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.

5/15/2017

Adoption From Foster Care- How are you?

Picture by Oscar Keys
"How are you doing?", it's a question I get asked almost daily. We all do. By your office mates, the check out girl at the grocery store or your mom when you call her for your weekly check-in. "How are you doing?" Often times we respond with a simple, "fine" or "good". But the truth is never that simple, not for you or me. And for some reason it takes a few rounds of back and forth in the conversation before we really get to the heart of what it is that we are feeling, if we get there at all. 

How am I doing?

I feel like I'm treading water in the ocean and my legs are exhausted. If I stop, I'll drown so I keep treading water because it's all I know how to do. Pumping my legs round and round, trying to keep my head above water. (Of course I'm not actually treading water but it's the best analogy I can come up with.) 
I'm running a successful business, my wife and I are trying to make time for our marriage while we navigate parenting a child from the foster care system that has experienced so much trauma in his short life and expresses himself through defiance on a daily basis while also parenting our two other kids (who are thankfully going through a calm period in their lives-knock on wood). We have a lot of balls in the air that we are juggling and somedays it feels like they all might go crashing to the floor at once.

Things have not gone as we had hoped and planned for. The child that we visited for five months, twice a week and participated in family therapy is not the same child that currently lives with us. Physically yes, it's the same child, but behavior wise he's different. We never saw the defiance, anger or the negativity when we visited him, but now it's constant. There are no triggers that will set him off, an everyday request like "Get your shoes on, it's time to go to school." will spin him into an argument. It is extremely difficult and stressful to be around every single day, I feel as though I'm walking in a mine field and at any moment I might step on a bomb. My guard is up all the time, and I personally don't like to live with my guard up.

To be honest, I don't like the type of person that his defiance makes me become. The type of person that calls out demands instead of talking or discussing, which is more my style. I prefer to parent from a place of love and kindness. But he's never known love or kindness and so it feels foreign to him and different and what he has learned is to defy what is different. To push it away in order to protect himself. We received training, I've read more and continue to read more books on his diagnoses, we've been counseled by doctors and therapists and I want to believe that we are the right family for him, that we can give him the safety, support and love that he deserves and that will make him see that he can live a happy life. But each day, I feel like the waves are getting bigger and my head comes closer to sinking under.    

"How are you?"
I'm going to stop asking this question to other people when I see them because I don't know if I can answer the question myself without it feeling like I'm taking a seat on the therapy couch or avoiding answering truthfully and giving a blanket "fine". I'm going to replace it with "What is new in your world?". That's a question that I can answer without breaking down into tears. That's a question that propels us into conversation and connection. So...what is new in your world?

5/01/2017

Adoption From Foster Care- Everyday Moments Missed


Our newest son is nine years old and we are in the process of adopting him from the foster care system. We have a routine that we follow in the morning, like most families do, before the kids can have screen time. Breakfast, finish whatever homework that wasn't completed the night before, pack up everything into the backpack and of course brush your teeth.

Like all mornings we go into the bathroom together, he and I brush our teeth together. (This guarantees that it actually gets done.) Then I typically start doing my own hair and makeup. M doesn't like to be alone and doesn't know how to entertain himself. Everyday I give him three choices of things he could be doing; playing with toys in the next room, starting his screen time or draw. "No, I'll wait for you to finish.", he always says. The more comfortable he has become with me, the more intrigued he has become with my morning ritual.


"Do boys wear blush?", he asked. "What's that for? Why do you make that face?", as I suck in my cheekbones to apply blush. I've had similar conversations with my biological children, L and Z when they were around two or three years old. Small kids are naturally curious about what their parents are doing that is different from what they do in the bathroom and a part of them wants to experience it too. So M asked if he could try it. I purposively wanted to tread lightly on this subject area, trying to be really careful about what I said because I want to stay neutral. I don't want to be apart of labeling, the "make up is only for girls- boys can't wear makeup" that society puts on all of us. I've never understood why makeup isn't for all genders, just because you are a man doesn't mean you have a flawless complexion and if a little concealer helps to make you feel confident I say- go for it!

"Some boys. Boys who are on TV or in movies, they have to wear makeup.", I reply. He wanted to try the blush so I fake put some on him, just as I did when L and Z were preschool aged. There was a period of time when Z was about two years old, he walked around carrying a compact blush brush clasped in his little hand. He took it everywhere and would randomly sweep it on his face throughout the day. And then one day it was in the bottom of the toy bin, forgotten. For children it's about the sensory experience of feeling that soft blush brush sweep your cheekbones and face and tickle a wee bit. We talked about how good that felt.

Next I put on eyeliner. He wanted to know what it was for, so I showed him what it looked like on me with eyeliner on one eye and one without so he could see the difference. I explained to him that he has almond shape eyes which so many people wish they had and that some people use eyeliner to create that almond shape or to enhance it.

"Do boys wear eyeliner?", he asked.
"Some boys. Especially boys who are in rock bands! Sometimes you'll see that Adam Levine wears eyeliner. And Prince he wore eyeliner all the time."
"Can I wear it?"
"Well it's not a good idea to wear eyeliner when you aren't really use to it because if you rub your eyes at school it will get all over your face.", I cautiously respond.
Then the same conversation about mascara, with exactly the same questions. And I respond the exact same way.

At the end of my makeup routine I apply a pressed powder which is also applied with a brush similar looking to the blush brush. A huge smile spread across his face and he asked if he could have some. With his face raised up towards me and his eyes closed, I swept the brush all over his face and he smiled so big. He opened his eyes and looked at himself in the mirror and he was beaming. Beaming at himself! I don't think I've ever seen him look that happy. Moments like these are a good reminder for me of the developmental things that he has missed in his life. The freedom to ask questions and be a curious child. The ability to experience the tickling feeling of a brush on your face without judgement or ridicule. These are the moments that I need to hold dear, these really sweet exchanges. So that when things get rough, when there is defiance, temper tantrums and power struggles I can pull these moments out of the vault of memories and hold on to them. Right now the defiance, temper tantrums and power struggles greatly outweigh the good moments, so today I will hold this one dear to my heart. And allow it to fuel me forward on this journey of adoption.

4/25/2017

Creating a Personal Oasis


When we told our friends who have kids that we were going to adopt an older child from foster care several thought we were crazy. Not because they thought that we shouldn't actually adopt a child but because they were envious of our current custody schedule for our two biological kids, L and Z. Having an entire week alone, just the two of us, without kids seemed like a dream to our friends with kids. By adopting, all of that would change. 

We share custody of L and Z and have a schedule of one week with us and one week with their other parent, we divide the month equally in half between the two houses. Although it's been years since their father and I divorced I still feel sad in my heart on the transfer day when the children leave. I would much rather have them all the time than be without them for a week. But like most things the more you do it, the more use to it you become and it morphs into your new "normal". During the weeks when it was just my wife and I our schedules didn't change all that much; I still teach yoga in the evenings, we still have dinner at home and walk the dogs. Not really all that much changes in our day to day life except that it would just be the two of us. 


Right now in the midst of our adoption from foster care journey we now have a kid with us all the time...I miss my wife. I miss the time that we had just the two of us, totally uninterrupted. The freedom to have conversations without having to sensor ourselves because another set of ears are nearby. I miss reaching out to hold her hand and not having to share her with anyone else. I am mourning the loss of our time together that we once had but I'm also extremely grateful that we had so many years in the beginning of our marriage to have that time together to form our relationship. I know that we will always truly cherish that period of time.


Like many parents bedrooms ours has become the "catch all" room. It is the place where stuff just ends up; the kid shirt that needs a button sewn on, the laundry in the basket that needs folding. With the dog crate in the corner and the ironing board propped against the wall behind the door the room is not the romantic setting seen in movies. And what my wife and I need right now is a personal oasis, just for us, to retreat to without kids to interrupt. 


We've lived in this house for three years and it's the last room to be decorated. I need it to become our sanctuary. Our retreat. The space that is only ours. We put a bright, cheery yellow paint on the accent wall to remind us to live a happy life. Quilt and accent pillows were purchased and then I saw a dear friend posted these frames on Freecycle stating the color and that they did not come with glass or backings- perfect! Exactly what I had in mind to create an artistic piece over our headboard without having to spend any more money. My wife had the "you and me" made by an artist from Etsy years ago, it is the title of a song that we love by P!nk


Now I love walking into the room and seeing the turquoise frames on the bright yellow wall. It simply makes me happy and I need happy right now.

4/21/2017

Adoption From Foster Care- Angels Among Us


Being a part of a family and having siblings means that sometimes you have to do things that you, personally, aren't interested in doing. I remember when I was a child I would have to sit on the sidelines and watch my older sister's gymnastic practice. I wouldn't say that I liked it or enjoyed it but I learned how to entertain myself or play with the other siblings that were there having to wait for their sister or brother as well. And like all families it was reciprocated, my sister had to wait for my dance classes to end and she had to learn the same lesson I learned.

In our family of three boys each child is allowed to pick one activity or class per season in addition to playing an instrument. L has chosen kickboxing and viola, Z has chosen track and field and trumpet and M, who just joined our family from the foster care system, has chosen soccer. Each night and weekend sends us into a rotating schedule of practice and games that would make your head spin.

Last night Z had track practice and L had kickboxing so like most parents, my wife and I divided and conquered. I took Z to track with M tagging along, I brought a few items for him to entertain himself and within minutes of arriving he was sulking and deep sighing and loudly proclaiming that he was "so bored". I've been doing a lot of research on trauma and one thing I have found to be true is that children regress to the age of when they experienced trauma when in destress or upset. M regresses to about the age of a three year old when he has to do something that he doesn't want to do, like sit at his brother's track practice. He pouts and has a full on tantrum. He doesn't understand how you can't make a snack magically appear or after explaining rationally that we have to sit and wait for track practice to be over just like Z and L have to sit and wait for HIS soccer practice to be over, that we can't just leave anyone in our family. I offer several suggestions of things we could do; color, play a game, walk the track etc. He repeatedly shuts them all down and continues to ask, "But why do we have to be here?....Why?... Why?". At this point in his tantrum I have chosen to disengage, which is hard to do when it's a 115 pound nine year old in front of you having said tantrum. But I look out at the track practice and I enjoy watching Z run, I grit my teeth and repeat the Serenity Prayer in my mind.
"God grant me the serenity to accept the things that I can not change. The courage to change the things that I can. The wisdom to know the difference." 

The tantrum continues in front of me, for all the other parents to witness and I honestly don't care. Years ago I would have been mortified, I would have pulled said child aside so that he could have a tantrum without everyone watching. But now, at my age, I just don't care. That is when angels appear next to me, a husband and wife who have witnessed this power struggle who look at me with kind eyes and say, "How can we help you?". They aren't judging, they aren't criticizing they ask the simplest question, "How can we help you?". These are strangers, they don't know that M is a foster child that we are trying to adopt, they don't know our story.

"How can we help you?"

The husband takes M out into the field in front of me to do football drills, when I offered this as a suggestion to entertain him he refused. But now M is smiling, he's sweating and the husband keeps him entertained with drills for a full thirty minutes. The wife and I talk, she listens and nods as I open up and tell her how hard everyday feels. Her eyes are compassionate, and I allow vulnerability to be my guide. I freely walk into this courageous conversation with a stranger and I feel the tightening in my chest begin to loosen as I lean into my feelings of failure and disappointment.

God (the Universe, Divine Spirit, whatever name you give the higher power) sent these angels to share in our journey, together we find a collective courage to speak of our vulnerability and faith. As moms we speak openly with each other, we take off the invisible shields that each of us wears and we choose to let down our guards. It's courageous but it honestly feels fantastic!
Who would have known that strangers on the bleachers would be angels among us.  

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