that my kids of another race are, in fact, mine, but never had it been assumed that all random black children were mine.  Especially since that particular part of Atlanta, Georgia is NOT a very white area and Brian and I were most likely the minority in that room (I didn't count.). 

You could make a case that it was a racist assumption, maybe.  I'm really not sure.  She was a black woman yelling at a white woman to watch a black child that wasn't in fact hers.  I don't know what you do with that. ;)  Either way, I do like the fact that someone else didn't think it was weird that my kids are black because, as we all know, it is getting more and more common. 

I also like the fact that I could say that I was watching my darn kids, lady.  They were with me, right where they belong. 

We ate our last breakfast there (settling for less confrontational pop-tarts in our room, after that) and went and put our Jedi attire on.  Because Jedi stick together, no matter what color they are.  And, they don't eat waffles, anyway. ;)

Friday, August 14, 2015

Turns Out That There Is Room For More In The Parker Academy.

So, after much deliberation and discussion, we have decided to homeschool Lizzie and Antwan, too!

I wrote a really long and wordy blog about how it all went down.  But, then I re-read it and realized that it was boring.  haha. So, here's the upshot.  Brian and I talked to each other.  And, we talked to Antwan, Lizzie, and William.  Lizzie and Antwan really wanted to home school.  Antwan's main reason were that he wanted to spend more time with his family.  Lizzie didn't have a specific reason and mostly parroted Antwan's reasons.  Although, I suspect her main reason is that she knows that William scored a lot of lunches with Grandma and Grandpa, last year. :)  And William was fine with it, but legitimately worried that it would be harder to focus.  (I assured him that they would be doing work, too.)  Then we promised that Daddy and I would think about it.

So, then, Brian and I went back to talking.  Then I took the kids to their orientation, then they stood firm that they wanted to home school.  Then Brian and I talked some more. 

There was a lot of whining and begging...mostly from me.  ;) And, a lot of valid and logical concerns and questions expressed...mostly from Brian.  But, in the end, I really, really wanted to try it and Brian and I have yet to talk to anyone who regretted home schooling.  So, on Saturday night with school starting on Monday, we decided to try it.

Cutting it as close as possible, I told Antwan and Lizzie on Sunday night.

And, when I went in the room and told them.  They smiled and cheered.  Antwan leaned over and gave me a big hug and said "Thank you, Mommy."  That's when I knew that it was the right thing.

Then there was Kaleb.  Initially, I wanted to home school him as I ran with my emotions and ABC Family vision of how wonderful it would be.  But, Brian made some valid points about Kaleb's need for structure and his apathy towards school work.  The concern that we would butt heads was a real one.  Or that I'd spend so much time trying to get him to do his work that I would neglect the others.  So, in the end, we agreed that Kaleb would go to public school (at least, for now).  My biggest concern was that he'd feel rejected.  So, as we explained the situation to him, I kept hugging and saying sentimental things.  That probably annoyed him more. ;)  But, he took it better than I thought he would.  He wasn't thrilled and delighted with the info.  But, there it was.

So, one awkward conversation with Kaleb later combined with a promise of monthly Mommy and Kaleb dates to offset and one happy conversation with Lizzie and Antwan, it was official.

I got up, the next morning, and only sent one kid off to school, took a "field trip" to the UPS store to fax in homeschooling paperwork, and got William started on his work. 

Faxing off letter of intent (to home school) forms!

A few days later, William is back in the groove with his classes and Lizzie and Antwan are enjoying another week of summer because their elementary virtual school program doesn't start until next week.  This means I am coming up with work for them.  Admittedly, sometimes, that work involves walking a dog. ;)  

But, after the first day, even though, we didn't really do anything, I felt happy.  Just happy.  I feel good about this and I think that they do too. :)

Antwan was ready to get started. :)

We scored desks from the thrift store for 2 bucks. Yay!

Just because you are staying home, you still have to pose for first(ish) day of school pictures!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

My Kids And Their Birth Mother

I've had varying feelings towards my children's birth mother.  I know that anger is not supposed to be one of those feelings but that doesn't change the fact that it has been.  In the beginning, I told William poetic things like "She couldn't take care of you and she's happy that you are with us."  I didn't realize, until later, that I was lying to him.  Because when we went through the year of visits and court dates with Lizzie, I became aware that she actually hated us for "stealing her children."   I assumed she'd have more of a Lifetime movie style guilt and angst approach to life ("What have I done??"), but not so much.  So, we slowly started to hate her.  That may be a strong word and against the value system that we try to instill in our kids, but it's the truth.  But, going through a year of worrying about whether or not you are going to lose your daughter (and I know that she wasn't technically our daughter yet, but she was a part of us from the beginning) will do funny things to a person.

Anyway, after we finalized the adoption, I was content to pretend that she didn't exist.  Although, whenever we were coincidentally on the side of town that she lived on, I would look twice at the faces that I would pass.  I would wonder if I would remember her face (I know that I would) and what I would say if she tried to talk to the kids.  In my head, it usually involved some kind of dramatic scene where I scream at her to get away from my kids, simultaneously causing a scene and freaking out my kids in the process.  At the beginning, we worried that she would show up on our doorstep, but slowly realized that it wasn't worth the trouble to her.

Eventually, I stopped obsessing and went on with my life.  Until Kaleb. 

When you adopt a child who fairly clearly remembers his biological mother, it gets more complicated.  Adopting a teenager who might get a facebook request from her makes it very complicated.  Ok, not that complicated, it turns out, because he told me about it and turned down the request per my request.  (Not wanting her to be able to see my info through him seemed reasonable.)  And, for the record, he didn't really want the contact, anyway, so it wasn't me denying him a relationship or anything like that. 

Anyway, the point is, I can't pretend like she doesn't exist anymore.  I can be secure in the knowledge that to them I am mom and in a lot of ways, that's all that matters.  But, I can't pretend that she doesn't exist.  The reality is that this woman who endangered and neglected them will always be relevant.  Whether I like it or not.  And, I don't, by the way.  But, I'm guessing you picked up on that. ;)

Over the last several months, she's come up more and more.  Not on a daily basis, thank goodness, but she comes up.  Neighborhood kids asking questions.  William inexplicably announcing at a pool party that his mom did drugs before he was born.  And, most recently, Antwan and my friends' child (also adopted from foster care) discussing their birth mothers. 

When Kaleb who wasn't overly thrilled that William was broadcasting their business told us about the pool party incident, I went in my room and cried.  I feel the need to say that I'm not constantly in my room crying as you might think if you've been reading my posts for a while, but when I do it's usually because of this topic.  Anyway, I wasn't crying because I was angry that he brought her up.  That's not realistic or fair.  I definitely wasn't crying because I was worried that the neighbors would think that I did drugs.  It's pretty evident that they are not biological.  I was crying because I wish that they were all mine and that I didn't have to share them with her in any way.  (Hey, I never said I wasn't possessive, haha.)  But, more than anything else, I was crying because he called her mom.  (By the way, I just remembered that I wrote about this incident so I apologize for repeating myself!)  Anyway, Brian told William (gently) what we have told them before.  It's ok to bring her up, it's ok to have questions, but we would like them to refer to her as birth mother, biological mother, or something along those lines.  He told William that I am Mom.  William said that he knew and it just slipped out and we moved on.

There is a slight possibility that I am a bit overly sensitive.  There is no need for those who know me in real life to confirm that, by the way. ;)  (I'm talking to you, Brian, haha.)  But, even so, I've earned the mom title and Brian has earned Dad.

It's been quiet on the bio talk front for awhile, until the kids and I we went to the beach with our friends.  The next day, my friend told me via text that his son and Antwan had gotten into a birth mother convo and that, apparently, Antwan and maybe Lizzie have pet names for her (probably different from my names for her, haha, just kidding.)  His son hadn't heard exactly but it was something to the effect of Great or Break mom.  This totally threw me because they never bring her up or ask about her.  I wasn't even sure that they really understood the whole concept. 

So, I got the familiar icky feeling when I was forced to remember that she exists.  I hated the idea that they talk about her amongst themselves and simultaneously felt angry at myself for being so selfish.  How could they not wonder about her?  But, as always, what bothered me most was the idea that they call her mom. 

Anyway, I mentioned it to Brian who assured me that we'd talk to them and I put it out of my head.  Well, I put it out of my head until I found myself in the living room alone with Antwan, a few minutes later.  That's when I decided to abruptly bring it up rather than wait for a calm moment when Brian and I could talk to him.  I do that. ;)

I mentioned that I heard that he had a conversation about his biological mother. 

He looked up with confusion and avoided eye contact.  But, it didn't feel like confusion, it felt as fake as my casual tone.

I went on, "He said that you call her Great Mom or Break Mom....?"

More confused looks along with a "I don't call her that."

Fairly confident that the other boy didn't pull it out of thin air, I continued.

"You can tell me.  It's ok if you are curious about her. I'm not going to get upset."

More confused responses.

This is so not how I thought it would go.

So, guess what, I continued!

"You understand that you were in someone else's belly and then Daddy and I adopted you and became your Mommy and Daddy?"  (He nodded.)  "It's ok that you talk about her, I just ask one thing.  Don't call her mom because that's my name."  I gave him some ideas of what he could call her.  He continued to be fairly uninterested in the whole conversation.

Through the whole thing, I got the distinct impression that he was holding back.  That he was worried about me.  And, no matter how many times I emphasized that he could talk to me, he didn't change his story.

A few minutes later as Lizzie was insisting that I accompany her to the bathroom, I brought it up with her.  This time, I got the distinct impression that she was more interested in discussing her potty progress than her back story.  She confirmed that she understood but said that she didn't have a name for her.  Then she went back to discussing her poop.  (TMI?)

So, the bottom line is I need to worry a little less and just enjoy my life. 

Kaleb chose me.

William might slip up with terminology, but he is not naive to the reality and he loves me.

Lizzie has no other mommy on the radar but me. 

And, Antwan... 

Well, I'm pretty sure that he is going to be a very successful husband to someone one day. ;)  But, as much as his future spouse will enjoy his sensitivity, that's not my role.  I know now that I have to make sure that he knows that I am strong enough to handle what he has to say.  I need to be strong so he doesn't always have to be.

You know, because that's what moms do.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Everyone Needs A Project!

So, I have to share my little (admittedly, a bit late in the game) summer project!  I keep seeing all these articles about making non-waffle items in the waffle iron and that sounds right up our alley!  So, I decided that we should try a new recipe every week (or weekish, depending on my level of organization, haha).

So, since we all love eggs and breakfast, in general.  What better to start with then scrambled eggs and bacon! 

The easy part was buying the eggs supplies and the bacon and plugging in the waffle iron.  So, I did that. :)

I even remembered to spray the waffle iron with Pam.  This is a step that I rarely remember when I'm making eggs in a frying pan like normal people. ;)

For once, I learned from my mistakes and called each kid into the kitchen, individually.   

First, Lizzie.
 She added Kale to hers. :)


Second, Antwan. 

He kept it basic.  Just eggs and no frills.


He was on the fence about how he felt about it.  But, he ate it. :)

Third, William.

He stirred intently.

Super fast stirring equals blurry pictures.

He loved it!

Fourth, Kaleb.  He fancied it up with tomatoes and kale.


And, the bacon!  The bacon was YUMMY!  I'm not even a huge bacon fan.  But, everyone agreed that it tasted better coming from a waffle iron. :)


When it was finally my turn, I did not remember to respray it with Pam.  I didn't just not remember, it never crossed my mind that I should re-spray.  And, it turns out, if you don't, your egg waffle will not want to come out of the waffle iron. 

Lessons learned!

So, mine may have looked a little funky.  But, it was still edible. ;)

And, much later when Brian came home, he was bombarded with an overly-excited me,  And, given the "opportunity" to make his own dinner after working all day.  In other news, I'm a great wife... ;)
Still hadn't solved that whole sticking to the waffle iron issue.

He approved. :)
So, the waffle egg was yummy and a little confusing.  Because, you know,  it looks like a waffle, but tastes like an egg.  Confusing.  :)  But, either way, it was really good. 

And, lots of fun.




Next week, cinnamon rolls.  Because, ah, cinnamon rolls. :)