FPM, Meat and Potatoes, Veggies

Summer Overcomer

It has been a rough one, there really is no other way to put it.  Isa is doing great.  Her health is better than we could have asked for.  Eyes, perfect.  Heart, holding steady.  Lungs, chronic, but manageable.  Ears, super deaf, which is just what we expected, and what we love.

Work has been hard.  I am currently partially unemployed.  We’re working on that, but upon coming home, I took a large salary cut that impacted us in ways it will take us awhile to come back from.  It was like the perfect financial storm after coming home from an adoption.

The political climate has us worried about our health insurance.  We’re self-employed and there promises to be a large increase in our premium very soon.  We struggled with our ACA premium under Obama.  We’re suffocating with it under Trump.  Ally will become an adult soon and we will have to buy her own policy.  She can no longer be covered under our policy purchased on the market.  She has asthma, which is a pre-existing condition.  We feel like we’re working harder than ever just to survive.

Last weekend I was diagnosed with kidney dysfunction and I am currently being worked up for Type 1 Diabetes.  I have long battled auto-immune issues.  This seems to be the latest one.   We have conquered way bigger things.  It’s just that, right now, it feels like a pile on.  I’m tired.

I had big plans for this summer.  They have gotten a lot more low key.  We’re hitting up locations around town, exploring our city, and getting ready for a big trip to DC in a couple of weeks.  Hopefully that will make up for some of the bummer parts of this summer.  

Because we are overcomes, summer overcomes.

–FullPlateMom, who is so grateful for what she does have.

Cam, Juliana, Our Full Plate, Veggies

They Will Always Be This.

I have been wrestling with something lately. It’s a nagging feeling of shame. I couldn’t figure out where it was coming from, but it was there, and it seemed centered on our family’s finances.

My teens are starting to exist in spheres where your economic class is more noticeable amongst peer groups and, therefore, discussed more in social situations they enter. This is natural, but they, and I, are feeling pressured. This happens to every family, I know it does. We all need to ‘keep up with the Joneses.” I never came from a family where that mattered. My family of origin was solidly middle class. They had debt, but it was good debt. My parents worked really hard, sometimes struggling just a little, but we always had everything we needed. They balanced it well. I learned the value of a dollar, and not to disrespect people who didn’t have what we did.

So, I couldn’t figure out why suddenly our family’s income is bothering me? Had the kids begun to complain? Not really. More of them are in high school now, but this classism was noticeable in middle school. It isn’t necessarily more prevalent in high school. In fact, in some ways it is better. Kids are more mature. In our high school experience, kids are kinder. They are more mature and see each other more for their human worth versus seeing them for their net worth measured in pairs of expensive sneakers.

More is definitely being asked of me as a parent though. Elite sports are ridiculous. That has been a source of tension in our home lately. Cam’s swim experience has been a mine field of classist nonsense. You absolutely can’t live paycheck to paycheck and participate in this sport. It’s not possible. I definitely feel a tug over that. Our family rides the “low-income” line. We qualify for scholarships for many things because of the number of people in our family, but we have a certain amount of disposable income. Some families don’t. Those families couldn’t hang in this sport. I wrestle with myself daily over whether or not we are truly living our values by allowing Cam to participate in this.

He loves it though, and he needs to blaze his own trail. So, I watch closely, and by all observations, he is largely unchanged in any negative way by this environment, and there are definite positives to his experiences so far. So, I have shut my mouth about most of the scenes that have rubbed me the wrong way.

I decided none of the above was the root of this nagging feeling of socioeconomic shame.

Then it hit me, it’s the adoption.

I know, right?!? I know how weird that sounds. Why would Isabel’s adoption bring a nagging feeling of shame? It is going so slowly that we’ve been able to pay a lot of the costs associated with it without incurring nearly the debt we did with other adoptions where we had to move fast, and therefore, come up with huge sums of cash fast.

I thought about it for awhile and realized the shame is centered around the fact that Joe and I have driven ourselves into that dreaded “lower class” socioeconomic status by adopting this many kids. We depend on **gasp** social programs to raise our family.

Worst of all, we chose that.

I realize I feel shame over that. I feel guilty. My life choices have made me dependent on outside forces to help me raise this family. That is not something I am “supposed” to do. We’re not “supposed” to depend on one another in this country anymore. We’re supposed to drag ourselves up by our bootstraps.

Except, some of us weren’t given boots. My children came to me with no boots. Their medical, educational and emotional needs have taken a toll on our income.

If I am feeling this shame, so many other people must be feeling this too, people without the resources that I have. I have an education. I have built a business that allows me major work/life flexibility. I am raising children I am so proud of.

I am committing to letting go of the shame I feel over the fact that we are now poor. I did do it to myself. It won’t be forever, but it is for now. I drove us into poverty to bring these kids to us. I felt so bad when I had to say it the first time. I felt awful when I thought about my kids, and the fact that this is what would mark their childhood. They will always be this.

But, they will always be part of a family too. They will always have each other. And while I can’t give them every opportunity in the world, I fight hard to give them as many as humanly possible. I can only pray that they see me trying and remember that.

When I was emailed, for the 4th or 5th time, I lost track of how many times it was, asking where my check was for the fee associated for Juliana’s accelerated learning program, I typed back, with my head held high,

We receive reduced rate lunch service at school. This qualifies Juliana for a scholarship. I can’t send you a check for this. I don’t have the money.

 Thank you so much for noting this on her account,

 Juliana’s mom

 It felt better to name it.

–FullPlateMom, who is low income.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Advocacy, Bowen, Gigi, Veggies

On This Day of New Beginnings.

We are Christian, and to all the other Christians reading, we say, He is risen!  In our religion, it is a day of new beginnings, of a new, and different life, and a day of eternal hope.  For everyone of other faiths, or no particular faith, we celebrate the new beginning that a new week brings for you.  We hope it’s a good one.

In our home, there is a little girl who is experiencing a different kind of new beginning.  DSC_0182I remember this point with every adoption, and I’ve been waiting for it to come this time too.  It’s the point where it all starts to feel comfortable, where we start to all mesh.  The new child no longer feels like the new child, and we become a family who is committed to the same core values, but who does things slightly different to help our newest member.

As always, those slight changes teach us all so much.  For example, we sign most everything we’re saying now.  I can’t imagine not knowing ASL now.  It is becoming second nature in our home, and, I love that.  We’re aware of having a family member who can’t hear at all and can’t see as well as the rest of us, but we’re aware in a way that doesn’t require a whole lot of thought now.  DSC_0172This morning, as we began the search for Easter baskets, without much thought, the older kids bent down to Gigi and showed her an empty basket that I had set to the side just for modeling purposes, and then explained to her that we were going to search for her basket.  She laughed maniacally and took off running, because finding hidden things is the best, and because she totally understood what we were asking of her.  How amazing is that?!?

When she found her basket, pure joy.  Toys and candy, these are special moments for sure, but what’s even more special is seeing her beginning to understand that she is one of us now, loved so much, and that she’ll always get to participate in these kinds of special family days.  DSC_0211I have said one thousand times how I look back at the moments we were so afraid to say yes to the idea of bringing her home and I wonder why we ever worried about anything, and I think of all that we would have missed if we hadn’t said ‘let’s go!’

This past week, a little girl in China who I have come to adore, has had her second family say no to bringing her home.  She has been overlooked so many times now, had people turn their back on her, and I’ve got to think it has effected her in ways most of us can’t fathom.  She’s too scary.  Life at home is too hard.  I understand all the reasons why the families have said no.  We felt that way too.  Today, I can’t help but think of her and wonder when her new beginning will come?  Will it ever?  She’s 5 years old now.  With each passing year, her chances become less and less.

What if we had said ‘not now’ to him? DSC_0169Or to her?  DSC_0214I can’t even post Tess’s picture here.  The thought of not experiencing the love and light she brings to us every day is enough to double me over.  Tess, oh my gosh, you wouldn’t be on earth anymore, I’m sure of it, and the world would have lost so much.  We didn’t save you, but when you came to us, you saved us, and brought with you an amazing gift of education about what love REALLY looks like, and how it knows no fear.

How different would my life be if I hadn’t had all these new beginnings? How different would theirs be?

Just as faith is hard for people to understand, because it defies words, so is all of this.  One the surface, we look like this gigantic, insane family, and some days, we are.  I take on too much.  We live too close to the edge.  We’re always one step away from total chaos.  We don’t often, and sometimes can’t, plan for the future because I have no idea what tomorrow will bring.  We’ve given up everything that most people cling to because we’re committed to these new beginnings.

In the Easter aftermath, as they all gather together, in one of the smallest rooms of the house, to trade candy, share with each other, and laugh together, I’m reminded of why we’re so committed to this.  DSC_0196Because in this house, we find our strength in faith, and we believe He was committed to a new beginning too, even when it cost Him everything.

–FullPlateMom, who will be over here, vacuuming up Easter grass until eternity if you need her.

Deafness, Veggies

Disney with a Deaf Child.

When we adopted Gigi and brought her home, there was almost NO time for me to plan our Disney adventure this year.  I had laid the groundwork, obviously, before we left, but I am usually a master planner when it comes to vacations.  This year, not so much.  We were flying by the seat of our pants a little more than we’re used to.  I failed to get a lot of the services we needed for Gigi in place.

DSC_0009

If you look at the Disney website, it’s a little difficult to understand what is offered.  Two weeks ago, I called the number listed and got Guest Services.  I was told they do have interpreters and that the interpreters serve certain parks on certain days.  The schedule is as follows.  On Sundays and Wednesdays, they interpret at the Disney’s Hollywood Studios (previously known as Disney-MGM Studios); Mondays and Thursdays at the MAGIC KINGDOM Park; Tuesdays and Saturdays at DISNEY’S ANIMAL KINGDOM Park; Fridays at Epcot.  So, right away, I had messed up.  I had chosen different days to be in the parks.  Only our Tuesday in Animal Kingdom matched up.

So, I asked the Cast Member at Guest Services what time the interpreted shows would be at the Animal Kingdom on Tuesday.  She, incorrectly, informed me that ALL the shows would be interpreted that day.  I informed her they were not, I was sure of it.  She said they were.  I hung up and called back.  I spoke with another Cast Member who agreed they are NOT all interpreted, only one per day is.  Sadly, he didn’t know which one.  It was becoming slightly comical.  I had no choice but to take to Facebook.

A friend called and was on the phone for longer than I was to get the schedule emailed to me.  When we went to the interpreted showing of Nemo in the Animal Kingdom on Tuesday, the interpreters were AMAZING.  And, they told us they had received a request for our group for the next day in the Magic Kingdom.  WHAAATTT?!? You can request that certain attractions be interpreted for you if you request far enough in advance.  I’ll remember that for next year too.  We were SO blessed to have interpreters willing to help us out this year!  DSC_0064At this point, you’re probably wondering why Gigi needs an interpreter at all.  I mean, she has all of 15 signs.  Well, her receptive language is increasing every day.  So, just because she doesn’t always say anything back to us, doesn’t mean she isn’t absorbing the language we’re giving to her like a tiny sponge.  And, watching an interpreter is AMAZING practice for her.  Plus, it is great practice for the other kids and Joe and I.  Should you need an interpreter, you can email WDWsignlanguageservices@disney.com.

Disney doesn’t have signing characters, unlike this video would have you believe.  The email I got said “communication is not integral to the character experience.”  Gigi would beg to differ.  This Anna knew a little bit of ASL.  You should have seen Gigi’s face light up when Anna told her she was beautiful.  She’s telling her back that she is having fun.

DSC_0084Overall, this has been an amazing experience for her.  There were moments when the language gap could be bridged and she played just like any other kid does.  This morning at our character breakfast, she led the parade.

DSC_0095 Like a total boss.

We learned to do Disney with Dwarfism.  We’re learning to do Disney with deafness.

–FullPlateMom, who is so thankful to everyone who helped us make the absolute most of this for Gigi!

 

Veggies

New Year’s Resolutions–Full Plate Style.

When we all eat dinner together, which isn’t every night because you know, sports and all, we always pray together.    It’s our thing.  We go in age order, one kid per night, asking them to tell everyone else what they’re praying for specifically.  Highlighting one child makes it intentional.  It makes them think.  I found that when we just all prayed for “so and so, and so and so, and so and so’s dog” that it became rote memorization.  Today is all about change though, about resolutions.

So, tonight, we changed it up.  We included all the kids, which takes awhile, but is worth it.  Because this was the best I could have hoped for.  We went around the table and said one or two things we were resolving to do, or change, in the new year.

Cam— Resolves to study more at home, because while his grades are great, he could be doing more at home to make them even better.

Dad— Resolves to take better care of his relationships, especially with mom.  *This earned a cheer from mom*

Jax–Wants to be more organized with his schoolwork and chores.  *This earned a cheer from both mom and dad*

Tess–Would like to spend more time with her friends, especially in 4K.  4K is nice, and friends are important.

Brady–Is going to learn more ASL this year, so he can really hear what Gigi is thinking.  *This earned a tear from mom*

Sofia–Work on her math facts and read more after school.

Cate–Wants another brother, one who likes to eat grass.  *None of us had any idea what this meant, but we all busted a gut laughing.*

Bowen– That he will listen to his beloved teacher all the time.

AJ–To try and do a better job remembering to do his chores without having to be reminded.

Mom–Is going to play more and yell less.

Ally–To interact with others more, and be more open with her feelings.

Gigi–Had no idea what was going on, but I kept alternating between laughing and crying, and was attempting to sign exactly what was happening.  Mostly, she got that her kids are SO funny.  She was smiling and clapping at all the noise and laughter.

Juliana–Is going to try really hard to let herself have a mom.  *This one did me in.  I was full on crying by then*

All these resolutions are so amazingly thoughtful, beautiful, and in some cases, so funny.   These kids.  May they continue forward with all these resolutions, but may they never change who they really are.

–FullPlateMom, who can’t wait to see what 2016 brings.

 

 

AJ, Ally, Bowen, Brady, Cam, Cate, FPD, FPM, Jax, Juliana, Megafamily, Tess, Veggies

We Found Love Right Where We Are.

Today marks fifteen years of marriage for this couple.  This December will mark twenty years of togetherness.  I’ve tried to write this post about one thousand times in my head as this day approached.  There are so many things I want to say.  So many things I want Joe and the kids to know about this journey.  Mostly, I keep thinking about what the couple of yesterday would tell this couple if the people we once were could somehow meet the people we are today.

1000 Stars-4Would the Joe and I of twenty years ago, the couple that started dating as 17 and 18 year olds think their life as 37 and 38 year olds was as amazing as we find it now?  We have changed so much.  Our life looks nothing like we thought it would.  We are completely different people then we were when married each other.  You’ve made me a better person.  Joe, I am so grateful for that.

We’re way older now, and I think, a whole lot wiser.  We talk all the time about how much getting old is surprising us in new, and occasionally crappy, ways.  I wouldn’t change one single second of it though.  I guess, most of all, I want you and the kids to know that if it all ended tomorrow, if it was all suddenly taken away, there isn’t one single second I would regret.  How many people can honestly say they regret nothing?  Not even the hell we’ve gone through to heal our kid’s hearts, the broken down old twelve passenger van we drive, the lack of money in our retirement accounts, or our combined four bachelor’s and master’s degrees that we barely make use of because our career paths have veered wildly off course.  I don’t regret one blessed second of it.  I have you, and we have them, and that is forever.

A few days ago, Ally was listening to a song that struck a cord with me.

And, darling, I will be loving you ’til we’re 70
And, baby, my heart could still fall as hard at 23
And I’m thinking ’bout how people fall in love in mysterious ways
Maybe just the touch of a hand
Well, me – I fall in love with you every single day
And I just wanna tell you I am.

1000 Stars-2‘Cause honey your soul could never grow old, it’s evergreen
And, baby, your smile’s forever in my mind and memory
I’m thinking ’bout how people fall in love in mysterious ways
Maybe it’s all part of a plan
Well, I’ll just keep on making the same mistakes
Hoping that you’ll understand.

1000 StarsThat, baby, now
Take me into your loving arms
Kiss me under the light of a thousand stars
Place your head on my beating heart
Thinking out loud
Maybe we found love right where we are.
1000 Stars-1So, baby, now
Take me into your loving arms
Kiss me under the light of a thousand stars
Oh, darling, place your head on my beating heart
I’m thinking out loud,
But maybe we found love right where we are.

1000 Stars-3–FullPlateMom, who hopes for another twenty years of growth, endless possibilities and true happiness.

All Photo Credits go to the amazing Mustard Seed Photography.