Just Like You….

As I sit down to write this over 10 hours after it happened, my blood is still boiling, my mind is still racing, I’m still at a loss for words and still in disbelief. We always knew that raising a son in a transracial adopted family would have its challenges, but not much can prepare you for the prejudices, judgements and racism that lies in our world that randomly arise when you least expect it.

Sure we’ve heard comments underneath people’s breath, we’ve gotten unwanted “advice and opinions”, we’ve seen looks of disapproval from all races and felt tension from people all because our family is transracial, but it’s never affected me in the way it has today. Maybe it’s because other times it wasn’t direct or because things were said out of good intent or maybe because Shamoree wasn’t around or couldn’t hear.

The grocery store seems to be the place where most judgement comes, both good and bad. Today as we navigated through the store, Shamoree sat in the back and I filled the cart around him in a hurry. As we got to the apple sauce Shamoree made a request. “Mommy?! Can I please try that kind this time?” As I examined what it was, I noticed it was on sale, organic (because that seems to matter to me even though he eats an abundance of junk) and it came in three fun flavors. I agreed and as I stood there he directed me to which flavor he wanted. “Mommy I want the blue one! No no no, the green one, how about I get both mommy!” I told him to pick one and what flavors they were. “Mommy I would like the sour apple one PLEASEEEEEE. Yeah! The sour apple is my choice because I love sour things!”

Just then a lady walked past our cart and gave Shamoree a dirty look. I thought it was rude but in that moment I honestly thought that she just looked at him like that because he was very expressive about his love for things that are sour and she felt differently. I quickly realized her look had different intentions when she stopped a foot past our cart as she walked by and turned around to look at him and then I again. “Is that your son?”, she asked.

First of all, what an odd question to ask a stranger. I thought do you just go around asking biological families that all the time? No, no I’m sure you don’t. Second of all, you just heard him call me mom about four times right? And third of all why would you care or is it any of your business. Holding back as I tried to be respectful and not make a big deal about anything, I simply stated “yes he is.” Just then she looked at me in disbelief. I’m not sure what she expected me to say but she stood there still at the end of my cart and looked at him, then me, then him and back at me, “oh yeah, he looks just like you” she sarcastically responded.

In that moment I immediately became livid. Trying to keep my composure a million things ran through my mind. A million responses ran through my mind. Within milliseconds I contemplated going off and bringing out the inner feistiness in me, I contemplated responding with a just as snarky and sarcastic comment like “thank you so much! Everyone says he gets his smile, blonde hair and blue eyes from me”, I contemplated ignoring her and addressing the situation to Shamoree loud enough for her to hear but every time I came up with a response I quickly thought how Shamoree was watching my every move and how detrimental my response could effect him or trigger him. I simply stated (ok there may have been some attitude in my tone) “Adoption is a beautiful thing, THANKS!”

Immediately I pushed the cart past her and moved over to the next aisle to ask Shamoree if he was ok. Immediately I questioned my response, wondering if I said enough to stick up for my son, and defend our family. Immediately I regretted not addressing her underlying racist judgment. Immediately I wondered if her dirty look wasn’t a look of disapproval that he was being raised by a white mother but rather it might be a look of shock and recognition from a biological family member and wonders if the question came from a personal place.

It wasn’t the last time we ran into her or the man she was with during the shopping trip and it wasn’t the last question they had about my son.

The rest of the shopping trip (and the night for that matter) was filled with wonder, anger, disbelief and assessing how it may or may not be effecting a Shamoree. At some point a realized that all I can do is pray and try to prepare myself for the “next time”.

A next time that is sure to happen, but a next time that hopefully gods word can shine brighter through me to bring awareness. A next time that allows me to be content in my response. And a next time that Shamoree can be proud in my character, advocacy and know that it’s great to be like his parents in character, regardless if he looks just like us or not.

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Unexpected Findings

 

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As you grow you vision your life and plan the path you want to go down. However the thing is, our life is not ours to plan. There are always unexpected twist, turns dead ends and detours that create who we are and what we will become. Looking back on life, I can recall each twist and turn to the path that I tried to create and although some of those unexpected twist and turns were some of my darkest periods of life I can see that they were part of a more magnificent plan that god created for me and through the darkness there was light. I can only hope and pray that this unexpected twist has the same result. Turning it all over to gods plan and realizing I am not in control.

For years I have not been feeling well. Each and every time I have had enough I went in and was diagnosed with a severe sinus infection. I’ve had about 6 in the last year and half now. However lately the pressure just isn’t going away. I’ve been in pain daily and wake up in the middle of the night from it. I finally asked for a ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor referral. I went into that appointment confident that they would see chronic sinus inflammation and would be treated as such.

Following the initial visit I went into the routine CT scan.  As I laid on the table I was excited to finally get some answers and progress forward, unaware of the life changing unexpected findings that would come to surface in the days to come. Three days after the CT scan my ENT doctor called me and asked if I had a moment to talk. Due to my past, I should have known that this wasn’t going to be a good phone call. He wasted no time and cut right to the case.

“I got the results from your CT scan back. I will go over the sinus results during our follow up but I am calling to tell you there are some unexpected findings. The CT scan indicates you have a Meningioma Brain Tumor.” 

I quickly exited the room to the continue the conversation away from my son. Words can not describe the immediate numbness that fills your body, blacking out so you can’t really be present in the conversation but you still hear every detail of the explanation.  Yes, I heard it right…… A brain tumor……. I don’t have the capacity to understand the why. Why does my body always fail me all I can do is put my faith in god and walk this path with him.

As the doctor went on he insured me not to think of the worst because he had good news. The good news is (if there is good news to having a brain tumor) that it has been caught early and is pretty small measuring a just under a centimeter and it is in a good location if it does need to be removed. I couldn’t decipher if his upbeat tone and positivity was genuine or if it was to ease my concern.  During our follow up appointment he went more in depth in all the positive aspects of the unexpected findings, leaving a lot of hope but still a lot of unknowns.

Next I will be going into get an MRI done and then following up with a neurosurgeon. The wait and the unknown is the hardest for me. Please help me pray that there is light within this dark twisted path, that I am lifted in spirit and showered with strength. Pray that I can be calm and content in the path he created, knowing I am not alone as he walks it with me.

“The LORD is my strength and my shield in HIM my heart Trust” -Psalm 28:7

 

Calling it Quits….For now at least

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As we started this journey into family by faith I was very open and blogged often. As time went on and Shamoree was placed in our home post became farther and fewer between. I wanted to be very careful as to what I was saying and was being open about for the protection of our family. Life with a child in the system,  a child with disabilities, attending college full time and medical issues left little time to write……. but the desire never left. The desire to be open about life, struggles and faith has always been heavy on my heart.

Prior to marriage we had a desire to start a family. Although we put all our faith in God that he knew what our family would look like and how we would get there, I still had a vision. A vision I’ve had since I was little. Not only would we adopt  but we would conceive at the same time. I had it on my vision board and looked at it often because thoughts = reality right? We took the steps toward both, doctors appointments, fertility medication, and then we were faced with the news that I had a to have major surgery on my ovary.

After surgery we had all intentions to wait the 2 month recovery time and then get right back to trying to conceive. However, every month the window of opportunity seemed to come and go without much effort that worked toward our goal of conception.

As time goes on we realize that neither of us are getting any younger and the thought of a biological child warms our heart and would be a big blessing BUT there are more things to consider in the equation that both of us were thinking about but neither wanted to discuss at first. The fact of the matter is we have an amazing young son that we adopted and right now he is our first priority.

He is amazing, smart, quick witted, funny and caring ….. but he also has history of trauma and has special needs. He needs a lot of attention and it is very taxing on us all at times. Although we would love to have another child and would love to conceive we are calling it quits. For now we have decided our family is complete. Our son deserves everything we have right now so that HE can improve and feel emotionally stable. WE deserve to know our limits and not stretch ourselves any thinner than we already are.

We may revisit conception at a later time or we may re-open our home for foster to adopt when we are ready but for now we are family, family by faith.

No Trust

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Although we are in a very exciting staging through our adoption journey, it is not always easy. In fact some days, even weeks are extremely hard physically and emotionally. This week has been one of those weeks.

We started off the week on such a high. S has been making profound strides in his improvements behaviorally, socially and academically. Monday was probably our best day to date. As Tuesday came I braced myself as I knew what was planned and the impact that it would create on all the progress that had been made since Friday.

Tuesday came as expected. It started out great but as I had prepared and braced myself, S had the reaction I thought he might have that day. An agency employee had to come in our home to work with S which caused anxiety and stress within S. This anxiety and stress caused the five day streak of amazing behavior to abruptly come to an end.

Since I know this is a pattern of S, I was very proactive in my approach for the day, prepped him for what was going to come and created scenarios that would distract him from the inner turmoil he was experiencing. Although the day went better than weeks prior, there was a storm still brewing within that would soon come to light and is still lingering.

The next day as we got ready, the morning seemed to be going much better that the day previous…. until S asked what was in store for the day. S knew what was going to happen that day but as I reminded him of the schedule, I could visually see anxiety fill his face. Since I know he does not react well to people from the agency or the building itself due to previous experience I always try to be proactive in my planning and avoid as much contact S has as possible. On this particular day I had a 3 hour training session at the agency that morning. Since S did not handle going to the agency well two weeks prior during my training I thought I was doing the right thing and planned for him to go to the park with his ABA technician while I had the training and would pick him up when I was done.

S seemed to be excited at first but as the minutes passed he was making more and more poor choices….. squirting lotion all over his room and floor, chucking his dirty pull-up down the stairs, stepping on the dog, flinging tooth paste off his toothbrush onto the floor…. and this list goes on. As I stood in the bathroom getting ready, he came in doing another thing he knew he shouldn’t to get my attention…. yet again. Something in me stopped myself from redirecting him back to getting ready or  finally getting upset and I asked “Dude, whats going on? Are you ok? Why are you making poor choices?” I honestly wasn’t expecting an answer that was substantial but as the words left my mouth he stopped, you could see his face relax and his shoulders loosen. His lip stuck out, his eyes softened and his head bowed down and he responded with “I just want Baxter (our dog) to come to the park with me too.”

As the words left his mouth it clicked, I now knew exactly why he was acting out. He didn’t want Baxter to come to the park with him because he wanted to play with him or because he would miss him, he wanted Baxter to come with him because if Baxter was there he would know I was coming back.  My gut turned and I was sick to my stomach but I wanted him to tell me.

We have been working very hard on being able to express with our words, I didn’t know if he would but I wanted to give him that opportunity. “Honey, Baxter can’t go with Steve, you can see him after I pick you up.” There it was, before I could finish my sentence, out came the answer I knew he had but never expected or was prepared to hear. “but I don’t trust you. I don’t trust what you say. What if you don’t come back?”  I found myself there in the bathroom dropping everything to kneel down. As I dropped down to hug him he threw himself in my arms and we sat there rocking back and forth as I told him that I promised I would pick him up. He clung on and wouldn’t let go. As I stopped rocking he moved to rock me, non verbally letting me know he wasn’t ready for me to stop.

As things seemed to get better, they got worse again two more times within the hour before it was time to leave. Each time it ended in “I can’t trust you” and followed up with him wanting to rock in my arms for comfort. As hard as it is for me to hear these words, I praised him for using his words to express himself. It may seem disrespectful for of the norm for some but it is HUGE for him to be able to tell us exactly why he is feelings something and use his words. For any parent these words are earth shattering although I stayed strong for him, the second I got in the car I broke down and wept the whole way to training and part way through the beginning of the training.

My tears are not because he does’t trust me. Although I have given him no reason not to trust me, his life has given him EVERY reason not to trust me. I wept that he has had a life where he has learned not to trust. Every single care giver that he has had left or the agency has had to remove him from, why would he think anything other wise?

Days later this is still heavy on his mind and in his heart. Waking up he crawled into my bed this morning and the first words that came out of his mouth were “Do you remember when I went to the park? I was scared. I didn’t think you were going to come back. I don’t know if I trust you” I know that this thought has nothing to do with me or my actions and it has everything to do with the agency and how he perceives the agency. Today, while in timeout we discussed his actions, why he did them and what he could do instead. What would seem completely unrelated came up yet again as he said “what if the agency takes you? You could say you’re coming back but what if they take you from daddy, Baxter and S? Then I wont have a mommy.” And again tonight he brought it up again with Brandon after he had to pull over the car to talk to him about his choices “Why does mommy need to go to the agency so much?” and they proceeded to talk about it for most of the 20 minute ride home.

No trust…….although we remind him daily that we are his forever home……. there is no trust that it will actually happen. To be honest, I don’t blame him. If I were in his position with his history. I wouldn’t trust it either. However, as we pray and guide him we are reminded of our faith and gods love. We can not see it but we have to have faith and put our trust in him, just as we are asking for S to have faith and trust in us. Please keep S in your thoughts and prayers that his anxiety and worry will subside and be replaced with trust. Trust in our word, trust in our love, trust in the agency and most of all trust in gods path for him.

Forever Family

Very early on in our journey with S we knew that it was in gods plan for him to be in our lives forever and us to be in his, we wanted to move forward with the process for adoption. However, S had just been through a very traumatic experience and due to this experience our agency wanted us to wait before we moved forward. Although his wounds from the situation he went through may never heal we agreed that it would be best to wait to move forward, allowing more time to heal and the agency to be completely positive this was a good fit for everyone.

After about 2 months of S living in our home with weekly visits (this is not normal for foster care) we got the green light to schedule a full disclosure meeting. A full disclosure meeting is a meeting where potential adoptive parents meet with everyone on the foster child’s team to go over everything in his history packet and ask any questions. Typically this meeting is done before the potential adoptive parents meet the child but our case is much different. We met with about 12 people ranging from caseworkers, support staff, supervisors and one of the foster families that had S previously. For anyone going through the process in a traditional way this meeting would be a huge benefit and full of great information and assess if they would like to move forward. However, since he had already been in our home for so long, we had already received answers to questions we had and there was nothing they could say that would make us change our minds. To be honest, it was kind of a waste of our time and it was more so a meeting that we were filling them in on things that have changed with S. We were asked to wait a few days to let all the information sink in. (Which although we respect the process, there wasn’t much to let sink in). A few days later we were able to sign the letter of intent to adopt!

So it’s official……

Although we were so exited we couldn’t fully celebrate yet. The agency wanted to wait longer to tell S that we where the chosen ones, we were going to be his forever family. We scheduled a time for them to come out weeks later. On June 11th, 2018 both his foster care social worker and his adoption social worker came out to tell him the news. As we sat around the table his adoption worker started the conversation. As S listened he acted completely disengaged  in the conversation as he played with a toy and would not make eye contact with her and when she asked questions he would respond with something completely off topic. This is very typical for children in foster care when they are having this type of conversation. His foster care worker then tried to talk to him about it through play with the toy alligator he was playing with and he continued to not make eye contact or respond as we all had kind of been expecting due to all the conversations we have had previously as explained in, Are you my Mother? Yet we were not surprised either due to his experience he had just months prior. After watching them struggle, S quirming in anxiety and Brandon looking at me with concern, I knew I had to try something. I spoke up and said, “S, do you remember all the times that you have asked if we are going to be your mom and dad forever and if you were going to live with us forever?” He made eye contact with me. “Do you remember that we said mommy and daddy want you to live with us forever but we have to wait to see what your workers decide?”, I continued. He partially nodded his head. I said, “Well they are here to talk to you about what they decided. Can you tell me what their choice is?” A big smile came across his face and he stated loudly “I get to stay here forever!” It was a great celebration after. We all had cake and ice cream.

For my bridal shower I received a bottle of sparkling juice to drink to celebrate for our “first baby” I read the card aloud and he said “I’m not a baby but I’m your first kid!” and we all drake it together to celebrate being a family. As the week went on S has gotten so much more comfortable knowing we are his forever family. Last night I asked if he wanted to pray before bed. Typically we read out of his kids bible but we couldn’t on this night. As I explained that first we should tell God all the things we are thankful for and then ask for help with things. To be honest, I was nervous about what was going to come out of his mouth but beyond a few silly things his prayer was beyond what I was expecting for a little boy his age. I looked at Brandon in shock and tears swelled my eyes as he started out his prayer by stating. “Thank you god for sending me to this house and giving me my mommy and my daddy”

Mommy and Daddy… that is what we are and soon it will be official. Through love and faith we are a forever family.

Are You My Mother?

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Most of us know of the well loved and classic children’s book Are you my Mother?, written by P.D. Eastman, because we have memories of it being read to us as a child. I too have memories of the book being read to me. However, it was not one of my favorites. In fact I remember not really liking the book.

I have vivid memories of thinking the book was ridiculous as the bird desperately went from one animal to the next and asking if it where his mother. I thought, “of course they are not your mother! They look nothing like you!”. Now, 30 years later, I think of the book in a much different light. Not only do I recognize that all families look different and unlike the outcome of the book, a child does not have to look like their mother to actually be their mother, but I sympathize with that the little bird.

Since the day S came to us he asked us if we were his parents forever. Although heartbreaking, at first it was really easy to distract him, change the subject or answer him in a way that we were not truly saying yes or no. In the beginning we would respond with, “this is a safe place for you to stay for now”. As the days continued the questions continued and he was no longer accepting a “safe place” as an answer.

My stomach turns and my eyes swell up just thinking about it. Most days we were at a loss for words. Due to S’s situation we were instructed not to say yes or no to him. We had very limited phrases we were instructed to respond with. As days went on and the questions kept coming, like the bird, his frustration and desperation continued.

I can not express the heart wrenching feeling to look into this little four year old’s eyes as he ask if you are his mom forever and as you respond with “we are a safe place to stay” as instructed, the frustration and anxiety in his little eyes deepen more ever time. No longer accepting that as an answer he states “THAT is NOT what I asked! But are you my mom? yes right? My mom forever?”

His desperate attempts to find a home, a family and someone he can finally call mom and dad forever started to happen almost daily. Unlike the book he wasn’t asking a new person every time, rather he was asking the same people almost daily waiting for an answer that he could be content with. Most of the time the conversations happened in the car. The car is actually one of the safest places for children to start up or engage in a difficult conversations because there is distance and no eye contact. To be honest, I was grateful most of the time he brought it up with me in the car. In the car, I could hide my tears from him with my back to him as I tried to answer in a way that respected the agency’s wishes but still eased his anxiety over finding a mother.

After a few weeks I turned the question on him. As we drove home he randomly asked “Am I going to stay here forever?” Assuming he was talking about our house but trying to distract him I replied with. “In your car seat? No! you don’t have to stay there forever! Silly, we are going to go home and have dinner and ride your bike. It would be so boring to stay in that car seat forever!” Quickly he responded with “No, I’m not talking about that! I’m talking about with you at OUR house” Knowing that the “safe place for now” response was wearing on him, I freaked out internally as to how I was going to respond. “What would you like?” came out. He responded with, “yes! for a weally weally WEALLY long time!” “A really long time?!” I said. “yes!!! WEALLY long! like how about TENNNNN Days? 10 is a LOT!”

As the days went by the conversations got harder. Each time he brought it up I would talk to the agency about the questions he was asking, how we were responding and how he was reacting to the answers. And there we were, at his breaking point the time I knew the agency had to give us more leeway on what we could tell him…..

It was early in the morning on the way to daycare as the sun was rising over the glowing dew filled field. We were only 2 minutes into our drive and S was looking out the window to the right at the sunrise. Instead of the excitement in his voice to see the sun rising like previous days, there was concern. “Are you going to be my mommy forever?” I tried to turn it on him as I had the past few weeks. “What would you like?” He was no longer accepting that response. Anger and frustration filled his voice. “I already told you what I want! I said YES! So are you? Yes or no?! You tell me! Is it a yes? Or is it a no?” Not really knowing how to respond I paused and tears started flooding down my cheeks as I bit my tongue to try to stop them. My throat swelled up and I opened my mouth but nothing came out. He continued, “I want yes but I don’t think they will let me.” I butt in, “Who wont let you honey?” “Them, Them people (referring to the agency). I think they will come get me and take me to a new home. I don’t want to go to a new home. This is my home”

Like the little bird, he had gone through all his options, he was emotionally exhausted and wanting his mother…. his forever mother, his dad and HIS home.

To this day we still have not been able to tell him he will or will not be living with us forever but since that day we have been able to tell him that it is our hope and prayer that he stays with us forever but other people have to make the choices and they will let us know when they are ready. Questions still come but that answer has been able to relieve the anxiety in him for the past month or so.

Thank you all for the continued prayers! Please keep S in your thoughts to help easy his worry and frustration in this transition. We are hopeful and pray that, like the bird, he can find his mom (and dad) to call forever.

Parent of the Month

Since we have gotten S 2.5 months ago Brandon and I have just dove in head first. It’s not how we expected this process to go. Typically when you are adopting out of foster care where TPR (termination of parents rights) have already happened it is a long drawn out process.

Usually a couple will put an inquiry on a child and a case worker will match them. Just that step alone could take months to years. Once there is a match the couple will go into full discloser to meet with the child’s team and go over everything about the child and all the records that are allowed to be given. Once that step is done the couple (or person) will sign a letter of intent to adopt. After that takes place they can finally meet the child. They will have visits with the child and transition into living in the home.

Due to the emergency of S’s situation our journey looks much different. From the moment he stepped in our home we took every challenge and just went with it, for S.

In court the agency has praised us. Almost on a weekly basis the agency praises us in our meetings. To be honest it kinda felt weird. In our eyes we were just doing what any parent should or would be doing.

Today we were not only praised but we were recognized. Today it was announced that we are parent of the month. (It’s ok you can laugh, along with my happy tears I did too).

I didn’t even know this was a thing. Apparently our agency picks a parent monthly to recognize in the monthly newsletter and they are given a certificate. We got a phone call today that we were unanimously chosen for this past month. Everyone at the agency can not get over the growth they have seen in S since he has been in our home. They are impressed by how we have been committed to him and dove right in since the unexpected call.

It’s funny because it feels odd, we just got recognized for something every parent should be doing but it feels good that others point it out. Its like when you are a kid and get student of the month. All you did was do what you were supposed to do but it felt good to be recognized.

Parenting is a selfless job that doesn’t get much recognition or praise. So cheers to all you good parents out there! You are doing awesome!