Monday, December 17, 2007
Monday, December 10, 2007
Aside from adoption drama, life continues to go on. It is all Christmas all the time here. The tree is up, the house is decorated, and Christmas carols are on the stereo. The little boys have been getting into the spirit of the season, often singing to themselves as they go about their day. While it is wonderful to listen to, I think we need to work on some of the words. At the moment, D seems to be under the impression that the chorus to "O Come All Ye Faithful" is "O come let us play baseball", giving me recurring visions of Little League teams visiting the stable and offering gifts of baseballs and mitts.
Thursday, December 06, 2007
Monday, December 03, 2007
I just noticed your comment on my blog, sorry it it's been a while since you asked your question! There are a couple of things we do to encourage first time obedience. One tactic I use regularly, and probably works best for grade school age and up, is that if the child doesn't respond cheerfully and right away to a request, a second job will be added. Pretty quickly the child learns that it would have been easier to just do the initial request in the first place. Doing the request immediately, but with a poor attitude also merits an extra job. We are also training them all to respond with, Yes, Mommy or Yes, Daddy (or something along those lines) when we call them. If they are in the middle of doing something it is entirely acceptable for a child to respond, Yes, Mommy, may I finish "X" first? I also try to be considerate about what and when I'm asking them to do things...unless, of course, it was an assigned chore which should have been completed already. For the younger ones, practice seems to work best. If I call a little boy and he doesn't respond (or responds in an inappropriate way), we practice responding. I call the little boy and he responds (appropriately), multiple times. My goal is to make disobedience as mind-numbingly dull as possible. Practicing going into his room and not slamming the door ten times is just not on the average 4 year old's list of fun activities. The door hasn't been slammed since. I have found that if I am inconsistant, neither of these tactics work. The children are willing to play the odds to see if I carry-out the consequences. If I make a point to enforce the consequences every single time, even when it is not convenient for me, the results are seen nearly immediately. Also, I try to dole out the consequences in my most "matter-of-fact" way. (This can be hard for me sometimes when I just want to stand and scream...and sadly I'm not always able to stop myself from giving into this sinful behavior.) But, by taking the emotion out of it, and acting as though this is just what happens, the children respond better and don't feel as though it is a personal attack.
Oh, and still no call...about anything related to adoption or Dong Nai province or Vietnam.
Saturday, December 01, 2007
Monday, November 19, 2007
Refreshed from his dip in the pool, Mr. Adventure Guy must have decided to go
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
To start, some definitions...
compliance n. 1. the act or process of complying to a desire, demand, or proposal or to coercion 2. a disposition to yield to others
obedience n. submissive to the restraint or command of authority
As a parent, I would much rather have an obedient child than a compliant child. Why? It is because obedience involves a conscious decision, while compliance is an unconscience character trait. To me, a compliant child is one who has no inner strength; a child who is so used to giving in to others that it is not a decision, but a habit; a child who has no sense of what true authority is, and is in danger of led astray.
An obedient child, on the other hand, is a full participant in what is asked of him or her. Obedience involves a choice; it is active, not passive. Obedience also recognizes authority. Only true authority requires obedience. Obedience does not require giving in to just anyone with a demand, but requires knowledge of who deserves to be obeyed.
So why don't we hear about obedience with regard to modern child-rearing? We hear about self-esteem, independence, child identity, and spirited children, but when was the last time you picked-up a parenting magazine (I spend a lot of time waiting in the orthodontist's office) and saw a big headline: "Create an Obedient Child" ? I believe it's because obedience isn't just for children, but adults also have areas where they should be obedient. We should be obedient to the laws of our country, to supervisors and bosses, and, for believers, to God. But it makes us squirm a bit, this idea of being obedient, with its implied definition of submission, to another person. We want to jump to those exceptional circumstances, that more likely than not will never happen, to explain why we can't do this obedience-thing. We have trouble with absolutes, and obedience sounds pretty, well, absolute.
I think there is another side to obedience, though. And I believe when God speaks of obedience in the Bible, this is what is meant. Requiring obedience is a form of love. God knows what is best for us; if we listen to Him and obey Him, we will avoid a lot things that could make us miserable. It is the same with a child to a parent. The parent (usually) has the best interests of the child at heart. We ask things of our children because we believe that it is best for the child. We ask our children to obey us because we love them and want what's best for them. Please note, I'm not saying by obeying God, we will avoid all unpleasantness in life, this isn't true. A child who obeys a parent is not spared pain, either. The pet will still die, other children can still be cruel, mistakes will still be made; we live in a fallen world.
It may not be popular, but we, as a family, will continue to work on obedience. It is something we practice. The children practice first-time obedience to J and I, and J and I practice first-time obedience to God. It is not always easy, and often what is asked of us is difficult. It is a discipline. A discipline through which God shows His love to us and through which we show our love to our children.
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
To Whom It May Concern,
I am an adoptive parent and strongly support your efforts on behalf of the orphans of the world. I am writing because of what I see as a glaring omission in your campaign. That is the issue of ethics in adoption. I am sure you are not unaware of the crimes committed against children and families in the name of adoption. Cambodia has closed because of it and Guatemala is well on the way. Vietnam was closed for 2 ½ years, but has reopened, though it doesn’t seem as though the problems with child trafficking have gone away. As Christians, I believe we should be the first in line to object to these practices. In an effort to supply the demand for healthy, young infants that prospective parents in the West desire, children are being ‘procured’. Biological parents are either being paid outright for their children or are being lied to with promises of education. Either way, the child’s history is erased and his or her past becomes a black hole with no hope of finding the truth. We cannot allow this to continue and one of the only ways to stop it is to educate the public in general and prospective adoptive parents in particular that these practices occur.
It seems that many prospective adoptive parents are unaware that adoption is more than rosy pictures of children and parents being joined to create a family. They are unaware that many agencies sound good but are really only in adoption for the money. Unfortunately, prospective parents sign with these agencies and it is not until they have lost thousands of dollars and still do not have a child or they do have a child but find out what they thought was the child’s history is all a lie that they realize they should have done some research before choosing an agency. Sadly, even some agencies with the title “Christian” in their name put the money before the child.
Please as you continue to encourage families to consider adoption, be sure to tell them to do their research. There are ethical agencies out there. But it is too important a decision to make without knowing exactly to whom a family is giving money. We are called to be wise stewards of our money and to stand for what is right. Encouraging families to do their research before signing with an agency would seem to be in keeping with the dictates of Scripture.
Thank you for your time,
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
On the whole, I have been quite peaceful (especially for me) about K's whole adoption. There have been bumps along the way...last Friday for instance...but they have been rare. This process has taken at least twice as long as TM's, but I was far more anxious during TM's shorter process. Since I am a world-class worrier by nature (my personal motto seems to be "Jump to the worst-case senario first"), I have surprised myself by my reletive equilibrium. This sense of peace I can attribute only to God. All along I have felt this adoption orchestrated by Him; it is in His control.
It doesn't hurt, that 6 children keep me pretty busy and leave not so much time for obsessing. Plus, there are other outside distractions, such as having a family of 10 as houseguests for two days. Last night we said good-bye to our new "real life" friends, the Greens. Kim and I knew each other through blogs and emails, but had never really met. Another real life friend of mine also knew Kim, but only through the computer as well. We all decided it was time to meet face to face. So the Greens drove in, and the three families spent two days getting to know each other. Between us we have 20 children, but we managed to feed and house everyone. The children all made friends and had a ball playing together and the adults all made some new "real" friends.
One of the highlights of the visit was taking everyone to visit the Museum of Science and Industry. We were joined by a fourth family which made the child tally jump to 25...and we didn't lose anyone. (Well, at least not for long.) We did have to spend time explaining to more than one person, that, no, we were not a school group, but just a group of friends. Travelling with 25 children, does make one stand out a bit.
Now, all this is not to imply I wouldn't like the phone to ring RIGHT NOW, but I continue to remind myself that God's timing is perfect. God's timing and my timing are not always the same thing, but since God knows better than I, I will wait for His.
Friday, November 02, 2007
Thursday, October 25, 2007
But back to the poor excuse for a workshop...to help them with the gold award, each girl must find a mentor. It was suggested to the scouts that they should probably look for a young woman in her 20's, who has a full-time job and is "with it." When my daughter and her friends asked if they could have their mothers be their mentors for the project, they weren't given a flat-out "no", but were strongly dissuaded from considering the idea. It seems, in the wisdom of the Girl Scouts, that it would put too much strain on an already strained relationship and that the mothers might be tempted to do too much of the work. It just wouldn't work.
After the meeting, where other questions or comments the girls had were either ignored or shut-down, the three girls approached the leader of the workshop. My daughter assures me they were polite and respectful as they voiced their concerns about some of the views expressed. This is what M reports having said, "We don't mean to be rude, but we would like you to rethink your position on mothers as mentors. We all get along with our mothers. They are homemakers, raise children, and homeschool us. They are our role models and we want them to be our mentors. We think you should rethink the stereo-typical way that you portray the relationship between mothers and daughters." At this point, as she's telling me, I'm feeling rather sniffy and thinking I should get a tissue. I am so proud of her for standing up for her beliefs and am so thrilled that she could tell me about it.
As an aside, I'm sure you're wondering why my daughters are still in Girl Scouts if I have such issues with them. It's because I love the troop they're in and the adults who lead it. The adult who attended the meeting was just as upset as the girls were.
Saturday, October 20, 2007
Monday, October 15, 2007
Monday, October 08, 2007
But, we a have a solution. I wish I could take credit for the brilliance of it, but the credit has to go to the above-mentioned friend. So, the answer to our child care conundrum is that we will be taking M and B to Vietnam as well as TM. This solves our problem in multiple ways. First, it lessens the number of children requiring care. Three children will fit in our friends' home much easier than five. It could possibly lessen the trauma that TM will experience, and having a big brother and sister along will at least be distracting. We will have two pairs of extra hands for carrying, entertaining, and various other sherpa-like duties. M and B are old enough (14 and 12) to remember the trip. They are both excellent travellers and both are adventurous eaters. Plus, they are both excellent company and can be very entertaining. M, exhibiting her oldest daughter traits, has already started planning, down to details such as what will be going on the IPod.
There are only two negatives to the whole plan. The first is that it will obviously cost more money. But, hey, at this point it's only money, right? The other downside is that we can't take everyone. A in particular is feeling that life isn't very fair right now. But, she's only 9 and she's got time for other trips in the future. (Still, it was very sad to have her break down sobbing when she heard the news.)
I'm feeling much more at peace about travelling since we made this decision. Having come to this point I can say I'm ready...really, really ready...to get that call that we have provincial approval.
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
Four Things About Adoption
Four things I thought about adoption when I was a child:
- That adoption was a normal way to build a family (I had adopted cousins)
- That I wished my parents would adopt
- That I fantasized about children being left on our doorstep to raise
- That I wanted to adopt when I was an adult
Four things I've learned since then:
- Adoption involves incredible joy and incredible loss
- It's not the "easier" way to have a child join a family
- Attachment is hard work...and that attachment goes both ways
- Love is a choice first and an emotion second
Four things that are hard about adoption:
- Being at the mercy of governments and bureaucracies
- That other people don't see my family the same way I do
- Missing out on the early years of my child's life
- Not instantly falling in love with my child
Four ways my adopted child has surprised me:
- How quickly he learned English
- His unwillingness (or inability?) to talk about his life in Vietnam
- How much I would melt when he gave me the first real hug
- How close TM and D would become
Four things I wish everyone knew about adoption:
- Not all players in the adoption game have the best interest of the children in mind. There are unethical agencies out there....prospective adoptive parents need to do their research.
- I am the lucky one, not the child
- That boys are just as desirable as girls
- Intercountry adoption is the last best choice for a child. Other avenues should be pursued that seek to maintain family and country ties.
Friday, September 28, 2007
It's an endless source of amusement to our kids that both E. and I are capable of bawling as we read them certain books. E. just finished reading aloud The Last Battle, the final Narnia book, tonight (to A. and P., this time), and that final chapter did her in. Somehow, she struggled to the end, gulping back the tears, but it wasn't easy. I would've been no better, having done the same thing. I've also been reduced to tears reading aloud from the final chapter of The Lord of the Rings. And both E. and I are nearly incapable of reading aloud from The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey (a wonderful picture book). The only way we can get through it is to read tag team.
I think that as I get older, I find myself more emotionally vulnerable (?) to stories. In certain literature classes that I teach, there have been times when I've nearly broken down in tears reading aloud to the class. This has happened with passages from King Lear, poems by Dylan Thomas (and others), and Flannery O'Connor stories. -- And I'm grateful that E. shares this proclivity. How awful it would be to have a spouse who was baffled by or dismissive of this quirk.
Of course, this doesn't mean that we don't enjoy reading these stories! It just means we have to keep the tissues handy. Ah well, it amuses the children. And I have no doubt that at least some of them will suffer the same fate.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
His first repetitive phrase was, "But it not". This one lasted most of the winter, and while it was trying to hear him use it ad infinatum, it has become a family catch phrase. TM also spent a lot of time this winter comparing things, "That car is like our car....but it not." "That ____ is like ____ ... but it not." You get the idea. Then one day we realized we couldn't think when the last time we heard TM say, "But it not". I wasn't sad at the time, but I kind of miss it now.
"But it not" was replaced by "It a long, long day." As you can guess, this was useful as he spent the spring trying to figure out how long things lasted. I didn't find "It a long, long day" quite as endearing and was not sad to see it go.
Now, evidently, TM feels the need to conquer size and the phrase of the season is, "As big as the whole world." It is with great relief that I tell you that TM seems to be reducing his need for repetitive phrases and that the food on his plate is NOT "As big as the whole world."
I fear that I will look back on this phase and think how easy I had it. You see, TM, who along with his very inquisitive mind, also has a need to conquer his physical world through muscle and speed. He has amazing physical strength and agility and seems to be something of an adrenalin junkie. His dearest wish right now is to be able to ride faster than B (who's 12) on his bicycle, and if he could do that while riding with no hands life would be just about perfect. J and I sometimes torture ourselves by imagining what sort of high risk career TM will be drawn to. Fighter pilot, NASCAR driver, and X-Game participant are all things that have come to mind.
On the adoption front, still no word that K's dossier has been approved. I was really thinking last Friday was the day we would hear something....but it not.
Saturday, September 22, 2007
In order to make the new sink fit, J. had to remove the "soap dish" which had been "installed". This is what lay underneath. So, on top of the sink, tile work was also required. (Yes, that is wood and rubble you are looking at.)
So, after four weekends, five trips to the hardware store, a new drill bit, and some choice words for the manufacturer of the cheapest sink that our big box home improvement store sells, we have a new sink....The bathroom is still ugly, but a little more functional. And we can turn off the water supply without running down two flights of stairs!
Friday, September 14, 2007
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
A part of me hesitates to write this because I don't want it to sound as though I regret adopting TM, or I don't love him, or that my life is completely miserable because he is our son. None of those statement is true in the least. TM's trauma is not who he is. Who he is is a bright, talkative, thoughtful, energetic, obedient, cheerful, dinosaur-, plane-, and truck-loving boy whom I am proud to call my son. Dealing with his trauma is just something that is a part of life. It seems little different to me than the fact all of our biological children have to suffer through the bad collision of genes that make up their mouths. They all have very narrow mouths and very large teeth, the roots of whom do not dissolve on their own, but must be pulled. We know our orthodontist and oral surgeon quite well by now, and there are still two to go. But wearing braces and expanders does not define them, even though application, care, and maintenance (not to mention the price) of all that metal can be a pain...it's just what has to be done. I think the tricky part is that it is so much easier to apply this to issues that can be seen, it is more difficult to do this when the issue is emotional. It takes a while to find out who the real child is underneath the fear.
Thursday, September 06, 2007
Wash as much kale as you are going to eat. (I use two bunches and never have leftovers.) Rip it into largish size pieces...potato chip size. Place them in a mixing bowl and mix well with olive oil...I don't have an amount, just until they are all coated. Place the pieces in a single layer on a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt. Bake for 10-12 minutes in a 350 degree oven until the kale is crisp but not brown.
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
Saturday, September 01, 2007
Monday, August 27, 2007
Monday, August 20, 2007
Thursday, August 09, 2007
So, what do I answer? Often I mutter something about it not being really so hard and that the children help out a lot and that really it's just a matter of more laundry and cooking larger amounts of food. This will often end the interrogation, er, discussion. But the questioner never seems convinced. The forced smile and slow shaking of the head imply that I have discovered some secret that I'm not willing to share.
I don't feel as though I am holding back on anyone, but I think there are some factors that are peculiar to large, homeschooling families that we know, but others may not be aware of. (And, for the record, we are, in comparison to some of the other families of which I know, not a very large family at all.) So, without further ado, my "secret" to how I do it:
- In my opinion, having more children is easier than having just one or two. I am not responsible for everything; there are a lot of other workers in my home. Everyone has chores, appropriate to their age. With a lot of workers, that's a lot of jobs I don't have to do. I do very little with the laundry these days and B. just learned to make bread. I actually spend more time supervising and checking that jobs were completed than doing any jobs myself. I noticed how much my children pitch in when two of them were gone for a week...it was more work having them gone. (To be clear, we're not talking hours of labor here, I don't think anyone has more than half an hour of work a day.) Plus, there is always someone to play with. I don't have to be the sole entertainment. They often play together, which gives me a suprising amount of time to myself...outside of the bathroom, even. I find that six children is infinitely easier than two children were. But it does force you to learn to delegate and relinquish some control over how things get done.
- The homeschooling issue is the other part of the equation that trips people up. The problem is that a parent of schooled children takes their experience and instead of replacing it with what happens in our home, adds on what they think is happening. For example, in talking with friends, it seems that the two areas of life that are particularly stressful for families with children who attend school are (1)getting everyone ready and out of the door on time and (2)homework and fitting in other classes and such. Both of these stressful parts of the day don't exist for us. We have a time we aim for starting our bookwork, but it's flexible and sometimes it's a little earlier and sometimes it's a little later...and if the day has not started well, sometimes the teacher is still in her pajamas. Most of the bookwork is completed before lunch, which leaves us with plenty of time for classes and outside activites, and there is no homework. I believe that having our children home with us also makes their interactions with each other easier to manage. There have been times throughout the years that one or two or three of the children will be involved in things that have them out of the home for signigicant amounts of time for several days in a row. It is these periods of leaving and coming back that I find most challenging. There are many more altercations between siblings when the one who was gone returns and has to readjust and find their place in the family again than when someone is gone for just an hour or two.
- Finally, probably the biggest "secret" to how I do it is simply that I'm home... and making a home for my husband and children is what I enjoy and what I focus a lot of attention on. It is not dull and I can't think the last time I was bored. I enjoy spending time with my children, discovering who they are and helping to guide them into adulthood. They are not my sole interest or focus of my attention, though. I have outside interests and activities...I do get out of the house. But I try to be careful about the balance of how I spend my time. Too much time spent on things outside the home just makes the work of running a home harder. There have been times when life has seemed too out of control, but often it is when we have become too busy and must rethink our schedule.
It is somewhat counter-intuitive that when everyone is home and together more, life is correspondingly easier, but it seems to be the case for us. I don't feel like Superwoman. (Or look like her for that matter....I tend to avoid spandex.) There are many things I don't do: baby books jump to mind (no one, not even the oldest has one); the tennis class I took was a bust; the list could go on and on. And there are many things I only do moderately well. And then there are the things I continue to try to do but have yet to do even moderately well. Plants - indoor or out- are an example. My mother-in-law used to rescue houseplants from my home to take to hers and nurse back to life. It's funny that they never seemed to return once they were green again. I still continue to try to grow plants but can't shake the feeling that when I'm at the nursery, they are all cowering in fear each pointing to his leafy neighbor and looking as sickly as possible so as to try and ward off certain death from coming home with me.
But back to original question of "How do I do it?" The short answer, for those of you who have made it through the long one, is: I don't. That is, I certainly don't do it on my own. The Bible's directive to pray without ceasing must have been aimed at mothers. I find myself praying pretty constantly, for patience, strength, wisdom, the list goes on and on, but always with great thankfulness that God has blessed me with the care of these wonderful children. I couldn't do it without His support and strength; I am not the perfect parent, but He is.
Friday, July 27, 2007
Thursday, July 12, 2007
We have not always been a TV-free family. (Note: For the sake of argument, I will consider being TV-free as not watching commercial or cable television. This is different from being monitor-free... i.e. no screen-related activities of any kind.... [Sort of like vegetarian vs. vegan....] ) Our oldest two children have certainly watched their share of PBS shows in their younger days, and J. and I once had shows that we enjoyed watching most nights of the week. (Back in the days of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and "Deep Space Nine"!)
As M. got older, though, I noticed that if she watched television (or any TV-type thing), she was whiny and cranky and generally unpleasant. The whining was often over wanting to watch more TV. To preserve my sanity, I decided it was better to not allow TV in the morning, even if it meant I had to stop using it as a babysitter. A happy child who wanted to help me during the morning was better than a half hour to myself followed by an hour of torture. Besides, nap time was coming right after lunch. It was at this same time that J. and I realized that M. was much more aware of the world around her and we became more conscious of what we were viewing. Did we really want our little girl to hear or see some of these things? There was also the question: If our daughter shouldn't see something, should we even be watching it ourselves?
Our whole family's TV watching continued to decline to the point where the children were watching no TV, and J. and I watched just a couple of shows. We never started watching any new series, so as the shows ended, we were left with nothing that we regularly watched. Consequently, when we moved to our new house, we decided not to have a television in any of the living areas. We had a family room in our old house where the TV lived, but our new house was set up very differently and there was no obvious place for one. Our one little 9-in TV went to live in the guest room, where it lives forgotten by all most of the time.
We did not stop watching television because we believed that all TV is BAD; it's not. There are some good things on television. We stopped watching because most things on TV just aren't worth our time. Both J. and I look at our lives now and wonder how we had time to watch even the smallish amount of TV that we did. We don't miss it.
Now to the original question of hypocrisy if one eschews television, but still watches DVDs. I guess for me the question is one of intent and money. What was the reason we stopped watching the television? We didn't like the time it took; we didn't want to expose our children to some of the things on it; and we wanted to model what we saw as a mature way of dealing with media to our children. We didn't stop because we saw something inherently evil in watching something on a screen. I also try to be careful about where my money is going. I won't pay for cable and am too cheap to pay for any of the services that allow you to tape television. Renting DVDs seems like a good option for us. We can choose what comes into our home and when we watch it. We can also preview a show that we aren't sure about before letting our children watch it. And yes, we can even rent a television show we might be curious about but never saw. (Though often we do this out of sheer curiosity and are usually disappointed... I'm beginning to think I am humor-impaired.) And I will admit that when one is sick in bed (and when getting up will have disastrous consequences), a movie (or two or three) can be a very good thing.
So, I guess I agree with my gut that I'm not being hypocritical in my actions. (Well, OK, that last argument might have questionable worth.) Ultimately, I want to be the one to control the medium. I want my viewing to be an intentional decision on my part. For me, at least, the continual flow of broadcast entertainment that keeps going as long as the TV is turned on means that I am more likely to continue to watch, even after the original show that I chose to watch is over, controlled by the medium. After all, that's what all broadcast TV is all about: hooking viewers so that they ooze seamlessly from show to show and ad to ad, without any inclination to turn it off.
Maybe we could get the same "broadcast-TV-free" effect with something like TiVo or another digital videorecording device... but I'm not sure it's the same thing. To some extent, these devices still render the viewer at the mercy of the broadcaster. I expect that I'd record lots of things just because they might be interesting... and then feel obligated to watch them because I'd gone to the trouble of recording them.
Maybe there will come a day when we decide to make a clean break from all video and film entertainments, but that position seems more extreme than I'd like to live with. (Similarly, while we don't consume a regular diet of meat, we also love the occasional hunk of medium-rare steak. No vegans here.) -- So, I declare myself not a hypocrite... but rather a reactionary who prefers not to give the broadcasters a toehold.
Monday, July 09, 2007
We did find out that K. only had his lip repaired. But we also learned a new piece of information in that the doctor reported that his palate was not too bad, so he didn't want to repair it at the same time. I'll take this as good news; we had no idea about the extent of clefting in his palate.
In housekeeping (blog keeping?) news, I apologize for anyone's comments not showing up. It seems the moderate comments option had somehow become engaged and my techno-savvy self didn't realize it. I think I have fixed it, so feel free to comment. Really. Yes, you, the three people out there who read this.
Friday, June 29, 2007
The other part of the update states that he is now crawling (very fast...he will fit right in with the other boys in the house) and is beginning to pull to a stand. He likes attention and smiles when people talk to him. This was all two months ago, so who knows what he is doing now.
We are now at the 4 month mark of waiting for K. For TM's adoption, 4 months was the total time we waited after submitting paperwork...this adoption is looking to be twice as long. I'm beginning to wonder if planning on travelling in January might be a good idea...
Sunday, June 24, 2007
Saturday, June 16, 2007
The prize for signing-up for our library's summer reading game was headbands with alien heads on springs. (It's a space theme this summer, so not entirely random.) The littles had a lot of fun with them. Especially TM and D, who made-up a new game...
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
As far as I can tell, the summer looks to be costume-free. That's good. I can store up my costuming energy for next year. The middle ages follows Rome and I can no longer get away with clothing everyone in long, white pieces of cloth like I did for Egypt, Greece, and Rome. That's seven actual, constructed costumes (J and I can wear what we wore last time...it will fit, it will!) Maybe I should just start now....
Thursday, May 31, 2007
Thursday, May 17, 2007
Attachment-wise, things have improved considerably. The concerns I voiced the last time I posted about this have pretty much disappeared. The need to talk all the time has abated. He still talks a lot, but it seems to have lost its controlling edge. The amount of things that were "accidently" broken has also lessened. TM is learning to be more careful and is developing self-restraint that he didn't have before. He can still get wound-up when stressed, but like everything else, its intensity is less. He seeks out hugs and attention from J and me and it has been a long time since I felt as though he is avoiding eye contact. TM and D have become the best of friends. They play together, often by making up elaborate imaginative games, all the time. Except when one has punched the other one....then they are upset with each other for a few minutes, after which they go back to playing. As I was describing this process to a friend, she said that sounds just like any pair of four year olds....perfectly normal...what beautiful words.
As I think about the last ten months, I'm coming to the conclusion that in some ways the whole process has been the most difficult for me. (By saying this I in no way want to discount the enourmity of what TM has weathered...4 placements in 3 1/2 years, loss of loved foster parents, loss of country, loss of first language and having to learn a new one...it's huge. Looking back, I'm suprised how few problems we've really had.) While I knew that TM faced many challenges in joining our family, I didn't fully acknowledge the challenges which faced me. I didn't fully understand the work and faith it takes to fall in love with a child...especially one that isn't acting very lovable. With my biological children, there was no effort in loving them. The minute each of them was placed in my arms, I was madly in love. It just happened; nothing was required of me. With TM, I overestimated the automaticity of this process. I didn't immediately love TM (or even really like him) at first. I had to decide to love him. I had to decide to act toward him as if I felt love, even if it wasn't what I was feeling. One of the biggest lessons I have learned is that love is a conscious, intentional act; it is so much bigger than just what one feels.
Through this whole experience, I have learned many, many things about God and about my relationship to Him. I have learned that good and safe are not the same thing. To worry about doing what is safe is to miss out on something that can be wonderful. I have learned that God will get you through the hard parts. Adopting TM is one of the hardest thing I have ever done. There were times it was so hard I found it difficult to pray. I relied on Scripture which I had memorized (it would come unbidden into my mind) and on the support and prayers of friends. I have learned that in order to see God work, you have to take an initial step in faith. You have to be like Peter and get out of the boat.
Now all of these things are good and wonderful things to know about God, but I believe that only by watching and experiencing human adoption can we even come close to understanding the idea of being adopted by God into His family. We initiated our relationship with TM, just as God initiates His relationship with us. TM didn’t really want to be part of the adoption. In fact, he openly fought it tooth and nail (literally). During his rages, J and I would hold him and tell him over and over again how we loved him. If we, as imperfect, human parents, can do this, even if we are not necessarily feeling love, how much more does our Heavenly Father love us? I will forever have the image in my head, whenever I am feeling upset with God and spewing my anger at Him, of God holding me in His arms while I rage, telling me He loves me. We chose to love TM, even when he wasn’t being lovable. I am sure I often act in an unlovable way, but now I am absolutely certain that God loves me in spite of myself. Adoption is truly a miraculous thing.
There is one last thing I have learned. From TM's point of view, the worst had happened. He lost everything: home, country, language, and the only parents he could remember. To him, our adoption of him was a tragedy. But, from an adult perspective, the situation was very different. As a ward of the state, TM had no future. There was no guarantee that he would be able to stay with his foster parents. They were an older couple and it was uncertain if they would be around to support him as he grew older. His prospects were not very rosy. Through adoption, he has a permanent family with a secure and bright future. How often do we bemoan events, when our viewpoint is too limited to make a real judgement about the “goodness” of things? I am certain, if we could see things from God’s perspective, we would find ourselves saying, “Of course, this is the way it has to be.”
As a result, I'm supposed to nominate five other blogs that make me think. The first is The Green Family. I admire the way Kim is able to act out her faith and she often says something that I find myself pondering over. Next comes Mommylife. Barbara writes about on a broad spectrum of topics and is always gracious and logical in her arguments. Thirdly, Amy at Amy's Humble Musings can always be counted on to be funny or thought provoking...or (often) both. My newest find is Jess at Making Home. She has many, many thought-provoking posts. Finally, I want to put in a plug for Mrs. Broccoli Guy's newest endeavor, Voices for Vietnam Adoption Integrity. It is brand-new, but there are already three very excellent posts touching on ethics in Vietnamese adoptions.
Thursday, May 10, 2007
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
The furniture is from J's mother's house which we are hopeful will sell at the end of the month. (That is, if everyone can agree on what we pay for, what we don't pay for, what we fix, what we don't fix, etc.) The moving van arrived yesterday with our share of the larger items. Some of the pieces we have made room for, but not all. I think I was a great source of amusement to the three moving guys. They would bring in something...it was wrapped so well I could never tell what it was...and ask where I wanted it. So, I would have to ask what it was and they would unwrap it. Upon seeing what was arriving, I would say something along the lines of, "Ohhhh, I didn't know that was coming. Well....just put it in the living room for right now." (This has to be heard in the vaguest voice possible.) While not hysterical, long about the 5th or 6th time I could tell the movers were becoming quite amused. The funniest moment for me was when one of them brought in a box and asked where I wanted it. "It's full of wood," he says. I'm sure I baffled him since I actually had a place for it (unlike some of the seemingly more useful items.) It was a box of wooden blocks, and of course it went with all of our other blocks.
Right after our living room became a public storage look-a-like, we all piled into the van to go to the vermicomposting class I signed us up for. This seemed like a good idea. I had been meaning to do some composting, all the children like worms, and the worms have the added benefit of providing food for the various reptiles and amphibians in residence when other sources of food run low. When I signed-up, the description of the class said that we would come home with a vermicomposting set-up. Silly me, I took this to mean that we would come home with actual worms. But, I was wrong. Instead I paid for the most expensive plastic bucket and shredded newspaper I will ever buy...and still no worms. Now all of the children are excited about feeding the worms so I will have to buy them. Our (very expensive) bucket can hold ~1 pound of worms, or about 1000 of the wiggly things. I was shocked to discover that red worms run about $25.00 a pound. That's more than steak; the frogs and turtle are going to be living well. Plus, our 1000 worms will be able to eat and consequently compost about one pound of vegetable matter a week, which sounds reasonable until you find out that a 2-person household generates about 5 pounds of vegetable matter a week. I'm not turning over a room (which is what our family of 8 would need) to worms so we can compost it all.
And to generate that much vegetable matter, it has to be purchased somewhere, which is why I was doing the grocery shopping today. At my the third of my regular grocery stores (don't ask, I'll blog about it someday), I was busy doing my comparison shopping (always look at the price per ounce on the sign, sometimes the smaller container is a better deal), an older man makes a comment to me. I always try to be nice, so I respond and go on my way. I didn't think anything about it until out of nowhere he approaches me again and says something. I respond again, perhaps not quite as cheerfully as the first time, and think it's odd. The third time he appears, I'm starting to become annoyed and am happy I'm done and can leave. As I push my cart toward my van, a car pulls up and the driver motions to me. I think it must be someone asking directions (I know, I know, it's amazing that I've made it to my 40th year), so I stop and it's the same guy again. This time he announced that he's a very good cook and would I like to come to his house for dinner. I reply that I'm sure my husband wouldn't like it and without missing a beat he says that's all right, he has a wife and we can both come. (So, now he is a jerk as well as a creep.) Always polite, I ask if that includes my 6 children. This does make him pause slightly then he ruefully shakes his head, says he has four and I have him beat and drives off. At this point I'm not sure whether to start laughing or call the police. I decided on the former, but compulsively kept checking my rear-view mirror all the way home.
Wednesday, May 02, 2007
Evidently I've been feeling a little crotchety lately, but there are a couple of things that are always guaranteed to tick me off. One is children being hurt as a result of adults' actions (see my previous post); another is when groups or organizations decide what constitutes the "correct" family size. Before I go on, I will admit that we have chosen to have a larger than average family, and do not expect special accomodation as a result. But I do expect clarity in language...don't say one thing when you mean another. When someone says "family" I take that to mean two adults and all of their children. I do not take it to mean 2 adults and 2 children. That is not my family, nor is it many other families that I know. How are we expected to choose which children to leave home? Draw straws?
The two areas that seem to have the most egregious offenders are contests and museum membership/entry prices. The most recent contest I came across is from Colorado...the Family Adventure Package [ http://www.letstalkcolorado.com/familypackage.html ] for You and three family members. Wouldn't it have been just as easy to say Group Adventure Package? It doesn't conjure up the same warm fuzzy feeling as "family", but then leaving people home doesn't seem very warm and fuzzy, either.
While annoying, the whole contest-thing doesn't bother nearly as much as museum memberships. Contests are completely extraeneous to life, but I love museums; I love to share them with my children, and I think my children benefit greatly from the exposure. We have many museums in the Chicago area and they run the gamut of how family-friendly their memberships are. The best one, in my opinion, is the Museum of Science and Industry [ http://www.msichicago.org/ ]. A family membership is just that. J, E, and all the younger Currys are welcome to come, no matter how many we are. I believe this is smart business for them. Sometimes, though certainly not always, we will purchase snacks or other things. The more mouths we bring, the more snacks we buy. Plus, that is a lot of people who grow up enjoying the museum and are likely to want to share that same experience with their own children.
On the other end of the spectrum is the Shedd Aquarium. My children love this museum, but I'm afraid our days of purchasing a membership are numbered. And, with no membership, there is no way I'm paying admission prices. We just won't go. I find the Shedd's membership policy to be extremely punitive to large families. Their family membership includes 2 adults and 4 children [ http://www.sheddaquarium.org/membershipbenefits.html ]. If you have had the gall to go past this number, you will pay an additional $15 per child. I find it hard to believe that a small 3 year old costs them $15 in maintanence a year. Also, by feeling gouged at the membership desk, I am far less likely to spend any extra money inside...they have enough of my money. To make matters worse, when J wrote complaining about their policy of only four children, a representative wrote back that perhaps we didn't know about the opportunity to purchase a membership for each additional family member. Gee, I don't know why I'm not jumping around all excited about this information, because, you know, I just sit around wondering how on earth I'm going to spend all my money....NOT! If this policy annoys you as much as it does me, perhaps you want to drop this institution a note [ http://www.sheddaquarium.org/contactus.html ].
In the mean time I have better ways to spend my money...food, clothing, property taxes...so we'll patronize the establishments who really are family-friendly. And maybe we'll buy a fish.
Thursday, April 26, 2007
I am very concerned about some of the things I have been reading in regards to adoption from Vietnam. I do feel for all the PAP's (prospective adoptive parents, for those of you not up on your adoption jargon.) out there who are trying to navigate the world of adoption. I remember how shocked and discouraged (still am...and hope I never cease to be) I was when I would read stories of the sordid underbelly that exists whenever large sums of money and children are combined. (For an example of how sordid, go to http://www.fleasbiting.blogspot.com/ )I do not see a frenzy over ethics occuring. In fact, I see just the opposite. Over and over I read requests asking which agencies have the fastest referrals and travel. But for those of us voicing concerns over the current situation in VN, just voicing concerns does not make a situation exist. Merely stating something does not call it into existence. There were people voicing conerns over Cambodia and others who denied any wrongdoing and the same situation occured in VN before the shutdown. Just because we don't like a situation does not mean we should remain quiet about it, especially if it means children will be harmed.
I am also concerned about the reports of 50-60 infants seen in orphanages. That is just an overwhelming number of babies, espcially in light of a report of the low number of children when she travelled during the moratorium. And if they were all abandoned, then, yes, I do find that very suspicious. Relinquishing a child is not illegal in VN and allows someway to check on thefacts of a child's history. Adoptions out of VN never completely stopped; children were being adopted to western countries...just not the US and Cananda. But when the US (and US dollars) entered the scene again. there seems to be an explosion of abandoned children. But only in certain areas. Not all the agencies licensed in VN have experienced this same epidemic. I have read the arguments that it is a matter of area. But the agency we worked/are working with does not have orphanages filled with babies. And it's not that the orphanages are in remote areas that are sparsely populated. They are in the three major population areas of the country. Curious.
I am also not sure I buy the argument that poor mothers are hoping for a better life in the US for their child and that is the deciding factor in sending the child to the orphanage. I'm not saying it never happens, but that cannot be an explanation as to why there are suddenly so many babies. I would bet that many of the general VN population have no idea of the numbers of VN children that are adopted to the US and other countries. A country does not publicise the fact that they are sending children away. If you don't believe me, go ask someone in your community if they know that the US is a sending country for Canada and Europe...mainly of African-American infants.
Adoption should be about the child. They are the part of the triad who have absolutely no voice in the process. Birth parents may feel as though they have no choice or may have been given wrong information in the making of their decision. For them, my heart breaks and I pray for a world where no parent has to relinquish a child. I would hope that agencies and facilitators do not act too fast, giving birth parents time to reconsider. The best scenario would be that the agency would do all in their power to keep the birth family together. If infants are referred at 1 month old, how could any of this been tried? Prospective adoptive parents may also feel as though they have no voice. Others approve us, others match us with a child, others approve or disprove the match...but we also know what is happening. We are adults and aware of the implications of our actions, and we can always say, "No". An infant or young child has no power to say "No" to an adoption. The adults in the game are expected to act in the child's best interest. But, it seems, too often the adults act in their own best interest. I believe international adoption is a child's last best choice. To remove a child from birth family and birth country, culture, and language is no small thing. And just because we are richer and have more resources and opportunities does not make it OK. Read Camryn Mosley's statement at the trial of Lauryn Galindo http://www.ethicanet.org/galindo_victim.pdf I am not againt intercountry adoption. I am the mother of one son from VN and waiting for another. For children who have no other hope for a family of their own it is a wonderful thing. But it is not something to enter lightly. Our actions affect not only our own families but have far reaching consequences. Money poured into unethical agencies just encourages wrong-doing. Please do your research carefully and do not dismiss experienced voices because they say things that are uncomfortable or are things you don't want to hear. Remember you are entering into a business contract and the nicest, most sympathetic voice on the end of a phone does not guarantee that you are more important than your money.
Saturday, April 14, 2007
I promised my friend, Patty, that I would discuss the educational benefits of what we have come to call the "Oliver! Curriculum". Since Oliver! became all-consuming to our family for much of the month of March and left very little time for much else (we managed eating and sleeping...laundy didn't make the cut), I thought I would take a look at what our "learning outcomes" were as a result. So join me as I translate the musical Oliver! into education-eze.
- Listened to the unabridged recording of Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
- Discussed Charles Dickens -- where and when he lived, who his contemporaries were, and how he wrote his novels (He was paid by the word for those who are interested.)
- Memorized lines for Oliver!
- Compared and contrasted the novel, Oliver Twist, with the musical, Oliver!
- Discussed unusual vocabulary words, taking special note of archaic or Bristish-based words
- Discussed the use of satire to comment on social ills
- Improved public speaking skills
- Discussed the pricing of renting various musicals, why they were priced differently, and how that affected our choice of musicals
- Discussed the rental fees of different theaters--what was included and excluded, what extra or hidden fees there were (ie hiring cleaning staff, insurance), and how to figure total cost
- Discussed how ticket prices had to be based on the various costs of putting on the show
- Discussed the Victorian period in England--what was happening within England, what was happening in other countries, how was society different from ours at that time, how did society allow what happened to children such as Oliver, what effect did Charles Dicken's novels have on society
- Research on clothing of Victorian England
- Watched both live and recorded versions of Oliver!
- Learned the musical score--involved choral singing, solo singing, singing in parts, dynamics, articulation, awareness of pitch and tempo
- Practiced and improved acting skills and abilities
- Developed an awareness and understanding of the various roles and occupations available in theater--director, musician, actor, lighting coordinator, set designer, costumer, stage manager
- Learned choreography for show, including learning a gavotte
- Increased physical stamina--singing and dancing a two hour show is physically challenging
While these academic-type things are well and good, it is the intangibles that I believe make all the effort worthwhile. The cast members learned what it means to have someone depend on you and the consequenses if you don't do your part. They learned that to do something well takes hard work and that hard work pays off in the end. They learned to take directions and both compliments and criticism in a public setting. they learned to work with and become friends with a wide group of people. (The cast ranged from five years to adult.) They learned to speak in front of an audience. Considering the number of adults who are afraid to speak in public, this is a skill which will last a lifetime. So, while the math books may have gathered a little dust, I believe it was well worth it.
Thus ends my final post on Oliver! (really). The show went incredibly well and played to sold out crowds all three nights. The cast had a ball and the audiences loved it and I was incredibly proud of everyone. I laughed, I cried, it was better than Cats.