Friday, September 28, 2007

Books that make us weep...

[J]

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

But it not

One of the fascinating things about adopting a child who already has language is observing the switch from birth language to second language. TM was pretty functionally fluent in English by the time he was home four months. (I'm still not sure he is completely fluent, even at this point, anything that is a lot of just language...books without a lot of pictures for example...still seems to go over his head. But he is only 4 1/2.) Anyway, the process, while astounding, is not without some quirks. For TM at least, he will latch on to a certain phrase and use it over and over and over and over. And over and over until I am convinced that if I hear that phrase one more time my head will explode. It's not that he just goes around saying these phrases like a verbal tic, but more as a device to sort and categorize all the information coming at him. Then, once he has it out of his system, that certain phrase will disappear, never to be heard again.

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

I just wanted the drain unclogged

You have probably noticed that we call our home the "Big Ugly House". It was built in 1896 and was always big, but not always ugly. Over the years, there have been owners with questionable taste and an inflated sense of remodelling abilities who have left it with areas that, really, the only way to describe them is ugly. Well, ugly and often of questionable structural integrity. The masking tape holding the (live) electrical wires together gives a good sense of what we are up against.

In one of the bathrooms (not the ugliest, but in the running) the sink had recently been used to change the turtle's water which caused a few too many wood chips to go down the drain. So the drain became clogged. Blithely thinking that this would be a simple task, surely no more than a half an hour at the outside, I asked J. if he could clean out the trap and unclog the drain. Silly me! One thing led to another and it wasn't very long before the drain was empty. Well, empty and no longer attached to the sink, because there was no sink to which it could be attached.
This picture doesn't quite do the bathroom justice. What it doesn't show are the ripping linoleum tiles with the nice ceramic tile underneath. Or the area by the radiator where it was difficult to lay the cheap tiles, so white paint was used instead. Or the bright yellow butcher paper thumb tacked to the ceiling. Knowing that much of the "remodelling" that was done was just a big cover-up job for real problems, none of us have been brave enough to remove the butcher paper to see what lurks underneath.
The reason the whole sink went, was that as J. was removing the pipe to clean it out, the sink started to fall apart. He discovered that the sink was not attached to the vanity, the whole thing was not attached to wall, the only way to turn off the water were valves in the basement, the list goes on....

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

He's not a baby anymore!


We just received our quarterly update on K. The lip repair looks pretty good and the report says he is eating and drinking better as a result. I knew he would look different after surgery, but the combination of surgery and a haircut makes him seem almost like a different child at first glance. He has learned to walk and evidently loves to play where there are a lot of children. That is a good thing, considering where he's coming home to.


I have to admit that each quarterly report becomes a little more difficult. There are huge milestones we are missing... parts of his past we can't ever back up and regain. It has been 9 months since we first saw K's picture. With TM, 9 months after we first saw his picture, we were in Vietnam meeting the real boy. Sometimes I can't even bear to think that we have at least 3 1/2 to 4 months before we can hold K. But, we are now at the point that we could realistically being to think that we will have the provincial approval we are waiting for. And when I think about that, instead of getting excited, I start to panic. I have done nothing, absolutely nothing (aside from buying one small outfit for K.) to prepare to travel. When that call comes I will have more to do than I care to think about.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

14 months

Both Mrs. Broccoli Guy and Law Mommy have posted recently about how they and their new children are faring. (I feel particularly connected to these women since we all used the same agency, all adopted the same age of child, and were all waiting together to bring our children home.) It makes me realize that I haven't written about TM in a while. TM has been home for about 14 months now. His...and my...adjustment continues. I find this to be a difficult thing to write about. TM has made so much progress in the last year. When I look back on last summer it hardly seems it is the same child that I am thinking of. In so many ways, he behaves completely age-appropriately in all areas of life. But...(you knew it was coming)...there are still some things that don't seem quite right. My compulsive reading on all things adoption and attachment related never stops, so here's what I've found. TM's oddities seem to match the behaviors of people suffering from trauma. Most of the time his behavior is fine, until he comes across one of the things that trigger his fear and anxiety. Up until this past week, I knew that vacations (and hotels and suitcases) and the Vietnamese language cause him to lose self-control. Well, this week has been the week of discovering more triggers, the most extreme being talking to someone using the camera phone on the computer. I had a suspicion before, but his transfer to us last summer was incredibly traumatic for him and we're still dealing with the fallout from that. All the things I mentioned are directly related to our adoption of TM last summer. Knowing what the triggers are seems to be half the battle, though. The first time we used Skype (so the children staying with us could talk to their parents) TM became pretty nutty...he looks very hyperactive when triggered...and when J tried to carry him to a different room he was thanked by a swift kick to the shins. But we have discovered something which helps him calm himself and short-circuits the fear response....the sling. Just holding him in my arms doesn't seem to do much, but by putting him in the sling, the extra fabric seems to act as swaddling which he finds quite calming. The calming results are nearly instantaneous, he will relax and his head on my shoulder after being in the sling for less than a minute. As an experiment, the second day I put TM in the sling before we joined everyone by the computer...and it worked! So, it seems if I know the triggers ahead of time I can take preemptive action and he will remain calm. You can bet that come January, he will be in that sling long before we walk into the government building for K's Giving and Receiving Ceremony. He missed Ho Chi Minh's statue the first time and I'm not taking any chances on giving him a second try. (If you need more clarification, look in the archives under July 2006 and scroll down to Chapter 7.)

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

The children who fight over kale

I sometimes feel as though I live in an alternate universe. At dinner tonight, there was great discussion from the nine children about how much kale they got to serve themselves and wondered if there would be enough for seconds. Really. I wish I could take credit for raising incredibly adventurous eaters, but two facts stop me. First, three of them are guests and I have had very little input into their eating habits. Second, this wasn't your average kale. These were kale chips which are really just a salt and oil delivery system. They are incredibly yummy. Here's how I make them so you can begin your own adventure with kale:

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.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

And then there were nine...

children that is, living in our home for the next fifteen days. Good friends of ours leave tomorrow for China to bring home their new 4 year old son. Two of their children are going with them and we are watching the other three. We spent the weekend making bed and dresser space for everyone and did a general tidying-up. Nine children in one home brings its own chaos and I didn't want to start already behind. I've gone to the store and have stocked-up on lots of food so no one will go hungry...at least for a few days. We'll spend tomorrow settling everyone in and organizing school stuff to be ready for our first official day of school on Thursday. So that gives us (temporarily) two 14 year olds, a 12 year old, an 11 year old, a 9 year old, a 7 year old, a 6 year old, a nearly 5 year old, and a 4 year old. They are all great friends, so it should actually be a pretty fun 2 weeks.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Bad Dreams

I know the wait is starting to get to me when I begin having bad dreams. The other night I had a really disturbing dream about K. I'll spare you the gruesome details, but suffice it to say it was one morning where I was glad to get out of bed. Our next quarterly update will be coming out this month and it will be a relief to see the pictures of K's repaired lip and that he is doing well. I'm choosing to believe my bad dream was not prophetic but merely the over anxious workings of my brain.
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