Friday, October 14, 2016

My new life and my new Bucket List

We have had an adventurous 19 months since I last posted. Last year we moved to Washington State, Port Angeles to be exact, and spent five wonderful and miserable months there. Wonderful because of how beautiful it is and how close to the water we got to live, and wonderful because of the many great people we met there; miserable because of how much we missed our family. So now we live closer to Salt Lake City, a bit, and are enjoying a new home, a new dog, Brianna, several new grandkids, a new job, and all around, most of life. 

We are enjoying the joy of Brianna; yes we miss the other two girls we had; we probably always will; and we are always sad when we don't get to see other family members anywhere nearly as often as we would like. However, we love the joy of having our grandchildren, all within an hour's drive.  Brianna is loving learning to ride horses; she enjoys her new school and her two great teachers, we like the area, Mark stays busy with family history, photography, and taking care of Brianna. I love my new job, still a therapist, but it seems to me that our life has sort of been settling down. I'm not saying everything is settled, but most things are. And there is a sense of deep gratitude for that. Brianna continues to be challenging on occasion, but she brings far more joy than challenge. And challenges bring growth opportunities. All in all, a good thing, and really, a wonderful thing. 

We are still committed to the LDS Church, though not all of our family is. But that's okay. We don't all need to be the same or think the same, right? But I'm looking forward to life ahead, and I hope mostly, it's a good thing.
Three of our cute grandchildren, visiting our new house for the first time.

One daughter with her new baby, another daughter and Brianna.

Toby, ruler of the roost, just ask him.
Two more cuties.
This granddaughter, modeling new school clothes..

Daughter and family (all but the new baby) visiting near our home in Washington.

Brianna with Darth and other StarWars Guy in Seattle., under the Space Needle.

Oldest granddaughter.

Brianna and 6 year old granddaughter on the way to riding lessons.

Hanging out with a new "friend."
Our new house, prior to landscaping.

I made my Bucket List today, and I'm kind of excited about it. It's not as glamorous or as amazing as some people's list, but still, it adequately represents me and my future as I hope for it. I thought I'd share it here, in case anyone in this world might be interested. 

My  Bucket List: 40 Semi-Practical things

I want to help a lot more people though my job as a therapist.
I want to raise a happy Brianna.
I want Mark and I to continue to have a good relationship for the rest of our lives.
I want to have close relationships with my entire family.
I want to visit England, Switzerland, Germany and Italy.
I want to pay off all our bills.
I want to live near the coast. Oh wait, we did that in Washington!
I want to paint 5 well-done paintings.
I want to memorize 7 piano solos (so when I'm old and can't see much, I can still play something!)
I want to encourage Mark as a photographer and decorate our home with his art.
I want to complete an amazing yard.
I want to have pretty great relationships with all the kids and grandkids.
I want to learn Spanish well enough to carry on a short conversation.
I want to spend five summers on the coast.
I want to vacation in Canada.
I want to meet and be friendly to all our neighbors and sponsor neighborhood parties once or twice per year.
I want to go on a cruise.
I want to go on 10 5-50 mile bike rides with Brianna and Mark every year.
I want to have a family portrait with our entire family.
I want to forgive anyone who has ever hurt me.
I want to own and play a baby grand piano.
I want to be really good at playing organ.
I want to visit the 23 states I haven’t seen.
I want to do the temple work for as many ancestors as I can.
I want to do [some] child therapy again, even if I have to do my own business.
I want to reach my Weight Watcher’s goal weight and maintain that for the rest of my life.
I want to stay healthy for Brianna and grandkids for at least 30 more years.
I want to be able to swim a mile.
I want to walk 15 miles per week, every week.
I want to have my whole house decorated nicely.
I want to have a completely organized home.
I want to go to the temple many more times in my life.
I want to feel very close to Jesus and Heavenly Father on a regular basis.
I want to stay committed to my testimony.
I want to do child therapy again, even if I have to do my own therapy business.
I want to be able to swim a mile.
I want to walk 15 miles per week, every week.

I want to die happy.

And that, is all I have to say about that! Here's hoping and planning!!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Three Months Into Adoption!

Not that life is always easy, but we are really enjoying our little Brianna. She keeps us hopping that is for sure. But in a good way!  She seems to want to know the difference between the way we will love or discipline her and the way it's happened in the past.  It's difficult to know always what to do with very strong willed children. Can't say I've been perfect at it myself, but we do far more right than wrong.  [The approach to parenting traumatized or difficult children, called "Beyond Consequences, Logic and Control," has been a lifesaver. Both for our family, and for the families of those I am privileged to teach at work.]

As a testimony to that approach, Brianna has almost never wanted to go back to her other family, though she has missed them. She occasionally has been afraid that if we were to visit with them, we would leave her there. We have to keep reassuring her that she is in OUR family now, a thought she still seems to find difficult to believe.  Twice she's pulled out her suitcase and started packing, in a demonstration of hurt beyond her years, saying, "You don't WANT me here??" Oh yes, Brianna, we want you here. You are part of our life, present and future. She told our good friends the other day, "You know what? I'm adopted and sealed!" I added, "And that means you will always be a part of our family."

There is, however, no shortage of limit setting, constant focusing of attention on her (if we don't want her to destroy something she shouldn't), and frequent reassuring her of our love.  It's difficult for her to feel completely safe, given that family settings have always shifted around her. We want to be that constant for her, even when other family members come and go. We hope it's not too late for her to relax into security eventually, even when the world around her is filled with change.

I know people wonder just why we would do this at our age. Truthfully, we don't know. We love the family we already have; grandchildren especially have brought such light and joy to our lives. We have loved our children and their spouses; and we certainly have always loved each other.  We just felt compelled to do this; to bring into our home a new child, one whom we could help, and one from whom we could learn, and one more person to love. I just hope this one little girl doesn't detract from the relationship we have with other family members. I don't want anyone to think we love them less because she is in our lives. Once my grandson asked us, "Grandma, [my sister] said to me that you love Brianna more than me." Oh, no, sweet boy, we couldn't do that.  We love YOU as much as your sisters, as much as your brother, your parents, your aunts, uncles and other cousins. And when we miss one member of the family, we feel the pain, even while we are loving having others in our lives. We love them all.

And how just how do you measure love? You just love everyone.  What part of the ocean is more beautiful? or the sky? It's all one giant living thing, like the the love of a parent for her children, or grandchildren. There is no end to it.

I'm just grateful for someone else to ALSO love. It's a wonderful thing.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Tomorrow's the Day!

Adoption day is almost here. We started this adoption journey almost 5 years ago. We felt compelled toward adoption, and two other experiences we attempted ended in failure. But we have learned some things from those failures. As we continue to learn everyday with our little girl.

And what a handful she is! We love her so much! Through the day, we see the many faces of "Brianna" as her meds gear up to help her cope with her excessive hyperactivity; and then again as she unwinds back into her natural self.   Sometimes clients complain to me that the meds make them into another person, or a different person. I like to think of the appropriate dose of appropriate meds, as helping to bring out her best self.

So far, with Brianna, we don't know what that is.  Whether she is delightful and adorable as she knocks on our door before 6 am, and says in her most cheerful voice, "Good MORNING, Mom! Can I have a hug?" Or whether it's 5 pm, her meds are decreasing as her hyperactive and at times defiant level increases,  Through all of this, she is still our little girl. We have learned that when she has thrown down the gauntlet, and practically invited us to "Go ahead, MAKE me do it," this is when we back off or "do the dance" as Heather Forbes says. The dance that says, "I don't have to engage in a power struggle with you," and "I can find other ways, or other approaches that will work." And so far, that approach works much better. It is not worth trying to control her, or make her upset, We are bonding to her, and she to us. Tonight as her tucked her in bed, I felt that feeling one again, she IS our daughter, and tomorrow, it will be officially true.  

She's a challenge, but one we are happy to have in our lives. And tomorrow, it will be as if she were born to us. From our perspective. From her perspective, if she can understand at all what is going on, it may be one more step away from her last family. She has lost two families now; the first she doesn't remember, and the second, she still grieves for on occasion. One of the things that sort of surprised me about adoption, though I'm not sure why, is how adoption of a child is borne out of grief and loss. I don't think about that enough. Of course it is, they are losing one family and gaining another. For us, it's all about, "Yes. We are finally to this stage and no one can take her away from us." For her, it's "Adoption day sounds fun, it's all about me, it's about changing my name." There is no loss for her in that. But at some level, she may realize there is finality in these changes.

On Thanksgiving day, soon after family members arrived, she said how much she missed her last set of parents. I empathized with her, and asked if she wanted me to see if her ex- adoptive father could talk. So that worked out, and Brianna also talked with her ex-sister for the first time in 6 months, and then again to her ex father, with whom she has talked many times. That was helpful, but sad as she asked several times if she could talk to her ex-mom; asking at first for "mom," and then for Amber (her first name). This didn't happen, and excuses were made as to why Mom Amber couldn't come to the phone, "She's busy." "She's at home."  It's hard when some of the adults in her past, who are supposed to care about a child, really don't. And sometimes, we learn, they care so much they are willing to make that ultimate sacrifice, to give a child a chance at a loving and/ or safe home.

I"m grateful to my sweet husband who has been with me throughout this adoption  journey. I'm grateful to other children, who have been through the highs and lows of this process with us, and who have had to give up time and effort and resources for their children, because we have given more to Brianna. We are trying to give all we can still to our grandchildren, and I hope and pray that long term, they will not feel much of a loss, but more of a gain, when it comes to having Brianna in their lives.

Thank you Brianna, for choosing to be a part of our lives.  And soon, we will take you to the temple and you will be sealed to us forever!  It's a symbol of our love for you and that love will last forever.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

3.5 months till Adoption!

This morning, I woke up with a dream about Madison, that she was being relocated somewhere near our home. I had a sense, even in my dream, that it had to be a dream, because she has been adopted into someone else's family. Still, it was very meaningful to me that she is STILL showing up in my dreams and I still miss her. Probably always will. Still miss Tasia too, but not as much, because she chose to leave.  She has not contacted us since February. We wish her well in her future life.

So having Brianna here has been lots of fun, and lots of work, as with most children, I suppose. She has her frustrating, annoying moments, sure, but what child doesn't? We enjoy life with Brianna! It is fun to have a six year old and fun to have reason to do more activities with  her, and with the other grandchildren.

So far, the grandchildren have all been pretty accepting. I think with several of them we are past the novelty stage, and into the "You are sometimes fun and sometimes irritating," as in with their own siblings.

I"m grateful that we have her in our lives, NOT because we didn't have enough to do with the children and grandchildren we already have, but because we felt we could do more than we had done.

I am still sad that several of my grandchildren I don't get to see as much, probably because we have Brianna, who is, admittedly, very time consuming. I am sad about that.  I hope they all know how much I care, even if my time is more limited now with the ones who don't live close by. I hope and pray that overall, having Brianna augments quality time with family. Maybe overall it will eventually, but for now, we just do what we can do.

YEs, there are are times when Brianna gets in her defiant mode, and you really have to use all your brains and spirituality, and support network to figure out what to do that would be helpful. But the theory is, the more understanding you are with the child and the behavior, the more she should stabilize. Because she at times will quickly regress into toddlerhood and needs extra care and attention.

I wish I could share all the sweet, adorable times with Brianna:
 I love it when Brianna comes into our room bright and early each morning, and says, "Good morning Mom! Good morning Dad!" I love watching her play with our dog, Aussie as they tumble around together. I love watching her play happily for hours in the back yard, either by herself or with one of the grandkids. I love their happy sounds. I love her spirited (nonstop) talking; she has a thought about everything. I love it when she sees a horse; every horse is named "Flicka!" and every Flicka is hers.

I love hearing her prayers (she wants to say every single one); love that she loves music and singing; and I love tucking her in at night. NIghttime routine is pretty consisted: family prayer, then Dad leaves, then Brianna chooses a story which I read to her, then she says her own prayer, ie, "Heavenly Father, thanks for Karen and Mark. PLus I love Mom and Dad. Plus I love Aussie" a few other "plusses" and she is done within 10 seconds.) Then I sing her 3 songs of her choosing, while scratching the requisite arm, or spot on her back. Then I may rest a minute by her, or she may say, "Will you please leave my room now?" I wish I could portray all the sweet, adorable moments we share with her. But you would probably just think we are still honeymooning. I really don't think so.

With Brianna, you pretty much get what you get. And we are glad we "got" her.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

We are the proud parents of a SIX YEAR OLD!

So in March, we were contacted by a DCFS worker in Salt Lake who said they had a six year old they wanted to place. She wasn't actually in DCFS custody, but it was a disrupted adoption, and they needed a family as soon as possible.

They took our home study, considered us, and within a couple of days, called and told us we had been selected for "B" or Brianna, as she will be called here. We were excited, but just a bit nervous. Certainly an 18 year old was too old to blend into a new family; but would a six year old be too young for us? We are not spring chickens!

However, we prayed and fasted about this, and decided, over and over, that we felt good about Brianna. Our faith and ability to know we can have answers to prayers has been tested to the limit with the past failed attempts at adoption. Can we do this? For some reason, we believe we can.

So, after five weeks of transitioning her, last night after her therapy visit, she moved in for good. We were going to wait a few more days, but she kept asking to come back home with us, and we had heard how bad her behavior had been last week with her family. (It has got to be hard feeling caught between two families, and not even understanding the reason why.)

So after we decided to go ahead and bring her home last night, it was rather bittersweet, however, as she was told she could back to live with us for a really long time. Bittersweet as she at first, happily said goodbye to her adoptive father, who really has been her almost sole support for quite some time. Bittersweet after saying good bye to her dad and driving away, she began crying saying she missed her family. We called him up and talked to him briefly, and she felt better. We will continue to do that as often as she needs, and allow visits as much as long as it is helpful.

I don't think she will be an easy child, however. She is frequently disobedient or likes to take control, but with gentle reminders, she seems to be able to be pulled back into compliance. We are applying our Beyond Consequences training, which has been very helpful so far.

We have already bonded with her quite a bit; she is especially close to Mark, I think because she is used to dads being the caretakers. It's good for him, but I do my share of caretaking too. Bedtimes are sweet moments; we have developed a routine, two stories, a prayer, two songs, usually Twinkle Twinkle, and I am a Child of God. And back scratching. Fifteen minutes, and then she is out.

It's 6:36 a.m., and she just came into our room, said good morning, and said how much she liked being here. She then said, "I like you guys. I like you Karen. Can I borrow your Ipad?" (Lol. I contemplated letting her know she could borrow my Ipad, even without telling me she liked me.) But then she went on, Ipad in hand. "I love you guys." We reaffirmed we love her too.

And we do. We love children! And so far, she's not hard to love. No, I don't think it will be easy. (Okay, I know we are still "honeymooning" here, more than I know probably. I will keep you posted on that!)

We are taking a step back, and a step forward, as we begin the task of raising a young child. Will we do things the same as we did with our biological children? Some things like reading lots of books, playing outside, going to the park frequently. But other things I will try to learn from how our grown children parent: watching closely to see we are consistent and follow through with expectations, getting her involved in sports, or other activities, as she is able, looking for educational activities for her to participate in, and using, we hope, LOTS AND LOTS of patience! Which truthfully, I think I've learned from my adorable grandchildren, more than anyone.

And despite being "new" parents, I hope and pray to be as involved  I hope we can stay involved with our grown children's lives, and in the lives of our grandchildren. Which I think we will because we have Brianna to engage in all kinds of life experiences with them. And I hope we can still do some of the things we have come to love: family history, being with friends, traveling, bicycling, art. If that's just not too much to ask.

So here is our new adventure. We hope THIS time, we can succeed. What is success? Just loving her, teaching her, hoping for the best, but not expecting miracles necessarily. However, as my wonderful sister in law who was adopted as a five year old told me the other day, "It's so cool you're adopting her. I hate to think where I would have been without being adopted as a child."

Do we expect miracles? Maybe the miracle is in having someone else to love and to give to and do for, and to become the best WE can be, while we hope for the best she can be. We are grateful for the opportunity.

Monday, February 17, 2014

February; there IS spring, and hope ahead!

Most Februarys are rather bleak. It is that time of year when winter never seems to want to quit holding onto us, preventing us from having the hope we feel at springtime. And this February is no different. February 11 is one year from the time we met her. She had planned that we would go out to the restaurant where we first met her on that day. Instead, February 11 sneaked by unnoticed in our lives.

It's been difficult attempting to heal from the second failed adoption attempt. I can't say that we failed this time, only maybe in allowing it to go on so long. But after our first effort, we were determined that WE wouldn't be the ones to pull the plug another time. It hurt so much to be the ones to hurt our first girl, that we couldn't see doing that again.

But overall, we can see we tried our best, we gave her our love, and then, when she said she couldn't do it, we let her go, with not that much of a fuss. A lot of heartache, maybe, but not much of a fuss. So she is gone, she is not talking to us and that's unfortunate, but fine, if that's what she has to do. We did expect and hope for the impossible. We thought love could heal and repair the damage that she suffered at others' hands. But  it wasn't enough, at least, not in the time frame we had.

So I am trying to follow my own grief counseling; allow time to talk about it, feel the pain, allow time to adjust to this very quiet house,  We are getting involved in new activities: family history, I'm learning the organ, I"m playing the piano more, we are spending time with the dog Tasia left behind (a topic in itself). I'm learning to quilt (thanks daughter Sarah), we are going on short trips, we are spending much quality time alone together, watching shows that Tasia didn't like, and redecorating as we can. I'm trying to exercise more, go on bike rides, go to the gym. It was OUR place, ours with Tasia, but I'm not willing to completely give it up for the sad memories.

We are also spending much more time with our grandkids, which is very pleasant. They are so adorable. And more time with our biological kids and their spouses.

We still skip past many songs on our phones or on the radio that remind us of her. We still break down and cry at times. But not as often. We are pretty sure she's been able to stuff away any feelings of sadness. She has moved on, and so must we.

Would we ever attempt this again? Hard to say. Two very difficult experiences attempting to adopt an older teen that did not come to fruition make us hesitate to try again. What good came out of the past 3 years? None that I can really see. But who knows, maybe the good lies up ahead.

I made a list yesterday of the things I want to accomplish before I die, whether that is one year or 30 years away. Here it is:

Spend lots of time with Mark; go to the temple often, continue counseling as long as I can; exercise a lot; be close to my ideal weight; travel, adopt (yes that's still in there); get really good at art, be a great therapist, and a great organist; go to Europe, spend a LOT of time with family, finish the story of my life, do lots of family history, pay off all debt, have a year's supply of food, see Tasia and Madison again and let them feel my love, and let my husband, children and their families know how very much I love them.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Gave it one more try

So we tried to reach out to her again today. But it didn't work. I think she's just not ready for a family.

Kind of a rough time for us, but we will recover eventually. I hope Tasia recovers from walking away from us. We tried to do a nearly impossible thing, and I guess we shouldn't have been too surprised it didn't work out.

Hopefully, someday we will look back and say, "There! That's what we learned right there! This or that couldn't have happened if it weren't for these hard times!" And we hope that she has learned something good from being with us. We keep hoping for that, and for someday, especially, a miracle in her life.

We always will love her.