Sharing recipes, crafts and frugal living, the challenges and triumphs of parenting a neurotypical child and a child on the Autism Spectrum. Yoga Instructor said goodbye to her nightly glass of Chardonnay to give up habits that were not serving her purpose in life! The CocktailMom name remains, however with a new focus on healthy and authentic living.

1/10/2017

Adoption from Foster Care- Numbing Emotions with Food

Photo by: Igor Ovsyannykov
2016 has been a rollercoaster of a ride for our family as we embarked on the journey of adoption from the foster care system. We began this journey in January of 2016. First item to cross off our to-do list was the required 27 hours of classes and training, which took place over several Saturdays. Then came the paperwork; background checks- criminal, driving records and financial. Homestudy visits at our house from a social worker interviewing my wife and I together, then separate and then the children each by themselves. Fire inspection of our house from a fire marshall, reference letters and interviews with our friends and finally when all of that was completed we sat down with our adoption agency to talk about marketing ourselves. Yes, that's right...marketing ourselves as awesome parents. Creating fliers with images of our family and what our interests and hobbies are, describing where we live and what services, both therapeutic and recreational, that are close to our house. The idea is to market our family to social workers so that they would read more about us and possibly know of a child on their caseload that would be a perfect match.

When you are going through the paperwork stage of adoption all you can think about is the matching stage. Often I would say to my wife with excitement in my eyes, "I can't wait to get to the matching!" And then when you are in the matching stage you don't think your heart can hold any more hurt and pain that you are hearing on a daily basis. Reading stories of abuse both physical and sexual, neglect because of addiction and poverty and that energy needs to go somewhere. Otherwise it takes up residence in your body in some fashion. Whether that is building a wall around your heart by becoming jaded and cynical or those emotions live as chronic pain in a region of your body for example back or hip pain.

For me I chose to numb those emotions of heartbreak with food. I'm a yoga teacher and life coach, I knew better than to do this. But there I was every night eating cookies, eating my emotions and loosing sight of any physical exercise program except a slow flow, stretchy yoga practice. I was numbing with food and damn did it feel good in the moment. We all deal with hard emotions differently and oftentimes we numb those feelings when we can't take any more in. Food, drugs, alcohol, gambling and even Facebook/social media are the top choices for most people to numb themselves from feeling.

During the matching phase of adoption there are a lot of rejections. We wondered if it was because we are two women but oftentimes it was because we are already parents, which we thought was a benefit for us. But unfortunately so many children in the foster care system have been abused and social workers think it best for them to live in a house without other children. With each rejection the Ben and Jerry's would be cracked open. I am a highly sensitive person and numbing this heartbreak, felt like all I could do. Everyday hearing stories of abuse to innocent children left me in tears on my kitchen floor. I was feeling too much. In order to survive I needed to numb. And food was my numbing escape of choice. 
 
With any bad habit there are consequences and as you might have already guessed weight gain was the consequence that I had to deal with. In 2016 I gained 16 pounds! I am 5'3 and have weighed the same amount since I was in high school (except during pregnancies, of course). These 16 pounds came on easy and tasted delicious but now in 2017 it's time for them to go! My wife and I decided to do a personal challenge, for 45 days we are going to be mindful of the food that we eat. Choosing to eat healthy rather than convenient and we have given up (refined) sugar. Changing our diet as well as exercising 6 days a week will jump start us into 2017.

Week one felt impossible without the sweet treat after lunch and dinner. But now embarking on week two, I'm feeling better. I've already noticed that I have more energy and a positive mindset. The cravings for sweets are still there but rather than giving into that craving with cookies or ice cream I'm allowing myself a small bowl of berries. Doing this with my wife has been momentous! It's easier to resist sweets and exercise when you have a partner being supportive and on the journey with you. Keep tuning in to the CocktailMom blog to learn about the changes we are making to be healthier and happier in 2017!

12/06/2016

Adoption from Foster Care- It's the Little Things That Matter Most


It's hard to fall in love with this little boy and yet have no voice in how you'd like him to be parented or be able to make any decisions about his life. I often feel like my hands are tied. And yet I continue to fall in love with his sweet voice and the way he says "what are you doing right now?" when we call him on the phone every night.

We are continuing to visit him twice a week at the residential facility, which involves a two hour drive each way. Per the rules of the facility we have worked up to off-campus visits, each week the visit is allowed to be longer and we can take him off campus with just our family. It's exciting and freeing but it still doesn't feel like our life. We aren't given many options of things to do based on the location of this facility and the colder weather, so it's either go out to eat at a chain restaurant or walk around Target and play videos games. I want him to experience life in our home; walking the dogs, going to the pool, setting the table for dinner. I want him to experience the little moments that make us a family, and I know he wants to experience that too.

This past weekend during our visit we decided that we would run errands because both L and Z needed new shoes and he did as well. So there we are, my wife and I, in the DSW shoe store trying to find shoes for three boys for the first time ever. It felt natural and chaotic at the same time. I found myself noticing other people in the store and how they looked at our family, seeing the confusion on their faces as they tried to figure out how two women and three children (who don't look like each other) "go together" in this very rural part of the state.

But seeing the excitement on his face when he found a pair that fit was priceless and instantly made me forget all the eyes that were watching us. "Look at MY NEW shoes!" He kept saying with a strong emphasis on MY as though this might have been the first time that he ever got new shoes. The thought crossed my mind but then I swept is aside, that couldn't be true. At some point in time someone had to have bought him new shoes, right? We pile back in the minivan and head to Walmart because the zipper on his pants are broken, he's our kid so we are doing what we would normally do for our kids-buy them what they need.

Having no idea what size he wears, I just guess and pull some various sizes for him to try on and fill my arms with pants that I would normally buy for L and Z. Well he has his eyes set on a pair of jeans, L and Z never wear jeans. And I mean never! So I empty my arms and begin looking through the racks of jeans and we all make our way to the dressing room. He is carrying a pair of jeans in his arms, close to his chest and mumbling something about how excited he is about them. He tries on only that one pair of jeans, opens the dressing room door for us to see him in them with a huge smile on his face, "They fit!". Wife and I check to make sure the jeans do in fact fit around his waist, length, are comfortable when he sits down etc. His entire face is beaming, "And they come with a belt! I've never had a belt before!" I look at him, at his huge smile and twinkling brown eyes and my heart breaks for him. He's excited about a belt! A belt, people! I give him a huge hug and tell him that those are clearly the pants for him. His smile turns to a frown and he says, "But we aren't allowed to have belts at the cottage." My wife, in perfect timing says, "We will just keep the belt at our house till you get there, okay?" The smile is back and he's bouncing out the door excited about his new shoes, jeans and the belt that he's never had before. And as I watch my three boys exit the store together I feel a lightness in my heart, this was the reminder that I needed this holiday season.
It's the little things that matter most; it's being a family, being together and being able to wear a belt!

11/09/2016

Post 2016 Election

The eleven year old crawled into bed with me this morning and I told him the news of the election. I held him as he sobbed. "How can someone so mean and unkind and who hates us so much (meaning= a gay family) be president? How can people who love us and call us their family....how can they vote for him?" (pause and sniffling) "Why can't we move to Canada?" I explained to him that not one person makes all the decisions in our country. That there is a process. And it's our mission to do the opposite of him, to be kind and good people. "And it also means we need to get involved in things we believe in. We need to volunteer and be of service so that these organizations exist to help more and more families like ours. Our mantra for the next four years is just like the saying on the t-shirts at my yoga studio, Kindness Is Contagious!
We held each other and cried and his questions continued to rattle in my mind. How can people who love us vote for a man who doesn't support our family? How am I going to teach our newest son, who has seen trauma first hand, that the people who say mean things and degrade others is not the "winner." For right now, I'm going to hold them. All three of my sons and tell them that they are safe. We will continue to look up to President Obama as an example of the type of man that we aspire them to become. My wife and I will continue to believe that LOVE and KINDNESS will always win. And we will hold on to hope.

11/07/2016

Adoption from Foster Care- The Siblings Meet!


We drove into the residential facility where our new son is living. I say to the boys, "Look out the window, this is it!" Trees line the one lane road for a long stretch that makes you feel as though you are entering a summer camp. There are small cottages that house the children. Outside of each one a bike rack overflowing with child sized bikes, a bike for every child on campus. You can see horses grazing far off in the field, it feels magical here.

Today is the day that L and Z will meet their new brother for the first time. It's a bit weird and every one's veins are pulsing with nervous excitement. We've shown L and Z pictures of what he looks like and briefly what we know about him that is appropriate for the boys to understand. He's coming from foster care and has experienced tremendous trauma but we aren't sharing that with L and Z, or anyone in our family. Children are put into foster care because they have not been cared for (neglect) and often have experienced physical or sexual abuse. The story of our son's past is not for anyone else to know, it's his story. And when he chooses to share it, if ever, with other people is his decision. 

As we got out of the car Z reached for my hand and pulled himself close next to my arm, quietly he says to himself "I'm feeling kinda nervous."I look down at him and smile and say, "Me too bud." I made the very active choice to not diminish how he is feeling by trying to change them. And instead chose honesty and authenticity. I'm working on this more and more in my life. It's so easy to say, "it's going to be okay", "you'll do fine", "no reason to be nervous, he's a great kid and so are you". Growing up, that was often how my emotions were handled in my family I know that it doesn't actually make you feel better and instead the coat of shame begins to be woven over your shoulders. Then you wonder to yourself, "what is wrong with me? I'm the only one feeling this way." But in actuality everyone is feeling the same way, they are just scared to admit it.  

We held hands as we walked and just as I was about to let go, he then squeezed it three times. This is our family's "secret" way of saying "I love you" and we often do it to each other when we think the person needs it the most or when we are around other people and it would be too random if you blurted out "I love you!". I smiled down at him and we walked into the building where in an instant our family dynamic will be changed forever.

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