Adoption, Bread and Butter, Dessert, FPM, Isabel, Juliana, Meat and Potatoes, Trauma, Veggies

Refresh(er)

I attended Refresh Chicago this weekend.  I had been planning this for months.  It has been on my calendar since March.  I barely made it.  Joe and I had a HUGE fight.  The kid in our home who struggles the most with attachment chose the week of the conference to have a week of meltdowns.  This isn’t atypical once we get into the swing of school.  She begins to feel safe and she lets her trauma flag fly.  Still, this week though?!? NO!

I missed Friday morning’s session.  I almost didn’t get in the car.  Then a friend messaged me, “We don’t care how late you are, JUST COME!”  So, I dried my tears, loaded up my janky, old SUV, and headed out.  I enjoyed three blissful hours in the car, three hours to myself to laugh at podcasts, cry at Tom Petty songs, and to just be alone.

I made it for lunch, for the afternoon breakout sessions, and then for the Friday night general session.  Refresh is a religious conference.  While religion is painful for me, faith isn’t.  Faith is strength in this home.  In fact, there are times when it’s all I’ve got to go on, faith that it will get better.  Friday night’s general session wasn’t about getting through it though.  It was a night to let go of it.  A message about faith and about letting go of what is burdening us.

The Refresh leaders gave us each a Sharpie marker and a balloon (never fear, both the balloon and the string are specially crafter biodegradable materials, I didn’t even have to ask, they offered that info up, because they know their crowd).  They asked us to write out the things that were burdening us the very most.  I took a pic of my balloon.

But, this picture is a lie.  I’m going to own that right now.  My balloon was full of so many other burdens.  I should have taken pictures of those words too.  I had a moment of fear about being quite so open though.  My daughter is waiting too long, that’s true.  That is a huge burden, but it’s a more acceptable burden, because that isn’t within my control.  I worry every single day that Isabel will die before we can get there, that she will die without ever having a family.

There were other burdens on this balloon though…

“My marriage is a mess right now.”

“I have a child who HATES me.  She might never know secure attachment.”

“I can’t support all the teachers who work for me the way they need to be supported.”

“People hate me for using public resources for my children.”

“There is never enough money.”

“I don’t do enough to fight racism, homophobia and xenophobia to make up for the fact that I was blind to it for too long.”

“I’m fat and ugly.  I don’t take care of myself well enough.”

“I am not enough.”

I didn’t take a picture of any of those words, because, “I am scared” was also written on that balloon.  I am scared.  That might be the biggest burden of them all.  I live in fear of never being enough for all the people who depend on me.  I drive myself into the ground trying to help everyone else before I help myself.  I’m going to do better.  I have to do better.

I have to let all of that go.  I did that this weekend.  It is my prayer that you will read this and let this go as well, because there was another take away this message this weekend.

You’re not alone, and neither am I.

–FullPlateMom, who is here if you need to let go of something, and who hopes to see you at Refresh next year.  Let’s make our ‘me too!’ group the largest EVER.

 

FPM

Lift As You Climb.

Recently, I was reading the story of Mary Church Terrell to my kids.   She was born the year of the Emancipation Proclamation and died two months after Brown v. Board of Education.  She was a charter member of the NAACP and a proud feminist, but because she was African-American she was excluded from participating fully in women’s events at the 1893 World’s Fair and many other events during the suffrage movement.  Ms. Terrell threw herself into building up black women’s organizations that would work to end both gender and racial discrimination.

As we read, I came across this quote “And so, lifting as we climb, onward and upward we go, struggling and striving…”

That totally struck me.  She is speaking, through pain, I’m sure, to women and about women.  She had just been kicked down by white women.  “We’re lifting you, you, you, and you, but…not you.  Down you go.”  Instead of getting angry about it, she turned her back on those people and just started climbing again, this time focused on lifting others as she did.

I thought about this a lot this week.  I have now received two group messages on Facebook that included several moms through adoption.  During the chit chat that occurred in the messages, and without noticing I was included in the conversation, several of these women began to speak about me in a rather unflattering manner.

She has WAY too much energy.  Do you think she’s lying about everything she does?

Or she does meth?

Laugh emoji.  Laugh emoji.  Laugh…emoji.

Ha. Ha. Haaaaa…

I spoke up, because that’s what I do.  I’m mouthy.

I think this might be about me, and not for me, but I wanted you to know I’m included in this group message.

There was a long silence.

Then they all decided they had only been kidding, because meth usage is funny.

I don’t use meth.  I’m not lying about anything I’ve done.  I don’t do anything I’m doing to make anyone else feel bad.  I try to be so honest about who I am because I don’t want this kind of scrutiny.  I’m honest about my faults too.  About my struggles with my family, about my sassy mouth, about my cussing, and how much I like wine.

I don’t want to be the person who is sad because she has been kicked, especially not about something this small.  This is so small.  But, it made me think about why women do this to each other.  We do it all the time.  We are the worst.  Especially, white women.  We kick each other as we climb.

I’m turning my back on it.

I’m going to step back from social media for awhile and just focus on the people I can do my part to lift.  I am taking this the words of this brave, giant of a woman, and I am going to lift as I climb.  In fact, I said that to them.

Lift as you climb.

–FullPlateMom, who may have added b*tches, but only in her head.  See? Not perfect.

Adoption, Ally, Cam, Cate, FPM, Tess

Now We Get To Be Friends.

I am not a mother who subscribes to the theory that I can be ‘friends’ with my child.  I’m sure there are some parents who have that relationship with their children.  Some of my children came to me later in life, like halfway through their childhood, so becoming their friend wasn’t my first priority.  A relationship was important, trust was important, but understanding what it meant to even have a mom was priority one for a lot of our kids.

I have always felt like it’s my job to launch my children successfully into adulthood, to teach them self-sufficiency with a side of ‘safe place to fall’ when things didn’t quite work out as expected.  I have to walk the fine line of letting go a little more year after year, but I work hard at that.  Ultimately, their life choices will become theirs.  Where they go to college, if they choose to go, what they do for a living, all of it is something I can have an opinion on, but I plan to only offer it if I’m asked.  As a young adult, I had WAY too much unsolicited, and sometimes hurtful, advice hurled at me.  It left its mark.

I am parenting across the age spectrum.  I have a 4 year old and a 15 year old.  I’m still firmly shaping one and slowly letting go of the other.  For a long time, I thought that I would never get to be any of my children’s friend.  I wasn’t sure they would even become each other’s friend.  I hoped they would.  I prayed they would.  It is probably my biggest prayer, that no matter what, they always have each other.  It hasn’t been easy to knit together a family where the eldest became the younger brother at the age of 9, to a sister he shared no blood with, no history with, and who he wasn’t at all sure about.

They knit themselves together just beautifully.  Only five months apart in age, Ally and Cam have a great relationship, one that is based on actually enjoying each other’s company.  They have their own friends and their own interests, but they have each other too.  The last couple of years their relationship changed into a true camaraderie.  Now they’re entering high school together and it has shifted again.  When Ally first came to live with us, it never bothered Cam that she was now the older sister, because she needed him so much.  Everything was unfamiliar to her.  The food, the language, the culture, was all so overwhelming.  She needed him to be the big brother.  He was.  He plans to run cross country in the fall.  She is already on the team.  As I drove them to summer running I overheard her in the back of the car telling him where to meet the team and where she would meet him after.  Then I told her tell him not to be nervous.  She has stepped courageously into the big sister role.  Again, a shift has occurred within our family.

Recently, a shift has occurred within my relationship with Ally too.  I’m starting to see the beauty in actually being her friend.  Yesterday, I went to visit her in the campus dorms where she is staying for the next three weeks for a pre-college program she is enrolled in.  I brought Tess and Cate.  We ate McDonalds and we sat in her dorm lounge and played a board game.  She was totally unembarrassed to sit with her two baby sisters and play ‘PayDay’ for an hour and a half.  Cate acted like the wild woman she is and Tess tried really hard to manage all her feels about possibly losing the game.  We chatted around that.  I told Ally about the swim meet earlier in the day, one where her brother with Dwarfism had endured some bullying.  I told her how sad I was about it.  She told me how sorry she was, for him, and, for me.

I doubt she even thought about what she was saying when she said it, or how much it meant to me.  It meant a lot though, because it was a sign that, eventually, we will get to that mom/friend point.  This summer, I also gave her free rein over her social media account.  That was a HUGE trust move.  I get death threats on social media.  It scares me so badly that she’ll endure that abuse too.  So far, so good though.  And, I know we’re friends because I ended up tagged in a pic that I found in my feed.   I’ve been doing it to her for years, turnabout is fair play, no matter how goofy Tess and I look.

–FullPlateMom, who needs to get her roots done, and knows because her daughter told her.  Thanks, friend.

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

A Murder Mystery on NYE

2016 is about to roll out, and we’re anxiously waiting for 2017 to roll on in.  2016 hasn’t been the kindest of years.  We’re ready for it to end.  When we asked the kids how they wanted to kiss this year goodbye, they said they REALLY wanted to party.  This year Santa brought the kids a murder mystery game pack, so it seemed the perfect time to have a little family time with the kids while celebrating with some fancy fixins’.

When the package from Santa arrived on our fireplace it contained a game manual for me and envelopes for each of the kids.  I set the scene.  Each child was given an invitation to the Teen Idol Awards and the swanky Hollywood after party hosted by world famous photographer to the stars, Poppy Razzi (me), and her faithful and loyal assistant (Gigi).  For tonight only, each kid would get to play the part of one of their favorite celebrities.  They needed to prepare a costume and be ready to walk the golden carpet at precisely 5:30pm.  But, sadly, during the course of the evening, someone at the awards after party would meet their untimely demise, and we would all have to work together to solve the crime.

The tweens LOVED this.  They were SO excited.  Their excitement rubbed off on the littles, who had a BLAST choosing a costume.  Ally helped prepare a totally corny menu that had dishes with names like ‘Get a clue stuffed chicken’ and ‘Crime scene cake.’

Food gets the teens excited about almost anything, and really, they were good sports about the family fun.  They cheered their siblings on as we took pics of them walking the golden carpet, making their grand entrance at the awards.  This is Tess, entering the awards ceremony as Selena Gomez.  Sadly, tonight wasn’t her night to win the Teen Idol Award though.  Instead, Brady took home the Teen Idol Award, playing the part of Logan Lerman.

His story would come to a tragic ending though when he was strangled in the bathroom approximately one hour after this photo was taken.

He makes such a convincing murder victim that he made one of these once happy girls cry.  Whoops.  Sorry, Sofia.  We talked her through it by having him re-enter the game to help her solve the mystery as a friendly, and helpful, ghost.

This has to be my favorite pic of the night.  As Poppy Razzi, I roamed the room taking photos and helping the little kids who can’t read make sure they understood their clues well enough to give away the necessary info to help the other kids solve the mystery.  You see, I knew who the murderer was all along.

Joe played a helpful and friendly police officer, Officer Nelson.  Every time Tess got a clue, which inevitably contained some sort of criminal activity, she wanted to report it to Officer Nelson.  “Officer Nelson.  You can’t tell the others, but I’m being blackmailed.  Help me.”

This had Joe and I guffawing.  It didn’t take long for us to arrest a suspect.  Poor Ally, otherwise known as Taylor Swift, will be doing hard time.  Apparently she and Logan lived next door to one another, her dog peed on his yard regularly, and he was threatening her poor pooch.  So, she decided to take matters into her own hands.  Here she is being read her rights.

She is not resisting.  She simply can’t breathe, she was laughing too hard.

All and all, it was a GREAT way to end an otherwise pretty stinky year.

The kids were already begging to have Santa bring another mystery again next year.  That’s not the way Santa rolls though.  Every year there is a new adventure or experience to be had.

I can’t wait to see what 2017 brings.

–FullPlateMom, who doesn’t want anyone to think that this sort of family fun is a one time occurrence.  It’s not.  It happens pretty regularly around here.  One time, we threw a wedding for two stuffed dogs so that they no longer had to live in sin.  God, that feels like a lifetime ago, and yesterday, all at once.

Adoption, FPM, Trauma

The Birthday Saboteur: Setting Her Up for Success.

Yesterday was my 38th birthday.  Thank you all SO much for the social media birthday wishes.  They were amazing, and made me feel so loved.  The most amazing gift of the day was actually being able to enjoy my day, for the first time in a very long time.

I have a child who is a birthday saboteur.  She’s actually pretty good at sabotaging all major holidays, family vacations and even group picnics.  I hear from other parents that this is pretty common for kids who came from hard places.  It’s especially hard for this child to sabotage my birthday though.  Her history has made it so that having a mom is something she does NOT want.  She doesn’t verbalize that.  In fact, she verbalizes the exact opposite.  When asked about her wants in therapy, she will swear up and down she wants a mom, that she wants to have a GREAT relationship with me.

She doesn’t know how though.  She has a visceral reaction to anything that has to do with me.  It’s not personal.  Her history with women, which is hers to share or not as she sees fit, is not healthy.  It has taken us a long time figure out why so much of her anger having to do with her adoption, and her current place in our family, has to do with me.

For a very long time, my own daughter hated me.

For a very long time, I hated her for hating me.

Last year, I posted to Facebook that I had become so angry with her that I was once SCREAMING at her as we were driving to school.  I noticed my language was belittling and my words were downright mean.  I’m so embarrassed to say, I swore, and not just about her.  I swore AT HER.  It was a rock bottom moment for me.

When we got to school, I pulled up to the curb and let all the other kids out and I climbed into the back with her.  I apologized.  I told her that I needed to do better.  I am the adult and she is the child after all, then I told her I was going to go to therapy too.

I did.  I have now been in therapy, working on my attachment to our little girl for the last four months.  That therapy led me to a whole lot of self-reflection on my own triggers.  It also led me to the training that I have signed on for this summer/fall.  The goal of this training is continuing education, but it’s also to help me help others, because our girl is succeeding in so many ways when I thought, for sure, we were all failing at being a family.  I want other families to have that success too.

Yesterday is another example of triumph over Complex Developmental Trauma.  Usually, my birthday is a HUGE trigger for her.  She can’t stand it.  It’s a day that’s not about her, at all, she doesn’t do well with those.  It’s a day that’s focused on celebrating someone she resents.  She hates that.  Sometimes, it’s a day of surprises.  She can’t deal with surprises.

I used to love my birthday.  She ruined that for me.  She would act out, throw HUGE fits, bully, and even hurt, our other kids to try to stop us from doing anything that wasn’t focused on her.  So, this year, I decided we weren’t going to let her.  She has done SO well on all the other kids’s birthdays this year.  She hasn’t acted out.  She has made them gifts.  She has watched them open their presents and has been genuine and organically excited for them.  She could do this, I told myself.  Step it up, set the bar where she can reach it, and let me have my day.

I needed to not ask too much of her.  I needed to set her up for success.  I told FullPlateDad everything I wanted to do for my birthday ahead of time.  He was surprised ‘Why would you want to do that?’  When I explained it to him, he thought it was brilliant.  It was a day that she couldn’t really ruin, and if she did, it wouldn’t matter, she wouldn’t be excluded, no matter how much she tried to sabotage it.

We have this vicious cycle, her and I.  She doesn’t want a mom, so she pushes me away by being cruel, I don’t do well with being verbally abused, so I tell her to go away, but, in reality, that’s what she wants, but the opposite of what she needs.  It is easier for her to exist in a space where she has a meanie for a mom.  It’s so much more comfortable to think she’s being rejected again then it is to have to say “Dang it! This woman loves me!”  So, while yesterday was about me, I made it about her in small ways.

I know how hard that is for some people.  It was hard for me too.  Why should I have to give up MY ONE DAY for her?!? This should be ALL about me for just one day.  I spent a long time thinking about how for three years it was NEVER her day.  No one even cared about her.  That’s why she acts this way.  So, if I can make this about both of us, about strengthening our relationship, then I could give a little.

I didn’t get any gifts from anyone yesterday.  Not one.  I only accepted handmade gifts.  She is a VERY gifted artist.  I knew that asking her to make me something in advance, something to celebrate me in a way she felt she excelled at, would make her feel good.  Presents are a trigger for her.  She gets jealous.  I wanted her to see how much I loved getting nothing but things the kids had made for me.  That would make her feel proud.

We spent the whole day together as a family.  I usually tell the kids I want time away.  Nope.  While I did get to go for a run, I did it on the treadmill in the house, and then take a shower ALONE (read: without someone pounding on the door demanding something of me), I told everyone what I really wanted was to see everyone work together to do family projects around the house.  Let’s organize the garage!  Let’s shampoo the carpets! Let’s work together.  No one liked it, but my love language is organization, so suck it up kids, here we go.

She faltered mid-afternoon after hearing people wish me ‘Happy Birthday’ all day.  She started to pick fights.  Nope.  Heavy work, here we come.  Go with dad and help power wash the house.  We ended up with her sitting on the floor of the garage crying at one point.  I thought “Oh man! It’s over.”  Shockingly, she pulled it back together.

In the evening, we had a cook out.  Not dinner at a restaurant where she was expected to wear nice clothes and sit still.  We went to our community pool, where everyone knows her, and that she will occasionally need to sit in the car with one of us when she loses it.  So, she couldn’t sabotage me, because I could send her to sit in a lounge chair close by while I eat my steak.  Mostly though, she swam and I got to enjoy.

She was unkind to her sister, lost her dessert as a consequence, and tried to get herself excluded from singing ‘Happy Birthday.’  I wouldn’t allow it.  Even if she just stood there and looked angry, she had to stand there.  I told her she was important to me and I wanted her there for this part.  At first, she looked mad, then she began to sing and sign.  Gigi was SO happy that it became contagious.  She even laughed when Gigi signed the entire song for the first time.  She really does genuinely love her tiny Chinese siblings.

After everyone had their cake, she watched.  She had lost her dessert for being rude.  Usually, when something is taken away, you don’t get it back around here.  This was a time for grace though.  I waited until everyone was eating and then I carried a piece of cake to her.  “I want you to have this because I love you.  Thank you for making my birthday so nice.  You did it!”  She cried.  She wants to love me.  She just doesn’t know how.  And I didn’t know how to connect with her at the beginning.  We’re working on that now, because it’s never too late.

We came home and she went to bed like a champ.  She was exhausted.  That’s when I got a moment or two to have a drink and enjoy my gifts.  In the past, I thought parenting her would mean I would never enjoy my birthday again, or Mother’s Day, or any other day that was about me again.  I was going to become the long suffering mom of a special needs child.  I do enjoy days that are about me now, I just enjoy them differently than I did before I had kids.  Isn’t that what all parents do though?

Someday, they’ll all be grown and launched and I’ll long for these chaotic days where they’re all here to help me vacuum my car.  When that time comes, then I’ll go get a mani/pedi and enjoy my birthday alone time.

–FullPlateMom, who is only kidding, she is sending all these kids back to school next week and the first thing she’s going to do is get a mani/pedi, complete with champagne.  HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!

FPM

Getting to Know…Me.

I’m going to try something new in 2016.  There is a wonderful link up opportunity through Adoption Talk.  On the first and third Thursday of every month, I’m going to write here about one of their pre-selected topics.  Today’s topic was ‘Getting to Know you.’  When I saw the topic, I wondered, do you?  Sometimes, I wonder if even I know me anymore. I write a lot about the kids here.  In fact, that’s the entire purpose of this blog, to document my journey with them, to write their milestones, as if this were a baby book/life journal all rolled into one.

Today though, I’m going to write solely about me.  Not me as a mom, or me as a wife, just me.  I think I’ve lost myself a little in the last few years.  It started with our adoptions from Ghana.  It continued right through Tess’s last surgery.  Now there is Gigi.  The last few days have been extremely eye opening when it comes to how hard I’m going to have to fight for this girl.  Trying to put services in place for her hasn’t been easy.  It will be easy, however, to lose myself to it.

So, I’m going to work hard not to.

Hi, my name is Becky.  I put myself, and my marriage, last in absolutely every avenue of my life.  Lately, that has gotten ridiculous.  I’m going to try to ease up on myself, and on Joe, as we find our new normal around here.  1000 Stars-2I also want to do absolutely everything on my own.  I don’t ever ask for help.  It has cost me in my relationships, it has strengthened relationships.  The people who really love Joe, the kids, and me, have seen us, really seen us, and offered to help.  The other people have walked away.  I have a tough time with that.  I lose a piece of myself a little every time that happens too.

I’m going to work hard not to.

I am going to learn to ask for help more, because, I’m really bad at it.

I love all things crafty.  I love making things for other people.  I love reading, especially when its not assigned.  I’m a year out from having gotten my Master’s degree and it sort of ruined me for reading for fun.  I want to find the joy in that again.

I love my children, but until I really get to know them, and they really get to know me, I’m not a fan of other people’s kids.  I don’t take crap.  You’re in my house and acting like a nit wit, you’re getting called on it.  The few friends of my kids that have been allowed into our house all know that and we have a healthy respect for each other.  Once we’ve established that, we have an open door policy here.  Consequently, it’s usually noisy and busy here.  I like it like that.

I don’t like being alone.

No shocker there, I’m sure.

I don’t know that I’ll ever like it.  I’m incredibly lucky that I don’t think I ever will be.  I’ve got Joe, these crazy kids, and hopefully, about a hundred grandkids in the future.

–FullPlateMom, who will have a whole lot of birthdays to remember.

 

 

Adoption, Advocacy, AJ, Ally, Bowen, Brady, Cam, Cate, FPD, FPM, Gigi, Juliana, Megafamily, Tess

Down on the Farm.

Yesterday was one of those perfect midwest days.  We were invited to a farm a little more than an hour from our house to celebrate adoption with families from WACAP who live in our area.  WACAP (World Association for Children and Parents) is the agency that has done all our home studies for China.  They were also Bowen’s placing agency, but not Tess or Cate’s.  The difference between the three placing agencies we’ve used is starkly apparent.  Last year, when Cate’s adoption became somewhat of a debacle (it was actually a little more than somewhat), I emailed a WACAP advocate upon arriving home and asked if I could volunteer for the agency.  I believe in what WACAP does.  They’re one of the few completely ethical agencies I’ve worked with.  And, by now, I’ve worked with a few agencies.  After Tess’s surgery, she jumped on board as a volunteer too.  She is now an official baby namer.

WACAP’s CEO, Greg Eubanks, was down on the farm for the day too.  Down on the Farm-4

It was so fun to meet him.  The kids and I had spent days and days talking about what exactly Mr. Eubanks does.  Some of the smaller children in our home were pretty sure that Mr. Eubanks is personally in charge of placing children with their families.  So, we had a little bit of an issue with the kids wanting to ask Mr. Eubanks to bring some of “Tess’s babies” with him.  They thought they would be able to play with them and maybe see them be united with their families.  We had to explain how those kids live in China, and that is not the way any of this works.  We reviewed all the work that goes into adopting a child ethically and how hard WACAP works to make that happen.  Bummer.  A small part of Tess hoped that Mr. Eubanks had the pull to bring Gigi with him.  Oh, Tess.  I wish.  We did move a couple of steps forward in her adoption though.  That was worth celebrating.

Brady found a four leaf clover and declared that it was a sign that Gigi would be with us very soon.  He hopes it will be for Christmas.  I hope so too, buddy.  I hope so too.

Down on the Farm-1

Down on the Farm-2It was a beautiful day to celebrate how blessed Joe and I truly are.  Tess loved running around the farm.  Yes, running.  There were days, in the not so distant past, where she physically couldn’t run.  Down on the Farm-6Not anymore.

Cate charged all around, peeking at all the animals.  She wanted to touch everything.  Ally loved looking at all of these things with her.  We even talked Ally into picking up a chicken.  It was something she did in Ghana all the time.  In fact, at the age of eight, she was in charge of helping her mom butcher them for dinner.  Since coming to the U.S., she has pretended she had no part of that.  Now the memories are starting to flow a little more freely.  She was showing the kids exactly how to handle the chickens so they don’t get away, but also so you don’t hurt them.  She didn’t give me permission to post those pics, so these will have to do.  Down on the Farm-3

Down on the FarmOh Cate, you funny girl.  She made a good friend in this guy.  He kept licking her, and she kept laughing absolutely hysterically.

Down on the Farm-5When we were done exploring, the kids started a rousing game of catch on the hillside with a water bottle.  Life in a big family, you can always find something to do to entertain yourselves, because there are so many of you.  Even Joe joined in.

Down on the Farm-8

Down on the Farm-7It was a gorgeous day, spent celebrating what, and who, we love.

–FullPlateMom, who left the farm and drove 30 miles with ten kids in tow to go buy a car.  That’s a blog post for a different time though.  Next up:  A review of our new (to us) Ford Transit.