Archive for February, 2009

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checking in

February 28, 2009

My grandfather was buried this morning. Today had lots of good parts, home movies watched, discussions with relatives, but I also let too much fall on my shoulders. As on my other grandfather’s burial day, I wrote a poem this morning.

Now I’m watching Battlestar Galactica before falling asleep. I know it’s going to be all about parents and make me have all kinds of emotional resonances with my own emotions, but I can handle it. Tomorrow my immediate family will leave, which will lighten some of my burdens.

I miss Lee, though that sounds pitiful. I am really looking forward to being home with her and letting her take care of me a bit. That was supposed to be our plan before I left, but it didn’t work out. She feels very bad about that and I don’t know if it’s because of that or independently that she’s focusing this weekend on reading a book about preparing for adoption or foster care, Welcome Home, which I’d recommended to her as a resource for information on attachment issues.

We’re both supposed to be focused on ourselves, each other, our relationship, so I’m not quite sure what to make of her insistence on finally reading an adoption book. If she doesn’t read it, that will be fine and we’ll work from there. If she does, though, I know I’m going to be incredibly moved, really impressed. I know what it will open inside me. I don’t know what it says about me that I’m prepared for that.

That’s why I know what tomorrow will be like, how things will go until I fly home Monday night. But I still keep planning for the best.

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Elizabeth replies

February 24, 2009

I sent our worker Elizabeth a short email about what’s going on with us. I said that my grandfather had died and I’d be out of town with Lee here in my absence. I told her we’ll need to take a break before picking our discussions back up, didn’t say why in detail but added truthfully that losing two grandparents so far this year has taken a real toll on me. I said it will probably be a few weeks before we’re back to discussions about adoption but that there’s no way to tell at this point.

If Ezra’s latest file update gets written, we’d still be interested in reading it because much of our decision hinges on how he’s showing progress and steadiness. But I also told her that if another appropriate family shows up, they shouldn’t let us keep anyone out of the running for Ezra. He needs a good family and he needs permanency ASAP.

I immediately got Elizabeth’s out-of-office return email from a few days ago that she hadn’t yet gotten a chance to update, but either she was in the office or near a computer because she got back to me promptly. She thinks it’s good for us to take our time, very good for me to make sure I’ve been able to grieve. She said we’ll be in her prayers, and normally that sort of thing bothers me but because I know her background and know her it struck me as appropriate. I mean, if the woman doesn’t mind that I’m an atheist and doesn’t mind that we’re a same-sex couple, I can’t really complain if she wants to put in a good word for us with her God!

She also said that, like Lee, she’s a believer in things happening when they ought to and people getting to the places they need to be when they need to get there. I’m kind of intrigued by the implications of that for someone working with abused and neglected children, but that’s not related to us. I think she believes if we’re the right place for Ezra in a sort of cosmic sense, he’ll end up with us when the time is right. If we’re not, he’ll find his own right place. Just hearing this from her reassured Lee, who now truly believes that Ezra isn’t being pushed on us and that our workers will help us find the right child at the right time.

Elizabeth just got a copy of Ezra’s file update today. We know a lot of what will be in there from the monthly summaries she shared with us and some of his school documents, but she’ll send it along. She says there’s no hurry and there really isn’t.

I know I’ve said this before, but I feel so fortunate to have had such great experiences with our workers so far. They all have their quirks — unlike Lee and myself, who are obviously bastions of stability and normalcy — but they’ve also been good-hearted, ethical, genuinely interested in us, positive, dedicated, just lots of good things. I know they don’t get paid well, but I go out of my way to compliment them every chance I get. We got into this project expecting more pressure and hurdles to come from the outside world, the “system.” Instead most of our difficulties are to some degree self-inflicted. But the good news is that we don’t have to heal ourselves; we’ll have support in getting stronger and moving forward.

And the really good news is that we have time to regroup before we do any metaphorical moving at all.

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eye

February 24, 2009

I got the idea to take a photo of my eye from Luna, but then I didn’t really like my eye photos and didn’t think they represented my eyecolor well, possibly because it was early morning and I mostly wasn’t wearing glasses and staring into the camera over and over left me extra-dilated and looking about as wiped out as I am.

So instead here’s a bit of eye and a tiny tiny bit of the haircut Lee gave me last night, though actually the way the blog crops it cuts off the cut part. I’ve been growing out a short cut and now I think the last layer left is the bangs, which are almost long enough to be tucked behind my ears. I’ve gotten so used to seeing myself in glasses over the last few years that it’s funny to think I used to look like I look in this photo all the time.

Thorn's face

I actually really like this shot, though it’s not a great picture of me. I’m doing okay right now. Lee and I went out last night and I got a pair of pants I can wear on my funeral trip, though trying things on was gruesome since my thighs are significantly larger around than my waist or hips and no one makes pants that fit this shape. We talked about things a little, but we’re both feeling sort of forlorn and her way of dealing with that is to sit by herself and watch sports on tv, so I curled up with a cat and read a book and tried unsuccessfully to get to sleep. Tonight she’s planning to be more mindful of me and my sadness, but I’m also planning to go see my knit group so I can have some social interaction that doesn’t inconvenience her.

Lee doesn’t think she can handle another funeral (or, though she didn’t say this, perhaps meeting another giant group of relatives she hasn’t previously met) and so she’ll stay here and we won’t need to board the animals or worry about how I can get to the airport at 4 am. She also says she didn’t mean we should actually stop the adoption process for good, but she also started brainstorming things she could do on her summer off if we weren’t going to have a child around. I pointed out that the summer off is her parental leave from school and she won’t get any more than that, so if we want to have a child placed and we want to do it in summer we’d have to wait a year. She hadn’t thought that far ahead, which is typical. She thinks about things in parts rather than in practicalities and doesn’t think about how choices she makes will necessitate other choices down the line, which is the difference between us that’s been causing us stress in this whole process.

Still, I’m about to email our social worker as planned. (I’d have done it yesterday if Lee had bothered to respond to my email where I asked if it was okay for me to do that, but she didn’t. I worry I’m sounding really petulant and passive-aggressive about this, but I’m frustrated by how uncharacteristically distant she’s being even though I know it’s always a stretch for her to be sympathetic and caring when I’m in emotional pain.) We’ll tell her things are on hold for us and that we need to regroup, do some serious self-evaluation, and then I think get back on a slightly different track. I don’t know how I feel about anything now except sad and overburdened, but I know that part will pass.

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a sign at last

February 23, 2009

I had a very pertinent dream last night, and while I realize dreams are generally only interesting to the dreamer this one seemed anvil-obvious enough to be worth noting here.

In my dream, I got in touch with our social worker Elizabeth to talk to her about my concerns with where we are in the process, meaning where I am and where Lee is since I think we both have issues. Elizabeth said she didn’t really have time to talk, but she knew just the person I needed to sit down with who would be able to tell me exactly what I needed to know about where I should be going and how I should be approaching this. In the dream, I believed her and agreed to be at the restaurant where this person and I would have lunch. I got there and sat down and waited to see what would happen next. It was Lee who walked in, obviously also expecting someone else.

That’s where the dream ended and it’s pretty obvious what I was trying to tell myself through it, but it was a dream where I woke up feeling relieved. I looked over at Lee sleeping next to me and smiled and felt at peace. I also thought, “My grandfather is probably dead now,” but I’m not psychic. That’s the thought I’ve had every time I’ve woken suddenly all weekend long. I guess I’m relieved that that part is accurate, too, and that the wait there is over.

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different news

February 23, 2009

The call just came from my mother that her father died in the night. I’d sort of expected it to be this weekend, so I wasn’t surprised. But it’s only just more than a month since my first grandfather died and Lee and I were in a major car accident, with all this adoption stuff bookended in between. I’ve been doing a fair bit of crying and regret as I think about my grandfathers over the last few days, though each of them had been sick so long and was clearly done with living.

I’m not sad for them; the “no longer in pain” thing most people think of as a cliche seems very much to be true. They toughed it out through nasty, destructive illnesses — Parkinson’s with my first paternal grandfather and Alzheimer’s with this one — for as close to two decades as they could manage before their bodies had just had enough. I can’t criticize that or grieve the end of their pain. I do grieve, though, for the men that they were before they got sick and for the way only I as the oldest grandchild on both sides (and the family memory-keeper of my generation anyway) got to know them as they were.

And that’s probably funny because my parents will think of them differently, remember them before their hair was graying. But for me, remembering my paternal grandfather windsurfing in his 60s before his body started to shake and curve, my maternal grandfather taking advantage of his retirement and his insomnia to get trained as an EMT and go out with ambulances all night long in the mostly-senior community where he lived and thus got to know everyone…. I’m not exactly nostalgic for it all, but I need time to think about everything that’s changed over all these years, myself included.

I haven’t talked to Lee about this — haven’t said anything but that he died and that my mom is doing okay, that I’ll let her know when there are funeral plans — but I think I’ll probably just email Elizabeth and tell her about this and that it will leave me incapacitated for a bit and that we weren’t at a decision point before it happened, since despite Lee’s plea to stop (one I’ve suggested before in moments of frustration or when she seemed too burdened or sad, so I understand) she also talked about how we could go on. If we just tell her that if any other families come in for Ezra, don’t hold up on that for our sake, I think we’re being honest enough and we’ll get some time to sort ourselves out. Even if our decision is still waiting or stopping, we’ll let her know when we’ve had time to come to it without the strain of all this extra stuff.

It’s a long drive to where my grandparents live and after our last episode we’re a little nervous about driving, though flying out of our airport is ridiculously costly. So 9 hours in a rental car or stuffed in a van with my parents and brothers? I guess maybe we should start pricing alternative airports, but I don’t even know yet it Lee will be able to get away from school this time. I guess what we should do is just wait and let things become more clear on many fronts in our life.

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taking responsibility

February 23, 2009

Lee is sort of stepping back from saying we should stop now, but I do think we need time to stop and assess ourselves.

It really hurt her that I didn’t respect #2’s opinions, and I told her I don’t and I couldn’t, given what he said. But I realize it makes me sound like a horrible know-it-all to reject the opinion of someone who’s worked with kids that I know more after just having read aboutkids. His burning-down-the-house comment, which she repeated to our friend today, was not just about attachment disordered kids but about any kid who was neglected as a baby, because he thinks neglect does more damage than abuse. And I really, really made things worse by later mentioning that Lee had supposedly been neglected as a baby and that she’s got some sore spots in attachment but she came out good enough that all present love her.

I don’t know if she’d never mentioned her adoption to them or just felt I was coopting her story, but she talks about it in great detail to everyone we meet and so I assume it was the latter, that I shouldn’t have said anything about her around her friends even though she’s allowed to make jokes about my mom to them. (And seriously, my mom deserves the jokes. I’m just noting the double standard, though it’s not as if I haven’t known all along that Lee lives by double standards.) So she felt criticized even though what I was trying to do was the opposite, point out that #2 was overgeneralizing to potentially damaging degrees. I didn’t mean to hurt her, but I hurt her.

And it hurt her that I told #2 that I’m concerned that she’s done no independent research, hasn’t even read what I’ve suggested although I didn’t add that degree of detail. She thinks I’m picking on her and pushing her out of the loop. She’s said she wants me to make a list of what she should do.

Maybe I should make a list. I certainly did a lot of apologizing, because I have hurt her feelings even though I was trying to be kind and supportive. I was obviously pressuring her to make a decision, to talk to me, to be involved. That wasn’t pressure she wanted or felt comfortable with. But I don’t really want to give her a list and have her check things off. I don’t want to be her mom; I want us both to be moms if we’re going to do this.

So for now I’ve said we should take a step back. Since she likes to make gut decisions, I told her the items on the list are to spend some time getting to know her gut and her heart. If they say we should move forward, we’ll restart and I’ll do it with a new attitude and with more sensitivity toward her. I don’t want her to feel superfluous because I truly don’t believe she is. But we haven’t dealt as well as we should with our discussions to work as a team, and we need to figure out how to do that better.

And if Lee’s heart and gut say that this isn’t what she should be doing right now, then I have a partner I love very much, a lovely little house we share, some sweet pets I love too. This is a good life and I’ll happily keep living it. I don’t know what I’d do with my little adoption blog, but I don’t have to figure that out now. I’m just waiting and trying to be more kind, more loving, more accepting. No matter what direction we go, that will make things better for us.

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Day of Rest

February 22, 2009

We just had our friend Expert 3 and her two kids, ages 7 and 5, here for a few hours. She read the file and says that if Ezra’s making progress in his home and at school she’d be comfortable going ahead, but if not not. His current file for this year is being written at the moment.

Our pets were great with the kids and the two kids played Wii for a few hours. We ate almonds and the adults took turns supervising the kids and talking about those kids and Ezra. Lee was very helpful at times and obviously sort of frustrated and unengaged — didn’t want me talking to our friend while she read the file because I was biasing her, for instance — at others. She’s been kind of distant and frustrated all day. And I think I hurt her when I said I found #2, someone she’s socialized with for years, wrong-headed about Ezra and judgmental in general. She was definitely feeling down and not her usual sweet self.

So after 3 hours with these kids and enough Wii Fit games that the little boy wore through his sock, Lee just told me she thinks we shouldn’t do this, shouldn’t be parenting. I think for now that might be the choice we make. If we’re not ready, there’s no point. We have to be able to do a good job and if that’s not now, it’s just not. It’s not what I’d have wanted, but it’s kind of a relief. I’m sure we’ll pick discussions back up eventually, but I think this means saying no Ezra and not looking at any other kids at least until Lee’s worked through whatever it is that’s eating at her about this. And maybe we’ll decide that the two of us have a cozy little life, which we do, and that that’s what we want. I’m in this with her, though, and our partnership is my priority. This decision isn’t as scary to me as refusing Ezra and looking for some perfect kid; that terrified me. Nothing’s decided for good, but for now we’re resting.

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attachment question

February 22, 2009

Thanks for all the support on the last post. I’m frustrated, obviously. I ended up wide awake at 4 am, so I read some young adult books for an escapist good time, although the second one (Sherman Alexie’s brilliant The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian had plenty of alcoholism and poverty and multigenerational trauma. But oh it was beautifully written and funny and heartbreaking and wonderful! So that was just as good as sleep, in its own way.

The real point of this post, though, was supposed to be an attachment question. Oh, did you maybe guess that from the title? Guess who’s been awake for five hours too! (Actually I’m not exhausted, just in a strange mood.)

So, attachment question. #2 last night said he’d predict a child with attachment challenges (and Ezra definitely has those, even if I’m not sold on the Reactive Attachment Disorder diagnosis; he had a lot of disruptions in early life and his current foster mom of 3 years is the first one he’s been around long enough to fully bond with, though the workers and the foster mom believe he’s genuinely attached to her) would try to triangulate and push us apart as a couple, which I assume is true. But he also said specifically that he’d expect Ezra to glom onto me and physically attack Ezra because he sees me as the “mom” figure and her as less involved in “mom” parenting. I’d expect the opposite about the behavior side of things, though not about what our roles are. From what I’ve read, I’d think generally the “mom” would get the bad, punishing treatment and the “dad” would get the fakey sweet side. I’m sure situations differ drastically and of course I’m oversimplifying, but am I wrong in thinking that’s the norm?

Of course, addition to making assumptions about our parenting without asking us anything about our backgrounds or styles or plans, he also thinks it’s impossible for a little boy to develop a conscience without an adult male role model active in his life (I don’t know why the foster mom’s adult son, whom Ezra considers a brother and who’s lived in the home the whole time Ezra’s been there wouldn’t count, but I wasn’t going to get into specifics by that point) and I’m not sure if that was a criticism of lesbian parenting or just what it sounded like, a statement of truth as he sees it. I don’t think he said anything nice about anyone’s parenting except his own and his wife’s, really, so maybe he just has an attitude. Certainly every example of someone who’d done a special needs adoption included a parent getting insufficient support and having to advocate for mental health and related needs for their kids. I guess whether that should constitute “ruined lives” for those parents is up to interpretation.

He also says “infers” when he means “implies” and said this about 500 times during the conversation. I think that’s the part that might have gotten to me most.

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Expert #2

February 22, 2009

Expert #2, the one I don’t really know and who’s a husband of Lee’s old boss, weighed in tonight. He worked in a residential treatment center 15 years ago. He thinks Ezra (or any kid with any attachment issues) will burn down our house, beat up Lee, be unable to do things he does now (e.g. dress himself) because he’s not developmentally able, and will basically require the rest of our lives to parent him. Lee wanted to vote completely based on this man’s opinion. Maybe she should and we’ll be done with it. I disagree, but maybe that’s me being stupid and hopeful, hopeful for the first time in my life. I guess I don’t know. It’s making me sort of regret having an adoption blog because I think we might be better off not adopting and just having selfish adult lives with no children.

Bed now for me. We can’t talk right now about this, as Lee already made clear, and I don’t know that I could talk about anything else. It’s probably for the best.

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not the only one

February 20, 2009

I haven’t been writing here because there’s too much going on but it’s not anything I can talk about. Most of what’s going on is going on inside Lee and inside me, and I suppose in relation to what goes on inside Ezra. I really don’t want to talk about him in total specifics now because I haven’t met him, don’t know how to protect his privacy, don’t know what issues in his file are things we’re going to experience. So I’m sort of tongue-tied because my thinking is all tangled now and because I’ve moved from being relatively calm and positive to being pretty much edgy and scared. Lee, though, is getting calmer and seems fairly excited about the conversation we’ll have tomorrow night with the next of our expert friends, a former social worker who used to help place kids.

Most nights, Lee and I don’t mention Ezra or don’t go into any detail about what we’re thinking. She thinks I know what she’s thinking, what her concerns are and how they’ve changed. I don’t. I have ideas, but they’re guesswork on my part. One of her problems is that she hasn’t felt able to fully enunciate what she thinks or how she feels.

It feels very strange to be talking about this because I don’t remember reading about how other people manage these decisions. I know everyone says that you just know when you’ve found the right child, but I’m skeptical of that kind of thinking. (And Lee says she knows he’s ours but is still worried about whether we’re right for him, and I have no idea how to fully make sense of that!) I’m not sure if it just didn’t register to me at the time or if this isn’t something other bloggers have written about in depth to the extent it seems to be affecting us. I went back and reread Maggie’s archives from the time between when she started looking at profiles and the time she brought Slugger home. I think Yondalla probably got into their process in making a choice about Frankie’s placement. And Torina did pretty much have boys materialize out of thin air, I think….

I don’t feel totally alone, though. I’ve gotten great advice in comments here, in emails. I’ve gotten to hear about people’s experiences in pushing a partner too far, in being pushed too far, in having no details or the wrong details in their children’s files, so much more. But the one bit of truly good advice I’ve gotten from my mother is something my pediatrician told her after I was born. She was asking him to recommend some books she could read about infant development (okay, clearly I get that tendency from her, though also from my dad) and he said, “Well, the thing is, there are a lot of great baby books out there, but there aren’t any books about your baby.” So I’m getting lots of good advice and it’s all incredibly helpful — and I do make a point of going back and really focusing on the ones I initially think are not pertinent — but of course none of it is about Lee or Ezra or me.

I guess what I really need to do is hack out how I feel about this. It took me a long time to warm to the idea of Ezra, though I’m not sure why. I guess because after helping raise my three younger brothers I would have chosen a girl if it were just me, though Lee has always been pro-boy and I thought it would be fine to go with a boy as our default. And he’s a boyish boy, sporty and active and hyperactive. But mostly Lee wasn’t interested in him initially — it turns out because she was hoping to find a biracial boy who would resemble both of us, something that hadn’t really been a concern for me — and I was figuring there was no point having real emotions about anyone she wasn’t interested in parenting.

But after we our homestudy worker Kate (also his recruitment worker, which is why we got her copies of the photos she’d taken of him) recommended him as a good fit for us, I started thinking about what she said. After we talked to his worker — now our worker — Elizabeth about him, I warmed up to the idea even more. By the time I read his file, I already knew what I was worrying about and was delighted to be able to rule out the worst options.

And what I’m left with is a kid his foster mother describes as adorable and easy-going, but one who also tantrums. But he also tantrums sometimes because he’s teased by the foster brother who shares his room, and that’s one reason they’d like him moved into our house, where he’d get more attention. Everything there is about him is like that, something negative with some reasons why it’s not as good as it could be (like asthma medications that make him more hyper, but living with a chain smoker so that he requires multiple asthma meds) and yet of course no certainty about how we could change things since I’m just making guesses about the future.

His basic diagnoses are basically the same as those the oldest of my brothers have, asthma and ADHD. And as my mother pointed out, I always had trouble with my brother’s behavior. Of course, she’s talking about I was 8 and he was 5; we get along pretty well as adults. And being someone’s big sister — because all little brothers are annoying, right? — is absolutely not the same as being someone’s mom. But anyway, this is a plus and a minus. It’s familiar territory. I have strategies in mind that worked for my brother and ones I think would have worked for him. We can make a game plan. And maybe because he’s not my brother he won’t annoy me in the way that I do believe only a little brother can annoy a big sister.

But I don’t know if I’m in love with him. I am and I’m not. I see this little guy and his story as absolutely tugs at my heart, particularly because there were so many chances for things to go better for him while he was in care and things just didn’t work in his favor until he got to his current foster home, and even then he still didn’t find an adoptive placement. I can absolutely picture him sleeping down the hall from me, going to River City Waldorf and thriving there, fitting into our home and our activities, encouraging us to do lots of things we don’t already. He makes sense in a lot of ways as part of our family. His long name written in his best big kindergarten letters on his caseplan is the sweetest, saddest thing I’ve ever seen, and I guess that means it’s love.

But if Lee says for sure she can’t handle this or that she’s too scared to proceed, she has my heart already and I’ll go with her without arguing. I think. He deserves to be in a home with parents who can manage his issues and help him learn to manage them, and if we’re not up to that, then we’re not capable of parenting him. I told Lee the other day that maybe this is sort of like if they asked us to consider a child who speaks French. I’d be so excited initially — What a great chance to improve my French with daily use! What a lucky child that they’d be able to find a francophone adult! — but it would be absolutely the wrong choice for our family because Lee doesn’t speak any French at all. And maybe having to see an attachment specialist or deal with a temper tantrum is like that, like asking her to learn French. Sure it seems easy to me because I can already do it, because I learned a long time ago, but she doesn’t have a brain for languages and it would never work for her.

The reason I’m pushing Lee on this is not for Ezra but for her. I think she needs to really think about what she can handle and not, and the only way to get her to do that is drill down on his information and figure out all we can about her preferences. I also think Ezra’s on the easier side of the spectrum and missing some major scary diagnoses, which is a benefit. But I’m afraid to her it does feel like everyone else in the world thinks Ezra belongs with us and she’s being pressured into it, which is absolutely not what I want. She knows I’m not willing to move forward unless it’s clear the yes is coming from her heart and mind, not some sense of duty or pressure. But her no can come from anywhere and I’ll accept it, even though right now it seems she’s trending toward yes.

I don’t know how much I’ll need to grieve if we say no to his file. I already grieve for Ezra because he’s been let down by the system that is supposed to be protecting him, though lots of people are doing their best to take care of him now. And all of this is tied up in my grandfather dying back in January as we geared up for our approval and now my other grandfather dying while we make a decision about Ezra. I have a lot of bubbling and unresolved feelings about family and grief right now, and that’s just the way it is.

I said I’m a fan of signs and I used to say I was a big fan of uncertainty, too. I suppose in a philosophical and literary sense I still am. Right now, though, I’m not so sure. I like a fair amount of it, but I want to have something real to hold onto too. Some days are better than others in terms of how I feel about myself, our prospects, the future. Some days I end up with a bit of panic. It could be a lot worse, though, and we’re sticking together and writing our own book. And soon I’ll know how this bit of plot turns out.

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