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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Lemons Into Lemonade

Although we are barely holding it together, I can say that we are growing in the pain. I heard Smiley say to us tonight "I don't want to talk about that" when someone brought up a time she got upset (that we as a family thinknis particularly funny).  Sarah admitted that she was overwhelmed at school and decided to ask to go to the bathroom "for a break". Stella has articulated that while she is sad, she is happy for her sister to be able to have a parent she can count on. And then there is my Simon, who has perhaps grown in his ability to connect to us 100%.

My son, who can't stand to be held has requested extra hugs. He is suggesting conversation topics at dinner. He asked me how my day was. And he asked me to come and lay with him in his room tonight. For the second night in a row. And we talked about all kind of things I've never heard him mention before. Memories of his time in the other state he lived in. Memories of his brothers. Things he misses. Places he remembers. "You know how we are going to make a book about us for Solana? Can we make a book about her so we don't forget?"

Leaps and bounds type growth in attachment and communication over here for my children.

Because let me tell you, the lemons kept coming my way this week. 

Monday, October 24, 2016

Counting Down...

About 8 years ago, I learned to never walk away from a conversation that would bring me closure.  I was called into a meeting at my side gig (at my church). The writing had been on the wall that I was not long for the position and that there was a fundamental difference of beliefs happening.  We were parting ways and I had the opportunity to say exactly what I was feeling and thinking and so I did.  In a calm, clear voice, I said everything my heart needed to say and I walked away from something I loved dearly, with zero regret.

Today was kind of like that.  The writing is on the wall that reunification is happening, and soon, and I had the opportunity to put everything my heart needed to say, out on the table, so that when Solana leaves, someone I love dearly, I will have zero regret.

Through tears I explained to her Dad that I believed in him.  That I was proud of how hard he has worked and I believed he was ready. That I didn't fear for her safety. But that my biggest fear was that this special bond that our children have would be broken and that my kids would be hurt and not be able to grow up with their sister and that Solana would be hurt and grow up without her siblings.

And through tears he replied that he has siblings he hasn't seen in almost 10 years and he wouldn't do that to his daughter. That he loves her and he knows we love her and she loves all of us and he wants her to be around that.  She could spend one week with us and the next with him and if he was free he would drive her the hour and a half to our house to see us.

I told him we would have her as often as he would let us and that we want to be a support to him.  I asked him about the incident that landed him in jail and he told me he took the plea (even though it sounded like she may have made a bunch of the story up) to get out sooner so that he could visit in person with Solana.

Guardianship or any kind of shared custody isn't possible in this case and its likely Sheila will try to fight for custody and visitation in Family Court. But we worked out a plan so longer visits and several overnights will happen with Dad before the next court date. They will ask for return home and try to get us some sort of transition/ability to let the kids say goodbye. That's if the judge allows. And if he doesn't delay the reunification.

I felt good about this most of today. It's the right thing for Solana.  Her Dad gets it.  He wants us to be a part of her life.  This is the best possible outcome in foster care. It's what the system was designed to do (see it works sometimes!). And many people could only dream of this kind of scenario.

But it still sucks. And tonight when Solana was being smart and adorable the countdown began in my head.  I'll admit when she didn't want to let go of her book at bedtime and wanted Mommy snuggles, I cried. I whispered to her that I loved her and that I always would.  And I tried to memorize the way she smelled and how soft her hands are.  And I curled up in Hubby's lap in our room and sobbed. A big ugly cry, bordering on a panic attack. I'm still crying as I type this.  But that's because we do Foster Care the right way.  We love without strings. We go all in.  We put our hearts into everything. We leave nothing on the table.

I have zero regrets about deciding to take Solana. Or saying no the first time we were asked. I have no regrets about how we approached the relationship with her Dad or the year she will have spent with us. This part at least, makes all the rest of the raw emotion just a little bit easier to deal with.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

It's OK to Say No

I've got several posts started about how we are struggling. There has been so much crying and tantruming that I opted out of family therapy last week. I just couldn't do it. And that's ok.  For the last 2 + years I've sat with my kids and tried to listen and understand and learn. And in the years before them I spent all kinds of hours talking kids through therapy (remember the 2x week therapy with the Fab Four?). But I just couldn't take another session about the importance of telling Mom and Dad the truth or answering a question when asked. And its not their fault, and its not mine.

None of us asked for the trauma. And its okay to say, I need a break.

I've been practicing a lot of self-care. Even simple things like having a cup of tea. Crafting. I gave into the migraine I had and laid down. (Not easily done with 5 kids.)

And this has been enough to help me get my wits about me and get back to quality therapeutic parenting. And it must be working because we managed to go the whole weekend without any tantrums or rages.  Or maybe its October and whatever traumaversary was happening has ended.

Then of course there is the stuff happening with Solana's case. (And maybe the kids have picked up on our stress and sadness about that.)  This week some Facebook sleuthing led me to information that Sheila is pregnant.  She has missed several weeks of visits and a few months ago had ended visits early because she wasn't feeling well. If that was morning sickness, then I think she's probably due in the spring.  About 18 months from when she gave birth to Solana, which is about the spacing between the other kids. So she's ducking the caseworker, sabotaging her case, and putting our family in another impossible position.

How do I explain to my children that their Mom has walked away from their baby sister for another baby?   Or diminish their worry? Or answer the question- will you take the baby?

How do you make the decision to stop helping the siblings of your children?

And why the Hell isn't their mandatory birth control or pregnancy prevention counseling? I mean Heck, I'll pay for the birth control.

A friend of mine said it best, "Who has THAT much sex?" 

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Oh Man

Sometimes I feel guilty because the kids have healed so much. I listen and read about others who are really struggling with big, giant, behaviors and issues and I feel like an outsider because we don't deal with it on a constant basis. I'm relieved that we aren't living in that level of chaos daily and guilt ridden by the relief.

And then we have an episode like the one a few Fridays ago that rolled into Saturday and I feel silly for letting myself believe we were in such a great place.  We can't be. The trauma will require life-long adjustments and healing. We always have to be prepared to deal with the triggers and the false sense of stability sometimes knocks me on my ass. When it was daily I felt like I was always at the ready. But when the rage and tantrums come out of nowhere, I feel like I'm totally unprepared. And for whatever reason, those really great trauma parenting skills I've learned are hard to tap into at those moments.

Sarah is struggling right now. She's watching Stella get some responsibility and freedom since entering middle school. There is a major case of envy. Add to that a parent visit day at school and her birthday and mine and we have all the ingredients for a triggered kiddo.  So of course the logical thing for my Sarah to do is just start doing what she wants.

For example:

Me: Where are you going? You are getting on the bus to day care. I will pick you up there after I run my errands.
Sarah: I know

Me: Hello?
Hubby: I got a call from the principal. He said Sarah got confused and started to walk home from school. She said you told her she was going home with you. He told her Mom would pick her up from day care later but he was worried about the wording being triggering that you weren't picking her up now.

Later that day I notice a car driving up and down the street slowing in front of our house. Sarah and Smiley ask to go outside and two girls get out of the car. I go outside and the Mom waves to me and says: "I'll pick my daughters up at 7:30."

I'm sorry?

Me: Sarah?
Sarah: Remember I told you about my friend? I told you she was coming over.
Me: Excuse me? You told me!? I have 15 people coming over for a party in 30 minutes.  I certainly did not give permission, nor did we discuss it. After I get done explaining that to this Mom in my driveway you have some major explaining to do.

Commence Tantrum.

Stomping up stairs, throwing things off the bed. Trying to shut the door on me. Pounding on the floor so loudly the people below setting up for the party could hear. Screaming and yelling. "You're not the boss of me. I don't have to listen. You aren't my Mmm....."

She stayed in her room all night and woke up in much the same space the next morning. When I asked her to sit on the floor for her safety and she iron gripped the bed frame, I called our therapist, something I've not done in the nearly 3 years they have lived with us.

She coached me through the technique. Directed no consequences. Helped me get out of my "typical parenting brain". By the time I went back into Sarah's room, she had gotten unstuck and started with "I'm sorry.". 

She wet the bed that night.

And then it was like it was out of her system.  We even managed a visit with Sheila the next day. No issues.


Hi there! I think my post about Sarah's birthday story got shared on Facebook (thank you!) and we have some new visitors. So if you are stopping by, I first want to thank you for taking the time and say welcome.

A quick run down: We are a family that adopted 4 children from foster care this past June. Additionally, we have my kids' 1 year old sister living with us as a foster placement with a goal of return home which is likely to happen by the end of the year.  Topics I've been writing about lately have been: the adoption process, biological family relationships, foster care, and the behaviors of my children who have Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Anxiety, and past depression.  I also write a lot about my feelings on infertility and saying goodbye to kids who have lived in our home.
My hope is that the honesty I share makes you feel like you aren't alone in your own feelings on your journey. I also hope that our story shines through as one of progress.

Outside of parenting 5 children, I work full time as a paralegal and am wrapping up my masters degree. My husband and I have been married 10 years this year and are living a life we never imagined being so full.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

She Never Cried

Sheila called to wish Sarah Happy Birthday and she shared a story with her that as a baby she never cried. Not when she was hungry, not when she was tired, never. She never cried.

A little later Sarah said to me:

"Mom, my Mom said I never cried. I don't really believe that. That can't be true can it? Don't all babies cry sometimes?"

Oh my sweet girl. The red flag went up for her too. As I listened to Sheila share this story fondly, I felt sad. That was a sign of her RAD. That was because she couldn't count on adults. That was because she cried and no one came so she learned not to cry.

"It doesn't sound right to you, does it?"


"I know your Mom shared that story because she thinks it's cute you never cried. It made me sad. You are right babies cry so adults take care of them. You know how you had a lot of different adults that were supposed to take care of you as a baby?"

"Yeah, like 10 foster parents."

"Well I think maybe they didn't take care of you like they were supposed to and so crying didn't get their attention. I think it's  connected to your big feelings. You didn't cry because you weren't being taken care of and that makes me sad."

"So why did my Mom make it seem like a happy story?"

"Sweetie, she doesn't know it's not a happy story. She doesn't understand.  It's part of the things she doesn't understand about how to take care of kids the way she needs to."

"I understand now."

How I wish she didn't have to understand anything. However, I'm grateful that we get to hear birth stories and tidbits like the full head of hair she came out with. And I'm pretty proud of my kid for questioning the thing she didn't understand. 

Friday, September 9, 2016

I am ok.

I really am ok. I kind of purge all the feelings and then move on to the next task. It's how I've dealt with grief all my life. I have a much better vantage point of what return home and the possible outcomes related to Solana look like, than I ever did with the Fab Four. And that makes me feel prepared even if I know it will be hard.

I'm less naive this time. And dare I say, a little wiser? While I may have been blind to the possibility that she would go home, I know that keeping her from her birth dad isn't the right thing. (Not that I have that option.) I see with clarity that the right thing is for us to continue building a positive open relationship so that the kids don't lose out. That's what's required of me as their Mom. I dream that one day Solana will sit on my lap and say "Tell me about when I was a baby." A gift I can give to her that I'm unable to give to my other children. (Although, if I could give one piece of advice to people I discuss Solana's leaving with, it would be: Don't tell me it's going to be hard. I know it is. In fact, I know way better than you can possibly imagine it to be. So just say "That really sucks".)

I also recognize that I've joined a new category "adoptive mother" and that my desire to be a responsible mother of adopted children has become more prevalent. This gives me another purpose to focus on and that has been helpful.  I'm trying to listen to adoptee's articulate their experiences to make sure I raise children who 1) don't feel responsible for my emotions about adoption and 2) have a safe space to figure out who their true self is. 

A reader recommended "Closure" by Angela Tucker (Thanks Caitlin!). It's a documentary (available on Netflix) about a black woman who was adopted by white parents and searches for her birth family with the help of her parents and siblings. She also hosts a website that has some great material and episodes on transracial adoption, and adoption generally.

Watching has lead me to the realization that I need to be listening. I have a voice but I also want my kids to have one. I think that's probably a hard switch for parents who adopt from foster care. We spend so much time talking for our kids so that we can get them what they need, that when it comes time to listen, we don't shut our mouths. I really tried to do that this week and I "heard" some pretty amazing things.

Smiley has a journal in her desk at school that I peeked into last night.  Her first sentence in the journal was "I am special because I am adopted."  Then she went on to describe our family that she has a baby sister and 2 sisters and a brother.  She also ended it with "My family is fun."  I'm pleased to learn she thinks being adopted makes her special. But I also think there are so many more things about her that are way more special.

Sarah shared with me tonight that one of her friends at school keeps speaking to her in Spanish, forgetting that Sarah doesn't speak Spanish.  She shared with her friend that she spoke it when she was a baby but forgot it.  It led to a discussion about stereotypes and assumptions that even 10 year olds have. Out of all my kids, Sarah has the darkest skin and is very clearly Hispanic. (I am very clearly Irish.) And also looks Mexican, which she is. I have a feeling she probably looks like she could be a cousin of her friend. She was okay correcting her friend but by listening, I could tell we need to have more frequent discussions about heritage and culture.

I've also been pondering the question of if we will continue to foster. I actually have a draft post that I started about it. Hubby said probably. In fact, he joked that maybe we need to up our skill level a bit and take on a new challenge like a transracial placement. I say "joked" because both he and I recognize the commitment, and responsibility that comes with placement of a child that has a different race than us, that we have not previously felt capable of handling. Nor, do we have a support system that could really help us with those challenges. I am not so certain. I know there are kids who need us, but I think I might need a bit of a time out. I'm sure there will be more to come on that.