Sunday, September 23, 2012

I used to

admire foster parents.  They are the ones who take the tough children and have to keep giving them back to a relentless system that has no answers for the pain and struggle.  Now I envy them.  They are allowed boundaries.  After they have struggled and loved and given all they have and banged their heads against the wall and rent open their hearts, they can say Enough! and pass the children onto a fresh heart, a renewed head.

Adoptive parents don't have that luxury.  After we've banged our heads against the wall, we do it some more and then some more and then still more until we are bloody and raw.  We rend our hearts open  to be stepped on and broken into a million pieces and still there is nobody, still we are the only ones standing, loving our children and doing the best we can.  It's a hard, lonely place to be.  The very lucky ones among us will have a few standing around us, offering band-aids and holding our hands.  There is not much more they can do.

I haven't posted here in a long time.  It's been a really hard year, an impossible journey.  And here is what I have learned about our "system".

  • Those who can help, won't.  
  • Those who will, can't.
  • If you lower the standard far enough, everyone can "succeed".
  • Schools can be places of neglect, arrogance and abuse or safe havens - it all depends upon whether those in authority are more concerned about self-preservation or the preservation of the souls, hearts and minds of children.
  • Most choose to self-preserve.
  • Those who choose the children should be cherished as the greatest treasures one can find.
  • Those who self-preserve will do all they can to break those who choose the children and when they have broken someone they will consider themselves a Winner (although most will not admit this).  The child is no consideration at all.
  • Those who choose the children will close the doors, turn off the world and inwardly weep with you.  Then you know whose hearts are still intact even though they speak in the secret code of child preservers lest they be routed out and forced to convert to those who self-preserve.
  • Those who self-preserve are intimidated by intelligence, love, sound logic and anything that attempts to pierce the heart and make them feel, pierce the mind and make them think, pierce their boxes and make them create something new.  They will fight hard and dirty to avoid confronting any and all of these things. (and if they read this they will fight to prove my point)
  • Even Very Strong people can be broken.
  • The mentally ill are truly the "least of these".  Their illnesses will quickly tear and rend all those around them or slowly drip all the sanity out of them.  For the most part, they go unnoticed by the "world".
  • Our "system" is broken beyond repair.  It cannot identify or help the mentally ill and their families.  It must be torn down and replaced with a new model.  Until then, the "system" itself will continue to perpetuate illness in the madness it creates in neglecting the needs of those who need it the most.
  • The "system" has no ears with which to hear.
I hope the Winners are happy.  I hope they can sleep with themselves at night because I can't sleep at night.  I worry about my children, my family all.night.long.   I get up in the morning and have to face another day of living, breathing, walking proof that my child will be neglected as soon as she leaves my house and gets on a bus and walks into a school.  I was broken by a school 30 years ago.  I thought surely it would be different.  It's been a long time, it's a different school, different people.  But the same "system" continues to neglect and abandon children.  And now I've been broken again.  I fought so.hard to get my child what she needs, to get someone to notice, to get someone to feel, to care, to help.  But I can't fight a standard that sets up mental illness as the norm and then labels it healthy and good.  I don't get the luxury of calling things what they are because those things have already been renamed by the people with the power to make decisions.  I am wrong, guilty until beaten into submission.  When I can agree, then I will be right.   I will not agree so I fear I will never be right.  Instead I am broken against this wall of  Craziness.  Everything is upside down.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

An Open Letter to Adoptive Parents who Haven't Heard it Yet

Dear Parents,

You know who you are.  You're the one who had a dream, a hope, a vision of a family in love and intact.  You traveled to a foreign country, you pored through websites and adoption listings, you went through the nail-biting hassles of  a homestudy and finally your family was formed!  It was bliss, a match made in Heaven, prayers answered and battles fought and won.  The early days, weeks were a little different than you expected but, you said, my love will be enough.  We will get through this.  It's an adjustment for all of us.  It's going to be ok.

And then every day got more difficult than the day before.  Parenting turned from a joy to a chore to a chain.  Somewhere along the way something went awry, the dream became sleepless nights, the battles moved from fighting for your children to fighting against them. 

Nobody told you it was going to be this hard.  Nobody told you what it feels like when your child reacts every time you try to attach your love to her.  Nobody warned you about day after day after day the same problems that never get solved, the same lessons that go unlearned.  Nobody explained how to talk to a child who doesn't seem to understand right from wrong. And nobody sees the thousands of little things that add up to a cavernous longing in your heart and ache in your head.

And now you feel so alone.  Your child looks so normal, so happy.  He's a little what.  She has moods, don't we all?  He's so well-behaved and you think If you only knew....  As you parry "Is he your real son?" with "Of course he's mine" you play in your mind the tape of his voice saying You're not my mother, I don't belong here, I should just go back....As you smile and say what a blessing adoption is, you inwardly groan at your own words.

You know who you are.  You're the one crying in your pillow every night, racked with guilt for even beginning to think that maybe this is the wrong child for you.  You're the one either too afraid to talk to God or silently shaking your fist at Him.  You're the one who has learned patience beyond endurance.  You're the one who is afraid to go to one more doctor, one more therapist and yet longing to hear someone put a label, an explanation, to the confusion.  You're the one who is terrified to admit to yourself that you get it when a mom leaves her son abandoned on a hospital ward or puts him on a plane back to Russia.  You're the one who's said words you thought you'd never say prompted by words you thought you'd never hear which touch the deepest part of your soul and pierce right through.

It's ok to say it.

It's ok to say you're in over your head.

It's ok to say you don't like your child.

It's ok to say you're tired, worn out, weary, you can't do this for one.more.minute.

It's ok to say your love is not enough to make sense of the mess you've found yourself in.

It's ok to say What happened to my dream?

This parenting adopted children is hard - you have to be hard core, a professional.  Gone are the healthy babies born to innocent girls who slipped up once.  Now the babies aren't babies anymore.  They've been born and raised into a generational cycle of mental illness, substance abuse, neglect and violence and then they are turned loose in our households after the damage is done.  This is not for the faint of heart.

Welcome to the club.

Come in, rest awhile, feel believed, accepted, heard.  Cry.  Yell.  Question God.  Laugh. Run away for an hour or a weekend.  Make jokes that nobody else will understand until they've walked in your shoes.  Go ahead.  You deserve it.  You deserve to allow yourself to hurt.  To admit that you have scars and wounds and have inflicted as much on your children as you've battled to understand.  Tend to those wounds.  Go ahead.  It's hard.  And you've made it this far.  And you're still breathing and God is still in control and His love is enough even if yours isn't.  Rest, Breathe, let it all out.

And now start again. 

It's still crazy.  It still baffles the mind.  That child of once-promise is still a child of conundrum.  But now you know.  Now you know that we are out there.  We've walked in your shoes.  We've made the same wrong moves, uttered the same foul words from our lips, kicked the same proverbial wall a thousand times over.  Some of us would do it all over again and some of us would never have done it in the first place if we had only known. 

But now you know we are here for you.  We've read books and had countless sessions with therapists.  We've pored through websites with titles like All about FASD and How to Parent the Child with RAD.  We know more about alphabet soup than even the hundreds of doctors we've hounded over the years.  And we've seen it all - fires started, siblings molest siblings, kids who stare, drool, poop their pants through adolescence, touch themselves and everyone else, make stuff up, tantrum for hours and threaten suicide or even murder.  We've learned parenting techniques you'll never hear Dr. Dobson mention. 

We are strong, we are resourceful, we are just as battle-weary as you are.  But we have each other and we have God's love and God's forgiveness and every day is a new day.

It's easier now.  It's easier to laugh together.  It's easier to receive advice from somebody who gets it.  It's a bit quicker to get over the frustration when we can vent and yell and say Can you believe this one?! for the 800th time.  Because chances are, yes, we can believe it.  We have walked in your shoes.  We have let go of children into group homes and psychiatric hospitals and alternative placements.  We don't judge.  We don't doubt you and we don't give up on ourselves even when we have to give our children over to uncertain futures.

Welcome to the club.

The Adoptive Parents who have Heard It and Believe it

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

How That Doesn't Happen or My Totally Geeked Out Cycle

 Seemingly clever people, upon hearing how many children we have, will often exclaim with a perverse grin on (usually) his face,  "Don't you know how that happens?!"  My stock response is "Yes, we do.  We like it very much and we are apparently much better at it than you.  Would you like some instruction?"  So just to set the record straight, we do, indeed, know how that happens.  Our current struggle is in figuring out how to make it not happen.

Long ago when we had only a handful of children Tad and I threw around some numbers that sounded like a nice robust number of children to raise.  All along I thought 16 was nice and Tad's standing answer was that he would get to 12 and see how he feels.  I was ok with 12 as a working number but that 16 has always been lurking in the back of my mind.  Anyway, 12 seemed like such a big number and it seemed so far away that I wouldn't have to think anymore about it for a long time to come.  Well, wouldn't you know it, this summer we placed number 11 with us in July.  Then in August number 12 was born.  Shortly afterwards, Tad and I looked at each other and said....huh....

Tad decided he wanted to stick to his guns.  He loves our twelve but they are a lot of work, he is the provider and he's, well, tired.  Pregnancy is an especially tiring time for him as he is the one who picks up all my slack when I simply can't do what I can usually do.  I understand that, I respect that.  I'm tired too.  A rest would be nice.  But this is where it gets complicated.  We are committed to living this all-natural life-style, to leaving room for God to work where He will, to not try to "fix" what isn't broken and yet my cycle doesn't cooperate with the various sympto-thermal methods out there.  I've explained that dilemma in detail here.

So what's a tired couple to do?  In true engineer form, Tad researched technology that would help us solve this problem.  In the end, he purchased two different electronic monitors to follow my cycle and help us determine the days when that can happen and the days when that isn't likely to happen.  We've started this month tracking things on the OvaCue

  which monitors the electrolyte levels in the saliva.  Next month we add in the ClearBlue monitor

which tracks LH in the urine.  In the meantime we're also adding in the extra precaution of old fashioned mucus observation.  I am beginning to feel as if no other woman has a cycle so completely geeked out as my own.  Only my husband could accomplish that.  I believe he has my cycle covered on every front - not much chance of that happening any time soon - especially since my only responsibility is to report to the monitors each day while reading and "interpreting" the data rests in his capable hands.

So the real kicker here is that if and/or when we ever do conceive again (yes, it's still open for discussion) number 13 will be our first planned pregnancy.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


I have this pipe dream (insert therapist's voice here - "Glad to know you recognize it as a pipe dream, Mary") that someday I am going to have a meaningful conversation with Philip.  I just want it to happen so badly that I do everything in my power to set it up only to have it fail again and again.  Phililp is just simply not capable of meaningful conversation.  His idea of conversation is spouting off ad nauseum about his favorite computer game or movie lines.  That's about it.  He spouts, I listen (or within about 3 seconds cease to listen because he really doesn't care if I'm listening or not he just cares about his right to spout).  At 12 he's still shouting out "Look!  A dump truck!" every time we drive by one on the highway.  Cute retention of his childlike naivete and wonder with the world but not so much on the fodder for meaningful conversation.

Ever since The Finger incident (broken pinky from going down a slide head-first just two days before his appointment with the ped to discuss meds for impulse control) I've had plenty of time to spend with just Philip working on said meaningful conversation skills.  We've had lots of appointments to doctors and xrays. 

He likes to sit in the front seat of the van but he doesn't *do* anything there.  He just sits.  Our conversation might go like this

So, whatcha thinkin' about?

Blank stare

You're looking out the window, I bet you have something on your mind.

Blank stare

A movie?  Something you see outside?

Look! A dumptruck!

Yep, there's a dumptruck.

Walking from the car to the doctor's office is also an exercise in socialization.  He always walks precisely three steps behind me.  I've tried in vain every time to explain to him that if he keeps step with me and we walk side by side we can chit chat as we walk and this is something people like to do.  He walks exactly two steps behind me...for about three steps...and then he's right back where he started from.  I gave up on that one.  I'm sure anyone watching us is convinced that I'm a selfish mom who doesn't bother to grab those precious moments alone with my son...or they just think he's being a moody preteen...neither could be further from the truth.

So there we are in the waiting room.  Magazines have interesting pictures and articles.  I try to use an issue of Sports Illustrated as a spring board for some serious mother-son bonding.  I find an article about a football player he enjoys watching on tv and then get called to the receptionist. 

You read that article, I'll be right back and why don't you tell me about it.

I return, skim over the article, and realize it's a description of the man's prison term he served and how he's walking in his father's footsteps.  Now suddenly I'm hoping Philip *didn't* pick up on that...

So what did you read?

I read about him, points to picture of football player.

And what did you read about him?

He plays football.

Yes, he does.  Did you read that?

Yes.  (ok, now he gets an F in reading comprehension for which I am strangely grateful)

Did you find out anything else interesting about him?

He tackles people?

Wide receiver - probably not - but at least he's riffing on something besides movie lines and computer games.

We get called in for the xray and  I now have the pleasure of watching someone *else* struggle to communicate with my son. 

Philip, can you put your hand on this table like this?

He turns it to and fro but cannot figure out how to make it look like the technician's positioning.

So how did you injure your finger?

He looks at me.

I wait for him to answer his own durn question.

On the slide.

Oh, did you fall on it?

He looks at me.

I wait for him to answer his durn question.

Yeah, I went *waves hands around and makes slippery slide sound effects*

At this point the tech looks at me and says "Can you get him to put his hand like this?"

Sure, lady, got a picture of a dump truck?

Our last trip to the imaging center I decided to try to chat with him about his upcoming musical rehearsal.  Last year they did Music Man and he loved it - it was awesome.  Surely he'd like to hear about this year's plans.

You have Staccatos practice tonight!

Blank stare.

Staccatos - you remember last year when you did Music Man?  You loved it!

Blank stare.

Do you want to know what you'll be singing this year?

Confused look.

This year is all songs from early rock and roll.  Like you might be singing....maybe...Elvis...or songs by the Beatles.



What's an elvis beatle?  (No lie, this is what the boy said to me.  I was so taken aback I went home and grilled Ben about whether or not I had ever educated them about The King.  He immediately began to rattle off a long string of lines from songs, two parodies he'd seen about Elvis and a whole rash of other Elvis trivia which assuaged my guilt about never having exposed my children to such a pop icon.)

So the next day we are off to see the orthopedist.  I've about given up at this point.  At any rate, I'm not going to try for another awkward and disappointing car conversation so we just drive in silence until Philip, on his own steam, looks at me and says

Mom, why is Govorner O'Malley going to give us all jobs?

Uh huh.  Why indeed.  Well, son, ever since the economy tanked lots of people are out of jobs and so he wants us to believe that he's helping.

Oh.  Is that why he's spending so much money?

No, he's spending money because he's a Democrat.

Apparently, he *was* reading those billboards and road signs all along and I just didn't think to engage him in socio-political analysis.  Silly me.  Next time he breaks a limb I'll know.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

And I'm Still Sayin'...

Last week Benjamin scored himself a job as party coordinator for an 8 year old lego party.  The guest of honor is the son of a school friend of mine with whom I've been recently reunited via facebook - and whom I hadn't seen in 21 years.  She was using her facebook status to vent about her unpreparedness for her son's birthday party when I recommended she employ Ben's talents...and so she did...and so we got the chance to jump from 17 to 39 in one afternoon.  Ben did a wonderful job with the party, the Party Boy was happy, the Mom was happy, the guests had fun and all was a success - but all that has nothing to do with what I'm sayin'.

My friend's son has some issues - issues which require speech therapy, attempts at special diets, navigation through doctors, IEP's and other such fun.  So, consequently, did several of his friends.  So there I was at the party supporting Ben and hanging out with the moms of the 8 year old boys.  I was tagged as counter-cultural from the get-go when I was introduced to each one as the friend she hadn't seen in 21 years who has 12 kids - one of whom is getting paid to run this party - and homeschools.  That little intro didn't earn me new friends very quickly so I was relegated to listening to them share their public school woes while intermittently watching their sons "interact" with one another.

Now, I'm no developmental expert but I'm thinking by the age of 8 kids are supposed to be beyond the parallel play stage - as least mine are by the time they hit about 2 1/2 or...1 1/2 depending upon the kid - and one of those at age 12 was doing a rather adult job at running this party.  (But never mind that, mine are all unsocialized homeschoolers, back to the party at hand.)  What I observed was that the only boys actually interacting with one another were the birthday boy and his younger brother.  The rest of the 8 year old boys were simply engaged in parallel play - even when Ben tried to encourage them to share together in group games.  They didn't make eye contact with one another, they didn't share and they didn't speak to each other except to proclaim loudly the injustice of one infringing upon the other's personal space.  Even then they wailed at the closest adult rather than try to work it out with their peers.  They all seemed to be sweet boys but oddly out of touch with each other and with their party manners.

Upon closer observation I guessed that at least one of the boys was on the autism spectrum.  After listening to the moms chat I realized that at least 4 of the others (including the birthday boy) were, at the age of 8, still receiving speech therapy services - which probably indicates some larger problems at that age.  So at least 5 of the boys had some undetermined level of special needs.  I'm not sure about the other 3 or 4.  All of them had been raised up through the public education system and so had the great benefit of inclusion with their peers and specially tailored special education services. (nope, no sarcasm noted here, move along people)  Why, then, I'm asking myself, were they so woefully deficient at relating in a social situation?   They were in the bodies of 8 year olds with the play skills of toddlers.   Isn't this the exact goal of integration - to include children with special needs in an inclusive classroom setting so that they can be guided into normal, healthy social relationships?  I don't know about those moms, but I personally wouldn't check off a 6-year gap in social skills as a goal met.  But wait, maybe I should check their IEP's first - perhaps I can check it off.

For answers to these questions I turned my attention back to the moms.  They unanimously agreed that the speech services their children had received over the years were inadequate for various reasons.  The same held true for those who had utilized the OT and PT services in their public schools.  There were scattered compliments amidst a general distaste for the whole special education experience - which ranged from IEP meetings, to general classroom teachers to administrators to therapists.  One mom complained that she had even been reported to the vice principal for observing her son's classroom for a few minutes during her weekly volunteer day!  Aside from IEP meetings, these moms have been left out of the therapeutic picture.  For the day to day skill building efforts they relied entirely upon school staff and yet none of them expressed a whole lot of confidence in or affection for the staff serving their children.  In Mary Land that is simply unacceptable.  My kids don't go into a therapeutic setting where I am not invited.  Consequently I now have some basic understanding of behavioral therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, social skills development, hippotherapy, remedial math teaching techniques and my list goes on and on.  These moms had...well, Nothing.  And it showed.

If you haven't yet read my previous post on this issue go ahead and read it now.  I'll wait.......done?  Good...So, the part about the importance of the teacher/instructor/facilitator?  This is simply a case in point.  These boys are suffering from a lack of skilled and interested adults in their lives.  This was evidenced first-hand by the moms' reaction when their boys were not able to get along with others - they wailed, they grabbed, or they just went off and pouted and the moms.did.Nothing.  They have been well-trained by the school system to stay out of their kids' lives.   As much as they whined and complained about the other adults in their children's lives they didn't seem to know how to fill in that gap where the other "authorities" had fallen short.

Sad, sad, sad - so sad to me that  I found myself feeling insecure, angry, frustrated for these boys as this conversation with the moms and my observation of the boys at play wore on.  The specific mechanism at play here was the abdication of both school authorities and parents in the lives of these children.  When adults don't do what adults are supposed to do for kids, those kids get hurt.  If they already have a compromised sense of normal they fail to be able to accomplish even the most basic of tasks.  So here I had the perfect test case for inclusion - special needs children, trained up in the public school system, and set loose in an integrated, outside social setting.  And I'm still sayin'  not much to see here, folks.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


This  remarkable photo was in my email in-box today.  I think it is the most disgusting rendering of  "Jesus Christ" (I can't even seriously say that who it's supposed to be) I have ever seen.  It's sort of a Jesus-Cross-Dresses-As-Danielle-Boone portrait.  Protestants seriously need to explore real iconography and stop clogging our Christian pop culture with this nonsense.  Lord have mercy!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

More Art that Moves the Soul

Thanks to Dixie for posting this first.