Thursday, November 28, 2013

Our little secret

Although I have never been one to do the obligatory Thanksgiving post or the Facebook trend of mentioning something I'm thankful for publicly each day in November, for some reason this year I'm willing to share something very personal around here. We have been keeping a gratitude journal for over 5 years. I smiled as I pulled the little stack of books from the box to take this photo.

Years of individual moments. Stacked up in a neat little column. Two very different sets of penmanship telling the story of some of the best moments of my life.

"Today I am grateful for... 1. 2. 3."

Some are sweet. Some are joyful. I smile at the simplicity of the entries before the boys came home.  I laugh at how clearly exhausted & crazy we were shortly after they arrived. There were days that we we grateful for things we didn't do.

Although it is a gratitude journal, some are heart wrenching. It is clear on the days that we suffered a loss that we were reaching for the gratitude. Searching for something to be grateful for in incredibly difficult circumstances to write in those little books. But we did & I'm proud of us for it. 

I hope someday our boys enjoy looking though them & enjoy the bits of memories of our lives they can see in these minute scribbled thoughts.

This week I bought the boys their very own gratitude journals & we will begin to share this tradition with them. I look forward to looking back at them & smiling over the misspelled words, little boy handwriting & all of the candy & toys & whatever else they want to claim as their favorite moments of the day.

It has been such a wonderful life so far & I have so much to be thankful for, but I won't make a big list here. You are just going to have to trust me on this. I swear it to you on a little stack of books.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

'Dear 39' revisited

 Dear 39,

Hello again. I just wanted to check in, now that we have known each other for about 6 weeks. I promised to have fun with you & do my best to show you a good time, which involves stepping outside of my comfort zone.

Last weekend was our first such effort together, as I participated in my first art sale. To be completely honest, we almost missed out on this one. At the last minute. There was a moment on Friday, while sitting in that giant quiet room, over in the corner, looking at the empty grids & the boxes of art & prints that I felt really incredibly uncomfortable. Really, in all honesty I felt lost. Out of place.

I thought about going to sit in my car for a few minutes but I knew if I did that I would leave & not come back. The uneasiness of not knowing what would happen or what to expect made me really uncomfortable. But I stayed, in order to keep my promise to you. Show you a better time than my father was able to show you.

About an hour or so after the sale started,

after a drink from the bar,

after a couple of visits from fellow artists,

after a supportive text or two,

& the cavalry arriving, in the form of my friend who is truly a renaissance woman, 

I realized something that I had not really anticipated. I was having fun.

That evening & the next day were filled with kindness from strangers who bought most of the prints & smaller original art in my booth. There were visits from friends, co-workers & my insanely supportive family. Genuine encouragement from artist I respect & consider friends. It was so much fun. 

As I left on Saturday, exhausted, I smiled as I realized that mixed in with the relief, surprise at how well it went & sense of accomplishment, was a little sadness that it was over. A sure sign that I made the right decision by staying put on Friday morning when I really just wanted to go home.

I sincerely hope you enjoyed it, 39. Not that you have much choice... because where I go, you go. At least for the next 10 and a half months.

So I guess the only question now is this- 

Where do we go next?

Friday, November 8, 2013

Feature Art Friday: Mandalas

More half-finished work for the art sale. These are all actually finished at this point, hanging on the walls in my garage. Never has the garage looked so good... at least the walls of it. It's a bit odd, all of the art that I have worked so hard to make hanging on the walls with all of the piles of boxes for a garage sale stacked precariously beneath it, near the shelves full of tools & the tangle of bicycles & scooters. Over the next 2 weeks, I'll share photos of some of the finished art. Minus the garage paraphernalia.

Our living room is full of half-cut mat board & stacks of prints to be signed. Wee little bookmarks I've made to give out with my contact information on them.

Two weeks until our home becomes a home again & no longer an art sweatshop/staging area.

Two weeks until the art sale. 

Butterflies in my tummy.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Love & stuffed animal bodyguards

spotted on the country highway we walked along to meet our boys at a DHS picnic last October.
 One year ago this weekend, the boys came home. That’s how I refer to them moving in. They came home. As if they left briefly & returned, rather than the more unfortunate truth of their beginnings. So one year ago, the boys came home. It is hard to remember a time when they weren’t here, until I see a toddler & am reminded that we did not know them when they were toddlers. We have never even seen photos. None may exist. I remember sitting in the floor the day we received paperwork including their birth dates. Sitting there with all of my old calendars, I planned to figure out where I was & what I was doing when my boys were born. Then I started wondering where I was & what I was doing the first time one of them was scared or hungry or hurt & needed help & no one came. I put the calendars away.

For the boys, their past- at least the good bits of it, seem to be bleeding into the present. Our youngest, thankfully spent his entire two years in foster care with two of the most amazing human beings on earth.  He seems certain that we were with him for many of the good times he had with them. Memories that were made before we knew him.

“Remember mom? Don’t you remember?” he will say in the middle of a story, confusion on his face as his voice trails off.

“No baby, we weren’t there. That was before we met you, remember?”

Sometimes he refuses to believe me.

I can’t help but wonder if some of these memories from long ago, memories that now conveniently include us in his seven-year-old mind happened during the moments that we were sitting in our then childless house, waiting on a call about kids available for placement & wondering where our children were. What they were doing. If they were safe. If they were loved. While we were wondering about children we had yet to find, he was apparently holding a space in his memories for the parents he had yet to meet.

This time last year was hard. The hardest thing we have ever done. And you really can’t be prepared for it, anymore that you could train enough for a marathon & expect that to mean it will be easy. You just have to be willing to keep pushing through the hard part & celebrate the tiny victories. (a bit of advice, don’t celebrate by fake fainting.) The first few months with three foster children who have already had a failed adoptive placement is no joke. Trying to learn to be a parent in the midst of it had me feeling pretty broken for a while. It’s hard to find your footing & even when you do, you still slip & fall sometimes. We didn’t even really know them when they moved in. When you adopt children from the state, you go through a long process to qualify, then you wait for a long time, but once they match you with children, you have a few visits & then they move in (or at least that is what happened in our case).

Because we didn’t know them, we didn’t know that when they are scared, they don’t act frightened. They act out. Now we know. And they were clearly afraid the first few months. Most likely of being rejected & cast aside, yet again. We also didn’t know who would eat what, who was afraid of the dark & who preferred showers or baths. It didn’t help that the answers to these questions seemed to change on a daily basis.

I remember vividly sitting on the couch one night next to a giant pile of their clean laundry & bursting into tears because it was MY children’s laundry, yet I literally had no idea what belonged to whom. It was tangible evidence of how little I knew these three little humans that we would be raising. And I was terrified.

Slowly they learned to trust us & we eventually started to trust ourselves, checking in with each other frequently to figure out what we were doing right & what we were doing wrong. I don’t know how people do this alone & I can’t imagine doing it with anyone else. As the boys began to trust us, we got a little more eye contact. More interest on their part to be around us for no reason, just to be close. They would bring us a favorite toy.

“You can play with this one…”  our now eight-year old would say as he backed up & pushed his glasses up on his nose, eying me expectantly.

The younger two still bring me bits of string or broken beads they find in the floor at school. Our eldest brings me change. Pennies. Nickels. All of these things are pulled from pockets gleefully.

“MOM, just look what I found for you today!”

I fell asleep alone in bed & awoke to a staring contest with a zoo, brought in quietly, one at a time by our eight-year-old. 
I love going to visit them during the school day. After the older two boys were in about 10 different schools in two years, they have all three now been in the same school for a year. I see such confidence in their faces & they are so relaxed as they walk around the school building. I have taken to pretending I don’t know where I am going so they can lead me.

I hear them talking at the dinner table at home about what happened on the playground that afternoon, or trying to figure out which child has a friend’s brother in his classroom. I hear them talk about teachers & friends & schoolwork. I see them get up & know precisely which drawer or cabinet to go to in order to find something. I think about a year ago, then I look at them now.

We have come a long way. All of us. We are a family.

We made it through the first year.

Did you hear that?

We made it.