Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Two Emotions

If you remember WAY back to January, you know that our process to adopt again officially began somewhere around there. We dutifully started our homestudy and we got ALMOST done when things started falling apart.

So we stopped.

And we waited.

And we prayed.

And we thought about things.

And we kept right on thinking and praying until we felt ready to make the decision.

Then we decided.

And we had to pick up that homestudy right where it was and finish it up.

So last week, we started working on that 10 hours of adoption training that was necessary to complete our homestudy. The training that we chose to do was a DVD series by Bryan Post. The series is great...and we got a lot out of it (things that we can definitely use in our understanding of the boys). But one of the things that stood out to me a few days after completing the series, was that Bryan Post reminded me that there are only 2 emotions.

Got that?

Two Emotions.

Love and Fear.

That's it. Those two emotions rule our lives. All of our behavior, in one way or another, stems from these two emotions.

One of the things that has brought this home to me lately is the reaction that friends and family members have to another adoption. Now I'm not talking specifically about ONLY my family. I've noticed during my time hanging out in the adoption community that my family is not the only family that struggles with our news. My family isn't the only family that lets fear dominate their reactions. My family isn't the only family that has a lukewarm reception (or a downright cold reception, in some instances).

Families are tough nuts to crack sometimes. As the person announcing your adoption-in-process, you want nothing more than your family to jump up and down with excitement. You want them to ask you what you need and for the crafty ones in the family to start knitting or sewing for your new little one. You want them to ask questions about how the process is going and to show some genuine excitment when things are moving forward (or genuine disappointment when things don't go as quickly or smoothly as you'd hoped). You want your family to play an active part in the process...just as they would if you had announced a pregnancy.

But all too often, this isn't the case.

Instead you hear stories of families who ask ridiculous questions like "will the child be sick and diseased?" or "Do you realize they have HIV in that country?" or "Why don't you adopt from country X (where there are white children) instead of from country Y (in Africa)?" or "Why don't you want kids of YOUR OWN?"

Family members will often site lots of reasons why adoption is bad...or they'll tell adoption horror stories (that may or may not have any truth to them at all) that they've heard from a friend of a friend of a friend. They'll give a cool reception to the adoptive parent's faces, and then talk about how bad the decision is behind their backs. They'll wonder how on earth you could afford to spend thousands of dollars on an adoption process when you drive a beat-up old mini-van and have stained carpets in your living room. They'll wonder how you could possibly handle one more person in your home, when you're already busy handling the ones you have.

They'll think of a million reasons NOT to support you. They react in fear.

When all they really need is ONE reason TO support you.

They LOVE you.

One reason is all they need. But instead, they let fear override them...and you, the adoptive parent, have to suffer the consequences of their fear.

Its sad, right?

Monday, June 29, 2009

SCARED

Scared - A Novel on the Edge of the World from Children's HopeChest on Vimeo.


Have you read this book yet?!?!?
I read most of this book while sitting in a tent during an especially rainy and stormy night during our family camping trip. I knew I wouldn't be able to sleep, so I turned on the flashlight and started to read. This book is fantastic. Its not "light reading" by any means. The topic is heavy stuff. You'll need kleenexes - more than once. Its a must read, if you ask me.

The publishers of this book also think its important for you to read. So important, that they are giving electronic copies of the book away for free. GO HERE to get your copy and START READING!

Friday, June 19, 2009

In Need of a Sign

Ok...I'm going to put it out there. I've been having this internal dialogue with myself and I just need to get a part of it out here. Partly to vent...and partly because I'm hoping someone will have some advice...some insight for me about this.

We've come to learn about a beautiful little girl in Ghana who needs a mommy and daddy. Her situation is a bit special...so the adoption process could be longer and more complicated than "normal"...maybe. This particular little girl has the potential to have more "issues" than we would have normally said we were willing or able to handle. I won't go in to detail about what those issues are...but let's just say this little girl had a VERY rough start to her life.

She is young (just barely a year old now), and normally I would have thought that Z would say "no way!" just based on that. He's never been interested in having little babies or young toddlers around. He doesn't have a lot of experience with them...so he thinks he's bad at it...plus he says you can't reason with them! LOL! He's always been of the opinion that we should adopt children who are a little older (like 4-6 years old).

But...it turns out that Z is especially taken with this little girl. He is the one who has urged me to get more information about her. And the more we learn about her, the stronger the pull.

I feel the pull, too...but I also feel a bit of fear about the unknown. What if her health (mental or physical) is more complicated than we are prepared to handle?

Should she be in a family who has a stay-at-home parent? If she comes here, she'll have to be in daycare during the schoolyear. Is that fair to her? Could we be the best possible parents for her, even if she has to be in daycare during the schoolyear?

I've told only a very, very few people about this little girl. Each one of them, during some point in the conversation has said "you have to think about the boys that you already have". Ok...what I'm about to write is in no way meant to make those people feel bad, but...How could we NOT think about the boys we have?!? Of course we take the boys into account when we think about the direction our family is taking. And I know they mean well. I know that they mean "are you sure you are going to have time to give the boys what they need and care for a child who might have some special needs?" I get that. I do. Adding any child to our family will take away a certain amount of time from the boys...granted she might have more intense needs than the "average" kiddo. But isn't it also possible that having a child like her in our family might actually enrich the boys' lives in immeasurable ways?

How do you KNOW that you are on the right path? I thought we were on the right path with our last situation and that ended badly. I don't want to go down the wrong path again - its too hurtful. But I don't want my fear to get in the way of us going down the right path, either. If its the right path.

How do you KNOW that you are on the right path??

So please...come out of lurkdome and share your thoughts.
Share your experiences with following a path that lead you into the unknown. Share stories about adopting special needs kids. Share the good stuff...share the bad stuff.

I could use all the help I can get!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

And the decision is....

We've finally made a decision about our adoption plans. Whew!

We're heading back to Ghana...this time (hopefully) for a little girl between the ages of 1 and 4 years old.

It feels good to be back on the road again. A little scary, but good. Now we just need to work on that paperwork and gathering all the needed funds. Details!

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Snake Eggs Hatched!

After our trip to the Science Center (see below), we headed in to my lab to see the new additions. Baby Corn Snakes! I've been telling the boys when the eggs hatched they could come in and see them. And yesterday was the day.

Z hid behind the camera and REFUSED to get close to the snakes. He's such a scaredy-cat!



We even took some time to hang out with the Mama and Papa snakes, too.


A Day At The Science Center

Yesterday we spent a special day at the Science Center of Iowa. The boys had TONS of fun checking everything out...and watching "Under The Sea" at the IMAX Theater. Poor Jellybean thought everything in the movie was jumping out at him - he held on to my arm pretty tight during the whole movie!

Here are some photos - in no particular order.


























Saturday, June 13, 2009

A Sad Loss

On Friday, two climbers fell to their death on Mt. McKinley. One of these climbers was Dr. Andrew Swanson; an orthopedic surgeon from Mankato, Minnesota.

I'm posting about his death here, because he will be missed not only in his hometown and his home state...but also in Ghana. He volunteered his time there to perform surgeries on children who needed corrective spinal surgery.

His life touched many. His hands healed many who otherwise had no hope of a normal life. A sad loss, indeed.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Did I do good enough to go to Kindergarten?

When our boys arrived home from Ghana, one of the first things they wanted to do was go to school! Both of the boys love learning...they are very curious...and they wanted to go be with other kids at school. We knew that the boys weren't ready to tackle school right away (they arrived in January at ages 4 and 5), so Z and I made an executive decision to keep them home until Fall, when Jellybean would enter Kindergarten at age 6. But Peanut wasn't old enough to enter school in the fall...and he had a VERY hard time accepting the fact that Jellybean got to go to school and he didn't.

Jellybean has done so well in Kindergarten this past school year! We have seen him grow and learn and really blossom. He is gaining independence and is really becoming his own person.

Peanut, on the other hand, has kind of struggled going to daycare. Sure, he does fine...but he's the kind of kid who emulates the other kids around him. At daycare, that means he starts acting like the younger kids. When he first arrived home, he would spend tons of time coloring and being creative. He would use tons of different colors and was meticulous about staying in the lines when he would color. When he would arrive home from daycare, he would bring color pages where he used one color and just scribbled some lines across the page. Our daycare provider does do a preschool program...but it covered only the stuff he already knew. He was BORED.OUT.OF.HIS.MIND.

This spring, our school district had Kindergarten round-up. The incoming Kindergarteners for the fall spend 2 hours a day for 4 days "going to school". They are then evaluated by two teachers to determine their readiness for K in the fall. Peanut is a SMART kid. He knows more than many incoming kids do. He catches onto things quickly (probably more quickly than Jellybean), and he is innately curious about the world around him.

He was so excited to go to Kindergarten. He LOVED every minute of his time during the evaluation...and at the end, he asked the principal if he did good enough to come to Kindergarten.

But a week later we got THE LETTER. The letter that said the teachers doing his evaluation didn't think he was ready for Kindergarten. They recommended he go to Pre-K for a year instead (Pre-K is 2 hours a day for 4 days a week). There was NO information about Peanut specifically in the letter. There was not a single reason listed for their recommendation. Just their recommendation.

So, I called the school and set up a meeting with the teachers. The teachers doing the evaluation were Jellybean's current K teacher and a Pre-K teacher from the school. To be fair, we LOVE Jellybean's teacher. She is wonderful. She is receptive. She really cares about her students. And as a plus, she has experience in ESL.

The Pre-K teacher, though? Yeah...from the very first thing that came out of her mouth at the meeting, I knew I wasn't going to like her. The VERY first thing she said to us (with disdain in her voice) was "Your son doesn't know how to use a scissor." Excuse me? This is now the current standard for determining when a child is ready to go to school? What with all the getting used to living in a new family and a new country, and all of the attachment parenting, and working on social behaviors apparently we haven't spent enough time cutting paper with scissors. However, I KNOW that Peanut knows how to use a scissor. I've watched him do it.

So Z told her he knew how to use a scissor. And she replied with what became her standard mantra "I've been doing this for 25 years and I know kids..."

So I asked her what she did when she discovered that he didn't know how to use scissors? Well...she helped him, of course. She went over and helped him hold the scissor and helped him cut out what he needed to cut out. Hmm...Sounds to me like Peanut got EXACTLY what he wanted in that situation. Extra attention from the teacher. And he didn't have to do the work.

You see, Peanut is a child who has had a tough time with the attachment "stuff". Sure, he loves us...he probably even likes us...but attachment hasn't come easily. And he has a repeating pattern when he encounters new adults. His survival strategy is to "be adorable". It sounds funny, but its true. He's adorable. He bats his eyelashes, he acts younger than he is, he acts helpless, and he asks for help with things that he (and we) knows he can do himself. Since he's so darn cute, adults who don't know him often go out of their way to do what he asks of them. And he gets exactly what he wants. He is a master manipulator. Its worked for him...why shouldn't he keep it up? He will only really stop doing it when it stops working for him.

Of course, to the teachers it looks like he isn't ready to go to school.

We discussed all of the behavior issues the teachers encountered with him and explained our position to them (one of which was receptive...the other not so much). When we left the meeting, we had the distinct feeling that the Pre-K teacher had this pre-conceived notion about our family that since we'd only been parents for a year and a half, what the heck do we know? Of course we'd just take her recommendation and go with it. Wrong.

I wanted to say "I wish you could see how far he's come in the past year."

I wanted to say "You would have told me that Jellybean wasn't ready for Kindergarten either...but look how well he's done! And Peanut is more ready now than Jellybean was a year ago."

I wanted to ask the Pre-K teacher who kept saying "I've been doing this for 25 years and I know kids" how many of those kids in the past 25 years had been adopted internationally and only been in the U.S. for a year and a half.

But I didn't.

As soon as the meeting was over, we headed to the school office and signed the waiver stating that we knew he had been recommended for Pre-K, but we were overriding the decision and registering him for Kindergarten.

Do I think we made the right decision?
Yes

Do I think he is going to transition to K easily?
He'll probably have a rough couple of weeks/month at the beginning.

But the most important thing for us was to get him in a structured learning environment. None of the issues they talked with us about were really maturity issues...they were his way of testing the boundaries. From the moment Peanut got off the airplane, he needed to know where ALL the boundaries were ALL. THE. TIME. Every time he encountered something (or someone) new, he would test the boundaries. Once he knows where they are he does just fine. But that isn't going to go away if he goes to Pre-K for a year. He'll still do the same thing when he gets to K. It will just make him a year older than all of his classmates.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Lonely No More

Today is the day! As I type, Z is on his way back home from his weeks away with military obligations. Its been a long few weeks...but in the end, the separation will have been less than we expected. And, I am so incredibly thankful that he will not be gone for an entire deployment (though, I know its still within the realm of possibility). For now, I will enjoy having my husband back home and worry about the future stuff later.

Please keep the men and women of the 445th Transportation Company in your thoughts and prayers as they continue to train and eventually head to Iraq for a year. They are a second family for Z and I know that he will miss them (and worry about them) tremendously. He's happy to be able to stay home with us...but I know he feels torn.


This is a photo of a few of the 445th soldiers as they prepared to head out of their hometown to begin training.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Ghana

My dear friend Anita is in Ghana right now. I know she's busy. After all...she's there to do work as well as file paperwork for her own adoption and spend time with her beautiful new daughter.

But I'm really impatient.

I want her to stop everything and email me (just kidding...kind of). I want to know everything I can about a certain little someone.

I've been not doing anything about child #3 for a long time now. Months, in fact. I'm at the place where I want someone to say "Ready. Set. Go!" And a race to the finish will begin.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Compliments

This morning I was surprised to be greeted with a series of wonderful compliments from the boys.

"Mommy - you're the best mommy!"
"Mommy - you're the bestest mommy in the whole world!"
"Yeah - the bestest mommy in the whole world!"
"And you're the best cooker, too."

To which I replied "Thank you boys, I'm glad that you think I'm a good mommy and I'm glad that you like the food that I cook."

"And the cereal!"

Ok...now I get it. I'm the "best mommy" and the "best cooker" because I know how to pour cereal out of a box, into a bowl. And very occassionally, that cereal is Captain Crunch - with crunchberries.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Did you know...

Last weekend, I took the boys to see Up at the movie theater as a special treat. Z was going to be home the next day and I was too excited for him to get home...yet too exhausted from the past month of single-parenting it to entertain the boys for another Saturday. So, we went to the first showing of the day - at 11:00am. We all loved the movie...but I especially LOVED the short film before the movie.

Partly Cloudy.


And now you can download it on iTunes. Who knew?

Friday, June 5, 2009

Decisions

For the past month or so, I have been intentionally NOT thinking about adoption. With Z being gone, there isn't anything we can do about it anyway...so I haven't been thinking about it. I haven't been participating in the forums. I haven't been following the families in process much lately...and even though I know there are lots of new kiddos in care, I haven't gone online to look through their photos.

During this month that Z has been gone (so far), I haven't stopped thinking about child #3. Both Z and I know that our family isn't quite complete. We still have more love to give. We still have room for one more. We still feel like we have another child out there somewhere.

But sometimes when I think about adoption, I just feel weary.

I think that is why I've been thinking about having a biological child so much lately. There's the cute and cuddly infant involved. The adorable, TINY, clothes. The attachment issues fade away. The worry about whether or not my child will be discriminated against in our community fades away. The seemingly endless amounts of paperwork goes away. The process is more familiar (to our family members and friends), you know (about) when the process ends and when you get to hold your new baby. There are risks, sure...but they seem smaller. This option seems SAFE.

But, does it feel like its the RIGHT thing for us? I don't know. I think I could get pregnant and be happy. Yet, I don't know if I feel that way because its what is meant for us, or if its because I want things to be easier. Not that pregnancy and birth and rearing an infant are easy. But the process is different. It seems less risky...and it seems like the path of least resistance. Right now I. DON'T. WANT. RESISTANCE.

But maybe the path of least resistance is not meant to be my path.

So I'm back to thinking about adoption. Wondering where child #3 is. Wondering if a particular child might be our missing daughter. Wondering if I'm ready to take the leap. Wondering if I'm ready to head back in the direction of Ghana - where a part of our hearts are - where we will always have family. All the while feeling so tired of being wishy-washy for so long.

For those of you who are of the praying persuasion...we'd appreciate prayers for clarity and for a unified decision on our plans for child #3. We have to make a decision relatively soon...even if the decision is to simply wait.

***EDIT***
The above discussion about pregnancy and having a biological child is in no way meant to make it sound like getting pregnant and having a bio child are EASY. I have so many dear friends in the adoption community who have struggled with infertility...and I in no way want them to think that I view what they wanted so much to be easy. Z and I have never tried to have bio children. It wasn't where our hearts were...we entered into the world of adoption because we wanted to be parents, and we knew there were millions of children already in the world who needed what we had to offer.

Photo Op

There's a little boy who lives at my house who would TOTALLY ask President Obama if he could touch his hair to see if it felt the same as his.

CNN Article

THIS is worth the read. THIS is one of the reasons why HIV is spreading. THIS is why education is so very, very important.