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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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.

 

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.

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.

All in the Family

I remember as a young girl, probably between the ages of 9 and 12, whenever my mom made me really angry, when she had to pull out the heavy parenting hat, I would ask her if I was adopted. As if this would be the reason she was being so strict. As if this was a sign she didn’t love me as much as my siblings. This was especially humorous to her because cloning wasn’t even close to being possible, and I look just like her. If I only knew at that time, how wrong that perspective was. It is impossible not to love your adopted child with every part of your being. I know, because I am an adoptive parent.

My husband had been sporadically mentioning that we should adopt a child from China since the day after our wedding. “We should have a few biological children and then adopt a few,” he would say. He has always had an interest in China, and Chinese history. I don’t even think they were accepting international adoption requests at the time, but he said that time was coming. He has always been a dreamer, so I would listen over the years, but never thought it would happen, especially because of my Crohn’s.

I remember the day I asked him if he thought we would ever go through with his plan, and that if we were going to we should probably do it soon. I was sitting in the chair on our loft, in the evening, on a overcast day, in October of 2003. The next thing I know, I was at the computer researching adoption agencies, and within days we had submitted our initial application to the agency.

We were told that Chinese adoptions were taking up to 2 years at the time, and that was faster than they had been in the past, so we knew we were in for a long roller coaster ride, much of it in the hands of a foreign government. We began gathering all of the documentation; physicals, criminal background check, financials, fingerprinting, home study, passports, etc.  Then we waited, and waited, and waited for the finally document we needed, from the U.S government, before we could submit our dossier to China.

In February 2004, upon arriving home from seeing “Passion of the Christ” on the first day of Lent, it was in the mailbox. I did a little dance in the driveway. After such an emotionally draining movie, we came home to such a bright light of hope. We finished getting all of our documents certified and authenticated, and our dossier was in China by mid-March, along with a number of other families. General the agency would submit one batch of dossiers to China each month. Now the real waiting game began.

Once the paperwork gets to China, it goes through a number of  “rooms.” The documents must be translated and reviewed, then a child is matched to your family. This process takes the longest. At the time it was probably predicted to be about 12-18 months. At the end of this process each family in the batch that was submitted with ours would receive a “referral,” in which you get a photo, name, age and general information about your newest family member.

Before the referral is received in the mail by the family, they receive a call from their adoption representative. That is the BEST day. Rumors have been flying on the Yahoo groups that they are coming, but you never know until you receive the call. I received mine while I was on my way to pick up my oldest son from school. It was another overcast day. I was still on the call when I got to his classroom, and sat down at a desk to finish before we walked home. His 3rd grade teacher’s face was beaming. She knew we were getting the call we had been waiting for. It had only been six months since our dossier was submitted. This fast timing had never happened before, and it hasn’t happened since. Oh, and the birthday of our newest child, was the same date as my passport was issued. November 24, 2003.

In the next blog, I will tell you the story of bringing our new daughter home. Stepping out of my comfort zone, out of my little safe box. Taking a leap faith that I never would have thought possible.