Not On the Same Page

Things are stressful at Casa de la Roo lately.  Thank God no one’s sick or dying, we both are employed.  All is well.  But its all of the sudden not.  The hubby is pissed at me, and right now, I’m okay with it, but I think it might last a long long time, and that makes me so sad.

It all started with the blessed event about a month and a half ago…we paid off our house (see, things are good!).  Which put visions of sugarplums dancing right into our heads.  We’ve been in our home, modest but decent, for the past 16 years.  For the past several months we’ve been “looking” at houses.  There was one I fell in love with, but it needed a little more work than hubby wanted to put in, so he put off making an offer.  He put it off so long that the seller eventually went to a realtor to sell, which jacked the price up$30,000 by the time hubs thought better of making an offer.  Bummer.  But I”m okay.  We’re fine. 

Then we looked around again.  This time, while we went on a lark to an open house, again, I fell in love with a particular house.  Very different from the first one, but a home I could very much picture us living in.  We made a verbal offer and they verbally accepted.  It needed new cabinets and for the PURPLE master bath to be retiled.  WE went out to measure cabinets to price new and took another look-see, and went and drafted our purchase agreement.  The owners returned the purchase agreement with “changes in red” and that somehow felt to hubby like a challenge or aggressive or what have you and he said, “nope, we’re not signing this.”  At that point it was me that was pissed.  I had already emotionally invested.  It was a little more than I expected to pay for a house, but I’d made the calculations in my head about how we could continue and it seemed to make sense.  So I’moped for a few days, but really, I thought, its for the best since it really WAS so much money.

We went to more open houses, lots of different kinds.  Then one day he calls and says, “you know I was talking to (a realtor we know) who works with (a builder we know of), building in (a neighborhood we’d like to live in).  I made an appointment to go just meet and talk.”  And within one week, somehow, not only had we agreed on a plan to build, a lot to build within the neighborhood, but somehow at a pricetag 50,000 higher than the house we had already backed out on.  After you get done choking on your coffee, please know that I did say 50,000 higher than the house we really couldn’t afford the first time. 

For a little over a week, I have been running numbers, rearranging the budget, looking to sell my car, cut back EVERYTHING, change my plans to send my kiddo to the private school we had already agreed on, etc and STILL things weren’t adding up.  We are people who like to go out to eat, who like to see movies, who like to play golf, who like to go on vacation.  We are not people who discontinue their satellite dish and radio and to-your-door newspaper.  Even when I got rid of all of that and the land line in our budget, that put us barely in the black, wth no room at all for emergencies. And not knowing how much our house will truly sell for, adding that in was making me a sick, whiny, scared mess.  And then gasoline went up 30 more cents with promises for more, my office lost another contract and, and, and….    It just all seemed a little “bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” kind of thing.  I can tell you that I feel so strongly about NOT going through this, that the earnest money we put down on the building contract, gone now, is not even of any concern to me.  To ME the money-pincher.

As for hubby, he doesn’t see how tight things would be.  He doesn’t know thing one about how our bills run or what costs what.  Our lives would be VERY limited, and we’d have NO freedom, at least not for the next 6 months. He sees only that he had the dream of building this house. (His deceased brother is a home builder, and we had hoped one day that he’d have been able to build our home).  I have shattered his dream with one tear filled, burbling, rambling session where I tell him I just can’t do it.  And he’s pissed and sad and feeling broken.  He is dreading telling anyone he told of our plans that we’re not following through.  I hate it. He hasn’t spoken to me all night.  I wonder if he ever will again.  I wonder if every time something breaks down in this house, he’ll blame me.  I wonder if he’ll forgive me anytime soon.  I really feel like this is best for our family, and that we can find or build something relatively soon that actually fits within our budget after we take a little bit of time to live within a budget FIRST over time, not by default.

So tonight, I feel like crap.  But at the very same time, I feel lighter and more sane and comfortable than I have felt in weeks.

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Who, ME?

When I was in college, I was at a club with friends.  I was standing in the loud, crowded bar area, and across the room on the other side of the bar, there was this really hawt guy (with a 90’s pony tail), yelling to me.  He waved and shouted, “hey, beautiful!  I want to talk to YOU!”  And I smiled and waved back, feeling very pretty, very proud that I could attract such a creature.  Until I realized he was calling to my friend standing right beside me.  Story of my life.  They got married a few years later, by the way, and live happily together with their two pretty children on the other side of town.  True Story.  Anyhoo.

I was feeling much the same when I got an email last week from someone claiming to be from Adoptive Families Magazine, telling me my blog was to be featured in their March/April issue as a “Top Adoption Blog.”  Having been burned once before (or maybe more, I won’t tell), I looked to see if this was somehow a scam/spam–the email equivalent of looking back over my shoulder to make sure they weren’t talking to the pretty girl behind me.  But this time, no mistake.  Someone, somewhere thought I was pretty  had something to contribute to the adoption world through my blog.  Which amazes and thrills me, enough to actually post something after WAAAY too long of a hiatus. 

I’ve seen just a few of the other folks who will also be featured, and I’m beyond humbled to be in their company…I think there are so many different voices that have an important truth to tell, and I’m pleased many will be getting the recognition and increased readership.  I’m anxious to see the whole list, and when the article comes out, I’ll put up links to the others in case you haven’t found them yet.  I can’t wait to see the issue!

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Open Adoption Round Table #21: Holiday Traditions

The Open Adoption Roundtable is a series of occasional writing prompts designed to showcase of the diversity of thought and experience in the open adoption community. You don’t need to be listed at Open Adoption Bloggers to participate or even be in a traditional open adoption. If you’re thinking about openness in adoption, you have a place at the table. The prompts are meant to be starting points–please feel free to adapt or expand on them.

Publish your response–linking back to this post so your readers can browse other participating blogs–and leave a link to your post in the comments. Using a previously published post is perfectly fine; I’d appreciate it if you’d add a link back to the roundtable. If you don’t blog, you can always leave your thoughts directly in the comments.

How do open adoption and holiday traditions intersect in your life?

*******************

I hadn’t really thought that much yet about how our  Christmas traditions have been impacted by open adoption, or adoption at all–I didn’t get the chance to ponder it much but then something happened at our house this week that smacked me right in the eyes and speaks again to the losses that families (ours included) need to be able to recognize and walk through with our children, yes, even during our holiday season.

I love love love love love all the old Christmas shows that come on during the month of December, from Grinch to Frosty and all the Heat Miser/Rudolph/Santa Claus stop motion shows from the late 60’s and 70’s.  I remember watching them all when I was Woob’s age and it was always an event at our house since it was pre-cable and pre-VHS where now we can watch what we want when we want and kids’ TV shows take top billing at our house now.  I have wanted Woob to enjoy these shows too, and look forward to them each year, and then when he’s older, look back on them as a lovely part of his childhood.

So I’ve been introducing these shows to Woob each year.  Sometimes he would watch halfway while he was playing, others he would watch, but not really “get” the subtext.  He was a bit too young.  But THIS year…THIS is the year we’ve been waiting for where Christmas is Exciting!  Santa is Coming!  It’s the Baby Jesus’ Birthday!  There’s Christmas Shows on EVERY NIGHT (Thank you, ABC Family!)!!  The other night I turned one on.  A really poor computer animated spin off of Rudolph, called called “The Island of Misfit Toys”.  Harmless, right?  (WHY DIDN’T I PICK UP ON THE “MISFIT” THEME??)

A quick synopsis:  The “Evil Toy Taker” has stolen all the toys from Santa, and the Island of Misfit Toys, and Rudolph needs to catch the Evil Toy Taker to save Christmas.  Except when they catch and unmask the Toy Taker, it turns out it is an old, old sweet and worn out little teddy bear (Mr. Cuddles) who had been thrown out in the garbage when his boy outgrew him.  He was only taking the toys to spare them the heartbreak of being rejected by their children.  But the way Mr. Cuddles told his story was HEARTBREAKING.   Watch the clip all the way to the end and you’ll see what I mean. 

As we are watching this unfold, I see my little Woob on the couch next to me beginning to sob silently.  He was so into the moment.  He continued to watch as Santa told him that his boy didn’t mean to throw him away, that his boy loved him and had been looking for him and wanted to give Mr. Cuddles to his own little girl to love.  He continued to watch as they took Cuddles to Queen someone-or-other to sew him up and make him just like new again.  He continued to watch as Santa delivered sweet Mr. Cuddles into the arms of the little girl as she slept in her bed, and woke happily to snuggle on him while her father watched with satisfaction and love.  Christmas was saved as all the stolen toys were delivered to their waiting children.

For the next hour, over and over again Woob asked (still occcasionally crying) “why did they throw that bear in the trash?,” “why didn’t that boy want him anymore?” “why did the ToyTaker steal all the toys?” “Why was he in the garbage?” “Why was Mr. Cuddles the Toy Taker?”   He could not be consoled at the happy ending or the revelation that it was just an unfortunate accident that poor Mr. Cuddles got tossed into the landfill (which they showed, while Mr. Cuddles sang that he “felt ashamed.”)  This, my friends, is not the Christmas warm fuzzies I was looking for that night!  In my heart I believed that Woob was of course processing his adoption stuff, trying to make sense of his story and Mr. Cuddles’.   Its at this point I think it would be a good idea to shoot the TV set and leave it for dead.  I figured it was going to be a long night.

Well over an hour after the show was over and I was going through the bedtime routine with Woob, he panicked a little when he realized he had left his favorite Care Bear in his nap cubby at daycare (All Alone!  In the Dark!  He’ll be so Lonely!).  After reassurances that Cear Bear was happy and warm, snuggling in the nap blanket, Woob dug out his “Bowtie Bear” from his blankets, caressed him, spoke sweetly to him, swaddled him in “Raggy” (Woob’s lovey), and held him close.  Finally, I had the boy calm enough to try to sleep.  He asked if his Daddy could come in, he had something to tell him.

When Papa2Roo came out (he hadn’t been around for the viewing of the program), sure enough, he said Woob was wanting to talk about his adoption.  “Hey Dad, remember when I was a little baby and you met me at the hospital?  Remember when I came home with you to live in this house? and on and on.  I don’t know exactly how the conversation went on or finished or what Papa2Roo helped him remenisce about, but it seemed to be the right thing, because Woob managed a nice, seemingly calm night of sleep and though he was still focused on the love and nurtuing care of BowTie Bear (who is now affectionately named Mr. Cuddles, by the way), had a better handle on his emotions.  The bear went with him to daycare, still swaddled and he told the whole story about the Toy Taker to his teacher, who I encouraged to allow him to nurture the little bear as much as he needed to that day.

Exhausting.  Unexpected.  But right there, in-your-face-grief over the fact that he was giventakenstolentossed away.  How to combat that?  I honestly don’t know.  I DO know that his first mom loves him, and I know that he gets to experience that love first hand, even if not very often in person, thanks to Open Adoption.  I don’t think I or she will be able to combat those feelings, really.  It will be up to him to decide what his story means to him, how he perceives our actions and presence and words, and up to him to work out whether he thinks he was given, taken, stolen, or tossed away. 

I do know this:  adoption and open adoption continually remind us–we who were raised in our birth families–that there is much we take for granted and much we need to be contually alert and sensitive to when it comes to our children who were not.  We don’t have the luxury now of  simply saying, “that’s just pretend,” or “that never happens,” because in their eyes and hearts it has, right here in real life.  Cheesy animated stories during the “happy” holidays are no different.

On a happier note, we did manage to watch the “Frosty the Snowman” special in which he takes a wife, and it was startlingly sweet and not too sad, and it made me happy that I decided on to shoot the TV after the Rudolph episode after all.

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Hoarders, Sneezing and Appearances

As you can likely tell from the title here, this post is going to be a hodge-podge.  I can’t believe anyone is even still looking here to find anything to read anymore, I’ve neglected so long. I’ll continue to pop back in and write as I have the urge. I do promise, though, however random this post is, it will end with an adoption focus at the end.

Hoarders:

My friend in Florida and her family have a business in which they haul away junk. They were recently on an episode of “Hoarders.”  Fun to watch them, but oh so sad to see the families on that show sufferining because of the illness that pushes folks to hold on to every little thing.  So, so sad.  However, as I sat in my office last week on one of a million days I’ve done the same, I started feeling overwhelmed by my own tendency to hang on to EVERYTHING.  My office is a mini-hoarders episode.  I have a decent sized office as far as not for profit space goes.  No window, but I’d say I have a space around 10×14.  That should be plenty of room for everything I need to do my job, multifaceted as it is.  But it has become full.  As in file cabinets full, drawers full, tables stacked, shelves packed, desk invisible for the varius piles of papers, books, notebooks, kleenex boxes, envelopes and folders on top of it.  So this week, I said “ENOUGH,” and have been whittling piles, throwing things away, filing, shredding, and rearranging.  I’m coming in to the office on Saturday, and will be making BIG CHANGES, people!  I can’t live like this any more.  I feel the need to be more efficient, rely on sticky notes less, and find a way to use a whole yellow pad of paper before going on to the next one (I have uncovered approximately 239479348737 half used pads in my endeavor so far!).

Sneezing:

Aside from sneezing from the dust I’m stirring up at my desk, I’ve been sneezing and snorking, coughing and hacking for the past week.  I can’t get rid of this headcold/sinus infection thingy.  Its wearing me out.

Appearances:

I took Woob to preschool yesterday, and sent him directly in to wash his hands in the bathroom.  Usually that means I see him 3 seconds later with barely damp hands, and have to send him back in to do it right.  This time, he was in there a really long time.  I waiting a little extra, and finally went in after him.  He hadn’t washed his hands yet, but I found him standing in front of the sink, looking at his reflection in the mirror. 

  “Mom?  Why do I look like this?”    I was a bit taken aback.  I don’t think he’d ever initiated a discussion on his appearance before, and I can’t recall him ever really LOOKING at himself other than to make sure the toothpaste was off face or to see if a sucker had turned his tongue blue.  And, of course, this question could be asked at lots of different levels and mean different things…so I tried to hit them all at once.

While he washed his hands I did my best:  “Well, your face looks the way it does because it looks a lot like your Mama N.’s and Granpa G’s.  You have eyes and mouth shaped like N. and a little dimple in your chin like G.  You have a smile on your face right now because you’re a happy little boy.  I love that smile!  And you have this crazy bedhead because of the way you layed on it last night and we didn’t do a great job combing it this morning.  And that’s why you look like that.”

I don’t know which point it was he was looking for but he smiled, dried his hands and said “Okay!” as he darted out of the room.  Who knows what he was thinking as he looked at himself in the mirror.  But I’m glad he asked, as it gave us one more opportunity to talk about his family connections in a positive way.

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OAR #19: Open Adoption is About…

Mommy, I’m sad.  Why are you sad, sweetie?  Because I miss my family…my other family.

That tiny confession of feelings came out a few weeks ago right before bedtime.  Me and Woob were finished reading our stories, saying prayers and singing bedtime songs and had joined in a giggle or two with some favorite stuffed animals. Woob had put one under his shirt, pretending he had a baby in his belly.  And I grew in YOUR belly, Mommy!  Silly, boy, you grew in N’s belly, right?   And he playfully argued back and forth for a few seconds (No, YOUR belly!) before turning a little bit sad.  Mommy, I’m sad.  I miss my family…my other family.

This came right before a timely writing prompt from HeatherPNR for the Open Adoption Round Table:

“Open adoption is about information sharing.” Share your reaction to that statement. How well does it match up with your experience of open adoption? If you disagree, how would you finish the phrase, “Open adoption is about…”?

Obviously, sharing information is a great place to start in open adoption.  I think its a way to Have Some Openness in the Adoption, though I think to make this an all-encompassing statement sure could limit a person in their thinking as they are launching into the adoption world and all the decisions and complexities it entails.  If a professional goes that far in talking about openness, then I sure think they need to make sure that conversation doesn’t stop there, and include all that open adoption has the possibility to be.  Otherwise, they are just plain misinforming their audience.

So, for ME, yes.  Open adoption is about information sharing.  Sharing information between our family and N.’s.  Sharing information from N. to her children about Woob and us, and us sharing information about N. and her family with Woob.  Its about sharing some of that information, appropriately, with the people around us so they have a better understanding of my child and his needs and his life experience.  But there’s more, so much more!

At our house open adoption has become…

  • our  son being comfortable enough to bring up his first family to us when things are bothering him.  Or when things aren’t bothering him.
  • being able to pick up a phone or message back and forth on FB about what’s going on in our family, our households, and our brains.
  • the adults in this adoption taking action to help the little ones feel more secure in where they fit in the family.
  • being willing to say, “I’m sorry you’re feeling this way, how about we send a note/make a phone call/draw a picture to send to your mom/sisters/granpa to let them know you’re thinking about them?”
  • being able to arrange a visit when it works out, even on short notice, so that our kids can experience being siblings together and learn to love, share, and play together.  And so a little boy can be doted on by the one who created him.
  • sharing pictures and keeping up on daily activities.
  • supporting one another in our journeys where we can.
  • laying the foundation for the possibility that the kids will continue their family relationships when they have more autonomy in what happens, or can make those decisions based on reality, not fear of the unknown.

My list could probably keep on going.  And next year, if I revisit this post, I hope our families have grown together in a way that allows me to expand my own picture of what open adoption is.  It has to start with the sharing, but I think if we stop there when there’s not a really valid reason to, we’re doing our kids a disservice.

About the conversation at the beginning of this post?  For now, Woob’s not missing his other family any more.

Check HERE to find others’ responses on this OAR topic.

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Summer Reading

Finally, for the first time since Woob came home, it seems there’s enough balance in the household to be able to sit and relax occasionally and read.  Oh, how I’ve missed reading and getting lost in a book or two.  How do I pick my books?  Even though I really think eventually I’ll get a book reader like Kindle, I prefer “real” books that you can go to the bookstore and browse through, look at the cover, hold and feel.  While I’m reading I often like to ruffle the corner edges of the pages over and over–both for the sound and the pleasant feel on my fingers.  Usually, I’ll head over to BN at lunch time, or sometimes even the used book store.  If its BN, I head straight for the newest released paperbacks display, which is right next to the buy two get one free tables.  I’m big on covers, even though they say you can’t judge books by them.  If the cover is boring, I move on.  If the title is interesting, I’ll stop.  I am drawn especially to books with some historical reference, but still fiction.  Not too cheesy, not to romance-y, not too beach read-y.  And as a result, the books I buy are usually a little bit depressing–set in a war, or some such volitile time.  I rarely pick a book based solely on the author, but occasionally that might just tip the scales for a certain title. 

So, since this spring, I’ve read (I think) nine books, and am currently working on number ten.  I’m sure before that, I hadn’t read ten in the past four years put together, so I’m pretty jazzed about it.  Here are the titles that I’ve read so far:

  • Under the Dome ~ Stephen King   (I was a little disappointed at the ending after reading such a long book–apparently SK was just tired of writing)
  • American Wife ~ Curtis Sittenfeld   (Based loosely on the life of Laura Bush, though it is fiction)
  • South of Broad ~ Pat Conroy   (Set in Charleston, and made me think back to a trip I took there once–I recognized some fo the places)
  • Sarah’s Key ~ Tatiana De Rosnay   (Historical-set in WW II Vichy France/modern day.  SAD.  Riveting.  SAD.)
  • The Forgotten Garden ~ Kate Morten   (Historical-set in England/Australia over three genrations.  Could be classified a mystery.  Heavy adoption/identity/loss themes)
  • The Girl She Used to Be ~ David Cristofano   (A light read about a young woman in a witness protection program.  Funny, easy, a little romance.)
  • Dear John ~ Nicholas Sparks   (Romancy, sad, sweet.  I think the movie is coming out soon if it hasn’t already?)
  • The Help ~ Kathryn Stockett   (Reflections on race, class, civil rights, etc. set in the early 60s.)
  • I Was Told There Would Be Cake ~ Sloane Crosley   (Light, short stories about author’s growing up and coming of age.  SO FUNNY.  Lots of references you’ll recognize if you grew up in the mid 80s-90’s.)
  • North River ~ Pete Hamill   (Currently reading and so far, so good.  Set in Depression Era New York City.  This author wrote “Forever” which was a novel I really loved.)

What have YOU read this summer?

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What Little Ears Hear

Just noticing, our little guy is all ears when we least expect him to be.  We can tell him to do something a hundred times and he continues on as if you said nothing.  You can raise your volume, ask him again, whatever.  He can’t hear you (or so it seems).  But rest assured, he IS listening.

In casually talking with other adults, if I mention the word “mom,” he’s listening (“How’s your mom doing these days?”).  He responds, “who are you talking about, MY mom?”  If I mention someone with his mom’s name, he is right there, asking, ” N?  My N.?”  He is always listening.  He wants to hear more.  He wants to know what we’re saying about her.  He is always on alert.  Its a cue to me that we probably need to initiate more conversations about N. with or around Woob.  It seems he craves it. 

A few times when N. has been on FB, I’ve told him she’s there and asked if he wanted me to email a message to her–each time, he excitedly says “yes”, and dictates a message along the lines of  “I saw you at your house and we should visit and I love you, Mom,” which I dutifully send exactly as spoken.  I wonder if that catches her off guard, but it seems to please her.  The other morning when he first woke up and we had just finished our good mornings and our snuggles, he made the proclamation that “we need to visit my mom more often.”  I did pass that proclamation on to her, and she said Woob is on their mind, too.  Woob’s little sister J. apparently told a random stranger the other day at the store that she wanted to see her Bubby now 😉 .  So, here’s hoping they’re able to come down to see us before the month is over.  We’re checking our calendars. 

I know I’m generalizing the behavior of my child onto others, but all of this makes me wonder about kiddos who grow up in homes where they know they were adopted, but nobody ever talks about it.  Their little ears must be on alert all the time, waiting to pick up pieces of information, cues about their family and how to feel about them.  It makes me wonder about the kiddos who don’t act like they’re listening, but they are, while their parents say unflattering things about their first parents, thinking their little ones aren’t paying attention.

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