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A whole new world!

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dwd2

* Warning…reading this blog may cause laughter, crying, and occasional wetting of pants. There may also be the occasional use of profanity, jaded points of view about raising children, and sarcasm. Enjoy!

Well it’s been a while! Since my last post, we’ve added another child, moved to Detroit and have finally settled in. (that’s 6 total for those of you counting… and yes, were done.) Life in a big city has had its challenges and rewards. We’ve been here officially 3 years now. The calamity of renovating a 100-year-old house from top to bottom pre-move in could be its own blog. I’ll spare you the exact details of the clueless contractor and the sloppy painters and just say that after the dust settled we are beyond blessed to live in this home and be part of this wonderful community.

For those of you who already know my story, I won’t bore you. Just skip to the next paragraph…For all you new folks. I’m Blayne. I’m an artist, designer, kindergarten art teacher, local Art center board member and oh yeah…A stay at home dad with 6 kids! (12, 10, 9, 6, 5, and 2 & 1/2). My life is chaotic to say the least! My wife and I adopted all six of these little wonders from foster care. They are all awesome. Awesome at making messes, showing kindness, fighting with each other, stating the obvious and giving hugs. They are my world! Adopting from foster care has been the greatest thing that has ever happened to my wife and I. It’s also been the hardest thing we’ve ever done. Of the 6 kids, 4 were born addicted to a controlled substance. As we have watched and nurtured them into these tiny noisy humans, they have started to exhibit the effects of early addiction. Managing obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety, ADHD, ADD, PICA, and oppositional defiant disorder is my other full-time job. My “on the job” training I’m sure has qualified me for some sort of PHd?  This is not as easy life but it sure is an extraordinary one. One that kicks my ass and makes me want to go to bed at 7:30, makes me laugh uncontrollably like a second grader hearing someone fart in church, and fills my heart with love every day even when I’m greeted by my two-year old who has trained his bowels to provide me with a daily gift promptly at 8 am.

This blog is about my world. The ups, downs, spills, the knockdown drag outs and the overall craziness that is my life. It’s a whole new world for us living in Detroit. It’s personal and sometimes ugly. It’s real and it’s me. Feel free to comment. Cheer me on, tell me I’m crazy or ask questions. I know you have one!  I’m going to try and write once a week and we’ll see how this goes. Trying not to set myself up for failure! After 20 interruptions, it’s only taken me an hour to write three paragraphs. Sometimes a Nerf gun fight, a high school musical 3 sing along and diarrhea take priority. Thanks for reading.

Love, forgiveness and the middle finger. 

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Raising 6 children is hard. Raising 6 children and 3 of which have been diagnosed with emotional deficiencies is even more challenging.  Now I’m not seeking to have my stay at home Dad ego stroked by telling you yet another of my endless challenges and how my seemingly super human parenting skills have yet conquered another challenging situation. What I’m trying to say is, don’t judge a book by its cover. 

By divine intervention, all 6 of our adopted children look as though they are a direct genetic output of my wife and I. All 6 have blue eyes, a mixture of our hair colors and genuine personalities and interests to match. From birth to the ages they are now most people would never know they were adopted from fostercare and the horrible circumstances that transpired to bring them into our care and finally resulted in our ability to joyfully adopt them all. We just appear to be part of one big natural family. 

From early on I have learned many tricks to navigating public and social situations as to minimize the natural chaos that ensues during our outings. Grocery shopping for example, with two carts, one full of kids (the ones who think Kroger is a playground) and one full of groceries. Early mornings are best. Never ever on Wednesdays, that’s when the cheek pinchers come out. 

There is one place I cannot control. Going to Mass on Sunday mornings. It’s a crap shoot. I never know what I’m going to get. I am here to say that I am absolutely terrified to bring my children to Sunday morning Mass by myself.

Prepping to leave to house is another full post that I can share later, but for now let’s just assume we are sitting quietly in church. Begin the 1 hour countdown. I can fully expect squirming, bits of chatter and some occasional inappropriate laughter. Toys falling on the floor that have been smuggled in because I forgot to do pocket checks before we left the house. It’s all good and I think it’s even expected and tolerated with kids. 

What isn’t probably tolerated is your 8 year old daughter flipping you the bird during a moment of silence for a large portion of the congregation to see in full view. 

I instantly felt like I had been thrown into a hot frying pan. My entire body erupted in sweat and my face was burning with embarrassment. So I did what any person would do in church. I prayed…”Dear Jesus, please help me control all my body parts and help me be still because I just want to tackle her to the floor, Amen.” In my mind I’m picturing myself like a crazed baboon swinging from a vine, swooping down to grab her and carry her off to another part of the jungle. 

Instead I just looked away.

With my mind racing, I began to plot my rebuttal. One thing I have learned in the 8 years my beautiful and loving daughter has been on his earth is that she has absolutely no impulse control at times. This is due to the fact that she was exposed to drug use during the pregnancy of her birth mother. A chemical change in her brain development that resulted in a lack of impulse control and executive functioning deficiencies. 

It’s a hard issue to manage. Especially since I take so much of this issue to heart. It’s taken years for me to realize that it’s not me and to stop blaming myself for these occasional behavioral outbursts. I cannot be held responsible for her actions, but I can be responsible for how I handle my own. 

Moments later, it was time for communion. When we returned to the pew there was a changed look on her face. The anger was gone and the look of remorse took its place. 

She began to cry and I hugged her. 

This little girl who only minutes earlier was waving her middle finger in the air with the other hand on her hip standing tall and proud like the Statue of Liberty, was now a broken and sobbing mess. 

There is one thing about my daughter that is fully intact (all things considered) and that’s her heart. Regardless of what someone may precieve of her tough exterior, she is one of the most sensitive and caring people I know. She was truly sorry for what she had done and extremely embarrassed. Not only to me but to herself. 

I still didn’t have the courage to turn around to see the faces of the parishioners behind me but I know they probably knew something was a little off with my daughter. They saw what I deal with everyday. A roller coaster of emotions that controls her every action. 

The cover of my Daughters book is sometimes tattered. It has messy hair, mismatched socks and sometimes it shouts swear words and gives you the finger.  What really matters are the pages inside. The ones I help her write.  The chapters on loving and forgiveness are the ones I’m most proud of. 

– Dedicated to my favorite 8 years old with skinned up knees, messy hair and a heart of gold.

I love you with all my heart,

Daddy. 

Leaving their mark 

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 Raindrops on roses and crisp apple strudel, not so much.

Try stickers on coffee tables and faces on lampshades. These are a few of my favorite things.

13 years ago I was living with my new bride in a child and dog free bliss. Enjoying life in a nearly dust and clutter free existence. Dreaming about the wonders of being called Mom and Dad never evoked images of overflowing toilets and laundry up to our knees.

The romantic ideas of afternoon family picnics and first days of school, slowly gave way to despair and hopelessness as we struggled through infertility treatments, miscarriages and failed adoption attempts for many years.

Then one day he was dropped off. Then a while later two more. A fourth, fifth and sixth finally made their way into our lives as well. We had become foster parents. A journey that would change our lives and that of six crazy beautiful and loving little people.

It was easier than we thought to get started being foster parents. The reality was also much harder than we ever could have imagined, but the outcome of going through everything has given us the opportunity to change the course of history for these little people. I have often said, I don’t know who has helped who more, us or the kids. We don’t, by any means, consider ourselves heros, saints or angels for what we have done, but we are blessed. Blessed to have the ability to take on the challenges of caring for children with emotional challenges.

With my wife working outside the home it provides me the opportunity to focus my energy on helping them with all I have to give. (Some days more that others.) It’s mentally and physically exhausting and rewarding all at the same time.

I sometimes think of the days without children,  but not for long. My days are now filled with a motormouth 3 year old who’s world revolves around me all day, and five other kids that I now could never live without. Being a stay at home Dad has put my personal aspirations on hold for a bit. For now, I’ll just keep reminding myself that I’ll make my mark on the world through my kids. Helping them grow into young adults and teach them how to make their mark on the world through hard work, compassion and love for others.

Six years ago we finalized the adoption of the first of our four foster children and officially became parents.

Today I look at stickers on the coffee table and faces on lampshades much differently than I would have 13 years ago. I have a completely different perspective on some of the mischievous behaviors of my kids. Looking at these things says to me that “I was here!” They left their mark. Hopefully in the future they will find more constructive outlets for their mark making. Until then, I will carry on with the greatest challenge I’ve ever had and think about some of my favorite things. These kids.

Ring my bell

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bell

I am not super human by any means. However, I do own a couple of tee shirts that would indicate otherwise. I do think I possess one super power and that’s my hearing. Over the time that I have become a parent, this strange metamorphosis has occurred in my cochlear channel. As only parents can agree, I think God gives us super hearing as a “free gift with purchase” when you have a baby. A coping skill designed for both offense and defence to be used against the offspring in times of need. My super hearing has no limits. I’m pretty sure I could hear an ant tap dance on the moon. It drives my kids crazy because I can tell exactly what they are doing from many rooms or floors away.

This superpower is also my kryptonite!

 I’ve self diagnosed myself with Misophonia. People who have Misophonia are most commonly angered, and even enraged, by common ambient sounds, such as other people clipping their nails, brushing teeth, chewing crushed ice, eating, slurping, drinking, breathing, sniffing, talking, sneezing, yawning, walking, chewing gum, laughing, snoring, or bell ringing. (Thanks Wikipedia)

So with that out-of-the-way, flash forward to 6-29-2014, my youngest daughter’s birthday. The weeks leading up to this were all filled with the random wants of a 7-year-old, but one Item kept coming up over and over…….A bell…..for her bike. Which for a youngster without any OCD issues, would be fine. A little “ring, ring” here and there, what could be the harm? Now, I am torn between getting her what she really wants and appeasing my own selfish issues. It’s only $5 and it will bring a smile to her face.  I’ll get a hug and kiss and possibly a “you’re the best Dad ever!” shout out. But, the thought of hearing that bell ringing all day long, reverberating through the neighborhood, may just send me to the looney bin. What…to…do…?

Thankfully, I do possess the powers of negotiation and compromise. (Thanks to over a decade of people pleasing in the retail sector I developed a bit of mastery when it comes to this.) Upon examination of the available options for purchase, my normal thought process would be to buy the best value. However, today I was thinking “which one of these suckers will break the fastest?” It’s bad, I know… Eventually her great pleasure will be overtaken by sadness and grief at the passing of her beloved broken and shiny noisemaker.  I can see her small mighty fists of rage held up to the sky screaming “WHY?!?!?” (Nancy Karrigan style after getting jacked in the knee). This is the point where I enter and tell her I will do my best to fix it. Unfortunately, it will have to take a number because the “fix it” box is over flowing and there and several action figures missing limbs, cars without wheels and Dora needing new hair plugs, ahead of the bell.

 

I will assure her I will fix it at some point. Hopefully by then a cure for Misophonia will be found. If not, she may end up ringing my bell.

Sneak peek! Coming soon. A new video blog!

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http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=y9-BRlEQIik&feature=youtu.be

An old loss resurfaces

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Tiffany and I started dating in April of 2001. We were engaged in August that same year. Then the tragedy of the September 11th attacks happened. As with many people this was an emotional turning point that made us stop to think about the reality of,”you never know what tomorrow might bring”. In the next couple of weeks to follow we decided that we would get married this year rather than the next. Our dream of a fall wedding in 2002 turned into the most beautiful winter wedding in December of 2001. (People still talk about the food from Andiamo!) During that year we also talked extensively about our plans for a family. We wanted to start right away. In the next couple of years to follow we faced a roller coaster of emotional joy and heartache as multiple miscarriages followed. Our desire lead us to pursuing fertility treatments as well. As a loving husband, I can’t even begin to put into words the feeling of helplessness that came repeatedly over me as I stood by her side as treatment after treatment proved unsuccessful. I remember days of driving in my car alone to work or other places feeling waves of emotion come over my body like electricity. I was angry, sad and most of all frustrated. As a husband it is my job to take care of her, comfort her, and fix things around the house. This was something I could not fix for her. Being newlyweds brings with it, its own set of challenges ours was doubled with the added stress of this, and at times seemed to be more than we could bear. When we were married Tiffany was Catholic. I was not. I still went to Mass with her and sat by her side during services. I thought that going with her would help me with the repeated loss and sadness that had been weighing over me like a heavy wet blanket. However, there was still something missing. I was going through the motions but I still felt like I was on the outside looking in. It would be like going to the gym and watching everyone else working out. They were reaping the benefits of participating however I was sitting in a chair across the room looking on. Well, I decided to participate! I became Catholic too. I went through the RCIA program and made it official. This has changed my life forever. In the next years to follow Tiffany and I seemed to be plagued with one personal crisis after another. Hospital visits and doctors appointments, her possibly needing a liver transplant, me possibly having MS. Both ultimately proved to be nothing but the stress and anxiety of it all was still taking a toll. Even through all this madness our love, faith and our ever yearning desire to have a family never wavered. The decision was made to discontinue the fertility madness and we were now on the road to adoption. We looked into foreign, possibly adopting from Poland. The red tape was more than we wanted to get involved with. We ended up with a traditional adoption center. It’s a place where you leave a big book about your life out on the table with other couples doing the same. The potential birth mothers look at them and then make their choice. We, being the crafty, over the top people we are, spent many hours making a scrapbook of our life together. We made a new friend in the process. Cass, who owned a local scrapbooking store was very patient and helpful with us as we tried to construct the ultimate family profile. It’s a very tricky subject. You want to make a profile that looks confident and wholesome. Showing the birth mother that these would be the most wonderful people you could ever entrust to raise you baby. What you really want to say is…Come on! our profile is way better than the rest of these on the table just pick us and let’s get going with this!!! Clearly it doesn’t work like that. We waited and waited until that call finally came. We got picked! Getting picked is a lot like finding out that you are really pregnant. So many questions, so many what ifs. Things like how far along is she? Will I have enough time to get the nursery painted? She was due Mother’s day weekend of 2006. Almost everything was ready, the girly nursery was almost ready to go. New hardwood floor. a beadboard ceiling and chandelier, new crown molding, white trim, and the perfect shade of pink on the walls. All that was left to do was build the crib and wait. It was Monday, the day after Mother’s Day. I was home alone getting some things done and anxiously waiting for the phone to ring.  I remember it being so quiet that day. I was putting some tools back into the garage when the call came. It was the Adoption worker. She had some bad news. The birth mother actually gave birth yesterday and she has decided to keep the baby………….I don’t even really remember what I said in response since I felt like I had just been hit with a baseball bat in the guts…….I hung up the phone and called Tiff. I just said, “Come home.” She knew exactly what that ment. My world had become silent as if I had earplugs in. From the driveway I stared up at the second story window looking towards the nursery. I went in and walked up the stairs. The smell fresh paint, and pine from the new crib was floating down the stairway. I walked into the nursery and sat on the floor…….. and began to cry. Slowly at first like when you feel you neck and throat get hot then a cascade of uncontrollable sobbing…..after what seemed like forever I got up took another look around, slowly ran my hand along the rail of the crib, walked out and shut the door. As you can tell the memory of this is still fresh in my mind. There are certain things that happen in your life that you always remember like they happened yesterday. This is one of them for me.

This dark day happened to come to the front of my mind yesterday. I was in the same place again, the nursery. Only this time I was taking down the crib. The crib that held this dark memory for me for the last five years. It’s been a long time coming but Grace is finally ready for a “big Girl” bed. Tiff and I got the girls bunk beds. It was kind of spur of the moment. She found a great deal at the Costco in Westlake OH. She was in Ohio Tuesday evening until Thursday evening. She had all the kids with her giving me a fantastic 48 hours of much-needed quite time. As I was preparing for her to come home I had to clear out the girl’s room which included taking the crib down. It was very surreal. I was home alone, again. It was eerily quiet in the house and in the neighborhood too, I guess the heat was keeping people inside. I stood in the girl’s room for a while just kind of staring at the crib. Looking at all the scuffs, the chew marks and a few unrecognizable things stuck to it. It still looks good, it’s well-built and heavy and most importantly safe. Other than your own arms, it’s just the kind of thing that you would want holding and protecting one of your most precious blessings. Although Grace was not the first to use this crib she did have the longest tenure. It was her cocoon, her place to drift off to sleep clutching her silky trimmed blanket and her bunny Baxter, while she sucked on her fingers and drooled all over the pillow.  The crib has also at times been a refuge for me during those times when Gracie needed a break for a few minutes. It was really a bittersweet thing taking it apart, alone again in the nursery. This time I didn’t cry, I felt a huge weight lifted from my shoulders. It was like the ending to a novel that you read and feel so content and satisfied with the ending that you simply close the book and sit there holding it and savoring the ending. Even though this was an ending for me it’s a new beginning for my girls. They are getting so big so fast. I carried all the pieces of the crib out to the garage one by one leaving the railing for last. As I brought the last piece out to the garage and stacked it neatly with the others I turned to walk back to the house. I paused….looked up at the second story window and thought for a moment about how different my life is today. That little girl that I (we) had wanted so badly would be five this year. She will be starting kindergarten in the fall. At that moment I began to feel a wave of emotion start to rise within me. It stopped as soon as I looked up to the sky, smiled and said ,”thank you, God”. This is better than anything I could have ever imagined.

Norman Rockwell 2011

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Ahh, I remember so many fun times sledding as a child. Staying out hours at a time having 20 layers and a snowsuit on. Having plastic bread bags over my feet inside my moon boots to help keep them dry. Coming home frozen to the bone, not able to feel my hands, feet or face but yet ready to do it all again the next day. It’s the very essence of a winter scene painted by Norman Rockwell. In my later adult years sledding became something that was done at night after a few drinks minus any warm clothes. Barely escaping a trip to the hospital. (It would have been a short walk considering the hospital is across the street from the sledding hill in Lapeer.) Anyway, now that I have kids it’s a whole different story. Yesterday as I was shoveling the driveway this momentary illusion of the good old days hit me pretty hard and I decided to pack them up and head out. Well packing up is about an hour and a half long but I am determined to show the kids a good time and the look on their faces when I told them we were going sledding was priceless and I didn’t want to let them down. Lainie actually said as we were getting dressed, “Dad, this is the best day of winter ever!” Now that we’re dressed and ready to go I realized that we are short a few sleds. Off to Toys R Us.  Well I bought the last 2 sleds they had. Before I could pay for them Grace knocked over a Lego display and started screaming because I put her in the cart. She was crying because there were not any “girl” sleds. I tried to tell her we were going to another store but she wasn’t getting it. She is now screaming so loud I think everyone in the entire store can hear her and I am definitely getting some looks. It’s my theory that I will never see these people again so let her scream. There is nothing I can say to her, no empty threat too big to get her to stop so I just let her wail. ALL THE WAY THROUGH THE CHECKOUT!!! So now we are off to Bed Bath and Beyond. I found two “girl” sleds, in and out without incident,  now we’re really ready to go. Keep in mind it’s now almost 3 hours after I first mentioned the word “sledding” to the kids. They are so excited they’re ready to pop. Finally making it to the sledding hill I get each one of the five’s snowpants on assembly line style oldest to youngest. Coty was with my Mom but she met us up there to share in the FUN! What I have yet to mention is that the temperature has dropped to about 25 degrees and the wind has kicked up to about 30 mph. Again, I AM DETERMINED, even if we only go down one time just to say we did it! On out way up the hill, the sleds became sails. I was trucking up the hill with the baby in one arm and a sled in the other, thinking that my Mom was bringing up the rear. However, Lainie and Grace were chasing their sleds, and Coty had let go of his and now it was about 2 football fields away by the skating pond.  I start running with the baby and the sled over to the pond to try and help Nana fish the sled out. Finally got the sled and now we are on our way back up Mt. Roseville. You can barely call it a hill but today it was Everest. With my Mom and five kids in tow, we trompped to the summit. Being blasted by the wind I knew we wouldn’t be here long. Within 2 minutes the first of the five is crying “I’m Cold!” Feeling myself starting to lose my composure I shouted at Jack to suck it up. Literally, his nose was running down onto his jacket. After a few 2 second rides down the hill Nana took Eli back to the van. Jack was the next to follow running after her down the hill only now I have his sled. Lainie is the next to shed tears as her sled has now blown away along with her hat. Sled and hat captured she is now on her way to pull Jack up out of the snow as he has fallen down trying to catch up with Nana and is crying curled up in a ball in the snow. I figure this is it. I grab Grace and Coty and head back to the van also. Grace starts crying because she doesn’t want to leave. She is tough as nails. On our way back to the van Coty for some reason decided to take off his gloves and make a snowball. As the pain of near frostbite sets in he starts screaming also. “My hands are BURNING!!!!” I just keep thinking, why did I do this to myself.  As we pile in the van I am met with the final crying child. Now all five kids are crying at once. How nice. I start to triage who needs me first. Starting with mister cold hands. Coty left with Nana and I took the others for McDonalds to try and ease the pain. (Drive thru only, I’ve had enough trouble today!) As we get our nuggets and frys and head back to the ranch, I look in my rearview and see my version of Norman Rockwell. The snotty noses, the baby passed out in his car seat, and Grace hounding me for just one fry before we get home. After we ate lunch I was thanked numerous time for such a fun day. Along with, “When can we do it again?” I think I will ponder that question over a 3 hour nap and get back with you.

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