Thursday, July 29, 2010

Here and there

This has been a weird week. My husband has a big event and has to work late a lot this week and next. And although Olivia and I don't have much of anything on the calendar, we've been running around a lot.

My panic gene has kicked in and reminded me that we have two weeks left of summer vacation. In that amount of time, I need to get all three vehicles serviced, prepare the spare room for nap occupants again (as it is nothing but a storage space for junk at the moment) and try to get Olivia back on some sort of schedule. As if.

In the meantime, there are some other things eating up my brain power...most of them dealing with Olivia's birthmother. She is going through some stuff right now that I can't even begin to imagine going through and...well, I guess I worry about her. So I've been praying for her a lot.

Hope your Thursday is less scattered than mine...

Monday, July 26, 2010

What a week!

I've been absent, and it's because we've been busy. Very busy. Since I last wrote, we visited Olivia's birthmother (and had her hair done, again...this time with beads).

We spent a whole day at Local Theme Park with Olivia's church friend (who must remain anonymous, so all you get are her curls).

I hosted our class reunion. Here's Olivia holding the door open for me as I hauled food in and out in the 95 degree heat with a thousand percent humidity. Yep.

Oh, and did I mention? Our driveway has been broken for awhile...

and the concrete guy picked this week to fix it. They came and poured on Friday. It looks fabulous. But it meant (and means) that we have to stay off the driveway until Wednesday.
For the duration, we've been parking cars on both of our neighbors' driveways. We are grateful for their hospitality, but since we live on a hill, one neighbor's driveway is uphill and the other is downhill. So I spent all day Friday shopping in the heat, hauling all of my purchases into the house so they wouldn't bake in the car, and then hauling them back out to the car once I got the key to the building for the reunion. Uphill, downhill, repeat. With a nap-deprived two-year-old in tow. And then hauling the leftovers back into the house on Saturday, at the end of a very long day. Uphill, downhill, repeat.

I'm tired. Let's spend this week lounging on the couch enjoying the air conditioning and eating ice cream, shall we?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

A funny thing happened on the way to the campsite

My parents went camping this weekend and invited us to their campsite (5 miles from our house) for a cookout dinner on Friday. Olivia's cousin, Trey, was also invited. Olivia and Trey have so much fun together and were enjoying running in and out of the camper over and over (and over and over). So Mom and I decided to take them for a walk to focus their energies a bit more constructively.

We walked down to the lake where there is a beach and told the kids that they could only put their feet in. We all walked down the boardwalk to the edge of the water, and the kids walked in a bit. Olivia leaned down to look at something (a fish, I think). And, just as I was reminding her about only putting her feet in...Whoosh! Down she goes. Boardwalk in the water...wet...slimy...slippery! Trey bent down to help her, and all of a sudden he had slipped too.

They two of them were quite a sight. They knew that being wet was against our recently-discussed rules. And neither of them could quite figure out how they had managed to get so wet. They stared at us apologetically, and all I could do was laugh!

After that, we let both kids walk in the water (on the sand where they had traction!) for about ten minutes, getting as wet as they wanted. They were quite a sight by the time we returned to the campsite...all wet and gritty and sandy. But they both had a blast!

Check out that nasty shiner from Thursday. Goes perfectly with her soaking-wet tank top, don't you think?

We returned to the campsite for some marshmallow roasting...

And, of course, s'mores.
A perfect camping experience, indeed. Especially perfect since I got to go home and sleep in my own bed.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Because this is where I process things like this...

I spoke with Olivia's birthmom on the phone today, and my heart aches for her. Her court date didn't go well for her, and she no longer has any rights to her kids. I'm only getting one side of the story, but it sounds like the foster parents don't like birthmom much and were really pushing for termination as soon as possible. Birthmom may get to visit, but not for a LONG time according to their agreement (and whether or not that agreement holds up...I just don't know).

I can't blame the foster parents or CPS. Birthmom did some really stupid things, albeit NOT ever in the presence of her kids, but still. She was in that young, stupid phase where you don't really believe anything this awful can ever happen to you. She knows better now. She has made huge strides toward a stable, healthy life and continues to stay clean. But it wasn't enough to turn this situation in her favor.

I can't help but think that, for the kids' sake, it would have been nice to have SOME ongoing contact with their mother...letters or phone calls or SOMETHING. I probably see a different side of birthmom, having never been in an adversarial situation with her. My experience leads me to believe that she's a good person whose whole life (growing up, etc) gave her a predisposition toward bad choices. I see her trying to fix that. I can't imagine what kind of an uphill battle she has faced in her life. I give her the benefit of the doubt. Maybe that's naive, but it's true.

The whole situation makes me think that it would be SO hard to be a foster parent, with the hope of adopting (foster-to-adopt). Could I keep an objective mind, working only for what is in the best interest of the child? Could I separate that from what is good for the birthmother? What would I have done if I were the foster parent of these girls? I just don't know.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Success, then failure

I took Olivia, diaperless, to Local Theme Park today with two goals: make it through a morning of fun with no accidents, and wear her out for a good, long nap.

I watched her like a hawk throughout our playing and caught her striking the "poopy pose" twice. Both times I rushed her to the potty and both times she pooped in the potty. YAY! Much success. Score TWO for Olivia! Although I don't really think you can call her potty trained until she actually initiates the bathroom visit herself. But we're getting there.

We were having so much fun. We did the waterpark, watched a show, did funtown (kiddie section), went to another show. I was going to take her home for nap after show #2 (she's such a huge fan of these shows). Halfway through the show, she tripped while dancing in the aisle, smacked her head on the bench and came up with a whopping knot on the side of her eye.

Trip to first aid scored us a bag of ice, which Olivia held to her head for two minutes and then opened so she could eat the ice out of the bag.

So. Olivia's going to have a big shiner for the last night of VBS...the night where all the parents come and watch the kids sing and dance to the songs they learned all week. Yeah. Score zero for Mommy today.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

More thoughts on VBS

It seems that my frustration over my very badly-behaved child may have caused me to overestimate her height. In a room of preschoolers, she's taller than about a third. Some of these kids are five years old, and some are almost three, so it's a good range of ages. But she SEEMS taller. Maybe it's her aggressiveness.

Olivia did a lot better on Monday and then not so well again on Tuesday. But I noticed something. While all of the kids were pretty well behaved (except Olivia) on Sunday, at least half of them are pushing each other and melting down by the time we reach the final quarter of the evening on Monday and Tuesday. I guess the newness of the activity kept them all interested on Sunday, but now they've reverted back to their normal, which is that they are all little kids who get overtired and overstimulated and cranky by 7:00 p.m.

Thankfully, a very talented preschool teacher joined our adult leader group on Monday, and she has been AMAZING with the kids. It has helped A LOT.

I'm feeling a little better about Olivia's ability to fit into a crowd. However, it seems that we need to keep the activity going...any lull leads to misbehavior, defiance, and general frustration. So, how to deal with this...?

We were instructed to bring the kids in bathing suits and towels tonight. I'm hoping that a chance to get wet keeps all of the kids interested and engaged for longer tonight. Olivia obviously enjoys Bible School overall. She'd just enjoy it more if I ignored her and let her run off to join the older group for kickball or go back to the craft room to squirt some more glue. Ah, rules, structure, schedules...these things are lost on her.

Monday, July 12, 2010

This might kill me

Yesterday evening, Olivia and I attended the first of five vacation Bible school classes. I have made the following observations about this particular program and how my child fits into it.

1. In a room full of three- and four-year-olds, my child (aged 2 years and eight months) is taller than 85%. And heavier. And stronger. And has half the attention span.

2. This VBS program was not designed with three- and four-year-olds in mind. It has five different activities: Crafts, Music, Snack, Games and Story Time. Each age group cycles to a different activity every 20 minutes or so. We found out quickly that, for most activities, 20 minutes was WAY TOO MUCH TIME FOR THIS AGE GROUP. We'd spend 8-10 minutes doing the activity. The remainder of the time we'd either be herding twenty impatient children into a very small classroom to color the same picture AGAIN, or we'd be chasing them down as they tried to run around the building or parking lot. I can understand why there are something like 15 adult volunteers to handle JUST THIS ROOM. Still, it's not quite enough.

3. Our group did the activities in the order listed above. Snack was well timed...right in the middle. But everything else was a little wacky. Especially games and story time. The game started with a demonstration of different types of soil (rocky, weedy, etc) since the lesson for the day was the parable of the sower and seed. But since we hadn't yet heard the lesson in story time, the kids didn't get it and spent all the time plunging their hands into buckets of sand and dirt. And then they were put in two lines to "compete" in a relay race wherein they would each run to each of the four buckets and "plant" (drop) some seeds in, run back and tag the next person on their team. This seemed kind of stupid to me because it was strangely disconnected from the story. Why on earth would I bother putting seeds in this weedy bucket if they aren't going to grow? I wouldn't have blamed any one of those kids if they had run straight to the bucket of potting soil, threw all of their seeds in, and then ran back to their team. Except they wouldn't have done that because none of them knew the point of the story yet.

4. Also, have you TRIED to get three- and four-year-olds to stand still in line and wait their turn? And get them to stand still AGAIN after they get back from their turn. Yeah. It doesn't work so well.

5. And whose bright idea was it to give the youngest group the LAST story time? By the time they finished all of those other activities, they were too fried to pay any attention to the story. I felt sorry for the lady reading and trying to get the kids to focus. And I tried not to laugh at the futile effort as I chased my kid around the parking lot (where story time was held) for the entire duration of the story.

6. Evening wouldn't have been my preference for VBS, at least for this age group. We meet from 5:30 - 8:15 p.m. I know it's more convenient for working parents, but trying to get little ones to work as a group this late in the day? Not so easy.


It was apparent to me, too, that Olivia is more...shall we say, high spirited...than ALL OF THE OTHER KIDS. I'm starting to really think that she may need some help learning to focus before we approach the idea of school. Anyone have any recommendations about how we might go about having her evaluated?

Friday, July 9, 2010

Broken and fixed

My husband and I served on a panel for a presentation on vocations today at a youth program (representing the vocation to marriage, of course). We always weave the vocation to adoption into our presentations, as adoption is definitely a calling and not for everyone. Olivia was there to introduce herself by speaking into the microphone..."I'm Olivia!"...and then she ran off to play with one of the youth leaders assigned to keep her busy elsewhere. (She's a bit of a distraction to the whole listening process!)

This is the umpteenth time we've been on this panel, and we rarely get questions. We fit into the "duh" category of vocations since such a large percentage of the population is married and, well, people don't have a lot of questions about that.

Today, though, we got a really good question about adoption. The question was "How did you come to the adoption decision and did you both reach the same conclusion at the same time?"

Interesting thing about being retrospect, all the steps make so much sense and the end point seems to be so logical. In real time, though, the path wasn't always so clear. First there were concerns about the expense. Then there were concerns about age (ours, not the baby's). Then about race. And health. A homestudy process makes you check off what "kind" of baby you would accept. As if you are shopping for a newborn in that section of the department store. "I'd like one in white, please, with good health and a birthmother who is a model patient who has never smoked or taken drugs and eats all her vegetables and never misses her folic acid supplement." And, like all scared and newly prospective adoptive parents, we agonized over what categories to check off.

That is, until we got the call about Olivia's birthmother. Suddenly all those concerns melted away. Because it struck us, in that moment, that we'd asked for what we wanted, and God was answering by giving us what we needed. It didn't matter how much we spent or how old we were or whether the baby would look like us. All that mattered was that she was ours and we were hers, and we'd trust God with the rest. He made this happen...and He knows what He's doing.

So I guess the answer to the question is that we were led to it. Through prayer and research, yes, but God was pulling us along the whole time. And yes, we both reached the decision to submit to the will of God at the same time...when we got that call.

This life is a mystery. The fact that adoption exists at all means that something else is very this case our fertility and birthmom's life situation. But God can take our brokenness and create something beautiful if we open our hearts to Him.

Olivia was/is what we needed...I can't count the number of ways we've grown personally and spiritually through the challenges this child has thrown at us. God constantly uses her to help us grow closer to Him. God can fix what's broken in birthmom's life, too, and I pray every day for that.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

In the land of "what if"

Olivia's birthmother is going to court this week to try to get her (other) kids back...the ones who have been in foster care. She has been doing everything she can think of in the past several months to better herself and her situation so that she could satisfy the state. And yet, recently, just before the court date, her life began to fall apart again.

We tried twice last week to meet up with talk to her, support her, let her spend time with Olivia and have at least that bright spot in her week. Both times our plans fell through on her end. I have been thinking about her a lot, knowing that she is depressed and feels like she has no control over the bad things happening in her life....wondering how I can help her recognize her unique value and encourage her to continue to work toward making better choices and improving her circumstances.

I don't know what is best for those kids. I really don't. But a few days ago I had a thought of "what if" that gave me pause.

What if Olivia hadn't been placed for adoption?

What if she had spent these precious early years in the same environment as her biological half-sisters. This beautiful, happy, secure child who feels everything so deeply and dramatically...what would her life look like in the land of "what if"?

I picture a beautiful, scared little child who wears her emotions on her face and clings to her sisters...all of them just as confused. I imagine this boisterous little girl becoming trapped in a shell of fear, her extrovert-nature never emerging in the midst of the chaos. Or the on the flip side, she becomes vocal and violent, not knowing what to do with the anger and confusion she feels. So young, so trapped. And in this unstable world, unable to soak up information from the world around her, learning (as she does best) from her senses and absorbing things that barely register on others' radar screens. Her learning delayed, her emotional and psychological development stunted and possibly scarred for life.

I wonder how those girls have fared in foster care. Are they happier? More secure? Do they feel stable in their foster home? Or do they miss their Mommy so much that they can't fully settle in?

Please don't misread this as an argument for adoption vs. parenting, because that's not what it is at all. All expecting mothers have the right to decide for themselves whether they are ready to parent a child. If they choose to do so, we (society, individuals, family, friends, neighbors) should do everything we can to support their decision and help them become the best parents they can be. If every single parent was empowered to make good decisions, her children would be much more secure.

I wish so much that circumstances were different...that Olivia's birthmother had made better choices and that those kids could have grown up in her loving, secure home. I wish she could make a good example of her life...for her kids and for mine. I would love her to be a shining example for Olivia of what happens when you take charge of your own life and make good decisions. Whether or not that happens remains to be seen. But we still pray for it.

In the meantime, I will hug my daughter and recognize the gift that she is to us, and we to her. I will rest in the knowledge that at least this child knows love and stability and is thriving in the midst of it.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


Olivia and I went to the waterpark this morning for some wear-the-kid-out-before-nap time. We stopped for a little lunch at one of the park's food stands. As we sat and ate, I noticed an elderly man dressed in a park uniform cleaning tables and sweeping up the area. He shuffled around slowly, as if the heat and the job were taking most of his energy. He looked to be in his 70s, at least...the kind of person who should be enjoying retirement, not bussing tables.

He may have been one of those retirement-age people who get these seasonal jobs to keep busy and have a little extra spending cash. But from his shuffle and from his face, I got the very sad impression that he was there out of necessity.

As I watched this man diligently doing his job in the 90 degree heat, I thought about how fortunate we are. We don't make a lot of money, but we don't have a lot of debt, either. We have some reserves. We are able to save and prioritize and live pretty comfortably.

I will say a prayer today for people like this man. His suffering touches my heart and makes me want to do something more.