Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Adoption is Natural

We had a funny moment today at the supermarket. The girls and I had zipped over to pick up a few items before Josh's bus was due to arrive at home. To "help" the girls to be cooperative during the short time that I had to pick up Josh's meds at the grocery store pharmacy, I gave them sugary snacks. By the time we were at the check out counter, they were very energized, outgoing and . . . effervescent!

The cashier noticed that they were calling each other "sister" and asked if they were twins. When I said, "No, they're a year minus three days apart", she said, "Yeah, they don't really look much alike". I don't usually do this but I offered the information that, "in our family, two of our kids are adopted and one is biological". Upon hearing this, Hope started loudly spouting, "I'm adopted! I'm adopted!" Not to be outdone, Anna began loudly saying, "I'm not adopted! I'm from my Mommy's belly!" It spiraled quickly into a game of who could talk faster and louder and they soon erupted into a chorus of giggles.

Adoption is pretty normal in our family. We've worked hard for it not to be a strange, secret, or shameful thing. By now, it's just a fact of life. Hope has a birth mom that's not in our family and Anna's birth mom happens to be the same person as her mom. "We're all different!" is our family mantra. Everyone in our family has a different ethnic composition. Being different is normal.

Actually, since my husband and Josh are also adopted, the adoptees are the majority in our family. Anna has had her struggles with NOT being adopted and has voiced that she wishes that SHE had a birth mom outside of our family who took her out to ice cream. I've tried to tell her that I am both her mom and her birth mom and that I could take her out to ice cream. She informed me that I don't count. (So much for 27 hours of labor and then giving birth to a 10 pound 3 ounce little girl.) She also wishes that she had an adoption agency that gave her a special teddy bear like Hope and Joshua's agency did.

I'm sure that the struggles will change over time but I hope that they will be based on a foundation of safety and security in being loved.

My girls are getting to be better friends as the days go by. Sure, they still fight and whine but they are very close. I love to hear them talking after I have put them down for the night. I listen in as they debrief their days, talk about school, and even quietly sing songs together.
They pretend to have a secret language that only they can speak or understand. They make each other laugh A LOT.

I also love that Hope and Anna share a bond with their brother. Each in their own way, they have such a natural love for their brother. Anna is often concerned about Josh's safety. Hope gets very angry if we chastise him. If we are driving in the car without him, one of them will inevitably ask, "Where's Josh" or "When are we going to pick up Josh?" He is an important part of their world, even though he doesn't do a lot of the things that another older brother might do.

I love knowing, with absolute confidence, that God has brought our little brood together. We are held together by a bond that is stronger than blood.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Sometimes, Things Just Don't Work Out

Soccer Mom. Part of me disdains that term because it makes me think of being part of a "demographic" that politicians target. I want to say, yes, I drive a minivan and I live in suburban America but don't peg me as just a "soccer mom". I'm about more than just the activities of my kids, you know. Don't define me by what my kids do. Blah, blah, blah.

However, truth be told, part of me wants to join that club. Deep inside, I WISH that I had to schlep my 9 year old son to practices and games all around town. I want to be able to complain that he "is eating us out of house and home because he's so active all the time!" as some other moms do. It would be nice to have to get to know a whole team full of other boys who run around and get really dirty and sweaty together. I would bring healthy snacks and maybe have some of them over for playdates (or is it called just "hanging out" when you are 9 years old?).

Alas, team sports is a universe away from where my son lives. Josh is still a one to one kind of guy. He needs a parent or an aide with him for any activity. Otherwise, he could wander off or spend hours walking in circles or spiral into a long session of crying and screaming.

I had resigned to never get a chance to be a soccer mom until my girls were older. Until I heard about AYSO VIP soccer. It's a branch of AYSO that's specifically for kids with special needs. I checked out the website and it said that they have individual volunteers for each kid who needs a buddy. It was also very local and free. I decided to check it out.

The first session was awesome. All of the team members got free, bright green, matching uniforms. The older special needs kids have been doing this for many seasons and had a lot of enthusiasm and team identity. After warm ups, they began with a team cheer, "Ho, Ho, Ho Green Giants! Yeahhhhh!!! " Several kids with Downs Syndrome were ablaze with excitement and enthusiasm, bursting out in cheers at random times. One kid was completely blind but ran around chasing a ball with a beeper with a buddy with him at all times. It was actually pretty inspiring and beautiful.

Josh was not thrilled or motivated but he was willing to go with it. His vision is good enough to see a soccer ball, though probably not good enough to want to run around chasing it. He got paired with a volunteer lady with a crazy "can do" spirit who patiently got Joshua to kick that ball around quite a bit, even dribbling around cones for a bit. He whined the whole time and kept asking to "go for a ride in the car" but he did it.

However, the next times were not as good. He got paired with other buddies, sometimes kids who were not much older than he is, who did not "get" him or how to work with him. My husband works on Sundays so I had my wiggly girls along with me. At one point, I had taken my girls over to the playground on the other side of the park for a bit. When I returned, Josh was laying on his back, screaming and kicking anyone who tried to engage him or be near him. His buddy had clearly had it and looked very panicky. No one knew what to do.

It was at that moment, that I realized that soccer, even soccer for special needs kids, was not going to work out. Sometimes, things just don't work out. Kids don't fit into neat templates of what a lot of other kids do at their age. Activities are supposed to challenge but not torture our kids. The fact that I had done reams of paperwork to register for AYSO VIP soccer does not mean that he has to keep doing this thing that he clearly did not enjoy. My fantasy of being a normal soccer mom does not get to determine what Josh's activities will be. We tried it. It didn't work. That's ok.

I packed everyone up and took everyone to the closest coffee shop. The kids were thrilled to each get a cup of ice water and a straw. (Sometimes, it really doesn't take much, to make these people happy.) I splurged on a very large latte for myself. We went to another park to play in a more relaxed context. I took some pictures of my beloved boy in his cute soccer uniform, knowing that it would be the last time he wore it. Maybe we'll try Special Olympics track and field next.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Pasta Therapy

Tuesdays are the night that my husband regularly stays late at work. They are also the day when behavior issues in my kids usually spike. Today was no exception.

The day was long. The house was a mess. The needs were many. By the time I put them all to bed, I was unfathomably tired. Launching into the dishes, I realized that all I had eaten for dinner was a slice of melon, two pizza crusts and a random piece of candy that I found in a tupperware (don't ask). It's quite possible that I had stuffed other things into my mouth while moving at the speed of light around my kitchen but I couldn't remember.

I was about to smear some peanut butter (that was already out on the counter) onto a piece of bread and eat it while cleaning when, for some reason, I found myself chopping a random piece of garlic. I chopped a few more. Then I browned it in a pan with some olive oil and the smell of it was wonderful and soothing. Inspired, I cut up a few ripe tomatoes from my garden and put that in along with some basil and a half an onion. I rummaged around my freezer and found some frozen shrimp. I pulled out some cold pasta (some in the shape of wagon wheels and some in the shape of Scooby Doo) from the fridge and realized that I was actually cooking a meal for me; yes, just for me. Well, while we're at it, let's squeeze in some lemon juice, and a few spoonfuls of capers. I finished it off with salt, fresh ground pepper and some shredded parmesan.

Then, I did something strange and unusual. I poured a glass of blood orange soda and sat down at my dining table with my pasta and I ate it. I did not multi-task for those 10 minutes. I did not read the paper. I did not check my email. I did not contemplate my to-do list. I let the dirty dishes and Joshua's unfilled pill box just sit in my kitchen while I enjoyed the taste of my dinner. And while I just sat and ate this fabulous thing that I had cooked FOR MYSELF, I felt my own sense of value and self respect increase in my own soul.