Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Open Adoption Roundtable #36

Open Adoption Roundtable #36: Open Adoption Agreements

Write about open adoption agreements- is there one in your open adoption? What effect does it have on your relationships? If you could go back in time, would you approach the agreement differently?

We don't have an agreement. We had started our adoption journey with an agency in NC and then were matched with a family member of a co-worker of a family member situation (My cousin's co-worker's niece is our birth mom), and our agency refused to work with us because it was an out of state adoption. We ended up using an attorney.

Going from the agency to an attorney was a weird change. We went from having all these rules imposed upon us (all contact had to go through the agency first) to being free to do whatever we wanted. It was liberating and wonderful. Fortunately, we're honest people and had wanted nothing but the most for our son. Being connected through a family tie also strengthened our bond with our birth family.

There's a mutual respect on all sides and we all have an agreement that we'll do what's best for Gus. I enjoy being able to text, email, and Facebook his birth family and keep them updated on our lives. I love that his biological cousin and great aunt came through Atlanta on their way to Florida and stopped in to see us and stayed the night here (this is the co-worker of my cousin). I love that when we go to MI to see family, Gus's side of our family is just as important as my side is. 

I like not having an agreement, but it works for our situation. When we adopt again, who knows if we'll be as fortunate as we have been with Gus. Depending on the situation, an agreement can be useful and can ensure that everyone has their needs met. 

In open adoption, all adoptive families have an obligation to keep the birth family aware of what the child is doing. If you don't want to keep the birth family aware with pictures, videos, phone calls, and/or visits... you shouldn't have an open adoption. 

All expectations should be laid out prior to any baby being born, and everyone should be honest about what they want. If you're not comfortable "sharing" your child with their birth family, you have no reason to have an open adoption. Have a semi-open adoption... but the word open means just that... OPEN. Open to communication, open to expanding your family, and open to letting your child know everyone that loves them. If you're not willing to do that, you shouldn't have an open adoption. 

For the record, in my OWN opinion, there's almost never a reason for a closed adoption. I think there are some circumstances were for safety purposes, it's required, but even then, at some point, that child is going to want to know about their history. As a parent, it's your obligation to make sure they know where they come from. For me, semi-open or open adoptions are the only way to go.

A Year of Gratitude #102

A Year of Gratitude #101: 23 Months of Stress-Free Living

Stress-free??? Really??

ABSOLUTELY! When I tracked out in April of 2010, I had no idea how quickly my life would be changing. From the time that we were put on the official waiting list for our agency to the time we were matched was 33 days. That's it.

When we made the drive on May 10th, 2010 to meet Gus and his amazing birth family, we had no idea what we were in for, and how much our lives would be changing. I guess no one really knows how much a baby changes things until you've become a parent. 

Prior to my track out, I was stressed about so many things. Being April, I had to move my ENTIRE classroom into Laura's room (Laura was my track mate). I was so fortunate to have parents in my class who were willing to let their children stay to help me move, but also I had several who always came and helped me. Unless you've been through it, you cannot fathom how incredibly stressful it is to move EVERY THING out of your classroom and into another person's room. While track out is a glorious time (it's your vacation), when I had to move out of my room caused me the most stress (I had to move out of my classroom twice each year).

The one thing that I HATED most about year-round schools was that I had to move out of my classroom twice a year. With the amount of stuff that I have... it was always a nightmare.

Anyway, I moved all my stuff into Laura's room and left it for two weeks. The plan was to come into work that last week of vacation (because, yes, I was on vacation, but I was required so many work days... and people think teachers lounge on their vacations!). We found out about Gus during my second week and the beginning of my third week of track out (the week that I was to go in and work), was the week that he was born. The Monday of my last week of vacation (Monday, May 10th), I tried to meet with my principal so I could tell her face-to-face that we had a match and a baby was coming at the end of the month. She was too busy to meet with me.

I had lunch with friends (little did I know that it would be my very last lunch with the girls... childless), and then got my nails done, and headed to Durham to meet Steve for a baseball game. When the call came at 5:45 that C was in labor... our world flipped upside down and hasn't been the same for 23 months!!

There were two months of stress right after Gus was born. The not knowing if he'd be our baby or not was gut-wrenching. I cried and cried from being so scared that we'd be told that his birth mom and father had changed their minds. H's mom refused to sign papers (he was a minor) and because he filled out paperwork incorrectly, our attorney had to check with two different Native American tribes to check and see if H was registered (if he was, the tribe would have to give permission for the adoption, and could decide to allow someone in the tribe to raise Gus). It was so very scary.

Then Steve had to leave and head back to NC and it was terrible. To be in a hotel alone with Gus... it was not good and mentally, I was not in a good place. There are so many things I regret about Gus's first two months of life... I WISH I could go back in time and relive it. All I wanted was to go home... and I just wanted to know that he was my son. I was so scared of losing him (and believe me, there was a HUGE risk of us losing him at the time), I didn't let myself bond with him. I didn't want to hold him to feed him, I was uncomfortable with him and I hate it.

While I was in MI, I wasn't sure if I wanted to be a stay-at-home-mom or not. I LOVED teaching... seriously LOVED it. I couldn't imagine leaving the classroom and not going back for the 2010-2011 school year.

There was stress about my leaving in the middle of a track out. Not only did my entire room have to be moved into my new classroom (all my stuff was in Laura's room), but there was no one there to move it for me (Steve and I were in MI with Gus and could NOT leave the state with him). Thankfully, I had some great people that I worked with who moved it for me. 

The EOGs (end of grade tests) came and thankfully my sub took care of everything... I had plans for the most part, but did have to work with her on getting them finalized. There was a LOT of drama with the b**ches that I worked with and I had several calls from my principal informing me that it was my job to do sub plans... SERIOUSLY?!?!?! I was so stressed about Gus and the situation with Steve being in NC that the LAST thing I cared about were my damn sub plans.

I'll call that REASON 1 that I don't want to return to the classroom.

Anyway-- thankfully Steve was able to move ALL my teaching stuff home when the end of the year came and Gus and I were STILL in Michigan (two months is a LONG time)!! 

BUT... once we did come back to NC and started our life as a family, a sense of peace came over me and I started to really enjoy being home. I had contact with former parents and they told me all about how terrible 5th grade was, how much the kids missed me and they even threw us a baby shower (the kids all brought books for Gus). It was in October and it was wonderful.

I had an opportunity to interview with Primrose (a preschool/day care) and I had thought about working park-time (maybe even full-time) and putting Gus in their program while I taught. During that interview, I was asked some questions about what I'd do if I was teaching and Gus was in the office because he was crying and upset... when I said I'd take care of him, the head of Primrose told me that I'd be expected to stay with my class and they'd take care of Gus. That's all it took for me to realize that there's no way in hell I'm leaving him so I can take care of other people's kids.

From that moment on, I have been 100% committed to staying home with Gus. My desire to stay home has grown... I cannot imagine leaving his growth and development up to someone else. Even that, I can't imagine letting someone else mold him and teach him right from wrong. My job is to teach him about everything and to lead by example. The kind of person that I want him to be, comes from what I model and teach. I refuse to allow someone else that honor.

I love staying home. I am literally stress-free. I don't stress about parents, conferences, my students, my lessons, not ever having enough time in the day to do all that I want/need, I don't stress about co-workers (and trust me... I worked with some nasty bee-otches). I walked out of the classroom and into motherhood and it was amazing.

Even after almost two years of being out of the classroom, I don't really miss it. I don't know if I ever want to go back. Maybe. Maybe not. The way education has changed (and even in two short years), I refuse to go back and teach to a test. I refuse to look at children as test scores and data... and yet, that's what teachers are forced to do. No more creativity allowed in lessons, everything is scripted and you're TOLD what to teach. It's horrible.

Maybe I'll go back and teach in a Montessori elementary. I found one close to us that I'd LOVE to put Gus in for K-5. I'm okay with him going to public middle school and high school in our area, but I'd prefer for him to be in a different environment for elementary. I love what Montessori stands for, and I think most importantly, it's amazing to view children as individuals and not cram testing down their throats. There will be enough of that when they're older... in the elementary years, the focus should be on the love of learning and self discovery. Montessori education allows for that.

I'd like to be home for Gus (and future children) when he's getting out of school. All the way through high school. When all my kids are 18 and graduated from high school, that's when I'll (maybe) go back to work. Until then, I'm going to enjoy each and every day playing, laughing, exploring, molding, creating, loving, and teaching my own kid.

I'm so thankful to not have any stress in my life. I don't stress about what I'm going to wear... what I'm going to do... My only stress is brought on by me, and I have the power to change my circumstances. I am so grateful that Steve works so very hard and not only allows me to stay home, but completely supports it.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A Year of Gratitude #101

A Year of Gratitude #101: Cates Family Visit

Dave and Gus (July 2010)

I am so excited that my brother Dave and his family is coming to visit us this Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday!! I haven't seen him since July of 2010 and it's been too long.

The last time I saw Dave was when he and his wife Heather and their three kids, Eamon, Aine, and Benton, came to NC to visit us while they were on this side of the country for their summer vacation. The above picture was taken in Michigan. It was the last day of our being held in MI for Gus's adoption, and what an incredible last day it was.

Not only was I so excited that we could FINALLY take Gus back to NC and bond, and start our life as a family under normal circumstances, but it was the first time I got to see Steve in more than three weeks (the longest that we've been apart), AND it was the day that I got to spend with Dave, Heather, and the kiddos. Scott (my twin) came over with Christy, Alex, and Lily (she wasn't even one yet) and for the first time in YEARS I was together with every single member of my immediate family. It was the greatest day.

We headed back to NC on July 11th (Gus was exactly two months old) and then the following week, Dave and the family came to NC to see us. His visit with us was short, he was only with us a day or two, but it was still great to see him and the family.

Here are some pictures of Gus with his Uncle Dave and cousins from Arizona:

It's so crazy to think that it's been almost two years since I last saw them. Mind blowing even. I'm so incredibly excited for Gus to play with his cousins and to take a bazillion pictures of them all together. To think that they last saw him and could hold him and feed him is crazy... good luck with that now!!  :-)

I absolutely MUST get a picture of Gus with his Aunt Heather too... not sure why I didn't get one from when we saw her last, but she's the only family member that I don't have a picture of her with Gus.

Not sure of the time when they'll be arriving on Sunday (I think Dave said it'd be evening), but I am just so excited to see them. They'll be here Sunday night and then all day Monday, all day Tuesday, and then they'll be heading to Washington D.C. on Wednesday. It'll be hard to say goodbye... but I'm hoping that while they're on this side of the country, I'll be able to see them at least once more before the head back to Arizona. Maybe they'll want to stop by and see us again on their return trip to AZ.

I'm thankful that we're on the way to D.C. and that they'll be able to come and spend a few days with us. I'm grateful that I'll be seeing my family and it'll help with the homesickness. I miss Dave and the family so very much... this is the greatest gift that I've received in quite some time!!

Monday, April 09, 2012

A Year of Gratitude #100

A Year of Gratitude #100: Fixed Computer

Steve worked all day Saturday and all day Sunday to get my computer back up and running. I'd been having a lot of problems with it lately, and I suppose he was sick of me complaining all the time.  :-)

He took everything off, cleaned it out, and then only added back the necessary programs. It's one of those things where I'm slowly figuring out what's missing... but for the most part, I don't miss too much.

I'm so thankful that he knows how to work on my computer and doesn't break it. My dad is the computer guru, and for most issues, he's the one to call- but it's hard when he's so far away. Thankfully, Steve has enough working knowledge to get it figured out for us.

So now everything is working faster, smoother, and I'm happy. I had Adobe Photoshop and now I've got Photoshop Elements. Not sure which program is better... they're totally different and I was finally comfortable with Photoshop... now I'm teaching myself how to adapt to Elements. It's been a challenge, but for the most part, Elements seems to be more user friendly and not as technical. Not sure if that's a good thing or not.

Thank you Steve for spending two days rebuilding my computer and for knowing what you were doing!!

A Year of Gratitude #99

A Year of Gratitude #99: Easter Fun

I don't think I ever realized just how much fun it is to be a parent. I have friends who have vowed to NEVER have kids, and I've always said, if you don't want kids, for their sake, don't have any.

I know parenting isn't for everyone, and it's definitely not easy all the time, but my gosh, it can be the most amazing thing to ever experience. Maybe it's because I never thought I'd be able to be a mom, but I take each and every day as a blessing. Gus is the most incredible little person that I've ever had the honor of knowing, and he makes me smile.

Boy oh boy, does he make me smile. Gus is only 22 months (he'll be 23 months this Wednesday), but his personality has been established, and the kind of person that he'll become as he grows, is more and more evident. And I might be biased, but I've got to say, I REALLY like the person that he is! He is just a sweet nugget of a boy and brings so much delight and joy to my day. He's caring, compassionate, and oh so sweet. He's learning about sharing and loves to share what he has with his mama and daddy.

We had an Easter Egg Hunt with my MOMS Club on Friday and it was so fun. Gus found ten eggs and had so much fun looking for eggs and putting them in his Mickey Mouse bucket. He had even more fun opening the eggs and eating the candy inside. :-)
The kiddos before the hunt

Gus found an egg before the hunt and decided to eat a Starburst

On the loose!

Checking out his eggs

Having some candy before lunch

Since we had so much fun a the MOMS Club Easter Egg Hunt, I decided that we'd do a hunt in our front yard on Easter morning.

Gus got up and Steve went to get him dressed while I went outside and hid the eggs. Gus wore his fancy outfit for the hunt, but we changed him after (I didn't want him to get anything on it). He had a BLAST outside looking for eggs! I loved that Steve was home with us and able to participate... he had as much fun as Gus!!

For dinner we had ham, au gratin potatoes (from scratch) and green bean casserole. I also made a Butterfinger pie for dessert that was so yummy!
Green bean casserole

Brown sugar and honey crock pot ham

Au gratin potatoes

My plate  :-)

Butterfinger Pie

I'm thankful for the joy of motherhood and for an amazing Easter with Gus and Steve.