Thursday, March 31, 2011

School Matters Update

For the 8 readers who have been waiting on tender hooks to find out if I ever followed through after receiving this letter from SnapDragon's school, I am happy to report that I did (skip to the last two paragraphs if you are easily bored).

First I talked to a friend who teaches at one of the two high school in our districts.  He said he understood why the wording was upsetting, but that since the letter had gone out they'd gone down to only 28 tardies a day--20 of them in first period--from over 100; this is really good.  We had a good conversation about the pressure on the district, the effect poverty has on student performance, and the challenges public schools face.  But he did think it would be reasonable for me to talk to the principal at SnapDragon's school.  

Then I talked to a friend who is a para-educator at SnapDragon's school.   Her children also attend SnapDragon's school.  She said she knew of other parents who were upset, but that she also knew of parents who were calling their child in sick because they didn't want the hassle of taking them to school (there are bus options for all in district).  She agreed I should talk to the principal if for no other reason to give him ammunition to present to the district office.

It turns out SnapDragon's principal did not write the letter.  He just sent it and signed it in obedience to a district wide policy decision.

So, I felt a little less disturbed about SnapDragon's school specifically; we already acknowledge it isn't the best district in the area, but it is 2nd best out of the 5 we can reach by driving.  Then there was mid-winter break and a new camera and stuff, so finally...

Last week I got a chance to meet with SnapDragon's principal.  We talked about how we purposely waiver our home district to attend SnapDragon's school (our home school district would be #4 on the list) and how SnapDragon's school specifically is such a great school with really caring teachers and wonderful diversity, but that some recent changes were making us (as in my husband and I) concerned.  SnapDragon has the same teachers for 1st grade as Huckleberry had 4 years ago, so I know we are blessed to be able to work with them again, but I didn't feel that SnapDragon was getting the full benefit of an excellent education that I felt Huckleberry had received.

He asked for specifics, and I gave them to him.  I asked a little more about the RTI (response to intervention) program.  Then I mentioned the concerns I had about SnapDragon being held back in math since they were no longer "walking to math" or even breaking into groups at all since average and below average students benefit from learning from their above average peers (I don't think I'm just proud Mama to say I think SnapDragon is above average.)  Then I mentioned the letter.

He explained the goals of RTI and how it allows children in the enrichment area to go deeper while others learn their core principles. They reevaluate children for each unit so no one is pigeon-holed.  He did admit that SnapDragon is always receiving enrichment, but he made the point that this is better than sitting around while teaching these core concepts to children who need it.

He also said that the teachers have been asking to go back to the "Walk to Math" method since he started in the fall.  His concern was the time wasted moving around and children being pigeon-holed (he used this term quite a few times.)  However, they had just presented him with a proposal that included evaluating children before and after each unit which would allow them to move up and down more freely.  They are going to start this in 2 weeks (after Spring Break).

He also said many parents had expressed anger about the letter and that the principals of the district had already gone to the administration stating the tone was not the tone they wanted to be sending to their parents.  They asked for the letter to be rewritten with more warmth focusing on offering help and mentioning that at 6 unexcused absences they are obligated to notify parents about the Truancy Law.  This letter has apparently been already sent, but as was supposed to be true of the first letter, it is only going to families with children who have 6 unexcused absences, so I won't see it.

So to sum up my long and boring story, I mentioned my concerns to SnapDragon's principal and found they had already made the changes I would want.  I also had a similar conversation with his teacher because I didn't want her to feel like I was complaining about her teaching or care for my child in any way.  How is that for service?

On the other hand, this whole situation really made me think about the lady in Ohio who got sent to prison (short sentence) for sending her children to the wrong school, the freedom of choices that my economic privileges offer me, and Beverly Tatum's essay "Connecting the Dots."  So be warned.  There will be more on that later.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

He's Getting Married

While cleaning up the kitchen table this morning, I found a project SnapDragon worked on today.  It said:

Come to My Wedding
(sh...he knows)*
followed by a time and place

I am not looking forward to the teen years with this boy.  He is only seven now but...

We did successfully pass on our geekiness and late blooming down to our older boy, but SnapDragon has me shaking in my brown leather, medium heel, clearance boots. 

And Sunflower?  Do not even go there.

*Apparently this is supposed to be she/he knows--everyone who he or she knows is invited to come, not people he or she doesn't know. Whew, no secret love affair.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Will it Happen?

I am back to wondering if our family will ever grow through adoption--not in the usual emotional, weepy way, more in a academic, resigned way.   God has made it clear through prayer and peaceful confirmation that we are to stay with our agency--even when it would have been easy to switch agencies.  That basically means not switching to the Waiting Children program.  Then what are the odds of things staying the same for the one or two more years needed to finally receive a NSN referral from China.  Is God asking me to give up my desire for a fourth child?  (My husband still feels we will eventually adopt so this really is all just speculation right now.)

The thing is, I was really excited 3-4 weeks ago.  Our agency said they were rolling out changes to the WC program.  I thought these changes might be along the lines of looking at the list when it comes out, working directly with an orphanage, adding some children to their agency specific list, starting to encourage families in NSN to switch instead of actively discouraging...something that would help us find a child whom we could parent that needed us.

I got the e-mail about the new changes a few weeks ago.  Now I'll admit I didn't read them closely so I could be mistaken in what I read--I have not been able to get myself to look at them again.  My cursory view all implied that switching to their WC program will be even more difficult and even less possible for us.  First, there appears to be extra fees.  Secondly, for every need we feel open to we need to a. have a care plan including doctors lined up (to whom we have spoken), b. spend 1-2 documented hours with a child or family dealing with this need, c. write a letter explaining why we feel qualified to handle the need, and d. have a letter of recommendation (this might come from our SW) stating we are suited to caring for a child with this need.  Maybe there was some either/or in there, and I know other countries have fairly strict and similar requirements.  

I also know there is no way we can accomplish this.  We can barely turn in our paperwork for our Homestudy renewal.  I can avidly research things I feel passionate about, but feeling passionate about a special need when there isn't a child attached to it is not happening.  Perhaps this makes me a horrible person.  I am sorry. Let me be clear, we could probably pull this together for one or two needs, and we might do so.  But I don't see the point in whole-heartedly switching to WC and paying the additional fees unless we are open to more than one need, which we are emotionally but apparently not academically.  If I'm going to wait a year or two for a match because our focus is so narrow, I might as well hold out in the line I'm in.

But those are the practical reasons that cause me to wonder if this will ever happen.   Then I read posts about letting go of the desires of your heart--to turn it over to God.  And I wonder...

Is this something God is asking me to sacrifice...give up?  It would hurt my heart to never adopt.  The desire for a fourth child, through adoption, is as strong as it was 5 years ago.  Have I put that desire before my desire to know and serve my God?  I certainly don't want that.

It would hurt my pride--though we aren't proud to be adopting--but I would have tell everyone we gave up.  No one would judge (or few) but it would sting my person.  Probably because I struggle to admit I am not perfect and I am sinfully prideful of the fact that I keep commitments.  Can I confess and repent of this sin and not give up on adopting or...?  All He wants is a humble and contrite heart. 

Is giving up or going on the sacrifice God wants from me?  I wish I knew.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sunflower--Sunday Snapshot/Monday Rewind

Ni Hao Yall

Since Thursday last my Sunflower was not feeling well--fever, cough, and stuffy head.  So even on days we had sun we stayed home and inside.  The most common pose for Sunflower the last week and a half was this:
We watched a lot of Diego via netflix streaming and I got to read  a lot of blogs.

Then Tuesday we started to see the light:
A few minutes of happy play time here and there and no fever.

Then Wednesday still no fever, but a very tired baby when I tried to go to Bible Study.  So we stayed home and watched more T.V. but sometimes a little more interactively:
They're dancing, Mommy, dance with us!
Thursday we finally had some sun and some energy:
Throwing the ball is fun.  Even when it lands on our head:

 Was I sick for a week?  Who, not me?  I can do anything!
Even push my brother on the ladder which he likes!

By Friday I am my usual, active, busy self!  Faster, faster: 
 We are glad to have you back, Sunflower, even if it means we feel lucky to catch the side of you as you run from place to place:
I am also linking with Chic Homeschool Mama for Monday Rewind Blog Hop since the last photo is one of my absolute favorites from last week.  I couldn't get the button to work, but hop on over to see some more photos.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

I am not a Geek!

My husband is very patient especially with my dad with whom I confess I have trouble being patient.  Oh, I get along with my dad just fine, but Oak actually sounds sincerely interested and seems to have no trouble helping him with head lights, bills, and other projects.  Oak is also very helpful around the house and spends a lot of time taking care of the kids and giving me breaks and "me time." 

For these reasons, it really doesn't feel like it is too much to let him indulge in some StarCraft (computer game for those non-nerds married to male non-nerds) time.   Sometimes the boys even play StarCraft with their dad which sometimes actually gives me the "me time."

Sure, it is annoying when both boys play and Captain Awesome and Oak and my bedroom starts to look like a war zone and there isn't a computer left in the house for me to use (not for StarCraft, but my blog, of course.)

Or when I come home from Bible Study and Oak and Captain Awesome are using both my desk top for play and my husband's laptop to install StarCraft II (Captain Awesome comes with his own laptop).

Does it matter that they are trying to install StarCraft II on his laptop so in the future I can use the desk top while they play (currently StarCraft II only plays on the desktop).  Yes, they say it is for my benefit since I cannot work on my photos if I don't have the desk top.  Sure that sounds kind and loving, but is it?  Is it?

You know, I think it is.  I have lots of hobbies my husband supports and encourages even when he doesn't understand why I like it so much.  It really isn't too much to reciprocate the favor.  

It isn't like he took the boys out after midnight to wait in line to buy StarCraft II the day it came out.   Captain Awesome bought it as a gift so it didn't even have to come out of one of my budget categories which you know matters to me!

So thanks, Captain Awesome, and we are glad you are around to indulge my husband's hobby (and to support my hobby by reading my blog(s)).

Though I imagine I will come home tonight from water aerobics to no computer available for use...sigh.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

What do I know about "Attachment"?

I have been thinking about "attachment" a lot lately.  Partly because it is a word used a lot in the adoption community, partly because there was a blog carnival on the topic so I recently read a lot of posts on it, but mostly because it is such a scary word in the adoption community especially if sandwiched between Reactive and Disorder.  

I am not worried about adopting a child who ends up being labeled with RAD--it might happen and if it does we will deal--I am more concerned about all the more common issues that will happen because no child, no matter how young, can go from one lifestyle, culture, language, and people to another set completely different without having attachment issues which cover a whole range of stuff and a whole gamut of seriousness.  I have NO control over with which of these issues our child will struggle and I cannot even know how these issues will manifest themselves so they can be identified quickly because each child is unique.   What I can control is how prepared I am and how I react to my child to provide her with the best chance of "attaching."

And I feel completely inadequate.

When I read the stories of adults who survived the foster care system I wonder if I would have offered her the unconditional love she clearly craved and needed or would I have been focused on her outward behavior and how it impacted me.

When I read the stories of families who did everything the books said, tried every therapy, and persevered until the new norm gives them hope for their child's future, I am in awe of their love and persistence, and I wonder how long my endurance will last.  Will I keep loving even when rejected?  Will I keep going to therapy after therapy when it is impacting my other children; is it my right to make them make these sacrifices?  I believe it is my right, but how will I feel when it reaches one, two, or three or more years?  How do I balance all of my children's needs?  Will I start resenting the child?

When I read of a family who dissolved their adoption after those one, two, or three years, a part of me judges because Adoption is For LIFE, but a part of me wonders what would bring me to the same place.  How can I claim to be any better when I don't know the whole story and I have never adopted?  How much of it is the child and RAD and how much it is the parents inadequacies--inadequacies that I probably share?

But then I stop looking at it from the parents' perspective and worrying about how I compare.  I start looking at the child.  The child who is lying and biting and crying and throwing tantrums and rejecting every overture and so on and so on, and I start to cry.  I am filled with compassion and sorrow and love for the child, a child I have never met.  I know these feelings are stronger than what can I feel on my own--this is compassion, sorrow and love that comes from God.

And I still worry and feel inadequate, but I feel hope.  I am inadequate.  It will not be an easy road.  But as everything in life, it is not dependent on me.  Already I see ways God is preparing me (one of which I will share in another post) and I remember that this is only one more way that "Apart from Him, I can do nothing."


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Flowers--Sunday Snapshot

We had a great weekend away even if we did leave a feverish Sunflower with her aunt and only had one night.  I didn't really take pictures of the event, but I did bring my camera to take pictures of flowers for next week's Shoot and Edit challenge.  I only get to use one photo, but I captured more than one image I love.
God Created Such a Beautiful Array of Flowers...
Yellow (and Green)
He Created Blue, but I didn't see any this weekend
Which would you chose?

"See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.  Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you..."  Matthew 6:28b-30a

Ni Hao Yall


Friday, March 18, 2011

In My Happy Place

I just want everyone to know I am happy.

Saturday/Sunday Aunt J. is taking the kids so Oak and I can go away with some friends for food, games, and sleeping in.

April 2nd I am going to a MOPS Leadership Summit with some of my favorite people while Oak takes the kids to the Regional Science Fair--Huckleberry is entering again this year.  Feel a little bad about missing it, but maybe he won't win this time.  Then I won't feel like such a bad mama...wait, that isn't right.

At the end of April I get to go with some of my same favorite people and a few more ladies to an all weekend Christian Women's Conference.

My closest friend and I are once again doing deep water aerobics together and finally enjoying a passion for the same hobby--photography--which is really fun for me (and I hope for her).

I have been having a ton of fun learning more about photography and meeting new friends through "my other blog."  I don't feel as close to them as you eleven, but it is fun to get lots of comments when you enter a link party.

But most of all, I really feel like this is a time of growth and renewal with my Lord as I wait on Him and strive to serve Him with a pure and faithful heart.  Even after 31 years there is so much to learn and it just gets better and better.

Oh, and for L--these are Mickey Mouse dishes:
We bought them on-line at the Disney Store.  The bowl is too shallow for cereal, but otherwise we love them--just not as much as Sunflower or our camera.  xoxo

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Inside Transracial Adoption--a book response

I checked this book out at the library and was not optimistic.  So far my random picks have not been worth writing home about.  However, if I'd known it was written by the founders of Pact--an Adoption Alliance Beth Hall and Gail Steinberg I would have had more hope.  This book really focuses on the specifics of transracial adoption which allows it more depth on the topic.  

I read the book a few months ago and it is already back at the library, so I cannot remember all the good points the book makes and what insights it provides, but there were many.  One thing I particularly liked was that it went through the stages of becoming anti-racist.  I think I'm only on stage two or three--where everything appears racist as you become aware of the racism around you.  I found it encouraging to read the steps and have what I've been feeling explained to me.

The book also spent a lot of time talking about ways to incorporate diversity in your child's life and what that really means.  It discussed school choices, family friendships, and home location with the understanding that not all families have access to the same things. It still emphasized the importance of diversity but without making anyone feel guilty about the situation they are in.  One of the authors even moved in order to be in a more diverse area and then discovered  it wasn't.  Their family was able (with hard work) to make the most of it and still thrive, but their experience made concrete what tends to be an abstract discussion.

I did love the personal stories that illustrated the points.  The quotes from the author's children and others who have been adopted were particularly poignant.  It really added a credibility and depth to the book.

But one thing really struck me.  They said people who chose transracial adoption are already comfortable with going against the norm; it is in their personality to be a nonconformist.   I don't know if it is my personality so much as the fact that I never did "fit in" and I wasn't willing to do what I would need to do to do so.  Some children will thrive on extra attention, but for all the ability to blend in will be one more loss on top of all the other losses.  Other books and such have talked about being a conspicuous family, but the idea of a child forced to live a nonconformist life with a conformist heart has really given me new compassion for the situation.

I've already forgotten a lot of the how-tos and what-to-dos of the book, but I do know it is one I will purchase for my "tool box."

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Our Little Helper

Sunflower has always been a very helpful little girl.  Sometimes a little too helpful.  As soon as she could walk if she recognized the word you said she would go get the item--shoes, socks...laptops.  She is very quick to obey (if it means to help) and very insistent on her brother's obeying also.

"Come!  Clean-up!  Time to Eat!"  Yes, she says it all at the top of her lungs while tugging on their shirts, pants, hand, or neck.
She is only trying to help him stand here, but she is often pushing or pulling them around and shouting at them our latest instructions.  We are trying to stop this bossiness, but I'm thinking it will probably only get worse.  Especially since it is hard to reprimand her when if they would just do what I asked right away...

So I love having such a helpful girl, and I want to encourage her help with chores and housework, but it isn't always a good thing.  At times it is a real problem.  Like the time she brought me the garbage from her bedroom because it "full--take out!"  She didn't spill any of the dirty wipeys and night-time pull-ups, but eeeew!  Let Dad do the garbage, baby!

Or last week when Oak had put a stack of plates on the table for the boys to spread around for dinner.  Sunflower gets to spread the forks.  They didn't hear and come, so Sunflower decided to help.  She is a little short for the job.  She tilted the plates to reach the top one and down came 5 plates onto the floor and her feet.  5 of our 12 everyday Mickey Mouse dinner plates.  She was okay with one long but shallow gash on her big toe (which we didn't find until later when we realized her sock was red--bad, bad parents!).  However, 2 of the plates were shattered beyond use and one has a pretty bad chip.  Not bad considering, but scary, loud, and very upsetting to all.*  It took awhile to calm down Sunflower and Huckleberry (he came in just as it happened and said he was screaming and crying because one of the things that scares him the most is the idea of Sunflower being hurt; how sweet is that?).

Does anyone have some ideas on how to channel her energy?  She helps fold laundry, can get the laundry from the dryer, puts away her socks and underwear, cleans up toys, spreads out forks and napkins, and fetches things.  What other age appropriate chores are there for a 2 1/2 year old?  I do not want to waste her enthusiasm; I know it will wane soon enough.

*I would be proud at how not upset I am about the loss of my dishes but I'm pretty sure I've just transferred my material possession obsession to my camera.  It does sound more Spiritual to say I'm not replacing the dishes right now because we don't need them and we remember the friend who came into our home and said "wow, all of your dishes match each other...and your forks, too!"  In reality it is because I'd rather have a new lens than a new plate.  Sigh.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Happy Birthday to Huckleberry!

My itty bitty baby boy, Huckleberry, is now 11.  I cannot believe it.
 How do they grow up so fast?
 We had lots of food, family, and friends--actually 1 friend.
The matching number of presents with lots of helpers.
We bought him binoculars per his request and to go with his "Invention" themed party.  People tried to answer the questions on his Inventor's Quiz (he made it himself.)
We also had cake.  Red Velvet bought from Costco.  Do you know how less stressful a party is for me when we buy a cake?  I associate decorating a cake with love, but I sure love skipping that part and my son!
 Eleven candles!  Are we certain?  I think we counted wrong somewhere, but he wasn't buying it.  Be sure to catch the smoke!
Mostly the kids just played and played and we heard a lot of thumping from upstairs.  It was a welcome relief when they went outside to play.  (Though the other adults made me shut the door before I could take too many pictures from the doorway.)
I didn't want to put my shoes on.

Happy Birthday, my darling son!

Ni Hao Yall


Thursday, March 10, 2011

To Judge Does Not Mean To Hate--a sermon

Judgment does not equal hate.  God loves everyone and He expects His children to do so also.

One reason I have been thinking about this recently is because I am realizing how delicate internet conversations are.  When we only see one dimension of a person it is easy to be a little more critical of them or misunderstand what they are trying to say.  It is not helped that we are not always careful in what we say and how we say it.  Often we use words that are not exactly what we mean.  Sometimes that is because we don't understand that we are using the wrong word.

Let me be more clear.   I have been involved in a few conversations in the last few months about sin.  The conversation is usually at some point shut down with the phrase "we should not judge."  Occasionally the conversation goes on about maybe we are to judge in certain situations, etc.  But the original question of "is this a sin" and if it is "what do we do" is buried in defending our right to judge sin at all.  Now I realize many Christians actually think we are not to judge, but before you judge me for judging, I promise to get into the scriptures on this later, but it is not my current point.  When someone shuts down a conversation with "we should not judge" I actually believe the intent of their comment is "we should love!"  Judgment is so closely associated with being hateful that even Christians use the words interchangeably.  "We should not hate" becomes "we should not judge" and "you are judging inappropriately here" becomes "you are showing hate."

As usual we put ourselves in two camps--those who believes it is okay to judge and those who think it is not okay--and we judge each other for being in their camp.  As usual the answer is a lot more complicated.  We cannot judge the heart.  Only One knows the heart (1 Corinthians 4:4-6).  We are not to judge the gray areas (Romans 14).  We are not to judge the world (I Corinthians 5:9-13) or at least not at this time (1 Corinthians 6:1-4).  Then there are many passages that just say: "Do not judge" (Matthew 7:1-3, Luke 6:36-38, and James 4:10-12).  So what does that leave us judging?  "Do you not judge those who are within the church?" 1 Corinthians 5.  

But again we get into trouble because we still define the word judge poorly.  Perhaps we really do believe it means hate or more kindly--criticize and find wanting.  But the Greek lexicon on the word judge in 1 Corinthians 5:12 says:
  1. to separate, put asunder, to pick out, select, choose
  2. to approve, esteem, to prefer
  3. to be of opinion, deem, think, to be of opinion
  4. to determine, resolve, decree
  5. to judge
  6. to pronounce an opinion concerning right and wrong
  7. to be judged, i.e. summoned to trial that one's case may be examined and judgment passed upon it
  8. to pronounce judgment, to subject to censure
  9. of those who act the part of judges or arbiters in matters of common life, or pass judgment on the deeds and words of others
  10. to rule, govern
  11. to preside over with the power of giving judicial decisions, because it was the prerogative of kings and rulers to pass judgment
  12. to contend together, of warriors and combatants
  13. to dispute
  14. in a forensic sense
  15. to go to law, have suit at law
15 different things.  Not one of them is hate, criticize, or find wanting.  But we are called to pronounce an opinion concerning right and wrong.  We are to read the Bible and determine what is sin (a whole lot more things than we usually "judge" others on).  If we see a brother or sister in Christ sinning, the Bible gives us nice clear instructions.  "Go and show him his fault in private" (Matthew 18:15-17).  "Do not regard him as an enemy" (2 Thessalonians 3:6-15).  Instead "restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness" (Galatians 6:1-5). (For the really curious here are some more cross references.)

But is this what we see played out?  Sometimes, certainly.  But the church as a whole has a reputation for judging and a judging that means hating.  I am not just talking about the truly hateful acts like bombing abortion clinics, protesting funerals, and holding signs in public that say "God hates homosexuals" or "God hates anyone" for that matter.  There is also the gossip about the divorced mom, the refusal to shake a hand because he has a boyfriend, and the seeking out the better dressed or more attractive person after service.  These are played out in churches all across the country in main stream Christianity.  We sneer at the word "tolerance" but do we really want to be the "intolerant?"

Yesterday in my Bible Study a woman was talking about how she felt homosexual marriage was wrong and her friend had responded with "but God loves everyone."  Another woman immediately piped up with "that is a lie straight from the devil" and continued on with how we are to shake the dust off our feet like the apostles did. The first woman responded with "God does love everyone, but He does discipline sin."  My teacher clarified further so I think most of the group went away knowing that God does love everyone--even those who are far from Him and will never choose Him (not defining homosexuals as such, just saying EVERYONE (Romans 5:6-10)).  But I do not think this woman's attitude was unusual.  Often we say "hate the sin not the sinner" but act as if we hate the sinner.

As we get farther from Christ's resurrection and closer to His return, the world is only going to get further from the morality of the Bible (Romans 1:18-32).  It will be all that more important that we stand firm (Philippians 1:26-28) and shine as a light in the darkness (Romans 2:18-20).  Maybe your church is does this very well.  I actually feel happy to be a part of my church as we strive to love our community even given this lady's comment.  But I think the world as a whole is seeing churches as a place that condemns the world's sin and is really, really good at their sin of choice--hate.  God is love (1 John 4:7-8).  The original church in Acts grew because what they had was something others wanted.  Don't worry, they dealt with sin (Acts 5:1-11) but for the most part they just followed Paul's advice:
 "Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.
 Let all that you do be done in love."
                                                         1 Corinthians 16:13-14
Is this not a worthy goal for us all?


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Not Useless Photos

Yesterday I took the kids outside so I could take pictures. 
I thought it was a great day to try out my "kid's vibrant color" setting on my camera since Sunflower had chosen this outfit for the day.  (Her undies are blue and her socks are yellow).

If I was planning to hide my children's faces on my blog this is the picture I would have picked to share with you:
After I was done the kids stayed outside another hour to play.  Since they were outside I had to stay in the back of the house so I spent the time doing dishes and folding laundry.  Good deal all around.  We have now had two extra play times outside and a trip to the zoo all because we bought a camera.  Who would have thought a camera could improve your life and not just your memories?


Monday, March 7, 2011

Loss--Again. I am sorry.

It has happened again.  Every time I post something I think is deep and profound, two things happen.  I remember the eight other things I meant to say and I read a post on the same topic only it is deeper and more profound.

Usually I just suck it up and accept that others write better than I do.  I've known this for a long time; ever since my professors in college told me I had a casual writing style and steered me to creative writing.  Personally, I think I would write better and have a better chance of realizing my now-not-so-secret dream of being on Sunday Linkage if I used a smaller font.  However, my husband won't read my blog if my font is smaller and I cannot bear to lose even one reader.

But this time I really want to link you to the more profound post on loss.  I really do feel like my post is a bad plagiarism of hers, but I promise I did not see hers until after I had posted.  If you want to hear how one adult adoptee feels about loss, this is a good post to read.  She also gets into the universal stages of grief which is one of the 8 things I forgot to mention.

 I Cannot Deny It at The adopted ones blog by shadowtheadoptee.

The other most important things I left out are:

Adoption loss is not the only loss that is ignored and dismissed.  As a society we do not take the time to grieve, and we do not always give sympathy where we should.  However, while everyone experiences insensitive comments at times, it is a consistent, persistent problem for adoptees.

For my friends who have lost their mothers more recently than I, the grief is less intense as time passes.  When you get to the stage of acceptance you don't forget your mother and stop feeling sad about all the could have beens.  Instead, the sadness over your loss becomes like a comfortable blanket.  You start to recognize it for what it is and personally I find it comforting.  It says my mother mattered to me and I will not forget her.  It gives me hope that I matter to my daughter.  It shows me the importance of connections between humans, and I find that beautiful.  I don't know how it applies if your relationship was more painful and complicated, but I want everyone to know there is hope.

And speaking of hope, I do believe God can heal and will comfort anyone who seeks it from Him.  Sometimes we have scars that will not be completely healed on this side of Heaven, but God knows and He cares.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Cedar's New Blog

Okay, I am now completely insane.  I decided that since I have a full 11 readers now I should expand and create another blog.  
It is Cedar's Photography Blog--yes, I have expanded into more creativity with naming things, also.  

Here is the real problem I am trying to solve.  According to The Life Cycle of the China Adoption Blog my blog should not morph into a photo blog until I am actually home from China.  However, that is a long way away...probably.  In the meantime I really want to prove (to myself) that our camera splurge was not a waste.  I do not want to dilute this blog with hundreds and hundreds of useless photos while improving my photo skills.  So...

I have created a new blog to dilute.  I will still use photos here, but only as they pertain to the story I am trying to tell and to document our life.  Over there I can explore and participate in photo challenges.  I did my first challenge today.  I don't really expect to win any challenges, but I like the idea of participating so I can learn from others and get ideas to try.  I seriously can only take so many pictures of Sunflower as cute as she is.

So feel free to visit me over there or not.  However, if you do, I think I'll count you as two readers--one here and one there.  Super exciting to my inflated and easily deceived ego!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Loss, Loss, Loss, and Adoption

You cannot be part of the adoption community for very long before you hear about loss and how it applies to adoption.  It is in every book that discusses adoption.  "Your child will have experienced a great loss, great trauma, sometimes more than once so..."  This is progress since adoption starting with a loss use to be never acknowledged.  However, we really are not where we need to be yet.

For one thing, although the books talk about loss as if it is a given, I haven't found a lot of information on what to do with it. The broad topic books cannot give enough advice and I have yet to find a book specific to grief and loss in adoption*.  On the other hand, I can find books with other similarly narrow fields--transracial adoption, older children adoption, and attachment to name a few. 

Perhaps that is the issue.  Perhaps authors feel the generic books out about loss and grief can apply to adoption loss.  Or perhaps they feel everyone's grief is so varied that there is no way to write a book to help adoptive parents and their adopted children.  Or perhaps, as some adult adoptees claim, we still don't truly get it.

I say, I kind of agree.  Certainly many families who are home** with their child and have come smack up against their child's grief get it.  Even if the only advice they heed on how to help their child with grief was to listen, acknowledge, and not become defensive and shut-down the conversation, it should help.  However, as a pre-adoptive parent, I'm not there yet.  So I have been thinking and reading and trying to figure things out; and I have come to a few conclusions.

One is that as a society we tend to treat loss as a one time event that eventually we can get over.  I'm sorry, but that isn't how it works.  I was going to say the loss itself only occurs once while the grief is on-going, but I don't believe that is even true.  

I lost my mother 23 years ago yesterday.  Yes, her death was a one time event (though if God had raised her from the dead like I asked Him, I might have lost her twice).  However, at age 15, I lost my mom.  At my graduation from college, I lost my mom's congratulations.  At my wedding I lost my chance to plan my wedding with my mom and to hear her advice on being a wife.  At the birth of my children I lost her presence and help.  And so on and so on.

For a person who is adopted her loss is also on-going and repeated.  She has also lost all of the same things I have and this is ignoring the additional losses of culture and language which occurs in International adoption plus the loss of the rest of her family and heritage.  A gain of something good does not replace the loss, my SnapDragon's opinion not-withstanding.  I am not saying that all adoptees feel pain at these losses (this is just as serious a transgression as saying they all don't) nor do I claim to know what level of grief any specific person feels.

However, here is the thing.  If I say I am sad that my mom died noone, seriously noone, says "but that was 23 years ago" or "but then you wouldn't have had your step-mother" or "would you have rather she was ill and miserable."  Every single person says, "I'm sorry."

If an adopted person says they are sad not to have/know the mom who gave them birth they may hear "I'm sorry."  They may also hear "what does that matter now that you are an adult" or "but don't you like your adopted family?" or "would you rather have been raised by her and been poor or possibly abused?" (I find this last one in particular poor taste since I know children who are poor and happy to be with their parents and I know children who have been removed from their parents due to abuse and they just want their mom!)

These are just some of the ways an adoptee's grief can be treated as invalid, but you get the idea.  Yes, I may comfort myself that although I lost my mother, I gained a very nice step-mother (whom I have now also lost), but no one would dare step on my grief in that way.  They may not understand my grief, but they respect it.  If a friend loses a pet, I say "I'm sorry for your loss" because while I cannot understand being attached to an animal, I respect their grief.

Adoptees do not receive the same respect.  They just do not.  Times are changing and the current generation of adoptees are being raised by parents who were told to acknowledge their child's loss and listen.  I have read many blog posts proving that many families are doing just that.  However, society still swallows whole the idea that adoption is solely positive and "what loss?"

Do I think that when one says, "I'm adopted" the polite response should become "I'm sorry for your loss?"  No.  That would also be presumptuous.  Instead of making any assumptions perhaps the politely social response should be "how do you feel about that?"  Maybe.  But certainly if someone says, "I am sad that I do not know who on my side of the family my new baby girl looks like" it would be appropriate to say "I'm sorry for your loss" or something else that acknowledges the pain.

The general public are not the only ones at fault.  Many adoptive parents dismiss what adult adoptees say and some do still believe that loss is a one time event that is fixed with the adoption and forever okay after the initial intense grief fades away.  Certainly no one I know, but I've read enough discussions to believe this to be the case.  I spend time pondering on this because it seems obvious to me that if a loss has occurred the grief can reappear at any time and in any context forever.  No one expects me to "be over" the loss of my mom.

Again, I have some speculations as to why this may be.  First, when we start to argue with an adult adoptee that "our daughter won't feel that way" or "people can be happy even if they suffered loss" we are not trying to dismiss their pain.  We are trying to defend our decision to adopt.  Let's face it, some adult adoptees reach the conclusion that because their pain is so intense and ignored, adoption itself is a horrible thing to do*** no matter what.  As a parent planning to add to our family through adoption I must shout you down or I might have to grieve the loss of a child--and it will be a loss.  While I have come to my own conclusions that adoption is an imperfect solution to a "gaping wound" (Thanks, Tonggu Momma), I have a lot of empathy for the defensive position. 

Secondly, parents, and adoptive parents especially, want to believe there is a way to raise perfect children--not tiger perfect--but happy, healthy, socially contributing citizens who will follow our beliefs.    While every child can become a fully functioning, loving and content adult, it will not be because nothing went wrong in her past.  We will do things wrong in our parenting because at minimum the odds are against us.  Not a single one of us was raised by a perfect parent, yet we believe we can do it.  

Acknowledging that the losses that occur before and during adoption may impact our child's heart for her entire life puts us in the position of having to admit there are some things we cannot fix.  We want a book that says if you do x, y, and z then by day 27 your daughter will be healed from all pain never to experience pain again--if you are particularly slow it will take 53 days.  We know intellectually this is not possible. But don't we wish it were.

That isn't to say I believe that because the losses an adopted child suffers are so great she cannot have a life of joy, of purpose, and of love.  Even though my mother died and just last week I cried for her (after a particularly hectic day with Sunflower), I am not dissatisfied with my life.  I don't think anyone would describe me as a chipper person, but I am who I am and people like me, darn it!  I like me.  In the day to day I am more concerned for my friends who are looking for jobs or struggling in their marriages.  My grief is ever present but it is not always at the forefront of my life--most days it is wrapped in a neat box and shoved under the couch.  But you know what, the wound in my heart is soothed a little more every time someone says to me "it must have been hard to lose your mother at 15."

You know, yes, yes it was.

So to all the adult adoptees who feel loss, to my friend's children who were adopted, to my eventual daughter:

I am sorry for your losses.

 "You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
   you have loosed my sackcloth
   and clothed me with gladness,
 that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
   O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever!"
Psalm 30:11-12

* I have not yet read "Primal Wound" but my understanding is that it is a book that shouts adoptees suffer loss (specifically loss of first mother) but not about how to cope with the grief (please forgive me if I am wrong).
**home--I've thought about it and I do not feel that claiming a child is home in any way dismisses all previous homes in a child's life.  My home is here with my husband, but growing up home was with my parents.  I want to be sensitive to people's feelings, but I cannot find another natural way of expressing the same concept.
***I am not speaking about the need for family preservation, ethical reform, and adoptee rights--just the blanket statement that adoption should never, ever occur.