Happy Adoption Day!


In honor of today’s momentous occasion–one year since DJ’s adoption was finalized–I thought it would be a nice time to return to my long-ignored blog.

It may sound trite, but I’ve really grown to understand on a deeper level over this past year the idea that life is a journey. Sometimes you make steady progress forward and other times it feels like you’re right back to where you started, but most of the time, it’s navigating the bumps and turns in the road.

There have been times this year that I questioned my ability to be a good mother to DJ–times when I lost my temper or spoke without thinking it through. But I’ve also learned a heck of a lot about myself and this crazy world of parenting.

I’ve learned that “maybe” is “almost yes” to an 11-year-old. I’ve learned that consistency is about the best thing that we can provide for DJ, but sometimes we need to pick our battles. (And for the most part, those battles seems to be decreasing in both duration and intensity.) I’ve learned that it is okay to lean on my friends and family, and that it doesn’t make me any lesser of a parent. I’ve learned that sometimes DJ is going to act in ways that disappoint or embarrass me, and that’s okay because my job is to help him learn from his mistakes.

My original goals for parenting have shifted a little, too. Instead of hoping to raise a child who is happy and kind and knows that he is loved, I’ve moved more toward raising a child who can be happy and kind and know that he is loved. The difference is subtle but significant. Frankly, DJ has been through a lot in his young life. There are things that I can never “fix” or “erase” from his life experiences, and more and more I don’t have an urge to do either. I love him exactly as he is, and I’m so proud of the boy he has become. And almost as important, I’m proud of the parents that John and I have become, too.

It has been a difficult, wonderful year, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.









Our First Family Vacation


As I wrote about in my last post, it’s amazing the difference that a year makes.

Last summer, the three of us were pretty much strangers, trying to figure each other out and get a handle on our new roles. While John was at work all day, I was DJ’s primary playmate. He refused to meet any of the neighborhood kids. My attempts to establish any semblance of a routine were met with anxiety or anger or both. He didn’t want to go the pool or read or play board games–all of the the things that I enjoyed as a kid. Instead of being the fun and carefree summer that I had planned, most days left me feeling drained emotionally and physically.

Of course, his behavior made perfect sense considering everything that he must’ve been feeling during those early months. His reluctance to make new friends an obvious attempt to protect himself from the inevitable goodbyes that would have to be made when he left for yet another new house. His refusal to try new things most likely the result of him struggling to adjust to his move across the country from everyone and everything he had ever known. The urban landscape intensifying his feelings of being a foreigner in a strange land. How lost and frightened he must’ve felt some days despite our best efforts to welcome him into our lives.

Not that everything is perfect now, but this summer is much more what I had envisioned when DJ first came to us last June: days at the pool, reading together on the couch, going to Kennywood (yes, I splurged on a season pass for DJ and me), the occasional craft or art activity, and even some summer learning.

DJ loved the waves on our first day at the beach.

One of the highlights of the summer has been our first family vacation. We tried to keep it pretty basic and resisted the urge to plan some grand trip to Disney World or the like. DJ is still prone to at least one meltdown a day, especially when things are out of our routine so a really elaborate vacation just didn’t make sense.

Instead, we drove about two hours away to Presque Isle, off of Lake Erie. My sister and her husband very kindly allowed us to bring our niece, who is DJ’s age, along for the trip. I’m so thankful we did because she was a great companion.

So without further ado, here are some pics from our very first family vacation.

Even Mom got some time to relax.

Even Mom got some time to relax.

My two boys

IMG_0182The hotel pool was a big hit with the kids.

View of Lake Erie from observation tower at Tom Ridge Environmental Center.

View of Lake Erie from observation tower at Tom Ridge Environmental Center.

The Big Year


You know life is good when you’re blowing out the candles on your birthday cake and you have to struggle to come up with something to wish for. Especially when said cake is in celebration of your 39th birthday, an age that stereotypically speaking prompts bouts of anxiety or self-doubt.

But that was me recently. So full of things that I’m grateful for that it actually took a couple of seconds to form a wish. Considering that my last ten years of b-day wishes came true with DJ’s arrival, it’s hardly surprising that this year’s wish was for him to stay as happy & healthy as possible.

And the icing on the cake, DJ used my birthday card to announce that he was going to take our last name. Best. Birthday. Ever.

But the family celebrations didn’t end there. On April 30, the adoption was finalized! I was actually in the park supervising DJ’s “wrestling club” consisting of him and a couple of kids from the neighborhood when I saw the voicemail icon on my phone. Our lawyer was calling with the good news that the judge had ruled a few days previously and DJ was now officially adopted.


In their typical awesome fashion, my family immediately leaped into action after hearing the news and threw an impromptu adoption party for Dom.

Even now, a little over a month since I got the call, tears are running down my cheeks as I type this. Not that I love DJ any more than I did before because that’s simply not possible, but there’s a sense of permanency and relief that just wasn’t there while we were waiting for finalization.

I no longer have to identify myself as the foster mom when I’m filling out forms for school or the doctor’s office. And as unrealistic as it was, there’s no longer that small fear in the back of my head that at any moment all of this could fall apart and we could lose DJ to another adoptive family.

This is real. This is forever.

Big Saturday Night Plans


As I type, D.J. is playing video games with a friend from the neighborhood. For most parents, this would hardly be worthy of note, let alone celebration, but that is not the case here. For the last couple of weeks, D.J. has been playing almost daily with a friend from school who lives a couple streets over.

For almost the entire 10 months that he’s been with us, he’s staunchly refused to play with kids in the neighborhood beyond the weekly kids soccer game in the park–and even that was a long time in coming. We’re not quite sure where this refusal came from, but it made for a pretty interesting (read: long) summer last year.

And then a couple of weeks ago, it all changed. Not only has he been playing with his friend, but there is a really great kid on the next block (who happens to be the son of someone I went to school with all through elementary and high school…small world), and the kids have been shooting hoops at his house almost everyday.

So it’s Saturday night, and my big plans are walking down the street to the pizza shop with two 10-year-olds and coming home to watch more WWE ’13, and I couldn’t be happier.

And did I mention the friend is a girl and that I think it’s really sweet? Not that I would ever tell him that! At least not before he’s old enough to find & start reading this blog.

On the Edge


It’s time to ‘fess up. I’ve been hiding from my blog for the last several weeks. It’s not that I haven’t been writing, I have, but I’ve been reluctant to post.

It all started when DJ had a particularly bad tantrum over “screen time” (t.v. and video games) that ended in him calling our caseworker and telling her that DH and I are really mean to him and that he didn’t want to live with us anymore.

The whole thing got resolved, including a 90-minute visit from our caseworker, but the incident really rattled me. I think at first that I didn’t post about it because I was embarrassed. In my head, I knew that it wasn’t unusual for a child–biological or adoptive–to declare that they didn’t want to live with their parents when they didn’t get their way. But my heart, well, it wasn’t being logical.

A fear started growing inside me that maybe we weren’t the best parents for DJ. He’s been fortunate to have some great foster families that for various reasons weren’t able to offer permanency  Maybe DJ “really” belonged with them, I started to tell myself. To add to my feelings of dread, the adoption was supposed to be finalized in Feb. but the month was quickly coming to an end and still no official word. The precariousness of our situation suddenly felt very real in a way that it hadn’t since before DJ came to us in June, and for days I felt literally sick to my stomach over the whole thing.

That was several weeks ago now–and the adoption still hasn’t been finalized–but I’m feeling a lot better. In retrospect, I think the waiting for finalization was weighing on all of us so there was bound to be a blow-up at some point. Thankfully, the rough patch seems to have passed for now. Not that DJ doesn’t still say that he hates us sometimes and doesn’t want to live with us, but we seem to have crossed some imaginary boundary. Over the edge, so to speak. And instead of falling and breaking into a million little pieces, we’re still holding on to each other.

And I can finally post about it, which feels really good. I’ve been feeling so guilty about ignoring my blog that I almost titled this post “Confessions of an Adoptive Parent” but I was afraid that sounded a bit too sinister. But I promised myself when I started this project that I would tell the good and the bad–no matter how ugly–in the hopes that my experience might be helpful to someone else going through the adoption process. So with that, I’m going to hit “Publish” and give my sleeping son one more kiss good night.


What do you say when your ten-year-old walks out of the psychiatrist’s office, nonchalantly looks over his shoulder, and says to the doctor: “see you later, bourgeois suckers”?

Like many of DJ’s favorite retorts, this gem was taken from the Regular Show. But I don’t think the doctor got the reference. In response to my profuse apology, she replied through slightly gritted teeth: “He’s so cute.”

To add to the fun, this was after a 20-minute session where DJ pretty much refused to talk because I made him spit out his gum before the appointment, and I was practically hoarse from a sore throat. Yes, it was one of those weeks…

Things got even worse this morning when an epic meltdown occurred over the “chunkiness” (or lack thereof) of his mac & cheese and us trying to get him to eat fresh pineapple (which he has actually eaten before on several occasions but this morning was tantamount to Chinese water torture).

And yet, here it is Saturday night–or at least it was when I originally started writing this post–and I know for all of the challenges and tantrums, good and bad parenting choices, that our family is a little bit stronger, a little bit closer than we were a week ago. Because it’s only when we reach those low points–when DJ pushes us to our limits & those doubts of whether or not we’ve bitten off more than we can chew start to creep in–that things get “real.”

Forced to confront my own insecurities, it becomes so obvious that DJ’s insecurities must be ten-fold. That the tantrums over seemingly nothing are about everything. That smart talking his psychiatrist or declaring us the worst parents ever are his ways of testing us. He wants to know–like all children, I’m sure, but especially adoptive children–if we’re in this for the long haul. Or from his perspective, if it’s only a matter of time before he’s sent away.

Eventually his tantrum on Saturday ended, like they always do. In the quiet conversations that followed, apologies were given and accepted, and reassurances offered. I might be imagining things, but I couldn’t help but think that today he woke up with a renewed sense of confidence and serenity–we had made it through the storm together.

Bourgeois Suckers & Fresh Pineapple

Resolutions of a New Adoptive Parent


My uncharacteristic flirtation with holiday cheer started to run out around 11:00 p.m. on Dec. 23rd, but our first Christmas was still a success. There were some ups and downs–thankfully mostly ups–and I’m happy to report that we were all in good spirits to ring in the new year last night.

We spent New Year’s Eve watching The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers after going to see The Hobbit earlier in the day. That’s a lot of LOTR, even for a Tolkien fan like myself!

I have to admit though that I’m a little reluctant to bid adieu to 2012. It was an incredible year of firsts: the first time that we met DJ, our first overnight as a family, the first time that he met our extended families, being called “Mom” for the first time (although to be perfectly honest, he was trying to persuade me to run down a hill & recover a soccer ball at the time), and our first Christmas.

Frosty Footpath - winter snow

Photo credit: blmiers2

As I imagine they are for many waiting moms & dads, the holidays have been pretty difficult for me in the past. I’ve often felt more disorganized than usual amidst the hustle and bustle of Christmas. By Jan. 1, the introspective nature of the season has propelled me into an all-too-familiar cycle of self-pity. Despite my best efforts to be present and be grateful for all of the wonderful things that I did have in my life, I’ve struggled to be genuinely optimistic about the new year.

This year, of course, my attitude about the new year is dramatically different. Instead of my standard resolution to work harder on the adoption process, I’m resolving to make 2013 the very best possible year for our new family–physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Here are a few of my parenting resolutions:

1. Continue to work on DJ’s self-esteem. Like many adoptive children, he’s developed a very negative image of himself. We’re very quick to correct him when he says these types of things, but I’m hoping with the adoption finalization and our continued reassurances that we’re his forever family that he’ll learn to be kinder to himself.

2. Work on incorporating more whole foods into Dom’s diet or at least expand his daily menu beyond boxed mac & cheese, mini ravioli, frozen burritos, and candy.

3. Keep up the good fight against screen time (video games, TV, computers) and promote DJ’s creativity and appreciation of the arts in any form. In particular, I’d love to see him spend more time drawing, writing, and knitting. He got lots of great art stuff for Christmas, and we bought him both a diary and knitting book for kids.

So what kind of family resolutions are you making this year? Any advice on how I can accomplish mine?

Happy New Year! May 2013 be filled with health, happiness, & peace.

New year's eve, 2000, pittsburgh

New Year’s Eve, 2000, Pittsburgh (Photo credit: DeathByBokeh)