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How Is He Adjusting?

June 26, 2015

I hear this question all. the. time.  Given that I’m an introverted hermit, this is saying something.  Of course, there is being an introverted hermit and then there is living the introverted hermit lifestyle.  I am the first, but not doing the second as much as I might like, especially right now.  Okay, in all honesty I’m introverted by nature but not a hermit by nature.  Living here makes me want to be a hermit.  See?  Still not over it.  But I digress . . .

. . . And speaking of digressing, I just have to share something totally unrelated to the rest of the post:

Tank Boy has a friend over for the day/night, and this friend?  His voice is changing!  How did my little Tank get so old that he has friends going through puberty????  I will never understand how these things happen.

Back to the reason I’m blogging today.

Before Spuds came home, McH and I discussed the whole “nobody in, nobody out for two weeks” idea.  I really would have liked to follow this practice for the first two weeks Spuds was with us, but it just wasn’t possible.  Between church obligations (McH is the president of the boys’ youth auxiliary, aka Young Men’s Program, and I am the president of the women’s auxiliary, aka Relief Society) (which is generally frowned upon in the church, actually, but it is what it is and we’re okay with it) . . . where was I?  Oh, yes.  Between church obligations, graduation hoopla, and the fact that we have six kids, five of whom have rather established lives here, we’ve been go, go, going quite a bit.  So people are always asking us, “How is he adjusting?”  I usually can barely murmur a non-committal response before the questioner then follows up with one of the following:

He’s getting right in there and playing with all of the other kids!
He’s so smiley and happy!
He seems to be doing just great!
It was so touching the way he was sitting on your lap and hugging you in church!
It’s obvious he just loves you guys!
He is so adorable!
You can just tell he’s happy being in a good family!

Well, first of all, he is adorable.  He really is.  The fact that he is the size of a six-year-old helps with that, but he doesn’t really appreciate it.  Second of all?  He wasn’t in a bad family before.  I mean, things didn’t work out the way we’d all have liked to see them work out, but they weren’t a bad family.  There were no swastikas tattooed on foreheads or used needles lying around the house.  They were and are, actually, very nice, very likable people.  I know that’s hard for some people to digest — how does one reconcile giving away one’s child with being good, or at least not bad, people?  All I can say is that we’ve met them, and they are.  They did their best.  That doesn’t mean I agree with everything they did, every choice they made, but I can still see the good in them.

Anyhoo . . .

I tell people that Spuds really is doing great so far, because he is for all intents and purposes.  Except?  Anyone who knows anything about adoption, and specifically older child adoption, knows that what is happening so far is likely meaningless.  Okay, meaningless is probably too strong of a word.  The fact that he hugs us and sits on our laps and plays with other kids and smiles and all that is . . . promising.  But?  It’s also, to one degree or another, an act.  He’s trying, right?  He’s trying to fit in, trying to adapt, trying to do what he thinks is expected of him, which is good to a point.  It means, in my mind anyway, that he’s not totally off the deep end of RAD (I won’t dwell on the diagnosis right now, but it’s there) and he knows what good behavior is and can behave.

So he’s trying, and trying is good, but I know that the chances of it lasting more than three or four months before the reality of his situation really sinks in and it all becomes just. too. much! for him are slim.  It happened with Tank Boy, and he was a baby when he came home.  It was almost three months to the day, and BAM!  All hell broke lose.  The biting, the screaming, the throwing of things — anything — the head butting . . . it was not pleasant.  At the time, I talked to an acquaintance who is a licensed marriage and family therapist who specializes in working with children, and she told me that the three to four month time frame before implosion was very, very normal.  I keep this in mind every day with Spuds.  I see him doing so well, and I praise him for behaving and cooperating and all that stuff, but in the back of my mind I remind myself not to grow to expect it to last.  I pray it will, but I don’t expect it to.

Shoot.  I just ended that sentence with a preposition.  Oh well.

But all the people who tell me how great he’s doing?  They look at me like the people around here always look at me — like I’m from some weird planet where people refuse to be happy and optimistic, like I am the queen of gloom and doom, like I, personally, am trying to administer the Dementors’ Kiss.  Or?  Maybe I’m overreacting and they just look at me like they are really confused when I tell them, “Yeah, he’s doing great now, but chances are good that he will totally fall apart sometime around the end of the summer.”

People around here don’t like to hear reality unless it involves sunshine and daisies with a splash of glitter and a free buffet, but I don’t know how to not tell them the reality of the situation.  He’s turning up at church and social functions and being all functional now, but his reality is too devoid of sunshine, daisies, and glitter to expect it to last (I do not tell them details about this).  I’ve felt compelled to explain the concept of indiscriminate affection to a woman who literally had tears in her eyes because she was so touched by the way Spuds was snuggling on my lap at church a week after he came home.  I have explained the concept of triangulation to people, I have given surface, mini-lessons on attachment problems and what that means in the context of hurt children who can charm the kiddies back from the Pied Piper. I keep telling people that, as much as we are enjoying the Spuds we are seeing right now, we are hoping for the best and preparing for the worst.

They keep looking at me like I need chocolate and a therapist.

I want to feel as hopeful and optimistic about it all as everyone else does, but I know, you know?   And in three or four months, if things do go crazy?  I don’t want people to be saying to each other, “He was such an awesome kid when they got him!  What on earth did she do to cause all of THIS???”  So now I’m just raining acid on the glitter parade, and in three or four months, if things do go crazy?  I’m sure everyone will be muttering things behind my back about self-fulfilling prophecies.

It almost makes me wish I had video of him helping McH pack his stuff up in our car just minutes after his last mother told him that he was going to live with us.  That was an experience I never expected to have.  I didn’t even want to go to their house to pick him up — I wanted them to bring him to our hotel so that they would be the ones walking away rather than us being the ones taking him away, but that’s not how it ultimately happened.  They didn’t tell him he was going until we were there.  I walked in knowing that’s what was going to happen, but I didn’t know what I could possibly do about it because, until he was ours?  He wasn’t.  I couldn’t call the shots and make those decisions.  But the point is, when they did tell him?  He was like, “Okay!  Let’s start packing!”  He gave those parents each a big hug, then ran out the door to load up and buckle up.  Maybe if people here could have seen that, they’d understand the reality I keep gently trying to explain without betraying Spuds by explaining too much.

So, yeah.  Attachment issues for sure.  On the up side (as if there really can be an up side in this ugly game of hot potato/child), he does ask about his previous family.  He asks when we can go to visit.  His eyes “itch.”  My heart breaks for him and all the change and loss he’s going through, but my heart sings and hopes for him because there was and is some attachment there, and some is far, far better than none.

How is he adjusting?  He is adjusting in his own way, at his own pace, and in his own time, and it will last for years.

Tewt the Newt thinks that is the best anyone can or should expect.

It’s a Two-fer Kind of Post

June 23, 2015

About a week-and-a-half ago, my oldest child graduated from high school.  There was all kinds of pomp and circumstance, including but not limited to:

hootin’ n hollerin’
air horns
more hootin’ n hollerin’
yelling and screaming as if at a Friday night football game
a few more air horns

I was waiting for someone to release a greased pig.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

As the seven of us sat there in our Sunday best, waiting for the graduates to enter the auditorium and feeling somewhat overdressed, I kept telling myself, “I will not cry.  I can not cry.  She isn’t leaving today, she’s only graduating from high school, and that isn’t that big of an accomplishment. ”  No matter how many times I told myself these things, however, I could feel the tears trying to escape, because, you know, even if it isn’t that big of an accomplishment to graduate from public high school these days, it’s significant.  It’s significant because it means she is officially leaving for real in just a couple of months.  She’s been accepted to her university of choice, she’s gotten a full-tuition scholarship, and here she was graduating for heaven’s sake, which means she would be free to use that scholarship to go to that university.

But we sat there waiting for so long that the tears finally dried up before they could escape.  I think the settled in my feet.  The boys and I played several games of Trivia Crack, my feet started to swell, and I spent so much time trying to not overhear the very loud conversations of the people seated behind me that I was feeling pretty safe from the crying.

Then the graduates started coming in.  Is there an official term for that?  Procession, maybe?  The procession of graduates commenced?  Whatever.  They started walking in, two-by-two, while the band played whatever they play for the procession, and I saw A~, and the tears threatened to come again.  Not just tears, though.  You know those huge sobs that originate somewhere around your toes and well up until they catch in your throat before they just heave their way out of your mouth?  Those were welling up inside of me.  One got as far as my throat where it mercifully caught, thereby giving me the upper hand in the battle of middle-class mom decorum vs. Jerry Springer hysterics (those things are still different, right?).

“You cannot do this.  People will think you are crazy.  They aren’t even handing out the diplomas yet.  Get it under control and just weep a bit in a dignified manner when she gets her diploma.  DO. NOT. CRY. NOW.  DO. NOT. CRY. NOW.”

I talked myself off the ledge and somehow held in that sob that would have, undoubtedly, sounded like the wailing of a professional Polynesian mourner, then I settled in to listen to all of the gradation speakers.

OH. my. word!  First, some back story:

About 70 years ago this one-horse town had one high school; but it was apparently approaching two-horse town status, and somebody, everybody, who knows, decided they needed two high schools.  And so, they went from one high school to two.  Which high school one attended was determined by a boundary that dived the east half of the town from the west half of the town.  A couple of years ago, the current superintendent decided it would be better for the district, better for the community, better for the entire planet, if the two high schools were merged back into one high school.  This year was his year of glory.  This year the merger occurred.  This year there was one high school, one graduating class, and a whole dang lot of stupid graduation speeches about it all.

I am not even kidding when I tell you that the superintendent told the graduates they are the greatest graduating class in the nation this year because they survived the merger.

The student speakers were students who were chosen by a class vote, and two out of the three of them basically said, “Oh my gosh!  It’s been, like, so hard!  I was soooo unhappy about the merger because, oh my gosh!  They’ve thrown so many changes at us since kindergarten!  And one more change?  How could they do that to us?  In our senior year?  Like, don’t we just deserve a break?  We have, like, learned so much resiliency, and we’re all better people because of this merger even though, you know, I totally thought it was going to be so awful.  And, I mean, it was awful in some ways?  But now?  I have, like, all these new friends, and, oh my gosh!  We did it!”

As if the student speeches weren’t bad enough, we then had to listen to the administration blather on about how resilient, determined, mature, fantastic, stupendous, adaptable, long-suffering and incredibly amazing the class of 2015, the first ever graduating class of one, unified high school (nice how they ignore local history) is because, you know, they had to give up their school colors and school mascots and embrace new ones.  The horror!  The HORROR!  But they did it with such grace and aplomb, and they’ve made it through the entire school year alive and relatively unmedicated, and . . . ok, I made up the part about them saying the kids were relatively unmedicated.  But people!  You would have thought that superintendent was running for public office or something given the way he went on about how unmeltable all those 2015 snowflakes were this year and given the way he kept patting himself on the back for the success of his merger. I’m surprised he could shake hands with all those kids as they got their diplomas.  I figured his arms would have been too tired.

So, speaking of finally handing out the diplomas . . . By the time we got to that part of the graduation (you know, the most important part), I’d heard the word merger 1,000 too many times and heard the virtues of the class extolled for surviving it about 10,000 too many times, and my feet were firmly swollen in my hip waders, and I was so done with the whole thing that it never occurred to me to cry when my daughter walked across the stage to get her diploma.  Luckily it occurred to me to snap a picture or two, but then I just. wanted. out of there.  The speeches offended my sensibilities, and the hootin’ n hollerin’ and air horns offended my senses.

I walked out of that graduation feeling less a member of this community than I did the day we moved in and feeling acutely that my daughter had just graduated from the wrong high school.  We were in a very good school district back before all of this moving nonsense of the past seven years (seven years — I should be over it by now, but I’m not), and that is the high school from which she should have graduated.  That is a community of which I feel a part.  So the tears came back, but not because my daughter had graduated, was growing up, was one step closer to leaving me.  The tears came back because I felt like we’d failed her, and I felt so very, very lonely fighting my way through those throngs of air-horn toting people.

But I fought those tears back, too, because I didn’t want to have to explain all of that to my family.  Rather than give in to the despondency of the moment, I turned to L~ with a grin on my face and said, “I am so, so sorry I haven’t had you and your sister in therapy this year!   I had no idea how traumatized you all have been by this merger until I heard all those speeches!  Do you want me to find you a therapist????”

Spuds, who had been walking just a bit ahead with McH turned to me with wide eyes and said, “Therapy?  Who needs therapy?  I don’t need therapy!  Why do I need therapy!?!?”

I had to explain to him that it was a joke.  I had to explain to him why it was a joke.  I had to explain to him that we aren’t taking him to a therapist (unless the need arises, but I left that part out).  The poor kid has been dragged to various and sundry therapists since as far back as he can remember, and he didn’t like it, doesn’t like it, hates to have people try to talk about his past or make him talk about his past.  Funny thing this kid, but I get the sense that he wants to leave his past in the past.  Imagine that.

As we were going through the process to bring him home to us, I read several books on parenting hurt children.  One of them, written by a couple of people with Ph. D. after their names who are experts in the fields of child development and parenting hurt children, said that talk therapy isn’t helpful for young children because, developmentally, they aren’t at a place where it is helpful.  I thought, “Thank you for making sense!”  I’m not saying talk therapy will never be helpful for Spuds.  But right now?  When he doesn’t want to talk about it and doesn’t have the maturity and life experience to put things into some sort of context and understand the implications and effects of the life experiences he has hand?  What good will it do?  He’s had so many therapists trying to make him talk about his past and choices he’s made because of his past (choices he’s made as a young, hurt child), that I think he feels defined by everything that’s been bad in his life.  Maybe I’m wrong, but that’s what my GUT diagnosis is telling me. ;)

I talk to him one-on-one every night when I tuck him in.  I ask him what the best part of his day was.  I ask him if there were any bad parts.  I ask him if he has any questions about anything or if he has any concerns.  I ask him if there is anything he wants to talk about.  He likes these talks.  Once, when McH tucked him in and I thought I didn’t need to go into his room because we’d already said our goodnights, he came looking for me so I could tuck him in and we could talk.  The talks are pretty surface kid stuff (that’s not necessarily all bad in my book), but a few times he’s opened up just a bit.  Not a lot, but a bit.  His eyes get “itchy” when this happens.  That gives me hope.  We haven’t quite finished week four with him, so I’ll take just a little bit of opening up.  Hopefully that means he’ll open up more as time goes on.  But, like with the food, I don’t want to make it a battle.  I want him to talk about things because he wants to talk about them.  That’s when it will meaningful to him.

When we finally met back up with A~ after graduation ended, I apologized to her about not having her in therapy to deal with the trauma of the merger.

“That’s a joke!  It’s just a joke!” Spuds was quick to tell her.  “Nobody is going to therapy!”

So if I learned anything at graduation (other than that it is just one pig short of a scramble, and education really isn’t the main focus of this school district), it’s that I can’t joke about therapy or therapists around my youngest son.  Good to know.

Tewt the Newt just wants to make sure I don’t grease him up in two years.

It’s So Hard to Know What to Write About Next

June 21, 2015

There are so many things to document along this process, I don’t even know what should be next.  My original plan was to write about the alphabet soup of diagnoses and labels that this kid has been swimming in for the past few years of his life, but then this evening we had one of those perfect family evenings where nothing was planned but everything and everyone came together, and it got me thinking about love and loving an older child that has only been in my family for a few weeks.

I guess, because I don’t want to forget it, I will share one alphabet soup story before I ruminate on love and the older child.

This story is brought to you by the letters ODD (oppositional defiant disorder).  We had been told Spuds has ODD.  We were told he doesn’t do well in team sports because of his ODD.  He was on a team once and intentionally ran the ball the wrong way down the field “because of his ODD,” so that was petty much the end of team sports for him.  I think they said he was six at the time.  Maybe younger.  Maybe older.  I don’t remember.

“I bet he thought he was hilarious when he did it?” I asked.  I was right.  I’d met him twice at that point.  I could just tell — that mischievousness kind of oozes out of him.  So a child doesn’t take a little league game particularly seriously and has his version of fun with it rather than trying to impress all of the parents on the sidelines who probably are too emotionally invested in the game anyway.  Hmmm . . .

But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have ODD, of course.  That is only one incident, and I haven’t lived through that incident or whatever all the other incidents were.  Here is what I have lived through so far:

We were at a park yesterday for a church activity for all of the young kids.  Unfortunately, the part of the park with all of the playground equipment had been reserved for a graduation party, so our little group had to meet at the far end of the park with plenty of fields but not play sets.  About half way through the activity, Spuds ambled over to me with longing in his eyes and said, “Mom, I want to go play over on the playground.  Can I go over there, please?”

“No,” I said.  “I’m sorry, but we have to stay here with our group.”

“Ok,” he said, and he went back to play with the other kids on our less-colorful side of the park.

Again, I can’t overstate that I realize we are in a honeymoon phase.  But ODD?  This kid can behave, listen, follow instructions, etc.  I realize that he can, and probably will, break down emotionally once the reality of his new living situation really sets in, and when/if that happens he won’t be in the mood to be so cooperative, but does that really mean we should stick a label on him and say he has this problem.  That’s just not the way I see it.  He has problems, none of which are his fault, and feeling too overwhelmed to deal with even the most minor disappointment maybe has been, and definitely could become, a symptom of those problems, but why label it?  Why make him feel further broken, more defective? Why make him feel limited by three letters?  Why limit him with three letters?  Why look at every mischievous little boy behavior and use it to justify the label?  Why not just let him be the hurt little kid that he is, have compassion for that, embrace that, and give him hope that he can get through it, give him the knowledge that he is more than his past and definitely more than a label?  I don’t know.  We haven’t seen him at his worst yet; but we because we haven’t seen his worst I can’t view him or treat him as his worst self.  And when/if we do see his worst?  I am going to do my best to remember that his problem is fear, fear born of more trauma than anyone should ever have to endure in an entire lifetime, not ODD.

And with that, I’ll end this edition of Alphabet Soup and move on to love.

Every day, several times a day, I tell him that I love him.  McH does the same thing.  He tells us he loves us, too.  But in some ways?  It feels hollow.  I think part of the reason it feels hollow is because he looks at me when I say it, and I can tell that he questions it.  I can tell that it doesn’t have the meaning for him that it has for my other kids.  Let’s face it, if someone you’d only met a couple of times took you home one day and just started telling you that they love you, would you believe them?  You wouldn’t.  I wouldn’t.  He doesn’t.  Not really.  He goes through all the motions, but he doesn’t really believe it yet, and I don’t blame him.  I don’t blame him for lots of reasons, most of which have nothing to do with me, but I also don’t blame him because I know that I don’t yet feel the same love for him as I do for my other children.

Big confession right there, but don’t judge me for it yet.

This evening, as we were all outside as a family doing sparklers and other non-firework fireworks, and I saw all of the kids running around, cooperating, having a good time, and the sun was setting and a slight breeze was blowing, and everything just felt so perfect, I felt my heart swell a little with that love that only a mother knows, and that swelling love was for Spuds.  He was having such a good time, and he seemed so carefree and joyful, and it made me so joyful (but in that quiet, grateful, contemplative way that feels like true joy to me), and my heart just swelled for that little boy who has gone through so much and is still going through so much as he adjusts to his new life, and I knew I loved him a little more than I did just moments before.

I do love him, I would take a bullet for him, but I have been acutely aware that my love for him is different than the love I have for my other children, and that difference is born of time.  I’ve had all kinds of time with my other kids.  I’ve had just over three weeks with Spuds.  In those three weeks I have read to him and played with him and baked with him, etc. to create shared experiences that will help us bond.  I have prayed that my love for him will increase, I have worried that I don’t love him enough when what he needs most right now is what everybody always needs most — complete and unconditional love, mother-love.  But I can’t cram eight years into three weeks, and time will take time.

Love is a choice, and I’ve known that for a long time.  When we adopted the other boys they were babies, and we got pictures, and I fell in love with those babies in those pictures, and by the time they came home I was fully invested with every ounce of mother-love I had.  But they were babies.  Older babies, but babies nonetheless.  They came to me not tabula rasa, I don’t really think anyone really comes into this life that way anyway, but they came to me young and babyish, without as much background and with more need to be loved and mothered than to be cautious.  They came to me, in short, easier to love.  But love is a choice, and every day I choose to love Spuds, and every day I do love him, and I know that with time that love will grow to equal the love I have for all of the others.  So I need to be patient with myself and keep working toward that goal, and when the honeymoon ends?  I need to be even more patient with him and keep working toward that goal.

I am so grateful for that perfect evening we had tonight as a family.  I am so grateful for that peaceful, joyful moment wherein love for my newest little boy overtook me.  I am grateful for that experience not only because I now love him more, but also because it reinforced in me the knowledge that I can and will continue to love him more. Time takes time, and I can’t manufacture shared experiences to speed it up.

Adopting an older child is not the same as adopting a baby.  Love takes a different course, or, at least, it has so far.  I don’t think there is any way around this, but I know we will make it through.

Tewt the Newt’s heart grew three sized today as well.

And Now For Something Completely . . . New

June 17, 2015

As in a new son!

Right????  I know!

There have  been a lot of things going on around here lately.  New son, oldest daughter graduating high school, me trying not to spend too much time crying in the bathroom because the oldest daughter is heading off to college on the other side of the country in two months.  Lots, and lots of things going on here.

But right now?  Today?  In this, the first post on LFG in for-freaking-ever?  Let’s talk about the new son.

It was a whirlwind domestic, private adoption.  We first heard of him in mid-March and had him home by the end of May.  Crazy, no?  Yes.  But no.  He’s almost eight years old so he comes with quite a story, at times horrific but always sad.  I’m not going to share a lot of his story because it’s his, but there are a few things I want to document as we go along on this latest journey.  I thought about starting a new blog, a slightly more anonymous blog, to write about all this.  I even set the blog up.  But people!  A new blog?  It was too much.  Voice?  Tone?  I just couldn’t figure it out.  I couldn’t write it.  I don’t know how to do non-LFG blogging.

So here we are.

First things first (and this is the whole reason I originally considered a new blog):  this is a re-adoption.  I know, I know.  I know there are a lot of strong feelings out there about re-adoptions, and I even have a lot of my own feelings about re-adoptions.  You think it’s a horrible thing,  I think it’s a horrible thing.  But at the end of the day?  When you have parents who have given up to the point that they hire an agency to help them find a new home for the child?  Well, that child really needs a new home.

I know what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking, “Hell no!  That child needs for his parents to stick by his side, figure it out, tough it out, be the forever family they promised to be.”  I won’t argue that point, but when the parents have reached the point that they are saying, “We won’t do it anymore — can’t do it anymore — take our money, let us pay you to find somebody else to take our kid,” when the parents are that done, the kid pretty much needs out.  The kid needs another shot at a family.

So.  Here we are.  And I want to be very clear:  it is not my intention to pass judgment on the previous parents.  They did what they knew how to do.  They did the best they could.  There are things we have done differently so far, are doing differently, and will do differently.  That is not meant as an indictment against them.  It is merely our best, and our best is different.  We think it will be better for him, but only time will tell.

Well, actually, time is telling us a little bit already, but we also know we are firmly in a honeymoon period.  So, there’s that.  I want to document what is going on, however, whether it’s a honeymoon thing or a permanent thing, in case our experiences can help anyone else (whether that means sharing ideas of things to do or sharing ideas of things to not do).

At this point, you’re either mad about the whole re-adoption issue (just keep your nasty comments to yourself, because I won’t approve them if you’re new here and I will delete them if you’re not), bored to death, or wondering what we’ve been doing differently already.  Maybe there is another option, but I’m not a mind reader.

Before we made the final decision to go through with this adoption, before we took custody of our new guy, we were told that, among his many difficulties, he uses food as a control thing.  We saw it firsthand as we visited back and forth.  They would tell him to eat, and he wouldn’t.  At one point he was eating, albeit very slowly, when one of his non-parental family members told him to eat.  He didn’t touch another bite after that.  Not at that meal, anyway.

Fast forward to the  day we picked him up, as in took custody of him.  We took him out to lunch and let him pick the restaurant.  He ate.  We took him to the store to get snacks for the trip and let him pick out the snacks, but within my parameters of what is and isn’t acceptable road trip food, and he ate.  We got pizza for dinner.  He ate.  The next morning, as we were getting ready to head down to the hotel lobby for breakfast, he informed us that he didn’t want to eat.  We told him that was fine, but he had to come with us because he couldn’t stay alone in the  room.  Het ate three quarters of an orange.  Then he ate some snacks on the road.  When we stopped for lunch he told us he didn’t want anything.  After double and triple checking that he was sure, we didn’t order him anything.  Then he wanted McH’s fries.  They shared, and he ate more snacks.

When we finally got home, the other kids were waiting with their grandparents.  While the new guy (he needs a blog name, no?) was riding bikes with the other boys, we made some side dishes and started a fire to roast some (nitrite/nitrate free) hotdogs and make s’mores.  We called all the kids over, and our new little guy — let’s call him Spuds for now — said he didn’t want eat.

“You don’t have to eat,” I said, “but if you don’t eat dinner you don’t get s’mores.”  I could see him weighing his options, so I added, “And, dinner time is family time.  You don’t have to eat anything, but you can’t ride your bike right now.  You have to stay here with the family.  But the eating?  Totally your choice.”

He ate dinner.  Lots of it.  And s’mores.

We went into this knowing that food was a battle for him and knowing that it was a battle we wouldn’t fight.

He hasn’t told us he doesn’t want to eat since that very first meal at home.  He eats all the time.  He asks me to make strawberry smoothies for breakfast.  If I put grapes out for the kids to snack on, he devours them.  He eats meals.  We let him choose which cereal he wants for breakfast (he does not get to choose the cereals I buy, and he has heard “no” many, many times already in the grocery store), we let him choose what he wants for lunch (within reason — I don’t cook lunches, but if he wants carrots and blueberry cream cheese? sure!), and we let him choose his dinner greens if he doesn’t like what I’m serving (broccoli).  He informed us one day that he won’t eat broccoli, so we let him choose spinach instead.  At first he didn’t want to eat that, either, so my trusty husband gave him the Popeye speech.  Spuds shoved the stuff in his mouth after that.  Our rule is that you have to eat something (naturally) green at dinner, but we let him choose his green, and it’s all good.

I know we’re only a few weeks into this brand new realm of parenting, but for now I think the food control issues are a thing of the past.

Tewt the Newt is knocking on wood.

Team Bedlam

June 2, 2013

I am currently holed up in my bedroom with my laptop and a pound of bacon (okay, 12 oz., but let’s not split bristles) because it’s either that or have a nervous breakdown.  Somewhere in my house, at this very moment, my eldest is fighting back tears and thinking I am just the most insensitive, mean mom in the world because . . .

Drum roll please . . .

I told her we are absolutely not adopting a teenage boy no matter how badly she wants an older brother.  She is claiming she has always wanted an older brother.  A few years ago she wanted us to adopt a twelve-year-old girl because, she said, she always wanted a twin sister.

This would all be much easier for me to deal with if she were off crying somewhere for some normal teenage reason – like because we won’t let her dress like a whore or go on dates to the drive-in with a pot-smoking boyfriend.  Then I would feel wholly justified.  But instead, she is off crying because I won’t adopt an older child right now, so, rather than feeling justified, I feel like a heel.  There are lots and lots of teenage boys who need families, and I’m saying no to all of them.  Bad, bad me.

And yes, it is me.  It is all me.  If it were up to the trusty husband, we’d have adopted a teenage sibling group by now, so I am completely alone in my compassionless, selfishness as I keep telling them, “I just can’t handle it right now.”

Because guess what?  I can’t.  It’s not like going to the pound and getting a puppy.  A lot of baggage and struggle comes with a teenager who doesn’t have a family.  Who could expect anything less?  I wouldn’t expect anything less, but I know I’m not ready for it.  Now is not the time.

My dream in life at the moment, for the past several years’ worth of moments,  is to just get my feet under me, to have a year or two of status quo.  I have begged for that.  It has yet to happen.

I don’t want to sound ungrateful.  I have been blessed a lot.  I mean, A LOT, and I know this.  And the past three years?  Have been some of the most stress-free years of my married life.  Nobody has died, we have not had any screamy, colic-y, unable-to-sleep babies, we have not gone through any adoptions, we have not moved, I have been able to get reasonable amounts of sleep, I have been able to manage my migraines relatively well, we have not had financial struggles, there have been neither surgeries nor job changes . . . life has been pretty good for the most part.

But . . . there is always a but.

There is a lot to do around the homestead.  Never ever in my life did I ever fantasize about living on a farm, mini or otherwise, yet that’s pretty much where I am.  I mean, real farmers would scoff, I’m sure, but once you buy a tractor and plop a horse in a fence and put on muck boots even once, that makes you a farmer in my book.  We’re now on our second tractor, and we have three horses.  I was wearing muck boots last weekend.   Thanks to the weather and the million other things I have to take care of, my garden still isn’t in.  That is major stress right there for a farmer.

So I’m living my husband’s dream on the mini farm while he’s off at work all day, sometimes out of town for days, and, though I don’t have to do the day-to-day horse and barn chores, I’m always the one here when one of those beasts escapes (and, generally, if one is lose they all are lose), and I’m always the one here when the fence gets broken, and I’m the one here when one of them (or all of them) throws a shoe, and I’m the one here giving cats IV fluids and shoving antibiotics down their throats, and I’m the one here when the animals die (the cat stayed in a box on our back porch for days until he got back in town to dig a hole in the frozen ground), and I’m the one here dealing with the never-ending behavioral issues stemming from one son still acutely feeling the sting of abandonment and inaccurately surmising his birth mother must have gotten rid of him because he’s bad, and I’m the one dealing with the stupid school district, and I’m the one doing the homeschooling, and I’m the one planning the vacation, and I’m the one making sure the 10 million animals get fed, and I’m the one always saying no to getting more animals (because I’m apparently the only one with any common sense), and I’m the one here all day with the barkingest dogs in the world, and I’m the one feeling like a complete failure because I can’t keep up with it all and, oh my gosh, don’t even ask me when the last time was I cleaned our showers.

And I realize he works hard.  He really does, and I am grateful for it.  And I know he has to deal with stupid people and situations at work every day.  But?  Whether or not those people ever pull their heads out and get over their stupidity is really not, ultimately, his responsibility.  If my kids don’t become decent adults/people, if my son doesn’t get past some of his aggravating, accusatory, self-pitying, pushing-people-away behaviors and is never able to have  healthy relationship when he’s older, if my oldest daughter never gets her nose out of a book and figures out how to have an actual life?  Totally my fault for not being a good enough mom.

The weight of my calling to be a mother is very heavy on its own, is what I’m saying.  I don’t take it lightly.  I never have.  Sometimes I wish I could, but I don’t know how to just relax about the whole thing because . . . eternal consequences, you know?  I don’t want to fail.  Add the weight of all the rest of it, and I feel like it’s just driving me down into the ground.

But all anybody seems to notice is that I won’t let them get chickens and/or goats, and the horses stress me out, and I melt down when the newfoundland rips a big hole in the screened-in porch so she can stick her head in to try to play with a cat (that I didn’t want but we had to get because we need barn cats to keep the mice out of the hay), thereby making us look like the epitome of white trash, and they don’t like the food I cook because it’s healthy, and instead of gushing non-stop* for days with gratitude over the new flooring in the basement I am stressed out by the fact that our entire basement (and, oh gosh, it is a big basement with an entire apartment in it and a lot of crap) is just completely torn apart with the aforementioned crap strewn everywhere (never mind the fact that I frequently asked if we couldn’t just cull the crap before we started the flooring project, because I knew this would happen), and why haven’t I done a load of pinks yet?  And now?  Now?  I won’t try to adopt a teenage boy.  How selfish and thoughtless can I be?

My lack of being a team player knows no bounds.  I just never expected to be a member of Team Bedlam.

Tewt the Newt is in hiding.  I don’t know if he’s eating bacon or afraid of becoming bacon.

*For the record, I have gushed: I have thanked, I have admired, I have appreciated, I have praised, but that’s not what gets noticed.

Protected: Judging and Being Judgmental

January 7, 2013

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Protected: So We’ve Had a Little Problem . . .

December 13, 2012

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