Wednesday, November 5, 2008

!Si Se Puede!


How awesome is it that Barack Hussein Obama has been elected the 44th president of the United States? I can honestly say that I never believed that in my lifetime a Black person (Latino, Asian, Native American) would become president. My children have become Obama supporters over the past few months as they have read several biographies about him (the older ones) and understood their mothers' progressive political views. They all happily wore their Obama shirts two days ago as we sent emails and photos to friends and grandparents as reminders to vote. We let all of them (ages 1-9) stay up to hear the election results and we all cheered as victory was announced. This morning they asked if it was still true, which of course, is a question I was still asking myself. Somebody please pinch me if I am still dreaming.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Connecticut Ruling!

I guess I don't follow the news as closely as I should. I was completely surprised when I caught the blip on the news today that CT has ruled denying same sex couples the right to marry was unconstitutional. I am so proud of CT! It feels like one step closer to having our children grow up in a world where their family is acknowledged, recognized and perhaps, respected.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Pollito starts school today.



My baby starts prekindergarten today! He also turned 4 today! I just put him in the car and C. is driving him and Tortuga, to school while I stay home with the girls. I surprised myself as tears came to my eyes while I watched them drive off. I cannot help but think back to a year and a half ago when my baby came home. He was 2 1/2 years old, big head, large untamed curls, and only a few discernable words.
My chatterbox declared that he was ready to go to school as I woke him up with a hug and a whispered "Happy Birthday!" He helped me pick out his shirt for school today and declared once he was all dressed and ready to go downstairs for breakfast that he had changed his mind and didn't want to go to school. "I'll wait til next time." he announced. I suggested he might be a little scared, as we have all been on this day and reminded him how hard he has worked to be ready to go to school. He is eager to learn his letters, numbers, shapes and "do homework." He is definitely ready. Am I?
Don't misunderstand. I AM ready to send him off to school but I am NOT ready for the challenges it will bring. I fear he will have a recurrence of issues as he moves to school. The behavior challenges have started to emerge and it is easier to identify and address them while he is here at home. What if he hurts another child? Forgets his potty training? Begins stealing and lying and sneaking the way his siblings have? I know I will deal with them and certainly don't want to jinx them but it is a familiar pattern and part of the baggage my children seem to bring with them from their foster care experiences. I know we will manage whatever arises. For now I will enjoy the beginning of a new era and the wonderful experiences he will have!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

First Steps

Milagro took her first independent steps today. We arrived at our new home after a 3 day journey, went to my sister's house and as we all watched her stand and dance in place she ventured foward and took 5 steps all on her own. She was so proud of herself! What a way to celebrate her 11 month birthday and her new digs. She has been dancing up a storm and stands in place to do it. She has been "walking" with Corazon holding one or both hands over the past 2 weeks but today it was real steps all by herself. We don't have much time. The great thing is that C. had predicted it would happen next week after she went back to work and C. was wrong. I was so happy she didn't miss it!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Gay Marriage in California

How incredible to be living in this day and age--history being made. First Massachusetts and now California have legalized same-sex marriages and California seems to pave the way for a national movement! Let's hope.
My children will grow up believing that people get married to whomever they love without realizing just how new this idea of women marrying women and men marrying men really is. Hopefully by the time they reach adulthood all states will allow gay marriage but the fact that their moms were married (in MA) when they were children will always link them to this history in the making.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Sinking in...

"We pack all our stuff. We get in the car. We move to a big house. Mom said we put all our stuff in a very, very, very, very, very, very, big f_uck."
--Pollito telling his grandpa about the upcoming move.

His speech and language have grown by leaps and bounds in the last 6 months or so but then there are these priceless gems. Despite our attempts to teach him the "tr" sound, "truck" still sounds like "fuck." Nonetheless we are hearing the excitement and anticipation in his voice as he works to understand the upcoming move. We also sense his anxiety and trepidation as he also asks whether we will stay here instead or whether we will come back after we move. I realized I didn't finish discussing how they all responded to the new yesterday. Tortuga asked a few questions but then burst into tears at the thought that we were not taking one of the five cats because our housemate downstairs is keeping her for company. She (the cat) is the alpha cat and causes much confusion for the boy cats around the litter box (our alpha male died 3 years ago) so one positive outcome might be the demise of those challenges. Tortuga and Corazon also realized our housemate is staying here and that led to fresh tears. Milagro has developed a healthy attachment to all her older siblings and while she cannot understand what is happening she registered Corazon's tears with distress of her own. She reached over to console her and hug her (including patting her on the back) and when that didn't stop Corazon's tears she burst into loud wails of her own!

All in all the news went over really well although we anticipate many ups and downs in the month to come!

Friday, June 20, 2008

We didn't know whether to laugh or cry.

C. came home ready to relocate. One of those days at work when it seems everyone has too much time on their hands and not enough work to do so they actually have time to create "issues." I don't miss that about my work. I have simply been too busy with the planning of our cross-country move to worry about that which I cannot control, explain, understand, or do anything about. That brings me to breaking the news to the children. Our older ones don't do well with too much information ahead of time. We usually give almost no prep time or information about upcoming plans (whether shopping or 8 hour drive to visit family) because they find a way to mess things about especially if it is something they look forward to. We knew we would have to tell them with some notice about the move to the Southwest but we hadn't completely decided when. The opportunity came up tonight and we went for it. We lined up the kids (weird but best way to convey seriousness of the talk and keep them from "bumping" into each other) and announced a family meeting. As anticipated, the announcement was a major hit. They LOVED the idea of the move, being near cousins and aunts/uncles/grandma, new schools, bigger house, etc. When I let them make comments or questions, Tortuga asked about whether he would attend a new school (I repeated that we had mentioned that as a major reason for the move) and then suddenly Corazon burst into tears! She dove into my lap for comfort and through her tears wailed the name of her best (and only) friend. C. and I looked at each other, smiled, and marvelled at this massive milestone. She has NEVER expressed such feeling about anyone (except perhap me in recent months) nor has she seemed to care if people come or go out of her life. Even with this friend, who she sees at dance class and an occasional overnight, there doesn't seem to be thought of her in her absence. So we were stunned and thrilled that our daughter is possibly showing real and genuine attachments to people and even genuine sadness. In the 3+ years we have had her we can count the times we have seen this emotion from her on one hand! We didn't know whether to laugh or cry!

Friday, June 13, 2008

We have a house!


C. has been away since yesterday and we miss her terribly. Today she signed the papers on the new house so it is official. I guess we are moving after all! She also discovered that there are children who are the same age as Tortuga and Corazon right on the block so hopefully we won't encounter attitudes that will make their transition to the neighborhood more difficult. We have gotten comfortable in MA with the abundance of different kinds of families. The children don't censor their comments about having two moms. We will need to prepare them for (and help them make the adjustment to) the different viewpoints, assumptions, and attitudes they will encounter. C. shared the fact that at the closing the mortgage broker couldn't get past C's wedding ring and the fact that she had given birth to a baby last summer. She kept asking if C. had a husband and despite assurance that she didn't, the woman just couldn't seem to figure out or consider what the alternative might be. Since she didn't ask, C. didn't tell.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Milestones

From one day to the next Milagro seems to grow in such measurable ways. This mother's day she surprised us with her first word. No, not Mama as one might hope for on this day but "Bye-Bye" complete with a wave that resembles a local dignitary aboard a parade float! The treat was that my 80 year old uncle taught her to do this in a matter of minutes. She'd been working the wave but not with the words. What will come next?

Monday, April 28, 2008

Meeting grandma for the first time

The kids love visiting C's family in Pennsylvania and New Jersey and the once a year trek to the Southwest to visit my family. While we travel to PA/NJ 6 or 7 times each year, we only get to the Southwest once a year especially now that we have so many kids. This year we decided to go in April rather than July because we needed to begin our search for a house. The children don't know yet but we are planning to move in mid-summer. They love visiting with my sister and her family and we were excited to introduce Milagro to my mom and the rest of the family. Our flight was relatively uneventful and the kids traveled extremely well. They usually do and we feel blessed that whenever there are screaming or obnoxious kids on a flight or in a restaurant they are NEVER ours. Despite their troubles they have learned how to behave appropriately in public settings and it is a rare occurence when one of them does live up to these standards. The flight crew was quite impressed with the kids and kept commenting on how well behaved and polite they were. It made us proud. Let's hope it continues.

We went straight to the hotel to check in and dropped off one kid at my sister's for the night but since it was the middle of the night we stayed for only a few minutes. The following day my mom arrived and was warmly greeted by the three older kids. Milagro has been in the throws of separation anxiety so I was quite concerned that she would reject my sister and mother's attentions. I should have known the power of grandma. While she has refused to go into anyone's arms for the past 2 months and cried the moment she thinks C or I are leaving her, she totally suprised us with her response to my mom. My mom said "where is my baby?" and stretched her arms out to Milagro. Milagro took one look at her, then at us, went to my mom, nestled her head and body into grandma's arms and neck and they hung in there for what seemed an eternity. It was as if they had known each other forever! True love at first sight!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Where does the time go?


Milagro is six months old today! She is such a blessing. Her personality continues to emerge and thank goodness she is still an easygoing baby. As long as she is in her sling she goes along with whatever is happening. I can take her to work with me, shopping, errands, or even around the house. Her "happy place" is with her moms. She only fusses when hungry or very tired. Otherwise she patiently observes the world while we go about our days.

She has continued to try and stand up although she shows no interest in crawling. She loves blowing raspberries and "zerpels" on my chest, arm, and neck. It cracks her up and she laughs a raspy and hearty belly laugh. She has also figured out her siblings pretty well. Depending on whose attention she wants she knows exactly how to get it. If Pollito is her desire she puts out her hands and smiles or scrunches up her face to get his attention. He comes right to her. When she wants Corazon, she throws her toys to the floor and makes some cooing sounds to get her to come to her. Even with Tortuga, who shows minimal interest in her most of the time, she has found the one way to engage with him. She screams AT him. It sounds like she is chastising him for some infraction or yelling a him for the hundreth time and he responds. He laughs with her and yells right back and they go at it. Laughing and yelling as though they were a couple of infants carrying on a conversation. It is quite clever if I do say so myself.

We celebrated Milagro's half birthday with half a cake which she managed to get her fingers into. The rest of the kids enjoyed the fact that we seem to be celebrating all year already given the three anniversaries we have just acknowledged. They genuinely seem to be doing well(today).

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A year ago today...


Tortuga arrived one year ago today. I cannot remember our household without him although I am certain it was much quieter. He is our oldest (although our 3rd in order of arrival) and yet, in many ways, our youngest. He loves dinosaurs, books, magazines (Ranger Rick and Highlights), Power Rangers, Transformers and drawing with a pen. He eats anything and everything (and lots of it!), plays basketball and ice skates, loves doing household chores and has better manners than most kids his age (most of the time.) His favorite activity is to spend time with me. He loves the outdoors, family time with stories and game playing, and offers to help anytime he sees me working. A lovely boy who makes my heart jump everytime I see him. He also has daily tantrums, regular agression towards his 3 and 7 year old siblings and the lowest self esteem of any child I have ever met. He has a beautiful smile and a shy side that makes him endearing. His love of learning (about anything) and his engagement when studying something new for the first time have erased much of the memory of the child I met over a year ago.

When I met him for the first time in December 2006 he had just been moved to living in a residential setting for troubled children after having been sent there from his foster home of over a year. He was practically catatonic as he sat in from of the television watching tv with a handful of other boys. While a well-reputed facility for children, the place gave me the creeps. The staff and children sat around the tv room doing very little interacting except to check behavior or welcome visitors. I only wanted to watch him although the staff worked hard to have him interact with me. When he did it was to stare at me or run away. In the weeks that followed I visited him almost everyday bringing books, gum, drawing supplies, and taking him out for outings to meet Corazon and just trying to get a sense of him. He was on meds that were supposed to "stabilize" him and at times he was more of a seemingly "normal" kid than other times. His speech was a challenge to understand and at 7 1/2 years of age he looked "BIG" for his age but acted "YOUNG" for his age. I never doubted that I would bring him home. I only doubted that he would want to be there. On February 12, 2007 he came home and after several weeks of best behavior, laughs, nightmares, tantrums, middle of the night fits, insomnia, wolfing down his food as if he was starving, losing his temper, learning to hug, harassing Corazon and Pollito, taking meds, loving school for the first time, and learning the household expectations WE settled in for the long haul. And a long haul it has been!

I can honestly say that Tortuga is the last child I think about before I go to bed at night and the first one I think about as I wake up. He has made SO much progress in every area since he arrived. From meds four times/day to none, best behavior to make sure we would keep him to "I hate you" and "You are the meanest mom/family in the world" and barely decoding some letter sounds to reading at a second grade level, it has been a whirlwind.

Tortuga is a very hurt child and a seriously neglected child. He behaves most like a three year old on a developmental level yet has learned all the habits, behaviors and attitudes of a nine year old. This challenges us to serve him best while teaching him how to be who he is but remembering that he responds and processes much in the way his three year old brother, Pollito, does. He is jealous of everyone and everything and has to state he is "better" than everyone and everything at least a dozen times a day. We take things one step at a time with him and struggle to give the other 3 children the attention they need because Tortuga requires more time than the other 3 put together. I have begun treating him as if he is 3 in my expectations, explanations, and evaluations of his behavior and that is helping me stay sane and I hope helping him go through a more "normal" developmental process than he had the first time around. Each day brings new insights into his behavior, new challenges, new hopes and new joys. He is a different child than he was when we first met him and the progress he has made is astounding. That gives me the hope that one day he will be able to fully come into his own and grow into a happy, healthy adult.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Corazon...


Corazon is the child of my heart. Three years ago today my life changed forever. She came to live with us after a whirlwind courtship. We met on January 25, 2005 and less than 2 weeks later she moved in. She was a 4 1/2 year old spitfire. Beautiful, charming, strong-willed, manipulative, engaging, intelligent, scared, dramatic, powerful, are all words I used to describe her then and would still use today. Of course, today she is also my daughter. She came with a history of disruptions between foster homes, birth mom, paternal aunt and other unknown caregivers. She started off in the world as a 3 lb preemie and is now a 46 lb powerhouse.

She called me "Mommy" from day one and she melted my heart with her smile. She is intellectually ahead of her peers and socially far behind her peers. She had developed a whole slew of coping mechanisms for dealing with her unpredictable life and the hurts experienced in such a short life. She became what I wanted her to become and she fought every choice, expectation, request and demand as if her life depended on it. Several months after her arrival I discovered that she was suffering from Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) and my life became a battle for her life. She appears like a normal loving child to every friend/stranger we meet and at home she plotted her escape and my demise. She lied, stole, hurt and fought for the "fun" of it countless times a day. She built a wall around herself and worked hard to make us hate her. She charmed the pants off strangers, asked them all to take her home, created a reputation for me as a "controlling" parent and her energy and attitude made her a menace to every living creature smaller than her.

My fear for her survival led me to read everything I could find on RAD, change therapists several times and ultimately turn her into my sticktight. She has grown into a caring thoughtful child who I believe has and is learning to trust and love her family. She keeps me on my toes but I think we have made a number of breakthroughs that give me hope for her future. She is a beautiful spirit who enjoys dancing, gymnastics, ice skating, writing about her adventures, being with family, helping with chores and cooking meals with me in the kitchen. She loves being a big sister to Pollito and Milagro and even Tortuga, who is older chronologically, but is younger in most other ways. She still craves incredible amounts of attention and will do ANYTHING to get it which makes her a challenge and danger in many instances. She is sweet and thoughtful and has adjusted tremendously to the three sibling additions that 2007 brought.

She loves science(planets, bugs, animals, earth, rocks and sticks) and history and is currently obsessed with famous people including Amelia Earhart, Bessie Coleman, Harriet Quinby, Eleanor Roosevelt, Helen Keller, Rosa Parks, Helen Keller, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Harriet Tubman. She has become more sensitive to the needs of others although she still needs to be watched constantly. She feels safest when we make the decisions for her and choice often signals uncertainty and stress rather than independence and freedom for her. I fear I have neglected her in the time since her brothers/sister arrived and I give her as much one-on-one time as I can. That concern prompted my decision to homeschool her and she seems to be thriving in that arrangement.

I cannot imagine my life without her and in fact, barely remember my life before her. Happy Anniversary my little one....

Friday, January 25, 2008

Given the happenings of 2007 I feel a desire to pause and record how great our fortune has been. 2007 was certainly full of ups and downs but the ups outweigh the downs. We grew to a family of 6 (from 3) with the addition of Pollito in January, Tortuga in February, and Milagro in August. We celebrated arrivals of our boys and the birth of our daughter. Corazon's 3 year anniversary of joining our family and C's acceptance to doctoral programs are also highlights.
Our marriage in June (in the one state that has legalized same-sex marriage) was certainly something we couldn't have predicted a few years ago. I relished my one semester leave to write and care for the newest member of our brood. The year culminated in December with the formal adoptions of Pollito and Tortuga and the publication of my first chapter in a book. How can 2008 top that?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Making bird houses and ornaments


I just came across these pictures I took at the end of December/early January and wanted to reflect on their significance to the kids. C. and I have been working on having the children learn the value of making thoughtful choices about presents. They don't have much of a sense of money or the cost of things and even less sense of what is important to other people. So C. decided to help them make personalized gifts for their (great)aunts and grandma. They decided on themed birdhouses and birdhouse ornaments for each one of their aunts and grandma. It was a great idea and the kids really got into it(as did the adults) so it truly became a family affair that took a bit past Christmas (until New Year's Day) to complete. But the end result was well worth it, I think. They shared fun, frustration, quality time with moms and ultimately a sense of accomplishment! For our kids, especially Tortuga and Corazon, this is what it needs to be about. They both suffer from such low self concepts that every chance to celebrate success is critical to undoing the years of negative socialization they have been through.

Monday, January 14, 2008

One year already!


Pollito joined our family a year ago today. He was a 2 1/2 year old with a big smile, big head and big heart. We had been told he had severe to moderate speech delays, was receiving speech and OT services through his day care and was not yet free for adoption. He still preferred to take most of his meals from a bottle and had a few 2 word utterances. Half of the time he seemed like he didn't know what was being said to him. He loved balloons, bubble baths, and bananas and he captured our hearts. Today he is a talkative, engaged little boy who repeats everything he hears, speaks in full sentences and can easily (although not always clearly yet) retell the happenings of his day. He understands almost everything he hears. He still struggles with vocabulary, pronounciation and enunciation and is probably speaking more like a 2 1/2 - 3 year old, than a 31/2 year old but what amazing progress! He is a ham who loves to lip sync to every kind of music and who dances even when he is trying not to. Potty training actually seems like it might become a reality. He loves dinosaurs, trains, purses, and accessories and makes us smile and laugh every single day. What a joyous blessing! Tonight we will celebrate his 1st anniversary with a cake and a couple of presents but it has been a year-long celebration.

FEEDJIT Live Traffic Feed