Saturday, December 29, 2012

I Suck, Part 2. Now with less humor.

"I'm going for a walk!" I shout at my husband, who pops up out of his ballgame-watching chair, startled but cooperative.  "He's in the bath!  His orders are to wash and get out!  She's in her room!  Her orders are to get her pajamas on!"  I put it that way on purpose.  Since giving orders is hardly a parenting goal of ours, he'll know how steamed I am.  Probably overkill, in retrospect. I storm out the door, remembering shoes and coat, but not worrying about hat and gloves.  I have my rage to keep me warm.

I push up the hill, knowing the faster I walk, the quicker the rage will burn away.   It takes longer than usual, and it's not until I'm on the leg of our block that swings onto a busier street that I loosen enough to start crying.  Ugly crying, so I immediately assign myself a second go-round of the block.  I cry steadily the whole time, harder or softer depending on which scene I'm replaying for myself, which words of self-loathing I'm focusing on.  It occurs to me that I can no longer judge bad guys.  A guy I knew for years, a dear friend's teddy bear of a husband, is in jail for molesting her daughter.  His step-daughter, raised by him from age three.  Did he feel this same sickening shame?  Did it start out with stuff he knew was wrong, but not illegal?  Did he vow to stop, only to find himself doing the same thing a few days later? 

I'm not molesting my kids. My sexuality is not mixed up in this, thank God.  It's my rage that terrifies me.   I'm not beating them, starving them, burning them, calling them names, swearing at them, neglecting them.  But I feel it inside me, the poisonous meanness.  My son, whom you can tell in pictures is a rapscallion of the first degree, doesn't elicit it.  Sure, I get pissed off sometimes, but I keep it in check, and the things that make me mad are things that are supposed to make me mad.  Someone asks you, "What would you do if I threw yogurt at the window?" and then does so, a certain testiness is, if not desireable, at least normal. 

But my sweet, winning, sparkling little girl can find a crazy witch where her Mama used to be.  We have a name for it, "Scary Mean Mama."  As in "I know you felt like you had to lie, because I was being Scary Mean Mama, and no matter what you said, I was going to be mad, so you were trying to pick the safest possible thing to say instead of the truest thing."  This is what SMM does.  No, I don't want to refer to myself in 3rd person, because I'm disassociating to avoid taking the blame.  What I do, is I push her buttons, very intentionally and methodically, until I provoke rebellion, which I then squash with Scary Meanness.  I'm rough, I'm unfair, I ignore tears.  I push, I prod, I shame, I twist the blame back at her.  "Mama wouldn't have to brush these snarls out of your hair if you brushed your hair yourself," I snap as I drag the hairbrush through her hair, clamping her between my legs because she keep trying to wiggle away.  I'm perfectly capable of brushing hair gently, which is a truth far more important than the ones I tell myself in the moment: that brushing hair briskly doesn't hurt nearly as bad as all this whining would imply, and, yes, that I wouldn't be brushing her hair at all if she did it herself. 

Why?  I've been thinking about this a lot, most recently on that tearful walk.  What I've really been thinking about is How do I stop? but I figure the answer might hide in the Why.  I have theories, but no answers.

a) Unresolved SMM issues of my own.  My mom was not physically threatening, but she didn't need to be--I lived in fear of her words.  90% of the time, she was a great and loving mother.  10% of the time she was Scary Mean.  When I grew up, the 10% faded away, and we were each other's biggest fans.  When she died, I was berift.  But just as when I became a wife, I realized I had unconsciously learned some really underhanded methods for bullying a husband, maybe I picked up how to be unpredictably emotionally dangerous as a mom. 

b) Subconscious fears about my connection to Linden.  In all the adoption literature I've read, they say that kids may push you away just when you're starting to feel close, because they are so afraid of you leaving them that they'd rather control when it happens.  Couldn't this be flipped?  This child that fell into my life, so sweet, so lovely, so smart, so desperate to be close to me--do I push her away in case it's all not real?  Am I afraid that her sweetness is mere manipulative orphanage survival skills, and if I let her crack my heart wide open, I'll regret it?  Or do I subconsciously feel that I don't deserve to be a parent, so I'm setting out to prove it by being the shittiest parent I can be?

c) I'm a sicko, and never knew it because I never had anyone vulnerable to me before.  I'm not going to spend a lot of time on this one.  "I'm just evil" is not only deeply disturbing, it's also kind of a cop-out, since it implies I can't get better.

d) I can't quite articulate this, but something to do with becoming the mama of a six year old. I don't know how to respond to her when's she naughty.  Is she a little girl testing limits, or is this some horrible sign of horrible damage due to her horrible past?  I don't know how to repsond to her when she's sweet and loving.  Is she just naturally adorable and already smitten with me, or is she working hard to keep her position as cutest kid in the orphanage?  Unlike her brother, the toddler in her is still so visible, all rounded cheeks and bottom, clumsy little fingers, and infectious belly laughs.  She pushes against me, murmurs, "I wish I came from your tummy.  I wish I drank your milk."  Then she tells me, matter-of-factly "If I love you a hundred hugs, I love my other mommy a million hugs."  I tell her "I know, honey, I know" to both of these things, and they both break my heart.  I feel like I would not ever find the scary meanness in myself if I'd raised her from babyhood, whether or not she was biologically mine.  If I'd gazed into her newborn eyes, I wouldn't be all messed up, like a cat who purrs for you to cuddle up, and then draws blood with quick claws when you try to pet him.  Or would I?  I can't know. 

I need help, this much is clear.  I have vowed, both in my own heart and out loud to Linden, that I will stop doing this.  And then I do it again.  My shame is so deep that I gloss over details with my husband.  Since going back to work, I haven't been able to see our therapist.  I've decided to take a few half-days off and make that happen, to see if I can make this better. 

Wish me luck. 

Six Months: Trying to get Perspective

A friend's almost two-year-old has been diagnosed with brain cancer.  The school we both work at was conducting a fundraiser for the family before winter break started.  One of my students, new to me as all of them are, due to my family bonding leave this fall, looked at the sign in my room and said, "My dad died of cancer."

"I'm so sorry.  It is hard enough as an adult to lose a parent; it must be so hard as a kid."

"It was June 29th."

"Oh."  Things falling into place.  "That was the day my kids came home.  Ms. H. did a whole bunch of freezer cooking for both our families that week, didn't she?"  So that's the family another friend and colleague was supporting right when we got back, and part of that was stuffing both of our freezers with pre-cooked dinners.  Tomorrow marks a very solemn half-year mark for that family.  We just had our first Christmas playing Santa, while our friends counted themselves lucky that the holiday fell between their daughter's brain surgery and the start of her radiation treatments.  My parenting concerns seem petty, my irrational rages exponentially more heinous, in light of these family's burdens. 

How's it going?  I ask myself.  Huge progress in some areas.  I see our notes from an early visit to our therapist, and on my to-do list, I'd written, "Make eye contact with Oak.  Hug him."  He falls readily into my hugs now, begging to be picked up, reminding me he needs a kiss when I head out the door.  I stroke his face, pat his back absently. tickle him when he raises his arm to point at something.  It's still new, to both of us, but it's no longer forced or mechanical. 

There's been no random peeing in months, and both beds have stayed dry.  I wake Linden up a few hours after she's fallen asleep and take her in for one last pee, leaning drowsily against my leg, confused about what to do with the toilet paper I hand her.  Now that I'm on vacation, I'm experimenting with not doing this, to see if she can make it through the night for two weeks.  (The covers remain on the mattresses.)  So far it's worked, but I find I almost miss the nightly chance to baby her, to hover protectively over her sleepy confusion, to sneak one last kiss on her round, rosy cheek as I lay her back down.  Tonight we got home so late and rushed them both to bed, so we didn't do a last call trip to the bathroom, so I'll take her in as soon as I finish this. 

On the down side, they both suddenly stopped flushing the toilet, especially first thing in the morning.  The Winemaker, now our SAHD, was the first to discover this, and assigned them a chore each time they "forgot."  When I caught Oak trying to set Linden up to take the fall ("It wasn't me, it was Linden!  I haven't even gotten up yet!  And there was toilet paper in the bowl!"  Really?  How did you know that if you haven't gotten up yet?)  I announced that the next person who didn't flush would be wearing pampers, since they obviously hadn't fully worked out how to use the toilet. Then on Christmas Day, at my sister's house, Linden didn't flush, so I put her in pull-ups overnight.  This, in case you haven't read anything on attachment parenting, is Bad and Shaming. However, I believe that there are some circumstances in which, "It works" is sufficient justification.   And yes,they both have flushed every single time since then, and rush out to announce it to me.  I am sure that whatever issue inspired this bit of nonconformity will pop out somewhere else, but I am prepared to handle that more graciously as long as the toilets are flushed.

Our great triumph was on Christmas Eve.  As we drove to my in-laws for our first serious bit of gift opening, we filled them in on expected behavior.  Take turns.  Read the tag first.  After it's opened, look at the person it came from and thank them, even if you don't actually like it.  When others thank you, say 'you're welcome.'  Oh, and no running in the house.  I wish it pained me to say this, but it is actually with great glee that I announce that their NON-ADOPTED COUSIN apparantly did not get this pep talk in the car, because SHE wound up looking like a brat compared to our polite and appropriately enthusiastic kids.  Since I overheard her at Thanksgiving whining, "I wish I were still the only grandchild," I felt especially pleased with our kids' success.  (Very mature of me, I realize.)  We were successful too, in anticipating a new situation and spelling out the process for our kids.  Straight out of the books, man.  (The books that specifically ban shaming techniques...)

It's late.  I have much to confess about what's not going so well, but I need to get to sleep.  I guess "confess" says it all, really.  The kids are doing as well as or better than I ever could have hoped.  I am doing seriously crappy in some really weird and disturbing ways, and my husband's mellow kindness is begin to fray now that he's the main caregiver.  Yay us.  People respond to our family situation kind of like they respond to me being a middle school teacher, only more so.  "Oh, you guys are wonderful!  What a great thing you are doing!  They are so lucky!  You must be having so much fun!  Bless your pointy little heads!" etc.  It makes me queasy.  I know the stock answer is, "No, WE are so lucky to have them!" but that makes me queasy in a different way.  They're our kids.  We're a family.  They're not used to being our kids; we're not used to being a family.  We're all trying, except for the times when we get f'ing sick of trying and lash out instead.  We're all lucky to be together now, but our luck comes out of phenomenol bad luck and tragedy (theirs) and some unfortunate physical glitches (ours).  So...ease up.  Ask me when they're grown.  And keep reminding me to find out if my doctor will give me a little something to ease my moods. 

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

No Greater Love

The single greatest act of love I'm performing this holiday season is that when I opened the box of chocolate my husband got me and realized he'd inadvertantly given me the box he'd picked out for my sister-in-law instead, I did NOT point this out.  A few years ago she gave us some candy from See's and said, "I wasn't sure what you like, so I picked out all my favorites."  We chuckled all the way home that next time we wanted to get her candy, we'd just pick all the gross ones, since that seemed to be her preference.  I was so going to say, "Oh man, does she have all the caramel and almondy ones while I'm stuck with pineapple and white chocolate?!?"  Then it occurred to me that all that would accomplish is making the Winemaker feel bad.  I am SO PROUD of myself for this act of great maturity.  Normally, I'd brag on myself to my husband, but in this case, I'll do it here.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Twenty Things About Me (That Don't Directly Relate to my Kids)

1.  When I was about 10, my best friend and I could juggle (a little), walk on stilts (short ones) and ride a unicycle (for about 50 feet at a time).  We were ready to join the circus.

2.  Sometime in college I stopped shaving my legs, using a blow dryer or curling iron, and wearing a bra.  Twenty years later, due to weight gain and gravity, I started wearing a bra again.  The other two--no way.

3.  I never get enough: summer weather, reading time, sleep, coffee dates with friends, or hikes per year.

4.  My husband and I were at the same high school (he was two years behind me).  He was my first boyfriend.  Unlike my sister, who's been married 30 years to her high school sweetheart, I didn't actually meet my husband until I was 31. 

5.  We got married eleven months later, after a 7 week engagement.

6.  A few months later, my boss casually asked me when I was due.  She was mortified to find out that the person who'd told her I was pregnant was merely rumor mongering.  This was a dozen years ago, and I'm still torn between hilarity and rage that someone would leap to that conclusion, and then pass it on as fact. 

7.  And isn't it ironic that it turned out I'm infertile?  Add to that the irony of time and money spent on birth control, and that one frustrating camping trip when our tent was at this incredibly romantic remote mountain lake and we couldn't Do It because we'd neglected to pack condoms? 

8.  I haven't told any friends or family about this blog.  I think I just ensured I never will.

9.  I still fantasize about writing a book.  I no longer fantasize about becoming a ballerina or orthodontist.

10.  I was raised with no TV, and didn't own one until I got married at age 31.

11.  Since then, I've become a fan of watching entire TV series on DVD.  Alias, La Femme Nikita, Lost, Firefly, Veronnica Mars, Battlestar Galactica, and currently Buffy the Vampire Slayer have all taken over my life for awhile.

12.  Being married to my husband has showed me that I'm relutant to admit when I'm to blame, that I'm overly judgemental of people who aren't all granola crunchy liberal like me, and I have a slapdash approach to repair projects.  It's also showed me that I'm capable of being more organized than I ever knew, that learning things outside my comfort zone is fun, and that telling people the specific things you appreciate about them is powerful. 

13.  I used to play the piano and viola, and although I don't have a lovely voice, I love to sing and know hundreds of songs by heart.

14.  I am passionately in support of gay marriage. and tear up every time I hear a news story on this topic.  I think it's in part because my marriage is so important to me, and it really breaks my heart to think of others being denied this right. 

15.  I am the youngest child, by 11 years.  If you offer me a favor, I accept.  I don't ask for or expect it, but I see no reason to deny people the pleasure of doing good by me. 

16.  Speaking of family, my mom died almost two years ago.  I miss her.  A lot. 

17. I'm one of four daughters.  Boys still puzzle me.

18.  I am addicted to chocolate.  No, really.  It's not a figure of speech.  The only plus I see is the empathy it gives me for people addicted to more harmful substances.  I'm eating a piece of English toffee with chocolate coating as I write this.

19.   I am the fastest reader you know. I tell my students it's my super power.  I had a college roommate who reads like I do, but usually I'm kind of  a freak to people who notice.  This is probably related to point #10. 

20.  I speak English, Latvian, some Spanish, and a tad bit of Lithuanian.  Plus I know some nasty words in Danish. 


I suck.

Caution:  I'm gonna cuss. That was the kind of day I had.  It was the first time I almost cussed at the kids.  I've been horrible and mean in all sorts of ways, but I have never been tempted to swear before.  I managed not to for them, but I'm gonna fucking let loose now, okay?

So over on the Family and Friends Blog, I should post about how we got our tree today, and how great it was, and how the kids also got their first ever candy canes, and how thrilled they were.

But here's where we keep it real.  All of that is real, but today, the primary lesson was--I suck.  It started at 8:05 this morning when Oak came into our bedroom all despondent because the tooth fairy didn't come last night.  He had fucking ORAL SURGERY yesterday, and the dentist pulled SIX TEETH, and I forgot to tooth fairy him, because I suck.

So I was feeling guilty for awhile, but he was being all whiny, and somehow blaming his sister for the tooth fairy's failure to deliver, then blaming his dad, and I started getting annoyed.  Next thing you know, I'm dragging him down the street in just sweatpants, because he refused to get dressed for a walk.  I'm pretty sure the neighbors are going to call DHS on me, because I suck.

 Hours later I was dragging him down the street in socks with no shoes, in miserable, wet weather, because he wouldn't put shoes on the first five times I told him to.  He was weeping and begging me to go home, and I just kept dragging him, because I suck.  I wanted to shout at all the neighbors, "He had five chances!  And cold feet won't kill him!  I'm going to let him take a hot bath when we get home!  And c'mon, how will he ever learn I mean it if I cave now!"

That was the day.  Oak being bratty, me overrreacting, and then us out in the rain going around the block in various states of walking/dragging/carrying.  I've decided that two reasons why I favor "go for a walk" when things are really shitty are because a) I need the walk to calm MYSELF down and b) if I'm walking down the street, I probably won't slap him, or do anything that would really necessitate that DHS call.  The neighbors on the second half of the block probably don't think I'm a maniac, because after we schlepp up the hill, we both lose some of our fire, and that's when we start communicating, and talking to each other about how we want our day to go, or sometimes about how cars leak oil, or the way pine trees grow new needles, and suddenly we're just a mother and son out on a walk, instead of a crazy lady and a brat having a fight in public.  But our nearest neighbors know that I suck.  And I hate that. 

Tonight grandma came over and babysat, so the Winemaker and I could go to a big raucous holiday party with no kids and inappropriate White Elephant gifts.  (We came home with a bottle of vodka and a pink purse for LindenIt was suggested to me that I trade the vodka for an additional present for the kids, and I was all, what, are you nuts? since I suck.  At least I didn't get Bam! the 13 inch...marital aid, or the bag of medical marijuana.)  The kids were assholes for grandma.  But she was very zen about it, because she's cool like that.  At the party, a friend of mine who's hung out with us a few times was super understanding.  It amazes me when people who know what it's really like, what Oak really does, how Linden overdoes the cutsiness to get by, HOW MUCH I SUCK, forgive me, forgive them, give all of us a giant pass to fuck up and keep trying. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

This is not uplifting. It's pretty much just whining. Don't say I didn't warn you.

So, today.  Today was crappy.  I'm really glad it's over.  We put the kids down early, which normally we are not able to do.  I expected to put my young kids to bed at 8:00, maybe 8:30.  Hee hee.  During the summer we struggled to get them to bed by eleven freaking o'clock.  ELEVEN!  School and less daylight helped us make a shift, but I find that no matter what time I start the bedtime routine, they are climbing into bed between 9:05 and 9:15.  This means Linden is asleep between 9:06 and 9:16, and Oak is asleep between 9:30 and 10:00.  It may not help that I am an Over-Optimistic Time Estimator (say that in your head like it's a super hero's name being announced), so each night when I decide how many books we're going to read together, I give them too high of a number.  And once the books are chosen, man, there's no going back.  The order of reading has already been set, and it's a complicated algorithm of which stories are more peaceful and should go last, splitting up the multiple Olivia books, wrangling over who's books are ALWAYS first, so now it's YOUR turn to go first...

But I digress.  Tonight Linden was asleep by 8:30 (well, the shrieking may have woken her, but she was in her bed with her eyes closed), and even Oak, who was the shrieker, and is always the master staller, was finally horizontal at 9:00.  This tells me that they were as ready for today to be over as we were.  And/or that exhaustion was playing into their behavior.

It started a half hour after they left the house with a phone call from school.  The phone call itself started, "Now, she's okay, but..."  This is not a good start.  Nobody is going to say, "Now, she's okay, but we've decided to give her an attendance award," or even "Now, she's okay, but someone stole her coat."  That "she's okay" means the opposite--it means she's NOT okay, but she's still alive.  The "but" was that she had a contusion on the side of her face, a blue bruise, swelling before their very eyes, and while they were not comfortable telling me to come get her and take her to the doctor, that's the subtext they were hoping I was getting. 

Oh, and the injury?  Came when her brother slammed her into the gym floor.  That's what they said, not "tripped" or "pushed" but "slammed." 

The injury was obvious from across the room.  In the midst of all of it, I treasured the way Linden leaned into me and took comfort from me. The assistant principal was politely horrified by the whole thing.   She said they would follow my lead in how to respond to the incident.  I asked if he would normally be suspended, and she said yes, but...with it being his sister...she knows how siblings fight...and she wasn't sure it would be good for me to have him home if Linden needed my attention. 

I was afraid that if I saw him, I would hurt him, and I don't mean with my words.  So I agreed that my priority was to take Linden to a doctor, and I'd deal with Oak when he got home.  For the four day weekend.  Lots of time for...thinking things over.

I called our doctor, and got an appointment two hours out.  I needed to drop the Winemaker's paycheck off at the bank so we can pay our house taxes, so we swung by the drive-through ATM on our way home.  I rolled down the window, and my phone rang--the Winemaker checking in.  I rolled up the window, because it was cold, and updated him.  Linden wanted to talk to Papa, so I handed her my phone and rolled the window down again to make the deposit.  The ATM spit the check back out and told me to talk to my financial institution.  I sighed and went to pull forward so I could go park. 

The car wouldn't start.

All that window-rolling had drained the battery.  Yes, our car borders on being a piece of crap, but it's also a Honda, so it has it's awesome side as well, like getting 34 MPG and being reliable.  Or not.  Whatever.  We're not getting a new car, okay?  It was lowered when we bought it and we had it raised.  We're committed to this car.  

I put it in neutral and let it roll forward.  This let another person pull in behind me, but I didn't have enough oomph to actually get out of her way and let her leave.   Two more cars pulled up behind her.  I was trying to explain to Linden what was going on, trying to ask the Winemaker for advice, trying to decide if it was worth putting things in the trunk before going into the bank to ask for help.  The lady in the car behind us, who was 55 if she was a day, said something about needing to push it further forward.  Then suddenly she was leaning on the back of my car.  "Take the hand brake off!" she hollered at me, so I did, and she rolled me far enough that her car could now get by.  Teach ME to judge the AARP crowd. 

Moving right along...I went into the bank and two guys came out to help me move it to a better location.  But then it started, so we all cheered, (one guy actually said, "What?!" like the young folk do), and I went back in and deposited the damn check.  When I let the Winemaker know, he said he'd already gotten the day off, so he would still come home and see how Linden was.  According to the doctor, she was fine.  Well, yeah, swollen and bruised, but not concussed or otherwise brain damaged.  I bought her a princess ice pack, and a princess purse for good measure, then I took her to See's Chocolates, because we were having a bad day, dammit, and Mama needed some chocolate. 

So that was the morning.  Things were going okay.  We came up with a plan, which is essentially that Oak does all his own chores and all of Linden's for the next three days.  When he gets home from school and sees her face, he apologizes, and when we tell him the plan, he quietly agrees.  He offers to give her some of his Halloween candy, and we say that will not be necessary.  He does a VERY typical, "But what do I get?" when he sees her new purse, but quickly swallows it.  The Winemaker takes him on an errand, and I sit down to put together a plan for the evening, focusing on the restorative justice of chores.

At first it seems to be going okay.  We watch several pieces of a video our therapist gave us, "Model Me Kids," which offers scenarios of normal social interaction.  We learn that you should turn your body towards someone when you apologize to them, and that we shouldn't push or hit on the playground.  I sit with Oak and write up an "incident report," asking him about the before, during, and after, then talking both about what his other options were when he got mad at her, and how he'd respond if someone else did that to her, as well as how other parents would feel if he did that to their kid.  We do a little roleplaying of responding to your sibling when they annoy you.  The Winemaker had them draw some picture cooperatively.  I started making dinner.

Linden had a melt-down.  I don't really blame her--even with the stress of the car fake-dying, her day was worse than mine, because she was in pain all day long.  But it was loud, and long, and annoying.  She was still whimpering a little when we sat down to eat.  Food seemed to cure her woes.  When dinner conversation got a little cranky, The Winemaker had us go around the table saying things we appreciated about someone.  First we went to the left.  Then to the right.  Then across the table, which forced them to say nice things about each other.  Oak said he likes playing tag and hide-and-seek with his sister.  Linden wanted to say the same thing, but eventually came up with the fact that her brother usually shares with her.  Things felt good there for a few minutes.

Oak, who'd been a bit amped up throughout certain parts of our before dinner activities, started veering out of control.  When he threw a wet washrag at me, the Winemaker took him out for a walk.  I did the dishes we were supposed to have done together, so when he came back, I assigned him a new job. 

Blah blah blah.  He kept being a jerk, I took him on another walk, he seemed to calm down and be rational, we tried again.  Here's where it ended:  after the traditional five minute's agonizing, he'd chosen the piece of Halloween candy he wanted for dessert--in this case a small bag of mini gobstoppers.  I was showing him how to clean the spots off the kitchen floor.  He said, "You want to see, Mama?" grabbed the rag out of my hand, turned himself bottom into my face and...let er rip.  And in case you're wondering, it was not unfortunate timing.  Trust me on this. 

I sighed and said, "10 pushups," then as he started, said, "You know what?  Never mind."  He'd been given pushups in increments of five and ten all evening, and these would put him at maybe 50 or 60, or possibly 6,000.  CLEARLY pushups were not improving anything.  "Let's just go to bed," I said, taking the bag of candy and putting it up.

And that's when he went beserk. 

You would have thought I'd taken his puppy to the pound.  Seriously.  Tears.  Copious.  Sobbing.  Wailing.  I know he has some food issues, but I did not see this one coming.  He pulled out all the stops to get me to either give him his candy back or freak out and lose my temper.  He got closer to B than to A, but I did okay.  Better than I would have a few months ago, or even a few weeks ago. 

I think we need to do a few days with no dessert, because sugar should not trigger that much rage and grief. 

I also think I'm a horrible human being who should have just let the poor kid eat his stupid candy.  No, I really don't, because one of my struggles is with consistency, and once I said, "Not tonight, but it's still yours and you can have it tomorrow," I absolutely should not have backed down.  But maybe the no dessert idea is more about punishing than teaching.  I'll have to discuss with the Winemaker. 

In retrospect, although it was so, so very crappy, I think he went from rage and misery to bargaining (Can I have some Goldfish?  Can I sleep in your bed?) to typical avoiding bedtime behaviors (I'm thirsty!) to settling down to sleep in about 40 minutes.  And that's about how long it usually takes us to get him to bed anyway.  Of course, today we skipped stories and brushing teeth (oops).  But considering how freaking worked up he was, it sure could have been worse. 

A little lost comment, wandering alone and friendless

So, I read this great blog post on this great blog, and wrote a really over-long comment, and it won't let me post.

This happened to me last week, on the same blog.  I don't know if Rage Against the Minivan hates me, or if comments are supposed to be, you know, short (but there were other long ones on there, I swear!) or if this is just one of the little jokes my laptop likes to play.  Last year, when I was doing Weight Watchers, it wouldn't load their website.  It was freaky.  So I'm going with the "My laptop doesn't actually hate me, but it has kind of a mean sense of humor" theory. 

Here's my "comment."  Check her blog for the amazing post that unleashed my flood.

I was raised Episcopalean (but I think I just spelled it wrong), and didn't realize until my 30s that anyone would find "liberal Christian" some sort of oxymoron.  Sure, I knew there were more conservative denominations--"Footloose" indicated that Baptists were against dancing--but I thought those were just fringe extremists.  Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians (e.g. most of my church-going school friends) all seemed to support the same values my family had.  It was somewhat of a shock over the past 15 years to realize that WE are the outliers. 

I no longer attend church (which makes my comments irrelevant to some of you, I fear), but I feel strongly that the values I have--kindness, charity, sacrifice, love--are deeply rooted in the faith I was raised in.  "Love thy Lord God with all thy heart, and all thy soul, and all thy might.  This is the first, and greatest commandment, and the second is like unto it: Love thy neighbor as thyself.  On these two commandments hang all the law, and the prophets."  You follow the first commandment by following the second.  And that whole Good Samaritan parable?  It's not about naming hospitals.  It's about how your neighbor is EVERYONE, even the people you don't actually like.  Even the groups you disapprove of.  That's why being anti-immigrant, anti-gay, anti-people on welfare seems distinctly anti-Jesus to me.

That being said, the administrations of Reagan, Bush, and the other Bush did not ruin my life.  Some of the best times of my life occurred while they were in office.  I hope those who passionately oppose Obama have the same experience.

Because while politics are important, other things (family, work, learning, chocolate and red wine all come to mind) are far more important.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

We had a crappy morning. But I did awesome. You may applaud.

There's that thing floating around about how we all feel like crap because we're comparing our lives to other people's higlight reels.

And I find myself more inspired to write when I am excited and have something positive to say, which makes me feel bad for contributing to that cycle.

Here's the thing though.  "Positive" in this context is not all that pretty.  It's just that the bad stuff is so bad that I don't want to admit it or document it.  Note that I haven't written here all month.  And this is the blog where I use psuedonyms, and only about four people, none of whom know me, have ever read what I say.  And I STILL don't want to write about how stuff is going. 

It's not that the kids are doing badly.  Considering their lives to date, they are amazing.  It's my own behavior that shames me.  After four months of almost weekly therapy, it's finally starting to sink in that the goal is not to change the kids' behavior so parenting them will be easier.  The goal is to change my behavior, so that when parenting them is hard, I don't do stuff that:
a) adds to their trauma
b) makes me hate myself

Just to clarify, I don't beat them or swear at them (out loud/in their presence) or waterboard them.  As a teacher, I'm a mandatory reporter for child abuse, and I make damn sure I don't have to call CHS on myself.  But you I can be awfully mean and scary without legally crossing that line. 

So here's my positive story:
This morning I woke up early so I could get all the breakfast/lunch making done before I had to get the kids up, since I figured they might need a little more support than usual, what with it being the day after their first Halloween.  (Which was freakin' fantastic, but I'll save THAT cuteness for the family/friends blog.) 

When I went in to wake them at 7:03, I discovered that Oak had wet his bed because he had firmly rejected my request that he pee before going to sleep last night, and then the Winemaker had turned out the hall light in an effort to save energy, forgetting that Oak is so afraid of the dark that he'd rather pee the bed than get up in the dark.  So that threw me off a little, as I started stripping the bedsheets.  But I remained calm and cheerful, and Linden was getting up a little quicker than usual, so I thought we were under control.  Then Oak couldn't find his belt.  This would be because he spent yesterday afternoon in the principal's office after taking off his belt and waving it around like a whip, so the belt got carried home instead of worn home, and none of us could remember where we'd put it.  He sat on his bare bed in his underpants calling out suggestions, while I hunted around downstairs.  In the meantime, Linden apparantly sat on the heating vent in her room and waited for me to come tell her what to do next, which sort of removed all the benefits of her getting out of bed so easily.

Oak finally decided to work on getting the elastic band inside his pants pulled up to its tightest level (little boys' pants have this system with elastic and buttons that is incredibly clever, especially when you have a little boy with a waist as big as your forearm), and Linden pulled on a t-shirt and short skirt that will leave her freezing and wet all day long, possibly as a way of informing me that she NEEDS me to tell her what to do in the morning.  We got to the table and started eating.  They wanted to know how many bites they should take.  This is a new bit of nonsense, started yesterday when they were both "not hungry" at breakfast, so I told them they had to take three bites.  Once they started eating, they both decided to finish it.  But now apparantly I'm going to need to assign them their bites each morning to get them to start.  Oak finished at 7:29, and I sent him up to brush his teeth.

Some backstory here.  Two weekends ago, Oak got a haircut, and the stylist spiked up his bangs at the end.  He LOVED it, and asked if he could wear it like that every day.  Knowing that transitions out of the house are always hard for him, I said that every day he could be ready to go--dressed, packed, breakfast eaten, place cleared, and teeth brushed--by 7:30, we'd spike his hair. 

You see where this is going?  And you remember this is my version of a positive story?

At 7:32, Oak asked me to spike his hair.  And I refused.  Linden was taking her dish out to the kitchen, and I was trying to get her into at least some warm socks, and the Winemaker was just sitting down to eat, and by God it was after 7:30, and I was not going back on my word. 

Tears. Wailing.  Begging.  Shouting.  But mostly tears and begging, which was smart of him, because I am pretty tenderhearted.  But I held firm.  And I did two things, or rather, I didn't do two things.  I didn't give in. And I didn't freak out. 

I made it clear that if he missed the bus, we'd walk to school.  (This from an earlier policy decision that screwing around all morning would not be a way to get a ride to school.)  He was beyond caring about that.  The Winemaker took Linden to the bus stop.  I washed up dishes and told Oak I couldn't listen to him when he whined.  He actually took a deep breath and said in a normal voice, "Please Mama, can you to do to my hair?" (sic)  I was proud of him, but I still held firm. 

"Sweetie, tomorrow morning I know you'll be ready by 7:30, and I'll do your hair then."

"Mama!  All the kids smile at my hair!" 

"Honey, nobody is going to laugh at your hair.  It looks just like it did the first seven weeks of school."

"Mama, please!" in a whiney wail.

"I can't listen to you when you talk like that."

Etc.  Lots of etc.  At 7:55 I was getting worried.  I really didn't want him to learn that if he stages a fit in the morning, he can miss some school.  But I also didn't want to mess with my wonderful "non freaking out" vibe by stuffing him in his shoes and literally dragging him down the street.  I've DONE THAT and it results in that self-hatred thing. 

At 7:57 he said, "Mama, could I have a little piece of my candy?"

And with all apologies to his teacher, I said, "If you go get your shoes on right now, I will put a piece of your candy in my pocket, and you can eat it when we get to the parking lot at school."

We walked the 1.1 mile to school.  It was raining, what we in the northwest call a drizzle.  That means that when he rejected both raincoat and umbrella, I didn't overrule it, and although his hair got wet, he didn't get soaked through his coat.  We noticed which trees sheltered us from the rain, and which dumped down extra big drops, as if they were rain magnifiers.  We stopped and looked at some blackberry bushes growing up a grapevine, and noticed one tree that was completely, 100% bare of leaves already.  He pushed the button for the walk signal at the intersection.  We chuckled at the ducks bobbing and dipping in the marshy waters behind a housing development.  When we reached the edge of the school property, he had his bite-sized piece of candy.  When we entered the building, kids were still straggling down the hall, so we didn't check in tardy, but went straight to class.  Two classmates greeted him with smiles in the library, and I thought--maybe he's not The  Weird Kid to them, at least not yet.  I let the teacher know about his morning and his fears, and he gave her the bookmark he'd made her yesterday as an apology for the belt-whipping incident.  He confessed that he'd snuck a second piece of candy into his pocket, and his teacher, overhearing but playing it cool, announced to the class, "If you brought candy for a snack today, you can just leave it in your backpack, because I am not letting you eat it in school."  Then, like a good teacher of non-native English teachers, she clarified, "No candy in my class."  I assured him that I would put it right back in his trick-or-treat bag, and praised him for telling me the truth about it.  I gave him a kiss and his (wonderful, wonderful) teacher a smile, and headed back into the wet.

Full of energy.  Full of cheer.  Knowing that even though the morning didn't go smoothly, not at all, I had handled it without losing my sh*t.  I didn't add to his trauma.  I don't have to spend the rest of the day hating myself.   His behavior?  Well, it will go up and down, although I suspect he'll be ready by 7:30 every single day until the thrill of gelling his bangs wears off.  But my behavior?  That I can change.  And THAT is what will make me feel successful.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Half full.

Too many blog posts have been written only in my head.  I need to take time when I can, and get what I can written down, instead of waiting to have time to craft something that is as close as I am capable of to the magnificent writing of the blogs I love to read. 

When we first met our therapist, we were describing the incidences of our first few weeks with the kids, especially our trip home and the first 16 hours here, which had me on the phone in tears that second day, trying to GET A THERAPY APPOINTMENT NOW, NOT NEXT WEEK.  I said, "But it's not as bad as some of what I've read.  I mean, there have been some weird peeing things, but they haven't spread feces on the living room walls or anything like that."  She gave a little bark of laughter and said, "You're an optimist, aren't you?"  At first I thought she was saying I was being overly optimistic and that brown walls were guaranteed in our future.  Then I realized she was saying that anyone who can say, "Yay, no sh*t on the walls!" is in the "Glass is half full" camp. 

And she's right.  I tend to think things can get better. Don't get me wrong-- I can be sad and miserable with the best of them, and I know that life is NOT always fair, that sometimes it DOES give you more than you can handle, and that even beyond the sadness and struggle of the lives around me, there is despair and hardship beyond measure in places far away.  But on a level of my that's beyond my conscious control, I seek silver linings, and I celebrate progress. 

One of my oldest friends found out, about 18 months ago, that her husband had molested her daughter. 

After my mom's death, my dad's mental and physical health deteriorated so rapidly that we had to put him in an adult foster care home--after taking him to the doctor and letting the doctor explain why he couldn't legally or morally help him kill himself. 

My two children have gone through things I have trouble even thinking about, and we all have years of hard work ahead to help them heal from that.

 Life can suck.

But my friend and her girls are carrying on, with grace and strength and love.  My friend, always a strong survivor, found depths in herself even she didn't suspect, and her circle of family and friends, already a support to her, came through in ways she never would have imagined.

My father has regained his enthusiasm for life as he enters his 80s.  Just last weekend he participated in an Open Studio tour, and sold several of the photos he has taken in the last year from his wheelchair.  He used to travel the world getting pictures of exotic locales, fascinating people, and wild animals.  Now his focus (ha!) is the cats at his living place, or flowers we bring him.  His art still shines through, and his pride is coming back. 

And my kids?  So much has been taken from them, so much has been done to them.  We are so far from the parents we want to be for them.  But we are dedicated to learning and doing better, to supporting them as they learn and grow.  We will give them all we can of ourselves.  They haven't had that before.  Now they do.  It's hard, for all of us, and it's not going to get easy for a long time.  But we're all here together now.  Things will work out.

Yes, I'm an optimist. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Not Knowing, or Why I Will Be Giving Up 45 Precious Minutes per Day of Vegging Out on the Computer

When the kindergarten ESL bus pulled up today, the driver leaned over and called out, "She says she has a headache and her tummy hurts."  Linden dragged herself off the bus and walked up and leaned her head into me.  The Winemaker asked her when her tummy started to hurt, and a soft but fervent stammering began, mixing English and her native language.  I couldn't hear her so close to the busy road, but I did hear her say she wants us to start picking her up after school.  As we walked home, the listlesness eased a bit, and she picked up a stick and showed me it was shaped like an L.  Once home, she sat down to take her shoes off, then scooted over on her bottom and wrapped herself around my slippered foot.  She told us again that her tummy started hurting on the bus, and that she wants us to start picking her up again.  We exchanged glances over her head.

Linden gets carsick.  A few minutes into any trip, she announces the headache.  On our first longer trip, she puked almost exactly an hour into the trip.  Since then, we've give her half a children's dramamine before any longer trip, and she always has a plastic bag near her, just in case.  I've read up on it a bit, and found that this is fairly common in kids under 10--a combination of factors including being too short to really focus out the window as well as more complex physiological factors.   So I tried to not get too worked up about it.

The first two weeks of school, she wasn't on the afternoon bus route yet, since she was new to the ESL program, which has its own bus 90 minutes after the regular morning kindergarteners go home.  She was itching to ride the afternoon bus, and came home pissed off a few times because she kept getting it into her head that she should be ON THAT BUS, not getting picked up by mom and dad.  When they finally added her to the route, she was added as the last stop--45 minutes to get 1.1 miles.  I told her it would be a really long ride, and she insisted it was fine.  We asked again about it once she started riding, and she insisted that she loved the bus, it was fine, she felt great.  I'll be honest here--I figured this was 45 more minutes for me to get stuff done at home, and let it go.

Yesterday she and I were at the zoo.  We left when everyone else did, at closing.  The traffic in the parking lot was, um, like a parking lot  Or possibly like a zoo.  The temperature was pleasant--not hot, not cold.  She wasn't hungry or overfull.  We had only driven the car long enough to get out of our parking spot, then we were stuck in such a jam that I just killed the engine. 

"Mama, I have a headache," she announced. 

This struck me as decidedly odd.  We weren't moving.  We hadn't been moving.  We were pretty much just sitting in a parked car with a pleasant breeze coming in partially opened windows.  When I say the traffic was bad, it was bad in a very well-mannered "I just took my family to the zoo!" way, with no honking or aggression on display, and not enough idling time to create noticable fumes.  How could this create motion sickness?

What happened to her in a car?  I wonder.  What could her body be remembering that makes her hurt all over?  It could be nothing.   She might just be super sensitive to motion.  Or she could have been molested in a car.  Or she subconsciously might associate cars with being removed from her home.  The thing is, I don't know.  This is one area where the "Welcome to Parenthood!" people, the ones who think that my kids are just like their kids, are way off base.  If you've raised a child from birth, you know what's happened to them.  You know their trauma, if any, and you sure as hell know their triggers, am I right?  But I DO NOT KNOW. 

This is why I will probably be giving up those 45 minutes and picking her up again.  We have to spend a lot of time in the car.  We are, after all, suburban Americans.  But given the ridiculousness of that 45 minutes trip to cover a walkable distance anyway, I don't feel that I can justify forcing her to take the bus. 

Not knowing.  It complicates things.  I can't let it rule our lives, but I can't pretend that every time we don't know, the least harmful possibility is the reality. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Not perfect, just better.

School starts tomorrow.  That's the first thing to know.

Oak spent major portions of today stringing dental floss around his room and trying to rig it so things would slide and pulley and ratchet and up and generally DO STUFF if you opened the door.   He also decided he was going to build a helicopter.  Linden came in from where her brother was working on the back lawn and announced in the half horrified, half delighted tones of a veteran tattle taler, "Oak is building a helicopter and is going to fly back to Baltia!"  (Do I really need to gloss over their specific country of birth?  The thing is, just a handful of people adopt from that part of the world, so I feel like if I don't keep it vague, I'm being overly public.)  This means the helicopter will be slightly bigger than I had imagined.  Or that he was bullshitting his sister. 

Tonight we were heading to bed a bit earlier than usual.  It seems 11 pm on a school night is frowned upon by the PTO.  We'd had baths, and there were sprinkles on their ice cream, and new clothes were laid out, and we'd given them the (shh) dollar watches we bought last week on the sly, which I'd hastily wrapped in their construction paper.  We thought we had done a nice job of "Yay, isn't getting ready for school FUN?"

Linden and I were heading into her bedroom with a book (Hey, what a coincidence!  It was about how much fun the first day of school is!), and the Winemaker and Oak were in Oak's bedroom already.  In the tones of a man who has already said this three times, I heard the Winemaker say, "Time to turn out the light and go to bed." 

"One minute!  One minute!" muttered Oak, as he hunkered down to work on yet another section of trip wire. 

"Do you want me to just turn out the light?"  I asked.  I got the go ahead, and did so, then went next door and started reading to Linden. 

I'd only gotten up to the third child's wish for what would happen at school this year (chocolate in the water fountain), when the Winemaker called, "Could you come help?  He's having some trouble."  Usually I'm the one hollering for backup, as I'm the one whose temper flares out of control too quickly.  I set Linden down with her book on her bed and walked back to Oak's room.  He was flailing and wailing.  I told him he could keep working on his project tomorrow afternoon, and he threw himself onto the floor and started pounding on it.  I scooped him up, and he twisted away from me and ran.

Here is where EVERY SINGLE OTHER TIME it's been like this, I would have lost my shit entirely.  I would have dragged him out of the house on a forced walk, and when he resisted, as he would have, I would have picked him up, choosing a position that couldn't possibly be taken as comfortable and nurturing, and schlupped him along until he wailed to be put down, then I would have plunked him down and snapped, "Then WALK!" and he would have sat down and refused, and so on. 

But tonight I remembered that one little detail.  School starts tomorrow.  He was described to us as a poor student during his first grade year last year.  Now we're sending him away from our 24/7 care, to people he doesn't know, who use a language he doesn't speak, to navigate a system he's unfamiliar with.  So instead of marching him straight out the door, I took him into our bedroom, and tried to hold him in my arms.  I wanted to cradle him like a baby, with his butt in my lap, and my arms supporting his shoulders and knees. 

Have you ever tried cradling an 8 year old who wants to lay face down on the bed and kick and pound it?  It was like holding a flopping fish.  He kept twisting around to lay face down instead, and I kept gamely flipping him back over.  Although it was basically a wrestling match, I kept my voice level and sweet.  When I got him into position, I asked him to look at me, and he couldn't.  He made crazy faces and laughed hysterically and tried to flip over again.  When I wouldn't let him, he swung at my face--not actually trying to hurt, just to make me let go, give up, lose my literal and figurative grip.  I grabbed his wrists, which sort of killed the gentle nurturing aspect of what I was trying to do, but I KEPT MY COOL.  You have no idea what an accomplishment this is.  I CONTINUED TO SPEAK KINDLY AND GENTLY as I grimly hung on.  When he howled that it hurt, I made myself mentally check what I was doing--was my tension making itself felt in how I held him?  Nope, I still had my self control, and all I was doing was restraining flailing hands and legs, not squashing, twisting, or otherwise doing anything that would hurt.  I told him so, and that I would let his arms go when he calmed himself.  He yanked one hand away and smacked at me--again, not hard, not to hurt, just to enrage.  I grabbed the hand back and kept telling him, "I know this is hard," a stock phrase I read on a blog or in a book.  All the while he was hysterically insisting that he be allowed to keep working on his room, and that it was all messed up now because he'd knocked against a line in the dark, that he would never be able to fix it all, that we'd ruined it. 

Finally he eased up a bit, and I announced, "Now we're ready for a walk."  He wailed and sobbed, but I GENTLY carried him downstairs, and handed him his sandals.  Weeks ago he would have broke and run, sneering and laughing, or thrown the shoes at me, or kicked me when I tried to put them on.  He still complained, but let me get the shoes on and gave me his hand so we could walk outside together.  It was a lovely night (good thing, as I was in pajama bottoms and a tank top), and I pointed out the stars.  "I don't like 'em," he snarled, so I stopped verbalizing my cheeriness and just walked.  We were just two houses down the street when he broke the silence.  "I don't want to go to school," he plaintively said.

I scooped him up to ride on my hip, and we started talking.  I couldn't comfort all his fears of course; only positive experiences will convince him school is a good place.  But at least we could talk about it, and I could give him some specific information, and I could let him know that I get it, that this is a huge task we are giving him, that it is completely natural that he is scared, but we have at least some plans of how we can help him. 

It still took awhile to get him settled enough to go to sleep, and then when I went to bed I had to give Linden her own pep talk, which included a lot of "I know you keep having to do things without getting any choice," and even got to the "When you grow up, you can decide what country you want to live in, and I will love you whether you live here or there," with the occasional detour to "Yes, I will show your kindergarten teacher how to use Google Translate if he doesn't already know." 

I have high hopes that she will love school, and that he will wind up liking certain portions of it.  If they can get the boy building and creating, he'll be in heaven.  But of course, none of us know for sure how tomorrow will go for them, how all the years of formal education will go.   Some of us are slow learners.  I've had these children in my care for nearly 12 weeks, and it was the first time I didn't let my reaction overshadow the cause of his behavior.  It was one of the few times my reaction wasn't actually WORSE than the behavior that was pissing me off.  I am GUARANTEED to continue fucking up, and there were elements of tonight that I'm sure would horrify people who know more about therapeutic parenting than I do, since all  know is a) it exists and b) we should be doing it.  But it feels SO GOOD to not be consumed with guilt right now, and I hope that feeling will help me remember to be better.  Not perfect, just better. 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

It wasn't the Onions

*NOTE* Part of this is a direct cut-and-paste from the F&F blog.  Part of it isn't.   Can you tell which is which? :)

It wasn't the onions that had me misting up as I cooked dinner tonight. Nor was it shame at the fact I had to work around the dirty breakfast dishes to do so. No, those were tears of sheer joy.

But first you need to understand something.  The Winemaker has severe allergies to both pets and dust mites. These allergies make it hard for him to breathe, which is mildly important, but even more importantly for a winemaker, they kill his sense of smell. This is why despite our love of animals, we don't have pets, and it's why, at the request of his doctor, I do all the vacuuming.

Not so onerous, right? He still picks up his fair share of the chores. But the thing is, I HATE VACUUMING. It wakens a dark rage in me, and I am more than half convinced that my vacuum cleaner is plotting my death, probably by tangling its cord around my legs as I walk downstairs, then positioning itself so I can't put out my hands to break the fall.   I once wrote on one of those "20 things about me" that were all the rage when folks my age started using Facebook that I would rather clean toilets than vacuum, and I was half hoping someone would offer to swap jobs with me. And yes, we joked a lot during the weary journey towards adoption that it would all be worth it once I had someone to do the vacuuming for me. However, when we first introduced the vacuum cleaner, the kids decided to use it as a weapon, and it wound up in lockdown. I've been furtively vacuuming when the Winemaker takes both kids out, then re-hiding the machine before they got home.

Then a few days ago, I pulled it out to help Oak vacuum up the cup of dry cereal he'd spilled in his room. That went fine. A night or two later, the Winemaker got it out to clean up the mess after he'd changed and cleaned the lightbulbs from our dining room chandelier. Tonight, as I started dinner, Oak noticed the vacuum cleaner and asked, "Mama, can I do that?" So while I chopped potatoes, trimmed beans, and breaded fish*, it was to the sweet sound of someone else vacuuming the living room. I couldn't help but to cry tears of joy.

*This dinner was soundly rejected by one member of the family, who shall remain nameless, but who is under four feet tall. Let it be known that we have finally worked our way through all the meals our wonderful friends dropped off for us, so the days of "real food for mom and dad and hotdogs for the kids" are over, as I'll be damned if I'm cooking two dinners, even if one is just hotdogs.  There was whininess, followed by tears, followed by surliness, then I completely overreacted, then we both apologized, a few bites were choked down and washed down with milk, and we worked together on a little project to help the other two family members, whom, it turns out, didn't really want a show with their dinner.   

Attachment Reality Check

I've worried about my attachment to Oak, and his to us.  We've seen good progress this month, thought it's clearly going to be an ongoing thing.  I've worried about Linden's attachment to the Winemaker, as well as the grief it brings him when she pulls away or refuses to respond to his greetings, as well as what it implies about her previous experiences with men.  But I haven't worried about the connection between Linden and me.  It felt like mutual adoration from the start.

When we walked into the group's room at the orphanage that first day, she latched hold of my leg and gazed up at me as I shuffled around greeting our son, responding to questions from our facilitator, trying to think of questions for the caretakers.  Several hours later, having brought the children to our rented apartment and eaten lunch, we went across the street to a playground.  When we left, she asked to be picked up.  I happily obliged, and instead of just sitting on my hip, she threw her arms around my neck, wrapped her legs around me and crossed ankles, then pressed her cheek into mine.  As we walked down the street, I realized she was murmuring, "Mama, Mama, Mama" dreamily to herself. 

It's pretty much been Mama Mama Mama all the time since then.  She wants to be near me or on me as much as possible.  She wants me to tickle her, to hold her, to bathe her, to wipe her bottom, to dress her, to spoonfeed her, to push her on the swing, to watch her on the slide, to sit right next to her while she colors.  When we're out, she wants to be in my arms, or at least holding my hand.  At night she sleeps next to me, usually flinging an arm or leg over me.  Sometimes she just crawls right on top of me and falls asleep sprawled over me, her head nestled under my chin. 

So when our therapist said, "Oh, they aren't attached to you yet, it's too soon.  It would be weird for them to love you after two months," I bristled a little.  I tried not to show how offended I was, because God forbid I let our therapist know how I really feel, right?  I said something like, "Well, I feel pretty solid with Linden, because she loves to be near me," and I described some of the above.  Maybe not all of it, because again, I wouldn't want the therapist to suspect how much I treasure this closeness.  She listened closely and said, "Yes, and it's all on her terms, right?"  I thought of all the times I'd wound up carrying Linden when I would have preferred free arms, the times I've been hugging my husband and she's pushed between us, the times I'm doing ANYTHING without her and she suddenly feels a need for my complete attention.  The therapist must have read my expression, damn her, and she added, "Will she let you kiss her?  Can you stroke her face and the palms of her hand?  What about eye contact?"  She leaned over and took my hand between hers, gently stroking it while gazing into my eyes.  I'm a pretty touchy-feely person, so it didn't freak me out, but I got her point.  It was quite intimate.  I nodded and tried to arrange an "I see what you mean," expression on my face, but I was still skeptical.  Just because I hadn't tried one particular gesture of intimacy didn't mean we weren't connected.

Turns out my therapist is smarter about attachment than I am, which is probably a good thing, considering how much she charges.  That afternoon, as Linden rested against me, I kissed her soft little cheek.  She immediately rubbed it off.  I tried again on the other cheek, making sure I wasn't being sloppy, because anyone will rub off a wet kiss, right?  She scrubbed even more fiecely, and pulled away.  I touched her cheek gently, she jerked back.  I said her name, and she looked at my mouth, my forehead, over my shoulder--but not into my eyes.  I told her to look at me, and she did--for a brief second.  At this point, I was both shattered and fascinated.  How did I not know this before?  How come these particular gestures were so hard for her?  I dump her on her back and tickle her, I sit her on my lap and feed her, I rock her in my arms and sing to her--weren't those intimate situations as well?  For a final test, I sat down and put her on my lap.  I picked up her little hand, and like our therapist had done, gently stroked the palm.  I had let this woman, whom I've paid to talk to me for an hour once a week for eight weeks, do this without flinching.  My daughter, whom I've spent 22 hours a day with for the same eight weeks plus the three before, yanked her hand away.

I tried some of the same things the next day, with the same results.  This time I said, "Interesting!" in her language.  She wanted to know what, of course, so I said, "You like to be with me, but you don't want me to do mother-daughter things."  She may have been as surprised as I'd been, because I think that in her six year old way, she also thinks we have a pretty great connection.  I added, "And it's okay honey, because we've only been together two months.  We can get better at it."  She bravely said, "Let's practice."  I had her look into my eyes for a bit longer, and I stroked her cheek.  I kissed her cheek and picked up her hand, and after a few distracted seconds, she blurted, "Now can I rub it off?" 

I told her she could, and I carefully kept any hurt feelings off my face.  I set her down and we went on with her day.  Our time together continues as before, but I am slightly more likely to make her wait for my attention, and to share me with her brother.  Now I know what to look for, and I have something to look forward to.  That's what I'm telling myself, anyway.

Next time I'm looking for a stupid therapist. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

How do I love thee? Adoptive parenting style.

It was the Winemaker's birthday on Sunday, so we invited his mom, brother, sister-in-law and niece over.  I put out the fancy plates, which are a mismatched set of pottery and china, some of which were inherited from my mom's mismatched set collected over the years.  The Winemaker quietly stepped in as our kids were serving up and swapped them both out for the plastic plates they usually use.  I said, "Oh, I told them they could use the nice plates," and he calmly replied, "I don't think you really meant it."  He didn't say, "Why the hell did you say that?" or even "Well, I don't want to find you sobbing in the bathroom because they broke one, like has already happened on TWO DIFFERENT OCCASIONS when you let them use your mom's stuff."  He just fixed it for me.

On the other hand, I handled the three days of collecting stool samples on both kids for their pediatrician.  I when I say "handled," I mean handled.   If that's not taking one for the team, I don't know what is.

Monday, July 30, 2012

10 Tidbits that aren't going on the Family and Friends Blog

1.  We have mice in our garage.  The kids are half terrified and half fascinated.  I'm just grossed out.
2.  Oak hasn't had any weird peeing incidents in about four days.  That we know of.
3.  The scratch on Oak's back has finally healed.  This is from when he was running from me after being defiant, and I tried to grab his shoulder and instead put a 2 inch scrape down his back with my fingernail.  How's THAT for guilt? 
4.  I was trying to think of some fair-but-realistic limits to screen time, and realized that any reasonable amount of time would be such a drastic cut-back from what we're now allowing them that it will cause a revolt.  And I was RAISED WITH NO TV.  So I am also experiencing serious guilt about allowing my kids to spend so much time on videos/games/Smart phones.
5.  Our kids go to bed at 11:00 at night.
6.  I buy them treats every fucking time I go to the grocery store.  It's ridiculous.  I justify it by pointing out that our therapist told us that until they really "get" what family is about, they need to equate mom and dad with food, which will mean mom and dad = joy, which eventually will mean mom and dad = love.  But I'm afraid that they're learning mom=easy touch at the grocery store.
7.  I keep forgetting to put sunscreen on everyone, and I'm the only person in the family who isn't sunburned now.
8.  I worry that I already love Linden, but sometimes don't even like Oak.  I know they aren't supposed to be good to "earn" my love, and I know why he behaves the way he does.  I know he has no reason to trust me, as I'm his fourth Mama, and have only known him six weeks.  I know he desperately needs me to love him wholeheartedly no matter what he does.  But when he does something shitty to someone then smirks, "Oops, I'm sorry," I have trouble keeping it all in perspective. 
9.  I worry that I love Linden because she's so cute and cuddly and tries so hard to do the right thing, and that this is going to be a lifelong pattern for her that will mess her up in a big way.  I worry that she'll get pregnant at 14 because she thinks she has to be cute and physically affectionate to get love and that she won't value her own boundaries.  I worry that she'll think she has to be perfect in order to deserve love. 
10.  Due to some questions about sexual play at the orphanage, I sleep in Linden's room and the Winemaker sleeps in Oak's room.  We feel that this is keeping them safe from each other and bad patterns of behavior, but it's not doing much for our sex life, or even cuddling time. 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Too much?

We've been keeping the kids busy the past several days.  Yesterday we went from the eye clinic to the air/space museum to the park to dinner to playing with the newly discovered neighborhood kids. Today we went from bike rides to watching the new neighbor friend's dance recital to a picnic to the amusement park to dinner to more bike rides and more neighborhood kid playing.  We have had no unwarranted peeing, mooning, throwing, or raging in that time.  Yet I feel uncomfortable with the pace.  Everything I read says, "Slow down, less stimulus, more quiet family time."  When we slow down, the kids get bored, and when they get bored, all hell breaks loose.  So are we just postponing the inevitable by keeping them constantly entertained?

I'm adding this to my running mental list of things to discuss with our adoption therapist next week.  The only problem is, my brain is so overwhelmed right now, "mental list" might as well read "burn pile."  Whatever.  I'm sure we'll have plenty to discuss with her regardless. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

First Report from the Home Front

June 30
When I tucked my kids into bed tonight, on this their second day in our country, we talked about what a good day we’d had.  We took a walk on a nature trail, they met and played with their cousin, we got 26 books at the library.  “And I got presents!” added Oak.  “And I got presents too!” added Linden, who is always trying to keep right up with her big brother. 

We’ve legally been their parents for nine days.  We’ve been their caregivers for two weeks.  Today they mooned me (I mean, spread buttcheeks and all), threw an apple at my head, smeared bananas over two windows, tried to sneak a mustard bottle into their bedrooms, locked me out of the house twice (yes, the second time I had figured out to keep a key in my pocket), cracked an egg on Linden’s brand new pillow (which yesterday they spilled orange juice on), peed on the nature trail six times, and, well, there’s more, but you get the idea.  Yet it really was a good day.  When I think about that, the reality of what we’re doing really hits me.  I don’t think I know any parents that would consider this a good day.  Somewhere in there my husband vomited into the guest bathroom sink, which clogged it, and I think having to clean that out wars with concern for him for feeling so terrible as my two biggest downers of the day. 

The rest of it I pretty much just rolled with, and since things never got beyond a certain point, we were able to have fun together.  Other than the peeing, I loved taking the walk with them.  They grumbled about it all the way down our street and around the corner, then when we stepped onto the nature trail, Oak gasped, “Is it a forest?!?”  They eagerly spotted birds and squirrels.  They dashed ahead of me, but stayed on the path and always stopped at the pre-arranged point I’d set.  They told me stories, very few of which I understood, but I loved the animation in their faces and their eagerness to share with me.  After the last few days (and the public peeing today), I had been concerned about them getting together with their cousin for the first time, but it went swimmingly.  She eagerly handed them gifts, which they eagerly ripped open right there in the parking lot of the park we’d decided to meet at, and their delight needed no translation.  “How did they know I wanted Legos?” wondered Oak, so “How did they know I love Barbie?” echoed Linden.  The kids played on the play structure together, our niece filled up her water bottle from the drinking fountain for them, and my two “Yuck, I don’t drink water” kids took turns gulping it down.  I translated the Lithuanian rules of Tag, and they had a rousing game.  The dads supervised more games on the play structure while I sat with my sister-in-law and talked about parenting.  Our niece is lovely, bright and willful and charming.  I know my kids’ behavior right now is extreme and atypical, but it still helped to hear some of the challenges my in-laws have with their kid.  After we left the park, the kids were delighted with the library, grabbing any book that caught their eye once they realized I wasn’t going to set much of a limit, while the librarian quickly located a half dozen wordless books for me, so we can “read” together.  We came home and they dove into their gifts, ate their dinner, asked for their baths, and climbed into bed of their own free will, happy to be settled in with their new stuffed dogs, their library books, and their new nightlights.  It was a good day, indeed.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

We leave for the airport in four hours.

I seem to have gone from no blogs to one blog to fifteen dozen blogs in no time flat.  I was writing about things in my life, namely grieving my mother's death, adjusting to being one of my father's caregivers, and preparing for adoption.  In an effort to get myself to blog somewhat regularly and to set my standards higher than just journaling for myself, I announced my blog to my friends and family.  This led to a certain amount of self-censorship.  So I started an unannounced blog, which had a readership of zero, because who knew it existed?  Then one of the really great adoption bloggers I read aked her readers to leave their blog names for her blog roll, so I leapt in and did so.  Still no readers, and by then I was developing a gnawing sense that I'd give the blog the wrong name, as mentioned before.  So I created this blog, named more appropriately, and meant as a place for me to be as honest as I felt comfortable with.  But the one blog roll I'm on lists the blog I no longer use.  Next, our adoption suddenly sped up, and friends and family were clamoring for details.  (Clamoring, I tell you!)  So I started focusing more on the f & f blog.  Then my husband got all forlorn about it, and wanted to start an adoption blog WITH me, not just join the one I had going.  Which brings us up to, let's see, carry the seven, factor of x--does anyone remember, when you're multiplying fractions, do you just go straight across the top and the bottom?--yes, I was right, fifteen dozen blogs. 

And since this is the blunt one, I guess this is the place to say I'm more than a little concerned at how much I'm eating and spending money right now.  I'm like some parody of a pregnant, nesting woman.  But I'm not growing my kids in my body, and there was NO REASON to buy matching bath towels at 10:30 the night before we leave the country to get them.  We ALREADY HAVE bath towels.  And I knew that.  But I bought them anyway.  We are living on one income and are about to double the size of our household, and I'm spending money like...oh I'm too tired to come up with a good simile.  Like the Pentagon? Like I've got a secret Swiss bank account?   Like it will buy me my kids' love? 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

No Alarm Needed

I used to be able to read in the car.  I spent hours in the backseat with a stack of library books as we drove to the beach, to the mountains, across the state, up to Canada.  My sisters claimed it made them carsick to just see me with a book, but they were so much older that we rarely were traveling together.  I kept this ability into my 20s, reading on buses in Eastern Europe during my first stay there after college.  Then sometime in my mid-20s, those same buses started to make me feel queasy if I was reading.  Now I can barely read stop signs without feeling ill. 

I used to be able to sleep on planes.  Correction; I used to LOVE to sleep on planes. I once got on a flight in Helsinki, chatted briefly with my seatmate, went to sleep, and woke up in Seattle. The other girl looked at me in awe and said, "You slept the WHOLE WAY."    My parents were quite disgruntled to find that when they sat by the tarmac and waited for my plane to pull out so they could wave goodbye, I was already sound asleep.   Occasionally when my neck got stiff I'd pop open the seat tray and cushion my head on my arms.  That was actually more comfortable, but when I sat back up, I always let loose with the world's hugest belch.  (Oh, I'm sorry, did you not want to know that?)  That ability faded, also in my 20s. (I refer to the ability to sleep on planes, not the ability to belch.) Now I fuss and fidget, and if I do doze off, the pain in my neck wakes me up within moments.  I arrive as groggy and disoriented as the rest of you.

(I also used to be able to drink copious amounts of alcohol without getting sick, but that's not a trait I particularly miss.  I'm just adding it because I lost that skill around the same time as the others.)

One thing I'm still good at is sleep.  I am a champion sleeper.  If I'm having trouble falling asleep because of brain chatter, I count backwards from 100, visualizing each number as I go.  I rarely  make it past the mid 60s.  If I do get down to zero, it's almost always because I'm not visualizing, so I do it again, right, and fall asleep.  If the house is quiet and I have no prior plans, I can easily sleep 10 hours.  Friends and family know not to bother calling before 9:00 on weekends, and that's just because I'm too embarrassed to tell them to not call before noon.  Stress does not affect this.  During the horrible month when my mom was dying and I spent most of the time at my parents' house, I'd fall asleep, exhausted, each evening, and sleep soundly until morning. 

The one exception seems to be a sort of happy stress.  I first noticed in when I was, yes, in my mid 20s and living abroad.  A friend volunteering with Peace Corps in Hungary and I had organized a language camp for her students and mine, bringing 20 kids to stay in host families in Latvia and recruiting our friends to teach a language/environmental camp.  Every night I'd set my alarm early so I could wake up and keep things rolling.  Instead, I'd pop awake after about five hours of sleep.  I realized that my body knew the bare minimum it needed to repair and recover from one day, and that was all my mind would allow it when there was so much to be done.  I had the same experience before my wedding, and on a one-day basis before major trips.  Christmas mornings have the same effect. 

Yesterday we found out that our adoption trip will be next week.  NEXT WEEK.  School isn't quite over yet.  I am moving schools next year and need to box up my classroom.  The bedrooms aren't ready yet.  (A friend said, 'Oh, you can do all that when they get home.  All they need now is a bed and furniture.'  I was too embarrased to admit that when I say the bedrooms aren't ready, I do NOT mean that the bedrooms have yet to be tastefully decorated.  I mean there is an unmade bed and an unassembled bed in one room, and a whole bunch of file cabinets, craft supplies, a desk, a work tables, and assorted other crap in the other.)  I took today off school to start working on things, went to bed at a reasonable hour last night (11:00), and set the alarm for 8:00. 

I woke up at 3:00.  Then at 4:15.  Then at 4:45.  I made myself stay in bed until it got light out, and was downstairs by 5:30.  I have a strong suspicion I'll be waking up early every morning for quite a while. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Sharing, Oversharing, and Secrets

Our kids have had a rough start.  Obviously.  You don't wind up getting adopted by strangers living halfway around the world if everything has gone well.  Imagine the types of things that get kids here into foster care, and you have some idea of the types of things they've gone through.  But when people flat out ask me, "So, why are they up for adoption?" I'm not sure what to say.  Because I could be all "drugs, neglect, incompetence, poverty, abuse, prostitution, abandonment, mental illness, alcohol abuse, rape, endangerment, and refusal to floss,"* and then people would either gasp and recoil, or furrow their brows and say "Poor babies!" (or possibly both).  Neither of which is a response I really want people having to my kids.  Or I could say, "You first--how exactly did you conceive your children?  Which sexual position were you using at the moment of conception?  I'm just curious, you know, like you're curious about our kids."  I am just not ballsy enough to say that, and anyway, while it makes the point, it's also unnecessarily shaming.  I think curiosity about the kids' background is natural, not the sign of nosiness of assholic proportions. 

So I've trodden the bland middle ground so far.  Sometimes it's been possible to ignore the question and respond to something else happening around us at the same time.  Sometimes I've said, "Oh, the same kinds of things that would put kids into foster care here."  (See how I did that earlier?) A few times I did a really awkward, "Well, I understand why you're asking, but we think it's really up to the kids to decide who they want to share that with."  That is the most honest and straightforward approach, but it really makes both the questioner and me sqirm.  It sounds preachy, and who wants to be on either end of that?  (No offense to any preachers in my non-existent audience.)  My worry is what to say when people ask in front of the kids.  And every adoptive parent I've brought this up with, plus every adoptive parenting blog and book I've seen, has assured me that PEOPLE WILL ASK THIS QUESTION IN FRONT OF THE KIDS.  PLUS "HOW MUCH DID THEY COST?".  To me, the comparison to US foster care is the response that best addresses the question politely without oversharing.  What I don't want is for the kids to get the idea that it's a secret, because secrets are shameful, and would imply there is something wrong with their history, and thus, wrong with them.

Then there are the people who will be really taken aback/hurt if we don't pony up a real answer.  I'm talking immediate family.  As immediate family, they want to know not out of nosiness, but because family knows each other's stuff and looks out for each other, right?  My sisters especially; man, we are in each other's business like nobody's business.  And I think my mother-in-law was a little...miffed?  hurt?  when we didn't spell it out for her.  But I don't want even them having the kids' background as something to blame if things go wrong, if we struggle.  And I don't want them even silently judging how we handle it--when we tell the kids what information and how.  But the story is so intense that I also don't want to carry it around by myself.  And again, I don't want to hide it and treat it like a shameful secret.  I'm still struggling with this.  I talked it all over with my oldest friend, who is a school social worker who's heard it all and then some, and that was helpful.  I finally told one of my sisters when she asked me flat out, but I asked her to not share it with her husband or kids, and then I felt really weird about that. 

I've heard two stories on par with our kids' story.  One is the story a friend of mine tells about her family history, which includes all sorts of wild stuff from both her birth family and adopted family.  The other is a story one of my students tells about how she wound up in foster care. I don't think either of these women tells their story to strangers on the bus, but they told me within a few months of getting to know them, and it clearly wasn't a disturbing secret to either of them.  That's what I really want--for my kids to own their story without shame or concern for what others will think.  Of the many many things I don't want to mess up on, this is high on the list.

*This list does not represent the real story.  They didn't go through ALL of the above, although we have been warned they will need plenty of dental care.**

**That was just a joke about my joke about refusing to floss, not some weird reference to what they've actually been through.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Kids Say...

May 11
I teach 10th grade.  They have a thin veneer of civilization.  I've been telling my classes lately about our adoption, and their responses have been so...interesting.  They say the stuff that adults are thinking but don't say.  Like...

  • How much did they cost?
  • Why did you adopt from there and not from here?
  • Are you going to be one of those moms who won't let them eat sugar?  (I explained that I will be all weird about screen time and my husband will be all weird about sugar, and we will balance each other out on both those issues)
  • DO THEY SPEAK ENGLISH????  (This is freaking out my English only kids, although I don't think a single bilingual kid has asked this.)
  • Why did you guys decide to adopt? (Or the even nosier one)  Why didn't you have your own kids?
  • Won't it be really weird when you first meet them, and you don't know them, but you're all "Hi, I'm your mom?"  (this question apalled my more tactful kids, but I appreciated it because--honestly, he's right.)
  • What if you don't like them?   Can you give them back?
On the other hand, I've been amazed by the number of kids who've said mainly, "I'm so happy for you; you must be so excited."  And two days after I told one class about it, a girl said, "Linden is 6, right?  And how old is Oak?"  She remembered their names, and in Linden's case, it wasn't a name she ever would have heard before.*  They are rallying to make posters for our fundraising garage sale.  They keep asking if they'll get to meet the kids.  And I am trying to be mature and tactful and not haul aside the girl who identifies herself as a foster kid, despite having been adopted by her foster family 6 years ago, to question her inappropriately about her experiences and feelings. 

I start these conversations with a slideshow of those few photos we have.  Invariably, kids see the photos of Linden and ask, "Is that you when you were little?"  I know many adoptive parents look nothing like their kids, but I have to admit that something in me sings when people mistake my little girl for me.

*Their names are not Oak and Linden.  Trees are a big part of Baltic folklore.  Oaks are associated with men, and lindens are associated with women. 

Teacher of the Year Award, Right Here!

May 5
I've been sick; have I mentioned that?  Missed school for two days, staggered in for two days, took Friday off again, and am still miserable.

When I'm sick, my filter drops a little.  My decision making is somewhat impaired.  My judgement is off.

Which is why, in ONE CLASS PERIOD on Thursday the following three things happened.  I'm telling them not chronologically, but in acending order of failure on my part. Descending?  Whatever.  From bad to worse. 
  •  I really really wanted a warm drink.  I decided to send a girl who was done early to make me a pot of coffee in the department office.  I gave her my key, described where the coffee is kept (in the little fridge with everyone's lunches; I'm sure they all wanted a kid pawing through that), tried to describe the proper coffee-to-water ratio, and really, I'm not sure where she got the water.  In the girl's bathroom, I presume. Yick.  On the plus side, she was really thrilled to be given such a big responsibility, and while the coffee was weak, it still qualified as a warm drink, so I was able to tell her how wonderful it was.
  • A boy who was also done early (because I was doing a GREAT job at managing the lesson) was sort of following me around aimlessly, being mildly annoying.  I finally said, "You seem really bored.  I guess I should have sent you to make the coffee."  He looked at me blankly and said, "Um, I don't really like coffee."  Which was a pretty polite way for him to remind me that HE'S MORMON.  Yes, I asked the Mormon kid to make me coffee.  Nice.
  • And finally...two kids were working on their poster outlining a persuasive paper.  Their thesis was "Child abuse is bad."  I told them, "Okay, I'm going to let you finish this poster, because you started it with the sub and he didn't know, but remember, a persuasive thesis needs to be arguable.  Only an asshole would argue with this."  My only comfort in all this is that a) in no way was I calling my students assholes, and b) nobody else heard.  They were DELIGHTED and kept asking if they could make that the title of their poster, could they say that during their presentation, etc.  I apologized profusely, told them I was really embarrassed, asked them to please not make a big deal about it.  But they really handled it reasonably well, and did not make any huge announcements about my slip in class.  I'm waiting to see how many kids I hear about it from next week though.  And I'm REALLY waiting to see if I hear about it from any parents. 
So I think it was probably all for the best I felt too crummy to go into work the next day.  Who knows WHAT I would have done.  Loaned my car to someone who just got their permit and sent them to buy me a latte?  Led the class in a sing-along of the latest gangsta rap hit? 

And now for something that doesn't continue to obsess about this stupid cold, other than mentioning it in the title.

May 2
We wrote our kids when we got matched.  Sent a picture.  Made a book of family photos and sent it to them.

Then we got the word from the people over there, via the people in the Midwest, that, um, maybe we should be writing every week?  To each kid, individually?  And sending them each a copy of the book?  And adding a bunch more photos to our letters?  It was worded relatively politely, considering what raging idiots they must have taken us for.  My only excuse is that we'd gotten our only bilingual friend (in that language) to help translate it, and that was kind of an imposition, and took awhile, and we were thinking we'd have to do that every time.  But it turns out translating weekly letters from us is part of what we're paying them to do.  And to be honest, that does help me feel better about the large sum of money we just disbursed to be sent to the overseas law center that our agency works with.  I know enough about language and translation to know that even doing a half-assed job with our simple, kid-friendly writing is going to take someone a fair amount of time and effort.  Don't get me started on the time I agreed to translate someone's poster-presentation paper for a conference she went to for her masters degree for what turned out to be about fifty cents/hour.  The only saving grace was that it was in education, so I've got the jargon down, and it was  Nevermind.  The point of saying "don't get me started" is to not start, right?

I like to write.  I have been obsessing about our kids more or less constantly since we first got our referral.  I was raring to go.   My husband, however, does not think of himself as a writer.  He also keeps starting conversations about things OTHER than the kids (but thankfully is never thrown when out of the blue I blurt something like "We need to get sheets" or "Swim lessons!" or "I wonder how the weather is there today?")  So I was happily surprised when I walked in the door the day we got that email and he said, "Hey, do you want to write the kids tonight?  I was thinking I could write Oak and you could write Linden, then tomorrow we can write the other one." 

Because he's not so confident in his writing, he asked me to sit with him while he worked on his letter.  It started out something like this, "Dear Oak.  How are you?  I think about you every day."  That's pretty much when my eyes welled up with tears.  He wrote on, talking about things he likes to do, things he hopes to share with our son, and ended up with "I promise we will always love you and take care of you."  I was so undone by this.  I know my husband is a tender, tender man.  I know that just because he doesn't talk about and verbally process all his feelings doesn't mean he's not having any.  (Side note--my family found out he existed the day he asked me on a date, when I called my sisters to announce how excited I was.  His family found out I existed two months before we got engaged.  His explanation?  "Nobody asked.")  I felt so honored to watch as he bravely put his love down on paper for a small boy we have yet to meet.  He thinks about them every day.  He knows we have no idea what life will be like with them, what demons they may fight, how long it will take them to trust us, how many ways they will test us or push us away.  And he is promising to love them, no matter what, simply because they are children, now our children, and they deserve to be loved, no matter what. 

It is so corny, but so true--watching my husband become a father makes me love him even more.