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.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The joker

Just a tad older than Ch is C. I really never intended to artificially twin this child. However, when we started our second adoption, we found a little boy listed that most families are scared to adopt because of the expenses of his medicine. We couldn't see saying no to this child merely because he was only five months younger than his brother. So, we proceeded with caution and carefully remembering to meet the needs of both boys.

C is my most challenging child to parent beyond Micah. When C was born, he had the most severe colic I had ever seen. He screamed from sun-up until sun-down until he was six months old. For another two weeks he whimpered before he finally stopped. It was only later that I realized this poor baby had reflux at a time when it was just starting to be recognized and treatment was contraversial. I recall more than one conversation with his doctor where I was in absolute tears and begging him to help this baby, that clearly this child was in PAIN, and being told that I would not like the side effects of the medications and thus we would levae it alone for him to outgrow. If I regret one thing about how I have mothered my children, it is that it took me six months to fire that doctor and find a better one. By the time his new doctor saw him, he was sympathetic and understanding, ready to treat but we were in watch mode because the symptoms had subsided.

If I knew back then what I know now, I would have recognized that this child had sensory issues. I would have recognized that a child who could follow three and four step commands by 11 months and could kiss out the syllables of the words he could not say was not merely lagging in his development but unique and different. I would have recognized that a baby who was offended by having his senses stimulated strongly had sensory aversion. A toddler and preschooler who would melt down into a puddle of tears because his sandwich was altere slightly in the making was not merely typical obssessive toddlerhood. A child who desperately begged to learn to ready by 3.5 and who forced his path through eight reading programs by age six, failing every single one of them despite his desperate desire to grasp it was not merely a reluctant reader.

We call C scary-smart. That is the only conclusion you can reach about a child who mastered a high school level of science understanding before finishing elementary school, how posses a mid-high school level of math skills now, who has reached collegiate level in most other subjects. Yet, he requires reading assistance for all things, and can still meltdown if he is too overstimulated or too frustrated. He can spend hours on NASA's sight, or his new passion, NOVA. Yet, he requires a dry erase marker for three simple checks every day to remind him when he has eaten meals during the day.

This child has taught himself two computer language programs at this point. Once the world of reading was opened by diagnosis of dsylexia, he recieved a Kindle that provides text-to-speech programming. He now alternates between reading middle school appropriate books....and collegitate classics. The looks he recieved when attempting to discord on 1984 at a doctor's office was priceless. He attempted Frankenstien but ultimately found it too scary. He is desperate for the Narnia books to come out in a Kindle edition. He does not enjoy audio books and prefers merely the text to speech assistance for when he is stuck rather than having the entire book read to him. He attempted Lord of the Rings but the old English writing is very difficult for him still. He has obsssessively read Harry Potter twice, and will read any Jack London book he can get his hands upon. He has also read Karl Marx and dozens of other utopian style literature. His most recent reading, I brought him down to middle school reading level to give his mind a break and introduced him to both The Phantom Tollbooth and The Bridge to Teribithia. He is now insisting he must read The Hobbit, though it is hard for him. If he loses interest, the back up plan is to get the Indian in the Cupboard trilogy for him to read.

It would be easy to forgot this child who discuss global warming, intricate social implications of war and peace, and who demands that knowing the diameter of a carbon nanotube IS the kind of emergency to halt our vacation and answer for him is still a child. His long, green hair shows his determination to be antihegemonic to the entire world. Over and over again, strangers call him a girl and he politely informs them that he gets that all the time but he really is a boy. I recently discovered that the point of the long hair is the sensory impact. He has created his own weighted blanket phenomenon on his head with long, thick hair that he never has to remove but can pull back into a basic ponytail to look more socially acceptable.

C has an overall dsygraphia which presents in both apraxia and dyslexia. He is also, as might be guessed, Asperger. Or as the psychoeducational evaulation put it "a touch of Asperger's Syndrome." The diagnosis was no surprise to me by the time it came, but I mothered him most of his life without that understanding or knowledge--remember I had no clue what Autism was when Micah entered my life. I certainly had not framed my most spirited child into that understanding until after I recieved Micah's diagnosis and began to learn what Autism Spectrum Disorders were even about.

Despite having to step by step explain emotions to this child, he can sense when someone needs empathy. He just cannot articulate what he senses. He is cuddly and attached and makes wonderful eye contact, all the reasons that I missed the Asperger's for so many years. He is obssessed with Legos, with Science and Science fiction. He builds. He sees in 3-D, a side effect of his dyslexia that makes it hard for him to hold his letters to a flat, 2-D presentation to read them. He is highly creative but after a stint in charter school where they attempted to grade his writing attempts, he is still stubbornly refusing to write without a lot of tears and struggles. He has only recently been ready to attempt the task again.

From the moment we started Micah's adoption, C's goal in life was to become a doctor and eventually direct his own Cystic Fibrosis clinic. When Micah died, C has shifted his goals somewhat. He's afraid that working in direct contact with CFers will be too painful for him. Instead, he wants a PhD in Biophyics so he can work to find better treatments and eventually the cure for this awful disease. My only hesitation on whether C will see that dream is the reality that he loves programming as much as he loves breathing and I often wonder if he will be lured into a career of programming instead. Somehow, I doubt it, but I suspect he will retain programming as a hobby for his lifetime.

C was Micah's buddy from the day Micah entered our home. I cannot count how many times I reassured C that it was *my* job to care for Micah, but still he remained right by my side, watching over his brother. He knew every treatment, every disease process, every medication, ever dosage and timing and sequence for everything Micah required to maintain life. He knew what Micah needed. He knew when and why he needed and what it did for Micah. C knew EVERYTHING there was to know about Micah, inside, outside, and upside down. He was Micah's buddy. I couldn't have pulled him from my side in caring for Micah if I tried, and I did try. I feared that attachment was going to hurt him deeply in the end. There's a reason C is still in weekly grief therapy. Losing his little brother hit him harder than everyone in this family except L who was Micah's best friend. I have no doubt that loving Micah and losing Micah will be the defining point in C's life, which is why I believe he will go into research for Cystic Fibrosis. He could barely see for the first month after Micah died, his grief was so great. I would not have denied him that great love even knowing how hard his healing journey has been and will continue to be. He refused to sleep anywhere but in the next room from us the last two weeks of Micah's life and he slept in a nest on my bedroom floor for the month afterward. This child has a spirit like no other I have ever seen. I see him finally on stable ground and I wonder in amazement how this child will take this intelligence that I have never personally seen in one human being before and unleash it in the aftermath of his soulmate and brother.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013


When new adoptees, especially international ones, enter a home, they often experience a period of time where the logical processes of their brain do not work well. It's as if they are in overdrive from all of the changes and they just cannot process what should be easy to figure out normally. Ch has very pronounced period of this phenomenon. It reached a point when to keep my sanity, everytime Ch would do something especially brainless, I would start humming the Scarecrow song from The Wizard of Oz. Eventually, Ch's developed the nickname of Scarecrow. Once he passed the phase of no logical processing, the fact that he is the skinniest beanpole child I have EVER seen kept his nickname firm. Just today, in fact, a sister was folding clothes and took a good look at the pants which fit Ch and how tiny the waist is and declared, "He really IS a scarecrow." I have NO idea how Ch is so skinny. He's not short. He certainly doesn't eat less. In fact, he is my second biggest eater of all my children. Yet, he never gets bigger around the middle.

Ch is one of my heros. He was born in India and spent his first four years there. He spent so much time in a crib that the back of his head is completely flat. While his birthfather loved him fiercely, Ch had a medical condition that made it impossible for him to reach adulthood in India. In the west, Ch's condition has quite managable. It is expensive, but we have always carried excellent health insurance so that his coverage has never lapsed. Ch is one of those rare cases that international adoption is truly the best option for the child. This is what his birthfather knew when he broke his own heart to provide for Ch to have a future by placing him in the orphanage and making him available for adoption.

What I didn't understand when Ch came home was that the fact that his birthfather adored him, the fact that the orphanage staff held him as one of their favorite children, none of that would matter to Ch. Ch was locked in a crib. The staff was SO proud of themselves. They secured two of their infant cribs together and wrapped blankets around everything so it was completely padded. They had done such a good job keeping him safe that they insisted I take a picture of him in that crib before we took him home. Yet, he didn't know how to play, to walk, to be a child. He had been locked in a cage his entire life. All he knew was that everyone abandoned him and never let him be a child. Ch's perspective of his life was FAR different than everyone else's. Furthermore, when his new forever mother began sticking NEEDLES into him twice a week, he most definitely was NOT interested in being a part of this success story.

It's really no surprise that Ch developed attachment disorder. Honestly, if you look at his life from HIS eyes, he didn't trust anyone and he definitely didn't beliee anyone loved him. Prior to the medication we brought into his life, he suffered in tremendous pain on a regular basis. The orphanage never understood that it is not the blood you SEE that causes suffering and damage to a boy with Hemophilia, but the blood internal that you cannot see. The adoption agency was very clear with the orphanage that they would cover his medication and he was to be given it on a weekly basis. The orphanage could not see the point of the expense when their padded cage prevented him from pouring blood out of his body. That lack of understanding is also why they left him in his cage when he displayed lethargy and vomitting with no sign of an infection for fever for three days before he began to have siezures. They completely missed his brain bleed and nearly cost him his life, just as we had started his adoption process.

Ch was my teacher in mothering special needs children. It was the lessons in finding my voice and advocating for him that I would later carry into parenting Micah. I had much to learn about mothering a medical needs child. The first thing I had to learn was that NO doctor knows my child better than I do, and if they aren't listening to me about the needs of my child, then I need to fight harder or find another doctor. It took me 18 months to put my foot down and tell Ch's doctors I would NOT administer his medication. I could see that Ch was never going to bond with me as his mother so long as I was the source of his pain. However, Hemophilia treatment is SO focused on getting families self sufficient that his medical team could not allow themselves to hear a nurse saying she would not administer the medication. It was an absolute paradigm disconnect between us. I finally had to absolutely put my foot down and force the doctors to arrange for a home health nurse to do the treatments. It was ONLY after I did that when Ch was able to start resolving his attachment issues and start to bond to me.

Ch is a comedian. He loves to laugh. In fact, I would say that if he cannot laugh, Ch feels he is suffocating. Laughter was Ch's coping mechanism in his early life. It is what makes his soul sparkle now. When Ch smiles, his entire soul lights up and everyone around him responds. His humor was a weapon he wedged between us when he got here to protect himself from expecting me to hurt him and abandon him like everyone else. Today, it is the biggest characteristic that draws everyone to him.

Ch loves sci-fi. He loves Star Wars and Lord of the Rings and Dr Who. He loves sports, but we had to hold him back for several years simply because if he lost in sports arenas he would get furious and start lashing out at everyone and everything. He no longer does that and is now the star of his soccer team. He is one of my only two adventerous children who will try anything at least once.

When we brought Ch home, we had a layover in Amsterdam. There was a playground inside the airport we took Ch to play during that time. In that playground was a tiny toddler slide, a mere two steps up and a slide down. Ch had NO idea how to use that slide. He was 4.5 years old and had never been allowed to play on even that most basic of play equipment. I believe this is why when Ch got home, he proceeded to swing from the chandaliers. He has never resolved that hyperactivity, though he now thinks and TRIES to not do the most dangerous stunts he used to do without thinking. He is diagnosed and does take medication for his attention issues. I remind him, sometimes daily, that if a little attention struggles is the only legacy of four years in a cage, then it's something we can handle together.

Until this year, Ch was homeschooled. His language development is signfiicant behind his peers, having never acheieved fluency in either of his first two languages and adapting to orphanage babble instead of meaningful communication prior to homecoming. I recall the first time Ch attempted to have a coherent conversation with me in English. He had been home for four months and I wept for joy to see his language development. However, as a middle schooler, Ch's English is still behind that of his peers. Until very recently, Ch had failed to advance in every method of spelling we had attempted with him. He had at a younger age struggled with math concepts as well, and I feared there were more pathological issues than merely being delayed by his past. It was my intention to homeschool him one final year, since he was SOO close to grade level performance last summer. However, when Micah died, I could only successfully continue to homeschool ONE special needs child, and I opted to keep the more complicated educational situation at home. I decided that Ch was close enough that the school should be able to take him in and bring him that final step to grade level.

I am SO grateful that the school psychologist was willing to listen and treat me as a peer before school even started. My estimation that the school could handle Ch's needs was not mistaken. They had accomodations in place before his first day of school, and had his IEP written at a lightening pace. Just as importantly, they did his full testing and determined that he does NOT have any pathological struggles. It really and truly is merely ESL, and as I predicted this is the year it is all clicking into place for Ch. Today, Ch makes As and Bs. He gets VERY frustrated by his Bs. He is far harsher on himself than anyone else ever would be. When told he would do standardized testing at school, he shut down and make himself sick. When he made an 85 on a report card, he hid his report card until we had to wrestle it from him. I've seen this last step of self esteem building in these boys before. I know continuing the path he is on, a school where he is adored, a soccer team where he is a star, and lots of encouragement from mom and dad and this should resolve on it's own.

Of all my children, Ch is the most extroverted of all of them. He has never met someone he cannot convert into a friend. The child who once resented everything about a mother is the biggest fan of his mom now. He makes friends everywhere. He rolls his eyes that the girls follow him in groups. He can keep pace socially in absolutely any setting and all anyone can ever say about this child is how adorable he is. This child's success in overcoming his past makes me so proud of his strength and courage. Now, if only I could convince him to not keep cutting his gorgeous hair and we wouldn't be at an impasse in our relationship.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Puff the Magic Dragon

When I stated intentionally trying to share my children, I debated not including Micah. The more I think about it, the more I cannot fathom how I could NOT talk about Micah. I realize that who he is no longer progresses and changes now that he is gone. However, he is not somehow "less" than Micah. He will always BE Micah.

When we were working on his adoption, we were told Micah had an IQ of 74. In every IQ test he took, he successfully "lost" 20 or so IQ points. I told the testers it was pointless to test him, because all it did was tell him how to resist and bomb the test worse. One homebound teacher of Micah's said the most profound explanation of his non-compliance I ever heard. She said he had the strongest non-compliance of any child she had worked with, even one with Autism. She wasn't kidding. Micah's resistence to order and rules was legendary.

Of course, we didn't know Micah was Autistic when we adopted him. I knew something was *off* but I knew enough that I knew it was NOT attachment issues. He was not dangerous. I couldn't put my finger on what was so bizarre about this child. Yeah, what did I know? Back then all I knew about Autism was that it took very intensive parenting and I did NOT want to adopt a child with it. Boy was I niave and set to learn a lot.

During Micah's adoption, we had unprecedented access to his fosterhome and to him. We called him every night to talk with him. His foster mother answered any and every question I had. She turned the management of his medical decisions over to me. I did with her what I had done with my other boys. I asked her to tell me about Micah......She didn't understand the question.

What was his favorite color? What was his favorite activity? His favorite food? What did he like to do when he played? How did he play with friends? I wanted to know everything. She knew NOTHING about Micah. He lived in her home for three years and she knew NOTHING about my son. I was stunned. How can a child live in your home for three years and you not know these most basic things about him?

So, in this series about my children, let me introduce you to my Micah-man.

Micah's favorite color was red. His most beloved teacher, Ms. Amy, used to think it was because red is a color that special needs children can easily identify. In fact, after Micah expressed his strong preference for red, it became the favorite color of most of his class. That was not why Micah loved red. Micah loved red because his DADDY drove a red truck. In fact, so strong was Micah's association between red and his beloved daddy that when we bought II's Jeep we deliberately bought a red one. No one knew how to try to tell Micah that his daddy might not drive a red car, so we bought a red one just for Micah.

Micah loved Disney movies. There is no doubt that Disney markets to young children quite well, but those movies were ones that Micah could touch into emotions that he couldn't understand or reach otherwise. Over his years, he progressed from one Disney movie as his obssession to another one. His all time favorite was Cars, but in sequential order he loved them all. His fleece blanket was choosen for his love of Cars. All of my children are given a no-tie fleece blanket that I made them. Micah's was the only one that was a trademarked character. For most of the kids, I choose something that can grow with them. For Micah, I knew he would never truly grow so I gave him his heart. Micah was NEVER without his Cars blanket, except when it was pooped and needed washed. There was at least one hospitalization where I had to make a special trip to the hospital to bring that blanket to him. Micah used to untie a hole into his fleece blanket and sandwich himself inside of it to sleep. I knew there was sensory issues and weight issues. I just kept re-tying it and hoping he didn't destroy it, since I was never sure I could replace it if he destroyed it.

Micah had two dreams in life. He wanted to meet Mickey Mouse and he wanted to be a doctor. Make A Wish helped him fulfill his first dream. He was absolutely in love with Mickey Mouse. That love pre-dated us. He collected Mickey Mouse stuffed animals. His siblings all claimed them when he died, except his big one. I keep the big one in my bedroom and when someone is grieving hard, I loan him out so they can sleep with him and hug Micah through him now. Micah never forgot his trip to meet Mickey Mouse. I was stunned and amazed at Make A Wish and Give Kids the World. They gave Micah something precious and amazing, and they gave his siblings the trip of a lifetime to always remember Micah.

Micah had ecolalia but like everything else about him, it was atypical. He didn't always repeat words but he would ask a question ad naseum to parrot back what he picked up. He had hearing that was superhuman so he would hear something and would ask questions for DAYS after he heard it, which was just rephrasing what he heard. It was so unique that it took the Psychologist who diagnosed him some time to place what it was.

In the end, after he was gone, I realized that Micah fell under what they call savant. He had a vocabulary to rival any of us in the house, and he knew what words meant. He could get himself into trouble faster than ANYONE could get him out of it. Keeping him safe was often exhausting. If he found a way to break his skin, keeping him from pulling things out of his body took layers of socks and duct tape. Evven when he was dying, he would take his needles out of his port and stick them into his stuffed animals. Micah never ever knew how to process this world in a manner that made a lick of sense to US. Micah was Micah. We used to say that all the time. There was no textbook to describe Micah. His Heptalogist said that was becuase they don't make textbooks about Micah, he is too unique to write about. Micah is one of a kind.

It is my deep held theory that Micah was unsafe from very early in his life. I believe his autism was either something he was born with or caused by the years he spent abandoned in the hospital. There is a thing called institutional autism, and I was never certain whether he was truly born with the autism or all those times where his only friend in the world was a janitor forever changed him. What I am certain of, because we recieved the social history at his finalization, was that his birth father used to beat him black and blue. His birthparents had been neglecting his medical needs from the day he was born and the state kept sending nurses into the home to manage his care. The day he was hospitalized the month before he turned three, he showed up covered in bruises. He was Hispanic, it's not easy for him to be covered in bruises, but the report from the doctors was that there was not a spot on his body without some varied degree of bruising healed or fresh upon his admission. The medical neglect his doctors had tried to work with. His abuse they would not turn a blind eye. They contacted the state. I believe that Micah learned in that first home the only way he could be safe was to create chaos. So long as the world was full of chaos, it was hard to focus on attacking Micah when trying to clean up the messes he created at the same time. I think Micah was so non-compliant because he was afraid. He had been abused in ways no child should ever suffer, and he knew so long as he kept people so distracted with things such as flinging poop, they wouldn't get TO him. It is heartbreaking to realize that in the threat of trying to survive, Micah learned the one behavior that made it forever hard to parent and care for him. He was non-complaint and created chaos whereever he went but he never learned he could stop doing it because he was safe. The Psychologist who diagnosed his Autism said that he was profoundly autistic and it was unlikely he would ever unlearn a coping mechanism he learned under that kind of stress and threat. She was right, he never unlearned it.

So, Micah was this amazingly sweet and unique child. He was also a constant bundle of chaos and non-compliance. Parenting Micah required two things. One, you had to never take it personally. Second, you had to be rock wall firm with him. I learned along the way that I had to be firmer with Micah than I ever was with his siblings. Micah saw the world in absolute black and white. If I wasn't firm with him, then he didn't trust the boundaries and would continue to test constantly. If I took his behaviors personally, then his coping mechanisms that compelled him to seek out spaces to insert chaos would propel him into creating more chaos. Parenting Micah was humbling. It required I constantly find those weaknesses, those points where I could lose my temper and learn to suppress those flashpoints. I wasn't perfect. I did lose my temper with him. Sometimes, even the calmest human would lose their temper with a few of his stunts. But, I always picked myself back up and worked harder to dig out all of those imperfections for his sake.

Micah loved people. He didn't know a stranger. I have a million stories I can tell about my son, but his love of people is at the top of his list. Not long after he came home, he was tantruming in a port-a-potty, before we knew that tantruming was Micah's way to communicate ALL strong emotions. His big brother was in there with him and had removed a soggy pull-up in the pouring rain. He was stunned and shocked when two strangers popped the lock on the potty and yanked Micah away from him. Micah didn't understand what a stranger was and willing went with them. The brother thought quickly and made a dash for II to get him. To this day, we have no idea what these people were thinking or where they were going with Micah. They went in the opposite direction of the police at the soccer tournament and they fought II when he stopped them. Ultimately, Daddy sternly told Micah to come and Micah left them for his Daddy. I lived in fear it would happen again after that. Micah literally did not know a stranger, nor understand any semblance of stranger danger.

I tried to tell Micah not to talk to or go with strangers. It was pointless. Finally, I thought I had a stroke of genius. I told Micah he was not allowed to talk to anyone he did not already know the name of. I thought I had solved this danger. I'll be darned if that booger didn't go to the very next soccer game, walk up to the first stranger he saw, stuck his hand out and said, "Hi. I'm Micah. What's your name?" As I said, I recognize now that Micah was a savant. He was very smart, far too smart for his own good or safety. He just had NO clue how to survive in the world we mere humans live in. He was Micah. His favorite song was Puff. In the final days of his life, the final verse becames nearly unbearable for us to sing, but we sang it for him anyway. He was Micah.

Monday, April 1, 2013


When I was younger, my sister insisted I had to be *just like her*. I resented it in ways I cannot describe, especially since I was far more prone to climbing trees and running away from the things my sister thought was acceptable. No one defended my right to be my own person. There was even a point when my sister deemed it was unacceptable that I wrote left-handed and she attempted to re-train me to only use my right hand for writing. While I believe much of this behavior was deliberately fed by my abusive mother, I have always been sensitive to such behaviors with my own girls.

R is my mini-me. In every way that E is so much different than me, R is not. R was the last of my intentional prengnacies and the only baby who was a joy to parent and not stressful. While E and C had the worst colic you ever saw, L was born a firecracker, and J had medical issues that kept me on constant alert, R was blissful. While everything that could go wrong with R's birth did, R was placed into my arms after her birth and never left them. I had banned my mother from my homebirths by that point and had found a wonderful CNM back up. When my water broke and she did not come, it was this midwife who cared for us in the hospital. She let me be in control of everything I could be in control of. She placed R immediately into my arms at birth and no one removed her.

R did not cry when she was born. She did not cry in the trip we took to get back home after she was born. In fact, she did not cry for the first six months she was alive. She smiled. She cooed. She talked to me, and I basked in her aura. I called R balm for my mother's soul after her first two siblings.

What breaks my heart is that R thinks she gets lost in the shuffle of a large family. It's not true. We notice her and adore her. However, she is quiet, and she is shy. She doesn't jockey through the chaos and noise to be the most noticed child. It doesn't mean we don't notice her. We do. It is a telling reminder that I am not meeting her love language needs when she starts to feel lost in the shuffle. R needs words of affirmation. She needs to be told when she is doing well and praised dramatically. She also has this quirk that she literally melts at loud noises and harsh corrections. My biggest struggle is that I bluster and fuss and sometimes yell when I am frusrated or angry. It's a bad combination for her little heart and my temper. I hate that we clash and I try to remember this personality conflict, but it always happens that we clash yet again....and little R ends up in tears and I feel like a heel and have to apologize and comfort her for my stupidty again.

In every way that E and L are girly-girls and Princesses, R is NOT. She cannot stand dresses. Her favorite is purple whereas they adore pink. She won't wear dress shoes. She prefers boots, any kind of boot. She likes purses, so long as they are tiny and purple. She prefers boys cargo pants. She is addicted to fleece hoodies with zippers. She now has three. That merely means that we can get one off her by exchanging it for another while we wash the ones not actively on her. She has a good sense of style, but you cannot actually see it since you never see her without a hoodie zipped up and the hood on. She just got her third for Easter, previously she had two.

R likes animals. Until recently, she was 100% focused on becoming a Herptalogist. She is obssessed with snakes and amphibians. The first time she asked for a pet snake, I thought she was joking. I held her off for a year but she kept asking. I've never denied my children something SO precious to them but really...I am NOT a snake person. When she was seven, I thought I could stop her from being interested in this obssession by insisting she had to go learn how to care for snakes from a friend who owned snakes. All it did was make her more pushy. So, at the ripe old age of 7.5, my sweet little girl became the proud owner of Brazilian Rainbow Boa.

When II took this girl to the Repticon show to pick out her pet snake, they found a breeder with two Rainbow boas. R held the female snake. We had warned R that the snakes teeth are angled backward. If she were to ever be bit by a snake, she had to remain calm. Getting upset would cause the snake to get stressed and not let go, and trying to pull away with the way the teeth were angled would cause the flesh to be ripped. I really thought if she got bit by a snake, her obssession would be over. Except, that female boa bit my little girl. She stood there calm and collected and spoke soothingly to the snake until it let go. The breeder said he had never seen anything like her and that snake. He took 25% off the price of a snake and she brought home the brother that did not bite her.

In the summer, this girl goes frog catching with one of her brothers. She rides her bike. She makes straight As and she has now decided she wants to be an exotic animal vet instead of a Herptalogist. I'm not sure why the change, but I am certain this child can accomplish anything she sets her mind to.

In her true tom-boy fashion, R will not permit her hair to be any longer than her chin length. She dyes it red with henna whenever I dye my hair. I don't know why she wants it red instead of brown, but I figure it's only hair and henna is natural dye. She only wears pants. She won't wear pink at all. She has the biggest brown eyes you ever saw. She also has a melt your heart pout when she is unhappy. On the rare occasion that R crosses a line and gets disciplined in ANY fashion, it is usually all of the adults who are left crying because her heartbreak rips your heart out. It only happens once or twice a year, honestly. Off the top of my head, I recall that I took her American girl dolls into time out last fall for verbally attacking people several times after Micah died. That's truly how rarely this child faces discipline. Usually verbal corrections alone are sufficient to reach this little one, and very gentle ones at that.

R was the first "baby" of this family. I was done having babies after her, and two brothers entered the family above her before another baby surprised us. She was well over four when L came into this world. Even now, the little two are the only ones younger than her, despite her fully into her pre-teen years now. She has a slew of older brothers and she is cute and cuddly and rarely upset, so they are super protective of this girl. She was also one of my last to remain in homeschooling. I put her into public school last spring when Micah was dying. I did it for the exact same reason that I put L into public school. R is so sensitive, so attuned to the emotions of others. I desperately needed her to be loved on and protected and given an avenue where she was special and treasured and NOT in the shadow of her artificial twin's death. She was only five months younger than Micah. She felt a keen responsibility and tie to her brother. I knew shw as smart as anything and would thrive no matter where she went to school. I also knew she was such a treasured child that teachers would swoon over her, and she would have those needs to have something precious and seperate from the grief that overwhelmed this family by putting her into school. I was not wrong in that assessment. Her third grade teacher sent me a note to thank me for the precious gift of letting her teach this child. Her fourth grade teacher this year has expressed the identical sentiment. The school struggles to challenge her, and has in fact put her in the highest academic classes and at least one independent study class because she is so smart. However, she is cherished there, and she adores being there. She has certainly felt less lost in the chaos since putting her in school.

A decade after this little one was placed in my arms, she is still balm for a mother's soul. She is still as incredible and amazing as the first day I laid eyes on her. Her name, of all of my children's names, is the one I had reserved for a daughter by the time I was thirteen. I often have trouble realizing that after a lifetime of waiting to be the mother of R, I AM the mother of R and she is living and breathing and not the dream I held onto as a teen in a home with an abusive mother and a hope to be better as a mother myself some day. She is my mini-me.