He's absolutely transfixed by the concert. In a way, that's too be expected. After all, we have most of this group's CDs and he listens to them often. And, if I haven't lost count, this is the sixth time Elliot and I have seen this local children's act. However, this is the first time in all of those concerts that Elliot has really "gotten into" the music and sung and danced. He looks so cute...and he's having so much fun.
I wouldn't have thought that one of his (and my!) favorite bands would turn out to be a set of 60-something twins who play folk classics and songs of their own invention about peace, food and love. But, seeing Gemini in concert with my baby is always a lot of fun. Although the brothers have been playing music together for 40 years, they seem to be having fun at each and every concert. And they just come across as so darn nice. Perhaps that's why Elliot has named two of his teddy bears after them, probably making him one of few four year-olds with stuffed animals named San and Laz.
Tim and I love exposing Elliot to music and other cultural events, and we feel so lucky to have a great group like Gemini playing so often in our area.
It’s taken me two weeks to figure out how I wanted to write about this.
But, it’s been 12 years in the making.
I’ll start from two weeks ago.
I listen to a local radio show every morning on 96.3 FM.
They entertain me on my drive to work.
Crack me up.
Except for that time two weeks ago.
They were discussing Simon Cowell, his baby momma and her divorce.
Long story short…
Her kid isn’t allowed to call anyone other than his birth parents “Mom” or “Dad”.
That’s fine, I get it.
It doesn’t work for everyone.
But, then Blaine went on to say he agreed, kids just shouldn’t call their step parents a parental name.
He thinks it’s wrong on so many levels.
There was more but it’s already two weeks ago and I don’t remember what happened yesterday…
PISSED ME OFF.
You know why?
My daughter. That’s why.
When I married my husband, she was 4.
She’s been calling him Daddy since she was practically a baby.
She calls her real dad Daddy and Dad, too.
Confuses me all the time.
I never know who she’s talking about.
My daughter calls both men in her life Dad because that’s how she feels about them.
Both of them have filled a fatherly role and she loves them equally.
She’s so lucky.
She has TWO DADS.
Both her dads have secure places in her heart.
And, on the most part, aside from typical teenageritis, she is one of the most well-adjusted kids I’ve ever met.
She’s also one of the most spoiled kids, too.
Because both her dads are wound around her fingers.
She knows what she’s doing, that girl!
Sure, at first I was slightly worried about how her bio-Dad would feel.
But, he gets it.
He’s experienced the relationship my daughter has with her stepdad…her Daddy.
He also has his own equally important relationship with her.
There is not one ounce of jealousy because she shows them each how much she loves them.
And hates them.
She’s a teenaged girl.
So, to Blaine…while I appreciate opinions, carefully state them please.
Because calling a step parent by a parental name CAN work.
It DOES work.
What’s in a name, anyway?
P.S…I’ve forgiven Blaine though. I just can’t quit that show, they make me laugh SO HARD every single morning.
I had a dream a few weeks ago. One where I had built a treehouse during a Zombie Apocalypse. Except, in my dream…Daryl and Michon were in it. So, I had to omit them because yeah. But, this dream stuck with me and I was trying to figure out a story for it. So, here is the beginning of it. I’m not going to be working on it until Adina is done but I had to get this out because it was driving me insane. This is mind vomit, mind you. An unedited purging. So…here ya go.
It has been over a year since the outbreak spiraled out of control. WHO, CCD…they tried but were overcome before they even had the chance to succeed. All fingers pointed to a bad batch of Whooping Cough inoculations. A disease which had been silenced until parents started opting out of vaccinating their children. When the new strain of Whooping Cough started making the rounds, the old vaccine did nothing for it and a new one had to be produced. Sadly, that new one made things worse.
Up until a year ago, everything was normal. Well, as normal as life with a crazy mom could possibly be.
It was me…Jesse and my brother, James. Yes, Jesse James. I told you, my mom was nuts. And, very into Western Outlaws.
When other kids were off at Summer Camp, we were sent off to visit “extended family” who were survivalists living in the desert. There we had to learn how to ride, hunt and basically…survive. Every school break, James and I were shipped off to hone our skills until every instinct was sharp and alert. Until, no matter what sort of stress we were subjected to didn’t distract from our aim of the bullseye.
James was 19 and I was 17 when the outbreak started. Our mom handed us a map and sent us away. She promised to come get us when things settled down. We fought her, we didn’t want to leave her alone in the big house, her fate so uncertain. She was adamant that we leave, that whatever happened to her would be okay as long as she knew we would be okay. And, she knew we had both been trained to the point of being lethal weapons, exceeding anyone’s expectations in archery and swordsmanship. It was as if these skills were in our genetic makeup.
No one would ever mess with Jesse and James McFarland.
Unless they were Zombies and had no cognitive brain-function.
Which, is basically what the result of the outbreak was.
We called them Rots. Because that’s what they were. Rots…decomposing, walking corpses hungry for warm flesh. And the stench? Worse than rotting flesh.
Anyway. Our mother gave us this map of the government protected forest that our estate backed up against. On the map, an ‘X’, clearly marked in red Sharpie. It was a days walk from our backyard.
She had some gear packed up for us in packs and let us know that, when we got to our destination, we would have enough supplies to last us a year. And then, we’d have to take care of ourselves if this mess didn’t get cleaned up. Then, she took turns holding us tightly, turned and walked away.
James helped me with my pack before squeezing into his own. Inspecting the map, he nodded to me, letting me know we should hit it.
Crying, I followed him through our yard toward a path we had grown up playing on. A path we had only been allowed to follow until we came to a red ribbon tied onto a massive tree, our marker telling us to turn around and go home.
As we came to that worn red ribbon, I brushed my fingers along it, the familiarity bringing back memories of explorations in these woods. We had always wondered what lay beyond the ribbon. As we got older, we stopped playing in the forest until it became nothing but a distant memory, a curiosity never met. Until now.
The first step past the ribbon, I was filled with old anxiety. Fear of our mother finding out we had done something she had strictly forbidden. Shaking off this feeling, I followed James, keeping as close to him as I could, my hand searching for the reassurance of my sword. I knew if it was near, I was safe. James had his, along with his crossbow. Rots wouldn’t stand a chance if they ran into us. Luckily, they hadn’t made it into the woods yet, they had taken over larger cities and towns. But, not so slowly, they were stinking up smaller areas, wreaking havoc and destruction. And death. In their smelly wake.
In silence, we twisted and turned through the labyrinth of the unfamiliar parts of the forest. The sun was getting lower casting creepy shadows across the darkening forest. I kept following James, he was the leader and I was his trusty companion. Just like it used to be, only not the same. This wasn’t childhood games, this was what we had trained for our entire lives, leading us to believe the woman who raised us wasn’t as crazy as everyone thought.
I stopped and took a drink from my canteen causing James to stop and roll his eyes at me, “C’mon Jess. I’d like to find this place before it gets dark!”
“I’m thirsty, you jerk.” I was annoyed, scared and tired. On the map, our destination looked much closer than it obviously was. For all we knew, we passed it anyway. Because, we had no clue what we were looking for.
“Hurry up. Obviously, we’ll have a year for you to rest up and quench your thirst.” He sounded as annoyed, scared and tired as I was.
Capping my bottle, I started to walk, “Okay, let’s get a move on.”
He nodded at me and led the way, stopping to glance down at the map, every so often. He muttered a lot to himself as we walked, looking at the tree trunks for some sort of sign.
I just followed him. The little sister being blindly led by her big brother, whom she trusted wouldn’t lead her astray.
Jerking to a stop, I almost collided into him, “Jess, look.” He whispered, his voice filled with awe.
I had been walking with my head down, kicking branches and dead leaves as I marched. I looked at my brother who was looking up into a gargantuan tree. Following the direction of his gaze, I tilted my head up.
What I saw made my jaw drop.
High above us, sheltered by the tree tops, built into four trees…
Was the largest treehouse we had ever seen.
As we climbed the ladder to our new home, I prayed silently that our mother was right and there would be no way in Hell that Rots would be able to climb.
I also prayed that we’d be safe here from other, desperate humans.
At the rate humanity was sinking, I didn’t know which was going to be more dangerous.
Man. Or Rots.
Something I wasn’t really prepared to deal with. Well, not in a rational way, anyway.
I will leave out all give-away descriptives to protect the innocent that doesn’t seem to be interested in protecting their self.
You see, the other night I was informed that one of the teenagers that I may or may not have given birth to, may or may not be having sex with their little teenaged friend.
And by sex, I mean intercourse.
One of my children.
And not by themselves.
After I recovered from the initial jaw-dropping news, I shook myself off and let my jaw drop as another little tidbit of info was relayed to me.
Sex is one thing. Right? I mean, I’m not living with my head up my ass, as much as I’d prefer that sometimes.
Teens have sex.
It happens all the time. Since forever.
This particular teenager is old enough (or so they think) to make these types of decisions. I was just a little bit older when I started ‘ahem’ing.
If the news being shared with me had stopped with the fact that sex is now happening, I would have gladly stuck my head back into a dark hole and hummed mindlessly.
Except then there was this little humdinger.
This said teenager may or may not be playing Russian roulette using little swimming dudes as bullets.
And there are not going to be grandbabies in my near future if I can help it.
So, upon hearing this not so delightful news, I marched into my bedroom.
I went into my own, personal, non-baby making stash kept in a drawer.
I grabbed an assortment from the Durex Pleasure Pack. Yeah…Durex. Trojan smell bad. Yeah, we use condoms. Not only are there no grandbabies in my near future, there are no babies in any part of the rest of my life…coming from my own body. Ever. Never. EVER.
I made a nice, neat little collection for the kid and placed it on the kids dresser.
I informed my lovely child that I had left a protection plan as a present.
I received a deer-in-headlights response. But, in the kids defense, log sawing was happening when I barged into the room.
Then, I went back into my room and had a mini freak-out.
I just gave my child, whom I may or may not have birthed, a very fancy supply of colorful and textured condoms.
Letting it sink in for a moment here as I re-read my words.
I. Gave. My. Baby. Condoms.
Because I don’t want my baby getting or giving STD’s or worse.
And just as importantly, I don’t want my baby having a baby.
Not yet. it’s not time yet.
Whether or not sex is really happening, I don’t know.
It hasn’t been confirmed and I’m hoping I don’t ever confirm it firsthand.
All I know is that the only way I could figure out how to protect my child from potential disaster is to give my child protection.
I’d prefer bubblewrap and duct tape.
But, I have to let go, I suppose.
So, stern lectures will have to replace duct tape.
And in the place of bubble wrap, condoms.
One of the fascinating things about adoption is discovering is that everyone involved has such a unique story. As part of this year's Adoption Blogger Interview Project, I had the opportunity to conduct a virtual interview with Lindsy, who blogs at Light Breaks Forth. When you read my interview with Lindsy, I'm sure you'll agree she has a fascinating story. She and her husband have formed their family of four-going-on-five children biologically, through fostering and via an in-process adoption from Africa.
Meet Lindsy...in her words:
You have an interesting story that involves having biological children, acting as a foster parent and waiting to adopt from Africa. How did you come to build your family this way?
When my husband and I were engaged we decided to grow our family through adoption. I have family members who were adopted so the idea was not foreign to us and getting pregnant kinda freaked me out. (It still does for the record). Of course our five year plan did not go as planned - we had one biological child before starting the international adoption process, had another biological child in the midst of it, and then became foster parents after two boys in our neighborhood had already been living with us for six months.
It certainly didn't happen the way we thought it would but we know God has this plan for our family all along.
I was intrigued to find you affiliated with the Open Adoption Bloggers since you don't have an open adoption in the traditional sense. What sort of openness, if any, do you have with the biological parents of the children you are fostering? Do you expect or hope to have any sort of relationship with the birth parents of the child you plan to adopt from Africa?
We do have an open relationship with our foster children's birth parents. Since our situation is not typical of foster care, we knew and had a relationship with their birth parents prior to them becoming our foster children.
We parent them with a lot of openness regarding their birth family, but that does not equal contact due to safety reasons.
For our daughter in the Democratic Republic of Congo, we will not be able to have a relationship with her birth parents but will parent her with openness regarding the little information we have about them and the first few years of her life.
It certainly sounds like the process of adopting from Africa has been a challenging one. What words of wisdom can you share with others in a similar situation?
Yes it has! I have a lot of thoughts on things you should do before adopting internationally but for the sake of space, the biggest thing is to be in your story. This will be REALLY hard. It is so easy to compare our lives to others and growing your family through adoption is no exception. Your adoption process may go smoothly. You might sail through each step on your timeline on schedule. But probably not.
What we have learned and what I share with others is this -- You are not the author of your story. God is. He is writing your adoption story for you and for His glory. Just be in it. Live in it. Submit your story to Him.
What has been the biggest challenge in integrating foster children into your family? What has been the biggest blessing?
The biggest challenge has been the effect it has had on our biological children. Our oldest has struggled with our attention being divided now four ways and the special emotional and behavioral needs of one of our foster boys. Our youngest has struggled with mimicking those difficult behaviors.
As a parent, it's very difficult to watch your children struggle. It is especially difficult when they are struggling because of a life changing decision you made for them.
The biggest blessing has been watching our foster boys blossom into really amazing and sweet little kids. Seeing them start to develop empathy towards others. Hearing the little conversations they have with our bio kids -- the ages of our children are 5,5,4 and 3 so you can imagine the things they talk about!
As a whole, the four of them get along very well and really do love each other despite the challenges!
Faith is a theme running throughout your blog. What role has your faith played in your decision to be a foster parent and to adopt from Africa?
We believe God has commanded us as Believers to care for children who are vulnerable or orphaned. I can't say nine years ago when we were engaged that the belief was driving our decision to build our family through adoption. I can say God has taken our willingness and turned it into a fierce passion and calling for our lives.
For us, this is not just finding a child or children for our family, it is advocating and finding families for all children who are in need of loving homes.
It's been great learning a little about Lindsy and her family through the interview. If you're interested, you can read her interview with me at Light Breaks Forth. Thanks to Heather for coordinating this interview project. More interviews between other pairs of adoption bloggers can be found here.
- My iPhone: That's right, my iPhone...or more specifically, the WordReference.com app. One of the challenges of being a non-native speaker of Spanish is that I just don't have the vocabulary of someone who grew up speaking the language. So, while I may know a word like "meerkat" (from multiple visits to the zoo!), I may have to look up something basic, like handlebar. And, with the increasingly complex definitions my four-year-old is demanding (like those for specific truck parts), I'd have a hard time getting through the day without my favorite iPhone app.
- Spanish immersion preschool: While I'm already stressed out about the lack of a nearby Spanish immersion elementary school, I'm so grateful for the Spanish immersion preschool where Elliot is now in his second year. I've seen a tremendous increase in his vocabulary, his comfort level with Spanish and his willingness to speak it. Having teachers from various Spanish-speaking countries gives him the kind of exposure that it's hard for just me to provide. In fact, he's picked up on some interesting expressions. When I recently asked him how to say a word in Spanish, he replied, "En mi país, se llama así." (It's called XYZ "in my country.") Hilarious!
- My husband's support: As much as I wish he did, Tim doesn't speak Spanish beyond a few basic phrases. But, I'm extremely grateful for his support of my efforts to raise a child who speaks English and Spanish. Whenever the topic of preschool comes up, he proudly announces that Elliot goes to a Spanish immersion preschool. Even though Tim doesn't always understand what's being said, he enjoys hearing Elliot answer me in Spanish. And, he's on-board with the idea of taking Elliot to Spanish-speaking countries for further exposure. Elliot and I are both lucky to have such a supportive Daddy/husband!
If you're interested in the topic of raising bilingual or multilingual kids, check out the November Multilingual Bloggers Carnival, which will be live on November 25 at Bringing up Baby Bilingual.
To Elliot, "friends" is a broad term that refers to anyone (animate or not) that he likes: the kids at school, me, his stuffed animals. On this particular night, the friends in question were his birth father and his birth mother's family. After a pleasant visit, they had headed home shortly after Elliot went to bed.
Elliot's comment started me thinking once again that he doesn't really understand how he (and we) are connected to his birth family. On one hand, I really don't expect him to at four years old. On the other, our goal has always been to "normalize" his adoption by doing such things as making sure he knows he joined our family via adoption, explaining that he "grew in his birth mother's belly" and maintaining contact with his birth family.
But explaining who is who in a way he can understand seems complicated, especially right now. Currently, his birth mother is not visiting at her request. We completely respect her decision, but it makes it a little harder to explain to Elliot the role of her family and his birth father.
Or does it? Was I just over-thinking?
I had a good opportunity for further clarification yesterday. Elliot mentioned his birth father's name while talking about combine harvesters, a new obsession and a topic that had come up while he was over.
I reminded him of our guests from the other night. "Do you know who everyone is?" I asked.
I explained that two of our guests were [his birth mother's] parents and another was her brother. "Oh," he answered in a way that told me he already knew that.
I asked if he remembered who [name of birth mother] was. "No," he responded, despite having said her name the day before.
"Remember, we've told you how you were in her tummy and then Mommy and Daddy adopted you and you became our son?"
He stopped playing and looked at me sort of quizzically. "That's right. And then I grew bigger and bigger."
"That's right," I responded.
I then told him there was another part that might be harder to understand. I explained that both a man and a woman are involved in making a baby. "So, [name of birth father] is the man and [name of birth mother] is the woman that made you."
I then reiterated what he's heard before, including in a book I wrote for him. I told him that not everybody wants to be parents and his birth parents didn't. "So, they picked Mommy and Daddy to be your parents, which makes us so very happy."
Elliot seemed satisfied with the information...and appeared to be quickly losing interest in the topic. I told him he could always ask me if he had any questions.
He surprised me with, "Mommy. I do have a question."
What was he going to ask? Hopefully, it wouldn't be anything too complicated, like details of how babies are made.
"Mommy, how can we make a combine harvester out of blocks?"
Lately, this seems to be Elliot's favorite expression, uttered every time I try to get him to stop what he's doing to move on to the next thing.
"One minute, Mommy. One minute, Mommy," he said today when I went to pick him up from school. Monster hat askance on his head (evidence he'd dressed himself), Elliot was engaged in the the exact same activity as yesterday: energetically digging dirt with a blue shovel and scooping it into a plastic shopping card. As all of the other kids started to leave with their parents, I repeated that the school day was over and it was time to go. His teacher told him the same thing. But still, I practically had to tear the shovel out of his hand and drag him through the gate to take him to our next destination: the park.
As you probably guessed, the scenario was repeated when park time was over. We climbed, swung, ran and jumped for about 30 minutes, and then I started giving him warnings. "We're going to leave soon, honey. We're going to leave in 10 minutes...five minutes..."
"One minute, Mommy. One minute, Mommy."
When I'd had enough of the cold wind, I started walking toward the parking lot...a trick that used to always get Elliot to follow me. But, he's catching on and surely knows that I'm not really going anywhere without him. After a short run in the opposite direction, he reluctantly followed me into the car. But of course, before he sat down, he needed "one minute" to get a drink of water.
Currently, he's sleeping, following "one minute" before he could brush his teeth, "one minute" before he most reluctantly went to the bathroom and "one minute" while he finished the book he was reading.
In about an hour, I need to wake up my baby for swim lessons. He will not be happy. In fact, he will likely ask to sleep for much more than one minute.
Disclosure: This IS a sponsored post. All opinions are, as usual, 100% mine.
Recently, Sprint has launched a line of products for insurance companies that you just install right onto the dashboard of your car…hence the OBD or On-board diagnostics. The one I was sent to review is has me thinking it’s a pretty genius device. For real. It’s available to use with iPhone, Android and Blackberry.
What this device does is limit your teen’s (and yours, if you desire) ability to drive and say, Snapchat or text or update their Facebook. Because hey, that’s distracting and has been the cause of way too many car crashes. And let’s be honest, teens are not the only ones guilty of driving while texting or other such cell-phone related distractions.
Enter Sprint and OBD2 devices.
You take that little device and you install it right into your vehicles OBD port which is always around 3 feet away from your ignition. So…under the dashboard generally. I have a Buick and my port is located by the emergency brake.
Then, you stick the device into the port. Yeah, it’s THAT easy.
Next, you download the corresponding app and install it onto your phone. Set up your account…just follow the instructions on the website. You’ll need access to your computer or via your Smartphone.
Once you are on the homepage of the website, click the ACTIVATE button which will lead you through the process. It literally takes about five minutes.
You can set up a list of phone numbers that the driver will have constant access to, 9-11 is always on there, by the way.
The cool thing about OBD2 devices, once they are installed, is that you’ll have access to all sorts of information regarding your teen’s driving. You’ll be able to note their speed and violations along with calls to the numbers that they have access to while the car is moving.
As a parent of 4 teens, 2 of which are driving and one is about to start driver’s training (one isn’t allowed to even take driver’s training until they get their grades up), this device will be installed in all our cars. While I can’t control the environment outside of my children, I can certainly do what I can to insure their safety within the confines of MY environment, including cars. With one device protecting up to 6 cellphones and only costing around $32, it just makes sense to utilize this little tool. And it’s a tiny cost to pay to add one layer of protection around my children.
If you’d like a device like this all you need to do is ask your insurance agent for one.
Really? What sort of kid doesn't want to dress up like a fire fighter and trick-or-treat at Daddy's office on the day before Halloween? Mine, apparently.
I cajoled. I told him how much it meant to Daddy. We called Daddy, who told him how much he and his work friends were looking forward to seeing Elliot. Finally, I told Elliot his choice was Boo Day or a much-needed nap (which he was refusing to take).
He thought about it -- with a very bad attitude. He got dressed in his bright yellow fire fighter jacket and pants -- reluctantly. We made our way to the garage -- slowly.
"I don't want to go to Boo Day," he complained, multiple times.
"Then let's go back inside," I said in the calmest voice I could muster. After all, Elliot really didn't need any treats...and I really need to put up with his "crabby appleton" attitude in public.
"No, no. I want to go," he pleaded. Maddening. Absolutely maddening. But, par for the course this nap-less week.
We set off, although I wasn't feeling very encouraged.
On the drive to Daddy's office, I told Elliot he needed to adjust his attitude. He said nothing. I tried to engage him in casual conversation. My stubborn son refused to participate. I started to suspect that Boo Day would be over before it started.
We pulled into the parking lot. We spotted the unusual long-horned African watusi that graze outside of Daddy's office complex. Then suddenly, as though the crabby switch was flipped to "off," my nice boy returned.
He started talking in his normal voice. We kissed on our way into the building. He was happy to see Daddy, waiting for us in the lobby. He ended up having a great time...as I knew he would.
But why did getting to this point need to be so darn difficult?