Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Monster in Your Dreams

I’ve always been fascinated with dreams. They are magical doors to exciting worlds, escape from the banality of life. Dreams are the seeds of inspirations and ideas. They are source of nightmares and fear. They are the windows to our souls.

My little Ryan has always had bad dreams. He was two and a half years old when I adopted him so the situation was traumatic for all involved. For awhile they were every night, an hour to an hour and a half after he went to bed. I would rush to his room and pull him into a hug and tell him Momma was there. Everything was okay.

When I first brought him home he spoke Chinese and I knew none, but he learned English quickly. Months after he came home I asked him what he remembered about China. He looked at me with a confused expression and said “nothing.” He only had memories of being with me.

Over the years, I’ve tried to jog his memory. Does he remember China at all? What about when he was with us there? Or living with his foster family? He remembers nothing, to my huge regret. But he was only two and most people have no real memories from their past before three.

Ryan is five now. Lately, his dreams have changed. He tells me they are about China when he was little. But when pressed, he said he didn’t remember.

But this morning was different.

I woke up late and had to get three kids and myself ready. I was in my bathroom and running behind when Ryan came in and stood next to me, very subdued. I looked down at him and he said. “I had a bad dream.”

I kept fixing my hair and asked, “What was it about?”

“When I was little in China. And Jenna was there.” This was a new piece of information.

I glanced down at his face, uncharactistically expressionless. I sat on the floor and pulled him onto my lap, facing me. “What happened? Do you remember?”

He stared into my eyes, tears welling up. “I lived in China and you came to get me.”

I sucked in my breath as cold terror trickled down my back. His nightmares, finally, after all these years made sense.

I am the monster in my child’s dreams.

I pulled him into a hug and told him how sorry I was that it was so scary for him. He didn’t know what was going on when I adopted him. The orphanage director brought him to me and left. He was alone with a strange looking woman who smelled different and he didn’t understand what she was saying. He was traumatized. He had cried for hours.

I leaned him back and stared into his face. “It’s okay to have those dreams,” I said. “It’s okay to feel mad, or sad or scared of Mommy in your dreams. You’re not bad to feel that way. You didn’t do anything wrong. But I love you very much and I’ll do anything to make you feel better. I want you tell me when you feel this way and I promise I won’t be mad or hurt or sad.”

A tear fell down his cheek.

“Do you understand?”

He nodded.

“You need to tell me so you will feel better. If you talk about it your dreams might not be so scary. And I promise I won’t be mad. It’s okay to feel that way.”

He spent the next ten minutes with me as I got ready, holding my hand when we went to get his sisters up. Within another ten minutes, he was fine, his silly self.

But I’ve spent the morning reliving every nightmare he’s had, viewing it in a new light. What could I have done differently? How could I have prevented this trauma for him? Because isn’t that what we mothers do? Blame ourselves?

The truth is, there are things I could have done, but I’m not perfect. Maybe I should have pressed him harder sooner but I don’t think so. Honestly, I don’t think he put it all together himself.

So why am I telling the world this painful experience? Because I wish that I’d spent more time repeating his adoption “story” with him. Jenna, the first, had a bedtime story about a little girl who lived far away and her family flew over an ocean to get her. But Ryan is my third adoption and our bedtime routine has changed. I’m often in a hurry to get my kids to bed so I can work. Stories don’t happen as often as they should. Maybe, just maybe, if I talked about it more he wouldn’t need his dreams to sort out his feelings for him.

And I know that my Ryan isn’t the only one. You—the adoptive mom or dad—might be the monster in your child’s dreams. It doesn’t mean that they don’t love you. In fact, I suspect Ryan’s biggest obstacle this morning was resolving his conflicting feelings about me. It never occurred to me that he kept that horrifying day locked deep in his psyche, although it should have. It shouldn’t be a surprise it escaped through his dreams. But now I’m aware and I’m prepared. And maybe, just maybe, we can make the monster go way.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Hey! Look at Me! I'm a Bag Lady!

I've been busy lately getting ready for the release of Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes. This means I've been preoccupied and my children have had to entertain themselves.


**Insert obligatory mom story about only having three TV channels when I was a kid and having to play outside all day.**

**Insert obligatory childrens' eye roll**

Thankfully, Ryan and Emma entertain themselves pretty well, as long as I can tolerate the mess. (And if you've seen my house, you know I can.) Today, I was sitting at my computer trying to organize a blog tour** for my book and I noticed Emma prancing in the entry way. Wearing a bag. A gift bag.

This picture doesn't do it justice, but she's ripped out the bottom of the bag and the handles are her shoulder straps.

Why yes, she is doing a pageant move with her fists under her chin. Why do you ask? *blinks*

Note: my children are not involved in pageants. Julia, who just turned 14, is obsessed with Toddlers and Tiaras and has taught poor innocent Emma how to walk with cupcake hands and blow kisses in the shape of a heart. God help me.

But why stop with dresses?

How about a cape?

Or a hat?
Ryan couldn't be left out of the fun.

Meet the future winners of Project Runway. With their use of sustainable products along with their unique style, they're shoe ins.

**Book Blog Tour: I am putting together a book blog tour for Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes. The tour will start on my blog on the release date, July 12 and travel to other blogs for 2-3 weeks. If you'd like to be part of it, send me an email at Thanks!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Admitting You Have a Problem is the First Step

Hi. I'm Denise and I'm addicted to emoticons.

It all started innocently enough. A smiley face here :-) or there. :)

Then to convey sarcasm. The wink: ;)

Surprisingly (or not), I use that one a lot. ;)

The I moved onto to the angry face: x-)

And surprise: O.O

Then one of my favorites, the spit face: ;-P"""

Why, yes, I'm a bad influence on my children. Why do you ask?

The next thing I knew, I couldn't send a tweet or write a Facebook status update/comment without one.

I was addicted.

But it's annoying with all those unclosed parentheses floating all over the place with carelessly attached semi-colons and colons. I need to stop and admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery, right? So I vow to stop using emoticons as much as possible. Even if it's really hard. O.O Oh wait. x-( This might be a little harder than I thought.

Still, some things are sacred.

They'll have to pull the LOL out of my cold dead fingers.

Thursday, June 9, 2011


With a mom who's busy trying to get everything ready to publish a book (while attempting to write another) and two small children who don't understand why they can't go to the pool, how is this resolved?


Sunday, June 5, 2011

Why Mommy Wears Headphones

Summer vacation is here! Yay! Unfortunately, I've had a hard time concentrating the last few days. I wonder why. This video was taken just a few moments ago from my desk chair.

Be sure to get to at least 30 seconds to get the "full effect."
*this is a cross post with my writing blog

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Nerves and Ways to Deal with Them

You can always tell when I'm nervous. My house is usually clean. And decorated.

It's kind of backward, I know. I should be too anxious to clean, but I've come to realize it's my way of trying to exert some control over a situation that I might feel out of control.

Last year I had a bad pap smear, only it wasn't a the usual kind. The bad cells were endometrial which made me more than a little freaked out. My nurse practitioner was fantastic and got me into a gynecologist in her office within days to have a coloposcopy. The doctor removed a large polyp during the procedure that appeared to be attached to my endometrium. He said he was sure it was the cause of the bad pap smear and that the growth was most likely benign, but the pathology report would tell us. I'd have the results in a few days.

{Side note: If you didn't know this, don't feel slighted. I think I only told two people.}

Over the next few days I painted and decorated Ryan's room, cleaned out and organized his and both girls' bedroom closets. Busy girl. I had a paint roller in my hand when the phone rang, the nurse calling me to tell me everything was really okay.

{Side note #2: The doctor wanted to have me take a pregnancy test before he did the procedure. My insurance sucks so I told him it wasn't necessary. He said sometimes women thought they might not be pregnant so I should do it to be sure. To which I replied: "Trust me Dr. XXX, you're the first man to be down there in years." He turned a lovely shade of crimson and let it drop. Imagine my horror when several months later I discovered he was the husband of Julia's vocal teacher.}

My nervousness now is minor in comparison. While it's over a possibly life changing situation, no matter which way the decision goes, my life will continue just fine. Still, it's something out of my control.

So, my house is getting really clean. And pretty. I woke Ross up yesterday morning and asked him if he wanted to help me paint the kitchen and hearth room. He's my usual partner in home repair so he said yes. We spent the rest of the day painting and later last night, as Ross and I were finishing up, Jenna asks, "Does this mean we have to spend all our time outside?"

I looked at her in confusion. "What?"

"Since you're making our house so fancy, does this mean we have to spend all our time outside and only come in to go to bed so we don't mess it up?"

My daughter is a genius. Why did I never think of this?

Monday, May 30, 2011

Sisterly Love

Last week I was in New York City for BEA, Book Expo America, which is all about publishing and the newest books coming out in the fall. Basically, it's like Disneyland for book lovers. But leaving for a week always proves a challenge with a house full of kids and no significant other to help out. This trip was a hodge-podge of child care ranging from Ross and Julia tag-teaming during the week, Friday night at my brother's house and a baby sitter Saturday and Sunday.


Needless to say, my house was a freaking disaster when I came home.

As I was cleaning the entry way this morning, I found a wadded up napkin. Ewww. Gross. But I noticed the napkin had writing. It was trash from Jenna's lunch on Field Day which Julia had made for her.

My oldest girls, Julia 13 and Jenna 8, sometimes get along but more than half the time fight like the two gangs in West Side Story, only thankfully my girls don't use knives. (that I know of) So finding this napkin was reassuring that maybe there is hope for them after all.

Even though Mom couldn't be here she loves you! Have a FANTASTIC day! I hope your day is filled with sparkles!
Love you!
Your sister, Julia

Excuse me while I go find a tissue to wipe my eyes.