Adoption Interview

Adoption Bloggers Interview Project 2012

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Candy Cane Debacle Part 2

Boy this story just keeps getting more interesting! After the horrible afternoon and night we had yesterday, Hannah had an AWESOME morning. I had high hopes for her day at school. I thought she would be in the right frame of mind to speak with the teacher and the principal about what had happened. I also thought she'd be able to handle the consequences of her action (from mom and dad: no sweets for the rest of the week, from school: no candy cane from the tree when it was her turn and no sweets if there were any offered at school to reinforce the no sweets rule from home). Well. . . . . not so much. Mrs. A reported that Hannah would not focus on their talk at all. Instead she kept blurting out that she had a great morning (which she had). She didn't seem to acknowledge a thing Mrs. A said. When informed she would need to go to the Principal's office she adopted an attitude of uncaring and was completely nonplussed when the visit happened during one of her recesses. She was however irritated about the no sweets rule and put up a bit of a fuss. THEN the doozy hit. She went to the resource room and was offered a treat for a personal best on her weekly math quiz. She gladly took it and ate it and then immediately told the Mrs. D that she would have to tell Mrs. A about it because she wasn't supposed to have sweets. She then walked back to her classroom and told Mrs. A that Mrs. D was going to give her a treat for her math quiz. When Mrs. A informed her that she would have to save it until next week she told Mrs. A that it didn't matter because she already ate it! The little sneak. She KNEW she wasn't allowed and waited until she had already ate it to inform the teacher about it. There were apparently other behavior issues during the day too.

Then when I picked Hannah up she was wound up, but behaving ok. She did her chores, finished her homework, and got ready for swimming without complaint. Then at swimming she actually listened to her teachers and had her best lesson so far! She swam the entire length of the pool on her back without any help and without stopping since she was in the deep and couldn't ever touch. I was so proud of her. Then she showered, had dinner, and got ready for bed peacefully and without incident. It was the easiest night we've had in weeks, maybe months! I think it is so interesting that when Hannah has rough days with us at home she seems to do okay at school and when she has good days with us she has a hard time at school. It's like she only has a limited capacity for behaving and she can either use it one place or the other and then it's gone and anything leftover gets bad behavior. Usually Kyle and I get the bad behavior and though it's rough I'm glad for her to save it for us instead of it impacting her schooling significantly. However, every once in awhile it's nice to get the good stuff and to have others see what we go through daily and have that validation that I'm not a crazy mom and WE aren't the cause of all the bad behavior. Does that make sense? So many times we've been told we are imagining things and that they "just don't see that with Hannah." I feel like a broken record trying to explain that she's better with others usually, but these are her normal behaviors. So, it's nice to be validated every now and then and have Hannah "share the love" so to speak!

Photo Note: Pictures are from Thanksgiving Day. Kyle, Hannah, and I spent the day hanging out together. Hannah helped me decorate the house for Christmas and helped Kyle make cranberry bread.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Candy Cane Debacle

Today we had another rough night here at chez Spontak. Hannah and I arrived home to a blinking answering machine. The teacher had left a message for me to call the moment I walked in the door. That's NEVER a good sign. Apparently Hannah had been perservating on some candy canes hung on a tree in the classroom all day and now one of them was missing (the teacher knew the exact number b/c there was supposed to be one for each child in the class). She wanted me to check Hannah's backpack and search her person to see if she had taken the candy cane. She said she hated to blame her, but she just had a gut feeling. I searched and there was no candy cane to be seen. I asked Hannah if she had taken it and at first she said no and when I asked her if she was sure or if she knew what had happened to the missing candy cane she said she had taken it and broken it up and hid it in the trash can. While I was waiting for the secretary at the school to put me through to the classroom Hannah changed her story and said that she actually took the candy cane last Tuesday and it was the one she had brought home with her from school and said was from the resource room teacher as a treat for not complaining during her math quiz. We thought this was an odd reason to get a treat, but let it go. After talking to the teacher I found out that Hannah hadn't even gone to the resource room at all last week so she couldn't have gotten the candy cane from Mrs. D. The candy cane we saw was indeed the missing one. We discussed consequences and decided that Hannah would simply not get a candy cane when the rest of the students got theirs since she had already had one. When I tried to talk to Hannah about what had happened and attempted to inform her about the consequences of her actions all heck broke loose. She became alternately aggressive and avoidant. She refused to discuss the matter or even listen to what I had to say. Any attempts to force the issue were met with painful blows to my body. After about an hour she calmed herself enough that I could talk to her without threat of physical aggression, but she still was unable to add much to the discussion. She seemed completely unable to articulate her feelings or her reasons for her actions despite her advanced verbal skills. When she began sobbing uncontrollably I tried to ask her if she could tell me what she was feeling and she wasn't even able to say she was crying because she was sad or angry. I eventually prompted her with sad to try that out and then asked her what she might be sad about. She was still unable or unwilling to fill in the most obvious reason for her sadness. Instead when pressed to give an answer she listed various made up scenarios with her stuffed animals that were bringing her sadness. It was a frustrating exchange for both of us. The thing is, she can identify emotions in characters in books and movies or on facial expression cards, but seems unable to identify her own emotions or the reasons for them. Though she has verbal skills that would put many 10 year olds to shame she's unable to utter a simple "I'm sad" when asked why she is crying. It's so frustrating for me because I don't know how to help her with these big feelings and how to give appropriate consequences when she seems unable to connect her feelings with her actions. We've got an appointment with a new psychologist the first week of December so hopefully we'll finally get some help. I feel like we've been bouncing from person to person for years with no real help and if we don't get some help helping our little girl soon it will be disastrous for her self esteem. I already see it affecting her. Even tonight she said she was a dummy. If a profoundly gifted little girl can possibly think she's a dummy then you know there is something going on with her self esteem.

Photo notes: The pictures were from our trip to the pumpkin patch to get our Halloween pumpkins and then the torturous experience of carving them for my SPD kiddo!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Ups and Downs

We've definitely had our ups and downs here lately. Today was a big up! For the first time in a long time we had a tantrum free day. I know that shouldn't really still be considered an accomplishment for a 5yr old, but for us it is. We even managed to make it to church on time AND handle the anticipation of an impromptu visit from friends. Today was nice, very nice. We needed it. We needed it because the preceding week brought us cat food in the dryer, poop and pee in a slipper shoved in the back of the closet, and school without brushed teeth or hair to list a few of our trials. We also survived a 5 day weekend. That in itself is a major accomplishment I feel! In our house we like routine. We NEED routine and 5 days off school in a row is DEFINTELY not routine. Still, we survived and the weekend finished off with the best day possible.

On our 5 day weekend we kept busy even though we didn't have routine. We went shopping to prepare for a bathroom renovation, had a quiet Thanksgiving dinner just the 3 of us, decorated the house for Christmas, started the bathroom demolishing, had a spur of the moment playdate, began and completed the bathroom renovation, shopped for our adopt-a-family's Christmas presents, went to church, cleaned our house, and had friends over. I'd say we kept our days full. The new bathroom looks great, the shopping is done and waiting to be wrapped, and I have a clean house to start the new week off fresh.

Oh, I almost forgot to update everyone on Hannah's "shark teeth" (the adult tooth coming in behind the baby tooth). Her second permanent tooth came in and the baby tooth was not getting any looser. So, after giving it 3 weeks to loosen up, I had to take Hannah into the dentist to have it pulled. I was VERY nervous about how it was going to go because Hannah gets pretty crazy whenever she has to get a vaccination and this would require her getting a shot in her mouth-I'd say that calls for a tad more accuracy than a vaccination! However, I shouldn't have worried. Once again my baby girl surprised me. She was so brave! She sat very still and held my hand while the dentist put several shots of anesthesia into her gums. She only tried to cover her mouth once and that was before he actually started. She didn't even really cry. She just got some tears at the corners of her eyes, but nothing fell and she didn't scream or flail around. She even sat quietly when the dentist had to get out what were essentially pliers to yank the stubborn tooth out because it was not cooperating with his wiggling. Boy, you should have seen the root on that baby tooth. It wasn't EVER going to come out on its own. The entire root was still there. It hadn't dissolved at all and it was super long. No wonder it wasn't getting any more wiggly. Interestingly enough, I think Hannah enjoyed the sensation of her mouth being numb. She took our warnings about not chewing on her lips and being careful not to accidentally bite herself while eating quite seriously. In fact, we were alerted EVERY SINGLE TIME she accidentally bit her lip or tongue! Thankfully she didn't manage to do too much damage. When she put the tooth under her pillow that night Hannah left the tooth fairy a note asking her to bring her a horse instead of money! Fortunately she wasn't too terribly disappointed when another half dollar ended up under her pillow instead of a horse in the backyard!

The other night Hannah made her very first Christmas list. She got the idea all on her own and went off by herself to make it. When she returned to read her list to me we noticed that all but 2 items on the list were alive! I sadly had to inform her that Santa doesn't bring live gifts. So, without further ado I'll leave you with Hannah's Christmas list just in case anyone wishes to fulfill it!

Spelling is hers, my translation or additions in parentheses.

1. Horse

2. Puppy

3. Kittin (kitten)

4. Bolte Wie (Bolt Wii video game)

5. Baby (sister not a doll!)

6. Santu Clawas 2 (Santa Clause 2 DVD)

7. Hamster

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Adoption Interview Project: Interview with Kate

For the Adoption Interview Project I was paired with Kate at Sweet Ridge Sisters . Kate blogs there with her 3 sisters (who also graciously agreed to be interviewed as well even though they are not directly involved in adoption) about life on the farm and in the city. Kate has two daughters, Brigid and Olympia, the oldest of whom she placed for open adoption 10 years ago. She writes often about parenting and being a mother and birthmother. Please hop on over to Sweet Ridge Sisters and give Kate and her sisters a little blog love! So, without further ado, here is my interview with Kate.

1. Tell me about your relationship with Brigid. How has it changed as she has grown older?

Let me begin by telling you that when I first read about open adoption while I was pregnant with Brigid, I was completely turned off by the concept. The biggest reason for this was that I couldn't fathom having a casual relationship with my child. I felt that it had to be all or nothing, or at least nothing until some far off hazy day in the future when she was grown. I am the eldest of 9 siblings, and have lived in far off states for years. I know exactly what it is like to visit and be the glamorous older sister who comes bearing gifts and takes long walks and lots of pictures. That kind of relationship seemed like too much and too little to have with my child. Chris and Michelle, the adoptive parents, have always been very open and totally respectful. In the beginning, I just wanted to see pictures and have the occasional phone call or email, and they were great about that. They also made it clear that I would be welcome to visit them and spend time with Brigid if I changed my mind about seeing her. I did visit them on the weekend that Brigid turned 4- on her birthday, which is also the weekend of Mother's Day. It was amazing, and I am glad I did. It definitely changed the relationship to meet Brigid as a little girl, as opposed to the memory of the infant that I lost. I am so glad I have memories of her as a four year old, and of taking walks and spending time with her family. I visited again a couple years later with Brigid's birth dad, which was also an important visit. Chris and Michelle have visited my family as well. They live on the other side of the country, so the visits are rare, but then it is rare enough that I get home to see my parents and siblings. I would say that my relationship with Brigid has been very much a relationship with her whole family. When I am visiting, much of my time is spent talking to Chris and Michelle, who have become great friends and very much family to me. They have adopted five kids now, so a lot of time is also spent playing with whole bunches of kids. When I call the family, I talk to Michelle or to Chris, but rarely to Brigid. I feel like so much of the relationship that has developed has been with the family as a whole- and that has been totally healthy. I occasionally send Brigid a package or a letter, but we have not had an intense one-on-one relationship. I fundamentally relate to her as a four year old or seven year old or ten year old relative- in fact, it is similar to the relationship I've had with my younger siblings in some ways after all. And that has been more of a good thing than I could have imagined ten years ago.

2. Have you been accepted into Brigid's parents' extended family or does your relationship stay pretty much within those who live in the household? Also, does your extended family have a relationship with Brigid?

I love Brigid's extended family, and have definitely been accepted by them. The first time I met Chris and Michelle I went to stay with Chris's parents overnight. He is from a huge Irish Catholic family that is very similar to mine in many ways, and the family was incredibly gracious and welcoming and fun. After the visit I got a letter from Chris's sister that was full of love and compassion, and meant a great deal to me. A year after Brigid was born Michelle's sister wrote me a letter, and again it appeared at the exact right time and brought me a great deal of healing and peace. During my first visit to see Chris and Michelle there was a huge Mother's Day Party with Michelle's entire extended family in attendance- grandmothers, great grandmothers, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends. It was great to meet the family, and I cannot express how kind and welcoming and interesting her family is. Chris and Michelle came and stayed for a week when Brigid was born, and we sort of all took care of her for a week. There are pictures of a big family gathering with dozens and dozens of Mother's Day roses for all the mothers. They were great with my siblings, who were little at the time, and they left an amazing impression. After I visited Chris and Michelle, they came to see my family at Christmas the next year. They drove through a blizzard with three little kids to get there, and it was a wonderful visit. Some time after that, Chris's parents visited the farm and me my parents, and got along remarkably well. The grandparents have a great deal in common, from raising big Catholic families (Chris's parents) to farming and raising pigs and chickens and fermenting anything they can get their hands on (Michelle's Dad). Chris and Michelle, their five kids, and Chris's younger sister all attended my wedding a couple years ago. I had invited both sets of grandparents, who were unable to come and very much wished they could have. I spent a lot of time with Brigid at the wedding. The picture at the top of our blog, of all the girls in ballgowns on top of a silo silhouetted against the sky- Brigid is at the foot of that silo, and I am so glad. My grandmothers were both able to meet her, and I know that meant a great great deal to them, as they have been longing to meet her for a long time. There were 250 people at the wedding, so I am pretty sure that they met as much of our extended family as they possibly could- at least until the next great big Slattery wedding.

3. How has Brigid processed the fact that you are now parenting Olympia? How did you explain it to her? Does this fact trouble her? How will you explain it later on to Olympia?

A month after Olympia was born a package came from Brigid's family. Michelle had all of her kids pick out little presents for Olympia. Brigid, who was around 9 at the time, sent three books. Two of them were little Dr. Seuss books, and the third was entitled "Guess How Much I Love You." Brigid wrote a letter, and slipped it into that book. The letter said: Dear Olympia,The top two books you see used to be my favorite books when I was a baby. The third and biggest book expresses my feelings for you even though I've never met you. I hope you look upon these books for the rest of your life as love in disguise from your big sis,Brigid I think that sums up the way that Brigid feels about Olympia. I know that she has pictures of me with Olympia hanging in her room. She definitely is not troubled by the fact that I am parenting Olympia. She is very secure, because she is well loved by secure parents. I believe this will be the case with Olympia as well. I plan on following Michelle's lead in being open and honest and down to earth about the facts of the situation- in fact, I was just talking to Michelle about it at length on the phone last night. Olympia has so many cousins and second cousins and aunts and uncles and Grandparents who live far away, and I think that her relationship with Brigid will naturally follow a similar pattern to the ones she has with the rest of the family. As Michelle pointed out, having a huge and close family living all over the country makes the adoption relationship seem pretty normal to kids.

4. Now that Brigid is older, has she come to you looking for answers as to why you placed her for adoption or have her parents taken care of all of those questions?

She has not come to me looking for answers at all. She hasn't asked a whole lot of questions of Chris and Michelle either- I think because adoption is really normal for her, and because the questions she has have been answered. I am happy to have Chris and Michelle answer her questions, and if she has them for me I'd love to answer them as well. I look forward to having a dialogue some day- and I know that Brigid's birth dad does as well.

5. How difficult has it been for you seeing Brigid's parents parent her differently than you would have chosen? (I'm assuming this happens since everyone parents differently.)

Parenting differences have not been an issue for me at all. I think that Chris and Michelle are amazing parents, and I would love to be as much like them as possible. They have a very similar approach to faith, discipline, family size, and life in general. I've totally taken parenting tips from them.

6. Has your extended family supported you in your decision to place Brigid for adoption or did they try to talk you out of it? If they were completely supportive, do you wish they would have tried to talk you out of it?

My family was supportive of me in my decision to place. My mother in particular felt strongly that adoption was the best option for me, and expressed this opinion. However, I came to the decision very much on my own along with Brigid's birth dad. We did a great deal of research and contemplation and talked about it for many many hours before concluding that it was the best possible thing to do for our child. I am a very strong willed person, and I took total responsibility for becoming pregnant, and for deciding that adoption was the right choice. There is no way anyone could have talked me into adoption- the decision was mine.

7. Do you regret your decision?

I do not. I have sobbed until I couldn't breathe, and struggled with intense guilt, and grieved greatly- but I have never regretted my decision. I knew that I could be a good mother, but there was no way that I could be with her father, or be her father. I wanted my child to be secure and loved by two parents. Adoption was the only way that I could give her that. There have been many times in the past year and a half of raising my daughter Olympia that I have been caught by a moment of joy with my husband and the baby, and every time I have stopped to be grateful that Brigid was raised by two happy, loving, faith filled parents. The experience of adoption has been unbelievably painful at many times, but it has also been full of grace. There has been more grace and love poured out than I could ever have imagined.

Here are Clare, Mary, and Colleen's responses to your questions:

1)Could you have them tell me what they thought when you first told them you were considering adoption and what they thought about open adoption in particular?

2)What do they think of it now? Have their opinions changed?

3)Do they have a relationship with Brigid?4)Do they feel like/treat her like she is their niece just like they do Olympia or does it feel different to them?


1.) I was only 8 when all of this was happening, so I guess I didn't even know that it was an open adoption. I remember knowing that Kate was giving away her baby and she was going to meet the parents. I guess I supposed that all adoptions were that way. It didn't seem strange; it just was what an adoption was to me.

2.) I am very much in favor of open adoption now. Personally, I know that I would never have gotten to meet Brigid had Kate not done an open adoption, and that would have been so sad. My life has been so much more enriched by the whole situation. I now know that it is not the way all adoptions work, but I would prefer it if all adoptions could go as well as Kate's seemed to.

3.)I've met Brigid twice now, and I love her so much! I don't have a personal relationship with her because of the distance she lives away, but I would like to eventually get closer to her. My little sister, Clare, is writing to her, and I might follow suite.

4.)I feel like she is as much my niece as Olympia. It does feel a little bit different just because I do not know her parents extraordinarily well, but I can see the fact that she is a Slattery girl from her very face. I'm so glad that I know her!


1. When Kate first got pregnant, I was just a little four year old, so she obviously did not come up to me and say, "Well, Clare, I'm strongly considering adoption." As it was, I didn't even realize that my oldest sister was going to have a baby until she was about 8 months pregnant. I didn't really understand the concept of adoption until the couple who adopted Brigid came to our farm to pick her up.

2. Now that I'm older and I can better understand the situation, I"m just fine with it. Brigid's parents are a great, loving couple. Although sometimes it makes me sad that Brigid lives so far away and I don't get to see her often, I know that the best thing for both Brigid and Kate was for Brigid to be given up for adoption.

3. I have only seen Brigid two times in my life since she was born, and I haven't really kept in contact with her at all until now. Just recently I actually started writing letters to her, because I realized just how little I've connected with her. We are only four years apart, so I'm hoping by our letter writing we will be able to connect much more that we have before.

4. I don't know nearly as much about Brigid as I do my other nieces and as I mentioned before I've hardly ever seen her in person, but I don't think I like any one of my nieces more than her. It's definitely a different kind of relationship, because Brigid lives all the way in California with her adopted family and is the closest in age to me out of all of my nieces, but I love Brigid just as much as them, because whether she's adopted or not, she's still a part of our family. Whenever I tell people my nieces names you can be sure she'll be included in the list, and I have just as many pictures of her on my walls as I do my other nieces. Whether I get to see her every week or not, she'll always be loved just as much as the others in my family. :)


Adoption was not an option in my mind. At the time of Kate's pregnancy, I was 14 years old and considered that Kate was all grown up. I was appalled at her choice and kept telling myself that if I were the one expecting, I would never choose adoption. I didn't really have many formed thoughts on adoption at that point, it wasn't something that I knew much about.

2) Well, I spent a year working with teenage girls at a treatment center, a lot of these clients were dealing with adoption issues. I have volunteered at a orphanage in Russia too, so I have seen a wide array of cases on the adoption spectrum. I am highly cynical of adoption being a super positive experience for all parties involved because I have worked with so many kids with attachment disorders. HOWEVER, I consider Kate's situation to be overwhelmingly beautiful and sacred.

3) No I do not

4) Not really, I am super close to my two oldest nieces here in Wisconsin who are actually adopted into my family. I know she must have an aunt somewhere out there who loves her like I love my nieces here. Building a relationship with someone takes time. Someday, I think I will get to know her, but right now I am just happy to know that she has a beautiful family and is healthy, happy and ever so blessed.

If you are intested in reading other pairs of interviews, hop on over to Production, Not Reproduction for the full list of participants. Enjoy!

Dagger to the Heart

It's been rough here lately around the Spontak house. Hannah's behaviors have increased. Mornings are almost impossible to get out the door to school. Hannah often refuses to go and once I even deposited her by the front door of the school sans shoes and coat and screaming. UGH! That was hard to do. Evenings are just as bad, if not worse, getting ready for bed. One night, after a particularly rough day, when Hannah said her bedtime prayers she asked God to make her a better daughter. It broke my heart to hear her say that. That was the final straw that told me we HAD to get her some more help. If she thought she was a bad kid/a bad daughter then obviously we weren't doing something right and we need help. Then yesterday, after a really bad afternoon meltdown resulting in injuries to myself, I emailed Hannah's teacher to see if anything out of the ordinary might have happened at school that day that could have caused Hannah to be so unstable when she got home. I felt surely there had to be some explanation for this out of control behavior. I also asked a few questions about her perceptions of Hannah's adjustment to school life, her happiness in the classroom, etc. The email I received back made me cry. It's one thing to know that Hannah has problems and to witness them at home, but it's altogether different to hear them described by someone else. What follows is an except from her teacher's email.

"Hannah is very hard to read emotionally. She seems happy at school at times and over things I might never expect…..a new center game, etc. Other times she seems like she is just passing her time with us until something else comes along. She might not seem unhappy but rather no emotions at all. I am not sure she is ever totally relaxed at school. The way she holds her body throughout the day and always observing the situation leads me to believe that she is always "on guard" even in the most relaxing of situations. I believe she is at her most natural out on the playground or walking in the hallway with a peer. At these times she seems more relaxed and very open with her conversations. What she lacks is that carefree attitude of a kdg student if that makes sense to you. She just always seems to be busy checking out what is going on around her and observing others and their reactions to things.

The day I had a talk with Hannah about her physical behavior at home I used my own daughters as an example. She seemed so interested to hear about their behaviors and how they treat me and how I treat them back. It was very interesting to watch her. You could just see the wheels turning in her head however I had no idea what she might be thinking. She seems very interested in the actions/feelings of others but as an observer only."

This just makes me sad for my little girl. I want to be able to help her, but I just don't know how. We've got a call into a new psychologist who can hopefully help shed some light on the situation and who can hook us up with a behavioral specialist, but I'm sure it will be awhile before her appointment-it always takes so long to get into these specialists and we could use help now. Prayers for my little girl would be greatly appreciated.