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Category Archives: Blogging101

Arrival

Fiction
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Photo Credit: Joshua Farewell

I wake, cheek pressed against a cool, smooth surface beneath me. Breathe in, steady and deep. Out. In.

A slight breeze whispers through my hair, just this side of cool. The air brushes my back.

Light filters bright through the haze above and reflects from facets around me. I move my head just a little bit and the sparkling environment spins. I still, before the nausea causes complete surrender.

I don’t know how I got here. Or, for that matter, the definition of “here.”

I hold myself motionless, allowing my mind to focus.

No memory swims to consciousness.

I stare down, tipping my face away from the dazzling light. Attempting to calm the headache. Grasping for any clue about my arrival. Nothing.

I pull my fingers across the glassy floor, smooth and slow. No nicks or scratches. No bumps, no sand, no crumbs. Perfection. I roll over, my back against the hard ground, to see the shining, sharp edge of a cliff inches from my face. A terrified breath jerks in as I imagine slipping over.

Fear pours down my spine like ice water and I slide in the opposite direction. I want to be far away from that vertical drop.

Managing to distance myself from the edge by a few feet, I rest. This will do for now; movement is a struggle. Once I’ve regained strength, assuming I started with some, I’ll remove myself completely from the danger.

Not that the cliff poses a threat as long as I don’t throw myself over—and that’s not happening. I might not remember anything else, but a healthy fear of heights overpowers my memory gaps.

I listen, eyes closed. What is that noise?

There. To the left. Voices approach. Grow louder. I see them, a knot of slender forms. Everyone moves together. A smaller cluster materializes from the right. Each is wearing the same dark tunic. I squint. My eyes refuse to focus.

“Here! Another one! She’s over here, quick!”

Many hands pull and lift and carry. I realize suddenly that I do not have a matching tunic, but am too exhausted to care. Everything spins.

I embrace the dark.

 

 

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Psycho Shower Tales

Hitchcock’s shower scene in Psycho is classic terror.

And because this is a family blog, I give you….the LEGO version.

Maybe this scene rings so true because we all have a bit of shower insecurity.

A shower once traumatized me…and it wasn’t even my shower.


 

Did you ever notice the words “adoption” and “insanity” have the same number of letters?

This is no coincidence.

It’s been four and a half years since the Wednesday our kids arrived.

Social Services lost our fingerprint results, delaying our approval to foster children. The family who’d housed our kiddos for eighteen months had enough chaos from the two darlings to last a lifetime. They declined to allow the children to stay longer, so the social worker found a foster family willing to provide care for a month, to give time for new prints.

The social worker ignored my suggestion to ask the FBI whether another copy of the results might be available.  After we were re-printed, results appeared very quickly. A miracle, some might say. Or the social worker found them, misfiled…

The interim foster parent, a friend of mine, delivered the children on a mild Wednesday afternoon. At the time, we didn’t know that a social worker was supposed to be present to “facilitate” the situation. The kids had no idea what was happening. Neither did we.

My friend hugged me tight, tears in her eyes. (I was a little blurry, myself.) “So happy for you. Congratulations, Mama!” She smiled and drove away. Upon examining the memory, I think she might have been laughing. 

Married ten years, Hubby and I had approximately 20 years of “kid experience” between us. Surely, we could handle this instant-family situation.

We’d spent the equivalent of two days with the kiddos, then 5 and newly-turned-7. They seemed to like us. This would be a breeze. They were so teeny and adorable.

Like baby jackals. Or, perhaps, hyenas.

Maybe you’ve heard the phrase, “Wednesday’s child is full of woe.”  That Wednesday evening foreshadowed the next two years of our lives with fair accuracy.

We took them to a church spaghetti dinner—I was thrilled at the idea of not cooking. They were thrilled at the prospect of a table full of desserts.

During the course of the meal, they ate bread, salad, pasta and meat sauce with their hands. Utensils seemed utterly foreign to them.

The urchins spilled six (count ’em, six) cups of pink lemonade—including a huge trip-fall-splash that involved about a third of the floor space—and the five year old ate a napkin.

Ate a napkin.

Well, ate might be slight exaggeration. He stuffed the napkin in his mouth, and despite (or because of) our exhortations of “Oh, honey, don’t…don’t do that.” “No, that’s not food. Take it out.” “Spit that out right now.” “SPIT. IT. OUT.” he continued to chew the paper with a “make me” glint in his sweet blue eyes.

Finally, Hubby said, in a display of fearless parenting,

“Fine. Swallow it. It’ll probably stop you up and you won’t poop for a week.”

It worked. The game was no longer fun. He deposited the mass of wet fibers onto the floor with swift efficiency.

We arrived home past bedtime, exhausted, but couldn’t skip bathing. The kids were literally covered head-to-toe in sauce.

Imagine all the cute photos of your friends’ infants eating pasta for the first time. Super cute, that tomato-basted babe. Fast forward five or seven years. No longer super cute.

I started the shower, made sure it was warm, then helped the 7 year old remove her saucy outfit and step into the tub. She gave me a little smile. Then…she collapsed, screaming, on the floor of the tub.

It felt a little like Psycho. (Sans the crazy guy.)

In my panic to find the problem, I left the shower running. “Are you hurt? Did you slip? Are you okay? What’s wrong?”

She continued to scream. Hubby stopped entertaining the five year old and cracked the door. “What in the world is happening in there? What did you do?”

More screaming. What did he mean by, “what did you do?” Clearly, what I did was lose my mind and bring an insane, scary, evil-spirit-possessed child into the house.

Finally, as the decibels reached somewhere between ear-piercing and drum-bleeding, I regained conscious control of my hands and turned off the shower. Screaming stopped. No explanation.

“Are you okay?” Nod. “Are you hurt?” Shake. “Did the shower scare you?” Another negative shake. “You have to get clean; will you take a bath?” Nod. 

I filled the tub.

The child then washed the remnants of dinner from her hair, calm and apparently in her right mind.

***

We didn’t attempt another shower for the next year. The younger one spontaneously decided he’d rather shower. Not to be outdone by her little brother, our girl braved the shower the next night, with no complications. Oh, how I love sibling rivalry.

Approximately six hundred showers later, she sidled up to me, posture casual. “Hey, remember that time I was screaming like a crazy person in the shower, on our first night here?”

“Oh…um, I think I remember.” Yes, I remember. My eardrums experience a spontaneous tremor at the thought.

“Yeah, Mama…I was just freaked out about being in a new house. Sorry about that.” Freaked out, indeed…

“Oh, sweetie, don’t even worry about it. That was a long time ago. I barely even remember it.”  Liar, liar, pants on fire…

***

I think there’s a reason God doesn’t let us see the future. If, that first night, I’d known what was coming in the next 24 months—that the shower scene was only a precursor—I might have bailed.

My mom says she doesn’t remember the hours of childbirth because the joy of seeing the baby’s face “erased the memory of the pain.” If you’re lucky, birth happens in hours (or if you’re unlucky, days).

Adoption, especially with behaviorally challenged kiddos, is a little different. Labor pains happen every day.

For years.

And believe me, I remember every single minute.

Good thing we like a little insanity around here.

If you’ve adopted, here’s the good news: you’re not alone.

More good news: you’ll survive. I promise.

 

*This piece is updated from a post written in September 2014.

Ah Ha Ha Ha Stayin’ Alive…

Prior to looking up the lyrics, I never noticed the “Ah ha ha ha” bit (always just thought they were saying ah-ah-ah). Laughing in the face of death? Maybe I’m reading too much into this.

I’ve never watched the video before. Have you ever wondered what inspired a bunch of guys with lion’s mane haircuts to sing like schoolgirls? Until now, neither had I.

And because now you can’t get the song out of your mind, I give you…the Bee Gees.

You can sing it all day and drive your coworkers and family crazy. You’re welcome.

I like stayin’ alive. Furthermore, I like Hubby to stay alive. Without him, I wouldn’t have survived HellOnEarth (also know as Adoption Year One). Based on the pre-teen ‘tudes we’ve seen thus far, TeenHell is right around the corner. His presence is necessary and required.

We received a bit of a shock this week. Doctors. Don’t you love them?

Phone message:

Hello, sir, we’d like you to come in this week to discuss your recent blood tests.

When lab results are hunky-dory, these types of messages just aren’t necessary. My blood pressure went up a bit. I called, made his appointment and (since they wouldn’t give me information over the phone) joined him for the appointment.

“So,” the doctor smiled, “did you see the information I emailed you on the patient portal?”

Blank stare from both of us.

“No? I gave you some information up front to make this less of a shock.” She squinted. “You didn’t see it.”

We shook our heads.

“Well…then. Your test results are…not…great.” She sighed. “You have diabetes.”

Shock.

Hubby has always known his hypoglycemia could turn to diabetes, but neither of us were prepared.

“And,” she continued, “I don’t mean to scare you, but the numbers are very high. So I don’t want to frighten you but we need to get this under control now. I don’t want you to worry, but we’re going to start you on medication immediately and you need to start eating small meals every three hours.”

Translation:

Yeah. “I don’t mean to scare you, but.” The seven words you never want to hear from your doctor.

We know diabetes is manageable and many of the now-necessary life changes are ones we’ve planned to make anyway.

Having those changes imposed upon you…feels intrusive. Stupid diabetes. Stupid doctor. (Okay, okay, right, it’s not the doctor’s fault.)

We’ve been tossed into a world of checking labels and eating at certain times and pricking fingers for bloooo-oo-oo-oo—

Oh, sorry. I passed out. All good.

I think the hardest part of all this is recognizing that Hubby is human. He’s always been the stronger one. He’s my superman. Marvel Comics heroes have nothing on my guy (except Wolverine. But even so, Wolverine is my second choice AFTER Hubby). He has always been able to do anything.

He has maintained a full-load 4.0 GPA while working full-time and taking care of elderly parents, won horse shows (jumping), constructed buildings, rescued animals from city sewers, taught karate class, and put up with me for a loooooong time.

He can weld, cook enchiladas, create award-winning ads, restore old cars, connect with traumatized children, stunt drive, fabricate pretty much anything from metal, teach a college Bible study, lead a Scout pack and—did I mention—he puts up with me. Oh, and he’s a Black Belt.

And this isn’t even the entire list.

Of course, nothing has changed in the last 72 hours. He still spent the afternoon welding. Yesterday, he helped organize, set up and grill chicken for an annual Scout event. He went to work. He played with the kids. We went out with friends. He can still do everything he’s always done.

The only thing that’s really changed? We’re eating fewer carbs. (Finger sticking begins tomorrow and a visit with a dietitian is upcoming, so additional food changes may be on the horizon.)

But still.

I think I’m having a harder time with this than he is.

Wait.

Every superhero has an Achilles Heel, right?

Maybe sugar is his kryptonite.

I KNEW IT! This proves it.

He IS a Superhero.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Train Your Dragon

Baby girl is T-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-CKED.

Yesterday, she came home with a test sporting a…less than satisfactory…grade. In big red ink.

We’re fairly lenient with the schoolwork. C (or, “average,” if you’re not familiar with letter grades) is acceptable as long as they studied—and especially if I’m sure they know the material. Sometimes the test questions are difficult to understand as written, even for me. I re-word the question, and if the child can answer, we move on.

Two years ago, I had concerns that report cards would never include A or B grades. I was wrong (and I’m thrilled). We don’t mind average grades, but we want them to feel successful. The kids have both had recent academic success as the educational pieces fall into place in their brains. We’ve had opportunities to celebrate both B (“above average”) and A (“excellent”) this year.

“D” grades (“below average”) are indicative of a few possibilities:

  1. ineffective studying
  2. distracted during testing
  3. limited understanding

Whenever the kids bring home any grade D or lower, I request a clean copy of the test questions. The kids study with me again and retake the test at home (not for a grade, but to be sure they’ve retained the information). Sometimes our guy can rattle off all the answers before our study session (and the teacher verifies he was distracted by a fly zipping and dive-bombing throughout test time).

His batlike hearing is a “gift” of trauma; his body is always on alert. It is a detriment in so many ways. He hears—and is distracted by—everything most others tune out. The fly. Fluorescent lights buzzing. The TV upstairs at bedtime. Raindrops hitting a window. Me, solitary in the pantry, wrapper in hand. “Hey, is that chocolate? Can I have a piece?”

On the other hand, he heard two separate leaks in our house and saved us thousands of dollars in potential damage, so…two sides to every coin. 

Once we determine the underlying cause of the D, the child, teacher and I work together to help sinking grades rise to C level. (Nerd joke, sorry.)

F (“failing”) is another situation.

Because when our kids tank a test, it’s SPECTACULAR failure.

A failing grade means one of two things:

  1. didn’t bother studying
  2. didn’t bother trying

and neither is an option at our house.

To solve the “didn’t study” issue, their teachers now send a group text to parents showing the test calendar so we can prompt the kids to read their notes.

Group text means that either

  1. other children have the same issue, or
  2. they don’t want to make us feel bad, so they send it to everyone. 

I like to pretend it’s #1.

Our girl decided she didn’t need to read her notes but told me she’d studied enough. I took her word for it (stop rolling your eyes).

Then the test came home.

I found out she hadn’t studied.

The children’s teachers require them to spend at least 15 minutes reading every day during homework time. This morning, I informed our girl that she would need to spend that time reading her notes instead of her usual fiction.

“I have to spend that time reading a BOOK. The reading teacher said so,” she steamed.

“Well,” I said, “if you can show me that you learned all the information on your study guide on Monday, you can read fiction the rest of the week.”

She glared at me and snapped, “I can’t learn it ALL in 15 minutes.”

I could feel my frustration bubbling higher. My goal this month is to react less to her antics, since we know she’s looking for attention (and seems to prefer negative). Whooooooooosahhhhhhhhh

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Photo Credit: Josh Janssen

She continued to argue her point as we loaded up for school. I stayed silent as she complained. Finally, she said, “Well, they’re not going to like that AT ALL.”

“Who won’t?” I wasn’t sure what she meant.

The School. They said we have to read a book for 15 minutes each day. They won’t like it when I tell them you won’t let me read books.” Smug smile.

Inside me:

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Photo Credit: fortherock

I recognized the you-know-nothing tone she used. I was a snotty-attitude-thinks-adults-are-idiots-pre-teen once, myself. This didn’t help.

Breathing, I soothed the inner dragon back to Komodo size.

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Photo Credit: Naparazzi

“You’re right.” I smiled.

She looked up, shocked. “I am?”

I nodded. “Yes, you definitely need to have your reading time. I shouldn’t interfere with what your teacher requires. Instead of replacing your reading time, we’ll just add 15 minutes of studying each day you’re assigned homework. You can read your notes for a quarter hour AND still read your books. Problem solved!”

Eyes narrowed, she said, “I don’t like that plan.”

By this time, I didn’t even have to pretend to be cheery. “Oh, but you argued so well for keeping your reading time. And I’d hate for the school to be upset…so I think this is perfect.”

She crossed her arms. “But…that’s like…a HUNDRED AND TWENTY MINUTES.”

I tried not to laugh (I did, really). “Perhaps we need to add math practice.”

She grunted and gave the seat in front of her a little kick, then turned to glower out the window.

“So,” I said, “what can you learn from this morning’s discussion?”

She muttered something, then said louder, “that I hate science and I don’t care about the solar system so I shouldn’t have to study them.”

“Mmmmm…no.”

“That I hate studying and I’m mad.”

I shook my head. “No, but great job identifying your emotions. Actually, what you’ve learned this morning is that arguing with your Mama will not end well for you and you probably shouldn’t do it.”

By this time we were in the queue for drop-off in front of the school.

She grumbled out the door, followed by her brother.

Rolling down the window, I called, “Love you guys!”

He echoed back. She ignored me.

Ahhhhhh, pre-teen life.

And we’ve got at least seven more years of hormones ahead of us.

Can’t wait.

Please, if you have any secrets for surviving the teen years, share below. 

 

 

Limerick

There once was a girl from Nantucket

Who spent half her life in a bucket

When people jeered “why?”

She winked her brown eye

And said,

I just realized that almost any other rhyming word I use here will be impolite.

 

Blogging Brand: Who Needs One?

Back to what I learned at WordCamp.

WordCamp US 2015. In a word: FabuSuperEducatioFunExpialidociFrabjous.

“It seems very pretty,” she said…”but it’s rather hard to understand!” -Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll

Don’t give me that look. Lewis Carroll and Mary Poppins made up words.

And because of a ridiculous addiction to etymology, I just learned that Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, often attributed to Practically Perfect in Every Way Mary, appeared in use prior to the movie. And it’s the longest word in the English language. I love Google. 

My tenth grade English teacher informed us we could break language rules and make up words once we knew them all (rules AND words) or when we become famous—whichever is first.

Right, then…I’ve done neither, so…

WordCamp 2015 was Fabulous, Super Educational and Fun. And Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. And Frabjous.

The fourth thing WordCamp taught me is intertwined with the second.

 

Epiphany # 4: Every blog needs a BRAND.

Advertising utilizes many forms of brand. Here are a few:

Characters:

Think of the GEICO Gecko. Joe Camel (“Cool people smoke Camel”). Marlboro Man (“Real men smoke Marlboro.”) And yes, smoking is a bad idea. I’m just pointing out characters everyone knows. Keebler elves. The Planters Peanut. Ronald McDonald (a bit creepy, but recognizable).

Colors: 

Coke. UPS. John Deere. Here’s a fun little test to see if you can identify the brand by trademarked color.

Symbols: 

Amazon’s arrow/smile (“We get it to you fast and make you happy!”). FedEx’s subtle arrow (hint: it’s negative space). The Nike Swoosh. Coke’s ribbon. And perhaps the most recognizable symbol in the world, those Golden Arches.

Words:

Certain trademarked words become so famous we forget they’re brand names. No one (at least around here) says, “I cut my finger. Please get me a plastic bandage.” We say, “quick, I need a Band-Aid!” Xerox. Velcro. Chapstick. Bubble wrap. Dumpster. Fiberglass. Ping Pong (yes, really).

Some trademarked words lost previous status due to common use, like aspirin or WAIT, WHAT?!? heroin. Yes, Heroin was a Bayer trademark, back in the day. Yowza.

If you’re neurotic like me, check out this link for more. (Yep, I read them all.) The website also includes chuckle-inducing generic names. 

Here’s the point of this little advertising lesson. 

  • I need to brand my blog.

Create a character, use a photo or symbol, find a color, word or phrase. Or hey, all of the above.

Thanks to my conversation with this guy (who also has a cool blog),

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Dennis Hong speaking at WordCamp US 2015. Photo Credit: Casey Alexander, Creative Commons License

I realized the current “brand” on this blog is

  1. unrecognizable
  2. limiting
  3. confusing

and it’s time for a change.

  • The original plan: a play-by-play (and honest) description of our lives, centered around the definition of Adoption: “Adoption =” 

In other words, my intent was to illustrate a clear picture of what Adoption is. What adoption “equals.”

A blog with titles like “Adoption = Fun” or “Adoption = Difficult.”

Nobody got it.

Or, if you did, you’re astute, intelligent, and/or my mother.

Prior to WordCamp, I began using “Casey Alexander” as the brand, but Google proclaims that the most recognized “Casey Alexander” is a guy who worked for Sponge Bob.

How can I compete with a guy whose boss wears quadratic clam diggers and lives under the sea in a prickled yellow fruit? Or something like that.

Alsothere’s this.

Casey Alexander is the worst I’ve ever seen for a few reasons…wrote the absolutely BORING, HORRIBLE, BULL…

and this

So Casey Alexander (One of the worst writers in the history of Animation) has apparently stopped writing…I could go on all night with how happy I am this idiot no longer writes…

Right.

Although you may think it would be a fun prank—or a true statement (just wait until you see what I write in response, you jerk I mean, your opinion is always valid and welcome even if we don’t see eye to eye)—these were not written about me.

This is a good time to consider re-branding.

Dennis encouraged me to pick something timeless; the kids will grow up (or matriculate to Military Academy). My life, someday, will not orbit adoption. Or, at least, our adoption.

I plan to always, always, always advocate for children.

I’m passionate about adoption, foster care, fair treatment, child development, trafficking (fighting it—not participating—although…there are days…oh, HEY, sorry, did I say that out loud?), orphan care and child survival rates in developing countries…and I’m a little bit loud about all of it.

  • The new brand:

Our kids became available for adoption about six months after they moved in. We brought them into our home without the assurance we’d be able to keep them, but we were determined to ensure they received every possible accommodation—just as we would for “our own.”

Social Services didn’t like me.

Well, to be fair, OUR social worker didn’t like me.

The relationship started out a bit rocky due to my apoplectic fit. I found out the worker lost our fingerprints, delaying our approval to foster and requiring the children to live with a temporary foster family. (This, I took in stride. Shi—Lost paperwork happens.) The family was local but outside our school district.

I asked the social worker to request that the school board make an exception to allow the children to attend our elementary school, in spite of location, due to the circumstances.

Otherwise, the children would have three different families, three different homes AND three different schools in 40 days. To me, this seemed excessive. And avoidable.

But.

She didn’t want to do the extra paperwork. (Since then, I’ve made this same request in order to enroll the kids in a school with better accommodations for their special needs. It required ONE piece of paper.)

By the time they arrived at our house, the kiddos were in an understandable but horrific state of mind. Like hyenas, if you will.

Imagine: You’re married to someone for eighteen months. You get along. Communication patterns are set. It’s not perfect, but you feel secure.

One afternoon, as you enjoy milk and biscuits, government officials appear.

“We’ve determined this spouse is not your best match. And, partly due to your behavior, they don’t want you here anymore. Pack your things. We leave in thirty minutes for your next destination.”

Numb, you follow the officials as they toss your belongings into black plastic trash bags and cardboard boxes. You thought they liked you. Or, at least, tolerated you.

The officials dump you at another house, with a new spouse and no explanation other than, “You’ll be fine here.” They leave.

Four weeks later, you’ve begun to settle into the routine. You’re still bewildered but no one has bothered to clarify the situation. This family is nice enough; maybe living here will be okay. Now if you could just figure out what they did with all your stuff.

And then those officials show up again. They leave. Can you relax?

Nope. The few items you possess are packed and you’re bundled into the family’s van, where you find the rest of your trash bags. The second spouse drops you off with a third, smiling. “Have fun!”

By this time, you’re in complete confusion and more than a little angry.

Somebody better tell you what the heck is happening. And soon. Before you start screaming.

Yeah. That’s the clusterfeather that showed up on our doorstep. (Spell check says that’s not a word. It is now.)

And our little story above doesn’t even bring into play the new school, new people, new lights, new buildings, new clothes, new foods, new sensory input, new terror. TWICE.

After I figured out that the social worker did NOT have the kids’ best interest at heart, MommaBear appeared. Enter: The Fit of Historic Proportion.

These kids were obviously having a rough time, but they weren’t even in regular counseling.

With Hubby’s full support (and let me tell you, I don’t know how single adoptive parents survive—they are absolute HEROES) I got them into counseling, occupational therapy, speech therapy. Worked with the school to develop an IEP, ensuring they received appropriate support (both academic and behavioral).

Annnnnnd fought with the social worker, then went over her head and worked with her boss and the county to get a behavioral aide to stay with the boy during class (then 5 and a school-escape-artist).

I have no idea why she didn’t like me.

Speaking with Hubby (and in front of me) she called me “hyper-vigilant.”

It wasn’t a compliment.

But “Hypervigilant” is the one positive thing that woman gave me in the 16 months I struggled with her. We (THANK GOD) acquired another social worker who managed to push the adoption to completion under six months from her start date.

Vigilant: keeping careful watch for possible danger or difficulties

Hyperprefix  1. above, over, or in excess: hypercritical  2. (in medicine) denoting an abnormal excess: hyperacidity 3. indicating that a chemical compound contains a greater than usual amount of an element: hyperoxide

I like the third definition for “hyper” best. “A greater than usual amount.”

For our children, I watch “more than usual” for possible danger or difficulties. Medical. Physical. Emotional. Academic. Interpersonal.

Hubby and I believe in cause and effect as well as cleaning up your own messes, so if they get a bad grade or, for instance, pour glue all over a desk, we absolutely support the school in whatever consequence is handed down. The administration knows our stance.

But I work with teachers, administration, counselors, doctors—any adult who can better support our children by understanding their background and situation—to prevent and ameliorate situations before they occur. Call me Hypervigilant.

When we go out in public, I’m always aware that previous foster families and even biological family members could be one grocery aisle away. It happens. Last summer, we drove five hours to a beach, stood on a pier and recognized a friend surfing, then saw another (unrelated) family we know. All within five minutes.

I’m on constant alert, scanning crowds and restaurants as we walk. Looking for any sign of recognition from an adult I don’t know. Yeah. Hypervigilant.

On days I’d like to give up, sometimes I actively remind myself to be Hypervigilant. Don’t toss that towel. Extra attention now will pay dividends in their future success.

Hypervigilant.

  • Hypervigilant has morphed from a snide remark into WHO I AM.

After that conversation with Dennis, the name snapped into place. My brand.

No matter my life situation, when it comes to protecting kids, I’ll always be Hypervigilant.

You may have noticed the new domain name already. If not, just thought I’d mention coming changes to the blog. If you show up and things look a little different…you’ll know why. But it’s still me.

Now it’s your turn! Take a look at your blog. Does it reflect your passion? Your personality? Who YOU are? If not, consider making a few tweaks.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Side note: some guy in FarawayLandistan tried to sell me Hypervigilant.com for thousands of dollars, so…I picked the .org extension instead.  In creating your brand, research creative ways to name your domain. Here’s an older—but still useful—article to get you started. 

Great Chocolate. Bad Advice. Part 2

 

Continued from Part 1

Get lost on purpose.

Sure, candy company. This is a great idea.

Let me disconnect my GPS, toss my phone and just start driving.

Forget about picking up the kids from school or assisting clients or happy greetings from me and the four-leggeds when Hubby arrives home.

Sometimes I do get lost, but not on purpose.

I have no maps in my head. I’ve tried. TRIED. Again, I blame books. From childhood through my early twenties is buried in books. Blessed with an iron stomach, trips to the grocery store or dentist were escapes to islands of treasure or conversations with diminutive females. (See what I did there?)

On annual expeditions up winding routes through mountains to see the glorious autumn red, gold and purple leaves, my mother called out every thirty seconds, “PUT YOUR BOOK DOWN!” Nothing deterred me from a good read.

Unfortunately, this also precluded me from the company of my slightly-more-motion-sensitive sibling, six years my junior, who paid attention to the road and could find his way home when he was approximately thirty months.

I still have trouble remembering…is it right? Or left?

Hubby still laughs at me for getting mixed up in the woods behind our house. In my defense, I couldn’t see anything but trees.

I traipsed out to give him something, then turned to head back to the house. He stopped me, then asked our (then seven and nine year old) children, “Which way is the house?” They pointed. Not the direction I’d started walking.

Do you need me to embarrass myself further? You get the point. I have no sense of direction. Getting lost on purpose would not be difficult.

But if I were to lose myself (especially—as so many times during our first 24 months with wild hyenas—when I feel the urge to do so), how would disappearing help? I submit to you that it would NOT.

“Getting lost,” whether a literal or figurative disappearance, is not the answer.

I can say this with unequivocal, earnest passion because for about a year, I followed this bitter chocolate advice. I buried myself, my dreams, my emotions, my yearnings. So worried that I would attach too deeply to these insanely wild creatures, only to be torn from them, I distanced myself. I got lost. On purpose.

I became an automatMom, going through the motions. On the surface, I appeared as happy as every other adoptive mom of kids with behavioral needs. We all smile in public.

Side note: Speaking of smiling in public, I just read about a couple who adopted a sibling group of five, then added a bio child. Their story is similar to our own (plus four kids) and when I read the upbeat, sappy parental commentary, I couldn’t hold back the sardonic laughter. Either 1. they’re putting on a front for the media, 2. they’re still in the honeymoon stage and the kids are doing everything they can to not screw up, or 3. (for all their sakes, I hope this is the case) it’s really a fairytale story. If it’s either of the first two, and you know them, feel free to direct them here. I can at least let them know survival is possible. 

Reality slapped me the day our son hugged me on his own (this is big) and I didn’t react. I hugged him back, of course, but on the inside…no spark of maternal warmth. Looking back, I can see that Hubby and I were both pushed to our limit and exhausted. If I could go back to give “pre-adoptive us” some advice, it would be this: FIND RESPITE. USE IT.

We weren’t aware of many resources available to us (and were too overwhelmed and spent to look for them).

The day he hugged me, I realized I’d been holding back on our kids. Being lost—to myself and to them.

For the record, leaving to “find yourself” is ridiculous. The best way to find yourself, if you notice that you’re lost? Take time in your situation to measure your reactions, your thoughts, your interactions. Decide what you want “found” to look like…and then work toward those goals one step, one moment at a time.

I am no longer lost to my children—and I do not EVER intend to get lost on purpose.

Stay present. On purpose.

You want advice?

Here’s mine:

Enjoy the chocolate. Recycle the wrapper.

Or, if you prefer, track down a vintage Esmerelda machine. Be careful though…it’s been twenty years. That”tall, dark stranger” might be stooped, wrinkled and bald by now.

I’ll just stick with chocolate.

How to Know if She’s Cheating

Cheating causes heartbreak, anger and car vandalism.

According to the eHarmony advice page, cheating is never okay.

I beg to differ.

Sometimes cheating can cause the other person in whom you have an interest to become more…clingy interested.

And if that’s what you’re after, the end justifies the means. Right?

WordPressBlogConfessionTime: I’ve been cheating. With panache and impunity.

I exhibit none of the signs of cheating listed in the link above. You need a cheater mentor? I’m your gal.

Now, I admit, I’m just in it for the cuddle time. And hugs. And occasional kisses, but only on the cheek.

The reasons women cheat are varied, but remaining in the top few justifications: we just wanna be loved. Attention and affection, per Daily Mail. My motivation is no different. And if getting some affection means going outside the relationship, well, is that so wrong?

I didn’t actually mean to cheat. It crept up on me. I swear.

Just minding my business, drawn in sure and slow by the warmth of unadulterated devotion.

Hubby looked me in the eye and spat, “You’re cheating! And it’s OBVIOUS.”

I stared at him, stunned.

And then he grinned at the little blonde girl wrapped around my middle.

Not our kid. 

My friend’s daughter adores me (and I return the love with wholehearted joy). There’s nothing quite as heady as the pure devotion of a three year old.

However, concerned that it would strain the already difficult relationship (click for info about Reactive Attachment Disorder) with our daughter, I used to limit playing with my little friend with our girl present.

A couple months ago, Hubby encouraged me to stop worrying and just have a good time being the Fun Adopted Auntie.

I’ve followed his advice with unexpected consequences.

Our girl’s jealous. 

A second little friend has made recent advances into Niecedom, doubling the likelihood my girl will see another child hugging me.

The morning Hubby made his laughing accusation of “cheating” on our daughter, my friend’s little sprite climbed all over me, snuggled on my shoulder and dragged me across the crowded Cub Scout gathering by my pinkie.

Five minutes later, our daughter was glued to my side, playing with my hair, rubbing my back. Hubby looked over the heads of our friends and winked as she draped her arms around my neck.

In the past month, she’s snuggled up to me on the couch of her own accord at least five times. And yes, I’m counting. Prior to my little cheating spree, we’ve had about five snuggles in the last six months.

Reactive Attachment Disorder kids tend to save their affection for “safe” individuals. Acquaintances, friends’ mothers, Sunday School teachers, counselors, aunts, grandmothers. People present for the moment, but not for the long term.

If you’re the long term caregiver (especially the mother figure), you’re dangerous to a RAD child. You might worm your way past defenses, convince her to care and then abandon her, just like birth mom (or other original offender). You can’t be allowed to infiltrate. You must be pushed away to prevent more heartache.

I grasp the concept. Understand the impetus behind the behavior. Most of the time, I don’t take it to heart. Much.

Having her take an interest in being my daughter has been refreshing. I’m not banking on it continuing forever, especially since we’re coming up fast on teenagerhood. But it gives me a glimpse of hope.

Just maybe, after she’s done with seventh grade snappiness, eighth grade animosity, ninth grade nastiness and tenth grade tantrums, we can be friends.

They say cheaters never win…but even if it’s temporary, I’ll celebrate this.

Right after I lock up all our spray paint.

 

 

 

 

 

What I Learned at WordCamp Part 3

Continued from Part 2

438136251_bad2e9bff2_b

Photo Credit: John Uit

The third thing I learned at WordCamp 2015: I’m a closet Vegan.

My first exposure to being vegan occurred over twenty years ago. While working at a summer camp, I noticed one of my charges had dry, cracked lips, so bought her a Chapstick at the camp store. (Vegan readers…wait for it…)

When her mom arrived for pickup, she took one look at her daughter’s healing mouth and turned to me. “Did you give her something to put on her lips?”

I smiled and handed her the lip balm. “Yes, Ma’am; don’t worry—I bought her a new tube.”

She. Went. Postal.

Shocked beyond words, I stood mute as she blasted me for not calling her first. A naive eighteen, it never occurred to me that she’d be anything but happy her kid’s lips were no longer bleeding.

“We’re Vegan. This is against our beliefs. Bees made the wax.”

I didn’t know what she meant.

Vegan…like Spock on Star Trek? No…wait. That’s Vulcan.

Searched mental files…nope, nothing.

After she relaxed a bit, I asked her to tell me more about it. To me, a committed omnivore, the vegan way sounded a little crazy.

Two decades later, I still consider eating a TRYathlon.

If it’s edible, it’s fair game. New food? I’m in. (This is why I gained 15 lbs during a month in Trinidad.)

Lovers of all things fuzzy, close your eyes for this next sentence: in Peru, I checked out a local delicacy—guinea pig ravioli.

I say this not to induce death threats from PETA but to prove that I will, in fact, taste almost anything once. Chocolate covered ants are high on my “try it” list.

If you told my camp-counselor-self that I’d someday adore vegetarian or vegan dishes, I might have laughed. It’s true, though. This try-all-foods-at-least-once attitude has led me to love meatless meals.

Attending WordCamp US brought me to a life-altering culinary discovery.

At lunch on Friday (FYI, the food was FABULOUS), I spooned a couple different Philly-cheesesteak-style meats onto my plate without checking the tags.

One of them was the most tender, fall-apart-in-your-mouth beef I’ve ever had.

I raved about it to my friend Ruth, who laughed.

That meat…wasn’t.

Apparently there’s this thing I’d never heard about. Seitan. Ruth, attempting to assist me in pronunciation, explained that it sort of sounds like “satan.”

Me: “So. Somebody chopped the devil into little bits and it tastes like heaven. Who knew?” 

Ruth: Eye roll. (All my friends have this same weird tic. So strange.)

Per Google:

sei·tan
ˈsāˌtan
noun: seitan
  1. a high-protein vegetarian food made from cooked wheat gluten.
Origin
origin uncertain: perhaps from Japanese shokubutsusei tanpaku ‘vegetable protein.’

I understand “cooked wheat gluten” and “vegetable protein” don’t sound enticing—or, for that matter, even palatable. But trust me on this one. Go back and look at that picture above. Yep, seitan. It’s mouth-watering.

Friday evening, I had seitan prepared to taste like chicken. MMMM. At Saturday’s lunch, seitan barbecue. SO good.

I ate a LOT of seitan, skipping “real” meat for the rest of the weekend. Having had…occasional issues…with new foods, I had concerns about potential…repercussions. I’m happy to report that all systems remained in proper working order.

Unless you’re allergic to wheat/gluten, you’ve gotta try it.

Researching my new obsession, I’ve found several recipes to make seitan at home. I haven’t attempted yet (mostly because my kitchen has been upside-down for the last month, but that’s a post for another day). Although you can buy it prepared, DIY sounds more fun.

Check out the Post Punk Kitchen for an apparently foolproof recipe. Isa has a number of other vegan recipes that look incredibly yummy.

For many reasons, I feel extremely fortunate to have had the chance to attend WordCamp US 2015 (and if you’re interested in attending next year, click here for a 2016 ticket. Trust me; the food alone is worth the price).

Finding a unique new fare might not be a major motivating factor for you, but it’s just one of many great reasons to attend.

I mean, where else can you cut the devil into tiny little pieces and chow down?

Wait. Did you just roll your eyes?

You should totally get that tic checked.

WordCamp US 2015

I never manage to keep resolutions I make for the New Year, but this year I’ve set a record!

Resolution: Post every day in January.

Day One: TANK.

I don’t think I’ve ever failed so quickly.

In my defense, a migraine attacked AND we poured concrete countertops in the kitchen, so…my day was a bit full.

Excuses, excuses…I know.

To make up for this, I’d like to give you a special treat: the story of WordCamp US 2015, in pictures.

Actually, I was planning to give you the link anyway, but now I can tell myself yesterday wasn’t a complete wash. Oh, wait. Not lying to myself was also a resolution. Doggone it!

Maybe I can make a resolution to break a resolution every day…now we’re talking!

The event photographers were beyond stellar, both as individuals and as snapshot extraordinaires. Working with them was unbelievable.

I hope you enjoy the story as much as we enjoyed documenting this amazing conference.

Click here!

 

 

 

 

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