Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Grandparents in Open Adoption

I haven't written about adoption in a long time. But I still follow so many blogs of people who have or are planning to adopt. I have such a passion for adoption and the way to support all three members of the "triad" (birth parents, adoptive parents, and the adoptee)

Most of you know we adopted our oldest, Colt, in 2008. We are technically in an open relationship with his birthmother, but we haven't heard from N in a long time. She has a daughter that is Owen's age, but we haven't met her or talked to N since she was born. Among several other things, I think this is probably the primary reason for the silence. Though I don't have any proof, I imagine having a new baby 14 months after placing Colt with us meant a rush of emotions. But we remain open and available when she is ready.

I've followed Heather and the Open Adoption Roundtable for a long time, written a few times when the prompts strike me. But, again, it has been a while. But today's prompt spoke to me. It said write about grandparents. That's all. Grandparents in open adoption.

Last week we met with several couples at our church to talk about how to support and minister to families looking to adopt. It was a refreshing conversation, and honestly we hadn't talked that much about adoption or pieces of our stories in a long time.

One of the things that came up was having people in our church family able to speak about different situations: international adoption, fostering, domestic, grandparents role in adoption, etc. Especially with interracial adoption, it seems that we need more and more grandparents speaking about their experience.

I know when we considered adoption, one of the things that weighed on our hearts was how would our parents react? How would they treat our child? We knew WE would be able to love a child that came to us through adoption, but would that be the case with our parents? Adoption was not just a decision for US, but one that truly involved our whole family. We're so close to our parents and sisters, we needed to be assured they would love this child as we would.

Of course, we had no problems. But as we considered what kind of situation we were open to (open vs. closed; race; exposure to drugs or alcohol; special needs; health issues; etc,) we prayerfully considered each scenario with our entire family on our minds. For us, the role of a grandparent was that important.

Today, one of my greatest joys is to see our boys interact and love on their grandparents and great-grandparents. They have unbridled joy and excitement when they talk to them, see them, or stay with them. Their grandparents don't hesitate to watch them, pitch in when they're sick, read to their classes at school, film Christmas programs, and rock them to sleep. They are an extension of my arms, of John's arms. They are a blessing like none other in our lives.

Same for great-grandparents. My grandmother will take my call every day to hear some silly little story about things one of them has said or done. Where others may half-listen or not share my amusement, she wants to hear everything. Every parent needs someone like that in their life - children are meant to be shared!

I'm so, so thankful for the support our parents showed us when we were choosing adoption. Just recently, Colt began asking about who came from who's belly. I knew that the adoption conversation would be just around the corner. While we've celebrated Gotcha Days, been to our agency's Christmas parties, and read books...he still isn't totally "getting it". We talked to each of our parents individually to let them know that he's talking about birth, and that we would start conversations about N. That they didn't need to be nervous or hesitent to mention her name. They all smiled and seemed fine with it...we're so grateful that they are.

Grandparents also played a huge role on N's side, as well. N was living with her grandmother while she was pregnant, and her grandmother had supported her throughout her pregnancy and decision to choose adoption. We heard about her Grandma from the very first phone call. And we had the outstanding privilege to meet her on several occasions.

We first met her the same time we met N: in the hospital. When we walked into the room that day, her Grandmother saw us and immediately told John "the baby looks just like you". And he does. But she broke the ice, helped make us comfortable. She stroked N's hair as she told us how great N had been during labor, how much pain she'd been in the night before. She talked our ear off about the family tree and how proud she was of N and her sister.

She accompanied N out of the hospital the next day. They came by our room, wheeling the little bed with a sleeping Colt on there. N had tears in her eyes, but she smiled. Her grandmother hugged me so tight and asked us both to take good care of him, that he was so loved. She hugged N's shoulders as they left and said "it's hard, but it's the right decision". She wasn't pushy, she wasn't insistent, she was so caring and supportive. I was so grateful that N had her in her life.

A few months later, we traveled to Grandma's house. We visited there in her living room for several hours, N snuggling on Colt and everyone listening to his happy squeals. Grandmother kept the conversation going, making it easier for us to fit in and for N to come out of her shell. It was a great day and we captured lots of pictures of her holding Colt.

Not long after that we received a call from our caseworker at the agency. N's grandma had passed away. She had several health problems and her time had come. I cried and cried after that call. I cried for N. I cried for Colt. I cried for us.

We've seen N one time since her grandma passed. Between her passing, the birth of a new baby, and a marriage I'm sure N is unsure of how to balance an open adoption relationship. Her grandmother was her rock, her support, her guidance. I KNOW she must miss her. We miss her, too. We miss all that she did for Colt, miss her love for him.

I'm so thankful Colt (and Owen) have always been surrounded by such amazing grandparents.

Operation Organization: Guest/Kids Bath

This time I did not take before pictures, but there really wasn't a lot to be done. Last Thanksgiving I took 3 days off work and deep cleaned my house and organized several spots. The guest/kids bath was one. So really, I just cleaned it (with vinegar - my favorite new cleaning tool!) and moved a few things around. It only took 20 minutes from top to bottom including cleaning the tub and dusting blinds.

A look into the bathroom from the hallway.

A nice, shiny, clean bathtub and bathmat! I cleared out a lot of the toys and put them in baskets above the bath (the frog pod) and in the cabinets. But that car ramp won't fit anywhere else!

One cabinet has extra towels, extra toys, and a basket full of travel size shampoo, body wash, plus lotion and such. The drawer above this has all the hand towels and washcloths we use for bathtime.
Sidenote: I cannot WAIT until my husband gets his act together and decides to touch up the paint on baseboards and on the cabinets in here. The chipped paint is literally driving me crazy. Literally.

LOTS of space under the sink. A few baby towels I can't get rid of, but there was enough room to store the potty chair until Owen is ready to use it. Colt is full-on big boy these days.

Under the other cabinet is extra towels, extra bathmats (you can never have too many of either, especially with young children who get sick). The drawer above this has kids ointments, eye drops, bandaids, etc. Their liquid cough medicines and such are in the kitchen.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Operation Organization: Laundry Room

After a week of being exceptionally tired and lazy, yesterday I was hit with an urge to clean and organize. I got two new rooms finished, finished up cleaning our bathroom (floors still needed to be done) AND we changed out our air filters and vacuumed out the bathroom vents. John helped me a lot on this evening, and I was grateful for his involvement!

As I mentioned in the video, there were several "selling points" with this house when we bought it 5 years ago. The laundry room was one of them. Huge, spacious, lots of storage. It's a lot like a mudroom because it's connected to the garage, where we always come in. Our coats are hung here (I didn't get a picture of the coat rack on the wall to the right).

But because it's also a mud room, it's where most of our 'stuff' ends up. Papers from the day, mail, odds and ends, shoes, etc. It is a constant mess. It also houses the only junk drawer in the house...and it's pretty junky. I was both looking forward to cleaning/organizing, also dreading it.

Ugh. Yes. This is typically what it looks like. And clothes are covering up so much of the other mess. Paperwork was everywhere...
THE JUNK DRAWER. Can't find anything in here.
The cabinet above the junk drawer was a mess of cords, checks, and junk. The top shelf was mostly jars and candles, but still needed some work.
This is the game cabinet under the junk drawer.
And, after! Aaaahhhh....nice and clean. Clear. Under control.
The junk drawer. Still a junk drawer, but makes a little more sense. Our small electronics and checks come with such good little boxes. Perfect for organizing the small things like keys, batteries, iphone/pod accessories, and small tools. I know it will get junky again, but I hope to continue to have "places" for things to go.

The upper cabinet is now organized! The top shelf really didn't have much to be cleaned. All my tealights live in Mason jars that are used for various things. Also up top are now small decorations and ornaments that didn't get put away before Christmas decorations went back in the attic. The bottom shelf now has the huge, awkward firesafe, Bibles, and checks/envelopes. Thinking I might start a bill-paying area at some point...
I didn't take a before pic of under the sink cabinet, but it was full of diaper boxes that had bills/junk mail that need to be shredded. My next project is to actually separate the trash from the paper that has personal info and get it shredded so I removed all those boxes. Now, an old laptop box holds all our warranties/manuals, all our flashlights are in one box, and a few other things with no real home ended up here.
Here is the game cabinet, now a true game cabinet! You  can see them all, and on the bottom is a bag of CD's, a CD player, and a humidifier. I KNOW I should get rid of the CDs, especially since we have everything digitally now. I'll get there. Doesn't it look better?! Also, I got rid of those World War II VHS tapes...where did those come from?! Why were we keeping them?!

I did not take pictures of the cabinets above the washer and dryer. One is just our laundry supplies. The other is full of ironing supplies, picture albums and boxes of pictures. It's organized, I assure you. So that's the laundry room transformation... 2 1/2 bags of trash later.

Friday, March 09, 2012

The Fairness Factor

So, I have a very real question. For those of you that are married, do you struggle with the "fairness" factor in your relationship? I do. It manifests itself in several ways for me. Primarily, household responsibilities and time to do what I want away from home.

I've recognized this problem of mine for several years now. I'd say it peaked after having kids, and I think that's why it continues to be a struggle for me. Before kids, I could claim household responsibilities (cleaning, mostly) as something I enjoyed and had plenty of time to do. Before kids, John could golf every night of the week and all day Saturday and it meant more TV time for me, or cleaning time, or friend time or shopping time for me.

I very recently may have been guilty of keeping a running tally in my head of the number of days/times/hours that John was away doing what he wanted to do (golf) while I was scrubbing floors/rocking a fussy baby/cleaning up dishes. It was a huge divide in our relationship, and certainly wasn't what I thought parenthood would be like.

The way cheesy story? I prayed about it. And continue to pray about it. And then when I prayed about it, it gave me time to calm down. So praying or just taking a moment to process your thoughts, whatever works for you, it's the best advice I've been able to follow at this point. Because, then I was able to communicate to John calmly. We had open conversation. In fact, when my deep-seeded anger for all things unfair reached it's head, we had really, really tough conversations about it.

He had no idea. He was used to me liking cleaning. He didn't know that it bothered me to be solely responsible for looking after our house. And the more the martyr in me spouted off the gazillion things I did around the house, the more defensive he became. And I was slapped in the face with all kinds of things I hadn't considered. Things he did that I don't even think about.

He cares for the lawn, the cars, the budget. He may not remember or feel responsible for making the kid's well baby checkups, but he makes sure we have the money in our bank account to cover co-pays. He may not think about new meal ideas and grocery shop, but he orders the pizza every time it needs to be ordered (I'm a phone-phone! I hate ordering things on the phone!). He may not dump out the milk in his cereal bowl, but he fixes the garbage disposal any time it acts up.

So, I guess we BOTH work pretty hard. I imagine no matter your situation, whether you are two working parents or one of you stays at home, you have this argument. I don't have an answer for you. Just last night John was asked to go golfing this Saturday and I whipped out "if you think you're golfing this weekend you're'll be working all day next Saturday and golfing all the the next". Luckily, he laughed at me since he knew that was a reaction borne out of the discussion coming up in the car, nowhere for me to go calm down before talking about it. And honestly, the boys get easier and easier to take care of as a single parent on the weekend, so both of us are in better places to "allow" time away.

But I'm curious if anyone else has fights that really come right down to fairness. What do you do to try and get over that? It will never be fair, it's so personal. We've done little things like assign certain chores to John (that I nag him about), we will both often wait to go out until after the kids are in bed, we got two DVR's so that we can have some alone time. But it's a constant, every day battle with me that I really don't like fighting!

Sidenote: I know this is TOTALLY random, but Operation Organization is showing me how much I miss blogging and all the things I could talk about that won't fit on Twitter. So for now, I'm posting with no plan or schedule or thought. Just the randomness from days of yore.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Operation Organization at Work

I began my Operation Organization at my desk last week, which had not been organized long I can't remember. OF COURSE I didn't take any "before pictures"! But trust was a mess of papers and stuff I could not reference or enjoy.

I know it looks cluttered, that's how we roll in this office. You can probably get an idea from the pictures who my client is. Anyway, I feel much better in my office, my workspace is clean with plenty of room to spread out as I take conference call after conference call.

An overall look...

YES! I am checking Twitter at work. GASP! They pay me to do that!

My organized clutter....and not the in the"Hoarders" way. Surrounded by faces I love!

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Operation Organization: Week 1

Operation Organization is going well. I was confused about the dates (thought everything STARTED the week of March 4th, not that the first week should be complete by then). But that's ok, I've been working in some great areas.

I first started by cleaning and organizing my desk at work. This was quite a feat, I don't spend a lot of time there. I had piles and piles of paper, expired instant oatmeal, and countless pens that didn't work. I got that cleaned up last Friday and it inspired me to work the weekend.

So I hit the biggest area of concern in my house, which was the master bathroom. We had let things pile up and pile up, never throwing boxes away or organizing things. It needed an overhaul and a good cleaning. Saturday was the day. I ended up cleaning out both cabinets under the sink and the top drawer (the bottom two drawers are just towels).

It took me a couple of hours and 1 1/2 bags of trash later and I had thrown out all expired meds, trash, old toiletries, and more. I wiped down and cleaned the inside of the drawers and cabinets and then organized a la Pinterest. I even bought the same bins as the post suggests!

Now, our meds are organized according to ailment (stomach, aches and pains, coled/allergy/sinus, and supplies like braces, ace bandages, etc.) and the small drawer for bandages and ointments. I bought two others for the the boy's medicines that are housed in their bathroom.

This was HUGE for me! I loved it and am inspired to do more. Sunday I cleaned out my car (a whole other post), but John came down with strep and I was on single parent duty the rest of the day. Then, because he's been so sick and stuffed up he's been snoring and I've hardly slept the last two nights. Which means NO energy to clean and organize during those precious few hours after the boys go to bed.

No excuses! I'll do more! But I'm thrilled with my efforts thus far. March means organizing!!

This is under my sink - makeup bags hold hair accessories, boys hair clippers, my travel-size toiletries, then the basket has all my "extras" of toothpaste, face wash, etc.

Here is the best makeover - under John's sink, our medicine cabinet! Inspired by a Pinterest link, I divided all our medicines and supplies by ailment and put ointments and bandaids in the small drawers.

Well, of course I didn't take a before picture! But it's on the video I posted. It was so, so bad. So disorganized and piled up. Now, it's so clear and bright it almost blinds me at night! I washed down the outside of the cabinets and removed lots of dust. It looks beautiful now!

Friday, March 02, 2012


When I was little, my dad used to make up stories for me at bedtime. They were always the same character, Mary Ann. Thought I can't remember all the details, I'm sure she had a little sister. They were always about simple things - just every day things that most kids do. But I loved Mary Ann stories.

Colt has reached an age where storytelling is his favorite thing. It started several weeks ago when John would just tell him the Three Little Pigs or Goldilocks. (John is a pretty good storyteller!). Then, when I put him to bed he would ask for a story about castles and Princes and Knights. And, then, last night I tucked him in and he wanted to tell ME a story.

It was basically the plot of his favorite "Phineas and Ferb" episode, but still. I was enthralled and thrilled. He had a plot and character development. He used different voices for characters. He gave details. I'm just so excited and so proud of this milestone!

This is the same kid who has never been one to sit still through a whole book, whereas Owen will sit for as many books as you allow. I know Colt's imagination is full, but to hear him tell me a story and entertain me and think through these scenarios made me so excited about a future love for reading and getting lost in a story. He may not sit and read picture books with me very often, but he is listening intently and creating pictures in his mind.

He's been asking for storytime on the way to school in the morning, too. And just like I had Mary Ann, Colt and Owen now have Wally. Their favorite story so far is about how Wally doesn't want to go to school but he goes and has a lot of fun anyway...guess they're trying to convince themselves they're like Wally?!

Thursday, March 01, 2012

The Before Video

Ok. As promised, here is the "BEFORE" video of my house for Operation Organization. Please don't judge. Look at it like I do - an opportunity!

It's long, I rambled. Blah blah, you get the picture. But my favorite part of this project so far has been seeing everyone's house tours! So I had to join in.