Sunday, October 31, 2010

Can we have duck?

Today at lunch SnapDragon asked if they have Halloween in China.  I told him no (that's right, right?) but they have other holidays that we can start learning about and celebrate so they are a part of our traditions when our sister comes home.  Huckleberry said, "it is convenient that their New Year isn't the same day as ours!"
SnapDragon wanted to know how we were going to learn how to celebrate Chinese Holidays when we aren't Chinese.  I guess he'll make a good AP since he is starting to wonder about these things at age 6.

Today at dinner Huckleberry asked if we will have duck when we celebrate the Chinese New Year.  I told him maybe we can go to a Chinese restaurant and order duck, but I wasn't sure I was up to cooking one myself--certainly not up to the quality at a good restaurant.  I also told him that maybe we can have duck when we go to China, if he comes with us.

"I hope I get to go.  I've been thinking about going to China all week.  I even dreamed about it.  I dreamt that I haggled so well I got something for zero cents.  I don't remember what it was, something we didn't need, but still zero cents!  I want to try duck."

That's my boy!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Things That I Know

So the last day and a half I have been really upset because of some complications with our adoption agency's relationship with China--complications that will probably be resolved quickly and with little impact to our adoption.  Since I have started this blog, I have had days where I was sad but it has always been for others, for their complications and their pain, but today it has been about me (at least to me).  In some ways this is much easier, because I KNOW what comforts me and often I don't have words to comfort others.

So this is what I know:

Terrific steak dinner with family and friend, comforting.
Big Bang Theory, laughter producing.
Crushing my husband and friend in a game of Settlers, surprisingly satisfying.
Spending time with husband, soothing.
Talking to Social Worker for an hour, reassuring.
Knowing friends on WAGI are praying, heart easing.
Talking to best friend on phone, relaxing.
Spending time with God, necessary and sweet.
Remembering I serve a God of power, encouraging.
Giggles and kisses with my daughter, wonderful.
Daughter napping so I can update blog, really, really nice. 

My head is still stuffy from all the tears (some of which I think have to be about other griefs because I almost never cry for me) but I know this is just a small blip in the grand scheme of things and I know I will come out on the other side of this closer to God.

O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s a light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

Through death into life everlasting
He passed, and we follow Him there;
Over us sin no more hath dominion—
For more than conquerors we are!

His Word shall not fail you—He promised;
Believe Him, and all will be well:
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Wounded Heart--a book response

The last book I read, The Wounded Heart: Hope for Adult Victims of Childhood S*xual Abuse by Dr. Dan B. Allender, has nothing to do with adoption.  However, given the statistics that 1 out of 3 women and 1 out 4 men have been victims of s*xual abuse (SA), chances are everyone knows someone this book could benefit.  I read the book for my Biblical Counseling class, and I believe this book (with God's power) could help heal many emotional wounds with which people deal though the books main focus is the deep wound of SA.  Honestly the book delves so deeply into our outward responses to our inner hurts with such accuracy I don't want to do the book a disservice in my response.  I cannot sum up a few pithy take aways that will let you know if you should read the book or not.  Let's just say, I think you should read it (and I will lend my copy to my local friends).

I think the best way to give you a glimpse of what this book offers is to give you the table of contents.

Prologue:  The Quest for a Cure
Part 1: The Dynamics of Abuse
     Chapter 1  The Reality of War: Facing the Battle
     Chapter 2  The Enemy: Sin and Shame
     Chapter 3  Deflection: The Clash with Contempt
     Chapter 4  The War Zone: Strategies for Abuse
Part 2: The Damage of Abuse
     Chapter 5  Powerlessness
     Chapter 6  Betrayal
     Chapter 7  Ambivalence
     Chapter 8  Secondary Symptoms
     Chapter 9  Style of Relating
Part 3:  Prerequisites for Growth
     Chapter 10 The Unlikely Route to Joy
     Chapter 11 Honesty
     Chapter 12 Repentance (not for the event/crime or for a child's coping mechanisms)
     Chapter 13 Bold Love
Epilogue: Words to the Wise

I found the book's discussion of shame in Chapter 2 particularly applicable to all areas of life.  He calls it the dread of being known and describes how we can feel shame because our dignity has been offended like we trip, or because we have actually sinned and feel shame in order to repent.  Often we get the two confused and end up stewing in shame, embarrassment, and guilt for things of which we have no need to repent.  The author describes the difference as "legitimate shame exposes depravity, and illegitimate shame shines a light on some element of dignity."  Oh, there is some great stuff in this chapter alone that can help one focus on what actually can be changed and done in order to start on the path to come alive--a difficult and painful path, but one that leads to real joy.

Now if one needs every book to relate to adoption (as I currently do) I actually saw a lot of similarities in the wounds SA victims experience to what some adult adoptees describe.  When SA victims try to speak out, they have often been shut down, their experiences ignored or told they did not exist, thus losing their ability to trust their own feelings.  They lose their innocence, childhood and sense of safety never to be regained.  Some adult adoptees speak about a similar experience of their wounds being ignored, their voices shut down.  They also experience great losses--the loss of their first parents and birth culture never to be fully regained.  When they try to express the grief of this loss they are ignored or told the loss does not exist, that their pain does not exist. 

I believe this book offers words of validation and comfort to both groups of hurting people:  " an intensified experience of sadness involving the loss of something deeply important that cannot be regained or replaced...Grief does not regain what is lost, but it breaks the tendency to resort to self-hatred to resolve the anguish of the loss...Grief admits there are scars that can be removed only in heaven...Grief may permit deeper acknowledgment of past pain and restore a greater sense of wholeness, but it may equally strengthen the resolve never to be hurt again."  We all have a choice in which direction grief takes us, but "the mercy of God...soothes the soul and draws it forward to a hope that purifies and sets free."  May we all let God's mercy set us free.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Our Adoption Story Part 5--Why a Girl?

You can find the rest of our adoption story here.
Okay, if you have read the other parts of our story and about our family, the answer to this question might be obvious.  When we started the process we had two boys.  We wanted a girl.  While we chose China for these reasons we also knew that most children being adopted from China were girls.  In the past five years the whole International Adoption program from China has changed.   Now there are more boys, particularly waiting boys, and we have a daughter through other means.  However, try as I might, I still want a girl, and I'll admit, I feel a little guilty about it.

When we first started this process we were careful to say "God led us to start the paperwork on adoption.  We don't know what it will lead to but we hope a baby girl from China."  As we finished all our paperwork and started waiting with no obstacles being put in our way, we stopped being careful about not planning for tomorrow, and started expecting--expecting a little girl.  

For Huckleberry that she would be a girl was a given.  He has always wanted a baby sister.  When we were pregnant with Huckleberry we did not find out his gender because we wanted the surprise and were open to either.  When we were pregnant with SnapDragon we did find out his gender.  We had to.  Huckleberry was telling everyone he was getting a little sister named Agig-gail (Abigail is not Sunflower's name).  So we decided we needed to prep him to prepare if it wasn't a girl.  

He came with us to the ultrasound and was super well behaved.  He listened as the lady counted legs and arms and measured every piece of the baby, and he smiled happily.  Finally she asked us if we wanted to know the gender.


"It's a boy!"

"I'm done!" said Huckleberry and he left the room.  Oak had to chase him down.  He was 3 1/2 at the time.

He adjusted to having a little brother quick enough, but he still wanted a sister.  When we came home from our adoption agency with a brochure, we told him.  (I have since learned that many people wait to tell their children, which makes sense because they get tired of waiting, but honestly we are horrible at keeping secrets from our kiddos.  Even if we knew it would take 5 years we probably would have told him).  Anyway, we asked him if he would like a little sister that looked a little like the girl on the brochure.

"No.  I just don't like how she looks!"  He was 5 at the time.

We were horrified.  How did we raise a child who was racist?  We'd better fix this right away!  Umm, first gather more information.

"What exactly about her looks don't you like?"

"I think her yellow sweater is really ugly!"

"Oh, so if we could get her another sweater?  If we let you pick out some of her clothes?"

"Yeah, then I'd like a sister like her."

Move forward 5 years, and we all still want that daughter/sister.  The whole family is looking forward to her arrival and even Sunflower has been told about her sister in China.  We have been praying for "her" for 5 years.  Now God can bring us a little boy, and we will love him, but we will have to mourn the idea of that little girl--or adopt two, a boy and a girl.  We have always wanted to adopt two from China, but gave it up as happily impossible when Sunflower was born.  Now my husband and I are both feeling a desire for two, but it still looks impossible.  Maybe God will give us a boy first so we don't let fear and finances hold us back from obeying Him.   I'll be honest--as I have been holding everything back up until now--it may take getting the boy first to motivate us enough to do all that is necessary to adopt a second child from China and a fifth child total.  That is if God does want us to have 5 children, not 4.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Played with Sunflower

Zing, Zing, Zing
Okay, so I haven't painted with her yet, but I have been more intentional about playing with her the last few days--reading, coloring, sitting on the floor playing with the play food, that kind of stuff.  Today's play of choice was a little more dangerous!

"Mama, play night-night!"

"Okay!"  This sounds easy, all I have to do is lie down in my bed and close my eyes, right?  But I do not have a daughter that can sit still for even one minute.  Zing-zing-zing--that describes Sunflower.

As I try to hug her--"Mama, MOVE Arm!"

We lie quietly side by side for a whole 30 seconds, then zing!  She sits up and bonks my nose with her head so hard I actually start to cry.  She doesn't notice.  She is on the other side of the bed trying to get more covers.

"MomMY!"  I wish you could hear the authoritative demand in her voice full with indignation that I am not doing what she wants.

"Oh,  you want the covers higher up so we can cover our heads."  Really not the safest plan since it prevents me from being able to see which direction each arm, each leg and the head is planning to zing next. 

"Ouch!"  She pulled out a chunk of my hair when she decides she wanted to switch pillows with me.

Is it 12:30 yet?  Can I feed her lunch and put her down for nap?  No.  Only noon.  Keep playing.  So I persist.  Partly because there is something nice about lying in bed under the down comforter in the middle of the day, even if the bed behaves more like a raft on a wild river.  Mostly because it is an investment in my child; in the connection my child will have with me--needs to have with me, the connection I want to have with her.

I am glad I persist.  The next head bonk connects only with my eye and stops smarting much sooner than the nose (the nose still kind of hurts).  She stands on the bed and jumps while looking at me through toy binoculars.  Then flings the binoculars around my head, only pulling a few more hairs, and waves at me looking at her through the binoculars from different places on the bed.  Zing, zing, zing.

"MomMY!"  Oops, I look through them the wrong direction or take them from my eyes to see all of her.

More bounces, more smiles, more stomping on Mama's legs.

"Look, Mama! Two B's!"  The binoculars have the name BackYard Barnyard on them.  She points to the B's while kneeing my stomach.  Maybe her babble means something else, but it really seems clear to me.  She puts her tiny little finger directly on the B of Backyard.

"Oh, Look!  It is 12:50.  Time for lunch and nap."

"No. Snack!  More cake, please!  No nap!"

"Yes, Nap.  Mama needs a real night-night.  Night-Night, sweetheart."

"Night-Night, Mama."

As I close her bedroom door and limp down the hall, "MomMY!"
Watch Out World, Here She Comes!


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Play with Sunflower...Soon

I was trying to decide what to write today because I really wanted to bury yesterday's post when I realized that others might benefit from what I learned at MOPS today.  We had a panel of 4 women come in to talk to us about creative ways to play with our children and how to deal with the mess that playing causes.  It was honestly a very convicting message to me because I just do not like getting on the floor, even if it has been vacuumed recently.  Here are some of their truly creative ideas and wise words.

How to Handle the Mess:
  1. Plastic Table clothes, tarps, and disposable table clothes
  2. Clear expectations--you get to make this mess today, but you will have to help clean it up
  3. Set yourself up for success by not doing this when you are likely to be cranky, as in already cranky, tired, or hungry
  4. Paint in the shower--tape the papers to the wall and when they are done hose them all down
  5. If you know ahead of time you plan a messy project warn your husband so he isn't surprised when you got nothing extra done that day (the activity and cleaning up the mess took all the time)
  6. Add a little bit of dish soap to most paints and they will wash out easier

Some of the Most Fun Ideas
  1. Use different toys like cars or kitchen utensils like a potato masher to paint with so kids can enjoy the different textures
  2. Frost cookies, or if too little for frosting let them sprinkle sugar on the sugar cookies and bake
  3. Include them in cooking, even if you don't have a task necessary for them to do have them sit on the floor and stir a bowl of water with food coloring; kids are good at stirring
  4. Paint or play with shaving cream in a cookie sheet with food coloring for texture play
  5. For kids likely to eat paint let them eat it (really one lady said this) or use chocolate pudding or vanilla pudding with food coloring
  6. Paint/glue/water combo in a spray bottle for the littles to spray at paper, lots of cool texture
  7. For picky eaters, backwards dinner.  Dessert first, but they must eat their dinner.  Give them age appropriate portions, but it is a good way to introduce new foods to them.  
  8. If you have extra photos let them spend time making their own scrap book or memory pages.  It is a great way for them to be creative and proud of what they made.  Once they finish it, they can use it to practice story telling.

Messiest Ideas
  1. Playing with packing peanuts; they crunch them into little bits and you will be finding them for weeks like pine needles from your Christmas tree
  2. The lady that suggested #1 did not class this as messy, but she is crazy!  Take of their pants and let them paint on pudding pants.
  3. Owning chickens--if you do have chickens have shoes that are specific to visiting those chickens
General Wisdom
  1. It is not about the product, it is about the process.  Gluing anything on paper doesn't necessary make an interesting picture, but gives them an idea of process.  Anything you do that gives the children the chance to touch and experience different things, like letting them shape homemade pretzels, is a good project.  Letting them paint with their feet gives them new sensations, also.
  2. Make every day things that are usually kept neat messy.  For example, let them empty their clothing drawers and try everything on.  Let them put yogurt on their faces and hair.  Let them play with water in the sink/wash dishes. 
  3. Be creative and imaginative because that is how little children think
  4. It is all about presentation and clear guidelines--Today is Manic Monday so we get to clean the kitchen floor!  Today is Terrific Tuesday, Wacky Wednesday, Thrilling Thursday, Fabulous Friday, Super Saturday, Silly Sunday...  Apparently if you say it with enough enthusiasm everything is fun! 

Monday, October 18, 2010

I Have a Confession

James 5:16 -Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

The Bible tells me to confess our sins, and I usually do this directly to God and occasionally to my close personal friends who live near me, know me well, and love me.  However, in this instance I am choosing to confess here (after already admitting my fault to God) because the ones I have sinned against have been the bloggy world, many who don't even know my blog exists.  I am writing in a smaller font, because honestly, I don't really want you all to be able to read it.

I have been very judgmental recently. I did not realize it was judgmental, but it was.  I am an opinionated person and my spiritual gift according to many spiritual tests is the gift of prophecy.  My church (and many others) defines this as the ability to see and speak truth.  This totally lines up with what has happened in my life; if you are honestly interested I would be happy to tell you all about it.

Now the difficulty with this gift is that often I see flaws in arguments, Bible verses used out of context, and sin in people's lives.  I once, 10 years ago, had a pastor tell me that sometimes, possibly often, these things are not always revealed to me to speak it out, but to be praying for the situation or person and leaving God to handle it.  This was great advice at the time, and one I have tried to follow ever since.  As I have grown in wisdom I have been blessed to be used by God to correct some error and speak truth, but always with love (at least that is always the goal).  Oddly enough, when you pray about it first, speaking the truth in love becomes much easier.

Recently I have joined the bloggy world, and more specifically the Adoption Bloggy World, and some posts and discussions have really stirred the prophet in me.  So I prayed, and I prayed, but I wanted God to tell me--address this!  Correct their wrong thinking!  But He did not.  He convicted me.

Now, He did not tell me that what I was seeing was good and true and not worth correcting.  What He showed me is that I was being judgmental about it.  That I wasn't really seeking ways to express the truth in love, but that I was wanting to attack the problem and possibly the posts that are most extreme, that I was perceiving every post on the particular topic through jaundiced eyes and not allowing God to speak to me on the topic.

Now the topic has not gone away; I am still uncomfortable with the extremes being put forth, but many are talking in moderation; some of my concerns are based on wording not the actual intent.  I still do not know my role in speaking truth.  However, if He does call me to say something out there and not just from the relative safety of my blog (I have very few readers, and possibly less recently), I believe I will be able to with God's grace speak in love with the right heart attitude.  Was I not clear before?  My heart was way off here.  

Please forgive me as God has forgiven me.  Thank you.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

What a Mighty God I Serve!

Sometimes after I spend time reading books and blogs on adoption, hearing about the plight of orphans, and hearing about others pain and fear as plans don't go the way they want or expect, I get overwhelmed with emotion and hopelessness.  Then I have to remind myself of MY GOD!  He suffers every one of their tears; He has plans for every man, woman, and child; He loves them more than I can ever imagine.

Colossians 1:16-17 - For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
Job 12:7-10 - But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.
Psalm 107: 28-31 - Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress.  He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed.  They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven.  Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men.
Psalm 62:7 -- In God is my salvation and my glory; The rock of my strength, And my refuge, is in God. 
 2 Corinthians 5:17 - Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
Psalms 8:3-9 - When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet: all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
Psalm 27: 4-5 - One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.
  For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock.

Isaiah 40:28-31 - Do you not know?
       Have you not heard?
       The LORD is the everlasting God,
       the Creator of the ends of the earth.
       He will not grow tired or weary,
       and his understanding no one can fathom.
  He gives strength to the weary
       and increases the power of the weak.
  Even youths grow tired and weary,
       and young men stumble and fall;
  but those who hope in the LORD
       will renew their strength.
       They will soar on wings like eagles;
       they will run and not grow weary,
       they will walk and not be faint.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Adoption News so Insignifacant as to Be Uninteresting

Today we finally got our Request for Background Clearance from New York State notarized.  We had to wait at the bank with all three children for one hour, but Oak has not had time during the work day to go in the past month.  We did get a Pumpkin Splash Smoothie from Jamba Juice next door to pass the time which helped but Huckleberry was late for a friend's birthday party.

This is the last clearance we need to have cleared before we can start our home study meetings with our social worker.  Hopefully it is pretty fast since our finger print clearance from the FBI should be coming back in the next few weeks.  Once we have all our clearances we turn in our personal answers to our history and set up a date to meet with our social worker.  Hopefully at that point they will have also received all of our personal references back already.  But we handed them out over a month ago, so we should be good there, I know.

I also found at Half Price Bookstore two books on adoption that I want to own: The Connected Child and 20 Things Adoptees Wish Their Parents Knew.  Sorry I didn't buy them from the WAGI Link to Amazon, but I cannot pass up a good deal.  I am very excited to have found them because I am out of renewals for the first one at the library and my library doesn't carry the second one.  Now to get off the computer and go read (or more likely hang out with family and eat).

Friday, October 15, 2010

Raising Adopted Children--a book response

I just finished reading Raising Adopted Children: Practical, Reassuring Advice for Every Adoptive Parent by Lois Ruskai Melina.  It took me awhile to read because I kept going on-line instead, but I finally finished it.  Now it isn't a bad book, and covers a lot of territory, but I confess I was a bit disappointed.  The whole time I was reading it I thought it was the book people kept recommending on WAGI as one of the best books out there that even gives advice on what to do during the teen years.  Turns out that book is Parenting Your Internationally Adopted Child by Patti Cogen.  I feel quite happy now that I know it is a different book, because this book just did not strike me as one worth purchasing and highlighting.

That said, I would say this book is a good place to start if you are just starting to think about adoption.  It touches on all the critical issues such as attachment, adjustment, talking about adoption, cultural identity, behavioral problems, and more.  At the same time it is very reassuring and affirming that you can do it; that these "adoption" issues are not insurmountable.  By reading this book you can see which issues you need more information on and can seek books dealing directly with that topic.  Since I am adopting Internationally by choice it did discuss some topics that were not relevant to me like open adoption, contact with biological relatives, and grieving infertility.  However, if you are just approaching the adoption question this book does answer a lot of questions that can help you make your choice.

The one point I found very helpful to be reminded of is that 90% of people of Asian descent develop lactose intolerance.  It did not list the risk of this for Caucasians but it did list the other 3 "races." This seemed odd to me.  My good friend said this shows a presupposition that only Caucasians adopt because Caucasians would know their own risk.  Ummm.  I guess it is a small reminder of white privilege. (My husband says maybe it is because the risk to Caucasians is so low--on-line he found estimates that range from 5-20%).

Well, my point is, we do not currently have anyone lactose intolerant in our family, but we are adopting an Asian child.  Odds appear high that she will develop lactose intolerance, so I will now be able to be on the watch for it.  Thankfully we have many friends who can provide us with good food ideas that do not require cheese.  Which will be good, because though we do eat Chinese food a lot, all of our other dishes require cheese.  We love cheese.  So much so that I told my sister on the phone the other day that we would probably have to eat dinner out since we were out of cheese.  She laughed at me. (My husband also found on-line the reassuring news that some hard cheeses will still be acceptable.)

Anyway, I am glad to have read the book, but I am really looking forward to the other book everyone keeps talking about.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Apple Cider Farm

Some Cuteness
So this post will cause my currently 7th post to scroll into older posts, which is the last time I posted pictures, so today is some more pictures to make sure my off-springs' cuteness is always at the forefront of my 3 readers' minds. (If you are reader #4 please feel free to let me know!  I love comments!)

Again the focus will be Sunflower because she is home all day and I end up taking more pictures of her--it has nothing to do with her little girl toddler cuteness.  Two weeks ago we visited an Apple Cider Mill with our friends.  Sunflower and I had a great time; they fed us apple cider donuts, fresh apple cider, and gave all the kids a bag of food to feed the animals.  Sunflower had a great time feeding the animals, which surprised me a little given her extreme fear of cats.  However, apparently she likes birds and cows (the cows were not close the fence like the goats).  She fed the chickens and ducks and would have watched the cows for hours.  "Mama, cow, moo, eat, grass.  Eat. Grass!"

Sunflower with her Bag of Seed
Feeding the Birds

Look, Mama, Cows!  Moo!
Watching the Cows!

Still Watching the Cows!
The Merry-Go-Round brought out her Biggest Smiles!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

We Are Grafted In--the blog and forum

Okay, my good friend here, I mean my on-line acquaintance whom I hoping will be a good friend, is having a give away of a charm from Jiayin Designs in order to generate business for them and to hopefully get the word out about We are Grafted in--a site with a blog and a forum 

One way to enter the contest is to blog about We are Grafted In.  That of course would lead to more people checking out the site.  Unfortunately, I only have 3 readers, and two already belong to We are Grafted In, and one is really hooked on her Ravelry forum (for my WAGI readers it's a forum on knitting that apparently also talks about the t.v. show, Bones.)  So my blogging about We Are Grafted In* won't result in more people on the forum. 

However, it will get me one more entry in the drawing to win a charm that says daughter in Chinese which I could wear with my prayer box while we wait.  If you are not interested in a Chinese charm there is also a magnet set from Ethiopia, or you could enter the contest and win a charm and give it to me for my birthday, just saying...

Anyway, about We Are Grafted In (this link is to the forum because while the blog is nice it does only have a new post every 2-3 days--reasonable for a blog--but the forum is a forum and much more fun!)  I really am learning all about other moms who have adopted and love reading everyone's comments (and stalking their blogs).  I feel quite sad when I check the site (as I do between 6-20 times a day) and there is nothing new said.  Unfortunately, since I am not parenting a daughter from China yet, I do feel like I don't have much of use to say, but I say it anyway.  So I agree with Kelly and my friend at this site that we need more traffic at We are Grafted In so I have more comments to read and answer.  Hmm, how to do that?  Well, I'm watching Blues Clues with Sunflower, so I guess I'll just go to my thinking chair and think about that!

* The site gets away with not answering the question of whether or not to capitalize the A in Are by having the url address entirely lower case and the Title on the forum entirely in capitals.  Since the A in are is part of the acronym WAGI, I guess it should be capitalized everywhere, but it feels so unnatural!  WAGI is a great acronym, but part of me wants an extra G--WAGGI.  We Are God's--Grafted In?  Just kidding!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Marry the Merry Widow

I don't want to get into this topic because it is way too complicated for Monday morning, and I don't want you to think I don't care about the 147 Million Orphans living in the world, but this discussion my family had last night made me laugh and laugh, and I thought everyone could use a Monday morning laugh.  Unfortunately it does touch on complicated subjects, so please suspend any judgment of me and enjoy the laugh.  Thanks!

So at dinner I was talking to my husband and our friend about the verse James 1:27: "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world," and that some Christians seem to take that verse as a call to all Christians to adopt.  However, I haven't found much on-line about how Christians should care for the widow (June is apparently widow month, but I couldn't find out when Widow Sunday was).

So I said, because the idea is funny to me, "That the equivalent would be to have a call to all single Christian men to marry widows.  In fact, (I do not actually believe we should do this!) maybe we should throw out the rules against bigamy and have all Christian men marry a widow or two."

My six year old said, "or throw out Daddy to make room for some widows in our house!"

My ten year old said, "but that would make Mommy a widow and who would take care of her?"

Sorry, it just went down hill from there, because really all I could think of was 4 or 5 widowed ladies sharing my room and my tiny master bath while my husband lived in the car!  

Well, I hope it makes you smile; I'm off to buy some bunk beds to make room for all my new roommates.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Attitude of Gratitude

In this post I said I am also concerned with the phrase, "You should be grateful."  However I didn't feel like a brief paragraph would do it justice so I would give it its own post.  This is that post.  

After further discussion with my husband on what he meant about me taking this too seriously, it turns out he meant it didn't appear I believed the "taboo" phrases had different levels of impact depending on the phrase, intent, frequency, and who says them and how.   I do see different degrees of impact.  After reading just a small sampling of adult adoptees' writings, this phrase "You should be grateful" and similar content phrases like "Aren't you thankful your parents..." and "Your parents are saints to adopt" appears to have a pretty strong negative impact on an adopted child.  I am trying to understand why so I can help counter the impact in my future daughter.

I think one of the reasons is that this phrase isn't just said in passing at the zoo, it comes at some adoptees (can someone tell me if adoptee is the wrong word to use?  Spell check keeps telling me it isn't a word) from three distinct sources over and over throughout their lives.  For some it comes from parents, other people, and from inside the adoptee himself/herself.

Now it is obvious to me why that coming from the child's parents would have a grave impact.  Yet it is said and done even now.  I do not know personally anyone who would have this attitude, but it is the reason I am so twitchy about the whole idea of Christians rescuing orphans in response to God's heart for the fatherless.  Of course if our motivation is to rescue a child, then the natural response we would expect would be one of gratitude.  Children are not naturally grateful.  How can any child be happy with the heavy burden of gratitude for being adopted on their shoulders?  Let's not forget that having to being grateful for adoption leads to the confusing idea that it is not acceptable to be sad to lose your first parents, original culture and country.

Now I don't want anyone to think I find it acceptable for children to whine about everything in their lives with no correction.  When dad cooks dinner and cleans the kitchen all of my children are reminded to be thankful for all we have even if it isn't our favorite meal.  I think this will be a tricky balance, one I still have 2 years to perfect.  However, I think the main thing will to not tell my child she should be grateful to us because of all the paperwork, money and time that we did to bring her home.  Really it isn't any different than not telling my biological children that they should be grateful for the nine months I carried them, the hours of labor that resulted in C-section scars anyway, and the caffeine I resisted while nursing them (which honestly was much harder than any homestudy).  Regardless of how we grew our family, we did not grow it by any of our children for gratitude; we chose to go through all we did because we WANTED this child and already LOVED them before we knew them--each one of them.   According to TV Sitcoms all moms do talk to their bio children about how many hours of labor they had and how that means the child should do what the mom wants, and while it is funny on TV, it is actually manipulation and it uses guilt to generate good behavior--not really the best parenting techniques for bio or adopted children in my opinion.

The second source of pressure to be grateful is other people.  If it is family and close family friends saying things like, "Where is your gratitude?" or "Isn't incredible what your parents did to bring you home; you should be thankful" then I would assume it would have similar weight with the child as if the parents had said it themselves.  Particularly if the parent hears these words and does not correct the speaker.  I am 100% sure none of my family or friends has this attitude or would even consider saying it to my child.  After all, if they did think this way it would have come out already in our conversations about adoption in the past 5 years.

However, according to other adoptive parents, blogs, and books random people also feel comfortable speaking these words and similar to children.  Even "you are so lucky" can be internalized to mean you should express gratitude to your parents.  As I don't yet have a child by adoption, I don't know how frequently this will happen to my child.  I fear I can be quite intimidating and people almost never do things to me that other moms find offensive--like touching my belly or telling me horror birth experiences when I was pregnant.  Perhaps this will be an advantage to my child as we navigate through life together.  So far the closest anyone has come to expressing such thoughts to me is saying "That is so Great!" when I tell them we are adopting.  I have always assumed they meant "Congratulations on your next child!" as they would if I said I was pregnant.  I will certainly address such phrases when I am with my daughter, but I confess I will be more surprised than offended when they do occur.

Thirdly, children can and do put pressure on themselves because of the very nature of being a child, because they do not understand everything, but need everything to make sense.  Also, no matter how vigilant I am, one unchecked comment, one movie not discussed, or one idea not articulated can lead to my child internalizing the burden of gratitude no matter what I say to the contrary.  This post that I found on my favorite Tonggu Mama's Sunday Linkage goes into this idea much more deeply than my brain can actually stretch to understand.  I have read this post 4 times now, and since I have not read most of her other posts, and I do not know her personally, I do not claim to understand exactly what she means or is trying to say, but this is what I hear: "Society, because of its understanding of adoption, will teach my child that she must be grateful; that she will feel the burden of gratitude no matter what I say."

I do not accept that my child has to feel this pressure and has to grow up struggling to be perfect to express her gratitude.  There must be something I can say, some way to communicate that she is loved for who she is past and present because she is my daughter and I love all my children solely because they are my children.  This quote from the blog has been haunting me since I read it: 

"My adoptive mother saves my lifeI feel I owe her my life on the basis of me having needed to be saved. I am reminded by others how I should be grateful I didn’t rot in an orphanage, or tossed onto the streets, or even aborted since a completely stranger took it upon herself to do what my own mother could/would not, regardless of the context.
Hypothetically, my biological mother saves my life instead – I expect her to do so. It’s not something people “offer” to her; she is expected to do that because I am her biologically conceived child. Thus, if she saves my life, I am not told to be grateful because she is my mother and that is what mothers do, they sacrifice everything for their child."

She goes on to explain how she was a stranger's child and "They had no obligation to save my life.  No one expected them to save me if they didn’t want to, because at that point, I was still my mother’s child. I was still someone else’s baby. They didn’t have to save me unless they wanted to adopt me."  For this reason she is grateful to her adoptive parents.  I am not making assumptions on how this statement affected the author or her relationship with her parents--adopted and biological, but it haunts me when I apply it to my daughter.

Now don't get me wrong, I hope when my children are adults and have children of their own they are grateful for the sacrifices I made for them because it is my job as their parent.  I want them to forgive my imperfections and shortcomings and focus on the good--the love, the laughter, and the fun--so we can continue as a family.  However, I do not want any of them to spend their childhood trying to repay some debt they feel they "owe" me.  How do I communicate this message to my daughter with the world, society, and her own understanding of adoption teaching her differently? 

As a pre-adoptive mom, I KNOW intellectually that the little girl in China that I will eventually parent is someone else's daughter but in my HEART she is already mine--not because I am entitled to her or China owes me something, but because she will someday be MY daughter in MY home.  I am her mother now and in the future.

The best analogy I can come up with to explain this comes from God.  Please do not take this to mean I believe my adoption of a child is the same as God's adoption of me; nor do I believe my love for my future daughter is as strong or as pure as God's love for my daughter and me.  The correlation I am trying to make is in regards to the timing.

"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8 

Before we belonged to Him, before we accepted His salvation, before we were adopted into His family, God loved us so much that He sent His only begotten son to be the Propitiation for our sins.  He did this knowing not all would accept it, but He did it willingly.  Christ suffered for our sins "for the joy set before Him"-- the joy of having us join His family.  

Now homestudies and fingerprints are NOT at all comparable to Christ suffering on the cross, but the timing is similar.  Before we knew Him, God loved us.  His motivation was love for us even though we still belonged to another.  My motivation is love, not for a stranger's child, but for my future child whomever she may be.  I pray for her and her family (perhaps leading to one or more of my potential daughters to stay with her first family), and I do everything I need to in order to eventually bring her home.  I do this with the same Maternal Obligation that made me choke down horse sized prenatal vitamins before my four pregnancies.

I do not know how to communicate this concept clearer than that, and yet my child may still not understand.  It is complicated ideas even for an adult.  Yet I so want my child to know that I did everything for her before I knew her because I love her, not to be painted as some hero for rescuing her.  I do not want gratitude or to be repaid.  That is not how family works, and in the end that is what we will be--Family.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Our Adoption Story Part 4d--While We Waited Year 4

Find the other pieces of our adoption story here. 
So Sunflower turned one, and we were ready to start thinking about the adoption again.  We were receiving e-mails from our agency about waiting children and looking at each one and praying for each one.  We had let all of our paperwork expire and were thinking about contacting our social worker to update it.  Switching to the Waiting Child program to have a child sooner was a bad plan, but we started praying that God would show us His plan for our next child.  Maybe she was someone already waiting.  China had already spent 7 months giving referrals for people with March LIDs, and March was not done (it ended up taking March 9 months).  9x5=45 months more to wait for referral, almost a year longer than we had already waited.  Sunflower would be 6 at that rate!  Anyway, we were trying to open our hearts and mind to God's plan, even waiting 4 more years, but before we made any decisions...

Two things happened in our extended family that made planning for a 4th child go out the window.  This part is hard for me to write because I want to just explain it all in detail (you can tell by now I'm not good at leaving out details), but it would violate other people's right to privacy.  This is really good practice for me because I know my daughter will have a story that is hers to tell, not mine.

Suffice to say (or at least I'm trying to let it be suffice for me) we spent the next year in survival mode and with lots of important and emotional time spent with extended family both mine and my husbands.  In January 2010 my step-mom of 20 years passed after a four year battle with cancer.  Time commitments started to slow a little, but the next few months were still very hard emotionally, especially March as we passed the 22 anniversary of my mother's death when I was 15.  As summer approached the sunshine helped bring us out of deep mourning (we will grieve for a long time) and the family commitments on my husband's side started slowing down a little. 

We spent the summer focusing on our little immediate family (with some extended family still) because the year had really stretched our precious kids.  Sad things are hard enough for adults to understand and process, but how much harder it is for little ones.  Our SnapDragon has a particularly hard time when others are hurting, ill, or sad.  His huge heart always wants to make them feel better.  We are still working on helping him heal from the strain of last year.  Huckleberry is much more pragmatic, able to escape into reading, and still willing to receive comfort by sitting on his momma's lap and crying.  Thankfully Sunflower was too little to understand everything and just brought life and joy into every situation.  I honestly don't know how I would have survived without her last year.  God knew what He was doing when He surprised us with her, go figure!

So Sunflower turned two during our beach vacation scheduled with celebrating the wedding of Oak's brother to his new bride.  We came home and started preparing for a more joyful fall--school, MOPS, Bible classes, volunteering at church more again, etc.  China had plodded along while we flew through last year, and for the first time since we began the numbers were starting to look better for us again.

Referral                  LID                  Length of Wait
2010-08-16        2006-05-15           1554 days
1529 days
1502 days
1481 days
1449 days
1420 days
1398 days
1364 days
1342 days
1294 days
2009-08-222006-03-24          1247 days

So it only took China 6 months to get through the month of April, and there was a big jump in LIDs from June to July--2 weeks were processed at once.  Now we only have 3 months of referrals in front of us.  So, if we take 9x3 assuming they go back to the speed in March, we are only 27 months away from referral--closer than almost forever.  If we assume 6x3 because of April and most other months except March taking 6 months in the last few years, we are only 18 months away from referral.  If we leap to the wildly optimistic and unrealistic expectation that they are now going to process two weeks of LIDs in one month, having only 14 weeks of LIDs before us, we are only 7 months away from referral.

All of this math and estimating got me very excited.  (Yes, I am a nerd.)  The calculator we were using at this very depressing but relatively realistic site even gave me a number less than two years out--July 23, 2012.  However, I was curious about the two week jump in July, so I started searching other sites and found China Adopt Talk  (nickname RQ for Rumor Queen).  She explained that there were very few LIDs for early May because of the CCAA being shut down the first week of May in 2006 so not to expect more two week jumps.  She also somewhere, though I cannot find it!, predicted with lots of caveats that referrals for August LIDs would occur in 12-14 months. It really isn't important to me which prediction is accurate--all of them were better predictions than we had been seeing for the last four years.  Every month is actually bringing us closer to our child, not adding more months to our wait.

So to continue with my estimation methods, it appears it may only take 4-5 months for May LIDs to all receive referrals.  When May is complete we will have only 2 1/2 months of LIDs in front of us.  So 5x2.5=15 and 4x2.5=10.  What?  10 more months until referral?  We can't renew all our paperwork that quickly!  Oh, wait.  We have only been in May for 3 months, so 1-2 more months before June 1.  Whew 15+2=17; 10+2=12.  We might actually be 12-17 months away from a referral!  If we complete our paperwork in the next few months, we still might not have to renew it all again.  Oh. My. Goodness!  We might some day have another daughter. 

Well, that brings us up to this point in our wait, but it is not the end of our Adoption Story.  Here is the next piece.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Language Learning

I have lots of profound thoughts swimming in my head to share with my 5 readers, but even though I had a great day at MOPS and a short nap in the afternoon, my head hurts, so I'll leave the profound for another day.

However, in the interest of documenting our adoption process, I thought I would share this story.

When we first started this process, we bought some Learn Mandarin CD's.  We didn't think it would be sufficient to actually learn it, but maybe, just maybe by listening to them we would pick up on a little and be more prepared to learn the language with our child when she is ready to learn one of the languages of her birth country.  (We have a LID of 8/15/2006). 

So my husband and I were sitting on the couch listening to the CD's when Huckleberry (now 10, then 6) came downstairs and asked what we were doing.

We explained.  He looked puzzled and said, "won't it be easier to teach her English than for all 4 (there are now 5) of us to learn Chinese?"

Ha!  If we can all learn Mandarin that would be terrific, but Yes, we will be teaching her English.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Connected Child--a book response

Well, I have been reading more blogs than books lately, but I do still need to finish my last hour of Hague training with a book response so I thought I would write it out now.  If we lived in fantasy land we could get a referral in as little as 4 months, and why not?  Anything is possible with God.  So, we really had better finish updating all our paperwork including the Hague training.

The last book I finished Adoption related is called "The Connected Child," by Karyn Purvis, David Cross, and Wendy Sunshine.  I enjoyed the book a great deal, though the first part was quite difficult to read.  It was painful to read (what appeared to be, but was actually only a few) story after story about children who were hurt by those who should protect them and what the results in the child's sense of well-being and behavior are.  Plus, even though I don't believe my children have been deeply traumatized, after a few chapters I was convinced my oldest son was having seizures, my youngest daughter had indiscriminate affection, and my middle child exhibited every other symptom the book describes.  I started thinking I should finish this book later when I had an adopted daughter to attach to because I wouldn't be able to remember it all.  Certainly I will need a refresher when we return home, but as I got further into the book, I realized it was basically saying the same thing over and over.

Children who have been hurt and have had periods of time when their needs were not met in appropriate manners will need some extra care and nurturing.  However, while some of it is slightly different than some forms of parenting, really I think main points I took away could apply for any child.

1.  Get to the heart of the matter.  Why is the child behaving in a specific manner?  Usually a child coming from a difficult background (and International Adoption qualifies as a difficult background) has a reason beyond the simple childhood defiance created sinful reason.  I know when I yell at my children (and I really try not to yell) it is almost always triggered by hunger, fear, or some outside situation that I cannot control like a rude customer service representative.  Umm, this ties in with the TRUTH model I learned in Biblical counseling last week--Trigger event,  wRong thinking, Unhealthy reaction, Tell the truth, Healthy response.  If we can start to identify the trigger events and wrong (inaccurate) thinking in our children, then we will be able to train and teach proper responses.  There is a whole section of the book on "Disarming the Fear Response with Felt Safety" so I'm thinking that is considered one of the big underlying causes of acting out.

2.  Get down on the child's level.  This was said throughout the book; with almost every response they suggest a parent make they included get down on the child's eye level.  The book gives point by point instructions on how to approach a child physically and to require connections with the eyes that include being down on the floor, next to them, etc. so you are their height.  Mostly I think this was because it shows the child respect and lends towards another goal--nurture, nurture, nurture.

3.  The child must treat the parent with respect.  Understanding the cause of certain behaviors and getting down on eye level, does not mean the child should be allowed to get away with anything they want.  By understanding the child's fear of going hungry, you can give them a granola bar to hold with the freedom to eat it after dinner without breaking the house rules that you cannot have a snack before dinner.  There are many such creative options offered in the book depending on the behavior and what is triggering it.  There is also a whole, huge section entitled "You are the Boss" that goes into greater details on how to make sure to require respect in the home while being properly nurturing and sensitive to the child.  One of my favorite ideas, partly because I already use it all the time especially with my middle child, is a "Do Over."  If the child asks or demands or says something rudely, instead of an instant punishment (which according to this book should be a Time-In) they get a chance to do it over, to ask again with the right words.  A child new to the home will take time to learn what those right words and tones are, but my 6 year old knows them.  I've always felt a little wrong letting him "do it over" because I felt if I was a proper parent and punished him enough he wouldn't keep forgetting and try to demand food with "I am hungry, where is my snack?!"  He may not be a traumatized child according to this book, but somehow I felt affirmed being told this is an okay, possibly even a great, way to train children.

Overall I felt this was a terrific book with lots of concrete, practical advice that will aid me in being a better parent.

This book and others are listed here on We Are Grafted In with a link to purchase them from Amazon.  The forum, We Are Grafted In, will receive a small percentage to defray costs of running the forum.  

Friday, October 1, 2010


So far I've done a few Mamarazzi posts on Sunflower, one on SnapDragon, and none on Huckleberry.  I thought it was time to focus on my oldest son.  Especially since we let him leave tonight for a weekend Camp Creation that teaches the Biblical perspective on science without us knowing anything about the church sponsoring it or any of the adults in attendance.  I know, I know--bad parents!  One of Huckleberry's friends from school is going, and as I used to be prayer partners with the friend's mom, I am trusting her judgment.  Still kind of freaking me out, though! 

After all, the weekend is focusing on dinosaurs, and what is the Biblical perspective on dinosaurs?  I believe in creation and the flood, but I don't recall much about dinosaurs.  When I was little my mom told me she thought (and she did emphasis that she just thought it was possible) that maybe God planted dinosaur bones to confuse humans and make us decide to have faith in Him or in bones.  After testing this theory out on several friends and offering it to my evolutionist friends in college, I have decided no one anywhere thinks this is true.  Which is probably good since I never really bought it, and I think my mom wasn't serious about it either.

Anyway, he is at camp, and should be home safe and sound Sunday without too much confusion in his theology.  However, just in case he isn't, I wanted to prove I loved him before he got lost in the forest, so here are some pictures of my baby who is now 10 1/2!
Huckleberry and his first pair of glasses

Hunting in the back yard

Bumper Cars at the Fair

Bubbles at the Fair

Dragon Face Paint at the Fair

So Handsome and Big for my Baby

He can cook, too!

When did he stop looking like this?