Category Archives: Adoption

Update & An Idea

Happy day after Easter! It’s snowing here, which tells you why Jesus conquered death in the warmth of Jerusalem and not the nutso weather of Massachusetts.

I heard from a friend recently. She noticed that I’d stopped blogging, and wondered if that meant things were a bit, well…unbloggable. If I’d gone offline because life had gone sideways. That happens sometimes. But not this time, thankfully.  Things are good – normal, functional, surprising, funny.  Last week I was reading through a journal from 2016 and realized, Wow, I’d forgotten how hard things were then… 

Life right now is pretty groovy, comparatively speaking.

 

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Steve got a promotion!

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The Cherubs still  like me! (although #1 is REALLY not keen on taking family pictures in public – he humors me in exchange for blueberry Pop Tarts)

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This sign is still on our stove! Which I guess means that the award has not been rescinded.

In the midst of all this goodness, I haven’t been sure how to blog.

Mainly, I’m figuring out Cherub privacy. #1 & #2 are troopers about being featured in my chronicle of our life. They like the idea of helping other folks understand the ins & outs of adoption (especially in a way that doesn’t require them to stand up in front of people or speak). But we got to a point where every time I took a picture they’d ask, Are you going to put this on social media?  I don’t want them to feel that the pictures I take are always/only for online sharing, or worry that their friends might learn about their business (and bad hair days) via social media. I want them to know that I capture memories and stories for us, most of which no one else will see. (Unless they end up in the special file of  hilariously embarrassing pictures I’m saving for the rehearsal dinners before their weddings!)

Also, it reached a point where it felt weird to put some of the real-er stories (the ones with depth or tension, things that aren’t resolved yet) out there on the web for the whole world to see.

Finally, I had an idea. It’s not new or original, but it’s a viable road forward…

I’m going to experiment with email updates. It will be more private, and so can be more candid. It won’t be technologically fancy (there’s nothing wrong with fancy emails – I just don’t have time) I’ll start with once every couple of weeks, and include a hodgepodge of pictures & thoughts about all the stuff I’ve blogged about here – adoption, faith, books, fashion fails, things that crack me up (like the ongoing mystery of the American obsession with chickens…)

If you’d be interested in a test-run of the email, let me know. Obviously, no spam ever. I won’t sell your address or try to sell you stuff. This is just a way to keep communicating while narrowing the audience just a bit. Also, to tell more real stories, and push back against the internet pressure to only show the (staged) perfect moments where every hair is in place, all surfaces are clear, and the white board in the background doesn’t have two different misspellings of there/they’re/their. I don’t live in that world. But the world I live in can be pretty entertaining.

Like this note #2 Cherub left for our housekeeper at the hotel where we stayed for my nephew’s wedding:

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Adoption – almost three years

Finally, we’re a normal family.

I’m working on a guest post about our adoption for another site, trying to condense three years of intensity and insanity into a few concise, feel-good paragraphs. Holy crap, it can’t be done. I can’t make the process look pretty. But I can point to the results and say, Hey! Look! It worked! 

We had a normal start of the new school year, with #1 Cherub heading into his sophomore year like the budding soccer star that he is, and #2 Cherub beginning 7th grade with confidence that she can conquer math AND make the school musical.

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We were thankful at Thanksgiving, celebratory at Christmas, and tired of all that time together by the end of Christmas break. It was all delightfully mundane.

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If you’d told me two years ago that we’d be this normal today, back when we’d just met The Cherubs and they kind of hated us…I would have burst into tears, smiled at you politely, then fled home to drown my sorrows in Cabernet Sauvignon (it’s like Gatorade for adoptive parents – it’s what keeps you going).  And yet, here we are. At a point where I don’t even have wine in the house.  Miracles happening all around.

In the midst of this, I didn’t dare blog. I’m not superstitious, but it has felt way to dangerous to come here and say, our family is working! I guess that’s an indication of how precarious this has felt, because I can write about almost anything.

I’ve been thinking a lot about learning. Progressing, becoming better than you were before. I want that. But I hate how hard it is to recognize when you’re in the middle of it. I have friends writing books, taking on new roles at work, starting new businesses and relationships and families. From the outside, I can cheer them on and see how they’re growing – succeeding, flopping, getting back up, starting again and applying what they’ve learned. It’s so cool from the outside, and so not-cool from the inside, when it’s you. And yet…when it’s you, there are these moments that happen, where you feel like a little kid on a new bike, brave enough to yell out for the first time, “Hey Mom, Look! I’m doing it!”

“Mom, what makes me special?”

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#2 Cherub came home from her first day of 7th grade yesterday and asked, “What makes me special?” I thought this might be a preface to her upcoming birthday, but it was homework, a getting-to-know-you worksheet from one of her teachers.  (The worksheet also required her to calculate how many days she’s been alive. As she scribbled the numbers out on a piece of scrap paper, I resisted the urge to say, “Sweetie, what makes you special is that you’re doing that math by hand right now rather than grabbing a calculator…”)

These sort of worksheets are a minefield for kids with unorthodox histories. For example, another question asked “Are you the oldest, middle, or youngest child in your family?” #2 is the youngest in our household, but has two younger brothers who live elsewhere. Trying to help, I asked, “Which feels more true for you in your daily life – that you’re the youngest or in the middle?” to which she replied with a smile, “I always feel like the oldest, but we won’t go there…”

Hilarious. And true.

Another worksheet asked her to create a timeline of important events in the life of one of her parents (“or someone important in your life”) in the 5 years before her birth. I was like, “Well, I fled from an abusive marriage, worked for a new age guru, and lived under an assumed name…” !?!?!?! Lord have mercy if this little timeline project ever became something she had to stand up and explain to the class.  Ultimately, we used meaningless neutral statements such as, “In 2001, my mom moved back to New England…”

Then she faced the same question about herself – what were the important events in her life? I was like, “Oh honey, you should THROW DOWN on this one. You list the things you’ve been through and YOU WIN this little timeline contest.” I was a bit salty at this point. We’re in the FIRST DAY of school. It’s a little early for this level of parsing to be required.

THIS DOG needed a walk, so I said that I’d think about all these questions as I looped the block. But the answer was clear: the most special thing about my kids is the lives they’ve lived in the midst of their complicated timelines. The amount they’ve overcome is staggering.

I want her teachers to know this about her. That while she has the ability to blend in, and pretend that the most special thing about her is her artistic skill or her beautiful singing voice, undergirding all of that is the truth that this kid is tough as nails.

The Cherubs have the capacity to to appear completely normal. Which is their dream in life right now. Of course, the thing messing up their plan is that when people see Steve & me, the jig is up; it’s apparent that they’re adopted. In this way, Steve & I are a burden to our children, as well as a blessing. That’s hard for them…and for us.

But when I read something like this, from Hope Heals author Katherine Wolf, I wonder if it might all be part of the plan:

“Maybe in our limitations those we love can find a new way to flourish, not in spite of their constraints but because of them. And their imaginations get baptized into a new way of seeing themselves, and the world, and us. And maybe ours can, too. And in the places where there are scars and losses and holes from what used to be, something new and wonderful can start to grow…”

Ultimately, #2 opted for privacy. Her timeline lists things like, “In 2015 I got my first dog!” I don’t blame her. Bergie is a pretty fantastic addition to any timeline she lumbers through. But it’s all another reminder that our story is different, and doesn’t lend itself to easy explanations. Which is hard at any age, but doubly so when you’re a teen.

I appreciate this Modern Love piece by Tova Mirvis. It’s about helping her son navigate her divorce, and the reality that while his father still practices Orthodox Judaism, she no longer does. At one poignant moment, when her son asks her if she’ll love him if he makes different choices than hers down the road, she says, “You don’t have to match the people you love…”

I feel like that’s the banner over our family. We don’t match on the outside. Our timelines aren’t one single line, but four wild zigging zagging scribbles that intersected and began to zig and zag together. But as the weeks and months and years go by, we match more and more on the inside. We’re on a path together. People can’t see it, but it’s there, and I trust it.  And I’m learning to live into the truth that what makes you special isn’t something you can sum up on a seventh grade worksheet.

 

 

All the Hallelujahs

The Cherubs are back in school, and I’m relaxed for the first time since June :)

Summers, historically, are not our best season as a family. This one was no different. Most of the time, I felt like this Bart Simpson doll:

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And yet, as I scroll through pictures in order to curate a perfect internet version of our glorious happiness for you, I realize that we had some nice moments in there with all the boredom and the eye-rolling. Honesty requires me to disclose that for most of the past 7 weeks, the primary way the four of us showed our love for one another was by all the things we DIDN’T say. The spiritual fruit of Self Control was in serious rotation at the Ryan household as we four introverts spent way too much time together without the structure we need to thrive. But in the midst of that…

We flew to California!

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We spent a week a the beach in my hometown in Maine!

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We ate dinner ON THE FIELD at Fenway Park!

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We used the dining room table for jigsaw puzzles (who knew we like  jigsaw puzzles?) and ate at the kitchen island.

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And we made it through.

The kids are excited to be back at school, and I’m in awe that I can hand over the academic part of their development to qualified teaching professionals. (Thank you qualified teaching professionals! I’d hug you all if my kids weren’t so embarrassed by my existence that I’m essentially banned from their schools. Still though – giving you high-fives from here!)

We do so much better as a family when we have more going on, and when we spend our days out having individual lives and then come back together to share about what we’ve seen and done and learned. I don’t know if we’ll go back to eating dinner in the dining room or if this jigsaw puzzle thing is here to stay. But either way, I’m grateful for seasons, and the sure knowledge that new life is around each corner.

Hallelujah!

 

Sharing a Win

I told you about the Women’s Retreat. And the CFCS Gala. But I also want to share a big family win that happened in the midst of it all.

Last Friday was the first night I’ve spent away from home & the kids since they moved in with us almost two years ago. We hugged goodbye Friday morning before school, and they saw me again Sunday morning before church because it was after midnight when I got in Saturday night.

When I think of what a disaster this would have been a year or two ago, I am in awe of how far we’ve come. I’m sharing this for those of you who are in the weeds of adoptive transitions right now and are terrified that the state of suspended existence you’re in right now might be your new forever normal. It’s not. 

Two years ago, if I’d tried this, the Cherubs would have been certain I was off doing something illegal. They would have been ANGRY, SCARED, and completely dysregulated (a psychology word that describes the state where you’ve lost your ability to cope and your behavior gets disruptive. The phrase, “He’s lost his sh*t?” Yeah, that’s dysregulation.) It would have been a mess, and totally not worth the damage and the aftermath.

One year ago, if I’d tried this, the Cherubs would have been mildly suspicious. The term shady would have been thrown around repeatedly, searching for a place to land. There would have been stern looks and mumbled comments about Don’t your kids matter more than a bunch of women? and I bet Dad wants you to stay home…  It would have been frustrating for everyone and probably not worth it, which would have left me ANGRY and SCARED that I’d always be hostage to their emotional ups and downs.

This year, there was none of that. The kids ate junk food they couldn’t wait to tell me about. Dad took them to Target and was in & out in under five minutes, a feat I cannot duplicate.  They slept normally, and jockeyed for who got to have their screen time first. They missed me, for sure. But they were free from worry and anger and fear, and able to continue on with regular life. That’s a gift.

It probably helps that we started talking about this retreat back in October. They saw the flyers, and the web page. They heard me announce it at church, and talk to people about logistics. They knew how stressed I was about low registration in the weeks before the event, and saw me grin with stunned relief as the registrations poured in during the last few days, putting us up over 100 people and squaring away the finances.  They knew who would be there, and a bit about what we’d be talking about. They knew it would be all women (which probably helped a lot.) A lot of preparation went into this on the family side.

But still. They were happy kids all weekend long. That is a miracle.

And on Tuesday, when we had another event to go to, and I told them “We’ll be coming home around 7:30pm”…then texted Steve’s awesome parents who were watching them at 8:25pm to say, “We haven’t even had dinner yet…” they kids were unphased. Grandma brought them upstairs and they put themselves to bed. And I had a glimpse of a world where these sweet children are truly able to launch out into the world feeling secure about things at home

I think I underestimate the role of consistency in relationships. Of being who you say you are, doing what you say you’ll do, and showing up where you say you’re going to be, over and over again.  Nothing we say can duplicate the power of trust earned over time.

I want to remember this in other areas of my life. I’m not always consistent. But one of my life goals is that whenever people from different areas of my life meet, if my name comes up, they will find that their experience of me has been more or less consistent. I spent a lot of time in my 20s & 30s (and early 40s) like a chameleon, adapting to my surroundings. I thought it was what I was supposed to do. It was pretty lonely, not to mention exhausting. At a certain point about five years ago, I sensed God (and Steve) telling me to stop, to be me, to trust that while no, I wouldn’t fit in everywhere anymore, in the places I did fit in, it would be a better fit.

I am stunned by the way this has shaped our new family. The Cherubs know this about their Round #2 Mom: I’m not that exciting. I wear mostly the same clothes, go to the same places, hang out with the same people. I like things other people might not like (such as writing books and starting a church and throwing retreats where people can connect with God) and don’t like some things others think are great (such as roller coasters and spicy food). I’m a little weird, but I’m consistent. And consistent is better than cool when you’re building a family. 

The Amish Nun Strikes Again!

Last night we went to a Gala to raise money for Cambridge Family & Children’s Service, the awesome organization that helped us adopted the Cherubs. Last year, my friend Super-G & I went. This year, Greenhouse Mission sponsored a table. (Next year we hope to WOW THE ROOM with a 40 person roller skating performance to the tune of Stayin’ Alive, but the room has carpet, so we have a few things to figure out…)

mentioned before how I had a bit of a struggle over what to wear to the Gala (and how I don’t do well with dresses generally), and that I turned to Stitch Fix in my hour of need, hoping they’d find me a certain dress. My algorithm/stylist Katelyn tried, she really did. And while I was cautiously optimistic when I opened the box and saw this pretty array of Spring possibility…

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My hopes were crushed in a brutal collision with reality.  Let me remind you…

The dress in a picture:

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The dress on me:

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You know it’s bad when your first reaction to a photo like this isn’t, “I need to delete this immediately…” but rather, “Oh I need to show this to EVERYONE!”

So last night, after trying on all four dresses I own, I went back to the Amish Nun Dress. It IMG_5654really was the best of the bunch, and I knew that I wouldn’t run into the same Everyone  else is wearing a ball gown issue I had with Steve’s holiday party. I wore cuter shoes this time. Honestly, I thought I’d be okay.

I walked into the gala feeling cute & confident. But then, out of nowhere, I was TOTALLY BUSTED.

A nice woman I’ll call D came up to chat. I’ve met her before at other CFCS events, as she’s on their Board. She’s really fun so was excited to see her. BUT THEN she told me, trying not to laugh, that SHE READS THIS BLOG. She even forwards the link to friends (Hi Kathryn!) And therefore she knew that not only was I not wearing the Stitch Fix dress, I was wearing my Amish Nun ensemble. Again.

I was hilariously mortified.

Just as I was struggling to justify my choice (I was working on a line about how Nuns help children, so it was the right thing to wear…) she confessed her own dress struggle, and mine faded far into the background. She gave me permission to share it here, and you should thank her now.

D. told me that, as she got dressed that morning, she thought she looked pretty good. She called to her husband for his take on things, and he (being a wise man of discernment and kindness) told her gently, “Um, something’s not right in the front…” She could see what he meant – things around the tummy area were bunched up in an unusual way. But she couldn’t hone in on the problem and had to get on with her day.

Later, she discovered the problem. She had her Spanx on backwards. 

Her shapewear was diligently doing it’s job in all the wrong directions, lifting and separating her tummy into butt cheeks.

I laughed so hard my face hurt.

I feel like this is a theme of my week – how, when we get together with our hopes and dreams and stories, and lift each other up by sharing the funny things that happen, the atmosphere changes. The world actually becomes a better place.

Thank you, D. for making my night! (I so wish we’d grabbed a picture!)

Here’s part of our Greenhouse Mission crew at our table.

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Behind us you can see some of the young ladies who live in one of the CFCS group homes. The money we were raising will go to support them, and the young men at the next table, as they transition into adulthood. Such a cool thing to be part of. If you want to donate to CFCS and the work they do, click here and be part of the fun.

 

Trashed

If I have to pick up one more item of Cherub detritus, I will lose my mind. Last week we were all home for vacation. This week, our house is TRASHED. It’s been five days, and not only have I not restored us to a basic level of not panicking if someone knocks at the door, the filth has escalated to a point that I am holed away  upstairs in our bedroom/construction project, thinking, If I make things nice up here, maybe I can just leave downstairs to the savages…

There is scum and smell and crumbs and stuff everywhere. #1 Cherub’s room smells so bad, it’s leeched out into the kitchen. Last night I had him bring every single article of clothes he owns into the laundry room, because I’ve come to understand that his standard of “Oh, that’s clean…” and mine reside on different planets. #2 made this rice-in-a-sock thing in Home Ec that you’re supposed to heat up in the microwave to soothe hot muscles. I have no idea whose sock it was or where it came from, but it’s been on the coffee table in the middle of the living room since Tuesday, along with an earring, a hair elastic knotted with her ripped out hair, and the empty cover to Just Dance 2017.

 

Three weeks ago, #2 told #1 she would mend a hole in his soccer sock. So they left it IN THE DINING ROOM, UNDER THE KEYBOARD to await repair.

I’m not sure I’ve ever said or written this before. But I just can’t even

This is driving me to apocalyptic pronouncements. We cannot all four be home for a week ever again, because the aftermath is simply too much. Someone will have to go to camp, or on a missions trip where you’re only allowed to bring two items of clothing, or on a grand tour of mowing lawns for all the grandparents. Whatever. I don’t care. But this cannot happen again, because while I love being a wife and mom, and I love our house and the people/creatures who live here, I never for one second wanted to be a housewife. This is the worst job ever. I did not marry this building. I did not vow to love, honor, cherish, protect (scrub, dust, vacuum) it til death do us part. And yet here I am, hiding on the third floor, knowing what lies ahead.

(And before you tell me to farm this out to our good Cherubs, can I just tell you that they both have housekeeping jobs they supposedly do for allowance. But they do them with such an extravagant flourish of half-assery that you couldn’t pay me to take a bath in our hair-product/AXE gel infested tub, or sit on our dog hair covered living room carpet, even in the moments immediately following their efforts. And sadly (or not), I don’t have the energy to add intense chore oversight to my  bitchy-mom workload.  I have only so much nagging in me each day, and right now every single nagging unit is claimed by the never-ending battles of Yes, you have to eat protein and No, you cannot wear that today.)

I’m more convinced than ever that household mess is a result of the Fall, just one more thing to blame on Adam and Eve and that stupid piece of fruit. “You want knowledge of Good and Evil?” The serpent asked. “Eat this…then you’ll have DUST and GROSS FILM ON THE BOTTOM OF YOUR TOOTHBRUSH HOLDER!”

Jesus said we should take heart when the world gives us trouble, because He has overcome the world. If anyone knows of a testimony where someone has overcome the scourge out household mess by the name & power of Jesus, LET ME KNOW. I’m game for a miracle.