Anxiously Accomplished

It’s hard to describe the feeling that comes over you when something you have worried and stressed over for so long, just disappears. I have been on pins and needles for 903 days. Never knowing if Stella would stay with me forever or not. Don’t get me wrong, her case looked good, I knew she was where she needed to be, but I have this thing called anxiety, and it said otherwise.

Having anxiety and deciding to take part in the foster care system is basically signing yourself to play a really long version of Russian Roulette. You can’t stop your brain from going to the worst case scenarios and in these circumstances, it can make you physically sick with worry. I would spend sleepless nights worried about the most irrational, wildest, most ridiculous worst case possibilities after getting one small sliver of bad news. See, with anxiety, where everything is already under scrutiny, the simplest piece of information can be twisted into this terrifying news that doesn’t even exist. It’s just the best.

There were days when I wouldn’t even want to speak to anyone, because I was so full of worry. Days when I was so exhausted from not sleeping, because I was up all night thinking about what could happen. Days when I couldn’t eat, because I knew she had to go to a visit that she didn’t want to participate in.

Once I finished the adoption placement a few weeks ago, I was her legal guardian. I don’t think my brain really had time to process what an accomplishment that was, because everything else was moving so fast and I had things to get done. Even standing outside the courtroom on adoption day, I still wasn’t at ease, we were taking photos, and making sure everything on our checklist was finished.

As we were making the hour drive home, it hit me.

Like a tidal wave of accomplishment, celebration, and calming.

We did it. We crossed the finish line. She is safe and provided for, for the rest of her life.

I will never be able to fully describe what that felt like. The purest, truest, brightest feeling of joy and calm. My brain is never quiet, but it was Tuesday.

For a brief moment, I had no worries, no concerns, no fears.

903 days of worry.

903 days of anxiety.

903 days of fear.

Gone.

And that is without a doubt, the most beautiful version of overwhelming joy I think there is. When I realized I was feeling every ounce of worry shed off of me like a second skin, I noticed I was even breathing easier. My anxiety had even made breathing a chore. Not anymore.

Now I get to worry about normal mom things like,

  • What is my kid chewing on?
  • Why is the floor wet?
  • Why do the shoes I bought her yesterday, not fit today?
  • Why is my kid always snotty?
  • Is she going to put me in a nursing home or her basement when I’m senile?

I’ve accomplished a lot of things in my 32 years, but this is by far my proudest moment. And I still have a tiny speck of sanity left. So, today I’m giving anxiety the finger, because as hard as it tried to break me, I won.

 

Stella Frances

Saturday, June 13th, 2015 at around 8:30pm, I answered a phone call. A phone call that would change multiple lives. My case worker was calling to ask me if I would accept my first foster placements. She knew I planned to be an adopt only case, but I had a placement fall through the week before, so she wanted to give me the option first. Case looked good. I accepted.

A few days later, on June 17th, I met my daughter. She was this scared and timid little thing that wanted absolutely nothing to do with me. She was not shy about her displeasure with everything. She never smiled.

After a few months, a lot of tears, prayers, and love, she started smiling and laughing. Then she started talking, which currently never stops. This kid exudes positive energy in her sleep. It’s impossible to meet her and not fall in love with her. Her transformation is mind-boggling. And I got to see it all.

We have been together for 903 days, and today we get to stop counting. We have forever now. That’s a lot of adventures.

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We had a wonderful photographer document our day. I’ll have a more detailed post when the pictures come in.

 

 

Follow the Leader

As your kids grow and learn, you start seeing their individual personality traits. The parts of themselves that is so uniquely them. You sit back and start imagining all of the wonderful things they can accomplish with those traits, and what careers they would best be suited for. I’ve joked about Stella becoming some type of cutthroat executive or leader of a small unknowing country. My most recent future career match for Stella, was leader of a small cult.

Gasp! What? You want your kid to be a cult leader?

No. I’m jut saying she has some qualities and traits that make her a good candidate for any followers looking for a leader. Let me tell you why.

My mother and I recently took Stella and my nieces to ride the Polar Express. While we were waiting, Stella decided to perform a musical ensemble, that no one wanted to participate in besides her. No one. All of the girls participated within 5 minutes.

Several minutes later, two kids from another group joined the girls platform performance. These kids were following her around like she had the secret of life. They didn’t even know her name.

Once the singing was complete, I hear, “Hey guys follow me”.

No explanation of why, or where to, just the simple request to her followers. She didn’t even have to ask again, and had everyone lined up following her, plus a few other kids that appeared out of nowhere. I have to repeat myself more than twice just to get her to put socks on.

This kid has half of the Polar Express passengers on her time at this point. People who have never met her, have literally zero information from her, and no destination, are just merrily doing her bidding.

She had me deleting apps to make more room on my phone so I could video her singing. Yeah she got to me too. I think I’m mostly baffled at her ability to just yank away your desire to ask questions. I need reasons, explanations, but apparently if she just smiles and gives that shoulder shrug she tells my subconscious it’s a good idea.

This tiny person has the ability to boss you around and make you say thank you. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. She could have said “Forget Santa and the Polar Express, let’s go to Wal-Mart” and every single one of us would have gone.

She shouts out orders, but it’s so cute and sweet and she gives that innocent grin, then suddenly it’s the only thing you want to do. You don’t know where you’re going, or why, or what you’ll do when you get there, but dammit you must.

She’s hilarious, and I’m sure she will only get funnier. I hope she decides to use her powers for good instead of being Jim Jones Jr. Until then, if she offers you Kool-Aid, avoid eye contact and run as fast as you can.

A Name.

A name.

We all have one.

It’s what identifies us to the world. Usually, it’s a name you were given at birth. A name that was picked out because of its sound or passing a family members name down. In extremely rare cases, like this, you get to name the personality.

Sassy was born with a name. There wasn’t anything wrong with the name, but a little over a year ago, she asked me for a new one. Knowing her case was headed for adoption, I asked her what she wanted her name to be. At that time, her best idea for a name was “Princess”. I thought about the proposition for a while and came up with three names that I thought best suited her and her personality. She picked her first name without hesitation and has never looked back. Her new first name is as sassy and boisterous as she is. Stella.

Her middle name was no question. I knew I wanted her to have a family name. Once her little personality started to really shine, there was no doubt which grandmother’s namesake she was. Frances Alma Blackwell was one of those women that could cut you down and bless your heart in the same sentence.

She had more spunk in her 90’s than I’ve had in my entire life. She drove everywhere like she was a getaway driver for some sort of terrible crime. I actually saw her hub cap  roll across someone’s front yard from her hitting a speed bump. She told me I was hallucinating.

She was as stubborn as the day is long, and as mean as a snake if she needed to be. She survived losing her husband and son. I’m telling you this woman was as tough as cast iron. As strong as she was, she loved like it was her mission on this Earth. All of us knew how much she loved us.

Nanny was not my biological grandmother. Her son that she lost, was my brother’s dad. When my mother remarried, and found out she was pregnant with me, Nanny was the first person she called. Nanny was more excited about my arrival, than a millennial on Iphone release day. We always had a very special bond, her and I. She would have loved Stella to the ends of the Earth and back.

Nanny was one of those homemade candy making southern grandmothers. Her fudge is making me salivate right now just writing about it. You’re not supposed to make divinity when it rains, she didn’t care. It always turned out perfect. She was like a candy wizard. I loved visiting her on candy making days, when you hugged her she just smelled like butter and sugar. It was glorious. That’s still the memory I go back to anytime I melt butter.

I think the first time I compared Stella to Nanny, was one of the first few months she was with me. Stella was eating, so very slow. So very very slow. The one joke you could always count on being made at Christmas, was something about Nanny’s eating. That woman was the slowest eater on God’s green Earth. When I was about 10 or 11, I called her the day before and asked her to start eating at breakfast. To this day, when Stella takes 4 hours to eat a meal, I start calling her Frances. Stella has several times a day, that I will just stop and laugh and say “Ok Frances” because whatever she just did was 100% Nanny.

There is no other name I could imagine my baby girl having. She is named after the toughest, sassiest, funniest, woman I’ve ever known. That is saying a lot since our family seems to produce extraordinary women. But what’s even more than that, Nanny and I had a bond that was never based on blood or biology, just indomitable love.

Pretty perfect naming story if you ask me, or Stella Frances.

 

 

Jerry Garcia’s Elf

It’s almost that stressful terrifying time again! We are a few short days away from Thanksgiving, which means it’s almost time for that damn elf that can’t just sit on a shelf. I’ve been a parent for 2 and a half years. I’ve bought two different elves. I’ll probably finish the North Poles Three’s Company cast this year, because I highly doubt I will remember where I put the last one.

Once I get said replacement elf #3, I’ll have to come up with something clever to have him do every night. Every. Single. Night. We have evil cats, so most of the cute little Pintrest ideas are a no go at our house. The cats leave me having to be original and creative instead of lazy, stress free, and copying. I’m not sure I have many believable excuses left as to why “Jerry” didn’t move (Sassy named our elf Jerry).

Last year I used:

  • Elf flu
  • Broken leg
  • He really liked the view
  • We forgot to leave a light on for him
  • I’m pretty sure you touched him, his magic is recharging.

The smarter and older your kids get, you can’t just give them the excuse and expect them to accept it. You better have back story.

Jerry also tends to do the same activities more than once on occasion. She notices that too. Again, back story.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas, but I never dreamed one little elf would be so much work. This is what happens when people with big ideas take it a few steps too far. I have a full-time job, an awful commute, a house to take care of, a human to keep alive, Jerry’s plans for the night just don’t fall on my radar.

What’s even better is now she’s at the gossip and compare age, and she doesn’t even know it. She’ll go to school and talk to her friends about what their elves did, and then come home and tell Jerry about it, like that’s going to make him step up his game. This is where I’m smarter than her.

I told you she named our Elf Jerry, she wanted to name him Dead. Dead as in The Grateful Dead, not just dead. Luckily, we compromised at Jerry Garcia. We love our music in this house. Little did she know, this gave me an out. When she tries pep talking Jerry in to some ridiculously elaborate ordeal, I remind her that Jerry likes things very chill and peaceful, and those outlandish things just aren’t in his wheelhouse but we love him anyway.

I’m sure in a few years, she’ll be drawing up name change paperwork. Until then, I can continue to slide through Elf season by the skin of my teeth, thanks to Jerry Garcia.

 

 

Morning Interrogations

I’m not a morning person.

At all.

If my alarm wakes me, I need a good hour-hour and a half before human contact. If I wake up on my own, I just need my coffee and I’m good to go. So, Monday morning after spending the weekend away for my birthday, I’m not the most alert person.

Sassy sees this time on our ride to school as a prime opportunity to interrogate me on random thoughts she had. She was one step away from water torture.

These are examples of the questions I was being asked, most of them staggered on top of other questions before I could answer anything. She remembers ALL the questions and expects ALL the answers.

“Who would win in a battle, Elsa or Splinter?”

“Do turtles have boogers like this one?”

“How do you spell sensei?”

“When will my elf come back? Exactly…what time?”

“Can you smell my feet?”

“Does my water taste like water to you?”

“How many hugs can I give Santa?  Can you call him and ask?”

“Wanna hear me burp?”

“What’s God’s favorite breakfast food?”

“Did you smell my feet?”

“How do you spell booger?”

“How much longer til I can hug Santa? Exactly.”

Most of these questions were in about a 2 block radius. Exhausting right? Then we get to school, and she won’t let me leave until I follow-up on all of my answers.

I’m not sure I have the energy for this day. Imagine the questions she going to come up with while she’s at school.

What are some of the questions your kids come up with?

 

Finally

Court.

It’s a place I’ve become all too familiar with. A place I have frequented since I became a foster-mother. A place that gives out complimentary anxiety at the door. Two weeks ago today, I sat there, waiting impatiently to hear a judge say the words I had longed to hear for almost two and half years.

He didn’t.

He didn’t disagree or agree with anything. He was taking everything under consideration, which is what should be done when it’s a serious matter such as rights over a child.

They don’t tell you how mentally and emotionally exhausting it is, the waiting. The waiting for someone to tell you that the child you have raised for two and a half years is indeed yours. Of course, not all cases are like this, some biological parents are able to become great parents once they receive the assistance and support of DHR. I’m strictly talking about a case where there is one parent with no resources, no motivation to participate or complete any tasks, and has no means to care for a child. Foster parent shamers can come off the ledge now.

Two and a half years in limbo isn’t fair to any child. That’s more than double the amount of the time it should take to determine someone’s capabilities as a parent and a good human. On the other hand, it’s a pretty heavy matter to take away someones rights as a parent.

The morning of Halloween, I received THE call. The call that told me the judge agreed it’s time for adoption. I’m fairly certain the people in the office next door heard me scream.

My bad.

I didn’t think it through before I told Sassy. I told her once we got in the car. I think I need to get my hearing checked after surviving her squeals of excitement in a car. It was a very happy Halloween.

We have a little more waiting before we can start the adoption. We’ve made it this far, a few more weeks won’t hurt.

Sassy has come so far from the first day I saw her, to now. She was this terrified little soul who didn’t trust any adult. She never wanted to be touched, and rarely smiled. Now, she smiles all the time, survives off of hugs and chicken nuggets, wants to talk to every stranger we see in the grocery store, and is too smart for her own good. She still has some trust and abandonment issues to sort out, but that takes around 7 years to really overcome.

A few more weeks.

 

For The Love of Car Seats

Opinions.

Everyone has them.

Lots of them.

Life has always been this way, but with the popularity of social media, they seem louder and more prevalent. Don’t get me wrong, opinions are great, it’s how so many deep discussions get started, but some people are forgetting that opinions are NOT fact.

I’m talking to you mom-shamers!

I recently had a friend of mine completely torn to shreds for posting a picture of her kid in a car seat. A car seat picture is the mom equivalent of wearing a political shirt in public…you’re asking for it.

There was nothing wrong with her picture. Her son was 8 shades of precious before school, cheesing as big as his little face could, and she wanted a picture. She hadn’t buckled him in yet.

OMG!

People were attacking her for not buckling him in.

Hello! The car isn’t moving, and she is standing next to him with the door open. Chill!

People were commenting things such as:

“Maybe you should make sure your child is secure before taking pictures”

“I hope to God you didn’t drive off without him secure”

Someone else included a picture diagram of how to correctly use a car seat.

I can’t make this up y’all. She was eviscerated for sharing an innocent and sweet moment with her son, because people assume they know the situation and all of the facts. Of course she was going to drive off without buckling him in, survival of the fittest right?

I had moments of mom-shaming before I became one. Fictional children are extremely easier to parent than actual ones. I always said I would never feed my kids anything other than natural and organic food.

Someone without children reads that as doable task.

Now that I have a child, that task is impossible. Tom Cruise wouldn’t accept that mission. She eats healthy, but guess what?

  • Sometimes I’m tired and I make her chicken nuggets and fries.
  • I’ve seen her eat boogers.
  • She tried mud once because it looked like chocolate
  • I’ve witnessed her drop a sucker on the ground, pick it up, dust it off, and say “5 second rule”.
  • I caught her putting toilet water in her sippy cup when she was 2.

And after all of that, my kid is perfectly fine. She’s rarely sick too, probably from the immune boost the 5 second rule gives.

My point is, we all mom differently. Your mom was a different kind of mom too. I think we have become a society that goes out in search of a problem to complain about. Use your common sense, don’t mom-shame unless an actual life threatening event could occur.

I know a lot of moms that parent differently than I do. In fact, some the complete opposite. If the kids are happy and healthy, then mind your own circus. Either be a light or go talk about my kid eating mud behind my back. Being a mom is hard enough without a bunch of critiques that haven’t even seen the movie commenting.

Good luck out there, and for the love, don’t post a car seat picture!

Easter Bunny Backstory

Over the weekend, Kent and I were perusing the local thrift stores for project pieces, and of course Sassy was supervising. We were driving down the road, when randomly Sassy started talking about her stuffed bunny, and then wanted to know where the Easter Bunny came from…

Crap! Why do I have no idea what the answer is. Why is the Easter Bunny lacking a backstory, or are Kent and I the only ones unaware of it?

Not knowing the answer, I do what I do best, and punted to Kent. Impressively, he quickly responds that he obviously lives in a hole in the ground like the other bunnies.

Seems legit.

A large mythical and magical rabbit, that delivers baskets of goodies to kids all over the world, and he lives in a dirt hole in the ground.

Sassy wasn’t too enthused by the answer, but she accepted it as the God’s honest truth.

I was prepared for so many questions about Santa, or leprechauns, or the tooth-fairy. How did the Easter Bunny slip by? I’m normally one to think quick on the spot, not about rabbits apparently. It was not our finest moment.

I could hear her mumbling in the backseat, talking it out to brilliant 4-year-old self.

“He’s so big, must be a big hole”

“Maybe it’s a cave”

“I hope the other bunnies are nice to him”

I was worried she was starting to doubt our backstory, but alas she moved on to wanting to have a slumber party at the North Pole.

About 10 o’clock that night, I had an epiphany that would have been helpful around 8 hours earlier. Easter Island. The dad-gum Easter Bunny would be from Easter Island. I’m a moron. How could I have missed this? It seems so obvious! Oh well.

So, it would be greatly appropriated if we could all just stick to the hole in ground story. Our bad, but really could you have our backs on this?