Adoption, Bowen, Cate, Gigi, Tess

You Came Before Me.

There are 11 mothers out there whose hearts are probably wondering. For me, every Mother’s Day starts a little early. The kids are too excited for any sort of festivities, and after all these years, I make a big deal out of it too. A low key deal, but a big deal. I accept all of their handmade gifts with excessive glee, even when it’s 12 hours early. They’ve already brought me treats to eat, and hugged my neck and told me “Happy Mother’s Day!” even though it’s not yet my day. Some of them have told me in ASL, that’s a first this year, and it has made my heart burst.

You came before me though. For me, this day is yours. Wherever you are (and I do know where some of you are), I want you to know that today is yours. We know 7 of your names. 4 of you can only be honored through hope, a hope that someday we might get the privilege of knowing your name.

I think about you all the time. Every day, but today especially. Every time one of them comes to me with their first lost tooth, I think of you. Every time they win an award, I think of you. Every time they ace a test, I think of you. As they move toward adulthood, I think of you. I wonder if they look like you. When did you lose that first tooth? Did you win similar awards? Did you ace similar tests? Is their smile yours?

In the case of Tess, I often wonder if you know she’s alive. Do you know that the sacrifice you made got her the care she needed? She is alive. She is one of the happiest, most optimistic 8-year-olds you will ever meet. If we never meet in this life, I think about the day we’ll meet in the next. I think about what it will be like to hold your hand and say “We did it. You fought, then I fought, and she is there, alive.”

For Bowen, I wonder if you know that here he is allowed an education. Because of the sacrifice you made, he is allowed to attend school, and so much more. How proud would you be to know that he is a Junior Nationally ranked Paralympic swimmer? I wish I could tell you.

Cate is well and whole. The medical care here allowed her the surgery she needed to no longer feel the pain she did when you left her. Her face is beautiful, but we both know it always was. There is probably no one else in the world outside of us who loved her face just the way it was. I truly believe that had you been given the opportunity to stand alongside me during all her reconstructive surgeries that you would have mourned the loss of her “bubble eye” with me. It made our Cate, our Cate. She is a sassy sweetheart then and now. Is there any way you know that?

Gigi has language now. I can tell her the story of YOU. She attends school. She reads. I fight every single day for access to everything she deserves. I do that in honor of the sacrifice you made. Can you possibly know that?

I hope that somehow, someway, you know.

I don’t have any way to honor you other than to keep the door open for you. I will. I promise. We’re here. We hope to find you. And until then, I will fight for them every single day, to give them every opportunity on this earth. I do that because you came first. In this house, you are sacred, and I am grateful.

–FullPlateMom, who is a better person because you came first.

AJ, Ally, Bowen, Brady, Cam, Cate, Deafness, Dessert, FPD, FPM, FullPlateBupa, Gigi, Isabel, Jax, Juliana, Megafamily, Sofia, Tess

Disney 2018: All the things I want to remember.

Hi Kids!  It’s mom here.  I’m writing to you at the tail end of our Disney 2018 adventure.  We haven’t been here since January of 2017.  We were supposed to come in January of 2018, but your sister’s impending arrival put a little crimp in those plans, so here we are, ten months later.  Isabel is with us, and we all agree the delay was so worth it.

I wanted to commit to memory some things about 2018’s trip.  Sometimes, years after we take these trips, when we’re back in the most magical place on earth, and your favorite place to be, I get flashes of memories and I think ‘I should write that down before I forget!’  So, here I sit, on the patio of our Grand Villa at Saratoga Springs, writing it down before I forget.

First and foremost, I want to remember what it felt like for all of us to be together.  This is Ally’s Junior year of high school.  It is a little bit of a question mark how long she will be able to come with us.  Although, she insists it is forever.  I want to remember that, because forever is a hard promise to keep.  I want to remember what this little girl looked like when she met her beloved Mickey Mouse.  This was her first visit, and it didn’t disappoint.  She RAN through the parks with reckless abandon, searching for that mouse.  We finally found him at a character breakfast.  A $900 character breakfast that Disney paid for because of a mistake they made with our reservation.  Let’s remember that too, not because of the mistake, that made me cry, because it was a doozy, but because sometimes mistakes are huge blessings in disguise.  

I also want to remember this face.  Gigi finally had the language to understand ALL of what was happening around her.  She marveled at the interpreted shows we saw.  Thank you Disney, for providing ASL interpreters, it means the world to this girl.  She has named all the characters, this one is ‘Carrot Nose.’  She was THRILLED to meet him.  She knows he is friends with ‘Princesses, Frozen’ and I interpreted as she asked him all about them, in ASL.  ‘Princesses, Frozen, where? You are friends! Tell them, COME!’  Carrot Nose, couldn’t make them appear, but she was cool with that too.  Hugs and onto the next thing!  She has grown so much in her time in our family.  What once would have caused a complete meltdown is now explained to her and she simply moves on.  Thank God for language.  

I want to remember how the Christmas decorations were just going up as we got here for this trip, how we’ve never seen that before, and how excited all of you were.  They appeared overnight and you all declared it ‘magic.’  I want to commit to memory how you all believe, so wholeheartedly, in magic.  

I want to remember that this was the year that Cate posed for photos with a sass that only she could pull off, and only at this moment in time.  I took about 1000 pictures of you, Cate, because of this moment in time.

I want to remember that this year, at the age of 8, was the year that Bowen FINALLY reached 40 inches tall and got to ride a rollercoaster.  I want to remember what that did for his self-confidence, and how he declared himself no longer little.  He is now ‘a middle’ in our family.

I want to remember our bigs.  I want to remember how Ally spent all day wrangling strollers, without ever being asked, she just did.I want to remember how Cam, Brady and AJ set down their phones, chose not to venture off on their own when offered, and spent all day in the Magic Kingdom riding all the little kid rides with their younger siblings, because they believe in magic too, just a different variety.

Kids, I want you to remember me at this moment too.  Because, the days are long, but the years go by so very fast.  I want you to remember how much fun this was for me too, even when I had to yell “WALK THIS DIRECTION!” in my drill sergeant voice to get us to the next ride.

I want you to remember that you all are my joy, my magic.  All 12 of you.
I also want you to remember that I can whip a tea cup better than ANY of you.–FullPlateMom, who got her teacup whipping ability from her dad, and who plans to keep passing that on to future generations.

AJ, Ally, Bowen, Brady, Cam, Cate, Dessert, Gigi, Isabel, Jax, Juliana, Megafamily, Phineas, Tess

It’s The Great Pumpkin!

Each year, the Great Pumpkin rises out of the pumpkin patch that he thinks is the most sincere. He’s gotta pick this one. He’s got to.

Say, Charlie Brown, I’ve got a football…

I got a popcorn ball.  I got a fudge bar.  I got a pack of gum.  I got a rock.  

By the way, whatever happened to the world war I flying ace? Oh, he’s probably getting ready to take off in his Sopwith Camel on the next dawn patrol.

You kept me up all night waiting for the great pumpkin, and all that came was a beagle!

Maybe not only a beagle!

–FullPlateMom, who hopes you all find your Great Pumpkin too!

 

AJ, Ally, Bowen, Brady, Cam, Cate, FPM, Gigi, Isabel, Jax, Juliana, Tess

We Made It.

Tomorrow we’ll start week 3 of school.  Last week was our first full week.  They are ALL back at school now.  

We’ll pretend this one says ‘first day’, but I’m not changing it, because this is SO Jax.

All the sass.

It was my first day of school too.  In May I applied for a job I never thought I would be accepted for in our local school district.  I am a School Nurse at two schools that are ‘Behavioral Health Schools.’  We are focusing on Mental Health outcomes for our students.  I am so proud to get to be part of this.  Working with teams who focus on how poverty, past trauma, and race affect student achievement in school.  But, I also get to see kids who have fallen on the playground and scraped their knee, or kids who have lost their first tooth.

It’s crazy hard, but just like most things in life, it is worth it.

And, the health insurance is really great too.

–FullPlateMom, who is stocking her office with some great tools for mindfulness.

AJ, Ally, Bowen, Brady, Cam, Cate, Dessert, FPD, FPM, Gigi, Isabel, Jax, Juliana, Tess

DC Day 2–Their History and Culture

Today was the day!  The kids finally got to see the African-American Museum of History and Culture!

We rode the Metro to get there.

Those four were quite excited.

Then we walked through one very famous mall to get to the museum.

The museum was amazing.

But the absolute best part is, none of it was for me.  Because, you see, when this was written, it was meant for me.  Well, not me exactly, because I’m not a man, but this was written for people who look like me.  This museum was devoted to the history and culture of people who don’t look like me.  I was their as a guest, to appreciate that history and culture, to learn about it, but not to belong to it.   It is good for me, as the majority, to be in a space that feels that way.

After the museum was over, we headed to China Town, where we ate in a tiny little restaurant with some great friends.  Photo credit on this one goes to Reece.  This might be the only family photo we have since Colombia!

–FullPlateMom, who is taking this babies into space tomorrow, thanks to the Smithsonian.  DC, we love your free museums!

 

Bowen, Cate, Dessert, Gigi, Tess

DC–Day One

We’re vacationing in DC.  We came to see the National Museum of African American History and Culture, because when Ally came to DC two summers ago, she missed the opening by 8 short weeks.  We promised her we would go back, and here we are.

We’ll head there tomorrow, but today was all about one of Bowen’s great loves, our military.  Through a very generous Facebook friend, whose husband happens to work in the Pentagon, we scored an AMAZING day.

From there we went to Arlington to visit the Caisson.  

And to see the changing of the guard.  

We ate dinner and then went to Fort Meyer for the Twilight Tattoo.  Oh my gosh, Bowen was in absolute heaven.  

–FullPlateMom, who plans to take her military loving son on the Metro tomorrow, because he loves trains almost as much as he loves the Army.

Broken heart, Cate, Tess

Tess’s Mindfulness Resources

This is Tess.  She is now 7 years old.  Tess is a Congenital Heart Disease Warrior, having lived through two complex open heart surgeries.  She had a major heart surgery on her 2nd birthday, and again at the age of 4 years, 2 months.  Those surgeries each came with difficult recoveries.  Tess is incredibly verbal, and around the age of 3 she began to say things that led me to believe that she was experiencing some Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) related anxiety.

Yoga had provided me a great coping mechanism for anxiety when I was working through my own medical trauma.  I was hoping it would do the same for Tess.  Tess began her own yoga practice shortly before her 3rd birthday.   She fell in love.  In fact, her 4th birthday was spent in the Yoga Studio, celebrating with all her fellow yogis.

Sign outside of yoga studio that states the day’s schedule, and also wishes Tess a ‘Happy Birthday!’

She loved it so much that she was able to tell us that her only wish for her birthday was to share some yoga with Bowen and Cate.  Daddy came along too.

Daddy, Cate, Bowen and Tess all sitting on red yoga mats, wearing red for CHD awareness, with their hands in ‘ohm’ position.

Yoga introduced her to mindfulness.  So did her local school district.  During the year that Tess attended 4-year-old Kindergarten (4K), the Kindness Curriculum was used.  This curriculum uses mindfulness practices to help preschool/young elementary aged kiddos learn to emotionally self-regulate.  The curriculum is available to you here.

The ideas that I saw Tess coming home with dovetailed beautifully with some of the ideas that I had learned in nursing school to help my tiniest patients work through painful procedures.  In nursing school, I had been offered the opportunity to attend a 12 hour training session to learn how to lead children in Guided Imagery.  I embraced it and immediately saw its benefits.  Anytime I placed an IV or an NG tube, I would ask a few questions about where the child wanted to go and we would let their imagination guide them there.  This distraction was key in helping their body relax and rid itself of some of the anxiety that came with these procedures.  This did not replace medication to help with anxiety, it was merely another tool in the toolbox.

I had already begun using Guided Imagery with Tess.  When she was anxious, we would ride unicorns through the clouds.  We would take a trip to the Magic Kingdom in Disney World, on a day when NO one else was allowed to attend.  Her and I, alone, skipping down Main Street.  This was so helpful for Tess.

Tess was given a small, smooth, pink, heart-shaped crystal by a wife of a beloved teacher who practices Reiki.  That crystal was in Tess’s hand the entire time she lay in the Cardiac Intensive care Unit (CICU) recovering from her second open heart surgery and subsequent cardiac arrest.  It is always in her hand as she relaxes to fall asleep at night.  It is part of her practice.

Tess has a 5-year-old sister, Cate, who is built entirely differently than she is.  Tess is a serious, empathetic, intentional, thinker.  Cate is a silly, wild, fun-loving, energetic, fast-mover.  Tess compares herself to Beezus and Cate to Ramona, the beloved characters of Beverly Cleary’s ‘Ramona Quimby’ series.  That is a very accurate literary parallel.

Tess, Cate, and now their 6-year-old sister, Gigi, all share a bedroom.  While Tess craves quiet and relaxation as she falls asleep, Cate has sensory needs that make it so she needs something aside from that to help her go to sleep.  That ‘something else’ became constant chattering, jumping on her bed, swinging from the bottom of Tess’s lofted bed.  Cate could not settle.  Gigi is Deaf.  She simply removes her Cochlear Implant processor, rolls over, and ignores Cate.  Tess can’t.  Cate stresses Tess out.

Cate attends a preschool I own, where emotional self-regulation through mindfulness is a huge part of the curriculum.  Before rest time, the teacher in the room leads the children through a story that focuses on Guided Imagery/Meditation.  She is teaching them to find their own ability to practice mindfulness.  Cate told Tess that during these moments, she pictures a giant, purple dog in her head.  She rides that dog all around, not in a relaxed fashion, but in a wild way, she and her purple dog jumped over furniture, cavort through the grass.  They have the kind of adventure that Cate needs.

Tess seized on this.  She now talks Cate through her purple dog adventure.  I hear her doing this for Cate, helping her to relax as she and her dog visit our local park, running all around the playground, sliding down the slide together, becoming exhausted, and then slowly laying down in the grass.

Cate breathes in the grass, and she falls asleep.

I asked Tess about this, about how she learned it, about how she became so wonderfully effective at leading other kids through it.  This was her answer to me.  “I don’t know, everyone just did it with me.  My yoga instructor did it on my mat when she wrapped me up and rubbed my feet.  My 4K teacher did it when we had our belly buddies and we lay in a circle, watching them go up and down as we took belly breaths.  You did it in the Echo (Echocardiogram) Room, when they had to take pictures, but I was scared about my heart.”

She’s right.  Everyone in her life has taught her that this is a great way to cope with anxiety.  I am so proud that she is now able to help others cope.

A note: I wouldn’t hesitate to have Tess seen by a mental health provider, and to have her use medication if that becomes necessary.  And, it may.  I am a huge advocate for using ALL the tools in your tool box to help your child feel better.  Mindfulness is a tool.  So is medication.  Please don’t mistake my words here for either/or.  This is not.  It can be both/and.  

–FullPlateMom, who is going to do a tutorial on turning a Beanie Baby into a ‘Belly Buddy.’  But, it will be the stuff of Pinterest, so, consider yourself warned.