Thursday, October 9, 2014

What is in a name?

I don't know if you guys will remember this post.  Go read it real quick.  It's short.  I promise.

Picking out the name we would add to Eva's name was such a special thing for us.  We planned on calling her Eva Marina forever, until she started calling herself Eva only.  We chose Evaleen because of its meaning: "wished-for" or "longed-for child.".  Her last name used to be Suloyeva, and they were often called by their last names, so "eva" was also part of her former last name.  It all seemed so perfect and special.

We have written her name, talked about her name, and had her write her name many times over the last 2 and 1/2 years.  She came home at 6, and her 9th birthday is right around the corner.  We thought she was totally familiar and understood. I can't tell you how many times I have told her the story of picking out her name.

Earlier this week part of her school was writing her full name. It took forever for her to remember her middle name was Marina, despite the fact that we do still call her Eva Marina on a fairly regular basis.  She never could remember that "Eva" was short for "Evaleen."  It is pretty important to know your own name. So, we set to work again. We have spent 3 days on and off several times a day saying, writing, and talking about her name. We talked about it last night at about 8 pm before bed.  This morning at school we sat down and I asked her full name.

"Eva Marina Hogeland." 

"Right. Do you remember that Eva is short for a longer name?  That special name we told you about? What is 'Eva' short for?"


  "Marina is your middle name, remember?  Your special, long first name, that Eva is short for starts with the sound Ev....."


She doesn't know.  She doesn't remember.  After working on it on and off for years, and working on it a whole lot for 3 straight days, it is simply not in her brain.  That meaning that brought tears to my eyes and joy to my heart, it is meaningless to her. 

Is this a big deal in the grand scheme of things? No. It isn't and I realize that.  But, it is one of those countless tiny things that break you down on this journey. Things we didn't expect. Things we didn't prepare for. 

I have been doing a lot of eye rolling at the me who adopted 2.5 years ago.  The me that thought we would be helping little girls with HIV, grief, trauma, and orphanage delays learn how to be in a family, in society, and someday on  their own. It would be hard, but it would be worth it.  They would be loved and safe, they would eventually (after a lot of really difficult work) feel loved and safe. 2.5 years later and I have had to let go of both dreams completely.  Though the letting go had to be done in very different ways, both dreams are totally dead. 

Darcy has never felt the love we have given to her, and she has stayed stuck in survival mode.  Eva doesn't have the mental capacity to truly understand relationships, and she doesn't give thought to things like safety.  That is actually a blessing, because her trauma doesn't stay with her.  Eva will never live on her own. She will never really understand family or what it is to be an individual or a part of society.  We try our best to teach her life skills and family skills and school knowledge. But, in reality, we are mostly still trying to just teach her to be a person.  That is the reality of FAS and Post Institutionalization.  That is the reality we could not understand before we adopted.

Why am I sharing this?  I don't really know.  I don't want pity.  Though I do want people to understand where Eva is. I was told just last week, "Oh my. She seemed so normal!"  Eva had just finished rolling and rocking on her back on the floor, laughing manically, growling, and flailing her hands in the air.  This alternated with her crawling over and climbing my legs and petting me with a blank look in her eye and a really spaced out smile.  But it wasn't a happy smile.  It was an "I can't handle this.  Get me out of here" smile.  Except that I couldn't get her out of there. Part of being in a family is having to wait for your sister to finish dance class. 

So, this is where Eva is. She doesn't remember her name.  Her full name. The name that we hoped would remind her that she was so wanted.  She had trouble remembering the name she has carried since birth.

It doesn't make Eva less great.  It doesn't make Eva unworthy. It simply is what it is.  But I can tell you that 2.5 years later, it is still hard to let go of the dreams we had for her, even though we know they were never real to start with.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Can I Get a Pass?

I am writing this tonight to ask for a 5 year pass.  I am fairly certain that in 5 years I will be able to function on a somewhat normal level again, but until then I would like to ask you to just give me a pass on being a normal human being. Stick with me and I will explain.

We have a lot of kids.  We have adopted 2 kids with a lot of special needs and issues from really hard backgrounds.  We have 1 kiddo with significant brain damage from FAS, and the longer she is home and the older she gets the more we see how profound that damage is.  This is something we have come to terms with and are dealing with well, but it does make some daily things a bit more difficult.  You can read up on FAS here if you would like to know what is hard about FAS.

We also have 1 child who turned our world inside out and upside down due to her trauma and attachment issues.  Her trauma has traumatized me..kind of a bunch.  Our family is now in the position of facing decisions that are harder than anything I have ever imagined. That is a blog post for another time, but just know that this has been the most emotionally, mentally and physically exhausting 2 years of my life.  If you know my life story you know that is saying something.

We also have a bunch of other little people, and motherhood, though the best thing that ever happened to me, is always hard. Lots of people to feed, clothe, bathe, educate, entertain, turn into decent adults who won't be assholes, and whatnot.  I have a house that I have to try to keep clean despite these little humans (and sometimes one big, hairy human) who do their best to keep it a raging mess. I have to cook.  Every day. Multiple times a day. No one is giving me a pass on this one, damn it.  This also results in dishes. Lots and lots of dishes.

I also have to dedicate a good chunk of my time to making some moula to pay for food and keep the lights on. So I am always doing some hair, selling some NYR Organic, or encapsulating a placenta. 

My kids are in a lot of activities. Dance, drama, swimming lessons, art camp, and all manner of mentally stimulating activities that I hope will give them awesome life long childhood memories. Just today we had art camp from 8:30-12, one play performance at 1, and another play performance at 7:00.

Oh, yeah, and my baby never sleeps. ever.

Here is where my need for a pass comes in.

I was sitting on the couch, taking a breath and preparing for the second play performance today, when my phone rings.  It was my daughter's best friend's mom (who also happens to be one of my very, very, very best friends).  Her daughter's birthday party was right at that moment. We were not there.  And not only were we not there, but when I jumped up, shoved them all in the car, drove for 20 minutes in 93 degree weather with no A/C in the van, we went to the wrong location.

You see, my friend had mentioned about a week or so ago that there was this bday party. The party was originally going to be at the pool.  It got moved.  She told me, at some point, apparently, about this change and the time and the plan and such. I am guessing I was there when she told me, but my brain did not see fit to record this event. This resulted in my daughter losing it. Sobbing and snotting and heartbroken for missing her best friend's party.  I broke down and cried with her. I felt like a complete and total failure.

Granted, this week has been more stressful than usual. But, really, my life is always moving at 250 mph, on crack, in a hurricane.

I do stuff like this more often than I would like to admit. I make myself crazy with how much I double book, forget events, run behind, or have to cancel because of a kid that just needs me right that very second.

You see, my brain knows to give HIV meds at 7:00 on the nose twice a day.  My brain knows bills that need to be paid, appointments that I need to keep in order to help put food on the table, activities that the kids have that they love and I hope will provide a lifetime of good memories. My brain remembers doctor and therapy appointments. My brain knows what foods this kid loves and that kid hates so that I don't waste money on something that will sit on the table. My brain knows everything you could ever want to know about FAS, RAD, trauma, and post institutionalization. My brain knows what I need to do to have all of us survive in 24 hour chunks at a time.

The kids in my house are happy, loved, and thriving.  They don't often feel the chaos. My brain spends a lot of time on how to make sure the kids are buffered from some of the frantic pandemonium that is parenting a lot of kids, with a lot going on, on a working class budget.

But me?  I admit, I am often overwhelmed and grasping for a life jacket.

And the result is that I forget playdates.  I forget to return emails, I don't answer calls, I think about that friend who is having that issue, and I say a little prayer, making a mental note to let them know I love them, and then my brain promptly forgets to send the email because it isn't pertinent to this 24 hours survival. I need reminders of events and needs. Like, direct emails or text messages reminding me about stuff people want me to do. Maybe a couple reminders. Or half a dozen wouldn't hurt.

And I hate this more than words could express.

I don't want to be that friend or that person.  When I had 3 kids, I was that annoying person who showed up early for everything. I think doing hair by appointments for so long, I got anal retentive about being on time, and together, and organized.  Then we added 4 kids in 3 years on top of those first 3, and my brain rejected organization as if it was blood from an incompatible donor. 

I think about my friends 1000 times a day. I want to be there for them and with them. I want to be dependable. But, right now I feel like so many little people that only have me to depend on just take up all that I have to give right now. They are consuming my brain space.

And I am OK giving my all to my kids. I just feel such guilt for missing things like my daughter's best friend's birthday, my friend's moving party, or a long time friend's wedding. I miss friends that I used to see weekly that I haven't seen in months. I miss not feeling like I am a ping pong ball simply reacting to what life is throwing at me.

But, I am also at a point where I just accept that this is life right now. And it probably will be until the youngest kiddo is 5.  When she is potty trained, sleeping, capable of putting on her own clothes, slapping some peanut butter on some bread, and turning on the TV, I really think I will be able to take a breath. But in the mean time I don't want to miss out on anything. I want to soak up every second of my kids being little.

I am sacrificing being the friend I want to be so that I can be the mother I want to be. And I hope that those that love me will understand, and still be here ready to share a beer and a belly laugh in about 4.5 years time.  I promise I will make it worth your while with lots of potty humor and hugs.

So if it is OK with you, I will mark my calender for summer of 2019.  I promise that I will put everything aside and just be here for all those people that I have neglected for the past 1/2 decade.  I'll bring the beer and the hugs in exchange for the 5 year pass you gave me when I so desperately needed it. I also promise that you will find me eternally grateful and "pee yourself hilarious". See you in 5!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

ch ch ch ch changes!!

Things have been quite busy here.  I know I just posted about homeschooling in a small house, but I have to tell you, we have moved!!  We have doubled our house size and TRIPLED OUR BATHROOMS!!!  We were suddenly just super cramped. And having one bathroom was starting to drive us all crazy. Some stuff just all fell into place and here we are.  2500 sq ft, 1 acre of land, a garage, 3 bathrooms, a classroom, a library, a den/play room, and a Japanese Maple!!We are sort of in Heaven over here.

I will try to get pics up. We are up to our ears in boxes. With a baby that really loves to be held more than worn, I can not get much done.  But the kid's rooms are mostly settled.  The den is pretty much there, the classroom is functional, and the kitchen is mostly working.  I imagine this will be a slow process, but it is a fun one!!

Monday, March 24, 2014



That is my theme for the year. It is barely the end of the third month and my knuckles are white and exhausted from holding on. 

Who knew a person could learn so much about a word in 3 months. What "trust" meant to me on January 1 is so very different from what it means to me now. So little time, so much change.

I have had several HUGE life events going on at once. With each one, my gut has been screaming loudly at me about what choices I should make. But, I didn't want to listen. I wanted to try to ignore my gut, my heart, and control the situations with my head. There were choices that were easier in a lot of ways. There were choices that seemed "nicer."  I could help someone else, possibly help us at the same time (if all worked out, even though it didn't seem like things would work out at all), and I wouldn't have to step out of my comfort zone. I really like when I don't have to step out of my comfort zone.

I kept thinking, and had other people remind me, that "trust" was my theme for 2014. I kept hoping that meant that I could passively let it all happen to me. to us. to my life. And we would all win.

My gut kept telling me I was being a fool, and as gastrointestinal issues tend to do, my gut won out.

In one issue, the most important issue, I finally had to face that what was romantic and beautiful on paper, would equal disaster to the person most impacted by this decision, and everyone else involved. No matter how much I wanted one thing, that very thing would be the worst case scenario.  And so many people would lose.  But, the reality is that people have already lost. The person that has suffered the most loss, is the person I am most responsible for. And no matter how much we all wanted this to work, it wouldn't. Not because anyone was unworthy or didn't want it to work. Not because I didn't want it to work. It just couldn't. And giving that bleak situation the most hope involves really difficult, awful decisions that make so many people unhappy. But,  happiness isn't my business.  I can't make this romantic or beautiful. I just have to offer the most hope to the one I am responsible for.

In another issue, I wanted to help a friend. I would benefit too, but she would benefit most. She would get out of a less than ideal situation and have something she very much wanted.  I turned away a stable choice to choose her.  Then, when down to the wire, she could not come through on her end. Not because she didn't want to, or because she is somehow less than.  Simply because circumstances came together all wrong. And we were left scrambling.  The realization that I had chosen trying to offer this person her best shot at the expense of my family's stability was an unpleasant moment. As a friend said,"I didn't have to sacrifice nice to choose wisely", but somehow, that is what I have been doing for far too long.

Does anyone remember the van I sold to a "friend" who never paid me and never looked back?

I kept trying to trust in others to do the right thing, or to make things work out for all of us. But, what I missed, is that the answer was inside me all along. Literally, physically shaking me.


Finally, I see, this isn't a passive act.  I have been blessed with a gift, the most amazing gift.  My intuition has shouted at me, roared at me, and I have ignored. I have hoped for the best, for the easy, for the safe. I have doubted my own ability to deliver the bad news, the hard news, the RIGHT news.

Trust is not a passive act. It is a balls to the wall, full throttle, contact sport.

I have been gifted intuition. I have been gifted the ability to call out to God/Goddess/Universe/Inner Self, and then sit in stillness, and listen....feel....notice...RESPOND.

And then, I have to trust in that message that comes through and my ability to transfer it. Who am I to decide that the message isn't desirable.  Perhaps the news I perceive as "bad" is the best thing that ever happened to the person receiving it. Perhaps it is the kick in the pants they need, or what saves their family (or our family) from going under, or what would have prevented them from the best opportunity of their lives.

I don't know. And it isn't my job to know. My job is to offer up honest questions and earnest pleas for direction. and then to listen. And to trust that my gut and my heart are receiving a message that is true. and above all, that I have the strength to follow through on what I then know to be right, no matter how hard it seems.

Trust isn't about sitting back and waiting for everyone to be happy. Trust might not make anyone happy at all, and it is surely not going to be easy. But, it is about doing what is right.

That is what I have learned in the first 3 months of my year of "trust." I have to admit I am terrified of the next 9 months and wondering what I will learn by December. But I am trusting that at the end, even if my knuckles are cracked and bleeding, that I will have finally learned to let go, to breathe, that whatever is meant to be will simply be. And that I will have listened. That it will have been right. And that I can truly, finally TRUST.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Beautiful Disarray

Yesterday my house was clean.  Right now it looks like this:

books, castle, costume, homemade comic, and a cute baby

jungle, space station, drums, books, art boxes, and more books...and more stuff...

As I started to clean, I began to feel frustrated about how never ending it all seems.  Every day I say the words, "Pick that up off the floor",  "Why is that on the floor", "Instead of stepping on it or over it, could you pick it up?", "Don't you care about your stuff," and "Someone is going to kill themselves tripping over the stuff you left on the floor." It can be maddening to repeat yourself 200 times a day (per kid-and it is exponential, so I'm at like a billion times a day).  It can be maddening to feel like you are surrounded in clutter. BUT...

Today I will simply love that Connor was making a comic book, that Seamus was playing so nicely with Darcy, that Rowan and Aine were sharing the castle, that Eva used her imagination and made a sticker book.  That I keep having to stop what I am doing because Teagan forces me to take a break and reminds me to just be with her.

I will see the beauty in the clutter. Today I will be thankful for the kids that make the mess. Today the piles of stuff will remind me of how blessed we are.  Today I will slow down and remember that these moments, this untidiness, is what makes childhood fun. It is what makes a childhood.

Today I will be simply be thankful.
I can't say what tomorrow will bring if this beautiful disarry is still all over my floor, but today?  Today I will see only the beauty.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

honesty part 2

While I am being honest, I was just scrolling through my blog because I realized today is the 2 year anniversary of getting our official referral for Eva Marina. Which is just flat insanity.  How it has been 2 years is beyond my comprehension. But, I was scrolling through my blog looking at all my posts about homeschooling and I laughed out loud.  Um, we haven't been doing all that.

We started back to school, and we were doing all that, and it was all good, and then.... we had a baby.

We took a month off and since we started back we have been doing (steady yourself, this is a looong list)

In my defense, we are also doing meditation and yoga.  I should post about that because it is awesome. Also in my defense, we school year round, so we have a lot of leeway here. We are not even behind, and we will catch back up to where I want to be by this time next year.

We do history here and there and some science. We are also reading, reading reading.  The Chocolate Touch, Ramona Quimby books, The Indian and the Cupboard, Charlotte's Web, etc. etc.

But, I am nowhere near back to the kind of schedule I posted about in the summer, and I am guessing I won't be until fall. 


You can probably tell from my last few update posts that I am not quite as upbeat and super positive as I used to be.   Reading back through my blog I could see a stark difference in my older posts and my newer ones.

The reality is that we went into adoption as prepared as you can be, but full of optimism, determination, and energy.  Eva's needs turned out to be more than we expected (from all the support groups I am in, this is quite common, especially from Eastern Europe). By the time we went back for Darcy, I was already getting tired and was feeling a bit beaten down. And then Darcy came home with more challenges, which we were sort of suspecting at that point.  But her challenges were totally different than Eva's.  So, though we had learned a great deal in the previous months, none of it helped us in concrete ways.

I went into adoption thinking the first year would be brutally, excruciatingly hard, and that the second year would be pretty darn hard. But, I kinda thought that at the two year mark we would be kind of setting back into a new normal.

I know, if you are a veteran adoptive parent, go ahead and laugh now.

There have been VAST improvements in some ways, especially for Eva.  And there are also a lot of areas that we have made little progress.  Or we have improved only to regress again, rinse, repeat. Such is the nature of trauma, of FAS, of post institutionalization. And the reality that a lot of this is forever is sinking in. The term "delayed" should be replaced with "impaired."

With Darcy, improvement has been much slower.  I tell myself that it is her timeline.  That things will get better.  And there have been some improvements.  But progress in most areas has been moving at a snail's pace. Again, trauma, FASD, PI, hard stuff and not going to be "fixed" in 15 months home.  And, though that is OK, though it is totally understandable, it doesn't make it easy.

I know,and understand, why they have the behaviors that they have. I know about survival skills, the brain changes that occur because of neglect, malnutrition, alcohol exposure.  I know about orphanage behavior.  I try to remember that however difficult this is for me, the tragedies in their lives are so much worse. But living in the reality of the effects of those things on a minute by minute basis is incredibly challenging and sometimes we forget.

I am in a few support groups for adoptive parents. Some for FAS, some for older child adoption, some for Eastern European adoptions.  One of the things I see over and over (and experience) is immense disappointment in ourselves as parents.

We were going to have endless compassion, unshakable patience, unconditional, instantaneous love, and boundless energy.  And, you know what?  That is not possible, not for human beings. Not day in and day out of the roller coaster that is parenting a child from a hard background.

And  so we fail.  We lose our tempers, we feel disappointment, we can't keep the understanding and the compassion at the front of our minds at all times. We get frustrated, annoyed, upset.  We may not feel the love.  You learn a lot about kids that don't attach, but what no one tells you is how often parents have a hard time attaching. Or that when a child does have a hard time attaching, the parent may subconsciously throw up a wall to protect their own heart.  And then you have two chasms to overcome.

When the reality falls so short, day in and day out, of what we had expected of ourselves, of our parenting abilities, we tend to beat ourselves up. Daily.

I sometimes lay in bed at night and count the ways that I failed.  The times I wish I could have a do over. And I hear over and over from other adoptive parents that they do the same things. But, the problem is that it doesn't help to do that. And I am committing to not doing it anymore. This is what I posted in a support group today:

ok, this is going to be a jumble. but this is what i have been thinking about. i beat myself up so much over how i am failing in this adoptive mom thing. i hate that i don't have all the compassion and patience and energy i thought i had going into this. i hate myself when i lose my temper, i lay in bed and count the ways that i messed up that day.
well, i realized that is wasted energy and reserves. and instead of making me do better, it makes me bitter, resentful, tired, and depressed.

so, though, i don't want "well, they are better off than if they were still in an orphanage" to be the bar i am trying to meet, i am going to count the ways that i am doing right by them. i am going to lay in bed and think about the times in the day when i was patient, was compassionate, initiated affection, held my tongue, handled something better than i had in the past, and just generally did right by them.

they are better here. i am educating them, feeding them, giving them medical care, and kissing their boo boos. i am meeting basic needs every day that they have never had. when i go above and beyond that i am going to allow myself a moment to acknowledge that. maybe this will build up my reserves a bit. i believe in positive discipline for my kids so why am i punishing myself?
All parents fall short of the parents they want to be. All parents yell more than they want or aren't as attentive as they want, or work more than they want, or feel they are "failing" in some way.  And that sucks. 

Parenting is hard. Parenting kids with special needs from difficult backgrounds is exceptionally hard. And, yet, here we are doing it. Day in and day out.  We are doing more than kissing boo boos. We aren't just teaching ABCs and 123s, we are teaching these kids (not toddlers-kids) how to be human beings.  How to be people in a way that most people can not comprehend. We teach them how to eat, how to talk,how to listen, how to think,  how to play, how to go potty, how to have a relationship, how to be in a family, in a community, how to work through grief, how to feel, how to do just about everything that most parents take for granted.  And it goes on and on.  And we may not do it perfectly.  We may vent and cry and beg for a quick fix. We may lose sight of that compassion sometimes and yell or withdraw for a time. But we don't give up.

And then, on top of that, 3 times a day, plus snacks, we put food on the table.  We make sure they brush their teeth and hair, that they get bathed, have clean clothes. We kiss and band aid every scrape.  We wipe tears and soothe nightmares. We help with school work.  We work on family skills and life skills.  We go to 1000 appointments and fill out endless paperwork. We read book after book and article after article to try to find the best ways of helping our children heal.

And on top of all that, we still have other children, jobs, messy houses, homeschooling, IEPs, and all that life throws at us.

We fall down, we get up.  We start over again and again.  Every morning we may need to pray to whatever God we believe in to give us strength just to get out of bed and do it again, but we do get out of that bed.

I am constantly proud of the parents I meet in the adoption world. When they express disappointment in themselves, I always feel such grace and love for them.  It is time we all start doing this for ourselves too, and loving and forgiving ourselves can only benefit our children.

People say "think about the progress", and that may work for some, but sometimes that just makes it worse. Sometimes the lack of progress contributes to the feelings of despair. So, I say "think about the dedication."  You are still here, still being mom (or dad) every single day.  And that is pretty daggum awesome.  If you are having a hard time, when you lay down for bed tonight, please remember that.  Think of all the things you did right today, even if it is just that you didn't give up!  Think of the dedication. We are all in this together, doing the best we possibly can for our kids.  Trying with all we have to provide the greatest life, the best chances, the most hope. And that is a pretty amazing thing.