Thursday, July 31, 2008

Prayers Please

Sometimes real life is just hard.

My grandma is back in the hospital. We love her so much. We miss her even more. She needs to be back in BC with her family, yet for many complicated reasons, she's isn't. It's not our choice. And now she is sick, and we are not there. I hate this. I hate feeling so helpless. And I love my Nan more than you can imagine. I need her even more.

A life long friend is sitting by the bedside of her mother who is dying of lieukemia. I am far to far away.

Another life long friend is sufferring from Lyme in a way that is robbing her and her family of so, so much.

Two people I care about dearly are about to have babies.

I miss my friends. My family. I want to multiply myself to be where I am needed.
And I live in the middle of nowhere. Far, far away.

Reunion Thoughts: Supporting the One Who Chooses Not To

EDITED: Eric has asked that I remove "needy" from the list of descriptors. Eric says he is NOT needy, he just likes things a certain way and chooses things to be THAT way.


No one could ever convince me there is one standard response children come up with to a complicated life history including abuse, foster care, adoption, and trans racial parents.

Why you ask? Because I have two children who have faced every experience in their short lives with completely different outlooks.

Two children with the exact same genetics. The exact same life experiences. The exact same pre-natal care. The exact same parents, 3 times over. And exact opposite personalities.

From day one, their view of the world has been very different. Eric lived with his first parents, his biological parents, for a much shorter length of time than Greg (4 months vs. 19 months) yet the effects of abuse on him, his psyche, his personality were far deeper. His Post Traumatic Stress Disorder diagnosis carried over with him through his toddler years and into the early elementary experience.

Eric's goal in life was to protect himself from any further pain by controlling the environment around him. Earning Eric's trust and respect is still a challenge. Those who know Eric in real life could tell you that it can take YEARS before he relaxes enough to show you his real self. He has no problem challenging the authority of those he doesn't respect and never automatically gives control over his behavior to someone just because he "should".

Eric is not an easy child to parent.
I can already hear the comments and laughter from those that know us. This, my dear Internet friends, (those left anyways) is the understatement of the year.

Eric challenges every boundary there is to make sure it's still there. He needs routine, clear expectations and quick consequences for crossing the line just to feel safe. He needs ME to be a strong and effective parent in a way none of my other children do.

His physical behaviors can be challenging, frustrating, ever changing and at times, mind blowingly obnoxious. And that's the easy part.

Eric's emotional needs run deep. There is one person in the world Eric has truly let in. Its me.

It took alot of work. It TAKES alot of work. The weight of this responsibility is enormous. Its rewarding in a way you cannot even fathom unless you have faced these challenges with a child yourself, and its exhausting in a way that only other mothers of similar kids could ever understand.
Eric has made me a better mother and a better person. We are so intricately tied together that my emotional health directly affects his emotional health still today. If I am out of sync, Eric is out of sync. If I have a bad day, Eric has a bad day. We are close. Very, very close because Eric needs us to be in order to grow and heal and become the Man God intended him to be. And I love that little boy so very much. We have both earned, through intense, laborious work, the relationship we have today. And there is much, much work still to come.

But I digress, because the story of how Eric views his adoption and life history started long ago.

When he first transitioned into our home at the age of 3.5 Eric acted as if he was simply enjoying a lovely, lengthy vacation with some really nice people (us). Greg catapulted into deep grief immediately missing his foster parents, coming to terms with the fact he wouldn't be returning to his birthmom and working on attachment with us. Eric, not so much.

For seven or eight months Eric acted completely indifferent to the change in his circumstances. The change in his parents. The change in his family structure. He showed some confusion, but little fear, grief or loss.

Then it hit like a fire storm. All consuming, he gave himself over to the emotions and we held on for dear life hoping we survived intact. We did. We came out stronger. Better for it. But never, ever wanting to go through that process again. None of us.

Eric holds on to dear life now to the ones he trusts to keep him safe, FOREVER. Eric could not, would not survive the loss of stability again. The loss of a family. The loss of a mother. His resiliency has been used up in his survival so far.

And that's how he views reunion. A threat to that which is most important in the world to Eric. Stability. Safety. Family. Routine. Me.

The choice to come on our trip with Greg was left completely in Eric's hands. But I will be honest, I wanted him to come. Practical reasons mostly. Two kids + One Trip = Less Money than Two Kids + Two Trips. His first family wanted him to come for obvious reasons. His foster family would have loved to see him. Eric took the adamant stance of NO.

Thank the Lord for a stubborn child. The trip and the emotional consequences of it that Greg sailed through would have devastated and terrified Eric.

Coming home, as we pulled into the driveway he stood there with a gigantic smile on his face. Both with relief that I was home, but also anticipation that I had a suitcase full of gifts for him.

I hugged him. I placed his face in between my hands and stared deep into his eyes. (Eye contact. Never, ever take it for granted.)

"You made the right decision Eric. Don't you worry for one second that you SHOULD HAVE come. You made the right decision for YOU and I am so proud that you knew that even before the trip "

Tangible relief. "Really??!!??" Half question. Half statement.

For now. For who Eric is today, reunion is not the right decision. One day he may chose to face his fears face to face in the eyes of his other family, but for now, Eric's security is far more important to him than his curiosity.

He likes the pictures. He listens intently to the stories. He enjoys the letters.

But mostly, he loves the distance.

No one, no way, no how will ever threaten Eric's world again if he can at all control it.

We work with Eric on his fears, but for now, I respect my son who made the decision that was best for him. And I respect the son for whom reunion was what he needed.

Two boys. Two different needs. Two different stories. Same mom.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Cuteness, 2002 Style

Two and a half years home.
Caden 1, Eric 5, Tanner 4, Gregory 6

Reunion Thoughts. The Post in which I lose all my Friends

Your blog has calmed some of my secret fears - that K will resent me
for taking him away from his birth family at some point. I have
clarity in that I will be able to tell him that he was going to be adopted, most
likely by a white person or persons, and that I was lucky enough to be matched
with him. I'm adopted, for Christ's sake, and I know that a child can be
completely attached to a non-birth family - even though I didn't achieve this
with my adoptive family but that was their failing not the adoptive relationship
at work. But there's a fear in me that one day K will reject me and
identify more with what he missed then what he has. I will have no problem
honouring and supporting his grief around that separation;
it is more his
rejection that I fear. I don't think I had allowed myself to voice this fear
until reading about Greg's clear attachment to you (you are his mom, you and Shelby and the other kids ARE his family) stilled it somewhat.

A (adoptee/amom)- email

This is a post that's very difficult to write. A post in which I am choosing total honesty, from my perspective, while at the same time realizing that my words may hurt people I love and respect. There are so many in this adoption world I know and have learned from. So many voices that have taught me much. First parents, adopted adults, other adoptive parents who are my friends. So as I lay it bare today, please know that I am choosing this to put a voice to the secret and inner fears of many adoptive parents, but am not trying to attack anyone who thinks or feels differently. And to those who may think or feel that my secret thoughts are wrong or offensive, I am sorry for any hurt they cause you, but I am fallible, human and trying to be transparent so that others can learn and maybe be better for it.

There was a point on our trip that I actually said out loud "SCREW YOU INTERNET". Screw every person who ever belittled my motherhood. Who called me an "abductor" or an "adoptress". Who told me my sons could never REALLY bond with me. Who instilled a deep, even unacknowledged fear that I could never be a real mom to my sons. Screw the people who said we weren't really a family. Who forced me to defend my children's relationship to each other. To ME. To their Dad.

I am angry at myself for letting those words seep in to my soul. The foundation of my motherhood. My womanhood. For having to make a conscious decision to face those secret fears. Its not "your" anonymous opinion I have EVER cared about, but you made me question my sons' opinion of me.

I KNEW how I felt about my sons. That my love for them was the same as my love for the sons I birthed. I knew that MY bond to them was unmoveable. I knew my committment level to them was lifelong and miles deep. You random internet people have dared question me on that, but I knew. I KNEW. You could never, ever shake MY love for my boys.

But you placed fear in my heart of my sons' view of me. And for that I am angry. I am angry because it was wasted fear. Wasted times I have worried. Wasted energy that I could have spent simply BEING their mom. The mom they needed. The mom they needed to heal. The mom they needed me to be.

We can carry the weight of a loving, complex, imperfect, flawed family. And we are better people for knowing our roots and having known the people that helped make us who we are.

L - email

I have never denied the need for openness if at all possible. The need for adopted children and adults to know and have a relationship, if at all possible, with their first families. The need for open records. The hole that some adoptees feel that can sometimes never be filled. I dont deny attachment issues (heck we've lived them). I don't deny that there is abuse in all sorts of families, including adoptive. I don't deny that there are some really crappy parents out there who don't try to understand the needs of their children through adoption. And I certainly don't deny that some adoptions are completely unnecessary.

But hear me loud and clear internet. Listen to me because I am not going to ever bother to explain or justify again.

I SAW in my son's eyes on this trip I AM, without a shadow of a doubt, his mom. A REAL mom to him. Never again will you instill in me fear that I am not enough. That I have or will inevitably fail him. That he doesn't love me, or need me, or that I am a poor substitute. We ARE a family.

I hate what I let you steal from me. I hate that I let you create in me an insecurity that didn't need to be there. Never again, dear random internet people, will I believe your lies.

And more importantly, neither will my son.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

All this introspection is hurting my brain

So I am distracting you all with cuteness.

Eric on Okanagan Lake

Tanner. Slip And Slide.

Caden. A happy swim.

Greg playing football in the lake.

Reunion. My Thoughts. A Question of Time

Time. Timing. All in God's time. All in good time. Too much time. Not enough time. Time's running out.

Time played a huge part in our reunion trip and our decision to take it.

Trust that Greg knew it was a good time for him. Trust that we as his parents knew it was the right time for our son. And we took time to prepare him and ourselves for the visit.

Late Summer, 2007 during the course of a conversation with Greg he expressed a desire to meet his first family, particularly his father, mother and little sisters. We took time to talk about this decision with Greg. We gave him time to change his mind, let him vacillate between wanting to go right away and wanting to wait.

I took that time to prepare. We became "approved prison visitors" so that seeing Sr. would be a possibility. We looked at ticket prices. We took out a loan to pay for the trip. I began counselling to prepare myself. We sought counsel for Greg.

Greg took more time. He changed his mind. He didn't want to miss hockey. School kept him busy. It wasn't the right time, yet. But THE time was coming.

May, 2008. Hockey season is over. Our summer stretches before us. Long weeks already filled. I find the boys' long lost brother on Myspace. Through him I find their mother, numbers changed repeatedly since our last contact, and she has moved several times the last year.

But the lost are now found. I consider this a sign of God's Timing. The Right Time.

Greg has decided that now is the time. The pieces of our trip begin to fall into place.

Now I have to make a decision. HOW MUCH TIME? How much is long enough? How much is too long?

This is an expensive trip for us. Hotels, meals, car rental, air plane tickets, entertainment. Its not a trip we can afford to do once a year. It has to be long enough that it feels like enough, but not so long that it drags on. Having never been through this before, I read, I ask, I pray.

Prison visiting restrictions mean that we can only visit Sr. around weekends. I make the decision that our trip should encompass at least two weekends in order to accommodate an additional prison visit if Greg wants it. We will arrive on a Friday night and will leave the following Sunday.

Foster family is in St. Louis. Sr. is incarcerated an hour from St. Louis. Mother and family live two and a quarter hours away in Jefferson City. Our time will have to be divided. Two weekends in St. Louis. 5 days in Jeff City.

And then smaller divisions of time. Time with friends. Good times. Distracting times. Play time. Times that were right to take for our sanity. A very good decision.

Time with foster family. Parents to my sons for three long years. They deserved quality and quantity time. The woman who chose me to be the mother of my sons. Who gave up her own automatic rights of legal motherhood if she wanted it but she chose us. She needed time with Greg and we wanted time with their family. 3 good days. Excellent decision.

Time in prison. First visit was perfect. An hour and a half. Good length of time.

Second prison visit. 3 and a half hours. Too long. Time stood still. It dragged its lazy butt forward minute by minute. Learned my lesson. Visits where we sit across from one another and talk need to be kept shorter. It's healthier. It's funner. It's less stressful for my son. We will use our time management with this in mind throughout our week.

Third prison visit. No time. Greg chooses not to go back. Sr. didn't know it was an option so wasn't hurt by Greg's choice to use his time differently. This is Greg's time. I trust him to know if he needs more time with his father. No, he wants more time with his foster father. We use the allotted prison visit time to take his foster family out for supper.

Time in Jefferson City. I have been asked why so much time? Why continue to spend time when things started to badly?

Greg was able to articulate before our trip the number one thing he wanted was TIME with his siblings. The siblings live in Jefferson City. Yes, they also live where his mother, aunt and grandmother were. Strangely, the best part of the trip was the seemingly endless amounts of time we spent alone with the kids.

Monday. Good day. Awkward times. Fun times alone with boys. Tired times. Very glad for day one.

Tuesday. Great day. Fun times. Lots of alone time with all the kids. Feels like strange times to me. The cracks in the adult relationships begin to show but barely. If our time was up on this day, I suppose, the picture of our visit would have been different however, we would have left with a very incomplete picture of the reality of his first family.

Wednesday. Awful Day. Should have been a fun day. Tried to make a fun time. Tried to buy a fun day. Failed.

L choose to lose the rest of her time with Greg by placing pressure on him. By asking him if he wanted to stay she lost out on all future visit time with Greg. My son, our son, is a strong boy. From that moment in time, our time with L was done. Over the next 2 days of our visit we spent a grand total of one hour and 10 minutes with L. Not a word exchanged from Greg to her after Wednesday. No desire on his part for more time. Her loss of time.

Could I have left then? Should I have ended our time together because of what L did? No. Greg wanted more time. Time with the children who have to live with the consequences of being parented by L every single day. He needed that time with his siblings, they needed that time with him. L lost on HER time, no more should the kids pay for her mistakes.

From Wednesday night through to Friday morning Greg and I spent many hours talking together, processing together and needing each other. We had special time. I gained time with my son to be together. To let him lean on me. This was HIS time, HIS visit, to make the choices about. He chose how to use the time we had there, and the time to leave.

On those last two days we spent over ten hours alone with his sisters. Precious, irreplaceable time. Precious memories of time that would have been lost if I took Greg's time because of L's words.

We spent 15 hours with his brother. Boys sleepover time. Long overdue time.

Time to leave Jefferson City. Time to let Greg enforce his personal boundaries. Time to say goodbye. Time for them to let Greg go again. Time for tears. Time for relief. Time to talk.

Ten minutes. Greg had decided it was time to leave.

I have spent much time wondering if Sr and his family get the glory in our memories because our time was so much shorter with them. What would have more time been like in a family with active drug addicts? With people so obviously struggling? Is our picture of them incomplete too?

But I continue to go back to what Greg wanted from this visit. Time with the kids. To meet his father and his mother and spend time with the kids. He met. We spent time. Children need time to begin to open up. To play together. We took the time to make memories. I have no regrets about that.

It was a good time. It was a hard time. It was definitely the right time for my son.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Reunion. My Thoughts. Part One

I have been trying for a week to formulate an entry that separates what I think we did right in this journey, and what I think I would change if we were to go through it again. My mistakes and blunders as compared to what I feel I did accomplish.

Its just not coming.

So instead, I am going to take a few days to ramble about my feelings, my experiences and how those feelings and experiences affected both my son and myself.

My feelings and personal insights aren't meant to offend, or to dictate how someone else should or would feel in a similar circumstance. But based on the emails I am getting, I do believe that an honest assessment of this process, from an adoptive parent perspective, is needed. If it helps one other family, one other child, one other parent then its worth it.

1. Trip Preparation: Pride and Regret
I feel proud because as much as I could, I helped to prepare Greg for the trip. We talked about feelings, boundaries, possibilities, eventualities and possible difficulties endlessly. We talked with the help of a counsellor, and we talked on our own. We forced him to think about the trip when he would have rather just taken it on a wing and a prayer.

I honestly believe that my preparation with Greg was the key to him not being completely overwhelmed by the experience and by his willingness to share with me what he was thinking and feeling DURING the trip. No topic, no feeling, no discussion was off limits between us. Because of our communication I was able to know exactly where he was at, and help him get what HE wanted out of the experience.


With L, however, I completely failed in my preparation of her and her family for THEIR reunion experience with Greg. Yes, I know that they are adults and should take responsibility for their own relationship but the reality of foster care adoption is that I am their only source of information on Greg. I am ALSO their only source of information on adoption and what that means to both the child, adoptive family and sadly, inevitably to the birth/first family as well.

When L's rights were terminated, she wasn't counselled on what that would mean long term in regards to the kids. The focus was on HER behavior, her parenting and the consequences to HER. When it was determined that she would not or could not be a safe parent to the two boys, her involvement in their care and future ended from the point of view of the state. Her behavior chose adoption for her children but it was not her own seemingly educated or conscious choice. And so today, she deals with the consequences of her actions without any foundation of knowledge or understanding.

I did try. But I tried to be gentle. Soft. Blunt the edges of the kids' truth a bit. I wanted her to like me. I didn't want to be the one to hurt them. Instead, I left that to the reality of a 13 year old very much different than the baby they remembered, or the son they wanted back, do it for me. Greg's outward emotional indifference to them and fear of them spoke louder than any words I could have shared but if I had been honest before hand, it might have been less of a shock and made the experience easier on them. They might have been more prepared.

I wish I would have said, "Greg will not call you mom, aunt or grandma on this trip. There is no chance he will because he has told me emphatically he will not. Respecting that will make things easier on him."

Instead I said "I don't know what Greg will call you. We have told him he could call you anything he wants so the option is up to him."

I wish I would have said, "Greg has asked that I stay with him for the entire trip. Unless his comfort level significantly changes while we are down there, he does not want to be left alone at anytime. I will always be available and accessible to him to help him through the visit."

Instead I said, "I am sure we will have lots of fun together. Maybe Greg would like to do that with you, but I am not sure. We will have to wait and see."

I don't know what they expected I just know the reality of Greg was not it. Greg HAS a family. Greg HAS a life. And even harder for them, Greg HAS a mom he is close to. I do not know if L and her family have the capacity to understand his truth due to a variety of issues, but in my attempts to be "liked" by them and not be seen as the possessive adoptive mother I didn't do a good enough job of stating that before we arrived. And they didn't try to understand that while we were there.

I am proud that my experience with Sr. was completely different. Sr. has written us hundreds of letters over the years. Those letters, and our replies, took the time and effort for him to get to know who we are as a family, and how his sons fit into that picture. He has read any and all adoption books we have sent him. He took the time to learn about what GREG might be feeling going through this, and his entire focus was on GREG. It makes our relationship with him so much easier. It makes GREG'S relationship with him so much more comfortable.

Nothing about our interactions with Sr. made Greg feel like it was an "either / or" proposition. Sr's role was in addition to Greg's place in our family. A positive, loving addition. Nothing is taken away by his place in our family, nothing is taken away by his place in Sr.'s family. We can come together to surround who counts the most in this, Greg and Eric. I am proud of that.

I wish L could have understood that by holding on to what she dreamed about with Greg, she lost what was possible with Greg. Because she so wanted one type of relationship with him that he wasn't willing to have at this time, she lost out on what could have been. Maybe forever.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Camping, Common Sense Style

We had sun, wind and rain. Plenty of fun toys to keep the kids busy, and plenty of friends to enjoy the weekend with, and plenty of time to just relax. Some new friends, some old friends and a couple birthdays to boot. Caden quickly decided that riding the tube with his big brothers was a scary, scary experience.
Tanner got thrown from the tube three times. And loved every minute of it.
Greg had lots of practice being the super cool 13 year old he is. And then we would tease him mercilessly about it.
Eric loves the wind in his hair on the boat, almost as much as his dog does.
Tanner wouldn't get out of the water. 5 long water skiis later we told him that was enough for today. And of course, we just sat around and did nothing. Right.

Ended the night with s'mores, glow sticks and sparklers. A perfect camping trip, again.

Friday, July 25, 2008

On the Road Again

In a fit of seeming insanity, I am switching clothes from one suitcase to another and we are heading out camping for the weekend.

If you are looking for some adoption controversy to spice up your life, I think I just jumped into the middle of some here

Have a good weekend all. Back to rehashing all my craziness next week.

Homeward Bound, Finally

We left my sisters shortly after 9 in the morning. Even a promised trip to Costco couldn't convince me to delay my trip for two more hours. I wanted, NEEDED, to be home with the people I love most in the world under one roof.
As I drove down the highway away from Vancouver towards our home, I began to weep. Tears I didn't want to have ran free. I hide behind my sunglasses and wipe them away frantically. I never want to cry, and I always hate it when I do. I feel too open for ridicule and often embarrassed. But on this day anger, exhaustion, pain, and relief just needed an outlet. My resilience was gone; eaten by 10 days of being 'the strong one'. I feel weak, bruised and very, very vulnerable.

I lose my temper on a hurting friend who dared to be needy with me. Why can't they tell I have nothing left to give today? I am tired of giving. I want to take for a day. Just a day. Give me something back, care for ME. Ask me how I am doing. Tell me you care if I am ok. I fear I have broken a friendship I value into pieces. I cry some more.

The long hours driving give me some perspective. I try to pull myself together. I sing. We tell stories as we drive. I am still grouchy, but trying to fake it. Greg is quiet, tired maybe? Tanner is talking a mile a minute telling me of his adventures with his favorite people while I was gone and how he didn't miss home one bit.

We arrive at Subway for lunch. They overcharge us, Greg is rude to both me and the server. Talking to his feet, mumbling, not saying thank you. I correct him 3 times, each time less lovingly than the last. Finally, in less than stellar mother fashion, but also I think completely normal mother fashion, I snap at him back in the car.

"No lunch for you young man until you say Please AND Thank You to me with a good attitude"
Greg is 13. In case you don't know many 13 year old boys, they do not cry. As a matter of fact mostly they don't express much emotion at all. Greg has shed the odd tear in front of us in the past year and a half, that is usually angrily wiped away dare we notice it, but that's it.

Greg began to wail. Sob. His chest heaving, deep cries, tears.
Tanner hates conflict with a passion that rests deep in his soul. He begins to weep silently, looking out the window, willing me not to notice him.

I pull over. Somewhere, somehow on a day I feel completely and totally empty I find the emotional reserves to reach out to my hurting child.

My questions about the are met with a series of gruff "Nos!". No, he doesn't miss Missouri. No, this isn't about the trip. No, he isn't tired. No, he does not want to talk about it.

Finally he sobs that he thinks I am mean to him. Picking on him. I guess today, of all days, he still needs to feel close to me. Me correcting him was just more than he could take. Or maybe the tears are for a completely different reason and my demands for good manners are just a brilliant excuse for a display of pent up emotion. Internally I vote for the pent up emotion. A kid who has held it together better than I have during what must be the most tumultious week of his life. He deserves a good breakdown even more than I do.

Slowly, carefully choosing my words I tell him how very, very proud of him I am. How much I love him. How even when I correct him, because that's what all good moms do, it doesn't mean I don't love him, or don't think he is one of the most amazing kids alive. How daddy and I brag about him all the time. How teaching him isn't about pointing out what he is doing wrong, its about showing him how to succeed in life.

His sobs quiet. I hold his hand and head for home. Greg falls asleep.

When he awakens, its with a smile on his face and all is right with our world again. We are minutes from home.
I begin to think of Eric. Eric who chose not to come on this trip. Eric who is going to learn of his sisters, his brother, his mother, his father, his aunts, uncles and grandparents through my pictures and our stories. How will I handle dealing with my sensitive boy who processes things very differently? What can I tell him? How will he react?

And We have a Winner!

In completely unscientific fashion but as fair as possible, I wrote all your names on identical pieces of paper, and supervised by Annie and Eric (who are, in case you didn't know, the legal prize supervisors of this blog and employed by Price and Waterhouse **mom version ** to make sure I do things the right way) and drew one out.

I am happy to announce that the winner of the prize voucher is SKIRBO!

Congrats Skirbo. Thanks for sharing your story with us, and taking the time to read mine.

Now I just have to figure out how to track you down ....

Thursday, July 24, 2008

You know you're a Canadian when

Your kids go sledding in July.
And think its fun! And then you take them to swim in the creek.

And that's fun too. We live in a beautiful area.

Happy Birthday Little Blog and a Present to Give Away

EDITED TO ADD: I am taking a break from serious blogging about our trip today. Too many thoughts running around in my head as we all adjust to being back at home. Posts will come tomorrow or next week about my regrets, thoughts, what we did right, what I wish we had done differently, and how Greg has adjusted to being back at home.

Ok so one week ago my dear friend Andy offered to set me up a blog and help me move my journal from to here.

In the week since I have been blogging, I have heard from many new people who have come along side my sons and I in our reunion journey. And I have appreciated every email and comment, instant message or phone call of support.

But, well, to be blunt, alot of you are being very, very silent. Like that reader from Taiwan? Who are you? Those folks that hit refresh all day? New Yorkers are here all the time, and I am PARTICULARLY interested in my Jefferson City reader who has spent 18 hours hanging out. Hi to you!

So to encourage you to hello and introduce yourself, please, on this our one week blog birthday, I am going to do a draw between everyone that comments for a $100 TRANSFERRABLE United Airlines Voucher redeemable for any flight in the Continental USA and Canada. And they promise they won't try to kill you again.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Long Road Home

We arrived in Vancouver Sunday night. Immediately after 9 other jumbo jetliners from Taiwan, London, Fiji, LA, Alaska and other assorted exotic locations landed. Locations that require their passengers to go through customs. The same customs line up we were required to go through.

We met a man who tried to merge between Greg and I in line. When I explained that Greg was my son he apologized profusely for budging between us.

"Oh its ok", I said "It's kind of hard to tell I'm his mom".
The man, clearly embarrassed at his faux pas profusely began to make excuses. "Oh no!" he said as he took a step back and stared at us closely, "I can see the resemblance, you two DO look alike. You sure look like your mom young man". And on and on he went.

I glanced at Greg and began to giggle. After 10 days of Greg being told over and over and over again how he looked just like EVERYONE and ANYONE, here he was on our final leg of the trip being told he looked like ME. I laughed until tears poured from my eyes. Greg and I laughed together. And then I laughed some more. The poor man had no idea what he was so funny as he desperately looked around trying to make his escape.

This little interaction made me spontaneously laugh the rest of the day so thanks for the laugh Mr. Politically Correct to the Point of Desperation. I appreciated the meaning behind your efforts, but seriously, no need to be quite so sincere.

Greg and I stared down the two thousand person line up ahead of us and DIDNT CARE A BIT. We were HOME. Well almost home. Vancouver will always be "home of my heart".

The line up snaked through for quite a while and eventually we got through customs, out the doors and into the waiting car of my mother. My relationship with my mother is, well, somewhat complicated, and her relationship with adoption is also somewhat complicated. She is a "BSE" mom, reunited. Supportive, confused and maybe a tad overly personalized in our journey, we had a chatty drive back to my sister's.

Oh my baby boy Tanner was there! He had spent the week with his Godfather, his dear friend and my sister and hadn't missed me a bit. Ok, so he was taller than me with his shoes on (how did THAT happen in 10 days??!!??) and tanned and gorgeous and agreeable to be stuck on my lap the rest of the night. My sis commented on the authenticity of Greg's huge hug he offerred her. He was one happy kid to be back in familiar, safe space. I fell asleep to the chatter of the two boys comparing experiences, sharing stories and giggling long into the night.

And I slept. And slept. And actually rested. Because in the morning we would be going home.

Just for Aunty Jess' Sake

This blog has kinda gotten away from me a bit, and what started out as a private journal at an adoption forum has turned, in less than a week, into a 2000 hit experience. My dearly loved sister has pointed out that I have done a very poor job of introducing the entire family.

This is Greg. Greg is 13 years old and a really amazing kid. Yes we realize how good looking he is. Yes we do find this rather scary. Add to that he is smart, athletic and responsible and you have a mother who is terrified that he is starting high school in September. Greg has played AAA hockey for several years. He will be attending an International Development Tournament, as a great honor, in August. And, in case you noticed, he just got back from meeting his first family in Missouri. Greg was born in St. Louis and joined our family when he was 4.

This is Eric. Eric is 12 years old and is Greg's full biological brother. Eric has a killer smile which is always flashing across his face. His personality might best be described as "fiesty". Eric loves all sports but especially enjoys hockey. Eric loves having a 'fro and spends much time each day picking it out. He is entering grade 7 in the fall and joined our family when he was 3. Eric has had some struggles dealing with his past, and the way his brain learns, and he works very, very hard to deal with the deck life has dealt him. We are VERY proud of him!

This is Tanner. Tanner is almost 11 and has the sweet and gentle personality of his dad. Tanner is a pretty quiet kid unless you get him alone, at which time he talks non-stop. Tanner is the hockey goalie of the family. Tanner's main struggle in life is Seasonal Affective Disorder which he has dealt with since he was 5, and severely since he was 7. Because we live in the North and deal with long nights and short days in the winter, this is something we carefully monitor. I'll talk more about that later. Tanner is going into Grade 6 French Immersion in September, and grade 10 math. Yeah, he is a quirky kid. Tanner is our biological son and was born in British Columbia and was 22 months old when his brothers came home.
This is Caden. He loves EVERYONE and EVERYONE loves Caden. Caden is 7 and might best be described as a pepsqueek, snuggle bug, cuddle kid, or sweetie pie. And, ah, did I mention that he is my baby and maybe a tad spoiled? Caden loves life, loves his brothers fiercely, loves to learn, loves to laugh and especially loves to cuddle his mama. Caden was also born in BC 18 months after his brothers came home and enriched our lives in every way. KK (as we call him) will be entering Grade 2 at Eric's school in September.

This is my beloved husband, Shel. Shel and I have been married over 14 years now. I am blessed to be married to a gentle giant of a man who loves his family with his entire being. He is my strength on the days when mine fails me. He is calm, rational and supportive and willing to do anything for our family. I am very, very lucky that he has stuck by my side through thick and thin. Shel was born and raised in the states, and immigrated to Canada as a young man and is now a citizen of both countries.
This is me (well except now I am blond and older). Jen. 34. Mom, wife, daughter, sister, adoption forum junkie. I have been a part of the online adoption world since 1999 when the boys arrived. We lived in the middle of nowhere and were dealing with some pretty tough issues. I NEEDED the support, and you, my online friends, provided me guidance, friendship and support. I am passionate about adoption education and integrity in the adoption process. I love my kids with all my heart and being their mom is ALL that matters to me.

And for good measure, Annie, our Jack Russell Terrier. 5 years old. And because of her we no longer get mail delivery to our home. Can't you tell how fearsome she is? Stupid Canada Post.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Dear United Airlines

Dear United Airlines Customer Service,

Although my flight into St. Louis from Chicago was delayed several hours, and despite the fact I had to help some poor woman who went into pre-mature labor at the departure gate, and despite the fact I had to pay $10 for 2 snack boxes so my son and I had something to eat on our 4.5 hour flight NOTHING tops my homeward bound experience on Sunday.

In case you missed it, Sunday was the hottest day of the year in St. Louis. Temperatures hit at least 98F (34C ).

You might not know it, but I do believe its heavily publicized that kids and pets can die quickly when left to bake in locked vehicles. In fact, our local news here in Canada has been featuring a story of a Florida mother that killed her 4 year old in this manner.

Yet, for whatever reason, you felt that 60 adults, seniors and children would be fine locked in a sealed plane with broken air conditioning on the tarmac. Trust me, if my absolute desperation to leave Missouri hadn't driven me forward, I would have been bolting for the door. Mid-Flight.

As the temperature in our locked oven rose steadily during the 20 minutes we sat on the tarmac, and again for the 40 minute flight, and again for the 20 minutes we sat on the ground at O'Hara I wondered at the sanity of a group of seemingly normal adults that we all accepted this calmly.

You know that man that who came out of the airplane washroom naked recently? As layers of clothing were taken off all around me, I suddenly understood. He too must have been flying United Flight 5087 St. Louis to Chicago.
To your poor stewardess who handled a flight of sweating, grouchy, sick to their stomach passengers with absolute graciousness I send my regards. Her offerings of ice and water were an oasis in the middle of hell.

So dear United Airlines Executive who decided to allow a plane to fly on the hottest day of the year with no air conditioning, I thank you. I lost 10 pounds of water weight on that flight alone. Some experiences are priceless.

Jen and Greg

Meeting the "Other Side"

Saturday was a wonderful day with Aunty D and Uncle B and family. An absolutely FABULOUS shopping experience, go karting, a visit to the St. Louis Blues training facility (ok, seriously, no wonder they suck -- they train at a MALL on 3/4 ice.) Followed by a really relaxing visit with the extended family, Greg and I were ready for one last batch of introductions.

We were heading to meet Great Grandma, who raised Sr., and his mother, Grandma, as well as any other extended family members that showed up. They live very near the St. Louis airport so it worked out wonderfully to go meet them on our way home. But still, it was hard.

We pulled up to a little, tiny house and walked in the front door. The house was overflowing with "stuff". Stuffed animals, hundreds of crystal items, picture frames filled and not filled, random and assorted items covered every available space. We were met at the door by both the Grandma and Great Grandmother.

Sr. had warned us that his mother was still a drug user, and had actually not wanted us to meet her, but there she was. High. Track lines down both arms. Shakey. Either coming down or still high. Unable to really carry on a conversation, obviously happy to see Greg, but lost in her own world.
Great Grandma was in pajamas when we got there, but later changed. She seemed very nice but has had a very hard life. I hope seeing Greg brought her some comfort. As she listed off the son, and grandchildren and great grandchildren she has lost to drugs, gang wars, violence and of course my two sons to the foster care system my heart really broke for her. Greg was very taken aback by the obvious life style differences & their very obvious poverty.

Great Grandma talked for quite awhile about how she had the boys alot when they were babies, prior to their seizure by DFS. We knew this, and I think it was good for Greg to hear from her.
Sr's sister and 4 of her 5 children showed up for a visit. She is the relative I see the closest physical resemblance to Greg, and one of her sons was very close in appearance to Eric.

Everyone was happy to see us both. This side of the family seems to "get it" and that makes it so much easier for Greg. They thanked him for coming, and me for bringing him. They talked so happily about the pictures and letters I have sent over the years.

We only stayed an hour. Greg has gotten progressively more forceful in resisting conversation and physical contact over the week. His 'reserves' of polite hugs and conversation has ran out completely. At the beginning of this trip he would smile and maybe nod when someone asked if he remembered them, but now he is pretty blunt. "No I don't remember you". Its his truth and such a strange situation. This family KNEW Greg. They raised him for 18 months. They had visits for another two and a half years. He does not know them. Its an interesting quandary to watch him, and them, process that.

As we left, they gave Greg $100 to share with Eric. This was VERY hard for Greg to accept gracefully. Not a lack of gratitude, as he was grateful, just an awareness that they needed it so much more than he did. As we drove away he said "That was hard to take mom".

Over lunch we talked about the two families he met, their differences and their sameness. Great Grandma has "been with the same family for 30 years" as household help. She has struggled, but has held a job for a very long time. Sr, and his family, accepted US into their family. Not just Greg, but Greg AND I. They asked him questions about HIS life. They thanked me for bringing him. Sr. over and over again encouraged Greg to make something of his life. Be thankful for what he had been given and to use it. To listen to his parents. They gave a gift for him to bring home to Eric. They loved seeing the pictures of Greg's other brothers and asked about them too. Greg left with a positive sense of their family and a desire to get to know them more. Would that have changed if our visits were longer? Maybe. But that's for another post coming on my thoughts regarding regrets.
His feelings for L and her family are far more ambiguous. He really loved getting to know the kids. The adults scared him. From my point of view, and I think from his, it was apparent that the visit was about THEIR pain and THEIR loss and not about getting to know Greg as he is today. They expected Greg to be the 18 month old that missed them, and only knew them as his family, instead they got a 13 year old with a whole other life that he wanted to integrate them into. They didn't appear to want that part of Greg. Or if they did, their own lack of skills, personal life experiences, and mental health issues prevented them from showing it in a way that Greg could accept. They wanted Greg, but they wanted him on THEIR terms.

Deep down, I do believe he is very angry but not able to express it yet. I asked what he wanted to do for L's birthday next week. Absolutely nothing. More than that, adamantly absolutely nothing. As he pointed out to me, they didnt give him anything, and didnt give us anything to bring home to Eric. And Greg wasn't caring about an actual gift, because a $5 t shirt would have been enough, it was the idea that they didnt think about it from his perspective, or from Eric's perspective back at home. He has some processing to do in this regard, I am sure.

We arrived at the airport. Happy. Practically Ecstatic. We are both so, so ready to get home.

And then, THEN began our adventure with United Airlines and how they tried to kill us.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Like Father Like Son

Can you tell someone was VERY happy to see their dad?

And someone else was even HAPPIER to see their son?

And that maybe someone else dressed them both?


Talk to you all tomorrow when I have spent some time with my family.

Don't worry, I have lots to say. As usual.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Our HOME and Native Land

We are on Canadian soil. Too tired for words tonight, but wanted you all to know we were safe and sound.

Met a grandmother high on crack this morning. A great grandmother really struggling.

Found out Eric was named after a first cousin shot at age 15 in a gang war. Found out another first cousin was also killed at 15. Now know that several of their male cousins and all uncles are in jail.

It was tough. ESPECIALLY when Great Grandma detailed over and over again to Greg how she had tried to get custody of the boys but "they" (as in the social workers) wouldn't let her.

In her telling of the story, she "forgot" to mention the outstanding warrent she had, and her own previous charges of child abuse that precluded her from being able to take custody of G and E all those years ago. Unfortunately, that meant I had to share those previously unknown to him (but in his file) details with Greg after our visit.

Greg was even thrilled to see Tanner tonight. But not as happy as me. 2 in my arms. 2 more tomorrow. I will update some thoughts tomorrow night.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

How do YOU spell relief?

Greg's foster family held a BBQ in his honor today.

Today has been FUN. Light, easy and fun.

The Arch. Go Karts, Shopping (Sales, Sales, Sales OH MY!)

Slept until 8 this morning. My first good sleep since we left home.

Greg is loving hanging out with his 17 year old foster brother he lived with for 3 years. He is back to being the confident kid I know. Doesn't "need" to ride with me. Doesn't "need" to stick to my side. The ever persistant silence around other adults has let up, well ... as much as it ever lets up for a 13 year old boy.

I had brought 3 suitcases down. 1 filled with clothes, 2 with gifts. I was really hoping to bring only two suitcases home.

Did I mention those sales?

And Target? Children's Place? And Old Navy? And the Nike factory store?

AND .... most importantly .... WE GOT OUR OBAMA SHIRTS.

And I admit it. I bought two for me.

Friday, July 18, 2008

A Brief Goodbye

We are back in St. Louis, with much more limited computer access (but thank the Lord texting is working again!) but I know you may wonder how the goodbye visit went.

The boys had a good morning together, but around an hour before we were to leave it was if they ran out of things to say to each other. A smack, a brief wrestle but other than that very loud silence. I sent them to swim to occupy an hour, they returned in 10 minutes.

We drive to L's house. I tell Greg we can take as long as he likes, but as soon as he gives the word we will go.

We arrive. Greg doesn't want to hand out the good-bye gifts we had made (memory shadow box for mother, some framed pictures etc) and asks me to. The girls are sad.

We sit in silence on the couch for ten minutes AT MOST. Greg says "I want to go". Lisa has only briefly made an appearance since our arrival. I find her sitting weeping on her bed. I ask her to come out and say goodbye.

Greg tries to bolt for the car. These suffocating hugs and tears are REALLY getting to him. He is acting almost giddy. Giggly, smiley and definitely heading for the car. I call him back. Make him say goodbye.

They hug him, tell him they love him. He says nothing. They hug me. Tell me they love me, I say the same. I remind them that we are only a phone call away. I wonder if NOW they will make an effort to get to know Greg. 8 years of begging for contact and I hope now they will try. It will make all the difference to Greg.

I hug the girls. We drive away.

We are both hungry but I ask Greg if he wants to stop for lunch now, he is adamant. NO! He wants out of this town. So we hit the highway.

The light mood ends. He spends the next half hour in silence. I talk to him. Tell him that whatever he is feeling it is normal. That nothing he says can surprise me or hurt me.

He starts to talk about cultural issues. Why does brother have a different pair of Air Jordans for every day we are there? How come they send the kids to the community center to eat every day? He theorizes that in his opinion the drinking age should be raised to 23 to encourage troubled youth to go to college. I make SURE he didnt tell his brother we would adopt him.

We go for lunch. I ask Greg if he is ready to go home. Yes he is. This is the kid who told me that he is never homesick, always wants to vacation. Today he is missing his dad. Missing his brothers and missing his home. He wants to talk about the weather there. What will we do when get home. Could we just go home today?

Tonight, we hang out with Aunty D and Uncle B. Foster parents once, family now. Tomorrow, the Arch and then a foster family reunion BBQ.

Sunday morning, we meet with Sr's grandmother. The woman who raised him and the woman who called DFS to report that he was abusing her great grandchildren, my sons.

I just want to go home.

Perspective. Could you adopt them all mom?

We drive to the vineyard and have a lovely picnic with Addie. She has packed an incredible lunch and its absolutely, completely totally what we needed today. Its a beautiful spot, with a lovely breeze.

And did I mention the wine? Suffice to say she offered me sanity in a in a bottle and a basket.

Greg and I had our pictures taken for the lobbying efforts that Addie does to open adoption records in Missouri. Missouri stinks in this regard. Our boys have their complete files, including original birth certificates, but that is because their social worker loved us and was retiring. Rules be damned, if I wanted it, I got it. BUT, Addie has no rights to her original birth certificate. She, along with thousands of other adoptees, cannot access THEIR own records. Its archaic and sad and needs to be changed.

I am so glad BC has moved past this many years ago.

We walk. We sweat. I melt. I have no idea how people survive in this humidity. The kids dont seem affected by it. We go for ice cream. We visit. Addie promises more visiting later when we have more privacy to talk.

We drive back to Jefferson City. The girls nap in the back of the car. Greg and I chat inbetween him playing his DS. "Mom, could I ask brother if you could adopt him too? The girls are cute, and they love us. You could adopt them too, couldn't you"

I start to laugh, but try to stiffle it. What I see now is yesterday's question to Greg, just in reverse. Its no more appropriate. I explain to Greg that yes, if the kids were ever in foster care we would be notified, and I made sure of that. But they are ok where they are at. Yes, its different, but its ok.

We laugh together at the look on Daddy's face if we show up at home with 4 extra kids. I let him fantasize about being raised with almost all his biological siblings (there is another sister we wont meet on this trip). We laugh about putting his brother into hockey. How busy life would be.

I then understand L's question. I dont understand her putting it on GREG, but I understand the fantasy. Its ok to think it, its not ok to act on it.

Greg doesn't want to go back to L's house so I drop him off with the girls at the hotel. I run to L's to pick up Brother and Cuz who are spending the evening with us.

We laugh. We swim. We play. We eat.

I wonder at what the boundaries are for me. Brother tells sister over and over again that she is ugly and noone loves her. "Jen loves me and thinks I am a princess" She says as she buries her head in my shoulder.

We play "drowing" over and over for an hour. She pretends to drown, I rescue her. We hug. We repeat. I have flashbacks to the first swim I took with Greg and Eric 9 years ago. Then it was the "shooting" game. Save me, Mama from the bad guy shooter.

Its bizairre. I hold in my arms the full biological sister to my sons. And she isn't my child. And she clings to me. "You love me Jen, RIGHT? You can stay more days, RIGHT?" I remember the phone from the social worker. "If baby L comes into care, would you consider taking her as well?" 6 years ago. I am happy she never did, so very happy for her. But still, its hard not to fall in love with an angel. I pray that she is safe and happy where she is. Sister to my sons, but not my daughter.

The kids stay until after 10 pm. Its been a fun, full day and I am exhausted. The boys and I head to Sonic (another new restaurant) for a very late night dinner. I try to stay out of their way as I know these are precious times for both of them. They watch tv. Greg turns it off without me mentioning the late hour. Our routine, our boundaries are pretty ingrained. The after dark wrestling match carries on for a half hour. I giggle but dont enforce any boundaries. Who am I to interfere in their first ever brother sleepover?

2:30 am. Greg awakens. He has heartburn and has it bad. He needs some "mommying" time. I rub his back. I get him medicine. I hold his hand and talk to him about sometimes our bodies react to stress in different ways. Its a rare and precious 45 minutes together. He is definitely letting me baby him. And that's just ok with me.

9 years ago, on OUR first night together, Greg also awoke at 2:30 in the morning. He sobbed and sobbed, begging me to take him back to his foster mom. I rocked him, his little 4 year old body shaking with a grief I couldn't even comprehend much less comfort.

I am glad now that I CAN provide him comfort not just empty words from a stranger that loves you fiecely. We have come a long, long way baby boy. A long, long way.

We awaken to a call. They are cancelling our goodbye lunch. Is it ok if we just drop by the house for a quick visit on our way out of town. I sigh. This is going to be hard.