Saturday, September 30, 2006
Opinions are like........ Here's Mine
I really enjoy reading about other pre adoptive parents questions about concerns and choices of the adoption journey. I also enjoy answering questions and offering advice on the million and one things that come up. After 3 trips and two adoptions, I feel like a wise old sage in this area. Of course , there are as many differing opinions and experiences as there are adoptions.There are some topics that are always areas of concern and question in adoption chats and message boards. And the differing advice can escalate sometimes to the Friday Night Fights,which of course adds to the confusion of the waiting families, who were expecting a short , concise and definitive answer. But what subject or topic in any venue ever gets that. But for what's its worth, here are my thoughts on some recent subjects I have been reading and yes, offering my two cents worth on.
I think in adoption it is OK to think of these choices as a perk. While there are some high tech ways of determining gender in a bio child now, I don't know of anyone who has used this method,even my friends with 4 girls and crossing every appendage they have for number 5 to be a boy (It wasn't).If you don't care ,then don't specify. If you do care, then say so. So what if the wait may be longer for a girl. I know plenty of families who asked for a girl(myself included) and did not have to wait any longer than the "boy" parents. Do not feel guilty or that you are shopping. Part of international adoption is choosing parameters for your child referral. It is not mandatory that you make a choice, but it is perfectly fine, justified and a positive part of adoption if you do. If you are dreaming of a little boy or a daughter, then that part of the dream you have the power to make come true. Our first adoption we did not specify and it brought us our son. We entered our second adoption for a daughter. A DAUGHTER, no apologies or explanation needed.

AGE is the same, sorta.We wanted as young as possible. We asked for under a year, we got under a year. I know all the arguments for why a toddler is better(Health assessment advantage) or an older child(may be quicker, and more in need).Of course those two may have harder attachment, but most do just fine.We wanted young. No ,we were not trying to have the "newborn" experience or mourning the loss of that. We could have had that with a bio. We chose adoption over that. But because we were open on health, we figured that the younger the child the earlier we could intervene on health issues.So if you want young hold out for that, if you reach your limit on waiting,then you can up the age bracket.If you read the adoption message boards you will see a pattern emerge. Each parent thinks that the age they adopted is the perfect on and will have legitimate reasons to support it. This is how is should be. I hope every parent thinks the choices they made were perfect. And they will be. That is the miracle of adoption.The child you bring into your heart and home will be the perfect match, even if it is not what you thought you wanted.Or it may be exactly as you imagined and waited on.
Go with your heart.
This is not a lease agreement,
it is a lifetime, yours and theirs.
NAME: To Change or Not to Change
This also brings out righteous emotion.Again, Do what you want? If you love their Russian name, or feel a particular duty to keep it,then keep it. Remember that many children placed at birth are named by a nurse at the hospital. Older children of course were named by bio parents. They will have an opinion.Some want to keep the Russian name and others refuse to answer to it, wanting a new American name to go along with their new American life and future. If you are adopting a child, say 2 years old or younger, than it is simply up to you.We thought it was our right as new parents of infants to pick out a name, just like most all parents get to do. This filled up a lot of time while we waited for the call. Look, it took my husband two weeks to pick out a name for our poodle, so you can imagine what went into naming our children. He didn't want it to be too long or too common or too unusual. He read the book of 50,000 names , set it down and proclaimed that he did not like any of them. I kid you not. I , on the other hand, liked a lot of them. Most he deemed to unusual or rhymed with something that could used in a taunt by other kids. Since we did not know if our first child would be a boy or girl ,and choosing two names next to impossible , we agreed to pick one name that could be either gender.We agreed on Riley. Will for a middle name after Dad. Our son's Russian name was Ivan, not bad but not one have ever felt sorry about not keeping. Then came our second adoption and this time we knew it would be a girl. Out came the baby name books.My husband once again, hard to please.Then one day, while we were shopping at the big mall,I glanced up at a sign above a store. MACY"S. I sorta not jokingly said,"how about Macy for her name?" expecting an eye roll in response. Lo and behold , he thought about it for half a second and said ,"Yes, I like that, its settled, Macy it is" And Macy it was and she is a Macy, whatever that means.We combined both her grandmothers names for a middle name. She loves that she is named after them.She knows that her Russian name was Irina Michealenova, she likes Macy better.
So pick out a name you love, a family name or wait and see the name they come with. But don't make it any harder than it is. My two do not need a Russian name to know where they were born. My daughter can tell you all about it in her Scarlett O'Hara southern twang accent.
Some other things that may keep you up at night I have shorter answers to.
Packing-Don't take food-we ate constantly while in Russia, don't take toilet paper(they have it I promise)
and pretty much everything else you may need
Clothes- You don't have to take all Black clothes. I have no idea who started that rumor.You will walk a lot so take comfortable shoes. Dress nice. We found that most all Russians we saw dress nicely. They put time,thought and effort into dressing each day. No sweats, slouchy comfort clothes, few tennis shoes.The women had hair stylishly fixed, makeup and jewelry.Lots of short skirts, hosiery and high heels. Husband did not complain. Look, adopting a child is one of the most important things you will do and you should dress for the occasion. You will also be taking more pictures than you ever have on any trip and you will undoubtedly appear in a few. These are pictures that you will show anyone who will look and pictures you and your children will look at for the rest of your life. You will be thankful for the little extra effort you put into it. And yes, Russians do wear blue jeans and no matter what you wear , they will not mistake you for a local.
I guess the moral of this blog entry is this.
This is your adoption,your child, your family.
While there are rules of thumb and guidelines,there are also exceptions to every rule.
Make it your own.
Every choice that can be made, has been made by thousands of adoptive parents who came before you.
Just as many make the same choice as you will and just as many will choose differently.
Don't waste energy on decisions that won't matter 5 years from now like what to wear or what to pack or which diaper or what stroller. Although these things do help you pass the time.
Follow your own heart and head, dreams and desires in making choices that will matter to you like health, or gender or a name.
There is no right or wrong answer.
Unless you choose someone else's answer and not your own.
Some things won't matter,That's OK
Some things will matter, That's OK too.
And later, when you are home with your child and have the experience under your belt. You can be the wise old sage on the adoption board voicing your opinion and debating your choices.
Hope to see you there, it really is a lot of fun and occasionally I think we help someone.
Ok, I love the debating part too.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Macy, age 5- I can see the future in her face

Monday, September 25, 2006
Traveling the Broken Road
2006 has been a year of firsts.
First year of kindergarten for my daughter
First year of an official diagnosis for my son, PDD-NOS
First year my niece is away at college
First year of my sister being married to Mr.Right
First year I don't have to wait in the school car pick up line.
First gray hair
First year I am closer to 50 than 40

Saturday my sister got married. She is 4 years younger than me. This was her second marriage. The first lasting 18 years and producing two great children. But this is the first time she has married the right guy for her. They are truly soul mates and I am so happy for her.
My daughter was the flower girl. It is the second time this summer she has been in a wedding so of course she thinks she is a professional flower girl by now. She did so good that I am considering renting her out for other weddings. As I sat in the church during the wedding ,I looked at my beautiful almost 19 year old niece and wondered if she would be the next bride in our family.Since she is planning on going to medical school that could be way in the future. Then I looked at my 5 year old daughter in her long ivory dress and flowers in her hair and thought how quickly time will fly and before I know it she will be the bride. Then I look over at my son, sitting in the pew, looking so grown up in his button down shirt and singing along( not quietly) every word of Rascal Flatts "Bless the Broken Road". And I wonder will he find love outside the warm embrace of his family. Will he marry and have a family one day. Do I dare have the same hopes and dreams for him that I have for my daughter?
I think that this is something that all parents of a special child ponder more than others.
Will he find a career he loves and can support himself?
Will he live on his own?
Will he find that someone who thinks he is special in all the normal "falling in love" ways?
If not, who will look after him when we are gone?
How do we make sure he is taken care financially for the rest of his life?
Will this responsibility fall to his sister? Should It? Would she have it any other way?
Should I be thinking about all this now, he is only 7 years old?
I am a mother, I contemplate and worry about all kinds of things that may or may not happen in the distant future.
It is what mothers do.
This year we went to the Sparks Clinic and endured 3 days of testing on our son. That is when we got the diagnosis of Pervasive Developmental Delay-Non Origin Specific.
While it sounds like a very specific diagnosis, it is really quite vague in definition.
He did not have Asperger's, Not truly Autistic. He falls in the gray area. The gray area is large and is PDD.
His prognosis just as vague. He is doing great they told us, keep doing what we are doing.He has made tremendous progress since age 3 and he may continue to do so .Or he may peak or plateau at 8 or 12 or 16 or 20 or 30 0r 60.
See what I mean.
Glass half empty or half full.
I gave myself one day of the empty side. A one guest Pity Party. Ok , 3 guests. I called and cried to my mother and my sister. Wailing, gnashing of teeth, sobs.
Yes, the ugly cry.
They listened and reminded me how well Riley is really doing, how great a kid he is, how happy he is in his life and how much he is loved and how he will always have loving family around him.
Pity Party over and return of my naturally optimistic but realistic outlook.
The truth is he is a great kid and a happy one.
He is smart and can do most th ings his peers can.
We see new things he learns and new skills he masters on a daily,weekly and monthly basis.
He is easy going and very well behaved.
He has varied interests and true areas of strengths.
He is surrounded by a huge extended family and we are all very close. He has 11 first cousins that all live within a 20 mile radius and all but 3 are close in age to him.
I have always been totally and madly in love with him as has is father and have always felt blessed and proud to be his parents.
Sometimes I do wonder what would have happened to him if he had been left in that orphanage in Russia to grow up. The realities of children with issues in Russia is horrifying. What may have become of my beautiful happy child is too disturbing to imagine. No matter what path his life takes , it will be a million times better than the alternative.
He is a million times loved.
While I can try to guide and shape his future, life sometimes has it's own ideas.
And so will he, just as it should be.
So, the momness in me will always ponder my children's future and I will try my best to prepare them to be their best and teach them how to be happy. But the truth is most is out ofour control.
I have learned that my energy and attention is best used in enjoying the now.
To be grateful for each day with them. To relish their accomplishments and laughter today, the future will take care of itself.
The past is over and the future not here, it is in the present where I should be.
This was my horoscope yesterday as I was thinking about my son's future and how it may differ from his sister's:
And if a problem pops up or an obstacle gets in your path, you can use your wit and innovative thinking to work your way around it. You're wise enough to understand that there are many different paths to the same destination -- have the courage to take the path that no one else has the guts to explore.
Wow, how that can be applied to adoption and parenting.
I am a wiser person after experiencing adoption and becomng a parent.
I am a much better person than I would have ever been because of my son.
He has taught me the most importnant lessons I have ever learned about love, commitment and joy. My daughter has taught me lessons of her own.
Having gone through two adoptions by choice, we certainly took an uncommon path to our children. Adoption is also about courage and faith. While our adoptions happened in a fairly quick and timely manner, I know that many take much longer and require more faith and endurance to see to completion. Courage is also a requirement in deciding on international adoption and in the commitment to a child that at the beginning you know nothing about and have no clue on what your future together may hold.
As a parent of child with more obstacles to overcome than some, I understand the fear in wondering if your future child may have issues and the heartbreak in finding out that he or she does. But I also want you to know that after that comes the joy and pride, thankfulness and more love than you ever imagined. A little fear is healthy but too much fear can be incapacitating and robs you and your child to all the wonderful and magic in life.
In every life, in every child.
Even if your dreams have to be rearranged and the realities are different.
Different is OK, different is fun, different is richly rewarding.
Happily Ever After comes in many different forms.
Wouldn't it be boring if it didn't.
Life should never be boring. Or predictable.
The one constant should be love and laughter.
In our house , I think that it is.
I think the song that means so much to my sister and new brother in law also applies to both of my journeys to my children.For those of you still on the road to adoption or new to parenting I hope the words touch you also.
Bless The Broken Road
I set out on a narrow way many years ago.
Hoping I would find true love along the broken road
But I got lost a time or two. Wiped my brow and kept pushing through
I couldn't see how every sign pointed straight to you
Every long lost dream led me to where you are Others who broke my heart they were like northern stars
Pointing me on my way into your loving arms
This much I know is true
That God blessed the broken road
That led me straight to you
I think about the years I spent just passing through
I'd like to have the time I lost and give it back to you
But you just smile and take my hand
You've been there you understand
It's all part of a grander plan that is coming true
This much I know is true
That God blessed the broken road that led me straight to you

I like to think that our road is no longer broken.
It is winding, curvy scenic route that we are meandering along.

Bless the Road that all of you are on.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Just Another Day in Paradise
Well, we’ve dodged another bullet. That’s how I think of a situation that happily goes better than I anticipated with my son . When you a “differently” abled child (I like that term) some of the everyday mundane chores and happenings can be anything but ordinary. Take a doctor’s visit. My daughter loves going to the doctor. Sadly for her, she is never sick and other than yearly check ups and vaccination appointments she has only had 2 sick child visits since she became ours at age 11 months. Once for croup and once for the ever so lovely coxsackie virus otherwise know as Foot and Mouth disease. Both, by the time I decided to take her to the doctor, had almost run their course and were practically gone the day after our visit. The visit where she finally got to pee in a cup was very exciting for her. My excitement came later that day at home when she proudly brought me her juice cup filled to the rim with warm, well you know what… then I had to convince her that ONLY at the doctor’s office do we pee in a cup.
My son’s story is somewhat similar, with a few exceptions. We had him circumcised about 6 weeks after arriving home. For initially personal reasons that turned into medical when it was discovered he was already beginning to have some adhesions. This is a HOT!HOT! topic on parent boards these days. My advice- Decide for yourself then keep your decision to yourself and avoid the ruckus. Then about 6 months later he had tubes put in his ears for multiple ear infections. That was done when he was 18 months old. He is almost 8 years old now and has never had a sick child visit since. Even though he only goes once a year, he HATES everything about the doctor’s office. Even weighing and measuring his height is terrifying for him. I am continually thanking God for my son’s great health because once a year is about all he and I can take. He also has a nose like a blood hound and can smell medicine at 50 paces away. No matter what it was ever hidden in, he has a 6th sense about it. The few fever viruses he has had, our choice has been to just let nature take its course. Which by the way is why he rarely ever gets sick my pediatrician tells us .Our lack of being able to medicate him has built up a very strong immune system. Twice we have had to resort to Tylenol Suppositories, delicately and quickly given when he was asleep. I have found I had a special talent for that.
My daughter also loves the dentist . When she was 2 she had to have a molar crowned because of a prenatal soft spot on the enamel. She calls this her princess tooth. and is disappointed in a strange sort of way that she has only ever had to have them cleaned since then. She’s weird that way.
Riley has always had good teeth despite his precarious beginnings and his aversion to brushing due to sensory issues. I feel guilty when every 6 months our dentist tells him great job on the brushing. He tolerates his visits pretty good , but only because
1) He has been going since he was 2
2) He has great teeth and only has ever had to have them cleaned
3) Our pediadontist’s office is like Disney Land
4) My best friend ,since 6th grade, is a Dental Hygienist there and he has known her almost all his life.
At 7 ½ he has not lost a baby tooth yet, not even a loose one. I was beginning to wonder did he even have permanent teeth lurking in those gums. Then last Saturday at a local burger joint , he and I was in the bathroom. He was sitting to pee (This is the only way he will pee) and jabbering away when I noticed something white behind his bottom middle baby teeth. Maybe a French Fry? On close inspection, I saw it was a tooth coming in. Mild Panic starts bubbling up. The next day I look again, now there are two teeth showing. Medium Panic. I call my friend to come over and take a look. She does and proclaims “Yep, two teeth and the baby ones aren’t loose. They will probably have to take Riley to the Children’s Hospital Outpatient Surgery Center and extract those 4 baby teeth all at the same time. LARGE PANIC.
I make an appointment for him to go to the office and have a set of mouth x-rays. Something we have never done because he would be very hard to hold still for, be somewhat traumatizing and our dentist said no need to do one yet. YET.
Yet just ended.
So I get a few days to drive my self bonkers thinking about getting the x-ray and my baby having oral surgery. Having to do things just a little differently is part of having an out of sync child. Plan B comes into play often. Just a matter of fact and a fact of life.
Long story short. He sat in my lap, did great for the x-rays and TADA! The roots on his baby teeth are mostly gone so they will fall out naturally. No surgery and no trauma, this time around. Just when I think I have him figured out , he ups and surprises me.
Now why in the world he likes the dentist and hates the doctor , I may never know.
So goes life with my son. It is never dull and always unpredictable and I have learned to appreciate and love that part of my life.
He has taught me the life lesson about taking nothing for granted.
Haircuts-He hated and they freaked him out. It took three sweating adults to hold him still while he screamed and squirmed. She always earned a big tip. All of a sudden at age 4 ½, he climbed into the chair , sat quietly like he had done that every time.. Now he tells me when he needs one .So now a haircut trip has much more meaning to us than just the cutting of hair. It is a milestone he reached.
Disney- Most people I talked to had never considered taking their PDD or SID or spectrum disorder child to Walt Disney World.
Too much stimuli, too much noise, too many people, too much waiting in line.
The people dressed up as characters were too intimidating, too friendly and too scary.
Rides were just too much of everything.
We listened, we read. Our son did not like any of those things they mentioned.
We booked our trip.
We went.
Plenty of Plans A,B,C and D’s in place.
He loved everything about it.
He loved the noise, the fireworks, the people.
He stood patiently in line.
He hugged, almost on the verge of molesting every character that came anywhere near him.
He rode every ride he was tall enough for. He thought the Haunted House was hilarious and was mesmerized by the 3D movies.
And he talked. To us, other children, adult strangers.
He laughed and had not a single melt down.
For that glorious week he was a regular, normal, having the time of his life kid.
It was also a turning point for him in speech and socialization once we got home.
He truly did have something magical happen to him.
A little Pixie Dust was sprinkled on him somewhere in the Magic Kingdom.
And MGM. And Animal Kingdom. And Epcot. And Sea World.
We started planning our next trip the moment we got home.
Jan.13, 2007 we embark on our next Magical Journey to WDW.
I think that is what life with my son is. My daughter also.
A Magical Journey.
Like Magic , you never know when it will happen.
Like Magic, you can’t predict it’s outcome.
Like Magic, you never know where it will take you.
And sometimes there is no magic.
Sometimes he is scared, confused, inconsolable and difficult.
You make it through those times the best you can and luckily they don’t last near as long as you think they will.
But oh! the magic. When it strikes it is a sight to see.
Something worth waiting for.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Had we not taken the chance, we would have never known. I owe it to my son to let him experience the world.
The Bad-Doctors, dentists, haircuts.
The Good- Birthday parties, a regular class at school and
Disney World.
And in good time, the tooth fairy.
I hope she looks like Tinkerbelle.
I know she will leave him a nice present for his tooth.
More Pixie Dust.
As for his sister, she is getting to spend her birthday having dinner with Cinderella and Prince Charming.
In our house, there is always enough magic to go around for everyone.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Only if you are as old as me do you remember being at KMart and hearing"Attention Shoppers Our Blue Special Right now is....." and everyone would rush to the blue flashing light as if men's underwear or Ant Spray or a case of Odor Eaters was the very thing on the top of your shopping list. Or not. Didn't matter if it was ON SALE!
I had never been to much of a shopper. I debunked the urban legend that all women just love to shop. Once in the spring, again in the fall, Christmas and a few birthdays pretty much fulfilled my inner shopping beast.The exception being grocery shopping, I have always (and still do) love to go grocery shopping. I think I inherited that gene from my Dad. My mom and my sister would be most happy if they had never set foot even once in a grocery store. For me and my Dad it was the highlight of our week. I still feel euphoric the night before grocery day as I make out my list and plan a week of meals. Probably because I love to cook and do just about every night, even when it was just the two of us.
But once I became a mom something in me changed or evolved maybe. Not for myself, but for my kids. If it was something I thought they needed, wanted or would be deprived without there was nothing I wouldn't do to obtain it. Now I have never gone beyond budget or sacrificed mortgage or power bill money and I have never believed just because you could afford something was permission to buy it. I am also not an impulse buyer, just the opposite.
A contemplative purchaser.
Enter EBAY! I think I heard trumpets just by typing in the name. EBAY!!!!!!!
I LOVE EBAY. I am sure there will soon be an Ebay 12 step program.
I sold each of my children's crib sets when they moved to a real bed.
My son's cute ZOO theme collection is now warming the bed of a little boy in Wisconsin.
My daughters Pink and Yellow Girly Stuff has made dreaming more sweet for a baby girl in Florida.
I have perfected my last minute fight to the death of the time clock bidding technique.
Never have sweeter words been uttered to me than
The Auction had ended. YOU are the winning BIDDER!
Ebay has brought me every Holiday Barbie from 2000( The year my daughter was conceived in Russia) up through 2005, the current one .
A multitude of Gymboree clothes NWT, new with tags for you uninitiated to ebay speak. And of course 50% off retail.
My son loves school buses. So it was my duty as his mother to find and purchase every type of toy school bus out there. From the continental Unites States up to Canada and across the ocean to the United Kingdom, I have found those buses. My reward is not in winning the bid, the joy of finding it on the cheap as a Buy It Now or even in the arrival of the package. It is seeing my son play with them ever single day. And in finding the same one again when I ran over it with my car.
Fisher Price play sets were the same.When I noticed how much he loved them and played with them year after year what kind of mom would I have been if I hadn't spent the next three months knocking out collectors and bringing to my UPS and Fed Ex guy the vintage Hospital and school house, castle and all the pieces and people to complete his world of make believe.
RED DOG .....My son has a red dog he has slept with every night since we brought him home 7 years ago.
Red Rover Beanie Buddy circa 1999 to be exact.
When we were in Russia meeting our daughter and he was staying with my sister, her poodle attacked Red dog. He lost an ear and part of a paw. Once home I dutifully repaired it and began to have nightmares about losing it. So in the dead of night I found myself up and in glow of my computer screen buying another one on Ebay. Now he sleeps with Red dog 1 and Red dog 2. Last year in another panic I went ahead and bought Red dog 3. Just in case, Ya never know. Red Dog 1 has lost an eye and a nose, most of his beanies and been restuffed with old pantyhose. Red dog 2 has also lost a nose and gone to surgery once or twice for hole repairs. My son still loves Red dog 1 the most. Red dog 3 is living in my closet, pristine in his original packaging. We may never need him. Never say Never.
My daughter has never been attached to a stuffy or a softie. But she will, in a heart beat issue a demand that I peruse Ebay for a certain movie, or computer game or hair bow. And she can tell you every outfit in her closet that came via an Ebay victory.
The computer and the internet have made my life as a mother so much easier. I buy toys, clothes, lawn mower and dish washer parts and pistachios. I pay all my bills on it. I cyber test drove cars before we made our last purchase. I have researched information about my son's PDD-NOS and coached families I will never meet through adoptions and those first few months home.
I have planned many a vacation in quiet of midnight. Culling through all the must sees and must do's so my family will have the best possible time.
I have checked us into airport for flights long before we even arrive at the terminal.
Right now I am basking in the aftermath of having completed planning our trip to Walt Disney World in January. Made the perfect hotel reservations and the most suitable restaurant Advanced Dining Reservations. I know the menus at all the table and counter service places and all of our snack options. I have a list of all the rides my two munchkins are too short to ride and the ones my son may not feel the magic on. Our daily schedule has been printed and laminated, making sure we hit those early and late Magic Hour Times.
I have ordered Circus and Disney on Ice tickets, Front Row Center.
My collection of Russian lacquerware that I began on our three adoption trips has been greatly expanded thanks to my cyber sleuthing.
All while wearing my pajamas.
So maybe I have always been a shopper. It was the "going" part I avoided.
I just had to wait for technology to catch up.
And as I always tell my husband,
"Honey,Look how much money I saved you"

Sunday, September 17, 2006
Speak now or ........................
No matter what path leads you to decide to adopt, you soon realize that for about the next year you life is mostly about decisions, choices, options,opinions as well as pros and cons and wants and needs. Each of our adoptions were no different. When making our way through our first adoption of our son the biggest, of course was what country,followed by which agency, then gender , age and health. Russia was an easy choice, agency took some shuffling through many choices but in the end it was also a pretty easy decision also. Since we would be first time parents we wanted to experience as much of the early months as we could so we asked for under 12 months. We had no preference of gender so we said either. We were also pretty wide open on health. We decided from the start not to use an International Adoption Physician to evaluate our referral. We were open and felt capable emotionally to parent a child with any number of health issues and thought that by asking for as young as possible that gave us the best possible scenario for early intervention of any problems.We also felt very strongly that this was the most important and forever choice we would make and knew that we needed to accept our son through our own heart and mind and would bring a child into our family based on the whole child and what our gut told us and not anyone else's approval or rating of a child. This was the first controversial decision and opinion we would have, it would later seem. I know that to many, if not most adoptive parents that the assurance of good health of their prospective child is a top priority and our thoughts on that area were in the minority or hard to imagine, but in our hearts it just was not a big issue and we felt most comfortable this way. Our son was 9 months old and pretty malnourished. He has mild PDD and some expressive language delays and we think he is just perfect and feel like the luckiest parents around to be raising him. We wouldn't change a thing about the way we did it.
When we adopted a second time our child request were the exact same other than asking for a girl and for the same orphanage. Once again we were open on health and did not use an IA evaluation. Once again we feel like we snagged the Brass ring with our daughter.
Our thoughts in not getting an evaluation are just one many mindsets in adoption that are the basis for debate in adoption circles. And one , to my surprise, I would later have to defend and explain on adoption chats and message boards
Now with what we felt like was our perfect family of four in place, we pretty thought the days of decision making and adoption choices were behind us.
Au Contraire!!
Enter politically or actually ,adoptively correct language and ideas.
Who Knew?
And some adoptive families get quite overheated and in a form of "WORD" rage over it.
Let's start with the basics.
Your child is adopted, chosen, meant for you, placed, relinquished, abandoned, made a plan for, birth parents rights terminated...
They entered this world via birth parent,birthmother,first mother, other mother,woman who gave birth,tummy mommy,Russian lady......
I am your adoptive Mom, Real mom, forever Mom, and you grew in my heart, mind, wishes, dreams and you were meant for us....
The word adoption itself ,used in reference to anything other than the joining of a child and a family can push some into an apoploptic fit. Causing reams of letter writing, product bans and maybe even a picket line or two. Personally to me adoption means making a commitment to love and care for something. A child, a pet or a cause. Even Adopt a Road cleanups do not bother me in the least and lot more litter strewn places could use a good adoption placement. I can honestly say the only time I got a case of the vapors was when a Middleton Doll Adoption nursery opened at a department store in our area to a big fanfare and front page article in the newspaper. In a advocating fury I pounded out a letter to the editorial section, which was promptly printed about how distasteful I felt it was,yada,yada yada. That spawned more letters to the editor from other adoptive families in equal numbers for and against my opinion. I am honest enough to admit that I have since changed my mind about it. And if my daughter one day wants to venture in and "adopt" her own baby doll from there, we will. It may be under assumed names and in disguise, paying cash and leaving no paper trail but I think it will be a natural opportunity to talk about her adoption.
So be prepared to choose a side of the fence on a subject. Also be prepared to climb over those fences sometimes, even if it is under the cover of darkness.
There is also the arguments for and against telling your child all the nitty gritty details of their adoption story, what age to tell, age appropriate information.
Volumes written on telling or not telling teachers, schools, classmates ,friends, acquaintances,etc. Decisions, Decisions, Decisions.
What if I make the wrong decision, use the wrong words or bad timing?
Will this cause irrevocable damage to my child, hurt out relationship, color their place in the world if I choose incorrectly?
Can I go back and fix a snafu, retract my foot out of my mouth,call a mulligan or a redo?
Will I be labeled insensitive, naive, uninformed, ineffective adoption advocate or in denial?
If my opinion differs from yours does it mean I love, care, support or think about my child less than you?
Geez, you maybe asking by now what brought all this reflection or warning of things to come, today.
I will tell you.
This week I volunteered at the book fair at my children's school. Basically classes come in with money from home and purchase books and what nots and you help them decide on what they can afford and help them purchase it. I, of course, chose a day that both my children's classes would be attending. My daughter proudly marched in with her kindergarten class and when she saw me ,skipped on over. As I was helping her decide between My Little Pony and Barbie's 12 Dancing Princess, a classmate asked her if I was her Mommy. My daughter, matter of factly said "Yes, Can't you see how much we look alike?" to which the little girl agreed.
I was happy with her answer.
But this is where I thought about where some other adoptive Moms differ from me.There are some who will quickly correct anyone who points out how much their child resembles them whether the one making the observation knows they are adopted or not. They feel it is their duty or adoptive requirement to point out that they could not possible look alike or act alike or BE ALIKE because they are not biologically related.This tends to embarrass both the complimentor and the child, I would think. That in just saying Thank You and agreeing, that they are in some way denying the adoption or receiving kudos that they have not earned.
Or more distasteful to me ,are the ones who heap praise and glory knee deep upon their adopted child about their attractiveness or other shining qualities to anyone that will listen or profusely agree to a compliment because they assume since they had nothing genetically to do with it , they are as free to point these things out as anyone else.
I just say Thank you.
Thank You covers a multitude of other possible replies.
Just say Thank You.
Everyone is happy with a Thank You.
I think we all at one time evolved from the same gene pool. Whether you believe it was Adam and Eve or a couple of cave people.
So when you say my children and I have the same big blue eyes, same blond hair and we look so much alike. I will agree.
When you note that my daughter gets her interests, verbal skills and socially outgoing personality from me, I will also agree.
When you point out that my son looks just like his Dad did as a child, has his same laid back personality and athletic ability, I will once again agree.
Because we all favor ,does it make the fact that we are an adoptive family easier? Yes
Even though my two know they were adopted ,do they find some comfort in our similarities?Yes Were these things we thought about when choosing Russia and making decisions we are happy we made? Yes!
I now know that all those decisions we made , both big and small, were not over and done with one we brought our children home. We may on occasion have the need to explain or uphold them from time to time.
I also know that adoption itself lends itself to many other choices and decisions.
Battles to choose and things to let slide.
Mountains to build from mole hills and bumps to simply step over or around with nary a glance.
But which ever team you decide to play for, remember that first and foremost we are all in the same league.
The Adoptive Family League.
Let's be each other's cheerleaders and agree to disagree sometimes.
That most adoptive subjects are in the gray area, rarely black and white and as many right and different answers as there are children.
Sometimes its us against the world and sometimes we just think its that way.
And most of the time its OK not to have an opinion about something and its even OK to have the same thoughts and opinions as every bio parent around you.
So when I quietly help my child with the Family Tree Assignment or Genetic Trait Poster or when I agree that we have the exact same shade of blue eyes or I agree with her that an angel sent her from heaven to us or that yes, they did grow in my Heart instead of my tummy, remember this.
I am not denying their past.
I am not forgetting they were adopted.
I am not pretending I gave birth to them.
I am not avoiding rocking the boat.
I am not just choosing the easy way.
I am just a Mother loving her children and doing what I think is best.
Just like every other Mom.
Sometimes making mistakes, sometimes changing my mind, sometimes making it up as I go along.
Sometimes just going along with the status quo and other times being the squeaky wheel.
So far it seems to be working.
So far.

Thursday, September 14, 2006
All the DAYS of our LIVES
Used to be in one's life you had your BIRTHDAY and WEDDING as the big two you celebrated. Along with Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's, July 4 and Easter. Then you added the birth's of your children.
That was pretty much the BIG 8.
Once we adopted our son I found out that NOOOO that is not enough. Along with your new child's birthday, there is the Day we MET you, COURT DAY, the day we picked you up otherwise known as GOTCHA DAY,the day we arrived home or FAMILY day. Some also throw in the we got the CALL day. Now I hear from other Mom's the newest thing is HALF YEAR BIRTHDAYS. I kid you not.
Now as an adoptive parent, all these moments that occurred on the way to each of our children are special and I can tell you the date and time and minute details of each one. They are precious to us and I will always remember them, mostly in the privacy of my own heart and mind. But invitation lists, catered food and gifts will never be a part of it. The initial gift of excitement, hope, faith and our new child were enough to last through all the other anniversaries of these dates and nothing else will ever stand up to and compare to that.
Why Try?
Parents of Bio children do not celebrate Conception Day, First missed Period Cotillion, A TOAST to the First Stretch mark or Hemorrhoid Ho Down or Thinned out Cervix Party. Nor do they continue with day we brought you home on a annual basis.
Both of ours were adopted during the month of Nov. So we quietly have made this family month. Just by chance there is a Russian Food Festival in a town about an hour away the first weekend of Nov. each year. We have made this our way of marking each year that we have been a family. No bells,no Whistles, no guests. Just a lovely day with our children, allowing them to keep in touch with their roots and we get to pig out on all the great food that takes us back to our time in Russia. Since our children were to young to even remember any time in Russia, it is really a reminiscence for us. They just enjoy the wedding cookies and the music and dancing. To them we have always been a family and always will, so any chance to run around outside in the fall air, well, that is just grand. Maybe they notice on this day that we gaze at them a little longer or that my husband and I sit a little closer and hold hands a little more on this day. They are not too curious about the quiet yet animated talk between us as we bit into a cabbage roll , a pierogi or borscht. The taste and smells transporting us back to that magical time in our lives.
Just as I am licking the remnants of an almond and pistachio paklava off my lips, my precious Rostovian/Russian/American offspring jolt me back to the present with a pleading "Can we stop at McDonald's on the way home,PLEASEEEE?" And in the residual glow of good food and happy memories and because it is a day of celebration and they are the guests of honor ,we say YES.
We hugely party down on the Big 8, but I hope that my children know each and every day how special they are and just to be with them is like winning a lottery ticket every morning when they wake up.
There are many adoptive parents that have big get togethers for Gotcha Day with guests and presents, I am certain that these big events have invited guests that are families that were formed in the usual and regular(dare I say boring) way who may wonder what the big deal is ,which then leads them to having to deal with a bio child wondering out loud where are their Gotcha day gifts and so on.
No dount that there will be many moments in your adoption that will remain as highpoints in your life as a parent. Days that are meant to be remembered and savored and maybe even marked in their passing in significant and private manner.
My children know they are adopted and our family is unique in the way it was built and we Thank God everyday that we were blessed to be together. Our goal , is the same as other adoptive families, to just be a plain old family. For others and ourselves to mostly forget the adopted part and just be the same as everyone as we live our life, A mom and A dad , A brother and A sister just like everyone else. I think by continually pointing out the each and every extraordinary milestone to them and the world on an annual basis would rob them of some of this sameness we hold so precious. I think every family, even those that have not gone through adoption should set aside a Family Day and take a pause and truly be thankful for each other and the journey it took to their children and mark that moment each year.
So before you print up those GOTCHA DAY Cookout announcements or send out those 'We have Been a Family for 5 years" invitations maybe you can think of a more private, personal and more easily carried on tradition for yourselves and your children,.
Gather all those special moments , emotions and love and pile it onto one day a year.
The rest of time the BIG 8 will do just fine.
Make that 9, forgot Halloween.
OK , make that 10, Summer Vacation!!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Mom Jeans, Botox and Pets
This week I have been reading some blogs from couples that are in the process of adopting a first child. Couples who are so much like we were before our son joined us. DINKS with time to think about fabric swatches and paint choices, still actually being able to have a hobby and spur of the moment dates. It has gotten me to thinking about all the ways my life has changed since my name became Mommy or Riley's Mom or Macy's Mom.
Showers: Before kids I could not imagine skipping the daily ritual of getting up each morning, engaging in a long shower that included hair removal, exfoliating, deep moisturizing , aromatherapy and a little music. Then onto the 10 step makeup application, more aromatherapy.Now on occasion I have to skip it all together, even the bathing part and not feel particularly grossed out by it. I just tell myself I am doing my part in water and energy conservation.

Drive through windows- Before my two arrived I rarely if ever got food to go in a sack without ever leaving my car. No need to because just myself or with other adults we could go in anywhere, anytime and eat in a fast 15 minutes or take an hour and 15 minutes. Now, I have taught my children about "Car Picnics" which is driving through and eating in the car and on the move. The Micky D's Happy meal box makes this particularly easy. Just open the box, dump in the nuggets and fries and pass it back. I am not ashamed to say that sometimes I crave a cheeseburger or that there will be a Happy Meal with my name on it.

Jeans-Used to be tight and long were the only criteria. They were all straight legged. Now, oh my God, Oprah had a whole show dedicated to finding the perfect Jean. Flare, boot cut, straight, tapered. Low rise, mid rise. God FORBID you are wearing Mom Jeans. Mom Jeans, how much crueler could it get. You know, the jeans that actually go around your waist and cover your crack. It seems those comfy jeans of our youth now produce "front butt". As if I don't have enough things to beware of when trying not to embarrass my kids and if thinking about one butt isn't enough I now have two to ponder.

Laundry- I remember when we were just a family of two I would scour the house looking for enough laundry to fill the machine. I actually invented things to wash. I was thrilled if it needed to be hung to dry and blocked to dry, YEEHAW! Oh how I long for those days.
Now when I go into my laundry room, I yell out where is that family of midgets hiding that keeps giving me their laundry because no way the 4 of us have produced this much in the two days since I last caught up. Or maybe the neighbors are sneaking theirs in here to be washed and then sneaking back in during the time between when I fold it and actually put it away. Did you know that if you happen to forget and leave a load in the washer a little to long and it has that , ya know, smell starting and someone needs that whatever it is that of course is in that load ASAP that you can put it in the dryer and spray it a few times with Febreeze and it will be OK, unless you sweat in it, then all bets are off. I am saving for that new machine that washes and then dries your clothes all in one shabang.
Plastic surgery- Or that ever elusive chase to maintain our youth. When I was younger and had only myself to care for (Ok my husband too, but you get my drift) I was pretty much for doing anything you wanted to maintain that 20 something air about you. Face lift, butt lift, breast implants, liposuction, Botox all seemed OK and would more than likely be necessary one day.. Funny thing is now that I have two children and at the ripe old age of 46, I am not sure I buy into all that anymore. Shaving my legs these days gives me the same pampered feeling that a facial did 8 years ago. Mani/Pedi-No need, cutting my toe nails and slapping on some Burts Bees Coconut Foot Cream costs about .25 a pop and I'm good to go. Besides painting my finger or toe nails would just turn into doing the same to my wiggly impatient daughter who would insist on Jezebel Red instead of Ballet pink for hers. Best to just take the easy way out of that one.
Botox-Needles-No Brainer , I'll Pass.
Liposuction. Anyone getting a vacuum that strong so close to me better have it pointed at my floors or better yet between the cushions of my couch.
Don't get me wrong, I am all for self improvement and looking your best. It's just now its Ok if the outside is just holding up pretty well and the inside of me is the part I work on the most. I go to the gym and slather on face cream, serum, lotions and potions in the race against time. L'Oreal and my head have an intimate relationship, because I'm worth it and I have a 5 year old who insists I have Cinderella hair like hers. But I am proud of every day of my 46 years and quite frankly, every time I hear one of kids call me Mommy or tells me they love me , it takes months maybe even years off my face and hopefully adds them on to my life. As for my butt, well I hear they're making a comeback.
As long as I don't find Mom jeans in my closet and my breasts are still above my waist, I think I'll be just fine.
The Family Pet- My kids think its funny when I tell them that our poodle Bailey is really my first child. I have vacation and Christmas pictures I show them to prove it. A lot of couples like us practiced parenting first on a dog or cat. They take a similar unconditional love and daily care obligation as your children. We thought, well if we can keep our poodle safe, healthy and alive for this long, then maybe we can do the same for our child. Just kidding, we didn't really compare the two. Ok , we did but would never admit it. But now, two kids later and the poodle is still hanging in there. In fact I now think a dog or cat is mandatory to a Mom's sanity. Not because you will take any particular pride in being the one to feed them, take to the vet, let out on the cold mornings, bath when they roll around on the dead frog and cut the poop dingle berries from around the butt. But more importantly, my dog is the only one in my family that I can talk to who always agrees with me and never talks back. It is important for you to have at least someone in your house who can deliver that degree of worship and obedience, 100 % of the time. The cat, the fish nor the Hermit crabs (don't ask) don't fill the space that my first born, Bailey does. And since poodles can live to be up to 19 years it may once again be just the three of us like it was in the beginning.

For those of you with children, well you are already living the reality I have laid out before you. To those of you still making dinner reservations for two and having sex on the kitchen floor. More power to you because this too shall pass.
One day soon you will find yourself sitting at the drive through trying to convince your son that Sprite is the same as Coke, just no color and no caffeine or repeating the no ketchup rule on car picnics to your daughter as you sit there with hairy legs and the same clothes on for the second day wondering if you washed your hands after you gave a little Brazilian trim to the dog and did you leave the dryer on.
You will look in the mirror and say who is that woman looking back at me and how did she get to be so lucky. You will then drive home, pick up French fries from between the seats and feed them to the dog, wash your hands ,step barefoot on a Matchbox car and yell out a word that one of your kids will be sure and use properly in sentence when your husband gets home.
You can't buy that kind of excitement!
It is then that you will realize how boring life was before and how alive and even sometimes young, you feel now.
And that its time for another trip down the hair color aisle at Wal-Mart.

Monday, September 11, 2006
9/11 and Me
8:32 am 9/11/2006
It was just about this very minute 5 years ago today that as I watched in horror and confusion at the World Trade Center attacks on my television, that my phone rang with a call that would change our lives on many levels. It was our agency calling to tell us that we had received an invitation to travel to meet an 8 month old girl. We would leave in 11 days. I think it was at that moment that I truly began to grow up, at age 41. I had to face down many fears and summon the courage and resolve in areas of motherhood that I had never faced before.
I was excited and nauseous. Happy and afraid. Confused and angry.
As if adoption doesn't hold enough unknowns as it is.
As if traveling so far away from my son wasn't hard enough.
Our adoption journey and the wait this time had been so much easier than the first time. Because we were using the same people, the same region and hopefully returning to the same orphanage, we were much more relaxed. Because I had a two year old at home, I was busy and mentally occupied. Unlike the first time where I would sit in a finished yet vacant nursery waiting and wondering if this dream would actually become a reality. This time , I knew sooner or later it would all come together. I wasn't worried about the travel, referral process, attachment,health ,court or any of those fears that traversed the mental landscape 2 years earlier. I had dealt with my fear of flying. Wine, Bailey's, Denial and an Ambien handled that just lovely.
What to pack, what not to pack , gifts, Russian food and language , all subjects that fill waiting parents conversations were no longer an issue. This time , as long as I did not succumb to the intensity of missing my son, we could relax and really enjoy each step in the process and insert some "vacation" like atmosphere into our two trips it would require to bring home our new daughter.
How dare those damn Terrorists mess with my groove, my Chi, my positive aura I had going.
It may surprise you to know that many pre adoptive parents on the message boards opted to postpone travel and some even dropped out completely in the aftermath of 9/11. That thought never crossed our minds. Those attacks on day of the CALL only made our resolve stronger and reinforced our desire for our daughter, a child we knew nothing about and had never glimpsed. It was on 9/11 that we claimed her and her future with us. That was the maturing I speak of. For me, in adoption, you become a Mom or Dad long before you know anything about your child. You begin to parent in your heart without knowing the due date, gender, even age. You have no idea whose eyes, hair, personality or feet they may have. You love them unconditionally by instinct, long before you can feel them move or smell their hair.
9/11 is the day I felt my daughter move.
In the days to follow, many Americans began to reprioritize their lives and schedules and slow down and really live every moment. It comes as no surprise to me that in the year to follow many families also began the journey to become first time parents, added to their families, got married or began to make a dream a reality.
Our easy, mostly carefree adoption became an onslaught of trying to get Fed Ex to drive our stuff to a closed down New York City, visas from a closed Russian Embassy and buy plane tickets on planes that were grounded. I was scared about leaving my son, terrified of the thought of taking him with us. My most terrorfying thought was what if this somehow stopped our adoption or delayed our trip. This child had waited long enough for a family. My idyllic small country town didn't seem quite so safe anymore. My fear of flying reared its ugly head again. For some perverse reason I kept thinking about my son's scrapbooks that were not up to date and how sad if something happened to us and no one would be able to finish them for him. Not afraid of dying or of who would care for him, but preserving his memories and life for him to have always. It is still these thoughts that spur me on to try and keep my scrapping up to date. I want them to always know, not only by feeling our love, but in words and pictures how truly wonderful we think they are, how precious every second with them has been and how truly pursued, wanted and chosen they were.
I think the moral of this story is that there is no easy way to adoption. The difficult times may come in the beginning , the middle or the end. It may come in the days and months after you come home with your child or it may have been in the years preceding your adoption if you had infertility or pregnancy difficulties. For others the most difficult time is coming to the decision and acceptance of adoption or in both parents agreeing to the many choices that adoption brings you. Also while half of your life ,time and emotions are living in the adoption world, life in general also goes on about you. Your adoption journey may coincide with health or extended family issues. Your travel may come at the worst time for your job, your finances or during your sister's wedding. One day you may be saying that you will just die if it doesn't happen and the next day you may be asking yourself "Am I sure I know what I am about to do ?"
Every adoption story has mountains to climb and miraculous moments. Seconds that creep painfully by and moments that move at the speed of light. Looking back on my two adoptions ,it was equally the valley of the lows and the tremendous sky highs that made it the blessing and trip of a lifetime that they were. I wouldn't trade a single difficulty or missed a single step of the way. Each disappointment , delay and difficulty made it all the sweeter. I mourn today for all the families that lost mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, brothers and sister on September 11. Also for all the children that will now never be born to some of them.
But that day also holds good in it for me.
My daughter is one of the good things.
The hardship it brought to our journey made the end that much more wonderful.
I am more thankful to be a mother , for the simple family times and for life in general than I was before that day.
I know for sure that nothing will ever stand between me and my children. That I can make those difficult decisions and be strong in the face of danger for them and for my family.
9/11 was a sort of Thanksgiving for us.
To all of you still waiting to travel, being able to only parenting that child in your heart right now, know that as hard as the road may have been or continues to be during this adoption, there is a reason for it. It may be months or years before you see it. But I have faith that you will.
God's timing, those things that seem unfair. Everything that you cannot control and it seems as if just one more thing goes wrong you will go crazy. Trust me you won't.
You will be stronger , wiser and have more faith when you are finally tucking your child in bed.
It is all of this that will make you a better parent and prepare you for all the other decisions and difficult times ahead of you.
Because they will come.
Life is life, infinitely rewarding and heartbreakingly sad.
I would not want it any other way.
That is what makes it so worth the ticket and price of admission.
September 11,2006.
I would not be the woman I am today if not for this day 5 years ago.
And that I am thankful for.

Sunday, September 10, 2006
To Be or Not to Be

Today, I took my daughter to her first kindergarten classmate birthday party. Now I know that to most people it seems as if every other weekend there is a party to attend, but we actually haven’t made it a habit to accept all the invitations we have received in the past. With 12 first cousins within a 10 mile radius, most under the age of 10, attending the mandatory family parties keeps us pretty busy. Likewise, when we hold a party of our own, just family can number in the 30’s we don’t usually add friends and acquaintances to the list and everyone seems pretty happy with this tradition. Our children have never even considered that birthday’s should be celebrated in any other fashion. Also Riley just isn’t the party kid of guy. Usually if the party’s inside, he will be outside or vice versa.
All that is thrown to the wind with my social butterfly of a daughter.
So today we went to Skate Station. Her first time ever to roller skate or be at a skating rink. My first time to attend a party where I would not know anyone else who was there, A few things have changed since my last roll around the rink, but most things haven’t. What’s new is inline skates and trainer skates. Lucky for her and various body parts these were available. They now have a Laser Tag arena and party rooms. What had not changed. The Disco lights and the Disco music. I swear it was the same soundtrack circa 1973.Surprisingly, most were still wearing the original 4 wheels skates of my youth. They still played Wipe Out and All Girl or All Boy skate, had races and reverse skate.
Unbeknownst to me ,the grandparents of her classmate were former coworkers of mine at the hospital. As we sat catching up, with other Moms, she asked me did Macy come from Russia too , like Riley? Yes ,I replied somewhat surprised by her question, then remembering that we worked together while we were in the process of our first adoption. So much for letting my daughter decide if and when she wanted to share her unique history with her peers .None of the other Mom’s seemed to acknowledge our exchange, but who knows. This got me thinking about all of the lengthy and sometimes heated discussions on the adoption board I frequent , about the adoptive history of our children and the way our families were built and that information being open for public consumption. Will those that know tell and who will they tell and in what light do they offer up these tidbits of your life? Will it positively or negatively affect our children, does it color peers, parents and teacher’s perceptions of our children, should you guard it with a nuclear defense or be matter of fact about it? Unless, after your adoptions you move to a new town or state with total anonymity, it is inevitable that sooner or later everyone just knows. May take 6 months or 6 years. I have never been one to avoid talking about our adoptions or our experiences and I am quite willing to discuss it with anyone interested in adopting or just honestly and sincerely interested in our story. I am lucky that I have never encountered any negative comments or questions or insensitive observations about it, so maybe I am naïve in what I may be setting myself up for one day. This leads me to wonder out loud here on this blog (please offer me your thoughts and comments on this) if the path to adoption is reflected someway in the attitude about others being privy to their journey to their children. Since we did not try for biological children, did not suffer the anguish and heartbreak of unsuccessful infertility treatments, IVF, miscarriages and all the money ,time and emotion spent on that treadmill first, does it somehow make talking about it easier? Was making the decision to adopt less intense for us or does the fact that we never had the dream of a bio child just the desire to parent make us less self conscious about sharing our decision with others? I don’t know the answers to this since I only have our own journey to relate to. I know some adoptive Moms who would have had a meltdown if they had been in my shoes today and someone nonchalantly offered up such personal info about their daughter in a group of other parents. It really didn’t faze me at all, and that is what got me to thinking. My daughter will quickly tell anyone that asked her that she was born in Russia. It is just a fact of her life. The thought has never crossed her mind that anyone should not know. Is her attitude a product of ours or am I taking my lead from her? Should I follow it or will she one day wish that I had been more protective of our roots as a family. Would my trying to keep it on a need to know basis cause her to be self conscious about her adoption or foster an attitude that there is a reason to keep it a secret. Now, I am not talking about personal birthmother history ,but just the general fact that she was adopted from Russia as an infant as was her brother. Not more personal and private details. What would be harder, her peers always knowing she was adopted and it becoming old news or one day at age 10 or 13 or 16 these same friends finding out. Will they want to know why it was secreted away and would that be more suspect and harder on her than if they had always known? Some parents seem to want to just forget the whole adoption road and hope that no one is ever the wiser, believing that this is the best and easiest route. I am not so sure I buy into that. Some are really distraught if they learn that someone that they did not personally elevate to status worthy of the story, knows. Am I too nonchalant about it or is it healthy that I have an “it is what it is” outlook on our family? Is it because our decision to adopt from Russia was our first choice and a not a second or third, makes it easier for us in some way or be more open about it somehow? Maybe that is why I cannot really relate to those who are advocates who tout keeping it close to the cuff that surrounds some adoptions. I feel that no matter what led you to adoption, praise the Lord that you were. No one can change the past, it is what you do with the present and the future that counts the most. I strongly believe that through adoption you become a parent in a way that other parents just cannot understand. That it is a blessing and that you are lucky beyond measure. The faith ,love, hope and courage it takes to become an adoptive parent is returned to you in unfathomable dimensions. But the bottom line is this.
We are just a family.
No more.
No less.
A normal, average, regular, good and bad days family.
A forever and always, through thick and thin family.
A real Mom, real Dad , real Kids.
Different yet so vastly the same as every other family.
I will even venture out and say more normal than many pure biological ones that I know.
In fact, despite my rambling today about our adoptive roots, I have gone weeks and months without having a single adoptive thought.
So maybe time is the answer. The farther away in time we get from our adoptions and the older my children become, the less of a focus it is.
The busier we are in the present ,the less time we have to contemplate the past.
The more adopted is what my children were and less of what they are.
I know that we will have many adoptive bridges in the future to cross and I am prepared for those.
Today the road is smooth and cruise control seems to be engaged.
No adoption bumps or detours in sight.
I’m gonna try and not let another driver run me off the road or cause me to lose my direction.
That is until my son or daughter decides on another destination.
Too bad parenting doesn’t have a MapQuest.

Thursday, September 07, 2006
A Princess Lives Here Too
Reading back over my posts , it may seem as if I am the mother of one.I am not. I have an incredible, funny precocious daughter also.Her name is Macy,and although I am slightly prejudice.Once you meet her, you won't likely forget her. When you have a child with learning issues it sometimes becomes a balancing act and quite often the scale tips in their direction. It is not something they have ever been aware of or anyone else has ever noticed. But I must confess that in times of idleness or right before sleep my mind is more often dwelling on an issue involving my son rather than my daughter. They are so alike in so many ways, considering they are not my bio children or bio siblings. In fact, it would never cross anyone’s mind that either of those things were the case when seeing or meeting them. For one, they look just like my husband and I . They also look more alike than most genetically linked siblings. Both of their adoptions went very smoothly and each one took exactly 9 months from application to bringing them home. They were from the same orphanage, which we had requested. They are truly best friends and we have very little sibling rivalry. Here is where they differ. While my son was malnourished at adoption, did not talk until very late and did not walk until he was 18 months old, my daughter was the polar opposite. She spent two months longer than he did in the orphanage, but she was fat and sassy from day one. When we met her at 8 months old, she was already trying to walk, she was trying to talk and her outgoing personality was already front and center. By the time we brought her home at eleven months, she was walking . By the time we arrived home with her , having spent 5 days with us ,she was already saying Momma, Dada and ball. In English. And she hasn’t stopped talking since. She is self motivated and competitive. She has a passion for learning and soaks up everything like a sponge. At age 3, she sat at the dining room table for hours until she mastered writing her entire name because her brother was writing his. Finally. At age 5. At age 4 she decided she needed to learn to take a shower on her own. By the end of the week, she did. She can do about anything on the computer and mastered my digital camera so well, we bought her one of her own. She takes better pictures than her Dad. She is almost obsessed with drawing and art and will produce mass quantities of pictures that you can actually recognize everything that she has drawn. She was highly insulted last year at age 4, that she could not go ahead and start kindergarten. Telling me that quite indignantly that any rule that just went by your age and not when you are ready was ridiculous. (her words exactly).All summer she was worried that kindergarten would not be hard enough or that her classmates would be far behind her. Really, we had quite a few conversations about kindergarten curriculum. I assured her she had quite a lot to learn and they would find some way to keep her busy. Two weeks before school started she announced that she had to learn to read before her first day, so we began that night some intense Reading 101 at her direction. Two days later she had read through the entire collection of Dick and Jane. She loves school more than any child I have met. She is trying to decide between being a veterinarian, a dentist, a photojournalist or an artist when she grows up. She also recognizes that her brother is not quite like other older brothers. She’ll tell me that Riley just has trouble with words sometimes. She also is very compassionate that he is also behind her in academics despite being 2 years older. God surely placed a sister like her in Riley’s life on purpose, because not only does she just naturally help him but she also pushes him to keep up with her. She can carry on a quite adult like conversation with you about heaven and souls, recite every school, road and child safety rule ever written, the story line and moral of every Disney movie ever produced and critique her wardrobe and yours like a What Not to Wear Episode. She amazes, confounds and delights me everyday. With a little frustration, deep sigh and eye roll thrown in. On both of our sides. I am sure she is like most other 5 year old girls. Or 5 year olds in general. I really don’t have a basis for comparison. Comparing her to my son is not fair to either of them. Or to myself. But you can see why I tend not worry about her or her way in the world. I am not sure I would have the energy to. She makes being her parent very easy. I needed easy the second time around. So did her brother. I just wanted anyone contemplating or in the process of adopting from Russia to know that spending time, a year or more in an orphanage doesn’t always dampen the spirit. Without parents, without love and attention , without so many of those essential things does not mean the child’s own natural resiliency, strength and light will not shine through. It is possible to come through it unscathed and emerge a butterfly from the start. My son is just as much a blessing and full of light and personality. It just took him a little longer to emerge from his cocoon. You will be lucky to parent a child of either. I feel double blessed to have one of each. They have made us appreciate the differences and similarities more than we ever would have, together they have opened our eyes to relishing each accomplishment and to not take a single thing for granted. We know that the journey to an end can be more rewarding than crossing the finish line and sometimes veering off the path and not finishing can be more fun. That being the best ,while personally satisfying, is not mandatory.
My son may always need me a little more, my daughter a little less.
They each think they are my favorite. That’s the way it should be.
As long as it feels equal to them.
Or maybe it is equal just in different ways and times.
I guess mothering or being a Mom cannot be weighed or measured.
Except by how it fills your heart.
Your mind.
Your soul.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006
46, But Whose Counting
46 years ago today I was born in Asheville North Carolina. The first born of Vera Ann and David. When the nurse told my Dad he had a daughter, he told her "No, He was having a Boy". We never let him live it down. My Mom got a particular kick out it because my Dad and I had as close a relationship as any parent and child could.When we were being interviewed by our social worker for our homestudy she asked us about our childhoods and about our parents. She asked what our parents did right and what would we do differently than them. My answers were simple-They did everything right and I hope that I can be the same exact parent that they were. My husband told her the same thing .She seemed surprised, like that is not a common answer.I hoped that our children would look back at their childhood as fondly as I. I think that was the moving force that drove me to become a Mom, even at the age of 39 and after being married for 17 years. I wanted that same relationship with a child.So did my husband. We wanted to pass it on.I also think that is why we so easily chose adoption instead of having a bio. We were focused on the parent part, not the pregnancy part.All that my parents had taught me about being a part of family, the fun, the love , the memories. I knew it would be the one thing in life I would have regretted not doing.
This morning after my children left for school , I thought about where I was at 46.Or where I had been. I'd had two amazing parents, a idyllic childhood . School was fun, good grades came easy and I had lots of friends and participated in lots of activities.I went to college,joined a sorority(Chi Omega) graduated and went to work in a field I love. I got married and we traveled, never ran out of things to talk about and had more fun with friends and family than we can count.We'd had our share of tragedy.The sudden death of my father, 3 months after he had retired. His father's bout with illness that left him in a wheelchair. The death's of 3 of my 4 grandparent's and the death of my nephew at age 19 from Cystic Fibrosis. My Mom's late in life onset of a genetic neurological disease that has caused her to use a walker and wheelchair.My sister's divorce after 18 years of marriage, thrusting her back to work and caring for her two children.As I list these low points in my life, it looks like a short list for 46 years of life. I also see how so many of them had a silver lining. My father in law is doing great and I see now that because we did not have children when he was ill and recovering it allowed us to be there for him.After my Dad passed away, my Mom moved to Florida to be closer to her Mom and was there with her for several years before she died. My Mom is so grateful for that.Then my mother reconnected with an old high school flame, they got married and he is wonderful and really is a second Dad to me and a great grandfather.My sister is getting married in 3 weeks to an equally amazing guy and she is in love and more in sync in a relationship than she has ever been.Her kids are crazy about him too.My nephew was sick from the day he was born and pretty much every day of his 19 years. It was so hard to watch and I do not know how my cousin so bravely and gracefully handled it. It was a blessing in a way for me. It has made me especially thankful for my son and his issues. We may be struggling with reading, with speech , with other things.But he is blindingly healthy. He can run and play and be a child in every respect. We are not dealing with life and death. We are dealing with things that get better, we overcome and progress through.While I may be worried about his life in a sense ,I am not worrying about him dying. Not like she was. I see where every moment in my life put me right where I needed to be in order for my son to be my son and my daughter to be my daughter.
Today was my AH HA moment.
I realized that even if I could, there is not a single moment of my life, choice I have made, step I have taken that I would change. Because changing even one tiny thing would change who and where I am today.
Today I am a 46 year old Mom with a 7 year old son who has a spectrum disorder and a 5 year old daughter that will soon be out thinking me, I have a 24 year marriage with a man I still never run out of things to talk about.I have been to Russia 3 times instead of the maternity ward. Most days I never crank my car and I talk to my poodle. I love to go to the grocery store and I am a stain removal expert. Today I built a home for two hermit crabs and we are enthusiastically counting down the days to our next Disney trip.
I feel like the luckiest woman on the earth.
This is the present I am giving myself for my birthday.
and Cake.
I hope you get the same thing on your birthday.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

So here we are sitting in front of the elementary school at 9 am March 2002. My son is looking at the school saying 'No Mommy" and I am saying It will be fun, lets go. He clings to me like a sea barnacle. We open the doors and we only have to take a few steps in and a few to the right to be in the speech room. In the beginning that walk seemed like miles. Riley screaming, the ST smiling talking softly as she peeled him off of me, then me making a quick exit out the door, closing it behind me and standing next to the wall with my ear pressed against it waiting for the deluge of tears to stop. At first feeling heartbroken that I was having to do this, but I knew I had no choice and the comforting words of encouragement from teachers who drifted by were also a great help.The genius of his ST would soon show through. She was always ready with an arsenal of distractions when we arrived. Bubbles to blow, balls to bounce,mirrors to make funny faces in and every toy and learning aid ever manufactured. Soon the crying went from 5 minutes , to 3 to one to none and he actually began to walk in the school on his own and I actually would retreat to my car to read for the h0ur.
I was learning as well.That his aversion to anything cold, slick or mushy were classic signs of oral sensory issues. That his drooling like Niagara Falls was a sign as well. His tendency to chew on his shirt collar or sleeve or a hard plastic toy also sensory issues. That he could not drink out of a straw or blow bubbles also sensory and speech related. All minor seemingly inconsequential things in life, they never caused any concern but added up to have big meaning.His hyperallertness to sounds loud or soft, sensory.His extreme dislike of any place crowded , confined or loud and low lit also sensory.
It was easy for us to gloss over these quirks because he was really as easy child. He ate and slept great. He was easy going and loved to play.He was very loving and affectionate. He was great at entertaining himself and had a great imagination. He loved the outdoors and was generally very well behaved.You only had to tell him No about something once and he got it.We knew we had it pretty good. In fact he was such a great child that a year after bringing him home, we ate our words about having just one and ventured back to Russia for our daughter.
Speech went great, he loved going ,everyone that he came in contact with treated him as a VIP and we began to see great progress.They were great at not only helping my son but also very thorough in making sure we knew the what and why's of the lessons and what we should be doing at home to encourage and support their efforts.In this I became an overachiever. Our house became speech and sensory central , every opportunity for learning and growth taken, and I strongly believe that you must learn all you can about language acquisition and the steps and become the at home therapist.Bribery works well to.
You also must cultivate patience, humor and a laisser faire attitude when it comes to your child and those around him in public whose curiosity or rude stares try and intrude into your world.It does become much easier and I am pretty oblivious to it.I have never tried to hide or secret away his issues or differences. Never been embarrassed or self conscious and neither is he. We take him everywhere and do everything. He has probably traveled more and experienced a broader range of places and things than most any other kid around. I know what an amazing ,unique ,smart and imaginative kid he is , how the everyday average normal part of him is so much larger and more present than the other stuff. He is just a normal 7 year old boy who loves airplanes, country music and playing the drums.Always says please and Thank you,Can shoot a mean game of basketball and hit a baseball over the house and can swim like a fish. He wants everyone but Mom to kiss him on the head(future girlfriends take note), won't eat rice, mashed potatoes or mac and cheese-all too squishy, may carry on an oddly formatted conversation with you or sing every word to the latest Kenny Chesney song. Is a great mimic of sounds and animals and is our car safety officer, making everyone has seatbelts fastened and will remind you when to turn on the turn signal.
There are moments that I am very afraid about his future-will he find a job or fall in love. Who will look after him when we are gone and how will his adolescent and teenage years transpire.
But then I look around at this village that has formed around him already. These friends and family members that love him. His teachers and therapists that are encouraging and hopeful about his progress.They have shown me that he can have a great future and they are helping him and us learn the life skills for ,well, for life.
I do not know where we would be today without our local public elementary school. Riley had attended since he was three , all year round. They so prepared him and us for kindergarten and welcomed him with open arms and a plan fitted just to him.They not only teach him academics and sometimes in inventive ways to match his learning style but they also put great effort in teaching him social skills which is just as important for a child that it does not evolve naturally. They believe in him as much as we do and it is evident every day when he runs happily to the school bus and equally on those days that things do not go so well. I am so happy that we gave our school and our community the chance to get to know our son, to surround him with acceptance and love and to be there for him forever if need be.A private school or private therapist may be able to give him a little more but probably not.He continues to amaze us everyday. I know a private school or Private therapy outside our community could not give the full spectrum of learning experiences, peer interaction and the teamwork feeling of being a card carrying member of our little village of Springville. You can't buy that kind of learning ,compassion and interest in your child. It is priceless.
The last few years my guiding light has been his speech teacher ,who is also his IEP manager. Vikki Rodgers. Please do not try and hire her away. I can say that my son has had a love affair with her and would be content to spend his entire days in her room. Her sense of humor and knowing when to be firm is something we have all come to rely on. Her openness and honestly with us has opened doors we never even knew existed. Her willingness to be bombarded by my thoughts, concerns , observations , suggestions and more than a little bit of overprotection of Prince Riley.She not only listens, she has the courage to tell me when I am being overly concerned,need to see how things go, or yes even, WRONG. But just as often she shares my concern, agrees with my ideas and the MOST important thing to a parent who is advocating for their special child is that she implements changes or ideas immediantly. That instills in us the confidence that she does care for our son and we in turn trust her judgement.Even her current maternity leave did not allow her to escape being our go to girl and connection at school.Sorry, Ms.Bikki. This is a most crucial relationship you need to have with whatever school your special child attends. It does not have to be a private school, a wealthy school or big school. The building, operating budget or aesthetics are not what counts. It is the people that teach there, the attitude they have about what they do everyday and their willingness to compensate, adapt,try new things and learn new approaches when it comes to your child. Our haven of education and the place where my son is learning to fly is in a small Alabama town where just about all the teachers know all the kids, we still have the homecoming parade and Christmas parade on Main Street and we just got our first traffic signal a few months ago. The therapy and lessons he is receiving here is first rate. And that is not just my opinion.
A few months ago we had him evaluated at the Sparks Clinic, the International Civitan Research Center for Children with disabilities. He was tested over the course of three days in Speech, Language, Hearing, Psychology,Vision,Occupational Therapy, Comprehension,Social skills,Autism screening, Choreographed observations. The went over his history from birth and every moment in between. He was diagnosed as PDD, Pervasive Developmental Delay, which is a milder autism spectrum disorder. We were thrilled. Some parents may have been devastated at the news, the fear of the LABEL. Not us, because I knew those three letters could be the key in his future education and opportunities . But the best thing they told us that his progress was amazing and for us to keep doing what we were doing in terms of therapy and school. They were amazed at what our small school was providing and accomplishing. They said all families should be so lucky to have such a great elementary school behind them as we did.My son still has a long way to go but it feels great to know that we are on the right road and traveling at a good speed. Fast enough to enjoy the ride, but not so fast that we are missing things along the way. That is one gift our son gives us each day, meeting people we never would have and learning to slow down and enjoy all that life has to offer.Something that far too many people miss in their fast paced,competitive, get to the top first ,be the best way of life that they are living and teaching their children to live also.I wish all parents could learn this lesson. That the very best things in life to savor are not the big achievements or awards but all those little, often missed things that happen hundreds of times a day that add up greater in number and richness than those events that instigate bragging rights.
We feel very rich and blessed in our little village ,in our little corner of the south.