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.