I’m not smarter than an 8 year old.

I thought I was pretty smart when I became a mom.  But, everyday, my three children teach me even more.  Either I wasn’t that smart at the beginning or I’m really, really smart now. 

Life lessons from William.

1. A high five is appropriate in almost any situation.
 Buying drinks at the convenient store.  William walked up to the counter and triumphantly set his drink down. He looked at the cashier and said “Hola!”  The cashier was ready for him, though, and said “Hola!  Como estas?”  William stared at him with no idea how to respond.  I explained that it means “how are you” and suggested he say “muy bien.”  Then the famous William smile showed up and he said to the cashier, “Thank you for helping me learn Spanish!!  High five!”  He high fived William and, of course, the other two requested high fives, too.  Everyone was smiling when we left which can’t always be said at 8am.

2. Never forget how lucky you are.
As anyone with kids knows, keeping the house clean is a constant struggle.  I was never a neat freak before, but becoming a mom has made it virtually impossible for me.  I find this extremely frustrating and am obsessed with the day when we move to a bigger house and I can, theoretically, find a way to be more organized. 
Anyway, the other day, William ran across some ads in the van.  He asked if he could keep them and re-use them.  (He’s been learning all about helping the environment at school.)  I said yes, but started ranting about how they’ll just end up on the floor and how they throw everything on the floor.  (I’m not particularly proud of my early morning rant, but there it is.)  And, my wise son said “That’s true.  The house does get trashed a lot.  But, it’s not all bad, we have a family.”  I then remembered how grateful I am that I have my three kids in my life and in my house, trashing it.

3.  Always pay attention to details.
William is like many adults that I’ve met, at times.  He speaks with great confidence while sharing incorrect information.  A couple of years ago, he insisted that the principal wanted everyone to bring their guitars in a for a picture.  I found this extremely unlikely, but he insisted that he had heard an announcement.  It turned out that the guitar club was having its pictures taken for the yearbook.  So, he was right in thinking that guitars were involved, but incorrect in thinking that he was.
This morning, after being told by William that there was going to be a contest for who could bring the most donated items in, I gathered up 6 bags of clothes.  I made sure to write his name and his teacher’s name on each bag.  This is a slight challenge when trying to write on a plastic bag and you live in a houseful of washable markers.  It just doesn’t work.  Regardless, my competitive side came out and I was gonna make sure my kid won!  As we unloaded the van, William said that his teacher wanted them in her classroom.  I thought this was odd since last year, items were colllected outside the school.  But, as long as Willian won the contest, I would take them wherever!  I had visions of William’s happy face when he won!  Such a confidence building moment!  As we got to the front of the school, patrols began to collect our items and randomly throw them in a bin.  But, his teacher wanted them in her classroom and isn’t there a contest?  They looked bewildered by my questions. They told me that yes, the teachers had bins sitting outside their classrooms, but this was the main collection area.  No, there’s no contest.  It would be way too hard to figure out the winner.  (I had thought that part would be very challenging, too.)
So, I dropped the stuff off, said good-bye to my son who never seems to know what he’s talking about but will pretend that he does, and took our somewhat anti-climatic coupons for free Apple Dippers.

4. Take pride in your accomplishments.
As I go through the course of a day, I encounter William, in various rooms.  This part is not surprising, of course, as we are in the same house.  But, for William, it’s an event.  I walk into the living room, Willam says “Hi Mom.”  Moments later, if I wander into the kitchen, he’ll mysteriously be the too.  “Hi Mom.”  When I come out of the bathroom, there’s William with a “Hi Mom.”  This does, in fact, drive me crazy.  But, I take a deep breathe and remember how lucky I am and. ( :
After a recent round of “Hi mom’s.” William looked at me proudly and said “I said hi to you four times!”  Yay for William! lol.  Achievement is good! 
This morning, I walked into Antwan’s room, “Hi Antwan.”  The cycle continues…

With William’s life lessons firmly in my psyche, I start each new day with the intention of saying hi to people (potentially in Spanish), with some awareness of what’s reallly going on, with pride in my successes and a true sense of gratitude.  Because I really am, so lucky. 

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I know some Betas who moved on up!

The other day, I was in the store with the babies and we stopped to look at the fish.  I was looking at the Betas and I noticed that in one container, there were 2 of them.  The first rule of Betas is that you can’t put them together or they will kill each other.  One of the fish looked fine, but the other was pretty beat up.  His fins had been bitten up to the point of barely having any. 

I called Brian. “I’m going to buy a Beta!  And, here’s why!”  – I said, emphatically.  He, of course, agreed.  When I was able to finally get someone to help (irritation intended), she said she couldn’t separate them and they had come to the store like that.  Although, I was sure she could separate them, if she wanted to; I resigned myself to buying both of them, in order to save “Fishy” (the name that Lizzie later gave him.).  To add to my lack of confidence in their fish care abilities, I discovered that they didn’t actually sell the Beta food.  The employee was surprised too and commented that wasn’t even a space for it.  (What are they feeding them?)  Hmm, Brian’s lucky I didn’t come home with all the fish. 

Worried that William would feel left out when we came home with 2 fish, I picked 1out for him.  Then we picked out bowls, gravel, the obligatory decorative tree, etc, and we were on our way. 

William was super excited when he came home to a new pet.  I had put the bullied Beta in his new home, right away, but waited for William to come home, so he could help with his fish. 

The boys had a great time setting up their fish bowls and Lizzie had a great time talking to her fish, “Fishy.” ( :

In the end, what had started as me just trying to rescue a fish, turned into a super fun, family activity with super happy kids. 

I was very, very glad that I had noticed poor, little Fishy.  And, I was also very, very glad that the kids were happy.  I sometimes feel so much pressure to give them the childhood they deserve.  To deserve them.  With just a few twists of fate, they could’ve not been mine.  But, they are and I want them to look back on their childhood and smile. 

On this day, I did ok.  We’ll see how tomorrow goes. ( :

P.S.  Ginger, the cat, was also pleased about the new addition to the family (Racecar, Ming Ming, and Fishy)…a little too pleased.

It’s complicated.

A few weeks ago, at the doctor’s office, we were discussing the fact that William hadn’t gained any weight.  She commented that maybe the “real” mom was thin.  I was so focused on answering the question and taking the super-mature opportunity to say that she was actually over-weight, that it didn’t register right away.

Real mom?  What should I get upset about first?  The fact that you said that in front of my impressionable, and already confused by his past, 8 year old.  Or the fact that, wait a minute, I thought I was his real mom.  The woman who neglected and endangered them gets the title of real mom.  But, the one who adopted them, turned my life upside down, takes care of them every day, (insert other dramatic mom statements here), etc…I’m, well, I guess I’m the mom, too.  Just not the real one?

It’s important to point out that the doctor is a very nice person, didn’t mean anything by it and was only using it for clarification.  But, there are better ways to clarify, for sure.  I also know what probably bothered me most of all was that I said nothing.  I just stewed about it later (obviously, much later.)  The good news was I didn’t make that mistake the next time.  While on vacation, the “real mom” was referenced, I don’t even remember why.  I almost said nothing and then quickly realized that it would become the biggest memory of my vacation.  So, I said, “Oh, you mean the biological mother?” and then answered the question.  The person then realized and said “Oh, yeah, I probably shouldn’t say it that way.”   Well, look at that, I’ve educated and headed off an obsession on my part! (sort of) ( :

Foster care adoption can be complicated.  But, I have no regrets.  Given a choice between having biological children and these 3, I’d pick them every time.  But, I do sometimes wish that they were, in fact, bilogical.  Not for any big, bad reason.  Just so they would be all mine, in every way possible.  And, I’d never have to hear the term “real mom.”

Sometimes it is fun to pretend.  In a waiting room, a woman was talking and relating to me about how her husband is very dark-skinned (can’t remember where he was from) and how you never know what your kids will look like with such different skin-types of the parents.  Brian wasn’t there, so she didn’t know that my hubby wasn’t black; rather very white (maybe a little pink).  I realized she thought mine were biological.  I didn’t correct her.  I enjoyed just being a typical mom who had typical kids in a typical way, for a moment.  And, quite frankly, I sometimes forget that they aren’t biological.  I couldn’t love them anymore, if I had given birth to them.  They are in my heart, they are my heart; which is a way more important organ than the belly…

But, of course, they are not biological.  They are adopted.  And, that’s ok, too!

There was a time that an aquaintance looked at a family picture on facebook and commented that she couldn’t decide if the kids looked more like me or Brian.  What??  Now I enjoy pretending they are biological, but we all know that they are not and they are, in fact, black.  And, that’s in fact, very ok.  And, it’s ok to acknowledge that.  I don’t wish they were biological because I’m ashamed of any part of who they are or who we are all together.  I’m just possessive.  It’s hard to wrap my head around the fact that my son had a whole 5 years of existence before I met him.  Someone else got to be his mom and the fact that she did such a crappy job is the only reason that I get to do the job now.  It’s hard to understand even when you understand it.
 
So, yes, it stings when you mention their real mom.  I guess it’s my own personal “r” word. 

I know one day they will ask about her.  We’ve already talked to William about it a little.  Although, the topic hasn’t come up in a couple of years.  It’s going to be hard to answer those questions. Especially since there’s not a lot of positive to report.     

I try not to think about what will happen if they want to find her.  It’s hurts too much.  I do know that it would be wrong to stop them.  Well, I think it would.  Is it wrong to try to spare them the disappointment?  No.  But, it would still be wrong.

Antwan, the warrior poet

Antwan’s personality has always fascinated me. Anyone who reads my facebook, knows he’s a walking “kid who says the darndest things.” ( :  From the beginning, he has been strong-willed, but very sweet and gentle.  Brian used to call him a “warrior poet.”  He’s very strong and all-boy, but has the ability to show the compassion and sweetness that I never thought possible for a child his age. 
The moment that Lizzie arrived, he loved her.  He doted on her, protected her, and, just loved her.  As she got older, he wanted her with him, at all times.  If he was going in his room to play, he would call her in with him.  If she cried, he would look for a pacifier.  He was a natural.

This was beautiful, but scary when we didn’t know, for sure, that we’d get to adopt her.  I worried about how Antwan (and William) would recover from losing her and, most likely, never seeing her again.  Thankfully, we never had to find out. 

He loves her and I love how close they are.  Being only 18 months apart, they’ll only be one grade apart in school.  And, I think it’s clear that nobody will ever mess with Lizzie, as long as Antwan’s around. ( :

So, today I called, “Let’s go outside!”  Antwan said “Wait, Mommy, I’m fixing Lizzie’s hair!”
The only thing that surpised me was that Lizzie was letting him. ( :

My son thinks I’m a dinosaur.

Before bedtime, William was reading through his favorite dinosaur book.  He loves dinosaurs.  Pointing at one, “Mom, do you think this looks like what you look like when you get mad?”

Me- “Maybe a little.”
William – “You know, if you were a dinosaur.”
Me – “Sure.”
William – “I’m going to call it the Mommysaurus!”
Not the bedtime conversation I was expecting. ( :

How not to style a black child’s hair.

Before the boys, we talked about the possibility of adopting black children.  We knew we didn’t care, on a personal level.  But, we worried about how society would react and, if it was a girl, we worried about how we would do the hair.

 
When the call came about the boys, we instantly knew that, no matter what, we wanted them.   We also joked that the hair would be easy since they were boys.  And hair care was fairly simple, before our Lizzie came along.  
We were so paranoid, at first.  A week after getting the boys, we were going to meet with our current landlord about renting his house.  We asked my niece to babysit because we were afraid that he would have an issue with us having black children.  Looking back on it, that seems so ridiculous, but, like I said, we were paranoid.  Of course, he eventually met the kids and thought nothing of the color and thought it was wonderful that we adopted them. 
So, we moved our boys into a very white area.  That wasn’t our original plan, but here we were.   There are very few black children in William’s school (currently only one other black child, in his grade).   And, definitely no other trans-racial families.  It was a little freaky.
Since then, I have learned that people are afraid to point out that the kids are black and are sometimes, uncomfortable, when you do.   But, at the core, most people don’t care.   I used to think that people were staring at us.  They were and they still do.  But, what I’ve come to understand is, they are curious, not judgemental.  Brian and I are white and we have 3 black kids.  And, yes, it is odd. 
We don’t get the confused stares in our area much now because everyone seems to know who we are.  We definitely stand out.  We joke that we’re local celebrities.  Cashiers will comment on how big they’ve gotten.  Random people at the park will talk to us because they recognize us.  On a very small scale, I get what it must be like to be an actual celebrity. (I have even found myself fixing my hair and make-up before going to the store, in case I’m recognized…lol)  
So, back to the hair.  With the boys, if I just asked the stylist to cut it really short, it worked out ok.  And, it would look pretty good for a few weeks.   But, then came Lizzie.  Since then it’s been a learning process.   I have received so much advice from random black women that I’ve encountered.  The first question is usually, “what are you putting in her hair?”  I’m grateful for all the advice.  But, I still don’t know what I’m doing.  Well, I know what I’m doing, I’m just not doing it what I should be doing. ( :  This is evidenced by the woman who recently offered to braid Lizzie’s hair (after stopping me in a parking lot) and the cashier who wrote down some moisturizer names while I was checking out.  I find this kind of hilarious in a bumbling white-mom-kind-of way.  But, Lizzie’s hair still looks kind of bad. 
All I can do is continue to try different conditioners, moisturizers, oils, etc, and keep putting in the clips and the headbands.  All the while, I’m hoping she’ll figure out how to do her own hair, at a young age and that she’ll forgive me when she looks back at her pictures. ( :

In the end, there are many things to learn when you adopt out of your race.  I have learned that people are pretty amazing, that it really is hard to do the hair, and it’s all worth it.  ( :

Adopting Lizzie

I had to go to the courthouse, the other day, to try to replace some lost paperwork, from Lizzie’s adoption.  I hadn’t been there since the day that we finalized her adoption.  It was such a happy day, but I had definitely enjoyed not going back.  As soon as I walked in, I got an anxious feeling and had to remind myself that this was just a business trip.  There would be no court proceedings and no sightings of the biological parents.  Even though I knew that it was be unlikely that the biological parents would be randomly wandering the courthouse, I looked for them, the whole time, anyway.

It was a very hard time for us when we got Lizzie.  It was hell, really.  Well, it was hell and heaven, for lack of a less cheesy way to express it. ( :  Lizzie was one of the three best things that happened to us and we were so grateful for her.  She was amazing and I loved everything about her.  And, I spent every moment, terrified that I would lose her.
 
So, this is what happened. 

Life was starting to settle down, a little.  At least, we were finding some sort of routine.  It was hard to keep up with two boys, but it was getting easier.  I was still working part-time and luckily, the people I worked with, seemed to enjoy it when the boys had to come along.

On September 9, 2008, I was sitting on a bench inside Walmart.  I looked at my phone and realized that I had missed a call from the agency that had matched us with the boys.  I had no idea what it could be, since we hadn’t had any contact since finalizing the boys’ adoption. 

I listened to my voicemail, they said that there was another baby born from the same biological mother and were we interested.  I guess it shouldn’t have totally surprised me.  I had heard of this happening and even though, I had pondered the possiblilty, I didn’t really expect it.  Also, the biological mother was the fertile type and had given birth to (and eventually lost) 5 children.  But, regardless, it was still extremely surprising. 

After talking to Brian, I called for more information.  She told me that it was a girl and she was 2.5 weeks old.  She said the adoption was basically a done deal and they would just have to go through the process, which would be expedited, due to the woman’s previous time in the system.  I know that she believed that she was telling me the truth, but, unfortunately, she couldn’t have been more wrong.

So, I told her I’d call her back the next day and Brian and I talked all night, even though, I don’t think there was ever any doubt what we were going to do.

When I called, the next day, to tell her that we wanted her, I was terrified.  I was afraid that they would really bring her to us and afraid that they wouldn’t.  I barely had my head above water and I was agreeing to take on a new-born?  We must’ve been out of our minds.  But, at the same time, she was their sister.  Therefore, she was already part of us.  I loved her already.  And, the idea of having the chance to let my boys grow up with their sister and not doing it because it would be hard; well, that’s would just be wrong.  Obviously, amidst my internal freak-out, I was also excited.  She was a baby and she was a girl.  I was getting the opportunity to get the best of all worlds: my boys and a baby girl  And, I’d finally have a face to put to the name that we had picked out years ago.  ( :  (She’s named after my grandmother).

So, while I waited for them to call back, I worried that they wouldn’t.  But, they did.  She called and, casually, said they’d bring her tomorrrow.  Tomorrow?  Not only was the idea of taking on a newborn in less than 24 hours a little scary, but, also, we were unprepared.  We didn’t have a crib, a car seat, nothing.  We were living paycheck to paycheck; and payday wasn’t until the day after tomorrow.  Ugh.

That was when I was reminded how great people are.

All my friends were excited.  Everyone told everyone.  Before I knew it, friends of friends had gathered things for us.  By the next night, we had a car seat, clothes, bottles, a diaper bag, a loaned bassinet, a promise of a crib, and, a Lizzie.  And, she was perfect.

So, as I just tried to survive the days with three kids and no sleep, my done deal started to turn into anything but.  The visitations with the biological parents began.  First, every other week, then, when the judge wanted to insure they were given a fair chance, it was increased to every week.  At least every month, a case worker would come to check on Lizzie and look through our house and open our cabinets.  While, I understand and respect that there is a process and it’s important that the biological parents are given the opportunity to get their lives together, it was very difficult since we had not signed up for any of that.  Plus, we knew so much about the woman’s history and could see all the manipulations that were happening.

There was a lot of back and forth.  And, a lots of scarey moments.  But, in the end, after several weeks of dodging drug tests, both biological parents tested positive for drug use.  We weren’t happy that they were on drugs and we weren’t trying to tear apart a family.  But, we knew they were on drugs and that was not safe for Lizzie.  So, we were thrilled when the truth came out.

After that, things did get simpler.  Basically, they quit.  And, in the absence of any reason to show that they deserved her back, the parental rights were terminated.

After a year of anguish, we were finally able to adopt Lizzie on September 29, 2009. 

You don’t always realize how much something is affecting you, until it’s over.  I had forgotten what it was like not to have nightmares or to wake up in the middle of the night and not immediately start to worry.  After adopting Lizzie, I was able to sleep again.

It took a long time to believe that this was my life and these were my children.  But, they are. 

After that, we moved on to just being parents.  ( :