To See a Rare and Special Thing

I’m a preschool teacher now. It’s not something I ever would have predicted for myself, but here I find me. I have wanted to write about that experience, but sort of wanted it to exist in a world away from adoption—but since it’s just more of my story, that rings a little false. So here I am, preparing to write my present.

I still see Cricket once a year, in November; last year, he mentioned casually that he always likes coming to Queen City, and that meant a lot to me. Otherwise—well. Several years ago, I asked Ruth for no contact on Mother’s Day weekend; I was careful, and polite, but let her know that it is only painful at a time when I wish to celebrate with my two younger boys. She sends me a message on Mother’s Day weekend every year—other than that, the visit and a couple of planning emails beforehand are our only contact.

Joey is eight and a half now, and a sweet, funny kid who is also pretty destructive; he sees no reason to go along with any rules, and his feelings are always completely expressed. He did finally toilet train just before his eighth birthday, which is great; he’s becoming more aggressive with me, but he isn’t bigger than I just yet, so we’re handling it.

Kit is getting ready to start first grade, and intends to be a basketball star. He practices every day, rain or shine, so we’re going to go ahead and put him on a team this fall. He’s really bloomed this year, and it’s been astonishing to see. Kit is actually how I ended up teaching; I volunteered one a day week in his pre-K class to try to help him and his teacher (mixed results: at the beginning of kindergarten, he kept telling his teacher that he was going to destroy her) and loved it so much that I applied for an aide position for his kindergarten year—and loved THAT so much that when the preschool teacher I worked with gave her notice, I applied for and got her job. Bananas. But it turns out to be the thing I didn’t know I was looking for.

Kit has horseback riding lessons on Saturday mornings; Joey looks forward to these as much as his brother does, because it means being allowed my phone the whole time. He invariably watches In The Night Garden, a BBC children’s show that is more completely aimed away from adults than anything else I’ve seen. This weekend he watched the same two-second clip over and over and over for about twenty minutes; this is is not unusual Joey behavior, but it was a clip I haven’t seen him stuck on before. He made the narrator say, dozens of times, “to see a rare and special thing.” And I guess that’s about as apt a description of the best parts of being alive as I have ever seen.

Stranger Smatterings

I’ve been watching Stranger Things–I know, me and everyone else, right? But I’m going so, so slowly.



Here is Eleven:screen-shot-2016-08-25-at-12-57-37-pm

Here is my Joey:



So: A story about a child who can’t make herself understood and is in terrible danger from the world around her, and that child happens to look too much like my own. I can’t watch more than fifteen minutes at a time, which is obviously not how it’s meant to be viewed, but my God. If I could persuade Joey to smile for the camera, the resemblance would be even more clear.

We’re training a puppy to be a service dog for Joey; it’s going well, and the two of them are bonding. Kit and I were talking about kindergarten yesterday, and we were talking about the things that will change–uniforms! longer days!–and he said “And I won’t be able to talk anymore, like Joey.”

It’s only last year, for first grade, that I really accepted Joey’s fashion sense; as you can see above, he likes color, leggings, and Disney princesses. His teachers are accepting and love him, and he’s had much less trouble than you might expect, knowing that we live in the Ozarks. Now I’m figuring out summer clothes, and being sad once again that there’s very little that Joey can pass down to Kit–Kit also likes leggings, but I’ve carefully screened him from outside opinions on that choice, and he only wears leggings at home. His classmates would be unkind–and Kit, unlike Joey, cares a great deal about that. Yes, I worry that I’m failing at progressivism on this issue. If Joey ever decides that he understands that haters gonna hate and still wants to wear sparkly leggings out on the town, he will have my blessing. But man, am I not good at these gray spaces. I’m doing the most unexpected mental math; Joey might be trans* or genderqueer. That would be in keeping with essentially his whole life to date. Kit, I’m pretty sure, is not; I’m open to being corrected (by Kit), but for now, he loves robots and guns and dinosaurs and I couldn’t PAY him to nurture until we got a dog–he just also appreciates comfortable pants. He is so stereotypically boyish that I keep checking to make sure that I’m giving him options (he has purple shirts! the boys have dolls!).

I hear that they’re making more Blue’s Clues, and I’m thrilled. Joey is obsessed with Blue’s Clues, and I’m hoping that he’ll accept the new series as canon, maybe let it teach him some more. Give him a notebook, and odds are that he will write “make a poem” over and over again–this being what Blue wants to do in an episode on words. He draws clues; he dresses up like Steve.


What a year. Mister Book lost his job in late June, and is still out of work; my mother-in-law died; Kit needs to start therapy because he’s having so much social/emotional trouble in school; Joey might be trans, although it’s hard to figure out for sure with a mostly nonverbal kid, but Joey does always answer “Are you a girl or a boy/boy or a girl?” with “Girl.” Things feel pretty okay day to day, except for the jobless bit—Mister Book has been looking and looking, and still nothing. If he doesn’t find something by the end of the year, we’ll be in the tall grass.

But the thing that actually got me back here is that Ruth has suggested that she, Nora, and Cricket might come see us in November. I had said that they didn’t need to come if they don’t want to, and she told me that on the visit last year, she asked Cricket how it felt to be around his Book family. He said: “I feel like I’m finally home. When I look at them, I see myself.” So that’s a pretty good and intense reason to welcome the little dude, and I’m actually kind of looking forward to the visit for the first time in several years.

That said, I don’t actually know whether they’re coming in four weeks. Last year–the only time that they’ve visited us in Queen City–they left it very up in the air until more or less the moment before. That is not my favorite thing–but I’ve been doing a lot of renovation on the house, and will continue that, so at least we’ll look our best. I’ve learned that I love to put up wallpaper, which I suspect confirms my status as a strange lady, and I’ve started being able to do electrical stuff, which is marvelously handy. If Cricket is here in November, I think he’ll be pleased to learn that Kit has gotten into LEGO and Transformers, meaning that we have better toys to share. We also have enough room to host them, although I suspect they won’t take us up on that offer.


God has been good to us. I planted a cherry tree last week; we’re putting down roots in Queen City, and in our beautiful house, and I’m gardening every day. Over the winter, I lost the physical memory of how good it feels to garden. I’m digging holes and shifting stones and seeing tomato seeds sprout, and when my Little Sister asked why I don’t just get a gardener, I stared at her like she was speaking moon language. Money didn’t even come into my explanation—I love this work. I have plans through next spring for all the things I want to do, and I can’t wait. We’ve had lettuce for awhile; today I will pull radishes for supper. It’s miraculous.

We haven’t heard from Cricket’s family this year. I know that that should bother me, but—bad birth mom—I mostly feel relieved. They don’t like us, Cricket isn’t interested in us, and everyone’s busy. We’ll keep sending gifts at his birthday no matter what, but I’m comfortable leaving it at that for now. Yes, I should reach out; no, I’m probably not going to.

Joey’s been sick, but he’s getting better—I think passing this plague along to his parents helped him considerably. We had to give him tylenol, a rarity—I got to have a couple more conversations with pharmacists explaning that my son can’t take medication orally, no, really, he can’t. I use the phrase “my disabled son” to little affect. I find a compounding pharmacy! It’s not that I can’t get the medicine into him if I really have to—it’s that he finds taking medicine so upsetting that he will then start stress vomiting, which makes force feeding it to him counterproductive. Joey’s IEP meeting is coming up, but he laughed at a joke that I made the other day, and he’s still a sweet and cheerful dude. I’m interested to hear what his teachers have to say.

Kit is out on the deck with me now, eating a bomb pop. He’s quite a mix, that kid. He is now riding actual horses, not ponies, and without a guide rope; he also took his first fall and went back to his next lesson. He’s funny and imaginative and has an imaginary baby girl named Timmy Booties with whom he is very tender. He’s also going to have an extra year of preschool because he’s still hitting other kids at school pretty frequently, responding to friendliness with screams of rage, and inspiring his gentle and experienced teacher to ask me whether I’ve heard of oppositional defiant disorder. Since I have, I think I was able to talk her out of the label; Kit is very immature, and has figured out that displays of rage make people back off and give him a little breathing room. We’re working on it. One on one, he’s usually a dream. School is hard, though.

We’re trying to talk my mother-in-law into moving in with us, but we haven’t succeeded yet. She’s elderly and fragile and now much closer to completely blind; she won’t be an easy housemate, but I hope we can help her. And two blue jays just hopped up onto a tree near my head, and they’re gorgeous.

I’m tired, and I have Joey’s sick, but I can see my garden from here. My roses have aphids, but I will destroy them. We have a pet now, a free-range rabbit—a big one—named Hazel. With the weather so warm, I made limeade for the boys: sour and sweet and very popular in these parts. I’m lucky.


Howdy, all. I think I will drop the level of anonymity here a nitch: I’ll still use fake names, because there are some unusual names in our mix, and I’ll still put Cricket pictures behind a password, because I think his moms would prefer that. But here are Kit and I as pirate and ghost pirate, on our way to a Halloween party last night.


Hi there! These are not the Monday costumes; I won’t let Kit break out the Official Halloween Costume until literal Halloween, so he’s rocking costumes like fireman and pirate for all the pre-Halloween parties etc.–costumes put together from stuff we already have. He loves Halloween, and so we’re going to an unprecedented (for me) number for related events; tomorrow we will be visiting an arena where he has horseback riding lessons, where the horses will be in costume and the children will not, for trick-or-treating and hayrides.

Kit is getting lessons at two different equestrian centers right now; there is a local program that gives eight weeks of lessons to kids having emotional, stress, or communication troubles, and he was accepted into that program. I don’t know whether he’ll keep riding there once the free lessons are up–we’ll see. He is genuinely learning to ride, though. I didn’t expect my kids to be learning things I don’t know at age four, but it was bound to happen sooner or later. Things I have learned about horses this week: the bit between their ears is called the pole (poll?); you cannot wear a Halloween costume around an unprepared horse; barrel horses are not so named because of their bellies. I keep waiting to fall back in love with horses, but it turns out that mine was a mostly theoretical love in childhood, based around Black Beauty and the Black Stallion and Greatheart. Every week, I stand a couple of yards away from a pony while my son is in the tack room, and I wait to feel the pull–and instead I just reassure the gigantic, skeptical hoof-y dude that I will not touch him. [shrugs]

Kit is officially going to be redshirted for kindergarten; his school supports this decision. I love, love, love St. Blaise cathedral school, and I particularly love his teacher this year. Kit continues to be very young compared to other kids his age, but he’s growing and making friends (he has two!) and he loves to hear stories about Kit and his friend Bill the bird.

I’ll talk about Joey in another post, but did want to give a Cricket update; he is almost eight, which is bananas, and is coming to visit the weekend of Veterans’ Day. I don’t know exactly who is coming, or when—we’ve gotten pretty hands off, and just accept what is offered, which means that we haven’t gotten pictures in a year and a half, but we do Skype every once in awhile. At this point, we’re just trying to be available and have no expectations of Nora and Cricket—if Nora hadn’t planned a visit, we would not have asked. Kit is crazy about Cricket, but getting too invested in regular contact with the adoptive family is just not a good choice for any Book’s emotional health. It’s almost time to send birthday and Christmas gifts to Cricket, and I don’t have good ideas yet. There’s always LEGO.

I hope all y’all out there in radioland are having a good autumn.


Before I came inside to write this, Joey went into the backyard with me to feed the birds; I held the bag of peanuts and, once he was sure it was okay, he threw handfuls of them into the grass and laughed and laughed. Things are much harder with him these days: he doesn’t see any reason to follow household rules, so he hits, screams, throws things, climbs, and takes whatever he wants. He can’t have anything but a bed and soft toys in his room—we’ve had to take everything else out, piece by piece, ending when he finally stopped just emptying the dresser onto the floor and pulled the whole thing over. But he’s still his sweet, funny self. He just doesn’t feel any desire or pressure to hold back from doing exactly as he likes, and if we enforce rules, he is enraged. We’re going to be able to start ABA again soon, and we’ll be moving to a larger house this summer, which will help; this place is so just small that it’s hard to keep everything away from him.


I want more room for Kit’s sake, too; he’s about to be four, and I am realizing that he’d probably like to be able to have a bookshelf in his room, and maybe some toys. When he has his own room, I hope he and Joey will fight less, too. Of course they’ll fight—I had siblings, I know the score—but they’re scrapping like cats in a sack recently. Time to find a roomier sack.


Overall, things are good. Joey has been approved for disability, and my parents are coming in a couple of weeks to buy a house that they will rent to us and to my brother—we’re choosing a place that has a basement apartment. I’m actually looking at houses this afternoon. Feels pretty weird. Joey just finished a water music and movement class for disabled kids, and is about to start a season of baseball run by the same people—they are a completely amazing organization, and he loved the swim class. He’s started Special Olympics, and will be in school for all of June—since we’re moving houses, we still don’t know where he’ll be going to kindergarten, but I think full-time school is going to be good for him.


I’m on antidepressants again. I wrote and deleted a couple of blog entries about that, and I’m somewhat conflicted and a little disappointed, but after a month on drugs there can be no doubt that it was the right choice; within days, I just had so much more to give the kids and Mister Book. I’m okay now.


It looks like we’re going to get a Rottweiler puppy when Kit starts kindergarten (fall 2017); I kept looking into getting a service dog for Joey, and finally a woman who works with special-needs adults here in town asked what we wanted the dog to do and then told me that we should get a puppy (she recommended Rottweiler or pit bull) and train him ourselves. A purebred Rottweiler puppy might cost two thousand dollars, but a trained therapy dog costs ten times that, and my parents have offered to help us pay for him, so. We’re waiting until both kids are in full-time school so that I have the time to devote to really training him, but I’m looking into books and classes already. I very much want to do a good job. What we want the dog to do is to keep Pete from wandering away, provide companionship and emotional support, and intervene with friendly pressure when Pete is having a meltdown. Kit is still terrified of dogs, but I’ve been showing him Youtube videos of kids and Rottweilers, and he has conceded that those dogs seem like good dudes. One step at a time.


Kit is thriving. He loves school so much, and was so angry when I told him that school ends over the summer that I have signed him up for summer camp—he’ll spend about the same hours he does at preschool cooking and running around outside and being taught about recycling. He is so inquisitive and driven that I think a summer off would drive him bonkers. He’s chatty and sweet and funny and sometimes really bossy and unreasonable; it still seems like he just gets better and better, and while I don’t like being told (after forbidding him to do something): “Mama . . . you . . . are a monster,” I have to admit that it’s kind of funny. Since Joey gets to do all kinds of special things that he doesn’t (disability-related stuff), we’ve started each doing monthly dates with Kit—I went swimming with him and took him out for ice cream; next, Mister Book will take him to the trampoline park. He really treasures that one-on-one time, and it only seems fair that he get special outings of his own once in awhile.


Mister Book has grown Green-Arrow-style facial hair, and I find it adorable, which I would not have expected. I’m really just the worst spouse in this aspect: any change to your appearance is going to be initially off-putting. I hate every new haircut at first, and I am pretty bad at hiding that. But after a few days, I warmed up to the beardlet, and am now completely onboard.


Cricket seems to be doing well; we’ve Skyped a couple of times this year. Cricket and Kit enjoy each other enormously, and seem eerily alike—I decided just not to bring up a visit, but Nora recently told me that she’s starting to plan one. She asked whether we would want to come out there, and I had to explain that it’s really not an option with Joey these days; I think she’s planning to bring Cricket and her partner out here in the fall. Ruth sent me a long message a week or so ago, giving an account of our communication breakdown that was dramatically different from my memory and my interpretation of our messages at the time, which I reread after hearing from her; she said that she wants to be in contact, and I said that I’m not sure what that could look like, since we seem to understand and perceive things very differently. She said that we don’t have to agree, but she wants us to be in touch. I wrote back and said, well, okay, here’s how we are and have been: How are you? What’ve you been up to? She has not responded. That is okay. I was pretty angry after reading her first message—I’m not anymore, but I also don’t feel a strong need to be in contact. I don’t want to burn any bridges, but I don’t need to use this one, I think.


Thanks for the nudge. I hope you’re all doing well.


The shooting yesterday was at a Regional Center—not the RC that Joey used to go to, but not that far from it, either. There’s a lot of darkness right now, and so I am going to make a list post: small good things.


  • Joey got a (family) children’s museum membership from my parents for his birthday, and he loves it. It’s a good mix of information and play, I think. I just signed the kids up for a free member event: next Saturday they will decorate Christmas cookies and watch the city’s Christmas parade from the museum, which is right downtown and maybe three minutes from Kit’s school.
  • While I don’t love the culture hegemony of Queen City, it does mean that it is getting majorly Christmas-y in all public spaces, which the kids are enjoying. Kit is also doing a ton of Christmas stuff in preschool, because Catholic school. We had a really good drop-off this morning, and I think that once he’s past his current phase of threeness, he’ll be able to make these transitions with grace.
  • On Sunday, I am taking the boys to Caring Santa, which I hadn’t even heard of until this year. It’s a free event for special-needs kids and their families; a special Santa comes to the mall before the mall is open for a peaceful, gentle visit with the kids. It’s not loud, there aren’t flashing lights—just a chance to talk to Santa, but no pressure. We have a reservation, and I’m hopeful.
  • Today I paid our bills and then got Christmas gifts for the kids, and that is just such a good feeling. I have failed to let them down. Hooray!
  • I have been carefully trying to build some bridges between Kit & Joey and Mister Book’s family, and it is going well so far. Mister Book has cut off contact with some local family after some vile behavior on their part (first about the adoption, later about him moving away to marry me), and he isn’t interested in reestablishing. That’s fair. But I want everyone who possibly can to care about these boys, so that they have the biggest possible network of loved ones around them.
  • Joey has been doing really well recently, happy and sweet and fun to be around. He and I have been doing more things alone together while Kit is in school; I think we’ll go hiking together Monday or Tuesday.

I hope everyone out there is having a good winter, and keeping warm.

Happy Halloween!

It’s raining here–a cool, gray day, very pretty. The rain is supposed to let up this afternoon, and I hope that’s what happens, because Kit is so excited for Halloween. This is the first year that he’s gotten to pick what to dress up as, and I matched Joey’s costume to his, since Joey likes candy but couldn’t care less about non-Elsa dress-up opportunities. I did wonder briefly whether I should let him go out as Elsa tonight, but I think that he’s not in a good place to make an informed decision about the kind of flak he’d take for that here in Queen City. So Kit will be Buzz Lightyear, and Joey will be Woody; when they went to Joey’s school festival in their costumes last week, Joey seemed pleased with his outfit. Our plan for today is to Skype with the grands, watch some Halloween movies (The Nightmare Before Christmas has been a huge hit this year), go trick-or-treating in the south side of town around five, come home, and probably take just Kit around our neighborhood–Joey has limited patience for the trick-or-treating part, but last year Kit couldn’t get enough. Then Mister Book and I will either watch a horror movie (he would like that better, so I vote with that one) or play a horror board game (I would like that better, so he votes with board game). If everything goes more or less according to plan, I think it’s going to be a perfect day.

Kit is going to start preschool on Monday. In the end, there were three deciding factors: he and Joey are fighting a lot, to the point that Kit is frankly bullying Joey (I jump in constantly, but even so), and the real solution seems to be more time apart; Kit has been begging to go to school for kind of awhile now–Joey goes, and Joey loves school, so I can certainly see where Kit is coming from; and finally, vitally, his grandparents volunteered to pay for it. It took me awhile to figure out where to send him, and then last Sunday morning, the other mom in Kit’s Sunday school class asked me “Does he go to preschool here?” The Sunday school takes place in the school attached to our cathedral, and Kit loves that classroom–it seems wonderful to me, too–but for whatever reason, it hadn’t occurred to me that it would be a possibility to send him to Catholic preschool. Everyone has been lovely so far, and the teacher maintains a class blog that describes all kinds of cool things; Kit is extremely frustrated that he has to wait until Monday. He’ll go for three hours Monday through Thursday mornings, and Joey goes to school for three hours Monday through Thursday afternoons, so I think this will be a pretty good schedule for us. It’ll give me one-on-one time with each boy, something that Joey has, I think, been feeling the lack of more or less since his brother was born. I remember my mom talking to me about that magical time when your youngest is the only one not in school and the two of you abruptly get time alone together; I have managed to cheat my way into some of that with each small Book, and I’m glad.

I hope you’re all having most excellent Halloween weekends. And thanks.


I’ve been gone for awhile, huh? I had a really lousy reason: Nora and Cricket came to visit in June, like good and generous dudes, and the visit went well—and I was miserable the whole time and feel guilty about how much I failed to enjoy contact with the little dude. I still feel guilty. I can tell that the visit went well because Nora planned for us to spend most of their time here apart and then just kept suggesting that we see each other more and more. And everybody was friendly and respectful! And we went to a movie! And Cricket continues to grow into a clone of my husband, which is kind of weird, but does make for a cute kid with an offbeat sense of humor.

So for me, the visit going well and me more or less hating it the whole time meant that I need to take a step back. I couldn’t, though, not really; the contact is (for me) about the three boys, and even if it weren’t, I have obligations to Cricket. So I kept up the skype dates and tried to pretend to be a decent person, and then when we moved to Queen City I asked Mister Book to take over all of that stuff. But Nora refused to respond to his messages or emails until she finally messaged me about a Skype date and I asked her to talk to the Mister—“He’s handling the adoption stuff for us right now.” Awkward, yeah, although I did end up sending her a follow-up message after she mentioned to the Mister that I seem pretty burned out; I said “My last message probably sounded a little terse: sorry about that. I’m pretty burned out on adoption stuff right now, as you’ve probably guessed—but it’s about all contact being sad and stressful, and not about you guys as people or your conduct. You’ve been nothing but great, and I really appreciate it. And now that it’s possible for Mister Book to run things for awhile, I am really ready to let him take a turn. Being burned out won’t keep me from living up to my obligations to Cricket.” So not ideal, but I am stil trying to do what I should. In that Skype date arranged between Nora and Mister Book, Cricket (after a longer-than-usual Skype gap) seemed desperately glad to see us. I’m sticking around.


Emily Asks

At one point you were talking about writing romance novels, what ever happened with that?

Well, I’ve been slowly writing, but not submitting anything; my top secret plan is to submit the night before we move so that I won’t be able to freak out about it. Too much else to freak out about at that point! But yeah, working on two manuscripts, very different in tone and hopefully readable. Time will tell. Thanks for asking.

Joey got out of the house on Saturday and was attempting to cross a busy street when someone stopped him; I noticed he was gone before fifteen minutes were up, and then Kit and I searched the neighbors’ yards while my mother got in her car and drove around the neighborhood. We’d been bringing in groceries, my mother and I, and we both saw Joey go inside—neither of us saw him slip back out again. I was putting groceries away when I realized that I hadn’t seen him in ten minutes, didn’t find him, told my mom, and we went into full-on freak out. The people who stopped him called the police after finding that Joey couldn’t answer any of their questions, and the officer followed my mother home, asked me what had happened, and seemed satisfied by my explanation. Joey spent the whole afternoon being mad at me for ruining his adventure.

Joey is probably never going to really understand why he shouldn’t just leave the house and go adventuring whenever he likes; he knows that he isn’t supposed to, but that isn’t something he really cares about right now. He also isn’t supposed to lick the furniture, and let me tell you how that one is working out these days. -_- I ordered a medical alert bracelet for him, one made for kids that says “I HAVE AUTISM. MY MOM’S #” and then, you know, the number; a friend of mine says that she has dog tags laced into her kid’s shoelaces, and while Joey doesn’t have any shoes with laces, as soon as he goes up a size I am putting that into place. When we have our own place, we’re putting deadbolts at the tops of outside doors. It scares the crap out of me to worry that I might always always have to worry about Joey getting out—as a twenty-year-old whom no one will know needs help, for example. And I know that I can’t look at four-year-old Joey and guess what he’ll be doing as an adult. But I get scared for him, and for my own future ways of failing him.