Archive for the ‘parenting’ Category

Quick…Tell Me Where to Turn

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Marie and I attended a baby shower for a cousin today, and had a fabulous time. For an activity, they decorated baby onesies. Marie, who is very artistic with fabric paint, designed six. Each one had a fabulous design and appropriate wording-for HER. My favorite was a picture of the dad. She perfectly captured his beard, big, bright smile and curly hair. His blue eyes actually had a gleam in them, and his cheeks were pink with excitement. On it she wrote: “Happy daddy, baby boy yes”, replicating how the words are signed in ASL. This for a new dad who did not yet know the sex of his child!

Driving the 45 minutes to the restaurant, Marie was in charge of the GPS. She loves it when I give her this “job” because it keeps her active during the drive. Previously when riding in a car, Marie would try to sign to me, but I have to keep my eyes on the road and taking my hands off the wheel is problematic. The problem was solved by making her my navigational guru. She takes her job very seriously. She motions me into the proper travel lanes, and tells me when and where to turn. It is especially tricky when driving in a city as we were today. “In 2 tenths of a mile take a left.” Left here. she points. “In 4 tenths of a mile take a right”. Right there, she motions. We efficiently executed the twists and turns to perfection, and she was very proud of her directional skills when we arrived. Should I ever tell her that the GPS was also talking to me?????

Bring the Fattened Calf; The Prodigal Son Returns

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The holiday season joyously reunites my family! Although Francis is not entirely a Prodigal Son, he is the one son who moved out of state to seek his fame and fortune. Having his Ph.D. from Cambridge specializing in Human Computer Interaction, he has found a fruitful niche among the computer conglomerates in Silicon Valley, California. He has purchased a modest half-million dollar home, (very much similar to the small ranch style homes back east, only less yard and much costlier.) He married an amazing woman who can DRIVE and for whom his vision impairment is not an issue. They recently had a one of a kind baby; a baby so pure and white and bald that she resembles an Alien. (Ooooops! I didn’t just say that, did I?) The best thing is, he comes home every Christmas!

Preparing for his arrival takes a lot of work. Being somewhat of an advocate for letting dust live out its life where it lay, I spend the month before his arrival cleaning; the usual spots, of course, but also those spots not generally covered in a regular cleaning; washing and waxing the cabinets, washing all of the walls so they look as clean as the day they were painted, cleaning under the soap dish in the bathtub, pulling out every speck of dust hiding under the radiators, and cleaning “his” bedroom so clean that it could be considered a sanitary room for a person undergoing a bone marrow transplant. I’ve added a rocking chair for baby to feed lovingly and comfortably. The sheets with flowers are washed with “spring” fabric softener, giving them a sensational floral scent, perfect for a multi-sensory feel. (Yes, sniff in the scent. It is a happy, welcome home scent!)

The decor of my home is generally early mishmash, but when Francis comes home, the walls are decorated with a multitude of photos of all of our children, hastily put together from photos from Facebook. (It is something I mean to do all year but never get around to doing.) The Christmas tree and house decorations are pulled from the bowels of the cellar, decorated and placed in traditional places. Same candles in the window as when Francis was a child, same tree, same decorations including the nativity scene that Francis enjoyed rearranging when he was a child. (He loved to put the donkey in the manger and lay the Wise Men down for a nap after their long hike.) All reminiscent of Christmas’ past.

Hubby, who is generally an excellent cook anyway, also prepares for the special visit. He makes seafood casserole, baked stuffed lobster, “stuffies”, prime rib (sorry fattened calf,) lasagna,and baked ham. For Christmas, we have a traditional turkey dinner, with Marie leading us in saying grace in sign language, joined in by all, (except Francis’ new wife who has not yet caught up in communicating with Marie.) The week is a gastric feast like no other, and poundage is added to us all.

For this one week of Francis’ visit, “normal” life is put aside for a week of conversation, a clean house, a joyful present exchange, visits to nearby sights of interest, (the ski area with the tubing hill, the amazing number of Christmas lights on houses that spend thousands of dollar on decorations, the local breweries, the wild, ravaging waves of the ocean, and, of course, Dave and Buster’s.)

Francis and his little family will be leaving tomorrow and life will be back to normal. I will miss him. And I will be waiting for his return next year!

Do any of you have prodigal children who return for the holiday? How is it for you?

To Be Joyful with So Little

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When Dinora and I visited her birth place, Guatemala, we spent some time with moms who were working picking coffee beans. They toil all day while their children play nearby. Prepared for this visit, Dinora had a backpack full of little toys; small dolls, Matchbox cars, bouncy balls, toy rings, and so forth. (Above is a picture of a little girl clutching a small ring in her hand, so pleased with her gift.) The children were amazingly polite. Each child would gather around Dinora as she gave them each a small toy. Taking it delightfully appreciative into their little hands, they smiled shyly and stepped back to leave room for others to come forward. They didn’t crowd her. They didn’t ask for more, more, more. They reveled in the joy of that tiny toy! Sheer happiness!

It made me realize that more and expensive and better isn’t the right Christmas concept for children as they may not fully appreciate their multitude of blessings. If only they could experience the happiness on Christmas that those children among the coffee bean trees exhibited. Pure joy! What a concept!

All It Took was a Few Daisies

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Things have not been going so well lately. Marie has been in the hospital for trying to swallow a box of staples during a PTSD episode. (The pain of the memories was just too much.) The staples, thankfully, passed through and did no damage, but her recovery from the incident has not passed so easily. She is sad and shaky as she works through her most recent memory, that of a “john” pulling a gun on her mother. She remembers hiding under the bed and watching in terror as his footsteps thumped by, sure he would find her and kill her at any minute.

Steven has had a similar fate. As a young adult, he chose not to take his medication anymore. He didn’t like it because it made him feel “sleepy”…instead he is hyper, agitated, argumentative, obsessed and out of control. When you have a mental illness when you are a child, you are hospitalized and given great care. When the same thing happens when you are an adult, you are arrested for domestic violence and thrown in jail. Not the best situation, and extremely difficult for a parent to handle. (Yes, I am being selfish thinking of how this affects me.) Maybe when he is released he will agree to take his medication again, medication which has enabled him to live a full and relatively happy life. Medication which has calmed his OCD and aggression. Medication which has smoothed out the wrinkles in his brain created by in utero exposure to cocaine, heroine and alcohol. Medication which has made our family life “normal”.

Yesterday, (Thanksgiving) was a solemn day for our family, missing two of our beloved children. In preparation for the day, I had cleaned the house as my husband had shopped and prepared the food. I had hoped to get to the store for a floral centerpiece to add some happiness to our table, but time just didn’t allow. Setting the table, I felt sad, abandoned, and empty inside, unfamiliar feelings for me. Just as I was allowing the despair to set in, there was a knock at my front door. There stood a middle aged woman dressed in a neat, black coat. I didn’t recognize her at first, but as soon as she introduced herself, I remembered that she had a child in the same class as Steven ten years ago. I forced a smile and asked her how she was. She had been thinking of me, she said. She remembered me from all those years ago and she remembered the challenges our children faced. She had made me a beautiful floral centerpiece for our Thanksgiving table! She said she knows how hard it is for her to raise one child with mental illness, and that she has admiration for me raising several. I thanked her and held back tears as I hugged her tight.

This amazing centerpiece is filled with bright orange mums, cheery yellow daisies, and red roses, whimsically arranged with a big Thanksgiving Day bow. Looking at it, I can’t help but smile. It is beautiful! It is hopeful! It is joyful! It was just what I needed to get me out of my despair and realize that this, too, shall pass. And the reminder came from a woman who was almost a stranger to me. I am so thankful for the timing of her thoughts of me.

She LOVES me! She really LOVES me! (not…)

Anyone who is raising a child with reactive attachment disorder knows that love and caring is not always reciprocated. In fact, often the children are so hostile that we wonder what we are doing wrong and what have we gotten ourselves into? Raising Marie has been like that. Coming to us from living with a mom who allowed unspeakable abuse, Marie was not ready to love anyone. Not letting me touch her, in fact, shoving me away or hitting me if I tried, it took six months for me to reason with her that I needed to have a way to show her that I loved her. She graciously allowed us to fist bump. Our fists met with a minimal amount of touching as I signed “I love you” in American Sign Language with the other hand. As a mom, I desperately needed to be able to share my love with her, whether she accepted it or not.

Through the years, she allowed me to hug her. I would put all of my love forth in that hug, deep, sincere, emotional… Whether she actually got any of that through osmosis, or whether she just tolerated my hug, I never knew. But I felt better doing something to demonstrate my love.

When she was about 14 years old, we were at a carnival and she spotted a photo booth. She had always been fascinated with these contraptions, and she grabbed me by the hand and pulled me over to it, sticking her other hand out for the money to put in it. As we sat inside the booth and the camera clicked, a miraculous thing happened…she turned and KISSED me on the cheek. Whether it was her excitement over the photo booth, (and the demonstration photos on the side of people kissing,) or whether she really felt an emotion and wanted to kiss me, I’ll never know. But I choose the latter. In the picture below, you can see the emotion on my face as she does so. After SEVEN long years!

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Well, a couple of years have gone by, and she and I regularly hug and kiss (she offers me her cheek.) Not much had changed in that department. UNTIL I went to the open house at her school. She saw me walking down the corridor while she was standing with a group of friends. She came galloping towards me, wrapped her arms around me with such force that I almost fell over, and gave me a huge kiss ON THE LIPS! Then she proudly told everyone that I was her mom. SHE LOVES ME! SHE REALLY LOVES ME!

The Mirror From the House of Horrors

bathroom-mirror-clipartmirror-man-clip-art-royalty-free-640-mirror-man-clipart-vector-73d10fccDressing in the morning for work, I try to look my best. When I look in our bathroom mirror, my hair looks pleasingly curly. My face looks “fine”. Average, (as I am no beauty by any means,) but fine, especially when I smile back at myself. Although I could stand to loose a few pounds, I don’t look overweight. Pleased with how I look, out the door I go to work.

I remain in a confident, upbeat mood unless I have to pee. IF I have to do so, I enter the room with the mirror from the house of horrors ..our office bathroom…oooooooooohhhhhhhhhh! Prepared for Halloween all year, this mirror somehow magically transforms my okay look into a horror. My hair is wild, frizzy, with straggly curls going everywhere. (Not unlike Dr. Frankenstein or Freud.) My eyes bulge out, with dark circles beneath them, (somewhat resembling characters from the Walking Dead.) My face is mottled and spotted and scary. My pores seem huge and my freckles overpower the rest of my face. And I am the size of elephant!

The first few times I used this bathroom, I scared myself. I am used to its tricks by now, so I don’t pay attention. I am confident enough to know that, at least in my mind, that is not the REAL me. That mirror distorts what I see on the outside so that it does not match what I feel on the inside. So I try not to have to pee all day….

To Find or Not To Find, That is the Question

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Many adoptive parents are faced with the dreaded request from their kiddos…they want to reunite with, or at least find out about, their biological families. Of my four adopted children, only one expressed an interest in doing so. The thought struck fear into my little, mom heart!

Angel came to live with us as a foster child at the age of three, still having weekly visits with his mom and four siblings. His parent’s rights were terminated shortly afterwards and his siblings were adopted by an aunt. We kept in touch with his aunt, and the siblings visited a few times. Within a year, however, the aunt relinquished custody because their bio mom kept interfering…meeting them at the bus stop, trying to take them, and so forth. (His bio mom was a mentally ill drug addict with HIV and she could be violent.) The four children were split up and placed in shelters or foster homes here and there, and our life carried on as usual. Angel accommodated well in our loving family, and we lost touch with his siblings.

One day when Angel was a teenager, he came to me and said he wondered where his brothers and sisters were. I did, too, as my heart had always ached for these children for whom a normal family life was not possible. It would have been easy to tell Angel that he was in our family now and his bio family no longer mattered, but that wasn’t true. As a young Hispanic man, who looked nothing like his Caucasian parents, he had a right to know more about his heritage. If I didn’t support him now, he would only look himself in a few years when he became an adult.

I contacted the social worker in the Department of Children Youth And Families adoption unit to have her look into Angel’s request. Within a few days, she called back. Because the siblings had aged out of the system, their information was no longer available. However, she DID have Angel’s aunt’s phone number, which I gladly took. Angel bravely called his aunt, and started to cry immediately when she started to cry when he told her who he was. She had continued to have a supportive relationship with his siblings, but she had always longed for the one who was adopted…Angel! They talked on the phone for hours as she filled him in on their history and he filled her in on his. But, most importantly, she gave him the telephone numbers of his siblings.

Angel savored the numbers at first, but, one by one, he called them. Each had led a difficult life; the boys having lived in shelters and group homes and the girls in and out of foster care and never adopted. But they were still tight as a family, proud of their Hispanic heritage. They had each other. And now Angel had them, too!

Angel and one sister, who still lived in our state, met for a long, glorious lunch! They found each other immediately at the restaurant because she looked like a female version of Angel. They ran to each other and screeched and hugged and cried. They found out they both have the same laugh (AND same dry sense of humor.) They have kept in touch since that lunch date, and talk on the phone regularly.

Angel’s other sister died from leukemia when she was twelve…a sad, lonely death with no family to call her own to support her.

His older brother, Fernando, lives in Florida. And looks just like an older version of Angel, judging from the pictures they exchanged on their phones. They talked and texted often. His brother had lived in group homes and then in a homeless shelter when he aged out of the system. Following a job lead to Florida, his brother obtained a job, found a wife, and had 2 children. He and his wife work 2 jobs to make ends meet, and “Grandma” lives with them to care for the children in their one bedroom apartment. They are incredibly HAPPY, especially his brother who now had a family to call his own!

Angel’s 18th birthday present was airfare to visit Fernando for a week. Alone. (Yes, I trusted him!) He is a mature young man with a good head on his shoulders. (Plus I did check his brother out to make sure he did not have a criminal record, unlike his oldest brother who is in prison for selling drugs. HE had chosen his mother’s lifestyle…) Getting off the plane in Florida, Angel was welcomed with open arms into Fernando’s family, everyone crying and gathering around him in joyous celebration. Angel still laughs about his two young nieces, grabbing him at the knees for hugs, almost toppling him to the ground. He visited for a week in their tiny apartment, sharing their meager food, (and becoming the hero uncle when he ordered take-out pizza and Chinese food!) He came home with a new sense of self and contentment. An adult who knows who he is. For his birthday every year, he will be asking for a plane ticket to visit Florida.

Of course, this is my story of what happened to him. I have asked Angel to write a few words, and he did as follows:

“It was an amazing feeling to finally have contact with my biological family. After years of waiting and wondering, my questions would finally have well over due answers. Ever since I was able to remember who they were, I had an empty feeling in my heart. When I was adopted the empty feeling was satisfied but not filled. when i was able to hear their voices, my heart started filling up with happiness and joy. When i finally saw my brother and sister, it was overwhelming and exciting! That doesn’t mean I don’t love my adoptive family. They have done a lot for me, but you really have to go though what each adoptive kids been through to truly understand it. It’s natural to wonder where you come from, especially when you don’t have the ability of asking the people that brought you into the world.”

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