Creating connections with Adoption Choices families

Posts tagged ‘siblings’

Twins–Independence from each other isn’t so easy

I am so happy I have my own room now…..but am I really?

Just a few weeks ago, we finished the transition of moving Bruiser into his own room (aka the office).  He was so excited to have his own room…….new bed, cool karate mural on his wall, many shelves and drawers to put all his “STUFF.”  Bruiser loved the whole idea of being given a room that he could call his own rather than sharing with his twin sister.

The big day comes……………the awesome captains bed is scheduled to arrive in a few days but Bruiser insists on staying in his new room with an air mattress.  He goes on an organizing binge: all his stuffed animals are arranged perfectly on his bed, the action figures are all poised to protect from attack, the books are in perfect order from smallest to biggest.  The clothes will wait until the captains bed arrives.

Well, with all the wonderful anticipation…………the transition was far from seamless.

Night #1:  Bruiser is out bed every 5 minutes.  First it is I need a drink, then I have to go to the bathroom, then I am going to help JJ clean his room, then I am going to see if Princess is ok in her room alone, then he comes in (11:30pm by this time) to tell us that although Princess is sleeping, he thinks that she is scared without him in her room.  So 3 hrs in new room and 8 hrs in old room.

Night #2: Big meeting between the twins………outcome is that Princess must sleep in new room with Bruiser for one night.  Well another late night of chit chat and giggling.

Night #3: Twins beg us to let Princess sleep in new room.  But at this point, we refuse to be persuaded or manipulated by two 6 yr. olds.  Bruiser in one room and Princess in the other.  Although the twins continued whining and moaning for 2 hrs.  protesting our insistence that each sleep in their respective rooms, we remained strong and stuck to our plan.  By 10:30pm, both were asleep.

Night #4: Bruiser’s new captains bed arrived and he carefully folded every piece of clothing and placed it in its’ precise place.  The organization process took at least 2 hours but it was finally done.  Bruiser went to sleep exhausted from figuring out where everything belonged.

Since then, Bruiser has not looked back.  He loves his new room.  Now….we just need to figure out what to do without our office.  But that will be a problem for another day.

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Treasures Hidden in the Chaos: You never know what you will find

Well, our twins, Bruiser and Princess are turning 6 yrs old in a month, and it is time for us to have them in separate bedrooms.  It is easier said than done, considering there are no additional bedrooms in our home.  There was only one solution!  Move Bruiser into his 12 year old brother’s room………..

1)      Great way to deal with space issue

2)      Great way to separate boy/girl twins

3)      Great way to cause brotherly friction

4)      Great way to increase the opportunity for squabbles

5)      Great way to ruin JJ’s study environment

Guess that isn’t the best solution, or even a realistic one.

The other alternative would require relocation of our office partially to the kitchen and partially to the basement……..this is the way, begrudgingly, we decided to go.    What a pain to go through papers, files, and “stuff” that we accumulated over the past 12 years!  We found things including: computer diskettes (don’t even know how to see what is on these), cords that we have no idea what they go to, rolodex files (2 of them) with business cards from before the year 2000, bills dating back to 2004, highlighters and pens that haven’t probably worked in 10 years, multiple pads of paper and notebooks with less than 10 sheets of paper on them……….and the list goes on.

But then, my husband found our Adoption files.  Everything stopped.  Amongst the 10 bags filled with shredded paper, the stacks of books that we didn’t remember that we had, the vicariously balanced electronics, the bills from beyond, everything beyond the Adoption files were irrelevant…..my husband sat and looked at each file, piece by piece.

  • The memories of the first time we met with our social worker.  The conversations came flooding back……….domestic or international adoption?  If international, what country?  If domestic, how?  Agency, Facilitator, Lawyer?  We had so little knowledge then.
  • The memories of the constant contact with our social workers once we were matched.  I had saved every email between us and the social workers.  Reading through the emails, we remember the emotional rollercoaster that we rode.
  • The receipts of my trip to visit my twins’ birth mom.
  • The medical records, lawyer and agency contracts.
  • A scribbled note on a piece of paper with the birth mom’s description of the “6 ft, blue eyed, ROTC” birth dad.  This was quite interesting because we ultimately met the birth dad.  (we are thankful to have met the birth dad who did have amazing blue eyes but the rest of her description was a bit off.)
  • A ripped piece of scrap paper that I wrote the weight and height of each baby when they were born.  I remember getting the call…….I was standing outside my house packing our car to make our flight.  I grabbed a piece of paper from the floor of my car.
  • Plus, so much more.

Surrounded by clutter and chaos, my husband was transported into a world of peaceful memories……..some of the best memories of our life.   It was like re-living the adoption experience over again, except this time we know how it will turn out.

These very special files will bypass the shredder………..but will need to find a new place in our home.  Where do they belong? I don’t know yet, but it will be somewhere worthy of these very important memories.

Adoption is Like Learning to Ride a Bike

Our oldest son, JJ, was a bit cautious when he first learned to ride a two-wheeler.  He started to learn the summer between 2nd and 3rd grade and had it down pat the middle of the next summer.  He was hesitant at first, took a few spills and called it quits after a month of off and on trials.  JJ wasn’t too anxious to try again the following summer but with some persuasion, he attempted it again.  And before long, he got the hang of riding and never looked back again.

Fast forward to Bruiser, nearing the end of pre-school (he was 5 ½ yrs old), begged for his training wheels to come off.  With slight hesitation, we complied.  He got on the bike and was shaky for all of one minute—within a month he is doing stunts that should clearly not be done by a 5 year old.  I swear he is going to give me a heart attack!  My mom won’t even allow him on his bike when she is over….she doesn’t have the nerves for it.

Fast forward to Princess, she is not as gutsy as her twin.  Princess was quite content on her Barbie bike with her pink training wheels (it is so girly—it is nauseating).  She showed no interest in trying a two wheeler.  She started to use her Razor most of the time and would take out her bike with training wheels every now and then.  We finally took her training wheels off…..but she wasn’t interested.  However, a few days ago, she got up on her bike and told us she wanted to learn to ride a two-wheeler.  We ran with her twice around the street……..she was a bit unbalanced and after a solid 10 minutes she put the bike away.  Two days later I was running out for a “date” with my husband to celebrate my (let’s just say 29th) birthday, my mom was babysitting, when Princess grabs her bike and says “Nana, watch—-I can ride a two-wheeler!”  Before I had time to stop her, Princess took off on the bike; it was like she had been riding without training wheels for months.

Three kids……three different bike experiences.  Similarly, no two adoptions are alike.

Every adoption is a learning experience.

Mental state to take the leap of faith to jump in is different for everyone.

Patience is necessary.

Not every parent stays balanced through the challenge.

In the beginning, we have lots of “training wheels” helping us keep on a straight path.

We have limited time to hold on, teach our children how to keep balance in their lives (or on their bikes) but you eventually have to let go.

Over the past 5 ½ years, we appreciated our “training wheels,” and we continue to practice letting go as our children grow older.  JJ—we love how you take time until you feel totally confident that you will succeed.  Bruiser—we love your chutzpah and sense of adventure and just get it done attitude.  Princess—we love your style of waiting until you are good and ready to even try.

It takes a village

I read a post the other day from  a blog called  A Diary of a Mom written by a woman named Jess.  Jess is the mom of two young girls, one of whom has autism.  All her posts are full of eloquence, passion, and great writing but this one on her “village” is my latest favorite.  She writes of her night away with friends: “To unabashedly be nothing but who we are – warts and all – in the company of others who are doing the same is something far too rare in this world.”

Jess’s post called to mind some of the villages from my life.  There’s the village made up of friends from high school, the ones I stayed in contact with and the ones I’ve rediscovered through the magic of Facebook.  Whenever a song from Jackson Browne, Neil Young, or The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band pops up on my iPod, I’m transported back to endless car rides around town, to that crazy Vermont vacation, or the incredible cross-country camping trip.  Whenever I choose optimism over skepticism or humor over frustration, it’s because of the 18 year old girl I once was.  When I am in the company of these friends, whether it’s virtual or live, I can see the world through that girl’s eyes once again.  A recent hiking trip in the rain with a few of these villagers was certainly wet, and my every day eyes might have described it as a bit foolhardy.  But in this village, there is no whining or complaining.  Since everything in this village is an adventure, a tough hike in the pouring rain becomes just one part of a truly great day.

Then there are my college friends.  From this village, I learned about the need to manage the conflict between what I wanted to do and what I had to do.  In all honestly, we focused much more on the fun than on our obligations, but lessons about balance began there.  This group has grown to include spouses, children, and friends that feel like college classmates.  We get together as often as cross country locations and life allow.  And yes, we talk about our lives and our obligations and the challenges that face us – crazy work schedules, aging parents, the world our kids navigate today.  But mostly… we laugh and we remember the foolish things we used to do and for a while, our plates don’t seem so full.  Whenever my 40-something self (yes guys, I know my time to say that grows short but it’s still true today!) says “Enough!” to the endless loop of work, errands and homework patrol, my 20-something self smiles and says “Road trip!”  When I give K a free pass on something and she asks me “What have you done with my mom?” I know College Gail is proud.

There are my recent villages.  They include the moms I befriended when K was small, the ones who gave me adult companionship during those wonderful but long days of toddlerhood.  They include the women I worked with on all those school events – smart, funny, dedicated women who make a difference every day in schools, so unlike the women we see mockingly portrayed on TV.  Then there are the work colleagues who helped me transition back into the work force after my time at home.  And my local friends who are my safety net, my emergency contacts, there for a favor or a calming chat over coffee. 

Last but nowhere near least, where would I be without the village my parents gave to me, my siblings?  They are the ones who remember the silver Christmas tree with the color wheel, the tennis matches in the driveway with the chicken wire net, sneaking Mom’s incredible brownies out of the freezer, and watching how high Dad could throw a baseball in the air.  They are the only ones who truly know how much I lost now that Mom and Dad are gone.  Of course, they are also the ones to remind me how much we  still have because we still have each other.

K will not grow up with a village of siblings and there are times that realization fills me with regret and sorrow.  Yet, I take comfort from remembering just as our family is not related by blood; villages don’t require blood relations either.  They require only a common bond to build and a commitment to maintain. So, I wish for K a good and happy life in villages filled with people who allow her “to unabashedly be nothing but who [she is] – warts and all.”  I hope she keeps these villages close to remind her of who she is, who she was, and all that she can be.

Love and School

My oldest started Kindergarten earlier this month. It’s awesome! My youngest started Pre-K and that is awesome too! I love back to school. It’s so great to see the girls make new friends, experience new things, and to see how they integrate our home life into their school life (and vice versa).

I’ve preceded the start of each school year with a letter to the classroom teacher (and this year the guidance counselor too) which outlines our family makeup for them. My hope is that this letter will help the teachers and staff understand adoption, adoption language, and how adoption is for us. I do this in order to spare my kids the dumbfounded look of adults who don’t get adoption (or differences in family make up in general).

When I write the letter each year I have a line from the poem Black is Brown is Tan by Arnold Adoff, “This is the way it is for us, this is the way we are” running through my head. Basically, I like to spell it out as simple and clear as possible for the reader. I don’t give back story, nitty-gritty details, or write anything that my kids don’t already know themselves. I give labels to all the family members, what role the family members each have in my child’s life, and what open adoption means, and doesn’t mean for my family. I try to stick to “This is the way it is for us, this is the way we are” as this is also the motto I have for my family in general.

My girls talk about their birth families as they talk about everyone else in their life, integrated into their wondrous universe, which they are the masters of. But sometimes, I am taken aback by my girls’ depth of thinking about our big crazy open adoption family. This happened late last week. My oldest daughter had created an “All about me” project which was displayed for Parents Night in her classroom.  It was adorable, and pronounced her age, eye color, hair color, favorite color (blue!) and then for the last page it said “One important thing you should know about me is ________________.” My oldest wrote “i HV BUTHi”. I looked at the illustration she had drawn above the writing and it gave me no clue about the meaning. So I asked my oldest what it said, and she told me, “I have a brother”. My heart stuck in my throat, I turned to hug my sweet girl, and looked up to see her teacher beaming at me with a huge smile.  Thank god, I thought, this is a safe place where it is ok for us to be just the way we are.

Love and Regret

A few weeks ago we had a wonderful visit from my youngest daughter’s birthmom, her husband, and their 3-month-old daughter. My daughter’s birthmom’s youngest daughter, is also my youngest daughter’s half-birth sister, however we just call her, Baby Sister, to make life simpler.  We were all under one roof for three days, and our house was full of the love and happiness of two moms, two dads, two big sisters and one baby sister. For the kids, our visits are full of visits to the park, dinners out and in, school visits, bedtime stories, and being tucked in by everyone my kids love at night. For the mama, mommy, dada, and daddy, our visits are time to reconnect, to continue getting to know each other, and of course to snuggle beautiful, sweet, lil baby sister.

The foundation of my relationship with my youngest daughter’s bithmom is built from hefty stones of regret, pain, loss, hopelessness, and grief. We both carry these stones, putting them down, and having a seat on them once in a while to talk about how heavy they are, how much they make our back break, and how they can make our soul wince with pain. However dense these stones are, they seem weightless as pumice when we see our daughter happy, or jumping for joy as she introduces her birthmom to her teachers and classmates at school, or when she cuddles her newborn sister and gives her kisses.

We put down our stones in strange places; in the baby section of Target, or driving on our way to pick up our daughter from school, or in the Deli line at the supermarket. However, we put them down, and we talk. Which I think is one of the most important parts of our Open Adoption.

We talked about how family can let you down. We talked about how someone whom you would have never met, if it wasn’t for life changing circumstances of making an adoption plan for your child, can become one of your greatest allies; an “Auntie” to your youngest daughter, and a mother to your oldest. Mostly, we talked about regret. The great big “What If’s” that sometimes haunt us both. We talk honestly, plainly, and with endearment for the hopelessness of wishing to change the past.

Reflecting on our visit, and our talks, has led me to revisit a book I read a few years ago called, Lifegivers: Framing the Birthparent Experience in Open Adoption by James L. Gritter.  I have chosen to reread this book as my next Adoption Reading Challenge selection. I am particularly interested in the chapters on grief and regret, and I am hoping giving this book another read-through will help me to understand more of my youngest daughter’s birthmom’s experience in our Open Adoption relationship.

Vacationing with Kids: Is it really a vacation?

(Posted on behalf of Twin Mom Plus One)

As I sit here in the passenger  seat on our way to the airport, my mind is racing and adrenaline pumping.  I sit thinking of the past two weeks of trip preparation, as well as our upcoming vacation cross country.

Prep work:  coordinating the trying on the twins’ summer clothes in between episodes of Phineas and Ferb, realizing that JJ wore slims while Bruiser is built like a tank…..guess hand-me down concept didn’t fare very well, hand-me downs for Princess was more successful however once she was all packed she decided to pull out an outfit that was already in the suitcase (bottom of the suitcase), JJ was a breeze…gave him a list and he packed himself albeit 2 of the 4 Shirts were permantly stained and 1 of the 3 shorts were too small, the dog was easy to get ready for his vacation at nana and papa’s house- as long as we don’t think about the diarrhea that he came down with a few days ago.  Ok…almost at the airport….considering day of traveling, TSA checkpoints, rental car lines etc.  Need a vacation from my vacation and haven’t even stepped into the airport.  OY!

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