Thursday, September 30, 2010

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Em's First Day of 2nd Grade

This pic was taken way back in August. I tend to get around to things when I get around to things. It's a peaceful way to live.

She's got her little public school uniform on with PINK backpack. She's progressing nicely. At home during the summer and on most every day of the week we've been making our way through some components (not all!) of a few of these educational resources:
-Abeka Reading Books
-Explode the Code phonics workbooks
-Some little reading series & workbooks published by Amish folks (I adore these books. No people/faces ever shown -- just animals, barns, carriages.)
-English workbook published by same Amish buddies (Ain't nobody watchin' tv, listening to the radio, or actin' the fool. The children are the main characters, and they're taking care of little kittens, naming their new foal, and ALWAYS helping their mother do chores. Gosh...I love these people!!)

Two Saturday nights ago I decided I needed to fix the "almost hole" in the laundry room door. It was down low (as in where d-o-g-s scratched at the door and took all the paint off...and some of the wood, too). These weren't my dogs. They were Min-Pin rescues, and I was holding them until arrangements were made for me to transport them to another state. Have mercy. THEN...that person took them to another state, yadda, yadda, yadda. They ended up WAY up north near the Great Lakes. What we do for love, huh?

Back to the story...

Emily was playing in the living room with her doll house, dressing Barbies and small animal figurines, placing them about on tables & in chairs, forcing them to do homework, and threatening to call their parents or put them on "red". Perish the thought. I said to myself...Hmmmm. She's occupied. I'm good to go forward with my late night project.

Well, saints be praised. I actually HAD some sandpaper on hand to smooth out the rough sections of the "almost hole". Honestly, I would've used an emery board had the right stuff not turned up at the house.

Of course, paint had to come out of hiding and be slathered on the door.

Then, the spirit of excess came upon me.
"If a little's good....a lot's better."

I started painting the floor trim, chair molding, the wooden section around the door...AND one thing, as they say, led to another. Oh my. I could quickly see that this was w-a-a-a-y better than spending lots of time scrubbing. Geesh. Why pull out Clorox Clean-up and elbow grease when a quick swipe of the paint brush will get the job done.

I'm hooked.
In the past I said, "Paint is not my friend."
Now...I plan on buying a yearlong membership at the Glidden factory.

Emily was fast asleep on the couch with the cat, King Puddin' -- each oblivious to the home repairs taking place in the formerly dusty/filthy dirty dining room.

The Goofy Pic

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Emily Seeing Samm for the First Time Since China, 2008

This is the treasured photo of Miss Em seeing her "China Cousin", Samm -- meeting up with him at our adoption agency's summertime reunion.

Sherrie and I had agreed that we'd both travel to the event (away from our home states) IF the other one would be there.

DONE! Not even up for discussion. We were gonna be there in July, 2010 to visit with our precious friends once again.

See that "angel boy" (gooshy southern term) walking toward Emily with a big ole grin on his face? Priceless!

It was so meaningful to be with Sherrie and Dick once again. Sherrie and I were all caught up in the events of the reunion, but we sat together, ate together, exchanged gifts & laughter & love, videotaped, took pictures...but it just wasn't long enough. We spoke of how there are a lot of things our hearts could've communicated with each other - how our children's lives have changed, what obstacles and joys we've all faced, and what the future possibly holds.

I think we could talk for hours and hours of how our lives lined up similarly that day in China - Sept. 1, 2008 - the day we met our children. We're already talking about another time when we can, hopefully, get together without another 500 adoptive families in the same room and speak from our memories in China up until the present day.

I'm soooo looking forward to that time.

One unusual fact: Although the reunion happened in July and I'm typing this post on Septemember 9th (for no particular reason other than I've not had the time)...I find it notable that as I looked back in my 2008 DayTimer Calendar book, it was exactly 2 years to the day that Sherrie's family and mine had their official agency Farewell Dinner together in China.

But still...

Love the American Flag in the Background

In the Arms of Love

Too Much Fun

Smiles are Worth a Thousand Words

Looking at Photos of Their Time Together in China

More on Samm, Sherrie, and Dick...

It was China, 2008.
Hot. No...sweltering.
Emily had a major ear infection, was very upset, and needed to see a doctor.

No offense, but I'd heard a few horror stories about folks ending up unexpectedly in a Chinese hospital. Not to make a 'syllogistic error' and assume this is true of all Chinese hospitals, but I wasn't up for taking any chances.

Christy, travel buddy, and I flag down a cab and ask to be taken to Shamian Island - the spot where many adoptive families stay (but oooooooohhhhhh......not us.....). Of course all this was done via an interpreter - namely the 20ish year old doorman at our hotel.

Nevermind the traffic and folks' cultural nuances to not abide by rules, lines on the road, stop lights, speed limits (probably there weren't any), or the fact that another vehicle is currently inhabiting that very space they want to place their vehicle.
Nevermind the non-existent seatbelts.
Nevermind sitting in the backseat of the poorly ventilated, plexiglass covered, smoking allowed cab with a sick and frightened little girl.

Fast forward to 30 minutes later and getting out at the White Swan Hotel on the island.
Why there?
Because we knew there was a medical clinic in the building.
We weren't hotel guests, but I never said we were. Emily had to have medical attention.

I start bawling. What to do? Where to go? Who to ask?
I walk toward the elevators and there -- in the flesh -- Sherrie, Dick, and Little Samm.

Their family and I (with Christy) had gone together with another family the day we met our children for the first time. It was just our 3 little families together in the HUMONGOUS city of Guangzhou -- staying downtown in the business district (Think New York!).
Sherrie, a newly christened mom of 63 1/2 hours herself, has a degree in Social Work. She put aside her own agenda and began to speak to me very calmly and assured me it would all work out. She and hubbie helped us find the clinic (which was closed), locate the medical folks who manned the clinic, and got us in.

Sherrie and family were such a Godsend.
When they could've been ANYwhere in all of Guangzhou, there they were at the exact location where we'd gone and at the very same time.
Divine connection.

Because our little travel group consisted of only 3 families the first week (others came from various provinces to join us the second week - Elizabeth, Lilly, and other darlings), well....let's just say, all we had was each other. LOL!

Anyhoo, Sherrie and I call Samm and Emily "China Cousins". They've not seen each other since we said goodbye the night before we flew out of China. Typing that sentence makes my eyes water up even now. She sent us off with darling gifts and the promise we'd stay in touch.

We have, but it was glorious to see our children together again nearly two years later -- blossoming through love and challenges -- to play and squeal on U.S. soil for the first time.

Surely the earth shook a little bit in China when they danced and jumped at the reunion - knowing the footsteps of friends and family always find their way "back home".

Thursday, September 2, 2010

One red balloon to honor birthmother, and the other to honor her homeland - China.

Released on Gotcha Day...

Yep. I Watched It...and Had Some Very Particular Feelings/Reactions

Mercy me. WHY did I watch "John and Kate Plus 8" for several seasons, fall in love with that family, and actually feel shocked/surprised when that marriage broke apart? I bothered me immensely for a while, and I'm someone who doesn't even value t.v. shows (except for Andy Griffith and PBS Kids).

Why? Because I did not see the 5 million, 600 thousand, forty two hours of their lives NOT recorded on camera.

I learned the hard way back about 8 years ago that when those 2 girls on Survivor Africa acted like they hated each other, darn if one doesn't vote for the other to win the $1,000,000.


Same with Wo Ai Ni Mommy. Very limited coverage on air of what actually transpired. I think it's great that it was recorded (I wish I had Emily's first 2 years with me on dvd....WITH a translator who could've actually told me what she was saying.), and I totally support Donna S. in her doing of it, but even SHE must be frustrated with what folks are saying, both positive and negative, because of what they didn't see right before, right after, or at all the other times in their lives.

When Donna said that her husband would stay home with the other children and her father would accompany her to China, out the blue...I have no clue where it came from, was a thought in my head that said, "You better get ready for a lonely trip!"

If she could have had the loving support of a husband/mate to help her with that traumatic adjustment in her life and in her newly adopted daughter's life...If it'd been me...I might've left the kiddos with the grands.

Adopting an older child is such a ripping away of life as they've know it -- be it good or bad. I happen to have my moment of meeting Emily recorded on a dvd (by a man who worked for my adoption agency). He filmed before, during, and after...and did so for 2 other families with us. I could not STOMACH watching the dvd until about 1 year after returning home with Emily. The first few months, it almost made me nauseated to think about watching it b/c of the raw, wild, grief-stricken, horrified emotions that little Mei Xia Ying displayed. It hurt me too much to think about it.

I did go back and watch the dvd last year. I did fine. BUT...I noticed how Emily rocked back and forth, looked around nervously, smiled forcefully (as did Faith in Wo Ai Ni Mommy), and had to have been on the most HYPER alert system of survival she'd known (since arriving at the orphanage). I couldn't tell if my daughter could speak. I couldn't tell if she could walk straight. I was 100% UNSURE of everything except this:

I knew she was the daughter that the Lord intended for me, and I was there to carry out the plan. Case closed. No confusion on my part.

I'm not saying her circumstances in life happened so I could be her mommy. I wouldn't wish that for anyone.
What was - was.
She was a little girl in a position of needing a family, and it was in my heart to provide one.

I grew up in a loving, secure home with my mother, but one day when she left my brothers and me at a daycare facility b/c it had snowed (and she had to go to work)...I was horrified. Afraid. I wanted my mom to come back and save us. How must an older child feel when they are leaving their country, language, and familiar surroundings?

I can only surmise it must be FEAR for many/most of them. Makes sense. So....I was NOT caught off guard by crying, grieving, and confusion on Emily's part. Heartbroken? Yes. Surprised? No.
Actually glad for it? Yes!!!!!!!! (easier said than done)
Because if she had loved, been loved, and attached to meaningful caregivers in her life, then she could do it again. (Adoption Homework 101)
It was a hard row to hoe, but it was the best road to travel.
Necessary for her mental and emotional well being.

But you know what? Day after day after day after night of this in China, being stared at sympathetically and helpfully by folks in your travel group (who had younger babies....) -- it was emotionally draining.
Going out in public and being stared at BIG TIME by the citizens of China who were probably perplexed (and yes, questioned me) as to why an American would adopt an older child (with an eye condition that needed surgical repair) -- same song, second verse. It was emotionally draining.

I, unlike Donna in the documentary, did not attempt in any way to formally teach English to Emily at first. Well, there was the proverbial, "NO!" in "Don't open that safe and put those fresh, clean 100.00 bills in the garbage, and leave that mini-bar bottle of Jack Daniels RIGHT where it is!"
Because of the traumatic situation I found myself in, I did not deem it valuable to add the stress of learning a new language to Emily's current stress of, "OMG. My world has just been turned upside down."
I felt my goal, in China, was to introduce Mei Xia Ying to ME (Mommy) and just basically PLAY, have fun, set boundaries, and buy some meaningful souvenirs.

Did I lose my cool? Uhmmm- YES.
Somewhere around Day 8 I think I threw her toothbrush from the bathroom to her bed because she was being so dad gum defiant (again). She was, uh, shall I say, "taken back" by my gestures.
But you know what? When the episode was over, it was over. We were off for ice cream.
(Sounds like the beginning a mother daughter relationship being formed, huh?)

By the time we'd get out to shop, though, I was so slap worn out mentally...I'd walk zombie-like into a shop and say, "Here. I'll take these dresses in 2 sizes."
They'd say in Chinese, "What color?"
My reply, "I don't EVEN care. Just something on the color wheel."

Another thing where my experience was a bit different than as seen on the documentary: I did not hug and kiss on Emily in the beginning. Maybe some hugging, my hand on her back...but no kissing. Seems like she needed the space/freedom/choice to not have me in her 'emotional private' domain.
Not yet.
It wouldn't have meant anything to her. It would've creeped her out. She would not have wanted a stranger being that intimate with her.
I did, however, hold her hand and did NOT let it go IF I could control it.
I would reach over and touch her if we were playing dolls, games, etc.
I bathed her in the tub. Dried her off.
(FYI....I STILL do this as much as possible. She loves it.)

In China, Emily tried to go to others - very deliberately - as if to say to me, "You've caused me this grief so I'll show you. I'm gonna test you to the limits, sista!" She did. I did...

Oh the joy of the 747 Jumbo Jet plane trip outta China. Let's just say I had the empathetic eyes of all aboard. Sorry they paid so much money for our distractions.

I, I, I, I was the reason for the pain she felt at that time, the tears she cried, the sleep she lost; therefore, it was only understandable (and I DID understand) that she would attempt to return the emotional hurt. She would run to others in the group, hug them, and try to stay far away from me.

SOOOOOOOOOOOOOO....I had a "come to Jesus" meeting with everyone around us, explained the situation, and then Emily's sabatoge-ing actions became VERY limited, unachievable -- thanks to the help of those who totally understood!!!

Normal. Natural.
But still tough b/c some/many folks in the adoption community have not had these types of experiences. It's not their fault...they've just not had them. Can't always relate.
Folks NOT in the world of international adoption were curious, full of questions, baffled by some of my responses, confused by some of my reactions.

Enough already. Blah. Blah. Blah.
Don't know why I felt the need to compare my experience with what was seen on the PBS show. There were some similarities visible and some differences.
Donna is an adoptive mom like it her best shot, seeing what works for her child.
The documentary was good, but it was ONLY a snippet of their life together thus far.

In reality, PBS would've gotten me on film the time (during week 2 or 3 home) when Emily went out with Nanny Carol and had a major meltdown in the parking lot near Walmart. My mother had to call me to come get her. Emily was on the hot concrete, screaming, writhing around, kicking, hitting....and as I picked her up to put her in the car, I was shouting with a fake grin on my face to EVERYONE in our seriously concerned audience, "PLEASE. Do NOT call DHS. She's just come home from China. She's scared. It's alright. It'll be fine. I promise."

How'd I know?
Because I had the promise of her before I ever knew her.
In my heart.
A gift from God.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010