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I'm a 30-something wife and mom. My boys are my pride and joy. Together, we are navigating being a forever family post international adoption.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Sending a Package: Private and Confidential

We sent a package off to Buddy's former orphanage a few weeks ago. We've done this a couple of times a year since we adopted him in 2013. On top of clothes, toys, school supplies and hygiene items, we always send pictures of Buddy and our family. It's a nice way to keep in touch with Buddy's friends.

We ship the boxes through a local business that regularly sends supplies to Buddy's home country for relief efforts. They are kind enough to give us a good shipping rate and help us fill out customs paperwork.

The owner of the business is a friendly, no nonsense man and it's a pleasure to deal with him. He is always very eager to help us with our "charity activity." As he was combining two of our boxes into one to save us $6, we started chatting about the region we were shipping to.

He asked us if we had ever visited the area. I am pretty sure he has a good idea that Buddy is from the orphanage, but he is kind enough not to ask us directly. Buddy, who was standing beside me, leaned into me and whispered, "No, no, no."

Buddy used to hide the fact that he was adopted any way he could. Now, it seems what he wants is not to lead interactions with every random person we meet with the fact that we are an adoptive family. He doesn't think we should volunteer that information right off the bat for no good reason because it isn't necessary.

Fair enough.

Buddy is a lot of things. He is bright, funny and full of energy. He is stubborn, picky and messy. And a million, billion other things as well. How would a person find these things out? By getting to know him, of course. Same with the fact that he is adopted.

So I replied that yes, we had visited the town our package was going to, and moved the conversation on to another topic.

Buddy is a lot of things, and no one thing alone defines him. Including being and adoptee.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Does he have a real Mom?

Once, someone asked me: "Does Buddy have a real Mom?"

I have a few issues with this question.

First of all, the dreaded R word. I am going to assume, given you are reading an adoption blog, that you're familiar with the tension surrounding the concept of real family in adoption.

Secondly, let's ignore the whole discussion about what makes a "real" family. This person was asking if Buddy had a Mom before me. Did she think he magically popped into existence at the orphanage right before we adopted him? Or did she just think it was the least offensive way to ask a very personal question.

Which leads me to my last point: NONE OF YOUR DAMN BUSINESS. Sorry, that wasn't directed at you, dear reader. I just really, really don't like it when people ask intrusive questions about my family.

So, what did I answer?

I didn't go into the debate about what a "real" Mom is. I didn't address the person's apparent lack of understanding of basic biology. I didn't launch into a diatribe of the appropriateness of the question.

I know the response I am supposed to give is that I am his real Mom, and also his story is not mine to tell. Which is true. At the same time, Hubby and I have found that type of response gave Buddy the message that we wanted to avoid acknowledging his birth family.

Buddy doesn't always know how to express his feelings for being adopted, even to us. He has began to embrace his life story more easily since we stopped totally avoiding these types of questions.

This person didn't mean to be rude. Her lack of understanding of the insensitive nature of the question was completely lost on her. I know that it is my responsibility as a member of the adoption community to educate. On the long list of things I am responsible for that I didn't know I was signing up for, this one is probably at the bottom of the list.

My number one responsibility is to Buddy.

So, what did I answer?

Does Buddy have a real Mom?

Actually, he has two.

Friday, April 24, 2015

#TakingCare100 Days 76-100!


I can't believe I'm at the end of the Twitter #TakingCare100 photo challenge. This adoptive parent spin on 100 Happy Days that was started by Three Pink Diamonds and a Blue Sapphire.

As they say, time flies when you're on a roller-coaster of ups and downs but trying to stay positive and take time to enjoy the small moments. What's that, they don't say that? Well, forget them!

I am so thankful that this challenge really pushed me to find the good in every day, not just the easy ones.

All captions are clockwise from the top left.

Day 76: All our bags are packed, we're ready to go. In 2 days we'll be in Disney for spring break.

Day 77: Regular Friday family movie night. Buddy picket burritos and I picked the Book Thief. #TGIF

Day 78: We're here! #SpringBreak #DisneyWorld #FamilyAffair #Exhausted #CantWait #SoManyHashTags

Day 79: Relaxing before a busy day watching Kimmy Schmidt.

Day 80: Disney World, the Magic Kingdom. Awesome, mostly regulated day.

Day 81: Another amazing, well-regulated Spring Break day, this time at Universal Studios Orlando

Day 82: Last day at Universal Orlando & we rode all the rides. Including the Hogwarts train, 3 times.

Day 83: last day at DisneyWorld so we went twice. Morning = rides, night = fireworks.

Day 84: Last day in Florida. Clearwater Beach during the day and fireworks from our hotel dock to end.

Day 85: Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again. Today, Buddy was baptized! #Easter

Day 86: 1 of the perks of being home from vacation: being reunited with my morning motivational tool. My espresso machine!

Day 87: Grem is a silly puggle. She spotted her first rabbit of the year & it was so funny to watch.

Day 88: Why yes, those are watermelon socks I'm wearing. Thanks for noticing.

Day 89: Family dinner Friday and movie night with Sushi and The Truman Show.

Day 90: Decorated pysanky with Buddy in honor of Orthodox Easter tomorrow. Христос воскрес!

Day 91: Orthodox Easter means a second Easter dinner.

Day 92: Is anything sweeter than stolen Easter Chocolates? And they're Mini Eggs, one of my favorites.

Day 93: Let sleeping dogs lie. Enjoying a quiet house besides all the snoring before turning in myself.

Day 94: Relaxing, having a cold one, catching up on Twitter. Tweeting about reading my Twitter. Meta.

Day 95: Day 2 of training my replacement. After the weekend I officially step into my new role. Yikes!

Day 96: Last movie night of the series. Thai & Hitchhiker's Guide. So long & thanks for all the fish.

Day 97: We're lucky to have so much. Today we gave some of it away. Hopefully it'll bring others joy.

Day 98: Buddy & I went shopping today. Can't believe he's grown 4 sizes in <2 years & I love his style.

Day 99: The boys are at a hockey game so I'm having a solo movie night. Two words - Ryan Gosling.

Day 100: Looking back at the last 100 days. Thanks @Diamondspink321!

Click here, here, here and here if you'd like to see my other posts in this series. Shameless Twitter plug, you can also follow me there at @MamaBearPAL.

If you tweet, you should join in the fun by using the hashtag #TakingCare100. Just because I'm done doesn't mean you can't get started!

What's next for me? #taspic: a monthly photo challenge from our friends at The Adoption Social. I'm taking a break for the rest of April, but I'll be back at it in May with my #feeties.

Thanks for following along in my #TakingCare100 journey!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Tattling vs Reporting

In the orphanage, Buddy learned the importance of not tattling. When a kid spends 24/7 with his peers under minimal supervision, it doesn't do him any favors to be a snitch. What he didn't learn the difference between tattling and reporting.

Tattling is bringing an incident to a parent or teacher's attention to get someone in trouble. Reporting is doing the same thing for the opposite reason. When we first got home, Buddy didn't see the distinction and was very leery to report even if it was the right thing to do.

We have worked with Buddy to help him understand different social situations and appropriate ways to react to them. Tattling vs reporting is just one aspect of this, and is something that not only adopted kids struggle with.

A few weeks ago, Buddy started chatting about Billy, a kid in his class.

Billy, quite frankly, is bad news. I'm sure it isn't the kid's fault, but as soon as we met him the red flags went up. These feeling were reinforced at the last parent-teacher conference where Mr. Black suggested we steer Buddy away from Billy and encourage a more recent friendship with another boy, Jeremiah.

Buddy described how Billy had pushed a younger kid into a puddle on the school yard. As we were discussing why he may have done this and how Buddy felt about it he mentioned that Billy had also given Jeremiah a black eye.

Wait, what, when, why, WTF!?! I struggled to keep myself composed and calm so Buddy didn't feel agitated about the situation. He elaborated that a group of kids had been goofing around on the playground and Jeremiah put snow down Billy's coat. In retaliation, Billy pushed Jeremiah down and kneed him in the face. Jeremiah got a black eye and needed to go to the hospital for x-rays. Thank goodness he didn't end up with a broken nose!

I asked what happened to Billy and Buddy explained that Jeremiah didn't want to start any trouble so the boys all agreed they would say he tripped on some ice and fell on his face. No one knew the truth besides the boys. And now me.

I instantly knew it wasn't a secret I could keep but didn't want to betray Buddy's trust, so we kept talking. It became pretty clear that Buddy didn't think it was a good secret to keep, either, but was scared to be seen as a tattle tale. When I told him that I felt like the right thing to do was call Jeremiah's Mom and tell her what really happened, he wasn't upset at all. He was relieved.

Buddy sat beside me as I called Jeremiah's Mom and explained what Buddy had seen. She was upset but very thankful to know the truth. She also promised me she would not let Jeremiah know that Buddy was the one to report the incident. After I got off the phone, Buddy and I discussed what he would say to Jeremiah the next day. We agreed that it was OK to not say anything but if Jeremiah was really a friend he would understand why Buddy told.

The next day Jeremiah told Buddy, as they walked to school, that his Mom had figured out the truth. Buddy decided to fess up and fill in the details. And Jeremiah shrugged his shoulders and said, "That's fine. Do you want to come to my house after school."

And with that, Buddy had validation that there is a difference between tattling and reporting.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Spring Break in Orlando

This year for Spring Break, we took our first big family vacation. We wanted to make it a memorable one so we decided to spend the week in Orlando, Florida. It was extra special  because my Mom decided to join us for the fun.

My Grandma Dolly took me to the Magic Kingdom when I was 6 years old, and I've loved it ever since. When my parents got married when I was 10, it is where they took our newly blended family for their honeymoon. I couldn't think of a more special place for our family to go for our first big vacation.

Hubby and I thought long and hard about where we wanted to stay while in Orlando. There are so many options to choose from: theme park resorts, chain hotels, rental properties. After a lot of consideration we settled on The Cabins at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort. We loved that it was like a little home away from home. There was lots of room for Buddy to play outside and so many potential activities. Staying at a Disney resort also gave us several perks, such as early park admission, free transportation and advanced FastPass+ setup. Since we were going at one of the busiest times of the year, this was a huge pro on the old pro-con list.

We are 100% happy with our choice. The cabin was very comfortable, super cute and the staff was so helpful and friendly. Maintaining routine is important when we are away from home, so having a kitchen was a big help to keep stress levels low. We pre-ordered groceries and they were there when we checked in after a long day of travelling. We enjoyed exploring the grounds together and Buddy could hunt lizards and walk to the pool at the end of our bay whenever he wanted. We all appreciated the fact that we could see the fireworks from our beach without the crowds.

We spent two days at the Magic Kingdom and it was just as magical as I remembered. Buddy even called it Heaven. We took full advantage of being allowed in an hour before general admission. It made the crowds much more tolerable and allowed us to do everything we wanted and more. On our second day, we chose to arrive early and take a break mid day so we could return later in the evening for fireworks and some late night ride-riding. It was my first time in the Magic Kingdom after dark and I am glad I didn't miss out this time.

I have never ridden so many rides at Disney before. All in all, over the 2 days, we road Space Mountain 5 times, Pirates of the Caribbean, Big Thunder Mountain and the Jungle Cruise twice, and the Barnstormer, Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin, the Astro Orbiter, It's a Small World, the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Splash Mountain each once. We also road the Disney Railroad, went to Tom Sawyers Island, climbed the Swiss Family Tree-house, ate a turkey leg and churros, shopped for souvenirs and visited the Hall of Presidents. There truly is something for everyone at Disney.

We also spent two days at Universal Studios. We didn't have early admission, so we made sure to be there as early as possible. Since lines were up to 160 minutes long by mid-day, it was totally worth it.

We were most excited to visit the Harry Potter attractions, and if you're a Potterhead it is definitely worth it. We had park-jumper passes so we could take the Hogworts Express between Diagon Alley and Hogsmead. We bought wands (and a robe for Buddy) and wandered around casting spells while drinking Butterbeer and pumpkin juice. It was so cool, especially first thing in the morning.

Universal was really exciting. While Disney was just as I remembered, Universal has made very impressive technological advances. The effects on the rides were unbelievable! We rode Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, the Dragon Challenge and Dudley Do-Rights Ripsaw Falls twice. We also road the Incredible Hulk, Dr. Doom's Fearfall, the Jurassic Park River Adventure, Spider Man, Transformers 3-D, the Rip Ride Rocket, Revenge of the Mummy, and Men in Black. We also took in Terminator 3-D, the Jurassic Park Discovery Center, Twister and the Disaster attractions.

For our last full day in Florida, we drove out to Clearwater Beach for a day of relaxing in the sun. Since we had gotten used to getting up early at this point, we did it again to beat the crowds to the beach. Man am I glad that we did!

We got there around 9 AM and found parking no problem, rented a cabana and chairs and enjoyed a mostly empty and not too scorching beach until about noon when things got very busy. By that point we'd had enough peace and quiet so Hubby, Buddy and I took a banana boat ride. Thank goodness I left my string bikini at home because it was really crazy but we had so much fun. Buddy also dug the deepest hole I have ever seen and then didn't understand why he had to fill it in before we went home. He did, begrudgingly, with half-hearted grumbles about us ruining his hard work. What a kid!

After days of concrete and lines, relaxing on the beach was the perfect way to end our trip. We left around 2 PM when the heat and the crowds started getting to us, stopped for a typical (giant) American meal before ending the day at the resort watching the fireworks from the beach.

I don't know any family that spends a week together 24/7 and doesn't get in a few squabbles, and we were no exception. But all in all in was an amazing trip. I asked everyone for their best and worst moments of the trip and this is what I got:

Gramma Bear:
- Worst: The distance from the parking lot to the actual parks, all the screaming kids on the airplane, getting up early (but it was worth it)
- Best: Harry Potter and Universal in general, the beach, the cabin, getting good parking and missing the longest lines (even though it meant getting up early)
- Best of the Best: Getting to know my grandson better, and the company I was with

Hubby:
- Worst: Getting motion sickness (but not puking) on Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, getting too much sun at Universal, missing Grem and Swar as we drove by Disney doggie daycare every day
- Best: Riding Space Mountain with no lines (but only once!), warm weather, being able to enjoy nature and wild animals (squirrels, deer, lizards and even an armadillo) at the cabin.
- Best of the Best: The beach, especially walking up and down the shoreline with my family.

Buddy:
- Worst: Having to take an airplane, being too hot, all the walking and my swimming trunks being too tight (which he neglected to tell us until the last day of the trip)
- Best: Universal, especially the Hulk ride, Harry Potter Land and Butterbeer, the beach, the cabin
- Best of the Best: Going to Florida and doing everything

Me:
- Worst: Vomit flavored Bertie Botts every flavored beans, getting up early (I am my mother's daughter) and the time at the Orlando airport where the toilet splashed me when I flushed it. Seriously, WTF is up with that!
- Best: Buddy holding my hand all day in an amusement parks, the rides at Universal, beautiful weather, getting to hang out with my Mom.
- Best of the Best: Having amazing memories from our first big family trip.

If you're interested in seeing more pictures, I have an album on my Facebook page.

Friday, April 17, 2015

To Have a Dog: A Book Review

To Have a Dog 


Written by Ivona Brezinova (Czech Republic) 
Illustrated by Zaur Deisadze (Georgia)
Published by The Reading Corner*

Matthew wanted only one thing on Earth: a dog. He lived in a children's home, and they weren't allowed to have a real dog. The toy dog he got for Christmas was broken; the other animals he tried out as pets didn't live up to his expectations. He never ever thought about wanting a Mother or a Father-but one day, when a couple comes to adopt him-he decides to keep an open mind. . . .


We bought this book after we decided to adopt internationally but before we travelled and were matched with Buddy. It is not only available in English, but also in 12 additional languages: Albanian, Armenian, Czech, French, Hungarian, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, Spanish and Ukrainian. It was so cool to have a book in both my first language and my future child's first language and I would dream about the day we could read them together. We bought one version in each language from amazon.

When we met Buddy, he hadn't really given a lot of thought to being adopted, just like Matthew in the book. However, he was very interested our pictures and videos of Grem and Swar. Buddy loved animals, and still does, but had never had a pet of his own. He especially loved a video of Grem where she walks up to our apple tree, plucks off one of the low-hanging fruits and eats it in about three bites. He still asks to watch it on occasion.

Just like Matthew, Buddy had an open mind. I'm wont spoil the end of Matthew's story, but ours is definitely a happy one.

*The Reading Corner, a project of the International Step by Step Association (ISSA), is a children’s publishing cooperative of authors and illustrators located primarily in the countries of Eastern and Central Europe and the countries of the former Soviet Union. ISSA is committed to publishing high quality children's literature written and illustrated by writers and artists in the regions where ISSA works.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Filling the Void with Stuff

There are many different behaviors that are typical in adopted children. Lying, lack of impulse control, hoarding, sleep issues, the list goes on and on. While most children wont display every behavior, they will typically struggle with some of them to varying degrees.

Buddy is no exception. 

One thing that we noticed from the start is Buddy loves to get new things. He becomes fixated a desired toy, book or video game until he can concentrate on little else. His day is hijacked by talking, thinking and dreaming about the thing, what he would do with it and how it would make his life so much better.

But it never does.

He will want something intensely, get it, and be tired of it by the next day. And then he will repeat the cycle with a new desired object. He has more toys, video games and books that sit gathering dust than I like to admit.

Buddy didn't used to have much of anything to his name. He wore clothes that had been passed down so many times they would probably embarrass the person who first donated them. His toys and school supplies were communal property. Any money he earned or found was spent immediately to prevent it from being stolen.

Buddy lacked important emotional "stuff" as well. He missed out on a lot of years of holding hands while crossing the street, having scrapes and bruises kissed better and being tucked into bed at night. He missed out on having someone invested in what was best for him like every little kid deserves. 

Buddy wants things, and for people to see the things he has, to make him feel good about himself. He wants them to fill a void inside himself he doesn't even realize is there.

Over the last year and a half we made a lot of progress in helping Buddy learn that things don't make us happy. Yet, I wonder, if it will take him embracing and moving through his hard past before the void he is trying to fill with stuff will actually feel full.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Bookish - Would You Rather?

I'm a total book worm, and have been for as long as I can remember.

When I was 2, my Aunt made me my first book-on-tape of the Wizard of Oz. I would tell anyone who would listen of the wonders of Oz while spinning around exclaiming "the cymclone is coming, the cymclone is coming!" (cyclone, BTW. I was a bright kid, but no genius!)

In elementary school my closet was more full of books than clothes. As I got older, my love of books didn't diminish. Now, I am a total book hoarder. I end every day with my face in a book. It is not uncommon for me to start my day that way as well, having fallen asleep while reading.

I came across this would-you-rather "tag" with a bookish twist and found the questions very interesting. I thought I would give it a go myself.

1- Would you rather only read trilogies or only read stand alone novels?
Definitely stand alone novels. The only two trilogies I can think of that I enjoyed reading were The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Hunger Games. I waited to read both of them until all three books had been released so I wasn't left hanging. I much prefer to read a variety of kinds of books and the idea of trilogies kind of makes me feel weighted down.

2- Would you rather only read female authors or only read male authors?
I think I generally read more male authors, but some of my favorite books were written by women. I'm not really sure how to answer this one, because I don't choose books based on gender. But the part of my that's a fan of Girl Power tells me to say female authors.

3- Would you rather only shop at book shops or only shop online?
I love to shop in book shops, even though I buy more books online. If I know what I want or am buying a gift for someone I tend to order online. But I love wandering around book stores and discovering new treasures that I would never find otherwise. So, book shops it is.

4- Would you rather all books became movies or all books became TV shows?
I don't have much time for television lately, so I guess I would say movies. Although, if they were TV shows released on Netflix that I could binge on during my spare moments I might change my mind.

5- Would you rather read only 5 pages a day or 5 books a week?
If it was possible, I would read five books a week but actually accomplishing this would require I give up sleeping. I love sleep as much as I love reading, so I am going to have to go with 5 pages a day. Sometimes that's all I get to before falling asleep, anyways.

6- Would you rather be a professional reviewer or a professional author?
I don't think I have it in me to be an author, but I love to share my opinions so I would have to say professional reviewer.

7- Would you rather only read your 20 favorite books over and over again, or only read new books you haven't read before?
As much as it would pain me to never re-read Wuthering Heights or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, I can't imagine never reading a new book ever again. There is so much out there to read and so little time. If forced to choose, I would only read new books.

8- Would you rather be a librarian or a bookseller?
This is tough, both would be a lot of fun for a book lover. I like the idea of working in a library, but I don't know if I could handle being silent all day long. I guess I'll pick bookseller but just by a hair.

9- Would you rather only read your favorite genre or only read anything but your favorite genre?
I don't really have a favorite specific genre, but I do prefer to read fiction. I pretty much only read books that take me away to imaginary places, unless I'm reading something for work. I would stick with fiction and do away with everything else.

10- Would you rather only read physical books or only read eBooks?
Definitely physical books. I love the feeling of a book in my hands. I love their personality and the way they wear with love. Nothing beats a Kindle for travelling, especially if it's back-light, but I would give it up any day if I had to.

Do you love to read, too? What would you rather? Consider yourself tagged!

Also, if you're interested in what I'm reading, check out my Goodreads profile!

Friday, April 10, 2015

A Very Special Birthday Wish

Today, it's the birthday of someone very special to our family. Someone who is in our hearts every moment of every day.

Today it is Buddy's Mom's birthday.

Even though she couldn't be there in person, we had a birthday party for her. We did the same last year, and I hope it will be an annual tradition.

Because she lives half a world away, we had it last night so that we were celebrating on the actual date of her birth in her part of the world. Do you follow that? Probably not, it's complicated. But then, what part of adoption isn't!

Buddy picked a meal that she would like. This year it was hard boiled eggs with mayonnaise, sausage, potato dumplings and cucumbers. Before we ate, we light a candle and each made one wish for her upcoming year.

I'm not going to tell you what we wished for, because then they wont come true!

What I really wish is that Buddy could tell her Happy Birthday himself. But, for a variety of complicated and sad reasons, this is just not possible. Hopefully one day things will change, but for now it is what it is.

If you have a moment today, it would mean the world to me if you would think a thought for Buddy's Mom.


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Easter Egg Hunt


Even though we had just gotten home from Spring Break vacation early that morning, we wanted to do an Easter Egg hunt for Buddy.

I had purchased a few Easter candies before we left, so it was just a matter of coming up with a few hiding spots that weren't too hard or too easy for Buddy to find. We did an egg hunt last year and he had an hard time deciphering the clues because he was new to English. Just reading was hard, but figuring out hints was pretty much impossible for him to do alone.

This year, Buddy managed to figure the hints out by himself before we even got up. In fact, I woke up to him nudging me on the shoulder and exclaimed that we had too many books and he couldn't find Watership Down.

It is amazing how much he has learned since this time last year!




Friday, April 3, 2015

Chocolate Covered Cherries and Peanut Butter Balls


At Christmas time, I am the family member responsible for bringing desert to our holiday celebrations. Two crowd-favorites are my chocolate covered cherries and peanut butter balls. 

Chocolate Covered Cherries (makes ~60 pieces)

Ingredients:
- 2 10 oz Maraschino cherries with stems
- 3 tbsp butter or margarine, softened
- 3 tbsp light corn syrup
- 2 C icing sugar
- 1 1/2 lbs bakers chocolate

Drain cherries overnight. Combine butter and syrup. Add the icing sugar and knead until smooth. Chill if it is too soft to handle. Shape 1/2 tsp of mixture around each cherry. Place on wax paper lined sheet and chill. Melt chocolate in a double boiler. Hold cherries by stem and dip into chocolate. Chill.
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Peanut Butter Balls (makes ~48 pieces)

Ingredients:
- 2 C icing sugar
- 1 C chopped peanuts
- 1/2 C graham cracker crumbs
- 3/4 C peanut butter
- 1/2 C butter or margarine
- 1 1/2 lbs bakers chocolate

Combine sugar, peanuts and graham crackers. Melt peanut butter and butter in a sauce pan over low heat and pour over dry ingredients. Stir until mixed. Shape mixutre into 1-inch rounds. Place on wax paper lined sheet and chill. Melt chocolate in a double boiler. Dip the peanut butter balls into the melted chocolate. Chill.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Crisis - Intervention

When we first got home with Buddy, our "honeymoon" period lasted about three months. We were all nervous and eager to make each other happy.

Once we settled into a routine and were more comfortable, that ended. Buddy started to display behaviors that was not ideal but also not unexpected. Hubby and I were prepared for the honeymoon to end at some point.

We weren't prepared for Buddy to start self-hurting. When he became upset or overwhelmed, he would pull out his hair and eyelashes, scratch welts into his face, bite his nails until they bled and even bang his head against the wall. These were his coping mechanisms to deal with pain, hurt and anger.

Buddy had already started play therapy and was learning how to identify and manage his feelings. We signed him up for yoga to help him learn relaxation techniques. We started practicing short periods of silent meditation at home. When he got upset, we would put him in cotton gloves to keep him from hurting himself. No matter what we tried, Buddy found ways to self-hurt. It gave him control when he felt chaotic.

When Buddy's therapist moved her practice and couldn't keep him on, we were put in touch with a youth crisis service until we found a new therapist. This is one of the best resources we were ever given.

It is the resource that works.

When Buddy starts coming apart at the seams, mobile crisis workers are able to come to him and help support and stabilize the situation in the moment. Because he knows this option is available, he seems to need it less. It is a security blanket that is always there but seldom needed except on very bad days.

It has been a long time since Buddy self-hurt. He still gets upset, overwhelmed and angry sometimes. Who doesn't? Most of the time he is able to deal with these hard feelings in more constructive ways. His coping techniques aren't perfect, but they are a vast improvement over what they were.

What I learned from our journey to help Buddy is that mental health isn't one size fits all. It took more time than I would have liked and it was harder than it should have been, but I am thankful to have found a support that works for Buddy.

Do you need a crisis resource? Here are a few links:

Australia: Lifeline Crisis Chat
Canada: Mind Your Mind
UK: Samaritans
US: BoysTown National Hotline

For a list of country more specific helplines for a variety of issues, click here