Sunday, February 21, 2016


I think the shock is wearing off. My husband is divorcing me. Despite the fact that my children will be crushed, he is unwilling to attend counseling. We have an open rental apartment in our basement...he is unwilling to let one of us live down there so the kids can stay in their home and see both of us every day. Yes, I realize it would be hard for the grown ups, but it would be better for the kids. I feel like I am watching out for four of us while my husband only worries about himself. I asked him what being divorced will allow him to do that he can't do now. He doesn't know.

Thankfully I have a built a web of support. I had friends take my kids to movies, take them to the park, clean my bathroom, help me get the house ready for showings since it is going on the market, painting the back porch, and listening to me while I cry and gripe and dream and everything else.

I have a village to help me keep my kids feeling safe and loved. It is going to be hard, but we will make it.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

The D Word

My husband came home last night and told me he wanted a divorce. Yes, things haven't been wonderful since we adopted the kids, but I had no idea anyone was considering divorce. He has definitely made up his mind, and he is not willing to try to reconcile or try counseling. Basically he has been festering about everything that has ever been said or done, my fault or not, in the last decade. I mean, I asked him last weekend if he wanted to try to take a trip for our 10 year anniversary. Maybe he could have mentioned he wasn't planning on being around then. 

All I am worried about right now is my kids. My son is basically like a snowglobe that was just beginning to settle. This is going to shake him all up again. Took three years to calm him down the last time. I wish I could protect him from this. Honestly, I would pretend nothing was wrong for the next decade if that would spare him the pain he is going to experience. This is his absolute worst nightmare: our forever family wasn't actually forever.

I feel that my husband is being selfish, making his needs a priority over everyone else's. 

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Abused Animals

You know those terribly depressed commercials about abused animals? They just rub me the wrong way. In fact, the last time I saw one during a family gathering, I spewed a bit along the following lines: 

So we all know that abused dogs don't like loud noises and things, right? They will tremble and sometimes even pee. No one yells at them for acting on their instincts. We all are careful to be cautious with the animal because the abuse was not the animal's fault. We realize that they will have problems, possibly for the rest of their lives, and we don't expect them to ever go back to being a "normal" dog because of what they experienced. The abuse changed them permanently, no matter how long ago it took place. How come people expect humans to be able to overcome abuse and neglect and just "act normal"? Those abused animals clearly have PTSD, but no one accuses them of making up the long-lasting effects of the trauma. No one tells them to get over their fear of balloons or loud noises. Instead, we have commercials and fundraisers. But a kid with PTSD must just be hyper and naughty, choosing to act in ways that are socially unacceptable, right? That makes absolutely no sense to me. We can see how trauma affects creates that can't really process things, so why do we expect kids to get over it? That just irritates me! 

No one responded. I think I made my point. And I don't think anyone called in to start up a monthly donation to rescue any animals. Don't get me wrong, I feel great compassion and deep sadness when I think about animals that have experienced abuse and neglect. I just think humans deserve the same compassion and empathy that we extend to animals. 

Friday, January 1, 2016

The New Year

As many of my friends were ringing in 2016 either cuddling in bed or out partying it up, I rang in the new year alone. My husband was rocking our 8-year old. The night had gone well until we did he countdown (early, courtesy of Netflix). We took a selfie and then he snapped. He pushed his brother to the ground and slapped his face. It was downhill from there. Lots of, "I hate you!" Followed by, "I love you, will you cuddle with me?" There was even a, "I am going to kill you tomorrow" thrown in for good measure. So you might assume my New Year's Eve wasn't enjoyable. Actually, I really had a great time. Prior to the meltdown, we enjoyed Jenga, Boggle Jr, and even Disney Princess Yatzee. We had popcorn and a movie, and there were lots of laughs. It was a really fun night. 

So what happened? Although we can't be for sure, I think it was a combination of too much excitement (in other words, out of routine) and remembering the family that he has lost. You know that bittersweet feeling you get when you remember someone who passed away? For years after I lost my grandfather, I would pick up the phone to tell him something and then remember he wasn't there. The hurt would be raw and unsettling. Now I can look at things he made with fondness, but there will always be a small sting when I realize I won't get to learn anymore about woodworking or get a lecture about how many kilowatts of energy I waste when I leave my nightlight on during the daytime. A few years after Grandpa passed away, Grandma got a boyfriend. I didn't like him. I didn't choose him. He felt like an impostor, sitting in my grandfather's chair and taking his boat out on the lake. His laugh was wrong, and he didn't know anything about me. 

Here I am parenting a child who surely has very similar feelings about his birth parents, foster parents, and adoptive parents. I am not like his birth mom. Although he might love me and enjoy me more than I enjoyed my grandma's boyfriend, I am not the same. There is a hurt beneath his love for me. Maybe deep down he remembers Christmas with his birth parents. We surely don't celebrate the same. Since his parents were both from Mexico, there might have been bunuelos and tamales instead of lefse and German chocolates. Neither is better than the other (okay, tamales are the best thing in the world), but they aren't the same. There is something "off" about the holiday. Maybe it still feels like an impostor. 

I know he doesn't mean he hates me and wants to kill me. In fact, I know he truly loves me and wants to make sure I will love him forever. Instead of being angry and disappointed with how I rang in the new year, I feel content. I know that we are doing what we need to do to help him heal. I know we all love each other, even through our struggles. I know 2016 will continue to show even more growth and healing with our kids, even if there are days when they hurt. 

Friday, December 11, 2015

History of an Adoptive Mother

So it has been awhile since I last blogged. That really isn't too surprising since I am a teacher, grad student, and mother of three school-age kiddos. The semester of the school year has passed without anything of real significance occurring. In our world, that is a good thing!

Everyone is doing well in school. We are loving our riding lessons and the great things that horses can teach us. Church is still a major part of our world and our social circle. I have one more paper before I complete my program. I have been getting healthier and feeling stronger and more fit. I actually feel like I am reaching a point in my life where I can focus more on myself again. That only took 3-5 years, depending on when I start counting. In reality, I went in to "the dark ages" in 2010 after our first miscarriage. I couldn't go out in public. I had panic attacks when I saw pregnant people and baby stuff. Essentially, I was hibernating. Was I hiding? Perhaps. I remember that I finally worked up the courage to go to Walmart, only to discover they had rearranged it so that baby items were right near the entrance. I nearly ran out of the store. Then there was the panic attack in the theatre when my husband and I went to see Salt. And the birthday I don't remember. Literally. I am not sure if I celebrated or just stayed in bed. The stress wiped all memories of that time like a magnet over a hard drive. There was the school year that I didn't start because I had a mental breakdown and flew to be with my grandmother who had just had surgery for colon cancer. That was the year I didn't even set up my own classroom. Some wonderful friends and colleagues took care of it all for me. I mean, there is literally a folder in my file cabinet labeled "first week of school," so I am sure they had some help on my end.

I had almost felt normal again after awhile. Not really normal; more like "settled." I could talk to pregnant people again, and I had a bit of a social life. Then, nearly three years ago, we brought home our kids. What a wonderful Christmas gift they were! That began the next phase of life that lasted until now. Maybe I will refer to it as "the great depression." Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love my kids. The adjustment was very difficult. In hindsight, I hadn't really stabilized my mental health fully. I was still running on fumes, depleted by anxiety and anticipation. When the kids came, we all held it together for awhile, and then we all fell apart. Adjustment, trauma, loss, grief, and stress caught up to us all. Depression hit me like a ton of bricks. I withdrew into myself and became angry and fearful. I lost my whole identity. All of my interests and pursuits were put on hold. I literally gained 25 pounds. I felt, at times, like I was folding down into myself. Yes, there were times of great joy and fun memories, but it was a difficult period.

I now feel like I am on the verge of the "the enlightenment." [I do realize these time periods do not match up with the actual historical time periods.] I am finding myself again. I went on a trip to NYC. I drove to the airport, hopped on a plane with a backpack and a carry on bag. I had my friend's address and a vague plan of how the trip would go. When I was hungry, I ate. I didn't plan anything. When I landed at La Guardia, I got in the taxi line and gave the cabbie the address. I nearly vomited during the ride, but I made it. And I loved the freedom and unpredictability. I rode the subway for over an hour to pick up my sister the next day. By myself. I was not lonely. I just listened to music and went with the flow. Then my sister and I went to Grand Central Station to meet up with another friend. We had no plans besides going to see Wicked the next day. We explored neighborhoods, checked out gelato and bagel shops, and ordered cookies at midnight from a cookie delivery place (they arrived still warm). We took in all the tourist sights that Manhattan offers in seven hours - the whole island. From the World Trade Center Memorial to a carriage ride in Central Park, Little Italy and China Town to Rockefeller Plaza. My feet were killing me, and my stomach ached, but somewhere on the Metro, I found myself again. The strong, educated woman who isn't intimidated by new people and experiences. The woman who enjoys reading, cooking, and performing. The small-town Minnesotan who has traveled all over the world. The same woman whose guts and determination were exactly why she was able to find her kids and adopt them. Somehow this woman had been lost. I am so glad she is found. Do I think that life will be easy now? No. But I feel hopeful that I can now continue to return to the woman I once was, albeit an older and less naive version.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Grief Cycle

The other day my daughter entered back into the grief cycle. The pain was fresh and raw; she was angry and sad. she had been thinking about her birthday in October, and she wished her birth family and her forever family could all be together for her birthday. I explained why that probably wasn't a possibility. She wept bitterly. Then she brought me her life book and asked me to tell her the story of her life up until she came to live with us. Although I had told her this story before, she seems to have trouble remembering any of it because she was so little. Unlike her big brother, she doesn't have any actual memories of her birth parents -- just photographs and stories. For better or worse, she doesn't remember the trauma of witnessing domestic violence and seeing chemical abuse. She talked about how she sometimes feels lonely and aches for both of her families to be united. She told me a dream she has where our house burns down, and she has no parents. She tries to ride her bike to get to her horse so she can ride it to where her birth parents live so she can ask for help. Anxiety was overwhelming her, so we talked about realistic outcomes if she were to lose both my husband and I. Although I would normally try to explain to her that she needs to focus on rational thinking, our therapist recently helped us to see how coming up with backup plans (even if the fear is completely irrational such as someone will steal all of the kids' toys while we are at school) can be very reassuring for our kids. When we talked through all of the people that could raise her if my husband and I both died, she seemed to be less anxious.

For now, she is back to her normal six-year-old self. The grief cycle can sneak up on you. It resurfaces in times of great sorrow or great joy, and it hides behind transition times like returning to school. Each time we go through the grief cycle, it brings up different aspects of loss. Hopefully time will help her heal.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Back to School

School is back in session. That means a change in routine. Changes in routine lead to anxiety. Anxiety leads to scratching and insomnia. For a neurotypical kiddo, going back to school is an adjustment. For a kiddo with PTSD and anxiety, going back to school is a huge challenge. It stirs up memories of grief and loss. It causes separation anxiety, eczema flair ups, and insomnia. My youngest has the least amount of trauma from his early life experiences, so he is able to go with the flow a bit more. My daughter, however, cried at Meet the Teacher night. I realize that isn't too unusual for a first grader, but she has the same teacher, classroom, and students as last year. Our elementary school loops, so they have two years with the same people. I couldn't believe she had tears again! My oldest, on the other hand, is a mess. He can't sleep at night. We are back to someone laying with him or him sleeping in our room. He is a third grader, and we still go through this with each transition. He has been here almost three years. He has nightmares, his legs are full of scratches, and he can't stop thinking about his birth mom. All of this stems from his "normal" summer routine morphing into his "normal" school routine. I told people that I don't do anything for the first month after school starts. No appointments. No activities. I was thinking maybe I didn't need to pause everything this year, but I am glad I did. D just needs extra time with us. He needs to be reassured that we are not leaving him, he is safe, and he will be okay with this new normal again. Just like my daughter, he has the same classroom, teacher, and students. It isn't anything new. The challenge is just to readjust. We will make it, but it takes a lot of extra TLC. A lot of hugs, patience, and extra family time. We also experience a spike in tantrums and angry outbursts. We will survive.