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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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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”).

#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. 

Adoption Isn’t Pretty

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Photo Credit: Patrick

I get a little sick when I read articles about pretty families adopting a bunch of kids from difference sources (international, domestic, foster, birthmom, etc.).

The adoption isn’t what makes me ill.

Nor the number of children (usually very high, in these articles).

Not even how they acquired the kids.

The thing that really bugs me is how happy everyone seems.

Unsuspecting, good-hearted people read these articles and think, “Wow, they just adopted enough kids to have their own sports team. Look how happy they are. Everyone gets along. So cool!”

And then they find a real-life adoptive family and tell them how amazing they must be.

And then they sign up to be foster parents and can’t figure out why things aren’t hunky-dory.

What happened to amazing???

And then they think,

“If that family could take in fourteen and a half kids who now succeed in school and have fabulous manners, 

WHY DO I HATE BEING A FOSTER (or Adoptive) PARENT RIGHT NOW?

Preparation and expectations.

I know, I know, I keep going back to this like a monkey with a crack habit.

First of all, if you are in the middle of all the

C

R

A

P

many adoption (or foster) situations entail, please don’t give up. And also, when you read these joyous articles of how their children are together creating a solution to world peace, don’t be fooled.

Don’t get me wrong, there are probably a few really happy families out there who have created Shangri-La in their living rooms.

Let’s just look at the facts, though.

EVERY adopted child has experienced loss, or they wouldn’t be available for adoption.

EVERY adopted child has (or will have) feelings they can’t fully comprehend. These might include anger, grief, denial, abandonment and low self-esteem.

It’s almost impossible for a child to emerge unscathed from a situation that makes them available for adoption.

Traumatized kids need help learning to understand their emotions—and eventually, how to deal with them.

Let’s frame this in perspective.

Put the following adults in a house and make them live together with no prior contact:

  1. Two divorced adults whose partner cheated on them. Non-cheaters were still 100% in love.
  2. Two adults whose parents abused them.
  3. Two adults who had a great life and relationship with parents; both parents just passed away.
  4. Three adults whose spouses died.
  5. An adult who experienced physical harm at the hands of a stranger.
  6. A rape victim.

At first, they’ll all be civil and get along. After a while, it won’t be all sunshine and lollipops.

If you don’t believe me, watch any of the ridiculous (we all know they’re scripted) reality TV shows. Even adults without apparent trauma can’t get along for more than a couple weeks.

And yet.

  • We expect children with similar losses and abuses to move in with people they barely know (sometimes just parents; other times, with other kids) and surf along. No problem. Hakuna Matata.
  • We allow the fairy tale stories touted by the media to make us feel bad about how things go at our house.

 

Here’s the honest truth:

1. ADOPTION is the absolute toughest thing we’ve ever done.

2. There’s no such thing as an adoption fairy tale. Or if there is, I don’t know about it.

3. Adoption will not be anything like you expected.

4. Adoption will be MORE than you expected. More angst. More tears. More trauma. More grief. More celebrations. More relief. More joy. More “I’d do it all again for this kid.”

5. Adoption requires support. Asking for help does not equal weakness.

6. Adoption isn’t (did I mention?) pretty.

7. Adoption is HARD.

8. ADOPTION IS WORTH IT. 

Yes, it’s tough. If you’re in a rough spot, trust me, I get it. Some days, sinking under the bathwater and just…staying…can seem enticing.

I want to be the best mom I can be, so recently signed up to chat with a counselor. Parenting kids of trauma is no joke. Like I told the counselor, we’re in a really good spot right now, but I can’t fully enjoy it, because I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Because it always does.

We get to a point in which we can relax a little, breathe a little deeper, and then BOOM there goes the shoe. (Sometimes it’s more like a steel-toed boot, and instead of just dropping, it drop-kicks us in the Aston Martin…)

But I have to live in the moment, because we DO have “those moments.” The breakthrough. The understanding. The forgiveness. The clarity. The diagnosis.

If you’re in the same situation, I hope you’ll find a little peace here. Know that you’re not alone. We all teeter on the edge sometimes.

And if, like me, you’re waiting for that “next big problem,” let’s learn to forget about the other shoe.

Tomorrow has enough troubles.” Right?

Focus on today, and breathe. God will take care of tomorrow (or for that matter, the next five minutes).

I promise.

*Although I write from my adoption-related experience, one of my blogging buddies pointed out that much of this applies to biological children, as well. What are your thoughts? 


How about you? Feeling overwhelmed? Tell us about it below. We all feel better knowing it’s not “just us.” (Hey, even me…)  🙂 

 

 

 

 

Reddit.com/r/Adoption

If you’re part of an adoptive family (or know one), I highly recommend checking out https://www.reddit.com/r/Adoption. The community has almost 4500 members (birth parents, adoptive parents and adopted children are all welcomed).

This is a recent interaction I had with one of the members. If you have experience with RAD, please chime in!

How long did it take to bond with your child before she started to really see you as parents? What are your current struggles?

Join the conversation on Reddit!

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Photo Credit: Martin Lafrance

Happiest Mother’s Day

For years, I had a favorite Mother’s Day memory. (Which is saying a lot, because after several failed attempts with adoption agencies, Mother’s Day was just one more reminder of what I couldn’t have.)

We were at church. I didn’t really want to be around all those cheerful moms with hips full of toddlers. But we had responsibilities.

Our church actually did a great job of recognizing all women for the role they have in the lives of children. Still, I was at a breaking point. I stood in the auditorium aisle, my path to the bathroom blocked by a large family. All I wanted was to escape and let the tears fall.

Before I could push through the group, I heard my name. Turning, I saw my friend’s young son tearing toward me, pudgy little legs pumping. He leapt into my arms as I knelt to catch him. Throwing himself against me, he buried his face in my hair and said, “Happy Mother’s Day!”

Struggling with my emotions, I hung on tight as people washed past us. He held me just as tight.

I don’t know how he knew, but that little boy saved my Mother’s Day.

I *had* a favorite memory.

This year trumps that day, by far.

For the first time, the kids spontaneously created artwork. I came downstairs to find our son clearing off the kitchen table. (Who is this child?) After church, we went to my favorite restaurant, then to a national park.  The kids SMILED for pictures. Both of them. At the same time.

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Our daughter walked beside me on the trail, her arm around my waist, mine draped across her shoulders.

Our son said, “you’re the best mom in the world.” This is a kid who’s lived with seven families…I feel like he’s sort of an expert on moms. Pretty much one of the most amazing moments of my life.

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We have some pretty tough days with these kids, dealing with PTSD, RAD, ADHD and general behavior craziness. But today was absolute beauty. I’m so thankful for this new favorite memory. And so thankful to Hubby for orchestrating everything.

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Today, truly, is a happy Mother’s Day.

 

 

 

I’m Thrilled about This!

Yesterday my 11 yr old daughter (if you’re new here: she came to us 5 years ago & has Reactive Attachment Disorder), hugged me almost ten times of her own volition. Normally it’s tough to coax one hug.

Either she’s confused me for a barely-known acquaintance 🙂 or we’ve made some serious headway! Sooooooooooo excited.

Now I just have to figure out if there’s a trigger I can replicate. Most likely not, but if there is, you better believe I’ll find it.

I Can’t Hear You…

I ask the usual question as the kids clamber into my truck.*

*Yes, I drive a truck. It’s big and black and bad@$$ and NO I’m not a redneck. I just like my truck. And also Hubby thinks it’s hot. So there’s that.

How was your day?

All the parenting books encourage me to “ask open-ended questions!” in order to elicit enthusiastic and long-winded answers from my children. Obliging my curiosity, they answer with enthusiasm and long-windedness:

He: “Mmmph.”

She: “Ehhhh.”

“Come on guys,” I wheedle, “I know something happened today.” Then it hits me. Ahhh.

“Did your teacher have to speak to you about behavior?”

“It’s all Ellie’s fault,” he explodes. “Stupid Ellie made me have silent lunch!”

I try to catch his eye in the mirror. No dice. “So…how did Ellie make you have silent lunch?”

“I knocked a magnet off the desk,” he says, “and I tried to catch it before it hit the ground and my hand whacked it instead of catching it and it flew across the room and then Ellie said I threw it but I DIDN’T throw it and it was an accident, just an accident. And then I got silent lunch BECAUSE OF ELLIE. IT WAS HER FAULT!”

I wait for him to breathe. “Your teacher seems very fair. I don’t think she’d give you silent lunch just because Ellie said you threw a magnet.”

He wails in rising crescendo as tears fill his eyes.

“If Ellie would stay out of my business 

I wouldn’t have had silent lunch.

IT’S ALL HER FAULT because she gets IN MY BUSINESS ALL THE TIME!”

I try to hide my smile. Good thing I’m driving.

“So,” I say, “your teacher told you, ‘I’m giving you silent lunch because Ellie got in your business,’ is that right?”

“Mmph. No.”

By this time, we’ve parked at the house. I turn around. “Look at me.” He does, defiant. “I think you’re not telling me the whole story. Tell me from the beginning.”

He sighs. “I knocked the magnet off and it went across the room. Ellie said I threw it. I said I didn’t. I called the teacher over, like you said to do when I have trouble.”

I nod. “And what did the teacher say?”

“She said it wasn’t a big deal and not to worry about it.” He leans back, arms folded. “But it WAS a big deal because Ellie keeps getting in my business!”

Ah. Lightbulb.

“And did you tell the teacher Ellie was ‘getting in your business’ after she said it was fine?”

“Yes,” he growls, “and then she gave me silent lunch. See? It’s Ellie’s fault!”

“You told her about Ellie just once?” I ask.

“Well…no. I wanted her to do something about Ellie and how she gets in my business so I kept telling her about it.”

I see he’s beginning to comprehend the problem. “How many times do you think you told her about Ellie?”

“A bunch of times.”

“And what did she say?”

“That I should forget about it and get back to work. But Ellie ALWAYS does it. And then I get in trouble,” he grumbles.

“So, let me make sure I understand. You hit the magnet accidentally. Ellie said you threw it. The teacher said not to worry about it. And then you kept complaining about Ellie to the teacher and wouldn’t stop when she told you to let it go. Does that sound about right?” I scoot around further in my seat so I can see his eyes.

“Yeah.”

“So,” I said, “look at me. Tell me—and be honest—whose fault was your silent lunch?”

He glares. “Hers,” he begins, then falters. “Mine. My fault.”

“Why?”

“Because I wouldn’t stop talking when the teacher said to stop.”

“Exactly.” I sigh. “Why do you care so much about what people say about you, anyway?”

“Because they’re in my bus—” he begins.

“Stop.” I say. He looks up. “The last five or six times you’ve been in trouble, it’s because you’re pitching a fit over someone ‘in your business,’ but if you’d just let it go, you probably wouldn’t be in trouble, right?”

He nods.

“Do you actually get in trouble when kids tell the teacher you’ve done something?”

He shakes his head. “Nah.”

“Right. Because you guys are in the FOURTH GRADE. Everyone knows that fourth graders are some of the biggest tattle-tales ever. The teacher isn’t going to give you a consequence unless she—or another adult—sees you. Right?”

Eyes wide, he says, “All fourth graders are tattle-tales?”

I nod, solemn. “It’s true. Everybody knows it. So why do you care what they say? You know, you should care about the people who can affect your life. Do you know who those people are?”

He shakes his head.

“Your teachers. Of course, you should be nice to the kids in your class, but when it comes to what they think of you…the teacher is where you should focus.  No matter what grade you’re in, don’t worry about what other kids say. They’re just kids. And a bunch of them will end up in jail, anyway, so who cares what they think.”

Eyes wide, he peers around my seat. “In jail?”

I grin. “Well, that’s what happened to some of the kids I knew. On the other hand, some of them ended up in government. Almost as bad. But don’t go to school telling your friends they’re going to jail. I don’t need a call from the principal.”

Laughing, he says, “So. I should just worry about what the adults think of me.”

“More or less,” I agree. “Be kind to all your classmates, and if they accuse you of something, just ignore it. Make your teacher happy. You’ll get into less trouble. And seriously, a teacher might even give you a job reference someday.”

He hops down and opens the driver door, squinting up at me. “No kidding?”

“No kidding,” I say, as he climbs up next to me. “In fact, I saw my tenth grade Biology teacher just last month. She told me she remembered a science fiction story I wrote. That was over twenty years ago. You never knew what someone might remember; make sure it’s good.”

He hugs me. “I’m glad we talked about it. Can I put my fingers in my ears and say, ‘I can’t heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeear youuuuuuuu’ when they bother me?”

I grimace. “No, please don’t.”

“I’ll try to do more ignoring. But I’m not very good at it.” He shrugs.

“Yeah,” I say. “Sometimes I have a hard time ignoring people, too. You know, when they found out we were adopting, some people told us not to do it. What do you think we did?”

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Photo Credit: Luca Prasso

“You ignored them,” he crows. “Good thing, too. Huh, mama?”

Yep. Good thing.


 

So. How was your day?

 

 

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