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.

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.  

4/12/2017

Adoption From Foster Care- Empathy Needed!

Thank you all for reading and watching from the sidelines our journey of adopting an older child from foster care. I have posted on social media about how hard it has been, lately. We have experienced many highs and many lows that naturally come with adjustment and transition for everyone in our family.
Adjustment and transitions are hard. For everyone.
And it's okay for me to express that and share it as a part of our adoption journey.
I appreciate the kind words but most days the person with their face down in the dirt in the center of the arena just needs a hug and an acknowledgment that this too shall pass and one day it will feel easier.
The person with their face down in the dirt doesn't need a critic or advice on how they could do it differently instead they need a friend, a listening ear and a safe space to acknowledge what they are feeling.
With your face down in the dirt, in the center of the arena that is the moment of DARING GREATLY. We aren't perfect, we are going to stumble and we will fall a few times but we are trying and it is in that trying that we will see growth.
Again thank you for your kind words! And we appreciate you following along as we navigate this new terrain.

3/28/2017

Adoption From Foster Care- Being Called Mom Isn't What I Thought It Would Be


The moment when your sweet baby starts babbling sounds, every parent begins to coach them to say the word that associates with their role in the family; Mama, Dada, Nana, Papa. When each of my biological children became of the age of talking, like most children they uttered the word “Dada” before “Mama”. And at the time, married to their father, I felt a pain of jealousy in my chest. 

With each boy, I rocked them to sleep at hours of the morning that in a previous life (pre-kid) only saw when I was closing down the club or bar. Like all the moms I knew, I nursed each of them until my nipples were literally bleeding. Carrying kids strapped to my chest/back, poised on a hip while arms are dangling $200 worth of groceries and a Thomas the Tank Engine Train under my chin, it wasn’t until years later that my back felt in alignment. And after all of the love and selfless devotion, the thanks we mothers get is the first name to be uttered from our sweet baby’s mouths is “Dada”? I read once that children say Dada first so that the father figure feels connected to the child since often times the mother is the provider of food and undoubtedly spends more time with the baby. Other theories suggest that making the "da" sound is easier for a baby to do. Regardless, it all makes sense in theory. But at the time, in my sleep deprivation, it felt like you might as well pull my heart out of my chest and stomp on it, in the dirt.  

My wife and I are in the process of adopting a child from foster care, M. He’s nine years old and has lived in many foster homes. We’ve read in several books that it may take years before the child calls the adoptive parents “Mom/Dad”. During the five months in which we were visiting him at his prior placement he referred to us by our first names. And as my wife and I would lay in bed holding hands and talking we would wonder “When do you think he’ll call us Mom/Momo? I wonder if it will feel different?”   

I imagined that hearing M call me Mom would feel special, as though we crossed some hurtle or stage in our relationship and attachment. I assumed, given all that we have read on the subject, that it would take a while and he would make a very conscious choice to switch from calling me by my first name to then calling me Mom. But that’s not at all what has happened. Instead right from the start of living in our house he’s made the decision on his own to call us Mom and Momo, the names that our other two boys call us. But it feels different. Because I'm learning that the name “Mom” doesn’t mean the same thing to him that it does for my biological children. My biological children know that I’m their person. That when they need something I will provide for them, that I’ll be the one cheering them on, loving them and caring for them no matter what because that’s what a Mom is. 

To M, it’s different. “Mom” is simply the title of the lead female adult in the house. He tells stories that start with “My other Mom…” and he’s not talking about his biological mother. He’s referring to one of the many, many women that he’s called Mom while being in foster care. And I understand why it has happened, and how him being allowed to call the lead female in every house “Mom” made him feel included especially if there were biological kids in the house as well. 

My brain understands it. 
But my heart, doesn’t. 

Because I want him to say “Hey Mom…” and for it to feel like he knows I’m his person. That he understands “Mom” means forever, not for just right now. That he knows no matter what, being his Mom means that I will care and love him. That we will always be cheering the loudest and no matter what we will always be here for him. I hope that someday, he does understand it. And that we don’t just become his all time favorite Moms and instead that those many women who have cared and fed him in the various homes in which he has lived…..that their names change and they become Molly* and Suzie* and Jennifer*. And that our names as Mom and Momo means something completely different to him…in his heart.


(* these are made up names and not at all the names of the women who have cared for my son while in foster care.)

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