I started my Call It A Day column for one reason and one reason only: I am fascinated by how each of us travels through an average ordinary day. We all seem to carry along a little something heavy, don’t we? I’ve found that when we share our load, well, it feels lighter, somehow.
At first glance, Misty’s account looks like an average ordinary day. But if you read between the lines, you’ll notice how much she’s doing behind-the-scenes to prevent any drama or unnecessary commotion for her family. It reminds me of watching ducks float on top of the water, gracefully and seemingly without a care in the world. A peek below the surface, though, tells a totally different story!
Please help me welcome Misty! It’s so good to have her here.
My day starts very similarly to how it did 11 years ago. My husband gives me a kiss and says, “Wake up babe.” Might sound cheesy but it’s the best. He knows I’m not a morning person and I get up by 6:00 am.
My husband has been up since 5:30 and is leaving by 6:20. His commute is much easier in the early hours. We live in the outskirts of DC and the traffic is fierce! This also means he can come home to us earlier. (By 4:20, but who’s counting!)
I sleepily go in to wake up my son Adam, who is seven.
I have been very lucky to be given kids who like the morning. He’s a very pleasant waker. Slightly groggy, he says he doesn’t want to get up, but he’s smiling. I help him step into his clothes and then head off to start getting breakfast.
I write a note to his teacher about the previous night, about our family time and video chatting, or anything out of the ordinary, just to keep them in the loop. Adam is in a self-contained Autism unit for half of his school day. We are working towards more inclusion, and are going slow and steady with the help of some awesome teachers and aides.
Breakfast is always the same for my son. He wants cereal. He would love to subsist on carbs and dairy only. But, at breakfast, I don’t push. I want him to have a positive start to his day. He wants the cereal exactly to the line on the white bowl. The milk has to make the cereal float almost to the absolute limit.
It’s always the same. If there are changes, it can cause an immediate melt-down.
His bus comes at 6:30 to our door, and he has a long trip to the school. I’m very grateful they don’t pick him up far from our house as I would have to wait with him. He tends to wander. This frightening characteristic is an autistic tendency and the reason he wears a watch that can track his movement if he ever gets lost. When we first moved into this house, he let himself out at 5:00 in the morning to wander our neighborhood. He deftly undid locks and other obstacles.
After he leaves, I have a few minutes’ break. With my time, I read a part of a book and meditate or pray for a few minutes. Soon after, baby Marie wakes up and I get her a bottle.
Both my girls, Kayla (age four) and Marie (six months), are up at 7:00, bright-eyed and ready for the day!
Kayla sometimes asks for dinner leftovers or a PB&J for breakfast. She has an odd palate but is pretty good about eating most things. At times, we have even found her eating non-food items like chalk or paper. We figured out she’s anemic (like me) so we give her daily doses of iron mixed with honey which keeps her off the chalk! She wants her dad’s homemade pizza this morning.
Allie is still on formula. My husband wants to introduce more solids for her. I think I resist because I want her to stay a baby. We contemplated my breastfeeding our adopted kids. But, because adoptions are so unpredictable, I don’t want the physical wreck on top of the emotional, should the adoption fall through.
I have an apple with peanut butter and I love it. I’d eat cereal with milk but the calcium interferes with my iron pill. Fifteen years ago, I had a stroke in my dorm room. Long story short, after lots of tests, I was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease similar to Lupus, which did a lot of damage to my insides. Fast forward through chemo, strokes, seizures, and surgeries, and I’m in complete remission!
But my past dictates my future. Doctors cautioned that if I were to conceive, there would be extreme complications and/or fatalities. I had always wanted to adopt and so I count myself lucky! I didn’t have to endure the uncertainty of infertility but, definitely had my moments of feeling loss. I have anemia from the chemo, which explains the iron pill.
On two days a week, I watch a friend’s little girl. But not today. I do some laundry and started on dinner – at the least planning part.
I also package up orders from our family’s online store where we sell letterpress artwork. It’s called Adoption Arts. It started when we were looking for some adoption-themed art to hang in our home and couldn’t find any that was our style, so we made our own. Currently, we only have a few letterpress posters but we are trying to find new artists. This morning, I searched for artists who might be a good fit for our site, and looked at Pinterest and Etsy. Even though I’m doing work, I’m also looking for fun.
Then, I email our lawyer about what needs to be done to finalize our daughter’s adoption. We just finished our last home visit and need to submit the report to the court. Our first two adoptions were completed through our church services. They had a lawyer and social worker on staff who handled most of what needed done.
We did a direct parental placement for Marie’s adoption. This means we have done most of the leg work ourselves including the advertising to find a birthmother who wanted to place with us. It’s been hard. We were lucky to find a friend of ours who would do some of the legal work, pro bono. If he hadn’t helped, I don’t think we could have afforded the $20,000 average price tag of most adoptions.
Around noon, my husband calls and we talk about boundaries between our family and the newest birth mom. She’s having some struggles, and we need to decide how much to intervene. My husband and I think very much alike and I’m super glad. We don’t really have to compromise much with each other.
Having three open adoptions has been hectic, encouraging, profound, hilarious, and love-filled. These birth families are people I never would have met in normal circumstances. But they are now tied to me in a visceral way. I would love to tell you all about them, but I want to respect their privacy. I truly feel like they are part of our family.
And with that comes all those mixed feelings. Pride, hurt, frustration, and deep, deep love.
I try to get as much of my “have tos” done early on. When my son comes home, the opportunity for completing chores is over. My focus completely changes to keep him on task and diverted from tantrums.
My deaf friend comes over for lunch. We are able to discuss her aging mother and the state of our families. Sometimes we go out to eat and she runs errands with me. I learned how to sign when I was eight after meeting a deaf girl at church. She taught me when I was young, and when I got older I took community classes. I love sign language.
Phone conversations are hard with active kids around. So, I am constantly texting with various people, including my mom and my husband.
For lunch, Kayla wants to eat everything that is on my plate rather than hers. I’m eating Korean fried rice my husband made a couple nights before. It’s a little spicy.
I take my daughter and her friend to preschool. Marie naps in the van as I drive.
I update the private Facebook page we have for our children’s birth families. It’s a page where I can upload photos, funny quotes, and videos of the kids often. This way, my other friends don’t get inundated with seeing me post how great my kids are! Their birth families totally get it, and they agree! These kids ARE the best! I often get comments back pretty quickly about something I posted. My husband is a part of this page, too, so he can see updates while he’s at work. This has been a great tool for us. My kids do things like sing happy birthday to their birth-mom, show off their school work, or do dance moves.
I keep LOTS of phone reminders: garbage day, appointments, and finger nail clipping day are all listed. I was a late adopter of Google calendars but now I can’t do without it!
I try to incorporate my four year old daughter in what I do. She helps me sweep and do some laundry. (I do cloth diapers). Right now, Kayla is so in love with Marie but doesn’t always display that love softly. I am constantly trying to teach without being bossy or short. My husband reminds me that being a big sister is a first for her. She’s new at this.
I finish planning our dinner and make sure we have the needed ingredients. My husband loves to cook. We try to focus on anything that isn’t typically American fare. I have this romantic idea that by eating international foods, my kids will be better world citizens! We love home-made hummus, curries, kimchi, and more.
At 3:00 pm, my son comes home on the bus.
Adam has to decompress a bit after school. I’ve found that he holds everything together quite well at school. But, once home, all his frustrations or perceived injustices come spilling out. He sometimes gets violent.
He plays on the Wii for a bit but then suddenly gets angry because his sister got some earrings at a rummage sale and he felt that it was unfair. The resulting outburst and throwing the controller loses him his Wii privileges for tomorrow. I let him cool down in his room after he is throwing anything he could find in the living room.
After a few minutes, I go in to talk with him and see if we can figure it all out. He starts hitting me and calling me names. I used to think I would be a strict parent who would quickly reprimand my kids for things like this. With him, though, I have found if I swiftly and angrily correct these behaviors, he fixates on them and repeats the behavior. If I let it go in the moment and talk to him when things are calm, he reacts and learns better.
Reading notes from his teacher, I find that some of his work today was hard. He didn’t understand and he’s frustrated and sad. During this time, I worry about his sisters. I make sure they are busy elsewhere. Kayla is having some screen time and Marie is in her ExerSaucer. I check back in on Adam. He’s calmed down a bit so we talk while he swings from his therapy swing in his room.
We then work on homework. We just started ABA therapy, and they are still devising a plan for him. The therapist arrives and observes how we go about getting homework done. Being under the microscope is awkward. But I know they have to get a baseline of his behavior. She takes notes and then excuses herself.
Marie sits and makes faces and we all laughed. I’m a little worried about the crawling stage. Right now, she’s content to sit and watch us.
We try to not watch TV more than 30 minutes a day. This has been hard but I want my children to understand how to interact with each other. This leads to lots of learning interactions, otherwise know as fights. I’m hoping that as they learn now, they will improve more without the distractions of constant gaming or TV.
Sometimes, my husband asks the kids to do tasks in the evening. This is his way of transitioning them from doing whatever they want to having fun and listening. Some tasks are “Give your mom a hug” or “Pick up your shoes” or “Go outside and yell ‘I am king of this neighborhood!’”
Then, laughing, we start brushing teeth. My son is entrenched in routine. So he is very set on doing the bedtime routine the same way, every night.
As difficult as the constant fighting is between the two older kids, sometimes things end up just perfect. Tonight, without instruction, my son sequestered himself over at the table with craft supplies and made a card for his sister that simply said he loved her.
Even though my husband and I detest dishes, every night we find ourselves loading the dishwasher and cleaning up from meals. We laugh and talk and watch a show on the iPad while cleaning.
My mind races before I fall asleep. Most recently, I’ve been thinking of racism. In a world where black men are often immediately thought of as guilty, I fear for my son. He is a biracial, autistic boy who can be impulsive and obstinate. I think about my daughters and worry whether I am giving them enough of my time and energy. Having a brother with special needs is tough for them sometimes.
I think about how grateful I am that three women have made me a mother.
I try to cheer myself by thinking of a funny voice my husband used with the kids tonight. Instead of breathing out while talking, he was sucking in. We were all hysterical.
It’s been a busy day but, I feel satisfied with it.
Oh, Misty! Your final thought of your day truly hit my heart: “In a world where black men are often immediately thought of as guilty, I fear for my son. He is a biracial, autistic boy who can be impulsive and obstinate. I think about my daughters and worry whether I am giving them enough of my time and energy. Having a brother with special needs is tough for them sometimes.” My heart is with you. And you are doing a great job! We all are! Let’s remember that, okay?
I can just imagine the hysterics after being ordered to run outside and yell “I am king of this neighborhood!” That is a fantastic day-ender. I also loved the way yourapproach your son’s mornings. Same routine, day after day, to avoid throwing him off before the rest of his day might. It’s smart and kind. Thank you for your day and your wisdom.
Anyone else relate to this “same old, same old” process at the beginning of your kids’ days? A few months back, a friend told me about a mom at school pickup who seemed super impatient and excited to pick up her son. “I yelled at him this morning because he was taking so long tying his shoes, and there wasn’t any milk for his cereal,” she explained while wringing her hands, “and I’ve been thinking about him all day because who wants to start their day like that? It’s awful!” Poor thing! Of course, her son came bounding out like he didn’t have a care in the world! Ha!