Monday, August 25, 2014

I'm Really Not Wonderful

Today began my 15th year as a special education teacher.  (Seriously, though.  How did that happen?  I cannot possibly be that old.)  Over the years, there have been numerous times when I've been told that I'm wonderful for what I do.  By parents.  By strangers in the grocery store.  By lots of people.  It's always a conversation I've been very uncomfortable.  I mean, what do you say to that?  I do what I do because I love it (most of the time).  I don't do it perfectly.  Some days, I don't even do it well.  But I like it, so I keep doing it.  Give me high schoolers with special needs over typical kids any day.  (I happen to think anyone that chooses to spend any time with junior highers is either a saint or crazy.)  

Now that I adopted (a child with Down syndrome *gasp* as a single mother *faint*) I am apparently on the road to sainthood.

The first day of school is meetings with new parents.  Last year, one walked in and said "I heard you adopted a kid with Down syndrome.  You know they don't get better when they get older."   (Talk about not knowing how to respond!)  This year, I'm a saint.  This mom was amazed that I teach sped all day and then go home to a child with Down syndrome.  (I'm wonderful.)  Then it came out that she's adopted.  (Her tan gave her away.)  (I'm amazing.)  Oh, and I'm a single mom.  (I'm on the road to sainthood.)

But here's the truth:  I'm not any of those things.  Seriously.  I'm a mom.  Who struggles.  Who tries to be consistent.  Who tries to do right by her child.  Who hopes to do better tomorrow.  

I'm not denying that I have had a unique set of life experiences that has prepared me to be Sara's mom.  I definitely have.  But I didn't adopt to make the world a better place.  Or to rescue a child.  I adopted because I wanted to be a mom.  That really is the bottom line.  I know that people adopt for a variety of reasons but that's mine.  I wanted to be a mom.

I have met quite a few adoptive families in the last two years.  Some have tons of prior special needs experience.  Some have none.   Some are doing well.  Some are struggling.  I don't think that everyone is equipped to adopt (especially kids with special needs).  I also don't think that you have to have extensive professional experience with kids with special needs to be a successful adoptive family.  There are a million factors.  I happen to have had some life experiences that have made Sara's transition easier but I also have a kid that has just adjusted really well.  Sometimes I joke that I hit the adoption jackpot.  I'm not wonderful but my kid pretty much is.

I was drafting this in my head while I made dinner.  Then, Sara lost it because I wouldn't let her eat her tortellini in front of the tv.  (We have a "spaghetti sauce only gets eaten at the table rule" which was deemed incredibly unreasonable tonight.)  There were some new, unpleasant behaviors that I haven't seen from her before.  (The first week of school is so tiring and hard.)  As we worked through the very unfair rules and mean mommy issues, I thought:  See!  I'm not wonderful!  I'm just a mom.  

A very blessed mom.  

Friday, August 22, 2014

Meet Laurence's Family

From time to time, you have seen me advocate for another family.  This time it's different.  This time, it's a family that I know and love dearly.  This time, it's one of my first Chicago friends that is adopting.

I wish I could post tons of pictures and tell you tons of stories about this friend.  Unfortunately, she has had some stolen identity issues in the past and doesn't really have an internet presence because of that.  So, I will tell you that she is a dear friend who has an amazing heart for orphans.  She's the one that really stirred my heart in that direction.  We traveled on a my first mission's trip to Mexico together.  We have taught at two different schools together.  We have served locally together.  Now, I get the pleasure of seeing her teach my students about service.

Her heart has always been for kids in need.  She has completed all the steps to become a licensed foster parent.  She has had several children in her home through the Safe Families program.  She routinely opens up her home to children who need a place to stay---all while working and raising her son.  She's now ready to open up her home to her new son permanently.

*She has started a blog for her adoption journey.  Please head over there and check it out.

*She has a page on Reece's Rainbow.  If you feel led, you can make a tax deductible donation there.

*I have an ongoing fundraiser for her (and a few other families I know and love) on my knitting page.  50% of any item ordered goes to her Reece's Rainbow account.

*Check back here and her blog for upcoming fund raisers and updates.

Monday, August 11, 2014

What Have You Learned?

How is it the middle of August already?  We've had a crazy, busy, amazing, exhausting, fun summer. I love that my job allows me to spend so much concentrated time with my little girl. Maybe someday I'll update. 

In all honesty, I've been struggling lately with what to update and how much to share. I don't want to end the blog now that Sara is home. On the other hand, I want to respect her privacy and not blog about every detail of her life. I'm going to strive to update more in the fall. I just need to figure out how to show the ups and downs of our life without revealing too many intimate details. 

I was talking to another mom at the Reece's rainbow reunion this summer about our kids. Both of our kids are doing really well and have adjusted beautifully (with a few bumps of course).  However, neither of our kids have mastered basic academic readiness skills yet. 

If I'm being honest, I thought Sara would be much farther along academically at this point. I had visions of her being ready for a year of inclusion kindergarten this  year.  She's not. Every color is purple. Every letter is B. Every number is 4. She won't say her own name.  She will sometimes say she is 5 but not always. (She turns 6 in two days so that won't be accurate anymore either.) 

Thankfully, my friend reminded me of all the things she has learned. She's learned a new language!  A new culture. School rules. Home rules. Church rules. Going to the grocery store rules. (Ok. So she hasn't mastered all the rules but she's learned a lot!)  She's met tons of new people. And she's learned what it means to have a mom. A family. To be a daughter.   To be a granddaughter, cousin, niece. That's a lot for 18 months!  I can't wait to see where she is 18 months from now!