Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Worn Out

I am so tired. I am so worn out. After 5 1/2 years, for the struggle still to be so great seems just too much to bear. It seems that ninety percent of my creative energy for all of that time has gone to only one place—the girls. I have sacrificed putting it into all of the other places I wanted to. And still it doesn't seem to have been enough.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Orphans with Parents, and the Two-man Saw

We recently got S and W back into counseling with new counselors. Actually, this is the first time W has been in counseling, besides psychological testing. Both counselors are better than any we've had in the past—hands down. It's like we were in the farm league and have finally made it to the majors. W's counselor, especially, has been very insightful. He pushes W, drilling down comments and words, and is making progress quickly. He has given us a lot of insights that have really helped. He has enough experience, both academic and clinical, to get right through the facade. And he's an expert in attachment theory.

One of the interesting things Dr. D has mentioned is that W is still living as an orphan, even though she has parents. Though he doesn't see S, many of the things he is discovering about W make sense for S, too. They are both living as orphans in many ways. They have parents, but they don't know how to "use" them, so to speak. And their lack of letting us parent them makes it harder for us to bond with them. And this is after 4 1/2 years. 4.5 YEARS! That is a long time.

You have to know that over time we have tried everything, said and done all the things that seem so obviously like they should help. But in many ways they haven't gotten through.  For example, we have modeled saying goodnight, like a typical parent and child do, and we have taught it, but short of making it a nightly rule, S and W are still likely to go to bed without ever checking in with a parent unless they are reminded. This may sound like no big deal, but when you experience it time and time again for years you realize how unusual it is, and why it actually happens. The idea of being parented has still not sunk in. They are living in a family and going through the motions, but still not relying on the family, or feeling true loyalty to the family. They have experienced brain trauma. And that will take a long time, and a lot of baby steps, to undo.

Steve and I think of it this way: it's as if we are on one side of a two-man saw, and the girls are on the other. They are holding as and Steve and I push the saw forward and back, but they are not actually pushing with us, or putting their weight into it. So, to anyone on the outside it looks as if we are functioning like any other saw team. Even for the girls it can be very difficult to understand what they are doing differently from every other saw team—every other family. They are going through the motions. They are leaning forward and back. Their hands are on the saw. What is missing? Why do Mom and Dad look so exhausted on the other side of the saw? But for us it is easy to feel the push and pull that is missing. We came from healthy families, and we have other children who have not been traumatized. We know what it really could feel like if we were all pushing and pulling with all of our might.

These new understandings have been really fascinating. And they make it easier to cope, and easier to know how to react to each bewildering situation. If you can stand back and not take it personally (which is sometimes possible, but certainly not all the time), it's like living in an emotional experiment.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Chasing Cyrus--Again

Been around Cyrus much? If so, you have seen firsthand what a wild man he is. At 2 1/2, his shenanigans eclipse Jasper's shenanigans at this age--and that's saying much. As busy and fast and wild as you expect a toddler boy to be, he is more so.

I just made the dumb mistake of trying to take him with me to my volunteer gig reading with kids in Ruby's fifth grade class every other week. There is a reason--a major one that starts with C and sounds like 'ryrus'--that I only agreed to do this on the days I had babysitting. But a friend asked me to trade her this week, and I owed her a favor.

"What's the worst that can happen?" I thought. I see moms at the school with toddlers all the time. And I know Cyrus loves watching the iPad, so that should do the trick--not.

Right when I walked into the classroom he wriggled out of my arms and took off down the hall. And this kid is FAST. We are talking get-up-on-your-toes-pump-your-arms-and-sprint to catch him fast. The teacher asked, "Which student do you need first?"

"Ruby! To chase her brother down the hall," I replied. Ruby took off down the hall, only to find him in the sixth grade classroom.

We made it through a few students with him watching the iPad, eating every piece of gum in my purse, and unraveling a whole container of floss. Phew. Survivable so far, right? This is number 5, and I'm beyond embarrassment for such little things.

But then when he started spitting the gum out on the floor and running away every time I turned my attention to a student, it was too much. The worst of those was just all the way down two halls, trailing floss, with only a janitor and another mom to stare at me as I ran by. After that one I decided to tell Mrs. Thompson it was a lost cause and I'd have to leave. But as I tried to clean up he wriggled away from me and ran away one more time. I put on my best sprinter form and took off after him, but it was too late! I watched him round the corner into the sixth grade classroom and heard the giggles begin. I ran in only to be caught in a ridiculous game of dodge-mom-around-the-desks with Cyrus. The giggles got louder as the kids saw I had no chance of getting to him. Finally I cried "It's not funny! Stop him!" One boy took mercy on me and cornered him. As I picked him up and ran out of the room, I heard the torrent of laughter erupt behind me. I think I heard the teacher say something about how I just made their day. Good thing she saw it that way:)

Just another day's work with Cyrus. This number 5 is giving me a run for my money!

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Too Much

I am so tired of being utterly maxed out every. single. day. I long to live a less eventful life.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

OOPS! Sorry—Head over next door . . .

UPDATE: I just made my private blog public for now. I haven't written much there, and looking back on the few posts I don't feel there's anything all that private. I'm working on a book about our story now, so blogging more at my writing blog, everymagicseed.com.

Sorry sorry sorry, everybody! I finally pulled the trigger and went private, and then immediately didn't feel good about it. There are so many struggling adoptive families out there getting no real, true perspectives that I hated the idea of all my old posts suddenly being harder to find. I decided to create a second, private blog instead. So that's why your email got bombarded again. I invited you all next door to my"quiet" blog, at swensensaysitquietly.blogspot.com.

This blog will continue to stay public, and will include all sorts of different things, especially about our upcoming house build. The other blog with be invitation only, and will contain the more difficult stuff that is harder to share publicly, especially about difficult parts of our adoption. Again, I am happy to let anyone read it as long as they email me and ask, and are reading in the right spirit. It's all just about protecting my kids' privacy.



Private: the Sequel

Ok, Ok, so it's a little ridiculous that it took me six months to get around to taking my blog private. I had to let it simmer, right? I apologize—thanks for sticking with me. I extended an invitation to everyone for whom I could find an email address.

If you would like to be added at any time—even if you're a new reader I haven't met before—shoot me an email at emilymabey@gmail.com.

There were a few of you whose email addresses I couldn't find:

Stephensen Celebrations
Jennifer Bruner (didn't know if you wanted me to use Garths?)

Just email me and I'll add you.

Thanks, everybody!

Monday, June 10, 2013


Hey All,

There is so much in my heart that I would like to share, but feel I can't if I don't want my children's lives to be completely public. Maybe it doesn't matter, but it worries me enough that it keeps me from posting. So, I've decided to either take this blog private, or create a new, private blog. I have no problem with anyone who is interested following me there--I just want to be able to know who is reading.

I don't want to quit blogging, because now more than ever I need a place to record what's in my heart. But for the past couple of years my blog hasn't allowed me to do that freely, because I've been too afraid of violating my kids' privacy. So, if you'd be interested in following our journey, go ahead and comment. I'll add you when I make the blog private.

Thanks so much for all your love,


Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Persecution Complex

I think the main difference between having a persecution complex when you're younger and having one when you're older is acknowledgement. When you're young and naive and new to the world of persecution, you are positive you don't have a complex—you are sure it's true. People are, in fact, conspiring to judge you harshly, and the world really is out to get you. Fast-forward a decade or two, and you've got a lot more life experience under your belt. You are quite sure that you're too mature and secure in your own skin for persecution complexes, thank you very much. And then, one day, you realize you are knee-deep in one. This happened to me today. I have spent the past little while feeling frustrated and alone in some ways, and thinking lots of people were judging me and my family harshly. How could this be? I have tried hard to be kind and honest, and I'm pretty much an open book. Aren't people less likely to talk about me if it's easy to talk to me? I thought I had accumulated enough good will for people to give me the benefit of the doubt if they didn't understand my decisions, or something they heard about me or my children. But then you hear whisperings of things said by people who don't even know you, and the immortal words of Buffalo Springfield come true: paranoia strikes deep. After a few weeks of paranoia, you're in a full-blown persecution complex. So, here it is, but this time I'm admitting it to myself. I'm feeling a little persecuted by the world. I want to run away. So, what's the psychological antidote learned from all those years of life experience? Having been raised by my particular mom and grandma, it's not hard to come up with a bunch, and quickly: "Nobody likes me, everybody hates me, I think I'll go eat worms!" "I'm sorry for myself, so sorry for myself." "There's only so much pity to go around. Best not to waste it all on yourself." I can sing these antidotes over and over to myself, and hope the persecution fever breaks. It will. It's silly! Shouldn't the very acknowledgement of it render it powerless? Ah, but there's a twist I didn't recognize. When I was young, I felt persecuted on my own behalf. That's just plain self pity. Now, I feel persecuted on behalf of my children, and my efforts to do the best by them. That's a new strain of the virus entirely. It's tougher to beat. It's still self pity—I'm aware of that. But it's a lot more potent. So what do you do? How do you shake it? I can't run away. And I can't let myself wallow.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Driveway Sledding

Driveway sledding, after dark, in 6 degree weather: pretty darn awesome.
Having your grandpa join you on the hill: unforgettable.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

21-month-old Track Star

Cyrus is a crazy fun baby. He ran all the way from Disneyland to our hotel (half mile) in his squeaky shoes. People just starred and chuckled all along the route. Jasper made this video of it.

Recent Assignments I've Been Given at Work

Surf YouTube
Surf Buzzfeed
Surf Mashable
Spend more time on Pinterest

Yep. My job is pretty cool.

Saturday, December 29, 2012


Being at Disneyland again this week reminds me that Saffron and Willa don't have any of the typical fears of other kids their age. There is not one single roller coaster, or scary ride, or scary movie, or even unfamiliar, pitch-black motel room that could ever scare either of them. These things don't phase them one bit.

On the other hand, a couple of weeks ago Saffron couldn't find me for a few minutes at Target and was truly petrified. She cried, she was so shaken up by it.

Still many things . . .

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Runaway Mothers Club--Epilogue

Two years ago I wrote a post about a dear friend who was my inspiration for a "runaway mother's club." That precious friend, Kim Walton, no longer needs to run away. Yesterday she left us for another place. Huntington's Disease won't have Kim to kick around anymore. I am happy she is released--but there is a whole in my heart. I will miss her terribly.

I will not say Rest in Peace to someone who so longed to move again. Instead I say, "Kim, walk, and run and play and do a back handspring in peace! And be you again--the whole, amazing you." I love you.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Second Week of January, 2012

As far as I'm concerned, this week can just be erased from the history books.

3 different situations with 3 different kids = 1 no good, very bad week.

Parenting is agony sometimes. We went to see We Bought A Zoo tonight and I could hardly handle it--cried hard through much of it. That is, when I wasn't outside with the baby.

Ah, gees. Tomorrow is another day, and another week. Thank goodness.

Sent from my iPhone

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Reflecting on our Second Year

A couple of nights ago I was looking back through my journal entries of the past couple of years. It hit me that, unlike what I would have expected, the second year of our adoption was much harder than the first. In fact, I think that's probably why I blogged so much less. The first was plenty hard, as you all know. But it was a different hard, and somehow one that was easier talk about and in many ways easier to bear. It was a hard full of giardia, poop samples, medical frustrations, language frustrations, legendary tantrums, and constant adjustment. But I felt like a superhuman mom-archaeologist on the dig of a lifetime, who just had to keep pushing through to discover something wonderful.

This second year, it was like I was still on the same dig, swollen with bug bites, tired, slogging through mud, mud and more mud, and still not reaching the buried treasure. And I was no longer high on the excitement of my big dig. I needed results to keep my going--and I wasn't getting them. Last year the hard wasn't about intestinal bugs. The hard was feeling frustrated all the time--losing patience, losing hope some days, and losing my cool a lot. It was about feeling like a bad mom--feeling guilty all the time--and wondering why the good feelings weren't coming along to balance out the bad as fast as they needed to.

This is something hard to talk about, or blog about. It's something, frankly, that most people don't want to hear about. They don't want to believe it.

But now that we've begun year three, I'm optimistic. I feel like we're close to discovering the good stuff. It's just hard to hang in there for so long. But we are hanging in, and we will keep hanging in.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Look at Me, So You Can Feel Better About Your Post-Holiday Self

I think it's safe to say my house is as messy tonight as it's ever been in its entire life--or at least in it's entire life under my jurisdiction. These are the rooms I see ranking an absolute 10 on the disaster scale: KITCHEN, FAMILY ROOM, MY BEDROOM, LAUNDRY ROOM, and HALL. The rest may only rank as messy, but if those key rooms are that bad who can cheer themselves up about the rest, right? Having lived in many apartments in my life, I call the kitchen, family room, and my bedroom "the apartment." I've learned that if the apartment--where I spend the bulk of my time--is messy, I feel pretty bummed about the whole house. SOOOO, do you think I spent the day cleaning my house? NOPE! Steve and I spent the last day of the holiday cleaning out the shop on our back patio. Why? Because that's what we do. Projects. Too Many Projects!


Tomorrow I'll have everything I need: kids back in school, a new book to listen to from the audible.com account I got for Christmas, and I am off to the races. I am a cleaning machine! I will clean, the whole world will look brighter, and I might even let you in this time if you ring my doorbell.

So please take this opportunity to feel better about yourself by comparing you to me: today you were a better housekeeper than Emily. I know, they say not to compare yourself to others to build yourself up--but I'm giving you my permission to step on me on your way up the ladder to self-contentment. But just this once, please. :)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

One Week in 2007

"Out, out, brief candle. Life's but a walking shadow." ~macbeth
Happy 4th Birthday, Charles.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

The Molecules that Make up Eternity...

This is the kind of moment for which I posted those photos the other day. I looked up from the dishes, out the kitchen window, to see Jasper on the grass with the baby. I knew I had to pause, and drink it in. I saw the bookends of a decade of effort to build a family, and all the craziness disappeared for a moment. I felt peaceful. I felt grateful.