Having a family is a lot like doing scientific research.
I am currently living in the field engaged in an experiment called “What do Killian’s like to do?”
You would think I would be somewhat of an expert on that topic,
but after 11 years of having this family, we are still working out the details.
We are all very different people. Our interests and likes are pretty varied, as are our ages and abilities,
and that has kept us from doing a lot of experimenting.
Being a military family and having Chris gone a lot hasn’t helped. Neither has having a mom who got really sick every time she had a baby. Moving from place to place, finding something we like and then moving somewhere where that is unavailable can throw a crimp in your family activities as well. You can’t go to the ocean here. You can’t go to the zoo. You can’t eat at the places we used to do birthdays.
Now these three are gaining a little more independence, and it is suddenly very important to me that we do something together-
something beyond household chores and being vegetables in front of the television.
We need some memories. We need bonding.
These kids are getting huge in a hurry, and I am pretty sure they will all move out and move on in a few minutes,
and they might never come back.
When you look at your family, can you make a list of things that you all like to do together? Not things that half the people tolerate, or things that wear mom out but make everyone else happy, or things so expensive that you only do them once in a lifetime. I’m talking little things that could slip into your definition of who your family is.
We are people who. . ?
We all like to eat out. And earlier this summer we discovered we all like to go swimming.
We are also homebodies who all like quiet time alone at home, by our selves. We need nudging to break out of our routines.
I have been making plans to do new things. I’m experimenting.
I’ve come to the hypothesis that we all really like a low key hike around Canyon Lake Park.And I like taking pictures of things I love.
Ever Anxiously Wait For The Starting Gun And Then When It Gets Shot Off Realize Your Shoe Laces Are Untied?
So our social worker e-mailed me. Our file is officially open for placements and in the hands of the lady who makes the calls.She said we would get a call soon. . .if we hadn’t already.
So, about a week and a half ago I had an icky little tummy bug. Then Maggie got it, and Gabe got it 2 days later, then Jonas dropped on Monday, Chris went down on Tuesday. . .and I thought- well, good. We’re all done with that.
Until I woke up at 3 am on Wednesday sicker than a dog. Yeah. So not cool. And to top it off, everyone else felt like crapola for 1 day- me, I’m on day two of feeling icky. I think I am on my way out- yesterday was horrid and today I am just weak and miserable feeling.
I am willing myself to get well before the phone rings.
Also- I bleached pretty much the entire house on Tuesday, and now I need to do that again. The last thing I want to welcome new kiddos with is a tummy bug. Yeech.
You know what I will really miss when the kids go back to school? I will miss hearing their hilarious opinions on the world. Their take on things has had me cracking up all summer. Here are my favorite two from the past three days.
We’re driving home from a piano party and stereo is playing a Barry Manilow song I like called “When October Goes”. Jonas has heard this song a few times, but tonight he is curious. He wants to know what the big deal is about October and what this song is about. I launch into a detailed explanation about longing and the bittersweet reality of time passing and love lost. A a few minutes after I am done explaining he pipes up, “Oh, I get it! I bet he just doesn’t want the Halloween candy gone. THAT makes total sense.”
Yeah, kiddo, Barry Manilow really had your number on that song.
- Mermaid tails for Waldorf sized dolls- made a new one for Maggie and a few to sell in my etsy shop.
It’s Friday. Every Friday Bamboletta dolls puts up their new selection of dolls for sale, and Maggie and I stalk the previews and drool over the cute dollies. Maggie especially wants a blue haired doll, and there is one this week that is truly blue haired perfection. Her name is Winter. However, she is expensive ($245), and it’s just not going to happen this week since I blew my budget on back to school stuff and new wardrobes and a not very fun car repair. Not to mention the fact that these dolls hit the market and sell out in seconds so your chances of carting the one you love are slim.
Maggie saw me on the computer, got excited and asked me if I got the doll. I explained no, someone else bought her. She was not pleased.
“Mommy! Why do people keep buying the dolls we like best!?”
“Well, we like the super cute ones and other people like the really cute ones too.”
She chewed on that for a moment, face scrunched up in displeasure, trying to process this reality. Finally she shakes her head, mutters “MEANIES!!!” and stalks off.
Sometimes it is really hard not to laugh until they are out of earshot.
I wish I had the right words. This isn’t usually my problem- in fact, I tend to have more words than anyone cares to listen to. I usually have three different ways I can clearly explain myself, and once I get what’s in my head nailed down, I’m better. It becomes concrete, owned, and passé. Whatever the event was is now neatly filed and case closed. I need the right words- I’m not myself without them.
For months now all I get are flashes, phrases, metaphors- bifurcated thoughts that lack gravity. When things are really, really wrong and raw, I can’t speak; processing pain becomes visceral. I can’t get an intellectual hold on something that I can only channel physically. I don’t have the vocabulary to effectively make someone understand what it is to feel such a profound level of pain that you can’t breathe. Saying that sounds melodramatic and hokey. It doesn’t come close to doing justice to the horrid, strangling catch in my throat, and the impossible combination of being too full, welling and frothy with emotion and completely gutted at the same time. I am both the delicate reed and the strength of the wave that overcomes it.
That probably makes no sense. Words are laughably insufficient.
I have not handled this third and final miscarriage well. The first two were hard, but this one just broke my heart.
I felt the initial shock, but pushed it aside, telling myself that I’d done this twice before, and that it just didn’t matter. And this worked for awhile, because I had so many other riveting concerns that driving what I really felt as far underneath everything else- major surgery, months of pain, and just coping with the day to day, as I could was all I could do. I had to bury it because the physical strain was taking everything I had. There wasn’t room left.
After I was physically well, it resurfaced. At first it was voiceless, tears coming suddenly while driving or finding myself standing, dumbstruck and immobile at the sight of a beautiful baby. Most of the time being busy kept those feelings at bay, and I filled up every second, coping by doing anything but grieving. I refused to make time.
My mind retaliated and carved out hours against my will. Bedtime became a routine where I would lie awake for an hour in silence and then, when it was perfectly still, I shattered. I was invisible in the darkness, tears running from the corners of my eyes, tickling my ears, then hitting the pillow until it was so damp I had to get up to find another one. After awhile I just kept an extra by the bed.
Sometimes it wasn’t quiet. There were nights where I ran out the door seconds before I could wake anyone, locking myself in the car at midnight sobbing, keening violently into the blackness until there was nothing left.
Mostly, I was glad no one noticed. I thought I did a pretty good job concealing things. It was a private grief, and I wanted it to stay that way. I didn’t talk to friends, family, not even my husband for several months. I have never been so silent.
I forced myself into situations where I deliberately salted my wounds and demanded that I hold it together anyway. It was almost a punishment for being so weak and so vulnerable. I am not permitted fragility.
I held babies at church. I walked up and down every baby aisle at the stores I visited. It was sheer grit that got me in the door and kept me in my seat at a friend’s baby shower. I made myself stay until the last gift was opened and then literally fled a room full of good friends the second the last wrapping papers hit the floor. Who knew that a few baby blankets could make me feel completely smothered? I barely made it to the car, and then sat there feeling like a jerk for skipping out so early while knowing I would have been a bigger jerk if anything had happened to detract from her attention and joy. I don’t think anyone saw. I hope not.
I was mad at myself for being so upset, even now, months after the fact. People don’t talk about this. Once the initial loss is over, you’re supposed to tie grief up in a neat little box and move on. I accused myself of being unwilling to heal, of refusing to find solace. I fed myself every platitude, every particle of pragmatism or hope I could find, every truth designed to make me feel better- and none of it mattered. Be reasonable. Be sensible. Get over it. I couldn’t even if I knew how.
I am not deliberately inconsolable. It is simply where I am and accepting, validating and not trying to change myself or my heartache helps- at least it removes the guilt and the pressure to feel better right now. This grief is like a hunger, and you can’t feed hunger with rocks or sleep or flowers or scripture. Hunger is only fixed with nourishment, and I don’t have anything that will satisfy.
I should have had a baby this week. Maybe should isn’t the right word- could have, might have, would have had what I wanted, if things had gone my way. When I was given my due date back at the beginning of this, I automatically pushed it to a few weeks earlier because my kids have been four, five and three weeks early, respectively. I landed on the eighteenth of the month that fell within that time frame because all three of my kids are born on the eighteenth of a month. August eighteenth was my adjusted date, and in all probability, the most likely corner of time in which that child would have arrived. I would very much like to skip the rest of this month and go to September because it holds no expectations and is free of this.
I’m not sure how I feel about this timing, but it looks like our license for foster/adoption will be finalized this week. There is a good chance we could be getting new kids at our house right around the eighteenth. You can imagine the perfect outcome where a hole in my heart miraculously gets filled by the addition of a child who was meant to be mine arriving at just the right time. It’s heartwarming, this possible miracle. It’s perfect. It is also unbelievably unlikely and smacks of being way too good to be true. While I believe God can arrange that, and even know that His character is unspeakably merciful, and understand that He wants me to be happy- I have almost no hope. I can’t have it because any unfulfilled hope will just break my heart again and again and again. This pretty picture is the very antithesis of how my life actually works. Hope for anything but a challenge is downright foolish.
The things in my life that are worth the fight have always required one. It has always been hard work and the grace of God that got me anywhere. I want to expect a miracle. I want to expect beauty for ashes being right around the corner. I want to assume that every happy fairy tale I’ve concocted can and will come true, and soon. I know I don’t deserve it. I am unworthy of more blessings than I already have. I am in desperate need of mercy, and I am afraid to even ask for it.
I can separate the two events. There is a loss and a gain and neither one is mended or invalidated by the addition of the other. The future may well be wonderful. I have faith that it can be. But it doesn’t change this specific pain, and I don’t know that it ever can. I am well aware that I have a very rich and full life and that there is an astonishing amount of goodness in it. I also know that there are many people who have dealt with much harder things, and who have walked the road I’m on so many times that three miscarriages probably sounds like a good deal. It may be ungrateful to be so sad.
I have been grateful when my parents quietly acknowledged what I had lost. I’ve been grateful to a friend who told me about her new pregnancy last, but who told me herself. I don’t think she knows how much having someone guess that I might not be ok yet meant to me. I was very grateful for the ability to keep my expression smooth and emotions hidden when kind, new friends jokingly responded to the information that we had three children with, “that’s a good start!” I wanted to cry, but I bluffed, and the moment passed. For once I had the pardon of a poker face. I am especially grateful for my husband who has patiently been my greatest source of comfort, who knows there aren’t words for this, and who is a gentle buttress against harsher things.
Grief doesn’t change my ability to live life and to do many things well and with satisfaction. I am not crazy or seriously depressed. I have a life full of gifts and happiness. There is just pain running beneath it all, and this week is especially hard.
The final foster care/adoption home study inspection was completed on Wednesday. All went well and we got approved with the exception of one minor, irritating thing. Our hot water heater was set too high. I had a feeling this was going to be an issue, not just because I knew the water was pretty hot, but because we had a maintenance guy fiddling with it for two days prior, replacing the ignitor and trying to figure out why every so often we just didn’t have hot water. My excuse for not having hot water (and anything else going wrong) is always, “eh, it’s military housing,” but I still needed to have it working. After the guy left, I turned it down from very hot to just hot. It has to be between 110 and 130 degrees Fahrenheit, so while I figured that ought to do it, I still had misgivings and expected to not pass. Turns out, I was spot on.
I turned it down even more and our social worker came back the next day, took the temperature under a running faucet, and somehow our stupid hot water heater (SHWH) was HOTTER than it had been before! How that works, I’ll never understand.
We discussed the SHWH and came to the conclusion that maybe the knob that is supposed to allow you to set temperature just wasn’t working. I turned it all the way down to see if anything would happen and waited about eight hours. If it was scalding, it was broken. Turns out it was finally cool; apparently, it works when it feels like it. The only trouble was that it was registering at 111 degrees, which means if all my stars didn’t line up perfectly at the next test, it might be too cool. While they will just keep coming back and retesting until you get it right- that’s just annoying for everyone involved. I need all of my patience for my children and my job, so I can’t have a SHWH consistently using up too much of my annoyance quota or my whole world could go into a tailspin. When they say it’s all about the little things? They are so right.
So I shoved my
butter knife very grown up flat head screw driver back into the little slot in the knob, and ever so slightly turned the cutlery to about two millimeters hotter. I checked the temperature again several hours later and we’re at 117. We are getting this tested again on Tuesday, so I am going to see if I can get it closer to 125 (so my shower can last more than ten minutes), but not too close to 130. I plan to pass this next check with flying colors.
We are very, very close. I am just telling myself that we hit this week long SHWH snafu because the kids who need us don’t need us for another week, and God is timing this to perfection. That might be completely silly and not at all why, but it is keeping me from gritting my teeth over the situation.
Jonas is cracking me up today. BIGTIME!
I went to pick him up from a friend’s house today and she tells me that she served the kids fishsticks for lunch. Apparently, JOnas took a bite and said, “This is hot!” To which my friend agreed. Then Jonas looked at her and said, “Not as hot as my MOM!”
Then I’m sitting here playing on the interwebs listening to a conversation between Jonas and Maggie. “Maggie! Don’t ever let anyone see that ketchup makes you hyper! If you ever do, they will never let you have ketchup again! MAGGIE! Calm down! Someone will see and take all the ketchup away forever!”
Spoken like a child who cannot tolerate red dye 40, and who doesn’t get any red treats because he gets off the wall bonkers when he’s on it. FYI- Ketchup is naturally red. I have never taken ketchup away from anyone.
I can’t wait to hear what he says next.
All the paperwork is in and we are one step away from being fully licensed foster/adoptive parents. Next Wednesday morning our social worker and the licensing specialist will visit our home. They will pass judgement on how clean and safe things are, count the beds, ask a few more questions, get some signatures and as long as they are happy with what they see- they will go back to the office and walk the last steps of submitting our paperwork and completing the licensing process. We have no reason to think things won’t follow this course, so, at the very latest, we will be available for placements by September first. The soonest? ONE WEEK.
I feel kind of pregnant, only without any real sense of timing and what to expect. People want to know what to expect when they are expecting? Well, in the simplest wording- a baby. You expect an infant. Yes, we can quibble over details like boy or girl or maybe two, but when you are nine months pregnant, you expect a newborn. And that simplifies life.
We are expecting a. . .someone. Probably a girl, because we have agreed to take one girl, or siblings where one is a girl. We know we have room for one kid two years or older and space for one kid two or younger. Technically, we could have room for two infants or toddlers. So- we will get some version of that. And we know we won’t have kids over a certain age, because we have a specific range we are willing to take for the safety of our own children and realistic expectations for our family overall. We will not be having a seventeen year old. Also, no octopi, dogs or flying squirrels. We can check a few things off our list, but I’m not sure how helpful that is.
One thing that I do find kind of cool and exciting is that we have no race preference, so there are loads of possibilities there. I can remember reading back issues of National Geographic at my grandparent’s house when I was a very little girl, marveling at the magnificent beauty of all children. It didn’t matter if the child was from China or Ethiopia or even from really exotic places like Appalachia or Chicago- I was impressed. One thing every culture or country has in common is exquisite children. This made me want to grow up and adopt children from all over the world. I didn’t realize at the time quite why, but I do now. When a person recognizes the divinity of creation in another human being, it is impossible not to fall in love. I think differences have the ability to make us see that more clearly- and people either fear it or embrace it.
I do feel ill prepared materially. You see, one kid needs less stuff than two kids. And an infant has an entirely different list of needs than a three year old. Do I buy a baby carrier or dress up clothes? Bottles or forks? Diapers or panties? An infant seat, a toddler seat, a booster seat? NO IDEA. However, I could medal in shopping at Target, so I assume any major deficiencies we encounter can be dealt with swiftly.
You would think we would be pretty well stocked, but seeing as how we didn’t think we could have any more children, I did the charitable thing and gave away nearly every baby/toddler item we owned. I have always been pretty quick to pass on items that I’m not using, particularly if someone I know has a need. I have always had faith that if I gave away something I actually did still need, it would all work out anyway. I assume that goodness will return goodness and if I was ever in desperate need of an item, it would come back either through the means to purchase it or out of sheer kindness. These things will come together as needed.
The truly hard thing in all of this is that we don’t know if the person/s we are expecting will be around for a week, a month, a year or forever. The first goal of foster care is always reunification. The second goal is finding family the child can live with. The last goal is adoption. And that is a good thing! Every kid should have the chance to be with his own family, to know his roots and feel comfortable within his own culture. Families that are better is best for the whole world. I honestly can’t see myself knowing a struggling mother and not wanting to do everything in my power to help. But not all families get better. Everyone we’ve talked to has said that if you foster, eventually you will adopt. There are always kids who can’t go home.
Do you want to feel like a real dirt bag? Try reconciling your desire to adopt with the fact that you are basically saying you hope there is a kid stuck in a bad situation that will never improve. That you hope a kid’s parents fail. That you hope the circumstances are tough enough that there are no family willing or able to step up. It is hard to make peace with the fact that the only way you will get a child through this system is by other people’s hearts breaking. It isn’t as though I’m camped out at a playground stalking adorable children, mentally willing their families to fall apart. There is no need. Families fall apart in the worst ways, every single day without any help from me or anyone else who wants a child. These kids will be in the system regardless of my participation in it. I am not at fault; I just want to be the solution. I have to tell myself this almost daily, or I really do feel like a jerk.
So we are close to. . .something. Change waits around the corner and oddly enough, I’m rushing to get there. I’ve had six months to imagine every possible combination and situation and outcome, and believe me, I’ve spent
hours days ruminating. I really need everything to go well on Wednesday- if I wait much longer I may actually pop.
The journey of becoming eligible to be a foster or adoptive parent is a long one. There’s the initial paperwork, then a quick home study to make sure you aren’t living in a dumpster. Those are followed by ten weeks of three hour classes on topics like abuse and neglect, attachment and discipline. You cannot miss any of the classes for any reason. Then there is a boatload of more paperwork exploring your entire life, finger printing, FBI background checks, written details on how you spend your money and your time and more. Then there will be five more home studies where a social worker spends hours digging into the finer details of how you and every member of your household function, plus the minor inquiries about things like how hot your water heater is set and if you have childproofed all of the outlets. It is all necessary- you can’t give the precious gift of a child, especially a child who has already seen enough trauma in her life, to just anyone. These parents must be strong and gentle. Firm but kind. Mellow but determined. Positive but pragmatic. And most of all, they must be safe.
So, no pressure. Ha.
Our classes are held every Thursday evening. Every Thursday night, no matter how enjoyable or informative the class was, no matter how kind the people are, I go home and proceed to have stress dreams the entire night. They aren’t horrific nightmares, just a never ending cycle of dreams in which I am incompetent no matter how hard I am trying. I will have misplaced my homework, my keys, my child. I will try to play an instrument in a concert and realize I have no idea how. People I admire and respect walk into my home and comment on every failure, magnify every mistake, and walk out disappointed in me. I spend the entire night in a fit of being repeatedly measured and found wanting, anxiously doing my best and failing, excelling only at humiliation.
I don’t like being judged. I am acutely aware of my shortcomings without people throwing them into the spotlight. The most challenging and most important thing I have ever done is be a mother, and to have people look hard and close at my ability to succeed at that is downright terrifying. I am probably a pretty normal mother. I laugh, I play, I fix hair and dinners, I sign off on homework and change diapers. I take them to church on Sunday and remind them to mind their manners every day. My children are happy and growing into really great people. I am also very normal because sometimes I am so tired I cry myself to sleep. I’m normal because I’ve hidden in a closet so I could eat a cookie in peace. I’m normal because I’ve yelled, and I’ve snapped and I’ve apologized for yelling and snapping. I’ve begged for the opportunity to move my bowels in peace JUST ONCE while living with a toddler, called my own mother in total desperation more often than I would like to admit, and spent hours on my knees pleading for the wisdom to help a child and out of total frustration, throwing my hands up at my Father in Heaven, saying, “he’s your child too- YOU fix him!” All normal.
The classes are interesting, not just because of the content, but because you start out with a room full of people, and each week there might be a few less. In one way this is great because if you make it to the end you can get to know some people and form a support system. It is also unnerving because at any given week, you might get pulled aside by the social worker in charge and told that you didn’t qualify. There are lots of reasons to be disqualified, some stemming from an ugly past and many from sheer logistics and things just not fitting. Finances, your home, family strain, temperaments not being right, schedules being too busy and plates being too full- there are a lot of red flags that can disqualify you, and you might be a perfectly decent person, just not a good fit “at this time”. The good thing is that they tell you right away as soon as they see an issue, rather than make you jump all five million hoops and then kick you out.
Through all of this, many people will simply opt not to come back. I don’t blame them. The ten week course could be called “Informed Consent”. The topics covered are hard to hear about. Most kids don’t get into foster care without some pretty extreme strain; beyond the abuse or neglect that brought him there, the sheer emotional turmoil of being removed from his home and everything he’s ever known can cause significant issues- and those issues are hard to handle. Add special needs, extreme abuse situations and a myriad of things that can happen to a person and that information can scare a lot of people off. It is ten weeks and this in-depth not just as preparation, but so you know as close to exactly as is possible about what you are getting yourself into, so you can run the opposite direction as fast as you can if you need to. It’s fair. It’s need to know. Reality can be scary, and the wonderful vision most people have of helping someone who really needs it and making a difference in this way often glosses over the ugly details.
There is a lot of unknown and that can be hard to handle. Chris and I just know that whatever the outcome is, this is the road we are supposed to be walking down, and good will come of it one way or another. We assume we will be fostering first, and hoping that we eventually (I admit I’m hoping for sooner rather than later, ever patient am I) get matched up with some kiddo/s who don’t have the option of going back home because God meant them for our family.
It takes a lot of faith, which is something I’m trying hard to have. I’ve needed more than my fair share lately.