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Adoption= Insanity? (Chapter 1: Only Try This if You’re Crazy)

**Four years ago to the week, this was my first post on Hypervigilant. Ah, memories…

Ever notice the words “adoption” and “insanity” have the same number of letters?

Coincidence? I think not.

It’s been almost three years since the Wednesday they arrived, dropped off by another foster parent. 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. Married ten years, with approximately 20 years of “kid experience” between us, we thought we could handle it. The kiddos, then 5 and newly-turned-7, had met us and seemed to like us. Surely, this would be a breeze. They were so teeny and adorable..like baby jackals.

Surely 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. During the course of the meal, they ate pasta and sauce with their hands  (unwilling to use apparently foreign utensils), spilled six (count ’em, six) cups of pink lemonade – including a huge trip-fall-splatter that involved about a third of the floor space, and the five year old ate a napkin. Ate a napkin.

Well, ate might be 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, “Fine. Swallow it. It’ll probably stop you up and you won’t poop for a week.” The game was no longer fun. He swiftly deposited the mass of wet fibers onto the floor.

We arrived home past bedtime, exhausted, but bathing could not be skipped, as the kids were literally covered 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.

We wanted to get them into bed quickly, so 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. 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, who had been entertaining the five year old, opened the door slightly. “What in the world is happening in there? What did you do?” More screaming. What did I do? Clearly, I lost my mind and brought an insanely scary spirit-possessed child into the house.

Finally, as the decibels reached somewhere between ear-piercing and drum-bleeding, I regained my conscious mind and turned off the shower. Screaming stopped, immediately. 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. The child then washed the remnants of dinner from her hair, calmly and apparently in her right mind.

We didn’t attempt another shower for the next year. Then, 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 said casually. “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 spontaneously 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…

My mom says she doesn’t remember the hours of childbirth because the joy of seeing the baby’s face “erased the memory.” 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.

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Reconciliation

Sometimes, while reading my Bible, I find a passage reworking itself in my head. No sacrilege, just applying it to my current situation.

I know what it is to respect the Lord, and when I try to see through His eyes, I know He wants me to try to persuade others to follow His example, advocating for children and for reconciliation.

God knows my intent is pure and I hope you can see this, too. When I write about the our lives, I don’t write to brag or in hope that you will hold us up as an example of perfection. I write to give you hope and the knowledge that you are not alone. To be honest, some people think we are out of our minds. If we’re insane, we’re crazy with intention. Christ loved everyone, and His love compels me to love others, specifically vulnerable children with no protector.

He died for everyone and rose again, to show that He is making a second chance available to every individual. If He wants to give a second chance to all, how can I do otherwise? Because of what He did for me, how can I do anything but live for him and do my best to advocate for those who need help?

I used to see through my own eyes, but now I try to look through the eyes of Jesus. Anyone who sees through His eyes sees in a new way. God reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the example of the ministry of reconciliation. God reconciled the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.

And He has now given us the responsibility to spread the word; it is our duty to promote reconciliation. We choose to be ambassadors of this great love; God is making this appeal through us. I implore you on behalf of Jesus: be reconciled to God and bring reconciliation to others, so their lives and families will be preserved. 

2 Corinthians 5:11-21, UCV (Unauthorized Casey Version)

Reconciliation is a lifelong ministry of bringing others to know a great love. What better example of God’s love and reconciliation than the love of a parent who will do whatever it takes for a child?

The initial intent of the foster care system should never be to remove children from their original parents.

Sometimes, as in our situation, the abuse is so great there is no other choice, but in many cases, the biological family simply is missing something necessary to survival. Helping a family achieve reconciliation and forgiveness is an amazing opportunity.

Before I truly understood foster care, I was one of the would-be adopters who refused to consider foster care because “it would kill me if the child were removed” from my home after I’d formed an attachment. I’ve heard this sentiment from a number of other people.

We need to reconsider our understanding of foster care. It is not a means to adopt (although this may happen). It is a ministry of reconciliation.

God gave us the original blueprint, doing everything possible to create a connection. We need to approach foster care in a similar manner, being willing to do everything we can to enable families to remain together.

Your thoughts?

Wishes

I’m sitting next to a family.

Two parents with three most-likely-bio sons. I watch the oldest roll his eyes as the youngest runs around the cafe, repeating with gusto,

“I spy with my little eye…”

The middle boy colors quietly by himself.

I don’t know the names of the older boys.

The youngest is definitely named Liam.

Father and mother halfheartedly chase the towheaded toddler in turns, calling his name.

He expertly ignores, then evades them.

It is a blissful scene of family togetherness, childhood glee and parental exasperation.

Sometimes I watch other people with their children, heart aching.

Wishing.

Grieving.

I am not the woman who gave my children life.

Every so often, I wonder whether things would be different if I’d held them in my arms from birth.

But

a few days ago

I saw a lady watching as my daughter and I walked through the store

arms wrapped around each others’ shoulders

being our goofy selves

and laughing.

The woman’s eyes sparkled with tears.

I wondered about her story.

And it hit me.

We all watch each other.

Wishing.

Grieving our personal losses.

Assuming others have a better, happier life.

She has no idea of the depths of hell from which my girl and I have fought our way back to be mother and daughter.

She can’t imagine the years of despairing whether we’d ever have a relationship.

I reconsider some of my wishing.

Maybe Liam’s family lets him have run of the place because he’s recently had his third round of chemo and they don’t know if it will work. Maybe they seem happy together because it might be the last time.

None of us has any idea what the others’ lives are like, and yet, we wish.

A few weeks ago, I talked with a friend I’ve always seen as the epitome of happy and positive. We lost touch after college for over fifteen years. Three minutes into the phone call, our friendship was all caught up. She’s the same sunny girl.

Five minutes in, we’d spilled our guts.

Our adoption journey. Their many miscarriages.

Everyone has a difficult patch in life to overcome.

We all have our own battles, and none of us really knows what others endure.

I’m a born advocate; when I read Isaiah 1:17, Proverbs 31:8 and and Isaiah 58:6-11, I feel they were written to me personally.

Isaiah 1:17 New International Version (NIV)

17 Learn to do right; seek justice.
    Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
    plead the case of the widow.

Proverbs 31:8 New International Reader’s Version (NIRV)

Speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves.
    Speak up for the rights of all those who are poor.

 

I can fight for what others (e.g., my kids) need all day long. But if I’m honest, miscarriages would utterly destroy me. God knew what I could handle.

God knew beforehand this was going to be my life, so I’m fully prepped to fight, love and pray my way through the hard times.

Maybe I just need to focus a little more on being thankful I’m equipped for this life, instead of wishing for someone else’s battle.

 

 

Isaiah 58:6-11, NIRV

Set free those who are held by chains without any reason.
    Untie the ropes that hold people as slaves.
Set free those who are crushed.
    Break every evil chain.

Share your food with hungry people.
    Provide homeless people with a place to stay.
Give naked people clothes to wear.
    Provide for the needs of your own family.

Then the light of my blessing will shine on you like the rising sun.
    I will heal you quickly.
I will march out ahead of you.
    And my glory will follow behind you and guard you.
    That’s because I always do what is right.

You will call out to me for help.
    And I will answer you.
You will cry out.
    And I will say, ‘Here I am.’

 Get rid of the chains you use to hold others down.
    Stop pointing your finger at others as if they had done something wrong.
    Stop saying harmful things about them.

Work hard to feed hungry people.
    Satisfy the needs of those who are crushed.
Then my blessing will light up your darkness.
    And the night of your suffering will become as bright as the noonday sun.

 I will always guide you.
    I will satisfy your needs in a land baked by the sun.
    I will make you stronger.
You will be like a garden that has plenty of water.
    You will be like a spring whose water never runs dry.

 

 

 

Five Years Ago Today

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Photo by Courtney

Five.

Five years ago today was also a Wednesday.

I remember that Wednesday, sharp and clear as a photograph.

I remember the warm, golden sunlight of a late Autumn afternoon streaming through the leaves, pulling them from the branches.

I remember the soft, caressing breeze teasing through my hair, wrapping through and past our little group.

I remember the strong hug as my friend, also a foster mom, dropped the kids at our back door.

I remember her fierce whisper. “You’re going to be a GREAT mom.”

I remember the tears stinging my eyes and the concerned little faces gazing up at me.

“Why are you crying?”

“Are you sad?”

It was their first introduction to what we call “happy tears.”

I remember the incessant chatter, the celebration of having “my own room in my favorite color” and the wonder of suddenly being “the four of us.”

My memories are colored by everything I knew in my heart to be true. From the moment we met, they belonged to us. I harbored no doubt. 

Funny, how shared memories of the same instant can be so different. 

In their perception, we were just another foster home. The seventh, to be exact, in just over two years. To them, we were nothing more than adults who would eventually give up and request their removal. A couple of unknown aliens.

My friend provided respite care for them twice and was kind enough to let us spend time with the kids, knowing we were in process with social services. The children were unaware but every time they saw us before our placement, they begged us to come let them live with us, especially after visiting our home. Looking back, I see all the signs of attachment deficiency. At the time, we thought it was a sign.

Meant to be.

In reality, they were desperate to find somewhere, anywhere other than their current foster home with the ten-year-old monster who threatened to kill them in their sleep.

Their attachment was so disrupted, they’d have willingly followed anyone who offered them cupcakes or soda.

Today, on the way to an appointment (car rides are the best discussion times), we reminisced. The children remembered the terror. The confusion. The adaptation to an unknown environment and new adult caregivers.

“I kept screaming because everything was new and it all hurt. Even taking a shower. That’s why I liked baths. I’m used to the shower now.” My daughter stated this with nonchalance. Old news, the months of screaming.

I cringed and gritted my teeth, thanking God we never have to endure that again.

“I don’t know why he screamed all the time,” she said, with a preteen eye-roll she’s beginning to perfect. “I only screamed when I didn’t want to do something. He just screamed for hours. For no reason.”

Her description was accurate.

I waited for his verbal retaliation. None came. I wished for the millionth time that science fiction memory-wipes were real. That we could erase the trauma.

“Can we go ride roller coasters again next summer?” His incongruous question signaled he’d had enough.

She wasn’t done.

“We had a lot of bad people before we came to you. I think today is something to celebrate.”

I agreed, and at the mention of celebrating, he rejoined the conversation.

“Can we get pizza?”

Absolutely. 

***

If you like, read a more detailed description of our first day, written two years ago. The napkin bit is sort of gross…sorry. 

 

Trauma Mama

I can’t figure out how to reblog this page, so here’s the link. Her blog is fabulous and this link sends you straight to a bunch of great books and resources.

Click below for the

Super Resource List by one of my favorite trauma mamas.

Help a Girl Out?

At some point, we’ve all searched for parenting or adoption or mental health resources.

I’m compiling a list…please forward me links, book titles, etc.

If everyone sends 2, we’ll have

over 1000 resources

on our list!

(I’m assuming there will be some overlap.)

People need help. Let’s be the community where they find hope, healing and health. 

Add info in the comments or email me: Casey@hypervigilant.org

*Commentary on the resource is helpful but not required (e.g., “great guide to first-year parenting,” or, “this agency provides post-adoption support in Cambridge, UK”).

We Don’t Need No…

I just read a post by a mom who hopes to stop using an IEP for her special needs son.

Read her article (here) and then add your thoughts below.

Here’s my response:

I see your point, but I think I’d have to side with your hubby IF your boy is like ours (and the description is all too familiar). Here’s my reasoning: I’m not looking for legal protection against bad behavior; you’re absolutely right about consequences. Kids need to experience cause and effect.

However, the IEP forces people around him to consider his differences and be more understanding. I’ll give you an example.

At a theme park, I waited in line with everyone else to get my food. A young man (late teens) walked up, pushed past me, grabbed the food he wanted and pushed me out of his way again on his way back. He didn’t apologize; instead, he called happily to his mother, “I got the last one before anyone could take it!”

His mother, looking mortified and frazzled, told him to apologize. When he just stood there staring at the plate, she said, “I’m really sorry. He doesn’t realize.”

Having personal experience with Autism, I was fairly certain of the situation. Without that experience, I would have seen an incredibly rude young man whose mother obviously did not rear him with manners.

BUT his mother’s reaction confirmed what I suspected. Instead of being annoyed, I felt very happy for her that she could bring her son to a place like amusement park. So many kids on the Spectrum would be too overwhelmed to function in the chaos.

Of course, an IEP won’t help in public, but it will release some of the pressure in other settings. Asking people to treat a kid with differences as Neurotypical is unfair to all parties. He needs at least one safe place where people will attempt to understand.

My boy has made great strides but any teacher who expects a model student will be disappointed.

Unmet expectations = frustration.

The IEP allows reasonable expectations.

I don’t excuse inappropriate behavior and our school staff members know that. But there’s a difference in motive to be considered: a belligerent kid snapping pencils in half vs. the overwhelmed kid trying to deal with too much sensory input. Both look the same on the outside.

An IEP gives the teacher extra insight regarding whether this kid who refuses to stop snapping pencils should be sent to the principal or given a few minutes in a quiet corner away from chaos.

So anyway…that’s my two cents.

What do YOU think?

#MicroblogMondays

 

I’m not the most dedicated blogger in the world, mostly because I am a perfectionist and like to get my posts just right before I post them (which takes a loooooong time).

I think Stirrup Queen’s Microblog idea might help.

What is Microblogging?  Click the link to find out. 😉

I’m also pretty bad at consistency, so this might be my only one.

Short and sweet blog post, once a week with up to eight sentences. Maybe you should try it, too!

And…that’s eight.

 

About the About Page

I updated the “About” page. Is this better, or worse?

(And yes, I found the Text Color button…to save your eyes, I tried not to get crazy.)

Trying to make the site more readable; I appreciate your feedback.*

*Like, seriously. If you hate the page, please tell me how to make it better.  🙂

 

Nutshell if you’re in a rush:

Hi, I’m Casey.

Hubby and I adopted two very traumatized kids through foster care. Our social worker called me hypervigilant (because I wanted her to do her job*) and now I write at Hypervigilant.org.

Resources for families of adopted children proved difficult to find; once we were right-side-up again, Hubby urged me to share our experiences. YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Find HOPE here. And also lots of cyber-hugs. 

*No offense if you’re a good SW. I know good ones are out there and we appreciate all you do.

Details of our story if you have a minute:

Hubby and I adopted two wild hyenas and lived to tell about it (and so have they), and now I’m sharing the saga with you. I share personal experience and thoughts from adult adoptees (some of the best resources EVER for figuring out how to help kids). 

I started writing for anyone involved in adoption, but adoptive or not, consider yourself invited.

Stay a while; speak your mind. I love hearing your perspective. Some of the best parenting advice comes from people without kids, because their brains aren’t fried on square pants and the Lego movie theme song.

If you have no personal connection with adoption, but you read this blog and think “Geez, why doesn’t she just try _____,” please share suggestions. It takes a village to raise an idiot—I mean, child.

Similarly, it takes a blogging community to keep the child’s parents from singing EVERYTHING IS AWESOMMMMMMMMMMMME to the bank teller.

Everyone needs hope and the occasional laugh. I try to provide both by sharing the truth about adoption with an honest picture of our wins and mishaps. I also write a little fiction on the side. These are my favorites.

Alternately, you can read Adoption = for the same reason Hubby watches Cops: “Well, at least we’re not THAT crazy.”

Find hope here, whether you are in a beautiful moment of triumph, in the middle of ongoing battles, in the throes of a nervous breakdown or wishing you could just give those kids back to someone. Anyone.

(No, this does not make you a bad person. You WILL get through it. Please do not give your child to the grocery clerk with the kind eyes.)

I don’t have all the answers, but I’m happy to give you what I’ve got. If Hubby and I can endure HellonEarth and keep two kids alive (which is sometimes a bit harder than it sounds), so can you.

If you are in the circle of an adopted child or adoptive parent, sometimes you will feel like walking away. Please don’t. They need all the help they can get. You’ll see what I mean. There’s a LOT they aren’t telling, because they don’t want you to run away screaming.

Adoption can feel very isolating. Almost like Witness Protection.

If you’ve read this far, thanks for hanging in with me. Tenacity is an excellent quality for dealing with adopted children. Also, you’ll need patience, empathy, and the ability to open a big ol’ can of whoop-a—oh, sorry…I mean…the ability to guide darling children through extremely difficult emotional ups and downs.

Actually, the can of whoop will likely be necessary for the social worker or other adult standing in the way of what your child needs. Keep it on hand.

Our kids will choose our nursing homes. I, for one, do not plan to end my days living in a storage unit with a bare bulb for heat. Especially now that we have to use those energy-efficient ones.

Let’s get this right.

Happy reading,

Casey

Casey Alexander writes and lives with her amazing, talented Hubby and two wonderful (and sometimes very weird) adopted children, along with three dogs and six outdoor cats. And also a hawk, who hangs around hoping to steal a cat (as the kids have grown too large). 

List of Great Adoption Blogs

I recently learned something cool:

along with a bunch of other awesome sites,

Hypervigilant.org is included in a “Best Adoption Blogs” list!

Looking for new reads and fresh perspectives? Start here:

 

Home » Adoption » Best Adoption Blogs

Best Adoption Blogs

Great list of adoption blogs

The sheer number of adoption bloggers online is overwhelming. We have attempted to help you out by weeding through and selecting our favorites. Please let us know via ourcontact page any of your favorites that we’ve missed.

+ Adoption (General)

  • Adoption Toolbox – Mom who adopted from China whose kids are now teens. Writes about general adoptive parenting, being an “older mom, parenting adopted teens/tweens.
  • Extraordinary Moms Network – This faith-based group provides support, love, encouragement and guidance for adoptive mothers and foster moms, mothers of special needs children, and all women who invest their lives in other people’s children.
  • Land of Gazillion Adoptees – Highlighting the expertise, accomplishments, programs, projects, and stories adoptees. It aims to be “adoptee-centric by: challenging the adoption status quo; challenging the traditional adoption narrative; challenging adoptees; and being challenged by all.
  • Stirrup Queen’s Mega Blog List – This is the mother of all blogrolls. Every blog on infertility and adoption ever created, or just about, is listed on this magnificent collection of blogs. The blogroll is actually searchable, which is wonderful.
+ Foster Care Adoption

  • Seeds of Hope – Great blog by a mom who adopted a singleton at 19 months from foster care in 1999, then a sibling set of 3 under the age of 6 in 2009, then another sibling set of 3 under the age of 8 in 2013. She mentors other foster/adopt families. Her experience covers lots of different age ranges and diagnoses.
  • Three Pink Diamonds – Mom of 3 siblings adopted from foster care in the UK. She blogs about becoming an instant family of five after years of struggling with infertility.
  • Journey to Josie – Mother to two children adopted as infants through foster care.
  • Fosterhood in NYC – Written by a younger woman who has fostered multiple children, and now is in the process of adopting a daughter that she is currently fostering.
  • Popp Life – A mother of five – three biological children, and two that are in the process of being adopted through foster care.
  • Foster Parenting Podcast – This is a podcast, not a blog, but it has helpful information about foster care adoption parenting. It is not currently adding new shows, but all past shows are available to listen through a computer or download to phone, tablet, or iPod.
  • Barren to Blessed – The author of this blog had a hysterectomy at age 11 to save her life from a bacterial infection. She now is a mom of two kids through foster care adoption, and is in the process of adopting a third child. She writes about her experience with both infertility and adoption.
  • The Lewis Note – Mother of two – one biological, and one that is being adopted through foster care. She also suffers from secondary infertility, and is going through the process of getting tested to figure out the cause.
  • From Instant to Forever – This lady is a veteran of dealing with the foster care system. She fostered a sibling group of six (chronicled on Instant Mama), and is now a mother to a sibling group of five through foster care adoption.
  • Word from the Wallaces – Family adopting from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Also foster parents to two kids and bio parents to two young kids. She’s a good writer and a prolific blogger. She also blogs about her faith and what God is doing in her life through adoption.  She also blogs at Light Breaks Forth.
  • Blogging for Baby Shayla – Mom of three by adoption from US foster care and China
  • Millions of Miles – Adopted a child from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and are beginning the process of becoming foster parents.
  • Hypervigilant – I love this blog! She blogs mainly on fostering, but she is also adopted from foster care and talks about that experience as well. This is a must read for those considering foster care or foster care adoption. Blog by a mom who adopted a 5 and 7 year old from foster care. She doesn’t hold back in sharing the joys and the challenges.

 

THANKS to https://creatingafamily.org for including Hypervigilant!  Check out the site directly for additional blogs and information. 

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