Saturday, February 21, 2015


Written 4/25/10

I wish I had a dime for every time he announced this in his loudest "outside" voice. Walking through the automatic door at the fruit market--going in. On an airplane waiting for take-off. Meijer Butterfly Gardens when he exited the restroom. And always, always in a restaurant. He also has to announce I GOTTA PEE, OR POOP BUT WAIT RIGHT THERE UNTIL I TELL YOU YOU CAN WIPE MY BUTT BECAUSE I NEED PRIVACY. He will also announce other peoples bodily functions in the same voice. And there is nothing more charming than when he is introduced to someone and he tells them I CAN BURP MY ABC'S. WANNA HEAR ME? He doesn't even recite his ABC's in English yet let alone in Burpish.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015


Holden is having an EEG tomorrow due to an incident that happened just before Christmas.  It's just one of those things that a kid can do and say I dont want to freak you out but......  The orders are to keep him awake until 11:00 and let him sleep until 3:00 (thats am of course) and then keep him awake until the test at 9:00.  Anyone who has read anything I have ever written about our lives over the past 7 years will know that was close to a normal night for him.  Except, recently, we have found the right combination of medications, and he has fallen asleep by 9:00; gotten up, gone to the bathroom, come in, woke us up, gotten escorted back to his room maybe only once or twice a night, where he then stays until roughly 5:00 or 6:00.  He slept once until 7:00 and we both got up and held a mirror under his nose to check for respiration.  Tonight we will only give him some of his sleeping toddy, not all of it and we wait to see what happens........

When they called to preregister him I was referred back to the technician, who ask a few questions about why we were doing this test and about why he was on the meds he is on.  She explained to me that the reason they want him sleep deprived is because they need him to be perfectly still and calm during the test.  Well, thats not going to happen.  The more tired  Holden is, the more active he is.  When we had the overnight sleep study done,  he only slept the last 1/2 hr. before we were to be discharged, and he took a shower, rode 1 1/2 hrs. home at 7 am and had us drop him off at school for the day.  Can you imagine how much the cardio/pulmonary lab is looking forward to this?  I can assure you, they are not.  But, we have to try their way first.

So, tomorrow at 9:00 am, Holden will be carrying on a non-stop dialogue with the nurses and techs about everything from the stickers that are pasted to his head to the rooms he has created in Mind Craft.  Along with the movements of his mouth, there will be movements in his hands, his feet and everything in between.   I, on the other hand, will have my head on his cot, my eyes closed and.......... zzzzzzzzzzzzz's

Saturday, November 15, 2014


About 3 years ago Ed was diagnosed with a Triple A aneurysm- meaning he has one in his abdominal aorta and one in each of his arteries going into his legs.  He went through a rapid growth period where they had doubled in size within a 6 month period, and then stabilized for the last 18 months at a 4.9.  The point which the risk of surgery vs the risk of rupture are equal is at 5.  He has been checked and scanned every 6 months  at University of Michigan's Cardio/Vascular department, and that was where we went on Friday morning. I wasnt feeling good about this appointment all week, thought it was just residual stress from all that has been going on lately with family, and  the trip from hell on the roads Thursday night didnt help. Everything from zero visibility to black ice created enough tension in the car that Holden became obsessed with what time it was, how many miles had we gone, were we sure the pool would still be open when we got to the hotel. On and on and on for over 4 hours.  I think if he had kicked the back of my seat one more time I'd have jumped out of the moving car since it was going slow enough I wouldnt have been hurt anyway.

I didnt go with Ed at 6:00 am the next morning for his scans, and he was finished by the time  Holden was in the pool again when it opened.  I should have, but  exam rooms can seem really small with an over active kid who can't get wi fi on his kindle.

Ed has gone through another rapid growth since May and is now at 5.2.  Its time, but yet its never a good time.  We have a lot to think about like when and what type of  procedure. Ed told his surgeon he cannot make that decision without first talking to me. It  will not get better and it will probably continue to  grow.  We could wait  another 6 months, but who wants to be under restrictions for the summer. Who knows how much it can grow in that amount of time.  We have sort of felt like he was a walking time bomb as it . We know he will have the surgery. Its just the other factors involved in our decision , such as his health status in another 6 months, and a new year of deductibles. Do we want to do this  before or after Christmas.   By having 3 stents  placed it will mean less recovery, but it is only a fix, not a repair.  He will need to be monitored closely for several years for stent failure. Open surgery will repair the problem-period, but with much more recovery time and healing. He will never  be any younger or any healthier than he is today.

However, the most important and complicated consideration is Holden.  For the past 7 years, any decision we have made has been with his best interest in mind, and this one is a biggy.  I cant be two places at once.  I cant give Ed my full attention if I am worried about who is taking care of Holden and yet Holden's stability and security is totally dependent on us.  He struggles with change and he is so intuitive that he instantly knows when things are amiss.  Most couples  our age do not have to divide their heart in two.  They are finally able to focus on each other.  We are always vigilant as to how things will affect Holden.   He is so vulnerable.  Its just who we are and how it is. As much as we love our other kids, this one depends on us.

We are scared.  Ed's Dad died from having a triple A repair.  Its on our minds .  We have often talked of  what Holden's future would be like if something happened to one or both of us before he is an independent adult.  When you are 63 and 65 and your child is 8 you need to think of this as reality.  We both want to watch him grow up, so we need to  take care of this.  But first, we need to find a quiet space to talk about it.  Maybe Monday when Holden is in school.

Saturday, December 21, 2013


 I was ask to write an article for the local newspaper for the Great Start column about Raising a Grandchild.  I got a little carried away on  length, but it was published in today's paper in it's entirety.

A typical day in our house starts before the “sun” is up, even before the time change, because the “son” is up.  He is not now, nor has he ever been a child who sleeps.  At times those pre-dawn hours consist of quiet time cuddled between his Dad and I or wrapped in a blanket on the couch quietly watching a cartoon.  Most often, our darkness blatantly becomes light when he flips a switch and begins demanding we get up-now.  He is hungry, he cant find the remote, he wants someone with him, where’s the kindle,  he’s thirsty and any other number of reasons why we do not get our beauty sleep.   The evenings consist of playtime, homework, dinner, bath, story and the God Bless Yous. This happens in households with young children every day. Nothing unique about it.  It is part of being a parent, and you realize that someday, “this too shall pass”.   But, we have already been there and done that over three decades ago and are now on our second time around.  The “son” is our adopted grandson.  He is 7.  We are past 60.
When Lexi ask me to write an article of what it was like to be an adoptive grandparent, none of us realized it would follow the beautifully written, heartfelt story of my daughter Stephanie”s journey into the adoption of her first child.  Mine is the story of a different journey into adoption.  A journey that took  nearly 5 years to complete  and one we never intended to make.  But we would never have it any other way.
We do not feel that we are any different than any other family with a young child.  I was even present at his birth. We started with diapers, bottles and cribs, and moved on to potty training, solid food and a toddler bed. There was a time where I wondered if the three of us would be in diapers at the same time.  We walked the floor when he was sick, took him for well check ups and squeezed his hand during his imuniaztions. We were still working so we had to deal with day care. I attended Great Start play groups, joined the parent coalition and took him to Great Start Readiness pre school for 2 years.  We sat in tiny little chairs at Kindergarten round-up.  We go door to door trick or treating , visit with Santa and leave cookies and milk on Christmas Eve, as well as hide eggs and fill a basket at Easter.  It seems as though we eat our way through his Holidays because we don’t want him to get the “sugar buzz”.   It cracks me up when someone will say “Arent Grandchildren just the best.  You get to sugar them all up and send them home to their parents.”   I just smile and say” yes, that would be nice wouldn’t it.”We are providing the full experience, from his Birthday parties to summer activities, not just contributing a portion. But we have to admit, we are physically exhausted each and every day, and most mornings since he doesn’t sleep.  This is not a life for the weak. 
Holden was 18 months old when he and his Mom moved in with us and we became his full time caregiver and  guardian when he was 2.  We celebrated his adoption on September 27, 2012 when he was 6. He had some slight developmental delays at first and we had him evaluated by the Early On program through the local ESD.  His team worked with me over that first summer and he quickly caught up.  I wasn’t until he started kindergarten that the full effects of his early childhood experiences began to seriously affect his behavior and his ability to learn in spite of the fact that he is exceptionally bright and intelligent.  He began seeing a therapist and we developed an IEP plan to support him while he was at school.  I cannot say enough about the group of professionals who are working to make sure Holden is secure and to help him succeed at MCC. In fact, I started my morning today with our monthly 7:45 am meeting to discuss his progress and any changes that may be necessary to his plan.  I am so proud and grateful of the growth he is showing.
I am a very familiar person at the school.  Many of the kids think that I am an aid, stopping for me to tie a shoe or button a coat.  They are never quite sure what to call me.  “Hi, ummm, Holden’s Grandma?  Ummm, Mom? Umm whoever you are, just Hi.”   Or the one sweetheart that said “hey, you look too old to be his Mom.  You look more like his Grandma!”  Holden tells them that’s because I used to be his Grandma, but now Im just his Mom.  He told me someone was really pretty.  Then he said “well, you’re pretty too, but you’re old.”  Ed told him it was OK, “ I was really pretty old.”
 Instead of  leisure and enrichment classes, I have been taking trainings and workshops on the effect  early childhood trauma has on the developing brain, attachment disorders, separation anxiety, and sensory integration disorder.   Slowly I am beginning to follow the language of acronyms such as FAS, AS, SID . Things are measured on a spectrum instead of a straight line diagnosis.   Holden has migraines which prompted a recent visit to a UofM neurologist and a medication he cannot tolerate.  This week we have an appointment with a sleep disorder clinic and we are investigating medication for Attention Deficit  Disorder (ADD), but are trying “the diet” first.
All of this makes him sound like a real mess of a kid.  But he isn’t.  He is a terrific kid, behaving like most 7 year olds with a few glitches here and there. He makes us laugh, he frustrates us to no end and stands at the edge our limits.  Because we have raised three  before him  we have the confidence to address his needs, and if we don’t have the answer, we are humble enough to ask for help.  We totally pick our battles around here.  We do not waste our energy on frivolous arguments.   The problem is that because he is so bright, he can read us very quickly and accurately.  We have to remember to keep our buttons covered because if we don’t, he is morally bound by the 7 yr. old’s code of ethics to push them.
 Our lives are centered around what he wants and needs to succeed. We really don’t have a social life with friends our age.  We don’t quite fit and child care costs are prohibitive.   Raising a child on Social Security is not an easy task. I attend my Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Support Group and Ed has different meetings, but most of our time is spent with family.   I get my much needed Grandma time and Holden gets his cousins to play with. If I were to have a regret, it would be the lack of time and energy to spend with the other Grandchildren.  I miss that.  I long to be Cookie Grandma instead of Crabby Grandma, but it’s really hard when you are raising the youngest of the six.
 I would not be honest if I didn’t say that I would like to spend a month in Florida this winter with my sister in law, or go someplace exotic with my husband.  Like out to dinner and a movie.  I don’t have a bucket list.  I don’t have time to make one, let alone execute one.  But, it is what it is.  I have often said that in order to enjoy the life you have, you have to let go of the life you planned.  I like us.  Ed is a wonderful Dad.  He has the time and the patience now that he didn’t have 30 years ago.  We have something to focus on and work for together every single day.  Making sure that our new son feels safe, has a chance at childhood,  because that is what every child deserves.  And how often do you get that chance at our age to make that kind of a difference in another’s life.
Why would we take this on at a time in our lives when we were supposed to be enjoying ourselves and pursuing activities and plans we had put on hold for forty years?  Because we couldn’t have lived with the alternative.  Holden described it perfectly on the day he was adopted.  He wanted to return to school after court, and even though he is very private about his personal business, he announced to his 1st grade class that he had just got adopted.  When he was ask to explain to the class what that meant he said “Well, sometimes, when you’re a little kid, things just don’t start out so good and you have to move.  But when you get adopted it means you don’t ever have to move again.”  Every night when we say the God Bless Yous, he asks for God to bless Holden and Mom and Dad because we are family. 

Monday, December 9, 2013


This blog belongs to AARP or Gens. United.  Maybe Society on Aging more than Raising a Grandchild, but since its my blog, I can write what I want.

I woke up to a beautiful layer of fluffy snow on the ground and hanging heavily on the trees.  I had the irresistible urge to dig out my cross country skis and go off through the woods on our property. Before taking full time parenting of Holden I would spend hours making trails and even following to river through the neighboring properties until I reached the City Campground.  Once Holden was here, I didnt have 5 minutes to get my skiis on, let alone and hour to use them.  The same goes for my long solitary walks I used to take.  My weight, my mood and my stamina (not to mention cholesterol)  all reflect this lack of time.  So, I am determined to change-today-all at once.  Holden is in school, and Ed is capable of protecting hearth and home (and answering the phone).

Getting ready was a trip in itself.  I never did own the proper attire to go out in public when I was bundled, but if a backboard and snowmobile were required for rescue I was at least presentable.  The last remaining pair of leggings I owned were in the bottom of the "what if I lose lots of weight and I might want to wear these again" box.  Did you know that the elastic waistbands deteriorate on those things with out the butt expanding as well?  I safety pinned them up, pulled on a pair of sweatpants and wool socks and went off in search of mittens and hat. Donning a red hat, one blue and one red mitten-the blue one worn upside down because they were both right hands, and a brown/black/green "Boarders" parka circa 1990 that one of the kids left around, I began the grunting to tie my boots.  As soon as I got to the door I had to go to the bathroom.

Aaaaannnnddddd Im out the door.  My skis are on.  My poles are wrapped around my wrists.   I learned a lot by the time I left the driveway and reached the woods.  I learned that 24 degrees is really cold.  If you go under those beautiful snow covered limbs, they will inevitably drop their fluff down the back of your neck.  I learned that my 62 yr. old body did not retain the memory of a fluid gliding motion I was hoping to find.  It is not like riding a bike.  It is more like falling off a horse.  And fall I did.  At the point farthest from the house.  And like with a horse, it hurts.  It is not a soft tumble but a stiff flailing that sends shock waves from your knees to your elbows, up your spine and into your neck.  But, not to worry, I had plenty of time to assess my pain because like that gliding motion my body forgot, it also couldnt remember how to get up.    I  finally decided it would be easier to take my ski off and stand.  Did you know that not only do non stick skis get sticky (hence the fall) over the years, sometimes the little button you push to release the ski also sticks.  I really wish I had not double knotted my boot.  I wish my back didnt hurt so I could reach it for both the untying and the retying.  I had to get up.  Even though I now carry a cell phone, I would never call for help. Ed would not stop laughing long enough to come to my rescue Remember the snowmobile and back board?  That means a paramedic has to be driving.  With my strict code of fashion I couldnt possibly let someone see me like that.  And you remember what you were always told about your underwear. Something else I forgot-it is a gradual downhill trip to the River bank, and a mountainous climb uphill to go the 1/2 mile back.

Did I really  only  go a mile?  Surely the curves in the path must add more.  I have a blister, my big toes and little fingers "feel" frostbitten, my nose and cheeks no longer get that hint of pink, but are more of a purple and my range of motion is definitely reduced when trying to keep from landing on my face.  But you know what?  I will do it again tomorrow.  Because thats how habits are made.  Good ones and bad ones.  Repetition.  Doing the same thing over and over until it feels right. And although my body has lost that memory, my mind has not.  I still have those crazy insane dreams of running again, because it felt so good when I reached that "groove".

 Maybe I will get a pair of skis for Holden.  And maybe a pair for Ed.  But next time, I will try to remember to look up and notice the beauty of the woods in winter


Each year couples celebrate  the anniversary of their wedding day when they made the commitment to love , cherish, honor and obey till death do us part.  Today, Ed and I celebrate the 1 yer anniversary of another kind of commitment.  The day we promised to love, cherish, and provide all things necessary to ensure a child has the best possible chance for a life from childhood to adulthood.  Oh, and Obey. One year ago today our adoption of Holden became official and his front and center place in our lives permanent. We are not so delusional as to think we will be here to watch him raise his own family, after all we are in our 60's. But what we can do is to leave him with a legacy of first hand knowledge of our many years of life experience. I wish I could say  we we have reached a place where we are done making mistakes, we arent, but I do think we are able to move on from them quicker.  I dont think we have all the answers to raise a child, in fact I think with the challenges Holden has presented, I know less, but I am more willing to ask for help .  We are readily admit we have far less energy, but much more patience-possibly because it takes longer to catch him and by then we have forgotten why we got up anyway.  I think he is growing up with more privilege than my other older three, with less  financial resources.    He has our unlimited time, our undivided attention, an entire house and acreage as his play space.  Our world is his world, and vise versa. He doesnt have to share, a minor glitch in his personality that we probably should work on.   We choose our battles.  There again, the rapidity that we are required to move into action comes into play. If we dont rock his boat, he doesnt rock ours. He is doubly loved.   Very soon I will take refresher courses in Math and Science as I have no idea what he is doing with homework.  I thought there was only one way to count, add, subtract divide, or  multiply, but apparently thats not true.  We were discussing the amount of time I spend in the car again running after him.  The miles are adding up quickly and I can remember a few short years ago I could go days (mostly in the winter) without ever turning the ignition key.

The ways in which our lives have changed since Holden came to live with us permanently when he was 18 months old would fill a book, but the way our lives have changed since the adoption are more subtle, but ever so monumental to us.  The first thing we noticed is that we stopped worrying about him having to leave us.  He had been with us for nearly five years and we couldnt imagine life without him.  We were always Grandma and Papa.  After the adoption, Mom and Dad.  I love when I am in the school and the kids will say Hi Holden's ummmm Grandma?  Mom? Whoever you are? Hi. We became an official family, with a new Birth Certificate to prove it.  We (and I mean all three of us) began to "move on", to begin to heal, to let go of the painful past.

 I have thought a hundred times about writing the story of our journey to adoption in one piece instead of status reports on my facebook that I occasionally compile into a blog. It should be called "The Best Decision is Not Always the Least Painful" or Sometimes Adoption isnt the Happiest Day of Your Life".  Because there was a lot of pain in reaching this decision.  We had to let go of what we thought his life, his Mom's life, and most certainly our life was supposed to be.  "Life happens when you make other plans." But I would not have this any other way. He is our child as much as the three I gave birth to .  And he is my Grandchild as much as the other 5 are.  He is doubly loved.  As I said, he has the best of all worlds.

Holden said it best when he returned to school after we had been to court and he announced to his class that he had just been adopted.  In his words  " SOMETIMES THINGS DONT START OUT SO GOOD FOR KIDS, BUT ADOPTION MEANS YOU NEVER HAVE TO MOVE AGAIN."  Mighty wise for a 6 yr. old.  When we talked to him about celebrating this as a special day, I told him some people call this "Gotcha Day".  He thought that was weird because YOU ALREADY GOT ME BEFORE THEN.   I told him it was the day he became an official Wagner.  WHAT I THINK WE SHOULD DO IS JUST SKIP THE CELEBRATION AND CUT RIGHT TO THE GIFT.

Happy Wagner Day Holden
Love, Your Mom

Friday, August 30, 2013


We went to Florida to stay at my brother's house for three weeks in February when Holden was 4. My Mom and her husband had been there since before Christmas and my brother and his wife had to be out of town for a week, so of course we would be happy to come and stay. Mom bought our tickets . Within the first week, Holden had pneumonia, (he's asthmatic) and my Mom's husband, who was in poor health, was scheduled for surgery. Mel did not survive, Holden was like the energizer bunny on speed (albeuterole inhaler 4 X's a day). We did an excellent job of dealing with the death around Holden. In fact, he didn't have a clue. Until 2 months later. . While we were out for a walk he asked when Papa Mel would be home from Florida , and I explained that he wouldn't be because he had died.OH, THAT'S NOT VERY GOOD was his response.

The next day in the car....GRANDMA, GRANDMA, WHY DIDN'T GOD MAKE STRAWBERRIES BLUE? I guess because he already had blueberries. And without missing a beat--WHY DID PAPA MEL GET DEAD? Well, because now he can be with God and he isn't sick anymore and he even has 2 legs again so he can run across Heaven. OH, BUT I CAN'T  FEELD HIM ANYMORE. Yes you can. He is in your heart, put your hand there and you will feel him. I CAN FEELD HIM, BUT HOW DID HE GET THERE? God let him be there. BUT IF GOD CAN DO THAT, WHY CAN'T HE MAKE HIM NOT BE DEAD?......Back seat conversations are not for the weak.

THIS MUCH I KNOW: Everyone mourns in their own way, no one way is right or wrong. But it is impossible to feel sad for very long with a three year old in the house.
My step father was the same age I will be when Holden graduates from high school. I need to take better care of myself so that I do not become prematurely old.