Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Chapter closed

I worked my last day of work this week. It seemed strange and not all happiness to leave.

Co-workers threw me a surprise going away party. They were crying as they said good-bye. I realized that while I don't like the politics of in the trenches nursing, I learned SO much from these co-workers, even when sometimes what they taught me was how to NOT practice my profession.

I had re-affirmed what I knew all the way back in nursing school that has been re-affirmed every step of my adult life. I'm REALLY good with death and dying. I'm also REALLY good with Oncology. I very much want to work in Pediatric Oncology, I can work in adult Oncology if necessary. That career will pivot into hospice and palliative care quite naturally.

I have learned that when a so-called friend is doing unsafe things, then answer is NOT to bring that friend into your house to try to protect her children from her. I've learned that when you finally have to step away, someone making unsafe choices will have no problem directing those poor behaviors and decisions at you and your family as well.

I learned that community is what matters most to my children, and that leaving community hurts. I have learned this so well that I fully intend to stay put in this new community, to give the children stability and permanency for their futures.

I have learned that I have had enough real winter to last me a LIFETIME and am now ready to go back where it is warm and sunny again.

I also learned I do not like starting over. Despite 29 previous moves, and never staying one location for more than four years my entire life, I am tired of starting over again and again and again. I imagine my children, with far fewer transitions under their belts than I, are exhausted by this.

I have learned I am strong, even when I face death, even when facing death nearly takes me down for the count, I am strong enough to stand back up, to reclaim my health and keep walking forward for myself and my family.

I have learned that I can be a valuable, contributing member of this family, part of a partnership, and that I too can assist on the finances of this family. It was my income that cleared most of the crippling medical debts we incurred around Micah's death and the family's response. It was my health benefits that covered the gap when II's job was in jeopardy. It will be my career that helps me transition to being fully independent as the children age and leave home. It is a career I am choosing not simply because I need to have an insurance policy anymore, but because I love what I do and I am good at it. That shift in mentality is something I worried I would never reach.

So, we close this chapter in our lives and prepare for the next one to start.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Seasons change

When we moved to New England, it was never meant to be long-term. The truth was that we intended to leave again. When one of the medical schools that had accepted II offered him a deferral, we thought there was a good chance we would leave to go back to where we were before the world fell apart on us.

II walked away from medical school in part because he refused to allow me to pay the price I would have to pay for him to be a doctor. The second reason was that the children love New England and have thrived here. They have loved this place so much that II and I made peace that we would stay--forever. I mourned deeply and he set about to repair what his grieving had done to his career for the six months after Micah died. We were going to buy the farm we brought the children to and allow them to finally have roots.

Despite months of working 18-20 hours per day, despite nearly giving himself a heart attack to change his boss' opinion of him going downhill, he could see this fall that his boss was not happy and none of his efforts were making things better. Even then, he resided himself that he would simply not advance in his career but would stay, in order to allow the children the stability they craved. II's company expected him to be back to normal the day after Micah died. He had been brought up more than once since that point, and several times this fall. Finally, unsure how to navigate making the relationship with his boss better anymore, II sought assistance from HR.

For reasons we still cannot grasp, and two lawyers have been stunned to hear, the HR liaison did not assist II in his dilemma. She stated she thought that all II and his boss required was to sit down with a mediator and work on the issues. Perhaps that is true, but that should have been done in a different manner than how she choose to do things. II's HR liaison forwarded his email directly to his boss, in it's entirety.

II and I both knew the moment he got the copy telling him what she had done that his job was gone. In the blink of an eye, one thoughtless decision by an HR employee turned our entire family on our heads. II wrote the VP of HR not because either of us thought there was a chance to stop what was going to happen, but as a Hail Mary for something that would take care of our family. Six weeks ago, II was given a choice by his boss. He could sign a legal liability waiver that would bar him from suing his company, resign from his position and take an extremely generous severance package. Or, he could stay, he could fight for his job, but his boss laid out the path he was going to take to build a case to fire II. Even the HR liaison who sat in the meeting agreed it was an impossible task when his boss said there was a slim chance he could actually succeed in the tasks laid in front of him. Rather, as soon as he sufficiently failed to accomplish the goals listed (and several of those goals were not II doing anything but other employees doing things, which was out of II's control) then he would be fired, and there would be no severance package.

As sick as both of us were about this situation, there was really only one choice to make. The reality is that II never took longer than six weeks to find a job before, and he never looked full-time for a job before either. His severance package would not cover health insurance, but my job had health insurance. Assuming the worst case scenario, we had enough funds to make it to the end of the school year without having to cut back on our living, thanks to the severance package. We had health insurance through my work. If by some chance he secured a job quickly, then what his company gave him would set us ahead years financially. It was best to not think of that possibility but we both knew that we could be far better off as a family by the end of this hard experience than when we started. We simply didn't KNOW what the future was going to hold.

One month to the day from when he gave his resignation, II was given a job offer. He wasn't given just one job offer. He was actually given two, both huge promotions (the level of the boss who fired him in fact), both were significant pay raises. Neither job offer was where we are living. We have decided to look towards this move as an adventure, since there was no choice but to take it. Rather than merely looking at the bigger paycheck, II evaluated which location was a job and a company that he believes it would be possible to have the rest of his career with, rather than having to move for his career after this point. We looked at the locations and what opportunities were available for the children. We even considered accessibility to family.

In the end, II took the position with a Japanese company in the south. It's not exactly where we lived before. However, it's actually positioned so that it is more centrally located to more of my family. This time, we are intentionally looking towards permanency. Provided the increased income for II is sufficient for our expenses, as we believe it should be, I will be going full-time to finish this second Bachelor's degree this spring and to graduate studies this fall. The only way to safeguard this family from the vulnerability that disrupted our lives this fall is if I have income potential that is not dependent upon II's career and does not require I move. As a nurse practitioner, my career will allow that. While I believe that under normal circumstances my intention is to work part-time, should anything happen to this family, the roles will be reversible and I could work full-time and II could change career paths or even work part-time.

There is some joy at moving nearly home. There is also a lot of sadness. II has already gone and started his job. Having children with significant special needs means every timeline must consider insurance coverage. We have timed my notice at my job to his starting his so that we will transition between health insurance policies without any gap, just as we transitioned when he resigned from his job. While we'll look a bit like what our past was for a few years, in reality we will never go back to that life. I will be home, but the children (safe C) will be public school and I will be a full-time grad student, not a stay at home mother. I'll be available for the children, but when they go to school I will go to work.

If anything, the security that having both my income and my health insurance availability when II was blindsided with his job is something I never want to lose again. I don't believe this new position will come to that. When II took his last job, we both saw some major concerns. We had to have A job and it was never meant to be anything but temporary so we ignored those red flags. None of those exist with this position. However, if it were to happen again, we need me to not dally with my training so we have my work to fall back on for family stability. Even if nothing happens, to get us to a point where the choice to have this large family doesn't start impacting our future finances negatively we need for me to finish my training and get into a career where I am working, even if I remain part-time so I can continue to balance the needs of this family with it.

So, we're going home. II is already there. I am nearly done serving my notice at my employer, and despite the ups and downs going back did answer the question of where I was meant to go in the future. Once I am done with my job, I still have to finish my semester for school. In the midst of that, I'm back to solo parenting and I have to declutter and pack my house. II went with the Japanese company and they don't typically pay for cool relocation packages where people pack your stuff for you. They are paying for all of the actual costs of the move, but we have to put in the labor to get this one accomplished. He could have gone with the other job offer which had a better relocation package (and a bit more money) but he truly felt this position was the better job for him, and the better option for his career. So, in my 30th move of my life, I'll do the labor around the other things that need to be done.

When we get there, I'm hoping we can settle in. My children are asking to be done moving and I have ever intention of giving them that wish. Thanks to his former employment we're in a position where we can even buy a house again, though we would prefer to rent someplace for a year that we could then buy in a year just to get us in an even better financial situation. The kids are terribly sad to leave here. II did look for local jobs. They didn't move fast enough and there aren't nearly as many of them as those which would necessitate a move. No one is sad to leave the New England winter that is already starting to settle into the crevices of life up here.

The one thing I am most sure of in all of this is that I MUST finish my training and get into working. Just having a part-time job and access to healthcare was lifesaving for this family this fall. If I had not been able to provide that, II would have been forced to stay at his old job while looking for a new job and hope and pray that he secured a new position before his boss built a sufficient case to finally fire him. We have children that are totally dependent upon health insurance. At any other point of our lives, we would have had to pass on the severance package just to keep those children safe and secure. Instead, he could take the cash settlement and work full-time searching for a new position. Today, I am thankful for throwing away a paradigm that said I could never contribute anything beyond my womb and my breasts to my family and my partner. I am thankful for the job I must now leave, for the patients who have taught me so much, and the co-workers who have stretched me to be a better person, but also for the ability to provide for my family in a crisis in a tangible way I never imagined before.

Onward to the next season of our lives now.

Saturday, October 26, 2013


I am an inconsistent blogger now, and I am okay with that. The reason I started blogging was to journal a season that was so painful and so heartbreaking that I often wondered if I would lose my will to fight to move forward. There was a lot of painful growth I went through, a lot of re-examining and rebuilding a new marriage that II and I went through. I had to re-learn who I was and nearly everything I thought I was, wanted, or was focused on for my life and future. My thought in putting my journal online was that I was not the only wife who ever endured this nightmare. I had never seen a raw, honest blog about someone who survived, no matter what the outcome was, and truly focused on themselves and not the circumstances. I wanted to put my journey out there so there was something for that void, in case any other person ever needed to read those words to figure out how to pick themselves up and walk forward again.

Then, this became my journal of lose and grief. It seemed to fit, because it was still part of who I am and in so many ways my devastation and reconstruction was enmeshed with Micah and his life and death. I kept it here because I still needed to journal and I wanted Micah's life to be REAL, especially when I knew all too well that it was fleeting.

I don't know what the purpose of this is anymore. I have always tried to view this as merely my journal, while not private still anonymous, and write for my own purposes and not to an audience. I have only ever veered from that course when the psycho ex-nanny and her boyfriend's mother came here to directly attack me. Even then, I did not air her dirty laundry, and there was far too much of it I could have aired, but I refrained and only directly put them in their place for acting like heartless monsters. Otherwise, I have never written this for others, and I write it as genuinely here as if someone were sitting with me in person. I don't understand embellishing and falsifying your life for a blog. II assures me most bloggers do (this after I discovered the next door neighbors blog and remain baffled at the inconsistencies of what I see daily in person and what she writes online as if it is true).

When I joined online communities years ago, I made a commitment to be genuine and myself no matter where I was or what I did. I decided that I would be the same person, no matter the medium and those who "knew" me would recognize me even if they met me at the grocery store. I have been very successful in that promise to be true to myself online. Thus, I am unsure where I am supposed to go with journaling at this point.

I'm not leaving. I'm not taking down what I've journaled for the last six years. I'm just realizing that my journal entries are sparse right now because I have entered a season of my life that demands SO much of me elsewhere. After kicking and screaming and mourning that I had to leave full time stay at home parenting, I have embraced having goals towards a future. Yet, when I'm not working, not homeschooling C, and not working on my own fast paced schoolwork, my time is limited and I spend it with my children and husband. I'm amazed at how fast my babies are growing up. I'm also amazed at how tiring this second Bachelor's degree has been for me. I've started the process for graduate studies and my goal is really to get scholarships and funding so that I can move to PRN work during my grad studies and not have to continue to work 24 hours per week. I feel like balancing work and school leaves far too few moments with my babies and too much that II picks up around here. Daily, I remind myself that this season is finite and when I reach this goal, I can slow down.

Maybe it's really bad of me, but I often tell my children to not settle down and get married and have children until they have the educational part of their career goals completed. I hate to say that, especially since I was deliberate in holding off on this education to have the large family first. Yet, I am so much more tired in my mid 30s than I ever was in my early 20s. I have had no more than a three day break in my studies since January and I am simply tired right now. I have done two classes at a time, to try to push this last degree, eight week sessions so 12 hours per semester including through the summer. Right now, I am only doing one class because I agreed to cover the clinic while my co-workers all went on vacation. Yet, we had record census and thus I am even more tired than I was before right now.

These are the things that consume my life now. They aren't life altering. They aren't conflict ridden. I don't feel like I am in the point of turmoil I was in for so long, nor am I in that idyllic dream that I lived in for the years I homeschooled but lost my own identity. I journal at points in my life when I need to process and to contemplate. Right now, it feels like I am too busy living to process and contemplate things. I expect my journaling will simply be slow through this season, and honestly I realize I am okay with this reality. Parenting six teens and pre-teens is EXHAUSTING (don't ever let anyone tell you otherwise). Add two caboose babies who need to still be cuddled and cherished and not forced to grow up too soon, work, school and a marriage that I actually put solid effort into these days. My life is too busy for me to live it right now. It's certainly too busy for me to contemplate it much, which maybe that's good. I've discovered the hard way that I can hit exactly 5 hours of not being so hectic and busy living with this zoo crew before grief will wash over me and it all comes back. I'm not ignoring that whisper. Hell, I've finally found a place where I can SPEAK at work about Micah and not fall apart, because I dearly want him recognized for being my son forever. I just know that grief is there, it will always be there. I face it in snippets, in those moments when I can and do step out of this life. To parent day to day, the numbness is safe for me. I talk a lot to other parents when I encounter them, and they all assure me this is the reality of the rest of my life--always there, always lurking, always part of who I will forever be. Life is what has happened while I wasn't making plans but just focused on living. This is my reality now. I expect it will remain like this until I finish my doctorate and can enter nurse practitioner work without additional schoolwork always lurking.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Bad Mommy

My children have not seen an eye doctor in three years. I know children are supposed to see the eye doctor annually but we have not taken them in three years. When II left his job and we went back to school, we had everyone in the family's eyes checked before we lost insurance. That was actually the first eye exam I had personally had in nearly 20 years. II swore I had to have eye issues and my vision was still 20/20 so I basically told II to bite me on that one. Granted, when I hit 40, I am aware that I must start seeing an eye doctor because normal aging causes the eyes to deteriorate. When I get stressed or tired, my eyes go blurry, but they said that is a muscular issue and glasses won't help it.

Anyway, the kids all saw the eye doctor at that point. To that point, they saw the eye doctor annually. If I let myself, I feel like a horrible mother for then skipping three years. However, I think I have reached a threshold of acceptance and forgiveness for myself these days. I'm truly not that bothered that it's been three years.

Here's the thing. My kids do not have horrible eye sight. If had a child with really bad eyesight, I would never have allowed it to go three years. My oldest always had a slight nearsighted issue, but not enough to justify glasses for him. However, he did have an astigmatism that did require glasses, and we have always bought the glasses and it's been explained to this child that the glasses will help correct the astigmatism. Then, two to three weeks after the glasses show up, every.single.time., the glasses either get "lost" or they get broken. Seriously, this child is so talented at eliminating his glasses that they were once dropped right underneath the wheel of the big van and run over before anyone realized it. After years and years of buying the glasses and replacing them multiple times before giving up for another year when the eye doctor finally said forget it, they won't work if he won't wear them.

The second child has always been slightly near sighted, but again same problem with the glasses. She gets them, claims she loves them, then loses them. Just like her brother after the second or third replacement in a row, the eye doctor says forget it, her eyesight is not bad enough for this battle. I have monitored her for any odd holding habits, complaints of headaches, etc. Plus, she has seen her primary doctor and their cursory exams don't indicate a significant progression. Probably not the best parenting tactic, but honestly I figured either her eyesight would progress where she had no choice, or she would reach a place of maturity where it was no longer a battle. I have nightmares of the battles of glasses that occurred in my own childhood, and I refuse to create those nightmares with my own children. None of the children have ever had vision significantly poor, despite some strong genetic risks that they could (II, my father and my sister are naturally legally blind but all three have had corrective surgery so none actually wear glasses now).

So, as I'm correcting all of the things that fell apart as Micah died, vision exams for the kids was near the bottom of the list--quite necessary but no one was presenting with significant concerns to bump the priority. This month, we accomplished this task. Come to think of it, I don't think there is anything lower on the task except we must get J back to his Pulmonologist now that fall is here and his asthma is flaring again, but he shares a Pulmonologist with Micah and it's emotionally difficult for me to do this task. II agreed last week that he will take over this one, since he has been back to that clinic and that doctor several times and has reached a point where he can at least do what I struggle with.

The tally of eye glasses is nearly what I anticipated this year. A has an astigmatism, which he has long had. He has a tiny bit of near sightedness in one eye. If he would wear glasses for awhile, the doctors continue to assure us the astigmatism would correct and he would no longer require them. They've been telling us and A that since he was eight and he continues to refuse. We did buy him glasses yet again. He did agree if we would buy the really ridiculously expensive pair he wanted, then he would wear them for school. If he does, he might not need them at all by the end of college. However, I won't hold my breath. I think Dad got suckered into really expensive glasses that will be lost or broken before Christmas....again.

E is slightly nearsighted. She has always been this, and it has not progressed. Once again, we bought her glasses. I do have to say she showed her maturity and this time instead of gaudy, pink, and sparkly she picked a pair that actually make her look stunning, even better than she looks without glasses. So, maybe she will see them as a fashion accessory and wear them finally.

The surprise was the not-twins. C shows no signs of needing glasses per se, but it's hard to gage with his dyslexia. Ch, on the other hand, insists that everything should be two inches from his nose in order for him to read it. I truly thought Ch needed glasses, it was part of what prompted me to get the eye exams done finally. Ch has perfect vision. He appears to have a bad habit where he thinks cross-eyed is better than normal. Guess that explains why he keeps telling me he CAN read when he holds things at arms length but then immediately returns it to rest upon his nose when I stop asking. C needs glasses. His eyesight is on par with E, again not the horrible vision that runs on both sides of their family tree, but glasses just the same. He was actually quite excited to get his own pair.

R, L, and J continue to have perfect vision, as I suspected. For the first time, R did her appointment and did not cry in disappointment when she was told yet again she did not need glasses. My strange tom boy girl, she wants her outer appearance to reflect what she feels inside and she definitely feels glasses are part of what she feels inside, along with boy pants and shirts with only a touch of girly colors/flare and NO DRESSES.

The last child in the tally was S. I really had no idea what we were going to find with S. However, we have a laundry list of medical conditions we have determined are a direct result of the horrific neglect he suffered for the four years he was in the US and received worse healthcare than his ten years in Africa. So, I knew I was going to need to brace myself. S showed up with reading glasses and a healthy fear that he was to NEVER read without them, a rather odd fear for any child especially one who can apparently actual read without the glasses. He has refused to wear these glasses except on very rare occasions. We were told he had new glasses issued last spring, just before his abandonment and since there were a million other things to address with this child, I left it alone until he felt safe to address it. We talked for several weeks that if he needs glasses and if he can wear contacts, we will absolutely allow him to move to contacts. Otherwise, we will allow him to choose his own glasses and will not interfere in any way with that process for him.

We cannot determine what S requires yet. One eye is perfect vision. The other eye has an accommodation spasm. He must return in several weeks for a special eye drop to allow them to examine the eye properly without the spams interfering. Basically, when he attempts to switch from near to far and back, one eye goes into spasms instead of changing focus. What truly pisses me off is that the worthless monsters who did nothing but blame this child for all that went wrong in their house did have some idea of his vision issues. He did have glasses when he lived there. When we confronted them about the educational neglect, we were informed that S had a low IQ combined with a visual processing learning disability and that was why he never learned in their home and NOT the reality that she used the exact same first grade curriculum to "teach" him for four years. This explains why the school psychologist was not able to find ANY learning disabilities when he was formally tested. He did not have a low IQ and a visual processing disorder. He has ESL struggles and a muscular condition. They are both things that are easily address in a homeschooling situation but they are NOT an excuse for educational neglect.

So, I may be an imperfect mother. The truth is that I have reached a point that I won't swallow the pill of mother guilt of these vision issues. There have been significant issues happening in our family over the last several years, and none of the children showed signs of a major issue. Had they shown those signs, I was watching and I would have taken them in. Otherwise, we needed to take recovery one step at a time as a family. This is one of the final steps of getting back to a normal life. I'm thrilled to have finally accomplished it (but I'm now behind on well child checks due to the confusion of moving last year and must pick that up in the next two months to get everyone straightened out--long story but not terribly behind just more than a year). I have found grace and mercy for myself and my imperfections as a human. That's something I never truly thought I would find. I still stumble, but I don't automatically castigate myself for missing something, for being slow, or for just needing to work one step at a time instead of meeting all needs right away. I guess I am learning and growing afterall.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Finally--introducing S!

Oh happy day, my gag order is finally lifted!

For the record, the gag order came from the lawyer, the one we had to hire to protect this precious child after he was dumped on our doorstep 17 months ago. If you've read the Reuters investigation about underground re-homing of adoptees, primarily international adoptees, then you are familiar with the situation. S came from exactly one of those situations.

Fundamentalist Christian family (primarily homechurched because they felt even the most conservative churches were to liberal and not Christian), Patriarchal, Dominionist, Quiverful family adopted three children from Liberia the exact same month that Micah made his journey home to us. They had at that time, six biological children including one with a major medical condition and another who was later diagnosed with autism. Yet, they adopted three children, S completely unrelated to the two other children they adopted, from an orphanage in Liberia known for child trafficking issues through an adoption agency that has gone defunct in large part due to their unethical practices in Liberia. They have since had two more biological children. The family is uber modest, as in all females in the house, even infant females, are required to wear long dresses with long pants underneath and headcoverings. The boys were permitted to wear shorts, but nothing sleeveless and exposing the girls in the house to their bare chest was considered sinful.

So, just before Mother's Day last year, on one of my adoption support groups, this woman put out a plea for someone who had experience dealing with the trauma issues one would see in a teenager from W. Africa. Having A from Sierra Leone and having helped him resolve his PTSD issues over the years, I reached out to offer support. Ordinarily, I would have recognized an ad to dump a kid pretty quickly. As anyone might recall, Micah was dying. Last year was anything but ordinary. When I contacted this woman, I was told either we took him, or he was being sent back to Liberia. She literally wanted to bring him to my house within 24 hours and be done with him. I stepped back and offered her reliable, legal resources. She persisted. Over the course of two weeks, I required her to provide access to his medical and mental health records, to determine whether he was safe to enter my home, including authorizing me to communicate with his therapist (though the therapist failed to disclose that she had only seen him once because they refused to actually bring him to therapy with her). They had twice previously attempted to dump him by leaving him in mental health facilities until the authorities had informed them either they picked him up, or they would be charged with child abandonment.

Ultimately, we felt the continued threats to dump this child in significantly less safe situations was a credible threat. I had been long familiar with Kathryn Joyce's research and the reality that multiple Liberian adoptees have in fact been shipped back to Liberia, a reality that has failed to make our national news because Liberia is simply not Russia and has not brought it to our media attention. I knew this child was at risk. So, we felt we could provide a safe haven for the summer, get the child intensive therapy for his PTSD and then work to re-integrate him back into his family safely.

The bizarrity of this situation only got worse and worse. There was a third family involved that this couple was shopping this child like a used car around to others. They became involved when this woman knocked on their door late at night and upon answering it said, "You have black children, do you want mine?" Yes, they were also an adoptive family, but the insanity of this couple was just mind blowing. This child was the last of the three adoptees to be removed from this family's home. She had an extensive blog presence online at one point, thus she detailed the removal of the first child in disgusting and frightening religious justification. The disappearance of the second child cannot be traced. She simply disappears from family pictures approximately 2010. Yet, the insurance card which they presented us with S on it contained her name along with the last infant of the family who was born after the child's removal.

Ultimately, we and the third family they shopped my child to worked in coordination to assure that S was safe and cared for. We agreed that it did not matter which family he lived with, so long as we all conveyed he was wanted and loved and safe in both homes. Ultimately, we involved the state, both to protect S and to alert them to the disappearance of the other children. Under the supervision of the state, S was told it was up to him to choose his forever family, and when given his own choice, S made the decision to come back to us.

The second time he came, we hired our attorney before we accepted custody of him again. Upon her advice, we attempted to amicably convince the first family to surrender parental rights and allow us to adopt him. When that failed, we filed for legal guardianship and adoption without their consent. Only after we were awarded temporary guardianship and within days of the hearing for us to go to court for permanent custody, they stipulated guardianship to us, and ultimately they finally signed voluntary consents to terminate their parental rights and allow us to adopt him.

So, in the middle of Micah dying, we were surprised with the arrival of a hurting, heartbroken teen boy from Liberia and who had NO citizenship, due to the first family's deliberate refusal to finalize his US adoption--a loophole for them to ward against child abandonment charges, but given that Liberia revokes citizenship to these adoptees under the belief they will be conferred with US citizenship, in that limbo place, it leaves these children without a country. For S, that nightmare is finally over. The Child Adoption Act of 2000 states that international adoptees are automatically awarded their US citizenship either upon finalization overseas IF the child met both parents prior to that finalization, or upon the US recognition or re-adoption if they did not. By finalizing his adoption in August, we also gave S citizenship again.

S is a beautiful child. He has tremendous hurt in his life. To this point, we have barely scratched the surface of the trauma he survived in Liberia because 17 months of therapy have been primarily utilized to address four years of horrific abuse he endured with the first adoptive family. Strangely, S felt safe with me from the state because the abuse he endured for those four years almost identically mirrors the abuse I endured growing up.

S has a protective spirit. He adores showing love to others, something he was unable to do for so very long. He is a dedicated athlete with a special skill for wrestling. He entered our home after receiving the same first grade school material for four years straight and yet somehow advancing on his own to a third grade level of education. He spent most of this time in the first home required to be isolated in his bedroom for fear he might hurt someone because he was a black boy. He came here starving, scared, homesick for both the home he knew there and Liberia and with a past this family tried to erase. They even tried to erase what tribe this child was. We have managed to identify his tribe. I knew enough about international adoptees that I knew a child who had remained in his birthome until he was six would recognize his mother tongue, even if he can no longer recall it. So deliberate was their attempts to erase everything that made him S that they scratched out his tribe name in a small statue they purchased in Liberia while picking him up.

S had so much to learn and address upon homecoming. He had never learned how to be a normal child. He had never stepped foot in a school building. He did not speak normal English. He had never used a microwave. He had been beaten down, degraded, shamed and abused. When he could take the abuse no longer he was thrown away like a piece of trash. All of that was not accounting for the trauma of surviving civil war, which is a tremendous struggle for any child without the added garbage this child faced.

Today, S has reached point where his struggles and pain are not the first thing anyone sees about him. He can present himself as normal, yet feels very safe at home that (as he says) we understand his issues. I often have to remind myself that this child's love language is gift giving. Sometimes even the smallest gift will light up his face. He was never allowed to have anything that belonged to HIM prior to here.

Integrating S has been a distraction in my grieving this last year. This child has a beautiful soul and a very bright young man, but he does not fully believe in himself yet. He has significant educational neglect issues, but not actual learning disabilities. Last year, we taught him how to go to school and act in a normal environment. This year, we are focused on repairing his education that was denied him his entire life. I cannot say this child will get through this unscathed. I don't believe he actually will. I do believe we are giving him every opportunity to have a healthy future, but he must learn and make his choices for that future. He must be safe to make mistakes and to learn he is safe and those mistakes will not cause him to be abandoned again. He has to learn that the aftermath of his abuse and trauma in the form of mental health struggles may never fully heal but that he can learn to manage them and to be proactive about them.

S arrived here with the maturity of a typical eight year old. He has grown and matured so dramatically in the last 17 months, but he is still not quite where a typical 16 year old would fall. Even so, at the rapid growth he continues to display, we do believe he will likely get there by early 20s. He's not one that I expect to be all grown and entered into adulthood by 18, but certainly in his early 20s he should get there. So long as he can overcome the Stockholm Syndrome of the four years of abuse, then he will understand the need to fight for his own health and healing.

So, this is my ninth child, my accidental adoption of a child who has endured so much more than anyone can imagine, yet continues to show the spirit of strength that helped him survive the hell he lived. He is very attached to myself and most of his siblings. He continues to hold II at arms length and act very attach disordered with II. We both understand that this is a result of no man ever being safe for this child. It is an interesting reversal of roles from Ch and Micah and their attachment struggles that were exclusively aimed my direction. I cannot tell you this child will be okay. I can only say he has every chance to fight for okay in his life now. His story and his future is still being written and his healing is still actively being sought. Now that he is adopted and has citizenship, and the power of the abusers has been permanently revoked, I am free to talk about my son in ways I could not to this point.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Teach a man to fish

This week, we had a new graduate in the clinic. I am absolutely positive, based upon how I have seen them treat others and how they treated me, that the days before I worked they treated him without accepting him. When he learned my proclivity for being able to teach, he decided to drag me all over the clinic and teach him everything he could find for me to show him. I told my co-worker today that I haven't seen a new graduate as enthusiastic as this one yet.

It was fun to help teach a new graduate the ropes. This kid showed up with raw talent and no confidence. He had had very little clinical time in nursing school, having completed a hybrid bachelor's to RN program where they focused heavily on the didactic and passing the examination board but came up terribly short on clinical time. Yet, despite having never started an IV before this week, and totally bombing his first two days, I was able to walk him through how to start an IV earlier this week and by the second time he was getting it the first time, every time. Today, eager to get every chance for practice he could before his week was up, he started almost every IV in the clinic. He also got them the first time, each time, even on a patient that is a terrible stick for us.

The kid has a bachelor's in biology before he altered and went to nursing school. It's not as if he doesn't have the head knowledge to be a nurse. He just lacks both experience and confidence. His first two days, he was basically left to sink or swim on his own. By midday on Wednesday, he was asking me to please show him every thing. Today, he was doing it all on his own. He kept going on and on about what a terrific teacher I am and how very grateful he is that our clinic was his first stop on his year of training.

The thing is, teaching people is what I am best at doing. I stop whatever I am doing anytime a patient wants me to give them knowledge and I give them as much as they can handle, in the format that they can understand. When students or new graduates into the clinic, I have the same response with them. I spent two decades homeschooling children, multiple of those children with learning struggles or language issues. I'm very good at deciphering when someone truly understands what I said and when they are completely lost. I know how to alter my words until I find a method of explanation that makes the confusion clear for someone.

I know that others can see this talent I possess, not because they all rave about how grateful they are to find a true teacher, but because I encounter it. I see the grateful look when someone finally gets something they hadn't gotten before. I hear it from my instructors in school and my manager on my annual review. I know that I enjoy this when it comes up, whether it is at home with my children or elsewhere.

What I don't know is what I'm supposed to do with this talent. I am moving forward with my intentions to become a nurse practitioner, and I know I can teach nursing. I also know that sometimes in my own coursework I take time to teach other students instead of merely be a student myself. This week was not the first time a professor asked permission to use my work to teach other students even after I complete a class.

We don't pay teachers peanuts in this country. So, if I went into strictly teaching, I would never made money. I can do a hybrid of practice and teaching, but there is only one of me and I'm not certain that I want to work two jobs per se, especially when each is complicated in their own right. For now, I teach whenever and whomever the opportunity arises. This week's student had already learned that nurses eat their young and was so grateful to find a nurse who nurtures and teaches instead. There will be more. Whether it is a patient getting a blood transfusion, or a new graduate who made it through nursing school without starting IVs. Until I can figure out how to merge both sides of my personality, I continue to pursue nursing and teach when the need arises.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Climbing the mountain

Last month, I got some nasty malware on my computer. II is supposed to have virus protection on my computer, but something got through the firewall, something very nasty. Ultimately, he had to scrub the harddrive and completely reformat it. He always saves my files when he does it, and it's happened a surprising number of times--I'm terribly at safe web surfing, it seems. However, when he restored my favorites links, he alphabetized them. It drives me insane because I organize them by priority and they come back in a way I cannot navigate them, including finding the link to my own blog. Life has always taken priority over anything online, but especially blogging, so the blog sits silent while I live my life. Probably best that way but I started this to record my thoughts and sometimes it is best that I write and let things out.

Busy is a good state of being for me. It's not that I cannot address the grief of the last year. It's that if I actually stop, if I let myself fall apart, there will be no one here to pick everyone else up again. I give myself moments, permission to weep, to wail, to scream at the universe and a god I'm not sure if I believe in or not anymore. I am only allowed moments. More than that and the family falls apart. The children need me, and while I truly believe they have been instrumental in my getting through this for their sakes, there are times I get frustrated that their needs mean I must keep my own under control so tightly. E's therapist asked me last week if I have people to talk to. She said I don't have to have a formal therapist, so long as I have a way and a support when I need to talk and vent. Thankfully, I do have that. I have a good support system, a long list of friends I can reach out to, and a massage therapist whose main job is not the massage he gives me weekly but the question he asks me first--how are you doing this week? Eddie keeps me honest about my grief and my processing, and his touch on my body relieves the physical struggles I battle from both the grief and the medical conditions which escalated in this grief.

I am 1/3 of the way through this second Bachelor's in nursing and rapidly remembering WHY nursing was the one type of course I made Cs in the first time. I don't enjoy nursing courses the way I enjoy other classes. Sadly, I enjoy practicing nursing, so I must tolerate the formalized nursing classes to get there. My nurse practitioner friends assure me that nursing at the graduate level is far more my level of investment. However, for now I've taken on two very complicated nursing courses with heavy workloads. One of them challenges me and I enjoy, the other is tedious clinical work. In the fall, I get to take cultural nursing which should be much more enjoyable, as well as a basic math course that I don't really need but exempting would force me to choose another unneeded class to meet the residency requirement for this degree.

More importantly, we faced the anniversary. I really feel we're still on shaky ground, but we all seem to be settling down somewhat with it behind us instead of right before us. We went on vacation, camping as a family. We had not gone camping for four years. Our last fateful camping trip involved a trip to the beach, Micah's one and only camping trip. We took the kids to Gulf Shores for the fourth of July. Micah was not impressed. Our memories of that trip have become family lore. Until we made camp and found the remnants of that trip. There was sand still inside the tents, reminding us that when the storms came we gave up trying to manage Micah's constant raging from the change in pattern and left quickly. The hole he made his first night camping, when he howled at the moon (literally) while he busted through all of his medications given to help him sleep, was still taped with the tent tape II ran to Walmart at midnight to repair. There were rocks he had collected in the tote of supplies. A diaper that was packed for J on that trip, so tiny compared to the big preschooler he is today.

Our tears were mingled with laughter this time. Camping was tremendous fun and it was heartbinding that we gave S his very first camping trip of his life. We wanted to take Micah camping often. We found a way to manage his medical needs while camping (a flutter device and a campsite with electricity were required). We never found a way to manage his autism while camping. I know now that camping was simply far too sensory stimulating for a little one who was so sensory avoidant. After that fateful camping trip with Micah, we contained traveling with him to hotel rooms. Remembering all of that always reminds me of his last vacation trip. Labor Day 2011, we went to the Atlanta Fire Cup, as we had done every year for A's soccer adventures. That year, Micah's behaviors had suddenly escalated. I knew already what I had not told any of the siblings. I knew his CF doctor was stymied and had sent us home so he could rethink all that he knew because Micah was not responding to the treatments he was giving him. I knew he was dying already. When A asked if we could leave Micah home with the nanny, I told him there was a strong possibility that this would be Micah's last soccer tournament and that he was always such a die-hard fan of his big brother and his soccer abilities. I told A he had to bring Micah. Micah was actually on decent behavior that weekend. Hotel rooms were much easier for Micah, and hotels with pools meant I could distract him if he did get overwhelmed. A's team won the tournament and Micah was SOOO proud of his big brother that weekend. I am so glad I made sure Micah had that tournament. It was Micah's last vacation. The move to New England was not vacation and he was so terribly fragile during that trip that I worried if we could get him moved in time.

This weekend, we reaffirmed as a family that we need to go camping again. We can carry Micah in spirit and memory even though he was not so good at camping when he was alive. We hiked a mountain, literally. We followed a waterfall up the mountain and then the trail went back down the other side. J and I struggled with our asthma so we took frequent breaks, but we did it just the same. It seemed to be the epitome of the weekend and the task faced by all of us in this grieving journey.

It's not that this gets better. It's just that time passes and we survive another milestone. I hate being able to say it's been a year now. I hate that every day that passes takes me further away from my baby. I just know I cannot stop time from passing. Getting past the 12th has made me less triggery. However, it now brings me into remembrances of the first month last year. That was the month that the crazy nanny decided to turn everyone's grieving into her own drama llama game. I would rather not have to remember her, but Micah loved her. It was one of the two reasons I let her stay so long even after I realized how crazy she was. The other was that we all feared what happened to her children if I sent her away. Once in awhile, I stop and remember her behaviors last year, how she was so desperate to control all of the attention, even to the point she forbad anyone from saying Micah's name around her. I only wonder if she had enough sanity and genuine feelings inside of her to stop and remember that a year ago Micah died. Did he actually mean anything to her at all, or was he just part of the scam she ran on this family to milk support from us as well as childrearing for her children? The only video I have of Micah's voice was when she was tickling him. She was a part of his life for the last year of his life. Did he matter to her, or did she take so much of his heart and his living and toss it away when she did her exit drama out of here? I would like to think that Micah did not love in vain. It was so hard for him to truly love people and I would like to think that his choice to love her made an impact on her soul just as it has ours. I just don't believe it did. I don't think she is capable of love in the way Micah loved her. So somehow I feel guilty that I let Micah give part of what little life he had to someone who squandered his gift. I also hope that with time the grieving Micah will not be mingled with the crazy that wasn't worthy of his life nor the attention she stole from all of us when he died.

It's all just so anti-climatic. We don't wake up with it gone, our memories scrubbed and our hearts strong. We just wake up again, having faced the mountain and scaled it. We simply know there will be other mountains in our path, other times to grieve. Micah's life was far too short, but his spirit was so very bright. I still hear him calling me sometimes. Sadly, I never find him actually there when I hear him. I would give so much to run my hands through his hair again, to listen to him breath and marvel at his long, piano player fingers. Man, he could himself into so much trouble with those long fingers!

I still miss my Micah-man. I guess I always will.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Temporarily solo

II had to travel out of state for a business trip this week. It's been since before Micah died that he left us for this long, and it's been really rough for both of us. He mentioned that he used to enjoy business trips. Setting aside what he did on those trips years ago, business trips were always a time to stay in a hotel, where he got it quiet and someone else cleaned up after him.

Now, it just aches to have him gone. He reports the same feeling. It's exhausting to be without him to co-parent these kids.

This week, I have had to work more hours due to situations at work. I have had to do two major projects for my current class in the midst of this. I am stressed and exhausted. More importantly, when I put down the schoolwork tonight, I realized I haven't spent nearly enough time being MOMMY in all of this.....and I have to work tomorrow.

I am determined to love on my babies on their way to school tomorrow, and tomorrow night when I get home. I wish there were more of me and I could do more. The truth is that I realized in those nine months I was solo and finishing my last degree, I am not a good single mother to this many children. These children thrive with both II and I. I am so eternally grateful that we both got our shit together so these kids have both of us still actively engaged in their lives. I would like to believe we would do that even if we hadn't made it. I'm just glad we did and they get the benefit of both of us...every day....except when one of us is out of town.

Thankfully, I turned in the last large project for this class. I finished my last paper for the month. I got chores accomplished, and have successfully fed the children. When II comes home, I am hoping to sleep. I don't really care if I do less. I just want to sleep. I will just be glad to be back to a parenting team again.

I miss my husband.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Anniversary and Mother's Day

For all of the years I have been a mother, I have boycotted Mother's Day. As a child, I was forced to endure the torturous behavior of my mother. If we failed to make her feel special "enough" then we were subjected to emotional abuse for being ungrateful children. When I finally became a mother, she stripped me of that role and that child. By the time I had children the world recognized as mine, the sour taste was so strong in my mouth, I just wanted nothing to do with the occasion.

We've long run away from Mother's Day even in the days we were consistent with our church atttendance. I actually think it's been nineteen years since I was in church for Mother's Day, by my personal and deliberate choice. For those same reasons, even when children came into my life, I refused to make it a day about me, something that I forced into being for my family. It was never meant as a passive aggressive thing. I merely felt that my family knew it was Mother's Day and if they opted to remember it, then that was their decision but not one I would make for them. If we've had any sort of family tradition, it's that we almost always go hiking. That was merely a result of hiking being the most isolated way to escape the commemoration of the day without staying in bed for the day. Since I homeschooled for most of their lives, I did tell them it was Mother's Day, but I never played it up.

What has never been as easy for me to accept is that our anniversary falls within the same period of time as Mother's Day, sometimes even falling on the actual day. Until last year, the biggest celebration I can ever remember in all of the years we've been together was the year I decided to buy a Wii for the family, instead of an actual anniversary celebration for us. When the fall happened, I didn't want to celebrate being married to him. It took me at least two celebrations to see anything joyful about the date instead of a time of mourning for me.

Last year was perhaps the first time I was willing and ready to truly celebrate being married to this man....and Micah was dying. We did an overnight stay at a major attraction and then headed home. It was absolutely beautiful, understated, and the first time we had been alone overnight since we traveled to India years ago to pick up Ch. Let me just say, a $10/night hostel where they spend an hour at midnight trying to sell you tourist packages and then hand you a skeleton key for your door is just NOT romantic, especially when it comes after a long day of international travel and just before an early start to a second day of domestic travel. How I actually slept knowing the small bar of metal was the only thing between myself and any intruder came only from the belief that if I died that night, losing sleep was not going to make the situation any better. I also made II find a better hotel for our return to New Delhi with Ch. The rest of that trip we were not alone, and I was fully focused on Ch's medical situation that was clearly unstable when we picked him up. So, last year truly counts as the first time in nearly a decade that both of us went away overnight together. He's sent me away, or I've traveled on a rare occassion. He's traveled for business, and lived alone until we moved to New England last spring. We have not been together.

Last year's trip was mostly my initiation. There were no additional gifts, since Micah was dying and S had just been dropped on our doorstep. S came with a long list of expensive needs and immediately sucked up a good portion of our trip budget. I am grateful that I was able to check something big off my bucket list, but it wasn't exactly a long, nor decedant trip.

II has a long, long history of bing a lousy celebrator for birthdays, anniversaries, Valentine's Day, and Christmas. I have taught him a standard that I want the children to never know what it is like to not be celebrated. My entire childhood was able not being allowed to draw attention away from my mother and onto myself. The only people who celebrated me on any holidays or birthdays was my grandparents, who made things magical to the best of their ability to work around her and from a long-distance. I wanted more for my children. Thus, we do celebrations big for the kids. It's not about dollars, because sometimes there have been far too few of those. It's about making sure they have a day where THEY get to shine and be special, and holidays about focusing on making them magical for them. Until I struggled to even like him, I did the same for II for celebrations--muted compared to the kids but still as much love and heart as I could pour into celebrating, even if all I had in my purse to spend was $20.

Only one year did I do my own celebration and I was so upset and sad that I swore I would never do so again. I had spent my lifetime in the shadows. I would rather stay in the shadows than have to force people to see me and acknowledge me when they did not care. Since II has never bothered in the past, and I won't promote myself, the children have done very little most of their lives to celebrate me. I would rather be the steady strength they know is always there than force the issue. I accept that from the children. From II, it was devestating. However, I could not force him to behave differently either.

When he moved to New England, he apparently made a vow to be a better husband. Yet, Micah was dying, and that changed everything about our lives. It wasn't that I didn't believe his effort to change was dishonest. I just didn't believe he was capable of follow-through, nor of my ability to appreciate any efforts at that point of time. I don't even remember my birthday last year, coming so close after Micah's death. II and I spoke just yesterday of my desire to not try to remember that birthday. I recall what II was planning, and that the planning fell through when Micah died. I don't remember what we did, if we did anything. I don't want to remember. That birthday is too tied into grief for me to want to be apart of it. So, I cannot tell you if II did change how he has treated any celebration that was about me. I know he was trying and then our lives fell completely apart

What I do know is that II did an effort at Christmas, not to merely put something under the tree, but for it to be about meaning and connection. I was deeply touched by his efforts at Christmas, but did not honestly believe it would happen again, not with his history. When Valentine's Day rolled around, two of our teens destroyed any ability for us to do anything by their insistence that they go to a Valentine's Dance at their 8th graders who cannot date, mind you. We both gave up on the idea of Valentine's Day.

A month ago, II came home with a box for no occassion, and no reason. He gave me a necklace, a beautiful one. He never gave me an explanation as to why. Having not recieved even small gifts from him since before his cheating days, and certainly not without a very specific reason, I was nervous. This month, for the first time as an adult and as a married woman, early May was not a time when I was forgotten and trying to run away from the cultural attention.

II went way beyond my comfort zone in shining attention on me. It wasn't about the money, though he did spend some. Perhaps the most precious thing he did was send hourly love notes via text when I worked on our actual anniversary. For fifteen years love notes are the one thing I have asked from him, which he never even attempted. The attention he shone on me for the first two weeks of this month have been nearly uncomfortable to bear. Yet, the heart I see behind these choices is something so very precious to me.

In addition, now that most of the children are in public school, they have been fully indoctrinated at school regarding the holiday of Mother's Day and the expectation to honor your mother on that day. Instead of the usual lack of even recognizing the day, my children behaved differently. Having long focused on the value of handmade gifts, my children presented me with a large stack of that very type of gift. The oldest two teens gave no gift, not surprising for those two, but they did remember the day and hug me, telling me they love me. One of my children spent meticulous hours in secret burning a love letter into a board of wood for my gift. As soon as II figures out how to mount it, it will go on my walls--likely for enternity.

To culminate my tradition of escaping the day, we loaded up as a family and went to help a friend in need. Her family bought a fixer-upper and were in desperate need of manual labor to finish getting the house habitable so they can move out of their rental and work at the rest of the fix-up work as they live in their home. In a month, they made frustratngly slow progress. Thus, we loaded our crew up and headed over to lend a hand. My children gave cheerful effort, and serious labor to the day. Our friends are now looking at moving in as soon as they can now pack up their belongings, hopefully as soon as this upcoming weekend.

This was truly the best May of my adult life.

Friday, May 3, 2013

So long, my friend

They warned me when I started this job that there are certain patients you will become more attached to. They warned me to make sure and take care of myself because sometimes these losses will hurt more than others and will stay with you. I've been in the shadow of death before, just not as I fully embraced this path as a professional, dedicated to walk this journey with those who are dying.

I met you while I was on orientation, though I don't think you realized it yet. You had only visited us a few times at that point, so it was all new and overwhelming to you. You were just one of many until that day you were cold. You were so cold that your entire body shook, and your fever climbed, and it was rapidly clear to all of us that you were not cold but reacting, badly. Trying to help you get stable that day pulled at my heart. Telling you that you were not driving home, whether you wanted to or not made your strength and determination shine through. The look of love, devotion and terror on your wife's face when she came to pick you up endeared you to me, to see her love and her heart breaking as you struggled.

Quickly, you became a regular, coming to see us three times a week for life sustaining blood products. Most days your visits were short. Sometomes you spent all day with us. Each time, you wanted tomato juice because nothing else tasted at all to you anymore. On New Year's Eve, you remained in good spirits, but made it very clear that you had to leave in time to cook surf and turf for you beloved. Those lobsters weren't going to cook themselves, you insisted.

You spoke of hope, of your wife, of your children, of vitality and overocming. Only in whispers did you ever give credence to what lurked underneath. Once you told me that the doctors had told you the cancer had stopped responding to any medications. You still took them, but you continued to come to see us as well. You talked of your two children, of the joy that day so long ago that you were called to drive to Ohio and pick up your baby son, after years of longing to be a father. In your words and your devotion, love shown through.

You talked of your youth and how you played basketball on a community team. When you saw an old basketball competitor, you took time after your own visit to sit with him, to comfort him as cancer wracked his body so horribly but not his mind. You saw beyond what life had given him and were simply an old friend until he too was ready to go that day. When he died, you were the one to tell us, having read it faster in the paper than we did.

All of that time, I knew what your chart said. I never let your records guide me, but I knew what the end would be. I knew that all of that vitatlity would not battle this disease tearing down your body. I knew eventually I would have to say good-bye, no matter how much you brightened my day when you came. Knowing you would come, and we would laugh, and when I showed concern you would repsond by standing up and trying to dance helped pass my days. Knowing that I could give you something precious, compassion, support, comfort was enough. I knew when it was your season it would hurt. I knew you were my first patient to be atached to. I wasn't the only one attached to you. It was hard to not when you light up our clinic with your smile and your gentle ways.

The lesions came and I knew goodbye was getting closer. I knew those lesions came from a complete shut down of an immune system. You sought a second opinion and they told you what I already knew, there was no hope for something more. Still, you continued to come, to act as if this was temporary and it would be over soon. Then, the lesions grew and more come. You often came with bruises covering your body and I cringed to know that to give you life sustaining blood, I also had to hurt you.

There was a day our assistant walked into the office and commented that she could no wait until you were better and didn't have to come so often anymore. I pointed out that your ending was not going to be with getting better but passing from this life and she recoiled. I knew from the very beginning that you were one who would not get better. I knew, as I told her that day, that our job is not always to get you better. Sometimes we simply make sure we make your life better every moment we are called upon to support you. Sometimes that has to be enough.

You made an appointment for a third opinion, and I knew in my heart that it would not be any better than the other choices. So, it was no surprise this week to be told you have moved to hospice. Hospice will not pay for the palliative treatments of blood products. Blood is not merely palliative but life-sustaining. It just doens't cure but it prolongs. Hospice will not pay for you to return to us, so you pass from the season where our paths cross to your last journey without the chance to say good-bye and to give you one hug.

Thus, I carry your memorty with me, my friend. So long, my friend. It has been a pleasure and privilege to hold your hand. It has been a blessing to stand with you, to make these months of your life more comfortable and attainable. My prayer for you is that your passing will be without suffering and surrounded by those who love you as much as you have shown that you love them. With them, your memory will be eternal. I will open my clinic doors tomorrow and another soul will greet me in your place. They will require the minstration and attention that I poured into you, and I will soothe their suffering as I did yours. May your memory be eternal, my friend. You will be missed by so many, mine is but a small voice that says good-bye.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Reclaiming what the locusts have stolen

Every one of our children has had a big celebration when they hit 10. When they were all little, there was something so monumental to me that they hit double digits on their age, and I decided since we don't observe a lot of other traditions, we would create one of our own. For A's 10th, we took all of the kids to Medieval Times, which was quite the experience with our crew of kids in tow. For E's 10th, I took her to American Girl's store and let her spend a ridiculous amount of money to accesorize her beloved dolls she was obsessed with. For C and Ch, they turned 10 within a few months of each other and agreed to share their celebration. Thus, we took the entire family to Ringling Bros circus and they each got a big dollar amount for spending there. Micah was not able to celebrate his 10th and last birthday with fanfare. Instead, we did something very low key, and we did an over the top vacation this year when he would have been 11. However, my poor, precious R turned 10 just two months after her brother died.

The finances were insanely tight right after Micah died. The combination of funeral expenses, the money the crazy non-nanny cost me for her behaviors and lack of money sense, adding S and having to buy him even the most basic things such as clothes and medication immediately, then S's hospitalization in the middle of Micah dying, money was simply awful last fall. If it were just about the money, we would have figured out something to still give her the celebration. She did have a birthday. Right after Micah died, when I saw what the finances were doing, I bought Waldorf doll kits and I made Waldorf dolls for R and L for their birthdays, beautiful dolls for pennies on the dollar of what it would have cost to buy them, and something well cherished and much longed for by both girls since I once made the same for E when she was little.

However, the reality is that the lack of finances was the least of the hurdles to overcome for having a celebration for R. The non-nanny went off the deep end and stressed all of us out so badly that we were all prone to crying without a lot of notice in that time. The stress of her behavior in the month after Micah died flared my psoraisis to the point that I couldn't even think around the pain. Then, my thyroid crashed and crashed hard. Keeping the kids functioning and cared for was all I had the wherewith all to accomplish in those months. Pulling off a subdued celebration for R was a major accomplishment for her 10th birthday.

Even so, I promised her then that once the dark clouds passed from our lives, she would get her celebration. This weekend, I delivered on that promise to my beautiful little girl. She could not decide what she wanted for her celebration, so I finally simply did it for her. I booked a suite at a local resort for the night. It is an historic resort and the suite we got was one of only two with porches on them. This porch was absolutely massive. There was also a jucuzzi tub. She wanted a robe as a keepsake. I knew the resort would not let her keep their robes, so we bought one for her that I gave to her there--purple, like everything else she loves. I took her to the store and she bought groceries, snacks, and some cool gadgets for her. Her absolute favorite was the cupcake with a butterfly on it.

Saturday night, II got the other kids settled with their dinner and a movie, then picked us up to take us to Cracker Barrel. R got undivided attention of her mommy and her daddy and she absolutely thrived in the moment. She was also given a sum of money for her to spend on herself over the weekend. She started at Cracker Barrel. However, we have discovered that R is much like her big brother, A. If you give her money and tell her to spend it, she is very tight with her money. She checked every price tag, rejected much of her choices as too expensive or a waste of her funds and finally settled on just a few things. She bought a stuffed cat, baby bottles for her dolls and stick candies she bought for her siblings. I did ask her to not worry about buying for them, but she insisted the candies were only 8 for $1 so she bought those for them anyway.

After dinner, R and I sat in our robes on the verandah at the suite. She played webkinz and nattered at me until we both grew tired. Then, we piled most of the king bed full of pillows between us and crashed on the massive bed together. For reasons I don't quite grasp, she twice in the night tunneled under the pillows and started kicking me. One I quickly corrected by asking her to please stop. I'm not sure she even remebers doing it. She had a great night, but I was a bit more tired afterward than she was.

Today, we got up, ate breakfast, she played and danced and talked and we got ready to go. She then took the rest of her funds to the mall where R learned the literal meaning of the phrase "shop til you drop." She bought everything she set out to get for herself,--DS games, sunglasses, and a belt. Then, she bought quite a bit more. I bought her a few things, and got one small thing for each child left at home so they wouldn't feel left out. Of course, she required me to carry all of her bags and bags and bags. She simply glowed.

We finished our day with massages. Massage therapy is the one thing I consented to allowing the wrap-around services provide for me. Our case worker first talked me into trying a massage a year ago now. I left that first massage with my entire balance off kilter, having never had any stress relieved from the grip it holds on my body since I had become Micah's mother. She begged me to accept the massages from the services and I agreed only because I was falling apart physically. This spring, R had begged and begged to be allowed to have an occasional massage and the wrap around services set her up with once a month massages. She's been through grief therapy but she always feels she is lost in the shuffle of this family. She saw others getting massages and this is what she wanted to help her little heart with it's heavy burden. So, I set up this month's massage to be the perfect ending to her celebration.

I told our massage therapist about her weekend and how determined I am that she not lose her 10th year to this grief and he decided to pitch in his own effort to make the end of her day extra special. So, not only did she get a monthly massage, but R got a free, extra special facial to end her day. When she came home, she was able to go over her special day and her treasures from her day. I believe that when she remembers her 10th year, and her traditional celebration, that she will remember her grief, but she will also remember being treasured and her over the top celebration too.

I cannot take away the grieving. It is part of who we are as a family now. I cannot get us to a stable place and be out of this journey. This is as much a part of who we are now as the color of our hair and eyes. I can only help R, and all of us, remember that this grief is part of us but does not define us by itself. We are still who we were, and yet we are also a family missing one who was precious to us. This dichotomy will follow us for the rest of our lives. We have to celebrate and treasure our lives just as they are even as we grieve. This is who we are now. We grieve, but this weekend, we celebrated as well.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

I miss the laughter

For fifteen years, my marriage and relationship with II has been characterized by laughter. We have an odd, sacarcastic, sometimes biting humor, but we always spoke each other's language. We passed this sense of humor onto our children. In fact, it was the first thing I knew S noticed about our family that made him feel safe and welcomed here. We laugh together. We tease, gentle and stop immediately if someone is offended instead of tickled. There are times we simply break out into a spontaneous food fight (no one is allowed to throw the first handful of food except mom cause she'll only throw it if she's willing to manage the mess that will ensure).

Three years ago, we lost the laughter for awhile. It took longer than I wanted to find that laughter again. There were so many days that I was just numb and not able to push through the pain of betrayal to be the laughing wife and mother I always was. Yet, we found that laughter again just the same. Micah was so much a part of helping me find that laughter again. Micah was Austitic. He laughed constantly, loudly, and rarely appropriately. However, when you saw that big toothed (or back when the dentist was only able to fix his second round of bottle rot by pulling all his teeth it was completely toothless) grin, you had to laugh. Micah never understood the world. He tried, oh how he tried. But, this world escaped his understanding. So, the craziest things would bust out of Micah's mouth and the only response you could give him was to laugh.

When he first came home, I meant to record these Micah-isms. Even then, I knew one day he would stop providing them. I thought I had so many years left to hold him, and I got so lost in the daily struggles of his behaviors that weren't nearly so endearing and cute. When he landed in the PICU, I remembered that I never wrote down all of those silly, crazy things that used to pop out of him and leave you shaking your head, or busting out laughing.

I miss the laughter. I wanted to buy a video camera and I just never did. It wasn't until after he was gone that I realized...I bought an iphone this year. It has a video camera. I have precisely one 60 second video of Micah. It's all I have to remember his voice, most moreso his laughter.

I try to laugh now. I try to play with the kids and to live our lives as if all of our hearts are not broken and bleeding. I still cannot bring myself to eat at the table as a family. The kids have actually asked that we do so. Years of the every mealtime battle to keep Micah growing, every day where I coaxed and cajoled him and when he would finally eat, he would choke and I would have to try to teach him what it meant to chew and swallow. I look at the dining room table and it's like a knife to my gut that he's not there. So, we eat in the living instead now.

I try to read bedtime stories and I miss as much as I hit. I read to them at other times during the day, but at night I remember that Micah's favorite was Susan Boyton, that he loved Barnyard Dance SO much that he used to sit and recite it to J as if he were reading it. I miss even his screams. Mostly, I miss the laughter.

Instead I rejoice that I have finally passed the threshold that I can answer the stupid question of how many children I have without falling apart into tears. I'm not still sure when the roller coaster ride of grief instends to let me off. I just know that walking back through spring has been excruciatingly triggery to me, and I miss the laughter SO MUCH.

The Big Brother

Many years ago, I saw a picture of a boy on a photolisting and had a stirring in my heart that I was looking at my son. II said I was crazy, and since I knew we were years ago from starting an adoption, I agreed with him. Until three years later, that same boy was still staring at me from that photolisting and I realized he still needed a family, and he had only grown older in an orphanage for those years. That was the day we started our first adoption. I spent nine months worried that he would not accept me as his mother, nine months reading everything I could get my hands on to prepare for an older child adoption, especially one who had survived a brutal civil war and had trauma issues to overcome. Months banging my head against a wall everytime I asked for realistic preparations and being told that food, shelter and love were all he would require to be "fine."

Ten years ago, after years of dreaming, months of preparing and working and weeks of fighting immigration to NOT block his final file because of a beaucractic glitch that sent his original file to the National Archives and his photocopied file to the embassy, II traveled to a West African nation to bring The Big Brother home.

For all of my worries, for all of the challenges I've faced over the years with other kids since then, the one thing I did not have to worry about was whether A would love and accept me as a mother. We had had weekly phone contact with A through the adoption, had an opportunity to send him a care package and pictures and information on our family. Yes, there were still years of trauma issues to overcome. There were times that my poor child was not cognitively *with* me but stuck in nightmares from his past. There were nights he thrashed and woke up too scared to take himself to the bathroom safely. It was not all sunshine and happiness when he got home. His trauma was not resolved until I finally forwent traitional therapists and found a specialized trauma therapist who utilized EMDR, a sepcial therapy meant to help resolve trauma memories. However, attachment and adjustment into the family was a textbook perfect experience with A.

Mothering A was also about learning that when you adopt older children, you don't make them like you, you learn to meld your family to encompass different personalities. You have to meet them where they are, show them who you are, and meet in the middle where everyone is respected and loved. For me, that meant that this totally NOT athletic mom had to learn how to support a child who lives and breaths sports. For A, it meant learning that being The Big Brother meant he had to set an example and be protective of little siblings. There are things still that baffle me about A. How can every person who ever meets this young man be totally blown away....when he hardly ever speaks? Seriously, I adore him, but most weeks I can count on one hand the number of sentences that come out of his mouth. I worry that a partner in life will not be so accepting and understanding of a man who is not merely of little words but mostly of no words. Yet, everyone who meets this child developed what we call A-worship. From the tiniest of babies who love to stare into his face in awe and tug on his dreds while he grins at them, to the most calloused of adults who watch how this young man carries himself and stands in respect of how self-assured and strong of character this child is.

Despite the fact that he was seven when he entered our home, he was still very much a little boy. He liked to cuddle. He often came into our room early in the morning after nightmares and cuddled until time to wake up. He ate like nothing I had ever seen before. He still eats much like that, though it feels far more appropriate at nearly 17 with such a low body fat and athletic phsyique. He prefers meat to other things, but sometimes a snack is three peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for him. He is also my most adventerous eater. There is no other child in my house that I can give something bizarre, excotic, strange, and intriquing and they will gladly try it with me. A, he'll try anything long as it is NOT chocolate. He likes white chocolate but he finds American milk chocolate too sweet and too grainy. Offer him European or Asian chocolate and he's all over it, but offer him standard American chocolate and he will not go anywhere near it. That alone baffles most people who know him.

For years, I told A he was brillant but clearly struggling with his English as a second language struggles. He never believed me until seventh grade. At that point, he felt he was never, ever going to overcome those challenges and requested he go to public school to enter formal ESL coursework. It was there that things that we had together struggled to make sense of for years (with the guidance of an educated ESL teacher I had made friends with along the path), clicked instantly. Today, I can always predict A's grades before they are issues. A will make mostly As. However, he'll always have two Bs and they typically will not be in the same class twice. Once in awhile, he'll so something stupid like have missing assignments and he'll show up with a C in his grading, but he's always able to fix that back to acceptable rapidly once he's made aware of it. He's also my worst procrastinator, found typing away on a paper at 11pm the night before it is due but never, ever touching it before that last night. I would like for him to improve some of those habits, but I cannot argue that he is doing well even with his less than stellar habits intact.

When he was newly home, A was a little boy with absolutely no self esteem. He had no voice and no ability to face the world as if he was an equal within that world. We did two things to help him. We placed him in community soccer, which eventually led to top level competitive soccer (until we moved to New England rural and cannot find an adequate program so he has quit this spring in frustration at his available options not the game itself) and I encouraged him to grow his hair into dreds. He wanted to grow his hair longer than the mandatory buzz cut of the orphanage but his head is far too sensitive to handle longer hair. Six years ago, he started growing his dreds. Watching the self esteeem he has developed by seeing the world interact with him so positively for these two steps has been one of the best things I did for him as a mother. In fact, the running joke within our house now is that A is sometimes a bit too self-assured and borders on arrogant at times.

A dreams of becoming a doctor. He wants to be a Hematologist, so he says. He has the capabilities to do so, but I am unsure if he will hold onto this dream as he enters college soon. I am fine if he chooses another path, but I don't discourage him from dreaming either. My own brother has a promising career in professional track and seems to think A is capable of following his footsteps. I don't want to disagree with my brother, but I truthfully am not as excited with that prospect, even if my brother is correct in his assessment. Current issues with A's legs when he runs show that he might not be able to go that path anyway. I have made peace that I cannot dictate his future and his dreams for him, but I would prefer he not seek athletics for a career versus for a healthy outlet and if possible a means to pay for his education beyond high school.

Whatever his future holds the running joke in the house these days is that no one is safe to mention that this baby is leaving me in two short years. Mom is prone to crying everytime she realizes how fast this baby has grown up and how soon he will be launching into his own adult life. Most days I work every hard to forget that the tiny boy I tucked into my lap, scared, lost, shaking and too confused to fall asleep that first night home is now a man-child on the verge of his own life and his own future. I can't wait to see where he goes and what he does. I just don't like the knowledge that I have to step back and let him go there, to be a friend and a consultant and not a daily influence over him in just two very short years.

Monday, April 15, 2013


I find myself stymied in this effort to share my children. The next child is S. There is so much I dearly want to say about S that my heart soars. Never when I offered summer respite did I imagine being where I am and seeing this child where they are. Everytime I tell myself I will just share a *little* information and then I realize I crossed all the lines my lawyer has so clearly laid out.

The bottom line is that I cannot share S without sharing far more about S than I am authorized to say right now. I can only say this. In the midst of Micah's dying, I recieved a plea through one of my adoption support groups. It was another child who survived civil war and the original adoptive family was seeking "help." After trying to support the parents on how to get help and resources, it was very clear that the only "help" they truly wanted was a place to drop off S and walk away. Naively I truly thought that if we took this child in for the summer, to provide respite, to provide intensive therapy and to do the things we know how to do with kids with the struggles this child had, that this child could be reunited with their family, and not have to suffer yet another rejection and lost. What transpired is nothing like what I ever in my wildest imaginations thought would happen.

We took in a kid in need in the midst of our own grieving because we wanted to help that child and thought we could make the difference to that child and their family. We discovered a festering gangrene that was threatening to destroy that child, not through their fault. We have found ourselves with a ninth child after we were certain we were not interesting in more adoptions in this season in our lives.

Despite living the myth of an accidental adoption that I never believed was possible, this entire family has been transformed, challenged, grown and blessed to be the safe haven for S. As much as I desperately want to share S, it has to suffice that I struggle with the order to not share. I can only promise that S is amazing and special and precious to me....and as soon as my muzzle is removed I can tell how amazing S is and share more of S's journey into this family.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

He walked away

When Micah crashed and landed in the PICU January 2012, II withdrew his acceptance to medical school. What only he and I knew at the time was that he wrote a heartfelt appeal to the medical school to consider an exception to their no deferrals policy. That appeal was rewarded by giving him a one year deferral. II once again had to decide whether he would go to medical school Fall 2013. Since Micah passed, we have gone back and forth a million times with no clear decision for us to follow. I told II that ultimately I would support whatever decision he made. However, my path remains very clear, regardless of what choice he makes. I set out just over three years ago to reclaim me, and I've done exactly what I promised I would do. Therefore, whether II went to medical school or not, I will continue on my path of working part-time until the children are ready for me to return to full-time, while slowly and determinedly moving forward. Eventually, I will hold a DNP. After much agony and deliberation, my decision is that I will persue my DNP in Pediatrics with a certification in hospice/palliative care. II had to choose what path he was going to take. Mine was not going to alter based upon his, only whether I work part-time or full-time to support his efforts.

Given this scenario, I thought we had made a decision on where to go. We had the substantial deposit for his place until I wrecked my van and totaled it. We have been waiting for our state tax return for two months and it is possible it would come before the deadline. I thought the decision we made was if the money came, he would pay the deposit and we would go. If the money did not come, we would not stretch our budget and he would walk away.

This morning, II make a decision on his own and told me about it after the fact. While I have cried and I am stunned, the reality is that this was always his to make and does not actually set the course for my life at all. He did honor me with sending me a copy of the letter he sent. I'm posting it here because in the three and a half years I have journeyed to find me, it is clear that II has also worked hard and found himself as well.

Dear Admissions Committee,

Just over a year ago I approached you both with the reality that we were told my son was dying and asked for an exception to allow me to delay my entrance to XXXXX until after he was gone. The decision to grant the deferral was an amazing gift and one that will never be forgotten. Last July, 9 months ago this coming Friday, 10 year old Micah took his last breath in my living room surrounded by my wife, myself and his siblings; something that was only made possible by delaying my preparations for medical school.

Over the last 9 months, I've gone from "I'm going if it kills me and everyone else" to "it just isn't meant to be" and everywhere in between. The loss of a child changes people, ultimately for the better, but at the same time you never look at the world the same way again. In the last couple of months my wife & I finally settled on the decision that yes, this is what I was supposed to do and yes we were going even if it was crazy. However, in the end it became a matter of making a decision that the loss of Micah made clear: that no matter what happens in life, you never take a single moment for granted in the lives of those you love. In my case, that means that I will forever honor his legacy not by becoming a physician but by telling his story and using it to try and touch the lives of others.

Micah was born to a poor hispanic mother in LA, unable to care for his needs with CF, she ultimately lost him to foster care. For 3 years he floundered receiving sub-par medical and personal care waiting for a home they 'knew' would never come. In 2008 my family adopted Micah, taking on the impossible of raising an autistic, terminal child. It was both trying and yet amazing, but after only 4 short years Micah's time with us was over way before anyone was ready. Micah taught us all how to live, how to love, and how to dream; and in the end that no matter how 'broken' or 'damaged' every child deserves love and the absolute best care they can have. This is his legacy.

It is with a heavy but accepting heart that I am formally and for the second time declining my acceptance to XXXXX. I want to thank you both, as well as the committee, for all you have done and for the time I was given. In the end, the closest I will be to a physician occured in the moments after my son's passing when it was I that confirmed he was gone, and noted the time to later be used by Hospice. Not the way I expected for this journey to end, but maybe just maybe the way it needed to.

Thank you,


Sunday, April 7, 2013

Trial by fire

When I was a teen, I was raped and became pregnant. That child was placed for adoption with family members and I am able to see her grown and doing well in her life, but I lost the ability to be her mother. All I wanted in the aftermath of that experience was to be a mother. This was actually what left II and I vunerable to the Quiverful mentality in the first place, this deep desire to be a mother after that loss. Thus, we made a choice to not wait when we got married, but to have a child as soon as we could acheive that goal.

We actually did the very non-fundamentalist choice of trying to get pregnant before we were actually married. I make no regrets for that choice. I was tired of the garbage religion had thrown at me which had only left me hurting and vunerable. Except, our first pregnancy ended in miscarriage almost 14 weeks into the pregnancy. We were both completely devestated. To make matters worse, we were on our honeymoon as I miscarried. I didn't care about waiting or anything else at that point. I wanted a baby, and II's desire was as strong as my own.

E was concieved a mere 10 days after we lost that first baby. She was then born two weeks early and exactly 38 weeks after we got married. It was close enough for ultra-religious friends to leave us alone, but as soon as possible for me to hold a baby in my arms and not give it awway. I got a bladder infection in the pregnancy that never fully resolved and spent most of those months sick, vomiting and simply biding my time until I could hold my sweet baby in my arms. Her birth was more traumatic than I ever anticipated. It was the beginning of LMB's using my pregnancies and childbirth to sexually assualt me when I was most vunerable. She cajoled, harrassed and demanded I do what she said the entire pregnancy and birth. She went with us when I was in labor and badgered the doctors and medical staff so that they took their irritation at her out on me. Even the first pictures I have of E are her in LMB's arms, with me next to her, a look of longing on my face. I had not learned to find my mother's voice that day. It came very quickly after that point, though. When faced with a world that wanted to control, dictate and judge this little fireball of a child, I was fierce, fiercer than I ever knew I was capable of being.

E was different from very early in her life. I could never put my finger on it. She was colicy as a newborn to the point that the only way we got her to calm down was we took turns dancing her to loud music all night while the other slept. She was strongly opposed to sleeping in the bed with us, and threw fits if we attempted to co-sleep with her. It was not until I put her in her own bedroom at nearly a year in desperation that she slept peacefully and allowed us to do the same.

By 12 months, E was throwing temper tantrums that everyone swore were impossible for a child her age to throw. The only way I could ever describe her behaviors was by explaining that E's mind was so far advanced of her body's capabiliies that she frequently threw tantrums because she could not make her body keep up with the desire of her mind to move at lightening pace. By 18 months, I was desperate enough to do the biggest mistake of my mothering. I put her into a highly punitive method of discipline, with spanking and no room for grace for her baby girl mistakes. I had read Ted Tripp and James Dobson, and the women I had sought for support had insisted I had to spank the rebellion out of her, that if I spanked her the first time, every time, she would conform and would stop her constantly exhausting challenges to life, to me, to boundaries.

I do not believe I created E's sruggles. I accept that E has genetic factors at play which cause her to have high anxiety and a very atypical form of Asperger's which caused us to not pinpoint exactly what it was until she was 13. However, I believe that those six months of treating her so negatively absolutely contrbuted to her struggles. I accept in this time and place that E must make her own choices for her life, and while those choices are hard for her, she IS progressing and making wiser choices. However, her younger years of struggling with violent behaviors would be a completely textbook case of all of the research compiled that argues spanking creates aggression and violence in children. The only defense I can give for those dark six months is that I woke up and saw what I was doing. I stood over that sweet little girl one day around the time she turned two and I continued to do exactly what the Christian parenting experts told me to do. I spanked, and I spanked, and I spanked, and I waited for her to conform. It was about the third spanking I performed that I looked into that baby's eyes and realized what I was doing. I was not going to bend the will of this child. I was going to break her, and I would never be able to fix what I broke if I did so. Futhermore, everything I was struggling with from her were the PRECISE qualities I wanted her to hold onto as an adult to help her thrive and be strong as a woman one day.

That was the day I stopped. I no longer cared what the so-called Christians told me I HAD to do as a good Christian mother. I no longer cared what these experts said would happen if I walked away, nor did I care what their promises whispered if I continued to stay the course. I could see that in six months of this garbage, I had hurt my sweet little girl. I had not made her less stubborn, less strong, less determined. I had pushed this nightmare of discord between us and made myself unsafe for her. I picked up Raising Your Sprited Child that day and discovered that there were better, more loving, more honoring ways to parent a child. I never looked back.

E is stubborn. When that girl makes up her mind on something, wild horses cannot convince her to alter her course. Yet, I know that she will never be one to confirm to peer pressure. That some day when she is fully grown, she will stare down any man who dares to tell her what she can and cannot accomplish and will do the exact opposite to prove she can too. She is courageous. She has never found a challenge she cannot stand against if she chooses to do so. Fear is not an option she allows herself to consider when she sets her mind to something. She is brillant. Truthfully, she's a capable of straight As in school, but like her father and oldest brother has decided that "mostly As" is good enough for an academic record. She grasps mathematical concepts that leave my head spinning and she does them for fun.

Yet, when it comes to people, E is clueless. It was not until we got her diagnosis of Asperian that she and I were able to find a method for me to help her script and see social relationships outside of her own set prejudices of how people function--which had no baring on how people truly function. Even so, she has extremely extroverted. Her lack of grasping social graces meant that only once did the disapproval of others stop her from assuming the best of everyone around her. In fifth grade, we attempted putting E in public school and she lacked both the social graces to know what bullying was, and the experience to protect herself. That disaster was the nightmare that landed E inpatient in the hospital. We nearly lost her to the bullying. Once she was aware that it was bullying, she had no idea how to survive and get away from it. It was that which cranked up her anxiety to a choking level. It has taken years to help her heal.

On the other hand, because she lacks that understanding, she had no qualms about running for student council in a new school she had attended for all of three months. She ran for President and lost by a narrow margin. She invokes admiration from others for her courage and determined persistence regardless of what people think of her. She now has many, many friends, and has been through a slew of boyfriends, primarly because she doesn't grasp disapproval, or if she does she doesn't care and carries on with her intentions anyway.

I have always said that my mother was formed in the fire of mothering E. I have always meant that. Only Micah could rival the tanrums of E's younger days. Only Micah was harder to parent, threw more tantrums, displayed more anxiety and resorted to violence worse than E. Yet, despite all of her challenges, the beauty that E shines forth reminds me every day that challenges can be overcome. From a place where a fifth grade bully informed her that the viral infection she suffered which was causing her checks to be overly red made her look like a pig and thus he was going to give her extra bullying to last her for the summer, to this young woman who has a constant entourage of friends and boyfriends, this child has never let the world and it's opinions hold her back.

She had reached a point where she did not struggle and needed next to no extra help....and then Micah died. E finds herself in the disorienting Asperian dilemma of not liking emotions, yet being a hormaon female adolescent who cannot avoid emotions. The emotions of losing her little brother made her feel guilty, angry at me for not saving him, and devestation that she must even acknowledge and address these emotions in the first place. We work with her to process her grief in therapy and to focus on her outlets when she is not actively in therapy but struggling. Her path forward will be rocky as she integrates her pain into her soul. She's strong enough to find a way.

While this precious child works to find her equlibrium again, we supply her with the artifacts she desperately needs for her coping skills. She creates. When E hurts, she creates. She bakes. She cooks. She writes. She crochets. She sews. We provide kitchen supplies, yarn, fabric and agonizing reminders that she must clean up as well as create, as no one else needs to be required to live in the mess she leaves in the aftermath of her creative spurts. Between being a young teen, and trying to work through the loss of her brother, outsiders see the beauty of E these days, and we see her struggles. We continue to support her through this, as I know the beauty she shows everyone else is just as real as the pain she shows up, but hiding that pain to the world exhausts her right now, so all she has left for us to see is the pain. We have to help her feel it, process it, use it for good, but not spew it upon all of us to try to rid herself of it. It's a slow, painful process for all of us, most especially E.

E's dream is to be a special education teacher. When I finally helped her stop being anger at Micah for all of his struggles and she could grasp why he struggled, she discovered that she alone had a talent to reach him inside of those struggles. She could reach Micah's heart and help him walk through his struggles to calm down, to feel loved. This disocvery led her to realize that she has an amazing talent. She is close enough to what it is like to have these struggles, that this she can understanding. Yet, she's strong enough, smart enough, stable enough that she is not mired in those struggles. She can translate these special children to the world that does not always know how to reach them, and she can translate a world these children cannot understand into an explanation that helps them at least feel safe and function to the best of their abilities. She did several internships and volunteer work with Micah's last teacher because of this discovery. That teacher tells me she has never seen someone like E. When E works through her own adolescence and her own grieving process, she will be the most amazing women. That her journey is not as easy as most does not mean she will not arrive there, but that I beleive she will treasure the accomplishment, and hopefully will retain her strength when she gets there. Twelve years ago, I made a promise to a little girl that I would never again attempt to break her, but would consider it my sworn duty as a mother to guide her, to protect her and to help her arrive at the end of childhood with all of her strength and all of what makes her so beautiful still intact. It's a long, hard road to navigate when the final outcome is to ensure all of her strength remains with her. It's one I believe we will both absolutely reach in one piece, better off for the journey it takes us, even though the journey is harder than any of the other children I parent to get her there.

E made me the mother I am. I hope that I can help her become the woman she was meant to be as well. It has been a priviledge and an honor to be her mother. I'm not sure she will ever understand just how important she was in fashioning me to the mother I am and the things I have been able to accomplish with so many siblings who needed the strenght only E could show me was inside of me too.