Goodbye, honeymoon…

I hereby declare the honeymoon OVER!   It clocked in at approximately 5.5 weeks.  Based on what we have read and our experience, it can last any time from a week or two to up to a year.  Research says that sibling groups tend to have shorter honeymoons and/or less defined honeymoons than single children.  Charlie’s response to me declaring the honeymoon over was: “Don’t!  It might be premature!”  We are hoping this is not going to get significantly worse.  We are prepared for it to get a whole lot worse. 

To muster up a little positivity, I do know that the end of the honeymoon is the true  beginning of our family.  They feel safe enough with us and comfortable enough to not feel the need to “put on a show.”   Until we get through these rough patches, our relationship will not be authentic or genuine.  They need to know that we are in this regardless of their behavior.  Charlie told a “A” this week: “You are our DAUGHTER.  Nothing you can do will change that, ever.”  So…this post-honeymoon phase has a really important purpose. 

We did the whole school supply shopping thing yesterday…which, turns out, was going to be a lot more fun in my head!  We then attempted our first official eating out experience at Applebees.  (Yikes, is all I will say about that for now). 

In the midst of the chaos today (the irony of the name I gave this blog pre-placement is not lost on me), we packed up coolers, wrestled kids into swimming suits, and threw them into the boat for a fun day.  WE ARE GOING TO HAVE A FUN DAY, DAMN IT!  Oddly enough, it did turn out to be a fun day!  We swam a ton…the kids love jumping off and doing crazy “tricks” off the edge of the boat.  It’s awesome to see how much more they trust us with this from the beginning of the summer.  It was really windy today, so the boat very quickly floated away after jumping in.  A month ago they would have rather drowned than ask us for help…but we were giving them piggy back rides back to the boat per their request a ton today.  Awesome.  (And exhausting!) 

We are soaking up the last few days of the summer that will go down in history, for all of us.

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Firin’ Something Up

First and foremost, I am sitting here enjoying a beverage out of a coffee mug and feeling pretty darn proud of myself that I got all the kids to bed without Charlie AND without any tears from anyone.  Bam!  This is a milestone for us…I went “out” last night (this is currently defined as a work fantasy football draft, but never you mind that part).  Charlie is out playing poker tonight.  Prior to this, we needed all hands on deck and the thought of either of us being gone for like three minutes was kind of anxiety provoking.  Success!!  I joked a lot to friends and coworkers prior to getting the kids that I would “see them on the the other side.”  Meaning, we were about to enter full fledged crisis mode, and I would look forward to having rational conversations and being a productive member of society again in a few months.  Or years.  Dare I say full fledged crisis mode isn’t happening?  Don’t get me wrong, all five of us have meltdowns on occasion.  Oh, and our son likes to start fires.  So, there’s that.  The good news is A) we have been able to keep a good sense of humor about just about everything thus far and B) I also really enjoy a good fire, so we have that in common! 

In the spirit of storytelling, me wanting everything documented to look back on, and (hopefully) practical advice for other adoptive families, let’s talk about FIRE!  We were told in the disclosure meeting that he has started “a couple” fires in previous foster placements.  After some trial and error parenting, we decided to just go with his “love” of fires.  We set up some ground rules and made them explicit for the kids:

1) All lighters/matches are locked up at all times.

2) Only grown ups start fires, period.

3) Fires happen only in the fire pit, period.

4) You can ask us ANY TIME to start a fire, and we will oblige. 

He is not a sociopath, and he is not scary.  He likes fires.  Fires are powerful, and feeling powerful feels like control.  He has had so very little control over anything in his little life, that this feels good.  That’s our theory, anyway.  Knowing we will start him a fire any time he wants has given him some of that control without needing to take it further.  He is also practicing asking a grown up to meet a need, which helps with attachment.  He sometimes says, “Guys, I’m feelin’ like firin’ somethin’ up!”  This has turned from horrifying to kind of adorable.  We are not naive, but we choose to view this behavior differently than most.  Grab your chairs, kids, we’ll get the marshmallows!!   After only five weeks, he talks about fire and asks for one MUCH more infrequently.  I think we’ll keep the lighters locked up and the batteries in the smoke detectors for a couple more years 🙂

 

The Judge’s Ruling

The judge’s ruling regarding “T” came back finally today.  We were told it was a 50/50 chance…but it was a complete shock to hear the judge ruled “for T.”   That language doesn’t make sense to me, because I can’t see how anyone can think that tearing siblings apart and letting a kid “stay” somewhere vs. live with a FAMILY is “for” him.   I’m really mad.   I’m heart-broken for “J” and “A” and the idea of telling them this news makes me literally feel like I’m going to throw up.  

Speaking of feeling sick…this news was delievered in the waiting room while “A” got diagnosed with strep throat.  She didn’t even tell us she was sick, I decided to take her temp because she was so crabby and it was very high (103 last night).  I’m assuming she has learned that it’s pointless to tell adults when you don’t feel well.  Ugh.   

Our plan at this point is to tell “T” that he always has a family here, and we hope that he will join us for holidays and such when he is out of high school.  We will do everything we can to help the kids have a relationship with him.   Meanwhile, we will try to put all of the extra energy we will save not trying to parent a teenager that doesn’t want to be parented into the other three kids.  

 

this is how much i love you

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“A” drew this picture today.  She said, “This is how much I love you.  And Charlie.  And my birth mom.”  Adding the “and my birth Mom” at the end should not take anything away from the rest of it.  Of course she loves her birth mom!  I am thankful she feels comfortable telling me/us that, and I hope to continue to create a space where she doesn’t have to “choose” between us.  I can not replace her birth mother, nor do I want to.  Maybe the more truthful statement would be: I can not replace her birth mother, nor should I try to.

To be logical for a minute, I have plenty of love to go around for all of my children.  So…why should she be limited to loving just one mother?  Or father?  Sometimes feelings aren’t super logical, however.  Sometimes statements about the bio family feel oddly similar to being punched in the gut.  Someday I hope to feel strong enough, and secure enough in my relationship with them, to not feel so threatened  by birth family and the magical age of 18 where they can do what they want.  Until then, I’m going to support the heck out of them, talk openly about their birth family, validate their feelings of love and loss relating to this, and try my best not to show how insecure it makes me feel!   The rest will fall into place.  (Right?)

God Bless the Broken Road

Bedtime was pretty long tonight, for a couple of reasons.  1) We were looking through the community ed booklet, which is VERY exciting to them!!  After a lot of deliberation, we have “J” signed up for wrestling (big brother is an amazing wrestler) and “A” signed  up for basketball, because Charlie plays and it’s cool!  2) Because I scored two lava lamps (for the boys, because they have to have everything the same) and a black light at a garage sale for $1/piece.  You would think they just won the lottery!  So. Unbelievably. Excited.

Charlie was getting Jax to bed, and I had already put “J” to bed.  I usually put “A” to bed last because she is the oldest and she takes the longest (she reads to me, I read to her, we listen to music together, she asks for 72 hugs, etc).  Tonight while we were sitting on her bed talking, “God Bless the Broken Road” came on the radio.  For those that aren’t super familiar, the chorus is:

Every long lost dream led me to where you are
Others who broke my heart, they were like northern stars
Pointing me on my way into your loving arms
This much I know is true, that god bless the broken road
That led me straight to you

We’re sitting there listening to it, and she said, “I feel like you’re going to cry.”  My interpretation of that was that she was basically asking for me to word vomit all over her, so I did.  I am so sorry that you had such a hard start to life.  I’m so sorry your birth parents couldn’t take care of you and you got taken away from them.  I’m so sorry you got bounced around in foster homes and that you had to fly to another state only to find they weren’t your forever family, either.  I’m just so SORRY.  But…all of those bad things had to happen at just the right time in order for you to come to us, and for that I am thankful. 

God bless the broken road that led you straight to us!  “It’s all part of a grander plan.”

I hugged her when I was done being a basketcase all over her bed and said, “I love you.”  I said it, and I meant it.  I really feel it.  She didn’t say anything back, as she usually doesn’t.  I went upstairs to clean things up, and about 15 minutes later she came up.  She hugged me, and she said “I love you, too, Mama.”  I played it off cool, but then bawled my eyes out after she went back to bed! How is it possible that I love them so much after only a month?  I think the answer is because they were always meant to be our kids. 

Wait…are we playing house?

At our house, the games “house” and “cops and robbers” are eerily similar.  We start out playing house, and Jax and I are doing things that we would assume happen while playing house.  You know…cooking, bike rides, mowing lawn, etc.  Suddenly there are sirens and people yelling and cops taking people to jail.  The first time it happened I naively asked when the game changed to cops and robbers.  “It didn’t!  We’re still playing house!”  Oh.  Crap.  It’s 10% adorable and 90% awful!  Our versions of “house” (and life in general) are kind of colliding, and we are all re-negotiating everything we know about the world. 

We are having all kinds of painfully awkward moments in public where the kids refer to things their “Mom” or “Dad” have done and people assume they are talking about us.  I have an instinctual reaction to defend myself or explain to people that they aren’t talking about me, but I don’t want to throw that in the kids’ faces to shame their parents or send a message that I’m not proud to be their “everyday Mom” – the cutest new phrase they use when describing me.  For your reading enjoyment, a few of the latest include:
“A” to a police officer at National Night Out: Cool buzzer (tazer)!  My Mom got shocked with one of those awhile ago!

“J” to a cashier at the grocery store: Check out all my missing teeth!  They rotted up because my Mom gave me candy when I was a baby.

“J” to a random person without hair: Love your bald head! Looks like my Dad.  He’s in prison.

I could go on and on and on.  Such an adventure!  They surprise us and amaze us daily and we feel so lucky to have found them.  The biggest challenge at this point is appointments.  So. Many. Appointments!  We started in-home therapy last night, which is weird and humbling (for those that don’t know, that’s what I do).  I’m trying hard to not tell her what to do, which doesn’t appear to be a strength of mine. 

Charlie and I have decided to start referring to each other as “Mom and Dad” rather than “Ann and Charlie.” They are welcome to make the switch when they are ready, and we won’t push them, but this way it won’t get to be such a habit that it’s hard to break and they will know the ball is in their court.  “Mom and Dad” sneak in now and then, but it’s usually followed by giggles or under the cover/protection of darkness.

“Let your faith be bigger than your fear” is my current mantra.  I encourage you to jump on that bandwagon, as I’m finding it’s applicable most of the time. 

“You came back!”

In less-than-perfect timing, I had to go to grad school all weekend long.  I told the kids on Thursday that this would be happening, and Thursday and Friday were very rough behaviorally.  They clearly had a lot of anxiety about me leaving.  To them, Moms sometimes leave and don’t ever come back.   In related news, Charlie is a freaking rock star.  I’m fairly sure if I had all 3 kids by myself this early on I would have hunkered down and watched the clock for him to return!  Not him…he took them to concert in the park, went out on the boat (never mind that Jax fell off the boat), and even went to a movie theater to see Planes!  The kids are thriving so much with such an active/engaged Dad.  It’s really fun to see their relationship develop!  He called me this weekend to say that  “A” told him she loved him, which I have never heard her say before to anyone, and bio grandparents said is not in her vocabulary.  Screw you, attachment disorder…we’ll show you!

School weekends leave me pretty mentally/emotionally drained.  Class goes Friday evening, all day Saturday, and all day Sunday.  It’s a lot of content, and a lot of personal “self of the therapist” work.  I pulled in the driveway and “J” and “A” just RAN at my car!  They gave me the biggest hugs, and exclaimed “you came back! We love you!”   It was amazing…and also super heart-breaking that they genuinely weren’t sure if I was coming back (despite how much we talked about it ahead of time and how much Charlie reminded them this weekend). 

I had a minor pity party last week after getting a pretty devastating diagnosis for “A.”  With the space of the weekend, I am so thankful it happened after they were placed.  It’s something that was a “deal-breaker” for us going in, and I’m afraid that we wouldn’t have moved forward had this been in the paperwork we initially received.  I know that love isn’t always “enough,” but I think it’s a darn good start.  Looking forward to proving all the doctors wrong with our beautiful kiddos! 

PS…it’s 8:30 and we are not evening playing whack-a-mole.  Easiest bedtime we have had so far.  Maybe the me leaving/me coming back helped them feel secure?!  I don’t know, but I’ll take it.