Friday, September 22, 2017

hate. and things I can't change.

6 months ago today. Auggie died. And that is not changeable.

He is still gone. And we are still here. Most days, we are good. We do life and fart jokes and weird competitions and school and activities. But, on days that mark Auggie's death...Honestly, I just kind of hate those days.

I really hate today.
There is no logic in it. I can recognize that.
I hate it like I hate the hotel I was in when I listened to the doctor telling Nigel (in person) and me (on the phone) that there was nothing left to try. I hate the Newark airport, where the girls and I flew from to go home to a house without Auggie in it. I hate his empty chair that that I cannot give away. It is Auggie's. It cannot belong to anyone else. Yet.

Tomorrow, I can breathe again. I will survive today. Maybe not graciously. But I will.

Today, I am working very hard on concentrating on the good.
The many smiles. The sweet humanity in our home.
The happy face of Auggie that greets me in pictures on the wall.
But the hate is still in my head today. An ever-permeating cloud...I am working on it.

So today, I am searching. Because I DO know that there is still goodness and beauty.
There is still light...even in this day's darkness, Auggie's light still bounces around our house with regularity. It is within our precious memories, the laughter we find so freely, the tears we cry in happiness and pain.

Sweet moms.
Sweet moms that live this life.
The life that is unreal and insanely unfair.
I see you.
Even worse, I feel you.
I don't want to, just like you don't want to.
But I do. 

There is light. Even if it is hard to find. Or feel. It is there. 
Sometimes in the fleeting smile. In the small, cool breeze.
In the loved, but unwelcome reminder that we are one less.
And always will be. 

It is in the tiny things that we can locate some comfort.
And I love it. And I hate it.
And I am not sure that will ever change.

Monday, June 26, 2017

our American life.

Hello sweet friends, 

Life has been so weird of late. Auggie is still gone. We are still here.
Corban and I went to NYC for meetings. I thought Judsen and Joe were going to come with me too, but when I offered they said New York is the city and it smells wonky.
They are kind of right. NYC in June does emit a certain funky aroma. 
I felt good about going, because it was with Children's Rights.
And I really just love them. 

If I am painfully honest, I felt a little freaked out. The last time I went to New York, Auggie died. But that is not the point of this post.

A brief life-update:

Asher goes to his ABA program and LOVES it. He only uses me as his personal toilet every-other-day, which is a drastic improvement from multiple times a day...right? I will take the progress. 

Adam breaks things and asks for two snacks. Not one. One would be insufficient. 
He is also entirely obsessed with being a chicken farmer. He gets his boots on every morning and cries and cries by the door if he is not a morning-time chicken checker.

Joe and Judsen are at the farm most mornings. They love the outside, dirt bikes, vehicles (of any kind), the chickens, and all things that are not inside chores or schoolwork.

Mia has become a talented artist. She draws and paints and texts her friends. She is almost a teenager and reminds me of this every day. When she turns 13, we will have five teenagers. This is not funny. 

Corban is writing original poetry. He reads.  He reads some more. He asks for new books and reads more. Sometimes he swims. And then he reads again. 

Celee drives all the places and sings at church and dances and works part-time for Nigel organizing. She is beautiful and responsible and I cannot even handle all of this.

TC is in his grown-man school figuring out grown-man things and learning to be a commercial diver.  He lives states away from us now. And I over-text him. And over-call. And he tolerates me. And I really love that. 

Largely, life is normal. And that seems abnormal. But maybe not. 

Having things to do.
Everyone in our family has their things-to-do. And they are doing well. And getting older and seemingly wiser. I think, while Auggie was alive, his needs filled a lot of time. I did his scheduling, his doctors' appointments, his therapy. It isn't specific to special-needs moms, it is just being a mom. Your kid needs something, you meet the need. Am I right? I didn't mind. It is a busy-ness that many friends are familiar with. It isn't bad, it is reality. And I was happy to be the one to do it. But, with Auggie gone, it really has left a peculiar void for the days and I am unsure how to fill that space. Or if I even need to.

Right now, I drink lots of coffee. I have discovered Salted Caramel Mocha Creamer...and friends, consumption is HIGH. I write a lot. And read a lot. I periodically aggravate DSS with foster parent and child advocacy questions and requests. I hang out with kids. I have some days where it seems as though nothing is required of me. And I really do not like it. Is it odd that I am less productive? I feel like I have excessive time to get everything done and then I am late getting it done. My logical brain cannot make sense of this phenomenon. So basically, I annoy myself.

The things we hear.
We have people say all the time, "I grieve for you" and "I feel so sorry for you."  I know the meaning is good. I know the heart is right. I KNOW THIS. I am sorry for me too, sometimes. But my kids. When the kids hear someone feels sorry for us they are quite confused. Last week, we ran into a very kind acquaintance at the grocery store, and she said she was so sorry and felt so bad. I smiled and thanked her and said we were doing okay...and one of my children inquired, "Did you know Auggie?" The woman responded that she hadn't. And that same child pointedly said, "Well, then don't feel sorry for me, I feel sorry for YOU." (cringe) I am so sorry sweet, sweet lady. It was said rudely. I just wasn't sure how to correct that in that exact moment. I think I was a little happy and a little horrified and just not quite sure how to proceed.

All the talking.
We are a talk-y family. We TALK. A lot. Given our grouping of people, it is the only way we can function. We have meetings. The kids have meetings. I have meetings with the kids. The laundry room is my "office" and we will meet there to discuss hard subjects as needed. We think through difficult and painful scenarios in alternatives. And the alternative in Auggie's situation is that he starved to death, alone in an orphanage. That means we never would have known him. His face. His giggle and that big, fat grin. We never would have known him. And that would have been the true tragedy.

The things we learn.
Auggie broke our hearts. He did. But not just when he died. Auggie opened our eyes to the lying-down rooms in orphanages. I had heard and read about them. But there is nothing that prepares you for rows of children-that-look-like-infants-but-aren't in cribs with blanket-covered plywood as a mattress. There is no accurate, relatable manner in which to convey the horror of slightly-living bodies wrapped in rags.

I left that orphanage acutely aware that I had lived a life entirely unaware. 
How could the world miss this? And how did I? 
The things I see.
What I am seeing emerge in our children here is deep, genuine gratitude (and maybe sometimes rude gratitude). But gratitude nonetheless. The younger Irons are better humans than I am, and always have been. Many times, I have to sincerely search for gratefulness, but it is always there. It lives beneath the sad and selfish. When I find it, it disperses new life and energy into the fold. Gratitude is contagious. 

Weird and new things.
I am watching all the weird things happen. Children maturing. Moving out. Becoming seniors. Turning into teenagers. Starting middle school. Learning to communicate and start real big-boy class. This breathing life is for the living. It goes on. And it is weird. 
And good. And tragic. And so, so beautiful.

As our kids grow, I am witnessing them digging deep within their own experiences and finding commonality with other wounded and healing souls. The injustices in their lives connecting freely and naturally with others living similar circumstances. I love having a front row seat to these events. These experiences make me smile and can assuage the still-raw spirit.

Looking forward.
And this is where we find ourselves, in our American life. With lots of fun and funny children. Missing one tiny boy, and knowing that will not change. There is no remedy in this lifetime. Only in the next. That has to be okay. And it is. 

Please do not misplace your grief for us. Aim it at the ones that truly need your heartache...those languishing in foster care. Those alone in asylums. The hungry. The starving. The abused and ignored. Find these people and be the solution. These humanitarian and civil rights tragedies can be solved in our lifetime. But not by angry social media rants. As in all crises, only action evokes change. So my friends, let's get to work.

Many blessings.



Tuesday, May 9, 2017

parenting. more. and better. and being good livers.

Friends, these past weeks I have found myself holding my tribe close. Maybe annoyingly so. It has made me think about how I parent. And how I used to parent. And what exactly I am trying to cultivate in our kids and our family.

I am not sure I could have answered that very clearly a few years ago.
Because I really didn't know.

Parenting in the beginning. 
In the beginning, I was super concerned about behavior. Are you saying please, thank you? Did you shake hands? Did you introduce yourself without being prompted? Did you leave McDonald's without screaming your head off? Did you accept consequences without throwing a fit? These were my worries.

It was a very superficial way to parent. My kids behaved, most of the time.
But I am not sure they knew why they behaved, except that maybe they would get in trouble if they didn't. And sometimes that is okay. Sometimes not.

The metamorphosis. 
The parenting change came slowly, over time. A molasses-like evolution that is a direct result of our children schooling me in the arts of kindness, compassion, and resiliency. These younger-than-me people taught me about a world beyond my comfortable life and my selfish wants.

It is still a difficult lesson. And I am still learning.
This manner of living  has created a singular focus in our family for people living marginalized lives. Living my white-ish life with all of the privileges is not necessarily real. Assuming that others have our same opportunities is absolutely not real. And living with the people I live with, makes these realities impossible to ignore.

While we evaluated and re-evaluated and adjusted our parenting to better suit our particular children, we tried to pinpoint exact lessons, for everyone's benefit. (especially me, I am not good with subtle lessons.

One constant theme we came 
back to again and again:
We need to know where we want to go
and have a plan to get there.  
This applies to being a kid. And an adult. 
We started implementing this idea in our parenting. 
What kind of kids are we trying to raise here? 
And what kind of kids do I not want to raise? 
And how do we get there? 

Parenting now. 
I do not want to raise whining, sniveling children frightened by every shadow.
Sometimes there are fights that should be fought. Wars that should be declared. Sometimes we must chase the shadows. We must be the light for lives marred and darkened by trials and tragedy.

As Nigel and I are getting older-ish, I am more and more unimpressed with talkers and complainers. I am more interested in do-ers. I want to raise children that DO. Life-livers, not just passive observers.

"I want to raise children that DO.

Life-livers, not just passive observers. 
More and better. 
A few days ago, Corban was having a particularly hard time with Auggie's death, as we all do at times. And I asked him, "Corb, could you have loved Auggie more or better than you did?" Corban responded, "No, but I could have loved him longer." 
 In our situation, Corban's answer is the absolute best I could hope for. That is exactly how I want to live. And how I want my kids to live. As a lover of people. All people. I want to know that we couldn't have loved more or better. That we said yes, even when we choked on the word. That we chose to GO. That we chose to DO. Even when it wasn't ideal.

I don't want the kids to spend their days protecting themselves from the possibility of failure or heartache. I want them to dive head first into this life. To love bravely. Without spending time to think: this might hurt.  I want my humans to know the valuable part of this life is found in what we are willing to give.

This does not mean that we will always get it right. There is no place for perfection in this arena. Only, what I hope, is a true, earnest effort to love people.

The plan. And how to get there. 
The plan is to raise functional, society-contributing adults. Getting there means taking risks on humans. This is how we find and promote justice, peace, joy, and kindness to the generations beyond us. I am realizing there may be no risks too outlandish for the sake of humans in the brutal periphery. I know my children would agree. Kids are always the first ones on board with any scheme that involves people. They want to adopt first, to foster first, to invite people to live with us first...while I drag behind them, weighing the cost and potential disasters, they charge ahead.

We get to there by saying yes. By giving grace. By correcting wrongs, teaching forgiveness. By loving those around us. By doing hard things because that is what is right.

I want to be fearless like the minors that occupy my house and life. I want to love bravely, to choose what is hard over what is convenient. In the end, I want to be able to answer the question "Could you have loved more or better than you did?" with an honest NO.

Parenting is hard. Life is hard. We spend our days fretting about irrelevant subject matter. Being entirely drawn in to unimportant frivolities. I am hopeful that we are getting closer to what matters. Because I really want to paint a picture of service and kindness and justice for our children. Of brokenness and love. A life given up and poured out for another. A life loving well and being well-loved is well lived. And that is where we are going. I hope.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Lasts. And Auggie's legacy.

We are still here.

The kids all have their moments of sadness. And that is okay. We talk about Auggie a lot. He affected so much of our day-to-day activities. And it just feels weird with the gaping absence of Auggie, comes the empty minutes of the day, where I find myself seeking activity or sleep. The wide open expanse of time is foreign. And I am unsure of what that looks like long-term.

Our house is strange to me. I see Auggie's possessions. His tiny clothes. His medical equipment. His crib. His pillows and blankets. I see them, but not Auggie, and I am not sure that will ever be normal. I cling to the little remembrances. Even the things I used to find exceedingly annoying. The last hospital bill. The last of his laundry. The last phone call to cancel his doctors' appointments.

I have lots of odd questions. We applied for Auggie's passport the week before he died. What happens to that? Does he still get one? Will I find his sweet face on a passport in the mail this week? Adam and Asher's passports have arrived. And I assume, if Auggie's passport was approved, that his will be here soon.

Logic and emotion.
I find some solace in the communication from so many that are now interested in the realities of children without families. For some reason, Auggie's death pushed families considering adopting or fostering into families committed. And I do like that.

I have always been logical. My husband finds it wildly irritating. That is what comes as a byproduct of having George as my dad. I know the chances in this life of dying are 100%. No one will escape. I also know that we were told Auggie's life expectancy was likely shorter than most.  But my emotions, my heart...I just want to hold my teeny boy.

In our family, he was spoiled. If we put him down, he pouted and fussed. SO spoiled. I single-handedly did that to him. And I am not even a tiny bit sorry about it. He was attached to a human being almost all day. When we first met him, he hyperventilated every time I picked him up. It was so extreme, that I had to face him away from me for him to tolerate being touched at all. It was all I could do to keep from squeezing him and squishing him close to me. His terror later dissolved into needing and wanting to be around familiar humans at all times. Which is entirely amazing.

I can get angry at the injustice of it all. The fact that Auggie spent 4 years and 7 months being systematically starved, almost to death. He was alone. Entirely alone. He is the weakest, strongest person I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.

Going forward. And all the questions.
We get invasive questions at times, and that is okay sometimes and sometimes not...I can forget that we are somewhat conspicuous. Our normal is not everyone's normal. So, let me clear up a few things all in one big blob:

Our kids are doing pretty well. We don't need any food, but we do love company. Yes, there are thousands of children like Auggie, he was not the exception. If international adoption is not for you, there are 104,000 children in the U.S. foster system that need a family.  If you really need to bring us something, bring toilet paper or ranch dressing, we never seem to have enough. Auggie's body was not at his memorial service because we allowed our kids to decide what they were most comfortable with...and the consensus was that they wanted him cremated and to be in our house, with us. I don't know if we will adopt again. We might. But I am feeling a little gun-shy at present. 

This will be another last for me. The last blog dedicated entirely to Auggie and grief. His life is over, but his story is not. I cannot re-live and re-think and second guess Auggie for the entirety of my life. Auggie was beautiful and brave. He demanded and possessed courage and patience...qualities that remain elusive and unnatural to humans, and only seem to emerge through sufferings and hurts.

I am not sure I can ever properly explain the impact our boy has had.
I hope he inspired others to step blindly, to reach into the darkness, unseeing, unknowing...
To go and do. 
I stated before that the time is now...but that isn't correct. I was so wrong. The time has long passed, and we have missed the boat. Children are dying. And not dying like Auggie did...loved, warm, protected, fed, with a family...They are dying alone.
This is not okay. This will never be okay. 

Auggie was and is interesting to the public, his life considered a humanitarian anomaly. Even though that isn't accurate. Some of Auggie's story is quiet and reserved and will remain with us. He was our son, our brother, grandson, nephew, cousin, friend. We knew him. His quirks, his likes, his dislikes. His pooping habits. His ticklish spots. We knew him.  And now, he isn't here.

And I am attempting gratitude. Even in this choking grief.
Gratitude for the short life that blessed our family. 
For all the hard things we thought we couldn't do, but we absolutely could.
We learned patience. And courage. Lessons Auggie learned years ago, and modeled so well.
We learned to speak for those with no voice.Whether it was popular or not.
We are learning to choose gratitude, even when we have a hard time feeling it.
We saw our hurting boy be bold and brave. And so we learned we could do that too.
I will hold these lessons dear for the remainder of my life, until I see my son again.
This is Auggie's legacy.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Being okay.

Hello my friends,

It has been one week.
We are okay. Not great, not whole. But we are okay.
And I will call that pretty good for the moment.

I keep going back to the thought that this is not where I expected to be right now.
I expected Auggie to live much longer.
I hurt.

Can your spirit physically ache? I think it can.

The kids have gone back to doing lessons and chores and real life.
And I have too.
We are sluggish at times. But we are getting it done.
One step, one thing at a time.

I was asked if I knew all of what I know now, would I do it again?
Yes. Absolutely.
A million times again.
There are zero scenarios we can dream up in which we would not want Auggie.
Heartache and all. Hospital visits. Ambulance trips. Sleepless nights.
All of it. I take all of it. Willingly.

There is a dark side of humans. One rarely discussed, and often-times underplayed and unknown.
In the states, we see it again and again in the foster system. Abroad, in orphanages, asylums and institutions. Where children are invisible. Hidden away. Where life is marginalized to meeting only the bare minimum (or less) of what is required to live. Much less thrive. This is not acceptable.
But our actions communicate otherwise.

Fairness, unfortunately, has little bearing on what happens in this world. Although, I am not entirely sure that is always bad. Many of us are unfairly privileged. Enjoying and even expecting comforts precious few humans will ever experience. The problem comes when we hold on to these privileges so tightly, feeling life is unfair if we are not readily given and gifted what we want...while knowing masses of humans lack what they need.

Hundreds of thousands of children have no home. No family. No person to call their own.
These children need you. They need me.
Be a voice. Be an advocate. An activist. Be a family.
Refuse to allow this tragedy to continue into another generation. 
We are the ones that can change this

It can be hard and dirty work.
You will lose your heart. You will lose your soul. You will hurt.
But, I promise you, in the end, you will know, it was worth it.
Decide now, that as functional adults, merely breathing in and out until the end of our life is not good enough. It never was. Because a life lived only for you, is not a life at all. 

Right now. I cling to what I know.
I know I am raw. And we are wounded. My mind is foggy and I seem to be forgetting things that I don't usually forget. I know that I miss Auggie. And I know I have to function because we have other sweet kids that are also hurting. This is not just about me.

I know that I want Auggie to be more than just some planetary blip.
I know that one of my biggest fears is that he will be forgotten.
His remarkable story dying quickly, like him.

I know that each of our kids has transformed us in some way.
Auggie is no different.
His needs were so unique. His story so unbelievable.
He was the boy that lived.
And we are blessed beyond measure to have called him son. 

Thank you, friends. For your kind words. Your food deliveries. Your company. Letters. Flowers.
Thank you for answering your phone at unmentionable hours when I couldn't sleep. Thank you for crying with us, laughing with us. Thank you for sharing this unexpected and surprising life with us.

I am so grateful.
Many blessings,


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

March 22, 2017

I left the morning of the 21st to take the girls on a birthday trip to New York and have some meetings with Children's Rights. When I left Auggie was smiling. Happy. Squirmy.
And I kissed his fat cheeks and told him I loved him as we hurried out the door.

That night Auggie became lethargic and unresponsive. He was taken to the hospital where he seemed to rebound a bit. He was then set to be transferred to the large children's hospital. While in the ambulance, en route, Auggie's heart stopped. They did CPR and diverted to a closer hospital to get immediate care for him.

Auggie never regained consciousness.
We are awaiting results to determine cause of death. But right now, it seems that Auggie
had a virus attack his heart. And he just wasn't strong enough to fight it off.

I was on the phone in a New York City hotel room listening to doctors and nurses administer epi-shots and use a defibrillator on my precious boy. I was on the phone when the doctor came over to Nigel, who was with Auggie, to let us know that they had done everything they could. And that he was so sorry.

The girls and I packed up and left for the airport within an hour or so. And found ourselves back home by 10AM on the 22nd.

Today is still the 22nd.
Auggie died today.

I didn't want to be this person.
The person whose child died before them.
But I am.

I was so angry at first. And then sad. And then angry again.
From what I understand, this will continue for awhile. 

I want to get stuck in this question. And I really can. But the true answer is that I am not excused from pain. Neither was Auggie. Or you. None of us are. 

What now...
Now we try to heal. We cry. We laugh.
We tell Auggie stories.
Because there are no new Auggie stories to be made.  
And that crushes me.

We plan a funeral.
And I hope everyone will come and celebrate this miraculous life.

Right now, I want to know Auggie's life had meaning. That there is purpose.
For me, Auggie changed my world.
He is singularly responsible for challenging my faith daily.
He tested my patience. He tested my ability to function on two hours of sleep.

Auggie made me smile. And cry. A lot.
He made me brave.

I am grateful for this brief little life that blessed our family. 
I will miss him. His smile. His squawk. His beautiful face.


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

TC. Foster care. His younger-self letter. And all the tears.

For a long time, foster children and foster care systems have been a part of my life. It has been 25 years since I was introduced to my first foster sibling. And 12-ish years since my husband and I became licensed foster parents for the first time.

As a child, I was confused by the grief and fury that I saw coming in and out of our house. As an adult, it completely makes sense.

My oldest son, TC, is an emerging grown-up. I cannot even handle this.
I sometimes still feel like he should still be 9-years-old.
Angry. Sad. Hurting. All the stealing.
Using thievery to make sure he could provide for himself in case I failed to do so.
Covering up his fright with false bravado.

As he has grown older and wiser, 
he has begun working through what being tangled up in foster care means. 
What it feels like. 
What it looks like. 
How it bleeds into adulthood, staining joys with tinges of sorrow. 
Sometimes inexplicably. 

TC sent me this letter a few months ago, while he was wrestling with his reality.
I am sharing it, with his permission (the only way I share things).

Take a minute to see the foster life through the eyes of someone who has been there.
And survived. 

And then multiply. Times about 104,000, 
the number of children available for adoption in America. 

Or multiply by about 400,000,
the number of children in foster care in this country.

While you read, know that every 2 minutes a child will enter foster care.
And many of these children will be separated from their siblings, not just their parents. And remember that there is an enormous lack of appropriate, licensed, experienced homes available. So foster children go into congregate care. Or emergency shelters. Or hospitals. Or caseworkers' office floors. Temporary placements become the permanent plan.

This is not okay.
This has never been okay. 

Read, friends.
And then DO. 

Dear Younger Me,

You are 6 years old right now. You don't really know what is going on. Drugs are coming in and out of the house. You are watching your mom getting abused. You think it's normal. You are always moving. You don't know, but your life is about to change. You are about to wish you were dead. Don't run or hide. Just let them take you.

Don't believe the people that say they love you. Always, always take care of your brother and sister. Don't lose them. Because for the next 2 years, they are going to be the only thing you have. And you will get separated. 

You are going to be going from foster home to group home to mom to group home to foster home to group home. It is a cycle. You are going to feel like you don't belong. And you don't. No one in foster care belongs in foster care. For a long time, you won't know what good is. Even if it hits you square in the face.

You are going to let your past define you. Don't do that.
You are going to lie to people and tell them that you are okay. But you aren't.
Don't do that either. 

You know deep down that our whole situation is tearing you apart.
It's hard. Yes, I know. But you are going to have to ask for help. 
Learn how to control your anger.

A healthy relationship is something you may never have with your mom. You are going to wonder why you lost something you never had. You are going to be sitting in a room, required by a judge, to visit a parent you don't know, while a visitation supervisor is watching, taking notes. 

As you get older, you will think your life is a joke. But that's where you are wrong. Yes, it feels like hell. But trust me, it gets better. You are going to live with a foster family. You don't know it yet, but they will be your forever family. So, get to know them. And like them. I know you've been through some b.s. But, at this point, you are just happy to have food in your stomach, clothes on your back, shoes on your feet, and a roof over your head. 

The thing that will confuse you the most is the question: Do you want to be adopted?
Say, yes. Don't hesitate. 
You know that the situation that you were in was definitely not healthy for you. 
Trust me. It's worth it. 

Yeah. You are going to be struggling with pain and always with the what ifs.
But, just know, you can't fix anything. You are a kid. Mom did what she thought was best. Except for the fact that she's gone. She is not coming back. 

Christy and Nigel are your new mom and dad.
You will say and think: I wish I was never adopted and you don't love me.
Stop. Because if that were true you would still be in a group home or switching from foster home to foster home. You have a SECOND CHANCE at life. Take it and embrace it. 

You will do stupid stuff. It is going to take time for you to know that God has a plan for you.

Younger me, I wouldn't change one thing about our life.
Because we wouldn't be where we are now. 

Love like crazy, because it makes you happy. 
Show your family you can succeed. Because you can. And they always knew it
Be honest. Be kind. Be humble.
And for Pete's sake, think twice. 

We can do this.