Friday, October 27, 2006
The Art of the Bribe
This morning my usually easy going and school loving son was having nothing to do with going to school. He'd had good night's sleep, was not sick and had woken up easily and in a good mood. But the moment I mentioned getting dressed for school, the proverbial All Hell Broke Loose. He may on occasion fuss for a few minutes but the lure of riding the school bus is usually enough to get him in the mood. But today even that proved fruitless. He went to the bathroom (while crying), got dressed (while crying), got his backpack (while crying) and preceded to the garage (while crying).He repeated to me "I am not going any where" , "I am going back to sleep", " I am staying home" about 200 times. When I would occasionally interject a calming word, he responded with a "Be quiet" or "Shut UP" which I am ever so proud of. He has gone from one word caveman talk to some good sentences, expressing himself clearly and yes now, verbal disobedience. In many ways I am happy to hear this from him, but at 7:30 am,47 degrees and raining in my driveway wearing my pj's and a raincoat while my neighbor's next door are loading up their kids and hearing this exchange, not so proud.
He refused to leave the sanctity of the chair beside my minivan. While I patiently did my impression of Fred Astaire's Singing in the Rain Song and Dance, complete with umbrella. In the driveway, in my pajamas,47degrees-did I mention that. Ummm, this was not working. I calming put on my thinking cap. What could entice him onto the bus willingly.
Oh yeah, a bribe..... An airplane bribe.
My son LOVES airplanes.All kinds-airplanes to ride on, airplanes to watch fly overhead, airplane video games ,airplane toys and most of all paper,balsa or foam airplanes to fly indoors and out, to the roof of the house and to tie to the fan with some string. And didn't I just receive Wed. a big box of stuff from Oriental Trading that is still sitting in my foyer. Didn't that same box contain 5 different kind of airplanes-Styrofoam ones, balsa ones, cardboard ones and foam ones. Jets, biplanes, bird planes of every shape and color.
192 to be exact. For the low low price of about $30.
So the seduction begins. Enter stage right the voice of the Temptress.
"Riley, If you get on Ms.Baker's bus you can fly an airplane when you get home" His eyes lock on me.
"Riley, After school Mommy will have you some new airplanes to fly, OK? " OK, he answers warily.
"Riley, You want to play with some airplanes and tie them to the fan after you get home?" He stands up.
This incentive proves impossible to resist.
I walk over to him and he gives me a high five on the planes. I suggest he get his umbrella and join me on the driveway to wait for the bus and talk about the planes. He does.
We talk about what color he may want, how many and what we will do with them.
He has clearly taken the bait.
Hook, Line and Sinker. I have reeled him in.
He has no idea what just happened.
Bus arrives, he puts on his backpack and happily climbs about. Blotchy face and all.
The end justifies the means.
Yeah,Yeah I have read all the parenting no no's about using bribes to get your children to cooperate.The intrinsic negatives of the dangling of the carrot to get them to do what you want. That they should learn to do what we ask purely for the face value of being an obedient child.
Horse Feathers and Bull Hockey.
Don't we as adults work on a system of self induced the forbidden fruit, the golden apple , the lobbying of ourselves to do this in return for that.
You work for the paycheck, you do 100 situps for that one chocolate chip cookie, you do housework today so you can go out to lunch and shop tomorrow. You encourage your hubby to go play golf, knowing next weekend your scrapbooking crop is scheduled.
Tit for Tat.
The old bait and switch has prompted many successful undertakings in my house.
Riding the Big Yellow Cheese Wagon excited my son about school.
Princess Panties lured my daughter out of diapers.
Hello Kitty sippy cup off of her bottle.
She traded her pacifier for a Cinderella DVD.
Two weeks worth of items from Dollar Tree hidden under her pillow in the dead of night from the
Sand Man for staying in her own bed, was well worth the sleep we are all getting now.
She will do just about anything for a Hershey Kiss or a Tootsie Roll
A swim in the jacuzzi or trip to the zoo or Children's science center has gotten my son to practice spelling
words all week, work in his handwriting or just be generally cooperative.
And I would never want to add the times that I have dangled a trip to the park, the YMCA, Chic Filet or MickeyD's has factored into the equation.
Without a doubt parenting requires love, guidance, patience, strength, continuity and courage of conviction
It also takes a dash ingenuity and imagination and quick thinking
some charm, coaxing ,luring, enticement,temptation and seduction
and a stash of goods, bribes, bait, awards, surprises,lures, decoys. And Airplanes.
You must perfect the art of tantalizing them into changing their mind, their mood, their emotions at times.
Never underestimate the power of being able to grease the palm , bait the hook or put the carrot on the stick.
Use it sparingly, wisely and without them being the wiser.
I have those 5 airplanes assembled and waiting on the kitchen bar for him.
He's happy , I'm happy.
Mission Accomplished.
Tomorrow will provide an opportunity for those other parenting skills of a higher calling
But today, I needed to have a trick up my sleeve.
Mothering, Tricky Business.

Monday, October 23, 2006
My Momness
This weekend my daughter and I were watching the movie "Cheaper by the Dozen-Part 2". She is my movie partner. Each Friday or Saturday night we pile up in her bed with some popcorn and watch a movie.We call it our Girls Only slumber party. She loves movies as much as I do. Even if it is not a "kids" movie, she will watch it with me. While we are very strict about anything even remotely related to violence or obvious sexual content, other subject matter I let her watch. It has given us the opportunity to talk about a lot of subjects that do not normally come up in conversation. When we watched "The Notebook", we discussed being married for a long time, growing old together and love staying strong even if one person changes. Also we touched on Alzhiemer's. Deep subjects for a 5 year old but she is an old soul. I am so thrilled that she shares my love of the silver screen, as opposed to my husband. The joke is he never saw a movie he couldn't sleep through. Anyway, at the end of the movie, the oldest daughter gives birth to the first grandchild and thanks her parents for teaching her that there is
"No way to be a Perfect Parent, but hundreds of ways to be a really Good one.
That one line really stuck with me.
What ways am I a really Good One?
Before we adopted our son, I read everything I could about attachment, health, milestones, developmental delays, post institutional effects, feeding, sleeping and bowel habits. You have your game plan in place. Then your child arrives and you throw about half of what you have learned out the window. And lo and behold, your child thrives anyway. Throughout the last 7 years that I have been a Mom, I find that as parents, you are constantly bombarded with do's and don'ts from real and so called experts ,TV, print and other parents. This will cause even the most self confident Mom, second guess herself at times. But I think I have finally become comfortable in my momness. My kids are happy, healthy, compassionate and kind. They work hard and play hard. What more could I ask for. I must be getting some of it right.
I have also realized the importance of creating or embracing our own family quirks and traditions. It is what makes us The Freeman Family of Four (FFOF),which is how we refer to ourselves. I have come to the conclusion that I do not want to be totally like any other Mom. That;s fun of being Mom. You are allowed to make some of it up as go.
I bought myself a silver Hermit Crab charm.
I am not a jewelry person in the least. If it doesn't have some kind of meaning , than I rather not bother.The 7 rings I wear daily might seem to tell another story but not really. I wear my wedding and engagement ring, both of my grandmothers wedding bands and a sapphire(my birthstone) ring from my husband on my left hand. On my right, I wear two rings that are my children's birthstones (ruby and amethyst) and my father's high school graduation ring. He passed away 14 years ago and it is my most prized piece of jewelry.He was truly a role model of the type of parent I want to be. My mom too. They gave me great memories unique to us, traditions passed down, and hilarious happenings that only my brother , sister and I could ever understand. I grew up surrounded by love, devotion and family loyalty.We might not have been raised,by the book, we wrote our own. We are all successful, happily married and raising children of our own. What more could you wish for your children.They must have done something right.
So why a hermit crab as my own personal symbol of being a Mom.
Let me explain.
We went to the beach for an end of the summer last hooray. My kids have inherited our love of the beach and ocean, or anything that involves water. My daughter loves to collect beach treasures. This trip she pulled out of the ocean a shell that was the home of a hermit crab. Which of course she insisted on keeping in the bucket of shells and some water. Three days later when we arrived home, that little crab was still alive. So that led to a trip to the local Petsmart and collecting all the items for a Hermit Crab home. We dug out an old glass aquarium we have and filled it with sand, a coconut house, water dish, food dish, driftwood to climb on and extra shells in case he wanted to move into new one. Oh yeah, and another Hermit crab because according to the Hermit Crab Care Book, they don't like to live alone. And a thermometer and humidity gauge. You see they also like the temp to be between 72 and 85 and the humidity between 70-90%.They ate special hermit food and also apples, peanut butter, crackers and a host of fresh foods. Yes, I am the resident crab specialist. And of course, about a week later,Crab #1 dies. Followed by a trip back to the pet store to purchase another hermit crab. These two have lived happily for the past 2 months. Of course the interest in them for my daughter as waned. While I am still diligently checking the temp and humid levels several times a day, replacing water and food daily and cleaning out the cage. And putting them in the kitchen sink for a little exercise and a chat. This is the essence of being a Mom, proof that as a mother there is no end to what I will do for them. No task too great or too small. I will be as devoted to a pet they love as I am to them. My love and care of these two crabs is an extension of my love and care for them.Even if the big one loves to pinch me with his big claw. Even if it really hurts. And even if my daughter thinks it is so funny we he does this and I scream.
So everytime I wear this charm , it is my Medal of Honor, my Purple Heart, my Heart on my Sleeve (or neck).My little Mom Award to myself. Or maybe it just reminds me it's all the little things that add up the most.
It will make no sense to anyone but the FFOF.
These are the things that until you become a parent , you just don't get. A part of parenting that you would miss out on. Not just taking care of your family, but taking care everything that defines your family. Daily, I feed 16 mouths. Me, my husband and my two children. Two hermit crabs, a cat and a dog. Six rather huge goldfish and two plecos. I love it. How boring when I only had to feed four, Husband and I and dog and cat.
And since some eat more than once a day, I actually am in charge of 31 meals a day. 31 chances to be a good Mom. 31 chances to love.
A few of the hundreds of ways I am a good parent. Not perfect, not always right. I make mistakes.
But each minute of each day, I have the chance to be a good Mom. A chance to redeem myself sometimes.
I hope my two think, the Best Mom.
I want to be a One of a kind Mom.
They are One of a Kind Children.
We share a One of A Kind Love.
I have the Hermit Crabs to Prove It.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006
A Moment on the Soap Box
I do not usually comment here on current events, but I feel the need to vent. Madonna, this week, adopted a young boy from Africa, Malawi, I believe. Not a place I have ever heard of, but one of the poorest countries on the planet. Over a million orphan children, most die in childhood from Malaria, most orphaned due to early death of a parent and extreme poverty. A country, that up until now, has been very hesitant to allow any foreign adoptions, has a law in place that you must live there for a year prior to an adoption. This requirement makes adoption pretty much unheard of.
Enter Madonna, she has decided to not only provide millions of dollars to help the orphan situation there, but she has also adopted a one year old boy. A child, whose mother died while giving birth to him and whose two older siblings died young from malaria. His father is destitute and placed the child in the orphanage shortly after birth because he could not care for him or foresee ever being able to. Madonna, after perusing several children, like a lot of adoptive parents do in one way or another, chose to adopt him, with the consent of his father. A chance for survival, a future and a life with the endless possibilities of success.
Good for the father, Good for the child, Good for Madonna and Guy.
What is the problem.
Another orphan child who had no future now has a loving family, food, care , support and a chance.
To read the adoption boards this week , you would think that Madonna is a deviant with an extensive criminal background. That she snuck into Africa in the dead of night, greased a few palms and stole this child from the cradle in his family home,never to be seen or heard from again.
I mean really. Get a Grip!
This child will be followed, photographed and become an African adoption poster child right up there next to Angelina's African daughter. Probably for at least the next, say 30 years.
On the one hand we have poverty, little food, probable death from preventable medical condition or
we have family, love, care, plenty of food , education,financial security and life.
What a choice, hmmmm, let's see, what would be in the best interest for this little boy.........
This Human Rights group that wants him returned to his former plight...Well, I wouldn't want them advocating for me or my children, would you?
Many seem caught up on the presence of the father. Most children adopted now in the US have bio parents alive and well and who consented to the adoption. Open adoption even keeps them in the picture.
As far as I know the bio parents of both of my children adopted from Russia are living and consented to my adoption of them. Or at least placed them willingly at birth in the orphanage system.
Our adoptions aren't so different than Madonna's.
Except that she has done and will do much more for the children left behind than any one of us can or will do for the children left behind in Russia.
She has the money, clout and celebrity to actually make a difference in the lives of children other than the one she adopted.
Would it make me mad if she was able to adopt faster than I had. No, because a year from now that little boy may have been dead. That is his reality. Maybe it will prompt other nations to make exceptions to the time frame rule in their own countries. How great would that be.
Reading between the lines of posts that are screaming out against her adoption just sound like sour grapes to me. I agree that waiting to adopt a child from a foreign country takes more time than it should, tests the patience and endurance of families, stretches finances and emotions and even deters many from the pursuit.
But while we are waiting and whining here in our heated and air conditioned homes, with plenty to eat, plenty to do and knowing it will eventually culminate in success and a child,
our child, a child, many children
are starving, sick, suffering unimaginable conditions and irrevocable damage while waiting also.
Children from all over the World,
some places that make the orphanages of Russia look like luxurious palaces.
Places where adoption is unheard of, never heard of and will never happen.
Places the world has never heard of.
Places like Malawi.
A poor African country where a famous face went, helped and made one of them her own.
She made the world aware of this place, it's plight and it's children.
A father now knows his child has the one in a million chance at life.
Literally one in a million.
Actually one in ten million in Africa
So before we selfishly make insulting remarks about this woman, this adoption and this process.
Let's remember why we become parents and why we adopt.

Not for the process,
but for the children.
And in the end we realize that we, ourselves get the most out of it.
A chance to love,
to watch a child grow and blossom
to see the future in their eyes and in their laughter.
Now David Richey, will get the chance to grow and laugh.
And he will be watched.


Friday, October 13, 2006
L'Oreal, Love handles, and laughter
So when did my tan start looking like an advertisement for Oreo’s? This morning while I was standing in the mirror unclothed while I was color enhancing my hair, I realized that my summer tan made me want an Oreo. That was because while from the chest and arms up and from my hips down I was a nice healthy tan, but my middle section looked scarily like the white middle of a double stuff. When did this happen? I still own two piece bathing suits, I see them in my drawer. I tried one on, it still fits, so it could not have been than long ago. Mmmmmm, I sigh.I could spray tan or fake and bake, but honestly , just not interested.
I then take a look around my closet the shoe area, A few with heels, some clogs but I realize that my last three shoe purchases fall comfortably in the ,well, comfort zone. Hey, but flats are in this season so I am covered there, the third pair are ….Crocs.
I Know, I Know, so ugly. How did they get on my feet, right now as I am typing even.
When crocs starting becoming popular last year, I thought, those are just the rubber clogs we have been in operating room for years. No one would dare venture out in public in them. But here they were ,everywhere. At sporting good stores and even Hallmark. That was some sales pitch whammy they put on Hallmark. My nieces arrived at ballet class with my daughter one day sorting Neon Pink and Neon Yellow. Rather Nauseating. I was so happy to hear my daughter announce after seeing them, they are so ugly and look like boy shoes. Whew, dodged that one.
Then my husband, who prides himself in not following tends and fads, casually tried some on at the big Sporting Goods store this summer, kinda like a joke, Well, the joke was on me. Next thing I know he is at the cashier buying a Khaki pair, XL. And proceeds to put them on and wear them the rest of the day. Ok, he just turned 50 , maybe this is his little midlife crisis statement-CROCS.
Now the trouble starts. He tells me that he wants me to find a pair for our son, for the summer and beach trip. My daughter hear this and now she must have some too. What is this, a conspiracy. So , being the good wife and mother that I am , I find the Croc website on line. Or Croc Heaven I should say. Every style in 18 colors. Yes, go to and see for yourself. Croc Sandals, various clogs, slip ones, thongs and Mary Jane’s.
I add to my shopping cart a nice baby blue pair for my princess and a tan pair for the little prince. Ready to Checkout. Not so fast. Well, were are going camping in a few weeks…..and I refuse to stand barefoot on the floor of the public showers we will have to use……and they are rubbery and easy to clean…….and, what the hell, so I order myself I nice little sandal type pair. You know for the beach, camping, pool.
That’s how it starts , First you wear them as athletic equipment and soon you decided they do match my khaki shorts, Hey, I am just running to Wal-Mart and before I knew it I was a crocaholic. Finally comfort meets trendy, not sure if fashion is in play here or not. I just found out that in November they are coming out with Disney Crocs, with cute little Mickey head cutouts. Yes, I have preordered some for my princess, pink this time.
The final chapter of the Croc Attack is my Step Father, a 68 year old School Superintendent who never even owned a pair of jeans or tennis shoes until he met my Mom 9 years ago. I saw him eyeing my husband’s crocs and saying that they must be comfortable if Billy is wearing them, to which my husband agreed that was the only reason he would. So for his birthday, I ordered him a pair. Now, that is all he is wearing now. He is the hippest Grandpa on the block. And just the other day I noticed my Mother in Law sporting a pair on her 78 year old feet. Comfort beats out ugly every time. There is a certain exhaling of the soul when you embrace and accept that stage in life.
Every magazine I read has volumes dedicated to looking younger, being younger, what’s in, what’s out, they want to do the thinking for you. I even saw a print add recently in a parenting magazine with the caption
” She doesn’t Look like a Mom,Does she?” WHAT…
What does a Mom look Like???
This woman looked in her thirties, she wasn’t dressed like a stripper. She had on a cute little knee length skirt, simple top, long neat straight blond hair and round toe low heels. Smiling and Holding a toddler.
I didn’t get it.
What is their idea of a Mom who looks like a Mom?
A chubby unfit, bare faced woman of unidentifiable age, uncombed hair, bedroom slippers, stretch pants and a multi colored polyester shirt with a baby wipe stuck to her butt.
The great thing about being a Mom these days is that we come in all shapes and sized and ages and personality.
We can be 26 or 46 with a toddler or a teenager.
We can be Vegan, Organic or Menu Divas. Homeschoolers or Corporate Raiders. Botox or Youth out of a Box
Single, Married, Significant Other, Two Moms, Two Dads.
Raising Bio, Donor, or Adopted children.
You can be sucked, plucked and Tucked
Or jiggly, giggly and proud.
One reason why I am feel so good about being a 46 year old woman raising two young children with a 50 year old husband is that we have learned to not only love ourselves and this time in our life but we are happy with who we are and content with the choices we make.
We can laugh at ourselves, we are proud of our wrinkles and few gray hairs. We have earned every one of them. I have been the style monger fashionista who followed the trends with the best of them. I now have the confidence to like what I like and to ignore what I don’t, regardless of mass appeal and what the Stars are wearing.
I am me, that is who my husbands loves and my kids adore. I feel pretty damn good when I look in the mirror. Oreo stomach and all. My neck is still wrinkle free, I have worn the same size 9/10 for the last 8 years .I was recently carded at the liquor store.
Life is Good!
I can equalize comfort with style and clean up pretty good.
I love my Minivan and my Maxi life.
I adore my kids.
My daughter’s non stop commentary on the world and my son’s sensory issues and odd language makes him King of the world to me.
In our little kingdom there are only a few rules.
Laugh a lot and often at yourself
Love who you are, no matter who you are
Be your own trendsetter and style maven
And even if its ugly, if you like it, it becomes beautiful
Middle age, is that what this is.
I call it the Decade of Enlightenment.
Free to be Me.
Now, excuse me while I go wash the L’Oreal Preference Light Beige Blonde #9 1/2 B out of my hair.
It is the age of enlightenment after all.

At the Zoo,October 2006

Tuesday, October 10, 2006
The Moral Compass
I had an AH HAH! moment on Sunday. It was a beautiful fall day, low 70s and a slight breeze, blue sky and no clouds. A rare fall day for early October in the South. We could easily still be wearing shorts at Thanksgiving. Or stubbornly donning our new fall clothes while we sweat over the Turkey and have the AC on high. We decided to take the kids to the Zoo. We have a family membership and go often. But our favorite time is on cool or cold days. The animals are much more active on those days. The first stop is always the Reptile Building. Snakes, Lizards and Turtles. The Giant Gila monster died some time back from an infected retained egg (I know TMI) and they have replaced it with some huge Galapagus tortoises and some other smaller (yet pretty big) species of turtle. We were watching them when we noticed that one turtle was on his back and trying very hard to turn himself over. To no avail. This struggle captivated my two kids. After a few minutes they realized that this turtle could not right himself on his own. They started to become quite concerned about this. By now several other families, and quite a few children joined us at the glass to cheer on this upside down friend. We are all becoming as distressed as the little guy himself was and we are collectively absorbed in his dilema. We notice one of the Giant turtles is making his way towards him. Is he coming to help we wonder out loud? Then we all watch horrified as he actually walks over the upside down one. This was pretty tramatic to watch. But our little under dog is OK. He soon tires and just sorta lays there, arms (are they called arms?) and legs outstretched , head nearly reaching the ground. I hear my daughter and a few other children cry out in a panic, Is he Dead? No, I reassure her , he is just resting.y son is visably upset. A Dad and his son quickly dart off to find a Zookeeper in the building, while the rest of us viligently stand watch. In a few minutes a reptile worker opens the door into the encloser, surveyed the scene and righted the little guy. All to Cheers from the gallery. After we all see that he is OK and back on his merry way, we move on to the next exhibit.
I was a little misty eyed at the compassion and concern everyone had for this small turtle and minor incident. Not a single person had walked on by. We were a diverse group that had gathered at the enclosure, all ages and ethnicity and socio economic levels. Yet we had all banded together instantly over this small inconsequential drama. Not one of the about 20 people that stood watch had left before the victorious ending. I was especially proud to see that my son, who at times is oblivious to certain social endeavors or emotions was just as concerned with the welfare of the little turtle.He totally got what was happening. And equally excited at the happy ending. Through the glass he told the zoo worker "Thank You for Helping" .
This short, 10 minute's out of my day did two things.
First, it restored some faith in my fellow human beings. In this day of Road Rage and the Me generation, it felt good to come together for a cause, even one such as an upside down turtle.
Second, I realized the really important things that I hope I am teaching my children.
There is a book by William Bennett, called "The Moral Compass" . I think every family should own one. It is a collection of stories from all walks of life and through out generations that teach a moral, a lesson, a virtue. My daughter loves for me to read one of them and then have a deep discussion about what it taught us.
The premise of the author is that the most important lessons we can teach our children and the most important ones for us to live by are these
In life's journey these character traits make the journey worth the trip.
If I can teach my children these things ,then they can make their way when they venture oout on their own. It will color how they see the world around them, help them make choices and live life well.
While Reading and Math, Science and Social Studies are certainly important and necessary, I think it is these other skills that truly make you a success. I see so many parents putting gargantuan time and energy into teaching their children to be first or be the best. Blue Ribbons, Trophy's, points scored and Winning teams seem to be top priority. You can always hear the parents lobbying for their kid to be the pitcher or first baseman, rarely bragging that their son is the best outfielder. It may happen but rarely.
Flash Cards for Toddlers, Class ranking on tests, giving your child the edge or the upper hand or the advantage.
The pressure for perfection and being the Leader of the Pack.
And not accepting anything less. That second place is nothing and to not be in the race is unacceptable.
I hear Mom's bragging about Home Runs , Gifted Classes and Beauty Pagents and not so much about thier offspring taking the time to lend a helping hand or offer charity to help a less fortunate or showing Thankfulness for a good deed done towards themselves.
Having a Special Child does force you sometimes to look for areas your child can and does excel in. For my son it will never be Reading or Math.And while he is very gifted athletically, the finer points of team play, the yelling or make that cheering bothers him, and this may prevent him from public or organized venues to show off his skills.I feel lucky in being his mother because he has helped us as a family put stock in other virtues. And I was reminded of the importance of that at the zoo and proud that it seems my two are reaping what I am trying to sow.
It has bothered me that sometimes I do not see the nurturing of the spirit and the soul in homes as much as the drilling of the information into the mind and skills into the body.
Survival of the fittest has taken on a whole new meaning, starting in the cradle.
Life can and will be hard and rough at times.
You may not always get the job or be picked.
Joy can be felt from cheering another on or letting someone else go first or take your place.
Adversity is a part of everyone's life at some point and learning grace and courage in the face of hardships can make all the difference in your life. Or in someone else.
Like all parent's, I welcome a straight A report card or a successful endeavor, but to see my child go out of their way for another, to take action for the sake of someone else, rates slightly higher.
My daughter , at age 5 is naturally competitive in spirit. Be it spelling the most words, reading the hardest book or being in the front at dance class.We gleefully cheer her on, but I hope her good self esteem comes equally from her own pride within when she attains her goals rather than from outside That A Girls or Public Pats on the Back.
And just like spelling or Multiplication tables, compassion takes practice.
As an adoptive parent, I felt a particular responsibility in providing opportunity and the best possible future for my children. To be the best parent I possible can. I think that is what their birthparents hoped for them. To have the love of a family and the chance to be the best they can be.The guidance and support unconditionally from their parents and siblings. I feel that they are such a precious gift and in accepting that gift I feel I made a promise to help them find the answers to questions like
Who am I?
Why am I here?
What should I be doing?
What is my Destiny?
What does it all mean?
They give me more than I could ever give back to them and
they teach me daily lessons about life and love and living.
And that living Happily Ever After can mean many things.
I hope I can guide them on their way to finding it.
And maybe, they will help someone else find theirs along the way too.
Even a Turtle.

Friday, October 06, 2006
You've Got A Friend
You Are Understanding
Maybe you never realized how important it is to have a truly understanding friend until you had a child with special needs, and found so many friends to be unable to reach out and give you the support you needed. Whether they couldn't deal with your changed circumstances,
sympathize with your problems,
keep from hurtful judging, or invite your child to associate with theirs,
some of the people who were once important in your life may have fallen away because at the very deepest level,
they were unable to understand.
It's made you value those who are always there for you,
unconditionally, without agenda.
And it's helped you to be a much more understanding parent, family member and friend yourself.

Today was a really great day. I spent it with two of my best friends, one in person and one in spirit. Let me explain. I spent the first part of my day with my oldest friend,Terri. A few yard sales, some lunch a trip to Walmart. A lot of laughs. We became friends in 6th grade, that was 34 years ago for anyone that is counting.Since we teamed up at age 12, we have been through every monumental event that most all girls and women go through. First dates, first loves, first jobs,first drink and first smoke. Our first vacation without our parents after graduation and more mistakes, things we want to forget and lots of I told you so's through the years. Ok, Decades. Marriages, one and only one for me and 3 for her. 2 divorces also for her. The births of her 3 children and the adoptions of my two. Deaths of a parent.We have gone through times where we were inseparable and months of being out of touch. Her children are now 13, 23 and 25 and she has a 4 year old granddaughter. My two are 5 and 7. Our worlds did spin in different directions at times but nothing could break or weaken our bond. We laugh that our mid life crisis was me buying a minivan at the same time she was buying a convertible. I can count on one hand my best friends.As a group they fulfill all my needs as a circle of confidants, and support and comrades. My Mom, my sister, my niece by marriage, Terri and the other friend I spent some time with via long distance today, Christine.
Each afternoon, I get my mail and sit on the bench we placed near the street in our yard and wait on my son's bus to arrive and then my daughter's. I sit and read my mail and wonder what kind of day my children had. Really, what kind of day my son had, my daughter seems to always have a good day.This afternoon I was so happy,estatic really, to get a letter from my other best friend. She lives in New Jersey and although our friendship is newer when compared to the others, it is probably the most important in many ways. She is a Portuguese New Jersey native and I am a born and raised southern belle. At first impressions, we couldn't be more different. Below the surface , we are twin daughter's of different mothers, souls leading parallel lives.
We get each other's lives like no one else. I absolutely could not imagine my journey as an adoptive mother and as a mother of a special child without her. Like me, she built her family through adoption. We met in Russia during our first adoptions. We lived together, in close quarters(the compound) for two weeks in a foreign country becoming first time parents in a way none of our other friends ever had. Our friendship was cemented in a moment of our lives that only we can understand. We each adopted infant sons close in age and each have had some issues to overcome. With her I can laugh, cry and be honest in a way that I can't with any other mother I know. Together we had to rearrange certain dreams we had and build new ones.I could totally get her son's need for a pink balloon and she get's my son's need to have his fingers on alert close to his ears at all times. We send odd pictures of our kids to each other and write funny captions on the back that no one else would catch the humor in. As much a I believe that God arranged the steps to our children, I also feel in my heart he also crossed our paths and linked us together. She is as true a gift and blessing of adoption as my children were. I hope that she knows how very much she means to me.Her husband too. He is so much like my husband in nature and thought and how he feels as a father and how he loves being a father through adoption and that forges our bond even more. I am not sure if it was fate or more of God's handiwork that we both adopted a second time from Russia around the same time. She another little boy and us, a daughter. And the two second children rocked both of our worlds in ways we had never dreamed. They were as different than there older sibling as they could be, and her Sean and my Macy are amazingly alike in personality. This made very clear when met at the beach for a week long vacation.Another link in our friendship chain forged by each of us being mothers of second children for which everything came so easily and quickly as compared to our first sons. Just a few months ago they welcomed a baby girl from China into their family and we anxiously awaited each and every step with them from a far for the 18 months it took for this adoption journey to be completed. And I am impatiently awaiting for my first chance to see her in the flesh. She is the cutest thing. I look forward in the years to come ,us sharing the journey of raising daughters, which is a whole nother ballgame.
Having this one friend in my life and knowing she will be there for the rest of my life is priceless and makes my journey as a mother feel much more enriched and even easier.
I have never been one to think I needed an entourage in my life. If you have one, then that is great.I have never needed a posse or travel in a pack. I havenever had the time to sustain that many at once. I would rather devote more quantity and quality to a few. Having a small number of very close friends is more important and special to me than 20 sorta close ones. Maybe that is why with my children that I put more effort into nurturing individual friendships for them rather than the big team , attend every party and every activity mindset. I don't count how many party invites they get(too many as it is ) or think they need tobe entertained by a plethera of extracurricular's. I think its great that my two spenda lot of time playing together and mostly surround by family.
I hope that they willlook back on their childhoods and have had many varied and fun experiences, family momentss too numerous to count and have built a few very close and long term friendships. I hope as adults they each have at least one friend still in their circle with whom they can reminisce about "back in the day" and another friend that shares current common interests, goals and priorities. Of course I hope that they are also as blessed as I have been in finding a mate, if your as lucky as me, that is your number one fan and best friend. I just realized that this is also something I have in common with my closest peeps. We are all in marriages with spouses who are are soul mates and our best confidants and who encourage our closeness with each other.
A lot of adoptive parents find themselves to suddenly not having a close friend who understands and gets adoption and all that it entails. They may not understand why you are doing it, who you chose it and how you can feel like no parent on earth could ever have loved a child more than you love this one born of your heart and your soul and not your body. They may not get the concerns and parenting needs of a newly adopted child or our seemingly obsessiveness at times to get it right. Or how we are always on the lookout for some adoptive issue or residual something or other to surface.
You will need that person.
We are out there, find us.
Support groups, web groups, message boards, a friend of a friend.
It will be a gift you give yourself and your child.
We all need at least one solitary person who gets your past but more important , you need one somebody that gets your present and hopefully they will also get your future.
And you will be that someone for them.
Because when you find understanding and compassion in someone else, then those qualities begin to flourish in yourself.
I hope for Christine... and Terri and Kerrie and Beth that I also rise to the occasion for them.
I hope for all Moms, that they are not going through this journey alone,
Whether you find that ear and shoulder in a childhood friend,
or in a newer ally.
Or in an alter ego connection through cyber space.
Reach out.
Someone will be there.
No man, or woman is an island.
Or should be. And it doesn't have to be a village, just one person that you can reveal your deepest thoughts, unfounded fears, future expectations and humorous insights and even mundane observations.
Not just someone who hears you, but someone who really listens.
When you do , then nurture that friendship, make time for it, feed and water it.
It helps me be a better mom , a better wife, a better woman.
A happier and more content member of the Human Race.
and remember You can tell a lot about a person by how they handle a
rainy holiday
lost luggage
and a flat tire.
And to get the full value of joy,
you must have somebody to divide it with.
And when me soul is having a rainy day, just a note from Chris or hearing her voice on the phone can
lighten my load and make the sunshine all week.
Gives new meaning to Fair Weather Friend.

Monday, October 02, 2006
I remember when I was a career woman that I hated Mondays.
End of the weekend, beginning of another work week.
After three nights of staying up late and sleeping in late, it was a shock to the system to hear the alarm ring at 5:15am for a 6:45 work arrival. It took until about Wed. to get back in the groove, by Friday hit your stride and then the WEEKEND and start all over. And so it went for about 20 years. Since I have almost always worked at the hospital my day started at 7am and ended at 3pm. Unless I was on surgery call and then it never really ended.
Fast Forward to the present.
MONDAY-October 2006-Yippee
I love Mondays. Kids at school , husband at work. House quiet, no TV.
Never in a million years did I picture myself as a mother of two, much less a Stay at Home Mom.
It is a best kept secret. I am totally unapologetic that I love this stage of my life. I love that this morning I was excited to be able to dedicate my day to laundry and being able to get all of it done at one whack. Then maybe a little rearrange of some kitchen cabinets. If I am feeling really productive I may try and tackle my closet and start switching out some summer clothes for fall. Here in the south, summer is never really over and winter never really begins but a few changes must take place for my inner fashionista to survive.
For me now, Mondays represents ,dare I say it, Freedom. For a few hours anyway. Some me time, some Honey do list time. This is the first school year that both of mine have been in school all week. I am just barely two months into it, but so far so good. I can actually envision starting to clean out the unfinished upstairs that is acting like an attic storage center so we can finally finish a couple of rooms there. I bought some pansies and mums yesterday. I think tomorrow may be a gardening day. Tonight I am making that prosciutto, Potato and Leek soup I saw on Rachel Ray. Tomorrow night maybe homemade Chicken and Dumplings. Wednesday, I plan on packing up some of my daughter's summer clothes and maybe organizing my scrapbook stuff that is starting to take over a corner of my bedroom. A nice roast for dinner sounds good.
Yes, I know that some think I am not fulfilling my potential as a college educated, forward thinking, income earning product of women's rights and how far we have come as a gender to be heard from and listened to. I think that is a bunch of malarky. Last month's issue of ELLE magazine had a scathing article aimed at all women not currently employed and how we should be ashamed of ourselves, we are wasting our lives ,poor examples for our children, and so on and so on. As a former careeraholic,I have one rather juvenile response,
Bite Me.
While I always believed as a woman you can have it all, I never thought that meant having it all at the same time. Why not stretch the ALL into segments so you can savor each part.Having it all at once, or trying to just seems that some of the ALL gets rushed through, overlooked or pushed aside.
I am having it all.
I had college.
I have had a marriage for 24 years and counting.
I had lots of self indulgent me time and us time.
I had a great career.For 20 years.
I had children.
Now I am having the mommy part.
For me that is having it all. The reason we waited until this time in our life to be parents was so that we could slow down and enjoy this all encompassing part of it. So we did not have to try and do it all. We have never been ones for the rat race. Never gave much thought to keeping up with the Jones.
I feel that we were meant to wait until our 40's to want to be parents. We could afford adoption from Russia then. We had the courage and the faith it took. We had the time and the commitment of effort that was required. We knew that love trumped biology and that nurture outscored nature.We knew that any earlier and we would not have been the best parents we could have been.
While man may make the plans, God controls the steps.
I have driven a Mercedes, a two seater convertible sports car. I have mistakenly attributed status and coolness to what I drove.
It shouts I AM A MOM. When did that become something to hide.
I can't for the life of me understand minvan jokes or that some women
"Wouldn't be caught dead in one".
The day I drove my brand new Dodge Grand Caravan XLT, leather interior , fully automatic doors( front ,side and rear), Flip down DVD player that also gets local TV stations, heated front seat , triple control and three zone heat and AC control, Stow and Go seats,recessed storage in rear off the lot was one of the happiest days of my life.
It was like a Mom medal to me.
At first my sister, friends and 16 and 18 year old niece and nephew made jokes, made fun and pretty much gouged me about driving a minivan. They really did not believe my demonstrative gushings of my love for it. Now, 3 year later, who's getting the last laugh. ME. Why? Because they all love it too. You drive, they always say. Even if it just us adults riding. It makes their sporty compacts seem claustrophobic , their gas guzzling SUV's seem financially irresponsible. My minivan seems like mini-nirvana. I am guessing that those other Moms and individuals who have their noses in the air and making the snide comments about my ride have never actually ridden in one.
Come on over, I'll give you a test drive.
I guess a minivan is part of the SAHM persona non grata. Although the stay at home part is misleading. While I can choose to spend most of my days in the compound keeping the home fires burning, that really isn't the case. My husband seems to have more errands for me to run these days. I can take 2 hours to grocery shop if I want, window shop at the mall at leisure( haven't ever really done that yet). I go to the gym. Check on the Grandparents and do chores for them. I work on Thursdays at the hospital from 8:30 to 1:30. Not enough to qualify me as a working mother, but enough to keep me up to snuff on medical advances, ever changing technology and assures that my license stays current. It also keeps my foot in the door should I ever decide to increase my contributions on the workforce. I also substitute teach at the Elementary school,volunteer for the PTO and help in the classroom. Schools are desperate for help and non working Moms are who the bulk of this falls on.
Now, I do not want working moms to think this is any kind of comment on them. I have the utmost respect for working mothers. Most of my friends are or have been working mothers. I was one for a year. It doesn't matter to me if your are working out of necessity or desire. You have my full support and admiration for all that your are doing. And I will help you in any way I can. You see, I think what all of us moms and all women should be celebrating and cheering for each other is that we now have CHOICES.
That we now have a choice in our lives and defining how we live. That each choice can be validated and each choice is contributing to society and is important. That we are all earning an income, just in different currency. None of us should be made to feel less than or even greater than each other because of the lifestyle choices we have made. No mother should ever have to defend her place in the world or how she spends her days or doesn't spend then.
Each woman's vision of having it all, getting it all and being it all is very personal and different.
I think the hardest part is figuring out what that is and then attaining it.
Next hardest is being happy and fulfilled in living that choice.
I hope that I can teach my daughter that she can be anything and do everything that she wants in life.
I hope, by my own example, she doesn't think she has to do it all at once.
But if she does, I hope I can help her figured out how.
In becoming a mother,Part of my All was choosing to adopt my son and daughter from Russia.
In being a mother, my all right now is letting that be my primary job. Some will say my only job.
That's fine by me.
So when you see me pass by in my silver Minivan in the middle of the week , in the middle of the day, smiling and singing along to the radio, in my casual non work attire.
Don't feel sorry for me, don't think I am not fulfilling my potential.
You don't have to give me a second thought at all.
But if you do, I hope you see a smart, progressive women who is happily fulfilling her dreams and her destiny of which she has total control. Or as much control as you can have.
Satisfied and Happy Mom.
That should be all of our goals, no matter how you go about achieving it.
That is how we live our best life and show our children how to live theirs.
And Be Proud of It. (minivan included)