Today there was lots of hiking, some frisbee and football throwing, and some rolling down a hill on campus.
There was a little necessary and unnecessary on-campus shopping (the football and frisbee throwing commenced with dad on the quad while the female contingent shopped), and a lunch which involved only one relative. After all that, there was swimming.
“Hey mom, I was good today!” Spuds said proudly right before the boys went swimming while the girls did a little more shopping.
“Yes,” I responded enthusiastically, “you were great!”
Today was a good day. Tomorrow is move-in day for A~. I hope it isn’t another trigger for Spuds. It sure will be for me.
Tewt the Newt is buying stock in Puffs.
We knew taking Spuds on a long trip this early could be a huge trigger. We knew visiting with family and friends along the way could be a huge trigger. Let’s face it, the last time his last family took him to a park to meet new “friends” he met us. The last time they took him on a trip, it was to meet us. Trips + new people = trigger. We knew that was possible, even likely; but what could we do? We couldn’t leave him behind. And? He’s been doing so, so well that I think we were overly optimistic about how the whole things would go.
So far, he’s had six major meltdowns. Four of them were today. Of the six meltdowns, I have held him through one of them and my saintly husband has held him through the rest. Anybody who has a traumatized child understands that “holding” that child through a meltdown can feel more like a wrestling match. It is exhausting both physically and emotionally.
McH is just plain beat after today. He held Spuds through four very public meltdowns: Temple Square in Salt Lake City, City Creek Mall (x2), and Bed Bath and Beyond. He was so unbelievably calm and good with Spuds through all four episodes, even when the BB&B manager kept coming back to check on him and kept sending employees back to check on him. I understand they want to make sure a child isn’t being abused in their store. I understand they want to make sure their merchandise isn’t being destroyed. I understand they don’t want other customers to be scared away. But? The husband and the kid were sitting on the floor, tucked away in a corner of the clearance bedding, and there weren’t that many customers in the store (we were shopping about 45 minutes away from the university to avoid the college crowds). After a couple flybys with no evidence of child abuse, maybe just leave a man to restrain his child for everyone’s safety in peace, you know? The comforters will be just fine.
Anyway, the husband is exhausted. The now quite happy kid isn’t. The surprising thing to me? I am exhausted. I am exhausted because we were with friends all day — friends we only get to see if we are visiting Utah — and so, while my husband was doing the hard work, I was pretending like everything was okay. Just a normal day with a hurt child. It’s okay, nothing to see here, I’m not embarrassed, everything will be fine, and I don’t feel the least bit guilty that we are doing things that are triggering him or that my husband is bearing the brunt of it all right now. I didn’t know what else to do.
Just to be clear, I’m not exhausted because of the friends (oh how I wish we all still lived close together), I’m exhausted because of the acting. I don’t know how actors can do what they do and not loose it. Maybe that’s why so many of them wind up in rehab or Scientology.
Ha! I joke. I really know nothing about Scientology except the weird stuff I hear; but how many people know nothing about my church except for the weird stuff they hear, and how much of that weird stuff is just not true or taken totally out of context? So I try to keep an open mind about other “weird” religions, but I digress.
Everything wasn’t okay. It wasn’t a normal day with our hurt child. I wasn’t okay. There was a screaming, kicking, scratching, trying-to-bite child to see. I actually wasn’t embarrassed, believe it or not. I worry that everything won’t be fine, or that it will get much worse for a long time before it gets better. I feel immensely guilty that we have put Spuds in this situation that is triggering him and that my husband has been dealing with it all while I pretend everything is ok.
But I don’t know what our options are or were. We couldn’t leave Spuds at home with grandparents while we trekked west. What message would that have sent? We can’t not shop while we are here, because A~ needs stuff, and we couldn’t buy it all ahead of time and haul it across the country because, with six kids in the car, space is limited. I suppose we could have been total hermits and not visited any family or friends while we are here . . . but? I don’t know. Maybe we should have just been hermits. Maybe we have screwed up royally. I hope we haven’t. I hope that this will help him learn that he can trust us to not give him away to new people. I mean, I know this one trip won’t do it, but hopefully it will be the beginning of a foundation of some kind. Hopefully, somewhere in that scared and vulnerable psyche of his, he will remember all the conversations I’ve had with him about meeting new people and how we wouldn’t send him away with any of those people, and then he will see that we didn’t, and then, maybe, a little tiny corner of his subconscious will start to think, “Maybe these people will be trustworthy, maybe.”
So many maybes.
At one point, during the last tantrum, he yelled at McH, “You all hate me and you want to get rid of me!” or something like that. Oh, how wrong he is. He has no reason to think we aren’t shopping him around. I know this. It breaks my heart. I hope someday he stops just hearing me say that we want him and love him and actually feels those words. In the past he was told that he wouldn’t be allowed to stay with his family if his behavior didn’t improve. I keep telling him we’ll love him no matter what. I can’t wait until he believes me, deep down in his heart believes me.
This evening, since we’ve been back at the hotel, he’s been fine. No more meltdowns. I took him out in the hallway for a little chat away from the other kids and, once again, reassured him that he is going home with us and staying home with us. He doesn’t like having these little chats where I ask him how he’s feeling and reassure him that we love him. He doesn’t like to talk about anything that involves any kind of introspection or feeling. On the up side, the chat did not lead to another meltdown (they never have before, so I felt pretty confident about chatting again). It did lead to an apology to his dad. Sure, I suggested it, but he agreed that he needed to do it. The apology was semi-mumbled and delivered quickly, lest he should accidentally feel something in the process, but he did it.
I joked today about moving to Utah so that we could live closer to our good friends out here. Spuds immediately piped up, “No! No, I don’t want to live here. I want to live in Canada South!”
Leaving A~ behind is going to come to
o soon, but getting Spuds home can’t come soon enough.
Tewt the Newt will not permit any more road trips for a long, long, very long time.
Today has been a day of lasts. It is A~’s last day at home. We had our last family dinner with her (I barely sat down). She babysat the youngers for the last time while I ran errands. And now, as I am throwing in the towel for the night and figuring we’ll get out the door in the morning whenever we manage to get out the door, as I am having one last cry in my bed before we take her away, I hear music slightly blaring from the basement as my three daughters have one last sisters’ “party” together. That should make me happy. I wish I had room in my heart to feel all of the positive emotions I should be feeling right now.
They are spending time together and enjoying it.
A~ is going to the university she has always wanted to attend, it is a competitive school, and she has a full-tuition academic scholarship.
She is getting out of the small town she loathes.
She will finally be among people like her.
What mother wouldn’t be thrilled over all of that? I am thrilled for her, really I am. But I am so steeped in grief that I can’t even feel it. I know I’m being dramatic. She’s alive, she’s healthy, she’s moving on as she should. Yet my heart is exploding with the loss.
We leave tomorrow, but we still have a week and a day with her before we leave her. I try to console myself with that, but if I’ve learned anything in the past seven days, it’s that a week goes by way too quickly.
My older friends who have been through this already tell me that, contrary to what one might think, it doesn’t get easier with each child. Five more to go after this one. I can’t even imagine going through this five more times.
There I am, being all dramatic again with my first world, successful kid problems. I can’t help it. It hurts. I’m a mom.
In one week from right now we will, all eight of us, will be on the road to take our oldest across the country and off to college. She is going where she has always wanted to go, where I went. She has a full-tuition scholarship for the upcoming school year. She will finally get to escape this small town and be among “her people” (you know: bright, deep thinking, Harry-Potter-loving, book-reading, intellectual, testimony-driven people). I am beyond proud of her, and beyond thrilled for her. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I am even a little bit jealous of her.
And yet? My heart is breaking. I can’t sleep because I keep thinking about dropping her off and driving away, and I wonder if I’ve done a good enough job as her mother. I worry that I haven’t. I have so many hopes for her and this new school year, this brand new book in the series of her life, and I hope I’ve prepared her well.
I hope she will find good friends quickly.
I hope she will enjoy her classes (for the most part).
I hope she will learn more than she imagined possible, both in the classroom and out.
I hope she has a testimony that is as strongly rooted as I think it is.
I hope she turns to God for advice and comfort more than she turns to Alubus Dumbledore (wise though he is).
I hope she will be able to forgive me as time and distance give her a greater perspective on and understanding of my imperfections as a mother.
I hope she will become more confident.
I hope she will realize how truly amazing she is.
I hope she will remain humble, even in the face of that realization.
I hope she will join the quidditch team (because she has wanted to for a long time).
I hope she will study hard and get good grades.
I hope she will have fun.
I hope she will eat healthy, whole foods, even though I won’t be there to make sure she does.
I hope she will always feel welcome and wanted back at home.
I hope she will not worry too much, this year, about what her major should be.
I hope she will discover more of what God has in store for her.
I hope she will be able to be patient with her roommate (having a roommate can be difficult, no matter how great that roommate is).
I hope she will find opportunities to serve those around her.
I hope she gets to date a lot of boys.
I hope she doesn’t get married as a freshman.
I hope she will miss us all, but not too much.
I hope she won’t be too homesick.
I hope she won’t be homesick for too long.
I hope she grows to love the mountains as I did.
I hope she loves the Midwest even more.
I hope she will turn to me when she needs a shoulder to cry on.
I hope she will share her joys with me as well.
I hope she will be patient with me as I learn how to be the parent of an adult (it’s no fair that every new phase of her life has been met by a mother who has no experience with parenting that phase).
I hope she will be successful in her life.
I hope she understands what true success is.
I hope she will be safe.
I hope she will be healthy.
I hope she will be happy.
I hope she will doubt her doubts more than she will doubt her faith.
I hope she will continue to study her scriptures.
I hope she will pray always.
I hope she will continue to foster good relationships with her siblings, in spite of the distance.
I hope she will text or email me lots of pictures.
I hope she will do wacky, fun (but not dangerous or illegal) things.
I hope she will have more happy times than hard times.
I hope she will be able to learn and grow from and through the hard times.
I hope she will not be afraid to be feminine in a world that would have her be fierce.
I hope she will never defer to a boy just because she’s a girl.
I hope she will soak up the sun.
I hope she will start posting on Facebook so that I can follow along on her adventures.
I hope she will go through life knowing how much her mother loves her.
Tewt the Newt has no words.
When your kid’s adoption triad looks more like a hexagon, it can be difficult to not be frustrated with one corner or another. So, I’m a tad frustrated right now. I want to write about it, but . . . maybe in the future. He’s been hurt enough, and on the off, off, off, off, off chance that somebody finds my blog? I don’t want it to cause further hurt on either side. There are two sides to every story, and six corners to every hexagon, so I’m trying to put myself in . . . a lot of shoes. Some of which really just. don’t. fit.
And? I haven’t written anything funny in a while. So? Instead of venting? I’m going to share a dream I had last night. Hopefully it will be funny. I mean, it was quite disturbing when I was dreaming it, but in the light of day? Ha! I think.
Begin dream sequence: (I need some kind of ripple font for that)
So the fam and I were on vacation in Florida, and we just happened to run into a fellow adoption blogger and her husband. We stood there (wherever there was — it certainly wasn’t Harry Potter World, so I don’t even know why we were in Florida), when her husband asked me if I could go help him with something.
“Sure! What do you need help with?” I asked. I probably asked because, you know, my studly husband was standing right there, and surely he would be more help at anything than I would.
My friend encouraged me to go with her husband, so I did. We were in some kind of . . . parking lot. But, like, in front of a hotel or something. You know, where they have those little half-moon pull through spaces so you can park there while you check in? So there was this big van in that space, but it was somehow elevated just a bit. The blogger friend’s husband told me to just stand there for a minute and he’d let me know when he needed my help. He then proceeded to stack luggage in the back of the van in a very specific way before closing it up, walking around to the front, and hitting the hood of the van, thereby making it flip completely over and land on its top. I quickly realized that he had just pulled off that prank that had been going around social media (you know, the prank where you stack luggage like Jenga in the back of a vehicle to get it off balance in just the right way then slap the hood so that it flips over onto its top — you don’t know that one? Of course not. I dreamt it).
I had absolutely nothing to do with flipping the van onto its top, but I was panic stricken because, at the exact second he slapped and it flipped, he magically transfigured himself into a horse and trotted off, and I was the only one standing anywhere near the van. I knew I would be blamed, and I knew nobody would believe my defense of, “There was a guy here, but he turned himself into a horse so he could leave the scene without looking suspicious.”
Because hotel front doors are such equine hotspots, to be sure.
Oh! I just remembered something! He did tell me to stand back and watch my toes right before he flipped it. Nice that he cared about crushing my foot bones. I wonder if he was worried about the van landing causing injury, or about his impending hooves? Oh well.
Anyway, as I knew would happen, I was blamed for the whole thing. I tried to run from the scene of the prank/crime, but I think that made me look more guilty. As I was fleeing, before the authorities caught me, I saw my blogger friend again and I was almost, but not quite, yelling, “You set me up! Why did you do that to me????” She then proceeded to inform me that the new blog I’d started to document Spuds’ adoption and adjustment? The blog called Crossing Styx (which doesn’t exist, by the way) (or, if it does, it’s not mine) was offensive to her because Spuds’ previous adoptive mother, who I actually referred to as Styx on the blog, was her friend.
“Did you ever read the blog Snowflakes in December?” she asked me. “That’s Styx!”
I had, in fact (that would be dream fact), read Snowflakes in December (which, just to make sure we’re all on the same page, doesn’t actually exist as far as I know), and I had no idea that it had anything to do with Spuds’ last family. I thought that was a pretty sad commentary on the blog and the mother, given that it was an adoption blog and nothing about it ever would have hinted at Spuds being in their family. I tried to explain to my blogger friend that I had read the blog, that I didn’t know that was Styx, and that it wouldn’t have made any difference because the things that I wrote about were true, and true is true. I can’t change that.
She didn’t particularly care for my argument, and then the dream switched scenes. I was back home, I think. Maybe. Regardless, it really didn’t matter where I was because no matter where I was, I was being tailed by a grumpy, bitter parole-officer-type-woman whose job it was to document everything I did and said in order to make sure that I didn’t go pulling the slap-and-flip vehicle prank anymore. She wouldn’t believe me that I didn’t do it, and I knew that if I told her about the guy turning into a horse she’d have all my kids taken away from me. Maybe she wasn’t a parole officer. Maybe she just worked for DFS or something. And? She was naggy. It was like being followed by Dolores Umbridge (she had a clip board), a DFS worker, and a live-in mother-in-law all at the same time. *shudder*
Now I feel compelled to clarify that my real-life mother-in-law is not a nag.
Anyway, I woke up before anything bad happened. I mean, that’s assuming that you don’t consider having your privacy totally invaded and documented by some government minion to be bad. I was pretty happy to wake up, personally.
Ok, even if it wasn’t funny, it was weird, right? And now? It gives you all something to go arm-chair-psycho-analyze.
Tewt the Newt thinks you don’t need a degree to figure some of this out.
Who are we kidding here? I’m not writing an ode.
But? We did have a follow-up appointment with Spuds’ pediatrician, and I love her now more than ever. First, I should tell you that Spuds has been off all of his meds except one for about two weeks now. The one he is still taking is at half the dose he was on when he came to us. So, you know, that’s a big reduction in medications in my book. And? If anything? His behavior is, on the whole, calmer now than it was when he first came home.
I realize the calmer behavior could have little to nothing to do with the medications and everything to do with the fact that he isn’t as ramped up because he is no longer in a brand new home. He’s still in a new home, relatively speaking, to be sure, but it isn’t brand new. Also, the behavior changes could have something to do with the fact that he gets to go outside and just. play. Every day. He gets to ride his bike, ride a scooter, roller blade, dig holes, ride horses, play in the sprinkler, play on the massive play set. We go swimming at the lake, he goes to cub scouts, we pull weeds as a family, we have friends over, he “washes” cars with his brothers. He gets to just be a kid for the first time ever. I really think that, more than anything, is helping him relax. There is something about letting a kid be a kid, you know?
That’s not to say he’s always calm, because he isn’t. He’s an eight-year-old boy, after all. And? The slightly excessively not-calm times are pretty predictable. For instance, any time guests come to our house, I know he is going to go a little bonkers. I can get him under control without adding meds, however. Any time we go to the doctor (you know, all two times now), he starts to go a little bonkers. But? Again? I can get him calmed down without additional meds. When McH comes home from work every evening the energy level goes up, but it’s manageable. And . . . umm . . . that’s pretty much it, really. Three hours of church on Sundays? He handles it better than kids who have been doing it their whole lives and have never been diagnosed with any kind of behavior disorder. Sitting through a movie? They don’t make meds that can keep him that still.
So, The Greatest Pediatrician In the World cut his dose in half again today. He’ll take that dose for two weeks, then he’ll take it every other day for two weeks, then he’ll be done. He’ll be off of everything.
“I think you’ve got the right idea,” the doctor said to me. “Kids need to be able to go outside and play and go to bed at night tired because they wore themselves out being kids. They don’t need to be stuck in a “cell” so that mom and dad can both go off to work. They need to play and do chores and be kids.”
I know that statement will anger any feminist who happens to stumble across this blog, but all I can say is: THIS DOCTOR IS A WOMAN. In no way was she saying women shouldn’t work. She was just saying that someone needs to be willing to stay home with kids, especially kids like Spuds who have a difficult, hurtful history, so that they can be kids, they can be carefree, they can burn off energy, whether it’s physical or emotional energy (or both) so that they don’t need pharmaceuticals to calm them down or make them sleep at night.
I’ve talked to Spuds several times about what we are doing with his medications. When I first broached the subject with him very soon after he came home to us, his response was, “I don’t know, I might go crazy again.” I told him at the time that I didn’t think he would. I told him a lot of that would depend upon whether or not he wanted to act crazy. We’ve talked a lot about choice and taking responsibility for one’s actions. He’s eight. We’ll be talking about it a lot more for years to come. At our first visit with The Greatest Pediatrician in the World, she told him basically the same thing. “Listen to your mom and dad. Do what they tell you, be good, and you will be fine.” He and I have discussed her advice a few times as we’ve talked about the changes in his medication.
The other night, as I was telling him that we would be going back to the doctor today and explaining that she would just want to talk to him to make sure everything is going okay before cutting his dose again, I asked him if he remembered what he first told me when I presented the idea of trying to get him off his medications. He had no idea what I was talking about. I reminded him about his comment that he might go crazy again, and I asked him if he still thought that might happen.
“I don’t know. No,” he said.
I asked him if he remembered the times when he “went crazy” and asked him what he was feeling when those times happened. He looked at me warily. He really doesn’t like to talk about his past (though he did tell me more about the scar on his knee the other day, how he got it and who was wielding the cigarette lighter that left it). “You don’t have to tell me what happened,” I explained. “I’m just wondering how you were feeling when you went crazy. Were you scared?” I asked, “Or angry? Or something else.”
“The first one,” he said. “The first one.”
That didn’t surprise me at all. He recently told me that he can remember being taken away from his birth mother’s house. It kind of seems like a stretch since he was not yet three when that happened, but he told me he remembers the police being there, and he remembers the police putting him in the back of their car and taking him away. “But they didn’t put handcuffs on me,” he said.
“Well, of course they didn’t put handcuffs on you,” I said. “You were a toddler, and you weren’t being arrested.”
“I wasn’t? I wasn’t arrested??” he asked.
“No, you weren’t arrested. Didn’t anyone ever explain that to you before?” I asked him.
“No,” he shook his head slowly.
I explained to him that he was removed for his own safety, the police took him because other people were doing bad things, but he had done nothing wrong. I know he’s good at making stuff up, but this one? I think he really believed he’d been arrested.
So the times when he “went crazy”? Many of those times occurred when he had been sent to his bedroom or sent to the “safe room” at school. Basically, his behavior got RAD-like when he was sent to kid jail. Seems like more than a coincidence to me.
Anyway, our goal is to help him feel safe. At this point, I think the behavior issues will be minimal as long as he isn’t constantly overstimulated by a gazillion different people, programs, and procedures being lorded over him and as long as he feels safe.
Every night we close his closet door for him. Every night we sit outside his bedroom until he falls asleep. Every evening I give him a basic idea of what the next day will bring. Every morning I remind him of the basic plan for the day. We want him to feel safe.
As we were walking out of the doctor’s office today, Spuds and Quinn walking a bit ahead in a race for the door, the doctor put her arm around my shoulders, gave me one of those sideways hugs, and said, “You are doing a great thing for him, Mom. You just keep it up.”
“Thank you,” I said. “So far it’s going so well, but I know the honeymoon could still end. I hope it doesn’t, but I know it could.”
“And if it does,” she said, “and you need help? I’ll be right here.”
I literally fought back tears. I am so used to having to fight for what I know is best for my kids any time an outside entity (mainly the stupid public high school) is involved in our lives, and so used to having to explain and defend our decisions to people who are just people and really probably don’t deserve the explanations, that I was joyfully overwhelmed by somebody actually being supportive. I used to be surrounded by supportive women, then we moved. And then we moved again. I’d be lying if I said I felt surrounded by supportive women in the past seven years. God bless that doctor. I am going to send her a Christmas card, because I don’t think we are going to need to see her again before then, and I want her to know how Spuds is doing and how much I appreciate her kindness.
Tewt the Newt thinks it’s too early to be thinking about Christmas and fully supports the deportation of all illegal elves, jolly or otherwise. Vapid newt.
Yesterday I had a conversation with a woman that just about made my head explode. She was telling me how she thinks we should have nationalized health care, but she doesn’t like the Obamacare we have now.
“But that’s not his fault. I know Obama wanted something better for the country, but the Republicans just wouldn’t cooperate with him, so we wound up with this mess.”
I explained to her how the Obamacare legislation was rammed through, how everybody was jumping up and down saying, “Wait, we can’t vote on this because it’s over 1,000 pages long and we haven’t had time to read it. We don’t even know what’s in it,” and how democrats said publicly, “We have to pass the bill to find out what’s in the bill.”
The woman with whom I was conversing couldn’t believe that. I told her to look it up on Youtube. She said multiple times how wrong it is to say you have to pass something to find out what’s in it. But? She still thought that the Obamacare mess is the fault of uncooperative Republicans. It’s no coincidence, I suppose, that she is drowning under a pile of medical bills she can’t pay.
At any rate, I wanted to bang my head against a wall by the time I got home. Instead, I got on Facebook and messaged a friend who I knew would appreciate and sympathize with the frustration I was feeling. He started sharing stories of things he’s seen in his part of the good ol’ US of A: people who live in trailers but have big, expensive pick up trucks (I’ve seen that, too! I say), a friend who had a job she loved but had to quit it and take a job she hates, but which pays more, so that she can help pay for her husband’s truck (Ugh! I say).
But then all that talk of expensive trucks and lack of funds for which to pay for them reminded me of another story. I shared that story with him, and now I’m going to share it with you.
When McH and I were first dating, when we got engaged, and when we got married, he drove a shiny, black pick up truck. This is something apparently all American males dream of? I don’t know. But he had his pickup truck, and I had my little, black 1988 Ford Escort GT. I loved that car. I bought it used my junior year in college. It drove me back and forth across the United States several times. It took me on many jaunts to Chicago after my best friend and her husband moved there. It took me to work, it took me to play; it was my first vehicle of true, adult independence, and I cherished it. I would have kept it forever . . .
. . . Except by the time I got pregnant with A~ it had over 140,000 miles on it and it was dying. Things weren’t working right, and new things were starting to not work right. Fixing it would have cost way more than it was worth as it was worth almost nothing by then.
McH didn’t want his wife and his unborn child driving around in a car that wasn’t reliable, wasn’t safe, so he traded in his shiny, black man-truck, we gave away my Ford Escort to a man who needed transportation but had nothing to pay for it, and we got two Ford Tempos instead. We did all of this because, together, we had decided that I would quite my job once the baby came. A shiny, black man-truck payment and another payment for whatever we got to replace my already-paid-off Escort was going to be way more than we could afford. I should probably explain that I didn’t browbeat him into this decision to part with his blue-blooded American symbol of manliness. I didn’t even ask him to do it. It was his idea.
I did quit my job, and even with two cheap car payments we barely scraped by. I went back and did substitute teaching here and there to help put food on the table, but I never had to leave my child and go to work to pay for a truck that did nothing a gaudy, teal Tempo couldn’t do (other than haul stuff we couldn’t afford anyway and stoke the male ego). I’ve never had to work a day in my life for his ego.
My Facebook friend got an abbreviated version of this story, but I ended with, “If more people would live like that, our country would be in a lot better shape.”
He wrote back, “Agreed.”
No, McH isn’t the only one to have made sacrifices in our marriage, but I’m grateful for the sacrifices he has made. The world may be going to hell in a hand basket, but it’s so nice to be able to look over at my husband and know he’s not contributing to that, to know that, together, in our small corner of the world, we can stem the tide just a little bit.
Nineteen years and six kids later, and Tewt the Newt is still impressed.