Monday, September 19, 2011

Happy Famiversary!

Tomorrow is the legal anniversary of our family. In so many ways, I can't believe it's only been a year since the judge legally recognized our little family. The boys had been with me for a couple years before that day so we considered ourselves a family even before that but we are a "celebrating kinda family" (Mateo) and because of that we'll celebrate tomorrow in addition to celebrating February 26 (their move in date). Can you really have too many special days? This last year has seen a bunch of firsts, first lost tooth, first bike ride without training wheels, first day of Kindergarten and first day of First grade. I wouldn't trade any of them. We've learned some hard lessons this year and we've grown closer as a unit. We are blessed by the support we've recieved from some of our friends and our family. We've been lucky enough to see a few babies enter this beautiful, crazy world and look forward to at least one more in the very near future. We've traveled to Seattle and California for some great vacations this year. I am tired, grateful, thankful and filled with praise for the God who created this incredible life I lead.

And thank you for a house full of people I love. Amen. ~Terri Guillemets

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Happy Birthday to Me...

38 years ago today, I came into this crazy, wonderful world. I had a wonderful day with family and friends,enjoyed the sunshine and was treated to a fabulous ice cream cake! YUM.

Today is also, effectively, the last day of summer for us. While the heat will linger for at least another month or two, my sweet boys will don their uniforms, put on their new Nikes and start the school year tomorrow. I can't believe Joaquin will be in Kindergarten. He's so excited and is really looking forward to making new friends and "playing with the 100 board". He's also feeling a bit nervous and asked me to cuddle with him as he fell asleep. I love to watch him sleep because his normally very active mouth is so adorable when he sleeps!

It is hard to believe that it was almost three years ago that these precious children showed up on my doorstep. Honestly, it's gone so quickly that lately I have been really trying to embrace every amazing moment. On the eve of this new school year, I just wanted to take a minute to record a few of each child's personality traits, talents etc. for posterity.

Mateo- You are starting first grade tomorrow and you could not be more enthusiastic. I loved to hear you tell your brother confidently that first grade is "full of challenges". You strive to be "a role model" and are such a wonderful brother. You are reading more and more every day and really seem to have a talent for numbers. You love sports, especially basketball and soccer. If you could, you'd always be outside and you adore being messy. You really like writing and are so very thoughtful. You are so creative and are great at building things. Over the years, you have become a very affectionate person who gives the best hugs!

Joaquin- My sweet wonderful boy. You take so much joy in life and I love to hear your silly laugh. You are really starting to notice other people's feelings and are developing such a compassionate nature. You notice everything! Whether it is colors, smells, textures or facial expressions... you see them and appreciate them. I get so much pleasure watching you learn about animals and plants. You proudly tell people that you want to be an "etomologist" and study butterflies. You have such an eye for beautiful things and I love to hear you sing. Tomorrow will be your first day of Kindergarten and I can't wait to hear your astute observations when I pick you up.

Here's to a great new school year to the best gifts I could ever receive...

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father's Day

When I was a child, I idolized my dad. Honestly, not much has changed. He has always been prone to "flights of fancy" that I completely took for granted when I was little. For example, my brother and I were routinely treated to a "candy tree" where we were convinced that fairies or leprechans hid candy for us once a week. He loves holidays and always made sure that he went above and beyond to make them memorable. I can't even put into words how much I appreciate the memories I have because of the efforts both my parents put into things. Just the silly "imaginary holidays" like Flounder Roundup and traditions like river rafting, Spaghetti Factory and crazy Halloween endeavors help me to feel grounded and part of something that stands the test of time. I want that for my kids and I adore seeing them spend time with both my parents. I can see those traditions being handed down and it fills me with more joy than I ever thought possible. We'll be headed up to Seattle for a couple weeks this summer and even after only two summer visits to the NW, my kids know what to expect.
They can't wait to pick blueberries at Denae's, skip rocks at the cabin with their cousins, troll the beach for seastars with Craig, win kite flying competitions on Whidby Island and throw french fries to the seagulls at Ivars. I couldn't ask for anything more than that. Thank you, Dad, for teaching me to appreciate the little things in each day and helping me to pass what is important to my kids.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Happy Birthday 6 year old!

Tomorrow will bring festivities to our little house. There is a little boy who has been counting down the days until this moment. I hope he remembers this day like I remember my childhood birthdays. I want him to feel cherished and celebrated tomorrow on the anniversary of his birth. Maybe someday reading this letter will make him smile, warm in the knowledge that he is loved and seen for all of who he is and all that he will be.

Dear Mateo,
It's been an amazing year. So many big events...your first day of Kindergarten in August, our Adoption finalization in September, visits from Nani and Owie, traveling to Seattle and California, learning to read and do math... so many more I'm sure. I've been so blessed to watch you try new things like African dancing, speaking and reading Spanish, basketball, soccer and hula hooping. You are such a kind friend and a thoughtful person. I love to watch you share with your brother and your friends and take care of your beloved dogs. You are developing an amazing sense of responsibility and you love to see tasks through to the end. You've become quite the jokester this year too. I love to see your silly sense of humor lead to flights of imagination. You are a born leader and sometimes struggle when others don't follow quite as closely as you like. We've worked hard this year on self control and regulation. You've listened, you've learned and you are applying those skills. It makes me giggle a little but I'm so proud of you when you get upset and I see you struggle to take deep breaths ("to get oxygen to your frontal cortex"). Your vocabulary is unbeleivable and I'm so in awe of how quickly you learn things. Your sense of inquiry and creativity has really blossomed this year, thanks in part to your fantastic school.

Sometimes I wish I could have seen you take your first steps or hear your first word, but this year as I watched you swim across the pool at Jenny Jen's for the first time and read a book cover to cover, I realized I am the luckiest mom on the planet. I'm proud of you. I love you. I'm here and I can't wait to see what the next 365 days brings us. Happy Birthday, baby!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Happy St. Patrick's Day, Poppers

When I was a child, I believed in leprechauns and candy trees. I saw the magic in rainbows and unexpected surprises. I want that same experience for my kids. They had a very different first couple of years but I want them to remember their childhood as a time of fun, spontanaity and creativity. Much of my experience is thanks to my Dad who I have frequently referred to as "Mr. Holiday". Even though our political leanings could not be more different, our similarities are overwhelming in almost any other way. I can't imagine a parent more attune to a child's imagination. I want to be that parent for my kids. I want to fill their lives with that sense of expectation and inspiration. It's a real testament to my Dad that the boys are beyond excited about St. Patrick's Day. They have a firm belief that "those tricky leprechauns" are out and about.... Joaquin watched an Irish dancing video and is now determined to become the next Michael Flatley. I love that my kids are proud Liberian, Mexican, Irish, Scottish Americans. During our adoption celebration, my Dad read the following Irish blessing...

We believe in living deeply,
laughing often and loving always.
We believe we were brought together
to support and care for each other.
We believe that everyone's feelings count
and that the uniqueness of each of us
strengthens all of us.
We believe in the power of forgiveness to heal
and the power of love to carry us through.
We believe in one another,
in this family.

Happy St. Patrick's Day.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Overflowing Buckets

Because of my job, I sometimes second guess the future. I work with adoptive families, some of whom are struggling. Most of these families are devoted, loving, highly functioning and yet they are trembling under the weight of the challenges their kids bring. Some of our families have tremendous difficulty connecting with their kids and everyone suffers because of the trauma and resulting behaviors. When I hear the stories of hurt, disappointment and tremendous pain, I wonder if that will someday be us... I wonder if we will struggle with mental illness, behavioral challenges, physical difficulties...I worry that my kids don't have a dad who lives in our home. I've never been a biological parent, so I don't know if these worries are unique to families formed through adoption but somehow I doubt it. Even when you share genetics with a child, the future is largely unknown.

When I brought my boys into my home, I made a conscious decision to leave no stone unturned in bringing them healing, hope and unconditional love. They, and every child deserve no less than that. I am so incredibly blessed to have found the work of Dr. Karyn Purvis and Dr. Bruce Perry, my "FIESTA village" and the amazing support of other "mommy bloggers". So much of what I do with my kids on a daily basis comes from these sources and I am eternally grateful. I also know that for our family, God is the ultimate healer and protector. As a single parent, I'm so grateful to know that He is in charge. He has got it, even when I don't.

Since the adoption finalization, I've seen a huge difference in Mateo. He seems so much more settled, much more affectionate and increasingly able to self regulate. I've seen some changes in Joaquin too but Joaquin's personality is vastly different from his brother. He has always been very affectionate but he is also the child that until recently would completely shut down at the first sign of stress. They both have vivid memories of some very difficult moments but unlike most people, they are comfortable talking about those times. So often, I'm amazed by the empathetic, wise observations I hear from my kids and I hope that they continue to examine their experience. Despite the difficult family situations I see on a daily basis, tonight, I'm feeling really hopeful, really content and very thankful. I think that comes from a couple of events from the last couple days...

In the two years we've been together as a family, Mateo and I have worked really hard to help him learn how to be kind and gentle especially with the pets. He has struggled with self control and would sometimes poke a little too much or pull an ear a little too hard for the dogs' comfort level.They learned quickly to avoid too much contact with him. Last night, when I went in to kiss Mateo good night, Shumba, our sweet, 12 year old pup was curled up next to him and they were both snoring quietly.

As the boys were getting ready for bed tonight, Mateo was complaining about sleeping by himself in his room. Joaquin looked at him and said, "Mateo, just remember what your heart tells you. God is always with you. You are never alone."

I think these two occurrences showed me that we continue to move in a positive direction, closer to each other and closer to our God.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Happy Birthday A!

In some ways, it seems dismissive to say Happy Birthday to someone that I know is still in a place of confusion and fear. I'm struggling today with how to honor the woman who gave my children life. All day, I've wanted to take a drive, try to find her, get her somewhere safe and make sure she's warm, fed and knows she's loved. Actually, I struggle with that most days, but today the urge is a bit stronger. I know I need to maintain some distance due to safety concerns but some days, most days, it is so hard. So, I distract myself by thinking of all the things I'd tell her if only I could.

I'd share how funny and kind they can be. I'd explain how Mateo is learning to read and Joaquin is following quickly behind him. I'd laugh as I described how Joaquin makes a face that I've seen on her and that Mateo has her gift of gab. I'd let her know that Mateo has her determination and Joaquin has her flare for the dramatic. It would be important to mention that I know how very much she loves both boys and that she struggled to parent them in the best way she knew. I want her to know that I know there were good days, weeks, months...there had to have been for the boys to be so resilient. I don't want her to worry that the boys will ever hear a negative word about her from me. I know that her challenges do not define her. I also am very aware that their lives didn't start the day I adopted them. I will always strive to keep them connected to their biological family and their heritage. I want her to know that I love the boys with every fiber of my being and so do many others. I'd reassure her that the boys are surrounded by people who adore them. I'd promise that I will hug them every chance I get, nurture their individual interests,cheer their victories and dry their tears when they fall.

If only I could, I'd hug her and tell her how many good things from her I see in them. I'd tell her how thankful I am and that we love her unconditionally.