And the wheel landed on…

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  • We are foster approved.
  • But I got a new job!
  • I started this week.
  • We’re postponing fostering until I get settled in.
  • Every day, Miss E asks “what does ‘get used to your job’ mean?”
  • She’s very anxious to be a sister.
  • The job is normal hours! Interesting work! And a huuuuuge pay cut.
  • That’s okay. It will be worth it.
  • But we probably can’t afford a sibling until E starts kindergarten.
  • (In August! How is she old enough that we’re applying to kindergarten?)
  • In our county, fostering pays a stipend but the expectation is that YOU will be caring for the child – not daycare. (Even though half of their foster families are working single parents/two working parents.) So the stipend helps cover food and clothes but not child care.
  • Our out-of-pocket monthly OT and feeding therapy costs are astronomical.
  • But hey, she put tooth marks in a carrot recently! And then spit it back out.
  • That probably doesn’t sound like much, but it is a BFD.
  • So I have some weightier blog posts in the works.
  • Because my top two goals for my free time are: more blogging and more reading.
  • But right now I’m just enjoying having no-expectation weeknights.
  • And Netflix.
  • For the first time in a decade, Netflix.
  • [flipping on Orange is the New Black]
  • Ahhhh.

A book-book here and a book-book there: Q4

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A second year of blogging about reading has come to a close. I don’t get many comments on these posts, but I’m inclined to still write them, I guess?

Bird Box by Josh Malerman (4 stars) (audio) A google of “best audio books” led me to this gem. This end-of-the-world story evokes so much tension, (especially in the audio book where skimming pages because you need to know what happens right now isn’t feasible). The story alternates between a woman’s survival of an apocalyptic event and years later when she departs her house for the first time with two small children.

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (4 stars) This is a stand-alone essay taken from a TED Talk she gave, and I would recommend either one. (TED Talk bonus: her lovely Nigerian accent.)

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (4 stars) Coates is one of the best modern writers about race. This is a poetic letter to his son about growing up black in America. “I did not tell you that it would be okay, because I have never believed it would be okay. What I told you is what your grandparents tried to tell me: that this is your country, that this is your world, that this is your body, and you must find some way to live within the all of it.” That his writing is so graceful does not lessen the impact of the blows he rains down on white supremacy. Such an important read.

When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris (audio) (4 stars) My favorite of the three Sedaris books I’ve read/listened to. He is so adept at writing that I come away believing that I, too, can write best-selling humorous anecdotes about my life. Alas, I will make do with blogging.

Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson (4 stars) I do not laugh out loud at books. Unless they’re written by Jenny Lawson, and then I cannot stop. She unapologetically, hilariously beats down the stigma of mental illness.

The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg (audio) (3 stars) This story about the morbidly obese matriarch of a dysfunctional Jewish family might have been unremarkable – except for Molly Ringwald’s graceful narration of the audio book.

Contrition by Maura Weiler (4 stars) I read this for a book club and would not have chosen it otherwise. In fact, I thought the plot line sounded silly – twins separated at birth by adoption; one grows up to write for a tabloid and the other is a nun. However, the story was quite engaging. (The author came to our book club and told us how she wrote and published the book, which was also fascinating.)

Through the Ever Night by Veronica Rossi (2 stars) The second book in a young adult sci-fi trilogy. A blah teen romance set against unremarkable supernatural storms. I won’t bother with the third installment.

Deep Down Dark by Hector Tobar  (audio) (4 stars) The gripping story of the 33 Chilean miners who were trapped underground after an explosion and miraculously rescued.

What have you been reading? What were your favorite books of 2015?

And in the end

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My last living grandparent has been dying in the hospital for four weeks. On the even days, she gets marginally better. On the odd days, she gets significantly worse. An agonizing descent to the end.

I live far away and had only four days to spend with her. On my last night, things were… precarious. And all I could think, channeling Harry Potter — and, believe me, understanding the incongruity of this thought — was, “But I don’t want to be able to see Thestrals.”

My visit ended. I still cannot see Thestrals. My grandmother lives. The descent continues.

Being up to the task

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There’s a phrase we learned in our adoption education: “children from the hard places.” (That phrase comes with a southern twang to match the person speaking in the videos we had to watch.) “Hard places” are not geographical; rather, children who were exposed to trauma, abuse, neglect, malnutrition, separation from their parents. Adoption.

We got our cat around the time we had to watch those videos. Our cat had been found in a vacant house in Chicago and was taken to a pet shelter where we met her. In our house, she spent the first two days hiding in the bathtub and the first month constantly in the closet. She never wanted us to pet her – still doesn’t. We wondered if the adjustment to our household was so hard for a cat, what would it be like for a child? (I don’t want to compare Miss E to a cat – that was just a rhetorical device to talk about trauma. Edited to add: And we never, ever talk about “adopting” animals. NOPE.)

couscous

Cat in bathtub

I don’t want to violate Miss E’s privacy. She is entitled to it. But, I keep returning to this particular blog – even though it’s not been updated in a year – where the blogger has written eloquently and honestly about behavioral difficulties faced by some families who adopted internationally. It speaks to me because parenting Miss E is hard. Harder than parenting might have been under other circumstances. She is amazing; we are so lucky. Parenting her is fun and rewarding. And still, it is hard.

There are studies about how traumas effect children neurologically. But even knowing the studies, the statistics, the anecdotes – parenting a child from the hard places is not always intuitive. Looking at a certain out-of-control behavior, you wonder whether your child’s response is due to being tired or hungry or needing more sensory input or having too much sensory input or ADHD or having a fight-or-flight response to some past not-even-remembered trauma or mercury is in retrograde or there is a combination of several of these things. You don’t want to pathologize adoption. But you want to recognize that it plays a role, too.

And sometimes, you think you might need help. Sometimes your child can’t eat or struggles more than other kids with transitions or can’t quite master certain skills or has control issues or tantrums – tantrums that make you say to yourself, “I know she is only a preschooler and preschoolers have tantrums, but this is not normal.” You tell yourself that your child deserves a never-ending fountain of patience, but you can’t always deliver. You know you’re only human and, yet, you beat yourself up for not being superhuman.

And then things get better for a few days and you convince yourself that you just weren’t up to the task that day. She was just sick; you were just tired. So you don’t call. Maybe you eventually mention the behaviors to a doctor and she convinces you it’s nothing to worry about. And your subconscious whispers “it’s not just you” but you ignore it. For a while.

And then maybe you do finally get help. But you might spin your wheels. Because one professional knows about feeding but not developmental delays. Another knows about sensory issues but not trauma. A third knows about trauma but not feeding. And with each professional you call, you believe that this is going to be the key that unlocks it all. Or you believe that nothing will ever unlock it, but being up to the task of parenting a child from the hard places requires that you dutifully call anyway. (Because you love your child more than anything and know that she deserves all the advocacy you can muster.)

And when you mention to one professional that you’ll be seeing another professional, or that you have a theory that differs from theirs, they might roll their eyes or tell you that they alone can help. And you want to cry out in frustration, I know my child better than anyone else! But also, I have no fucking clue!

You can’t be the only one feeling this way, but no one really talks about it.

So today I am.

At least the hike was nice

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When my parents were visiting a few weeks ago, we all crammed into the car and drove to a nearby town for lunch, to be followed by a family hike. Lunch ended predictably, with Miss E screaming about something. A blue marker not being the right blue marker, I think? The detail doesn’t matter so much as the pitch of the screaming. I carried her outside while the rest of our party paid; she screamed and screamed – now mad that we left the restaurant against her will. A stranger on the street took an interest. “Hey, little girl!” he yelled. I assumed that he wanted to make her laugh. (He was destined to fail.) I gave him a friendly shrug, in that “toddlers, what can you do?” way. She just screamed.

I walked past him toward the car. And then he got weird. “Hey!” he kept yelling. “Come back here!” He started following, as my family caught up to us. He wasn’t quick, but he was dogged. And high. Definitely quite high. I urged my family to move faster to our car, parked 100 yards away. My husband (who’s taken about five forms of martial arts and is probably just itching to maim someone) ambled along, now carrying Miss E (yes, still screaming). He remained unconcerned about the greasy-haired menace behind us. “What could that guy do to us?”

I’m not so sure he’s not a zombie, I thought. “Just go!” I frantically commanded. Finally, everyone buckled up in the car, we took off. The zombie began to write something onto the dirt of the car behind us. “I think it’s our license plate number,” my husband joked.

I flipped on the GPS on my phone; naturally, it took us in a very large circle. Five minutes later, we cruised past the scene of the (potential) crime. The police had been summoned. The zombie wildly gesticulated – pointing first at the space where our car had been and then at the dirt where he had scrawled, wait, did he really write down our license plate number? He didn’t notice our return, and we glided silently by.

Since we were never pulled over, I presume the police were not alarmed by the report of a white family kidnapping a black toddler from the local diner. Or perhaps we’re still on the lam.

MicroblogMondays: Cringe Edition

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Recently, The Bloggess had an awkward experience. She tweeted it, and thousands of other people started tweeting back their own awkward experiences. It was so cathartic to read through and realize that my own cringe-worthy experiences – which still make me blush no matter how long ago they occurred – are no worse than anyone else’s. But they are still pretty bad.

I have a private Twitter account, so I couldn’t share with The Bloggess but I will share them all with you. My top five most awkward moments:

  • At Mr. T’s apartment when we were first dating, I had been holding in my farts all evening because it was so quiet in his apartment that I couldn’t even use the bathroom privately. And then I nodded off… and the sound of my own farting woke me up.
  • When I was in fifth grade, I participated in cheerleading (very small school – all the girls cheered). While getting ready for a game at my friend’s house after a slumber party, her dad – the pastor of our church – knocked and walked in to see if we were all ready. For reasons I can’t fathom, I decided to pull down my sweatpants to show that I had on the cover-up thingy that goes under your cheer skirt. But I accidentally pulled it down too.
  • In high school quiz bowl (of course I was in high school quiz bowl), the teams were asked, in the category of “Words that start with the letter A” to identify the sacs in your lungs. I yelled out areola! in front of three male judges and an all-male opposing team. The answer was alveoli. Not nipples. I quietly blamed it on the girl next to me for whispering the wrong answer. She didn’t.
  • The first time I had sex, being duly prepared for the occasion, I grabbed a condom out of my coat pocket and handed it to my boyfriend. He couldn’t get the wrapper open and turned on the light. I had handed him a packet of breath mints.
  • Once at work, I was explaining to a male lawyer why I hated sushi. In addition to hating the taste/texture, I mimed it being too large for my mouth. Blow job style.

And one bonus that is not my story:

  • I once worked at a movie theater and my male coworker was helping two ladies – hot blond ladies – get refills for their drinks at the concession stand. Referring to the lids of their drinks, of course, he said, “Can I get you ladies to take your tops off for me?”

Now don’t you want to share an awkward moment too?

Either way, definitely go check out The Bloggess’s continuing coverage of Twitter’s embarrassing shenanigans. Post 1, Post 2, Post 3.

Microblog_Mondays

NaBloBooHoo

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Every November I am jealous of the people who write every day for NaBloPoMo.

(Even though the name is ridiculous.)

Every November I am working feverishly to catch up on however many billable hours I am currently behind.

(53 last I checked.)

That’s just, like, a full extra week of working – packed into the two busiest months of the year.

(No wonder my family gets presents from Amazon, and Amazon only, purchased at the last possible minute each year.)

But I will make my hours.

(I always make my hours.)

The frustrating part is that I am working all the time, and yet I’m still always behind.

(But I have recorded 375 “non-billable” hours. Meetings, lunches, networking, speaking, writing. All required.)

That alone is 2.5 months of full-time work.

(Sigh.)

It is cold today. And I am sick.

(Still. Again.)

All I want to do is curl up on the couch with my laptop.

(And blog.)

The sum of her parts

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We are finally in the homestudy stage of the foster process. We’re also in the stage where we fill out The Sheet. The one with all The Boxes. The Boxes that make adoptive parents feel guilty because we would just deal with any of these things if a baby were born to us with one of these “boxes” checked, right?

Hearing loss, bipolar disorder, tantrums, cerebral palsy, heart murmur, sexual acting out. Those kinds of boxes.

Our social worker has suggested that we’re too open-minded with our selections. But I think we’re realistic – we crossed off all the sexual and violent ones for Miss E’s safety. But otherwise, we’d consider almost anything. Not to say that we would actually accept anything; but consider, yes.

I tried to reason with our social worker. If you made a list of hard things about Miss E, it would look intimidating. Feeding issues, sensory issues. Other things I don’t fully spell out on the blog for privacy reasons and because this is not a place I come to bitch about how hard parenting can be. Hint: It can be hard.

In short, her list would look tough. Maybe more than I’d knowingly sign up to take on. She, of course, is awesome. She is not defined by that list. Her list should say:

  • Incredibly empathetic
  • Reads way more words than a four-year-old should read
  • Scary-good memory
  • Freakin’ hilarious
  • Musical
  • Artistic
  • Loving
  • Athletic

Anybody would want to parent a kid with those bullet points. The Boxes don’t cover them, so I keep an open mind. Naive? Maybe. Intimidated? No.

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