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.

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.

10/20/2016

Adoption from Foster Care- Patience

Photo by Kelly Sikkema
I’m going to be honest with you, this adoption journey has been hard. It is not for the weak. You need stamina and a layer of patience that you never knew existed before.

We consider ourselves a “catch”, we are a loving couple with great jobs and a strong support system of family and friends. We live in a diverse town with a plethora of resources at our fingertips. We have two incredible children that we share custody of so a child coming into our home has the benefit of siblings but also, depending on the week, will be the only child in the home so he/she will get our undivided attention. It’s the best of both worlds!

We thought that we would get swooped up right away and that the social workers would be ecstatic to place a child in our home. But that hasn’t been the case. Keep in mind that we are only looking to adopt a child that is considered “older”, between 5 and 11 years old. We’ve learned that most states want to keep kids in their home state, for various reasons. The most understandable is that the child has siblings that they need to remain in contact with by having playdates monthly or attending day camps together. We totally understand needing to maintain that connection and openly say in our adoption paperwork that we support maintaining relationships of any kind with birth family. But then sometimes the state just decides that the children should be adopted within the state, without an explanation. There are no siblings to stay in contact with, no birth family members wanting to see the child. From what I can understand there are children who are sitting in foster care and not being adopted by an awesome family that happens to live in another state because the state wants them to be adopted by someone in that state. The kicker is….no one is coming forward. So these kids continue to get bounced around from foster home to foster home. They switch schools more times than I switch out my clothes in my closet. They continue to get older and older. And statistics show that children over ten years old have a 50% less likely chance of being adopted at all. 

My wife thinks that a doctoral student should take this study on for their dissertation, to research how many children continue to stay in foster care and age out of the system rather than be adopted out of state. I think it would be too depressing to know those numbers, to see that truth. There is this underlying concern that we aren’t being picked because we are two women. Only once did a social worker come out and say that, explaining that the child (who has the right to choose based on his age and the state laws) that he did not want two moms. But it made me wonder, did anyone explain to him that he is missing out on an incredible opportunity to have a family that will love him and care for him? Did anyone sit down with him and explain that two moms are pretty much the same as a “traditional family”; we go to PTA meetings and we drive you to soccer practice. That two moms will love you just as much as having a mom and a dad will. 


We will continue to hold on to hope that our child is out there and soon will join our family. In the meantime, keep us in your prayers. And let me borrow that extra layer of patience that you have stored in the back of your closet. 

9/12/2016

Adoption from Foster Care- our journey


Well intentioned people who hear that we are adopting an older child from foster care have referred to the kids in foster care as “broken” or “damaged”. Those words don’t sit well within me. These kids are not a broken toy or a damaged shirt from spilled hot sauce on taco night. We aren’t going to “fix this child”. Instead I like to think of our decision to adopt an older child as offering a child a safe place to land. I imagine that their lives feel really unsteady most of the time and I hope a child coming into our home finds a safe place to be themselves, a place where they can let their guard down, a place where they can breathe a little easier because life doesn’t feel so stressful anymore.  

Of course we intend to provide love and understanding. But more importantly we want to offer a child a safe space to heal and grow and the opportunity to become something different. As we read children's extended profiles it seems as though the course of their life is already mapped out for them; the grandparents have a history with Child Protective Services, their parents were foster kids who got pregnant or were incarcerated. And all too often drugs, alcohol and poverty are the underlining themes to each story. It’s a generational problem being passed down. And we are hoping to offer a child an opportunity to change the course of their life. 

I’ve heard my children retell a story that they have heard their father tell of something traumatic that happened to him when he was five years old. When the story comes out of my children’s mouths they make it sound like it happened yesterday when in fact it’s a thirty-five year old story. Immediately I am annoyed that my children can recite the story word for word as I have heard my ex-husband tell it numerous times. I take a deep breath, “That is your father’s story to tell and hold on to for dear life, it isn’t yours. It doesn’t shape you. Stop telling it! It isn’t yours to tell and instead focus your energy on telling your story, tell people your dreams, share a story of kindness that has impacted your life.” 

I went on to explain to them that the things that happen to you in your life shapes your story but it doesn’t define you. People chose to hold on to experiences and expect others to accept it as a definition of who they are or why they act a certain way. But that isn’t the truth. 
The truth is our experiences shape us but they don’t define us.

I haven’t heard either of them tell the story since I stopped them in their tracks that day and said that to them. And I hope that the child coming into our family also learns that the choices that his birth parents made has shaped his life but it doesn’t define who he is going to be in the world. Because greatness is right around the corner. You aren’t broken. You aren’t damaged. You just haven’t been given a safe place to land. A home is waiting for you.

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