“Mom, I’m in the Principal’s office.”

“Mom, I’m in the Principal’s office.”

This is how our week started.

The week continued with our quirky comedian tying a child to a tree and leaving him there, getting into several fights at school, puking up his breakfast on the table because he didn’t like the food and bouncing on his mattress so hard, wooden slats underneath broke through.  Our feisty butterfly has been screaming all day, every day for the last 10 days, except for taking the time to bathe herself in toilet bowl cleaner, pick holes in her clothes and create artwork on her wall with spit and blood from a nosebleed.  Our sensitive diva has decided that she no longer needs to sleep, do homework or brush her hair and has perfected stomping up and down the stairs to the tune of ‘I hate you’, returning only to let me know that I have made her scratch herself because I am so mean.  It has been a truly tough and terrifying week.

Through the adventures of the week though, we have seen some incredible things.

One afternoon after an impressive rage, my son was curled up on his bed, wrapped in blankets and we talked.  We talked about all the things he has been terrified to say out loud.  We talked about how a substitute teacher yelled at him.  How he didn’t know the substitute teacher and he didn’t know that his regular teacher wouldn’t be there that day.  We talked about how much it upset him, and how worried he was because he wasn’t sure what to expect from this new person.  He talked about how he didn’t understand why she had yelled at him, and that all the kids stared at him because she yelled.  We talked about how angry and scared that had made him feel.  He helped me understand that this happened on the same day that he decided to tie another child to a tree and wanted to fight the other kids on the playground.  The trauma in my son’s life has surfaced again…

My son also talked about his fears of moving into a new grade, with a new teacher.  My quirky little comedian starts every day ready to earn a smiley face from school to show me at home.  This smiley face means that he worked hard at school that day and used his amazing little heart in how he treated the kids and teachers around him.  As he’s explaining to me that he will be too old next year to earn that smiley face, he is wrapping himself tighter into his blankets, trembling, and trying to hide that he’s crying even as he is sobbing too hard to catch his breath.  My heart was breaking for him.  I could feel him melt into a hug, and then lean back and look at me like a huge weight had been lifted from him.  He has been a different kid since that conversation.

Our feisty little butterfly and I discovered something new this week.  As she is busy screaming, shrieking and howling, she will pause to hear what I have to say – as long as I’m not actually talking to her.  I played “I wonder”.  I started talking to myself, in a voice just barely loud enough for her to hear.  I “wondered” if she knew how much I missed her giggles.  I “wondered” if she knew how much I was looking forward to a big squishy hug.  I “wondered” if maybe she was feeling sad and lonely.  I “wondered” if she had forgotten how special and loved she is.  I “wondered” if maybe she was too angry right now to think about anything else.  I “wondered” for about half an hour, and she listened to every word.  She would hold herself tight and cry softly when I talked about being scared or sad.  She would turn her head to the sound of my voice when I mentioned the things I love most about her.  She would wait patiently to hear what I would say next, her little body leaning forward to make sure she didn’t miss anything.  It was amazing.

After I had run through all the things I could think of, I called to her and asked if she was ready to go back to her previous activity.  She hopped up, smiled brightly and asked who I was talking to earlier.  I told her that I was playing a game on my own, and asked if she had heard anything.  She looked at me very seriously, and told me that she didn’t hear a single thing.  Two minutes later, she worked up a big giggle and then told me that she thought maybe I might have been missing her giggles…  🙂  Things have turned around completely for us since then!

Our sensitive diva has been struggling lately.  Really struggling.  Every conversation turns into a battle.  Every request is a fight.  Every chore that she swears is complete, has been shoved into a corner.  After our most recent encounter with chores, I had left her in her room to complete the task she swore she had already done.  Once the door was closed, the name-calling and screaming began.  I walked back in the room, sat down on the floor and said that it sounded like there were some things that she would like to tell me.  I didn’t realize it then, but that was an incredible understatement…

We talked about the names she would like to call me, the words that she thought that if said, the police would come and take her away.  We talked about how she would like to hurt me, and hurt herself.  We talked about the bad dreams – that one night robbers were going to come into our house, ask me where the kids are and then take them away.  We talked about her friend’s family, dealing with divorce.  And then we talked about her birth family.  Her special memories of them, her scary memories, the fear she has because she’s forgetting them.  We talked about how hard it is to say goodbye.  We talked about ways to connect with her birth family.  We talked about writing a memory book so she could keep them close to her.  We talked about anger, sadness, loss and love.  She sat, curled in my lap and holding my arms tightly around her and sobbed.  My beautiful sensitive little diva has been keeping so many things inside.  With Mother’s Day arriving this weekend, my sensitive daughter has helped me realize what a special place in my heart her birth mom has too…  Even though I don’t know her, she is very much a part of my daughter, and for that, I’m grateful.

It’s been an amazing week.  It’s been a heartbreaking week.  It’s been a week that my beautiful, fragile and resilient children let their guards down enough to let me in, a little closer than ever before.  I am so thankful for that.  I can’t imagine a better gift than getting to love them, and to walk this part of their journey with them…  That being said, I’m looking forward to a boring, routine kind of week, next week!  🙂

Happy Mother’s Day to all the Moms out there!  I’m thinking of you all.

 Posted by: Cara

ReMoved: A Touching Video Reflecting a Child’s Journey

This video requires no introduction; but you should probably have the tissues ready. (Click the image below to view the video on YouTube.)

(Click to view the video)
(Click to view the video)

“We made ReMoved with the desire that it would be used to serve in bringing awareness, encourage, and be useful in foster parent training, and raising up foster parents. If you would like to use the film for any of these reasons, the answer is yes.” -Nathanael Matanick, Director

Guest Contributor: In the Beginning: The Supporting Cast (to be a Grandparent)

This post is from a guest contributor who plays a very important role in her family… the role of a grandmother!

I am having such a blast as a grandmother! All the perks of parenthood, without the responsibility. I am in my third childhood (the second, of course, occurring with my own children) and relish the opportunity to play and be silly once again with my grandchildren. Their innocence and ‘joie de vie’ is energizing. I have been reacquainted with Uno and Sorry, playgrounds and giant bubbles. Together, we have constructed Marshmallow Shooters, and assembled S’mores in celebration of summer. Every season brings its own pleasures and opportunities to play. Fall and leaf battles. Winter and snow painting and snowman building. Spring and puddle jumping. What is not to love?! And when my energy dwindles (long before the grandkids’ does), I take great pleasure in stepping aside and observing Pappa teasing the grandkids and our children parent and play with their kids. It is an amazing and privileged role I get to play as grandmother…

We have both biological and adopted grandchildren. They are all precious to us. We do not make distinctions – no need to – there is plenty of love to go ’round. Nevertheless, it would be dishonest of me and most naïve to suggest to you that there are no differences in the ways in which we grandparent each.

Particularly at the outset, the journey begins quite differently. This is not something I would have anticipated initially. Adopted or biological – they are all kids – right?! Just love them all, big hugs and kisses, lots of sugar treats, spoil them like crazy (a grandparent’s prerogative :), and then send them home to Mommy and Daddy, end of story. Sound right? Well, not quite. (I must confess I am not the ‘spoiling’ type, with any of our grandchildren. A few treats here and there – certainly. More important, though, Pappa and I prefer to spoil our grandkids with love and affection, with time and experiences, rather than with too many treats or things. We are (and always were) just too darn pragmatic!)

The hugs and cuddles are a very natural beginning for a biological grandchild. Along with Mom and Dad, the bonding for us began long before baby was born. It was a natural greeting into the real world.

For our adopted grandchildren, however, because they were no longer babies when they entered our family, the rules were quite different. Fortunately for us, our own daughter and son-in-law took the time to educate us prior to the arrival of their adopted children. They offered us reading material. They provided a list of things they wanted us to know as we embarked on this adoption journey together. This education had many benefits and should not be understated here. Because of it, we did not take it personally when they opted out of family events for the first while; they explained to us that they needed time to bond as a family unit, prior to introducing other family members into their circle. While we missed our own children hugely and were beyond excited to celebrate this incredible event with them (the creation of a family), we were able to step back because we could appreciate that developing this primary bond with Mom and Dad was of utmost importance to our grandchildren and would only come ‘in time’. Attachment is a huge challenge, not one often discussed or appreciated and we had to be patient – not my strong suit! Was it tough to be on ‘the outside’ in the early phase? So incredibly tough. But thanks to our kids (daughter and son-in-law), the conversation had begun.

When Pappa and I finally met our grandchildren, it was love at first sight! (Can I gush for a moment here to tell you how precious they are? 🙂 We were desperate to pick them up in our arms, give them big squishy hugs and tell them how lucky we were to meet them. Instead, we had to check all our instincts to cuddle and nurture at the door. We could love them, certainly, but we were cautioned to move slowly and follow Mom and Dad’s prompts. Good advice, I promise, as our primary role is and should be to support Mom and Dad. However, that is translated into specifics: we refrained from physical contact for the most part. We held back instead of rushing to a grandchild’s rescue when he/she scraped a knee or bumped a toe. We even deferred from offering a drink or snack when our grandchildren were hungry. Pretty tricky! And completely counter-intuitive!! Nevertheless, we understood the reasoning behind the request to ‘step back’ and allow Mommy and Daddy to move in to provide those basic needs, that comfort and sympathy; these children needed to learn to lean on Mom and Dad – to trust that Mom and Dad would be there for them. It can be a huge hurdle/challenge for an adopted child to learn to trust those around them to take care of them; they have spent critical developmental years learning that they can depend on none, other than themselves. Hence, initially, instead of being a hands-on grandparents, jumping in with both feet, Pappa and I hovered around the periphery of this blossoming family, becoming the ‘cheering section’ and celebrating all the small, but monumental milestones of our grandchildren – as when a child sought out Mom or Dad of their own accord when they were hurt, as when a child stepped between his/her parents to hold both Mom and Dad’s hands.

The exciting news is that we have moved past those first tenuous meetings as the bonds in this new ‘forever family’ strengthen. Pappa and I continue to work hard to follow Mommy and Daddy’s lead, but there are now ample opportunities to engage with our grandchildren, to love and nurture them. And as I watch and play with these amazing grandchildren, I register how far they have come in their own journey. There is new confidence emerging alongside their sense of belonging. There is a sense of humor revealing itself as they remember how to play. They are children first and foremost-the path to creating those family bonds is just different for an adoptive family.

I am so grateful that our children had the wisdom and the courage to advise us as to how we could best support them in their role as adoptive parents, even when, at times, it must have been extremely hard to do so… I feel even more blessed that the dialogue is ongoing, for it is because of that dialogue that we are able to work together, parents and grandparents together, to ultimately provide what is best for our children/grandchildren and to celebrate ‘family’.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have a game of Uno to play… 🙂

Are You Sure?

I have a beef with the question “are you sure?”. It gets under my skin. It sends creepy crawlies up the back of my neck. It makes my eyebrow twitch.

I don’t know that I can speak for all prospective adoptive parents, but I imagine a good chunk of them feel the same way that I do.

OF COURSE I’M SURE!!

I’d always wanted to adopt, but before I submitted my application, I spent months mulling it over. I thought up every possibly life scenario, every horrible outcome, every risk, every reward, I confided in my closest friends and I had many, many sleepless nights. I assure you, I thought this decision through thoroughly. By the time I started telling people I was in the process of adoption, I was well past the point of  no return. My mind was made up and my heart was set on following this path.

Like I’ve already said, I’m not sure I can speak for all prospective parents, but this isn’t a decision one makes hastily. The next time someone tells you they’re adopting, please, please, pleasssse don’t ask them if they’re sure. Instead, squash that little voice of concern, put on a smile, and tell them you look forward to supporting them in their decision.

Posted by: Sarah
Are you following me on Twitter? @sarw1985

Friday Nights In

In the first months after I made the decision to adopt, I had a lot of concerns; “little bugs” to work out, you could say. I worked through them one by one, I identified and weighed my options, tried to find the best solutions to each. The concerns I had are pretty typical I think… can I afford this? What about the logistics? Will I be able to find after school care or babysitting? Will I have to move into a house with more bedrooms? Should I stay in the city or go back to the ‘burbs? Where are the best schools located? And the list went on…

But my biggest concern in the beginning was when would there be time for me? What about my Friday nights when I like to hit the take-out aisle of the grocery store and curl up on the couch at home in front of the TV, after a long week at the office? I don’t think I could function now without my night to stay in and veg, so how will I function once I have kids? I still wonder this sometimes.

I do not intend to be one of those mom’s who says “once you have kids there’s just no time left for you!”. I firmly believe that to be a good parent, you need to be good to yourself, and that means taking breaks. Lots of breaks. I’m lucky enough to have an incredible support system in the making. My mother will be my after-school care (one down!), but she’ll also be there for me if I need some time off once in a while. There’s no reason my kids can’t go to Grandma’s for a weekend once in a while, or spend the day at the zoo with my cousins, or once they’re comfortable enough, to have sleepovers with friends. I’m certain there’s another mom out there willing to trade sleepovers once in a while.

Any takers?

Posted by: Sarah
Are you following me on Twitter? @sarw1985

“There is…nothing to suggest that mothering cannot be shared by several people.” – H. R. Schaffer

After submitting my application, my life became entirely about preparing for the arrival of my future children. I was (and am) determined to raise my children in a “home” where they can feel safe and loved. I immediately started house hunting. I went to therapy to work out some resentment left over from my parent’s divorce. I read books about abuse, adoption and attachment. I went to a couple of free courses offered through Alberta Health Services, and I talked about it a lot with my family and close friends.

When it came to my family, I knew I was going to need their help and support. I called my mom, my aunt, my cousin and my best friends and I asked them outright if they would be able to support me. I hadn’t ever really shared my plans with many people before (probably because I hadn’t really thought of it as something I was going to do but as something that was just going to happen), but every single person was as thrilled about my decision to adopt as I was (albeit some of them were caught a bit off guard).

My mom is just delighted at the idea of being a grandparent. That probably has something to do with my telling her for years that I wasn’t going to have kids (I didn’t want to turn a certain age and get nagged about it all the time). She’s already prepared to help me with before/after school care and I’m so grateful that she just lives down the street.

One of my best friends is a social worker turned parole officer as well as a mother of three, and has a wealth of knowledge about anything and everything I can possibly think of to ask her. She also lives just a few minutes away and I know will be there for me in a pinch.

Watching my brother get on board is pretty cool, too. He’s just 20 so I don’t expect too much from him, but in the last while he’s been spending a lot of time with our family and seems to really be growing up. I can’t wait to see him as a proud uncle; I think he’ll do a great job.

I’ve always been lucky to have a close family and a small group of amazing friends. Having that support in place really does make all the difference when you’re adopting as a single person. Even though I’m doing this on my own, I really don’t feel alone.

“There is…nothing to suggest that mothering cannot be shared by several people.” – H. R. Schaffer

Posted by: Sarah
Are you following me on Twitter? @sarw1985

“If you wait to do everything until you’re sure it’s right, you’ll probably never do much of anything.” –Win Borden

Finally deciding to pursue adoption was pretty scary. I’d always imagined having adopted children, but I hadn’t ever realized that having adopted children meant I actually had to adopt them. Doesn’t a stork just drop them off on the doorstep?

I spent a lot of time browsing the internet for information on adopting in Alberta. I read everything I could find so many times that it was nearly memorized. At some point I landed on the government site with the profiles of the cutest damn kids I’d ever seen. I’d been to this site a few times over the years and I noticed that a lot of the profiles hadn’t changed during that time. There was one sibling group in particular that caught my eye; they had been on the site as long as I could remember and it broke my heart that they still didn’t have a forever home. That was the day I picked up the phone and called the head office in Edmonton for more information on the adoption process. I talked to a very helpful woman for nearly an hour, and I gained a lot of information. I knew right then and there that I was going to submit an application, but there was one thing I needed to figure out before I did.

I was in a relationship at the time. It wasn’t a particularly serious one, but still it brought up a lot of questions about adopting as a young single person. I wondered if I was giving up something I might one day regret. I wondered if I was willing to put my love life on hold for at least a couple of years until my kids were settled, and I considered that being a single mother might make me less desirable to potential husbands in the future.

It was a tough situation to be in, and one I thought about for a few months. What I concluded was that adopting was my dream and not one I would ever be willing to give up, so if that made life more complicated in the future then that would be okay. There are only so many things you can control in creating the life you want for yourself. I couldn’t force “Steve” to show up before the time was right, but I could go ahead with the rest of my life, anyway.

“If you wait to do everything until you’re sure it’s right, you’ll probably never do much of anything.” –Win Borden

Posted by: Sarah
Are you following me on Twitter? @sarw1985

We are…

We are made up of many kinds of adoptive parents. We may have adopted domestically, here within Calgary.  We may have adopted internationally.  We may be part of an open adoption.  We may have adopted from within our extended family.  We may have just submitted the first of many rounds of paperwork, applying to adopt. We may be waiting to see what happens next. We could be waiting for the Adoptive Parent training session. We might be waiting for a Home Study. We could be waiting for a match. We are Moms. We are Dads. We could sit on the Parent Council at school. We could be doing gymnastics with our toddlers. Sometimes, we are watching our child scream and madly trying to figure out the reason.  We might be going to the family dances.  We are celebrating when our children call us Mom or Dad.   We might be awake at night waiting to see if our kids get home by curfew. Sometimes we are awake at night trying to figure out how to be better, to figure out what our kids are trying to tell us. We might be wondering how much to tell them, what to share.  We might be working full-time outside of the home. We may be working full-time inside of the home. Sometimes, we wonder if our kids love us. We wonder if we love them they way we should…  We are all the many faces of adoption.  Our lives have been touched and changed forever.  Adoption brings many gifts, and many challenges.

We are adoptive parents.  These are our stories.  This is our way to connect with others.  There have been so many times that we have looked for some support.  Now, here we are…

Please keep in mind that we are new on this blogging adventure.  We are not “experts”, but we are parents.  There are strategies that may have worked well for us individually, but each family is their own original unit so each experience will be their own.