The Second Dresser Drawer: A Heartwarming Story of Childhood Terror

September 5, 2014 in Family, Funny by Beth Woolsey

“Fine,” said the younger daughter with great reluctance, “you can look in my room. As long as you don’t open the second dresser drawer.

She looked at us with her I’m Not Kidding face, and her Don’t Try Me Right Now lip-pursing, and the I’m a Preteen And I WILL Knife You in Your Sleep stare, and we knew she meant business.

It was nighttime, just before we put kids to bed, and we parents were busily searching the house to find the missing cord to an ancient white noise maker in another bid to help our anxious kid sleep better, but at our daughter’s emphatic direction, Greg and I looked at each other with that quick and silent conversation you perfect over the course of parenting; Do you know why she said that, we thought at each other, because I sure don’t, and WHAT THE HELL DOES THAT MEAN, ANYWAY, “don’t open the second dresser drawer?” 

It’s like a when small children get quiet in the other room. There’s an instant sense of foreboding. Nothing good came come of this, you think, and, given the number of times you’ve turned the corner to find a modern Sharpie art mural on the kitchen cabinets or a toddler playing blissfully in in the bin of flour she’s dumped upon the floor, you’re usually right.

“Hey, Aden?” I said. “What’s in that dresser drawer, honey?”

I tried my nicest, least panicky voice. I mean, the kid’s in middle school. It could be DRUGS. Or SEX, although I’m not sure how you’d put sex in a dresser drawer, but KIDS THESE DAYS; ANYTHING’S POSSIBLE. Or what if she’s the head of an Underground Candy- or Chips-Smuggling ring?? Like the mob boss of candy and chips! If so, I’ll have to confiscate all her merchandise and eat it to teach her a lesson. There’s no way I wasn’t finding out what was in that drawer.

“I don’t want to tell you,” she said, and put her head under her blanket to hide on her bed.

“But,” I replied, “I really feel like we need to know.”

And then Greg and I waited.

And she finally whispered, “It’s the doll.”

Except it wasn’t a sweet whisper.

It was a creepy whisper. 

Like something from Children of the Corn.

Or when that kid from the Sixth Sense says he sees dead people. 

“It’s the doll, Mom,” she whispered.

And I whispered back, because whispering seemed important, “What doll, baby?”

Tiffany“Tiffany,” she said.

And I’ve written about Tiffany before. A sweet story about my oldest daughter’s Last Doll. A story that always makes me cry because it’s about the magic of childhood and my baby growing up and passing her doll and the magic along to the littles. It’s all that’s aching and bittersweet about relinquishing childhood. And it’s all that’s beautiful about sisters and brothers who take good care of each other’s hearts.

“What about Tiffany, Aden?” I asked gently, thinking she must’ve cut Tiffany’s hair or colored on her face, and not blaming her, really, for not wanting to tell me. We don’t have a ton of heirloom type toys at our house; we’re hard on the house and the furniture and the toys, so we’re used to things breaking, but we’ve tried hard to keep Tiffany in good condition, and we all tend to treat her like she’s Real.

Aden peeked with one eye out of the blanket and whispered, “She comes alive at night, Mom, and if I open the drawer, even a crack, she comes and stares at me while I sleep. I never, ever open that drawer, Mom, not ever since Abby told me that.” 

“Since Abby told you that?” I clarified.

“Uh huh,” she confirmed.

“Abby, your big sister?” I said.

“Yeah.”

“And how long has Tiffany been in that drawer, Aden?” I asked.

“I don’t know, Mom,” she said. “A long time, I think.”

So I wandered down the stairs to find my eldest.

“AHEM,” I said.

And she said, “What?”

And I said, “Did you, by any chance, tell your little sister that Tiffany comes alive at night?” 

Abby started to grin.

“And did you, oh sweet DARLING girl, happen to mention that, if she left her dresser drawer open, Tiffany would crawl from the dresser and stare at her while she sleeps?”

Abby started to laugh.

“And did you, at any point, think to tell her none of that is true?” 

Abby, cackling, shook her head no.

“So, then. You WILL, I am SURE, march upstairs and tell your sister right now that you made it all up, yes?” 

And Abby, still giggling, said, “Yes.”

And then she said, “Mom?”

And I said, “What?”

And she said, “I told Aden that over a year ago.”

Over a year ago!

For a year – a YEAR – my daughter’s been sleeping with Chucky in her room.

Tiffany2

And if that isn’t a sweet, precious, heartwarming story of childhood terror, I don’t know what is.

The End

P.S. Greg, Abby and I all told Aden that Tiffany doesn’t really come alive at night. I’m pretty sure she doesn’t believe us.

P.P.S. I don’t think I believe us, either. Send help.

Tiffany Photoshop Credit: my little brother, Jeff McDonough. He’s proof a younger sibling can withstand torture by an older sister and be marginally functional as an adult.

Turns Out I’m a Werewolf with a Giant Drug Problem

April 11, 2013 in Beth, Family, Funny by Beth Woolsey

I’m going away for the weekend. My daughter gave me this note:

photo 3 (39)

I Love You — Super Doper Loper Cuper Mom.

I have to say, 

I love it when my kids think I’m a Super Doper. 

That’s so much better than being an ordinary doper, don’t you think?

Whatever you do, do it to the best of your ability.

Amen.

……….

P.S. I assume Loper has something to do with my casual yet consistent stride. Unless she meant Luper as in lupus, or Latin for wolf, in which case she’s calling me a werewolf with a giant drug problem. A Super Doper Luper.

Actually? Her 3rd grade self-portrait all of a sudden makes a ton more sense.

AdenWolf

You know. In an “I learned it from watching you” kind of way.

P.P.S. What’s a Cuper?

P.P.P.S. Don’t miss the History Lesson of the Day on the 5 Kids Facebook page. It has nothing to do with drugs or werewolves, so it’ll be a nice break from this.

P.P.P.P.S. Seriously on the Cuper thing. Anyone?

B

……….

5 Tips for Planning a Homeland Trip

January 10, 2013 in Adoption, Family by Beth Woolsey

We adopted our oldest daughter from Vietnam and our next two kiddos from Guatemala, so we regularly consider ways to incorporate their birth countries into our family life.

Now, because I’m me and you’re you and we’re not good at facades around here, I’ll tell you I sort of suck at the more common or, shall we say, consistent ways other adoptive families blend cultures. None of my kids have had language lessons. We rarely remember to participate in adoptive family group gatherings. We once, ten years ago, celebrated a Vietnamese holiday but we’ve never managed a repeat with a Guatemalan fiesta. And we haven’t done well at participating in our local Asian or Latino communities. All of those are good ideas. I fully support them. I even intend to keep making attempts. But the current reality is, we don’t manage to do them.

The two things we do well, though, are eat and travel. My kids are familiar with Vietnamese and Guatemalan flavors, because, hello, yum!, and we’ve made it a priority to take them to visit the countries of their birth.

With a couple of these trips under my belt, I present to you my top…

5 Tips for Planning a Homeland Trip

1. Know Your Kid

The first step for any homeland trip is deciding when to go, and when to go is largely based on knowing your kid.

Greg and I took Abby to Vietnam when she was 10.

And I just flew home from Guatemala with Aden who will be 11 this weekend.

While it seems to be more common to take internationally adopted kiddos on homeland trips when they’re in their mid or late teens, the 10-year-old age was perfect for our girls. We chose age 10 because it’s a formative time for children. They’re old enough to remember significant experiences, pliable enough to be shaped by a broader global perspective, and, most importantly, young enough to see the wonder, beauty and warmth of their birth cultures and not just the poverty or the lack.

Both trips were affirming to our girls. And educational. And also just plain fun. Abby and Aden are both eager travelers who love new places and take great pride in their origins. If we can swing the expense, I hope to take them each again as teenagers, too.

You’ll notice, though, if you’ve been reading here for some time, that I didn’t mention a trip for our oldest son who’s 13 and was born in Guatemala, as well. It was only after months of discussion and agonized hand-wringing that Greg and I decided not to take him to his birth country for now. Or perhaps ever. It would be an understatement to say that Ian doesn’t like to travel. “Detests and abhors” would be better words. “Freaks the hell out and makes himself and everyone around him miserable” wouldn’t be inaccurate. Ian, you see, is the kind of kid who feels secure with regular routine and a reliable schedule. Traveling makes him extremely anxious. In addition, Ian is also sensitive to the plight of others and is likely to be haunted by tough situations he can’t change. Still, I felt terrible when we decided Aden was ready for this experience and Ian wasn’t. I felt guilty and torn. And yet I was determined not to hold Aden back for Ian’s sake. When I told him our plan, though, he wasn’t just OK with it, he was downright giddy. “Oh, thank you, Mom. Thank you!” he said. “Bring me back something really cool, OK?” As always, my worrying was time well spent.

My point is, plan what works best for your child. A trip when they’re 10. A trip when they’re 15. A trip when they’re little. A trip never. It’s OK to think outside the box and follow no one’s plan but your own.

2. Travel With Friends

On both of our girls’ homeland trips, we traveled with friends. During Abby’s trip, we traveled with her best friend, Katee, and her parents. This time, Aden and I were thrilled Heidi and Grace agreed to join us.

Aden loved showing Guatemala to her friend.

And I loved the camaraderie of having Heidi there, mostly because she’s an adventurous traveler who takes things in stride and it was fun to have some condensed time with her, but also a teeny tiny bit because I needed someone else to laugh with me at the funny things our kids said.

Plus, watching another mama delight in my baby?

Priceless.

3. Accept Hospitality

This one’s tough for those of us with deeply entrenched American mindsets. We want to be independent. We don’t want to put anyone out. We want to rely on ourselves. But folks in other parts of the world, particularly in the developing world, have a lot to teach us about gracious giving and hospitable living.

In 1998, I had my first lesson in the heart-connection of mamas at the hands of an elderly Vietnamese woman who stood creakily from her foot-high stool in the middle of a crowded market to offer me her place so I could more easily feed my brand new daughter who was fussing in her sling. I was embarrassed to take the woman’s seat as I watched her shuffle aside in her paper-thin flip flops. Who was I, a privileged American with a butt too big for the stool anyway, to allow her to stand uncomfortably so I could be at ease? But the woman reached up to pat me on the cheek and insisted with gestures that I sit, sit, sit. Her kindness was a gift to new mama me, and I think of her selflessness often when I look for ways to pay it forward to other new mamas who need just a minute of rest and, like me, are afraid they don’t deserve it. I didn’t know then how much one moment of grace — a moment I wouldn’t remember if I hadn’t humbled myself to receive it — would impact me in the years to come.

On this trip to Guatemala, Brennan and Mariajose invited us to stay with their family, although I’d never met them before this trip. Mariajose is Guatemalan by birth and an architect by trade. Brennan’s an American ex-pat and jack-of-all-trades who’s the brother of my friend, Jody. Together, Brennan and Mariajose subcontract with nonprofit and mission organizations to further the work of aid programs inside Guatemala. Their hearts for the Guatemalan people are evident, their work expansive. And by staying with them in their home and following them to work for a few days, we engaged with Guatemalan life in a way that would not have been possible from a tourist hotel.

Mariajose’s aunt cooked for us. Aden and Grace played with new friends. We slept in their home and visited their nutrition and construction projects off the beaten path. And, while I felt guilty at times for the burden we placed on their time and grocery bill, I worked hard to push my American impulse aside in favor of gratitude.

We left Guatemala with treasured new friends.

4. Make a Difference

Even without full-time hosts who are willing to let you tag along to their workplace for days at a time, there are ways to help people in very real, meaningful ways. Organizations exist in every country that help people lift themselves out of debilitating poverty and give them a way forward in life. Partnering with those organizations to make a financial donation to their work can be a wonderful way to provide meaningful help, particularly if your child helps raise the money. One of the things I love most about Americans is our generosity. Believe it or not, we’re one of the most charitable nations on the planet, and the people I know are always eager to do more. The trick, of course, is doing more responsibly and effectively. I encourage you to research organizations for fiscal responsibility, accountability and transparency using Charity Navigator, and I’m always happy to recommend Medical Teams International as a top-rated charity that helps ordinary people make an extraordinary impact at home and around the world.

5. Have FUN

Compassionate people are wired to see struggle and poverty and pain. We ache to help alleviate suffering in the world, and we’re rewarded with fierce joy when we accomplish even a little. As a result, though, we sometimes miss the beauty and the FUN that’s right in front of us, and we have to remind ourselves to look, to engage, and to play.

Kids have more of the magic left inside of them, though, and they don’t wait to see whether it’s socially appropriate to laugh or play or smile at a stranger. They take more immediate delight in all that’s lovely. Traveling with kids is a privilege because it lets you tap into that wonder, too.

I’m always on the lookout on these special trips — for the big things that build lasting memories like my baby choosing her first Guatemalan dress in the market place,

and for the little things, easily forgotten, like a butterfly in hand

or a rich cup of Guatemalan coffee.

In the end, a homeland trip is about identity and community and finding pieces of ourselves along the way.

 Mission accomplished.

……….

Is there anything you want to know about a homeland trip? Let me know.

Or, if you’ve been on a homeland trip and have tips to add, please do.

………

Six Thousand Lives to Live

January 3, 2013 in Adoption, Beth, But Seriously by Beth Woolsey

My friend sent me a prayer on Sunday. It came as I rushed to prepare for Miss Aden’s trip to the country of her birth. And as I berated myself for my lack of planning. And as I wondered again, for the billionth time, why I’m always rushing and busy and not attentive enough and not present enough and lots of other things with the words not and enough.

It’s just, you know, the holidays and school break and kids and feeding my family and cleaning up their messes, and then cleaning up my messes which aren’t physical but feel bigger and messier because they’re mine.

But then the prayer came. POP! Right there to my e-mail box. In black and white and not a bit… not a bit, not a bit of it… from me.

And it rebuilt me. With beautiful words and best wishes and kindness and a generosity of spirit that I’d forgotten to offer to myself, it rebuilt me.

At the end she wrote,

“I know that it is just Sunday
and there six thousand lives to be lived
between now and your flight
but it is Sunday, and you leave in two days,
so I want you to know…”

And I thought,

Six thousand lives! How does she know?

Which is when I realized,

Of course she knows. She’s a mama, too.

 We’re all living our six thousand lives.

Every last one of us.

Six thousand lives to be lived between now and then.

Six thousand lives every day.

So, mamas and daddies and humany humans, I want you to know. In case you’re rushing and busy and berating yourself. In case not and enough have stolen their way inside. Again.

I want you to know I’m saying her prayer for you today, fellow traveler, and that I’m holding you in the Light.

…..

I’m holding you in the most graceful Light this week.
I’m holding you in the most graceful Light.

While you prepare,
And while you travel,
And while you arrive.
While this journey reminds you of other journeys,
And while your children play.
While the beauty of the world’s colors against its dirt captures you again.
And again.
And again.
And again.

For the six thousand lives to be lived between now and then,
I’m holding you in the Light.

~ Kim Boyd ~

…..

My Mayan Princess today. A most cherished life.

…..

Just Plane Sick

January 2, 2013 in Beth, Funny, Health by Beth Woolsey

In a few hours, we’re going to meet people we don’t know who’ve generously offered to let us stay in their home in Guatemala. I’m bringing vomit-laced clothes as a thank you gift because thank you gifts are important if you ever want to be invited back.

It’s good to make trips memorable, though, right? Otherwise, what’s the point? And taking a 10-year-old kiddo back to visit her birth country for the first time since her adoption at a year old? Well. THAT I want to make extra memorable. Yes, I do.

Which is why I politely puked my guts all over the entire First Class section where we were pleasantly shocked to find ourselves sitting what with purchasing economy tickets and all. Fortunately, the Grand Hurling Event occurred at 1:00am when everyone was asleep and we were somewhere over Kansas so no one cared. (No offense, Kansas. It’s not you; it’s me.)

I don’t think I can describe the vomit sitch exactly. I mean, of course I’m going to TRY ’cause I’m still a little ralphy and this is distracting. Long story short, I wasn’t feeling so hot. Next, I filled a “motion discomfort” bag. Then the bottom of the bag BROKE OPEN, you guys. Broke. All the way. Open. So let’s just say at one point I was using my hand to bail puke from my lap into a garbage bag lest the whole ship go down.

Lots of paper towels and fun opportunities to see myself in my bra & panties in the airplane bathroom later, our plane landed.

I threw my pants away in Miami.

(Sorry, Miami. See note to Kansas.)

Here we sit, waiting to board our plane for Guatemala as I type this on the phone.

I didn’t drink on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day, and I’ve decided I don’t have the flu. I simply can’t have the flu on Day One of my kid’s birth country trip. So out of necessity this is food poisoning or a random act of motion sickness. Do we have our stories straight? Excellent. Then let’s carry on.

Off we go! Laughing all the way, friends. Laughing all the way.

My Crystal Ball Is Broken. Waiting Sucks.

October 25, 2012 in Family, Funny by Beth Woolsey

My crystal ball’s been on the fritz ever since I accidentally left it in the backyard and my son peed on it. Be careful with your crystal ball is what I’m saying; apparently your fairy godmother is only allowed to issue one per mama (would’ve been nice to know that ahead of time), and if you don’t care for yours responsibly you don’t get a new one no matter how many letters you write or how much you beg. Stingy creatures, fairy godmothers. Probably related to that unreliable, late night beer-drinker, the Tooth Fairy.

If you’ve ever tried to work this mama gig without a crystal ball then you know, like me, that sometimes you don’t get to see into the future and you have to just wait.

Waiting sucks.

Hard.

You know. Like when you’re waiting to see if your kid is going to grow up to be a productive, helpful member of society or land in juvie for cutting out your spleen in a bloodbath in the middle of the night because you just made her clean her room for the last time, MOTHER.

Once upon a time, I wanted a crystal ball in a bad way. My kid was lonely, friendless, miserable, and inventing creative new ways to get suspended. Even though more experienced mamas assured me that we’d all be fine… that this was just a phase… that kids learn social skills at different times… I wondered. I mean, really. There are only so many calls you can get from the principal (and so many bottles of wine you can offer her in your head) before the wondering runs rampant.

Fast forward to this week with me, please.

My kid and I attended an evening meeting at school, and there at the door to greet all of the families and hand out informational sheets was the brand new principal. Now, my kid had run ahead of me and so we entered the building separately, mashed in with other families. And that’s when the most stunning thing happened.

Mrs. Principle looked at my kid — this lovely girl child who was born in Guatemala and wears her elegant, long nose and her creamy brown skin and her curly black hair with great pride — and said, “Do you need this paper in English or Spanish?”

And my kid stopped, looked back for me, and hollered, “Hey, Mom! Do we want this paper in English or Spanish? How about Spanish, Mom? PLEASE?”

“I didn’t do that well in high school Spanish,” I admitted to Mrs. Principal. “We’d better take it in English.”

“MOM,” Aden said, disappointed I wasn’t a better sport. “Come on.”

“Just wanted to make sure,” Mrs. Principal said with a smile, clearly hoping I wouldn’t be offended that she didn’t know Aden or me or the languages we speak.

I smiled back and took my hand-out with a level of glee that probably seemed out of place for the situation. But oh, Mrs. Principal, I thought. You don’t know that you just made my day. You don’t know how ELATED I am right now. You don’t know that I am going to JUMP FOR JOY when I get home and repeat this tiny story to my husband AT HIGH VOLUME because this is just exactly what I hoped to see in my broken crystal ball just a few short years ago. 

You guys. You guys! I am the mother of a kid the principal doesn’t even know. 

WOOHOO!

(And alright, Waiting. Fine. You win this round.)

……….

 

There’s poop and a full-ride scholarship under my porch.

October 10, 2012 in Family, Funny, Twins by Beth Woolsey

There’s poop under my front porch, and it’s not from an animal, folks.

I know; it’s tacky to write a mommy blog and be all Braggity McBragpants about my kids, but there’s a season for everything, and it’s time to brag.

There’s poop under my front porch, and more than one of my kids manufactured it and put it there.

I’m sure that’s so because I have a witness. Or a tattler. It depends on how you look at it, really. I prefer to call them spies and treat them like essential members of my staff, paying them off in secret for getting me the dirt. Look. I’m not proud of it; I just honestly don’t think I can parent this many kids without a well-run network of informants. Don’t judge.

“MOM!” Aden said, running into the kitchen after playing outside. “Cai and Cael POOPED under the front porch.”

Well, crap.

I asked my 5-year-old boys to confirm.

“So. Boys. Tell me. Did you poop under the front porch?”

“YES!” Cai said enthusiastically.

Ah ha! A witness and a confession.

“I fink I don’t want to say,” Cael said suspiciously.

Make that a witness, a confession, and a kid who knows his rights. That’s OK; I’ve done more with less.

I asked Cai to explain. “Explain,” I said. “Explain, if you please, why it made sense to you to take a dump under the front porch.”

Cai heard no sarcasm in my voice since he suffers from acute sarcasm deafness, so he looked at me with sparkles in his eyes and yelled, “DUNGEON!” while Cael tried in vain to shush him.

Dungeon.

Of course. Should’ve known.

My boys were playing Dungeon, and not just Any Dungeon. No no; my babies were playing Historically Accurate Dungeon, which is the kind of Dungeon where one lounges around in one’s own waste, and which I think we can all agree is the Most Superior of all the Dungeons to play. I mean, think of the less creative kids out there playing Clean Dungeon. It’s sad really.

I think it’s safe to assume at this point that my boys are essentially guaranteed full-ride history scholarships to our local university. Which, given the $82.76 in their college saving funds, is a real relief.

Also, that poop under my front porch? It’s the perfect addition for fall decorating, friends! Now, instead of decorating with just the sun, moon and flatulence, we can add a wholly realistic Dungeon for Halloween.

Woohoo!

Parenting, you guys. It’s all a matter of perspective.

……….

P.S. Thank you for all your sage advice on dealing with the poop situation. And, um, sorry I’m such a bad advice-taker.

……….