Posted tagged ‘teenagers’

The Year Begins…..five years later

January 2, 2012

This blog entered the world on January 2nd, 2007. Its amazing how things have changed….or not.

There are many thoughts on my mind as the year 2012 begins. It’s January 2, 2012 and 9:13 am. My teenagers are still sleeping in their rooms and will probably not emerge until noon. What project should I start the new school semester with. Is Dad eating and drinking today. Osama Bin Laden is dead. The war lingers but our troops are heading home….from Iraq. The fact that we still have troops in other locations troubles me tremendously. Australia. Really? I should probably finish this last fanfiction soon. Is Dad eating and drinking today. Distance sucks. Is there bacon in the freezer. Should I put another new book on my Kindle. How long will it take to put the Christmas decorations away. Why did Hersey have to invent the Cherry Cordial Kiss. Are we really ready to be hit with the pendng college registration fees. Is Dad eating and drinking today. Should I tell anyone that its venison in the crockpot. Do we seriously need three laptops. Will she be ready to actually play in her soccer game. Is there any money in my checking account. How many loads of laundry will I have to do. Is Dad eating and drinking today. Is it ever going to actually snow around here. So many movies….so little desire. Back to school tomorrow. Sigh. Petty and important stuff from my world to yours. Happy New Year.

A Blogger’s Dilemma

October 13, 2011

It has been a while since I have written a blog entry. It’s not that I haven’t had anything to say. No. Quite the contrary. I think I had too much to say and too many topics to pick from. I could never decide what to focus on. Like, here is my dilemma.

Back in August I had planned to write about how I was living the life of my mother. Our tiny patch of three tomato plants and four cucumber plants had given us an abundance of fruit that we were unable to eat. I decided to can them. And pickle them. I had rediscovered a large blue canning pot that we had used for our camping club’s annual August boiled dinner. I invested in the jars and the pickling salt and the spices and the general paraphernalia needed to complete the job. I spent three very hot days/afternoons slicing and dicing and boiling and capping. And enjoying the unexpected little popping sound the lids made as the jars cooled and sealed.

At the end of August I planned to write about the preparations for my 51st first day of school. Yep. You heard right. I have been celebrating the first day of school as a student, a teacher and a parent for fifty one consecutive years. This year my first school day was spent at a morning rally for my school district’s teaching employees. We enjoyed reconnecting after the summer break with a continental breakfast before our district staff meeting. We listened to the usual rah-rah of the district’s welcome back message, accomplishments and plans for the upcoming school year. It’s a kind of familiar exhilaration to see familiar faces again….everyone was sun drenched and excited about getting back into the classroom. They were looking forward to getting to know this year’s crop of ‘their kids.’ But nothing made me prouder to be a HVS employee than the video presented to the district’s personnel by our new union president, Josh Gignac. I have worked on staff with Josh. I know his humor. And I know his dedication to his craft and the people he serves. He managed to put a lot of heart – and a few giggles – into his little video….and got a standing ovation for it too. PERFECT way to kick off the year. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aNyGN5boO6M)

And this thus my 51st school year began.

On September 11th I was planning to write about feeling all moved and melancholy about the 10th year observance of the fall of the Twin Towers in New York. Everyone was all ‘do you remember where you were.’ Yes. I do. I was in a Kindergarten classroom. I had accidently flipped the wrong switch on my CD player and the parents helping in my classroom heard a snippet of the news reports before I switched back to Dr. Jean’s ‘Alpha-size’ song. I spent the day – along with the rest of my colleagues – teaching school to kiddos who didn’t know and didn’t care about anything other than that the weather was beautiful and we were going outside for recess. At every possible free minute we were glued to television sets. I picked my children up at their daycare and went home to the television there to see the repeated news reports about the devastation in New York over and over again. My own children were seven and a half and six years old. They seemed oblivious to what was happening. Until the next morning. Suddenly my son seemed panicked and driven to write a ‘report.’ (His genius of a second grade Teacher had made report writing a privilege in her classroom. When students were finished with their work they were ‘allowed’ to search her collection of fact books for material to write about.) That particular morning he saw pictures in the morning newspaper and we were suddenly on a search for scissors, glue sticks, tape, paper and a stapler. He put together a simplistic recap. His report read simply, ‘Planes crashed. Buildings fell. People ran.’ And it was illustrated with pictures cut from the morning news. I helped him add the last page. I meant it be a calming force in his mind. It read, “The helpers are here.” The pictures he found for that page showed firemen and police officers covered in dust, people serving food and dispensing drinks…..and praying.

It was a master piece.

He took it to school to share and later in the day his teacher approached me in the hall to thank me. She said she had struggled all night and morning about how to talk to her second graders about what had happened. She’d gone through the papers on her desk and found my son’s report. It was perfect. A horrible event perceived through the mind of a child. A perfect catalyst to allow her students to express their thoughts and fears about what they were seeing and hearing all around them in the aftermath of 9/11.

And so now it’s October. Those second graders of ten years ago are now high school seniors. My son’s final high school soccer season is winding to a close. His last homecoming dance has come and gone. We are starting to focus on college applications. My niece is getting married soon in Gatlinburg, TN. For once we contemplate embarking on an out of town trip that does NOT involve soccer. My daughter tripped over another player in a recent game, injured her back and we are now dealing with physical therapy, CAT scans and a possible MRI instead of practice, tournaments and games.

So you can see my dilemma. We are still here. I am still writing. It’s the focus that’s the problem. Welcome to my life.

Sigh.

Guilty….as charged

June 14, 2011

Its coming back for a summer run. I just saw the ad. All new episodes of ‘Toddlers and Tiaras.’ Its not exactly a guilty pleasure but if the television is on, I can’t help but watch it. All those adorable little babies, glitzed and glimmered up with sequins and sparkles and lace and ruffles and make up. And hairspray. LOTS of hair spray.

Can’t help but be sucked into the tales of triumphs and woes as chubby little faces (and knees) prance and dance their way across mini stages in converted hotel meeting rooms. Curled hair pieces swirl around their faces as they shake shoulders and hips (can they really be called ‘hips’ at ages three or four or five?) and bat heavily made up eyelashes – sometimes false ones at that – while very serious judges make notations about ‘personality‘ and ‘stage presence.’

The best part for me though, is watching the moms and the dads. They are occasionally joined by aunties and the grandmas and do most of the actual ‘work.’ They spend hours at second jobs to pay for tiny dresses that cost in the hundreds and thousands of dollars. They spend hours sewing on sequins to add more sparkle, hours making props and set pieces, more hours developing and practicing ‘routines’ or driving their children to professional pageant choreographers, and even more hours curling and spraying and applying makeup and dressing and undressing their babies. They spend weekends in out of town hotels and motels for competitions. And they seem to spend an enormous amount of time cajoling their little princesses through spray tan sessions and make up sessions and dress fittings and boring waits for their turn on stage. They can be seen dancing through the rehearsed routines in the audience, roiling with misery – and anger – if their kid doesn’t perform well, cheering heartily if they do and sometimes just sighing in resignation.

For what?

Enough trophies to fill rooms and tiaras for every day of the week. And chest ribbons that proclaim their child ‘Teeny Tiny Littlest Miss Chockhaven Cheese Cake of Somewhere in the Sticks.’

SO very weird.

MY family would never be involved in something like that. No siree. My princess is almost sixteen and I would LOVE it if she would glitz it up a bit. A little makeup now and then. Curling iron and hairspray? No such luck. She is a sports girl and, like my son, plays soccer. Their lives are all about soccer cleats and the comfort of athletic shorts and sunscreen and water bottles filled with athletic enhancing liquids for replenishment. We have spent hundreds – no… thousands – of dollars on cleats, indoor turf shoes, shin guards, goalie gloves, jerseys, shorts, socks and soccer balls of every size and color over the years. We have driven miles and miles for games and tournaments in every kind of weather you can imagine. We have sliced an insurmountable number of oranges at 5 am because they would be needed at a far away game site at 11:30. We have scolded refs from the side lines and been scolded by refs on the sidelines. We have pondered the intricate processes of removing black mud and green grass stains from white shorts and socks and drying them….sometimes at 2 am in a hotel sink because they ‘forgot’ to pack the spare pair. We have visited countless emergency rooms. We have sought last minute sources for peanuts and protein snacks to hold our athletes until the next meal. We have sought out the best affordable coaches and clubs available in our area. And paid for them.

We have spent weekends in hotels and motels for out of town tournaments. We have shivered and sweat and watched from the sidelines, roiling in misery – and anger – if the team doesn’t perform well, cheering heartily if they do and sometimes just sighing in resignation.

For what?

Enough trophies to cover a dresser top and bookshelf. And tee shirts that proclaim our child the champion of ‘The Catfish Cantaloupe Soccer Tournament of Somewhere in the Sticks.’

So very……not weird?

Thinking back to my daughter’s minute long obsession with horses and the horse competition world (where she won two blue ribbons!)….and her ice skating period…..and her gymnastic period…. I know that there are families that spend similar amounts of money and time with those sports. One step-daughter is just beginning in the dance realm with her twins while the other has been chasing her newly minted teenaged son in the football and baseball circles for years. And he is also dabbling with an electric guitar. A close friend has a daughter who just started a cheerleading ‘career.’ She is going to be in first grade next fall. Another friend just saw her youngest of five sign with a college for a swimming scholarship…..something all of her children did before high school graduation. Another friend has a daughter that has been playing guitar and writing music with an up and coming – really hot – local pop/rock band for 4 or 5 years now. She is fifteen.

Parents want their children to excel in what they love to do. There is nothing wrong with that. We want them to be busy. We want them to have a head start on things. At least that’s what I have observed. We want them to have the very best training they can possibly get for sports…music….dance…..and pageants. But I think its gotten a little crazy. Parents are starting their babies in these things. (Little Kickers had a soccer program for 18 month olds at one time.) And those skills are being developed WAY earlier than they were in my day. And focused on. And driven. Gotta keep all those little kiddos busy doing….something. And why?

These days, you are very lucky if you can get on an area middle school sports team without some sort of prior training or experience. Middle school! And if they want to stay with a varsity sport in high school, it is highly recommended that they continue playing that sport – or training for that sport – in the off season. Most sports, as well as dance and music, require year round training these days. Sometimes I wish we could go back and rethink things a bit. Rethink….childhood.

When I was in elementary school, my first experience with competition was through softball. Each area school had a baseball team with parent coaches. If you were lucky, you could field a team for 4th, 5th AND 6th grade. Each school played the others for two games – one away and one at your home field. Then we started playing at a community field….which was close to a dairy with an ice cream counter. Most teams were allowed ice cream only if they won. When my mom coached our school team, she collected enough money so we would get an ice cream cone regardless. To her, and ultimately us – her team – it was all about having a good time playing the game.

She was very forward thinking….my Mom.

My son started playing soccer when he was four and my daughter, when she was seven. We kind of….evolved…..into the club soccer scene. Going to bigger and better and more expensive is something that my husband and I have been at odds with quite a lot. Many times. We want the same thing for our kids that every parent wants, I think. We want them to have fun. We want them to excel. We want them to have a healthy self esteem. We want them to have friends with common interests. We want them to be healthy. We want them to achieve what they can with the gifts that they have. We want them to know how to deal with success….as well as loss. And it can be so very intense.

But, I would like to think that I’m like my Mom. And I think I have been relatively successful in that. Earlier this year my daughter wrote an essay for her freshman English class. She listed each of her soccer coaches and the things that she learned from them. She said that she had learned to love the game and to play well. She ended her essay with the line…..’my Dad wants me to be the best that I can be and my Mom just wants me to have fun.’ And she is so right.

And that is so very…….not weird.

However, I am pondering the possibility of a reality show – ‘The Soccer Moms of Catfish Cantalope Somewhere in the Sticks.’ It has a certain….ring….to it. And I know we could produce the necessary drama…..and comedy.

That’s just how we Soccer Moms are.

HOW Did It Happen???

March 13, 2011

The Prince turned 17 a couple of weeks ago.

SEVENTEEN!

Which means he no longer has a ‘restricted’ driver’s license and can drive after midnight even though he may or may not be coming from or going to a real job.

Which means he is just a year and a half away from graduating from high school.

Which means he is only a year and a half away and a summer away from starting COLLEGE.

Which means he is going to be putting his big boy pants on and looking for a real job to help pay for a car/gas/books/food/date nights/whatever.

Which means he is only a year away from casting his vote and having a real say in what is going on in the world.

Which means he is actually going to have to make decisions about things more important than just what he should have for a snack before going to bed…..or which channel to watch on the television…..or which homework to let slide this week.

Which means he is no longer my baby boy.

Just HOW did that happen?

Just how did this:

……..evolve so mind boggling quickly into this???

Okay…..so I am having a problem with this.

February 16, 2011

She sat across the table with narrowed eyes as I explained the plan to her. 

 No, I was not going to allow her to stay after basketball practice after school and let her wait in the LGI room with the ‘two ladies from church’ who monitored homework and high schoolers who waited for a bus to drive them to church at 6 pm.  I was willing to pick her up from practice and bring her home to shower and change and maybe have some dinner.  Then I would drive her to the very same church (which happens to be right around the corner from our house) so she could participate in the high school mid week Bible study activities.  And then I would pick her up at the appropriate time and drive her home (which happens to be right around the corner from the church).  I am not willing to drive 20 minutes down the road to pick her up at school just so she can have the extra time with her friends on the bus.

The same narrowed eyes were probably shooting daggers through the cell phone….waves?…..when I text messaged earlier in the evening that Dad and I would be doing the 35 minute drive to the WAY out in the boon docks ‘away’ high school to pick her up after the JV basketball game – which was after her Freshman basketball game which had been too early in the evening for us to make it – in order to have her home at a reasonable hour on a school night.  No, she would not be staying for the Varsity basketball game just so she could ride the bus with the five other players who did not have a ride home. 

And I do know that head of hers had trouble wrapping itself around why I was so um….pissy…. to find out that she was actually at K’s house when she was supposed to be at L’s house and didn’t bother to text or call during the entire seven hours that she was gone.   Especially since it’s not the first time it’s happened.

And last summer…..when she was embarrassed and a little perturbed that I cruised by the beach where she had gone for the day……just to check  up on things?

Yes.  I do know that we are a boring old family that lacks the social luster and bluster of her friends at school.

Yes.  I do know that we are generally doing nothing at all at home in the evenings except dinner and dishes and homework and television and reading and working on the computer.

Yes.  I do know that she is supposed to be trying out her wings a bit….checking out the world on her own.

Okay….so I am having a problem with this ‘letting go’ thing. 

But hang in there. 

 The day will come when she will glad that I did…..and she will wish that letting go hadn’t happened at all.

Right?

Final Exams

January 27, 2011

Princess started studying last Friday night.  She spent the entire weekend in her room…with her books….and her notes….and her ipod…..studying.  There was a break for his soccer game on Saturday night and for her soccer game on Sunday morning.

On Sunday night she posted a message on Facebook saying that she was ‘ready’ for finals to begin and to ‘bring them on!’  She was  informed by her friends that finals wouldn’t START until Wednesday.  She had NO idea.

Her first round of high school semester finals and she ‘wasted her weekend’….she said.

Prince is an old hand at final exams.  He IS a high school Junior after all.  HE can’t study much before hand….he says.  HE needs to go over the material the night before so that it’s still FRESH in his head. 

He had a friend over on Tuesday – the night before finals started – to study together….to have dinner…..and go to the evening cross town rival basketball game which was being played ‘right around the corner.’  And I heard some laughing coming from the basement in there some where.  A wii racing game  study break, he said.

Final exams mean half days and no transportation for my kids.  HRH took Wednesday afternoon off in order to pick them up at school and deliver them home to study for the next day’s finals.  I change schools at the half day point on Fridays so I would be able to pick them up and deliver them home – or not – on Friday.  They might be taking me to my second school and then driving themselves home.  Princess has a basketball game and needs to be there early, you see.

But today is Thursday and I am sitting at my school desk writing this two and a half hours earlier than I need to be here.  Prince dropped me off and drove them to school in order to be able to drive them home after three hours of final exams. 

Did I mention that I gave them twenty bucks to go out to lunch on their way home?

Motherhood.

Sigh

Riding in the Car with Mom

January 13, 2011

“….now we need to find him a car and I am never driving my kids to school again!”

At first, I heartily agreed with a friend’s Facebook status expressing exhilaration at her son finally getting his driver’s license.   Not having to cart your socially active/sports playing kids/teenagers around town is kind of freeing.   But driving them to school?  Hmm…..

My children have had to deal with Mom’s Taxi from the very start of their school careers out of necessity.  Since we didn’t live in the school district where I taught, and wanting him (and later, her) to be on the same year round school calendar as I was, I enrolled Prince across district boundary lines.  This meant that he needed to ride with me every day and spend a time in the before school child care program at his school so I could skedaddle to mine.  Later I managed to find a parent closer to our house who could babysit in the mornings and they could catch the bus from her neighborhood.  Then I was transferred to a school right next door to a middle school so they could ride to work with me in the mornings and then walk down and wait my classroom till the end of the elementary school day.  When he went to high school we even managed to finagle a ride for him on a high school route that would drop him off at my elementary school so he could wait even longer.

But they did their homework in the Media Center, helped out in classrooms and got into some harmless trouble now and then.  But we rode together……every day.

Back and forth.

In Mom’s Taxi.

When they were younger we would sing songs at the top of our lungs, practice spelling words and talk about books they were reading as we drove back and forth.  We knew the routes to take to see the MOST obnoxious holiday displays and the short cuts to avoid – or not – on muddy days.   We knew where to plug our noses to avoid the smell of mulch in the making.  We knew where to see nesting swans and baby ducks in ponds along the way.  

But the reason that I could relate to my friend’s happiness at those ‘taxi’ days coming to an end is because driving kids – now teenagers – can be a bit aggravating.  We have had days when the only conversation we had were grunts or snorts as they took cat naps in the car.   And the surliness of kids who were tired of the mundane routine of school was a little hard to bear at times….especially if my own day had been challenging. 

 I did have some respite from the task when HRH was laid off from his job for a period of six months last year.  He did the chaffering to their schools and I enjoyed the luxury of being able to leave home a bit later in the morning.   To play MY songs on the radio.  To roll the windows down and turn off the air conditioning.

But the truth of it is, I kind of missed those morning and afternoon drives after a while.  I missed the forced containment in a small space with my kids for a short period of time. 

You see, riding in the car with Mom gave me a few moments of the day to reconnect with them.  To hear about how their day went, who they were sitting with at lunch and what ‘crappy’ homework they had to do.  I heard about substitute teachers that were awesome and shenanigans in the hall that others were involved in.  Always….others. 

I know the music they like and the radio stations they tune into.  I know the fast food places they want to stop at for an after school ‘snack’ and how quickly they can ‘power shop’ in the mornings at the 24 hour grocery store.  I knew how they felt about the current events we saw happening on the news as we were on the way out the door. 

So now that one has a license to drive and the other has her learner’s permit the campaign to get a car for them has stepped up somewhat.  They want to drive themselves to school.

But, in all honesty, I am planning on holding out for at least another year. 

I’d miss my kids.

Sigh.

A Screeching Halt

October 1, 2010

Had been planning to write a blog about her soccer playing skills for a couple of days.  About how much fun it was to watch her on the field these days.  About how she is playing on two teams – something we couldn’t even fathom getting through last August….TWO teams – two practice/game schedules AND the high school soccer practice/games schedule for her brother AND the start of the new school year AND a new position for me covering three schools AND her first weeks of high school….all at the same time?  Toss in the fact that we are buying a new house and one would expect teeth gnashing, hair pulling chaos.  But it was all working out.  There were only a couple of conflicts, lots of driving and a relatively calm adjustment period….for all of us. 

And so the planned blog entry was going to be about watching her.  Just watching the sheer joy on her face when she plays on the soccer field.  She is a tiny little thing compared to most of her team mates and the girls they play against.  And she is fast.  And competent.  And confident.

I think it flat out surprises players when she whips the ball around their feet and heads for the goal net.  Surprises them when she is blocked or butted by an opposing player and doesn’t budge.  I know it surprises HER when she kicks the ball with such force that it throws her off her feet and she lands on her fanny in the grass….and the mud.  Once in a while a coach will catch on and ‘double team’ her.  And her team mate, A, who also drives the ball down and has a big foot for kicking.  But then, that just leaves to field open to T….and D….and K…..and S….and M. 

This team is a blast to watch.

Ask anybody.

Even an accidentally kicked ball to the wrist during practice and a mad dash to the ER and a purple cast couldn’t stop my girl.  She just counted her blessings that it was only a bruise to the soft tissue, gamely wrapped her cast in bubble wrap for games and played on. 

For a week.

The purple cast was removed after a week and she gave a sigh of relief and got back on the field.  And that very next game was a wonder to behold.  The opposing coach finally just put his hands on his hips and shouted, “Okay…that’s enough!  You’re playing for US next year!”  Yeah right.  Like THAT’S gonna happen.  Not.

She was on top of her game the next day too.  The weather was cooler and damp for an 11 am game.  The sun was out.  She dribbled and giggled and tripped and scored…twice.   Just after half time she was right back at it.  She got the ball and was driving it straight toward the net…..through the grass….around her opposition…..drew her foot back to kick……and came to a screeching halt.

She collided with the goalie and they were both on the ground in a tangle of legs and cleats and writhing screams. 

It was one of those moments that an athlete’s parents fear.  A ‘lump in the throat be stoic’ kind of moment.  Your child is on the ground and surrounded by coaches and referees and managers.  The lump lessens when their goalie is led limping off the field as people on the sidelines are clapping in relief.  But grows bigger and harder as yours is carried to the sidelines.

We have had to deal with monor injuries before.  Usually the aches and pains are taken care of with an over the counter pain relievers, ice packs, heating pads, gels and wraps.  I am not one that deals with whiners well.  I don’t baby my athlete kids.  They usually get the standard, ‘if you want to be an athlete this is going to happen….suck it up and get on with it’ response.  I know they are in good condition.  I know what to be really worried about.  I check the internet.  Often.

And here was my child wrapped in a bundle of collected blankets, grinning through her tears, trying to ‘suck it up’ as her non playing teammates and parents gathered ’round in concern.  Someone gave her the over the counter tablet to reduce swelling.  Someone else brought yet another blanket for her to sit on.  And the game went on.  Twenty minutes later we were tucked into the truck and on our way to the emergency room.  X-rays, soft cast wrap, prescription for pain meds, crutches and forty five minutes later we were back at the field to watch her other team losing their first game in two years. 

A screeching halt.

But is now not even a week later….and she is running.  Not to the same level that she was last Saturday…..but running.   She is determined to get back into the game this weekend…and there are three of them.  We are following up with our doctor this afternoon so we shall see. 

I have to wonder if this has anything to do with that surprising moment that we caught her coach praying over her?  Quietly….privately…..as she sat in her bundle of blankets in the wet grass on the sidelines…smiling through her tears and trying to ‘suck it up’….surrounded by concerned parents and teammates…..I caught him closing his eyes and quietly praying. 

THAT brought me to a screeching halt. 

Pleasantly.

And now she is running again.

Heh.

A Big Freaking Deal

August 16, 2010

     This is my deeply Sleeping Beauty at about 11:15 this morning.  She is cuddled with a box of pastries from our favorite big city bakery, plugged into her i-pod and snoozing away.  He had dragged her out of bed at 5:30 in order to shower and dress so we could leave at 6:30 for the big city.  He tried to drag me out of bed even earlier and wasn’t so successful.  We had an 8:30 appointment and had given ourselves some time for traffic tangles.  He was frantically trying to stay on ‘schedule.’ .  But we were in the car by 6:45 and on the road by 6:55 am.  We got there on time.  In fact, we were even a bit early.

We were at the office of the United States Naturalization, Citizenship and Immigration Service.    We had an appointment for the Princess’ citizenship interview.

We had been here before.  Well, not at this particular office…..which is new and shiny and kind of intimidating. 

Thirteen years ago we stood in the office of the same immigration service – except at a satellite office several hours drive away – for the same reason with a three year old Prince.  He was cute and cuddly in a special red, white and blue sweater his Non had made for the occasion.  His appointment was all about ME answering questions and signing pictures and holding my hand up and pledging.  He  had no clue what was happening.  He was just busy checking things out and successfully charming every single person he met.

I have pictures to prove it.

I also have a very small  collection of letters for him.  One night – months before the big day – I put together a note explaining that he was three and that he was going to be a new citizen and that I wanted him to have something that would help him understand why that was such a big deal.  I sent it to every possible celebrity that I could think of.  Spielberg, Lucas, Oprah, Rosie, Albom and Clinton to name just a few.  There were  lots from every walk of life.

And his ‘collection’ consists of an autographed picture from former president Jimmy Carter, a beautifully written letter (and Crystal Cathedral tracts) from Robert Schuller, and note from actor Jimmy Stewart’s secretary saying that she was sure he would have wanted to write something but he was very ill at that time ( he died shortly after) and an exquisite letter from Eric Smith.  Smith is a local newscaster who was happily familiar to Prince because HE is the one who announced all the school snow days for our area.  Snow Days were exciting even then.   It meant staying home from daycare with Mom.

I am not sure what the citizenship thing really means to him.  I think – like many of us – he tends to take our freedoms and our rights and our responsibilities for granted.  And so does she.

Teenagers.

They learned all about the Bill of Rights and a smidgen of American history in school.  They stand at attention and know the Pledge of Allegiance by heart.  I am not so sure about The Star Spangled Banner.  They obey the traffic laws and the safety rules and respect everything about the officers in the cars with the flashing lights on top.  They even know about courtrooms and judges (okay…so I dragged them along on a ‘field trip’ when I had to appear in court for a traffic ticket) and where to go to pay a parking fine.  The interview was very serious and very intimidating.  And we have to go back in a month for a Citizenship swearing in ceremony.  A serious oath to be spoken and flags to be waved.

But Citizenship and the freedoms we enjoy are so much more than all of that.  I need to figure out a way to explain it to her.  To make it real.

This is the kid that learned to count with the flags we saw flying everywhere after 9/11 after all.  She was in Kindergarten at the time and there were 177  flags along the route from our house to her school.

‘What’s the big, freaking deal?’ she muttered on the way home this morning before snuggling down in the back seat with the pastry box and the i-pod….and her sweet, sweet dreams of  being well fed, safe…..and free.

I am not sure what to tell her.

What IS the big, freaking deal?

Open or Closed?

August 12, 2010

Adoption is beginning to rear its bright, beautiful  little head in our family again.  Not that it hasn’t in the past.  WE have mulled it over on rare occasions of parental happiness and so has my youngest step-daughter.  But it is the oldest that is taking steps….actually taking STEPS….baby steps…..to add to her family with an adoption.

I remember being at this point.  You think the biggest decision is MAKING the decision to adopt.  Everything after that should be a piece of cake, right?  You want a baby/child so you know there are lots of  parent-less children available and you fill out paperwork and voila!  Instant family member.

It should be so easy.

But there are lots of decisions that come at the beginning of this journey.  International or domestic?  Which agency to use? What kind of funding resources  are available?   What kind of an adoption are you comfortable with?  How long can you wait?

HRH and I were able to make most of those decisions in unison at the very start of our journey.  (We now allude that most of these ‘decisions’ were completely out of our hands.)  The press in our area had been following the Baby Jessica case quite rabidly in those days so an international adoption was much more appealing than a presumably precarious domestic one.  We attended an adoption forum and were able to consider six local agencies at once before settling on the one we decided to use.  We began setting money aside in a special savings account and the right amount always seemed to be there when we needed it. Or the resources opened up.  We asked for a little girl from India and were matched with an infant boy from South Korea.

We know now – that God was totally in charge of our adoption – from the start.  The same was very true of our second adoption.  We were never really faced with the kinds of decisions that my step and her husband are mulling.

The biggest one is whether they would prefer an Open or a Closed adoption.

If you are aware of adoption issues at all, then you know that an Open Adoption is one that allows the birth parents to maintain contact with the child and the adoptive family in some way.  A Closed Adoption is one in which the adoption records are sealed and neither party is aware of the other’s whereabouts….unless there is an agreement to open them at some point and make that information available.

Reality television has given us so many ‘pictures’ of both situations.  We see families that have been split up and adopted by different families and suddenly finding each other on the news.  One reality show – ‘Pregnant at 16′ – has followed several teens as they carried through their pregnancies and made plans for their unborn children and subsequent lives.  One of them chose adoption for her daughter.    ’60 Minutes’, ’20/20′ and ‘Dateline’  have all done exposes on the adoption process from every possible angle.  We have seen tiny little children refer to young women next to them as their ‘birth Mommy.’   We have seen college students studying pictures received from the adoptive family of the babies they never can see.  We have seen the anguish of an adult facing a birth parent wanting answers for their feeling of abandonment.  We have seen adoptive parents thanking birth parents for allowing them to raise a baby.  (My favorite of that was an Oprah segment in which an adoptive mom told a birth mom that the adult daughter they shared had a dimple where she had been kissed immediately after birth.  Aww.)  And then there are the celebrities..both adopted and adoptive.  (Bet there aren’t many that remember the actress – who went on to captain the Enterprise later in her career – that very quietly gave her child up for adoption for real while starring in an afternoon drama.)

Open or Closed.

Our adoptions are decidedly closed.  Internationally closed.  It seemed like a good thing at the time.  We liked our privacy.  We like the finality of it all.  But now with my daughter’s questions about her birth parents and wanting to see their pictures and wondering what they are like or what happened to them, I sometimes wonder if  ‘closed’  is such a good thing.  These are questions we will never have answers for.  Would being able to share pictures and stories and medical facts with her be such a bad thing?

Fear is what guides us in this decisions sometimes.  I think.  Fear that a birth parent is going to come swooping in to reclaim the child or its affections.  Fear that there is someone out there MORE invested in your child and its well being.

I have lived with that fear.  I sometimes wonder when we are embroiled in some teenage angsty moment if my children are thinking that there is a birth parent out there that would be less demanding, happier with their minimal efforts on school projects or more accepting of their needs….and wants.  I wonder if when they are not listening to a raving, ranting me , if they are wishing for that mystical birth parent who would SURELY love them more.   

Its an emotionally scary, scarring thing to have in the back of your mind.

And I came kind of close to facing those fears one early fall day several years ago.  Our adoption agency has a picnic every year and we received a letter stating that the foster mother that had taken care of our son in Seoul was going to be present.  My ultra quiet and shy son was – surprisingly – excited about seeing her.  We put together a little photo album and a quilted pillow with pictures he picked out on it.  I will never forget the way her eyes lit up when this squat Korean woman was reintroduced to the child she had once cared for.  Nor will I ever forget the look on my child’s face when she hugged him, whipped off the carefully selected tee shirt he was wearing and replaced it with a light blue shirt she had brought with her from Korea.  With a collar…..and buttons.  He wore it for the next three hours.

Without complaining.  How did she DO that?

Someone invested in my child’s well being.  It was a little….. exciting….and touching…. and surreal….. and a little threatening.  Sort of. 

I was musing about the whole birth parent/adoptive parent thing for the entire day.  Worried about it, in fact.

But the truth is that YOU are the one they come to with a problem, the one they expect to cuddle away night fears and to make that outrageously embarrassing appearance at some high school event.  You are the one that nixes an oufit, rants about sun screen/ toothpaste/general hygiene and library book fines.  You are the one that sees that they have all of the ‘right’ school supplies and tennis shoes.  You are the one that sees that they are on time for the bus and the practices and the games.  You are the one that knows their favorite restaurant, the spot on their feet that draws the most giggles and the right thing to say when their heart is breaking. 

 Would I like an Open Adoption as opposed to the Closed Adoptions that we have?? 

I would like to have pictures to show my children….and I would like to have someone else that is invested in their well being to share THEIR pictures with.  I would like medical information to share with them.  I would like a little history to share with them.  But I am still mulling over the rest.

Ask me when they are older.

And actually LIKE me again.