kariskhaos


I Felt Nothing

Every child is unique and different, and every rite of passage a unique experience for the parent and the child. This past weekend Scott and I dropped our second child off at college. John is now a freshman at Seattle University. It was not a tearful goodbye, there were no long hugs, or emotional anything really. He said his signature “See ya” and we left knowing we won’t see him again till November.

I felt nothing, which if you know me, is very unusual. I did not feel sad, I did not feel pulled, or torn for his youth, or wonder if he would be all-right. I left, and in a small part of my heart I felt relief. Mothers are not really supposed to feel this way, your child, whom you have raised in most cases since birth, and in my case since John was five, are supposed to feel torn, sad, like a part of them has moved on and though excited for them, there is this sense of loss- at least that is how I felt when I dropped off Isaac last year. With John it was a non emotional relief.

disc2 340The thirteen plus years that have led to this parting have been an emotional roller coaster to say the least. The joy of expanding our family by adoption, the thrill of meeting John and Christian for the first time that April day in the slums of Liberia. The elation of coming off the plane to be greeted by 50 of our family and friends welcoming this new beginning for them and for us. The adjustment for all six of us as we settled in Bend. The devastation of finding out John had glaucoma, the hundreds of dr. appointments, surgeries, research, and grief as we realized the world we had dreamed of giving our son would be altered drastically.

John’s amazing determination, stubbornness, never quit, never compromise, never let them know you are different attitude was admirable, and in many ways a true miracle. He was legally blind, he rode a bike, played basketball, football, and learned in both braille and print. He is an intelligent, sarcastic, quiet, young man. To many he is a poster child for facing adversity. At home, with Scott and me it has been a different story.

They say the safest people will be treated the worst and that has been truer than true in our family. As Scott and I tried our best to raise these four beautiful children,(none of them, or us being perfect) was not easy. John’s betrayal of being given away by his birth mother, his frustration and denial at his lack of vision, his post traumatic stress, his attachment disorder created a very angry, sullen, volatile child. The best way I can describe it was living with a volcano, never quite knowing when and where it would erupt, but knowing it would.

Counselors, friends, pastors, family supported us and comforted me each time. The heartbreak of knowing you could not change the situation, I could not give John my eyes, and I could not break through his wall guarding his heart from further pain, was at times debilitating. The tears I have cried for him, and because of him would fill a small lake. Bitter tears, angry tears, helpless tears, tears of joy, elation and pride for his many accomplishments despite the odds.

Finally this Spring, tears of release, tears of grief for a relationship that will never be what I had dreamed, and tears of resignation. I came to the point where I had to let go and move on. John has never said “I love you,” never calls me mom, speaks mostly when spoken to and tries to live his life in our home like a guest. I let go of my search to find the answers by reading the right book, finding the right language to love him, the right advice to reach him, a new way to approach his heart. I let go of the need for my self esteem and value as a person and a mother to be defined by his actions, and indifference. I came to the freeing conclusion that I have done everything I could possibly do. John has been raised in a loving home, had opportunities many kids dream of, was graduating from high school with honors and his life long dream of being independent from Scott and me has come true.

It has been a very long road. John is a terrific young man with a bright future. John is now a freshman at Seattle University. It was not a tearful goodbye, there were no long hugs, or emotional anything really. He said his signature “See ya” and we left knowing we won’t see him again till November. I left, and in a small part of my heart, I felt relief, and it was ok.

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A Twelve Year Winter

A Twelve Year WinterImage

The Rose

 

Some say love, it is a river

That drowns the tender reed

Some say love, it is a razor

That leaves your soul to bleed

Some say love, it is a hunger

An endless, aching need

I say love, it is a flower

And you it’s only seed

It’s the heart afraid of breaking

That never learns to dance

Its the dream afraid of waking

That never takes the chance

It’s the one who won’t be taken,

Who cannot seem to give

And the soul afraid of dying

That never learns to live

And the night has been too lonely

And the road has been too long

And you think that love is only

For the lucky and the strong

Just remember in the winter

Far beneath the bitter snow

Lies the seed that with the sun’s love,

In the spring, becomes a rose.

 

Writer(s): Amanda Mcbroom

Copyright: Third Story Music Inc., Warner-tamerlane Publishing Corp.

 

I have always loved the song “The Rose” with its sad melody and haunting lyrics.  I sang it for a talent show when I was much younger, I found solace in it after a tough breakup, but until we adopted our son John I do not think I really had a grasp on the truth these simple words brought. 

 

When we adopted John and Christian in 2001 adding them to our family of four, my idealism was at an all time high.  We had struggles leading up to the adoption as anyone who has been through the process can attest to, but the day we saw our two sons for the first time is etched in the memory of my soul.  The dreams and desires of my heart for these two children was palpable.  The joy of knowing we were making a tangible difference in two lives as well as enriching our own families global perspective was intoxicating. 

 

Reality hit hard within weeks of their arrival to the USA.  John was diagnosed with Glaucoma, and every year seemed to get harder with him.  His anger at the world was focused directly on Scott and me.  His times of happiness were rare and short lived.  A river of tears, angry shouting matches with God, Scott, John, questioning my ability to parent, heart break for my son who has so much potential, so much to offer, so much life to live.  Sleepless nights praying for a miracle, praying for sanity, praying to get through the next hour.

 

Glimpses of hope, a wonderful Summer, an emotional break through, the volcano dormant for a bit.  Perfect in school and public, stubborn and fiercely independent, beautiful man-child with a world to conquer.  This roller coaster of hope, anger, heart break, frustration, helplessness, counseling, flashes of potential, and resentment, riding strapped in with a love that has not wavered but at times has remained only by the seatbelt of faith, friends, family and red wine.

 

Its been twelve plus years since the wonderful day we chose to grow our family.  John turned eighteen this past weekend.  He had a party with friends, his laughter and deep voice still sing in my heart.  He played his African drum that we brought home on the plane with him so many years ago.  The twelve year winter is over, the hopes and dreams lying dormant are budding into an award winning rose.  

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“See Ya”

He hugs me with his large hard arms and chiseled body, “See Ya.” I hold on just a second more, smile and watch him walk away.  I go back to my car that is still running, with Gus my dog now sitting in the front where John was. My stomach has nervous butterflies as  I slide into the driver’s seat.  I take a deep breath and say a quick prayer of safety for him.  I pull out of the departures drop off and weave my way back into the traffic flow.

My head is full of contrasting thoughts warring within my mind.  What kind of mother are you to leave him at the door of the airport? He is legally blind, what if he misses his flight? What if he gets lost?  Are you really letting him travel across the country without even a cell phone? He has always wanted to be independent.  He is very capable and if he cant do this how will he go to college in a year?  It’s John, he is proud and strong and will ask if he needs help. He has all he needs and he will text me, no worries, no worries.  What the hell was I thinking? What if he gets kidnapped, or off at the wrong place or … be serious Kari he is a sixteen year old, black male, who looks like an ox and has forearms the size of your thigh and thighs the size of a small horse, let it go.

John is off to Baltimore to join about fifty other blind and legally blind students from across the country for a program sponsored by the National Federation of the Blind (NFB). STEMX which is:

Science, technology, engineering, and math to the extreme!

The following is an excerpt from the web site:

“The “X” in the program’s title draws inspiration from the aerospace community, where historically programs and missions have utilized the letter as an abbreviation for exploration, and as a statement that the effort seeks new solutions and new discoveries that surpass previously assumed barriers to scientific advancement. In this same way, the NFB STEM-X program challenges the notion that blind people are unable to pursue STEM fields, or on a larger scale, are predestined to a life of social welfare and government dependence.

Students will choose from one of five focus disciplines (chemistry, computer science, engineering, robotics, and space science) in which to specialize during NFB STEM-X. Students will spend half of each of the four instructional days engaged in their focus discipline, learning alongside fellow high school students with blind and sighted STEM professionals as their guides. All five focus disciplines will work collaboratively throughout the program, capitalizing on each other’s specialization to innovate creative solutions to complex problems.

Outside of their work in their focus discipline, students will have the opportunity to participate in enrichment activities that will provide them with authentic learning experiences in a wider variety of STEM disciplines. Evenings will be filled with activities that will help students develop their leadership skills and build their confidence while having fun and socializing with blind teens from across the country.”

This is an incredible culmination of twelve years of blood, sweat and tears for our family.  John has not been the poster child for adoption.  He has had a very difficult life and our journey with him has been far from easy.  His anger issues, post traumatic stress,  attachment disorder, stubbornness, on top of his vision issues are well documented, but his intelligence, sense of humor, determination, fearless attitude have made it possible for us to come to this point.

In choosing to apply for this opportunity he needed to admit he was legally blind, be willing to be with other blind students and acknowledge his need for help to make it happen. In a series of small miracles over the last five months everything fell into place.  In a rare moment of candid conversation before he left I heard words I never thought I would.  John called me “mom” for the first time in years and thanked me for all the work I had done to make this a possibility.

I drove over the mountains figuratively, and literally, with a renewed hope for our family and the world that is opening up to embrace our son John.



Managing Monday’s: Blog Post Number 365: A Goal Achieved

You should write a book, was a much repeated comment from friends and family. This was often said with a laugh, or a sympathetic smile as I would share one of the many adventures from my life. I have always loved to write and telling stories came fairly easy, but a book felt very overwhelming. A friend of mine suggested I try blogging. The rest as they say is history.

With the help of a good friend from my past, Melissa Ansley, Kari’s Khaos was created. I set the goal that I would blog daily from my birthday for one year. Today is the 365th day of blogs. It has been an experience, a wild ride, a dream come true, and sometimes a total pain in the ass. I wanted to get in the habit of writing again, find out if any one really wanted to hear anything I had to say, and share the good, bad, ugly and usually funny moments from my chaotic life.

I just went back to my profile and below is what I wrote a year ago.

It is my 44th birthday today. I am embarking on a new adventure. Kari’s Khaos has been born. I am committing myself to one year of daily blogging. Many requests for me to write a book, or to teach a class on parenting, or for advice on various topics ranging from menu planning to trans-racial adoption as well as good friends just calling me to hear what is going on in my life so they can feel better about the relative calm in theirs has led me to this adventure.

Do you remember the movie City Slickers with Billy Crystal? He and two of his buddies go on this cattle drive. In the scene I am thinking of he is helping a cow give birth, he has his arm inside the cow’s uterus, is covered in dirt and he pulls out his hand slimed with blood and cow birth and screams “ This was not in the brochure”. I think parenting is a lot like that. In raising my four children I have thought to my self many times that same thing. Then I think, wait, what brochure?

I am a mother of four teenagers. Three boys and one girl. Two are adopted from Liberia, Africa at ages 4 and 5. John is legally blind, Jessie is a TAG student,
Christian is an amazing athlete and Isaac is a great overall normal teenager. All my kids go to public school, I have had to fight and learn the system so my vast array of needs have been met. I love to cook, read and laugh. My husband of 21 years is my best friend and strongest believer in my writing ability.

I hope my experiences with raising kids, working and being all that we are asked to be in this highly social, multiple tasking world will encourage you, and help you see even at life’s worst moments, there are others who have survived, and lived to tell about it. Welcome to Kari’s Khaos comments are welcome and new friends a huge benefit to this blog.

It has been a great journey, thank you for being a part of it. Stay tuned for my next adventure and keep laughing, sometimes it is all we can do!
For now I will celebrate my accomplishment with a drink!



A Hair Cut Towards Maturity

Christian left this morning at 6:15 for basketball camp. He looked alert and somehow older. He wanted to drive to the school. He did a very good job. Last Thursday, he got his permit after a number of attempts. On Friday we went to Portland for a basketball tournament with his high school team, we rode with my friend Denette, and her five kids. Her oldest, Jaylin is on the team with Christian and they have become good friends. He and his sister Savanna are from a prior relationship and their dad is African-American. We have bonded being white parents of ethnic children, and in Bend, there are very few of us.

Bend though I love it, is not known for its diversity. I always make the joke that when we moved here in 2001 we doubled the black population. This is actually not far from the truth. It has improved dramatically over the years we have been here but they do stand out. One of the draw backs of this, is the lack of barbers who know how to cut black hair. I know this seems trivial but it is a big deal. Scott has been cutting the boy’s hair for years and if they want a close shave he is perfect. They are however, getting to the point where looks matter a bit more, and style has become a major issue.

This being said we have tried a couple of places in Bend to get their hair cut. It has not been very successful, and ended in us paying for what Scott could do at home. Denette used to live in Portland and knew where in Portland to take us to a black barber shop . I was excited, Christian was less than thrilled. “I do not need a hair cut, mom, I like it fine” he tells me. This of course is no surprise because anything that draws attention to himself makes him uncomfortable. I smile, and say too bad, you are getting a hair cut. This is an opportunity to have it done right and so you will get it done. This is not a battle I will lose. Big sigh, a roll of the eyes and a pouty face.

I of course am undeterred. I am excited to be down town in Portland, and I have wanted to get him to a african american barber for a long time. With Denette driving and knowing where to go I am just enjoying myself. The place she is taking us to is called “The Terrell Brandon Barber Shop” and he was a past NBA player. We arrive, and Christian does not want to get out, Jaylin is not getting his hair cut so CJ looks at me pleadingly to not make him do this.

Needless to say, I was right and Christian loves his haircut. He admitted that there were definite differences between this haircut, and others he has had before. He really liked his barber, and mentioned that black men do know how to cut black hair. Christian looks older, the cut is clean, and very “swag”. He joked about his hair cut making him a better basketball player and there was a bit more confidence in his walk. That was a battle worth fighting and money well spent.



Saturday Story Time: What’s For Dinner?

Saturday Story Time: What’s For Dinner?

“Mom, you know how people make fun of me because I eat so much?” Christian asked me. Well, I guess we do make fun of you a bit, you can eat a lot. “I know, I know, but you know how I always want to finish what other people do not eat? It’s because I hate to see waste, my friends may tease me, but they have never been starving. I remember not having food, I remember wondering when I was going to get to eat again, that’s why Mom, they don’t get it” I smile at my son and say you are right Christian, they do not get it, how could they?

In 2001 when we adopted Christian and John they were so skinny I thought they would break if squeezed too hard. Christian was just four, but he knew what hunger was, and he did not like the feeling. For the first five, maybe six years they had been with us Christian would wake up every morning and ask what was for dinner. He needed to know that there would be dinner. He needed to know he was going to get another meal. Even now he will ask me what is for dinner sometime during the day. It is a pleasure to be able to tell him food. You will always have enough food.

Christian loves hamburgers, I know he did not have any red meat before coming to be a part of our family, and chicken was a rarity in his diet. He has become quite the “foodie” willing to try different things, learning how to cook and coming up with interesting and inventive ways to make his favorite things. He has his own George Foreman Grill, a Quesadilla maker, a couple of cook books and real flare for spices. When he was in fourth grade he decided that after his NFL or NBA career he would open a restaurant. It would be called “OVER TIME” and would have burgers representing each of the franchise teams.

Now, he gets a bit embarrassed about his cooking dreams. Still, his love for burgers out weighs anything else. When his friends get dessert, he gets a hamburger. If we go out to breakfast at a diner, he always wants to know if he can get a burger instead of breakfast. Sweets he can live with out, but burgers, now that would just be cruel. For Christmas and birthdays he often asks for meat. Just some bacon or hamburger meat please.

Christian has always had a heart for the homeless and since he was just a kindergartener he has asked an incessant amount of questions about the people on the street, or what happened to that person, why are they begging for food. I am sure it is a constant reminder for him of the grace he is now living under. As a fifteen year old he is able to understand and have compassion for the hungry more than most kids in America. Christian gets it, because he remembers his own hunger very clearly. He does not remember very much about Africa, and that makes me sad. I can not give him memories of his birth mother and father. I can not tell him how tall he will be or if he looks more like his birth mother or his birth father. Thank God, I can tell him whats for dinner.



A Brothers Love

“Are John and Christian really close?” This is a common question as people think that because they are blood brothers they should somehow be closer than they would be to Isaac or Jessica. I am not really sure where this thinking comes from but, my answer is no. John and Christian have a typical brother relationship where they all get along fairly well, fight when upset and pick on each other non stop. It is Isaac and John who have a special relationship.

From the beginning Isaac and John bonded. I could not tell you what it was, they are so very different from each other. John is quiet and a perfectionist. Isaac is outgoing and the only thing he wants perfect is his sandwich. John has struggled with interpersonal relationships. John has rebelled against the life fate has thrown him. Isaac has pretty much been spoiled in every way possible. He has never known hunger or hardship. Yet, Isaac has accepted both his brothers with unconditional love and a fierce loyalty that surprised even me.

When John would be having problems at home and would not talk to anyone, he talked to Isaac. When John was mad at the world because of his eyes and not able to connect emotionally with anyone, Isaac would be there. After a particularly heated argument which included him reacting violently to Scott and lots of language being thrown about he broke down, crawled up on his bunk bed and cried. Isaac just climbed up and laid next to him, saying nothing, but saying everything by being there.

Isaac does not coddle John, he teases him relentlessly like the rest of the family. He calls him out on his crappy attitude and they do piss each other off. Isaac has only said once he wished we had not adopted the boys and that was when he wanted his own room and figured he would probably have had it if we had not adopted John and Christian. He got over it pretty quick and moved on to more important things like begging for a PS3.

John has Reactive Attachment Disorder. John is legally blind. John has Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. John is brilliant. John is incredible strong physically, and mentally. John has never told me he loves me. He has told Isaac, and that has been a very dim light that keeps me thinking we will get through the tunnel. Isaac tells me he loves me all the time, offers hugs and love freely. Isaac loves me, and through his love for John, he has given me hope for John’s future attachment.

I will end with a poem Isaac wrote this year about his brother. I know for John there is no better gift than being accepted, and understood. That’s family. That’s a brothers love. That bond is not about who shares whose blood, but about what God created our family to be.

Boulder

He waits
Strong and bulky
At the top of the
Hill he will stay

He blends in to
His surroundings
But as you get closer
His features stand out

He is darker than
Most of the world
Around him and
You will often find
Him by himself

But that is how
He prefers to be
Independent to the end