Monday, December 27, 2010

Our Holiday

I really want to sit down and write a post or posts about all our Christmas activities and celebrations, but right now the fun and excitement of the last few weeks are just a blur. I'll admit I'm still exhausted from said fun and excitement and feeling a little twitchy over the tornado of toys that has gone through our house. So perhaps when I've had a chance to recover and organize, I will have more to say about the magic and craziness that was this holiday season.

Mostly what I hope I remember is that this is the Christmas where the boys both really "got it". The past few years, when they were babies and toddlers, I had fun dressing them up in Christmas pajamas and buying them gifts. I dragged them to see Santa and suffered through the consequences of keeping them up too late at too many holiday parties. I tried my best to engage them in decorating the tree, making cookies and unwrapping their presents, but always ended up doing 95% of it myself.

This year, for the first time, both kids really understood and enjoyed the entire season. They were thrilled to wake up every morning and find out what sort of silliness our elf, Jingle, had gotten himself into while we were sleeping and to whisper secrets for Santa to him at night before bed. They loved all the special ways we celebrated throughout the month with friends and family. They made it through two visits with Santa that didn't involve any tears. They had fun decorating our gingerbread house, baking cookies and watching Frosty and The Grinch. They learned the words to "Jingle Bells", "Rudolph", "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" and "Frosty the Snowman". They spent the drive home on Christmas Eve scanning the sky for Santa's sleigh and leaped out of bed at 5:30 am to see if he really came. They shrieked with delight and lit up with joy over surprises big and small.

It was a Christmas where our house was filled with the magic of the season.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Every day's an Adventure

I just held my first "In Case of Emergency, Dial 911" session with the boys.

Every day, I start the morning by running car errands and every day, when we return home, I let Buddy out of the car first. Then I open the garage door for him and bring in my purse, coffee and any other items we purchased while we were out. After that, I go back to get Buster and Buddy stands in the hallway taking off his shoes and coat.

Today, Buster asked me if he could go in first. In the last month or so, he has become much more cautious and self-sufficient, so we have been allowing him to have a bit more independence. He's very diligent about taking off his shoes and coat on the mat as soon as we get inside, so I didn't see any harm in letting him do that while I got Buddy out of his car seat. To be extra safe, I made sure to leave the door open, so I could see him from the garage during the 20 seconds or so it would take me to unbuckle Buddy and help him climb out of the car.

Of course the first thing Buster did when I returned to the garage was to shut the door and lock the deadbolt. At first, I was just annoyed he hadn't listened when I told him to leave the door open. I finished getting Buddy unbuckled and then walked back to the door and told him to open it. He pulled on the door handle and said "I no know how to do it."

Hmmmm. Now what?

I still wasn't too concerned. I assumed he just needed a little reminder of how to undo what he had done seconds earlier. I told him he needed to unlock the deadbolt to which he replied "What is a deadbolt?". The next few minutes went something like this:

Me: See the door handle?

Buster: What door handle?

Me: The thing you pull to open the door.

Buster: This door?

Me: Yes, this door. See the handle?

Buster: Oh, yes.

(Buddy: I'm cold, I'm cold, I'm cold...)

Me: The deadbolt is the big lock above the door handle.

Buster: What big lock?

Me: The metal pole you can flip back and forth. The pole you just flipped when you closed the door.

(Buddy: I'm, cold, I'm cold, I'm cold...)

Buster: Oh, okay.

Me: Okay, good. Can you turn the pole back?

Buster: What pole?

Me: The deadbolt pole, above the door handle.

Buster: Oh okay. (pause) Mama, I can't reach it no more.

(Buddy: I'm cold, I"m cold, I'm cold...)

Me: Go into the bathroom and get your step stool, okay?

Buster: Okay! (feet running and then stool being dragged to the door) I getted my stool!

Me: GREAT! Now stand on the stool and unlock the deadbolt.

Buster: What deadbolt?

****repeat entire above conversation****

After several minutes, it became clear that Buster couldn't figure out how to unlock the door. At this point, I started to panic a bit as I realized that with my purse sitting on the counter, I had no keys AND no phone, so in order to call my mom or Chris to bring over a set a keys, I would need to leave Buster inside the house alone for the several minutes it would take me to run down to the neighbor's house and use the phone. The more I thought about the sorts of problems Buster can get himself into when he's alone for several minutes, the more I realized I didn't feel comfortable w/that option.

So I'm standing in the garage, playing the part of the calm "this is nothing to worry about" mom, while frantically evaluating which items in our garage would be best for breaking a window and deciding that the best thing to do is to break a panel next to the front door and the reach through and unlock it. And because I am such a spaz, I started picturing myself slicing open my arm on a jagged piece of glass, collapsing in the snow and freezing to death while my helpless children sob over my body

I decided before I risked an early death I would make one last attempt to have Buster let us in the house. I told him to take his stool over to the front door and that I would meet him over there. Once we were all in place, I explained again how to unlock the deadbolt, which was much easier now that I could see Buster through the window and give him more precise instructions. Finally on the third attempt, he was able to unlock the door and we got in the house.

After my heart stopped racing, I decided it was time to move the house phones to locations where the kids can reach them and go over how to call for help. Knowing Buddy shares my tendency to imagine terrifying scenarios and Buster dreams of riding in an ambulance, I tried to keep my explanation as matter-of-fact as possible. We spent about 20 minutes pretending we needed help and each boy took several turns picking up the phone, turning it on and pretending to dial "9-1-1". I'm sure we'll need to go over it a few more times, since Buddy was too focused on all the potential disasters that could leave me unable to help them and all Buster could talk about was how exciting it would be for the police to come to see him. In the mean time, I think I will keep an extra house key in the garage and continue to exercise caution when carrying laundry down the stairs or using the carving knife.

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Grinch Heart

"I was worrying Buster's heart was two sizes too small, but now I'm thinking it growed because he is much nicer on this day."

Buddy & I were sick the entire week last week with a particularly nasty virus that has been going around; I can't remember the last time any of us were so sick for such a long period of time. Normally, I would send any non-infected children over to my mom or sister's to play, but since this virus was so awful, I didn't want to risk spreading our germs to anyone else. Unfortunately for Buster, that meant he was stuck home all week with two people who could do little else except lie on the couch and watch an endless loop of Diego episodes all day long. He was bored out of his mind and choose to express his displeasure by throwing puzzle pieces at the cats, climbing on the book shelves and communicating only via shrieks and whines.

It was a long week.

Luckily all 3 of us are back to normal today. Buddy & I are disease-free and the boys are back to being best buddies. Buster even shared his blanket with Buddy this afternoon, prompting Buddy's announcement to me that we no longer need to be concerned about the size of Buster's heart. I know my heart got the warm-fuzzies when Buddy finished talking to me, ran back to the playroom, threw his arms around Buster and said "You're my best brother ever!" as they fell to the floor in a giggling heap.

Nothing like a week of high fevers to remind us that regular, ordinary days together are pretty awesome.

Monday, December 6, 2010

One of Those Days

This pretty much sums up the kind of day I am having...

Buster: MMMMAAAMMMAAA, emergency!

Me: What is the emergency?

Buster: I pee-peed on the floor.

Me: Oh Buster! Why did you pee on the floor?!?

Buster: Because it came out while I go poop in my underwear....don't worry Mama, I say sorry to Mickey already (as in the mickey on his underwear).

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

National Adoption Awareness Month - Week 4

If Buddy had been identified as having special needs at the time of his referral, I'm not sure we would've adopted him.

It makes me feel sick to my stomach to say that, but its the truth. Granted, his needs are not severe, but I'm not sure we would've been comfortable with even minor special needs. As first time parents, becoming a mom was overwhelming enough. I imagined the extra work and worry of parenting a child with special needs and I didn't think I'd be able to handle it. I imagined parents of such children were better than me - more patient, less prone to anxiety, better at seeing the glass half-full. And, if I'm being honest, I felt like we'd already struggled enough. The years trying to get pregnant, the fertility treatments, the was our turn to be happy, not to commit ourselves to years of extra work, worry and heartbreak.

Thank God none of Buddy's issues had been identified at the time of his referral. Thank God he hadn't been "labeled" as special needs.

That label could've been the difference between Buddy becoming our child or another family's son. Far worse, that label could've been the difference between Buddy being adopted or becoming a waiting child, sent to live in an orphanage with a greatly diminished chance of ever joining a family.

I can't imagine what that label could've done to Buddy's life. I can't imagine what it could've done to mine.

By the time we arrived in Guatemala to bring Buddy home, it was obvious his development was not following the path of a "typical" child. I never would've walked away from him at that point; he been our son from the moment we'd accepted his referral 9 months earlier. But I won't lie and say we were instantly comfortable and confident we could handle the situation either. Those first few months I definitely had many "Why me?" and "I can't do this" moments. Truthfully, those feelings still surface from time to time.

The difference is I know now that just because I struggle sometimes doesn't mean I can't be the mom Buddy needs me to be. Parents of children with special needs aren't perfect, they aren't saints. Even someone like me, who is impatient and easily frustrated and prone to pity parties, can do it. Not only do it, but enjoy it.

Ordinary people can parent a child with special needs. Don't convince yourself you can't. Don't turn way from waiting children without really considering it as an option. I know that might sound like ridiculous advice coming from me, since I stumbled into this situation instead of choosing it. But if I had known then what I know now, I would've chosen it...should we ever decide to adopt again, the waiting child list will be the place we start.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Its been two years since Chris & Buster boarded a plane and crossed an ocean together to get home.

Two years since I stood in the terminal with butterflies in my stomach, anxiously anticipating the moment I'd finally get to hold my 10 month old son.

Two years since Buddy knelt down and whispered "Hey brother" to the baby who for so long was only a picture on our refrigerator door.

Two years since we became a family of four.

Happy Family Day Buster - you have filled the last two years with joy and adventure.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A Picture of a Picture

Yesterday Buddy drew a picture of an airplane:

I know, who takes a picture of her 4 year old's picture? Four year olds draw pictures all the time.

That's true, 4 year olds - even 3 year olds - draw pictures all the time.

But Buddy doesn't.

In fact this is the first picture he's drawn that doesn't consist of a few half-hearted squiggly lines and shaky circles.

It's a picture that's the result of hours of occupational therapy and hard work.

Which makes it a picture worthy of a picture.

Monday, November 15, 2010

National Adoption Awareness Month - Week 3

There comes a point during the application process when prospective adoptive parents must complete paperwork identifying what type of child they are open to adopting. I remember filling out this form during both our adoptions and each time feeling the full weight of the moment settle on my shoulders. It's one thing to know you want to adopt a fairly healthy infant, its another thing to look at a checklist of medical conditions and understand that your answers to these questions mean rejecting real, waiting children in need of a home.

Filling out that form is a moment a lot of prospective parents dread. It feels wrong, for example, to actually check "no" when asked if you are open to adopting a child with fetal alcohol syndrome. It feels like you're saying these lives don't matter, that these children aren't "good enough". It's not an easy moment. However, it's an essential step in the process to ensure that children are placed with families that have the desire and capability to parent them.

Because that's what adoption is about - the desire to parent a child.

I'm not saying that the opportunity to help a waiting child is not a factor in many people's decision to adopt, but the bottom line is the choice to adopt has to stem from the desire to be a parent.

Adoption is not an act of charity.

I think that's an important point to make this month. Adoption is wonderful, but it is not the solution to the orphan crisis. Even if it was, there are an estimated 143 million orphans in the world. Adoptions barely put a dent in that number. Plus, it does nothing to address the extreme poverty and cultural issues that make adoption necessary in the first place.

Adoption is far from the only answer; its important to be aware of that. Just because you are not adopting or just because you are not adopting a child with special needs, doesn't mean you can't be part of the solution for those 143 million children. It doesn't mean you can't help end the poverty and societal pressures that leave so many families no other choice than to hand their children over to someone else.

You can help someone like my friend Deanna. Deanna's daughter Ragen has down syndrome and she and her husband Rob have recently decided the best way to expand their family is by adopting Melanie, another child with down syndrome. They are working with Reece's Rainbow, an organization helping orphans with down syndrome and other serious special needs around the world. Consider contributing to Melanie's adoption fund or supporting other RR children and families.

You can help by becoming a sponsor of Eastern Social Welfare Society, the Korean organization that coordinated Buster's foster care and adoption. Although ESWS's primary focus is adoption, they continue to expand their services to better assist those in need. This includes operating homes for disabled children, children unavailable for adoption and single mothers. They also provide financial support to students from low income families and to single mothers who choose to parent their children despite the intense social pressures they face in doing so.

You can help by supporting Mayan Families, a small organization providing services to people in one of Guatemala's poorest regions. In addition to meeting the community's immediate needs for food, shelter and medical care, a primary goal of the group is to provide long term solutions for families in need. Among other things, this program provides educational opportunities to adults as well as children and supplies other essentials, such as water filters & chickens, that families need to stay together and break the vicious cycle of poverty.

Reece's Rainbow, ESWS and Mayan Families are just 3 of countless organizations and individuals trying to make a difference. It's easy to say "someone should adopt them", but the reality is adoption will only be the answer for a small percentage of the 143 million orphans in need. In a month dedicated to raising awareness about adoption, I think its equally as important to acknowledge that it takes more than adoption to help those 143 million children and to find ways to save future children and families from the same fate.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

National Adoption Awareness Month - Week 2

It took us one year to decide to adopt after we went to our first agency-sponsored adoption meeting. I remember driving home from that meeting thinking "Adoption is a great option...for somebody else's family". It wasn't something that felt right for us.

Part of that was coming to terms with infertility, but truthfully, it was mostly about fear.

Fear that an adopted child would never feel like "mine".

Fear that we'd end up a horror story on the news, our child ripped from our arms and returned to a birth parent years after our adoption was complete.

Fear that I'd view adoption as a consolation prize and my child would know it.

Fear that my child would end up resenting me because I was not the "real parent".

Fear that our child would carry physical and emotional scars from orphanage or foster care that we wouldn't be able to handle.

Fear that adoption would mark us as different, that we'd never fit in with "normal" families.

I know adoption isn't for everyone, but if fear is your motivation for dismissing it without much consideration, look again. Read adoption websites and blogs, research agencies and programs, talk to other parents. If I haven't done that, I would've missed out on the chance to parent the two people I love most in this world.

Friday, November 5, 2010

I Get It Now

When Buddy first learned to give kisses, he would frequently surprise his recipient with a wet smooch, leaning in toward the receiver with lips closed and then opening them as soon as his lips touched yours. It was equal parts adorable and disgusting.

I can't remember when he stopped doing that, but he did. Never again will I be on the receiving end of one of baby Buddy's wet kisses.

I started thinking today, as Buster sat next to me, absently petting my leg as he frequently does, that one day that too will end.

Its inconceivable to me right now, when the presence of a toddler on my hip or gripping my hand is so commonplace, that the sheer physical closeness I share with the boys won't always be.

Of course, even as adults, there will be hugs and kisses and pats on the back, but just like Buddy's baby kisses, there will be so many other moments that will come to an end. I wonder, will it happen abruptly, a sudden refusal to sit on my lap that knocks the wind out of me? Or will it be gradual, morphing ever so slightly over such a long stretch of time that I don't notice until it's gone?

When will be the last time I feel the weight of a sleepy child's head on my shoulder? When will I stop holding their hands, kissing their boo-boos and tickling their bellies?

And years from now, long after they've left childhood behind, will I still feel the urge to pull them onto my lap or carelessly stroke their heads?

Suddenly, I understand why my parents still remind me to drive carefully, still ask me to "call when you get there!", still rush to my side when I struggle.

I'll try to stop rolling my eyes at them. I get it now.

I once sat on their laps too.

I Wish There was a Button for That

I wish there was a "I'm being ironic/sarcastic" button on blogger.

Just in case it wasn't clear, I meant my last post in an ironic, sarcastic "Isn't it funny how huge milestones you look forward to just shift the type of work parents need to do?" way. I absolutely did not mean it in an "OMG, its so annoying that my kids still require any effort from me at all" kind of way.

So you know, just in case you were thinking it, it's not true...I'm not that whiny mom who complains about everything including the nerve of her children for, you know, reaching age-appropriate milestones.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


I'm very proud to announce that this week we've managed to achieve two major milestones...

In exchange for 1 M&M (2 if he pulls his own pants up and down), Buster has traded in his Buzz Lightyear pull-ups for some big boy Mickey Mouse undies, making our family completely diaper-free.

We've also had a major improvement in our sleep situation, skipping Buddy's afternoon nap in favor of an earlier bedtime and a huge decrease in the amount of time it takes him to fall asleep.

There are so many things I love about parenting babies and toddlers, but it's definitely a very labor-intensive job. I'll admit that even though I shed a few tears when I packed up our bottles or when I sent the boys to preschool, I still looked forward to what I envisioned would be the "easier" days of being baby & toddler free. I mentioned this to my uncle once recently and his response was "It never really gets easier". At the time I laughed, but I'm starting to think he wasn't actually kidding.

Yes, it is nice to have some one-on-one time w/Buddy. We haven't had that since we brought Buster home 2 years ago. It's also great that we have time to do preschool workbooks and practice letter sounds and play board games Buster doesn't understand yet. And that 7:00 pm bedtime is A.W.E.S.O.M.E. But, frankly, 12 uninterrupted hours of parenting, especially when it involves an afternoon w/a hard-to-please 4 year old who is still adjusting to his new sleep schedule, is H.A.R.D.

Speaking of hard, do you know how much work it is making sure 2 preschoolers keep their underwear dry all day? Yes, its great not to buy diapers or to carry them with me everywhere I go. But, I still need my diaper bag to carry extra sets of underwear and clothes for the accidents that happen in the early months of wearing underwear (or is it years???). Plus, now the most important factor in everything we do is "Will there be a bathroom there?".

So while I'm so proud of the boys' recent accomplishments, it's a little bit of a let-down too. Maybe my uncle was telling the truth, maybe it never get easier. I'm not sure I'm ready to accept that...I'm sure once Buster starts kindergarten and both boys are in school all day, my mom-work will become more like a part-time job and less of an all-consuming commitment....right?

Monday, November 1, 2010

National Adoption Awareness Month - Week 1

November is National Adoption Awareness month, something I usually remember on about November 29th and then fail to recognize in any way before the month is over. This year, I actually made a point of noting this on my calendar in October, in the hopes that I could prepare in advance and write an adoption-related post every Monday in November.

This week, I wanted to write about the conflicted feelings I have that the greatest blessing of my life, being parent, is the direct result of some very harsh realities of the world in which we live. I don't often struggle with words, but on this topic, I can't seem to get it right and have several half-written drafts sitting unfinished.

Luckily for me, Daily Dose of Mama wrote this post awhile back and managed to express with amazing clarity the very thoughts I've been struggling to define. So today I will refer you to her words because when it comes to this complex issue I can't seem to find mine.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Ordinary Times

Lately, when it comes to our family, I've been feeling a deep sense of awe. The day-to-day "wake up-make breakfast-run errands-nap-play-cook dinner-read books-go to bed" normalness of it all.

I'll be singing The Wheels on the Bus in the car or sweeping crumbs off the kitchen floor and I'll catch myself thinking "Wow, I can't believe this is my life".

We always knew we wanted a family. We talked about it, dreamed about it for years. We couldn't wait to have a house full of toys, kids chasing each other down the halls. Couldn't wait for stories before bed and pajamas with little feet.

Then we weren't sure we'd ever have it. Extra bedrooms went unused, the house was quiet. There was no need for gates on the stairs, covers on the outlets or locks on the cabinet doors. Everything felt empty and incomplete.

I don't necessarily think that infertility made me a better mom. I still get frustrated and have bad days and wish I could sleep in on Saturday mornings. What I do think is that I recognize how extraordinary it is to just be an ordinary family.

After 3 years, it's no longer surreal to wipe booger noses, spend afternoons in the park or hear someone call me "mom". What's amazing to me is how ordinary it feels...and that's pretty incredible.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Survival Essentials

One of the many reality shows Chris & I are loyal viewers of is this show on the Discovery channel called Man, Woman, Wild. It follows an ex-special forces op and his journalist wife through various survival situations, like being lost in the jungle or stranded while snowmobiling. In addition to guessing how many more of these scenarios these two can go through before one of them decides to abandon the other in the wilderness, we've learned several fire starting methods (though Chris & I have both decided that should we ever become the outdoorsy types, we'll simply carry matches).

In case you have something better to do on Friday nights and haven't seen the show, I will tell you that having fire is the most important element of survival, providing clean drinking water, food, warmth and protection for dangerous predators. Yet starting a fire is not easy. You need to gather just the right materials, find a way to create enough friction to make a spark, blow on that spark to help it grow and then slowly add twigs and sticks and finally branches. All these steps must be done carefully, any misstep - damp wood, not providing enough oxygen, dumping too many sticks on at once - and your fire will go out and you have to start all over again. Every week, even though he's done it many times before, its fire-starting that stresses Mykel out; he knows its crucial to their survival.

I understand how he feels. While I've never used bamboo branches and my shoe laces to start a fire, I can completely relate to the deliberate care and caution that goes into protecting something so essential to your well-being and precarious in nature.

Buddy has made his first friend at school, a little boy named H.

Buddy first announced this friendship to me last week, but I wasn't sure exactly what to make of it. Buddy still does not talk to any of the other children and only speaks to the teachers when they initiate conversation, so I found his announcement a little hard to believe. I thought maybe this H was just a boy he admired b/c he had light-up sneakers or something. I mean, how do you make a friend without talking? Apparently, talking is overrated because in the drop-off lane on Monday, H was in the car in front of us and he waited outside for Buddy to get out of the car, smiling and jumping up and down as they headed into class together. I asked the teacher handling drop-off about them and she confirmed they had recently developed a friendship, working on projects together, sitting side-by-side at lunch and hanging out during recess. Apparently, smiles and gestures are the perfect compliment to H's constant talking.

I had to restrain myself from running up to H after school and pulling him into a bear hug, from calling his mom and inviting H on vacation with us this February. That would definitely be adding too many twigs to the fire. Yet, I hope this new spark of friendship gets the oxygen it needs to grow, that H recognizes the fun, sweet boy sitting beside him and sticks it out until Buddy is willing to share more than just a smile.

Friendship, like fire, is essential to survival. I'm so excited Buddy has found that first spark of friendship. I hope it will continue to grow into something substantial enough ease his fear of being away from home, to give him confidence to embrace new experiences and to protect him from the sometimes cruel world of being a child.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Inevitable Post of an Adoptive Mom

Ask any adoptive family and you'll find it can happen anywhere. Most recently, it happened to us during one of our frequent trips to a nearby superstore. A new cashier was working the register, one we hadn't met before and after idly chatting while she rang up our groceries, she turned to the boys and said:

"Well, either Mommy's been busy with lots of boyfriends or you two are adopted."

Obviously, adopted or not, making a joke to a 2 year old and a 3 year old regarding their mother's potential bedroom activities is clearly inappropriate. It is also 1 of only 3 truly offensive comments I have heard regarding our family in the 3 years since we adopted Buddy. However, it got me thinking, once again, about my stance on strangers commenting on and/or asking questions about how we became a family.

I love talking about my family and sharing our adoption stories - I mean, obviously I do, I've devoted an entire blog to it. And I understand that 99% of the people who approach us are well-meaning people who are curious about our situation or just trying to be friendly. They may phrase questions in ways I wish they wouldn't (using terms such as "real" mom) or ask questions I feel are too personal (how much did it cost? why couldn't the birth mom parent?), but I know these aren't the words of mean-spirited people attempting to offend us. They are simply poorly-worded or unintentionally invasive statements from people who aren't as familiar with adoption as we are. Even the cashier's comment, though wildly inappropriate, was a clumsy attempt to get to know us.

Knowing that the vast majority of commenters are well-intentioned, I'm happy to talk about our family if you approach me when I'm alone or my kids are out of ear shot. I may gently correct a person's terminology or politely deflect questions about topics I feel are private, but for the most part I'm happy to have a conversation about our experience.

The problem I have is when people approach me in front of my kids. I understand these are the types of situations my children need to be prepared to face. I understand it's a good opportunity for me to model appropriate responses to these questions and for my children to hear me discuss with pride how they joined our family. I also understand that as the parent of internationally adopted children, I signed up for this - I knew we'd look different from everybody else, I knew we'd face curiosity and occasionally racism. I knew this and willingly agreed to it...but my kids did not.

For that reason, it does bother me when strangers in the park or the grocery store feel the need to make comments or ask questions while the kids and I are just trying to go about our day. Especially now that they are older and understand that people are identifying us as "different" from everybody else. It's sad when a moment on the swings ends with Buddy asking me why someone thought Buster wasn't his "real brother" or Buster needs to ask "Why that silly lady think you not my mama?". I understand we knowingly brought them into a situation where they'd be labeled different or unique and that these are the types of issues we need to prepare them to face all their lives...but I still wish, for their sake, they could just be kids in the park, no need to feel different than anybody else.

Monday, October 4, 2010

I Wish

My bloggy friend Tiffany recently made a list for her students of things she wished she had done differently in high school and asked others if they'd make their own lists for her to share. Since I love talking about myself in list form, I mean supporting education, I decided to make my own:

I wish I would have taken four years of Spanish, instead of just the required two.

I wish I hadn't been "the other woman" and then expected the guy to treat me any better.

I wish I would have appreciated how special it was to eat dinner with my family every night and had lingered at the table longer.

I wish it hadn't taken me an entire year to realize how awesome K was - she's my best friend to this day.

I wish I had been brave enough to run for Student Council.

I wish I hadn't experimented with bangs, owned so many flannel shirts or worn Doc Martins.

I wish I would have realized a size 6 is not fat and that while my skinnier friends could boast a smaller dress size, I was the one who could fill out a bikini.

I wish I would have spent less time fighting with my sisters over whose turn it was to talk on the phone and more time talking to them.

I wish I hadn't worn that awful dress to senior prom - white is definitely not my color.

I wish I had spent less time trying to pad my college resume and more time participating in extra-curriculars I actually enjoyed.

I wish I had been less judgemental and had been able to see shades of gray.

I wish I had gotten to know myself, instead of trying to be the person I thought other people wanted me to be.

Well, there you have it. To summarize, I wish I had spent less time being an insecure, self-involved teenager with suspect fashion choices. Make your own list and send it to Tiffany - its very therapeutic!

The Reason

A question I get from time to time and one that has been coming up more frequently is some variation of this:

Did Buddy's adoption cause his sensory & emotional issues?

Some people ask it in an accusatory way, a way of hinting that by choosing to adopt we have inflicted harm on our children.

Some people reverse it, assuming that his minor issues are the reason his birth mom chose not to parent him.

Then there's the ones who say it sympathetically, implying that because he is adopted, Chris & I aren't to blame for any problems he faces....because any issues he has must be the result of what they assume to be a birth mom's poor choices/ a foster mom who spoiled him/spending 9 months in country not as wealthy as ours.

Here's the thing - I really, truly appreciate that people in our lives are trying to understand the types of issues we are facing with Buddy. I'm glad they are asking questions and finding out what they can do to help. Its wonderful to know that so many people care about us and want to support our family. So I don't want this post to make it seem that I resent in any way people's questions or attempts to reach out to us b/c that is so not the case. In fact, I've started this post many times, only to hit delete, because I don't want to embarrass anyone or hurt well-meaning people's feelings.

But I think its important to say, in no uncertain terms:

Buddy was not placed for adoption because he was "damaged" and being adopted did not cause his developmental, sensory and emotional issues.

That's not to say that there aren't attachment issues related to adoption or that children do not experience a grieving period or that adoption has absolutely no impact on a child's life. What I'm saying is that Buddy's needs do not exist simply because he was adopted. And I don't want Buddy or anyone else believing that to be true.

The truth is, we don't know "the reason" for the struggles Buddy faces. As far as I know, there's not one definitive answer as to what makes a person brave or jealous or shy...or in Buddy's case, anxious and suffering from sensory integration issues. What we do know is that Buddy had feeding and sleep issues the entire time he was in Guatemala, before he was adopted. We also know that Buddy's birth mom made an adoption plan long before he was born, not because of any of his specific characteristics. Yes, I think its reasonable to assume that being adopted at 9 months of age intensified some of his security and anxiety issues. However, not all adopted children have these problems. Plus, we've met many children just like Buddy who aren't adopted, who were born in the US, whose mothers took prenatal vitamins and received excellent medical care and made sure their babies had tummy time each day and did all the other "right" things.

So no, I don't think adoption is "the reason" Buddy has some special needs. I don't know what the reason is. I don't even know if there is one specific reason or just a whole bunch of little reasons. I've sort of realized the "Why did this happen to my son?" is much less important then the "How do I help Buddy be the best Buddy he can be?". And while I understand the need people have to try to identify the "whys", I just want to make it clear that the list does not begin and end with adoption.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Conversation

Thirteen years ago*, Chris & I met at a party.

We were both 18, just a few weeks into our first year of college. The party was one of those over-crowded, noisy, sweaty dorm parties thrown by freshman who don't know any better. It was there, over random concoctions involving Peppermint Schn*pps for the girls and cheap beer for the guys, that we had our first conversation.

I can't remember everything that we talked about. I'm sure we covered all the typical "Where you from? What's your major?" questions before moving on to more important topics, like how optimistic we were about the football team's new coach (Bob Davie, an absolute disaster) and how cool it was that Chris's friends were able to sneak a whole keg into their room (by senior year they'd moved to an apartment and acquired a keg-a-rator, strobe lights and a fog machine).

At the end of the night, moments after Brown-Eyed Girl came on and I shrieked and forced Chris to dance with me while I belted out the lyrics, he kissed me. I quickly told him I had a boyfriend (fine, I may have kissed him back for a minute or two first). He walked me home anyway and boyfriend or not, from that night on, he was the first person I wanted to talk to when I screwed up yet another chem lab or heard a new song on the radio.

We didn't officially start dating for another two months. A lot happened during that time.

The crisp beauty of fall became the dreary gray of winter.

My high school boyfriend and I self-destructed.

The football team completed the first of five mediocre seasons under Bob Davie.

And Chris & I, with student center hot chocolates in hand, spent night after night walking around campus, building on the conversation we had started that first night.

I often wonder what the 18 year old versions of ourselves would think of who we are today; the pre-med student and the history major who became the stay-at-home mom and the businessman. I like to think they'd be pleased. We may have swapped out the hot chocolates for Starbucks and we may be frequently interrupted by the two children we are pulling in the wagon behind us, but that conversation we began 13 years ago ,with Van Morrison blaring in the background, is still going strong.

*Technically, it was 13 years and 8 days ago, I've been a lazy blogger this week.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Bright Spot

Its easy for me to get caught up in bad days like this one and most recently this.

It's easy for me to get discouraged and frustrated, to focus on the parts of the day that go poorly and test my patience.

It's easy for me write in detail all the things that aren't going the kids have been sick since its been 11 days since Buddy slept through the the only time the boys aren't fighting is when they are staring at the tv.

Instead, I'm going to focus on the cookies we on Monday, when everyone including Chris was home sick, I gathered everybody in the kitchen to make cookies from scratch instead of moping on the couch all day. How the boys waiting patiently for their turn to pour ingredients into the bowl. How they laughed when I enlisted them to be chocolate chip taste testers before we poured the whole bag into the bowl. How Buster inhaled the spoonful of cookie dough I gave him in one mouthful, while Buddy licked it slowly, savoring every bite. How they sat calmly on stools at the counter waiting for the cookies to come out of the oven. How carefully they ate their warm-from-the-oven cookies off my "fancy" dessert plates usually designated "For Adults Only". How for those 25 minutes, no one whined or cried or hit his brother. How for that short moment in time, we had so much fun we could have been filming a freaking N*stle T*ll House Cookie commercial.

Things haven't been easy, but there have been bright spots. That, along with homemade cookies, is enough.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Pity Party

If whiny, ungrateful people tend to annoy you and you don't want to feel that way about me, I recommend you don't read any further. I try not to go down the "poor me" path too often, but today I'm granting myself this little indulgence of releasing all the bitter thoughts swirling through my mind.

The NYC trip is off.

I know I was nervous and reluctant to buy my ticket, but once I did, I was excited. Really excited. The modeling-my-oh-so-perfect-new-clothes, crossing-the-days-off-my-calendar, creating-the-perfect-iPod-playlist-for-the-flight kind of excited. And now I can't go and I'm stomp-around-the-house, sigh-loudly, glare-at-happy-people disappointed. Oh, except I can't actually display that kind of disappointment because I have two kids to take care of and they don't deserve a mom who acts that way (see why I warned you about whiny & ungrateful behavior?).

Maybe another day I will write about the events leading up to this decision in detail, I'm not in the mood right now. I'll just say that as the result of some issues we are having again with Buddy, Chris & I & Buddy's therapist agree that its not a good time for me to be away for an entire weekend. Before any well-meaning people post "oh go anyway! give yourself a break!", we did consider that. The problem is doing that would almost certainly lead to intense anxiety issues with Buddy. Not only would that impact his adjustment to school (which he is handling so well and is currently our primary focus), but would also create that unbearable environment we had at the beginning of summer. A few days away is not enough of reward for me suffer through that situation for an unknown length of time. So I'm not going.

We made the decision a few days ago and at first I was okay with it. I wished the situation was different, but I knew as sucky as it was, I was making the best decision for our family. Doesn't that sound so level-headed and adult of me? Well, all that level-headedness wore off and quickly was replaced with bitter "life is so unfair" thoughts.

I hate that I have to keep giving stuff up so that Buddy doesn't spiral out of control. I know that's a selfish, awful thing to say, but its the truth. I went into parenthood with a pretty realistic view of what it would be like. I knew things were going to drastically change and no longer be all about me. Those regular challenges of parenthood - lack of sleep, dirty diapers, toys scattered throughout the house - can be annoying, but not in a way that really frustrates me. Parenting a child with emotional issues has gone way beyond that.

Of course I love both my children in a fierce, all-consuming way that means I will do absolutely whatever it takes to make sure they are happy and healthy. When you have a child with special needs, that kind of love can be exhausting. Its terrifying to me how much energy and sacrifice it takes just to keep our heads above water. I do the best I can to find balance, to have dinner with friends & date nights with Chris, to take solo trips to the grocery store & read books instead of clean the bathrooms during naptime. Still, the reality is 98% of my time is spent being a mom and I find myself feeling so resentful when a nice night with Chris ends with a child crying hysterically for 3 hours because we went out without him and when I have to postpone indefinitely a trip I was looking forward to taking.

I'm really worried about the person I'm in danger of becoming. How many more ruined date nights and canceled trips will it take until whiny and bitter is no longer an indulgant mood but a permanent lifestyle? That's not the kind of mother, wife and friend I want to be. But how do I give myself the space and the breaks I need when those very things intensify the issues we are working so hard to overcome?

I know in the world of special needs Buddy's problems are minor. I know there are parents struggling with much more severe and frightening issues. I know that Buddy has come so far over the last 3 years. I know with time and hard work he will continue to improve. It will not always be this hard. I know that. But right now it feels like too much work to put on a happy face.

*Sorry for any typos & misspellings. I hate whiny, ungrateful people so there's no way I re-reading this to proof it.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Leaving the nest

Dear Buster,

I often wonder if, as the younger brother, you will feel like your "firsts" don't matter as much to us - especially since you are just 15 months younger than Buddy, reaching so many milestones just after he does. I'll admit it's something I worried about before we adopted you. I hoped I'd be able to make you feel special.

Turns out I had nothing to worry about; not only do your "firsts" feel as momentous as they did when Buddy reached them, but they also feel unique. You accomplishments are so distinctly you and make me feel happy and proud in a way that only you can do.

So Wednesday, when I walked you to your first day of preschool, I felt the same nervous butterflies I felt last year when I took Buddy. After I waved good-bye, I sat in the car and wiped the tears from my cheeks just like I did the year before...except maybe I even cried a few more.

You are my child who views life as one big adventure. The child who isn't afraid to climb to the top of the tall slide and jump in the deep end and fly down the big hill on your tricycle. The child who does not cling to me and beg me to stay, but rather releases my hand and darts away, confident you can handle whatever comes your way.

I know you will embrace all that life has to offer and I love that about you...but it makes my heart ache a little bit too. Today I had the priviledge of picking you up after school, of taking you out for a special lunch and sitting across from you while you told me all about your day. I can't help but think of all the days in the future, when your need to explore the world will lead you further away from me.

Buster, where ever life takes you - whether its the school down the street or a city far away - I want you to know that I will always be here, cheering you on and looking forward to the next time I get to sit across from you while you tell me all about your day.

As hard as it is for me to let you go, I'm so excited to share in your adventures.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Dear Buddy,

It's been quite an incredible few days!

When we woke up Monday morning and reminded you it was the first day of school, I expected you to freak out. Instead, you helped me pack your lunch.

When we dropped Buster at Aunt S's house to play while I drove you to school, I expected you to demand to play too. Instead, you cheerily told Buster to have a great day.

When we arrived at school and found out they had switched your teacher at the last minute, I expected you to burst into tears. Instead, you shyly said hi to the new one.

When the teacher invited you to say good-bye and start your day, I expected you to cling to me and beg me to stay. Instead, you whispered good-bye and slipped away.

When I picked you up at the end of the day, I expected you to be angry and scared. Instead, you greeted me with a smile and told me how much fun you had.

When we went back today and you realized this place was permanent, I expected the long-awaited tears to finally come. Instead, you reminded me where to put your lunch bag.

When the teacher pulled me aside to talk, I expected her to report you were withdrawn and overwhelmed. Instead, she told me that although you had been very quiet, you'd used your words for the important stuff...she wanted to be sure to let me know the one and only time she heard you talk to another student, it was to walk over to a boy crying in the corner and tell him "Are you sad? Don't worry, its okay to miss your mama, but she'll always come back".

Your dad and I couldn't care less if you ever win a spelling bee. Or make the winning basket. Or take advanced math. Or become student body president. What we want is for you to be kind. And brave. And compassionate. The last few days, just 6 weeks shy of your 4th birthday, you've proven you're already all of those things.

I knew being your mom would mean teaching you thousands of things. I never anticipated how much you'd also be teaching me.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

High Hopes

Last night was parent orientation at Buddy's new school. Given his emotional issues, preschool was really challenging for him last year and we've spent a lot of time trying to find the right environment for him going forward.

Before last year, I thought all preschools were basically the same, just places where kids run around, fingerpaint and have storytime. I've learned this is not the case. The school we chose last year was recommended to us by Buddy's therapist b/c it regularly works with children with minor special needs and also didn't require students to be potty trained. Overall, it was a great school and the teachers were very accommodating of Buddy's issues. However, it was a play-based preschool, which for those of you who don't know, means learning happens through playing rather than structured lessons. This is great for many kids, including Buster, who will be going there this fall. For Buddy, the classroom was too noisy and active and he often was too overwhelmed to participate or even talk while there.

After visiting several schools in the area, we decided the best place for Buddy (and eventually Buster once he's old enough) would be a Montessori school in our area that serves children age 3 to 14. I hadn't been back to visit the school since we enrolled Buddy last spring and as the end of summer nears, I've been feeling nervous about our decision to move him to a new school rather than just sticking w/the one he already knows. Last night's event reminded me why Chris & I both loved the school so much.

For starters, one of the guiding principles of the school is to create a calm, focused learning environment, which Buddy really needs in order not to become overwhelmed. At the same time, each student is responsible for deciding what activities he or she wants to complete that day and can work on something that interests them as long as they'd like. Every student has an IEP (individual education plan) and the goal is to help every child gain confidence and discover their own unique talents and interests. If it takes Buddy longer than other kids to master fine motor skills like cutting and tracing, his teacher will work with him as long as necessary. At the same time, he can move faster than other kids at pre-reading activities if he wants.

The learning environment is definitely wonderful, but my favorite thing about the school is the sense of community it has. All the students, even the 3 year olds, help maintain the garden and facilities. The classes are mixed age groups (3-6, 6-9, 9-12, 12-14) and the older students in the class are responsible for helping the younger ones learn the classroom procedures and also tutor the younger children. There are many weekend and evening events that parents, siblings and extended family are encouraged to attend. All parents (not just stay at home moms) have lots of opportunities to help out with various events and to attend parent-only education and community nights. Its a place where parents actually know each other's names (not just "Jack's mom, Ben's mom") and where everyone contributes to make the school a great place and I love that.

I'm so excited to become part of such a wonderful school. I think that it's a place where Buddy can develop both self-confidence and a love of learning. I'm sure we are in for some rough weeks as Buddy adjusts to a whole new set of surroundings and I'm sure there will be more than a few tears shed from both of us. I think once we get past all though, this could really be the place that allows Buddy to overcome the crippling anxiety that up until this point has kept him from enjoying life outside our home.

Monday, August 23, 2010


Sometimes I can't believe how much influence I have over the boys.

How the right words, at the right time, in the right voice can calm their fears or stop a tantrum. How excited they get when I stop what I'm doing to join in one of their games. How much they need me when they are hurting or scared. How happy they are just to see me every morning.

Its really amazing...and also a little terrifying. I have so much control over who they are, what they do and ultimately who they will become, but half the time I have no idea what I'm doing when it comes to parenting them.

So it was very reassuring to me today when this conversation took place:

Buddy (home from a trip to the dentist): Buster, I got two really cool stickers!
Buster: Oh wowie, wow!
Buddy: Which one do you like?
Buster: Yellow one!
Buddy: that's my best one too.
Buddy: Mom?
Me: Yes?
Buddy: Can you tear my best yellow sticker in half so Buster can share it too?

Sure, they have tantrums and talk about butts and have trouble staying seated at dinner. But when I see how kind they can be, how thoughtful they are to each other, I think that while we may let them watch too much tv, at least we're getting the important stuff right.

Of course, it could have nothing to do with me. It could be that Wonder Pets episode about sharing we keep letting them watch over and over again.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Versatile Blogger

I'm so excited to be tagged with the Versatile Blogger award!

I was tagged by Pixie, author of the blog Cheese Curds and Kimchi. In addition to being an awesome blogger, Pixie is in the process of adopting her first child from Korea. She writes lovely, thoughtful posts about adoption and becoming a mom. She also does cool things like Friday Roundups (lists of her favorite posts) and Word Wednesdays (mini-Korean language lessons). If you haven't visited her blog yet, you should definitely check it out.

Here's the award rules:
1. Thank and talk about whoever gave you the award (Thanks Pixie!).
2. Share 7 facts about yourself.
3. Give the award to 7 other bloggers who rock.

Seven Facts About Me:
1. I have never gotten used to changing diapers and am very suspicious of mothers who claim they have.

2. I clean the house before my babysitter comes over. The babysitter I pay to watch the kids so I can clean my house. Also, she's 13 years old, shows up looking like she just rolled out of bed and I'm sure has more important things, like boys and Miley Cyrus, to think about than if there's crumbs on my counter. Yet I still find myself running around like a crazy person before she gets here because...I don't know...I don't want her texting other 8th graders that my house is a mess? I know, its a little nuts.

3. I'm the only woman in America who didn't love Eat, Pray, Love. I wanted to like it, I tried really hard to stick with it, but never made it past the eating. I think reading about another person's entire year of self-indulgence while huddled in a sliver of moonlight waiting for my toddler to fall asleep made me entirely too jealous to enjoy the story.

4. Grey's Anatomy and Law & Order: SVU used to be my favorite shows, but since becoming a mom I can't watch them anymore. I can't stand the reminder of how fragile life can be. Instead, I've become a reality tv junkie. I'm far too invested in Kourtney & Scott's relationship and Snookie's latest antics.

5. The celebrity I'd most like to meet is Ina Garten from Barefoot Contessa. I love her casual, cozy approach to food and life.

6. When I was in 4th grade a grasshopper got stuck in my hair during recess and no one could get it out. Finally, the teacher had to mush it in my hair and then pull it out bit by bit. Not surprisingly, bugs still freak me out just a little bit.

7. Chris & I recently went out with another couple to celebrate his birthday. My friend & I had too much to drink and spent 2 hours excitedly discussing her new rice steamer. I woke up with a massive headache and an inability to decide whether it had been totally lame or the best night ever.

I'm supposed to tag 7 other bloggers I love, but I always get stressed out about hurting someone's feelings. Plus, many of my favorite bloggers have already been tagged. I appreciate everyone whose nice enough to read my blog and comment, so if you're a reader and love making lists about yourself like I do, consider yourself tagged....and leave a comment here so I can make sure to check out your post.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


I'm not above bribing, I mean rewarding, my children. Yesterday I armed myself with a bag of M&Ms and prepared to address some of the issues we've been having.

The last 2 weeks, Buster has started crying every time I leave him at summer camp. It's totally for show, he stops the minute I walk out the door, but it upsets the other kids. This morning I told him if he didn't cry, he could have 2 M&Ms at lunch time. He cried anyway.

Buddy, potty trained for nearly 8 months, now refuses to use the potty following a bladder infection (an ongoing situation that requires its own post). Unfortunately, he absolutely must be potty trained to attend the new preschool he's starting in 10 days. I told him every time he goes on the potty, he can have an M&M. So far, this has only been marginally effective.

I've still been putting off buying my plane ticket. I looked at the M&Ms, clicked "Confirm Purchase" and popped two in my mouth.

So I solved one of our three lingering issues...I think I'll reward myself with an M&M.

Monday, August 16, 2010

I think I can, I think I can, I think I can...

I'm going to buy a plane ticket today.

Actually, I was going to buy it a month ago. And then again last Monday. And then pretty much every day since.

Today I'm going to do it though.

I'm going to stop freaking out about leaving the kids home alone with Chris for two days and I'm going to stop feeling guilty about spending 48 hours with my college roommates and their babies...even though it makes me feel a little bit nauseous. Actually a lot nauseous.

I'm going to do it because I'm not going to allow myself to continue under the delusion that I need to be with my kids every.single.second in order for them to survive. They will be here, in their home, with their father, for two days and they will be okay. They will miss me, but they will still play and laugh and eat and sleep and beg to watch "just one more" Diego like they always do.

I'm going to do it because as much as I love my kids, I need a break and I'm going to stop lugging around the guilt that comes with admitting that. Maybe my mom - with her patience and practical-ness and soothing words - didn't need a break, but I am not my mom. Just because I'm not my mom doesn't mean I'm a bad one.

I'm going to do it because I love my friends and being with them makes me happy. I can't wait to hold their babies, to reminisce about our crazy college days and to stay up late talking about what it's like being a mom.

Today I'm going to do it.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Waving the White Flag

Gisele's whole "breastfeeding should be a law" thing has been bothering me the last few days and other than providing an excuse to criticize a supermodel, I couldn't understand why. It's not as if breastfeeding has anything to do with me. My knowledge on the subject is limited to my friends' experiences, some of whom feel it was a cherished bonding ritual and others who describe it as a horrific, stressful trauma.

It occurred to me today the reason her comments got under my skin is that I'm tired of mothers judging each other.

breastfeeding v. bottle feeding

cloth diapers v. disposables

stay-at-home moms v. working moms

co-sleeping v. cry-it-out

spankings v. timeouts

private school v. public school

I could go on, but you get my point. From the moment you start your day, every choice you make as a mom seems to be up for debate. It's ridiculous...and believe me, I'm not trying to sound preachy b/c I'm guilty of it too.

I'm not sure why we do it. Being a mom is such a huge responsibility and even though we all want to do what's best, half the time we aren't really sure what we are doing (at least I'm not anyway). I think it's that insecurity, that nagging voice in the back of our minds wondering "Am I screwing this up?", that makes us feel the need to justify our choices by pointing out all the reasons other people's are wrong. We're missing the fact that someone else's choice doesn't have to be wrong in order for ours to be right.

In our rush to prove what amazing mothers we are, so many of us have forgotten that kids do not come with a set of "one size fits all" instructions. Every family, every child, is different. If breastfeeding and co-sleeping work for you, that's great. If they don't, that's okay too. It would be so great if we could all really, truly accept that.

Ridiculing each other's choices isolates us. It draws a line in the sand and forces us to choose sides. It creates opponents rather than allies. It would be so much better if we could reach a place where we could share our experiences without all the judgement and support each other's choices - even when they are different from our own. The bottom line is we're all trying to be the best mom we can be and it sure would be a lot easier to do that with the help of other moms.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Stop Growing!

I cried in Target today.

I mean, its bad enough I went there with out-of-control frizzy hair wearing "I'm planning to scrub the shower" yoga pants (an occurrence that's increasing w/alarming frequency). But to stand in the back-to-school aisle looking that way with a cart full of single-serving mac & cheese containers frantically blinking back tears...well, I'm surprised no one ran to the customer service counter yelling "Quick, there's a disheveled looking mom planning to feed her family lots of processed food having a breakdown next to the pencils"!

Its just that I saw the lunch boxes and I can't believe I need to buy one. Buddy is going to be in a half-day program in the fall and eating lunch at school 3 days a week. Plus, Buster is going to be in the 2 year old program Buddy was in last year. The thought of Buddy walking into school, lunch box in hand and Buster bringing home messy artwork to hang on the fridge alongside his brother's...seriously, how did we reach this point already? How did the part with the bottles and the cribs and the rocking to sleep and the being the center of their universe - how did that part go by so fast?

Its crazy, this parenting thing. One day a baby comes into your life and instantly becomes the most important person in your whole world. Yet from that moment on, your job is to prepare them to go out into the world, to let them go a tiny bit each day. Every "first" and milestone leaves you bursting with pride, but it also breaks your heart a little too.

It's awesome, watching the boys grow up. I can't wait to see what kind of people they become, but I often find myself thinking "Wait, slow down. Don't change so fast. I'm not ready to let you go".

It's surprising to me that of all the challenges of parenting, I'm finding letting go to be the hardest part.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

No Words Necessary

Halfway through our beach vacation, there is so much I could say, but in the end, it's really just about...

The joy of building castles in the sandChris & Buddy

and the magic of the ocean.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Gift of An Ordinary Day

I wrote last week about the issues we continue to face with Buddy and how frustrated I've been lately. I wish I could post that this week we've turned a corner, but things remain the same -each sleepless, tantrum-filled day blending into the next. I've been trying my best to focus on the pockets of calm and moments of fun, no matter how fleeting they may be, but I've definitely fallen into a gloomy funk. I've been wishing I could just fast-forward a few years to a point when we are over this particular struggle, where our problems are more along the lines of who put a nearly-empty milk carton back in the fridge.

Tonight, just when I needed it the most, old Buddy made an appearance. I was putting him to bed, telling him to please lay down or I was going to leave, when magically, I found old Buddy gazing at me. He offered to share his blankie with me, told me "you know I like you best mommy", reminded his monster not to be scared of the dark and told me "I love when you sleep with me Mommy, it keeps little boys from being lonely" before drifting off to sleep tantrum-free.

Usually I'm out the door the second his eyes shut, but tonight I lingered longer than necessary. It was the first time in several weeks that I didn't want the moment to end and that made me sad. I miss the old Buddy and I don't know when I'll catch a glimpse of him again. I also know this time with my kids is so short and yet I'm finding it hard to enjoy it right now.

Then in one of those weird life moments, I came downstairs to find an email from one of my best friends with a link to this video about Katrina Kenison's The Gift of An Ordinary Day. The book, which I'd read months ago and already forgotten in my sleep-deprived stupor, is about the author's reflections on her children and how those years raising kids are just a few short moments that end all too quickly.

Naturally, I was in tears. The good kind that come with the resolve to do better, to appreciate more, to be present in the moment instead of letting my kids' childhoods pass me by while I'm worrying about stupid stuff like when Buddy will learn to put on his own shoes.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Why We Celebrate Family Day

When I was growing up, my aunt would always tell me on my birthday "I remember the first time I held you...". I loved this story when I was little, hearing about how tiny I was and how it felt to hold me in her arms. As I got older, I'd roll my eyes and sigh, pretending I was too cool for that type of thing, although both of us knew that wasn't the case. Its always special, hearing how the beginning of your life impacted somebody else's.

Tomorrow we will celebrate Buddy's Family Day, marking the 3rd anniversary of the day we adopted him. Some people think acknowledging this day unnecessarily emphasizes the fact that an adoptive child is different from a biological one. Others think a celebration of this day is disrespectful to birth families and sends the message that adoptees should only have positive feelings about their adoptions. Both are valid points, but...

I feel these arguments are more about how parents choose to handle adoption in their family and less about whether or not to have a celebration. We aren't the kind of parents always harping on the fact that our kids are adopted, constantly pushing the "You're different" message. On the other hand, we're not the types who gloss over our kids' pre-adoption lives, pretending they slid down a rainbow from heaven right into our arms.

What we are trying to be are the kind of parents who help our children understand where they came from and how that influences who they are. That's not something we accomplish simply by celebrating family day, but by how we choose to handle all the other days.

So yes, we choose to celebrate family day. In our family, the day isn't really a tool for teaching the boys about their adoptions - we do that in other ways on other days. It also isn't an attempt to validate the existence of our family by minimizing the boys' first families - they are every bit as real as we are. Its more about giving the kids what my aunt gave me, the gift of knowing they changed our lives forever the day they joined our family, that we will never forget a moment of it and that we love them so very much.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Is It Really Worth It?

A friend called me last night; she'd just read my last post.

"Tell the truth," she said "is having kids really worth it?".

"Yes." I told her.

"No, honestly. I mean, I know you love the kids so much, I know that you'd never not want them in your life now, but seriously, if you could go back to your pre-kid days, knowing what its really like, would you still want to do it?".

"Yes, honestly. I would still want to do it."

I went on, trying to explain to her that being a mom is hard - really hard, but that it's also the most amazing thing I've ever done. She didn't sound entirely convinced. I don't blame her, the whole thing doesn't make too much sense until you're actually a mom.

I just think that until you've experienced it, there are no words to really describe motherhood. It can definitely be frustrating and boring and exhausting in ways you cannot even begin to imagine, but it can also be more incredible than you ever dreamed.

Even now, even with everything going on with Buddy, when he snuggles up next to me at night, his chubby little feet jammed into my stomach, his breath in my face, I look at him and I feel this enormous amount of love that I never knew existed.

It doesn't make me forget the frustrations of the day, but yes, it really does make them all worth it.

Monday, July 12, 2010

From Moments I Want to Remember... ones I'd like to forget.

Buddy has been having really hard time lately. Inability to regulate his emotions. Anxiety. Insecure sense of self. Every professional we talk to seems to have a different name for it. I'm sure some people who don't understand what we're dealing with have another name for it - brattiness. Whatever you want to call it, its making our lives miserable right now.

Buddy came home to us with a host of unexpected physical problems (you can read about them in our post adoption stories). He's been home 3 years this month and although he still has a slight fine motor skill delay, he's otherwise physically where he needs to be. His social-emotional development is a whole different situation and something we're still struggling to get under control.

If you know Buddy, you know that even though he's a quiet kid, an cautious kid, most of the time he seems just fine. The truth is, keeping him that way requires quite a bit of work. Sticking to our daily schedule is key to his happiness. Adance prepping of any schedule changes, social stories, pretend play and weekly therapy have helped, but the littlest changes can still throw him off. Things like Chris leaving for work early or wearing a new pair of shoes can ruin his whole day. Large crowds, vacations, noisy environments or time away from us almost always have unpleasant consequences.

This summer there's been a lot of change for Buddy to process. Tuesdays and Thursday mornings the boys attend their preschool's summer camp. Wednesday mornings our 1st ever non-family member babysitter takes care of them. That all adds up to nine hours away from me, learning to interact with new people, try new activities and trust that I will always come back. Its overwhelming for him and he's not taking it very well....and neither am I.

I hate that we're back to sleepless nights and hour long meltdowns and controlling behavior and panic every time I leave the room. I hate that Buddy's life is so hard right now. I hate that by 10 o'clock in the morning I have a headache from grinding my teeth. I hate that Buster's life is dictated by his brother's problems. I hate that instead of enjoying time with my kids, most of my day is spent trying to mask my frustration and reminding myself not to scream "Shut up!". I hate that things that should be fun for Buddy leave him scared and insecure. I hate that I don't know how to make Buddy better.

Not knowing how to make it better is the part I'm really having a hard time handling. I wish our life wasn't so frustrating for me right now, but any mom will tell you that while motherhood is awesome, sometimes the job description sucks. I can handle that. Its mostly that the last few months of the school year were going so well, that I thought all the work I was doing and sacrifices I was making were helping Buddy learn to cope with the changes and unpredictablity that are part of life. The reality is that all my work - the schedules and prepping and co-sleeping - and all my sacrifices - missing two out of town weddings while Chris went alone, scaling back our activities and committing myself to a predictable routine, sharing our bed, the last private space we had - all of that just helped Buddy handle one particular set of cirucmstances; it didn't do anything to actually help him learn to handle future stresses.

Its so deflating that we have such a long way to go and that, despite my best effort, I still haven't found the path to get us there yet.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

What I'd Like to Put in a Mason Jar

We ended our 4th of July in my parents' backyard, snuggled together on beach towels and blankets, shooing away mosquitoes and watching the fireworks overhead. It was like something straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting, right down to Buddy's container of fireflies twinkling beside us.

I wish it was possible to capture a moment in a mason jar.

We live in the area where I grew up. We go to mass in the Church where my high school graduation was held. I run into people I've known since I was six in the grocery store. Its nice having those connections to the past; reminders of who I was before I was a wife and a mother, before I realized crimping my hair was not remotely cool.

No day makes me appreciate this more than the 4th of July, when my parents' closest friends and their children join us to celebrate. We all see each other randomly throughout the year, at weddings or baby showers, but 4th of July is the one night that we are all together, laughing around the dinner table and reminiscing about vacations & other summer nights spent together. No doubt helped along by 2 glasses of my mom's party girl punch, I found myself feeling lightheaded w/nostalgia, yet at the same time anchored by a clear understanding of who I am, with the sense of security that comes from being surrounded by a group of people to whom I've belonged my whole life.

I can't help but hope that one day the boys will have a similar experience, that years from now we'll still watch fireworks with these same people, our children now grown and helping children of their own catch fireflies in a jar. But I realize this probably will not be the case. I realize that the boys' lives will probably take them to other places, that they may celebrate the 4th of July in Texas or Tallahassee or on the other side of an ocean.

That's why I wish I could bottle up this 4th of July. So that where ever the boys find themselves celebrating in the future, they could remember this moment. They could open their jars and breathe in the smell of suntan lotion and citronella candles, remembering what it was like to be young, snuggled on beach blankets as fireworks lit up the sky, in the company of people who loved them.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

What's in a name?

Welcome! I assume at this point anyone reading this has found me from my other blog, so I'm not going to bore you with a redundant "getting to know me" first post.

I've been thinking about starting this for awhile, knowing I wanted a blog where I could write more honestly about being a mom without infringing on the kids' privacy. I wanted a blog where I could write about the common experiences shared by all parents and the ones unique to adoption. I wanted a blog where I could celebrate our victories and share our struggles without constantly evaluating what details were appropriate for just any reader to see. What I didn't know was what I wanted to name it.

The other day I was cleaning out my car and stumbled upon an I Spy board book I hadn't seen since our NJ road trip last summer. It made me think of that scene in When Harry Met Sally, where Sally explains that she broke up with her boyfriend after a friend's daughter pointed out a family during a game of I Spy. I realized that was the perfect name for my blog.

My biggest fear prior to adopting was that we'd always feel like an adoptive family, forever defined by how our family was formed, never able to just be like everybody else.

People who see us walking down the street may not think we are a family. Our children were born in different countries; they don't share my smile or Chris's eyes. We can't tell them about their first breathes or first smiles. We write "unknown" on the family history section of medical forms. We talk about birth moms and celebrate family days, experiences that are necessary only in adoption.

Adoption is part of who we are. But, despite my fear, it does not define us.

We play in the park and go for walks. We talk about our days during dinner and read stories before bed. We deal with sharing toys, spilled drinks and potty training. We take vacations to the beach and drag our kids to football games at the college where we met. We love each other, even when we drive each other crazy. In these ways, we are just like every other family.

That's what I hope to write about here, the ups and downs of being a family that happens to be formed through adoption. So...thanks for joining me.