Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Idiot of the week and other such nonsense

I will start off this crazy, mishmash post with some humor just so all you not touched by transracial adoption readers can understand what our families deal with on a weekly, if not daily, basis. Heck what any person of color deals with on a weekly, if not daily, basis.

I ran into the mother of a child in my class down at the arena this week. She is a seemingly lovely woman and her child is a friend of Eric's. She is also a frequent visitor to the class, has met me several times. She has also met both of my son's at the school, and this time I was accompanied by all 4 of the boys and made the requisite introductions all around.

All 4 boys shook her hand, said hello and moved a ways off.

She then turned to me and said "What language do your sons speak?"

"Ah, English" (I mean she had just had a conversation with them)

"I mean where are they FROM"

By this time both Greg and Eric have turned around. Eric rolls his eyes and Greg does the requisite teenage snort.

I answer, "Here" And yes, I am not an idiot, I know full well what she means. She means because they aren't white ... where are they FROM. Because you can't be FROM here *here being anywheres usually * (from a white person perspective anyways) if you are shaded any color darker than peach.

She begins to stumble over her questions now, because I am not coughing up the information she wants, or feels she deserves to know, simply because we look different. Remember, adoption, birth, race etc NONE of that has been part of our conversation to this point. Yet she feels so inclined, a normally polite person, to inquire about the nationality, heritage and birth of two children (teens) she has JUST met.

"Well I just thought, you know, that maybe, you know they speak something else"

I reply, rather kindly but with a firm edge to my voice, "You can feel free to ask the boys where they are born, and if they want to they will tell you, but they are FROM here"

The conversation ends. Both boys are smirking. Some days I just hate white people.

In other news, my grandma is dying. Her rally from our last visit was short lived and we know the end is days or at the most, weeks away. Tomorrow I am sending my 7 and 13 year olds on ahead of me, alone, by plane for their goodbye visit. My mom will meet them and they will have a chance to say goodbye. Caden is a wreck. Greg is stoic.

I fly out next Friday, Thanksgiving, with the other two boys for our visit, if she lasts that long. I will be a wreck. I will fall apart. Into smitherenes. But watching her suffer is just so hard. Please think of the boys this weekend as they say goodbye to their Grandma Nan. They love her.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Adoption Diary: My Adoption Eduction at 16

We found my sister. Or was it my sister found us? Or just that we all found each other?

I watched my mom move through the emotions of reunion, my sister do the same and as a 16 year old I received the first part of my real adoption education.

Until this point, adoption had been a sweet story that you read about in teen books or saw on movies. I remember watching the Baby Jessica and Baby M stories on the news and in movie form but all my sympathy and support was for the adoptive family and the grieving child. The villains were the children's biological family, tearing apart the lives of the babies and their families.

But here I was seeing first hand my mother's grief, my sister's joy and their mutual pain and loss. And I learned alot. And felt alot. Because it also affected me. I am often asked what it was like to be the "kept" child. How reunion affected me, influenced me and that is what I am here to share. This is my story of that time, not my mother's, not my sister's, not my father's. I do not presume to know what they would say about that same time, and please know I am sharing the feelings and thoughts I had as a SIXTEEN year old, not from my perspective now as an adult.

My first reaction was really, truly shock. Shock that we hadn't been told. I was hurt and felt lied to. Shock that my mother had been sexually active so young, when I was growing up as sheltered and protected as you can imagine. I was 16 and so, so naive.

I understood, at least in part, WHY my mother hadn't shared with us, especially after she shared stories of the judgement and ridicule she had faced, even at the hands of people I loved dearly. But at the core of it I wondered why she hadn't trusted us with the information. I would have never judged her and knowing would have made lots of other "little things" make sense.

Until the age of 11 or 12 I believed I had an older sister. I would talk about her, dream about her and wrote silly stories about her. I remember the CONSCIOUS discussion I had with myself before I was a teen when I told myself I was being silly, of course I did NOT have an older sister and to stop playing the game. From that moment on I never thought of her again, except to laugh at myself for my silliness. I think what had happened is that as a toddler I had heard "talks". Apparently one grandparent would bring up the missing granddaughter at times, and I must have heard enough to know. I am sure others talked about it around me when my parents weren't there as well.

Other little things came back into my memory. Random days, at least to me, of my mom crying on the couch. I couldn't think of anything that had been wrong and when asking my mom why she was so sad, she would simply reply something about "mistakes that can't be fixed" or "some days are harder than others".

I felt anger. Anger that so many others knew the secret. I found out cousins, cousins we didn't even visit with, hang out with or were really a part of our family in any sort of tangible way, KNEW. They had been told by their parents of my mother's "indiscretion" and been told to never tell my little sister or I. Anger that we had been lied to. By omission.

I felt jealousy. I was the "oldest" and held on very hard to that title. Suddenly, in one fell swoop my sister took "first grandchild", "first wedding", "first EVERYTHING" from me (remember I was 16 at the time ...) I wanted and needed assurance from my mom that I was "special". That she loved Jess and I more or differently than this stranger that was suddenly claiming the title of oldest daughter from me. I could not comprehend at the time that a mother-daughter bond could transcend time and space. They were strangers to each other and I felt displaced.

Despite the negative feelings at times, mostly I was happy. PROUD in fact of this sudden addition to our family. Proud of being an aunt. I shared with everyone, everywhere the news of my sister. I was so happy that finally my family wasn't as boring as I had perceived it to be. (trust me in the years ahead, I CRAVED the "boring family" I once so disdained as my life got progressively more 'interesting' through my parents divorce).

But even a sixteen year old, a naive, protected sixteen year old, could see the fact that the separation of my mom and my sister had caused them damage. My mother's perspective was (and is) that adoption for my sister was the only choice at the time. A very young and immature 16 year old without the support of family, state or the baby's father? There was no welfare to support them. No where she could go with a baby. They would have been homeless, and from my mom's perspective both their futures decimated. It was the right choice, given the circumstances, it was just handled terribly, cruelly and in the absolute worst way by church, friends and especially family. Adoption, the way it occurred to them, caused her incredible unnecessary pain, affected her life in a horrible way but was worth it, to her, if it provided my sister a "better" life.

Five years after my mother gave birth to my sister, her own little sister found herself sixteen and pregnant with her own baby girl. In this case my aunt was told by the priest she could keep her baby. Marry the father, parent her child. This was a disaster for all involved. Abuse, loss and the decimation of relationships followed. In the end my aunt also lost her child, my cousin lost her mother but without ever the chance of reunion. Without the DESIRE for reunion. My mom saw that her and her sister lived parallel lives. Different choices, same end result. She hoped that for my sister that her "choice", or rather the decision inflicted on them, had been better.

From my perspective, it was easy to see that my sister was hurting. Primal Wound or not, my sister was deeply affected by being adopted. She had yearned and looked for my mother without answers to her questions for years. It had become her obsession. All agree (my mom continues a friendly relationship with them today) she has good parents that loved her dearly and have supported her in many ways. They did their best with the tools they had to deal with adoption issues at that time. Raised with two brothers, also adopted, that never desired to search, my sister struggled with adoption and a sense of belonging from a young age. She too was a parent young. And struggled with maintaining relationships.

This period of my life taught me that adoption was complicated. Not a simple case of a precious baby needing a new family, loving parents and a stable future all tied up neatly with a bow of a new birth certificate. It taught me that secrets hurt the children involved. That sometimes openness is what adopted children need to heal and be healthy. That often first parent pain never, ever goes away. That reunion is different for the mother than for the child, and for the adult child than the mother. That each person in the adoptive family (and I include kept, bio siblings in that family) are affected by adoption. That sometimes adoption might be necessary, that children cannot be raised in their family of origin, but that does NOT erase their past or their imprint on their lives of their first family either.

I learned all this, reviewed it, discussed it absorbed it. And it was a good thing, because 6 months later, as a 17 year old, I held the most beautiful baby I had ever seen in my arms as his mother begged and pleaded with me through sobs and tears to take him, raise him and love him as my son.

The path of my life had definitely turned a corner.

Friday, September 26, 2008

In case you wonder what I am doing with myself.


Tanner in goal, Eric on defense

Caden at tryouts
TEN. TEN ice times this weekend. T-E-N. That's like 8 more than are enjoyable.
Adoption Diary is coming. Soon. Like maybe in the spring.
Enjoy your weekend. You know where to find me.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Maybe I am just tired?

I wore my skirt on backwards.

All day.

At school.

And noone said anything to me.

But I wondered why my class of 12 and 13 year olds were snickering.

Lordy, I need a nap.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

I am Tired of Being an Adoptive Parent

Ok, or more honestly, I am tired of being considered a HYPHENATED parent by every joe schmoe. Yeah I have dealt with it in forum land and it really doesn't bother me anymore. But over a cup a coffee? Or in the grocery story? Or the school hallway? I am just really tired of it.



So very, very rarely, just Jen, mom of 4.

Yes, I know sort of silly considering I have this very public blog to discuss adoption and adoption issues, celebrate life with my kids and how very lucky I am to be a mom to all of my sons. But seriously, I am tired of it. I am HAPPY to have thoughtful, considerate conversations about adoption. About special needs. About my kids. In fact I have had a couple this week. But the ignorant ones? I am tired of being thick skinned because "people just don't know". Or being the poster child for adoption because I am a visible adoptive parent. Some days, some times I just want to be a mom.

Jen. Mom of four.

Because in the last 7 days I have heard the following and I am TIRED:

"Are they brothers in real life?"

"Do you love those ones as much as you love your own?"

"Did his mother do drugs or WHAT?"

"So you adopt those two or what?"

"Is your husband black or did you adopt?"

"How many times have you been married because your kids sure don't look alike."

"He can't be YOUR son!"

And you know, its been 9 years since we adopted. These are questions we get from people STILL. S-T-I-L-L and some days, some times I get tired of it. Why do WE have to be a poster board for adoption education? I'd like to be invisible, just for a week. Actually, one week a year I AM invisible. Just a normal mom. I love camp. Maybe I need a fall camp booster? Pam? Susan? Do you hear my cries for help here? I just want another week of camp. Please.

So below is my vent. The answers to the questions I wanted to say but didn't. I smiled, I answered politely. You know why? Just so someone, somewhere - probably another adoptive parent - doesn't have to deal with the "but you know, I talked to this one adoptive mom once and she said *********".

The same frustration that adoptees feel when they are told by a stranger that their daughter's friend's hairdresser's mother is adopted and has no questions about it, or is screwed up, or is perfectly happy not know she is adopted.

Read. Learn. And know what not to ask me in case I bite your head off one day.

Are they real?

No (you moron), we are actors in a reality television show. What the heck do you think? Yes they are brothers IN REAL LIFE. And seeing as you are asking whether or not my two sons through adoption are biologically related, what the heck does it matter to you? Does it make a difference? I mean it must because I have been asked this question at least twice a week for the last 9 years. EVERY week. EVERY year. I am tired of it. Yes, all four boys are REAL brothers. Yes, there are two groups of biologically related siblings in our family. NO IT DOESN'T MAKE A FREAKING BIT OF DIFFERENCE IN HOW THEY VIEW EACH OTHER, OR LOVE EACH OTHER, OR IF THEY ARE REALLY BROTHERS.

Caden was born into a family of 3 brothers. None of the kids have conscious memories prior to meeting each other. They ARE brothers. Now leave your judgement of the reality of their relationship ALONE. And certainly don't bother sharing your "wisdom" with me EVER in front of my kids.

"Do you love them?" (as much is the implied judgement)

There is so much wrong with this question I am not quite sure exactly where to start. First off, yes I do. And no, I am not interested in your opinion that you could NEVER love another child as much as the one you pushed out. I don't care if you are that shallow or closed minded, because if you are, I really don't want to be your friend anyways. I would hope you would never adopt. I don't care that you lack the imagination to consider that its possible to love a child that doesn't look like you as much as one that does. And although I don't "own" any of my kids, they are all darn well my kids. I know how I feel and I am just so incredibly tired of having to defend that.

"Are those behaviors because his mother did drugs?" (and all variations that imply that all adoptees are genetically deficient, bad seeds, drug babies and otherwise lesser)

First off, I reserve the right to vent about my kids. Secondly, because I have a bad day with a frustrating behavior does NOT mean I don't love my child. It doesn't mean I am not committed to him and it CERTAINLY doesn't mean I regret being his mother. Thirdly, that's none of your business. Some kids are difficult, and if you are going to try to give me 'parenting techniques' bite your tongue. I know way, way, way more about my children and their issues than you can even guess at. I am a competent parent and NO ONE wants them to succeed in life more than me. You wonder at how I parent, ask me, don't judge. Yes my parenting might be different than yours, but my kids are different than yours and my parenting skills are REQUIRED to be different than yours. And why that is is none of your business unless I volunteer to share it with you.

So that's my vent. Sorry its a bit abrupt, but well I have HOCKEY. In like 3 minutes and well, my mom is back and things are nuts and well ... BYE.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Parenting With a Support Team: How Novel

Friday was Mom and Son baking day in Caden's class. I was dealing with my own class, and trying to run back and forth to "participate".

Grandma to the rescue.

We have lived almost 12 years in a community without any extended family. I have never had "back up" for childcare. No grandma to run over when a child is sick. No aunts to take over when I have the flu. When it came to doctor's appointments, school functions, or emergencies all my boys have always been dragged along. A scheduling conflict between two events? One parent goes one way, another goes the other or someone misses out.

Trust me, taking 3 preschoolers to the doctor with your newborn? Is not as fun as it sounds.

And on Friday, on the first day of her first visit in almost 8 years my mom got to fill in with Caden and had a wonderful time.

And then she turned Eric back into "clean cut and respectable young man".

And he actually seemed to enjoy the process.

The weekend was crazy. 6 ice times, a hockey parents meeting, church, Sunday School, laundry, meals, and sleep. Add in there a birthday party for a friend that was way, way out of my league but resulted in a small amount of ego stroking as I was ID'ed at the door. A son on a terror of attitude and behavior for two straight days and Shel travelling with another child to a city over an hour away each way for hockey and did I mention being tired?

I think I am still alive.

Slightly frozen.

Definitely exhausted.

And am on my way to work to recover from the weekend.

Yes, that means a day with 30 kids, and being a T/A for a little girl with autism is more relaxing than my weekend.

But have you met my son?


Update coming later.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

You all can quit praying now!

Oh for goodness sakes! Who out there has a direct line to the Hockey Gods? And once you come forward and admit it, I will promptly tell you to STICK A SOCK IN IT!!

Greg is on the Bantaam Rep Team.

Eric is on the Pee Wee Rep Team.

Tanner got a call last night and has been asked to join the Pee Wee Development Team as their goalie. And will still have to play on his House Team.

Caden has tryouts this weekend.

4 boys, 5 full fledged hockey teams. From past Monday until this coming Sunday evening we have TWELVE ice times.

Twelve ice times that come around school hours. Twelve ice times that come around work hours. Twelve ice times that mean we are at the rink for AT LEAST two hours each time.

Twelve ice times. And you know what, hockey doesn't really even START for another month.

Oh and did I mention the tournaments? Starting this weekend the boys are travelling all over God's Green Earth (or Hell's frozen ponds, depending on your perspective) for hockey. Hockey that hasn't really started yet.

Oh and in further dramatic news my mother is "surprising" me with a visit (thank the Lord for my sister who knew I would want a bit of a warning - Thanks Jess. I love you DEARLY!!). She will be arriving within the next hour. If you know me IRL you are already on your knees. If you don't, suffice to say ... Shel is breaking out the whisky as we speak.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Adoption Diary: Part 5 "And so we meet"

My Sister and her family.
First visit to our home.
The next day my mom, my sister and I piled into a car and drove the down the highway towards our missing family member. A missing family member that I hadn't known existed a mere 24 hours before.

We stopped at the mall while my frantic mother tried to find an "appropriate" gift. She finally settled on a potted plant. Really, none of it made sense to my 16 year old self.

A potted plant? Really? It seemed a bit of a lame gift to say "Hi, I am your mother you have been looking for all your life" but what did I know? And what possibly COULD be the appropriate gift? I cant imagine what my mom was thinking as she strolled through that mall. Apparently my sister appreciated the gesture though.

I sat in the car in the driveway while my mother approached the front door of the little house my sister lived in. My mom asked that she do this part of the reunion alone. I sat out there for what felt like hours, but I think was around forty five minutes.

I don't remember meeting my sister, which seems strange now to think about. I remember thoughts and impressions. She looks more like our mom than either my raised sister or I ever had. Her kids were beautiful. I was an Aunt.

We found out that her adoptive grandmother was the seamstress that had made my grandma's curtains. My mom had been in her grandmother's home. There were pictures of my sister as a small child on her walls that my mother would have seen.

They had attended the same church on the same Sunday. My mom remembered seeing my nephew running around.

They had gone to the same counsellor for help with adoption related issues.

We had the classic honeymoon period.

Our family grew.

Back: Aunt, Mom, Sister, Sister, Grandma
Front: Uncle, Cousin, Me, Niece, Nephew, Nephew, Dad

Everyone attended my graduation from high school.

Mom, Sister L, Me, Sister Jess

Slowly we became a family. And for a period of time it was good, and close and our relationship grew. She was, in fact, my sister.

And then for a variety of highly complicated, very tragic and personal reasons, my sister now lives the solitary life of an addict, and we have not spoken in almost seven years. My niece and my mother are very close. Thanks to facebook I can follow along in her life and keep in touch.

But lets rewind a bit because this Adoption Diary series is supposed to be about how I came to adopt and how certain experiences in my life affected my views on adoption. Obviously this experience did.

Often I am asked how it was to be 16 and find out your mother has a child you didn't know existed. A child that is now an adult, a child that is your sister. How it feels to live with the unnamed pain of a birthmother as your mother when you don't know the reason WHY the tears come. And I will share here the thoughts and feelings I had as that 16 year old girl, in the next installment of my story.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Further trials and tribulations...

THEN ....

When I find out you WORE your Obama shirt to school, but covered it up with your coat most of the day (in direct violation of the code of our bet) I make you hand over MY money in front of your hysterically laughing friends. FRIENDS, by the way, that not only ratted you out but who all were trying to BUY the shirt right off your back because they loved it so much.

This being a mom of teenager stuff requires me to be smart. SMART and sly. And to know which of Greg's friends couldn't keep his mouth shut if his very life depended on it!

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Trials and Tribulations of Having a Mother like ME

When I am your mom ...

I ask to check your homework. When you tell me you threw it out, I ask you go to through your garbage and bring it to me. When you tell me you ripped it into pieces and can't find it, I make you re-do it three times and then apologize for lying.

I email your teachers and embarrass you by actually attending parent nights and worse, introducing myself.

I pay for school pictures, make you do your hair before they are taken and then send them off to all your assorted relatives who insist on telling you what a handsome kid you are.

I pay you ten bucks to wear your OBAMA IS MY HOMEBOY shirt to school which gets you all sorts of positive attention from your friends and teachers, and much to your surprise, everyone thinks it's cool.

I don't consider a fudgsiscle the dairy portion of a well rounded supper.

I cry over the unsolicited apology note you give me for lying about doing your homework.

I give you gigantic hugs on the playground, which you love, and then tell you to go wash your filthy hands, which you hate.

I know who your friends are and who their parents are. I know where you are and who you are hanging out with. I really, really restrict the amount of trouble you can get into by being annoyingly present.

I consider most PG 13 movies unacceptable, but sit with you while we watch Schindler's List and Amistaad, both Restricted.

I am excited that you get to vote in a mock federal election, making you question my sanity, again.

I love you more than I can say or ever show. My heart bursts with pride for the men you are becoming.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Adoption diary: Part 4 "A Baby is Born"

I am telling you a story, a true story, but a story of my mother as it was recounted to me on that fateful afternoon eighteen years ago. It was told to me through tears and although you might find it too hard to believe it is probably all to familiar to other first mothers of that era.

My mother at 16 faced delivery alone. The nun supervising the process was to ensure it was as painful as possible to "Teach the girls a lesson". Laying across her stomach during contractions. Calling her a whore. No medications. No help. Just lots and lots of pain.

In some ways my mom was one of the 'lucky' ones. She was able to hold her baby after she gave birth. She was able to name her. Know she was a beautiful little girl.

She was assured that the baby was going right away to a "good Catholic family". She balked, argued and protested about signing the papers, finally in order to ensure her consent, the lawyer promised her that she would be a sent a picture of the baby at three months old.

You all know, I am sure, such a picture never arrived.

For two weeks she recovered in the maternity home. It was then time to appear in court.

She watched as a screaming baby was walked down a long hall held in a Nun's arms. The Nun handed the baby to her mother. Her 16 year old mother. In court, alone. Having to physically hand the baby over in front of a judge. An exercise in torture it seemed to her at the time.

Instantly the baby settled into her arms. She recounted to us how she had stared at my sister, and then when the judge decreed that her parental rights were legally terminated, she turned and had to hand the baby back to the Nun.

She watched her baby, once again screaming, disappear down the hallway in the arms of a French Canadian Nun. That was the last time she saw her, or heard anything about her for 27 years.

My mom tried to find comfort in the imaginings that her baby, then named Beverly, went immediately to the home of her adoptive parents.

She did not.

We found out later that it was 6 weeks before she was placed into the arms of her adoptive parents. Time to make sure she wasn't defective? Time to ensure that in fact this beautiful little baby would really be a perfect little adoptee? Time to ensure her skin stayed a creamy shade of ivory? No matter why or how, when she was finally placed into her home she was covered in bed sores and in desperate need of love and family.

My mother returned to the home of her abusive father. There was no where else to go and this was supposed to be her "fresh start". My grandfather, rest his soul, was horrible. Evil in his intentions, abusive in his parenting.

He told her over breakfast every day that God would punish her for giving away her baby. Yet reminded her continually that no man would ever want a whore. A whore, in his mind, anyone who had sex and got caught before marriage.

Every adult, without exception, from the start to the end of the process treated my mother as an object of derision. To be mocked. Insulted. Used to be made an example of. She wasn't offered counselling, support or even understanding. She was never to talk about the time, yet everyone talked about her.

In a twist of fate, the infant baby of my mother's roommate at the maternity home was adopted by her father's neighbour shortly after she returned home without her own baby. A baby she watched gestating in his mother. A baby she saw after he was born. A baby she now saw with his adoptive parents. She never shared the secret she knew of his past and his birth until the day she shared the story of her own daughter with my younger sister and I on this fateful afternoon in 1991. A question of wonderment at why God would force her to see this other baby, but never allow her to see her own.

She quickly jumped forward in time. My sister, (OH MY GOODNESS MY SISTER!!) had been looking for my mother for 9 years. From the day of her eighteenth birthday when she hired a private detective.

That very day my mother had received a letter from the BC Government Passive Reunion Registry. My mom had heard through a church service that it was possible for mothers and children to reunite nowadays, and she she had applied. Before that time she had not realized it was even a possibility. My sister had applied years before.

They had spoken. I was an aunt, three times over. My mother, a grandmother.

And we were going to go meet her the next day.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Family Update

Shel, also known around here as "The Gimp" is hobbling around sans crutches, which is a good thing. His progress immediately after surgery was rapid, but much slower of late. Hopefully, things will continue. Doc says at least a year, maybe more of progress.

Greg appears to have made the Bantam Rep team. For those in the hockey know how, you will know this is a big deal as he is a first year Bantam player, and he is beating out many second year players in order to make the team. It's not really SURPRISING per se but it is nice for him. I met his teachers last night at the Parent Open House and afterwards Greg and I had a wee talk about "appropriate classroom behavior for 13 year old boys"; including but not limited to discussions of being quiet when your teacher is teaching, not laughing at your idiot friends in class time and actually completing assigned work. And then I made him sit beside me while I emailed each of his teachers our contact information. Isn't he lucky to have such involved and caring parents? He doesn't think so either.

Eric is enjoying 7th grade, and even MORE surprising, not minding having mom in class with him either (more on that later). Also, he is trying out for the PeeWee Rep team and hasn't been cut. If you can spare a prayer in that direction I would ever so grateful. I know how emotionally devastating it was on him when he was cut last year, I can't fathom what it would do to him this year to be cut. So ... we await the news. Tomorrow, possibly sometime next week we will know if he has made the team.

Tanner is LOVING french immersion. As in absolutely loving it. Loving his school. Loving his friends. Loving his teacher. Doesn't mind the work, seems to enjoy the language and has no complaints. Tanner was, as expected, cut from the PeeWee Rep team as a goalie, but he didn't care too much as he would rather play on the Development team or House anyways.

Caden tells everyone, and I mean everyone, that his mommy works at the school. He is a cuddle bug even still, but not a bit clingy. His teacher reports that he might chatter a bit in class but is very well behaved and never oppositional. He seems to love school, but would still prefer it if I stayed home with him all day every day and cuddled in our rocking chair. Oh well, he will adjust.

I am enjoying work. Actually, I am LOVING work. It's been 11 and a half years since I have been gainfully employed outside of the home and its been an interesting (and yes exhausting) transition, but also worth it. The class is large, active but well behaved. We are getting into a grove and the little one I work with mostly one on one is absolutely a sweet heart, and her family are gems as well.

All in all we are doing ok. The only member of the family currently in crisis is Annie. Poor abandoned Annie. She would love some sympathy, or company or summer to return as she sits with her nose plastered to the window all day until we return after school.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Adoption Thoughts: Nine Years Ago Today

Last night was the ninth anniversary of the day we first kept Greg and Eric over night.

9 / 9 / 99

Two days prior we had met two excited, scared and thankfully, prepared little boys. They had been shown our family video, read from our family story book, talked to about the pending transition by their foster mom. They were as ready as they could be for the transition from all they knew into nothing they could even imagine.

New parents.
New brother.
New family.
New city.
New country.

And for the first two days everything was ok. Amazing at times, overwhelming and stimulating at others, but overall just fine.

Eric, at 3, could not understand or even begin to fathom the changes that were about to occur in his life. With his mommy since infancy (foster mom Deb), he had no frame of reference to even imagine that could ever change. It took him months after he moved in with us to even grieve the possibility that things had REALLY changed forever.

Greg, at 4.5, had memories. Strong memories of being removed from his first mom, L, at the age of 18 months. He remembered their visits. He knew, somewhere deep in his soul, the heart breaking changes that were about to occur. And he was scared. And he showed us how scared he really was by pushing us away. Running from us in parking lots. Screaming at us when we wouldn't comply with his demands. Attempting to control the transition process as much as he could.

Then there was that first night together. A crowded hotel room in St. Louis wasn't exactly ideal for 3 preschoolers, but it would have to do. Our home video of that night show lots of laughing. A group bath with much play between the boys. The new big brothers showing Tanner how to jump on the beds. Lots of "mommy watch ME" "Look at ME daddy" over and over again.

Finally we settled them. Shel and I were completely exhausted by this point.

Tanner, 22 months, asleep in his playpen. Greg and Eric asleep, sharing one bed, Shel and I staring at the ceiling in another.

At midnight Greg awoke. His scared, hard exterior broken by the intimacy of night, desperation of a little boy whose heart was breaking.

He crawled into my lap sobbing. For hours I held this stranger. This little boy now legally my son as he screamed and begged to be brought back to another mother. He bargained, promising to be good. To do anything if only I would give him back.

There were no words to say other than what I did say "I am sorry this hurts so much, I am so very, very sorry this hurts so much". Repeated a thousand times as I whispered into his ear and rocked him close. At that moment he hated me for taking him away, and yet desperately needed me because his world was falling apart. I understood, as best I could, how really torn he was.

There was nothing else to say. That I loved him? That he would be "better off"? That really there were good, good grownup reasons for him being moved? You, for even a moment, think he cared about any of that?

What he cared about was that he was leaving what he knew. His mommy. His family. A child doesn't hear the words "foster" or "birth" or "adoptive". They don't care about rules, or laws, or good grown up reasons. They care about what they know. Those familiar to themselves.

I knew, and understood, all the grownup reasons why the boys were being moved. Good reasons, valid, important reasons. Reasons that from an adult perspective that made a whole lot of sense. I knew, logically, that with alot of work and alot of time, both boys would come to love us and need us.

But at that moment, on that night, I would have done anything to take away the pain of my sons. Anything.

Maybe adoptive parents don't talk about that enough. The pain our kids went through to get to us. For me to become their mommy, they had to lose two others. Two others that they loved and needed.

Often people say "Oh those boys are SO lucky". Lucky? Imagine what they have survived. Imagine going through half of that yourself.

I understand its hard to see when you look at these amazing, happy, growing boys with glowing smiles on their faces succeeding and growing and learning every step of the way. But, understand they have paid a price to be our sons.

Today I can look back the help of time and perspective to understand that moment of holding my sobbing, heart broken son wasn't the end of his world. That he came through, that he bonded and attached and grieved.

He has long forgotten that night, but I will never.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Adoption Diary: Part 3

Through tears, my mom shared her story.

15, Pregnant, 1963. And the clincher, Catholic.

Divorced parents, an unheard of oddity during that era, was probably one nail in the coffin of her impending motherhood. Being Catholic, pregnant and a teen in Coquitlam during the 60's the other.

She was sent away to an Unwed Mother's Home in Vancouver in late 1962. Her friends were told that she was living with an aunt in Saskatchewan. She would write letters to the aunt, and they would be forwarded to her friends just a few kilometers down the road.

The nuns abused them. Verbally, emotionally and yes, physically. They were regularly called whores. Reminded that that no man would ever want them now. That bad girls deserved nothing. They were forced to work in a manner similar to slavery of years gone past.

My mother was violently ill with all her pregnancies, and this first one was the worst. Hospitalized, but segregated from the other pregnant women lest her tainted ways affect the other more deserving, married mothers.

She ran away from the hell that was then was dragged back sobbing and begging by the one relative that she thought would save her, and care for her. Her hope was gone.

The priest was consulted and decreed that the baby would be placed for adoption. There was no choice. No asking. No counselling.

There was no option for a teen mother at this time, during this era. Social stigma was enormous.

There was no welfare available for unmarried 15 year olds. An abusive father, an emotionally fragmented mother, an extended family that was more concerned with appearances around church circles than with the safety of their young niece.

The back street abortion that the baby's father wanted her to have was both illegal and unsafe, and against everything that my mother had been taught was right.

She cried as she shared and tried to make us understand what life was like back then for her. I couldn't comprehend.

I was OLDER than she had been when she had my sister and my biggest concern in life was what was for lunch.

She began to share what happened to her when her baby, her daughter, my sister was born.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Adoption Diary: Part One

Sorry for the delay after the introduction to my Adoption Diary, but life has gotten BUSY.

I was 16. Out for lunch with a friend. A date, sort of. An awkward lunch of small talk. I think his name was Steve.

We drove back to my house so he could meet my parents. I walked in the door and could sense "it". I didn't know what was causing "it" this time, but I knew "it" was there.

Steve was sent on his way without ever meeting anyone. I needed him gone, and probably made my point efficiently. Not so strangely, I suppose, that was the last time I talked to him for a long time. I got a call when he got engaged, and an explanation that I wouldn't be receiving a wedding invitation because his fiancee was jealous of me.

One lunch date that for me was only memorable because of what happened after, but I remember because that lunch was the last moment my life was the way I actually believed it to be. Everything was to change in the next few years. And it all started for me at the moment I walked in to the house and sensed "it".

A child of fighting parents gets very in tune to "it". The tangible sense of stress in the air when you walk in the door. The shut doors. The not talking, or the talking too loud behind closed doors. Red rimmed eyes of your mother, the silent hunched back of your father in front of the television. Normal seems elusive. The only ones pretending to be normal are the kids.

Jess, 14, and I, had acting normal down pat. School, friends, sports (ok just Jess), church, family. Pretend on the outside, be wary on the inside.

By all accounts, we were your All-Canadian Perfect Christian Family. My mom was ultra conservative, incredibly involved, over protective and very loving. My dad was hard working, loving, family oriented and also involved in our lives.

We went to my grandparents' house for Sunday visits and Kentucky Fried Chicken picnics and my Nan's house on Saturday nights to watch hockey. I knew there was disfunction "out there" but for the most part my parents did a stellar job of protecting us from it. Except of course, for the reality of their failing marriage, "stuff" happened to other people and by all accounts our lives were fairly boring and extremely middle class normal.

And then that day I walked into the house and sensed "it". Something in the air. Some stress. Some tension. Some very strong emotion.

After Steve left, I knocked on my mother's office door. She was crying. Sobbing in fact.

I was scared.

"I need to talk to you girls" she said, "and its very, very important".

I found my little sister and we sat on the floor in my mother's room and waited for the news that would open our eyes to a whole other life. Another world.

It was, in many ways, the first day of the rest of my life.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

When Family and Blogging Collide

I have some posts written, and on hold, as I try to find the words to write here. Adoption Diary posts to come, as soon as I get this out of the way.

Ok, so yes, I realize I have readers.

And the majority of those readers don't know me in real life.

And more importantly you don't know my extended family in real life.

You don't talk with my dad, or run into my mom, chat with my sister, visit my grandparents, or see my very large arrangement of aunts, uncles and cousins at family functions. You don't visit with Shel's side or pass on messages to his parents.

But some of you do.

It's to you, my much loved family, that I address this post. First off, thank you for reading. For having an interest in my family, and by extension a small part of your family, and our lives, our adoption journey and of course, my sons.

Secondly, there is a certain safety in sharing deep parts of your heart and journey with strangers. Strangers who aren't going to recount your story to anyone that is affected by it. Its scary sharing when you know that some of your story may make its way back to people you love and cause them pain.

I have a wonderful, large extended family of whom I am very proud to be a part of. We are found in every corner of this province, and really across the continent. We have an incredible history in Canada that goes back centuries on both sides. And they love me, and I love them. We are part of each other.

So, to my family and close friends that read this little blog, and especially the Adoption Diary posts to come, I ask for your understanding. I will be sharing my heart, my story and mostly MY PERSPECTIVE. Please don't think I am discounting other perspectives of this portion of my life, but this is my time to share. I am not ashamed of what I write, but I also don't want it turned into fodder for family gossip.

I am happy to share with people who chose to READ here but the quandary comes when our story is shared and passed along with those that have chosen not to. Parts of my blog have come back to me, and not once but now many times, through the family grapevine.

The story has changed, been distorted and altered to the point of being completely false.

Our parents know about this blog, but they choose, for whatever reasons, not to read it. Heck they are our PARENTS, what do they need a blog to know whats going on in our lives for?

However, now we have gotten panicked phone calls from 3 out of 4 of our parents in the last month because someone took portions of the information I post here and passed it on to another loved one, and someone else passed it on, and then again someone else passed it on until it made its way back to us as a completely different story. Often much worse. Often more serious. Often scary.

The parents have been informed - if its important, we will tell you ourselves. Don't worry, no pertinent information on the kids or our family is put here without first being shared with those that need to know.

So dear family members, I am glad you read. I am glad parts of my story, our story, has touched you to the point that you have wanted to share it with others. But be aware in the very normal family way that these stories, when shared, morph and change.

If you have a question, ask me. If you have a different perspective, tell me. If you don't understand what I have written, or will write, in the days ahead, check in with me. But PLEASE don't ask my dad, or call Shel's mom, or email cousin so and so who hasn't seen me in two decades to ask what she thinks. And actually, its none of my READERS that have done this ... its everyone else that hears about the life I share on the blog that seems to.

I hope you understand the spirit in which I write this. Its with love, humor, gratitude and a bit of fear that anything I write here can hurt those I cherish.

Enjoy your weekend. I sure am!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

So tired. Need maid. Send Help.

So. So. So Tired.

Seriously people. SO tired.

Not sure why?

Could be the 4 boys needing parenting.

Or the fact my husband is away.

Or maybe its the 30 kids the first year teacher and I, first time Teacher's Aide, are responsible for all day.

Could be from hockey tryouts every night this week.

Or the fact my attachment disordered dog feels ignored.

And did you know groceries don't buy themselves when you work all day?

The dishwasher stays full?

The bills, the bills still need to be paid. At the BANK?

And laundry. Oh the laundry.

Lunches. I hereby decree that I hate school lunches. FOR ME. When you can't eat wheat, menu items that are packaged quickly in a lunch kit are few and far between. And new school regulations that dictate that NOTHING processed can be sold in schools anymore? Seriously, how can I avoid grocery shopping when my kids cant buy french fries anymore? Carrot sticks only tempt teenage and preteen boys so much.

On a good note, all 4 boys are loving school. Tanner enjoys french immersion, Greg seems to love his Hockey Academy Program, Eric is relieved I am in his class to be the buffer and Caden has made several new friends.

And if you enjoy housework, boy do I have a fun project for you!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Reunion Thoughts: The Post Script

Greg and I have now been home from our trip six weeks. Six weeks to readjust, settle in, process and reassume our normal lives and roles.

A friend told me that there was a possibility that Greg might pull away from adoption completely for a while as he processed all that he saw and heard on the trip.

He has. And his first family (birth family) has as well.

Senior called once on the day we got home, and sent the pictures of the prison visit, but didn't enclose a note or letter. Greg and I sent 200 pictures back to him and have not received a response.

This week, Greg commented on this to Shel and I with some disappointment in his voice.

The only person Greg has mentioned having on going contact with is his brother. Greg has initiated 2 emails to him, with no response. What Greg doesn't realize yet, and I haven't the heart to tell him, is that brother has blocked both of us on My Space, Facebook and on msn. I think that this relates to what I saw in Missouri regarding L's desire to control the friendship between the two of them. On this front, I am heart broken for Greg. Brother's birthday approaches, and I am hoping this will open a door for Greg to write a letter and send a gift.

Speaking of L, there has been no further contact from her. Her birthday came and went and Greg adamantly refused to initiate contact himself. I have texted her twice, and received a response once.

Greg himself has been quiet about it all. The odd mention now and then, but not much discussion. Normal life has continued with nary a bump, so far. We look through the scrapbook I made of the trip and he is not overly interested in it. It seems his curiousity has been sated, and his desire to return to normal life has been strong.

From my point of view, he and I are closer. We talk more about everything. With a new sense of confidence that the trip gave me, I am tougher on him in some ways. I can read him better. I can often tell what he is thinking. I am more empowered to put boundaries in place specifically in regards to him, he is more prone to accept them. He also gets more privileges. I trust him, I respect his level of responsibility.

For those that fear reunion or talk lots of losing their child to the pull of a first family, I'd like to offer a counter arguement. My son is still my son. I helped him fill a NEED he had, a need that scared and saddened me at times, and thrilled me at others. Because we listened to him and his needs at the time when HE needed it, not at the artificial age of 18 or 21 or "some day when we think you are ready" we were rewarded with a child that trusts us MORE. Needs us MORE. Loves us, if possible, even MORE.

Greg came home still Greg. He is still grouchy in the mornings and giddy in the afternoons. He still has a mask expression on his face most of the time that others thnk means he is grouchy, but I know means he is bored or uncomfortable. He jokes, he laughs, he cries. He plays with his brothers. He laughs uproariously at home, smiles shyly when we are out. He gets mad a me, and he hugs me. He is super competative, and nervous about change. In essence, he is still Greg. Still my son. Still the child of my heart.

I have no regrets.

Monday, September 1, 2008

A Labour of Love: Home on Labour Day

First, thanks for the prayers.

In a miracle of circumstance (and a misplaced Do Not Resuscitate Order) my grandma's heart was restarted on Saturday morning.

Although some might express sadness that her wishes were not followed during this turn of events, universally, the family closest to her expressed joy.

Joy we were able to get to her side and Joy we were able to spend more time with her.

And she was apparently quite happy about it all too. Because for the next 48 hours while I did not leave her bedside she talked. Not slept. Not rested. Talked. Talked to me. Talked to the IV pole. Talked to the pillow. Talked to the people I could not see but she definitely could. Talked to the children playing in her bed. Not REAL children to the rest of us, but definitely real children to her. She talked of her past. She talked about our kids. She talked about making plans for Christmas dinner.

Talk about dying. Talk about saying good bye. Talk about love and devotion. Talk about all that needed to be said.

Over 48 hours I got around 4 hours sleep on a hospital room chair.

A small, small sacrifice to spend time with my Nan.

When I left her last night it was with tears and a very real fear that it was the last time to say goodbye, again. I am not really sure how many death door experiences we can handle or she will survive. But thank you, thank you, thank you for your thoughts and prayers. It really was a miracle. A strange, quirky miracle and turn of circumstance that I had this time with her.

Ok and now present reality hits in. I arrived home at 8 pm last night. Shel had left at noon for a week long business trip.

Today ... 4 boys go back to school. I go back to work.