Saturday, April 20, 2013

Walking through memories...

Like many you, the dream of spring has brought on a full scale "clean", you know what I mean. The exhausting, you have to touch everything to decide if it is kept, donated or pitched.  That going though everything, well it feels like everything, makes you want to nap, drink or cry with the sheer amount of memories that flood your mind.

I will tell you up front I am not the mom that saves every piece of paper that my kids bring home.  The amazing amount of papers that 5 kids create on a daily basis would turn my already full house into a den of paper piles that would make any hoarder jealous with the elaborate mazes to get to the bathroom.  I sort and  I organize it for each kid, I'm not a fucking animal.  I save artwork, report cards, papers with good grades and some with bad grades and I save baby shoes...

I know.  Baby shoes.

I love baby shoes.  Not just for the cute factor, if that was it I would save EVERYTHING from babyhood all that shit is cute enough to turn the darkest heart diabetic with sweetness.  I save then to remind me that all my children have walked in this world long before they were mine.

Our children have used their feet to push their birthmother's bellies up, kicking them at night, showing that they were there.  they used them to to stretch out as they grew bigger and bigger until they pushed their way into this world.  Feet, kicking and stretching to strengthen legs and tummies.  Two of our girls used their feet to take their first steps, steps that touch soil thousand of miles away.  Steps I never saw, but steps that have shaped who they are and who they will be. They carry scars on their feet, from not wearing shoes, scars I will never know how they came to be and they have beautiful toes that will never grow nails.  Their feet tell their story.

When A came home she was 4, she was scared and she didn't trust me.  Why should she?  She had been put in 2 care centers, heard 3 different languages and every woman that she trusted, bonded with put her in the care of someone else.  She would run and hide in a corner, kicking and hitting me, screaming and crying.  She wanted me to give up, she was tired of loving and being moved.  I had to earn her trust.

The first thing she would let me do was touch her foot...slowly I would rub it, singing to her a soft tune, holding her foot, the foot that had traveled across a world to be in our family.  The foot that had seen more loss and fear then I can imagine. She started putting the foot out for me to hold.  I began to bond with her, letting her know she was safe...that nothing in this world would take her away from me.  I gave her a pair of shoes when we were in Ethiopia, a little leather pair of soft shoes with bunnies on them.  She loved them...they were "hers" no one could take them away.  She slept with them and hid them when they weren't on her feet.  She wore them until her heels hung off the back even though she had shoes that fit.

For me shoes are what hold the memories.  Shoes remind me of how far we have come.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Turning volunteering into a family gig...

I love to volunteer.

I am a stay at home mom with five kids and this has given me some great opprotunities to volunteer for causes I am passionate about, Girl Scouts, Girls on the Run and spending time in the kids classrooms.  Though, I have always had a hard time finding a way for my kids to get in on the wonderful experience.  Sure, they do the lemonade stand for Eleanor House and save their pennies for the Gospel Mission but, there was never really anything for us to do as a family for our community.  How are we going to contribute as a family???

Then, I saw it!  A post on Facebook from Volunteer Kalamazoo for their Family Day of Service that took place on September 11th from 4-7 at the Radisson Hotel downtown.  I signed us up immediately.

The kids were beyond thrilled to attend.  To help people.  To "volunteer".

The event was amazing.  From the moment we arrived, with 5 kids in tow aging from 4-10 the Volunteer Kalamazoo community was warm and welcoming.  They gave us a list of the activities the kids could do to help others.  The kids set off with purpose, they were on a volunteering mission.  This was their first volunteering gig and they were serious.  We let them chose everything they wanted to do, we organized papers for Girls on the Run and my 10 yr old and I wondered if it would be what came in my coach's box.  My 8 yr old son who has sensory issues, went straight to the Outward Bounds booth and began taking apart bikes, soon my 4 yr old joined.  They wrote letters to the Police Officers, thanking them for their service to the community.  They decorated beautiful cards for kids who are having a rough go at school.  Even when my 6 yr old became a, "glitter glue hog", the women just smiled and said that is what it was there for.  They thanked the girls and kept remarking on how beautiful their cards were.

Everywhere they went the volunteers went out of their way to make sure these young children were enjoying their service.  And I am here to tell you, they were.  They made hats and cat toys, they revisited some tables more than once.  They took pride in their work.  They learned about some great organizations in the area.

There was singing, kids were dancing and there was nachos.  I know, now you wish you were there.

Our last stop on our way out was the Gospel Mission where the girls decorated place mats.  As the girls drew hearts, smiley faces and the words, "I love you", I had a chance to talk to the woman running the booth (I do apologize, I am terrible at names) and she told me of the children at the Mission, that they make upwards to 780 meals a day.  How they are in need of sheets and basic hygiene items.

This gave the girls and I an idea.

When we got home we sent an email to all of our neighbors telling them of need.  We put a bin on our front porch for neighbors to drop off items for me to deliver to the Gospel Mission.  The kids added more pictures and went through blankets and toys to donate.

So, even though the Family day of Service ended at 7pm on September 11th.  For our family, it planted the seeds of volunteer service to our children and we are thrilled to watch it grow.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

without him there is no family

(Photo by the best photographer in the world!!!)

It's Father's day and as my DH is greeted with breakfast in bed and 5 screaming happy children tossing gifts at him and spilling eggs on my just washed sheets while eating his breakfast with their sweaty little hands.  I look at the man I have been with for over 25 years, we make eye contact, and like so many times in our crazy life, we laugh.

I met my husband in high school (true story) and we have been with one another through University, marriage, a long illness and death of my father, buying two and building one house, the illness and death of his mother, then 2 years later the death of his father and the adoption of our 5 children.  He works harder than anyone I know at his job, being a great father and amazing partner.

He is a man who has always put his family first.  He never made me feel small over infertility, he never said that he didn't want a child that wasn't "blood" (I have friends and relatives who's husbands say this, it is a fact), he never complains about the kids or the messy house.  He will make dinner, do laundry, give baths and is making a chicken coop...all with a smile on his beautiful face.   He is patient.  Teaching the kids how to computer program or hammer a nail.  He thinks I'm beautiful.  He makes time for his family and loves to have friends and family over to the flying turkey for drinks and dinner.  He makes a mean guacamole at midnight in the 40 degree weather with a candle to light his way while camping with friends.

He is amazing...I really can't say enough good things about him.

He asks for nothing, yet gives so much.

He is the bearded one and he is ours.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The fair comes around once a year

R has struggles.  That being said, it does not give him a free pass on being an asshole.  I will not let his situation be a free pass on acting out.  I hate, yes I said hate, parents who allow their children to get away with murder because of their struggles.  I feel it instills in kids an excuse for misbehaving...I know, I am a bitch.

 Let me explain.

When things get rough for my son, and it does, usually in public. I have a tendency to explain the situation to people.  I don't make excuses for his behavior nor do I allow it to go on.  I explain to him and those around him how this is not how you behave. Right or wrong this is how we do things.  Life is not fair, people do not get treated the same in every situation and children have to learn this.  And this is what I mean by I making any sense???

A dear friend of mine tells her son that, "the fair comes around once a year and it has left town!!", I love this statement.  Think about it.  In your family, mom and dad are treated differently than the kids, the kids get treated differently, before you go shit balls crazy hear me out.  A three year old does not get treated like your 10 year they?  NO!  If you treated everyone in the house the same what a complete disservice you do to your kids.  Now, there are ways the kids have to do similar things, chores, bed, brush teeth etc. ...but if you think I let a three year old use the stove because her sister does and she thinks it's, "unfair".  Well suck it up.

Life, she isn't fair.

Back to R.  He has auditory sensory issues and is rarely without his noise cancelling headphones.  He uses a personal FM system in the classroom and when we go places so that my voice goes directly into his ears.  He wears thick glasses with bifocals and still has vision issues after 3 surgeries.  He does not tolerate the feel of some clothing, he prefers loose fitting pj's.  He didn't speak until he was three and still sees a speech therapist weekly.  He does homework 365 days a year and sees a year round tutor.  He has asthma and is allergic to anything that has a stinger.  He has had 3 sets of tubes for his ears and his adnoids removed.  He has hypothyroidism that caused him to spend too much time in the hospital last summer.  He has nervous ticks that are chewing his hands, itching body parts until they are raw and snarfing (a fancy term for sniffing with his nose loudly and repeatedly).  He will repeat himself quite a few times until he can get his thoughts together so what he wants to say comes out.  He gets scared of leaving the house, having his hair cut, loud noises and the birds outside his window which he says, "they are angry birds mom...they CAWWWACAEEEAAEEEEE  at me all morning", he is frightened of the dark or any light being shut off.  He closes all the doors in the house all day long...this is a short list.

See.  Life is not fair.

Now, here's the other list.  He loves to laugh.  He will give you a hug like no one has ever given you.  He cares about his sisters and tells them daily how much he loves them.  He feels more empathy than any child I have met.  He has the craziest imagination and tells the best stories.  He makes some mean chili.  He will carry his lizard around to show her what everyone is doing.  He makes us laugh with his rap songs and "cool moves".  He loves Indian food.  He pats S's back to put her to sleep.  He loves to snowboard, hula hoop, jump rope and ride his bike.  He can tell you anything you never wanted to know about Bey Blades. He likes to introduce people to his family.  His smile is addictive, people are drawn to his energy.  He knows when he can't handle a situation and ops out. He is learning to use the phone (thanks Sarah).  He is the only one of my children that I love to take to the come home with 30 bouncy balls, no groceries and  a "plan".  He will make you believe.

I do not make excuses for him.  He is as God made him.

And he has made me a better person by being his mom.

Monday, April 30, 2012

roll the orange!

We like to have family meetings.

I know it sounds odd, but we always have.  When you are dealing with five kids with different personalities you have to sit everyone down and sort the shit out.  One of the kids favorite meetings is when we "roll the orange".  This usually only happens when NOBODY is getting along, though we have done it just for fun more than once.

How it started was last summer the kids started being mean to one another, yelling, stomping, taking crap that wasn't theirs just to hear someone yell...come on now, don't lie, we have allllll been there.  Anyhoo, I was sick and tired of the yelling and sassy mouths toward one another so I called them all to Bruce (the dinning room table) and announced a family meeting.

Bruce was cleared off and everyone took their seats, I grabbed the item closest to me as a "talking stick" and it was an orange.  I told the kids that they had to roll it to one of their siblings and say something nice about worked!!

They rolled that orange back and forth, they said they loved one another, they liked playing together.  Then all the yelling turned into laughter and they were sharing seats and touching...not hitting.  When we were all done and they were making their plans for a mud pile in the front yard, I told them what a great meeting it was and they could go play...then R screamed "NO!!". I asked why?

He said, "Let's eat all the love we put in the orange!"

And they did...true story.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

along came S...

Ok, here we go.

First I have to say is that what it comes down to, if i make a promise, I stick to it. I had made a promise to Frannie that we would keep in contact with her, meetings, letters, pictures etc. and true to my word for the past almost 10 years I have kept this promise and will continue too.  There is no legal open adoption, we made plans and because of those plans and not lying or changing our minds, our children came to us.  I sometimes think where R and S would be if I didn't keep my promise.  If I didn't return calls or meet with Frannie...where would my children be?

After we had moved across the state from Ann Arbor to Kzoo, we kept in contact with Frannie. She was living with a guy in Ann Arbor and he said he loved see where this is going. Now, before you get on your high horses and say, "how dare a woman has 3 babies from 3 different men!!". I know more than 5 GUYS, who have 3 children from 3 different woman and they don't even see these kids at the same time, nor do the siblings live together. Families are made up differently today and we are lucky for it.

What she has done in her own way is to see that her 3 birth children are living under one roof.  Knowing they will live together, grow together and take care of each other.

S was born at 5:30 in the morning, I was able to be there and sing her happy birthday.  She had to be born 5 weeks earlier than what she should had, there were complications.  I sang her happy birthday just like I did for K and R.  I was able to cry with joy for a beautiful baby girl entering this world and cry with the pain that Frannie was in.  S couldn't maintain a body temp and had to stay under the heat lamp a lot.  She weighed just under 4 pounds and had to be fed 1/2 oz of formula every hour.  You had to uncover her feet and either tickle them or blow on them to get her to suck...sometimes you had put your pinkie on the roof of her mouth to get her eat.  She was tiny, she was grey, she was beautiful and full of life.

S spent 8 days in the hospital.  And what hurts my heart to this day is, that because of what happen, we were not able to be with her, we couldn't hold her, sing to her, feed her.  The NICU staff was amazing and even though it was against the rules, they let me call and check on her and they called me...truth be told, they could have lost their jobs, but they knew that my heart could not handle not knowing.  During this time Frannie had made her wishes clear to social workers and hospital staff and her parents.

Then, S's birth father who had never came to the hospital, who left, kicked  Frannie out of the apartment when she was pregnant decided he would like to parent.

I shit you not.

There were meetings we went to where we just sat.  Remember, we were no one, we were invited by Frannie to attend as her "friends" and that was it.  He was not able to take care of a child, he had no job, his brother paid for his rent, cell phone and for food.  He wanted S because he said she was his.  A possession. Not a child who needed around the clock care.  She was to him just a thing, that he made, that was his, so he gets to keep her.  He had no plan...he had many other issues.

The state got involved.

His parental rights were taken away.  (Yes, we met with him so he could see that S was happy and healthy, we sent him photos, we met with his brother.  I keep a promise)

Frannie never wavered in her decision.  Even when he told her they could be a "family".  She was brave and outspoken and I sat in awe of her strength.

We took the other two to pick her up.  We didn't tell them what we were doing until we were in the car driving.  K threw up!!  No shit.  She was so excited and filled with joy she puked on the side of 94, got back in the van and ate a sandwich.  And for the first time in what seemed like a lifetime, we laughed.

We laughed away the craziness that tried to take over,

We laughed at the kids making up names like, R 2 or Peaches.

We laughed, because the day was too perfect.

We laughed because we were tired of crying.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

this house is no museum

I was day dreaming with the Pottery Barn catalog, we all know that it sells and idea of perfection and I was wondering how I would describe our house...

We have seven people living in this house with one dog, two bearded dragons and a guinea pig (the tortoise just died).  The 5 kids are ten and younger and love to do art projects that I proudly hang on the walls.  The windows are covered with finger prints and the sofa with crumbs.  The front driveway is scattered with sidewalk chalk, bikes, leaves and plastic glasses of one kind or another.  The backyard has filthy stuffed animals and broken toys that found their death by being pitched off the deck.  And truth be told, I toss dead flowers and watermelon rinds trying to make them land in my neighbors yard...throw me a bone I'm a stay at home mom!

Laundry is never caught up, well, maybe only for a day or two.  The dishes...I can't even talk about the dishes.  The walls have little fingerprints and if you look close have faded artwork from washable markers that are not really that frick'n washable.  The main floor bathroom needs bleaching on almost a daily basis and it gets it about once a week.  

The basement where 2 of the girls sleep has a bathroom that has been banned from liquid hand soap, bubble bath, toothpaste and I have threatened to turn the water off.  It's like a woman's prison down there, they have to ask for what they need.  Now, you may think that this is harsh, but you get tired of almost killing yourself sliding across a vinal floor daily and drastic measures need to be taken.

The dusty mantel holds pictures of family members who have passed away, baby photos of the children and memories from Ethiopia and life in general.  I talk to the photos (don't judge) when I miss my father or my husband's parents.  This is one spot in the house that keeps me grounded.

The kitchen is always busy with my prayer candles burning and my makeshift altars to remember who I am saying a prayer for.  The front door is always opened even before we had a screen door I used a baby gate.  The fridge is covered with reminders for field trips, bake sales, birthday parties, vacation plans, a half filled out calendar and more fingerprints...stainless steel seemed so cool at the time :-/.  The sinks with dishes, the dishwasher with dishes, the stove with pots and pans...

Our dining room table is named Bruce and she expands to hold 14 people.  I am happy to say she is often to her full capacity.  The chairs where you sit have different coverings on them, my way of refusing to buy a full amount of fabric until I know it will stand up to my never does.  They could make me a fortune in R and D at a textile house.

The house is full.

Full of laughter, full of pride, full of tickles, giggles, snorts and hugs.  It is full of listening and helping one another.  It is full of yelling, when we are happy, sad, mad or just talking (there is 7 of us).  The door is always open for those who wish to come in.  It is full of love and like.  Hopes and dreams...and sometimes tears.  It is a home.

It is our home.

It is not a museum.