Beautiful Blogger Award

Finding my name listed among such fabulous adoption and foster care bloggers for the Beautiful Blogger Award from Living Loving and Letting Go was a real treat! I started this blog to chronicle our personal journey, but along the way have met so many amazing people and have realized that I have a story worth sharing, a story with value, and at moments like this, when I am recognized by a virtual stranger, I realize the far reaching impact that my words can have. I do not take this responsibility lightly.

As a part of accepting this award, I have to list seven interesting facts about me, and list seven of  the blogs I follow in order to nominate them for the Beautiful Blogger Award, so here goes!

Seven Interesting Facts

  1. I was *almost* a reality star!
    I was contacted in 1998 by Lifetime TV about doing a reality series that would follow the reunion between myself and my birth father. Unfortunately the pilot episode never got picked up, so the series never happened. It would have been amazing to have documented such an incredibly intense part of my life, but it was not meant to be. Shhhh, don’t tell anyone but I was also contacted in 1996 or so by the Geraldo producers to be on a show about people who don’t get along with their mothers-in-law. I definitely fit that category, lol, but she refused to go on the show because she had no interest in resolving things so that never happened either!
  2. I am an avid photographer.
    My love of photography started when I was 14 years old and I am very rarely without a camera in my hand capturing the magic of the world around me. My favorite thing to photograph is people, especially people interacting. I believe that human interaction and connection is the single most important reason we are here on earth and I love capturing that with my lens.
  3. I delivered 3 of my 4 biological children without any pain meds, not even so much as a Tylenol.
    Yes, I do think this makes me Super Woman! (kidding, of course)
  4. I think my dream job would have been being a Meteorologist.
    I mean, don’t you think Sam Champion has the best job on GMA? Anyway, I am obsessed with the weather! I watch coverage of snow storms coming in for hours straight. I am mesmerized by tornadoes and hurricanes. Weather is just plain awesome!
  5. I love to read!
    I haved loved to read for as long as I can remember. I couldn’t get enough books as a child and thankfully during my early middle school years we moved to the street the library was on. I would walk there every day. I own a nook now and do read many books on there but nothing compares to the smell of walking into Barnes & Noble with all those fresh new books! Yummy!
  6. I have been a vegetarian for more than 15 years.
    I have NEVER eaten anything from the ocean (without being sick anyway) and never liked meat, even as a kid. Its not because I am an animal activist (although I do hate when I see shows on tv about the cruel ways that animals are treated prior to slaughter) and it’s not for health reasons. I simply don’t prefer meat. All of my children and my husband eat meat, but thanks to my chef husband, Mickey, he often prepares me special non-meat meals.
  7. I was married on Leap Year Day.
    Mickey had been married before. I wanted things to be completely different when we married. The date we chose was just the beginning of how different our wedding turned out to be, but the full story is probably a post for another day! (Gotta keep you coming back for more, right? lol)

Seven Favorite Bloggers 

  1. Mission Addition
    Ahhhhh, one of my favorite foster adoption bloggers, even though she is currently “paused” in the process. Her writing style is incredible and I look forward to being inspired by her when she accepts placement of her forever children (likely a sibling group)!
  2. My Busy Intersection
    Another of my favorite bloggers from Twitter. A crazy story from the start, but seeing Patience’s persistence is what is most inspiring!
  3. Foster Parenting Adventures
    I love her perspective as a a foster mother and clinical psychologist. She was one of the first people on Twitter to validate how difficult it is to parent a foster child with RAD and PTSD, something I will be forever grateful for. I also am enjoying watching her own foster daughter’s adoption unfolding, albeit challenging through a legal system filled with obstacles.
  4. Love is Not a Pie
    This is my favorite adoptee/adoptive mom blogger. Although I sometimes disagree with her stance on adoption issues from the adoptee perspective, I find she is always very well spoken and kind to those with differing views which is a rare but awesome quality to possess.
  5. I Am Not Alone
    Ali has been there done that, owned the tshirt and is back for more. She is hanging on for the ride of her life much later in the adoption process than I am and I find her an inspiration for what forever commitment should look like.
  6. Adoptive Legacy
    This young couple inspires me every day with the commitment to not only their own adopted children but also their advocacy of adoption and foster care issues in general. Lots of great advice at this blog!
  7. Rage Against The Minivan
    Just plain awesome with lots of guest writers covering a myriad of adoption and parenting related topics!

Honestly, I could post many more blogs as I have been inspired by so many people, but the above are some of my very favorites. Thanks again to Living Loving and Letting Go for the “nomination” and the chance to share some things about myself and the blogs I follow!

Our First Beach Trip

Another summer has flown by and thankfully we were able to squeeze in a trip the beach this past weekend. We only live about 50 minutes from the coast, so it honestly should not be this difficult of a task.

I have always loved the ocean… not the glitzy glamy part with board walks and fried dough, but the quiet parts… the off the beaten path parts…. the sound of the waves crashing against rocks…. the smell of the salt water…. the grit of the sand… and even the slimy seaweed! Growing up, we visited coastal Maine many times throughout the summer. The ocean was my safe haven. A place where happy memories were made away from the darkness of living with an abusive step-father. In all the years since that chaotic time, I have never stopped loving the ocean! It has always been my refuge.

Seeing Daffy at the beach was amazing! She said she has been before, but some of the things she said made me question that. When we first arrived she asked “Does this lake connect to the ocean?” and of course we explained it was the ocean. She entered the water following Goofy and Pluto going much too deep for my liking considering how strong the waves are. She ended up getting knocked down by a wave and got water up her nose. She seemed stunned by how disgusting the water tasted. She made sand castles and laid in the sun. At one point, she got up and wrote her full new name and the date in the sand and was really excited for me to take her picture beside it! My heart swelled.

I am so in love with this little girl! Every single day with her is a gift! Of course I love all the incredible “firsts” we have been able to experience with her this year, but I also look forward to the things we will do again and again over the years. Traditions are what families are made of.

Celebrating Daffy

Daffy has celebrated her very first birthday with us…. she  has officially turned 10 years old!

Saturday morning a friend of mine took her out for a special birthday breakfast and to get a pedicure! Daffy was planning to get balloons painted on her toenails…. imagine her surprise when the woman doing the pedicure showed Daffy her own toes with Hello Kitty on them…. the exact theme of Daffy’s party! Aren’t they adorable??

Saturday afternoon we honored her special day with a party with many of our closest friends and family. Among the guests were her Fairy Godmother  (@abuggleslife), Jessie, Woody & Buzz (her former pre-adoptive family), Mickey’s parents and many of our closest friends and their children. Daffy had a fabulous time being the center of attention and received many beautiful things. We had bought her an iPod Touch which was definitely a HUGE hit. In fact, she told me the next day that when she blew out the candles on her cake, she had wished for an iPod!

On her actual birthday, I had set up a call with her birth Mom…. the first time they have spoken in more than 3 years! I was a little worried the call would be overly emotional for both of them, but I felt that of all days for them to connect, Daffy’s birthday was it! The call went fantastically! Neither of them cried and her birth Mom was totally appropriate in all she said. I was really happy for the both of them. A few hours after the call, a package arrived for Daffy from her birth mom. She had gotten Daffy the Nintendo 3DS game that she really wanted and sent a few other things that belonged to Daffy as well, including 2 of her jewelry boxes and some pictures from when she lived with a foster family in 2004. Daffy was thrilled to have these things back. I wish I could have read her mind as she looked through each item, I am sure remembering days gone by.

Overall, I think her birthday went as perfectly as possible and I am thrilled for her that she was able to share her special day with so many people who love her so intensely! She is blessed … & so are we!

10 Reasons We Want To Take Daffy To Disney

It goes without saying that I am a huge Disney fan. I use Disney characters as names here on my blog and I have more than 1 Disney tattoo. I really hope to have the opportunity to share with Daffy my love (and our family’s love) of Disney!

Here are the top 10 reasons we want to take Daffy to Disney:

  1. Every little girl should have the chance to be a princess! More than anything, we want to get Daffy a princess costume and take her to the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique so that she will have the opportunity to feel like the princess that she truly is!
  2. Every child should have the chance to wear Mickey Ears at Disney at least once during their lives. There are so many new styles available, I can’t imagine which Daffy would choose!
  3. Our family wants to beat our 2009 goal of being photographed with FIFTY different characters and we can’t imagine anything more magical than Daffy being a part of that quest and accomplishment!
  4. What a great way to disconnect from the rest of the world- no tv, no news, no email (well, I am sure I would stay connected on my android, lol)…. a chance to focus on our family & simply enjoy each other!
  5. We want to see her when she walks down Main Street USA and witness the magical moment when she sees the castle for the first time!
  6. We want to teach Daffy the art of finding Hidden Mickeys!
  7. A family trip would help create a deeper connection for our family. Shared memories are what families are built on. And what could be more perfect than to have our first family portrait with Daffy as a member of our family taken at Disney?
  8. We would love the opportunity to expose Daffy to the many different foods at Epcot!
  9. We want Daffy to experience all the little Disney joys…waking up Tinkerbell and getting a certificate, seeing the parades, pin trading, riding the monorail, the fireworks, the infamous turkey legs, hugging Princesses, eating Mickey shaped pretzels and waffles, swimming at the water parks and so many more!
  10. Most of all, we feel Daffy deserves this opportunity to live out her childhood dream. Her life has been filled with chaos, trauma and uncertainty in foster care. She deserves the truly magical experience that only Disney can provide!

We are hopeful that we will be able to come up with the money for a Thanksgiving 2013 trip! With Mickey having been out of work for the past 8 months and potentially starting our own business, this could be a real challenge. But, hey, I think we have proved we do pretty well with life’s challenges, right? 🙂

Top Ten Tuesday at Many Little Blessings

Connecting Through Humor (Lunch Note Jokes)

I am always looking for a new way to connect with my kids… one thing that I started doing in the past few months is emailing and texting them silly jokes! I follow Ellen on Twitter and she has a fantastic #ClassicJokeMonday series. At random times when I think of it, I hunt down a joke and text it to the kids. Goofy, the most sarcastic of all the kids, like to tease me about how dorky this practice is, but he has also admitted to sharing a few of the jokes with his friends.

While looking for more jokes to share with the kids, I stumbled on these printable lunch note jokes that are perfect for lunch boxes or back backs! Head over to Peonies and Poppyseeds to download these super fun printables!

Want even more printable jokes? I’ve found lots more at these sites:

Feel free to add your own link in the comments!

A few random updates

Daffy’s Art from Summer Academy

A few random updates from the trenches…

Donald

It’s been an up and down week for Donald. He did not return phone calls Friday or Saturday. He did not call on his “call day” (Monday). He screamed at me with disgust on Tuesday that he didn’t want to talk to me . Yesterday we had a pleasant conversation that lasted a whopping 13 minutes. In fact, he talked to Daffy (at her request) and told her he loved her as they hung… the very first time he said that to her since he left at the end of January. Weird.

Donald’s birth mom visited with him last week and reported that things seemed different. She said he hadn’t acted as loving as he had at prior visits and that she felt he was conflicted. She & I are currently trying to schedule a visit together with him so we can have an open dialogue about what his hopes for the future are. We feel like he tells each of us what we want to hear and are hopeful that if he sees us as united for him that he will be able to finally be honest.

As far as I know, no therapy has been set up for Donald yet. As much as I feel his case worker understands his needs, I feel that there is no sense of urgency for him now that his sister is being adopted. I have no leg to stand on as his “former foster mom”, but feel that a fire needs to be lit to encourage the state to work to get him help and get him to permanency. I will definitely be bringing this up at the next team meeting in September.

Daffy

Daffy starts school in 6 days. She isn’t thrilled to be going back, but I feel like she really needs it (not that she has a choice, LOL). She does so much better with tasks to complete than with an abundance of free time.

She is extremely excited about her birthday party tomorrow! I have some concerns that this could be a very overwhelming day for her with so many people here for her, but I am going to try to keep things light and positive. Mickey and I made the decision to allow a phone conversation between her birth mom and herself next week on her actual birthday. Her birth mom has been very appropriate and I am confident that she will not do anything to destroy the relationship we (birth mom & I) have been carefully building with her.

Alice

I learned Wednesday that Alice is being evaluated at a psychiatric hospital and her next destination is unclear at this time. I’m disappointed that things did not go in a different direction, but I guess I shouldn’t be surprised since respite didn’t “save” us either. If Alice does return to her foster home, we will be ready and willing to support them.

Other posts currently in the works: My Adoption Story Part IV and an update on Tink, so check back soon! 🙂

7 Practical Ways To Foster Attachment in Adopted Children

I am not an expert and I don’t pretend to be. I have, however, learned a few things about attachment since we started this journey last fall. Here are my top 7 practical ways to foster attachment in older adopted children:

  1. Implement chat time.
    Each night before bed, Daffy and I head to her room for “chat time.” This allows her time to unwind and process her day. Initially we talked about simple things like “What was the best part of your day?” as we got to know each other, but as our relationship has progressed, we have talked about far more serious issues like the abuse she suffered while living with her biological family and her fears of her biological brother. This is a time that she and I both look forward to. She’s been telling me recently that she can’t sleep without having our chat time and I kid with her that I will have to come to her house when she is married so we can still have our nightly chats! (She assures me her husband will do it, LOL)
  2. Read books together.
    The books don’t always need to be about foster care or adoption, but if you are looking for adoption or foster care related books, here are a few I highly recommend. Reading these books has been incredibly helpful to Daffy. I can see her connect through the stories, gaining a sense that she is not alone in her experiences and learning to trust that we will finally be her forever family.
  3. Cook together.
    Give them the chance to succeed. Daffy and the family support specialist baked muffins together during one visit and for the next week that followed, Daffy wanted to bake every single day. She was so proud of her new found ability! Spending time together in the kitchen allows for low intensity conversations. These are the moments that, one at a time, build attachments.
  4. Touch!
    Touch adopted children as often and in as many ways as is appropriate based on their history- hugs, hand holding, foot massages, a pat on the back… just keep touching! Daffy & I have created our very own handshake-style good night kiss involving kisses, hugs, funny faces and handshakes! It’s something that she and I share that connects us exclusively to each other. She beams when other people see us do it, knowing that its unique just to her and me.
  5. Play!
    Get down to their level and interact. This was really uncomfortable for me at first, but I learned some amazing things about how Daffy’s mind was working when I joined her in playing with her Little Pet Shop and other toys. I could see her hopes, dreams, and even fears play out through the way she played.
  6. Enjoy family meals together.
    Our family never sat around the table together for meals before Daffy came to live with us. We were busy people with busy lives. We felt connected and this didn’t seem important to us. Once Daffy moved in, we saw this as a critical time together- a time when we weren’t meeting with a therapist or social worker, a time when there was no battle over homework and a time where the tv was OFF. This was (and is) time that we could spend all together sharing and getting to know each other.
  7. Have realistic expectations.
    Above all, know the battle you are facing. Read books on attachment. Surf the internet for blogs of people that have gone before you in similar situations. Accept that adopted children will have attachment issues (whether it’s full blown Reactive Attachment Disorder or somewhere else on the spectrum). Understand that your adopted child will not attach to you in the same way that you will attach to them. Give them space when they need it, but don’t be afraid to push sometimes, too. It’s hard to see the forest through the trees when it comes to attachment, but know that the work you are doing with your adopted child WILL pay off. You will see miraculous gains if you give it time.

This post is linked to: Blog Link Party with Rebecca Cooper, Mommy Brain Mixer and Thriving on Thursdays.

Book Review | Searching for…The You We Adore

Searching for…The You We Adore, by Valerie Westfall

“Our Love searched the whole world for the you we adore. We longed to open our hearts to the one we were waiting for…” In The You We Adore, love circles the globe climbing with pandas and swimming with dolphins searching for a child already loved from the heart. The author provides parents an opportunity to dialogue with young children about their unique adoption story and express, “You are loved and adored.”. Children will be captivated with the joyful adventure and playful illustrations. Lyrical text makes it a fun read-aloud for families. This is a heartwarming love story written for the joy of every adopted child.

Daffy & I were thrilled to receive a copy of Searching for…The You We Adore! In the past few weeks, we have read this book countless times. It has been a great segway to talking about how much we adore Daffy and how much we value her being a part of our family. Daffy was able create enough ownership of the story that she cut out her own picture and glued it to the heart on the last page of the book!

This book is a timeless addition to our collection of adoption themed books! The illustrations are fantastic and Valerie does an amazing job of connecting children of all different walks of life through the places the parents search for their child (city, ocean, jungle). This books tops my list of highly recommended adoption books for children.

Freelance writer Valerie Westfall holds a degree in Business Marketing. Her career choices demonstrate a common thread of love for art and children. Since graduating college in 1983, Valerie has managed an art gallery, imported art and furnishings for The Phoenician Resort, worked with first graders, and now writes for children. The author lives in Texas with her husband and two sons. Searching for…The You We Adore is Westfall’s debut picture book. While her inspiration to write this story was drawn from a childhood friend with adopted children, Valerie has long understood the important role that love plays in a child’s life.

Have you read this book? Please feel free to leave me a comment with your thoughts!

Paper Coterie | School Days Documenting Book

Remember when I shared about the Daily Documenting Books from Paper Coterie? Well, I just learned about their new School Days Documenting Book! I am super excited about this… I had been wanting to find a way to document Daffy’s school days, but all the other books I have found begin with grade 1 and since she obviously wasn’t with us since first grade, I had been sort of stuck! I love this book because it’s themed around just one school year and allows for lots of personalization. I am super excited to use this book as a tool to connect with Daffy about her school experience throughout the year! I definitely see this as something we work on during our infamous “chat time!”

The School Days Documenting Book allows for up to 19 photos to be included. I chose to include only 5 so I will have plenty of room to add photos (with a glue stick) throughout the school year! You can also add your own text… I was thrilled to add Daffy’s adoptive name since she will be adopted this school year! (YIPPEE!)

To receive 40% off the School Days Documenting Book and other Documenting products, enter the code REALNEWYEAR at checkout through 8/26/12. If you are a first time Paper Coterie customer, you can also score a free journal when you enter the code WELCOMEJOURNAL at checkout! Cool, huh?

Disclosure: As a brand new Paper Coterie Affiliate, I received a School Days Book for free to facilitate this post. All opinions expressed here are honest and my own.

Respite for Alice

Respite foster care is when one foster family cares for the foster children of another foster family allowing the first family a break. This type of foster care is especially helpful when foster children have behaviors such as seen in many therapeutic foster homes.

Our social worker contacted us on Wednesday to ask if we were available for respite. She shared that she was looking for respite for 1 of 3 siblings living approximately 35 minutes away. We happily agreed. Respite seems just about our speed these days. Its allows us to focus on daily stuff with Daffy and continue a relationship with Donald, yet still be able to help other kids in care.

As a side note, we happen to know this sibling group as they were previously placed at the same group home that Donald and Daffy lived at. Our agency had set us up with this family upon the kid’s placement in january, in part because the kids knew each other and in part because this family was about 5 months ahead of us in the process. Our agency was thinking they could be a good resource family for us. We saw them a couple of times and the foster mom and I attended a support group together once. I didn’t see them as a great resource, though, as we were in very different places with our kids. Their sibling group was still waiting for TPR, while our kids had been legally free for adoption for 4 years. This family also did not have any biological children (or any children at all) before they accepted the challenge of this sibling group, so we didn’t have a lot of common ground.

Alice (age 12) arrived with her foster father around 6pm. He carried in her backpack and let me know she would not get out of the car and asked that I talk to her. I wasn’t convinced that there would be anything I could do to get her out of the car, but decided to give it a try. I knocked on her window and waved excitedly. I reached for the door handle and she unlocked the door. I decided to pretend there wasn’t a single odd thing about her still sitting there as we chatted. It took nearly an hour, but she did finally agree to come out of the car.

Her foster father had removed himself from the situation (I am guessing he thought this would help?) and was around the side of the house. Alice went to look for him to say good bye and even gave him a hug. She came in just after the rest of the family had eaten dinner and she refused to eat, but did sit with Daffy & I at the table and made pleasant conversation. Next, we made home made ice cream and then her & Daffy swam for a little while. I let the girls watch a movie before bed and they went to bed without any trouble.

The next morning our social worker stopped by to see how things were going. She shared that Alice was on the verge of disruption from her foster family and that the team was considering placing her in a residential treatment center. My heart broke for her, but I knew how hard things must be at the foster home for the family to consider that, especially after having had her in their home for a year.

Unfortunately, due to a crisis with Tink (I will blog about this in another post), Mickey cared for the girls for most of the remainder of the day. The girls, again, went to bed without any issue that night. I was happy to get to talk to the foster mom after the girls went to bed. She shared that they had made a lot of hard decisions and had decided to keep Alice in the home!!!! I was thrilled to hear the news and happily agreed that we would provide ongoing respite to support their family through this difficult time.

The next morning, our social worker stopped by once again. (Seeing her two days in a row reminded me of the first few weeks after Donald & Daffy’s placement). While technically this was our regularly scheduled meeting, it gave us a great opportunity to catch up on both girls (Daffy and Alice). The sw told me that she had suggested to the foster mom (and team) that we attend Alice’s team meeting coming up later this month. I gladly agreed. I am happy to support both Alice and her foster family and I feel I will be able to do a better job of providing ongoing respite if I have some idea of whats going on. Our sw also outlined a little more clearly what she is hoping the monthly schedule would look like:

Week 1: Alice here for weekend
Week 2: Alice’s 2 younger sisters here for weekend
Week 3: Alice here for weekend
Week 4: No respite

Ummmm, wow. I had already agreed to help before knowing all the details (will be sure to ask up front next time, LOL) so there really wasn’t much to discuss other than whether or not the state will pay to cover that much respite. Our sw believes they will because this will save the state a substantial amount of money over Alice being moved to a residential setting (very sad that it’s about the almighty dollar, but I am happy that Alice is staying put for the time being).

Mickey and I believe we are up for the challenge, although there is a part of me that hopes that things for this family will settle down within a few months, allowing US to go back to our “regularly scheduled program.” I am also nervous that as she becomes more comfortable with us, we will begin to see her challenging behaviors. We’ll just take it one weekend at a time and hope we can make a difference even if only in a small way.