I am getting the heck out of here! Hallelujah! I need a break in the worst way, so for the last week, I have been trying to decide if I can swing going to the awards gala in NYC for the BlogHer conference. If you don't know, BlogHer is like the end all be all of the blogging world. (At least it seems that way!) So, I have been pricelining and begging and have finally given myself permission to go!
And because I just don't have enough adventure in my real life (HA!) I am going out on a limb and staying with a complete stranger in Manhattan on Saturday night. Andrea and her hubby read this blog and they have so graciously invited me to stay in their home! How cool is that? Hopefully they will not hack me up into bits and throw me in the Hudson. Just kidding! I think they are going to be just delightful hosts. But seriously- if you know me in real life- do not tell my Granny Sadie that I am going to be a single gal in NYC staying with strangers I met on the internet. She may just roll over and die with anxiety.
I have never been to New York before. But this trip is just what I need right now. It has me singing Alicia Keys "Empire State of Mind" on repeat all day long. PLUS- I will get to meet the fabulous Christine, who has promised to greet me with an enormous hug. Life just does not get much better than that. I may just melt into that hug and be so glad to be around another mother in the flesh who parents kids with trauma and attachment disorders that I may never let go! Be prepared, Christine!
After the summer we've had around here, I just can't wait to be on my own in New York City for a few days. Stay tuned for tomorrow's post about PTSD and how my darling little Miles had to be wrapped up straight jacket style and tranquilized after beating up a nurse and trying to bash his head open on the concrete wall before having an MRI of his eyes yesterday. PTSD is kicking our butts. Good times.
So poor hubby is one of the least observant people I know. He was packing last night for a business trip that requires him to fly. The last time that he flew, his eardrum nearly exploded, so the doctors told him that every time he flies he should shoot up with nose spray to help unclog the congestion and keep his ears from getting stopped up. So last night, I was indulging in rediculous reality television and hubby walks in and shoves this bottle of medication in front of my face. The bottle looks exactly like this:
And hubby says, "Hey babe, is this nose spray?" Seriously. Do you see that my children get their neuroticness honestly? Obviously they don't get it from me, because- you know- I am just the picture of normal :-)
I think that 3 years old is one of the cutest stages for kids. I am so enjoying Noah right now at this age. He is so funny and smart but still so innocent. Here are just a few of his antics lately:
A couple of weeks ago, Noah was fuming mad at Miles. Right in front of me he screamed out, "Miles, you are a stupid butt!" Then he looked at me and said, "I'm so angry I just had to say that to him. I'll go put myself in timeout."
This is the same child who told me the other day that he did not, in fact, wet the bed and that someone must have snuck in his room while he was sleeping and squirted a juice box on top of him.
This is also the same kid who is having trouble learning how to wipe his own behind. We keep telling him that he will not be allowed to go to preschool next month if he doesn't learn how to do it. He keeps trying but he's not very good at it. I noticed at a pool party when I was getting ready to put his clothes back on him that his underwear were not very, shall we say "clean", and that he was going to have to go commando. He looked in his underwear and said, " I promise I wiped my bottom. I think a popsicle just melted in my underwear." I wanted to bust out laughing, but instead I asked him, "Well, did you put a popsicle in your underwear and let it melt." Dead serious, he said, "I don't think I did, but I might have. I don't know. Are they cold?" Because, you know- the temperature of your underwear is the only clue that would key you in to the fact that you had put a popsicle in your drawers.
And that brings us to yesterday... I walked in my bedroom to find Noah in a sobbing heap on the floor. I scooped him up and loved on him thinking that he must have gotten hurt. I kept trying to ask him what had happened to him. He was so upset that he could barely speak. He said between sobs, "I just wish that I was a girl!" He was so genuinely upset about not being a girl that it broke my heart. I tried to get to the bottom of the situation with him, trying to figure out if he was jealous of his sister, or some other thing. He said," No, I just want to be a girl so I can get a makeover!" So on this afternoon's agenda... giving Noah a makeover! This should be fun!
At some point in time I promise I will find my energy and once again blog something of substance. I keep yelling "Oly, oly oxen free," hoping that some motivation will come out of hiding and smack me in the face, but it hasn't happened yet. So for now- it's just a family portrait my dad took of all of us on vacation last week. I am so clever- I totally put a kid in front of my stomach in every single picture we took of me in a bathing suit. Yay for my brains! Even though chaos is currently reigning in this house- we can totally pull it together and at least look like one big, happy family for a picture. (Go us!) I think this is the one where Kamron yelled out, "Poopahontas" (like Pocahontas) to make the kids laugh for the picture. Never underestimate the humorous power of a poop joke. I don't care how old you are- poop is funny.
P.S. Anybody out there in blogland going to Blogher in NYC who may like to have a last minute roommate to split a room and hotel costs with? (Yes- I mean me.) Serial killers need not respond.
Okay- I am usually not one to brag, but I am just a little bit proud because...
My blog post about the orphanages in DRC is being honored at the 2010 BlogHer conference in New York City!!! My post was named as a finalist (chosen out of over a thousand entries!) and will be honored in front of thousands of bloggers who may just get to hear for the first time what life is like for the orphans in Congo- and that makes me super excited. Sorry for the shameless tooting of my own horn- sometimes a girl's just gotta brag for a minute. You'll forgive me, right?
Every now and then, I read someone else's blog posts and I think, "Man! That is exactly what I think and feel, only I didn't think of saying it like that!" That's been the case with one of my favorite blogs lately. THE LIVESAY'S have had a whole series of adoption guest posts on their blog over the last 10 days or so. (If you remember, the Livesay's are missionaries in Haiti- our Haiti raffle money went to support some of their ministries.) Those guest posts have captured so much of what I want to say. And since I am so stinkin' busy this week, I am just going to refer you to their posts over there today. They are all awesome and wonderfully written (by some of my favorite bloggers!) and cover so many different perspectives on adoption. They are a must read for all adoptive families (and adoptive family supporters!) and families interested in adoption. Happy reading!
Just in case y'all haven't heard... WE WON THE $20,000 GRANT FOR THE ORPHANS IN DRC!!!! From the bottom of my heart- thank you to everyone of you who voted, reposted, begged for votes, and advocated on our behalf. The children in DRC will benefit so much from your hard work. I truly do have the best blog readers/ Facebook friends a girl could ask for. As it came down to the wire watching the vote come in, I was chatting it up with my Congo mamas and I swear I felt like we were up for an Academy Award! We hooped and hollered and typed all kinds of exclamation marks in celebration when midnight rolled around and the votes were tallied!
The winner of the Congolese goodies giveaway for voting and spreading the word (and boy did she ever spread the word!) is MEGANLELA! Thanks, Megan (no- not me you sillies!) for your tireless effort on behalf of the orphans in DRC. You rock, girl!
And now that this is all over, I am completely exhausted. I'm too tired to put together a coherent thought to blog about anything else, even though I have a million ideas rolling around in my head. See ya' tomorrow after some sleep hopefully!
This post is all about things I've learned recently.
1. I've learned that maybe I don't have as much tact as I once thought. With this Chase Giving Contest going on, I've nearly lost my mind trying to come up with ways to get people to vote. I've hustled votes at the funeral home, at church, in Target to complete strangers texting on their iPhones. I even pulled out my phone in the middle of a prayer at Bible School to check the rankings. Winning $20,000 for kids in Congo is evidently worth my eternal soul. (And seriously- if you haven't voted, we can't be friends anymore. Today is the last day to vote- and I'd really like to keep YOU as a friend)
2. If you start your day with a kid covered in poop and poop all over the playpen, you can guarantee it's going to be a crappy day. We may never fully get rid of intestinal parasites in Miles.
3. Home bikini wax = brutality. Seriously kids, do NOT try this at home!
4. Children grow up faster than you think. Last night I heard my 6 year old on the phone with a friend she was trying to invite to Bible School. Once the girl committed to going, they launched into a discussion of "What are you going to wear?" Followed by, "I don't know, what are you going to wear?" I thought I had years before she started doing this! Where did the years go???
5. 95 degree heat makes me lose my motivation to clean my house. And my children. I realized yesterday that the only "bathing" they'd done all week was in the pool. Please, no one call the authorities on me.
6. I've learned that you can scrimp on hair products for Caucasian hair. 99 cent Suave will do the trick. Not so with African American hair products. You get what you pay for.
7. A date night out with the hubby will do wonders for a girl. We've only been on 2 other dates since Miles has been home. I didn't realize how that will wear on a couple!
8. We also realized when we were out as a twosome how nice it was to not have everyone staring at us all the time. I know that having a family that looks like ours does invite stares and stupid comments, but I'd forgotten how relaxing it is to just fly under the radar.
9. I've learned that my one day of babysitting a week is my favorite day of the week. I look forward to it like no other. Wonder what that says about me as a mother? Ah, who cares what that says about me. I love my day off.
10. My husband used to actually read this blog. A few months ago, I learned that he doesn't really anymore. He does, however, still say that he reads. (And maybe he does, like once a month or so) So in order to "learn" more about his reading habits, I am going to post the following picture of him and see how long it takes him to notice that it's up. My guess is somewhere around late August? I've looked everywhere for the picture of him from Halloween two years ago dressed up as the Devo guy from the 1980's 'Whip It' video, but I can't find it. Plus- my husband has a business to run in this town and they may ride him out on a rail if that picture got out! If you know us in real life, do NOT fill him in on this little experiment. Man, I love that boy!
I have a very set view on adoption. As much as I love my Miles, I wish that he had never had to be an orphan. I wish that his mother had had an advocate. A person who cared about her- who empowered her to be able to provide a good life for herself and her children. I wish that his mom had had all the resources that she needed so that she could continue to parent her adorable children- so that my Miles would never know that pain of losing her.
When Miles got home, we started the process to sponsor a Congolese woman through Women for Women International. I felt so strongly about this. I wanted to know that in our own way, we were helping our "sisters" out there to be able to have better lives. We chose Women for Women (WFW) because their philosophy on helping women is not "charity". They don't give handouts. They empower. They run programs for women to teach them a trade, and how to run their own businesses, how to care for their children properly. They learn basic health principles. WFW teaches these women about what it means to have a voice. They prepare women to go back to their villages and make an impact. I love it.
We write letters and emails to our sister in Congo. She has 5 children that she is caring for. I am so proud of her that she is creating a better life for the children she is taking care of. Those children will never have to know what it is like to live in an orphanage. Our sister's picture is on our refrigerator and when I look at her I feel connected to the parts of Congo that I love the most: the resilience and the beauty of the people there. Congo is the worst place in the world to be a woman. The sexual violence and brutality against women there is mind blowing. Our sister is changing her life and the life of her children and her village and that gives me so much inspiration. Her bravery encourages me.
This morning Sadie asked if she could make a card to mail to our sister. She got out our crayons and markers and got to work. I said a little prayer of gratitude that we live in America- where my daughter will not live in fear of being burned out of her home and raped by malitias. Where my daughter can go to school for free. Where my daughter could grow up to be the president one day if she chose. Where my daughter has the whole world at her fingertips. I also prayed for the safety of our sisters in Congo and prayed that the day will come when all women in the world will have a voice.
If you've never seen the following video- I encourage you to take a peek. It is beyond inspiring about all the wonderful things that can happen in the world when you empower young women and girls. We can move mountains!
Just in case you've forgotten, Our Family Adoptions is up for a $20,000 grant from Chase Giving. We are currently ranked 245 (out of over 9000 charities). We only have to crack the top 200 to automatically win the $20,000! That money will be used to feed, house, medicate and educate orphans in the DRC. If you haven't voted already- we NEED you to. Another 250 votes should put us over the edge. Please let one of those votes be yours. Click on the Chase button below and vote for OFA! (You have to "like" the application before you can vote.) We are so close, but there are only 4 days left to vote! So hurry! Those kids need you to care enough to take 30 seconds to go and vote to give them hope.
To sweeten the deal, if you vote, I'm giving you a chance to win one of these awesome Congolese treasures- picked up in Congo and donated by my friend Carrie.
Wow- I could talk about this one till the cows come home. I've talked some about what kinds of things we are dealing with when it comes to Miles. But I don't think that I've explained it very well, because people who know us in real life and who read this blog, still mostly look at me like I am speaking a foreign language when I talk about our attachment issues.
I am in no way an expert on this. In fact, I am probably not going to do the subject justice at all. I've done a lot of reading, but I haven't lived attachment problems for very long. Mostly I am just giving my experience and putting it out there in layman's terms so that others may begin to see the "why" behind attachment issues. My thoughts are jumbled because there is just too much too say about attachment disorders to sum it up in one nice little post. Just as a disclaimer- there are lots of adopted children who come home and adjust into being in a family beautifully. This is in no way meant to discourage anyone from adopting. Adoption is a beautiful thing. That being said...
First and foremost, most people don't understand that ALL adoptions are built on loss. Most people don't stop to think about all that a child has to go through to become an orphan. They just see this "lucky" little one who gets to have a family. If most people had a clue about what most orphans have been through, they sure as heck wouldn't call them lucky. I'll be the first to admit- before adoption was on my radar I would see the moms in the mall walking with their beautiful little girls from China and I would have the same "lucky little girl" thoughts, too. I always had this misconception that adopted children would just be so happy to have a mom that everything would be beautiful. We forget that the act of becoming an orphan is horrible and can leave enormous scars on children's hearts. I think that is why it seemed important for me to do this post- to help people who are just observers to our journey see the bigger picture and understand what so many parents of adopted children are experiencing but are afraid to talk about. (maybe because if makes us feel like we are just inadequate parents to this child that we wanted so desperately?)
I read somewhere that the reason that children say "da-da" first is not because they love dad better, but because they see their mothers as extensions of themselves instead of a separate entity. A child sees no separation between himself and his mother. That connection happens instantly. You don't have to do anything to have it- it just is. From the very first minute of life, a child knows his mother. He has heard her, sensed her, and bonded with her in an intimate way for 9 whole months. So when a child is separated from the woman who gave him life, even at infancy, the child feels that loss. It is traumatic. Even if you adopt a baby from day one, that child is cognitive of that loss of identity. There is no "pulling one over" on this child! You can't just switcheroo a mom. Mother's are not interchangeable. For a child to be adopted they have to experience that loss. Period. Even if being adopted is infinitely better for the child than the alternative situation, the child still feels that loss. A huge part of their identity has just been taken away.
In the adoption world, rumors fly around like crazy that if you adopt a child before they are two years old, or if you adopt them and bring them home from the hospital, that you are home free from attachment problems. Not true. While some kids don't have any attachment issues at all, others just do. One kid who may have watched their parents die right in from of them may seem to not have any outward issues stemming from that where another who experienced the same thing may be traumatized for years. All kids are different and they each internalize what they've experienced in different ways- whether they are 8 years old or 8 months. Hurt is hurt.
Add to the mix the dreaded "b" word: boundaries. Take a child who has lived on the streets or in an orphanage with no boundaries, no rules, no authority figures. Put them into a family where someone is telling them what to do, what to eat, what to wear, when to sleep, how to act, etc. and you can see how a child could prefer autonomy! Being a part of a family is hard when you've never been in one. Sometimes it is just too much to take in and kids push back, or shut down, or become aggressive or any other number of undesirable behaviors. It can even be in the simplest of things- if no one has ever brushed you teeth before and suddenly you have a person jabbing hard plastic in your mouth (your personal space) that is a strange new experience. For the adopted child, they don't always see this as someone trying to take care of them, they see it as being intruded upon. Same thing goes with doctor's visits, and dressing, and feeding or giving medication. A child does not see the love behind the action- they see it as being bombarded. And when a child feels bombarded it is easy to get stuck in "fight or flight" mode. As outsiders, it is easy to forget that these children have not always been cared for properly or treated nicely and therefore need to be taught how to be in a family, how to love, how to trust, how to resolve conflict, how to differentiate between positive and negative attention, etc. Those are tough things to learn. The effects of abandonment and neglect are enormous. With some children, you add in trauma, abuse, special needs, medical issues, and you can only imagine the time it will take to heal that child's heart.
In international adoption and foster adoption, you also have to deal with messing with a child's sense of normal. A child who is in a horrible situation doesn't always know that their circumstances are horrible, they just see it as their normal because it is all they know. So even when you have the best of intentions in removing a child from a bad situation, you have just successfully eliminated their sense of normal. You may be bringing them into home full of love and nurturing, but when you take a child out of what they've always known, you can't expect that they will just settle into a new life without some backlash. They will fight to surround themselves with that same "normal" they came out of because that is what is comfortable to them. Many times in international adoption, we are taking a child from their native language, their native culture, their native food- we are taking them away from everything that is familiar to them. That is a lot for a child to internalize. It would only be natural for a child who can't internalize that huge transition to take out their confusion about what has just happened to them on the people who took them away from their comfort zone (even if that comfort zone is a war zone).
The person who bears the brunt of attachment issues, is usually the primary caregiver. Why? Because they are the people enforcing the rules, brushing the teeth, dispensing the medication, disciplining, taking the child to the doctor, enforcing bed time, homework time, etc. They are also the people giving the kisses and the hugs and the most love. And if you've never had hugs and kisses and love, that can be pretty dang uncomfortable for children. For many children who have been abandoned or "given up" for adoption, their very sense of self worth is shaken to its core. After all- "if my own mom didn't want me, I must be worthless". That happens even in pre-verbal children. Rebuilding a child's sense of worth is tough business. If you are the adoptive mother constantly telling your child, "I love you- you are special to me" that child is going to think that you are a liar because you are going against everything they are feeling about themselves. That child is going to push back and fight attaching with all they have to try to preserve the only sense of self they know. And that can be ugly.
Another reason that the primary care giver bears the brunt is the sheer level of comfort. Often times, children fight the most with the people they are most comfortable with because they know that it is a safe relationship. My best friend described this in a wonderful way the other day. She said it is like having a horrible day and taking it out on your spouse, even if the spouse has nothing to do with the horrible day. You do that because you know at the end of the day that spouse will still be there, will still be loving, will still be supportive. That relationship is a safe place to decompress. Our children who have experienced loss and trauma, have emotions they need to get out: anger, sadness, grief, confusion, hurt- and the parents bear it, because our children need that safe relationship to vent.
In Miles' case, that is exactly what he does with me. The intimacy of a relationship with me is often times just too overwhelming for him and so he revolts. He has glimpses of times where he attaches to me in normal ways, but I can tell that he is fighting it. I think is that child's mentality that if you don't attach, you can't get hurt, right? You won't be re-abandoned. It is all about keeping a safe distance. He will cling to strangers and acquaintances because that is comfortable for him. He doesn't have to have meaningful relationships with them beyond a short period of time. After all, those people aren't the ones responsible for the discipline or the teaching or all the other things that are uncomfortable for children who've never had structure and love. Those are people who are purely there for fun. It is like divorced parents playing good cop bad cop against the other one. It is heartbreaking for me that Miles can let other people hold him and love all over him and he acts like he enjoys it. Yet, he doesn't let me do that for him very often. People have actually looked me in the eye and said, "Well see, he likes me. It must just be you." They say it kind of jokingly, but it cuts right to the core. (And yes- that person made me cry. But then I realized that they are just ignorant. Not stupid, just ignorant of how it all works.) But that is just the nature of attachment problems. They are isolating because most of the time our children are delightful to others. And that is why most parents of children with attachment disorders suffer in silence- because other people don't understand what they can't see behind closed doors.
I won't go into Miles story, because that is his personal story to share if/when he chooses. A lot of the details we don't know ourselves. Let it suffice to say that there is lots of loss on many different levels and it has definitely impacted him. When we met Miles' foster father, his only words about Miles,as he watched me holding my son for the first time were, "He is very serious, this one." And he was right. Miles takes in everything. And he's had some rough stuff to take in. But right now, I am feeling really good about where Miles is. He is struggling, but we are finding ways to manage his anger and frustration and help him heal. (I will do a whole other post about how we are doing this soon) I know that it won't happen overnight. But the small amounts of progress that I see in him already give me so much hope. And the better hours are starting to even out the really bad days. He's learning how to be in a family and he's still got a lot to learn. But he's going to make it, that kid. He's going to heal. It will take time, but he can do it. I know it!
I hope that in some way, this maybe helped you understand what some adoptive families go through in trying to help our children heal. As adoption becomes more and more common, the chances of you having a close friend, co-worker, or someone in your church who is part of an adoptive family are pretty great. If being armed with information about what their children might be experiencing can in any way help you minister to that family then I am happy to share!
We had lots of friends over to help us celebrate Miles and the 4th. And since our favorite African country celebrated 50 years of independence this week also, we decided to celebrate that as well. We are so lucky to have such wonderful friends, who love us and love our children. And after all that has been going on, it was just so nice to have some FUN! Here's how we party it up...Terry style. Let this be your warning- TONS of pictures will follow!
Happy second birthday, Baby Boy! I know that you haven't been in our family long, so you may not know that on your birthday every year, you get a letter from Mommy about how special you are and all the things you've done throughout the year. You've been here with us since February, and in that time, you've learned so much. When you got here as a 2 year old, you only weighed 12 pounds. You are chubbing up and now weigh 20 pounds!
You can run, kick a ball, and throw a wicked fast ball. You can say lots of words, but right now you'd still rather communicate in grunts. You can say Mommy, Daddy, Noah, ball, eat, shoes, nose, no, dog, go, Papaw, GranMary and parrot most anything you hear. You are so very smart!
You love to eat. There is not a food we've tried to give you that you didn't like. Some of your favorites are beans (any variety), rolls, donuts, goldfish crackers, watermelon, blackberries, and pasta salad.
You sleep all night in your pack and play. You still won't get near the crib. You love hot weather. Your little lips quiver and your teeth chatter if it is anywhere below 100 degrees outside. I think the Congolese heat spoiled you! You are a water baby. You love to swim and play in the pool and in the creek. You love to watch Daddy cut the grass- it fascinates you! You are not much for toys, mostly you like to just run around the house like a wild man, spinning in circles and opening cabinet doors. Every now and then you will push a car around for a while, though. You won't sit still long enough for a book, but you do love songs- especially ones with hand movements. And boy- you can flat out dance!
Sweet boy- there is so much about you that still remains a mystery to me. I know that there is a lot going on in your head. I wish I could just get in your brain for a day! Miles, the very fact that we had to make up a birthday for you breaks my heart. The more that we piece together of your story, the tighter I want to cling to you. I know that you have experienced so much loss and so much pain in your short life. Darling, if I had known that you were out there waiting for me, I would have come for you sooner. But I promise you, we will do whatever we can to help your years from here on out, to be happy ones. I know that the next year hold so much potential for you. We are so happy that you are here. You complete us in ways we never though possible. You are so very loved by so many. So happy, happy birthday sweet Miles. May the next year be full of promise and possibility.
After a ton of back and forth about what in the world we were going to do about adjusting Miles' birthday, we finally made a decision. His birth certificate says he is about to turn one year old. The docs think he is 2- 1/2. Developmentally and emotionally he is at 18 months. So we decided that we would split the difference and call him 2. Miles' (made-up) birth certificate from Congo originally said that his birthday was July 4th. July 4th was also the date that we signed our first papers to begin the adoption process, so when we saw that date on his papers we took it as a sign. We knew that even though the date was arbitrarily made up by the government, it solidified for us that Miles Dieudonne was meant to be our son. But somehow in the court process, a typo was made that changed his birthday to July 14th.
So, since we have to adjust his birthday anyway because it is so crazy far off of his actual age, we decided that we would go back to the original July 4th date. That date just had so much significance for all of us. So this year, on July 4th, we will celebrate Miles' 2nd birthday. (A proper birthday post will follow) Just as a weird coincidence, Noah's birthday is on Halloween and Miles' gotcha day is on Valentine's Day. We kind of have a thing for holidays around here, evidently.
We kicked off Miles' birthday weekend with a trip to his favorite local restaurant for his favorite dinner- rice, refried beans, and sauteed onions. (I never in a million years would have ever thought of that dish as "kid food" , but it is by far his favorite food in the wide world!)
We kept the Mexican theme going once we got home. Incidentally this is the first picture I've taken of Miles where he looked at the camera and smiled in more than a month. Hooray for happy eye contact! Small steps...
Then it was time for Miles to go to bed. We went outside with the big kids to enjoy the gorgeous weather and I got some adorable pictures of Sadie and Noah.
As we prepare to celebrate Miles over the coming days, I can't help but feel so blessed for these three. They are each so unique and special in their own ways. It is not always easy, but it's a beautiful ride!