Holiday giving

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The Professor & I at our recent family photo session

I was raised in a family with big Christmases. I mean really big. My mother loves to give gifts, it’s her primary love language and so she’d save up and spoil us rotten on Christmas morning. It wasn’t all expensive stuff, just thoughtful and a lot. It was wonderful, I’m not gonna lie. But the other thing my mom did was she always gave to families who didn’t have as much as we did, and she included us in this so that we were aware of not only how blessed we were, but also that there were other kids out there who had next to nothing.

Flash forward to my own adulthood and I’ve done the same. Whether it’s an angel from a tree at a local store, Operation Christmas Child or just from word of mouth, I always try to give something to a family or at least a child who doesn’t have anything. I’m trying to instill this in my girls as well so they are aware that there are others around them that won’t wake up on Christmas morning with a house full of new toys and clothes.

I can’t help but think of my own girls and how their lives could have been so very different had we not at the opportunity to adopt them. My girls could have been angels on a tree in the grocery store, or on a list that someone at your church handed out to ensure they’d receive presents. It’s hard not to think about that sort of thing. I’m overwhelmed with gratitude that instead they’re here in our house, in our family and I can spoil them rotten. But that doesn’t change the fact that there are families out there who have nothing and this time of year that nothing has got to seem even bigger.

So how about y’all? Do you try to do a little extra this time of year to help those in need? 

The love I wasn’t expecting

10447061_469921366444635_6776470002636467206_nLong before I became a mother, before I got married, before we started trying and then doing fertility treatments, before the failed adoption and then ultimately he successful one…I know that I would have no problem loving kiddos. No matter how they fell into my life, I knew that I had a heart for kids. I’ve always been that girl, you probably went to school with someone like me, or maybe you were the one like me, the one who loved children and who mothered all her friends.

Then the girls came, dropped into our lives like tiny explosions, and I loved them immediately. Or perhaps I merely felt protective of them. Even when it was so hard and The Professor and I would cry and wonder what we had done to our lives, I knew no matter how hard it was, we would be their constant. They’d already had so much, too much, in their little lives. We would be the ones who never left, no matter what. Just as we had made a commitment to each other on our wedding day, the day we accepted those girls into our house, we made a commitment to them.

And just as any family, we’ve had highs and lows, challenges and successes (yeah, Babybee is finally potty trained!!!). And I love them. Oh, how I love them with a fierceness that takes my breath away. It doesn’t surprise me, that love, even the depth of it. Sometimes I think I always loved them, the love was there just waiting for them to absorb it. But there is something that surprises me and that is the fierceness at how they love me.

Perhaps that’s silly, or perhaps you too have been surprised by the love of your own children. Sometimes Babybee will hug me so tightly, squeezing my neck with her little arms and she’ll whisper in my ear, “Mommy, I love you so much.” Then Busybee with give me one of her brilliant smiles and giggle and tell me we’re having so much fun & she loves me to the moon. I can say without a shred of arrogance that I am the center of their universe (The Professor too, but this is my blog…) As unconditionally as I love them, they love me in return and for whatever reason, I never once considered this when I thought about becoming a mother. And frankly it thrills me and terrifies me (it’s a lot of pressure to live up to the way they see me) and it takes my breath away.

No genetics necessary

So Ellie’s post the other day got me thinking about my own kids and the ways in which they’re like The Professor and I. It’s funny how adoption works, you see families with kids that look just like their adoptive parents. For our family, I’ve certainly had people tell me that both of my daughters favor me – I don’t see it, but I know that the stuff underneath, there’s a whole lot in common.

Yeah, we could say it’s all nurture, but I don’t think that explains all of it. Some of it is simply divine matching – the way The Professor and I found our girls – out of all the couples in the world and all the kids in the world, we somehow found each other. And they are OUR kids. Sometimes I even forget they aren’t of our blood.

$T2eC16JHJIEFHSoyF!lCBSJo)wv8RQ~~60_35For example, Busybee, well, she and I aren’t a lot alike. She’s an extrovert and full of energy and smiles and joy. I’m not saying I’m a grump, but I’m more quiet and reflective. But there’s this one way in which we are totally alike and it kinda cracks me up. I noticed it first a few years ago when I bought them the Thanksgiving Little People play set. The box they came in is a reusable one so we keep them in there and on the top is a picture of the playset all set up. Busybee would look at the box and set everything up just so and get kind of anxious if her sister came along and changed things. More recently this has manifested itself in play with her sister – Babybee is a free spirit in many ways and has an imagination a mile long – so she will try to correct and manage how her sister is playing to make sure she does it the “right” way. I can totally relate to this, I get it, I’m the same way, but Babybee, she’s not like that – she does her own thing. So I try to remind Busybee that her sister can play however she wants even if that means pretending her mermaid is actually a blue elephant. 🙂

 

So I don’t have the same outlandish imagination that Babybee has, but we have other similarities. She’s an introvert, doesn’t care for crowds. But she’s also really precise. Even when she was really little, she was very specific about the way she did things. Where her creative play is bold and colors outside the lines, if you will, her artistic techniques are linear and clear. I can give her and Busybee the same art project, leave the room and come back and know just which one Babybee has done, all of her stickers will be perfect aligned. She’s the only kiddo in her classroom at Mother’s Day Out who is allowed to do the glueing herself on her art projects because she does it just so. She even sits like me, with her legs crossed over one another just like I do, just like my grandmother sat.

They have similarities with The Professor too. It’s crazy to me how perfectly they match us, how perfectly the fit in our family, how they create our family. Family life is messy and hectic and amazing and exhausting and everything in between. But family, no matter how you create yours, is a miracle and I am one blessed mama.

Saturday Book Recommendation: A Mother for Choco

motherforchocoSeveral years ago, when The Professor and I still lived in Tennessee my sister sent me a book when she learned we were working toward getting home study approved for domestic adoption. We were always open to any ethnicity and this book is perfectly geared just to that. But it certainly works for all forms of adoption and it’s great for non-adopted kids to learn about families that don’t necessarily all look alike.

Now, both our girls love this book. They know it’s a special book and it reminds them how special our family is. I want them to always recognize our differences and embrace them and not feel excluded because of them.

So Choco is this funny looking bird & he’s looking for his mom. He goes up to all these animals to see if they’re his mom because they share features (walrus & his big cheeks) but he can’t ever find anyone who looks like him. Then he stumbles upon Ms. Bear and she comforts him and brings him home for pie where he meets her other kids – three different animals. It’s charming and sweet and one of our favorites & I wanted to share it with you.

Odd (wo)man out

MjAxMi1kNjhhMjI4MjZlYzc5YWNjInevitably it happens. You’re out in a social setting with other women and someone brings up pregnancy or birthing stories. Four years ago this was particularly difficult to me as I was sans children. But even now, after being a mom for nearly three years, it happens, and no matter how wonderful the company and how kind and generous they are, when the discussion turns in this direction, I feel left out. A bit like the weirdo. Yes, adoption is super popular these days and I can speak, which authority, on many aspects of adoption or parenting a child of a different race or dealing with CPS visits, etc. But when it comes to pregnancy and birthing, well, I never got past 12 weeks so I’ve got nothing to share.

I try really hard not to feel strange, but I feel like suddenly there is a giant blinking arrow above my head. ATTENTION: Here sits a woman who has failed at the fundamental purpose of womandome. Okay, that’s a bit exaggerated (not to mention a made up word), but you get my drift. It’s nothing that anyone says or does. I know that no one is trying to leave me out. But it happens.

For me, there was no labor pain, instead I had years of failed fertility treatments, failed adoptions and then bureaucratic hoops to jump through for my girls. For me, I didn’t fail at breast feeding because I never got the chance to try, instead I had a colicky 8-month old who drank the most expensive formula they sell and still didn’t sleep through the night. Instead of sweet-smelling baby soap and the little plastic bathtub, we had a toddler who was terrified of baths so we got a baby pool, put it in the backyard and we’d strip her down, squirt some Johnson’s in and let her swim around.

My experiences at motherhood were different from most women’s, and yeah, I feel it sometimes, but I know that it doesn’t make me less of a mother. It just makes me a different mother. And that’s okay. Despite that longing for the whole pregnancy/birthing experience (that I suspect will never go away), I wouldn’t have built my family in any other way.

So how about you? Ever had one of those things that always makes you feel left out? How have you handled it?

81OJEsNbx5L._SL1500_-2On a much lighter note: I have a new book release that I want to share with y’all. It’s the first in a new Regency-set series, No Ordinary Mistress. It’s only $0.99 so I hope you’ll check it out.


I’m Robyn DeHart, AKA Basket-Case Mama, but not because I’m crazy (though really, what mom isn’t?) but because I have a slight obsession with baskets, well containers really. I’m a bit of an organization nut and I love to containerize stuff. And yes, I’m authorized to use words like that because I am also a writer. But back to the kids, so I’m mom to two ridiculously beautiful little girls and I can say that without bragging because I didn’t actually make them. The Professor and I adopted said little lovelies from the foster-care system here in Texas and now we’re a big happy forever family. Busybee is five and so full of joy it just oozes from her. Babybee is a three and is too smart for her own good.  www.robyndehart.com

National Adoption Month

November is National Adoption Month and the 23rd of November is known as Adoption Day. Many families adopting from the foster-care system choose to adopt on this day and lots of courts do special things to celebrate this amazing day. I read this article yesterday that this year more than 4500 children from the system were adoption on Adoption Day.

Y’all know this is cause near and dear to my heart so I like to periodically shine a spotlight, if you will, on it in the hopes that I can reach maybe one family and talk them into considering this as an option for growing their family. So I’d like to share a few statistics with you:

* there are more than 100,000 children in the foster care system that are waiting for forever families

* nearly 25,000 children age out of the system every year – stop and think about this one a moment. That means that every year a quarter of the kids available for adoption become “too old” for state care and they literally become individuals without families. Meaning they have nowhere to go for the holidays, no one to call if they get married or get a great job and if they make it to college (which most don’t because of the lack of familial support), they have no one to invite to parent’s weekend. I’m sorry, but that just sucks!

* One statistic stated that of the children waiting for adoption, 40% are Caucasian, 28% are AFrican American and 22% are Hispanic.

Now I’d like to share some general info I’ve learned since being in the “system” (so to speak).

* special needs is a term that states use for a variety of scenarios, yes, it can mean that a child has learning disabilities or medical problems, but it also can mean that it’s a sibling group – like my girls were considered special needs, or that the child is a minority.

* there is a huge misconception that there are no young children in the foster-care system that are available for adoption. This is so wrong. Yes, in some cases (like ours) we had to foster for 6 months before we could adopt) but there are many ways in which you can adopt from the system and there are lots of littles available. That being said, don’t be fooled into thinking that if you go young that means you skip all the scary behavioral problems. We were presented with one group of kiddos where the three year old had been diagnosed with RAD (reactive-attachment disorder). Adoption is really not much different that having your own children, you really can’t ever know what you’re going to get with your kids.

* one of the cool things for our girls – frankly the only benefit they get from having been in in the foster-care system – is that they get benefits from the state. They have their medical insurance paid, they will have their college tuition paid (at a state university) and we get a monthly stipend to help pay for their schooling and extras. Furthermore, we didn’t have to pay for any of the adoption court costs. So the myth about adoption being too expensive – not relevant  to foster-care adoption. That being said, every state is different.

Check here for information about foster-care adoption.

Things I’ve learned since becoming a mom

DSCN1388It’s been approximately 31 months since I became an overnight mother to my two girls, even less since that mother has been official (at least legally speaking.) I think becoming a parent is harder than anyone expects it to be. Here are a few lessons I’ve picked up along the way.

1. I’m not nearly as good at this as I thought I’d be. I was always the mother hen to all my friends. The one who everyone always said would be a great mom. It’s not that I thought I’d be a perfect mom, but before my own kiddos I had lots of experience with other kids. I’ve worked at daycares, been a nanny, the favorite aunt to my 3 nieces and nephew and the aunt-by-proxy to many of my friend’s kids. But y’all know, it’s different with your own kids, they never leave. 🙂

2. When people say marriage is hard, I think they actually mean marriage becomes hard when you add kids to the mix. It’s not that The Professor and I didn’t argue before kids, but things were so much easier when it was just the two of us. But parenting brings out the worst in your (and often the best) and you see things in your partner that you’ve never seen before and visa versa. It adds a whole nothing level of complicated to your marriage.

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3. My kids are prettier and smarter and funnier and sweeter than everyone else’s kids. This really needs no explanation and I wish I could show you pictures to prove my point. Ask Shana and Emily, they’ve met my girls and they’re ridiculously pretty and smart and funny and sweet.

4. It’s harder than I thought, but in ways I wasn’t expecting. I knew the day-to-day stuff would be challenging, exhausting even, but I didn’t expect to question myself so much (yes, I know, I was naive), I didn’t expect to be one of those women who loses herself, I didn’t expect to have post-partum (since I didn’t actually birth my children), and I didn’t expect it to be so freaking terrifying.

5. The love is bigger and greater and stronger and more permeating than I could ever have imagined. Those two little people have consumed my life, my thoughts, my conversation, my house and my heart and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

In what ways has parenthood surprised you?

The V-Card

I might be opening up a can of worms with this one, but it’s something that’s been bugging me a while. So a while back I ran across this gossip article featuring a handful of stars discussing when they lost their virginity – because frankly I’ll follow nearly any link on Twitter (but that’s a whole ‘nother blog). Okay so I found this blog bothersome. Not only is it disturbing for me to think of my own kids losing their virginity at the tender ages of 11 or 12, but I had to wonder if it wasn’t completely irresponsible for these stars to proclaim their ages.

My main concern is that these people are often looked up to, especially by our impressionable youth. So let’s say your son really digs Matthew Fox cause you know he was awesome in We Are Marshall, but your boy comes across the article where Matthew proclaims that he lost his v-card at 11. What is your son to think? I’m also bothered because why do we need to know these intimate personal details of movie stars. Granted I’m a total hollywood gossip junkie, I don’t think a day goes by that I don’t check People.com. Still some details seem too personal.

Perhaps I’m sensitive about some of this because of my girls’ pasts. I remember one day in particular while we were waiting outside of family court for one of the hearings regarding the parental rights – there were two other women sitting next to me on the bench and they were talking about their kids. They were on the other side of the court system (parents fighting to get their kids out of foster-care) and at some point one of them says that she had six kids and that she actually found out she was pregnant with her first when she was 11. I was heartbroken, for her, for her children. So I guess in part, I’m coming to this discussion from that angle.

In any case, my question for y’all is two-fold, do you think it’s irresponsible for famous people to declare such things to the media knowing that a child could take it to heart? Also, how early is too early? Both to lose your virginity and when to talk about such things to your children?

A walk down memory lane

IMG_1538Last night The Professor and I went to the non-profit agency we used for our foster-care adoption. We were asked to come and speak on the last night of the current PRIDE class (the class required if you want to become licensed for foster care and/or foster-care adoption). We’ve spoken at two of those meetings since we’ve adopted our girls and what a great experienced to be able to give back, to look out into that classroom and see those faces – I remember being there. 

I vividly remember sitting in that room the night that families came to talk to us. I hung on their every word, listening intently to the trials and triumphs of those families and hoping that’d we be in their shoes quickly. We’d already waited a long time to start a family and I was admittedly impatient. 

Sitting there brought back all of those emotions. The excitement, the fear, the anxiety, all of it. What would the home study be like? What about the fire and health inspections of our house? And, of course, the biggest fear when you jump into foster care – what if they take the kids away from me? It was a fear that plagued us until the adoption was finalized. But that’s a whole ‘nother blog. 

As we listened to the other families there, I was struck by the thought that we walked through fire to build our family, but I would do it all again in a heartbeat. Our girls are so perfect for us. They’re so like us too, we often forget that there are not genetics involved. Busybee is chipper and talkative like The Professor. Babybee is an introvert and so precise that it’s sometimes like looking in a mirror. 

We also talked on the way home about whether or not we’re done. It’s so tempting to renew our license, to get back in the “game” and get at least one more kiddo. It seems wrong not too, but of course we have to take our girls into consideration. But there are so many kids out there and when I’m back in that world, back at the agency, they’re so hard to ignore. 

All adoptions come with misconceptions, but I know that foster-care adoption carries the weight of the stigmas. All you have to do is watch an episode of Criminal Minds or Law & Order and nearly every “perp” has a history of being in and out of foster care. The media paints the picture that the foster care system is full of nothing by juvenile delinquents. So I ask you, what misconceptions have you heard about adoption or foster-care? 

The grief no one talks about

It seems we’ve covered just about everything this month, talking about lost dreams with kiddos who have special needs and/or learning disabilities and lost babies through miscarriage. It’s been a tough month, but a great month. How wonderful that we have built a forum here where women can feel comfortable talking about our loss and grief and fears and moments of joy. This is what we wanted when we started this blog, but I can honestly say I never expected the kinds of responses we’ve received so thank you all for that.

But I wanted to talk about something today that it seems us women are seriously reluctant to talk about and in truth, I thought (when I was in the midst of the feelings) that it was just me, but I’ve come to learn that my feelings were all too common and it’s time for us to open up that can of proverbial worms. So I’m gonna be brutally honest with y’all, open up all the ugliness and it makes me nervous, but I have faith that you’ll all get it.

Now some of this I can’t speak to with any kind of authority because I’m an adoptive mom, I’ve never carried a child to term. But I’m going make a bold suggestion and say that those baby blues that people talk about…they’re not exclusively caused from hormones.

Let me explain. If you’ve followed the blog for long, you know that I literally became a mother over night. We had exactly 7 days to prepare our home for our two little girls and then suddenly they were there are my house, an infant and a toddler. We’d been through extensive training, I knew what to expect as far as possible problems with the girls, their adjustment, medical issues they could have, etc. I was as prepared as you can possibly be for all of the parenting issues, even the unique ones specific to our (then) foster-care situation. What I was not prepared for though was me and my own yuck coming to the surface.

I spent my entire adult life (and frankly some of my pre-adult life) wanting to get married and be a mom. Everyone who knew me knew that I wanted three things in life: be a wife, be a mother, be a writer. Two of those happened at nearly the same time, but as I mentioned in my previous blog, motherhood seemed an elusive dream, a butterfly I simply couldn’t catch. So imagine my shock when I didn’t settle into motherhood with grace and patience and well, joy. The fact was I’m not nearly as good at this as I thought I’d be. I’m more impatient, less tolerant, and less gentle than I expected. I love children and I especially love my children, but those early days (months) were dark – primarily for me.

I woke up in the mornings cringing and literally would look at the clock and count how many hours until naptime. I was terrified of being alone with them. And I was just miserable. Of course I was exhausted, emotionally and physically, but what the hell? I wanted these kids, why was I so damn unhappy? And the tears, Good Lord, the tears, my poor husband didn’t know what the hell was going on. My mother was a life-saver because she would come over and let me nap and she helped so much with just the day-to-day care of the girls while I found my footing. I didn’t know what was going on, all I knew was that I was unhappy and the guilt because of that ate at me day and night.

And I was plagued with questions…had I made a huge mistake? I couldn’t give them back, my goodness those precious babies had already been through too much. But I didn’t feel like I was providing a better life for them, I felt like I was fumbling in the dark, trying to find the light switch. I took care of their basic needs and I cuddled them and then I would have to sneak away to the bathroom so I could cry. I felt like I had ruined our lives. My husband and I fought like crazy – something we just don’t do. He was miserable and had no idea what was going on with me.

It wasn’t until I came through all of that darkness that I could sit back and analyze it and call it for what it was. Grief. Nothing sexier than that, it was just plain old grief and I for one, suspect all parents go through it no matter how they make their families. I resented the girls and the fact that my husband and I couldn’t just go to the movies or even run to Target. I resented them because my writing life all but dried up and I felt like my career was over. It wasn’t really resentment though, I know that now, it was merely me going through the stages of grieving my old life, my old marriage, the old me. Life changes, as the saying goes and nothing changes it more than children. But no body talks about the fact that it’s okay to be sad about letting go of what was. It doesn’t make you love your kids any less to be irritated that you have to consider them and you can’t just run an errand on your own. It’s a huge adjustment and it takes a while to settle into the new you.

Now I’m not saying that post-pardum depression isn’t real, that’s a whole ‘nother ball of wax. What I am saying is that we all get those “baby blues” let’s just stop trying to think of cute terms to cover the feelings and talk about what it really is. Why should we have to silently feel guilty and wretched because we’re feeling something normal. Going through all of that didn’t make me a bad mom and it doesn’t make any of you a bad mom either.

So let’s talk about mommy grief. How was it for you? How did you get out of it? And did you recognize what it was when you were in the midst of it?