America….Stop Being So Sensitive!

Why are American’s so easily offended theses days? I really don’t get it. I don’t care what someone else says, does, writes, or “tweets.” They cannot change who I am, what I do, or what I believe in . Why does everyone have to watch everything they say so carefully? One wrong, most likely unintended word, and the whole context of the statement is blown out of proportion.

The other day an NBC announcer tweeted the word “real” in a statement about an adoptive child and her parents. What they really meant was “biological,” but because of one word the news exploded. It was like a call to the country, or at least those who feel the need to be easily offended even when it has nothing to do with them, to validate adoptive parents.

I am an adoptive parent. I know who I am to my daughter and no one can change that.  I am not offended by that statement and neither should anyone else be. No one can change who you are or what you do with a word, or a statement. Why do we as Americans feel the need to place so much weight behind another individual’s off-handed comment? Why do we feel that everyone has to use specific terminology or we will immediately be offended for whoever it may remotely apply to? More often than not it does not apply to the offended one, and does not offend a majority of those who it may apply.

This is merely one example of what continues to be a growing  issue in this country. I could go on forever.

Please America…..STOP BEING SO SENSITIVE!

 

 

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A Letter to Our Adopted Christmas Family

I don’t know you, nor do you know me, but you have been heavy in my heart since I heard. This December, during a time that should be joyful and merry, as we celebrate the birth of Jesus, you have lost a loved one. A mother, a daughter, a sister. It was sudden, and tragic, and my heart breaks for you.

She left you precious gifts, her two young sons, Jay, and Em. Since Jay is two years old, he may grow up with vague memories of his mama, but Em, at five months, will not. They will grow up knowing their mom, through your eyes, their loving family. They may never again feel their mom’s arms wrapped around them,  at least not on Earth, but they will have you, providing endless love and support.

I have had you on my mind constantly this last week. I have seen a picture of mom, Jay, and Em, and my heart breaks for those beautiful baby boys. For their grandma who has lost her daughter, and the rest of the family as well. Christmas will never be the same for you. I hope you can find peace knowing that she is safe in Heaven, and will be watching over the family from above.

You are beginning a journey that you never expected. It will take a level of strength that you may not even realize you possess. Those boys will not forget the sacrifice that you made in raising them, and you will say it was not  a sacrifice. It is what loving families do, and you could never imagine NOT doing it. Make no mistake, it is a sacrifice, but one you will love and cherish forever. Their mama would be proud of you, and can be at peace knowing her babies are in your hands..

When I heard from my friend, when I heard what had happened, I jumped at the chance to help. We, and several of our neighbors, buy gifts for families experiencing difficulties during the holidays. We have gotten together for breakfast on Christmas morning for years, and instead of exchanging gifts, we give to others.  It is one of my favorite December activities. I love the shopping trip, picking out things for children to open on Christmas morning, hoping to bring them smiles and joy. This year is different, though, it feels more personal, it hits closer to home, I suppose because my friend actually knew your loved one, and that it comes in the wake of a devastating accident. One that could happen to any one of us, at any moment.

It is a small act, I know it’s not much, but I hope it helps a little in this difficult time. I wish I could do more. I wish I could take away the pain you are feeling. I pray you find a few moments of happiness this Christmas, whether it’s watching the children open gifts, reminiscing about the good times with the boys’ mom, or merely being in the comforting company of family.

You are in the thoughts and prayers of many this holiday season. May God bless your family with peace and love this Christmas, and always.

 

 

 

 

And She Danced……

It has been a long couple of years, since I saw my baby girl happy. I didn’t realize it was gone at first, then I brushed it off as hormones, and then, as written in my previous post, we learned of the bullying. It has taken a long time for her to recover from the experiences, but yesterday, I saw her dance, just because, and my heart danced too.

For the last month, I have noticed some drastic, but very positive, changes in her behavior. She joined volleyball again. It was not a surprise, we knew she would, but last year this was the only extra-curricular school activity she wanted to participate in. During the summer, when she was invited to parties that classmates were having, she was leary and nervous. I pushed her to go, and she did, but she was very anxious. When the school sports night email came last month,  I threw it away. I assumed she wasn’t interested. I mentioned the emal to her a few days later and she, very enthusiastically I might add, said she DID want to go, even though she didn’t know if any friends were attending, and my heart danced.

One night, last week, I woke up at about 3:30 AM, sleeping on my stomach. I don’t normally sleep in this position, but that wasn’t the most unusual part. There was a head on top of mine, coming from the opposite direction from where my husband was, and a sweet, soft, snore, whispering in my ear. My not-so-little girl, had come in and laid down with me, something she has rarely done, and not for a very long time. She has never been a hug-and-a-kiss-goodnight kind of girl, so this was highly unexpected. My heart was bursting with love, and it danced.

Recently, she has put down the itouch more, or at least switched to just listening to music, instead of incessantly texting, or playing games. It is no longer super-glued to her hand. Instead, she is outside with a volleyball, practicing her overhand serve. She has been turning her electronics in earlier at night, for my review, and I have much less content to  peruse. My girl is making me proud, and my heart dances.

A few weeks ago, she handed me a permission slip for the school choir, and spirit brigade. She turned them in a little late, but was assured spots next semester. She is looking forward to both. Yesterday, she asked me to sign her up for the school swim team, and S.T.E.M club. I am in awe of her bravery. This kid sure can make my heart dance.

Finally, as her volleyball team met with the coach last evening, a group of girls stood still, listening intently, and one danced. Normally I would tell my child to stand still and pay attention to their coach. But she danced, and I’m pretty sure she was listening. Regardless, she danced, and my heart danced too, and I thanked God.

 

Until The Scars Fade

This post has been brewing in my heart, and soul, for a long time. I knew, however, that writing it was something  I could not do until the scars began to fade.

My daughter was bullied.  All three of my kids have been bullied at some point, just like many children have been, including myself. The difference with her, was that she was bullied to the brink, and it wasn’t at your average public school. It was at a very expensive Catholic school, with small class sizes, and a strict behavior policy. It consisted of children of wealthy families, mixed with a few from the middle class. We were part of the latter.

Affording this school was a huge stretch for us, but it reminded me of her school in Shanghai. A school that still included a second language, as well as art, gym, and music classes, that were scheduled more often and delved a little deeper than public school. It was also conveniently located very close to my boys’ school. We decided that the financial sacrifice was worth it. We would, however,  still need to apply for scholarships and financial aid.

In third grade, her first year at the school, our daughter had a small group of friends, and was relatively happy.  Most of her classmates were well-behaved and kind. By all appearances, we seemed to have her in the environment we were looking for. A safe place for her to thrive.

As her fourth grade year began, she seemed more irritated, and reserved. She was easily aggravated by questions about her day, or just general conversation. I assumed it was pre-teen hormones, and began preparing myself for the moodiness of the next few years. Unfortunately, we were still months away from learning  what was actually happening.

One afternoon right before Christmas, I  pushed her to tell me why she was upset.  She admitted that she had been slipped a threatening note by another student.  Instead of bringing it to someone’s attention, she had thrown it away. I called the school, and a very considerate receptionist dug it out of the garbage for us. The next day, we were told the incident was addressed and taken care of. This would be the first, and last, we heard of any bullying for quite some time.

Several months later, while we sat at the kitchen table arguing about whether she had to go to swim practice or not,  the flood gates broke open. She told me that the same child had struck her several times, and continued giving her threatening or demeaning notes, as well as verbally telling her.  “No one likes you.” “You don’t have any friends.” “You should just kill yourself.” It didn’t matter that she did have friends, and that they liked her very much. The more she was told these things, the more she believed them. She told no one, and if anyone observed it, they did not take action.

Our baby, our confident little spark plug, our kind, funny, smart, beautiful, daughter, was crumpling into a little ball. Her self-confidence shattered. She could not see her own self-worth. She thought that she was not deserving of love, or attention. One wintery afternoon, in February 2014, the stories started spilling out of her, and our world as we knew it fell apart.

There was no quick fix for this situation. We had to pull her out of school. She finished the year in a small tutoring center, while undergoing counseling several days a week. We intended to send her back to the same school for fifth grade, as we were assured that the bullying was being addressed. I didn’t want to teach my daughter to cut and run when things got difficult, and she really liked her group of friends there. I still had faith that they would take care of the situation. It was a Catholic school, so how could they not?!  It was run by women who had sworn their life to God. How could we not trust them to do the right thing?!

For the next six months, we had countless meetings with the head of the school (although she had a habit of cancelling and rescheduling them, often for weeks later), as well as the tutoring center, and therapist. There were dozens of phone calls and texts.  We were constantly reassured that our child had a spot at the school and would be welcomed back the next year, but it was a never-ending process, with many delays. We were 10 days from the school year starting, and she still wasn’t officially enrolled again. They still wanted more meetings. I have no idea about what. She had been cleared by her therapist to return. Worried about the quickly approaching school year, and in our daughter’s best interests, we decided we should leave the school. It was “our choice” to change, but it was obvious we were being pushed out.

I  forgave that little girl long ago. She knew what she had done, and I believe she learned a valuable lesson. However, I never would have imagined that a Christian school would bury this incident, even amongst the staff. During our meeting with the middle school, we found out that they had not been advised of the bullying; where class assignments and schedules would have had to be considered for both girls. The head of the school had lead everyone to believe that my daughter had  broken down for no reason at all. The one who was bullied, was struggling to get back into school, while the the bullier continued as if nothing had happened.

In the end, we learn. This is not my first scar in life, but it is my baby’s. At least the first she vividly remembers. I can only imagine how being adopted effects her psyche. These lessons in life shape us. They make us stronger and more resilient. They remind us of the feelings of others, and how to treat people properly. They teach us of the importance of honesty and integrity, and what happens when they are lacking. They remind us to be the best we can be, because that is the right thing to do.

Our  daughter is in her second year at her new school. It is also Catholic, but possesses the Christian values that you would expect. Fifth grade was tough for her, she was in protective mode at all times. She made friends, but had trouble trusting people. We have had many discussions, and she continues to see her therapist for “maintainence” visits every now and then, but she is a new girl. Or maybe her “old-self” with improvements.

She is wiser than most her age. She has learned lessons that many do not. Sixth grade has started out wonderfully. She is beginning to trust again. She has loosened the protecctive shell. She has put herself out there, to try new things, without fear, or at least facing her fears. I am one proud mama. Those scars have started to fade.

The Best Day of My Life- A Letter to my Husband

Marrying you was the best decision I have ever made. That day changed my life forever. I would not be the person I am today, if it weren’t for you. I wish you believed me when I say…… it was the best day of my life.

Did I ever tell you that you are everything I ever wanted in a husband? That as a little girl, when I thought of my future husband, it was you. A gentleman. Smart, loving, kind, giving, thoughtful. And funny. I still laugh when I think about the “hats” you used to make out of towels, when you finished your shower, in our younger years. Those silly games you made up, that were meant to drive me batty, like “I Got Your Pinky Toe.”  I would be sitting there, minding my own business, and all of a sudden you would be holding my feet up by my pinkie toes. Or when I was reading on the bed, or watching a show, and you’d flop on to me like a fallen tree. You called it, “I’m a Bull Seal.”  Where did that stuff come from?! I love that now and then, you remember, and I find myself trying to figure out how to escape your game. I can’t help but smile and laugh, even though I am stuck, at least until I can convince you to free me. I love you for that. Thank you for teaching me to be lighthearted.

You’ve spent our entire marriage making big plans for us. You started talking about adoption from the day after our wedding, until the day we did. I never thought it would happen. I didn’t think we could ever afford it. You talked about living abroad, long before I had the nerve to do it. You make me believe in things I never imagined. You make the impossible, possible. You fantasize about what we will do in our retirement years. I hope they come true. Thank you for teaching me to dream.

Thank you for taking care of me during my Crohn’s years. For seeing me through those miserable days. For staying by my side. For doing things I’m sure you didn’t want to do, during my recovery from surgery. Thank you for not looking at me differently once I had my Ostomy bag. For loving me just as much. Or more.

You’ve taught me to live a life where fear does not control me, or my decisions. A life where I don’t worry about what others think. That it is okay to do something spur-of-the-moment. That prior planning is not always necessary, or preferred. Thank you for suggesting we take an unplanned trip to Seattle, just for fun, to see my brother, with 12 hours notice, a three-year old, and a newborn. You showed me how to feel carefree. You’re the one I want to spend my wild and crazy days with. Thank you for teaching me to be spontaneous.

Thank you for holding my hand, when we go to sleep. Or snuggling up behind me. For always being close to me at night, no matter how far to the side of our king-sized bed I lay, so I can keep my feet out of the covers. Thank you for holding my hand when we are at the mall, or walking down the street. For opening my car door. For pulling the car up so I don’t have to step in a snow drift, or through the mud. For always making sure the street is safe to cross, even know I’m completely capable of doing it myself.  I love how you protect me. Thank you for showing me how much you care.

Thank you for all the little things you do. For taking the kids to their activities on those days that I can’t stand to get in the car again, even know you’ve had a full day at work. For bringing me coffee in bed. For spending hours making homemade bread. For making that amazing Thomas the Tank Engine cake for Ethan’s 2nd birthday, when I was too sick. Thank you for taking care of the kids by yourself for two weeks, so I could help my parents in Arizona after that medical emergency. And for doing it again, for five weeks, the next year, without hesitation. Thank you for the big things, too.

Thank you for your love of music. For walking into a room blaring a happy song, on a dreary day. For smiling and dancing. For wanting me to sing for you. Or dance with you. For listening to the same song, over and over again. Thank you for “theme songs.”  For almost 30 years you have burst out in song, based on a current situation, whatever it may be.  This skill is now ingrained in my brain. I can pull an appropriate, and timely, “theme” song out of my head at the drop of a hat. Thank you for reminding me to sing and dance.

Thank you for every minute of our life together. The good, and the bad. They have made me who I am today. I don’t regret a single second. Thank you for giving me every bit of you. You are amazing. Inside and out. You are God’s gift to me. You are my everything. Thank you for loving me. Thank you…….for the best days of my life.

 

 

 

 

Patience is a Virtue……

Patience has always been a struggle for me. I’m pretty sure I had 0% patience as a child. Not much more as a teen, or even in my twenties. I have grown leaps and bounds in this skill, but it is a daily battle.

During my Crohn’s years, I was constantly waiting for a new medicine to kick in, for a fever to subside, for a break. There were times I asked God, “Why? Why me?” But then I would remember how many people were suffering from cancer. How many people in the world were so much sicker than I was. And my patience grew.

Adoption is a complete leap of faith. You never know what is going to happen that may delay, or stop, the process. When we were getting all of our paperwork together, we had quite a bit of control, but not all. We had to complete several steps in the home study with the social worker, and wait for documents. We had no control over those. They took time. We had to work with an adoption agency, on their schedule. Once our dossier went to China, we were at the mercy of a foreign government. Anything could happen. My patience flourished, and tanked, and rebounded again.

When we learned that Bill may have a chance to work in China, it took many months for it to develop. We were told it would not be certain we were going, until we were on the plane. We went through all the steps. Cultural training, social worker studies, conference calls that lasted hours. All planning the move. The move that was not certain to ever happen. Once we were settled in Shanghai, there were many other tests of patience. Language barrier, cultural differences, Internet speed. Too many to even recall. When we were done with our first 3 year contract, we didn’t know if we were going home or staying in China until the very last minute. We stayed another year. I didn’t mind. I loved it there. We were blessed to have the experience of living and traveling abroad. Many never have that chance. So, my patience grew.

Last year, as I have said, was a rough year in our family. There were innumerable meetings with doctors and school staff. There was plenty of waiting. Not knowing what was coming next. Waiting for things to improve. Waiting for brighter days. And my patience grew some more.

How many times do I have to tell my son to put his clothes in the hamper? I mean it’s RIGHT NEXT to where he drops them. Same with my daughter. Clothes on her bedroom floor. Mere inches away from the dirty clothes basket. How hard could it be?! Put the dishes in the sink?! Nope. Left on the table, until eventually I take care of them. Or better yet, until the dog realizes there is a tasty treat lurking nearby, and I start to hear the clinking of the collar and tags against the plate. I try to wait. I don’t want them to think someone else will take care of it. But eventually, it annoys me enough to do it myself. Backpacks, books, phones, glasses, shoes. They don’t intentionally leave them. Something else is pulling at their attention, and they just forget. Often.

The oldest does put his stuff away. His problems lie with getting up in time. Leaving the house in time. How many times do I have to wake him up in one morning?! Too many. Shave your face. Put on deodorant. Brush your teeth. Daily maintenance is a burden to him. He picks things up, walks around with them, then sets them down. Somewhere else. I have to go track said item down. He constantly has very important things going on in his head. He doesn’t even realize he’s doing (or not doing) it.

Over the years I have learned to pick my battles. They are good kids. I know they’re trying because these things have improved over time. Slowly. I continue to remind them. I find methods to encourage improvement. Reward. Punishment. Whatever works for each individual child. I remind myself that I am lucky to have kids. Healthy kids. There are so many people in the world who are not so lucky. And my patience grows again.

All of these things, little or big, have been lessons in strength for me. I worry less. I am less stressed. I think of the positive. I thank God for all of our blessings. And I remember…..patience is a virtue. I will continue the struggle.

All Things Bright and Beautiful

Reposting for no other reason than this is one of my favorite pictures, and I can use it with the new format.

If you haven’t realized it yet, I have named each of the recent posts about the children after hymns. They are all songs that bring me joy, just as my children do. They are God’s gift to me. Blessing from Heaven.

Our youngest child, Mei Mei, is known to most as Carleigh. When she was younger I called her our little spark plug. A firecracker. She was energetic, passionate, curious, stubborn, and fearless. She was as I have said before, taught by her older brother, so there is no other way she could be.

When we lived in China, she would get on the giant school bus, which was actually a touring bus, like she was in charge. Talking the minute her four-year old body climbed the steep steps, and not stopping until they arrived at their destination. She was a social butterfly. When she was home, she was stuck to me like glue. My tiny Asian sidekick, endlessly filling me in on what was going through her mind. She was never one to play with toys much, never cared for dolls, and only used her play kitchen and pots to store the chalkboard paint she peeled off her wall, or wet pull-ups she wore at night. If she hid those pull-ups and put on a dry one, she would be closer to the reward she would receive after a pre-determined number of dry days. Bringing up another of her traits. Sneaky and mischievous.

The sneaky part reminds me very much of myself as a child. If she wanted it, she would find a way to get it. I can’t tell you how many fruit snack wrappers I would find hidden in her room. We would buy them, and she would binge. This was troublesome mostly because a box of fruit snacks cost about $10 in Shanghai. Needless to say, we stopped buying them. On the mischievous side, one day, before we moved to China, she was supposed to be napping in her room. She was very quiet, so I assumed she was. Unfortunately, when I opened her door, she had taken a black magic marker and “outlined” every single thing she could in her room. Dresser drawer handles, parts of the door, toys, a carousel rocking horse and all of its details. One of many, many shocking but lovingly humorous memories of her younger years.

Carleigh loves everything fluffy and soft. Fluffy pillows and blankets, soft sweatshirts and fleeces. Blankets are the biggest obsession though. It’s hard for her to pass one up. The fluffier and softer, the better. Each one getting pushed down the line a little when a new one arrives, but all getting used and loved. Pillow pets and stuffed animals were her favorite toys, along with the blankets, when she was little.

She is still all, or most, of those things and more. She is passionate in both anger and joy, but sometimes she holds things in and let’s them simmer until they boil over. This tends to come out on Bill and I, Brennan, or on herself. I rarely get a snuggle, but she likes to lay with me while watching TV sometimes. Today, was one of those days. Cherished time with my baby girl. She loves watching anime with her biggest brother, Ethan. She is solidly a tweener, so she also enjoys hanging out by herself in her room reading or listening to music. She is trying to figure out who she is as a person, and doesn’t feel especially comfortable in her own skin right now. She is getting there though. Discovering who she is. Who she wants to be.

I hope she always knows that no matter what she does or who she chooses to be, she will always be my baby girl. Forever in my heart, all things bright and beautiful.

All Things Bright and Beautiful

If you haven’t realized it yet, I have named each of the recent posts about the children after hymns. They are all songs that bring me joy, just as my children do. They are God’s gift to me. Blessing from Heaven.

Our youngest child, Mei Mei, is known to most as Carleigh. When she was younger I called her our little spark plug. A firecracker. She was energetic, passionate, curious, stubborn, and fearless. She was as I have said before, taught by her older brother, so there is no other way she could be.

When we lived in China, she would get on the giant school bus, which was actually a touring bus, like she was in charge. Talking the minute her four-year old body climbed the steep steps, and not stopping until they arrived at their destination. She was a social butterfly. When she was home, she was stuck to me like glue. My tiny Asian sidekick, endlessly filling me in on what was going through her mind. She was never one to play with toys much, never cared for dolls, and only used her play kitchen and pots to store the chalkboard paint she peeled off her wall, or wet pull-ups she wore at night. If she hid those pull-ups and put on a dry one, she would be closer to the reward she would receive after a pre-determined number of dry days. Bringing up another of her traits. Sneaky and mischievous.

The sneaky part reminds me very much of myself as a child. If she wanted it, she would find a way to get it. I can’t tell you how many fruit snack wrappers I would find hidden in her room. We would buy them, and she would binge. This was troublesome mostly because a box of fruit snacks cost about $10 in Shanghai. Needless to say, we stopped buying them. On the mischievous side, one day, before we moved to China, she was supposed to be napping in her room. She was very quiet, so I assumed she was. Unfortunately, when I opened her door, she had taken a black magic marker and “outlined” every single thing she could in her room. Dresser drawer handles, parts of the door, toys, a carousel rocking horse and all of its details. One of many, many shocking but lovingly humorous memories of her younger years.

Carleigh loves everything fluffy and soft. Fluffy pillows and blankets, soft sweatshirts and fleeces. Blankets are the biggest obsession though. It’s hard for her to pass one up. The fluffier and softer, the better. Each one getting pushed down the line a little when a new one arrives, but all getting used and loved. Pillow pets and stuffed animals were her favorite toys, along with the blankets, when she was little.

She is still all, or most, of those things and more. She is passionate in both anger and joy, but sometimes she holds things in and let’s them simmer until they boil over. This tends to come out on Bill and I, Brennan, or on herself. I rarely get a snuggle, but she likes to lay with me while watching TV sometimes. Today, was one of those days. Cherished time with my baby girl. She loves watching anime with her biggest brother, Ethan. She is solidly a tweener, so she also enjoys hanging out by herself in her room reading or listening to music. She is trying to figure out who she is as a person, and doesn’t feel especially comfortable in her own skin right now. She is getting there though. Discovering who she is. Who she wants to be.

I hope she always knows that no matter what she does or who she chooses to be, she will always be my baby girl. Forever in my heart, all things bright and beautiful.

Be Not Afraid

Today, I want to talk about our second son, Brennan, who is now 15. It is hard for me to know how my active Crohn’s disease years, played in on our sons development. They were so young, but also at that age where they were learning the most, and developing at the fastest rate that they ever would. Due to how sick I was, Brennan got more snuggles than anything else, and I often wonder if that is why he’s my most empathetic child.

When Brennan was a toddler he was a happy kid, full of deep belly laughs. He never stopped moving, he was always busy enjoying life. He seemed to think he was unstoppable: Invincible. When he was a little older, and learned that the world wasn’t always rainbows and unicorns,  he started saying a personalized bedtime prayer. He made it up on his own and faithfully said it every night, at least once, but more on less confident days.  My favorite part of the prayer was when he asked God to protect his family from natural disasters or getting thugged. We are a quietly religious family, and never really pushed bedtime prayers,  he did it all on his own. To this day he still says a prayer when he feels it is needed, although I do believe he has revised it a bit.

At the age of five, when Mei Mei came home, he was absolutely ecstatic. He’s always loved babies, so having a baby sister was the ultimate gift for him. At least at the age of five, because let’s  be honest, siblings don’t always get along. When she came home he taught her to crawl then walk. It was a very fast transition, as Chinese babies tend to be a little behind at first, but catch up quickly. He also taught her baby sign language. They played together all the time. They had a very close bond for years. When I see that peek out every now and then, despite the tension of one at the beginning of puberty, and one at the end, my heart melts.

At 15, he still gives plenty of hugs and says I love you everyday. He is the first to question if someone is okay, or ask if you need help. He talks to me about the good, the bad, and the ugly in his life, without prompting. What parent doesn’t cherish that time with their son or daughter?! He is also me, as a teenager, in boy form, new and improved. He reminds me of myself so much it hurts sometimes, but it also makes me proud. He’s a responsible student, and never has to be reminded of school work, is very funny, and never feels the need to come back at people with a nasty retort if they choose to be cruel to him. His confidence at this age far outweighs what mine was.

He has a love of life that I wish I had at his age, but I wish he didn’t worry about his future as much as he does. He has pondered over what he is going to do with his life, and how good his grades are, since 6th grade. I wish he had waited a few more years for those concerns. You don’t get those worry-free childhood years back. I know this is a result of our four years living abroad when he was between the ages of 8 and 12 (these years will be discussed in future posts), as those worldly experiences definitely influenced our children. I also wouldn’t change those years for anything. They helped form who Brennan is today.

Today was Brennan’s day. I am blessed with three children. They are my heart and soul. I cannot say enough, how proud I am of them.

Bringing Mei Mei (Little Sister) Home

I’d like to say that everything went smoothly while we waited to travel to China to bring our baby girl home, but it didn’t. The delay in our group getting travel approval from the Chinese government ended up being a blessing in disguise though. Usually travel happens in four to six weeks. For us, it was nine or ten. The blessing in this was that on October 2nd, three weeks or so after our referral, and six weeks before we would ultimately travel, we had a medical emergency in our family.

I was taking toys and boys clothing into a moms-to-moms sale to sell, and stepped on uneven pavement. I was wearing one inch, chunky, heels and my foot twisted sideways. SNAP! In my head I thought to myself…..”Was that my shoe heel that made that noise? That had to be my other foot hitting the pavement when I caught myself Oh….that hurts! That was NOT my heel!” Hobble, hobble, hobble….nope. Hop, hop, hop; inside to my table. I called my husband, Billy, to tell him I was on my way home, and to get ready to go to the hospital. Due to a little luck it was my left foot, so my friend, Jen, helped me to the car so I could drive home. Before leaving the parking lot, I called my sister, bright and early on a Saturday morning. I’m talking 7am early, and cried all the way home while she patiently, and sleepily, talked to me.

On a side note, I’m not always the best about accepting help when I feel like it may be inconvenient. For me, or them. It’s all about efficiency. The most efficient thing was to drive myself so we didn’t have to worry about getting the car back home. Just like when I drove myself to the hospital downtown when I had the optic nerve swelling. That way we didn’t have to pick my car up from the local hospital, and when I drove myself and my oldest to my mom’s house while in labor with the second child, so she didn’t have to pick me up. It was out of her way, in my opinion. I was fine. I woke up with contractions 5 minutes apart, my husband had already left for work, and the hospital was on the other side of town. I probably didn’t have time for her to pick me up, nor did I feel confident waiting for Billy to come home and get me. Solution: drive myself.

Six weeks, a clean break, and what I liked to call my Franken-boot (removable cast) later, I was walking without crutches, and we were on a plane to Beijing. The only travel-related issue was that my doctor wanted me in a wheelchair for our one heavy touring day when we arrived.

In the hotel the first night, we had left the wheelchair in the lobby. It seemed easy enough to call down to the front desk and ask someone to bring it up to our room. It would have been so much easier to go down and get it, but the entertainment value was priceless. The front desk did not know what a wheelchair was, and transferred me to housekeeping. Housekeeping came up with a desk chair. Do you have any idea how hard it is to charade a wheelchair to someone who does not speak your language and does not usually deal with wheelchairs?! Do you realize how silly one looks trying to do that without sitting down?! What you think looks like the movement of your arms turning the wheels actually doesn’t. I probably looked like I was trying to mimic two-handed shoveling while crouching down a little. In the end, the sweet lady from Housekeeping was at a loss, so Billy went down and got it.

The next morning the group headed out for some sightseeing. There are several things that stand out in my mind from that day. Sitting in a wheelchair in Tiananmen Square just makes you a target for vendors hollering at you in broken English, and budding photographers anxious for a shot with a foreigner. The Forbidden City is NOT wheelchair accessible, at least it wasn’t at the time. There are many little wooden lips in doorways, and staircases. Get up, move chair, get back in. Over and over again. On a positive note, we did meet a wonderful family from Minnesota who also had two biological boys. They were very helpful with wheelchair logistics, and were our buddies for the rest of the trip and beyond. Finally, The Great Wall of China. Also, for obvious reasons, not wheelchair friendly, but even standing at the bottom of it was something I cannot fully describe. It filled me with a deep sense of awe, of the history and people that had been there before me. It was absolutely beautiful against the blue sky, and so commanding of your attention, and respect. It is a feeling I will never forget.

The following day, wheelchair-free, although our tour guide continuously tried to get me back into it every subsequent day, we were heading to our baby’s province. A short plane flight, and a quick stop at the local Walmart for supplies, and our group was on the way to meet our children. When I say “meet” I actually mean, walk into a room where they call out your name, hand you your baby, and you take her with you when you leave. Much like when you give birth, but a newborn is a blank slate, this child has some sort of routine already, and you don’t know it. They have an eating and sleeping schedule, but you are clueless to what that is. All the while, this young child is thinking, “Who are these people, and what are they saying? You look and sound very strange! This is terrifying! Everyone else is crying, I think I should too!” A short time later, dazed and confused, we all board the tour bus again. This time, we have our new baby girl. Three days shy of her first birthday.

We spent about a week in this province. The adoption was finalized the next day, and then we waited for her passport to be processed. During this time, we did some touring of local temples, and parks and sampled the local fare. This is where I had possibly the best Thanksgiving dinner I had ever had, and it had nothing that an ordinary one would. All Chinese food. All outstanding. This is also where we learned that a tour bus driver in China, can and WILL make a U turn on a very crowded and fairly narrow road, if he chooses. He will also back up through a light that he missed the turn on, regardless of people or vehicles around him. It was also in this location that we learned we were traveling with my high school friend, Leanne’s, mother and aunt. Her cousin was adopting as well, and had brought them with her. I had never met her mom so I had no idea until I saw her last name and asked if she was a relation. Small world. Amazing.

Our final four days in China were in a southern province where we finished up paperwork, and our newest family member was sworn in as a U.S. citizen. As soon as we landed on U.S. soil it would be official. This year long process was finally complete. We were bringing Mei Mei home.