national adoption day

Every year, we try to observe and celebrate National Adoption Day. Our Gotcha Day is one of the most special days I’ve experienced, but we don’t tend to celebrate it wholly because it’s a mere two days after our son’s birthday. We want to give our little man all of the celebration he deserves for being so resilient and amazing and so we use the distance from his birthday to observe this special time.

Each National Adoption Day, we’ve celebrated with a special treat (usually, one involving actual sugar and not just nuts — 4 considers almonds a ‘special after-dinner treat’) and read all of our adoption picture books. 4 knows that he’s adopted; it’s something we talk about often and try to have open and honest communication about. We always want him to be able to ask questions and talk openly about his feelings now and of course when he better understands what adoption means.

National Adoption Day is such a special day for so many families. I understand that adoption started by a child being separated by his/her bio family and I’m sure there is a lot to digest and process at some point about that. I have several friends who are adopted and several more who’ve adopted (two of my sorority sisters adopted their beautiful littles and are also adopted themselves). I am so grateful for their support and openness to answering questions when I’ve had them.

I always like to take the time to think of 4’s village when National Adoption Day rolls around. We are so fortunate to have so much love showered on our little guy and even more so that we keep in touch with his former foster family. His former foster mom is amazing and she’s also his Godmother; the most special piece about maintaining a relationship with her (aside from our friendship) is the bond 4 shares with his former foster sister. I call her little girl Mother Hen — she’s only a year older than 4 but just loved him to pieces when he was a baby and they still share that bond when they’re together.

I joke that Mother Hen is 4’s ride or die; sometimes he’ll talk about her and say they’re going to drive her mom’s car for an adventure. I just picture them joyriding as teens — it’s a good thing they don’t live close-by so that this isn’t a true possibility but their bond is special and I cherish it for my son. This year for National Adoption Day, we will go through our pictures from his adoption and will read our favorite books: The Tummy Mummy and Wish are two of my personal favorites.

We try to ensure that our little love always knows how special he is and how loved he is by everyone who’s entered his life. I mean, we are talking about a small child who brought a clinic team (nine physicians from nine different departments) to tears as they beamed with pride over his growth. I love celebrating him and celebrating this special day as a family filled with joy on this special day.

 

bad medicine

Last weekend, 4 and I went on an adventure to our nation’s capital: There, we visited playgrounds, went to the National Zoo with friends, and dined at TrueFood more than once — we also ate doughnuts and pizza! It was a really decadent weekend, full of mommy-4 time and I loved every second of it. 4 is now an expert at train travel and taxi travel (thanks to the RideSafer) — the number of compliments he gets at the airport for getting his own bin and putting his backpack and jacket in show his savvy when it comes to air travel.

Along our journey from northern VA to the zoo, we got out at Farragut West and walked around for a bit. We were running early and I wanted to show 4 where I used to work (across the street from the WhiteHouse). I pushed him in his stroller a bit and we made our way back to Farragut North to take the red line train to Woodley Park. We took the elevator down to the lower level and then went to board the next elevator to the train platform when we ran into our first joint encounter with a woman who was clearly in a space. Of course the elevator wasn’t working, so we turned around and had an employee turn off the lock so we could access it. As we waited for the elevator, the woman had a very boisterous moment which was followed by taking pills.

All in all, 4 was exposed to language and activity I’d rather not him see but realized that at some point I would need to address. Given 4’s life experiences, I always want to have an open line of communication when it comes to drugs and experimentation. This is something my husband and I have spoken about tirelessly and always figured we’d start addressing this deliberately at an early(ish) age. So, when 4 asked why the woman was screaming, I took it as a chance to open the doors of communication.

I wasn’t sure how to really approach the idea of drug abuse, but given that two of my cousins and an uncle lost their lives to overdose, I felt like I could deliver information about the habit/behavior without judgment/lessening the value of the person; thus, I introduced him to the term of ‘bad medicine’ and I explained that sometimes people take bad medicine because they want to feel a certain way or feel better about things but instead it makes them sick. Then, we talked about how we can’t take Zarbees (honey cough syrup) when we aren’t sick because it won’t work the right way with our bodies.

Keeping things in line with 4’s understanding and allowing the lines of communication to remain open are of the utmost importance when discussing such heavy matters. Considering, he has been talking about this since shows that he is processing what we talked about and what he saw — which leaves me hopeful that as he grows, he will continue to work to understand the epidemic facing our society, show empathy, and make the best choices he can.

national zoo

This weekend, 4 and I are boarding a plane and heading to our nation’s capital to see ‘the bunnies’ — 4 has been obsessed with pandas (or bunnies, as he so lovingly names them) since he first saw one in a book. Two years ago, we were in town for a baby shower and took him to see them at the zoo — enter, Little Bunny, the stuffed panda he chose there. Little Bunny has been his right-side guy every night since then. It seems 4 is excited to add a sister-bunny to the mix this weekend and has already asked if he can pick one out.

Who am I to say no?

I am really excited for this mommy-4 trip. Our last trip together was in the spring when we went to Great Wolf Lodge; there, my son kept yelling, “I’m trump patrol and I’m ready to roll” — what he meant was ‘chug patrol’ from a British cartoon he enjoys: Chuggington. I can only imagine what little statements will come up on this trip.

We land late Saturday morning and will head straight to our hotel and then lunch with a dear friend. Sunday is our national zoo trip with some of my closest girlfriends and one’s little lady (she’s two) and Monday is completely up in the air — whatever the little man is into, I suppose: Could be a museum trip or a few hours at a local playground. At the end of the day, I’m just really excited to have this time to spend with him. He’s my little buddy and our time together is so special.

I am also excited to share with him where I spent nearly 10 years of my adult life. I love getting back to DC and haven’t been there in two years now. I have kept in touch with my closest friends from there (of course, I just went to Charleston with one) and so having 4 be a part of that circle is also something that’s so very important to me. Every trip we take, he gets to learn more about his tribe of people who care for him endlessly.

I’m not sure what else will be on our agenda — I’ve thought about a special dessert trip to the Melting Pot because who doesn’t love chocolate fondue and I read about a local doughnut shop just near our hotel; of course, I love my favorite Tex-Mex restaurant in DC, Cactus Cantina and 2Amys, right next door with the best pizza I’ve ever eaten. I am packing our Rider Safe so that we can take a taxi through the city if we so choose and maybe get to my alma mater for a quick tour.

I am all packed and ready to go and my heart could just explode thinking of all of the memories we get to make this weekend. To top it off, 4 had a great day at school today, so we are heading into the weekend in a really good headspace and are ready to take on our mommy-4 adventure!

*Note: This was written Friday but I set the publication date to go live after our return (safety reasons).

a week in review

Wow! This past week has been a whirlwind!

3 turned 4 on Monday — with Monday being a school holiday, my husband used his last free PTO day so that we could take the kids to Great Wolf Lodge. I took 3 there in the spring (thanks, Groupon, for mid-week specials) and I’ve wanted to take 11 & 13 (I took them to Water Country over the summer and we enjoyed the slides for a solid nine hours — so, I knew they’d love it). We prepared all kinds of food to take with us: chicken tacos and raw vegetables for the kids and prosciutto-wrapped chicken salads for us for dinner; boiled eggs and fruit for breakfast; and lots of snacks.

We took the 75 minute journey after church on Sunday and were greeted with wolf ears and a chance to hop right in the water. We spent six hours on the slides and at the pool on Sunday; needless to say, all three kiddos ate like savages and were out cold by 8PM. My husband took the kids back to the park Monday morning and I stayed in the room to get some reading done for one of my grad classes; after that, we packed up and headed home. We’d planned to stop for pizza and cookies along the way but 4 passed out, so we adjusted our plans. It was such a fun weekend and I think a much needed break for everyone.

Once we were home, it was back to the grind: 13 had a service meeting after school to prepare for the field trip which was on Thursday, 11 continues to learn more songs on the trumpet (I think he’s up to 15 now!), and 4 had t-ball and his Gotcha-day anniversary. Throw in my husband’s busy work schedule (huge presentation and meetings with his boss while he was in town from CA) and my workload and it made for quite the time.

We got through it and 13 loved her field trip on Thursday, despite the crummy weather with high winds. They went into Boston and had a lunch/dance party on a boat, did a scavenger hunt in the city, and had dinner in Faneuil Hall — highlights included the taco, brownie bites, and seeing celebrities shooting a film. I was so relieved to hear she had a blast — as the wind blew on Thursday, I worried that the trip would be unpleasant. This was another highlight of the week!

Friday rolled in and we put an end to the week with shrimp quesadillas and an early bedtime. Of course, for me, it means I was wide awake at 3AM, so I’ve been in the basement family room, online browsing, and watching Temptation Island. Having a day of separation from the week’s busy allows me to realize all we accomplished last week and how happy everyone was to get in some extra family time and then share personal achievements/excitements.

Our goal for this year (not calendar year, so much — because I operate on a school calendar year) was to be more deliberate about planning a family date each month. In September, the family date day was a camping trip in Salem, MA. I didn’t stay the night (stayed with the dog) but was there each day and this month’s was the Great Wolf Lodge. Next month, our family date date is going to be holiday shopping and dinner out — not as grande a gesture but still should be a fun chance for us to bond outside of the house.

We have a busy few weeks coming up, so it’s nice to look forward to the days where we can stop the busy and enjoy each other. I’m looking forward to next week; I’m traveling solo to visit with a friend — I’ve been trying to get ahead of my school work so that I can enjoy this trip without stress or work to do. I have three library books to read for pleasure and I’m so excited to get this girl time. My parents are coming to visit the following weekend; they try to schedule their visits when 13 & 11 are here so they can visit with them and so the kids never feel slighted for missing a visit.

We are in a season of busy — kids are busy — we are busy — but we are trying to enjoy the down time we have with nightly family dinners, walks, little trips, homemade weekend brunches, and basic conversation. I so very much look forward to these coming days but am happy I took the time to reflect upon this last week. It was truly, very special.

gotcha day

October is such a fun and busy month: 3 turns 4 and our Bruttie boy turns 10 a week later. There is a lot of celebration and far more cookies and pizza than usual. This month, we decided to do our family fun date around 3’s birthday because that’s what scheduling permits. I can’t wait to write a recap of that. Alas, I digress.

The most pivotal thing that’s ever happened in October is 3’s Gotcha Day. We officially adopted our little man two days after his second birthday. Our judge was also an adoptive parent and truly spoke from the heart when he met us. I will forever be grateful for his decorum: He gave our two year old child two stuffed animals (Rainbow and Nice Bear as they’ve so lovingly been named) and a gavel. We hired a photographer for our special day and there are some doozies in there with our son waving that gavel proudly.  It was a really memorable day, filled with high-fives, fist bumps, an appearance by his foster family who loved him so deeply, and more tears than I could qualify.

In the days leading up to his adoption, my husband and I were able to sneak away to Savannah and Hilton Head, sans children. It was nice to have a bit of space to process everything that was going on. It had been a stressful few years where infertility blazed the way of all of our stresses and my hormonal rises and crashes. Not fun. Alas, those feelings were largely erased after our little man’s gotcha day.

He had spent ~730 days in foster care prior to that day and it was a relief to know that we could help him to break the cycle. We are quickly approaching our two year anniversary of this special day and I am just beside myself that I get to be his mommy. He has the sweetest little voice and the best personality — he is athletic and shares my love of books; he’s never one to turn down a muffin, even if it means he’s taken it from the trash and attempted to dine al fresca. He is my best little buddy who I take on flights and travel adventures and who never turns down a trip to the zoo or local library.

It’s hard to get through the month without taking a pause to reflect on this special day. We have pictures from the courthouse in our hallway and we always make a deliberate effort to talk about his adoption and remind him how special he is to have so many people love him and want what was best for him.

Of course, adoption and his gotcha day is not made of all sunflowers and applesauce. There is trauma and questions of family history at the forefront of our minds. It is constant. Still, we continue to approach this day with care and love and our best intentions with our family’s light.

 

“threenager”

Three has been quite the age for us. We are in a season of life where all 3 does is argue — literally, about everything. Because I am with him all day, each day, I am really worn down by the incessant arguments. Sure, we’ve moved past the spite peeing but now that school is on the horizon, I think that his anxiety is kicking in and EVERYTHING is a battle: Getting dressed, using the bathroom before we go on a long car ride, eating, brushing his teeth.

I know that his anxiety is revving, and I try to talk about what school will look like. He is going three days a week for three hours each day. He starts on Monday and I’m hoping some of these behaviors fall by the wayside when he starts school and adjusts to his new routine.

It can be very challenging to remain patient through the minute-by-minute arguments, followed up by throwing-himself-on-the-ground tantrums. I have been giving myself tons of breaks throughout the day so that I can have some semblance of patience when dealing with these behaviors.

In addition to the anxiety, he has been fighting naps most days. Some days, he’s out so cold that he goes to the bathroom and doesn’t wake; most days, he just fights naps. I recognize that I can’t make him sleep, obviously, so my typical rule is that he do a quiet activity. Most days, he follows this rule and will relax in his bed with a few books. These are the days he tends to have better days; but then there are days when he scales his brother’s furniture (it’s all bolted) and plays with his things — he knows he’s not supposed to; he’s engaging in these behaviors out of spite and sometimes anger.

I can honestly say that there are days where I’ve felt like 3’s behaviors were going to break me. A few weeks ago, I texted my husband and told him needed to come back and work from home; he’s just left. We were in the throws of the third tantrum by 8AM and 11 & 13 were so tired they were just spinning around. (Keep in mind, we maintain pretty strict bedtime schedules, so we recognized everyone was run down — probably because we spent a lot of time at parks and the beach and just running around in the sun.)

So, here we are, the weekend before school starts and 3 is acting helpless — “can’t” put on his clothes or go to the bathroom or drink his water. He is a trooper, though: We’ve traveled a lot this summer and he’s a great flier and a great backseat driver in the car (“Oh, mommy, watch — that car isn’t paying attention … Mommy, there’s a red light”) — his backseat driving skills have only improved since switching him to forward facing — alas, once we return home, his behaviors kick back in.

Part of it, I think, is him exhausting himself trying to keep it all together while we are out and about and traveling to and fro; so, when we are home, he just can’t keep it together. He’s also had more appointments than usual with his care team; he weaned from thick liquids to thin and had several follow-ups as a result. This was a big deal for him and his health but also a big transition.

Regardless, it’s rough and it’s been weighing on me. I like our normal routines and I’m hoping that once school starts, he will feel safe in the environment and some of these behaviors will fall by the wayside. Until then, we will keep doing what we are doing — we give him a lot of choices (he chooses what snacks he wants; toothpaste; clothing). We try to give him as many choices as we can, which we’d hoped would make things easier for him but it sometimes feels that’s not the case. Last week, I took him shopping to pick out a backpack, which was very exciting for him (but again, I think it made his anxiety brew).

So, here we are in 3’s last week of summer break. We are hopeful that we can reel things back in and alleviate a lot of these behaviors sooner than later. Until then, you can find me sitting in silence in my room after copious hugs are given… happy to receive any positivity…

summer’s last hoorah

This was the last full week with 13 & 11 of summer vacation. We started out the weekend with a trip to a local arcade where we all played games and did the batting cages; then we had ice cream before lunch and then pizza. (And, if I’m being honest, we had the rest of the pizza for dinner…) It was a great day and a great way to kick off the last week of summer vacation with everyone.

Monday, 3 was having a time, so my husband stayed home with him. I took 13 & 11 to one of our local beaches and was so excited that a friend of mine also met us there! We jumped waves and boogie boarded; had a snack lunch; and enjoyed a solid six hours out in the summer sun.

Tuesday and Wednesday, I had appointments and my husband was working from home. I chopped all of my hair off on Tuesday per the suggestion of my stylist and love the fresh, new cut. My hair has been to the middle of my back for the last few years and a collarbone cut was exactly what I needed. I ran some errands and headed to campus afterwards to try and finish my application and set up Internet on my computer — wasn’t successful in either of those attempts but I did get my student ID.

On Thursday, the Red Sox had to finish a suspended game from the other week. Because the game was to start at 1PM on a weekday (top of the 10th inning; tied 4-4), the Sox were offering free tickets for all kids and $5 tickets for adults. I grabbed myself a ticket and headed into the city with three kiddos and some singles for the $1 hotdogs. What a great lunchtime activity! We met my husband afterwards and he took the kids home so I could meet a friend for dinner. All-in-all, a tiring but fun day!

With Friday being our last day of vacation, we wanted to spend some time at the beach but the weather had another plan, so we hung out at the house until after lunchtime. Then, I dropped them to their mom and 3 and I headed home for nap time. 3 and I are heading on a trip next week to visit my parents and he is looking forward to playing in his red house and showing ‘grammy’ his “big, round belly” … I’m sure lots of s’mores and ice cream and fresh garden vegetables will be heavily consumed during our trip. Personally, I’m looking forward to tomatoes — all of the garden tomatoes!

When we return, we will visit with my in-laws for Labor Day and then the grind will really start. My graduate coursework starts that Tuesday and my stress levels/anxiety are just through the roof. I am sure once I have the syllabi to figure out the timing of everything, I will settle in quickly. 3’s school year doesn’t begin until a little later, so I get a little more time with him before settling completely into my fall routine.

For the fall, I am hoping to get back into the swing of working out and yoga. I typically am able to get into routines more easily at the start of the school year and I’d like to get back to a better exercise regimen. I have watched my diet all summer (enough anyway) but haven’t exercised much outside of walking the dog. I also have a gym membership through my program, so I am hoping to get to the gym there to lift and swim at least once a week. We will see what goals I set for myself in the next few weeks…