Monday, October 31, 2011

Motherhood in Pictures

I suppose I could take snapshots all throughout the day. Images of all of us grumping around in our jammies trying not to walk into walls while bustling about to change diapers and cook breakfast and load backpacks and diaper bags and laptop bags.

I suppose I could show endless piles of laundry, cleaning the table, setting the table, cooking a meal, cleaning up from the meal, dishes piled in the sink while the dishwasher works on the previous load we'd forgotten to start...

I could show time outs and being stuck in traffic on the way to pick up and child from preschool or realizing I forgot coats at home when little boys start to shiver. I could show mini arguments, temper tantrums, and the whole hullabaloo of trying to get two small children down to sleep in two separate rooms, sometimes by myself, when both just want to cuddle and play.

But you know what? All these things, these normal parenthood, totally highlighted by every sitcom and mommy blog things? They're just a part of life. Like breathing and getting gas and keeping the lawn mowed. They're the regular, the mundane, the whatever, and even then? Even then it's not too hard to see the magic in those regular moments.

That first cuddle of the day. The brothers sharing their breakfast then running off to laugh and play. The smiles and hugs. The laughter. It's all throughout these moments. So the bad isn't so bad, and is in fact actually pretty wonderful.

And the good? Is incredible.

Presenting, in no real order, some recent random snapshots of my own experience in motherhood.

A moment of silence and rumination in the middle of a busy day.

The unceremonious death of a pumpkin, first mysteriously smashed and then entertainingly mauled by a group of scavenging chickens.

A ham for the camera, with a new mask.

A mummy and his mommy go on a date to the kid's museum Halloween party.

A visit to somewhere we've been countless times lends to a surprising discovery: a lovely little snack nook that we had never noticed before.

Laughter that lasts so long I have time to take a picture.

Helping my mother recover from surgery by entertaining her dog and giving her cuddles.

Anything can be a hat.

Sharing is caring, even if you are only distracting your baby brother with a brightly covered object so you can snatch, and hide, all the Skittles with your other hand.

You know it's one of my boys when he runs away and hides.... just so he can "read" a book.

Entertaining themselves during the wait before Trick or Treating at the nursing home.

And now the little on is up, so I'm done. Time to change a diaper, put away a couple loads of laundry, start dinner, clean the chicken coop, and run the dishes :)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A day of race...

A somewhat local science museum has a new exhibit up, one that's been touring the country, about race. I went to the museum with Ambrose today and got to check out the exhibit but only briefly. It's definitely something I'll be going back to see, and perhaps next time I'll just walk Ambrose around until he takes his nap in his stroller, allowing me to read and watch the videos.

Of course, seeing the snippets that I did got me thinking about race, how it defines so many of us (if not all), and how it affects so much (if not all) of our society. Also, when I'm at this particular museum I tend to think about race anyway. The city I live in is quite diverse, and aside from some areas I tend to find that wherever we got there is such a mix of races, and our whole family is met so warmly, that I forget about race entirely. Families like ours are common here, and every place from the playgrounds to the libraries, to the children's museum and so on contains such a variety of people from different races, ethnic groups, cultures, countries, etc.... It's beautiful and wonderful.

And yet this other museum, which I love, is typically far more... um, pale. Like, I see a LOT of white people and many pale skinned Asian people, and sometimes a transracial adoptive family with a white parent. Sometimes there will be a school group with an African American student or two, and sometimes you might even see one family of African Americans. But that's usually it. Despite the fact that I don't notice our individual races in my own city, when I'm one city over I can certainly feel the difference.

Today we ate lunch in the cafe of the museum, which serves awful food but, eh, it's convenient. A family came over to sit near me and Ambrose. A grandmother, mother, and two children. I want to say they were Chinese since I'm pretty certain they were speaking Mandarin, but I wasn't exactly eavesdropping and obviously I don't know them so I don't know their history.

What I do know is that when the grandmother came over the claim the table she was carrying the younger child, a boy about A's age, in her arms. And the look she gave to Ambrose...

Then the mother came over, looked at our family quickly and a bit warily, but set the food down anyway. I saw them exchange glances and heard them say... something. In a language I don't know. But it's not the first time we've received odd looks, though it is rare.

Then... the other child, a little girl around 4, came around the corner to get to her seat. She saw Ambrose. And that child... backed away. She was scared. There was honest to God fear in her eyes. A child was frightened of my dark skinned toddler, who was smiling and waving and calling "Hello Friend!" from his seat as he ate cheese fries, getting himself all messy and gooey.

The mother kept looking at Ambrose nervously but called the girl over and tried to calm her down and help her slide past my son. I saw both the mother and grandmother trying to say something to her, sort of a "don't be scared, it's not a big deal."

And it hit me... This may be a revelation for them. They truly seemed like they did not expect the little girl's reaction.

It just... well, it broke my heart. Because my happy, vivacious, social little boy just kept waving and smiling and telling me what his "friend" was doing.

I tried to ignore it, told myself that they were not speaking English and were possibly visiting from their home country where perhaps they had never seen anyone who looked like Ambrose up close. Perhaps this was a first experience and they truly did not expect what they saw.

But before we left the little girl started to complain to her mother about her apple juice. I know this because the girl spoke perfect American English. ... yeah.


So that weighed heavily on my heart and mind all day, and it's a PMS sorta day so it probably weighed more than it should.

Tonight we went trick or treating at my grandmother's nursing home. I was not really looking forward to it. On the one hand, it's hard to see my grandmother. The exuberant, happy, "second mother" to me has wasted away to a twig of a person who hasn't recognized me in 10 years, though she'll happily hold a conversation with me. On the other hand, the kids didn't get much sleep last night and they were so, so tired. And so was I. The thought of keeping them out late to run around a totally overstimulating environment and collect candy... oh, I was so not in the mood. But it only comes once a year...

So we went.

And I'm very, very glad we did.

Because again, race was on my mind.

And this time?

This time I saw very, very old people, Southern people who lived through the Civil Rights Movement, who saw desegregation, who saw the entire concept of race change throughout their lives. There were people of many races and nationalities in the home, all living in their rooms side by side, happy and smiling at the children. And what really got to me was the thought that some of the same men joking with my children, some of the same women petting their hands and stroking their cheeks, would probably not have even thought of doing such a thing to these very same children when they were my age.

I walked into the rooms of people who had spent their life in privilege due to race at a time when race, more than anything, determined your fate. People who likely attended white pools or drank from white fountains or went to white schools. People who saw my children and smiled these huge, incredible smiles and reached down for them just to feel their soft skin and hear their innocent words, people who felt nothing but love for them, even in that brief instant. And it shocked me, the power of it all. How many of these same kind people had performed unkind acts? How many had said unkind things? How many benefited from the pain of others? How many didn't agree with what they saw around them, but went along with it anyway so as not to disturb the peace? And how many are so, so happy to see how the world is changing? Unless I interview them, personally, I'll never know will I?

What I do know is this: When Nik was taking a walk through the halls with Ambrose a woman stopped him to ask about A. Nik said that A was our son, that we had adopted him, and the woman was blown away! Nik tells me she was outright ecstatic. Her own sister had married a black man in 1947 and, given the racial climate, they had run away to Mexico to be together. The woman is trying to get in contact with that side of her family now, find her sister or her sister's children. The US has changed a lot in 64 years. Such a short time when you think about it....

I'm so glad we went tonight, if only because we gave this one woman hope. Hope that our country really is changing, and has changed so much, so that now we really can love each other openly regardless of race. Yes, we still have a long way to go but man have we come far!


And with that... I leave to finally go clean the dishes. Kids are asleep in their beds, Nik finishing up some work, and The Office will be on in 15 minutes. Ah, it's a good night :-)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Public School, take one

I'm sure this won't be the first time I talk about P's school, but I've had several little thoughts lately that I just wanted to get down.

First off, let me say right out that we were dead set on homeschooling. Like, had a home school group, had a membership to Enchanted Learning, I was doing "lessons" daily at home that I tracked with a teacher's book, we still have a "lesson's table" with a roll under storage container full of supplies and a small bookcase near it full of skills books and children's fact books. We did excursions with other homeschool bound families, joined message boards, laughed at HS jokes, and it even played a part in our search for a house. We chose our neighborhood for several reasons, such as diversity, relative security, no HOA, great location, park within walking distance, not too far from Nik's work(s), and... not the school. In fact, the school was one of the poorest rated in Raleigh, and we were fine with that. It kept housing costs low, and it would pretty much guarantee that we'd follow through with our HS plans.

And then life hit us.

And while some of our friends in the HS group have gone on to home school successfully, we were not one of them.

Now let me say that I'm still all about homeschooling. I love being able to tailor your curriculum to your child, and to your family in general. I love knowing that children can get enough food and rest and down time, that they can explore the natural world all day, that the family can take field trips whenever, that history is taught in such a way as makes sense to the family. I love knowing that a child is challenged, not forced, and that they can learn different subjects at their own speed. And seriously? Home schooling is absolutely still on the table, still something we think about and still something we may do in the future should we see a need to do it.

And yet... we found that traditional schooling worked best for our older son.

One thing I always said, and that I hold true to, is that when it comes to my children I will shove aside my hopes and my ideals if it benefits them.

And when our first (wonderful, incredible, God sent) counselor strongly suggested preschool for P, no not a HS group, but actual, 5 morning a week preschool.... it HURT.

I felt like a failure to the Nth degree.

Thing was, while my child was learning from me academically and soaking it up like a sponge, he really had to learn how to be a "normal child." And as a child who did not have a normal first few years of life, he did not have the basis of simply knowing how to be a normal, happy kid.

In short... we put P in school because of social skills.

Yeah, we were told that our home school bound child wasn't getting enough socialization, the biggest myth of home schooling, and we realized that, in our case, it was true. And it was hurting him and hurting our family and hurting all of our relationships. I was frustrated with him all the time, he was frustrated without constant, every day playmates and every relationship in our house was strained (except for everyone's relationship to the new little baby in our family, Ambrose, because man did we all adore him!).

So he went to a carefully chosen school that stays very, very close to our ideals.

And he thrived there in a way I could never have imagined!

Thing is, with our kid, he NEEDS people and he NEEDS stability.

A once a week home school group is nice and all, but he needs the same children every day, the same activity repeated over and over. And his preschool provided that.

And now, his Kindergarten is providing that...


So with that very long background story out of the way...

Let me just say that I was so, so uncertain about his elementary school.

I mean, when we chose this house we were absolutely certain that we wouldn't even consider this awful, failing school with a horrid reputation. It was the exact opposite of what we wanted for our child!

And yet, in the 3 years between writing that school off and enrolling him for Kindergarten in it, a lot has changed.

The school became a Magnet school, the first in the area focusing on Engineering. This means that while my child gets to learn normal public school things he also gets to spend a lot of time building, thinking, working with different technologies, and learning more math than your average kindergartner. The school teaches the children how to work solo and in a group setting, how to be a leader, how to think outside the box, how to use all available materials, how to change plans halfway... these are all things he's learning now in bits and pieces that will be reinforced over and over.

On top of what we think is actually a really awesome curriculum, the school has been given grants, new teachers, new administrative staff, and resources galore. All schools in this county are struggling, but ours is actually faring pretty well.

On top of that we have:
-Kindergarten classes with one teacher, one every day TA who is just as involved (both qualified and caring), and a class size of 15-18 though they capped it at 16 this year.
-A principal who greets students at the door and is working to know everyone's name. (one who we've heard was brought over due to his incredible work in other schools)
-The principal, teacher, and TA all hug my child when he's coming in or leaving for the day, smiling happily and calling him by name.
-The school is small, intimate, and full of happy faces and bright pictures.
-There are several playgrounds, and all of the children have recess, even the 5th graders (rare in this area to have recess after 1st grade).
-An extra Kindergarten teacher who rotates between the 5 kindy rooms to help teach math.
-Extra work and challenges for students who are excelling.
-No PTA, but they're organizing one right now and the principal has sworn that we will not use this for fundraising, but instead will try to get all families involved with their children's education.
-Computers in the classroom with P's teacher's class website up, tailored to their class, updated frequently, full of interactive academic games and songs, accessible at home.
-The ability and encouragement for parents to volunteer frequently in the classroom.
-Constant and easy communication, teacher and principal initiated.
-A home visit to our house by both the teacher and the TA just to "get to know" P's back story and our family.
-And to top it off, a school lunch menu that typically contains a vegetarian option most days, and frequently serves local NC products.

So yeah... not perfect, no, but my son is happy and we're happy and actually beyond impressed. We had a LOT of worries, a lot of second guessing, a lot of "well, maybe I'll sign back up to the HS group just in case." And it's worked out great so far.

One interesting thing of note though...
A few weeks ago P's teacher sent out an email to me and another student's mother saying that our boys were the top students in the class and that they'd been getting extra challenges in class and they were also getting extra homework at night just to work on those extra skills. Of course, I'm happy to hear this but I assumed part of their quick success in Kindy had to do with preschool experience (though P's was not an academic preschool but one focusing mainly on social skills) and with age, given that P will be 6 next month and the other child just turned 6 as well, with many of the students being almost a year younger. So not a big deal, and it could all even out in a few months anyway.

There was an open house on Thursday, 5-7, with hour long presentations by the teachers in their classrooms (one at 5, one at 6). We wanted to get the kids fed and in bed on time so Nik left work early and we went to the 5 o'clock presentation. Imagine my surprise when, out of 16 students in the class, there were only 2 families present for the first presentation: our family and the family of the other top student. Two more families showed up halfway through and seemed more... awkward? More uncomfortable in the school setting. Not asking questions or looking through the student books or anything. I just kept thinking, is there something more to this "top student" thing than just age?

I mentioned it to my mother in passing, and she just sighed and said that was her experience exactly. "You wouldn't believe how many times I'd show up for a teacher presentation and be one of two moms who showed up, both of us with the top students!" Hmmm... makes you think...

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Cute Contest

I swear I think my boys are competing to see who's the cutest....

There's Ambrose who, watching his daddy leave for work, waves and yells "bye bye!" And when I tell him we can go watch daddy out the window he grabs my finger with his fat little hand and with huge bright eyes calls out "togever!" and pulls me to the window, where he yells out a joyous "hello!" as soon as I open it.

Then there's Paxton, who has become entranced with the idea of "heart cords," invisible cords that tie your heart to the hearts of people you love. I forget which story it's from, but the point was that the hearts of everyone on Earth are tied together this way, because we all love or are loved by someone, usually many peopl. Yesterday in the car he became so happy telling me how his heart was connected to me AND Ambrose AND daddy, and then more family, and then his teacher, and then his classmates, and then... well, and so on and so forth. His eyes closed tight, a huge smile on his face, his voice cracking as he broke into squeals, proclaiming how many heart cords he had and how he loved so many people and they loved him and how happy he was, so happy he could just burst. Yeah, that's my sweet boy :)

Back to Ambrose, who since our visit to the zoo on Sunday keeps staring out the dining room window asking if a seal will come whizzing by. "Seal? Seal comin'? Where seal?"

And Paxton again, who had to draw "a group of 8" for his homework, and who chose to draw 8 happy little snowmen with big smiles themselves, to match his own as he drew them.

Ambrose, who loves the quilt my mother made him for his birthday and who will ask me now not to cuddle him to sleep but instead to put him in his bed where he pulls the quilt up high around him, cuddles himself in, and smiles as he whispers, "goo' niiiight."

Paxton, who is upset over the death of Charlotte in Charlotte's Web, but even more than that upset that a book he really enjoyed is over. He's just not getting into Matilda and wants his daddy to stop reading it to him so we can move on to the next book on our list, Trumpet of the Swan. The reason he wants to move on? Trumpet of the Swan is another book by E. B. White, the man who wrote Charlotte's Web, and yes my five year old understands authors and has a preference for writing style.

Ambrose, who will not wear shoes or socks in the car anymore and will toss them at my head with a laugh should I forget to take them off before we start driving.

Paxton, who was instructed to wear "something fancy" by his teach for school picture day, and who was not pleased when I refused to let him go to school in his new Iron Man/War Machine Halloween costume. "But mom, it's the fanciest thing I have!"

Ambrose hearing me say, "hello sweetie!" to a cute chicken at the State Fair and proceeding to grab my face and start whispering the same to me. Several wonderful minutes of a tight face hug and, "hello sweetie!" over and over again in that voice he uses when he's mimicking me.

Paxton realizing he's riling my feathers on the walk home from school and getting close to losing his trip to Chuck-E-Cheese, and quickly correcting the matter by carefully rewording the lyrics to "You are my Sunshine" and singing them to me with such emotion... He had a great time at Chuck-E-Cheese.

The boys running with each other at the zoo, laughing and racing, slowing down for the other, then running ahead, pure bliss and giggles.

The boys dancing to Laurie Berkner, singing together, looking at books quietly in the backseat and somehow trading at some point so that P has the baby board book and A has the Level 2 reader.

Ambrose hurting Paxton and being put in his crib for it, crying out "I sorry, I sorry!" as Paxton cries at his door begging, "Mom, please don't punish him, he's a good baby and he didn't mean to hurt me!"

And the boys hugging to make it all better then smiling as they go back to playing.

Yeah, I think it's a tie. My big boy who still asks for huggles, and my little boy who calls for his mama first thing in the morning.

Of course, when they find this in 10 years they'll both swear I made it all up, but even so, they're my cutie pies now and forever :)

Monday, October 17, 2011

My great little P :)

A blogger I've been following for a few years recently had a post in which she shared a "glimpse" of their life with their older daughter, who has RAD. She doesn't write about this often, and is mostly a photo blogger, but in the past when she's given little stories about her, well... I could relate. No, not to the same extent, as we really only had a taste of attachment disorder. And that taste was enough for me to feel such sympathy for this family and all they are going through, and will continue to go through.

And yet, when I was reading this latest little post... I couldn't help but realize that, for the first time, I did NOT relate. I could NOT relate to this. Because this isn't our family anymore.

Because my son is attached now.

I mean, yeah, he started to become attached pretty early. He gripped to us, his newest caregivers, for a long time while still not trusting us. And we've spent many hours, perhaps even hundreds by now, playing attachment games and having long talks and pressing our chests together to share love from our hearts and being careful not to phrase things certain ways and coming up with stories meant to work out past trauma and... well, you get the point. And when it list it all "hundreds of hours" actually seems like an estimate on the small side.

When reading this post, though, and thinking about my almost-six-year-old boy I realized something wonderful: we're done.

We're attached.



I mean, seriously, we still have long talks and we'll still keep an eye out for things that could trigger past trauma and such but...


Because, you see, P's heart is now... well, it's his namesake. Pax. Peace. Peaceful.

He still gets cranky when he's tired, but now he'll actually tell us he's tired and he's sleeping later and later because he's no longer worried that I've died at night. When did this happen? How did I not notice this?

And he's in control of his public persona. We went to a birthday party and he was right up there with the other kids being as well behaved as any other excited small child, nothing but happiness and smiles.

And he's a top student. And he's working hard. And he not only controls himself well in public, but actually corrects his own behavior when it goes badly. And he apologizes for things easily, gives love easily, accepts love easily, trusts, hopes, believes...

He's self confident, and on days he's sad he'll tell you the reason, even if he has to sit and think about it, and then he'll ask for whatever he thinks will make it better, because he trusts that we really do want to make it better.

When did this happen? What one, wonderful, magical day did this light turn on? When was the thick bridge connecting us finally finished?

Oh, sure, there are times he can still be a total bum. He IS an almost-six-year-old boy now, and if a forty year old man can get away with having grumpy days and feeling "off" then we should certainly expect it from a child. And when he's tired his SPD can come out, but for the first time in his life he's actually noticing when he's tired and asking for rest, a HUGE if not monumental development that my sleep deprived self has been hoping for for the past almost 4 years.

I'm in awe of this boy, this happy, intelligent, normal little boy. The little boy who is reading and writing and learning math and singing and dancing and drawing the most detailed and fun little pictures. The little boy who greats me with a sleepy hug every morning, who rushes up to me when school is over with wonderful tales of his day, who picks me flower after flower on the walk home "to make you happy mama!", who will give me attitude and yet still fall into a fit of giggles when I make light of the situation, who sets the table and puts up his laundry and feeds his fish every morning without being asked.

My sweet, sweet older son who blows me away every day.

Also? He's a total ham. :)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The crazy world of Mommy Land

Just some snippets from my daily life:

-When I tell Ambrose to close a door he becomes frightened, runs to the door, and slams it as fast as he can crying out "EMU COMIN'!!!" Gotta watch out for that pesky emu now.

-P had a dream the other day. He was being chased by an evil robot and his teacher drove over, plopped him in his car, and drove him to a carnival for safety. But the robot was still coming! Paxton even turned into an ice cream cone and hid in a plastic bag but the robot was STILL COMING!!! This is a very serious story he's told us several times now, and it is not to be laughed at. Not even a chuckle. Or you'll get a talking to.

-Last night he had another dream, about daddy lions going after him. I'm going to guess that school anxiety is causing a bit of fear that's coming out in his subconscious maybe?

-Today at lunch Ambrose told me he was done eating and wanted to play. I reiterated that he could be done eating, but I was not done eating and I would not be getting down to play with him. He could either stay and eat beside me, play by himself near me, or go to his crib for his nap. Everything seemed to be going just swell. Half a minute later and he's standing on the floor shrieking "cuddle! CUDDLE!!!" while I try my best to calmly explain his options again. Half a minute after that, I'm starting to lose my temper and I have to work to keep my voice calm and continue eating my lunch while he rolls around in hysterics because I will not come to play with him. Half a minute after that, I try to place him in his crib but he runs as fast as his little legs can carry him to the toy bin screaming, "Noooo! Plaaaay!" Half a minute after that and he's beside me shrieking and pulling at my clothes and I've pretty much lost it and have started ranting about how sick I am of having to eat my lunch at 2:20 in the afternoon and how dizzy I get and how tired I am and how I just want to eat my freaking lunch and you knew your options and I AM SO PUTTING YOU IN YOUR CRIB AND LEAVING YOU THERE MISTER! Half a minute after that and he's sitting on my lap happily eating my lunch. *Sigh*

-Paxton is reading everything and anything that he can find. It's awesome, and slightly frightening. We bought Apples to Apples Junior (for ages 9+) and he sits there reading the cards and making a choice as to which noun fits the adjective best. It makes me yearn for my college game night days... but it also makes me a bit psyched for our family game nights coming soon :)

-Also? He knows the words to the Nicki Minaj song Super Bass. "Somebody please tell him who the F I is!" I think I may have to stick to the classical station.

-Ambrose has started to use the words: Tomorrow, Tonight, Soon, Later, Sometime, Afternoon. "Candy?" "No, baby." "Later? Tonight?" "Um, sometime..." "Tomorrow please!"

-He also tells knock knock jokes. He started with "MOOOM! Nockanock!" "Who's there?" "Appo!" "Apple who?" "Apposaaaaaauce!!!" Now it's typically a derivation of this. "Moooom! Moooommmyyy!!!" "Yes?" "KNOCK KNOOOOOCK!" "Who's there?" "Apposauce!" "Apple sauce who?" "Apposauce David Bwenna Baby Sam Dip Chip Apposauce David! Ha ha!" Seriously, sometimes it's like a whole paragraph. And his knock knock jokes still make far more sense than Paxton's...

-I caught P pick up a chicken and throw her at another one, just to see what they'd do. He was gentle about it at least. I still had to open the window and scream, "Paxton, we do not bowl with chickens!" When he looked confused I elaborated with "we do not pick up chickens and then proceed to throw said chicken into another chicken!" He got it then and said, "oh, sorry!" and went about his business. While I had a "wait, did I just say that?" moment.

-Last night I went to a PTA organizational meeting. P's school's PTA has been inactive for 3 years and the new principal is really trying to turn the school around. It's been a struggling school for a long time but the county is pouring lots of money and resources into it and it shows! There was a huge turnout last night, almost filled the tiny cafeteria, and I was glad to go. Nik stayed home with the kids and as I left Ambrose started to panic and freak out. I figured he'd calm down. But no, it was another one of his 30+ minute panic attack tantrums and Nik could not calm him down. So he called me. Several times. I had to leave the meeting and of course I'm like "OMG I've missed 2 calls and he's calling me again SOMEONE MUST BE DEAD!" But no, he answers with "hey, honey, how are you doing?" in a sunny voice. I could have killed him. He then tells me that A is crying and puts him on the phone. Apparently Nik's phone can't handle the baby shrieks because it sounded a lot like someone crinkling paper. I was left in the awkward position of not knowing whether I should hang up on my baby, who I couldn't possibly help this way, so that I could return to a very important meeting, or if I should just wait it out. Finally Nik got back on the line and I told him, "Look, just give him ice cream! ICE CREAM! It will solve this." And it did and by the time I got home everyone was in a great mood and A was perfectly happy to eat his dinner with me. Or at least his new dinner, since P had already eaten A's actual dinner.

-P's birthday party is coming up and he's decided to have it at Chuck E Cheese again. He's also decided to invite his cousins. Before I could interject with, you know, logic, he said "no no no, mom, just listen! They can take a plane from Maine to Raleigh, and it's okay! It's okay! Because I will WAIT for them! I won't start my party until they get here! It will be very late at night but that's okay because I want my cousins to come!" I swear my heart broke for him just a little. "Oh, sweetie, that's so nice... I just don't think--" "And then they can go and sleep at the airport! I hope they like airport food!"

Monday, October 10, 2011

Out of our hands...

The application is filled out, signed, dated, sealed up, return addressed, and in the mail box.

The postman, a nice middle aged gentle man who always waves and smiles at my children and wishes me a good day, should be by within the hour.

And he'll see the little red flag and even if he doesn't have anything for us today he'll stop.

And he'll take this little envelope, so light, so small, and he'll add it to all the others.

It will go to the post office.

It will be sent to Human Services.

It will be opened, filed, and entered into their system.

And hopefully, hopefully, we'll be called or emailed or even snail mailed and told that we can start classes in January.


I've mailed off so much in our quest to build our family.

Applications for homestudies, referral services, placement services.

I've sent huge checks, photo albums, home studies, profiles, updates, huge thick packets and questionaires.

But there's nothing quite like that first mailing...

That first, real, physical item, that thing you can touch, take a picture of, hold in your hand.

Nothing like the first time you sign your name, knowing that if this works you'll be signing it dozens more times on all sorts of paperwork.

I know this journey might lead nowhere, like our quest to adopt from Ethiopia again, or the DRC, or domestic through a referral service. I know it might seem right now then not seem right in the future. I know this all too well.

But it's a step in *some* direction, perhaps the right one, and that does make it momentous doesn't it?

And so, in that vein, I think I should eat the last of the birthday cake. I mean, seriously, I just did a momentous thing right? Right? So I totally deserve to party with (a tiny sliver of two day old) cake, while I'm relaxing (and the kids aren't here to steal it from me)!

Huzzah for steps!

And Godspeed little envelope. I'm praying you make it where you're supposed to...

Sunday, October 9, 2011

There's an App for that

No, I'm not trying to make a joke about Steve Jobs. In fact, I have to say I started to cry when I read about his passing (on my iPhone near an Apple store), but had to struggle to compose myself as I was out with Ambrose and he was just having such a happy time and I didn't want to bring it down. Knowing his family history (ie, adopted as an infant) makes him seem far more inspiring to me, and knowing the mark he's left on the world (ie, potentially changing the course of man kind via the PC and smart phone) just stuns me. His passing is sad, and yet he left an undeniable mark and he will not be forgotten.

That being said, back to that app thing...

So I'm pretty much done filling out our app(lication) for foster care. Nik's going to finish up his part, we'll look it over and sign it, and it'll probably go out in the mail tomorrow and be filed away by the end of the week. Hopefully within the next couple weeks we'll receive confirmation that it was received. And, with all hope, we'll be able to take their next MAPP classes come January.

It's daunting when I look at it...

Waiting a few months and then, right when it's crunch time for Nik and work, we'll be taking 3 hour classes twice a night. My mother has already agreed to babysit, which the boys will love, but I'm sure she'll need a vacation once the classes are over!

Then we get interviews and a homestudy (again! A fourth one!) and the fire marshall (!!) gets to check out our house and there's probably a lot more.

Timing is all over the place. It took one friend of mine 13 months to get licensed! They estimate 6-9 months, but does that count the wait until classes start, or is that from the time classes end, or what? Will we be ready to go next June? Or next December?

And then there's the space and vehicle issue. We have 5 (small) bedrooms, 3 upstairs all in use and 2 downstairs which are mostly just holding junk. And we both own sedans.

If we say "only an infant coming available for adoption" then we could put the boys in one room (like we're planning anyway) and we can fit 3 carseats across the back.

Or we could say "we're open to sibling groups with minor needs coming available for adoption" and look through a bazillion profiles and bring in children, perhaps "older", and have to buy a van and move around bedrooms.

I can see it so many ways. P and A in the bunkbed and an infant asleep in the nursery. Or P downstairs with an older child in bunkbeds, and A upstairs also in bunkbeds with a slightly younger child and a toddler in the next room (OMG how crazy would that drive us???). Or P downstairs rocking his first grade bachelor pad while A sleeps in the same nursery and two new children take up P's current room. Or everything as it is now with a little baby in a bassinet in our room. And with only one kid the sedans are fine. But if we're open to siblings do we just go ahead and buy the minivan? Or do we wait until we know for sure?


So much to think about!

And for the first time we're actually glad for the wait, glad for the classes and the interviews and the time period. No, maybe I won't feel that way when it's a year from now and we're still just hanging around waiting for another child, but for right now it feels nice. Our boys get more time to grow and mature and get comfortable and bond and prepare for a sibling(s) who really need a stable base and haven't found it yet.


I have to say that my mind has been changed about foster care pretty drastically recently. I used to know a woman who adopted from foster care, back when I was a teenager and she had a daughter my age and a son in the Sunday School class I taught. She adopted a "black crack baby," but at the time he was a foster child. She carted him around in a bucket seat everywhere she went, and doted on him constantly. She was open about the process, and man was it a nightmare. Two years of birth parents coming in and out of his life, showing up for visits or not, being addicted to whatever, acting out, and always getting second chances. Court case after court case and finally, when it was all over, the family closed the book on adoption. They had their sweet, loving little boy and he was happy with his mom and dad and brother and sister, thriving in a loving home, but they just couldn't do it again.

We were willing to do fost adopt when we first found out infertility issues and that failed pretty quickly what with that whole "too young OMG nooo!" thing. But even then it was adoption only, really, none of this "foster with a near guarantee of adoption" thing. I couldn't handle going through what that family went through, and I still don't think I could do so.

I've been on message boards and watched people get licensed and just waaait and waaaait for any placement, or have a placement and have them leave after a couple of years, in this county. And the issues... Oh, the issues...

But now... I know several people who've adopted through foster care relatively painlessly, who've had less issues with their kids (or similar issues at least) than I've had with my Ethiopian born child.

And the recent changes in our county make me hopeful.

Sure we could end up with another nightmare case, going on for years and year or ending in tragedy. Sure it could be the dumbest thing we've ever done.


There are real kids out there, little kids, many of them just normal children who need stability and certainty, many who will be adopted (about 50% in fact). There are 600 in our county alone, and far fewer foster homes than their are children.

And while we'll be seen as the "selfish" potential foster parents, wanting children young and relatively healthy and relatively risk free, at least we'll still be there waiting for these children (because even the selfish ones tend to get placed and those kids deserve a home just as much as the next child).


Sometimes I'm iffy.

I feel I'd still like to conceive someday, and I know that there's a time limit on fertility more than a time limit on adoption or foster care. Adoption and foster care aren't going anywhere, we could always give birth and come back to it. And I do hope to someday feel a child within me, potentially have the water birth I've heard so much about, hire a doula, nurse without meds, hold a newborn again...

But then there's that pull, that "ding ding ding, fill out that paperwork, there's a good girl!" pull.

And when you can't shake that pull... well, maybe you aren't supposed to.

There's no guarantees. No guarantees we'll be accepted into the classes, that we'll pass everything, that we'll be approved and licensed. No guarantee we'll be placed. No guarantee it won't all just be a waste of time. Heck, no guarantee I won't get pregnant and ruin it all.

So I guess we'll just have to wait and see with this...

And finish filling out the application.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

What Might Have Been...

I'm thankful for my life. Very, very, very thankful. I live a very good life. I am surrounded by family and friends, I have a supportive church, a friendly neighborhood, and a wonderful city filled with everything I could ask for. I am pretty young, pretty healthy, and generally happy. I have a nice, large house with a nice yard and lots of space, an all of the material goods I could need.

And to top it off? I have this family. This wonderful, happy family. I have a husband who is also a best friend, who I can talk to and joke with and who I love to just hang out with at the end of the day. I have an older son who is thriving, who is sweet and compassionate and intelligent, and who has blown me away with his resilience. I have a younger son, a little fire cracker, who keeps me laughing and who gives the biggest hugs and kisses.

And yet, as great as my life is, I know fully that there were various points in my life where I could have made different choices, sometimes even "more sensible" choices, and I would have had a very different life.

Sometimes I wonder what might have been if...

-If I had chosen a different college. I might never have met Nik. I might be living a completely different life right now. A single career woman? Married with a few children by birth? Traveling the world in the Peace Corps? Living at home at age 29?

-If I had followed through with my travel abroad plans. I either wouldn't have dated Nik, would have broken up with him, or would have tried to make it work long distance for a year when we were both still so young and new to serious relationships. Sometimes I wonder if this even would have had a bearing on my life at all. Perhaps nothing would have changed. Or perhaps everything.

-If we had been able to get pregnant easily. This one sticks with me a lot. There was a point when I used to see woman who reminded me of my old self, woman who were very young and very out of shape and socially awkward, who were also new mothers and I would be so jealous. Why couldn't I be the one with the "easy" baby? Why did they get to just "do everything right," date and marry and then baby, while we hit a roadblock? Later on I grew to dislike the young new mother. What an air of self importance! What arrogance! So proud of themselves just because their bodies can do a typical biological function! But, really, I was only mad that *I* didn't get to be arrogant and self important, mad that I had been knocked down a few pegs into the realm of practically begging for the right to raise a deeply traumatized toddler while others seemingly could get pregnant and birth with ease. And now? I'm at peace with this. And I'm so glad we didn't get pregnant, so glad we chose the path we did, because while I know I would love those children, I also know how much I utterly LOVE the children we have.

-If we had tried fertility treatments. Again, this is another where I wonder if it would have had any bearing on anything. There were enough hold ups with both of our adoptions that had we attempted treatments, failed, and pursued adoption we might very well have still ended up with the same two boys (only a few thousand dollars poorer!). Or they could have worked. And that opens up a whole new category. Would we have gotten pregnant after Paxton and thus not adopted Ambrose? Would it have been before Paxton, meaning we didn't adopt from Ethiopia, and yet we went on to adopt Ambrose anyway? It would be all about the time line, wouldn't it?

-If we had been allowed to adopt 2 children from Ethiopia. We had wanted to adopt 2 children, bio siblings, age 0-4 with our first adoption. Because of the crazy finances involved in adoption we were certain we wouldn't be able to afford to adopt a second child. By adopting two siblings we'd only be spending like $5K more and our children would have each other to grow up with. But no, our social worker wouldn't allow it and while we tried to find a way to get this changed, it didn't work out. We were stuck. And for a long time this was literally the most horrible thing that had happened to us. It felt like one of our children was being ripped away, especially after several of the remarks our social worker made. Oh, did we hate her! But there was a woman with our agency also waiting to become a mother. A single woman open to either 1 child age 0-2 or two children ages 0-4. And we were logged in just a day earlier. And we got Paxton. And she got Y and D. And if we'd been cleared for two children, we would have Y and D and she would have P. And, well... in a way, it stunk. We loved P, but those would have been our children... But we met them in Ethiopia. We have pictures of them. And we stay in contact with their mother. And I have to say I'm SO glad things worked out how they did, because man P is awesome, and man does she love her kids and they are so happy with her! And we get to watch them grow up which is fantastic! But back to the what if... if we'd adopted Y and D, then she'd have Paxton. And what if Paxton remained an only child? And what if we didn't go on to adopt after Y and D because we already had two children? Paxton and Ambrose would be on opposite ends of the country... would they even meet?

-If I had given Nik the go ahead for a job he was up for. He was very close to getting a job with a huge company in California only a few months after P came home. We would have had to move pretty quickly, to a very small house. We would have to give up on our dream of a large family and we'd lose all our family and friend connections nearby. We would have to live probably an hour from Nik's work. And the job? Was an absolute dream job. This one... this one really bugs me sometimes. Because sometimes I almost wish we'd done it, that we'd taken the risk and moved to Cali and started up anew over there, just our little family. It actually sounds kind of thrilling. But we couldn't have adopted Ambrose then (our agency then was NC residents only). And that makes staying totally worth it.

-If we had adopted internationally a second time. Again, this is another way we might have not ended up with Ambrose. We almost applied to adopt from Colombia, and then Ethiopia again, before turning local. We don't know how a different adoption process would have gone. Would we have a long a difficult road? Would we have come home with a child? Would we have failed, turned to domestic, and still ended up with Ambrose?

-If someone else had been chosen for Ambrose or, conversely, we were chosen for a different child. I know it sounds silly, but I can't imagine loving another child as much as we love Ambrose and Paxton. I can't really imagine not having them (at least, not without tearing up). But really when you're in adoption land, you do come soooo close to this way or that, this child or that one.

I'm sure there are a million other what ifs...

How many times did any of us avoid death or severe bodily harm just by taking an alternate route to the gym? How many potential future spouses did I not notice in high school and college? How many children could have become our children if only we'd signed with the right agency at the right time? How many times was it actually possible for us to conceive but we just weren't timing it right? How different could my relationships be if I'd said a wrong word here or there, or had some nasty and inconsequential falling out?

I suppose what I'm getting at is...

I'm lucky. Very, very, very lucky. And looking at all the various ways my life could have gone up to this point.... yeah, definitely lucky!

Monday, October 3, 2011

20 hours and 53 minutes left....

Dearest Ambrose,

Right now, right this very second, you are 23 months, 30 days, 3 hours and 7 minutes old, though your birthday technically begins at midnight which is much sooner.

The countdown... yeah, it's nearly done.

Tomorrow you will no longer be known by a month but by a year.


You were all of nine days old when we first held you and took you home. I told your age in days until you were a month. It was hard when I had to stop doing that....

I told your age in weeks until you reached 3 months. Again, that was hard to stop.

When you hit a year I was willing to refer to you as "one" instead of "twelve months"... until you were thirteen months. Then I went back to counting by months.

I've even added in halves as long as I could.

This afternoon when I drop you off at the YMCA nursery, I will sign you in. And I will write "23m", all squished for lack of space, into your age category. Then I will go to yoga and try not to cry.

And tomorrow? I'll drop you off at the YMCA nursery, sign you in, and write the ever so simple "2" in your age category. And, again, yoga and trying not to cry.

I know that tomorrow is a place marker, just another day really in your life that happens to net you some extra presents, a cake, and a snazzy "Birthday Boy" shirt that a friend gave me from her own little boy. You've been steadily changing and morphing into a child already, and I acknowledge that. You won't wake up in the morning potty trained, dressing yourself, speaking paragraphs, and reading. It will be a normal day, where we read books, cuddle, play on the floor, and laugh a lot.

But even so, tomorrow makes it official doesn't it?

Tomorrow I stop counting your age in months.... because tomorrow you are no longer a baby.

And seriously, little man? This year coming up? Being two years old? It's gonna ROCK!!!

We are going to have so much fun! You'll learn so much and grow so much and be able to do so much, and oh man just thinking about it all...

We brought your brother home when he was two years old, and I made a lot of mistakes, a lot of things we've worked to fix that I hope to do differently this time around. And even so, we still had a lot of fun, a LOT of fun, and the thought of experiencing all of those discoveries and new skills and mental leaps with you as well? Dude, I'm totally psyched!

And just like every other birthday or milestone, I'm sure, 100% sure, that I'll embrace it with open arms once it's here. Tomorrow I'll wake up utterly ecstatic, excited for a full day of birthday fun! I'll be so proud to cuddle and congratulate my sweet two year old boy :)

But today?

Today you are my one year old. Today you are my infant. Today you are still my baby. And I'm going to miss my baby.

I love you little bean. It's been a wild and fun ride so far, and I can't wait to see what the next year has in store for us, even if I'm weepy about closing off our last year.

Love, Mom

PS-Can you tell your big brother to slow down a bit? I finally adjusted to having a five year old, and I've accepted that he's a Kindergartner, but come on!!! He's turning SIX years old next month? For serious? Ugh! I'm too young and cool to have a six year old!!!