Sunday, June 29, 2014

Summer updates.

When I last wrote about our summer I had shared that Riley was being a little sassypants, but apparently once you write something like that on a blog it changes the behavior. We are relieved that she's back to her usual self. Not sure what caused all the back talk and whining, but glad it only lasted a couple weeks. I'm guessing I've now cursed it by writing about how great she is. I thought that only went the other way - like your kid is sleeping great and then you talk about it and the next thing you know it's hellacious night wake ups for weeks. OK, I'm going to stop talking about it before I regret it. 

Not much else has happened the last couple weeks. We had a glorious weekend with no plans last week. In fact, I can't even remember what we did, but I remember it being wonderful. While we've been getting a lot of rain this month I can't really complain about this past week. So many beautiful days! 

There was a little rain on Saturday, but we were still able to stay dry at my nephew's graduation party (partly thanks to a garage). So strange to see my nieces and nephews graduating from high school when it seems that they were born just a few short years ago. I went to the party alone as Riley spent the night at grandma and grandpa's house and Jesse stayed home as they were going to drop her off. Plus, he used the time to work on my new office shelves.

Anyhoo, I took a few pictures from Saturday and promised my brother, Barry, that I would get a picture of Evan smiling.

I have this uncanny ability to capture people with their eyes closed, mouths open... not always with the best expression. Hey 4 out of the 6 people in this picture have their eyes open so I consider it a success.

Lol. I'm fairly certain my sister in law, Jodi, was not distressed about something here. In fact, they were talking cabin plans, but I seemed to capture this look which gives it a whole different feel.

Chuck: eyes closed. Jacey: genuine teenager look. Probably the most realistic picture I took all day.

Yes! I got a great expression from my sister in law, LaRaa, (in blue) - probably because she had no idea that the camera was on her.

Yup, that's a cell phone. An itty bitty, teeny weeny cell phone. I didn't know these things still exist.

See Barry, I got a picture of Evan smiling. I don't know what was so hard about that.

Lol. It looks like little Rocky is about to fall backwards, but he just threw a ball up in the air. 

Three of the four brothers. They never all make an appearance together (and all seem to have different styles), but I would love to get a picture of them all together one day. Also, see big genuine smile on Evan. It's not that he doesn't smile, it's just that he tends to have a grin instead of the big smile, I guess.

Sunday was another nice day that felt productive. I actually mowed the lawn - something I used to do all the time, but once I was pregnant I think Jesse took over full time. Part of it was that our old mower smelled like a gas leak and that didn't go well with my susceptibility to migraines. We bought a new mower last year so it was about time I actually mowed the lawn. Plus, Jesse was finishing my office shelves so I couldn't justify playing on the iPad while Riley colored pictures on the deck.

We've also been trying to get a ceiling leak fixed, had some new screen doors installed, and are getting some bids for some new windows. More to come on what seems like our never ending home improvements, but so far I am loving this summer.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Adoption Story part 2 - Finding my Birth Parents

If you've read part one of this series you will understand what it was like for me growing up adopted and that I never had any desire to find my birth parents so you might wonder how I came around and decided to search for them. Well, let me talk a little about that. But first, a reminder of the three parts of this story:

Part 1 - Growing up adopted
Part 2 - Finding my birth parents
Part 3 - Extra details about the adoption world

And to help you keep everyone straight, here is my family...

Ruth and Frank 
Adoptive parents 
(I will refer to them as my parents, because that's how I refer to them in day to day life)

(in the past I've often referred to her as my mom) 

Linda and Leo 
Birth parents

Karen and Scott  
Adopted siblings aka, my sister and brother
(I have a gazillion siblings, but these two were also adopted)

Judy, Linda, Barry, Chuck, Ben, Robert, Angel, John
Step siblings
(Ann's kids)

Andy, Megan, Squid, Lindsey, Derek
Birth siblings
(the first three are Linda's kids, and the last two are Leo's kids)

When did you finally decide to search for your birth parents and why?

As I mentioned in my last post, I really had no desire to search for my birth parents. I had nothing against them; I just felt like I had enough in my life and didn't need to invite the unknown into it.

I finally decided to search when I was 34, and working at an adoption agency. This really didn't have anything to do with where I worked except for helping me understand the process. But even so, the laws had changed so much over the years that it only gave me a slight leg up in understanding what was involved.

What really happened was that I wanted my medical history. I've mentioned this on the blog before that I have some health issues. Nothing serious, but enough to be an annoyance that impacts me pretty much every day. I was curious if any of these things ran in the family and if they found any resolution for them that would help me... or even if I had something to be concerned about.

I knew I had an option to request health information only, but I could do a whole search too. I really wanted health information and some pictures. Not sure if I could get just that so I kept thinking about it. Actually, this was just a thought for a long time - not something that I actually thought I would take action on. Plus, the cost of searching was a little prohibitive for me at the time. My dad would bring it up from time to time over the years and even offered to pay for the search since he said he got me into this situation. Haha. Even with that offer I knew I had to really think this through. I think between my medical issues becoming more prominent and with the gentle, yet encouraging, questioning from my dad I finally decided to start the process. It was not an easy decision and one that I constantly doubted.

What was the first step in the search?

I knew the name of the agency I was adopted from so I checked out their website first. I was able to see the cost of a search and download the paperwork to get started. I originally contacted the agency in February of 2006 which is when I discovered that my birth mom had updated her address in 1999, but she hadn't signed a release of information. They noted that since they probably had her current address on file the cost for the search would be less. In April, before I submitted the paperwork to the agency, I requested a copy of my original birth certificate from the state just in case my birth mom had made that public (since that only cost $13.00), but she hadn't. I'll admit I stalled a lot in this process as I second guessed that this was what I really wanted, but I eventually got my paperwork together.  By the end of June I had finally sent in all my documentation and made a payment for the search. I was told that the search was typically 6 - 8 weeks from there.

And??? What happened next?

After sending in my paperwork and connecting with a counselor from the agency I had to write a brief letter and include a picture of myself.

I sent this one partly because I liked my hair... even though I have a bit of 'crazy eye' going on. Lol.

From there the agency needed to make contact with my birth mom by phone as a start. They couldn't leave a message or just send a letter - they needed to get her on the phone. This probably took a week to happen once they let me know that they were going to reach out to her. I wasn't overly anxious about it, but at the same time, every time the phone rang I wondered if it was the adoption agency.

I believe I was at work when I got that call. As I mentioned, I was working at an adoption agency (different place obviously than where I was adopted from), but I hadn't told anyone there about my search. I told a few people in my family, my boyfriend (now husband), and maybe a couple friends. If even that. I was still doubting my search and wanted to feel like it was all mine. I needed to keep this close to me and eliminate the possible comments and questions I would receive that I wasn't ready for.

So anyway, that call came in late August. I remember it being near my one year dating anniversary with Jesse (who, by the way, was completely supportive of this whole thing). I was able to get a few details about my birth mom in that call to help tide me over until she sent a letter to me later. I learned that she's handy too, has a couple cats, the names of her other kids and that she works at a group home.

I wasn't ready for a direct phone call so we started with letters. The agency sent my letter and picture to her after they made phone contact and her first letter came to me on September 6, 2006. In that letter she shared more about herself and about family... and that she and my birth dad were still friends. She shared that she hadn't told him about me reaching out yet as she wanted to leave that up to me whether I wanted to meet him or not.

I did want to connect with my birth dad so I let her know that and we continued to write letters to each other. Soon, I received a letter from him and then from his daughter Lindsey who had no idea about me up to that point. I imagine that was a shocker for a number of people.

When did you actually meet them?

Eventually, I was ready for a phone call so we started communicating that way and decided that we would set a time to meet. Linda and Leo live 2 - 3 hours south of me, but agreed to come to me. I think this may have been in October since I remember the weather still being somewhat decent. We went to lunch and just talked. I remember looking at their eyes during lunch trying to figure out where I got these eyes from. It was a good first meeting and I was able to share my feelings about them (respect for them, thought that they placed me for adoption out of love, etc), and why I was so hesitant to search (my whole situation with my mom, and the expectations that came along with that). I hoped this would provide a good foundation or understanding of what I was looking for and was expecting out of meeting them.

First time we met face to face at my house

Closer to Christmas I drove down to see them. First, I went to Linda's where all her kids were, including her mom, and my sister in law and nephew. I was incredibly grateful that Jesse was there because I pretty much shut down. I had so much unidentifiable emotion rolling around inside me that I apparently forgot how to communicate. He was charming and funny and I was so proud to have him by my side.

Andy, Megan, Linda, myself, and Squid. Squid's name is actually Dustin, but everyone calls him Squid since he was apparently a squirrelly kid.

With grandma Val

Also notice how similar her wall color and texture was to mine in the picture above at my house. Weird.

We also visited with Leo and his wife, Debbie, and his two kids. I was starting to loosen up a bit, but still wasn't my usual self. Again, so grateful Jesse was there.

Lindsey, Leo, myself, and Derek

How has your relationship grown since meeting them?

Well, we still are in contact, but do so more through emails, text, facebook... I see them from time to time, although I've seen my birth dad's side a little more in the past year because of baby showers and such. I used to talk on the phone, mostly with Linda because she would initiate it, but I've sort of given that up. It's partly because she's now online, but I just don't like talking on the phone and it felt like too much for me.

I get the feeling that they would like more from me and I admit when I really start to feel that way I tend to push away. I can only give what I'm giving right now. I don't ever expect that they will fill a 'parent' role to me, but they do feel like family. I do enjoy that they are a part of my family and the less that is expected of me the more comfortable I feel. As I mentioned before, it was hard meeting my mom (Ruth) after so many years apart and knowing that I could not live up to the expectations she had just really sucked, to be honest. I'm trying my best to just have some sort of relationship and not put any expectations on it that I cannot live up to. Easier said than done.

With my birth dad, his wife, Lindsey and Derek and their spouses.

If you could go back, would you search for them again?

Well gee, this is a hard one to answer. Especially, since they might be reading this. And because I'd probably say no. No, I don't think I would search again. But let me make it clear that it's not about them. Each member of my birth family has exceeded my expectations. I was so relieved that they were the people that they are. I'm proud of all my siblings and feel that my birth parents would have provided a safe and loving home for me had they raised me.

Yet, at the same time I feel like I would have been fine without meeting them. I know that might sound cold, but it's true. I have quite a large family that involves relationships and obligations, and there's that whole meeting my mom (Ruth) thing that continues to hang over my head.

I guess you could say that I feel like I should be doing more to connect with them, and yet I don't want to and that makes me feel like I am letting someone down in some way. So I'd rather not feel that way and no searching for them in the first place would have avoided that feeling. Of course, I probably would have wondered about a number of things and when it comes right down to it having a child of my own might have changed my mind as well. I hope this all makes sense (and that no one takes it personally).

How did your parent's feel about you searching for your birth family?

If my mom were still alive I'm not sure how she would feel. Because of her mental illness I'm inclined to think that she would not have liked it, but that's purely speculation. My dad was very supportive and was sort of the one who encouraged it. I had mentioned that it would be nice to have my medical history, and in some ways I think he was hoping I'd want more than that. Part of me thinks that he was curious about these people who created me, but part of me wonders if he wanted to make sure that there were people to care for me and look out for me when he's gone. Sounds a little morbid, I guess, but since my dad is an older dad I know we've both thought about it.

What was your biggest fear in finding your birth family?

Oh, totally that they would want to step in and be my parents. I'm quite the introvert in that I need a lot of alone time to re-energize. I like to socialize, but I reach a point where I just feel drained by interacting with others. Between the nature of my job (talking to people all day long), and having a large family I was worried that they would want more than I could give.

What was the thing you most hoped to get out of meeting your birth family?

Medical information that would give me some insight into why I feel the way I do. Being able to see faces that look like mine. Ok, that's two, but those were the big things. I was about to write something about getting confirmation that my birth family was normal, but I thought of them that way before making the decision to search so I wouldn't say it was something that I hoped to discover.

How did your experience differ from your brother and sister? Did they search for their birth parents too?

My sister did reach out to the adoption agency with the hope of finding her birth mom, but was told that they did not have an address for her. My sister suspected that her birth mom didn't want her to find her, but who knows. My brother had no desire to find his birth parents.

If you could give some words of advice to those that are thinking about finding their birth parents, what would it be?

Um, well... everyone's experience is different, each state has different laws, and depending on when you were adopted those laws may be different from someone else in the same state. We all have different reasons for deciding to search or not search and for some people the weight of that search (and the outcome) is super heavy and other's might be more like me. This is all my way of saying this is a really hard question to address (who is coming up with these questions anyway?)

If I had to give some words of advice it would be to be prepared for anything; to know that you may be disappointed, but you may be delightfully surprised.

Oh, also know what your terms are. It's ok to set boundaries and it's ok to stand by them, but try not to be a dick about it. Early on, I talked with my birth parents about my situation with my mom to help them understand why I may be standoffish at times. It's not my intention to push them away, but I needed to have those boundaries. I also tried to make it clear that I would not be joining them for holidays. It was hard enough to accommodate my family and my husband's family so it was something I decided right away. It didn't stop them from asking, and I think the fact that I set that rule early helps me not feel too bad when I say 'no'.

Boundaries are good, but if you need to adjust them at some point it's ok to be flexible. And if it's too much or not what you expected it's ok to close the door again. It's not ideal, and again you want to be sensitive about it, but not all reunions work out.

How do you refer to your birth family?

My 'birth family'. 'Birth' pretty much goes in front of each relationship 'mom', 'dad', etc. However, I will admit that sometimes the 'birth' part can slip off for my siblings, but usually not for my birth parents. Parent is an important role and I feel like it needs to be defined for what it is here. Plus, as much as I care for my birth parents, they are not my parents - they aren't the people that I grew up with. But mostly, other people get confused when you start talking about multiple parents, whereas it's much easier to grasp multiple siblings.

How many parents and siblings do you now have?

Let's see, I guess I have the break down at the top of the page, but in numbers:

Moms - 3
Dads - 2
Siblings - 15

Did your birth parents name you and if so, what?

No, my birth mom did not name me, but when I asked her what she might have named me she said 'Louise'. It's her middle name.

Three generations

Who do you look like?

When the adoption agency finally connected us, my birth mom sent me a letter and a picture. I eagerly awaited the picture where I would be able to see people who looked like me. And then I got this...

Linda, Megan, Andy, Blake (nephew), Amy (sister in law), Valeen (grandma), and Squid.

I seriously didn't know who was my birth mom at first. I mean, I figured it out by deduction pretty quickly, but none of these people really look like me. I have to admit I was a little disappointed.

Then my birth father sent a picture and whammo, there it was.

Leo is in the dark blue. The rest are his siblings - my aunts and uncles

Maybe you can't tell so much, but for me all I could see were my cheeks on the guy in the dark blue shirt (my birth dad).

Here's the thing, I was actually thinking that the first thing I would notice would be eyes. In fact, I never thought twice about my cheeks until the moment I saw this picture. I thought that someone has to have these large blue-green eyes, but no. Turns out my eyes are sort of a blend of both my birth parents. Hers are a little gray, his are very blue and together they apparently make blue green, but still not sure where the size of them come from.

I also have my birth dad's nose - square with a little dent (otherwise fondly known as the 'butt crack') on the end. I think my chin comes from my birth mom's side and my long torso I found in my birth sister, Megan (Linda's daughter), but no one else. My long fingers I finally found in Leo's mom, Florence.

Me, Grandma Florence, and Leo

Did your birth parents share why they placed you for adoption and if so, why?

We have talked about this and it feels a little weird to tell their story... kind of like it's not my story to tell. However, I will share this... They were both 19. Linda had a two year old son and her parents weren't happy that she was having another baby. I don't think she had a lot of support, including from my birth dad. He has expressed regret over this and honestly, I don't hold it against him. They seem to still be friends and Linda actually introduced Leo to his wife. If they have any long standing issue about this I don't know and I sort of don't care. For me, I just don't want to judge. I wasn't in their shoes so I really don't know what I would have done in the same situation.What I do know is that it was a HARD decision and one not made lightly.

My birth siblings from both sides when they were young (and Leo's two step sons)

Do you see yourself more in your parents or your birth parents (looks, personality, etc)?

I'm inclined to say my dad, but at the same time he and I are different in many ways. A lot of that was probably influence from friends growing up, but also because there is a 44 year age difference in us. There are also similarities with my birth parents and some of those characteristics overlap with my dad (such as the handyman side of me). My birth dad said I am a lot like his sister which was interesting to hear since I rarely heard comments like that growing up.

What do your families think of each other? Do all your parents get along?

I love that they all like each other. That's one thing that I never was really worried about or had to deal with. I know that's not true for all adoptees. I feel very grateful for this. When someone in my family asks me about my birth family there is a genuine interest. In fact, my birth mom is a seamstress and made a few bags for me. When on of my step sisters saw them she connected directly with my birth mom to buy some from her and then even sold a bunch to her friends. I really do have good people in my life.

What do you think your relationship will look like in the future?

Who knows. I'm pretty sure they will stay in my life, but even in the 8 years we've been in contact the relationship has changed. As I mentioned, we hardly talk to them on the phone and I'm ok with that. Thanks to Facebook I know a little more about some of them than others. And I still see them from time to time for different family events. I'll likely never have the relationship with them that I might have if they raised me. As a parent, I can only imagine that is probably tougher on them than it is on me. I'm glad that I've met them, that they are nice people, and that we can appreciate each other.

Next post will be about some adoption details people might want to know about. Please don't hesitate to ask any questions!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Adoption Story Part 1 - Growing Up Adopted

Some time ago I mentioned that I was going to write up the story of my adoption, but never really got around to it. It's been a huge part of my life so it was hard to determine what was relevant or not and it sort of turns out that pretty much everything is relevant. In an attempt to not turn this into a novel I will tell my story in a Q and A format and split it into several posts:

Part 1 - Growing up adopted

And to help you keep everyone straight here is my family...

Ruth and Frank 
Adoptive parents 
(I will refer to them as my parents, because that's how I refer to them in day to day life)

(in the past I've often referred to her as my mom) 

Linda and Leo 
Birth parents

Karen and Scott  
Adopted siblings aka, my sister and brother
(I have a gazillion siblings, but these two were also adopted)

Judy, Linda, Barry, Chuck, Ben, Robert, Angel, John
Step siblings
(Ann's kids)

Andy, Megan, Squid, Lindsey, Derek
Birth siblings
(the first three are Linda's kids, and the last two are Leo's kids)

So without further ado...

How old were you when you were adopted?

I was about 2 months old. I was born in January of 1972 and was in foster care until placed with my parents on March 22 of 1972.

Adoption day - March 1972. 

My birth mom made this outfit and gave me the ring attached to the front of the dress. Unfortunately, it was destroyed in a house fire years later, but I have about 20 or more duplicates of this picture. Years later I discovered that this picture was given to my birth mother shortly after it was taken and she's been hanging on to it all these years. 

Why were you adopted?

My parents (remember this is adoptive parents) had two babies in the mid 1950's that died hours after birth (their lungs filled up with fluid). I can't even imagine how devastating that had to be. They went on to adopt my sister, Karen, and then my brother, Scott, in 1959 and 1961. Weirdly, my mom insisted on naming my sister the same name as one of the deceased babies. That's a whole other story, though.

Then 10 years after they adopted my brother they adopted me. I'm fairly certain I was a 'marriage fixer' baby even if they didn't realize that's what was happening. I don't hold it against anyone. It is what it is, but they probably should not have been allowed to adopt as my mom had some serious mental health issues. I've heard multiple diagnosis, but think delusional disorder... schizophrenia. Our family doctor apparently wrote a 3 page letter as to why she shouldn't have been allowed to adopt and I've heard stories that the adoption agencies were going to let her adopt a baby internationally, but not a domestic child. I'm not sure if that was true or not, but let's just say that my mom was a stubborn woman and was persistent in getting her way (oh the stories I could tell). When I ask my dad about that time he says that my mom did all the work with the adoption process and he didn't have to do much beyond signing some papers. That's just the way things were then.

I was about three years old in this picture (which is when my parents divorced). You can see how unhappy (most) everyone was. I was apparently clueless to the mood surrounding me.

What about your birth parents? Why did they place you for adoption? What were you told as a kid?

I was told that my birth parents were young and they wanted the best for me.

When did you first know you were adopted?

Hmm, I've just always known. I don't think we kids ever had a moment where we were sat down and given 'the talk'. My parents always talked about it and in a way that made me feel very special and loved. I never felt like my birth parents had given me up... or gotten rid of me. I truly was led to believe that they wanted the best for me and couldn't provide that at the time. I thought that if they could have they would have raised me and that it was a difficult decision that they had to make.

Do you look like your family (your adoptive family)?

Yes and no. We all have fair skin, and I think 4 out of 5 of us have blue eyes. We could pass for being related, but for someone who is adopted those differences can sometimes be magnified. Sure, my dad and I had some similarities, but I knew I didn't actually inherit those from him. And actually, it wasn't too terribly noticeable for me when I was younger (heck none of those TV families are genetically related so we fit right in on that aspect).

It was when I was a little older that it became more noticeable for me. My parents had divorced and my dad remarried an Italian woman with 8 kids from a previous marriage. One afternoon when I was a teenager we were at one of my step-sibling's house admiring one of their new babies. They all chimed in with comments like "she looks like so and so as a baby" and that's when it really hit me that I didn't have that. It was the first time I really felt impacted by that. Like I realized that I was missing out on really resembling anyone I knew. At the time I had no desire to meet my birth family or have a child so I wasn't sure how to deal with that. There was a little bit of a grieving feeling and then a moving on feeling. It was there, but wasn't so heavy that it was an issue.

My dad and I with 6 of my Italian siblings. My (enhanced) dark hair helps me blend in a little bit.

Speaking of being aware of how you looked different, did you ever feel out of place or left out since you were adopted?

Not really, but there were times. Most of the time I just felt normal, and of course, when I was younger I felt special. I was chosen to be Frank and Ruth's daughter... they didn't just give birth to me. Also, as I mentioned before, it wasn't until later that I became more aware of the differences between myself and my family. This also might have been because my parents divorced and a few years later I gained this new, enormous family.

Did you always want to meet your birth parents?

No. Actually, I had no desire to meet them most of my life. It wasn't that I had ill feelings towards them. I just felt like I had a family. And truthfully, I didn't want to take that risk. I was more afraid that they would want to step in and be my parents than them not wanting to meet me.

What was your relationship with adoption growing up?

When you tell people you are adopted you get all sorts of responses, but sometimes you feel like some sort of mini celebrity. All of a sudden people are really interested in your story... or they know someone who is adopted... or they ask awkward questions about your 'real' parents. I've never shied away from telling my story partly because I wanted people to be educated about adoption, but I know I would also be curious if I were in their shoes.

I also seemed to meet a lot of adopted people growing up. I'm not sure if we were drawn to each other in some way or that we just connected because of a shared experience. However, I wouldn't say that these people were any more close or distant than any of my other friends. It was just one piece that connected us and like all friendships those similar connections often draw you together.

What I learned from those friendships is that we all have different experiences and feelings about adoption. For me, I'm sure I would have had a good life with my birth parents, but I am grateful that I was adopted. Sure there was some crappy stuff in my family, but my dad has been my rock and I'm glad that he is a part of my life.

One of my friends is adopted from Korea. We'll call her Mary. Her story is very different from mine except that her birth parents (or in her case birth parent) felt they were in a place that they couldn't provide what they really wanted to and made the difficult decision to ask someone else to raise their child (also, stating that this is a difficult decisions actually seems to downplay how hard that decision is to make). For Mary, her birth mother passed away. She was the youngest of five girls and her birth dad placed her and another sister for adoption. She and her sister were adopted together by a family that was relatively well off. She never had to want for anything, but she shared that she always thought she should be living on the dirt floor of her family's hut in Korea. That was were she belonged. Her experience was very different than mine. She didn't look like her family and perhaps that was a daily reminder that I did not have to live with, but I understand where her thought process comes from and can respect it for what it is.

Has adoption worked it's way into your life in other ways?

Actually, when I was in my late 20's I started working at an adoption agency as a birth parent counselor. I supported birth parents primarily, but also got to work closely with adoptive parents. Being adopted certainly helped me understand who I was working with and gave me a bit of credibility. Even though I was neither a birth parent nor an adoptive parent I could identify with the situation at hand.

I really liked this job, although I will admit that at times it made me feel like adoption was my main identity. It was during this time when I was 34 that I finally decided to search for my birth parents.

That seems like a long time to decide to search for your birth parents. Did you never think about it growing up?

When I was in my late teens/early 20's my step-mom, Ann, used to ask me if I wanted to meet my birth family. I didn't at the time and didn't really think much about her asking. I understood her curiosity - lots of people asked. But Ann and I didn't always have the best relationship and some of the things she would say were just mean. As I mentioned in a previous post she had some mental health issues and you could say a lot of her jealousy and paranoia were focused on me. She told me multiple times that my dad didn't want to adopt me... that I was the attempted marriage fixer (who says this to their kid?). I never really took what she said too personally (I wasn't dumb, though, and figured I was a marriage fixer baby. I'm not mad about it and don't think my parents really thought of it in those terms).

My dad was always very open with me meeting my birth family. Perhaps I should back up a bit and share that when my mom and dad divorced when I was three, my dad gained custody of me. When I was 7 he remarried and this caused issues with my mom. Her mental illness got really bad at this time and a Judge determined that she shouldn't see me anymore. So from about age 7 or 8 until I was 18 I did not see my mom. My dad followed the Judge's recommendation until I was about 13 and then asked if I wanted to see my mom. I declined. I have to admit I was a little scared and didn't know what to expect. I think I was also a little too young to make this decision (it was far more complicated than this small paragraph can really describe). So I waited until I was 18 and then went to see my mom. It was weird and we never really gained the mother/daughter relationship that most people have before she passed away when I was 24. Anyway, this might seem off track, but it was very relevant in my decision to not search for my birth parents. It was hard to meet this woman. This woman who was my mom - she had so many wishes for me and I was her ugly duckling (trust me, it was a term of endearment with her). And yet, I couldn't be the person she wanted me to be. Why would I want to search for more people that I might let down? That sounds so emotional, but it was more of a feeling of "meh, I like my life, I know what to expect, I don't need to complicate things..."

A few years after I saw my mom again, my step mom got me non-identifying information about my birth parents from the adoption agency I was adopted from. Actually, I don't think they would release it to her and I can't quite remember how this all went down, but it was the first time I had solid information about my birth family. It's funny because my sister, Karen, always told me I was German, French, and I think English. Everyone in my family told me I was German - it was apparently obvious with my square German nose. I'm not sure where my sister got all this from... perhaps we were filling in the gaps as needed, but when I got the non-identifying info I discovered that I wasn't French at all. I was German. At least on my birth mother's side as my birth father's was reported as unknown (years later I would learn that I have a dash of Danish as well).

I would also find out how many aunts and uncles I had and every one's approximate height, weight, hair color, eye color... their professions and interests. I even discovered that I had a half brother two years older than me. I was able to confirm that my birth parents were 19.

I had also been told by someone that I was born cesarean section, but discovered that wasn't true either. Oh, and I discovered that I wasn't the first person in my family to have bad teeth. In fact the exact words in this document were "Your birth mother's health is given as average and that she had bad teeth." Lol. Well, that helped explain a few things.

Even though this information sparked an interested I still  never thought I would search for my birth family... and I think a large part of that decision falls back on my relationship with my mom as I describe above. Overall, growing up adopted was probably a lot like growing up in a family that you were born into. The things that are more significant for me had to do with my mom's (and step-mom's) mental health issues. As you can imagine dealing with that sucked and you might think that I would have wished to never have been adopted. Yes, I could have done without that, but if you ask me if I would change things and never have been adopted, I'd say "no". This has nothing to do with my birth parents (as they are good parents/people), but more to do with getting Frank as a dad. I wouldn't change that for the world.

My dad and Ann with me at my high school graduation

But you did decide to search for your birth parents. How did that come about?

Well, that's a long story... the decision, the search and then finally meeting them. I'll save that for part two.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Grad Party/Father's Day...

This weekend we celebrated my niece's high school graduation and Father's Day, but I'm pretty sure Riley's future therapist will come to know this as the weekend we denied her cake. It was pretty traumatic. 

Not to brag, but pretty much since Riley turned four she's been great. For the most part she listens to what we tell her, she's funny, she's well behaved in public and at home, she's polite... she hasn't been perfect, but it's been great overall. I remember my OB/GYN once telling me "just wait until your daughter turns four. They really aim to please at that age." And she was right! That is until a couple weeks ago when miss sassy pants decided to take over our child.

I'm not sure what happened, but Riley decided she no longer needed to listen to us and that she could sass and not back down. And on top of that, she could throw some epic fits.

I want my four year old gem back - the one that makes me feel like I actually have been doing this parenting thing right, not the one that makes me feel confused and angry... and mean. When your four year old decides that she's boss, you have to lay down the law and that's not always fun.

It actually reminds me of when I was a kid. My dad always tells me what a good kid I was, but I distinctly remember screaming at the top of my lungs when sent to bed early for not eating my dinner. We were a big 'eat all your food' household growing up so if I didn't want to eat my food I was sent to my room. I thought that if I just screamed louder I would show my dad that I meant business and he would let me out of my room. It never worked. Ever.

I was sharing my situation with a brother in law on Sunday and he so sympathetically said "payback is a bitch". I suppose it is, but I think of this differently... I sort of get what she's doing. I wish I could change it and help her understand that her behavior isn't going to get her the results she wants. But I get it - I did it too. Being four can be confusing.

Jesse and I are trying to stand our ground, but also have conversations with her about her behavior - what's good, what's not - so she (hopefully) will understand and change her behavior.

It's not all bad. She's still mostly a sweetheart. Just yesterday she yelled for me from the other room just to tell me she loved me and today she was all "thank you" to this and "thank you" to that, but I CANNOT wait for this to pass. Please tell me it's going to pass. It is, isn't it?

At any rate, on Saturday we went to JoLynn's graduation party. My brother, John, and his wife, Jodi, always know how to throw a good party and this was no exception. It started at 2:00 in the afternoon and apparently went into the wee hours of the morning. Ha. I made it until about 5:00 pm. Even if I didn't have a fussy kid I would have never made it that late. Some people are better at partying than others. I would not be included in that group.

JoLynn contemplating her future

Before we left for the party I told Riley she could have a treat when we were there. As soon as we arrived, she spotted the M&M's on the table so I let her have some of those. From there we explained that she needed to eat some real food and then could go play a game with my nephew's daughter who is her age.

Eating was a bit of a struggle, but she got through it and selected another treat other than cake to snack on afterwards. We then tried to get her to play with some of the other kids as they were running around with pinwheels, but she didn't seem to be into it. Later, I discovered that she wanted to play the game that we had mentioned earlier and was bummed that Emmalina was playing with the other kids.

Riley started asking for cake and would not accept that we said 'no'. We tried to explain to her that she already had a lot of treats, but she wasn't having it. After we both tried to reason with her, and she continued to whine about it, I finally took her off to the side to have a quiet moment and regroup. She's usually good about this, but instead she started kicking the deck and not calming down at all.

There was a moment when I put her in a chair by herself and she started crying hardcore. I looked down into the crowd to see a bunch of sad faces looking up at us. Just ignore us... please. Eventually, we got Riley to chill. She ran into the driveway and danced and sang and all seemed right with the world again.

Then Riley walked past the cake table again and meltdown mode started all over again. This time she added that she wanted to go home. Oh, I should also mentioned that before we left for the party I discovered that my rental property had been broken into the night before and a couple bikes stolen. Apparently, the thieves couldn't get in through the door so they cut a hole into the large fiberglass garage door. Son of a... It was at this time of the party that I was trying to talk with my renter on the phone about the whole ordeal.

Spider Rocky

Riley did eventually calm down and we decided we better go before pushing our luck with her when she totally freaked out about leaving. "I WANT TO STAAAAAAYYYY". WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH. Yeah, that was lots of fun. 

But seriously, the party was good. I got to see some family that I haven't seen in awhile and my dad got to see an old co-worker of his as well. Good times. Really.

On Sunday, we went to my sister's house for Father's Day. For the last couple years we celebrated Father's Day at my house the day before Father's Day (and it always rains). Since this year JoLynn's party fell on that day I decided to not plan anything, but my sister, Judy, decided sort of last minute to have people over. It started out as a rainy day (where we discovered our living room roof leak is back and determined that we really need to have it fixed), but the sun came out and the rest of the day was beautiful.

In the morning Riley made oatmeal for Jesse, presented him with a card and a video we made (much like we did last year). Our plan was for Riley and I to head to my sister's where my dad would be and Jesse would go to his mom's to see his step-dad, but we had some rough moments this day and decided that one of us would stay home so Riley wouldn't have to skip her nap. Jesse offered to be the one to stay behind so I could go to Judy's.

But before I left, Jesse ran out to pick up a 'sandwich' only to come back with some frozen yogurt for all of us. What a great guy.

At Judy's we mostly sat outside, played bags (I can't stand the name 'corn hole', so I call it bags), ate food, and overheated since we were all dressed for much cooler weather. 

When my sister originally called to invite us over she asked what I would want to bring food wise. I mentioned an orzo/tomato/asparagus dish and she mentioned that she was open to something different, but seemed to have a little uncertainty in her voice. Turns out it was a big hit and I was asked for the recipe from multiple people. Wish I could take full credit for it, but I have A Big Mouthful to thank for the recipe.  It's just a nice light summer dish and I totally recommend making it.

It was nice to be out and not have to worry about my fussy child, but it was time to get back. I gave my dad some chili and some jam and headed home to spend the rest of the beautiful day with my hubby and kid. Jesse seemed a little beat, but Riley was in a good mood and practically plowed me over with a hug.

Later on, after going upstairs for about the 5th time after Riley was in bed, she had a huge fit about me turning out her light (it was 9:20). She thrashed around on her bed for a bit while crying before finally stopping and telling me that she wanted to be the one to turn off her light. It sucked that she threw a fit, but glad that she's starting to use her words again to express herself. Let's hope this is a short lived phase and I will have my non sassy kid back soon.