Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Orphan Movie

I'm sure many of you have heard of the new movie "The Orphan" by Warner Brothers. The adoption community is up in arms over this negative portrayal of orphans and adoption. While I, too, like to focus on the positive side of adoption, I understand it's just a movie and for entertainment purposes. But I like the idea one blogger had to get 500 adoptive family bloggers
to tell their "orphan" story in hopes of flooding the google search with positive stories. So I'm adding mine.

First of all, my kids are not orphans. I know their birthmom and am beginning to have somewhat of a relationship with her. But I interpreted the idea to include adoption stories as well. My son is adopted from the foster care system and my daughter is in the process of being adopted from foster care. My last post included a lot of negative feelings and struggles we're experiencing but this post is going to focus on the positive. Because despite all the frustration and pain, there are heaps and heaps of wonderful memories filled with joy. And most of all, there is love.

I'll be the first to tell you, love just isn't enough to heal, change, or "fix" our children who've suffered great loss and trauma. But it is important. Because we love our son with all our hearts, we are able to accept who he is, who he will become, and stick with him, no matter what. You canread our story from the beginning here. Part 2 is here. Stage 2 - Grieving is here. Stage 3 - Anger is here. And the last part is here.

But now I'm going to tell you my TRUE "orphan" story. Mateo and Maya are the light of our lives. From the first glimpse we saw of Mateo, we've loved him. I still remember one of the first days we had him in our lives. My mom came to visit and Mateo (15 months old at the time but really more like a baby) clung to me like a little baby monkey on his mama. His little hands grabbed onto my shirt as he hid his face in my chest. I had to fight to hold back the tears. I can say, really truly, without a doubt, that I loved that little boy just as much as someone who had just given birth to their baby in a hospital. Even though he looked very different from us, even though he came with his own history and his own personality we didn't know or understand, and even though it took him much longer to love us, we loved him because we knew he was ours. We claimed him from the moment his social worker came to our house with his file and picture. He was meant to be ours, always and forever. He's not old enough to understand adoption and his past right now. But I tell him everyday that he's my favorite boy. And if I ask him, "who's my favorite boy?" he says with great pride, "me!" He makes me laugh everyday. He makes me cry some days. But mostly, we feel like the luckiest people alive. We had to work (hard) for his love and trust, but it was worth it. Hearing his little voice from the backseat of my car everyday when I pick him up from preschool say, "mommy, wha-jew (love you)" makes it worth every drop of sweat and every tear we've shed the last two years. My orphan story has a happy ending. Because we choose to love, every day.

Maya's story is different. I grew attached to Maya the moment I knew she was born. Because she is my son's biological sister, I thought of her as mine too. When we first got the call that she had been born I couldn't wait to hold her, to kiss her, to love and nurture her just like her brother. Unfortunately, we had to wait a whole month before we could even see her or know more about her. It was torture. But the day we picked her from the hospital, when I saw her laying in the little bassinet, she was so tiny and fragile and vulnerable. She was sleeping rolled over to one side facing away from us. I rolled her over and, I swear, her face was the most beautiful I've ever seen. And that's not because I was biased, I usually think all newborns are kind of funny looking. But she was beautiful since the day she was born and I get comments everywhere I go reiterating the same thing. She is just a gorgeous girl, inside and out. And she melts my heart every day.

My son is three and my daughter is five months and I can't imagine my life without them. I can't imagine that our house would be filled with as much joy, laughter, sometimes frustration, and love if they were not here. A day doesn't go by that I'm not thankful for them, what they've taught me, and how I've grown. Big hugs and slimy kisses are the only reward I need.

Love you Bubba and Munchkin.

So if you want to participate in defending orphans, post this on your own blog so that when people search for the movie, they are flooded with positive messages about adoption and orphan care.

Just finish this sentence: "Warner Bros. new horror movie Orphan proclaims that it must be hard to love an adopted child as much as your own. Let me tell you about how an orphan changed my life..."

1. Write a "positive protest post" on your blog that references the movie, Orphan.
2. Focus on your orphan care or adoption story that is positive, redeeming, and full of love.
3. Link your post here via a trackback or comment.
4. Send out an e-mail, Facebook message, or tweet to get others to do the same on their blogs.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Trials of Loving Mateo

First of all, sorry this is long. But I had to write it. We are at the point now in our parenting journey with Mateo where we've tried every technique and strategy we've thought of, read, or someone told us to do, and have had no lasting real results or change. I've blamed myself, evaluated my parenting strengths and weaknesses, asked others to evaluate my parenting, and blamed myself some more.

We started off being consistent parents with high standards. But after parenting Mateo for almost two years, the term "picking your battles" has taken on a new meaning. Because everything is a battle. And our standards have dropped, in some ways. Because honestly, who has the energy to make a battle out of everything? So we let a lot of things go. And let me remind you, this is after two years of really trying to change behavior. Because if we choose the battle, we know we're in it for the long haul. Which could mean five minutes or it could mean more than an hour. And the battle could include spitting, scratching, hitting, tantruming, throwing things, calling names, knocking things over, and so on. So you have to ask yourself, a) do I have the time to fight this battle right now b) do I have the energy to fight this battle and c) do I have the patience not to get the sudden urge to get in the car and drive as far away from here as possible?

I'm positive that it wouldn't matter what parents Mateo had, he would still be Mateo, and still struggling like he is now. So I quit blaming myself. Although I have my doubts if I'm doing the right thing, I'm convinced that it's not my fault. Even spoiled children don't have the same issues Mateo does.

So, to other people who don't know us well, don't know our journey, or how far we've come, it would seem as if we're spoiling him and creating this monster. I know that if I was on the outside I would think the same thing. It's true we choose to ignore a lot but unless we want our entire existence to be centered around time-outs and behavior management plans, we just have to. That, and we're tired. So tired. Sometimes I just can not think of a thing to do except cover my head with my hands and cry. It sounds terrible, I know. Sometimes it is that terrible. And sometimes it's not. Some days are really great. But inevitably, after a good day, or a few good days, things go back to "normal". It's funny. I used to think that the good days were normal and the bad days weren't.

Now that he's three, and this has been going on for almost two years, I'm fearful. I know you are probably thinking, he's only three. Three year olds are always difficult, don't label him yet, there's time to change, and all that. But it's hard not to think of the future. Just watching Mateo's inability to cope with anything makes me genuinely worried. Any emotion, feeling, problem, frustration, he just can't cope. You can't get very far in life without the ability to cope. And I don't mean after a long time of trying he loses it. Mateo doesn't wind up to being upset. His switch comes on in seconds. Literally seconds and he's gone off the deep end. And I can't get him back for a while. And usually the problems or frustrations come one after another, over and over, to the point that he's miserable and I'm miserable for an entire afternoon. And he may never recover fully until there's some big change. Either a nap, or going for a ride somewhere, or maybe putting a movie in. It isn't my favorite thing to do as a parent but I do rely on the TV a lot. I never thought I would be that kind of parent. But then again, there are a lot of things I never thought I would do, that I have.

Lately I've been feeling very sad for Mateo. No kid should have the troubles he has. A kid should just be a kid. They should be happy and carefree, not miserable because of the tiniest little things. I really hope this isn't his whole childhood. I hope for his sake (and mine, I suppose) he can stabilize a bit. For now, we really can't follow through much with consequences. Most of the time all we can do is help (or wait for) Mateo to calm down so we can move on. We do make him use his words if he's been screaming. And we do make him apologize if he's hurt someone, physically or by calling names. But he still does it, all the time.

The two main reactions I have when talking to people about Mateo are judgment and disbelief. People will run down the list. Have you tried this... or maybe if you do that .... or he just needs...whatever. If the solution was so easy, don't you think two intelligent, resourceful people such as ourselves would have tried it? And we have. We've read so many books, I've attended so many parenting/adoption/behavior workshops, we've talked to so many professionals. But I have yet to find a strategy that a) works and b) is practical for real life. And other people, who haven't seen this side of Mateo (although it is becoming more apparent and he is losing the ability to hold it together for long) stare at me in shock and horror. Who? Mateo? No way! He's so good. All (enter age) year olds are like that. And then I feel like an idiot who's making a big deal out of normal kid things. So I either stop telling people about it or, if I really want to or need to, I tell them how he put a hole in our wall (which he did). That usually helps them believe me.

Lately I've been having a hard time focusing on the positive. This, of course, also relates to what kind of day we've had. Has he been on a really good streak, where he's listening well, behaving appropriately, etc? Or has it been a really bad day (or few days) where he is all of things I wrote above? This will determine my reaction to other people. But most of the time, I feel like he's a handful. A big handful. And when people see him in public or at church Sunday School when he is behaving well (not saying he usually behaves well in public) they comment on how good he is, or cute, or smart, or whatever. And I usually think to myself, yeah right, you should've seen him this morning while I was trying to get him dressed. Of course we all have those moments with our kids. Strangers or acquaintances see this angelic child all dressed up in cute clothes and an innocent grin when you could have torn the little devil's head off just a few moments before. That's normal. But with Mateo, it's very hard for me to agree that, yes, he is a good boy. Not because I think he is bad. But....we struggle. And when I'm having a particularly hard day, I literally have to think of all the wonderful, funny, cute, and loving things about him, just to keep the negative thoughts away. Of course, I'll always be his mom. And I'll always feel like his mom. I have very strong maternal instincts. Even when I don't particularly like him at one time or another, I'll always be there to hug and kiss him and tell him I love him. Maybe that's the only thing I can do for him. Maybe I can't change anything but just love him through it. Maybe that's something another family couldn't do and that's why he's come to us.

Anyway, there it is. Typing all of this out has helped me process all my feelings. Maybe some of you are dealing with the same types of problems, feelings, whatever, and now you know you're not alone. I don't really know. Maybe this was a post just for me and that's all. Either way, I hope you'll keep your comments positive. I already feel self-conscious of my parenting. I don't need anymore judgment.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

OT Eval

So we took Mateo to an outpatient OT (occupational therapy) clinic and had mixed results. Not in the fact that he could use therapy, he definitely can. But in my interpretation of this particular place. First of all, the therapist was one of those people who stands just a little too close, and then doesn't pick up on the hint when you keep taking a step back. Aside from invading my personal space multiple times, she was a bit scattered. I would say she is NOT a very down-to-earth person. In fact, I'd say she was on her own planet. The whole thing was just a little bit too "out there" for me. Even her approach was very alternative. And I don't have a problem with alternative treatment, but when it doesn't make sense to me and I can't find a lot of research on it, I tend to now want to waste my time and energy.

She also freaked Mateo out a bit. When she wanted to interact with him, she didn't really talk to him or explain what she was doing. She just kind of did it and made silly noises and songs at the same time. Mateo is not used to interacting with people from a different planet. Not that we don't sing or aren't silly at all. But we're not completely illogical or cuckoo. She would grab him and try to touch him to check his flexibility or whatever and at the same time (I suppose to distract him) would say, "La, la, la, la, do you like to sing? Mommy mommy mommy, I like saying mommy." And Mateo looked at me like, "what is with this lady?" Maybe it would have worked if he was younger. But as delayed as he is, he does have a clue.

But he doesn't like to be touched by people he doesn't know or when it's not on his terms. He loves people and is very social, but he has a hard time with people who are very forward. He likes to be in control of things. And with this person trying to touch him and being completely ridiculous, he was very nervous and clung to me a lot, which is not like him. So it wasn't a good fit. I think for someone who was more interested in an alternative approach, instead of just straight SI therapy like me, and for someone who didn't mind the therapist's personality, it could work. She was very knowledgeable and seemed to have some amount of skills. But I need to be able to communicate efficiently with my son's team of teachers and therapists, and there was just no satellite service on this lady's planet.

So we are getting another eval at a different place, a more traditional SI therapeutic facility, with a "normal" therapist. And hopefully will be able to start therapy soon.

My next post is going to be about all of the struggles we have with Mateo in detail and what we're in the process of figuring out. Stay tuned, it will be an intense one. And then to balance that, I have a funny post about ridiculous ideas and suggestions in parenting magazines. Seriously, are the people who edit these even parents?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

And So it Begins...

Mateo has discovered his penis. As in, he knows it's called a penis and is obsessed with other people who may or may not have penises (or is it penisei?). He has not said the word "vagina" yet but I did tell him that girls have one instead of a penis. So it's coming. And so it begins....(dum dum dum).

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


Here are pictures from July 4th weekend at my aunt and uncle's cabin on a lake in New Hampshire. It was a lot of fun but a bit overwhelming with ALL my family there. And I mean everyone! My mom, my grandma, my brother, my brother's girlfriend, family friend, aunt, uncle, cousins, cousin's friend, another family friend, and 3 dogs. Seriously.

The baby is sleeping here, not headless.

This is from a children's museum Mateo and I went to on a "date". Check out how freaky that dinosaur is. No wonder none of the kids (Mateo included) wanted to go in that room.

I just realized there are a lot of Daddy pictures in this bunch. But he's a great dad so I can show him off once in a while :)

Thursday, July 9, 2009


- "Wuh-jew" = Love you.

- "Wuh-jew my Daddy me" = (I think) I love Daddy

- "Ugh! Tupids truck! Tupids truck no work!" = Stupid truck! Stupid truck doesn't work!

- "But Mommy, Cowie Wuh-jew me" = Cowie loves me (when asked to leave Cowie in the car for preschool)

- "Daddy miss me" = (I think he means) I miss Daddy

- "Mommy, me jump! Me cool!"

- "Mommy pitty" = Mommy pretty (he says this anytime I fix my hair or wear a dress. I think Daddy taught him that)

- "No Heeca cun im" = I don't want Luca (our dog) to come in my bedroom (that one was obvious, right?)

- "Mommy pain butt!" = Mommy's a pain in the butt! (I have no idea where he got that from)

- "Iyant hitty bankek on me" = I want the little blanket on me

- "Mommy, harps, harps!" = Mommy, sharp, sharp! (warning me when using a knife)

- "No hipperies!" = (when scared of walking on icy or wet surfaces) No slippery!

- "Mor-gain" = Again (a mixture of more and again)

- "No bye-bye me" = Don't leave me

When asked do something, most of the time he says, "" Very matter of fact. It's quite funny and a little annoying since he's clearly beyond doing me small favors.

Mateo and his Daddy on the jet ski this weekend in New Hampshire (I have more pictures to put up from this weekend later)

A boy, a dog, and water gun. Nothing beats it.
(The dog is my mom's, by the way)

Monday, July 6, 2009

My Name is What? Take Two.

The 3 year doctor's visit.

If you know us, you know Mateo has MAJOR issues remembering, reciting, recalling, whatever you want to call it, his name. Well, enter doctor.

"What's your name?"


"How old are you?"

"Too much."

Then the nurse came in with some kind of test (not sure what it's supposed to determine) consisting of black outlines of shapes and pictures. The nurse pointed to each one and asked Mateo what it was.

Circle. "Cracker"

Square. "Cookie"

Heart. "Pie."

House. "Mommy's house."

Now I suppose the right answer would be to name the different shapes, but Mateo decided to take a more abstract, symbolic approach to the test. I think he was hungry.

We went on a mini-vacay this weekend and I have some really cute pics to post. Which I will do sometime this week. Man, it's hard to blog with two kids. I don't know how some of you mega-family people do it.