Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Tears for Gabriel

My God, this kind of story shakes me to my very core.

He was just a baby; he was not unlike my own son.

I'm so sorry everyone let you down Gabriel. So sorry. :*-(

Monday, April 27, 2009

Milestones and 9 miles

This weekend was the Official Opening of The Beaches and it was also the first time we ever had a family bike ride out of our neighborhood and through busy traffic and on bike lanes next to cars and other bike riders and pedestrians. I was nervous, wondering if Dallas was really ready, and could stay focused (and safe) enough to handle a ride like this. Daddy insisted we had to try. He was a bit more confident than I was.

Our son did a wonderful job! He paid attention to directions and followed instructions like a pro. We were very proud of him and he biked long distance like he's been doing it his entre life. When waiting to cross a busy street with the group of us adult bikers, I quietly asked him if he was scared. He said "I am a little bit, but I'll get over it". That's my boy...

We rode about 4 1/2 miles, then we picked our spot to stop and watch the parade.

Another first for Dallas...the Parade! He'd never seen a parade before. I didn't even realize this, until he told me how excited he was. Even during our trip to Disney World, we missed the Maine Street parade. How many kids, nearly 7 years old, have never had the joy of watching a single parade?

So two firsts in one day for Dallas, and both first in our family! He really enjoyed it -

especially the candy and bead- throwing part!

He used to be really frightened of clowns. This was another first for him as well, when one of the parade clowns came over to him for a photo, TOUCHED him, and Dallas didn't run off screaming...

After the parade, everyone in our group decided to go get some cold drinks at an Oyster bar on the oceanfront. Dallas enjoyed that as well, but got a bit overstimulated with the crowd and noise and videogames, producing a mini meltdown in public. We've had those before too many times to count, so no big deal. The only worry was that we were 5 miles from home, on bikes, so if it got bad, we'd have a small problem..

Not to worry, he pulled out of it like a champ! He's becoming more and more able to do these "really big deal things" and our family is feeling more and more "normal" to all of us. We are incredibly proud of our son, and he's feeling pretty proud of himself.

I hope we continue to make many more fun memories as a family, share many more "firsts", many more 9 mile bike rides, and Dallas continues to travel over and beyond many more milestones with us in his life.

Oh, and this morning, he asked, "can we go do that again today?" ;-)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Walking a Mile in His Shoes

I found an eye-opening website where anyone can go and take a few short exercises to see how a person with ADHD or a reading, or mathematics or writing disability views their world. Try it. It really opened my eyes to how my son sees his world.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Tacos and a leap of faith

My son is a bright, personable and extremely funny kid who also has a very kind and generous heart. He also has ADHD, along with some other alphabet soup disabilities. Often, he can present as a one-person study in contrasts and comparisons. Can I just say that life is never, ever dull?

Some days it is beyond frustrating just to get him out of bed, dressed, fed and functioning. Other times, on the really, really difficult days, I wonder if we'll ever have a normal life, and then I second guess everything I do or say as a mother. Then there are the other times -- which are becoming more frequent as he matures and settles into our family -- that our family life does feel "normal", or better yet, "typical" and joyful.

Yesterday was one of those days. No meltdowns (me or my son), he got to school on time, had a good day, finished his homework, and then my 6 year old declared that HE was going to cook dinner for his dad and I. He decided he wanted to make tacos for dinner, and insisted HE was going to cook them all by himself.

Hmm. The closest I've allowed him to "cooking", is making a PBJ or microwaving popcorn. This was a definite step up from that, but he was determined to do it. His handling RAW ground beef, CUT UP (aka needing.a.sharp.knife for dicing) onions, and a sizzling frying pan on a RED-HOT stove burner sent my internal Mom's safety meter spinning wildly however.

We've never let him handle a knife, or use the stovetop, except when the burners are off and cool, as his impulses often override his safety - which accounts for our numerous ER trips where the hospital staff is on a first name basis with him. Sometimes, though, even as a parent of an ultra impulsive child, you have to foster independence and pride, and back off the protective bubble and maybe even let them singe their wings, but stand by with a fire-extinguisher and bandaids if needed.

So, I grounded my helicopter-mom impulses, took a leap of faith and let my son cook dinner (with my oversight of course, lest we have powdered-sugar tacos for dinner, or even worse, the fire department for dinner). He did an awesome job! He was quite proud and happy about his culinary accomplishment, and no house fires, burns or knife stabbings happened in the creation of "his" special tacos. We heaped on the praise, and let him know his were the best.tacos.EVER. Even my husband took one for the team. You see, tacos are also my husband's #1 -no-one-can-make-them-better-than-me-so-I-brag specialty.

I guess our son was watching his dad closer than anyone realized, and nearly replicated Dad's tacos step-by-step. Although, the use of Heinz 57 this time was "different", and shhhh... don't tell Dad, but these tacos were even better than his. ;-)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Sticks and Stones...

Articles in the media often describe mother, father and children as "adoptive" when the story has nothing at all to do with adoption, and assigns adoptive families to a class of family "other" than a regular family. They also set adoptive families apart from typical families, whether they intended to or not. I've even seen it in obituaries.

Once a mother becomes a mother by way of adoption, she is just "mother". A father is just a father. A child is just a child. Adoption should not even be factored into the equation or described as a "type" of family, short of discussing anything related to adoption where it is required. A woman who becomes a mother via adoption doesn't love her child any less than a woman who gives birth to it, nor should she be set apart any more than an adopted child should be. That stereotype is perpetuated enough in the media when reporters and such call an adult or minor child "the adoptive child of..." or a parent the "adoptive parent of..." as if it should make some kind of difference to anyone how a parent and child came to be a family. We don't call a mother who has a donor egg implanted a "gestational mother", or a child who was conceived via donor sperm a "donated child". So why is the term "adoptive" used at all, if we are not talking about adoption in general?

It's that descriptor that perpetuates the stereotype of adoptive families and adoptive children being different, second best or not "regular". It may not have been what the author intended, and so subtle that no one else notices or cares, but I do. And I try to correct and educate when something jumps out at me as wrong.

My son will be growing up in a world where he will hear, and read and see these things, and I dare anyone to make him feel as if he was a second best choice, or different, or that his parents love him "differently" or that his mother or father are just his "substitute" caregivers.

We all need to be more aware of adoption language, that kind of subtle stereotyping by inserting "adoptive" into a label in the future. It is that kind of subtle descriptor that goes unnoticed by people who've not been affected by adoption, but that also continue a subliminal message to those same people in society that adoption makes a person "different" somehow. For those who have been adopted or have adopted (and I've been both), it's a much louder message.

Monday, April 20, 2009

What makes a mom, a "real" mother?

As an adoptive mother, I've had several people ask me "THE REAL MOM QUESTION". I've had strangers and friends alike ask me about my son's "real mom" and what happened to her that my substitute mom self wound up raising "her son". It's a loaded question that I answer with honesty, and never skip an opportunity to educate if the circumstances allow.

"I AM his real mom."

I'm not temporary. I'm not a ghost. I'm the one who cleans up puke, bandages knees and elbows, sits for 5 hours in the ER, helps with homework, drives him to therapy appointments, holds him while he gets shots, cheers him on when he's playing soccer and learning to swim. I'm the one who yells at him to stop running with sticks or he'll put his eye out, and the one who gets sweetly-drawn big-headed stick figure artwork with "mommy" scrawled across the top.

I'm also the one who holds him while he sadly laments about the life he lost before I became his mother. I'm the one who has to try to explain how his first mom could ever let him go. I'm the one who takes on the anguish and pain of a 6 year old who knew nothing but abuse and neglect before he fell into my arms. I am the one he runs to when he is hurting. I am the one he lashes out at when he is in pain. He trusts that I'll still love him anyway. Forever.

Because I AM his real mom.

"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day....

"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."

~The Velveteen Rabbit

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The light of my life, is my son in my eyes...

Nothing can make my heart swoon more than seeing happiness, love and joy reflected in my son's eyes. You've come so far, my son. And the journey has really just begun. I'll be there every step of the way.

The Birth of our Family

The day we met our son. April 17, 2006

Our story:

Almost 8 years ago, my husband and I began the adoption process for our first son, who I'm calling "E" for privacy concerns. He was placed with us at birth by his birth mother, and what began as our dream come true soon turned into the most difficult and devastating single thing that ever happened to us when his bio father contested the adoption. After a very lengthy and emotional almost 4 years, and a process of 9 judges, our son was removed from our custody and returned to his birth mother. In her custody, he was allegedly emotionally and physically abused, his step father was arrested on child abuse charges, and "E" was subsequently removed from her and given to his birth father who eventually won full custody.

In the year that followed our heartbreaking loss - which to us was not unlike our only child being kidnapped or dying, my husband and I grieved, cried enough tears to fill an ocean and just felt lost. Our life WAS our son... we wrapped our lives totally around him. We had become parents without a child, and without a purpose, and without much joy. Just empty.

It was about a year after that tragedy that we both began talking about becoming foster parents. We thought that it would be a good place to focus our energy and be able to help children in crisis weather the trauma of being removed from their families. See, we'd learned a thing or two about trauma and loss and grief in children. We knew no child could ever replace E, nor that we could love another the way we loved (and still love) him. We had no intentions of ever, ever going down that painful, traumatic road to adoption again either, although we had a very high profile adoption attorney approach us soon after our loss and offer to do a free adoption. It angered us that anyone could even suggest we just adopt another child even though, looking back, I am sure it was offered out of a sense of compassion. In regard to fostering, we figured we could do our best with whichever children came into our lives and care for them and keep them safe until they could safely go home or to other family, but never dishonor our son's memory by "replacing him" with another child.

We went through a pretty intense licensing process where every aspect of our lives - both public and private - was scrutinized. We were licensed in February 2006, and received a call for two boys on the very day our license was approved. We accepted placement, were very, very nervous, and it was somewhat strange and sad having children in the house that we had shared with our boy. And these children were very difficult, one displaying signs of fetal alcohol syndrome and RAD. We were not prepared for that .at.all but we did the best we could, not being a therapeutic home. It was very, very, very difficult and the older child ended up being split from the younger for safety reasons. When we had a date for the boys to return to their family, we made the decision to take a 30 day break from placements and reflect if foster care was really something we wanted to continue to do, and whether we had jumped the gun on being ready to take on that kind of emotional and physical challenge at all while we were still so wounded ourselves. It was an emotional rollercoaster we weren't prepared for.

One week before the last child was scheduled to return to his family, we got a placement call for a 3 1/2 year old who needed an emergency placement - 30 days maximum. Even though my husband and I had discussed taking that break and were pretty firm on it, something tugged in my heart, and I did not immediately say "no". Instead I called my husband at work and asked him what he thought. He told me "do what your heart tells you to do, and whatever that is, I'm with you on it". So I called placement back up and said "yes".

Four hours later a social worker walked in with the cutest, blue-eyed little boy. He was really scared, but very quiet, standing close by the SW as she was dealing with paperwork. It took some time to get him to go into his new room and play with toys or explore as he was so afraid of what was happening to him, and of us, strangers to him. I felt almost an instant attachment to him that I did not with the other two boys, but I kept it in check and guarded my heart. Without sharing too much of my son's story, it turned out that the 30 days temporary placement became long term. The birth parents rights had already been terminated and he lived with a relative. That relative turned out to have problems as well and was not able/willing to work towards getting him back, but would rather him go into an adoptive home. When the relative realized who the foster parents were (our case with E was very public and we supervised visits) that relative was thrilled that we were who the child was being fostered by. We just by chance happened to see our foster son's profile on the state adoption website as an "available special needs child" and we called the agency immediately. We said WE would be willing to be his adoptive resource as we knew, from dealing with his trauma, loss, emotional and behavioral issues already, another move would be incredibly harmful to him. We had no idea what his status was at that time prior to running across the adoption profile online, and the DCF had no idea that we would consider adoption. It so happened the DCF jumped the gun in advertising him for adoption anyway, as the birth father filed a late appeal of his termination from prison, so we had a year's wait until the appeals court determined if the TPR would be upheld or not. It was.

In that year of waiting for the courts, our foster son became our son, we bonded very tightly with each other, and lived life with adoption as the goal. We never made any promises to him or anything as we knew from past experience, anything can and will happen. We guarded our hearts as best we could, but never really let go and stopped worrying about what would happen to him. We got word that the appeals court upheld the TPR in February 2007. We finalized our son's adoption April 16, 2007. He was nearly 5 years old. It still took another year before we could really feel like he was, in fact, our son and stop looking over our shoulders for someone to come take him away too.

Where once we thought we could never love another child with the intensity of love we have for our first son, we discovered our hearts were big enough to love more than one child, once we took a chance on opening it back up again. You never know what God has planned for you. Now when people ask us how many children we have, we often say TWO... one who lives at home, and one who lives in our hearts.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Happy Adoption Day

Happy Adoption Day indeed!

Here and now, on our second anniversary of our son Dallas' adoption, I decided to start blogging. It's a good as time as any I suppose.

We still miss our first son, E, with all our hearts, but this little guy has helped to heal our hearts and give us a purpose and a second chance at having a family.

One day I hope Dallas will understand what a gift he truly is to us, and I also hope E will come to understand that about himself too, and E will know he was also a blessing to us for the time he was with us, and a gift we carry forever in our hearts. Life is sometimes so bittersweet.

Must go cry now.