Happy Thanksgiving

I don’t think that I have been fully prepared for children that are not accustomed to holiday traditions. My husband and I agreed that this is the first year they have not spent the day on supervised or unsupervised visits, whether at the Children and Youth office or at their natural parents’ home. Our kids really hated Thanksgiving dinner. They were totally unimpressed. I made them hot dogs and macaroni and cheese for lunch today and you would have thought they were eating at a five star restaurant! Every child had seconds. Trying to get them to eat turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, corn casserole, candied yams, cheesy broccoli, rolls, etc was like pulling teeth. So rough!! They forced their small plates of food into their mouths so that they could get dessert, but they were not happy about it!

Hubby left before 5:00 this morning for work. Anne had counseling from 8:00-11:30 so we had some time for the little kids to play (or bicker over the same toy all morning). Now we’re working on some crafts and maybe making some cookies!

Anyway, Happy Thanksgiving to all of you! Hope you had time with family and some good food!

Watching the parade:

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Christmas Traditions When You’re Adopted

This year we are doing something different with our big tree. To honor/include all of our newly adopted kids we are choosing to put ornaments on the tree that we have made together as a family or received together as a family only. It’s already a difficult season for these kids but being included and feeling loved are the most wonderful feelings in the world and might make this year of transition a little bit easier.

The first year that Hubby and I were married and we put our tree, he was super bummed. I receive ornaments each year for my whole life from my Nana. I also accumulated some ornaments along the way from friends, my parents, other relatives, etc. He had maybe one or two to add. He’s not a terribly sensitive man but it made him feel sad. It was like a huge display of YES! these people love my wife. And wow, I have only two ornaments to add. I remembered how he felt this year when considering how our kids will feel this Christmas when we bring out boxes of accumulated Christmas items and they have none.

I haven’t talked a lot about what the kids had in their possession when they came to live with us in July, but suffice it to say that Christmas decorations were not on list. There are no stockings with their names lovingly embroidered. There are no ornaments, picture frames or mangers. They have talked about the items they created for one another at past Christmases but none of those items came along with them.

The holidays are alienating for a lot of people. People who aren’t speaking to loved ones. People who have lost loved ones. People who are long distances from loved ones. And I anticipate that these feelings are going to be pretty major for our three.

Adopting a Sibling Group

AdoptUSKids is a great resource for foster and adoptive families. They did a FAQ about adopting sibling groups:

https://www.adoptuskids.org/_assets/files/NRCRRFAP/resources/ten-myths-and-realities-of-sibling-adoptions.pdf

I think the big thing for us is letting go of the fact that there will be more children. We have to focus on the three that we have and not bring them back into the foster care realm by taking on their newborn brother (not that he’s in foster care yet). I hope in the future when the children are older that they would consider opening our home to short term or respite care. It would need to be a unanimous vote though.

School Days

Besides being adopted and changing rooms, the kids all started at the private Christian school down the road from us. They love it and I love it. Anne is started getting math help after two days. While she was at the public school for 9 weeks she had no help. The educational expectations are closer to what Hubby and I expect. They don’t have to wear uniforms but there is a dress code and I’ve read many studies regarding what the kids wear versus their seriousness in the classroom. I am glad that they have to dress up. School is their job, and everyone has either a uniform or professional dress code for their office. Hubby and I both like the structure and culture at the school. Everyone is so nice, all the time. They also foster a sense of community and push for community service in all of the classes. Anne’s class is going to a local senior facility to sing their chorus songs and they are also collecting new or used stuffed animals for a nonprofit that sends them to children in Africa. I think it helps with a sense of belonging too. The children are excited to see their classmates and go to school. While I realize that this will not always be the case, they have made it two weeks at their school and I can already tell improvements in their reading and math skills and comprehension.

The other plus is that Madeline is at the same school. I don’t have to fight with her any longer to drop off the big kids, wait an hour, then go to her preschool. She is actually in the afternoon preschool class on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. So I drop her off in the morning those days just like I drop off the big kids, she goes to daycare for a few hours in the morning before her class. Then I pick her after her class in time to get the big kids! She loves it and would go every day if I let her. But I still enjoy having her home on Tuesdays and Thursdays, plus she really needs a day in between to relax.

The kids have a short week this week because of Thanksgiving and they are having some major celebrations at school for the Pilgrims who escaped religious persecution and came to America. I guess I never thought about Thanksgiving being a religious holiday but they do it big at the Christian school! When my mom visited last week she loved that they would come home singing kids Christian songs. They are so passionate about it and I like the morals that it helps reinforce.

Sheer Exhaustion

This was my first week on the new job… 20 hours as the office manager for our local CASA program. It’s an awesome group of women working hard for local kids. But man, I am exhausted!

The kids’ behavior this week has rivaled some since the beginning. The whining and crying just did me in. It’s a fight every day. We’re still having toileting issues. We’re having some adjustment to the new room configurations and early rising.

My mother is visiting for the week too and we’ve had a lot to get done so I haven’t had a moment of rest.

We met with the Family Behavioral therapists twice this week (once with just me, once with all the kids). I really can’t imagine my life now without June and her pearls of wisdom. This week we made the goal of working on “calm parental presence.” The next couple of weeks she will schedule activities with the children that promote this goal.

We started with the Adoption Prep class through our agency. The kids are working on lifebooks which is so interesting.

Anne had a quiz or test every day this week and is really struggling. Today she had to owe recess because she was having such a hard time on her history test. Hubby and I are trying to figure out what to do with her since the private school seems overwhelming. She loves it, she loves the kids and the teachers. She gets Spanish once a week which she adores. But if she keeps failing her classes due to lack of focus and organization I just can’t justify the expense. We are hoping that as she gets more comfortable and set into the routine that she will start trying her best.

That was my week! Hopefully I will be set more next week to update on our progress with the therapists and school.

Our Adoption Day

On Friday, November 7th our county hosted it’s annual Adoption Day celebration. There were activities in the morning for all 39 children that were adopted in 2014 (and their families) and they held lunch. The activities were in the courthouse and the lunch was held in the Children and Youth office. Because it was already a sad and anxiety-producing day, we let our kids choose whether they wanted to attend the morning events. They had all of their visits at the Children and Youth office with their biological parents and they attended many hearings at the courthouse. Hubby and I wanted to limit the exposure to those areas since just driving past those locations usually means tough behavior for the rest of the day. Our adoption was scheduled at 2:00 pm so we had plenty of time in the morning to do something else fun. The kids voted unanimously to skip the activities.

Instead, we took them to the place where we held the adoption party the next day, so they could play in the play place and get lunch. Then we headed over to the courthouse with my parents and grandparents, who were the only family members that attended with us.

We met our case manager from our agency at the courthouse along with one of my friends that is a photographer. Our county case worker handed us a stack of paperwork about 12 inches high– disclosure documents that I believe we should have received prior to the adoption. Mental health records, school records, medical records, etc. Their updated child profiles were also in the stack.

When it was our turn for the adoption we went into the courtroom and gathered chairs so that all the kids could sit with us at the table. I got a little teary-eyed but was focused on settling four children so I didn’t start sobbing yet. The county attorney had given us a list of questions that would be asked so that we could be prepared. The judge was not super friendly and the  kids were actually pretty scared of him. He looked at the documents and turned to our county case worker. He said “If I am looking at this correctly then these children have not resided at this home even four months? I believe the minimum the county requests is six months.” I turned to look at our agency case manager, because she had been saying that from the beginning. I panicked thinking that he wasn’t going to grant the adoption and we would have to wait. I kept worrying about how the kids would react if we weren’t granted the adoption. I was sweating and scared! There was no time for crying. Our county case worker mumbled a few things about how good we are with the kids and how we were a family from the start. The judge kind of shook his head and let the county attorney ask his questions. He asked things that were not on the list that he gave us in advance!

The county attorney asked us things like how long we were married, what we do for fun as a family, how we came to know about the children, whether we work. I was still afraid that, despite our answers, the judge was going to throw a fit about our adoption! I didn’t cry the whole time, I was too terrified!

Finally the judge made a comment to my husband about whether he realized that he would be outnumbered two to one in the house. Hubby stated that we have two male dogs as well and everyone laughed. Then it was over! The  kids were adopted. We took a few pictures in the courtroom and with the judge and then left. It was literally a five minute proceeding where my heart pounded the entire time.

Some of the paralegals came over with bags for the three children we adopted. There were toys, books and giftcards inside. While it was a nice gesture, it was hard with one child who was not being adopted and who didn’t get a bag! I wished we had known in advance so that we were prepared for her meltdown.

Afterwards we took some pictures and then whisked the kids off to Toysrus. We gave them each a $20 bill and let them get whatever they wanted!

It really wasn’t as sad as I thought considering that we were scared that the adoption wasn’t going through. The kids were much better the next day once they realized that nothing had changed from day to day. The anxiety was gone and everything returned to “normal.” So it was much sadder going into the day, as I thought. Luckily the kids are all in counseling and we’ve been able to talk about their feelings in a safe way!

Room Situation

Since the kids were officially adopted last Friday, we changed around the room configuration on Saturday while my parents were in town and we had some extra hands. Because of the state regulations, Huck had to sleep alone at our house while he was in foster care because he’s over 5 so he can’t share a room with the opposite sex.

Now Anne and Madeline share a room and Huck and Scarlett are bunked in a room. Anne and Scarlett bicker like most sisters and Scarlett had a habit of waking Anne up WAY too early. So they had to be split. Huck has been waiting and waiting to share a room again. He doesn’t like sleeping alone and isn’t used to it at all. So he was super excited to have a roomie. I think eventually Huck and Madeline will share and the two older girls will share but until Huck can get his behavior under control it’s easiest not to have Madeline in there with him since she’s on a different sleeping schedule than the others.

They all get up at the same time in the morning since they are going to the same school and I will start work next week. It works well to have Madeline in with a big kid because I like for her to get used to sharing a room. She’s been alone for most of her three and a half years so I know it will take some getting used to. It’s most difficult when she’s sick but Anne is a good roommate for her and loves to dote on her. The other night Madeline woke up because she had a cough so Anne got her a drink of water and they cuddled in Anne’s bed for the rest of the night. This is big for someone who was used to being an only child for 99% of her life!

The new room configuration has also helped with the girls’ messiness. The older girls were just having a rough time keeping their room tidy and dirty clothes in the hamper. They fed off of each other’s messiness. It is important to me to have them learn basic cleaning skills and learn tidiness because of their environment at their biological parents’ house. For me it is an important distinction and life skill for them to keep their rooms picked up.

I shared a room with my sister until I was in 5th grade. Then I moved into a teeny tiny guest room that could best be described as a closet. I know that Anne will need her own room and privacy soon but right now with our home layout this is what works best. Because we share rooms for most of our lives, I do think it is good for the kids not to be accustomed to sleeping alone. Especially since we do homework at the dining room table and we have a playroom, there is no need to spread the kids out when all they do is sleep and get dressed in their rooms!