Toddler Adoption

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I've been reading a lot of blogs dedicated to adoption this month - I've really been too sick to do much else!  I've been enjoying the reading and getting to peek into the lives of others who have adopted, who are hoping to adopt and of Birth Moms who chose to place their children for adoption.  They are all beautiful stories. 

But there is something lacking.  There seems to be an unspoken agreement that adoptive bloggers will not speak of the trials and challenges of parenting.  Part of that may be a Mormon thing.  Mormons are taught that we shouldn't murmur and lots of the bloggers I've been reading are LDS.  (Be a Lark, Not a Starling!)  Part of it is also the fact that many of these families waited so long and encountered such adversity in becoming parents that they do not want to complain about the challenges associated with that which they desired so greatly for so long and now finally get to enjoy.  That's cool.  Most of these bloggers were placed with infants and I'm pretty sure that most  infant adoptions are about a billion times easier than most toddler adoptions.  

But there also seems to be an undercurrent of not speaking badly of Adoption or Foster Care because you don't want to sour the pot for anyone else or undermine public support for these processes.  Those of you who know me well know that I'm absolutely a Starling.  I murmur.  I'm not very big on denial.  Denial is unhealthy and sets you up for disappointment - it is beter to be prepared for the worst and able to truly celebrate the less-than-perfect reality you eventually find yourself in. 

I think that is very important for parents who adopt Toddlers.  We have a very dear friend whose sister's toddler adoption story ended in tragedy.   I do not want to get into details, in part to protect this sweet woman's identity.  Suffice it to say that the adoptive mom is now incarcerated.  Her dreams of motherhood and marriage all ended when PADS (Post Adoptive Depression Syndrome) took the life of one of her girls.  She had wanted them so badly, she loved them so much, but no one was clued in to the fact that she was struggling with a demon that she couldn't beat on her own until it was too late. 

Why would I want to talk about these negative things now, at the end of National Adoption Month?  

Because I believe that no one should ever walk into Adoption, especially Toddler Adoption believing that NOW life is going to be beautiful, NOW they are going to have everything they ever wanted, NOW they will finally be able to overcome all obstacles because NOW they are a parent.

Parenting, especially parenting an adopted toddler or older child, is going to present difficulties you have never before imagined.  Are you ready?

After we received the call about Maxx and before we went to meet K, his birth mom, I had a symbolic dream in which the early stages of Maxx's adoption were perfectly revealed to me.  I was instructed that I would be isolated in the middle of a storm of tornadoes, that my family and friends would be completely unable to help me, that I would be exposed to the torrents of life in their full fury and in great peril.  I was shown that I would be utterly brought to my knees in the emotional tumult of becoming Maxx's next mom.   It was made abundantly clear to me that the first few months of being Maxx's mom were going to be akin to Gethsemanie in my life.  Motherhood was to be my altar and I was going to be the sacrifice. 

There was a question implied in the dream - Was I willing to proceed?


We were already becoming concerned about Maxx's well being.  We knew a little about his birth mom's situation and the struggles she was having finding good child care.  We knew that time was of the essence, that our little boy needed stability NOW.  We were beginning to love him before we even knew his name or what he looked like.

Would I have been able to make it through those first several months without having been given that warning and consciously humbing myself and offering myself up on the altar of motherhood after that dream? 

No way.

Every time things became hard, every time I felt bitter about being placed with a toddler with an emotional history and fresh, raw greif instead of the relatively clean slate of an infant, every time I felt like mourning the loss of personal freedoms associated with being the mom of a smart, independent 12 year old or struggled with the identity crisis issues of being a new mom at 37, every time the PADS and PMS demons began shaking their cages in unison, I was reminded that the Lord had warned me of these things before I agreed to proceed.  I had made a commitment and I could not (would not) back out.  Maxx required my commitment.  His little life and his eternity were literally in my hands.

I could make you a laundry list of the challenges I've experienced since Maxx came to live with us - everything from being sicker in the last 3.5 years than I have been at any point in my life (thank you, snot rocket!) to trying to show affection for a child who sits like a slab of wood on your lap to trying to nourish a child who won't eat anything that is not composed of orange carbohydrates and refuses to let you put anything in his mouth.  Instead, I will list a few resources that helped me overcome or at least come to terms with those stuggles.

My husband and daughter.  In the early stages, we really couldn't leave Maxx with  anyone else or allow anyone else to hold him.  He was too insecure and needed to attach to us well.  As I've mentioned before, he bonded with MB right off.  Her willingness to help allowed me to breathe a little bit every day.  Bry was incredibly sensitive to my need for occasional solitude or at least a break from wiping the bottom and being sneezed on.

Prayer and Priesthood blessings.   I'm so grateful to know that I have a Heavenly Father who knows & loves me well and who knows how to turn my weaknesses into strengths.

Our friend whose sister experienced the above mentioned tragedy.  He and his family have been right there beside us, cheering us on, reminding me of the causes of some of Maxx's more dificult behaviors and reassuring me that I can do it. 

My dear friend Karen, who provided a shelter in the storm for her RAD nephew.  She has been to darker places than I have had to go and seeing her meet those challenges head on gave me courage on hard days.  I'm so lucky to have her as a cousin.

Our LDS Family Services worker who also has a child with attachment disorder.   He talked me down out of a few hysterical crises. 

My sisters, Adrienne and Molly, who also both have wild and crazy boys.  Sometimes behavior isn't all about attachment.  Often it is just about boy-ness.

The book Toddler Adoption.  If you plan to adopt a toddler or an older child, read it.  You would be irresponsible not to.

The forums over on  It was there that I received reassurance that my emotional reactions to becoming the adoptive mom to a toddler were normal.  A lot of good advice is shared on those forums, as well as references to good resources.  I'm sure that PADS would have been more dificult for me if it were not for the support community there.  Advice there, that could only have come from other adoptive parents, helped me break through the attachment barrier with Maxx. 

Now we're three and a half years in.  Would I change anything?  Well, I really do mourn the fact that I never got to hold my son as an infant and smell his soft newborn hair.  We don't even have photos of him as a little baby.  That is a little sad.   But somehow, I know that our difficult journey has been good for all of us in the long run.   K is moving onto a better life than the one she was pursuing when she became pegnant and married Maxx's birth father.  I have much more patience, determination and compassion than I ever would have developed without Maxx and Maxx - well, he is who he is because of his experiences with both of his families. 

We can't imagine life without him.

A Christmas Project

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When I was a little girl, I had a puzzle that I absolutely loved.  It was made of little cubes with illustrations for 6 different fairy tales.  It was actually pretty easy to "solve" and once you had one picture put together, you just had to know how to flip the blocks just right to get the other pictures to line up correctly.  I think that playing with it was really good for my ability to understand spatial relationships.

Sadly, that toy went the way of most toys long ago and is gone.  I haven't been able to find another one since.  But recently, I ordered some tiny hardwod cubes from DickBlick and downloaded some of my favorite illustrations from SurLaLune and printed them out on pieces of Strathmore Satinboard.  I thought of buying some digital sticker paper, but decided that might be too messy and complicated to cut up and apply neatly.  I figured the satinboard would take a nice, smooth image, modge podge onto the blocks pretty well and hold up to use for a while.  I also would have liked slightly larger blocks - maybe 1" square instead of 3/4" but this is O.K.  Maxx has pretty good fine motor comtrol and can benefit from practice.

(This image is from Edmund Dulac's illustrations for The Little Mermaid.  I know she's kinda sexy.  Don't you know that's what Fairy Tales are all about?)

I cropped my illustrations square (which sadly eliminated some of my absolute favorites) did some basic math and printed them out so that they would fit on a six block square.  For the first illustration, I used my slidey paper cutter to do the cutting,  very precisely, and glued the little pieces on with Sobo glue.  (I love Sobo glue.  It works for anything, dries clear and cleans up well as long as you get to it before it dries.)

Now - before you stat thinking that I do this sort of thing all the time, you need to know that this is a much fussier project than those I usually undertake.  Gluing tiny squares onto tiny cubes is not my idea of fun.  I encountered some trouble with the prints themselves after my fingers got sticky with glue.  The picture actually pulls off the paper if it gets stuck to something tacky.  This is frustrating.

I coated the first illustration with liquitex gloss gel medium to protect it from further image loss as I apply the rest of the illustrations because I know that finger stickiness will be involved.   I am experimenting with applying the gloss medium to the illustrations before cutting and gluing to see if that has a better result.

I'm not really happy with the streaks in the gloss medium but that is what I have at home and I do not want to use any of those spray glosses.  Our family has enough respritory issues going on right now and its too darn cold and wet to do that sort of thing outside.  If I had been working on this in the summer - I'd probably have coated each illustration with spray on diamond glaze or something before gluing.

I will also make a little book with the illustrations in it so that Maxx will be able to see what each picture should look like finished.  The booklet and finished puzzle will fit quite nicely in this old Harry & David box I've been saving for a couple of years.  I knew it would come in handy!

He is quite interested in puzzles right now and is getting very good at them.  He is also finally getting interested in faiy tales and stories I can tell him without a book.   We had a lot of fun retelling Little Red Riding Hood the other day.  Somehow, the wolf grew a few extra heads and arms and ate Gramma, Grampa and Little Red before the Woodsman finally showed up with his axe.  Too many Greek myths, maybe?

The illustrations I chose to use are all quite old - Rackham, Dulac, Parish, Billibin, Folkard - all well within public domain at this point so I am comfortable using them for a family project.   This would also be a nice project using family photos or your own illustrations.  Whenever you use someone else's art for a project, whether you intend to sell the project or not, you should check to make sure that it is not under copyright.  Be careful and be respectful!  If the illustrator is still alive, he or she probably holds a copyright and it is illegal to copy that work, even if you intend the copy for personal use only.  There are fair use exceptions for research and reporting purposes but even then, it is nice to ask.

Swine Flu Fallout

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Full moon scarf

What a dreadful time we've had of it the last few weeks!  Back in October, I posted in my shops that I would be running a special - free shiping on orders over $30.00 - to make up for inconvenience caused by poky deliveries this fall.  I thought that my deliveries would be poky because of working so much over at the Beorningstead.

No sooner had I put up the free shipping offer than Maxx came down with h1n1.  Then I came down with it.  Then we both got better.   (HA!)    Then I developed an earache from purgatory, my head exploded and I've been unfit to drive or think or hear or talk or anything for a week and a half!  The worst part of it is that I've been so sick that I haven't even been able to work at projects - I'm just too darn dizzy.

Do you have any idea how hard it is to thread a beading needle wen the room won't stop tilting?

Anyway, I'm back to the doctor's today.  She says that the ear infection is a common complication of h1n1, I'm just worried about that fact that it didn't respond well to a course of antibiotics.

I did have a little productive time between the fever flu and the alien in my ear.  I finally finished off the scarves I had painted during summer fest.  They are set, highlighted and up in my Etsy shop right now.  I can't wait to get into my new studio where I will have a counter top just for painting silk scarves!

I also have been working on a custom order velvet scarf for a friend with a VERY lucky wife.  It is an incredible scarlet velvet with gold seed bead mesh with rich crimson goth roundelles at the bottom of each end.   I had lots of fun earlier this fall dyeing up a selection of velvets for him to choose from.  I'm only a little sad that he chose the scarlet.  I still have some purple and an incredible mallard teal to work with.

One of these days, I'll put up a tutorial for netted fringe.  It is one of my favorite things to do - it is a very simple and meditative process and usually goes pretty smoothly as long as one is careful not to get tangles in one's thread.  Ten inches of fringe usually takes me about 2 hours but the velvet is a bit trickier than a flat silk scarf would be, as the initial fringe stitch also acts as the finishing hem for the open ends of the scarf.   That requires a bit of extra time and care with pinning the edges and trying to take up the same amount of fabric on each side of the scarf with each stitch.  The first edge of this scarf took me about 3.5 hours.

You can see in this photo that I wasn't paying close enough attention to the spacing of my stitches on one side of the velvet.  This will have to come out as it makes the velvet drape poorly.  I'm very glad I caught it before I got too far along the edge!

If you love the scarf, I do have another one in sapphire blue over in my shop or I could order up some more velvet and make you any color you want!

I have a fun handmade gift project I hope to post in the next few days as well as show off the necklace I made with a beautiful Mary Harding pendant during the Beading party at the arts council.

. . .

November is National Adoption Month.

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I've recently discovered the r house blog and have been enjoying reading it.  It is a blog writen by the adoptive mom of two beautiful children from open adoptions.  She writes about the joys and hadships of her own two adoptions and she has scads of information and links about adoptions in general.  Yesterday she posted a beautiful video about adoption.  You should go look at it.  I refuse to steal her thunder.

The r house blog has lots of stories about birth moms and adoptive moms and the adoption process.  I've been reluctant to post much about our adoption because our paperwork was hung up in Interstate Compact for so very long and I worried that if the wrong sot of person saw that our paperwork was dragging, we could be challenged or something.  I realize that that was probably a bit of paranoia on my part but it certainly didn't hurt to be quiet and now that Maxx's adoption is finaly final and I'm more than just his "legal guardian" I feel that I have the right to say a bit more.  Mrs R would probably say that I have a responsibility!

So here it is - the whole long story - because no adoption story is as simple as "we decided we needed more kids so we went out and adopted some." 

The story starts way back in 1984 when a Young Man looked at a new Young Woman across a crowded foyer at Church.  25 years is a long time to remember something as simple as a glance but you're just going to have to trust me when I tell you that it was The defining moment of my youth.  Boys had ogled me before but none had looked at me with the recognition and respect that was present in Bryan's gaze at that moment.

Now you expect me to tell you how, having been struck by love at (almost) first sight, I spent the rest of my teen years devotedly attending dances and holding hands with said Young Man, working diligently at my education while waiting for him to return from his Mission and marrying him in the Temple the minute he returned. 

I wish.

We did date for a while and we & all of our friends fully expected the above scenario for a while.  From the age of 14 to 16, I spent a lot of time mooning about, imagining becoming the mother of a houseful of beautiful blonde haired, blue eyed boys - just like him - with a couple of darker daughters like me thrown in to liven up the mix.  But when my parent's marriage finally fell apart, so did I.  I ditched the one person who always took me seriously and treated me with love and respect and went on a series of emotional rampages through the remainder of my highschool years and well into young adulthood.   I wreaked my own brand of havoc in the lives of several boys and allowed them to wreak havoc in mine.  With few exceptions, my romantic relationships at that time were characterized by doubt, disrespect, emotional neediness, drama and low expectations.  Sad.  Pitiful, really.

I was living in Tucson, attending U of A as a Creative Writing major, working a great job at This End Up, where I would soon become manager of my own store and engaged to be married to a decent man who was almost completely incompatible with me when I started having nightmares.  You know the kind of dreams I'm talking about - walking down the aisle in a torn and dirty paper wedding dress while your mother shakes her head and sobs.  I woke up a lot in the middle of the night, not knowing where I was.  Around that time, my fiance and I went to see L.A. Story.  I was marveling at the magical scene where Steve Martin and Victoria Tennant wander through a garden as children holding hands when it suddenly struck me that I had felt that kind of intense,  miraculous kinship with another human being.  I wanted to stand up and shout "Hallelujah!"

My fiance beside me snickered derisively.

It was late April but I couldn't focus enough to complete the semester.  I took incompletes in all my classes and asked my boss for two weeks off.  I booked a flight home to clear my head.  Why on earth was I about to marry a man who obviously didn't believe in true love?   Why would I commit to spending my life with a person who didn't inspire that kind of intense wonderment in me?  Had I really felt that powerfully about someone else at 14 or was I just romanticisizing my first crush?  Where on earth was my life headed and what was I to do about it?   I thought that if I could get away for a little while, I could sort things out.

Bryan stopped by to see me while I was home.  We spent 5 days together.  I cried all the way back to Tucson.  I quit my job, dropped out of school, handed back my diamond (and have never wanted another useless, bloody trinket like it) and headed home.   Bryan and I were married on New Year's eve.

About a year and a half in, we decided that we were ready to start on that housefull of kids we had always fantasized about.  Bryan came from a family with 6 children who came in  2 groups of 3 siblings around the same age.  I am 5 years older than my sister and our brother is 15 months younger than her.  They got to be kids and teens together while I more or less grew up alone - terrorized by thing one and thing two.   It seemed like such a fun idea to have a big family with a bunch of kids around the same age who could play together and support each other the way Bryan's sibling and my brother & sister did but that I missed out on.  

Our Molly Bryn came along exactly when we wanted her to and I had NEVER been happier or healthier in my life than when I was pregnant with her.  I've always struggled with my hormonal balance (endometriosis and estrogen dominance)   Pregnancy was bliss!

Molly was a great baby.  Happy, fun, intelligent and communicative.  She had my eyes and Bryan's mouth and I fell in love with her immediately.  Bryan was in grad school when she was born getting his MST and I was finishing my undergrad work so we decided to wait a little while before trying to have another.  When Molly was 11 months old, I experienced an ectopic pregnancy in spite of our efforts to not get pregnant.  It was a terrifying and physically devastating ordeal.  I was breastfeeding and we had been very careful (we thought) so no one, not even my doctor at first, had any clue why I was bleeding so much or in such horific pain.  I had a one in a million ectopic.  The pregnancy had attached outside my tubes and it took two surgeries for my doctor to find and heal the site.

The next 3 or 4 years were terrible.  I was slammed into a post-partum/post-surgical depression that lasted well over a year.  I had several more surgeries for endometriosis, which was made worse by the ectopic and trauma of blood and surgery in my abdominal cavity.  Eventually I lost one tube and ovary, struggled with all kinds of medical approaches to deal with the pain of endometriosis and surgical adhesions, gained a bunch of weight because even walking was too painful for a long time and finally got my pain issues sorted out with time and some herbal treatments.   By this time, Molly was 5.  Except for post surgery, we had not been trying not to get pregnant.  We were getting discouraged.

Bryan was hired at BOCES and was given excellent health benefits.  How exciting!  Maybe we would be able to seek some help with fertility. . . . .

NYS does not mandate that insurance plans cover any sort of fertility treatment. 

Years passed.  Nothing.  We thought about adoption.  In fact, during one General Conference for the Church, the Prophet spoke about adoption and I felt a strong confirmation that this was a principle that would apply in my life.  We had no idea how we could afford it, though.  Teachers in Upstate NY may have great health benefits (for now) but are in the 16th percentile nationwide for pay scale with their level of education.  Pretty pitiful.   We applied to become Foster Parents, hoping to adopt an infant or a very young child who needed a family through the Foster Care System.  We attended classes.  The more classes we attended, the more clear it became that this option was not right for us right then. 

At that time, St. Lawrence County really needed homes for teens and family groups with ages ranging mostly from 7-16.  Over 90% of the kids coming into the system at the time had experienced some sort of sexual trauma and/or were proven sexual predators themselves.  Bryan's program was full of kids who were either in or should have been in the Foster Care system.  As much as Bryan (and I) loved and had compassion for the kinds of kids he was working with, he saw that Foster Parents spent a huge chunk of their time every day and every week driving the kids around, taking them to appointments with caseworkers, birth families and counsellors.  Many of his kids were only in their Foster Homes at night to sleep because their afternoons and weekends were so packed with Social Services requirements.   Case workers teaching the class indicated that the circumstances and requirements for the children Bryan was familiar with were not unusual for Foster Children and the distances between agencies and professionals can lead to hours of driving time every week.  There would be lots of appointments and lots of interaction and likely interference from Birth Families.  There can be no promises for adoption in Foster Care because the first goal is to heal the Birth Family.  Parental Rights are only terminated when it becomes clear that healing is impossible.

As one caseworker said in class.  "If you are here to adopt, remember that in order for your dream to come true, someone else's has to fall apart."  

We knew that any new child added to our family had to be
1.) safe to spend time with our still very young and innocent daughter
2.) kids that we would be free to raise - not clients that we would transport to meetings and apointments.

We still think that Foster Care is a worthy and worthwhile service.  We might look at it again some day.  If Molly had never been born, I'm sure we wuld have forged ahead and become great foster parents but our family was not and is not yet ready for that sort of sacrifice. 

We applied to LDSFS for adoption, knowing that it was a long shot here in the East, living in such a rural area but also recognizing that it was the only possible affordable solution.  LDS Family Services charges for adoption placement based upon a family's income.  They recognize that a humble family can raise good, happy children just as well as a wealthy family can.  An LDSFS adoption runs between $4,000 and $10,000, much of the costs are subsidized by the Church.

We agonized over our family profile, which photos should we present to birth moms?  How could we make our family look the best?  We agonized over our preferences - would we accept a child with disabilities?  What kind of diasbilities?  Would we accept a child of rape?  What about a child from a different racial background?  Were were open to contact from birth parents? 

Those were all difficult decisions in their own way.  For instance, Molly Bryn totally wanted a brown baby brother and I didn't care what color my next baby might turn out to be but we still had long discussions about the possible realities of an all white family raising a child of mixed race in the mostly homogenous and sometimes bigoted backwaters of Upstate NY.  People can and will be mean.  How would we handle that?

We finished our paperwork and sat back to wait.  And wait.  And wait.  I was Relief Society President in my Branch at Church at the time.  Two unmarried women (one not in my unit) came to me during that time when they discovered that they were pregnant.  They wanted to raise their babies themselves and wanted my advice.  That was very difficult.  I really didn't feel that it was appropriate for me to use my position as RSP to say "the Church says that unwed mothers should consider adoption if marriage and a stable family are not likely and I need a baby so get ready to hand it over, Sista!"  

Instead, I hugged the girls, encouraged them to see their Bishops, made sure they were seeing a doctor for pre-natal care and testified that adoption is a beautiful option, too.  And I went home from each meeting feeling a little bit bitter in my heart that these women were fertile and I was not and wondering why was it ME who had to be called on to counsel the women of the branch at this time of fertility for everyone else? 

We waited.  We updated our information and recertified.  We waited.  Molly turned 9 then 10 then 11.

I started experiencing endo symptoms again after many years mostly pain free.  I had a new doctor, a very skilled surgeon, who decided that I needed surgery and he determined that he would investigate my remaining tube while he was working on me.   The surgery was sucessful, it took care of the pain and other problems I was experiening AND cleaned my tube so that my fertility might be able to be restored.  I took several courses of Clomid because that was somethig our budget could afford even without insurance paying anything.  We hoped, we prayed, we had lots of fun doing everything we could to make a miracle.

Nothing happened except a resurgence of my hypersensitivity to any sort of possible pregnancy symptoms.  I was going crazy.

Finally, we had a discussion.   It sounded something like this, "We can be happy with just the three of us.  Molly is a great kid and there are things that we could do as a family of three that are a lot more difficult with babies and small kids.  We are getting a bit old to raise babies.  (I was past 35 and would have been categorized as an "elderly mother" had I conceived)  It will be sort of sad that we didn't get to raise more children, but let's just go ahead and let our certification expire."

We had made a decision.  It was liberating.  And heartbreaking.  But it meant that I could stop holding my breath.  I was devastated (and still am to a certain degre) that I had never been able to bear that blue eyed baby boy I had been dreaming about since I was 14.  But I could finally stop holding my breath.

So I began taking my little business a bit more seriously and started making peace in my heart with my barrenness. One day not a week later the phone rang.  The hair on the back of my neck stood up.  I knew who was on the ther end of the line and I knew what he was calling about.

There was a birth mom in a neighboring state with a 20 month old boy.  She was very young.  She and the birth father had married and tried to raise the baby but their marriage fell apart.  It didn't take her long to figure out that raising her son as a single mom wasn't fair to the baby and it wasn't fair to her.  The baby had been premature and had some developmental delays as well as a strong family history of ADHD, she was concerned about his future education and she chose us because of Bryan's experience working with special needs teens.  Were we interested in meeting her and the boy?

And so Maxx came into our lives.  Someday when I have the energy, I'll write about the bureaucratic bologna that held Maxx's finilazation up for 3 YEARS but I'm still too exhausted from that to confront it again.

Molly and I stayed in one of Maxx's grandparent's homes with him until we were allowed to bring him home to NYS.  Molly turned 12 while we were waiting.  You never saw a more pitiful 12th birthday party!   Thankfully, our lawyer was able to find some loopholes making us Maxx's legal guardians and allowing us to bring him home before Interstate Compact cleared.

Let me say a few words about Toddler adoption.  It ain't easy.

For the first 8 months or so I felt like an unpaid nanny.  Children adopted as Toddlers often have atachment issues and it is crucial that a strong attachment is formed with the adoptive family as soon as possible.  This means that when the going gets rough, you can't just dump the kid for a weekend somewhere and take off for a break.  Here I was stuck with a toddler who was sick all the time (he's allergic to everything) not even close to potty trained, is an incredibly picky eater and who didn't interact the way I had hoped he would.  He didn't look, smell or act like family and it was very hard at first to really love him.  Friends on adoption forums assured me that this was normal, that it can take months or even years to fall in love with an adopted toddler. 

I had to constantly remind myelf  "The baby is greiving and frightened.  He needs to learn to trust that you will always be there.  He needs to learn that You will be the one to feed him, keep him warm, and not beat him when he cries and is naughty.   He needs to learn how to have fun with you and how to communicate appropriately.  You have to teach him."  I cannot tell you how many times the spirit whispered to me "Maxx is missing his birth mother." or "Maxx is afraid that you will leave him alone."  or "Maxx is greiving for his birth family." or "Maxx does not understand that he is safe here."  over and over those first couple of years. 

One of the most profoundly sad things that happened early on with Maxx was the day I found his old pacifier in a box of his stuff while we were staying at his grandparents' house.  They had taken over for birth mom once she had made the decision to place him with us. They cared for him for about a month, during which time they  weaned him off his binky.   He had been fussy and miserable all day the day I found it and I thought "Hey, I'm into regression - let him have it back."  and I handed the pacifier to him.  He took it in his hands and grinned a huge grin, took a deep breath and went to put it in his mouth.  But then, before the binky got to his lips, his face curled up with great sadness and he started to bawl.  He cried and cried hopelessly, deep racking sobs for more than an hour and I was so heartbroken for him - this poor small person, who had inexplicably lost his mommy and was left all alone with this strange, sometimes grumpy lady who didn't look or smell or act like family. 

Molly and I clung to him all that day and we got through it but it wasn't the end of our mission to attach.  He attached to Molly before he atached to either Bryan or I.  They fight just like siblings now but for the first several months, she was the go-to girl, our little Mother in Israel, helping Maxx feel safe and happy. 

It has been had to figure out exactly what Maxx needs in terms of both tenderness and discipline to help him feel safe.  No book can realy prepare a parent for that - we have had to listen to the Spirit and trust that we are getting the right instructions.  We have had to stand firm on some of our adaptive childrearing decisions with friends or family members who think we're a little bonkers for doing things the way we do.  But it has paid off.  I remember the first time Maxx allowed himself to relax into my arms after months of sitting rigid on my lap and not making eye contact.   The first time he fell asleep in my lap was like magic.  Many children adopted as toddlers NEVER fall asleep in their adoptive parents' arms.  I had not ever expected it but when it happened, it was beautiful and right.

I know that there will always be a tiny little boy who misses his first Mommy inside Maxx.  There will always be a younger woman inside me who is sad that she can't bear more babies.  But that's O.K.  Maxx and I have room for them.  They comfort each other prety well.

Halloween Fail and my Favorite Ancestor Photos

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What a bummer of a Halloween we had this year.  We really didn't do anything except let Maxx wear his costume arond all day.   I've decided to quarantine Maxx.  He has asthma so coming down with h1n1 could be particularly dangerous for him.  His doctors insist that he needs the shot as soon as possible but he can't have the nasal spray, which is the only thing that has been available around here. 

Swine flu is rampant here right now - the schools are full of it, Aunt Nichelle had a rough week with it last week and everyone in Gramma and Grampa's household are waiting to see if they will be coming down with it.  Several neighbors have had it and I've heard that at least one local school district has actually shut down for a few days due to over 50% absenteeism.   Until we can get the shot, Maxx and I will just be hanging out at home trying to avoid sick people.   He's bored already.    (Much later. . . . . Aaaaand an update - too late with the quarantine.  I now have a sick little piggy on my hands.)  

On a fun note, I recently scanned some old photos of my grandparents that I thought I would post here.  The first photo is of a class in front of the old Norwood school house on Prospect Street- the photo must have been taken sometime between 1917-1920.  I forgot to double check the back of the photo before giving it back to Meemo - Grandpappy was pretty good about dating his photos.   He's in there - the mischevious looking one with handy ears in the second row.  He used to complain about how his older sister would grab him by the ears when he was naughty and I always felt sorry for him but now that I have my own little boy, I can understand why a big sister would take advantage of such ready steering devices.

The second two are my all time favorite photos of my grandparents - Bea and Bill Merkley posing on the pumpkins.  This photo is from the late 1930's taken on my great Grandfather's farm on Plum brook road, Norfolk, NY.   The farm is no longer there, it was purchased and razed back in the 50's to make room for an expansion to the Bixby cemetery where both of them are now buried.  Isn't she beautiful?  Don't they look like they are having fun!

I won't begrudge anyone who wants to make crafty use of these photos but you may not download and sell the images themselves.
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