December 31, 2010

Sayonara 2010

New Year's Eve has never been a very big deal to me.  In fact, most of the time I've tucked myself into bed well before midnight on the big day and my poor husband has to watch the ball drop all alone.  I wonder if he kisses himself too?  Hmmm... maybe I should ask.  Actually, maybe I won't ask, because usually on New Year's Eve he's rocking it out in a bar with his band, so he better not be doing any kissing!

But this year is very different.  I feel so hopeful for 2011 to start.  2010 was a year full of so many transitions.  And now in 2011, I feel like we are all ready to start living again.  I can't even tell you how much better Miles is doing.  Christmas was amazing with him.  He only did the Wango Tango for a day, in contrast with the Thanksgiving fallout which lasted an entire week.  Kamron has been off this week and Miles has been coming and crawling in bed with us in the mornings and kissing and hugging and just being a kid.  Not a kid on hyper alert, or a kid manipulating, but just a kid playing with his mom and dad.  I can't tell you how good it feels.  I know that right now we are riding the mountain top.  I also know that the nature of parenting trauma and attachment disorder means we will be in the valley again.  But I am noticing that when we're in the valley, we don't stay there as long as we used to and we don't go as deep into the valley as we used to either.  I never thought we'd get here.

As he's let go of some of the hyper awareness, other skills are starting to pop out.  Therapists and doctors are continuing to age our little man and he's now suspected to be between 3 and 3 1/2.  (a full 2 years older than we thought he was when we brought him home 10 months ago.)  But we are finally in a place where we can not only function, but we can THRIVE!  So as 2011 approaches, I can't help but be insanely optimistic at all of the promise a new year holds.

I'm also crossing things off of my goal list! We adopted another kid yesterday.  Just kidding!  But I did organize the cabinets!  I threw out two garbage bags worth of expired food out of our cabinets.  A tear trickled down my cheek about the wastefullness of it all, but overall it felt good to purge our cabinets of cream of chicken soup that expired 3 years ago and cereal so stale you could load it in a gun and use it as bullets.

I also started the couch to 5k program.  Holy moly!  It is so fun in a weird way.  It has been a long time since I exercised and my body is really screaming at me in agony, but it is fantastic.  I gifted myself with a few new songs on the ipod, loaded them into my C25K app and it dings when I'm supposed to run and when I'm supposed to walk.  If I can spend $10 on new tunes and the C25K app and it actually makes me want to run, I'm all for it.  My feet were hitting the pavement and my arms were playing the air drums as I jammed through the neighborhood.  If you ever listen to my playlist on here, you'll see that I tend to gravitate toward the mellow.  But when I exercise I need the most obnoxious, raunchy music around to keep me moving.  I'm not sure why, but it's how I roll. 

The hubs and I are going to Hawaii in March sans kids (go ahead, you can be jealous!) and I'd rather not be a ball of flab while I'm on the beach with my hot husband.  So I'm going to keep running.  And quit eating crap.  I'm on day 4 of not eating crap and already I feel so much better.  I've tried just about every diet that there is and can't usually stick to any of them.  So this time, I am trying a better approach.  I'm just trying to be kinder to myself and my body.  I'm trying to honor this one droopy body that I get and treat it as it deserves to be treated.  So far, so good.  I'm tracking what I eat, but not doing any specific plan.  Just being nicer to myself.  The stress of the last year and my lack of motivation to make good choices led to a whopping 30 pound weight gain.  I'm ready to say goodbye to that.

So to 2010:  you've been an adventure.  You've been a big ball of stress.  You brought with you some joyful times, but many times you cloaked those up with trauma and craziness.  I'm not sad to see you go. Your passing marks the beginning of something wonderful.  Adios 2010.  So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodnight.  Don't let the door hit ya' where the good lord split ya'.

December 30, 2010

Locked up

I had a new experience today.  This morning, I made my first trip to a black salon.  LOVED it.  Miles' hair was getting a little out of control.  Stretched out it is about 5 inches.  I love those tight curls, but it needed to be styled or cut because it was becoming unmanageable and thirty minute detangling sessions were wearing on our relationship.  I couldn't bear the thought of cutting it.  I've dreamed for a long time, before he ever even came home, of having a little boy with dreadlocks.  I tried to do his hair in twists and get them to lock up, but I never could quite get it right and I'd always undo the twists before it had time to lock up.

I needed professional reinforcements.  I've read enough of the Livesay's hair traumas to know that I didn't really trust a white person with my son's tight curls. Upon a friends recommendation, I took Miles to a salon about 40 miles out of town.  It was the kind of place where there were bars on the windows. But we walked in and there were men all over the place with stunningly gorgeous, waist long locks.  I felt instantly like we'd made the right choice in coming here.

Miles' loctitian, took him to the back and shampooed his hair.  He said those words that every white mama of a black child dreams of hearing, "You've done a really good job with his hair.  It's in great shape." I about beamed with pride. Learning to take care of black hair takes time, patience and trial and error.   I thought I was doing a great job, but I secretly wondered if my African American friends were laughing at my ineptness behind my back.  I think that it is something that we all worry about in raising children of a different race.  That's a whole other post, though.

Anyway- after the washing came the twisting.  Miles sat still as a stone, occupied by Angry Birds and goldfish crackers, for nearly two hours. (An hour of twisting and about 45 minutes under the dryer) 
I listened to the chatter around the salon and everyone seemed to be excited that someone was arrested last night in connection with Tupac's murder.  There was music playing and people singing along under their breath and bobbing their heads to the beat.  Everyone was in everyone else's business and they didn't even try to hide it.  At the salon I go to, of course you listen in on everyone else's conversations, but you do it on the sly.  Here there was no pretense.  It you said it, it was everyone's business.  It was like being among old friends.  It was such a neat cultural experience.  I want that for my son.  I want him to feel like he can be a part of the white community and the black community and not feel trapped somewhere in the middle.  That may be just a pipe dream, but a girl can hope, right?

The boy is now sporting a whole new look. He looks so much older.  I'm having a hard time getting used to it. Right now his parts are so prominent that it is a little unsettling, but I know in a week or so, everything will loosen up and lock up and be looking fabulous!
Forgive the camera phone pictures.  I did not want to be "that" mom in the salon with the big honkin' camera.  I'm trying my hardest to preserve what little bit of dignity I have left!

December 28, 2010

I crossed over

My husband says that I am truly becoming a Terry.  It has been a long slow process, but there are a few tell tale signs that the transformation is happening.  One- I used to not like cornbread.  The Terry's are cornbread kind of people.  And now after ten years, I find myself at Cracker Barrel reaching for the cornbread instead of the biscuits.  Two- the Terry's are fanatical about taking pictures.  When you walk into a Terry family function you feel like you are on the red carpet being swarmed by the paparazzi.  "Look here!"  "Smile!"  "Now one of the whole family!"  It is enough to make a person want to walk around with a towel over her head.  But alas, I have converted and am now a card carrying member of the Terry paparazzi.  The final straw, is the list making.  My husband makes a list for everything.  He has lists of movies he wants to see.  He has lists of what songs he liked when he was 15 and what the tallest buildings in the world are.  If there is more than one task to do, he makes a list.  I HATE lists.  I think they are anal and concrete and I tend to gravitate toward the abstract. 

At the end of the year every year, my husband pulls out his five year plan (that he keeps filed and organized and other such nonsense) and revises it and comes up with new strategies to cross things off the list.  At the top of every year, it includes how old our children will be that year, his income goal, where he wants to go on vacation, what home improvement projects will get done, etc.  I'm glad that he's driven like that, but it is such a stark contrast to me, who can't hold a thought for more than the time it takes me to actually generate that thought.  I try to keep a calendar for appointments, but I live more day to day than year to year. 

But the final conversion of my Terry-ness happened when a few days ago, I decided that I needed to make a list of goals.  I've got a lot of things that I want to accomplish, and I thought that it might be good to see them actually written on paper.  I layed in bed next to the hubster and started *gasp* writing them down.  He was there on the sidelines cheering me on and reminding me that my goals needed to be SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely).  I thought I might barf on him.  My goals aren't SMART, but they are my goals, goshdarnit, and they are exactly how I want them.  They each mean something to me and just because I can't measure them properly doesn't mean that they won't happen.  For example, one thing on my list is "Learn French".  To which my husband  replied "All of it?"  I said "Yes, all of it. All of the French.  And when I get done, I'm going to read the Internet."  Really I want to learn enough French to get by the next time I travel to Congo, but I know that and so it didn't make sense to write down, "Learn Enough French to get by". 

So, in the spirit of keeping myself accountable, I'm sharing my goals.  Some are loftier than others.  Some are more important than others, but they are all things that I want to do.  So here they are.  Hopefully, I can start crossing some off.

And now that they are out there, I suppose it means that I actually need to do them :-)  Perhaps I'll start tomorrow.  I'll get right on it.

December 27, 2010


You know how at the end of A Christmas Story, the mom and dad sit next to the glowing Christmas tree and just reflect?  Kamron and I do that every year, too.  When we were dating, I'm pretty sure we just sat in proximity of the tree and made out, but now we sit and ohh and ahh over all the moments we had with the children.  There were so many of them this year, it took us a long time to go over them all. 

There was so much excitement on Christmas eve as we put the children to bed.  They were all so adorable we almost didn't want the day to end.   Then they ran down the steps on Christmas morning and Noah ran around in circles screaming, "It's Christmas, It's Christmas!"  He couldn't contain his excitement and it just bubbled over as he flailed around trying to make sense of everything.  The kids' anticipation was palpable.  They sat down in front of the tree and were ready to rip into the presents.  But then, the strangest thing happened.  Sadie and Noah both handed me the gifts that they had made for me and wanted me to open my gifts first.  I looked at Kamron and thought I would just cry!

There were so many perfect moments with Papaws and Grannys and cousins, sweet exchanges among siblings and glances between all of us as we reveled in the magic that surrounds children at Christmas time.  I can't tell you how many times I heard Kamron say that he wanted to freeze time, just as it was while we watched our three bambinos radiate pure joy.

And best of all, Miles has so far stayed pretty regulated.  He had a few tough hours yesterday, but recovered well and was delightful the rest of the day.  I don't even think we'll have to use our emergency session with the psychologist that she offered on her week off.  In other words- a Christmas miracle!

Papaw Johnny got a new puppy for Christmas!  How fun!

Cousin Julia- the Barbie Queen!

Like father like son.

Miles and his cousin, Reese.

Hoping your Christmas was full of joy, magic, giggles and more happiness than you can handle!

December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.  And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

December 24, 2010

10, 11, and 12

Christmas Kindness came to a close today.  Let me tell you a little about what we've been doing!

Day 10 was kind of a bust.  We were very busy and right before bed, we realized that we hadn't done our service project.  So we went back to the trusty  As Sadie was answering math trivia questions and racking up rice, she asked me how many grains of rice were in a serving.  We did a little researching and figured that one meal of rice would be around 2,000 grains.  She played and played and played and got up to about 600 grains of rice.  We added that to the total grains we had from previous days and estimated that we had donated close to a whole serving of rice.  She was really proud of herself for a minute.  Then she looked at me and said, "Mom.  What happens when the hungry people eat that one bowl of rice.  What will they do the next day when they get hungry again?"  My heart broke.  I wasn't really sure what to say.  This very question plagues me every single day.  And while there are no answers, there was a renewed sense that doing these projects has done a lot to teach my children about need and service.

The following day, we teamed up with my best friend in the wide world, Jessica, to help feed hungry people in our own backyard.  Jessica brought her niece, Selena, and we went and bought canned goods and food to take to a local food bank. 

Then today, for our last day of Christmas Kindness, we rallied with other members of our community to support a local family who is recovering from a terrible tragedy.  The Brown's, a family in our town, had their house burn to the ground last week.  They lost everything they owned.  But worse than that, their 6 year old daughter was trapped in the home and didn't make it out.  They also have a three year old son.  I thought back to last year at Christmas when my children were six and three.  I can't imagine what they must be going through.  It truly makes you stop and think about what is important and brings your focus back to the things that matter. 

A man in our city walked from one end of town to the other as people lined his route with donations in hand for the family.  It was rumored that the man's company said they would match money raised for the family if the man would do the collection route in a Speedo.  And by golly- he did it- in the freezing cold. 
We were there with bills in hand to watch the spectacle and give to the Brown family. (By the way- they raised thousands and thousands of dollars!) 

I can't even begin to tell you how proud I've been of my children for the last 12 days.  The spirit with which they've served has been inspiring.  I always thought about doing projects like this with them when they were teenagers, but I've realized that you are never too young to give back in your own way.     

This has been the least stressful holiday season that we've ever had.  We bought less, expected less and in doing so were able to give so much more.  It has been amazing.  It's not even Christmas day yet, and already my heart is so full, I can't imagine anything more.  

December 22, 2010

Cookie Queens (and Kings!)

What happens when you mix up 7 little children, one huge bag of flour, a whole lot of cookie cutters, big globs of dough and a giant assortment of sprinkles?  You get the most fun (and the biggest mess!) our kitchen has ever seen!  What a fun afternoon!

 You can check out Sadie's account of the day on her blog.

“While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about.”-Anonymous

December 21, 2010

We've Gone To The Dogs

Thanks to everyone who sent well wishes and warm thoughts to Noah this morning.  His surgery went well.  I can't tell yet how his hearing is.  He says it's much better- but he also sometimes says calls his foot his wiener, so we can't trust his judgement.  He'll have his hearing tested in two weeks, so I suppose we'll know then if we need to take further action about his ears.  In an effort to keep you from barfing on your keyboard, I'll spare you the details about all the junk that the doctor pulled out of the boy's ears.  I vomited a little in my mouth just now thinking about it.  I wonder if they make a vomiting emoticon?  I digress...

It was day 9 of our Christmas Kindness project.  We decided that today was a great day to help out our animal friends and so we made homemade dog treats.  (For the easy, cheap, fun recipe that we used, you can click here.)  Noah had a ball mixing, rolling and cutting out the dog treats.

Once they were out of the oven, we bagged them up and went to give them to the rescue dogs at the pet adoption center in our town.  Tomorrow, I am sure that my children will wake up and start devising a plan to convince me that we need a cat, or another dog.  They loved letting the dogs lick their fingers when they gave them the treats.  We learned that Miles actually likes animals- as long as they are in cages.

I am off to mix up enough sugar cookie dough to keep a whole gaggle of girls busy tomorrow.  Sadie is having all her besties over for a cookie decorating party.  We can't wait!!!  I think there is nothing more fun than a whole house full of little children!  Let the good times roll.

December 20, 2010

Holiday Absurdities

I kinda love every single thing about Christmas!  I love the excitement, the anticipation and the awe that comes with a season full of wonder.  I love the baking, the wrapping, the shopping, the singing, the baby in the manger, the family gatherings, and of course- the funny things that come out of the hecticness.
  • Noah was opening up the Christmas cards. When he saw one with a Madonna and child stamp on it he got so excited he screamed, "OH MY GOSH, MOM!  THIS ONE IS FROM JESUS!"
  • Miles heard the little drummer boy on the radio and has been rum pum pum pumming ever since. Cutest thing ever.
  • Noah is having tubes put in his ears in the morning.  We are hoping that it will help him gain back all the hearing that he has lost over the last 18 months.  When I told him that tomorrow was the big day that we are having his ears fixed he said, "Just in time! Now I'll be able to hear the reindeer when they land on the roof!"
  • Sadie was trying to tell me that she wanted a Nintendo DSI for Christmas this year.  I told her that I didn't think that 7 year old girls needed to have portable, unsupervised internet and that maybe she should just ask for a regular DS.  She retorted, "Mom- if I learn to use it, I won't talk to boys on it.  I promise."  Ah, innocence.
  • We don't have a fireplace or chimney.  When we were discussing that Santa would probably just use our front door, the children launched into a conversation about how happy that would make Santa, since he wouldn't have to burn his butt in the fireplace to bring presents to our house. It reminded me of when my college roommate and I would sit on the heating vent in our freezing cold apartment until it would char griddle marks on our behinds right through our jeans. 
  • There has also been some discussion amongst the littles about what happens when reindeer need to poop mid-air.  Perhaps instead of carrots, we should put out a nice assortment of cheeses for Rudolph?
  • We saw the most awesomely real looking Santa and Mrs. Claus walking out of a store as we were walking in today.  They stopped and talked with the boys.  Miles was completely in awe.   Santa asked Noah what he would like to have for Christmas and he told Santa he'd love to have a bike.  Mrs. Claus jumped right in the conversation and said, "Do you promise to wear your helmet?"  Noah gave her his word and Mrs. Claus said, "Good.  Because Mrs. Claus is an EMT the other 11 months of the year!" 
  • The poor little baby Jesus from the kid's nativity set is constantly in danger of the giant, plastic t-rex in our home.  The boys have decided that t-rex's favorite food are babies wrapped in swaddling cloth.
  • I took a really bad spill down our icy driveway the other day.  My leg got bruised and my hands were cut and bloodied.  But even worse than that was the butt track that I left that skidded the length of my driveway.  It was waaaaay wider than I would have liked my butt skid to be. *sigh*
  • The winner of today's BeadforLife giveaway is comment #30- Dessica. Email me and I'll get your goods ordered! 
  • If you don't mind- send up some prayers for our Noah Bear as he has surgery in the morning. Thanks!

A Christmas Kindness Giveaway

Today's Christmas Kindness is for YOU.   So many of you wonderful readers have gotten me through some tough times, shared in our joyful times and have been there for us and supported our family in ways that I never could have imagined.  You leave sweet comments, send touching emails and sometimes fill my mailbox with awesomeness. 

If you've been around for a while, you know that I love gifts that give twice.  A MoM reader suggested on our facebook page, that I give away some African jewelry.  So today, you can win a package of goodies from Bead4Life.  Bead4Life helps empower families in Uganda to recover from war and poverty.

The package includes a 3 strand necklace (you can choose the color), a peppermint shae butter lip balm and a shae butter soap.

Their website says that purchasing one bar of soap helps 450 Ugandan families rebuilt their lives after years of civil war.  Amazing.  Who knew a bar of soap could do so much good?

This is a really easy one to win.  All you have to do is leave a comment.  It can say anything.  "Hi."  "Oh, look!  It's Monday!" "Only 6 more days til Christmas!" "My kids are driving me bonkers!" What ever you have to say, just leave it in the comments. 

This is just a one day giveaway.  I'll use to generate a winner at 10pm EST.

Thank you for being here.  I appreciate you showing up every day to read my ramblings.  Thanks for being a part of my life.  You have no idea how much it means to me that you are here. *cheesy group hug*

December 19, 2010

Catching Up

It seems that this Christmas season is going by in a whirlwind!  We are trying hard to just slow down and savor it, but there is just too much fun stuff to do and too many people we want to see. 

The mister and I went on a date last night. (ooo-la-la!)  We didn't do anything fancy- just dinner out.  But how lovely it is to eat a meal where someone brings it too you, you get to eat it while it's hot, and no little people end up screaming, spilling or puking at the table!  It was a great time to just talk and reconnect.  While we were out, my sister-in-law took the children and the great-grandpa out to look at Christmas lights. 

How excited is Noah?!  Freaky.
 Then today we played catchup on our Christmas Kindness.  On day 5 we packed up outgrown clothes to take to a local foster family.  Day 6 unfortunatley fell by the wayside. (I decided to have lunch with a friend, instead.  Totally selfish, but totally necessary!)  Today, we tried to make up for our day of slacking by going to help my grandma serve treats at the nursing home.  She does this every single Sunday.  I have to brag on my Mamaw Daisy for a minute.  She is the most kind hearted person who has ever walked this earth.  She just gives and gives and she does it all joyfully and without complaint.  She is in her 70's, but she goes non-stop.  She bakes enough to put a full scale bakery to shame and then travels all over kingdom come delivering baked goods to shut-ins, people at her church, people who are sick, and ME (lucky me!)  She is such a shining example to me.  While we have strived to emphasize service in our home for the 12 days leading up to Christmas, Mamaw Daisy lives that out every single day of the year.  We all just love her so.  She was pretty proud showing off her grandchildren to the old folks today.  And the wee ones loved serving heaping plates of ice cream, cookies and candy canes.

Mamaw Daisy with Noah, Miles and Sadie
Today, I am just so intensely grateful for my blessed nest.

"There are some days when I think I'm going to die from an overdose of satisfaction."- Salvador Dali

December 17, 2010

Oh Friday, it's nice to see you

  • In an odd twist of fate, this has been a truly fantastic week around here.  No rages, no wonky behaviors, minimal whining, lots of fun and just a general sense of calm.  *Insert Hallelujah Chorus here*
  • Today makes for the third snow day this week.  Yesterday, Sadie told me every 45 seconds that she was bored.  I so remember feeling that way as a kid.  We lived out in the country and there weren't people to play with.  The roads were treacherous, so bringing in reinforcements friends wasn't really an option.  In an effort to make the day more fun, I tried to say yes instead of no whenever it was possible.  Which means that my kids ate icicles for lunch, did crafts and just walked away from the enormous mess, took a hundred bubble baths each, and snuggled up and read books all day.  It was kind of freeing- until I looked around and realized that it looked like a massive cyclone had come through my house.  Instead of tackling it, I just took a Tylenol PM.  The mess is still here staring me in the face, but man oh man, yesterday was fun. 
  • Right before bedtime last night when we found out that school was going to be cancelled for today, Sadie's friend came and picked her up to spend the night.  She and Noah always sleep together because they are both big scaredy cats.  So on the rare occasion that Sadie is gone, Noah gets to sleep with us.  I curled up in bed with a book and Noah snuggled up next to me to go to sleep.  He is so peaceful when he sleeps.  He sleeps just like a magazine picture- perfectly curled up with his little hands folded together resting under his little cheek.  It is amazing to watch.  I could watch that child sleep forever.  It is such a stark contrast to the others.  Sadie gets hot in her sleep and it is nothing to walk in her room in the morning and see her stark naked, sleeping sprawled out, spread eagle, hair all Medusa-ish, and snoring like a 400 pound man.  And I'm not really sure what Miles looks like when he sleeps.  His room has to be pitch black dark.  No nightlight.  The door has to be closed all the way.  He is a really light sleeper and if he gets woken up he gets really scared and nervous, so I resist the temptation to sneak in and watch him because I don't for one minute want him to feel unsafe.  But it is such a treat to watch that little Noah angel sleep.  It was a fantastic way to end to the day.
  • My sister-in-law, Kennethia, rescued the fourth day of Christmas Kindness.  She texted me about .  It is a trivia game that you play that donates rice to the World Food Program every time you get an answer right.  The trivia questions were a little hard for a four year old, so we modified it.  I answered the real trivia questions and asked Noah my own version of questions which he insisted needed to be all about dinosaurs.  We loved watching our bowl of donated rice pile up!  It was the perfect way to give back without leaving our house on an icy day.
  • I'm reading The Help by Katheryn Stockett.  Oh holy night, it is fantastic.  I never ever buy hardback books because I think it is a waste of money, but so many people recommended this one that I caved and bought it.  I LOVE it.  I'm about 2/3 of the way through which means that for the next 2 hours or so, my children will have to fend for themselves because mama's gonna be out of commission until that book gets finished.
  • Everyone in our house is begging to have African food tonight.  Looks like I'll be making everyone's favorite Chicken Tagine.  We all love that stuff even though it makes everyone's pee the oddest shade of toxic yellow. 
  • Is it bad that yesterday when my husband got home from work, the kids and I all pressed our noses to the window to see if he would bust his butt on the ice while walking to the front door?  Sadie looked forward to that all day! (and no- he didn't fall, thankfully.  But is sure would have been funny if he did!)
  • Miles just up and started (oh man that sounds country!) talking in full on sentences this week.  Five and six words together. "Mommy, I want a drink please."  "Get off me NOW, Noah!"  "Shew-wee, this poop stinks!" Talking has made all the difference in his life.  It has reduced the communication tantrums by 94.8% and has also aged him by probably another 6 months.  We now think that the child is 14 years old trapped in a 22 pound body.  Visions of Webster are coming to mind.  Does that make me Mrs. Popadapolis?
  • I hope your last weekend before Christmas is fantabulous!  

What do you do on a snowy day? 
You curl up under a blanket, stick out your tongue and have a camera phone photoshoot, of course!

December 16, 2010

Day 3

Yesterday was the third day of our Christmas kindness project.  We purchased a Christmas dinner through the angel tree for a needy family.  My kids read every single name of every angel on that tree trying to find just the perfect one.  They finally chose "The Miles Family".  LOVE it!
I think my children would happily move right into the grocery store.  They love that place.

This is a seriously crummy picture, but Miles' tiny thumbs up just makes me insanely happy.
Last night, as I was tucking him in, Noah told me that Christmas was all about forgiving.  I thought he really meant giving (not forgiving) and that these lessons were finally getting through to him.  I probed him a little further and he said, "Well, Isa said that Christmas is all about forgiving.  When Swiper swiped all the Christmas presents, Santa put him on the naughty list.  Then Dora and Boots helped him get the presents back and he was forgiving because that's what Christmas is."  So there you have it.  Evidently, every thing my son knows about Christmas, he learned from the Dora the Explorer Christmas Special.

Today we are iced in.  There is no school and we can't get out, so we'll have to deviate from our plan a little and come up with something we can do without leaving the house.  Perhaps the children can show a little Christmas kindness to their mama and clean their rooms!  A girl can dream, can't she? 

December 15, 2010

Let's Talk About Post Adoption Depression

I'm really nervous about writing this one.  I love blogging, but I find that the more you put yourself out there the more you open yourself up to some really harsh criticism.  I've said before that after Miles had been home for four months, I, along with my doctor, made the decision to go on antidepressants.  I could have used them much sooner.  I went straight from probably needing a xanax to help me chill out during the adoption process to needing antidepressants in a heartbeat.  I'm not ashamed of that.  It was completely necessary for me. 

When you give birth to a baby, all the baby books tell you about getting the baby blues.  You get that flood of hormones leaving the body, you're sleep deprived and you have a tiny baby that probably does a lot of crying.  Of course you are going to get the baby blues!  It's pretty much just a matter of to what degree.  After giving birth to our first, I was a little hormonal for about 2 weeks.  Mostly I just cried a lot for no reason, but got over it rather quickly.  After giving birth to our second child, I felt off for nearly a year.  I went straight from the baby blues to full on depression. Unfortunately, I didn't fully recognize just how bad it was and I was so ashamed that I wasn't insanely joyful about a new baby that I suffered in silence. 

It was a really strange feeling to me.  I always considered myself to be a pretty happy and upbeat kind of gal.  A close family member of mine had struggled with depression for years, even to the point of having a nervous breakdown and I just didn't get it.  I couldn't figure out why this person just couldn't make up their mind to be happy.  I fed right into all those quotes about how you could just choose to be happy.  And to some extent, one can, but depression is a whole other ballgame.  So when I found myself unable to just will myself out of my post baby funk, I got really down on myself.  I mean, here I was, blessed beyond all measure and I just wanted to sit in a room and cry all day.  I would listen to my sweet baby crying and instead of wanting to jump up and go comfort him, I would just feel angry.  I feel certain that if I had just gone to talk to someone or told my doctor about how I was feeling, that I wouldn't have suffered so long with postpartum depression.  Ahhh, hindsight.

So imagine my surprise when we adopted kiddo number three and my body and mind still got all wonky.   I was thinking that eliminating the prospect of postpartum depression was going to be one of the best perks in choosing to adopt.  I had heard of post adoption depression, but honestly, I thought that it was just something that people made up to explain a hard transition home.  In the process I never once gave any thought to it, our social worker never said a word about it, and none of the people that I knew who had adopted ever said a word about it.

But not long after stepping off the plane with our new son, BAM!  It hit me like a ton of bricks.  Those first few days with Miles felt like love at first sight.  But a few weeks after getting him home and we began to learn more about him, he became a stranger to me.  I tried hard to bring back those lovey dovey feelings I had when I first laid eyes on him, but for a long time it felt like I was pouring love into someone else's child.  He was someone else's child.  All through the process, I kept looking at his picture and calling him my child.    While he was "my child" he was also someone else's child.  Here I was, looking at this toddler, and wondering what in the hell I was supposed to feel.  In reality, I felt more bonded to his referral picture than the actual child.  I loved him.  I truly did.  But I'm not sure that I liked him.  When we began to see crazy behaviors coming from this stranger, I lost it.  It was like an outsider came into my house and disrupted the whole balance.  My other children, my marriage, my sense of self- it all suffered.  I tried to just pull myself and my emotions together, but I couldn't do it.  I felt angry, disappointed, overwhelmed, alone, ashamed, inadequate, unprepared and desperate.  I was supposed to be this great champion of orphans- yet in my own home I couldn't muster up the understanding that was needed to parent my own former orphan.  What did that make me?  I felt like a monster.  Everything I thought I knew about the person that I was was ripped to shreds.

I so wanted to feel towards our adopted child the way that I did about the children I gave birth to.  I told God, my social worker, our family and friends, that we would love this child just like our homegrown children and I felt like I was failing.  I read all the books, googled the heck out of post adoption depression and reached out to a few friends.  When my biological children would do something really bad, I had years and years of happy memories with them to pull from to balance out their indiscretions.  But when our adopted son would pull the exact same stunts, I had nothing to draw from.  There were no happy memories of him cooing as a baby and taking his first steps to tip the balance.  I felt so angry all the time.  I felt jipped.  I felt jealous of all the babies coming home that just seemed to fit so perfectly into their new homes.  Their moms didn't feel on edge and panicky all the time- so why was I?

I grieved for my adopted son.  He came with his own history and his own personality that I in no way helped to mold and that felt weird.  He came home very sick and all the time at doctor's offices and hospitals took me away from my other children and I was angry about that.  I was trying to come to terms with all that I saw in Africa and I was beyond devastated and unable to process how I felt about the poverty there.  I needed help, but found that all the people who want to cook meals and coo over a tiny baby don't beat down your door when you adopt a toddler.  I wanted to reach out to my husband but felt like I couldn't.  After all- I pushed for us to adopt and felt like I'd get a big "I told you so" even though my sweet husband would never ever say or even think that.  I suppose I was really telling myself a big ol' "I told you so."  I thought about calling our social worker, but I was seriously afraid that they would take my new son away and I would have a big red X on my file should we decide that we ever wanted to adopt again.

I kept trying to muster up the happiness, and it was there in glimpses, but I just couldn't pull myself out of the depths.  I could tell myself that I had a reason for feeling how I was feeling, and could tell my brain some steps to take to work through it, but it was like my head was rebelling against logic.  The only logic I could understand was that I was being completely illogical.  I could tell myself, that if I just gave it time, that this child would begin to feel like my child and we'd make happy memories, and we'd find our groove as a family but my head would not stop screaming, "NOPE!  YOU ARE GOING TO FEEL MISERABLE FOREVER!" 

After about four months of feeling so out of sorts, I finally went and talked to my doctor.  I sat in her office bawling.  She said, "Megan, you do realize that everything you are feeling is completely situational, right?  You thought you were getting a baby and you end up with a toddler.  You now have two boys with their own sets of special needs.  You jumped from two children to three.  You are overwhelmed and tired.  Of course, you feel crazy!  But you're not crazy.  You are normal.  You are dealing with a lot and it would stress out anybody who was trying to do what you are doing."  I wanted to walk across the room and kiss her.   Finally, someone said, "Hey, it's okay to feel what you feel.  You don't have to feel love at first sight for this child to be your son.  You can grow to love him and that is alright.  You can give yourself time to adjust and life will still go on.  It doesn't mean you are a bad person."

She and I decided together, that even though everything I was going through was purely situational (meaning that I wasn't chemically or hormonally imbalanced or anything) that the best thing for me to do was to start some antidepressants.  She explained to me that it would help me feel like I could reason better and respond more appropriately to the tasks I needed to do to get through each day.   I don't think that that is the answer for everyone, but for me it was absolutely the right decision.  After about four weeks, I began to finally feel like myself again.  I could reason.  I could function. I could set more realistic expectations for what this journey would look like. I could see light at the end of the tunnel.  I could tell myself that I would figure this thing out and I actually believed myself.

No one likes to broadcast their shortcomings in public (in fact, I wouldn't be surprised if in telling our story we are disqualified from adopting again in the future), but I felt really strongly about sharing.  Last week I got this email from another mom.  It said:
...From another adoptive mom that is STRUGGLING through PAD, PLEASE tell me that the meds truly did help. I just started meds yesterday. I know it takes a while for it to take effect, but I need the HOPE! Because it is SO dark right now. Right now I only have the strength to cry out to you in desperation because I'm pretty sure you took meds for PAD too, and I need to hear that it helps!!
This morning I felt like I was having a panic attack just from being in the same room with my adopted kids. It's scary to feel that way. And my adopted kiddos are doing really well, but of course it's still hard. I'm just constantly feeling overwhelmed and like I don't even want to be with them. And that feeling is even beginning to rub off on my bio kid, which really disturbs me. It's all so icky...
I feel for her.   You can hear the desperation.  I've been where she's been. You can tell that she is fighting with herself to not feel how she's feeling.  But that's the tricky thing with depression.  It defies all logic.  It's like your own brain is pulling a great trick on itself.  The weird thing is that you know it is happening yet you feel so powerless to do anything about it. 

After opening up over the summer about having to go on medication, I got a lot of these kinds of emails.  It happens more than you think, even if no one talks about it.

The good news is that it does get better.  For me, it required medication and time- lots of time. Waaaay more time than I wanted it to take.  Our son has been home for almost a year (holy cow!) and he doesn't feel like a stranger anymore.  We do have happy memories to draw from.  He IS one of us.  I cut myself some slack and realized that becoming a family doesn't have to happen overnight.  It will eventually happen.  There is no time table.  For some, it is instant, for others- it takes a while.  Either way, there is NO reason to feel guilty over how quickly it happens. We don't expect our children to adjust overnight.  You can't expect that for yourself, either.  You do the best you can.  You wake up and do it again the next day, and the day after that and the day after that.  And eventually, one day you wake up and realize that you don't have to try with all your might to make your family feel like a family because by golly- you're THERE!  Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither are families.  Amen.
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