Friday, April 30, 2010

Why you do the things you do? (very, very long...)

I’ve heard it called many things—Crusader Complex, Bleeding Heart, Sucker, Stupid, Trying to Save The World, A Wonderful Thing, a Blessing, Crazy.

And they are all true. All of those describe what people have said to me about my family, and our adoption and fostering. “It takes special people.” Oh yes, very special. “I could never do what you’re doing.” Yes you could. You’ve just chosen a different path. Hope it works for you. “You are such a blessing.” Maybe, but mostly, I feel cursed. “You must be so patient.” You have noooooo idea, babe. “Is it hard?” So many metaphors, so little time. “What do your real children think?” Um, since I gave up Glen, my pretend friend, in third grade, I haven’t really dealt with not-real people.

I’ve been following with interest the traffic jam that has become the life and times of the wonderful moms at Navigating the Maze: Adoptive Parenting and Life for about two weeks now. They are on a path very similar to mine, and are having many of the same problems we have had and are continuing to have. The day-to-day trudge that is the life of a RADmom is one that so few people can understand and relate to, that I felt both relieved and guilty that I was glad to find so much kinship among bloggers with horrible kids.

I say horrible kids, and some of you out there might think less of me. Oh well. I really don’t care. You probably haven’t walked the path we have in the last nine years. And unless you have, you can’t judge us.

My husband and I have horrible kids. Our first one is Leigh.

Leigh has been psychiatrically hospitalized three times. The first time in kindergarten, the second time in first grade, and the third time at the end of 8th grade. We’ve been trying unsuccessfully to have her admitted long term for a year now. If she isn’t actively suicidal or homicidal, no one will admit her because of the cost of long term psychiatric treatment. And that’s with TWO complete coverage plans. In the past nine years, we have:

1. Been bitten, spit on, puked on (intentionally and repeatedly), had things thrown at us, and had our hair pulled out.

2. We’ve been every horrible thing you can think of from a bad prison gang—all from a very cute little girl.

3. She ripped the chair rails out of her wall when she was 6 and tore out drywall down to the studs.

4. We had to board up her windows—she tried to punch through the windows after we bolted them shut.

5. For about three years, it took both my husband and me to hold her while she freaked out and raged.

6. We had to board up her closet—she kept climbing up onto the top shelf and attempting to dismantle the light fixtures, and throwing things at us.

7. After we boarded up her closet, we had to un-board it several times to get the shit out of it that she crammed under the door.

8. We had to rip the carpet up and throw it out. Use your imagination. Yes. And that too.

9. We had to reverse the door knob so she couldn’t lock us out.

10. We had to take down and pack away up most of our antiques and family pictures after she started systematically breaking and destroying them.

11. She has destroyed EVERYTHING we have ever bought her (toys, furniture, bedding, clothing, bicycles, books, school supplies, etc)… except her ipod. That she loves. Headphones, however, are fair game.

12. She ruins new clothes intentionally. And wears dirty stuff continuously because she refuses to wash her clothes.

13. She’s been a cutter since she was six, and is on probation for having blades at school and showing another kid how to cut himself.

14. She has run away on three different occasions, and that doesn’t count the times she has just disappeared to attempt to hang out with people in the neighborhood, or gotten off the bus and taken off for a few hours.

15. She steals from everyone in the family, including her sisters, parents and grandparents.

16. In the past two years, she has had SIX xrays on her right hand because she punches wall so hard her knuckles swell up, turn purple, and look horrible. And because I hate how people look at me when I don’t take her to the doctor for the obvious answer, “No, it’s not broken, and you really shouldn’t punch walls” I take her for xrays.

17. She once tried to set the house on fire… toilet paper and matches on the bathroom floor.

18. If she gets a bug bite, it turns into an infected, oozing mess because she refuses to wash and continuously picks at it.

That mom from Tennessee who sent her adoptive son back to Russia? I don’t approve of her methods, but I have stood at that breaking point and asked myself if being a mom is really worth it. The longest, hardest conversation my husband and I ever had was about whether or not we were going back to the hospital to pick up our daughter and bring her back home. There but for the grace of GodAllahBuddha….

We did go back and get her. Twice. And honestly, it was not because of a deep emotional attachment, or an unbreakable mother-daughter bond. It was because a very nice social worker convinced us that if we didn’t, Leigh didn’t have any more chances.

I’m not sharing this for sympathy-- I’ve learned that sympathy is for wimps. It is completely useless. It does nothing but make the offerers feel better about their own lives, and the receivers feel worse about their own.

You want to help a RADmom? Offer to babysit—knowing that the kid is crazy, no matter how cute and harmless she looks. She'll probably be really nice to you.

Offer to order pizza one night for that mom who, after working AND dealing with the horrible child, is just too freaking tired to cook.

Offer a non-judgmental hug.

Offer to come sit at her house with her and put up with the bullshit going on there because in reality, raising kids is not forever. The kid will eventually leave or get locked up, and the parents will be left to look around the trailer park and wonder where the tornado went. And at that moment, they will need friends more than they ever had before.

I’m not sharing this to earn cool points, either. I gave up on being cool a LONG time ago. Right about the time I had to apologize to another parent for Leigh's treatment of her child. Right about the time I called the police on my 7 year-old daughter for stealing from us. Right about the time I had to teach my middle school aged kids how to use condoms because they were already having sex. Right about the time I had to apologize to my mom, a week after her hysterectomy, after Leigh head-butted her abdomen. (And yes, she knew about the surgery, mom had shown her the stitches.)  To my mom's credit, Leigh is not dead.

What Eema and Abba are going through is part of what a silent majority of adoptive parents experience, but we don’t tend to go public with our battles. Maybe we should. Maybe people need to know what our lives are like behind the closed doors and drawn blinds. But we don’t talk about how hard it is. How exhausting and draining, and how much it strains the relationships we have with people we care about.

In my case, I haven’t gone public for lots of reasons. I never wanted Leigh to be able to say we hadn’t done everything in our power to help her “get better.” I never wanted people to look at her any weirder than they already do. I have always held on to a sliver of hope that one day, Leigh will wake up and be “normal.” And honestly, I hadn’t NEEDED to go public until recently. And for now, my little anonymous blog is all the public I’ll go.

I’m sharing this peephole-glimpse into ONE of my daughters because Fosterabba is right—Love ISNT enough for these kids. And after adopting three, I am almost convinced that NOTHING will ever be enough for them.

Think about what follows here, and bear with my very blunt assessment. These kids come from crap. Absolutely the lowest crap on the crap scale. Abuse. Neglect. Drugs. Alcohol. Violence. Lack of supervision. Untreated mental illness. Generations of poverty and ignorance and incest.

Most people don’t know exactly what it takes to have a child taken away from their birth family permanently. It’s a lot. Abuse like the parent has been pimping out the child in exchange for drugs. Abuse like letting your kids drink and do drugs because it conks them out so you can party. Or punishing them with hot water, cigarette burns, being locked in small spaces (closets or bathrooms) for hours. Or days. Or being locked outside over night in their underwear. Neglect like a baby who hasn’t been bathed in two weeks, or bottles that have never seen hot, soapy water. Or toddlers left in a crib all day while the mama goes out to party. (all true stories, btw, from my kids, or those of other adoptive parents I know.)

And for the kids, this is normal. That is the way everyone lives because IT IS ALL THEY HAVE SEEN.

Then suddenly, they’re taken by people with good intentions who make them live with other people with good intentions, who don’t do any of the things that they think are normal. So they think the new people are the weirdos. Not them.

My husband asked me a few weeks ago which of our kids was MOST likely to take care of us in our old age. That gave me a very long, very depressing pause, and gave me even more motivation to work our debt snowball and save like crazy. My answer was that I didn’t have one. I can’t see any of our kids either caring enough about us to care for us in our dotage, or being able to, financially or physically.

So the question becomes, why? Why do seemingly ordinary people go to such extraordinary measures to become parents? To keep their crazy children?

For me, I’ve never wanted anything more than I wanted to be a mom. When I couldn’t get pregnant, I really and truly wished I were dead. Or would be stricken with some horrible disease that would either kill me, or be bad enough that I could blame infertility on it, and not on my own rotten plumbing and genetics. We stopped infertility treatments before surgery and meds because we came this conclusion: Did we really want to work so hard to pass along our completely screwed up genetics? Seemed kind of mean when we looked at it like that.

I have never quit anything in my life, or let something I wanted to achieve pass by because it was too hard. I have sort of put parenting my children in that same category. I haven’t given up because I just don’t do that. However, hubby and I have begun a countdown and a to-do list for when the last crazy child leaves the house. It’s helped keep us sane lately.

I tell people all the time that I don’t regret anything about how our family has turned out. But if I’m really honest, in that dark little corner of my heart, I know I’m lying.

I regret that my career has been tanked by Leigh and Dawn. I regret not having been able to get my doctorate because I couldn’t leave our teenagers at home alone for a few hours once a week. I regret all the money we’ve wasted on therapy that hasn’t worked and replacing clothing and furniture and bedding. (For Leigh, we have purchased an average of two new mattresses a year since we got her. Again, use your imagination. Yes, that. And that. I know. Gross.)

So I’m writing this tonight, and wiping the tears off my face, wishing I could hug Abba and Eema because they are so much more honest with themselves and other people than I am. And I know how they feel about Danielle, because I feel the same way about Leigh and Dawn.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Clearly, it's not about my anniversary.

Tonight is my fifteenth wedding anniversary. Hubby and I were supposed to go out to dinner and a movie or something. Dawn was supposed to come sit at the house with everyone else so that we had an 18 year old present. Danae is truly okay to babysit both babies, but she's only 16. I don't really trust Dawn to do it, but to leave the babies with Danae, we have to have someone over 18.

She was supposed to be at the house with ONLY the girls. No Dumbass Boyfriend. At the last minute, he HAD to come with her. Because he's out on felony bond right now, we will not allow him to be at the house with any of our kids unsupervised. I don't think he'd do anything to hurt the kids, but I don't trust him. At all. Bina knows this, but insisted that he HAD to come with her because he had nowhere else to go. (He's 21. If he needs a keeper that badly... Nevermind. I don't have the energy to get up on my soapbox.)

So we canceled. And she got all upset wondering why.

All we wanted was a quiet dinner alone. But we didn't get it. What we got was a semi-annoying dinner with Danae and Leigh and the babies. Leigh doesn't know when to quit. Ever. So we end up yelling at her.

Often. Frequently. Hourly.

For example...

"Leigh, get your face away from the baby."

Evil giggling.

"Oh. My. God. Leigh! Get your nose OUT of the baby's mouth! That's just fucking disgusting!"

"Now, Leigh. Leigh. Leigh! Leeeeee-eeeeigh. LEIGH! NOW!"

"Dammit, Leigh. NOW! Should I call MaryJo?"

Now I get a dirty look designed to quell a mob boss. But at least her nose is out of the baby's mouth. (A note on Leigh's nose: She breathes like Darth Vador because she has really bad allergies and asthma, does not clean her room EVER, rarely takes her asthma meds, and smokes as much as she can whenever our backs are turned. She picks her nose. Until it bleeds. So it’s scabby and boogery, and noisy. Does this help the "why is that so incredibly wrong and disgusting?" question you were pondering? Thought so.)

MaryJo is the probation officer. I had high hopes for her, but she's just as pussed out as the rest of anyone having to do with juvenile court.

Anyway, that's a real conversation that occurred after dinner, during which we corrected her -- and I kid you not-- at least 100 times.

There are weeks that go by when I haven't said a single nice thing to her or about her. And I'm embarrassed to take her anywhere because she's so horribly behaved and so gross that I don't want to be seen with her. How horrible is that? I'm supposed to be her mom, and while I love her, I feel /think all of the following, sometimes all at once:

1. I don't like her. I don’t like people who do shit to annoy people on purpose, and she constantly does that.

2. She drives me completely bat-shit crazy… on purpose. (See #1)

3. She smells like an old locker room most of the time. No deodorant refuses to wash the fishy parts, and has the worst foot odor known to man.

4. She has gone from a size 10 to a size 20 this school year.

5. She believes really tight or really baggy t-shirts are dress clothes. But only if they haven’t been washed. She doesn’t do her laundry. (See #4)

6. She cut all her hair off using an eyebrow razor. She looks like a boy with that genetic giant boob disease.

7. I gauge the time I leave work by how long I'll have to put up with her before she gets tired of driving us nuts and puts herself to bed. Sometimes I invent errands to avoid spending time with her. But then, when no one else is around, she’s okay.

I know I should be more sympathetic toward her. She has an alphabet soup of diagnoses and issues, but dammit, she's been with us since 2001. At almost 16, you'd have thought she'd have figured out SOMETHING by now.

Granted, she no longer bites, pulls hair or goes into hours-long rages where she has to be held down. She still puts holes in the wall, but at least she hangs posters over them now. Maybe I’m being too hard on her? Or maybe I’m just tired and numb to the drama.

Regardless, my fifteenth anniversary was not spent in the solitary company of my sexy bald husband holding hands and enjoying refreshing adult beverages. It was spent wondering why Dawn has to take every chance to force the Dumbass Boyfriend down our throats, and why Leigh would want the baby to suck on her nose.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Puttin' your money where your mouth is.

I did it.

I wrote a check for $400 for a deposit on an apartment for Dawn and Dumbass Boyfriend.  I hope and pray that it is money well spent. 

I told them both after I'd handed the money over not to make me regret it.  They both promised everything was going to be fine. 

I wish I was that sure.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Weekly Wrap-up, April 25

And the Jury says: In the case of Sketcher’s Shape-Ups, the Jury says No, with explanation. Most people would probably be fine, and if I didn’t have plantar fascitis, I’d love them. However, they aggravated my plantar fascia, and that alone is reason not to wear them again. However, they are right on point as far as what they’re advertised to do. My posture was better, and I noticed a difference in how I walked and moved.

So, if you’re a normal type person, money well spent. If you’re kind of special like me, not a good purchase. That being said, I have a gently used pair or white ones, size 9.5, for sale…

Biggest Frustration: I hate being sick and not having anyone at home give a shit about it. I missed three days of work this week with an ear infection, sinus infection and something bronchitis/asthma-related. I spent Wednesday in bed, and tried to Thursday and Friday, but my children didn’t seem to care that inhaling at a speed other than really slow would send me into a coughing fit. I got no help with the babies other than my husband. Except when I walked in the room, handed them to one of the teenagers and said, give me two hours to sleep. That worked today.  But really, when your parents were sick, didn't you at least pretend to care? Or am I being delusional?

Biggest TMI Moment: Dawn asked about boobs. And sex. “When you’re, you know, having fun, is it true that they grow a cup size?”

Having fun?

“You know, messing around.” Oh. Sometimes it really sucks having such a vivid imagination. The ensuing conversation about what might make your boobs grow a cup size in a short amount of time lead to a discussion about what it means to “like it rough.” Leigh and Danae were appalled at that part. Bina was intrigued.

Pleghmiest Situation that Lead to a New Friendship: I’ve been sick most of this week. I went to the doctor Tuesday morning, and was told I have an ear infection, a sinus infection and crud in my lungs. I took the nose drops, inhaler and antibiotic and stuck it out at work the rest of the day. I called in for Wednesday because I was still coughing so ridiculously hard. I attempted to sleep on Thursday, but instead, went back to the doc. Two more prescriptions, and $75 later, I had cough syrup and steroids. Of that money, $68 of it was for cough syrup.

Cough syrup!

 I was livid, and cursed my doctor, her PA, the nursing staff, and all their offspring for the next five generations. Then I met Tussionex. I’m not hawking a product, but da-ummm! That stuff is amazing! Up until my little bottle of miracle drug and I were introduced, I’d been coughing so much that I pulled muscles in my chest and couldn’t talk.

One dose of my new friend, and I slept without coughing for about seven straight hours.

Meanest Mom Moment: Did you know that I discriminate against Danae's friends because I wouldn’t let her have one of them spend the night Saturday night? She was gone from 11:45 am to 8:30 PM Friday. She was gone from 10 AM Saturday to 6 PM Saturday night. My theory was that she didn’t need to have a friend over or go anywhere, as she’d had plenty of on the go time already. I was told that my discrimination against her friends is why she so desperately wants to leave. Okay. If that’s the worst thing anyone says to me in a week, it’s been okay.

Self-Realization Moment: I have become that Mom. The one who dresses her children in matching outfits. I can’t help myself. They’re so cute. The baby girls AND the clothes. My teenagers think I’ve lost it, but they mostly just roll their eyes. Carter's makes these cute little outfits that look like dresses, but have built in undies, and I have bought two sets of matching outfits for the babies. Pictures to come.

Other frustrating things: I still can’t find a way to breach Dawn's loneliness. She seems to be slipping further and further away, and no matter what I try, how I approach her, she wants nothing to do with me. We’ve always said that she was smart enough to know she had problems, but not mature enough to do anything about them. RAD, Depression and Borderline Personality Disorder are an icky, icky combination.

Positive Notes:

1. I have officially lost 13 pounds.

2. We got our federal tax refund a month early. MiniVan here I come! New windows here I come! New bicycles here we come! (We finalized an adopted last year, which makes for a nice visit with Uncle Sam the Tax Man.)

3. We are getting a hellacious deal on a 1999 Plymouth Venture. It was donated to the local tech school, and I know the guy who teaches automotive repair there. He’s going to sell it to us for the cost of the parts needed to get it up and running. It was repossessed, and the guy who wasn’t paying his bills refused to tell the repo people how to turn off the alarms system. So, the repo company, rather than have to dismantle the alarm system, donated it to the school to play with. It's been sitting for about a year, but I can’t wait!! One car, and my WHOLE family can go at the same time!

4. Hubby has begun working on his second book. Go hubby!

5. NaNa has gone from Scrawny Chicken Baby to Michelin Tire Man Baby. With a cuter smile. It melts my heart when she smiles and babbles at me.

On-Going Frustrations:

1. MoMo has issues with the word please. I don’t know if all toddlers do this, never having had one before, but why is it so hard to her to say “Please?” She can say the word, and will repeat it if we’re playing around, but when she wants something and we tell her to “say please” she completely loses it. Throws herself down and screams and cries.

2. Trying to get Danae and Leigh to be nice to each is officially impossible. Danae nags Leigh, who then shuts down and sends herself to her room, or becomes so annoying that we want her to leave us alone.

This week: Hubby and I will celebrate fifteen years of marriage. He’s awesome. And we have a WIC appointment on Wednesday. That will be nice. Bio family took the WIC vouchers out of our diaper bag during a visit, so we haven’t had any WIC support since mid February.

Moment of Gratitude: I was sorting and packing baby clothes tonight and realized exactly how much our friends, and in some cases, strangers, have helped us to be able to parent the babies. I don’t know what we would have done without them. When we got MoMo at the end of January, we had NOTHING for toddlers or babies. Within 48 hours, we had everything we needed. When we found out we were getting her sister, we had everything in place the same day. How I will ever repay these wonderful people is beyond me. I love them, and would like to say Thank You, even though none of them will ever read this.

 * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

So, another week, more gray hair, and less space in our house. What can I say? We are our own unique brand of crazy.

And we only have one bathroom.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Cutest Diaper Cake at the Party.

This is my diaper cake.
I mentioned it earlier as being one of a gazillion brought to a shower.
However, it was the cutest,
and I finally figured out how to upload pics to my blog.
Yay me!
(No, it's not a bat. It's a lady bug wearing sun glasses.)

Friday, April 23, 2010

Patience, Girl! Patience.

Last night, I did something I don't think any self-respecting mom ought to do: I rented a hotel room for my 18 year-old daughter and her Dumbass Boyfriend. 

The Backstory:  Dawn and Dumbass Boyfriend have been attempting independence since the end of January.  They have not been very successful.  So unsuccessful, in fact, that she is back home with us until June 1, when, presumably, they will have saved enough money to move into a cheap apartment on the bad side of town. 

They have officially worn out their welcome everywhere, and found that short of a homeless shelter, they had nowhere to stay.  DB cannot stay at our house for several reasons. One, I don't like the whole shacking up thing, and I am not going to allow it in my roof on my sofa, that I have to sit on every day. Ew.  Gross.  STOP IT OVERLY VIVID IMAGINATION!!  STOP IT NOW!! 

Second, he is out on bond, pending (at last count) eight felony charges, including aggravated assault, burglary, theft, etc.  (Beating up and robbing drug dealers, even though they are criminals, is still against the law. Weird, huh?)  We have foster kids, and two other teenage daughters, and quite simply, I don't trust him or want him around. 

Last night we had a long heart to heart with both of them.  He agreed to go stay with his grandma and work for his uncle to save up money.  She agreed to stay with us to find a job and save up money. (Oh yeah, she lasted a week at the other job.  She got sick , took two weeks off and is shocked that they don't want her back.)  If they were able to do that, we would pay for the deposit and first month's rent on the little shady-side-of-town apartment.

Assuming they're both working, they can make it easily on minimum wage. And if/when he goes to prison, she'll struggle, but she'll be able to maintain her independence and keep the apartment.

After all that was decided, we sent them to the Microtel, and his grandma picked him up this afternoon.

It's a win-win for everyone except my bank account. He has time to prove to us that he is not as much of a Dumbass Boyfriend as we think he is, and she has time to save up money to rent the place on her own.  (I'm so optimistic, aren't I?)

Actually, what I'm feeling is hypocritical.  I don't want her shacking up with him, but I sure as hell don't want her to marry him.  I want her to be on her own because keeping up with her mood swings and drama is worse the PMS week at the Bunny Ranch.  But I don't want her on her own with him. 

I look at who I dated in this time period of my own life and think, "Holy God, what was I thinking, and why the hell did You let me continue to think it for so long?"

On the flip side, both my and Bill's parents helped us a lot on the way, even when I'm pretty sure they didn't like us very much.  Granted, we are neither one of us felons or dropouts with IQs that border mentally retarded.  (That, sadly, is NOT hyperbole. If it were, I'd feel a little better about the whole thing.) But that's all beside the point. 

So here I am, wondering if we're doing the right thing.  I mean really, what kind of parent rents her teenage daughter a hotel room?  Or helps her daughter prepare to move out with a Dumbass Boyfriend.  At least I have someone to talk to, my dear, dear blog.  You, and all three of my followers. 

Now my only question is, where's she gonna sleep?  We gave her bedroom to the babies!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Writer's Workshop: Ten Things I've Unlearned

10 rules I've unlearned
(meaning 10 things you thought were expected of you or
were the “right way” of doing things, but that you now ignore).

1. I do NOT have to use the same laundry soap my mom does. Or dish soap. Or bath soap. Or anything.

2. I thought I had to bully my children to attend, be successful at and finish college. Now, I’ll just be happy if one of them graduates high school. Seriously.

3. My children do not need to look like me or come from me for me to love them. In fact, it’s kind of more fun when they don’t because of the endless opportunities it provides to generally mess with strangers.

4. There is actually more than one way to fold a bath towel. (I love you mom, and I’m sorry this list seems to have so many jabs at you. I guess it’s a good thing you don’t know I’m doing this or you might kill me for talking about you in public. But let’s face facts: My children, thanks to your well-planted neuroses, refuse to fold towels because they know I’m going to flip out it they aren’t done like yours.)
5. Big brick house with too much space + two crazy car payments = unhappiness.
    Cattywampus half-century old house + two paid-for beaters = happy contentment.

6. Keeping up with the Jones’ is only good for making one out of breath with leg cramps. Who likes to run anyway? Crazy people, that’s who. And I have enough of them in my life.

7. I can love my children and be proud of them even if they are as nutty as overpriced health food bread and crazier than Oprah at a free chocolate give away. And even if they have probation officers and three different therapists. And go to special schools. And generally make life NOT boring.

8. I do not have to have a credit card to survive… Thank you Dave Ramsey for showing me the light that is financial independence!

9. I don’t have to make a living at writing to be happy. I just need to write.

10. Just because I’m fat does NOT mean I should stay home from the pool. Yep, I’m rockin’ the flab in a swimsuit! Avert your eyes or stare at my chubby glory. I don’t care. I love the ocean, I love to swim, and you swimsuit models will not keep me from my joy. Go eat some pizza and you can join me.

11. (Just because I like to be different.)  I can believe in God and have faith in that belief and NOT have to be a Church Person.  I have found that the Church People I generally meet are more into Church than Faith. 

Mama's Losin' It

Sonnet II--Another Poem

(Note: I wrote this in January after Dawn left again. Since she has now spent two nights in a row on my sofa, I felt compelled to share.)

There are only so many sad songs left
That I haven’t cried to, and wished that you
Were still in your room. Still, I am bereft
And broken at the silence that was you.
I need more songs that demonstrate the ache
Left behind when a child decides to leave
Without saying goodbye, and the heartbreak
Of honestly not knowing how to grieve.
You aren’t dead. You just don’t want to be mine.
Your heartscars left just enough room for me
To hang on and pray for Divine life line.
Perhaps, in faith, God might acknowledge me.
I used to tell you not to stomp and slam—
before I knew how much that I’d miss them.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Unconditionally Conditional Love

There are different kinds of love, and most of us endeavor to love deeply and healthily. We know that we are supposed to love without conditions, but I am here to admit that for most of us, unconditional love is an idyll, a myth we strive to attain, but often fall very short of. It is more a question that a condition. 

We claim, while in love, that it is unconditional, that there are no rules, nothing that will ruin or end the love we feel for the other person. Here, though, I’m not just talking about romantic love. For me, love is pretty much the same—you show it differently to different people, but it’s all about wanting what is best for the other person, and doing what we can to help them achieve their goals. Love isn’t feeling. It’s action.

But what if the person we are attempting to love thwarts us at every turn? Purposely makes it a daily, often minute-to-minute challenge? Frequently throws out challenges and tests to see how serious you are, how tenacious you can be with your emotional integrity? Or even does things to hurt you—intentionally—to see how elastic the sides of your metaphorical heart actually are?

This is the walk of the adoptive parent. At least the adoptive parent who has adopted older, what the industry calls “special needs,” kids. I have four adopted children and two foster children. (And just a note about that moniker: I only refer to them as adopted children here to separate them from the two fosterlings. In conversations, I just tell people I have four kids of my own, and two foster.) My adopted children all have done, and continue to do things, to push us away, to test the boundaries of our love and commitment to them.

Today, though, I want to talk about Dawn. We adopted Dawn when she was 12, after abuse from her birth mom, and a disrupted adoption due to more abuse. Clearly, we knew she was going to have issues. When we adopted her, the running joke was that I finally had a daughter because Leigh was so clearly a daddy’s girl. Dawn was outgoing and social while Steph is happy to bury her head at home with video games and books.

So when, at 16, Dawn overdosed at school, plead down the ensuing charges to a single felony and misdemeanor, dropped out of “alternative school” and then ran away with a complete loser, I took it harder than Hubby. When she eventually returned home, after a week in jail and stricter probation, things got better. Superficially, anyway. However, after months of swearing that she wanted to go back and finish school and that she was going to be patient and get prepared to be independent, the day she got off probation, she was gone again. In our state munchkins can leave at 17, but cannot be kicked out.

We didn’t hear from her for about a month, and at my last count, she and Dumbass Boyfriend have moved about 11 times since the end of January. When she finally talked to me, I told her that I loved her no matter what, and that if she wanted my help, all she needed to do was ask for it.

Last night, she asked. Someone dropped her off and she surfed my couch for the night. I don’t expect her to be here long, though. She told me this morning (I’m home sick today), that if I loved her, I’d let Dumbass Boyfriend and her shack up in a tent in the backyard until they saved up enough money to get an apartment of their own.

Because she loves him. And she doesn’t want to miss a minute of being with him because when he likely goes to prison sometime in the next six months for up to twenty years, she doesn’t know what she’ll do without him. Because if we really loved her we’d understand that she really loved him and we’d let them be together.

So now, my unconditional love, in the eyes of my 18 year old daughter, has conditions. That condition being that she be allowed to live in a tent in the backyard.

I know in her adolescent brain, she doesn’t see the complete lack of logic, good sense and maturity that makes her parents say, “No, you and your felonious Dumbass Boyfriend are not moving in together in our home with our other children.” (My actual words to her were much nicer than that, but you get the idea…)

I know she is attempting, through her tears, allergy-reddened nose and clearly sleep-deprived face, to manipulate us. After all, we did promise to help her out in her bid for independence. I guess maybe we should have defined, in writing and in triplicate forms, exactly what that help entails. But hindsight is always better than foresight, and if I am honest with myself, I’ve always known she was hard-headed and destined to only learn things the hard way. And, again with the honesty, I’m not even sure what help I am willing and able to provide.

But how do I explain to her that my love for her is unchanged? That my last thoughts each night are still of her, and that my first in the morning are of her, and that I check the county’s arrest website and the local newspaper each morning at work so that I can see if she’s still alive?

Does the fact that my help for her has conditions means that my love does too?  We have occasionally bought her groceries and medicine. I bought her some pants to wear to work. If she’s around, I’ll indulge her passion for Sonic’s cherry-grape slushes. But I’ve only seen her four times since she left at the beginning of January.

Hubby's and my parents have helped us a lot along the way, and I’m sure in that time, neither side thought their child’s mate was good enough. But still they helped. Granted, we stayed at home until we could support ourselves, and have not boomeranged. Nor have we asked to set up bum camp in the back yard.

Does our unwillingness to let him stay here mean that we have conditions on our love for her?  I don't think so, but how can I convince her of that?  How does one separate the love from the conditions by which we live our lives? How do you stand up for your beliefs and values, while attempting to convince your daughter that the kind of people she's hanging out with are not the kind of people to build a life with?

If I loved unconditionally would I allow Dumbass Boyfriend to stay here until they could get a place of their own? If I loved unconditionally would I pay for the first months’ rent on a cheap apartment and tell them they were responsible for the rest? (If for no other reason than to simply end the discussion?)

Or is it because I love unconditionally that I won’t let him stay in home, for fear of what it will teach my other children, or for fear of what he might bring into our home? What are the conditions of love? Of parenting?

And why the hell didn't anyone warn me about all this before I became a parent? 

Nevermind. They did. I just didn't listen.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Weekly Wrap-up

Weirdest feeling: Being peed on by NaNa as I was carrying her from their bedroom to the bathroom for a bath.

Biggest Frustration: Leigh spent most of the weekend in her room because we've asked her to clean it a gazillion times and it still hadn't gotten done. We aren't neat freaks, but she has really, really odiferous feet.  The smell like backwoods road kill in August.  And she doesn't clean her shoes. So they smell like death forgot to shower for a few days after shoveling manure on a pig farm.  And when she wears socks, they smell just as bad. And since she doesn't do her laundry unless we threaten to call her probation officer, her room just reeks.  And when I have to put a towel across the bottom of her door to keep the stench in her room, it's time to do something about it.  It would probably help if she would wash more frequently, but that's another blog post, one about the delights of living with a teen-aged RADdish.

Biggest TMI Moment: Danae asked me if she could get a Brazillian wax.  Did I really need to know that my 16 year old is unhappy with the hair situation down there?  And do I want to contemplate WHY she thinks she needs a Brazillian wax?

Stupidest Work Moment: A student at my school got arrested for throwing his federally-provided free breakfast toast at the school resource officer. 

Most Irritating Moment: Realizing that Lizzie the Hobo Dog STILL has fleas.  We have tried everything and can't get rid of the damn things. 

Meanest Mom Moment: Dawn called last night.  She has a horrible double ear infection, sinus infection and cold (brought on mostly from living in a 40 year old camper with five other people who don't clean.) The infections were so bad that her ears were bleeding.  Anyway, she called because she and the dirtbag she ran off with are crashing at some distant relatives of his, and insted of staying home to take care of his still-feverish sweetie, he went off with some friends to listen to a band and drink a lot of beer. She called me, crying, because she didn't feel good, dirtbag left her with people she doesn't know, and she hates being sick with no one to take care of her. 

Instead of offering to rescue her, I said, "What do you need from me tonight? Advice, someone to vent to, or something else?" She tearfully admitted that she wanted me to come get her so she could sleep at home. I said, "Then you need to ask." She didn't.  Still won't ask for help.  I gave her a healthy pause.  When I'd paused long enough, I added, "If you decide to ask, don't wait too late because I can't drag the babies out in the middle of the night unless it's an emergency."  She quietly told me she loved me, and that she'd let me know. I haven't heard from her since.

Other frustrating things
  1. DFCS (Department of Family and Children's Services, pronounced Dee-Fax) still hasn't paid us for February and March.  This isn't a money-grubbing thing. For each baby, we get reimbursed $10 a MONTH for diapers, and paid $14.60 a day.  Diapers are $20-30 a WEEK, and that daily stipend helps cover the rest.   
  2. The babies saw birth mom for the first time in about three weeks on Monday, and MoMo was a wreck.  For three days.  Nightmares. Clingy.  Complete pain in the ass behaviorally.
  3. Steph still refuses to do a chore to completion. Hell, most of the time, we can't even get her to get started.
  4. My kitchen is still dirty. 
  5. My laundry is still not done.
(I know I should clean more. Do chores more. But there is only so much time in the day, and energy in the bank.  I have found that I have been a happier EVERYTHING since I started writing again, so now I'm in search of ways to find a balance between what I need to keep me sane and what me children need to avoid E-coli.)

Positive Notes
  1. Marie's new haircut looks amazing. 
  2. Leighdidn't break anything this week, and has not self-mutilated that we can tell in about a month. 
  3. Danae did apologize for her completely bitchy behavior.  I'm not sure if it was genuine or not, but I'll take what I can get.
  4. I broke down and bought a pair of Sketcher's Shape-ups.  Jury's still out on whether I like them or not.
  5. MoMo is getting better with ThankYou, but still completely refuses to say please, and throws a temper fit if you ask.  She is a strong-willed little thing. 
  6. NaNa will carry on a cooing and giggling conversation with you after feeding.  It's so damn cute it makes up for all the other crap, pee and barf she dishes out. 
So there you have it. Way more about my week than you probably wanted to know.  Admit it, you Peeping Tom you, you LIKED it!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Crazy Lying and Epiphanies, II

Today, she wants her phone back. Now. Period. It's hers and she wants it.  End of story. Woke me up from a nap (which also ended up waking up NaNa). Got in my face and very VERY L.O.U.D. 

Lots of cursing and yelling ensued after I told her no. 

Here are the highlights:

1.  She did ride the bus home, she just didn't ride it all the way, and the fact that she was late was not her fault. (Do I need to point out the logical stupidity in that, or are we all smart enough to figure it out on our own?)

2.  I'm trippin' because I have no reason to be mad, and reminded me that I said I'd think about giving it back to her. ("I did think about it, Danae, and decided not to.")

3. She's smart enough to know that she learned her lesson (I'm pretty sure that doesn't make sense to anyone...)

4.  We only buy stuff to hold it over their heads.  (This from the same child who tried to argue yesterday that because she bought the phone we couldn't relieve her of it.)

5. We never punish Leigh, and never punished Dawn.  (For the record, our punishment actually put Dawn in jail, and Leigh has no friends, ergo no life, so breathing in and out is pretty much a punishment for her.)

6.  She'd stick it out until she was 17 and then she was leaving because we were the reason no teenager ever wants to get adopted. (My two replies:  She did want to get adopted.  It wouldn't have happened had she not have wanted it.  And, we don't need to wait til you're 17.  If you want to go back to your group home, call them up and make the arrangements.)

7.  You don't know what you're talking about. (Duh.  Since you've been lying about your whereabouts we might as well be talking about how Windex and lotion do the same thing for as much sense as that makes.)

8. At the top of her lungs, and at this point two neighbors have come out of their houses to see what's going on, "I DIDN'T FUCKING DO ANYTHING WRONG TO BEGIN WITH!"

Really?  I must have dreamed all that.  To quote Bina....  What-EVer.

Can I make a "you'll get your phone back when you're nicer" rule?  Can I make a "it's okay to punch her teeth in when she acts like this" law?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Crazy Lying and Epiphanies

Tonight was a verbal slugfest, a bout of epic proportions, between 16 year-old Danae and The Mom, AKA me. 

The topic(s): 
  1. Why, dear, dear, Danae, have you been lying about staying for tutorial? 
  2. And where oh where have you been going after school? 
  3. And with whom and for what purpose........ for the past two weeks?
  4. And for GodAllahBuddha's sake, why would you do that to us knowing that we have to drag the babies out and across town to pick you up? 
  5. And, why would you NOT take the bus home today, after clearly being told to, and then lie about how you got home? 
Now, I know she did not take the bus home because I waited for it to arrive, saw that she was not on it, and proceeded to take her sisters shopping and out to dinner. 

To the casual reader, dinner and shopping might seem like a callous response to a possible runaway-missing persons type situation involving one's own child.  However, I have some experience in these matters and realize that getting all wound up does nothing but give me a headache and turn my face red.  Plus, I have two other adopted kids who have run away for a combined total of six times, and, as a Homo Sapiens Sapiens, I can be taught. Eventually.

So Danae finally called my cell from the house phone at 6:28 and tried to convince me that she had indeed ridden the bus home.  Her bus arrives in our neighborhood between 4:55 and 5:10.  I told her to reconsider her story and go with the truth, as she would be in less trouble in the long run. (Sidebar, your honor:  I never believed that argument from my mom when I was a teen, so I'm not sure why I keep trying to convince my kids of its veracity, but that's a whole other blog I guess, sometime when I have no fodder... Things We Do Because Our Parents Did Them.  Remind me to write that....)

Anyway, birdwalk. Back to subject. 

It comes to this:  I have irrefutable truth and proof on my side.  She has "That's my story and I'm sticking to it."

But then she realized (because she is much smarter than the average teenager) that I must have something on her, because then she said, "I did ride the bus home. I just got off at an earlier stop, called Amanda to pick me and bring me the rest of the way because I didn't want to get home so late.  But then, Amanda couldn't come right away, so I was late."

Not once in this fiasco did she call me to let me know she was okay. I had other sources tell me they knew she was alive, but that they didn't know where.  But she did call and text Amy, and only Amy--definitely not me. I'm pretty sure that's because she knew she was going to get in trouble, so she might as well avoid hearing it on the phone.

Now, ask me if I believe that story. 

Seriously. Do I look THAT stupid?  Of course I don't believe her. I think she didn't want to ride the bus, DID want to hang out with friends, so she did what she wanted.  And as I thought,  the epiphany hit... 

It's something that I should have known or at least figured out WAY sooner.  Kids with attachment disorders, also known as Reactive Attachment Disorder, don't trust.  They don't believe in parental benevolence in any form, and don't for a second think that you have their best interests at heart.  And trying to convince any of them to trust is almost like asking Boppo the Chimp to reproduce Mona Lisa.  Messy and impossible.  And while not a total waste of time, but definitely not the best way to spend an afternoon, or year or a decade.

So why would I ask that of a young lady who is at the point in her life where she is trying to prove her independence and pull away from her family?  Duh.  Now who's got issues? 

I'm asking her to bond and pull closer when biology and society are telling her to pull away.  Or she could just have doubled up on her daily dose of Pain in the Ass Pills and decided to see if she could pull off another lie. 

No wonder we argue so much.

In the meantime, she wants to know if she can go spend the night with a friend and have her phone back. 

Attachment disorder or not, I'm thinking no.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Rough Draft... Peace

BIG SECRET----- Don't tell anyone, but I'd love to be a real writer who gets a real paycheck from writing.  I love poetry, and sometimes I write it, but I'm REALLY shy about sharing it...
<<< takes big deep breath >>>
So here goes....

Peace is the knowledge
That with what little you were given
You have climbed a fortress protected by
The sharp fragments of years of broken dreams
And the twisted barbs of biological families
And poured into the sieve of her heart
all the love and
faith and
you could find.

And your calloused, tired, bruised hands tried to plug the holes
Stop it all from running down the drain,
But you watch again and again and again as your efforts bleed down your
fingers onto your forearms.

Peace is knowing that some of those things will slowly
stick to the sides of her heart,
trapped on the very holes of the sieve you tried to plug.
Or caught on the patches of scar tissue left by those who didn’t truly love.
Peace is walking the shore at sunset, her picture in your hand, and facing the
Ocean, the wind, the coming storm, yourself and your God, and knowing
Beyond everything else,
That you did
As right as you could.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Shopping, Parenting and Racism

So there I was, standing in line at Hot Topic, patiently explaining to MoMo that she could get down and play after we left the store, when she hauled off and slapped me.  On the cheek.  Hard. On purpose. 

Up to that point, I didn't know toddlers did that.

Now, because MoMo is a foster child,  we can't use any physical discipline. At all.  So, I grabbed her hands, held them still, and told her, "Bad MoMo. No hitting. Bad girl."

The man in line in front of us turned around, glared at me, and said, "You can't talk to that baby like that!"

I was shocked. I've never jumped in on people and their kids, even when they desperately cried out for it.  And to have someone call me on it when I thought I was handling things pretty well shocked the shit out of me.
I responded, "Number one, not your concern. Number two, what do you want me to do, punch her?" And then I stared at him, daring me to say something else.

He got so flustered, he dropped his stuff on the counter, and stomped out of the store.

The clerk grinned. "Good for you!  I think you handled that just fine!"

Before I ask my questions, remember that I'm white and MoMo is a beautiful milk chocolate color.

Here are my questions:
  1. Would the man have said anything if MoMo and I were the same race?
  2. Would he have said anything if he and MoMo weren't both black?
  3. Was he just being a general Mr. Buttinski, and I'm just being too sensitive?
  4. Is the world really still that bassackward?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

OPB... Other People's Babies

I had one of those moments yesterday that reminds me that when it comes to loss and mourning, we never really get over the things that break our hearts.

I went to my niece's baby shower yesterday, and it was a lot of fun. I got to hang out with my in-laws, who, despite all the horror stories, are not as bad as in-laws are supposed to be.  My sister-in-law had it at her house, which was way too small for the 45 people who attended.  There were four diaper cakes. Mine was the cutest.

I do not exaggerate when I say that the impending baby girl will not wear the same outfit twice until she is in kindergarten.  I also do not exaggerate when I say that they did not get enough diapers.  I have learned recently in my new role as a foster parent that one can NEVER have enough diapers. Or wipes.

But I'm birdwalking.

I'm here to write about what happened after the shower, when everyone but the family had gone home, and we were all sitting around, drunk on too-sweet punch and pigs in blankets, talking about nothing in general.  Then, my oldest niece announced to the room that she and her husband are expecting again. 

So by Christmas, I'll be a great aunt thrice-over.  I am thrilled for them --  my nieces and their husbands are terrific people, and are and will be awesome parents.  And, after spending time with my own children, it's nice to know that there will be some normal people to continue our name and lineage. 

However, they are a reminder of something I'll never be.


I've gotten very good at pretending that prenatal announcements don't bother me.

But they do.

Deeply. And in parts of my heart and soul that only another woman who knows that pain will ever understand. 

And I cried.  Not then and there, but later, in bed at my in-laws' house, where no one but the pillow and my battered copy of Pride and Prejudice could hear me. 

And today we ate breakfast, one big happy family, and no one knew I'd cried myself to sleep.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

An introduction

So here I am. 
Waiting for inspiration.
Or like the kid on "The Incredibles" for something amazing.

In the meantime, let me introduce us. 

I am Mom.  Wife.  Teacher.  Unofficial social worker.  Unlicensed, smart-ass therapist.  Writer-wannabe. 

The other players in this silliness are as follows:

Hubby--Husband.  The tall bald guy, and a big cup of awesome sauce.

Marie-- Oldest daughter. Age 23.  Mother of Grandson. Married to JC. We never officially adopted her, because she aged out of foster care when her younger sister moved in with us. However, the only thing missing is the paperwork.

Dawn-- Next daughter. Age 18.  Bio sister to Marie.   We got her when she was 12, and she is currently surfing other people's sofas because mom and dad won't let her shack up at home with her Dumbass Boyfriend.  She just got a job as a waitress.  It's been two whole days and she's kept it, so we'll see how that goes.

Danae--Next daughter.  Age 16. Cheerleader, artist, wants to be a doctor.  Generally, a smart kid with a HUMONGOGINORMOUS attitude. But then, after 18 different placements, I think she's earned the right to be pissy from time to time.

Leigh-- Next daughter. Biosister to BB. Age 15.  We're her tenth set of parents, and we got her when she was six.  She is a self described freak, who cuts, cusses, and generally carries on as much as possible without visiting the Gray Bar Hotel.   She attends a "special school" for people who have problems behaving in regular school, has a probation officer and a standing appointment with juvenile court every three weeks. However, she too is very smart and a talented artist.

Momo-- 18 month old foster baby.  Cute as a baby penguin and about as coordinated. She has eyelashes that could start a small supermodel riot, and the most engaging smile I've ever seen.

NaNa- 9 week old foster baby.  Just learned how to smile this week. 

And in that mix of beauty, brains and general mayhem, we have two half-mexicans, two mostly black, one mutt of unknown origin and one who claims to be a quarter black. As for the parents, we're very white, and mostly look nothing like our kids.  We have fun with that sometimes.

Mixed in there also are several cases of Reactive Attachment Disorder, PTSD, a sprinkling of bipolar, the possibility of borderline personality and some galloping cases of depression, self-mutilation and anxiety.  Needless to say, life is never boring. 

So here we are ...  our little, made-from-scratch-trying-to-be-happy family. 

I think I've found my amazing. 
How about you?
Some things I'll post here will be daily doses of the craziness that is my life. Others will be random stuff I've written in response to my life-- some old, some new. 

Enjoy the popcorn, prop up your feet.  It's an interesting show.