Halloween Update

We did it!  Our first successful Halloween with Nana!

halloween_2014

So what is Trunk or Treat?  It was really cool!  Cars lined up in the parking lot and parents decorated the trunks with streamers, fake webbing and Halloween decorations.  Some parents were dressed up but most weren’t.  Luckily I had the foresight to throw some fake spider webbing and a few decorations in the trunk because soe of these parents really put some work into these trunks.  They were really creative with a small space.

The preschool had some games for toddlers such as a pumpkin patch.  The pumpkins were small enough that a 2 year old could carry with two hands.  Somehow , the kids made a game of taking all the pumpkins out of the grass and lining them on the sidewalk.  It was pretty amazing that they all just looked around and fell in line doing the same thing while us parents just stood and watched them.  They also had a sticker wall,  a bean bag toss, and a rolling pumpkin race. After about 30 minutes of that, the directors said the kids could trick or treat.  Nana and I went around to the cars, while Wood held down the trunk and passed out candy.

Everyone said how cute Nana was and we were just beaming.  She was pretty cute, if I must say so myself.  I kind of thought she was the cutest but I kept that to myself.  Plus, I’m happy that she can wear all of those clothes at a different time.  Five dollars each at Old Navy.  High five to myself.  #frugal

We walked around to all the trunks and said the requisite “trick or treat” and “thank you.”   Nana ate a few pieces of candy, ran around with her friends, giggled and laughed and jumped and ate a few more pieces of candy.  Then it was over.  One hour and done.  Awesome!

I’m pretty sure we have convinced Wood that dressing up for Halloween isn’t associated with the occult.  Plus I saw my nieces and nephews in costumes so err uhm..  I guess we’ll take these holidays one at a time.

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Overcoming Inertia

As we get nearer to Nana’s final adoption data, I feel a sort of negative inertia.  I wanted to have my family attend, but since they live out of town, no one could come during the middle of the week.  I wanted to have a photographer there to do a mixture of family photographs and candid photos at the courthouse, but Wood seems to think I’m making it too complicated.  I wanted to throw a celebration party but I haven’t moved far past the idea phase.  I can’t seem to get motivated.

It’s times like this when you feel the acute loneliness that sometimes come with being an adoptive parent.  With an actual child, people have a physical reminder of the change in your life and it’s a bit easier for them to celebrate with you.  With adoption, it sounds like a lot of paperwork, and court dates and rigamarole.  Nothing interesting to see here, right.

My family isn’t even excited.  Nana has no idea what is going on and Wood is kind of like meh about the whole thing.  How can you really celebrate if even the folks in your house aren’t up for the party?  If I was going into labor, flights would be had, plans would be changed, folks would make arrangements to get here as soon as they could.  But with adoption, everyone is like, what’s the big deal, she’s been with you already.  It makes me feel like I should just shrug it off also.

In times like this, the best advice I can give myself is fake it until you make it.  Keep pushing and moving even if no one else really understands.  If you build it, they will come and all that jazz.  So, the photographer has been booked and outfits have been identified.  I’ll call some friends and work out the details of the party.  With adoption, since the process is so different and new to most people, I’ve learned that you have to help people understand the times that should be celebrated.  People want to be happy for you, but a lot of times, they just don’t know when.  It’s a bit more work, but I know it will be worth it.

 

 

Nana is my road dog

This past weekend we took our first trip with Nana to visit my grandmother.  Although the situation was not ideal, the trip was a pretty good one.  In true ABM style, here’s a recap:


 

CPS caseworkers are not all alike.  The initial CPS caseworker lost all of our paperwork.  But this new lady is ON IT.  We received our travel authorization two days after it was submitted.  When our plans changed, I sent her a text/email around 1 PM.  She got the updated version to us by 5 PM.  I am more than impressed and need to find some way to show her my appreciation.

Nana has secured her spot as my road dog.  Nana was AMAZING on the trip home.  Our flight left around 7 PM.  On a normal day, should would have eaten dinner already and be on her way to a bath.  Even though her schedule was off, she held up like a champ.  We sat by a pilot on our first leg and she chatted him up a bit while eating her bookstore sandwich – all that we had time to grab before boarding our plane.  Everyone around us gushed about how good she was, and how verbal she was for a two year old.  I was a proud mama.

When we landed in Dallas, she ran around a bit causing people to look around in alarm (I’m here folks, right behind her), pointed out the birds in the ceiling artwork, fell off the toilet and under the stall (the funniest thing that happened all day), and was generally loving and cute.

Grandma is smitten.  Because of the crazy f—ed up “frequent visitor” policy that Texas has just instituted this year, my mother has not been able to visit us without going through a round-a-bout background check and FBI fingerprint situation.  So, this was the first time she got to meet Nana.  She is a goner.  Anything Nana wants she can get it from her Nanna.  At one point during the night, we turned on Pharrell’s “Happy” and she got to doing her Nana dance which looks like a combination of a ball chain shuffle and a horse gallop, all of which means that it is absolutely ADORABLE!  My mother almost peed her pants from laughing so hard.  I sooo wish I could post the video.

No matter how old you are, you are never ready to lose your grandmother.  My grandmother is 93, although my mother has reported that she was going around telling folks that she was 100.  The week before last, she was taken to the hospital because she was talking gibberish and it was found that she had a bleed on the brain.  So.  I don’t know.  I don’t know what is next but no matter how much I try to prepare for this, I know that when I get the call, I will just want to curl into a ball.

But at the same time I’m grateful.  I’m grateful that we were able to drop everything and go home. I’m grateful that Mamah was able to meet Nana and know that her prayers were answered.  I’m grateful that my husband was able to see her again.  I’m just grateful to have that one last time to say goodbye, if this is the time.

Family will come around.  You know, it’s interesting how when you want folks to go visit Mamah on a regular basis they are too busy but when she is in the hospital, ya’ll can make two/three trips a week.  One of my family members had to nerve to suggest that my cousin wait until my grandmother dies before she travels in order to save her money.  Really?  Really!?!?  I just spent a small fortune in travel costs just so she can lay eyes on my daughter  while she is living.  Is it more important to attend a funeral versus saying goodbye?   Hmph.  That’s all I’m going to say about that.

 

Parental Privilege

I like to work.  Especially if you give me a data set, Excel and two side-by-side HD monitors, I can get totally carried away.  I had to learn to leave work at a reasonable time when I got married.  Wood would see other people walking around the expatriate camp (in Nigeria) with their dogs and children and wonder why I was still at work.  We came to an agreement that I would leave at 5:30 PM.

We’ve kind of stuck to that agreement but I have on occasion stayed until 6:00 PM or later depending on what was happening at work.  If I’m truly honest, staying at work is rarely by necessity, mainly by choice (of not focusing during the workday and then needing to catch up).

But now, I have parental privilege.  I’m shutting down at 4:55 and walking out the door at 5 PM.  5 PM!!  “Hey, you know I gotta get the kid.  See you tomorrow.”

I used to check my work phone all the time.  In fact, my work phone was my only phone so it was work, work, work and restricted play on the company dime.

But now, I have parental privilege.  In preparation for a placement, I got a personal cell phone. When I walk out of the door on Friday, the work phone goes to the bottom of my bag and I might look at it Sunday evening.

If we are at an event that is a dud – “Well, you know we have to get home, babysitter you know” or “She’s getting antsy.  We better make our exit.”  *shrug*

If we don’t want to attend an event – “We don’t have a babysitter.  It’s so hard to establish a support system.”  *shrug*

I can’t wait to see what other privileges we get.  Of course, we are losing out on our DINKS privileges.  Those were some darn good privileges.

So worth it…

 

 

For Our Food

Jessamy over at Adventures in Fostering told a story about teaching his FD to say “more” and eventually Splash said it on her own.  It reminded me of Nana and her prayers.  Before she eats, we teach Nana to say a prayer.  I suspect that she was doing this at her previous foster home also since she seemed to fall into it fairly easily.

God is great (Nana re-mumbles);

Good is good (she re-mumbles);

Let us thank him (more re-mumbling);

For our food (Amen with enthusiasm).

Nana, say For our food.  She says Amen.

Say “For our food.”  Amen again.

I don’t think she understands that I want her to SAY “for our food.”  She gets frustrated and looks at me like, I said Amen lady.  Is that not the end of the prayer.   What else do you want me to do?

At one point after prodding her multiple times, she just looked at me and shrugged.   Maybe one day she will shout out “FOR OUR FOOD” like Splash did.

The Bedtime Blues for Wood

We could tell Nana was tired a bit earlier than usual, most likely because we gave her Benadryl to help with her itching. Wood gave her a bath as usual and got her dressed and I helped her brush her teeth.  I told her that Daddy was going to read her a book and then she would say her prayers and go to bed.  I gave her a kiss and hug and left her with Wood.

Wood has not been successful so far in getting Nana to go to bed.  She screams and cries at the top of her lungs for Mommy.  She is really upset and it is hard for me to listen.  Most time he ends up giving up and I come in to get her to settle down and go to bed.

My bedtime routine is focused on getting her to wind down and prepare her mind for going to sleep.  Most people need to relax before falling asleep so a two-year old shouldn’t be any different.  We sit in the chair and rock.  We talk about our day and she usually repeats what I say.  “We woke up and we ate breakfast.”  “Bekfas. ”  “You ate oatmeal and apples.”  “Apple.”  Then I tell her that we can sing a song together and afterwards it’s time for her to get in the bed.  We sing “Rock a Bye Baby” since she knows the song and we can sing it together.  Then I put her on the floor and tell her that its time for her to get in the bed.  If she hasn’t prayed, we will say our prayers.  Sometimes she climbs in herself and sometimes I have to ask her if she wants Mommy to help her (if she is balking against getting in).  I put her on her stomach, put her baby doll next to her and then tuck her and baby doll in.  I kiss her night night.  After that, I don’t speak very much.  I don’t implore her repeatedly to lay down. I don’t shush her.  I don’t really engage.  Most of the time she stays laying down but if she pops up, I lay her back down and tuck her back in.   I really don’t stress over her kicking off the covers or twisting around too much as long as she stays in the bed.  I stay in the room and count to 60 to make sure she gets settled in.  Sleep usually starts to overtake her in less than a minute anyway.  Then I leave.  Sometimes she wails a little bit, but usually no longer than a minute.

Tonight we came to a head.  I tried very hard to stay out of it.  After he reads the book and they say their prayers, the screaming begins.  He really tries, he tells her that Daddy is there, he sings to her, I’m assuming he is rubbing her and trying to sooth her while this is going on.  He left the room but she popped up and left the bed.  He put her back to bed, and she continued to scream.  He started to get frustrated when she got out of the bed a second time.  After putting her to bed, he told me to leave her alone and let her cry.

I couldn’t do it.  I’m not opposed to cry it out but only as a last resort.  After a few minutes, I felt like I had to step in and stop the screaming.

I really don’t like this tension between Wood and I in regards to parenting but I have some thoughts on why bedtime is giving Wood the blues.   First, perhaps they don’t have enough of a bond for her to trust him putting her to sleep and letting her cry it out won’t help with that.  Secondly, Wood feels like this is a discipline issue and I don’t agree.  He feels like she needs to learn to listen to him and just go to bed.  For a two-year old, this seems unreasonable.  Yes, when our parents told us to go to sleep we had better get in that bed or we were in for it, but since I was old enough to remember this, I probably was over 5 more likely to comprehend the request.    Thirdly, this baby is in foster care.  Even things from our own upbringing that we believe worked well should be looked at skeptically when attempting to recreate them with a child who has gone through trauma.  Many children in foster care have sleep and food issues.  She’s young but our actions may still be a trigger and we need to keep that in mind.  Lastly, we need to come up with a routine that works for both of us putting her to bed so that she gets used to him but doesn’t feel like she needs to scream.  Wood wanted to take over bath and bed since he felt like it was a good time to get one-on-one bonding time but perhaps we need to rethink this and find some other one-on-one time for them.

A Pox on This House

We think Nana has chicken pox.

When I took off her pajamas this morning, her torso was full of tiny red bumps with white heads, like a crop of pimples.   I gasped and tried to keep my face neutral so I didn’t scare her.  She didn’t seem bothered by the bumps, in fact, she didn’t seem to know they were there.

They looked awful.  I had NO idea that they could be chicken pox.  I thought maybe it was an allergic reaction.  The cleaning lady had come and maybe she was allergic to what they used in the bathtub.  We had went out to lunch on Sunday and she had some calamari.  Maybe she had a seafood allergy.  Chicken pox NEVER crossed our minds.  New parents and all…

I snapped a pictures, sent it to Wood and called the doctor. She wasn’t itching so I wasn’t too concerned.  Perhaps we just need to change our soap.  Who knows?  We got an appointment at 4:00.

Wood is awesome.  He took off work a little earlier to go with us to our first doctor visit.  I had all of these papers and thingamabobs to take with me.  Placement papers and medical consent and medical form for the pediatrician to sign.  The foster care medical pack.  Never leave home without it.

The doctor seemed unsure about whether it was actually chicken pox.  She called in another pediatrician to consult.  They were unsure because of the sheer amount of bumps that she had that popped up overnight.  They said we will know in the next couple of days.  So now I’m terrified that this child will have the worse case of pox ever.  And she supposedly had the vaccine already.  Bummer.

Oh and I have to make a call to the day care center that we visited yesterday and let them know that my child was contagious and they may have a chicken pox outbreak on their hands.  Double bummer.

Oh and we also went to Chick-Fil-A.  And she played in the play area.  With other kids.  Triple bummer.

And then…we went to the doctor’s office.

We may have infected all the children in our area. What if the CDC has to do one of those investigations where they find the original source and it’s our house? How embarrassing.

Wait a darn tootin’ minute.  We aren’t the original source.  Somebody else infected my child with the chicken pox.  Who are these parents that let their children run around willy nilly infecting other innocent children.  Didn’t they KNOW their child was contagious.  Someone should arrest them.  Or give them a very strong talking to.  Or at the very least tell them to call their mother when they see something strange on their child and soak up some of the wisdom of someone who has ‘been there, done that’ and could have told them that those red bumps were probably chicken pox and advised them to stay at home where they would not infect anyone else.  Yep, at the minimum, they should have to call their mothers.

They should have never gave you people children.

Cringing

This transition into parenthood isn’t easy especially when you are growing into it with another person.  There are many instances when I cringe at Wood’s parenting style and I’m sure he has an even longer list for me.

This morning I opened a box of alphabet puzzles for Nana. She got excited and hit the box while I was holding it and it dropped to the floor. She looked at me on surprise and was maybe even looking for a reprimand. I didn’t even acknowledge it and kept opening the puzzles. I didn’t interpret the behavior as malicious. I wasn’t expecting her to hit the box and was not holding it tightly. I didn’t see her hitting the box as an issue.  To children, a box is just as much of a toy as the puzzle.

Wood asks me if I was going to address it.

Address what?

You can’t just let her slap toys out of your hand.

I didn’t see it like that.

He sighs loudly and shows his hands to indicate that he is letting it go.

I know that this is just one of many conflicts that we will have about raising Nana.  I feel like we should have a discussion but I’m not sure how to talk about this when it will seem like negating the way that we were raised.  How would I express that toddlers shouldn’t be disciplined just for doing toddler things.  That its okay for Nana to have feelings about what is happening to her, that its okay for her to cry if she is frustrated.  That I don’t feel the need to entertain her all the time and that it’s okay if she doesn’t play with her toys “correctly.” That I don’t feel the need to correct every little thing and that I weigh what’s really important to focus on.   That this is different than how I was raised as we were always loved but we were also shushed, corralled, pulled away from, and berated for the smallest things.

I’m hoping to do things a little differently.

P.S.  I also cringe every time Wood calls himself “Da Da.” I don’t know why but that is like nails on a chalkboard.  I would never say anything because he has the right to choose how he wants to identify himself.  But man…really???

Toddlers have feelings too…

Bonding has been a bit slower for Wood and Nana, most likely because she came from a home with a single mother and needed time to feel comfortable with a male presence around all the time.  She may also have some issues with male from early trauma but there is no way to confirm that.  In any case, Wood seems like he is trying to fast track a bond instead of allowing it to develop naturally.  He compels her to play with him – picking her up, tickling her, bouncing her, swinging her around.  In some cases she enjoys it and laughs but in many cases, she pushes him away or tells him that she doesn’t want that.   Unfortunately, he takes that as rejection instead of understanding that she may want to play, just not in that particular way.

One day Wood expressed his frustration with his “daughter” not liking him.  I encouraged him to give it time but he questions, “when have you seen any child that doesn’t like me?”  Besides Roly, the only children that I have seen him up close with are his nieces and nephews.  And when I think back, his interaction with them is the same – picking up, swinging, tickling.  The reactions vary from laughter and requesting more to squirming and pushing away.   I’m positive they like him but I’m not sure they’ve ever had much of a choice in how to deal with him.

This week with Nana has given me some perspective on dealing with children – well, at least our child.  I’ve gotten to spend more one-on-one time with a toddler than I have in my entire life.  What I’ve learned is that she understands a lot.  She knows the difference between “yes” and “no” and while she sometimes says “yes” or “no” to anything, for the most part, I can take her at her word.  I’m learning that just because she is little doesn’t meant that she shouldn’t have autonomy over her body.  So if she doesn’t want to be picked up, or hugged, or tickled, we should honor that.  Of course there are times when we need to pick her up, but if it is just for our own enjoyment or what we think we should enjoy, she should have some input.  This also means that we have to redefine “play” to not always focus on physicality.  We, as a family, have to learn new ways to engage with Nana to show affection and to play with her.

Before Nana, I’ve never gave much thought to the best way to interact with children.  Swooping kids up, swinging them around, making them squeal is how you play with them.  The screaming shows that they are having fun. But if you’ve dealt with a toddler, you realize there are fun screams and then there are uncomfortable screams.  I’m starting to be very uneasy thinking about all the times I’ve ignored the uncomfortable screams and pushing away, thinking that I needed to do more jostling, or swinging, or hanging upside down in order to make it more fun for them.  The screams were letting me know that it wasn’t fun at all.

I realize that we as a family are up for some difficult conversations ahead.  Both of us were raised in an authoritarian environment, where children were expected to do as told and not given choices.  Talking to children may be seen as soft or “how white people raise their kids” and so I fully expect some growing pains even within our household as we navigate childrearing.  I think we are up for the challenge.