National Adoption Month

This month is national adoption month, it’s also the anniversary month of the birth of our amazing daughter who was placed in our arms, entirely coincidentally, during Adoption Month 2007.

I’ve had people tell me how hard it is to adopt. The approval process is a nightmare of paperwork, interviews, excitement, heartbreak, and waiting. It takes creative financing – particularly if you go through an agency or private adoption. Oversees adoption is even more so.

I get it. I’ve been there. I’ve done that. And for me, the work, money, and “intrusion of my privacy,” was far better than the idea of fertility treatments. The wait was far more “tolerable” and certain than “waiting to get pregnant.”

I’ve heard that “abortion means less children to adopt.” I cry bullshit. I means less available babies to adopt – which, consequently are more expensive to adopt, because less state funding is available. Adopting through the foster program is far less expensive, and there are plenty of children to adopt – plenty in need of good homes and loving parents. And until they are all adopted and there truly are no children left without good homes, I don’t want to hear abortion and availability of adoptable children in the same sentence again.

I strongly advocate adoption, but only with proper training and preparation. Prepare to have your heart broken by a child whose heart is already in a million pieces.

All of the excuses for not being able to adopt? I can refute them all. It’s about prioritizing what you spend your time, money, and effort on. Anyone can adopt if they really want to. But not everyone should. Parenting is hard. Adoption is harder.

But most days it’s absolutely worth it.

 

-Nean

I’m Fine… Really

So, I haven’t written in ages. Not really. There’s been too much in my life that I can’t share online for reasons of legal nature, personal nature, or just because all sharing does is invite questions I can’t answer for those aforementioned reasons. Sometimes it’s self-defense, and sometimes it’s “to protect the innocent.” Hence the ending of my “Laughing at the Moon” blog several years ago.

But, because people have actually expressed that they miss reading my writing, and because I’m often asked, yes, I’m fine. Really, I am. Life’s been rough and there have been a lot of major life changes over the past year alone, but mostly, life is good. So here is what I can and will tell you – and feel free to ask questions, but know that I may or may not be able to answer them:

We’re moving. We are very excited about it. The where and why has nothing at all to do with you, the reader of this musing. Unless I have specifically verbalized that it has something to do with you, it doesn’t. There are exactly 8 people that this move has anything at all to do with. And unless you are one of those 8 who will be living in the new house, you can rest assured that we are not running away from you, avoiding you, or otherwise allowing you to impact this decision to move. We’re moving because we feel that this is what is best for us and our family at this time in our lives. There has been much prayer, much contemplation, and much discussion with people we trust to counsel us in this decision. We are aware of the challenges we may be facing here, and we’ve chosen to embrace them for the greater good.

I struggle with my inner demons. I have been extremely close to losing people I love desperately over the past year to accidents and/or their own emotional struggles. I’ve been fighting physical illness as well as emotional illness in my own life, as well as in the lives of many people I love. And frankly, I’m exhausted. A simple cold virus has had me down for the better part of the past month. And prior to that, migraines and other nasty side effects, triggered by hormonal imbalances that I have been trying (and thus far failing) to correct through med changes. I’ve changed meds at least once a month for the past 6-8 months, and I’m not done. And, frankly, the hell that med changes put one’s body and emotions through is not for the weak of heart.

My daughter is also looking for the right meds – and therapy – for several conditions that she is dealing with. I love my daughter – adore her even. Most days, however, she is a trigger to my own disorders and feelings of inadequacy. And most days I’ve run an emotional marathon with her before she is even on the bus at 7:40am. And then… I have to start my day. And some days, I just don’t have it left in me to do that.

As a result, I struggle with social events. I want desperately to go out and do something and be with people. I don’t, however, feel “safe” in large groups. Even if it’s people I know and love. I don’t have the emotional energy most of the time (or often the physical energy) to care for myself in large groups. Often, I even struggle to hang out with people one-on-one if I feel the least bit as if I’m being “evaluated on my performance” or assigned motivations for the things I do and say. In other words, I have to feel utterly safe with you, knowing you care deeply about me and my people, respect my personal limitations and boundaries, and accept me for who I am, whether you agree or not with who that person is.

I won’t remember the “last time” we were together. I’ll remember the phenomenal times – whether they are negatively so or positively so. As someone with a bipolar disorder, there are no real in-betweens. And that’s not something I know how to explain. I’m not trying to leave you out of anything… I’m just trying to survive the day, same as most people I know.

 

– Nean

I’m a Meanie-Pants

 

I’m a meanie-pants. Just ask my daughter. She’ll be more than happy to tell you what a bad mom I am, and how much she hates me. Really. You’d think she was fifteen instead of five some days.

We were driving home last night from an evening with friends. It was a long drive and about an hour or so after her bedtime. We asked her to try to close her eyes and try to go to sleep. It had been a long day and she hadn’t slept well the previous night. (I believe that’s what experts refer to as “grumpy-pants.”)

This simple request was followed by nearly an hour of screaming:

“I’m getting OUT of this family! I’m going out in the dark to walk and walk and find a NEW family. I know you will miss me, but I am NEVER coming back. EVER!”

Even when we got home and put her to bed, she continued her tirade after I told her she might want to sleep in her nice warm bed first, before she went out walking in the cold looking for a family:

“I’m NEVER going to sleep. And I’m NOT going to play with you again!”

She did, of course, eventually go to sleep, and was already asking me to play with her this morning and begging to snuggle. So I guess she slept some of it off or maybe just forgot who I am?

I confess she’s right though; I am a meanie-pants. I expect my daughter to get enough rest, eat food to stay healthy, and to play nicely with others. And apparently that makes me the biggest meanie-pants in the world. I think that might also make me a good mom (despite her vociferous objections), and I think if “meanie-pants” equals “good mom” then I’m okay with that.

All things considered, I hope to always be the best meanie-pants I can be for my daughter. She’s kinda stuck with this family anyway. The judge said so.

 

How to Make Potato Salad and Influence People…

I had volunteered to help out at the Lancaster Art & Craft show at Long’s Park last Sunday afternoon. My friend, Sara, and I shared a shift serving beer and wine. It was a lot of fun and I learned how to properly pull a draft from a keg. That’s right; 34 years old and I’d never done it – good conservative Christian upbringing and all.

Since we had admission to the show as a result of our volunteer work, we decided to make a day of it. Her mother-in-law, future sis-in-law, and future housemate joined us to wander around post-shift. There were a lot of great artists and crafters there and we saw some absolutely beautiful and amazing work. We also saw a lot of “art” that made us scratch our heads and consider putting up our kids’ work next year.

We discovered as we walked and talked our way through the show, that through a series of unfortunate events and miscommunication, the potato salad for the evening campfire-cookout had not been made. What a catastrophe! A flurry of texts between Sara’s husband, Keith, and the five of us women commenced as he was asked to boil potatoes so they would be ready for us to turn into salad when we returned.

Now, I will go on record as saying that Keith is an incredible cook. I have not had a bad meal at their house. But the boy apparently cannot boil potatoes. (In his defense, however, I suspect his “lack of knowledge” had more to do with the fact that he was attempting to install windows at the same time.)

He asked us for reminders to check on them from time to time. We did. Several times. An hour later, he put the potatoes on the stove. Soon after that, my husband arrived at their place (we were still at the art show) where the job of making potato salad was hoist upon him… along with wrangling four kids at the same time, so that Keith, his brother, and his father could finish the windows. Jeff added water to the potatoes so they could finish cooking.

There was much debate on whether the potatoes should be peeled and it turns out that my husband, also an incredibly amazing cook by the way, had never made potato salad either. There were more texts among Jeff and the women, all of us telling him different things to put into it.

Finally, I sent a text to him: “Recipe for potato salad: mayo, celery, vinegar… call my mom.” (My favorite recipes end with “call my mom.”)  He called my mom, who referred him to my dad, who didn’t have a recipe in front of him either because they were camping. So…

Jeff stopped asking and just started making. Turns out, he makes a GREAT potato salad! I’d tell you how he did it, but even he doesn’t remember. He just dumped stuff in until it looked and tasted right. He even put dill in it. Incredible. Everyone loved it. Well, Keith wasn’t impressed, but he then confessed he didn’t like cold potatoes. His opinion doesn’t count.

The next day, we had a cookout at my parents’ place. We walked in the door with a birthday cake for my mom. First words out of her mouth? “I thought you were bringing potato salad.”

::facepalm::

Jeff's Amazing Potato Salad
Against all odds... potato salad

 

Baby Whisperer

I seem to be suddenly surrounded by friends with/having babies. I’m not complaining. I LOVE them. And given that we’ve decided we’re done, I have to get my baby fix somewhere. So, I have my special babies in my life (and at least one more on the way – SQUEEEE!!!) – babies I spoil and pamper and love all over (and then return to their parents when I’m “done”).

And sometimes it makes me feel guilty. Because, I’d rather spend all day with a baby than with my own kids. At nearly 4 and nearly 8, they don’t snuggle as well. Zoe can’t sit still enough and I always end up being a jungle gym. Dante has always been my snuggler – and very good at it – but he’s hit that elementary “only on my terms mom” phase. But babies…

My friend calls me the Baby Whisperer. I seem to have a calming effect on babies –  ironic given my consistently high stress levels, but they seem to have a similar effect on me. When her daughter refuses to stop screaming, I take her. Often, she snuggles into my arms, puts her head on my shoulder, and falls asleep. Pure heaven for both of us.

I detest the age Zoe is in now. I hated when Dante was there as well. It’s that preschool age, where we think we know how to use the potty until we decide we don’t, and where we have a mind of our own and want to do it ourselves but without the common sense or dexterity/strength to do it by ourselves. Whining, tantrums, and “accidents” are all crap I can’t handle (word choice intentional). I’m living for the day she hits kindergarten, and she’s going to preschool five mornings a week this fall because I need it as much as she does.

Dante’s in a better stage. A place where I can relate to him on a more logical level. He’s also going to brick and mortar in the fall. We need a break from each other too… and he needs to be with friends his own age. We have fun, do projects, talk, joke, laugh, and play… but he has always lived in an adult world. He needs to remember how to be a kid.

So… my babies are growing up. Some days too fast and I miss that early snuggly-cuddly stage. Some days I am impatient with the stage they’re in. Regardless of it all, they’re still my babies and I still snuggle as much as they let me.

And in the meantime, I’ll borrow my friends’ babies, and enjoy a few quiet fall mornings when I send my own kids back to school.

 

 

 

National Adoption Month

November is National Adoption Month and, more specifically, November 20 is National Adoption Day. Most of our regular readers know that our daughter was adopted through Bethany Christian Services. While they are obviously not the only good adoption agency out there, we highly recommend them because they provide excellent training, support, and understanding to both the adoptive and the birth families before, during, and after the adoption.

If you have read our adoption story, or walked personally through the process with us, you will already know that we were fortunate enough to bring our child home directly from the hospital when she was only a few days old. While we were unable to witness the birth of our daughter, we were able to meet and allow for an open relationship with her birth parents.

Not all children and not all adoptive families are as fortunate, however. The system is broken. Red tape and paperwork keep children in the system for years. Parents and children bond, literally fall in love with one another, and then never get the chance to be the family that all members deserve.

Many are stuck oceans apart from one another, waiting for visas and miscellaneous paperwork. Friends of ours waited for months for the that one last signature from a government official who was on an extended leave. Other friends waited years for specific children in other countries, only to find that the country that their child lives in was now closed to international adoptions and they would never see their child, let alone bring them home to their forever family.

Many children are stuck in the foster care system, constantly being passed from birth family to adoptive family and back again. Torn between allegiences, pitted by one set of parents against another, and never feeling like they have a permanent home or family. They wait years for a decision to be made regarding where their forever home will be. There are failed adoptions frequently, because adoptive (and even birth parents) are not properly educated in the psychological distress that is created for the children from being passed from one place to another. Children are being pulled out of homes unnecessarily because birth parent rights are considered more highly than what is in the best interest of the child.

The system needs to change. Children need and deserve to have homes, forever families. Without safety and consistency, children grow up unable to develop relationships that last. They grow up thinking that they are lesser citizens, that there is something wrong with them, that they are unlovable or unwanted.

Not everyone is able to adopt or foster children. You may not be emotionally, physically, or financially able to adopt. And there is no judgment in that. Not everyone is cut out to be an adoptive parent. But you’re not helpless to provide a better life to a child in need of forever security and consistency. You can help make a difference in a child’s life:

  • Some of you can help by donating money or time to a local adoption or foster care agency or to a family who is in the adoption process. One of the most common reasons that I hear from people as to why they don’t adopt even though they would like to is that they can’t afford it. Most agencies have grant/scholarship programs to help people in that very situation and these often rely on donations. You can volunteer to spend time with a child who is waiting for foster or adoptive care and let that child know that someone cares enough to give them something as valuable as time.
  • Some of you can help by providing temporary respite care for foster parents. Allow a child to spend a weekend or a few days at your house, so that foster parents are able to refresh and recharge themselves to better care for the child(ren) in their care. You will also help to teach that child that, unlike what their former situations may have taught them, the love and care they receive from their foster family should not be an exception to how family life should be, but that this lifestyle is what they should learn to expect and know they deserve.
  • ALL of you can learn to use appropriate language to talk about adoption and stop spreading (consciously or subconsciously) the false mentality that there is something wrong with being adopted. Comments like, “Be careful or I’ll tell mom you’re adopted,” or “You are so different, you must be adopted.” My least favorite ever: “Are you sure you want to adopt? You never know what could happen. The child could go crazy and kill you in your sleep.” Let’s stop looking at these children as anomalies and start loving the unloved and abandoned, and let’s make sure our speech and actions portray that.
  • ALL of you can spread the word and raise awareness. Let your government officials know that you recognize that this system is broken and that it’s time to promote legislation that speeds the process. At the very least, share this information on Facebook and Twitter, so your friends and family know you care and want to make a difference too.

We all deserve someone who we can trust to unconditionally understand and accept all that we are. We all deserve to be safe and have a home and family where we know we belong. Are you willing to help provide this for a child?

The Sound of Peace

I’m sitting on my porch swing at my new house enjoying the peace and quiet of the beautiful evening.

There are children in most of the surrounding houses, much to my son’s delight (and daughter’s too, even though they’re all her big brother’s age). I can hear the muted sounds of them in the distance playing.

And all I can hear is peace.

Instead of roaring motorcycles circling around our block, where we can hear them the whole way around, there is silence. Well, ok, there is a gold finch fluttering and singing in the tree next to me. And yes, there are cicadas chirping… loudly. If I have to be honest, I’ll admit that I can still hear the sounds of occasional cars on the road… And sure, there goes the obligatory plane overhead (one of the joys of living within miles of an airport).

But there are moments of stillness and peace.

In the midst of it all there’s the rhythmic creak of the swing as it slowly sways back and forth. Even the noisy cicadas have become little more than a lulling hum. And it’s slowly starting to feel like home here. Slowly.

It’s slowly singing the song of peace.

Welcome to the Jungle!

We camped in our new house last night. Packed bags and sleeping bags and went over to the new place so the kids could sleep in their rooms. They were thrilled.

There’s nothing in the new house yet, except the debris of construction. It’s just bare rooms with freshly painted walls, still awaiting carpet and then furniture, and then the things that make it home.

But the kids love their willow tree in the back yard. They ran back and forth from the tree to us and through the branches. They “hid” from us and they imagined they were exploring some new territory. Zoe’s claimed it as “My MY Jungle!”

This whole experience feels a bit like being lost in the jungle to me. For the kids (and hubby even) it’s a huge adventure. To me, it’s a never ending struggle for survival. I’m tired and this trek feels eternal.

But carpets and cable/internet come Tuesday. And then we can start feeling like we have a home again, even in the midst of the chaos of this jungle.

Someday I’ll Learn…

I’ve been going, going, going lately — trying to create a new home for my family. I’ve packed and painted. I’ve purged and prepared. Then I’ve packed and painted some more.

And somehow, I’ve missed a lot. There’s so much to be done. There are too many little things to take care of before we move into the new place.

And I need to slow down. This is a painful lesson for me — literally.

I was smacked with a migraine on Monday, which left me nearly immobile from pain down my neck, shoulders, and back.

Do you think that was enough for me to learn? Nope.

Yesterday, in spite of the pain, I knew I had too much to do. So, I was carting things out to my van, getting ready to take a load of stuff to the new place. Halfway down the sidewalk, I turned my ankle. I thought I actually sprained it for a while.

So, I went to my massage therapist last night (also my father-in-law, but that’s beside the point), and he took care of most of the pain in my back and the rest of the migraine after-effects. He looked at my ankle and determined that I’d be alright. Told me to ice it, elevate it, and rest it. Same as I had been. I felt a lot better when I went to bed.

Was that enough? Nope.

Still planned to jump back in the saddle today. BUT, for the second day in a row, I woke up barely able to walk. My ankle swelled overnight and wouldn’t take any weight when I got out of bed today.

So today, I’ve done nothing. I had a visit from a friend. She brought her son to play with the kids and a cup of coffee for me (and a baby to snuggle). She made me sit while she kept me company.

Someday I’ll learn to accept my limitations. I’ll learn to be and not feel the need to judge myself on my performance. Yes, there is still plenty to do, but it’ll get done eventually. For now, it’s time to slow down and rest, to allow myself to become reacquainted with the people I love.

And it’s time to remember the family that is my home.

Homeless

I have two houses, but the funny thing is I feel homeless these days.

I have renamed our houses. The old house (which we are technically still living in) is the “landfill” — full of clutter, boxes, piles of semi-sorted stuff, trash bags, etc. The new house is the “construction zone” — full of ladders, painting supplies, lighting fixtures, carpet pieces, etc.

Because of this, I feel like I have no home. Just two buildings that I go back and forth between. Sleeping and eating at one (and accessing the internet) and working and sweating at the other one.

It feels particularly odd since my parents have now moved out of their side of the old house. I often think, “Oh, we’re out of milk; wonder if mom has some I can borrow” or “I wonder what kind of coffee dad made this morning.” (Yes, I now have to make my own coffee. It’s a routine I have to reestablish.) And I realize they’re not there. And I miss being able to pop next door and just chat whenever the mood strikes. Yes, there is still the phone, email, IM, texts, etc. We make use of them, but it’s not the same and I have to adjust my thinking and habits.

So, not much is consistent right now, and not much feels like home. But I know it’ll all be worth it in the end when I’m finally home again.