Monday, December 28, 2009

I Know

It has been forever since an update. So much has happened that I can't even begin to fill it all in. We did a lot of adoption related stuff and it was wonderful. We had the opportunity to share our story on a local TV station, a magazine, and newspapers. It was all for National Adoption Day. We even spoke at the local National Adoption Day ceremony in our neighboring town.

Of course, the star looked beautiful at everything.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

I Cut!

...or "Dreaming of Blue Water"

AJ has always wanted a pedicure. I've taken her to get her nails painted but felt she was too young for the feet in the water pedi. After having a good report from her Dr. about her foot fracture, we went to get pedicures.

She had the little guy that is quiet and gentle. I'll bet he spent 30 minutes just massaging her feet. Me? I got the girl that is speedy. She got into my almost ingrown toenail and went to town. I tried to let her know it was painful but leaning up, groaning, and even screaming. She never even flinched. She looked at me and smiled (all the while digging in my big toe with a razor sharp knife) and said, "I cut!"

Yes, you did. Then she got some sharp tools and dug around. I was clenched in a tight ball by the time she started on my cuticles. Meanwhile, princess is being massaged.

It was a fun day. It was also something she has dreamed of for years. I'm glad we got to do it, even if I got the short end of the stick.

Friday, August 7, 2009

In The End...

To pull all the corners together of the last two posts, I would say that we have smoothed out pretty much most of our initial fear of each other, AJ and I.

My fear of the unknown was the worst. I didn't know what made her laugh. Who knew that she had a sick and depraved sense of humor like Dale and myself? I don't even know if it would be considered emotionally healthy to laugh at some of the things we do, but I certainly know it isn't proper.

I was afraid she would never love me. I guess that is the bottom line. I didn't 'know' her. Yes, I had known her on the surface for two years or more. But I didn't know her as a person. She had a habit of telling people what they wanted to hear for a while. It really was hard to get inside her head and find out what she really was thinking. Sometimes I'm not sure I've made it there. I do know that she loves me. That wasn't an overnight thing though.

In promoting attachment I found them to work both ways. I found myself becoming protective of her even if I still was confused and exhausted. Once the new wore off, we started learning about each other. I had a lot of lost time to make up for. Some of the things...she hated. For instance, I made a mix CD for her with songs that had special meanings. She hated it and would not listen to it. The pink baby blanket with her name on it? She loves to this day.

I can hardly remember life without her. She doesn't like to address adoption and wishes we never discussed it. I don't like to dwell on it but can't help but honor how our family is built. The adoption process has rewired the way I think and react to situations. It is a presence in our life that is neither good nor bad. It just is.

I think that all things have worked out in the end. The people who had strong faith never wavered. I'm glad I have them to hold onto.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Unplanned, Part 2

Yes, I was terrified of my daughter on day one. She was so sweet. She hugged everyone and had fabulous social skills. Since I had spent the past nine months or so immersed in the study of older child adoption, those were all red flags. Yes, the more adjusted she appeared the worse she probably was. She had not been diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) but I knew that we were going to hit attachment issues even in the best of situations.

We spent the first few weeks with me spending every waking second with her. I teach school so even though I wasn't beside her, she knew I was there. I woke her up, chose her clothes, dressed her as you would a baby, I prepared her breakfast and then did her hair. After school we did things together and then when it was around 6:00 I had her get a shower. We then watched a little TV until 7:00 and then I got into bed with her. We read a book or watched TV or talked.

I have to be honest that the attachment worked both ways. I had to fall in love with her. At first it was so difficult. Her heart was as hard as a rock. Yes, she smiled and giggled and had decent manners. But it wasn't real. I realized that when I heard her really laugh for the first time. It broke my heart that I had her fake laugh for weeks as real.

We did laugh, and we still do. She used to say, "Make me laugh, Momma." And I try. Sometimes I have to say something shocking but she still laughs. We have attached. I even laugh at her sometimes.

This picture was taken during her first few weeks at home. We did a lot of sidewalk chalk and she danced on a regular basis. She's outgrown the chalk but still dances.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Unplanned Children

My daughter was a surprise to us. We met her a year before we began the process of adopting her. When the idea of adopting a child presented itself to us, we were pretty much looking at life as people who were almost to the finish line of child raising. We had about 3 years to go and we were free.

Then my husband uttered his famous last words. "I guess all of this will work unless a little girl falls in our laps."

The next day she stopped by my classroom on the way to the library and announced that was going to be making a video, airing for the purpose of finding a family for her. I knew at that very moment that a little girl had just landed in my lap. If only it had been that easy.

We actually had more of a thought process about that just random "Oh we will grab the first child we see". We prayed. We talked. We wondered how we could do something we thought was never going to be a possibility. Then we decided to at least try and see what the powers that be said to us.

They said no. Then they said yes. Then No. Then Sure. Then maybe. Then Never. Then finally, Yes. But only if. It was a process like no other. Our marriage was tested beyond any limits it had been stretched before. It peeled away layers of our soul that the other had never seen. Sounds corny but spend months reliving your childhood, all previous losses, and everything else you've ever done: Write about it 3 times and then be interviewed twice. You will learn a thing or twelve.

As insane as the fight to her was, the actual 'getting' her was a shock to my system. We were driving home with her. She fell asleep. I looked at her and wondered...What in the name of all that is Holy have I done? I had a vague remembrance of the whole mountain o'crap that we had been through to get her. It was wiped clean pretty much. I was now blown away by the fact that WE were responsible for this child. This innocent child who had probably been through more in her short life that all of us put together. How on earth could we parent her? What had we done?

While I was terrified and throwing up all the time, Dale was as happy as a dead pig in the sunshine. He was confident that once she ever was handed over to us, she was ours. It was as if she had always been ours to him. I'm thrilled that he had such faith.

Me, I was still scared. Right now I can't really elaborate as this small child is over my shoulder, wanting some one on one time.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

We're not in Texas anymore....

Yesterday we made the short drive to Arkansas to visit my mother. Right before we adopted we had a plan to start building down there and eventually move. The adoption changed our course though. AJ really does want to live there, even though you look out the back door and see this.

We thought we had life planned and had a surprise. Our baby girl. I don't know if our path in life changed or if she helped us stay on the one meant for us. Either way, we are going in the right direction now.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Genetics vs. ???

My mother and my daughter are almost identical in many ways. I'm not sure how it can even be possible to be so much alike since my daughter is adopted. It is almost like I am raising a child version of my mother. Not just the fact that both are dark haired with dark eyes. It is more than that. While I love my mother and daughter more than I can convey in words, these things they do annoy me. How did I end up with two people so much alike so close to me?

1) Utter disregard for organization. I knew that AJ was like my mother the very first time we colored together. Me, I take a box of crayons and try to keep them in some form of order, usually by the spectrum and by which needs to be used so that some aren't dull and some sharp. My daughter? She took the brand new box and dumped them out before I could say a word. She stirred them up and never looked back. My mother does the same thing, often dumping things in her purse or any drawer that can hold anything.

2) Lid? What lid? Neither one ever places a lid on anything. Toothpaste, ketchup, peroxide...if it has a lid then it goes without once they touch it.

3) Anything that is mine is up for grabs. When I was growing up, nothing was sacred in my room. Not because she was nosy, but because she might wander in, carelessly pick up my hairbrush, and then maybe not lay it down until she was, oh, at the barn. AJ does the same thing. I found my roll of scotch tape on the loveseat yesterday. Who knows why.

4) Obession with tape. This sounds crazy but they both are nuts about tape. I have to have a secret hiding place for my tape because if either one ever see it, it is gone. My mother has a tape dispenser that is for industrial use. She has already used a few and I don't really know why she needs it. I do know that it is loud and she can use it for hours on end. She has also wanted to buy one for AJ. I don't think she's old enough for a 'tape gun', as Mother calls it.

5) Both are fast food junkies. They are the only two people I have ever seen cry over the lack of fast food. Mother had a melt down when her arm was broken and dad was cooking. She couldn't drive, he hates chicken and pretty much the lived on tuna straight from the can and bananas for weeks. She called me in tears sayings, "I THINK I WILL DIE IF I DON'T GET SOME CHURCH'S CHICKEN TODAY". I had a similar experience with AJ when we tried to go 30 days with no McDonald's. After about day 10 she was crying, "I'm JUST A KID! I NEED McDONALD'S".

6) Both will take the advice of a stranger over my advice. How many times have I heard from my mother, "A lady in the check out line at K-Mart said....". Really? I told you that six months ago. Listen to me. AJ will do the same thing.

7) Both are nudists. Only at home. They hate to feel the confinement of chothes. It seems my whole life I have had to wait to open the door so that SOMEONE can get dressed,

8) Both are extreme animal lovers. I've seen my mother spend days without sleep just to try to save a newborn animal, be it calf, kitten or puppy. Nothing was really beyond trying. My daughter has the same love and compasion. Not a bad thing, but heartwrenching at times.

9) Sleep must be had. Both require at least 8 hours of sleep. If this isn't had, someone will pay dearly. Now, they may miss a night for something, but it will be made up. I promise. And if you wake them up before the required amount, you may as well wake a wild gorilla. Both can nap anything it is cool and dark. My mother has slept at the movie theater. AJ still falls alseep in the car.

10) They feel they have to right all wrongs done in their presence. Someone shoplifting. Mom screams for security. I wouldn't be shocked if someone shanked her, probably at K-Mart. Didn't follow Robert's Rules of Order? She will let you know. Or she would, back in the day. AJ does the same thing. Someone was picking on a neighborhood kid and she got up in their face and told them to leave her property and never come back or she would have a restraining order. The bully was about three times her size and could have squashed her. She also left me sister a note once about cursing. Funny.

There are more, many more. They cry when they have fever. They laugh at me when I can't find something. They hate a schedule. They don't want to be vegetarians. I've wondered if this is some cosmic joke, if God laughs out loud when he sees me looking for tape and a gift bag, only to find them crammed under her bed full of rocks. Who knows.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Rehab: Family Style

My mother has had two eye surgeries this summer. She was pretty much without any sight until her first surgery. She hasn't driven in a year, and has just stayed home. They live on a farm in Arkansas, and she has relied on my dad and brother to help her out. I won't elaborate on that point. Not now at least.

We all knew that she would need to stay somewhere to recover properly. She couldn't risk an infection and had to have three different drops four times per day. She also couldn't risk falling as she takes blood thinners for a heart problem. My dad was going to be working in the hayfield, and as any farmer knows, hay comes first. It was either stay with my older brother or come over here. SHe has stayed with them in the past and I did want her to come and try to relax here.

She agreed. I was not sure what to expect at first. To be honest, we haven't spent so much time together lately. We talk on the phone daily, even multiple times. But as far as doing lunch or Something about living 40 miles apart, me working, her not being able to drive, KIDS has all but put a squash on me having any type of social life. I didn't realize how much it adds to a relationship to see, feel, and laugh with a person in real time rather than just talking on the phone.

Mom was able to relax. She made herself at home and we had a big time. AJ is very much like my mother (even though adopted) and they both spent the first rehab time eating junk food and doing things I don't like. But we all had a blast and mom rested. She also realized that she was blind when she began to see again.

Her last surgery wasn't as successful. She came back to stay and had to be extra careful with the eye that might never see. We were all worried but within a few days she had some vision and some energy. She was up and ready to do all the things she has been missing out on the last year. Instead of afternoon naps with her like the first surgery, she was sending me on errands and having me go to the store for her.

She also couldn't stand that we had about 50 lbs of tomatoes from the garden and no time to can them. She began to cook and she cooked and cooked some more. She had three days of cooking and I don't remember seeing her so happy in a long time. We also loved the great food and wonderful conversations. I keep playing many of them back in my mind long after she has gone home to Dad.

She has heart surgery in a few days. Of course, I worry. I want her to come back and stay again. Maybe we won't expect her to cook this time.

Sunday, July 26, 2009


Yesterday AJ and I volunteered at a local Wellness Fair. I was representing the Child Welfare Board of our county. I volunteered to help and was appointed to the board last year.

Hopefully these events will bring awareness to our area of the great need we have.

1) We need donations for our rainbow room. This is an emergency resource room that caseworkers pull to help a child who has just been removed. So many kids need clothes, diapers, formula, shoes, ect. This room is ran 100% on donations nd by volunteers.

2) We need to help our kids in foster care. Yes, foster parents get money put it is not much. These kids also need school clothes. Our board gives $75 for back to school clothes and supplies. That is a joke, really. I'm about to lay out $600 on a clarinet in a few weeks and foster families get no help for that. The need for these kids is endless. Camp, senior rings, prom, Easter, ect.

3) We need foster/adoptive families. This is the hardest thing you will ever do. It is also the most rewarding.

My rewards have been indescribable. I have a daughter who is beautiful, talented, and smart. She is funny and sensitive. She can sing, dance, and write. Her story will soon be published in Chicken Soup For The Soul. I can go on and on.

What I want people to know is that there is a need and you can help./

Saturday, July 25, 2009


I can't remember where I left off. Pretty much, Mom has had two eye surgeries, one was successful, one not. The Dr. wasn't sure she would even have vision in the one eye. I wasn't sure it would ever look normal again. Thankfully, she can see a little and it looks OK.

AJ is fine. She's glad to be home from church camp. Dale and I had one day where we were both off and child free and we spent it baby sitting my 5 month old nephew. We are wild.

I also took pictures of a brand new baby. He was precious. I could take newborn pictures all day everyday.

Mother and I (mostly her) have been canning salsa. We still have about 50 lbs of tomatoes to go. I'm ready to give or throw the rest away. I couldn't have been a pioneer woman.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

All By Myself

This hasn't happened in years. I'm all alone. (if you don't count the animals)

Even more rare, Dale and I will have two nights and days alone and he is off work for them. We pretty much plan to stay home and maybe go eat. We are exciting like that.

AJ is at camp. I do hate to let her go at all because it seems to mess with her attachment. Last year was her first year to go and she did fine but was so afraid that somehow, we sent her away for good. She knew better but it was a thought somewhere deep in her mind.

This year she has a cell phone and can call. I also made her cards for morning and night to open and read. I tried to say "I miss you but want you to stay there" as best I could.

So here I am. I have dishes to do. Aren't you jealous?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Giving Care

Giving care is not the same as being a caregiver. My mother is having eye surgery and will probably be coming to stay with me a few days. Not a big deal for most people but she is on huge amounts of blood thinners.

I'm not a good nurse. I can stop blood and change bandages, but I'm not good beyond that. I'm compassionate and will sit with anyone at the hospital for as long as I need. But I don't have what it takes to be a nurse. Even when AJ was on the crutches for a few days, I was frazzled by the noise.

So, Mom will be here for a few days. Part of me is really looking forward to it. Part of me dreads it. Ack.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

4th of July 2009

So far, a great day.

Friday, July 3, 2009


I haven't left the house at all today. I was going to go get groceries but I had a bad start to the morning with AJ and she has pretty much slept all day. She got up twice but went back to bed. She didn't even eat lunch. That is unusual for her. I think the night of missed sleep and a few pain pills in the last few days have caught up with her.

All in all, I think her attachment to us is very good. Older child adoptions have to work on attachment and bonding. We did, it was hard, and I may write about it all someday. My point in talking about it now is that when something like this happens she tends to regress a little in the attachment area.

She wants me in her sight at all times. If she goes to the bathroom when we are out, she wants me with her. If she is here, she wants to be right under me. If I try to do something else I hear, "Mom, don't you love me and want to take care of me?".

These days are hard for me. She clings and whines and I try to be patient. To be honest, I was happy that she slept so much today. I then felt a load of guilt so I didn't enjoy it all that much.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Summer Safety: Door Stops

My mother is a clumsy person. She broke a toe on the toilet once. My sister is just as awkward. She and my mother share the same middle name, as does AJ. She also shares their clumsy trait.

This summer I have watched her flip on the trampoline, do cartwheels off the diving board, race down the street on her skating board with her dog pulling her, and countless other daredevil stunts. Yet she broke her foot on a door stop. I don't know how.

I do feel horrible that I didn't take her to the ER last night. It happened at 9:00 and it didn't swell. She kept saying it was broken. She came in and woke me up at about 11:45 to tell me it hurt. I got her an icepack and a motrin. She came in later at some time to tell me that it was still hurting. She didn't want a pain pill left over from her appendectomy so I didn't know what else to do.

I took her in early this morning and sure enough, she broke her cuboid bone. On a doorstop.

Sunday, June 28, 2009


Our sermon at church today was about relationships. Funny that I've had it on my mind so much. Sometimes we love people and find a closeness in people who are no blood relation and at others we stand beside our family even if they have become the scourge of the town. Either way, family is often what we make it.

I've learned a lot about family ties because of adoption. My grandfather was adopted, his older sister being taken minutes before they were placed with my great-grandparents. His sister contacted him when he was grown and still spoke until she passed away. My daughter knows her half brother that she was raised with for 7 years and wants to keep contact with him. What about the rest? Does that make them go away? Of course not.

When people tell me I do great things with AJ, I often blush. One thing I do feel that I do well is that I encourage her to remember and love her birth family if she so chooses. Yes, there were problems. It was enough for a judge to remove them, but I think she will have to face that when she is older. It does stop any love that is there. I let her find her way because those relationships will be hers, not mine.

Sometimes that isn't an easy thing for me to do. I really just know that she is capable of loving many people.

On to family pictures. Here are some more of Padre Island. It was windy.

Here is my wonderful husband.

Where am I, asks my friend Deb. I did buy myself a white shirt to wear for pictures. (you will never see me in white) The wind was a nightmare. I even have tornado proof hairspray and it only combined with the humidity to provide something like the Jim Carey movie How The Grinch Stole Christmas. It was bad. So no pictures of me.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Writer In The Family

I'm sure I am skipping all over the place in this blog. While I had hoped that we would reach a point that adoption wasn't even something we thought of anymore, that isn't so much an option anymore. No, we don't make a point of saying, "don't forget, you are adopted."

There is much more than that to it. We don't talk about it everyday but we talk about things as needed. My decision to volunteer for CPS keeps my back in the world of foster care and adoption. Not until this summer did AJ have any participation in this. Of course, going to the office brought back memories. I don't know if it is good or bad, it just is. Memories exist and who am I to say she has to forget them. She can't even if she tried.

In other news, she wrote a story that is being published by Chicken Soup For the Soul. The book will be released in Sept and her story tells about her dog and how he came to be a member of this family. She compares it to how she was also one with a not so great start in life but has found a home.

This opportunity comes at the same time she has been asked to be the spotlight child for National Adoption Month in our area. She will be busy and I am praying that it will all be for a good cause. While I don't want her to stand out because she is adopted, I don't want to ever deny her past or heritage. We love her no less because she is adopted and it is just what it is. It is the way we built our family.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

This is AJ. She was at the beach for the first time in her life. She loved it.

I can't imagine that many people are as lucky was we are. We have a beautiful, brilliant, well mannered and loving daughter. She is a survivor.

People often tell me that she is the lucky one, having us for a family and that we adopted her. I don't usually say what I am thinking at that time, but no, she isn't the lucky one. She didn't ask to be taken from her birth family. She certainly wasn't lucky to spend years in foster care while the case dragged on. Lucky to have us? I can't imagine it.

Nobody tells children who are born to a family how lucky they are. As people are getting to know AJ more, they are seeing now that it is really her dad and I who are the lucky ones.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Vacation Bible School

Really, it isn't much of a vacation. I've worked it for years and worked with just about every age group there is. I even did Arts/Crafts one year. Arts/Crafts is not my forte.

One year we were getting ready and the phone rings, asking us to pick up some kids a few streets behind us. They wanted to come but didn't have a ride and this person's van was full already. I probably grumped a little that it would cut into a few minutes of time but I already knew these kids. I had the boy in my class the year before. The little sister, I didn't know so well.

The first night was fine. They were well behaved and happy to have a ride. On the way home, she leans up and tells us that they are foster kids, hoping to someday have a family. She really wants a mama. Once we got home it was all Dale could talk about.

The next night she was late coming to the car. I was impatient and asked the brother, "What is taking her so long?"
"She wants to look perfect for you guys," he told us.

Yikes. She came out, finally, in a pretty little dress with lacy socks and black shoes. On the way home that night she leaned up and said, "Have you ever considered adoption? I know you would make great parents." She was 6 years old.

That is the beginning of how AJ came to be our daughter. Dale wrote in his home study essay (one of many) that his heart was heavy ever since meeting her. He couldn't forget her or his feeling that he was meant to be her father. There is much in between and it was a hard battle. She can barely remember that. Her brother was moved about six months later, the state deciding they shouldn't be together. He had special needs due to abuse/neglect, and needed a higher level of care. A little less than a year after VBS, she was free for adoption.

That is something we never thought would happen.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Rainbow Room

It sounds like a fancy tea room with fine china and lace tablecloths. Maybe even small cookies with a special filling, ones you can tell were handmade.
But it isn't that at all. The Rainbow Room in Texas is an emergency resource room that holds supplies, clothes and items for social workers to pull for kids as needed. Imagine picking up a child who has been in the ER for the last 7 hours, or pulled from a crack house, or the police station. They have nothing but the clothes on their back and often have to wait a few more hours until the social workers can find a temporary home for them.
This is where the rainbow room comes in to play. THere are diapers, formula, clothes, shoes, school supplies, shampoo, ect. The neat thing about this room is it is ran 100% on donations. Volunteers stock it and make sure there are no empty shelves. It isn't an easy job when very few people know about its existance.
This is my summer job. I work year round to help raise awareness and items for the room but in the summer I can get in there and really work. Today I will and even take AJ. Last week I worked and saw that we were low on diapers, formula, and we needed the summer clothes to replace the winter clothes.
I hope that if you have time, items or money to give, you consider the rainbow room or a place like.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Hush Little Baby

It is 6:05 and the kids are sleeping on this Saturday morning. The early mornings are the only time that I have any sort of peace and quiet.

Since Dale and I have had children since the start of our marriage, we were a little excited to start planning our empty nest a few years ago. We were going to go slowly and be prepared to move to the country by the time RJ was out of high school. We looked at land and at cabins. We measured and set our goal of 2008 to be ready.

That time has since came and went. We now have a daughter. The empty nest is now a few more years away and instead of it being in the country we are looking at going wherever she decides to go to college.

As I prepare my lessons for Vacation Bible School this week, I replay in my mind exactly how she came to us. It all started with Vacation Bible School. At least it was the start for us. She had already been in foster care for several years. When we got a call to pick up some kids a few streets behind us and bring them to VBS with us, we had no idea that we would someday adopt the little girl that dressed up in her best dress and lacey socks just for us.

But we did.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Who are we?

Our family really isn't like most others. We are a blended family that has melted together pretty well. It did take quite a bit of work though. More on that later. Through my job as a teacher, I am seeing that most families don't fit the Cleaver mold anymore. Some are the typical divorce/remarry, many are grandparents raising grandchildren, and many more.

Our family started in 1997 when Dale and I got married. He had been divorced almost 2 years and had one grown son and two at home. One was a teenager and one was 6. I had no children. We married and have since had maybe one weekend alone. We jumped right into family.

We brought a daughter into the mix with three boys. She was 8 when she came home to us. That is a story that takes a long time to tell so I'll save it for another time.

We are members of a small Baptist church, I teach school, and I volunteer for the local Rainbow Room in our county. I love photography, reading and writing.

This is who we are.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


I need to do better. I promise I will.

Since Christmas?
M is almost finished with his 2nd semester of college.
A had her appendix removed and missed a week of school.
I am on the never ending quest to become organized.

Gotta run. A just came in and has scrapes galore. Dog and scooter accident.