Thursday, June 26, 2008

One Month

It's been one month since we arrived home with K from Vietnam. When I think about all we've done this month it makes me realize why I'm tired. I want my relaxing summer to start! K's transition continues to be very easy. He is just the cutest and happiest little guy (who loves nothing more than an audience to make laugh). He even is starting to show me affection. He will come up and hug my legs, he wants me to pick him up, he smiles for me and makes more eye contact, and he started to cry when I left the house for a five minute errand on Tuesday. Up until that point, I wasn't sure whether he really cared yet if I was around or not. And so goes the dance of attachment...I love him, he begins to love me, I love him even more, and so on and so on.

On top of the happy stuff, we've also had a parade of therapists in here through Early Intervention to perform screenings on K. The second set was here yesterday, both a physical therapist and an occupational therapist. Not surprisingly, K qualifies for both types of therapies. He is most delayed (~14 month old) in the sitting aspect of his physical ability. He has a very curved back when he sits and just low muscle tone overall. But, the therapists were both very confident that within a few months of therapy he will be caught up to where he should be. I've been thinking about all the diagnoses that we've had for K over the past month and wondered why I'm not nervous or worried about any of them. I know one reason (and probably the biggest) is that my peace comes from God. I know K was meant to be our son regardless of his abilities and our job is to love him and help him to reach his full potential. We have no idea what God has in store for this little boy, but He's the one in charge...not me. But the other reason I feel calm is that I know K. He is a real, live person who is a charming child. His delays are not who he is. If I just saw a list of his delays written out on a piece of paper on a referral, without knowing the actual child, they would look serious enough that I might have second thoughts about bringing him into our home. The referral might go something like this:

The child is two years old and is very sociable. He has a repaired cleft lip and an unrepaired tooth ridge. He can walk and run and likes to follow his caretaker around the house. The child has no speech and makes very few babbling sounds although he seems to understand what is said to him. Physically, he is globally delayed, and exhibits low muscle tone, especially in his back. The child is underweight and has been malnourished. No physical cause for the lack of growth can be found. The child will need extensive therapy to help him meet his potential.

The child, my child, is so much more than his delays and inabilities. I certainly don't want to come across as arrogant or superior for having overlooked a child's areas of concern. Left to my own abilities, I am just as able to imagine horrible things happening in the future. I read waiting child listings and think, "Wow, I could never handle that!" But, when we allow God to work in us and use His eyes to see people as He sees them, perhaps all of us are able to do so much more than we thought we could.

There is a point to my little sermon here. The news came out yesterday that it appears that families with logged-in dossiers, who have not been matched with a child by September 1, will have those dossiers returned. They will not be allowed to be grandfathered in. I know there are people who read this blog who are waiting for a referral. I'm asking you to consider that maybe there is a child already waiting for you as you wait for a child. A child who on paper, might not look like you first imagined, but who would love you all the same. A child whose last chance at having a family of his or her own also ends on September 1. Many agencies have waiting children...I know Holt ( http://www.holtintl.org/cgi/photolisting/display.cgi?ID=B06-18&Index_re=9 )and WACAP (see below for a description about a little girl with Downs, whose fees have all been waived) both have children who have been waiting for a long time. No child, even apparently healthy ones, comes with guarantees; parenting any child requires a supreme act of faith. Take a leap and see what works of wonder and power God can work in your life.


Baby, 1 years old with Down syndrome, needs family quickly. She was abandoned. She enjoys food and is a good eater. She is a happy walker and when you hold her hands she is ready to explore her world. She can sit upright by herself and enjoys watching everything in her surroundings. She is a very active and happy baby who is quite social and attached to her caregivers. She is from Vietnam. No adoption fee as her agency adoption fees have been donated already. There is also a no-interest loan available. Dossier ready families and families able to submit their dossier by July 31st can be considered. Because of the adoption situation with Vietnam perspective families need to know this situation poses risks which may end in an unsuccessful adoption. WACAP will exhaust all possibilities to find this child a family, before Vietnamese adoptions are closed to U.S. citizens this summer. If you are dossier ready for an adoption in Vietnam or know someone who is, we> strongly encourage them to contact us about this child's future. WACAP (www.wacap.org) is a non-profit adoption agency. Contact FamilyFinders@ wacap.org, 1-800-732-1887

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Answered prayers

The whole time we were waiting for K to come home, one of my constant prayers was that God would keep him healthy...both emotionally and physically. From my compulsive reading habit, I was all too aware of how important the first few years of a baby's life are and how unsuited orphanages are at meeting a baby's needs. So as the wait dragged on (and on and on and on) this prayer became more urgent. Well, today K had his Early Intervention screening, done by a physical therapist and a speech therapist. And the verdict? He is delayed and qualifies for services; probably he will have two sessions a week. (Did I mention that E. I. comes to your house? Hallelujah!) But, I was expecting that. All along I had been saying it was much more like having a one year old (really like an 18 month old) than a two year old. And that is exactly the functional age that the therapists thought as well. (I guess I've learned something in the course of raising all these children.) But the really good news is that except for some low muscle tone as a result of sitting around in a crib a lot, he is just like an 18 month old. There seem to be no weird behaviors or disorders that can often be seen in institutionalized children (ie sensory problems, hyper-activity, inability to concentrate or interact, lack of curiosity, etc.) Other than the delays that go hand in hand with an impoverished environment, there were no concerns. I am so thankful!

In the course of the evaluation, both therapists kept telling me how wonderful it was that K was in a large family with so many brothers and sisters to play with and learn from. I find this highly ironic given my state's policy on adoption. (Warning! the following is a major rant that involves reading about details of foster licensing procedures and immigrant visa status...read at your own risk [of either being thoroughly confused or completely bored.]) I have the proud honor of living in Illinois, probably the absolutely worst state with regard to adoption in the country. In Illinois, in order to adopt, either domestically or internationally, the prospective adoptive parent must be issued a foster care license. This means that to adopt, one must qualify to be a foster parent even if there is no intention of becoming a foster parent.

So, it's a couple more hoops to jump through, so what? There's already enough paperwork in adoption to fell a forest, what's a couple pieces more? For most families, it's not a big deal, but large families are specifically penalized. In order to be a foster parent, there must be no more than six children in the household. If you have six and feel as though you can and want to parent more, you're out of luck. Obviously there are ways around this, since we just came home with number seven, and that's where the whole visa-thing comes in. Bear with me here. Children adopted from other countries arrive in the US on one of two types of visas: IR-3 and IR-4. On the IR-3 visa, once the child sets foot on US soil, they are a US citizen and the certificate of citizenship arrives in the mail several weeks later. On an IR-4 visa, the child is a resident alien, with the parents having custody but the adoption agency retaining legal guardianship until the child is readopted in the US. At the point, the child becomes the legal son or daughter of the parents and the child's citizenship can be applied for (for a hefty fee, of course). So back to IL, the process can be circumvented if the child comes home on an IR-3 visa because the parents are bringing their legally adopted child into the country and not even IL can tell a family they can't bring their own child home. But children from very few countries can come home on an IR-3. In order to qualify for an IR-3, some criteria must be met: 1) The adoption must be legally binding in the sending country. This disqualifies countries such as Korea and India whose courts only grant guardianship. And 2) Both parents must see the child BEFORE the adoption occurs. This makes countries such as Ethiopia difficult because usually families travel after the adoption has been granted in court. In order to come home on an IR-3, parents would need to travel twice, once to meet the child and once to bring the child home.

So why are large families discriminated against? Rumor has it that the woman in charge of approving family size waivers just denied a large family who was trying to adopt. The rumors say that there were concerns about the family being able to afford all of the children. I don't buy it. I think DCFS just doesn't like large families. If income were an issue, why would a woman on welfare be an approved foster parent?** (And yes, I know of a case.) It really feels as though no one in DCFS approves of or appreciates large families. I know not every large family is functioning and able to adopt, but the same can be said of families of any size. It is the blanket nature of the laws that I object to. It is also incredibly punitive financially. Money that could go to clothe and feed the children, must instead be spent on incredibly expensive plane tickets for a second trip around the world. It is wasteful and unneccesary.

I sometimes harbor fantasies that a grass-roots movement can begin and the citizens of IL will rise up and request a change to the laws...and that our elected officials will listen. But, I'm afraid living in IL for so long has made me an extreme pessimist when it comes to state elected officials. In some ways, the officials in K's province look upright, caring, and efficient in comparison. Until some very well-connected IL family (perhaps with the last name of Daley) has a large family and wants to adopt, I don't see any change happening. Oh, and no one knows about this it seems. (Although I will admit it's definitely a special interest case...but how many children are languishing in foster care because large families are not even looked at?) The therapists I mentioned this to today were astonished. They had no idea, and they were appalled that a large family so uniquely able to provide a nourishing environment for an adopted child should be barred from adopting.

So, if you have made it this far, congratulations! Either you are incredibly interested in adoption or you're avoiding cleaning the bathroom. Either way, feel free to speak up for the large families you know, especially if you happen to reside in the 'great' state of Illinois.


**Disclaimer! Please note I am not making generalizations about people who need to use welfare. I know that sometimes events happen out of people's control and welfare can help them get back on their feet. BUT, if DCFS is all so concered about finances, why should a family who is living at or above the 125% poverty level (required in international adoption) be denied when a woman who is below that is not?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Coming up for air

I realize that I've been AWOL here at the blog for a while. June has turned out to be busier than I expected it to be. Much of that has to do with what seems to be a new family tradition which involves embarking on long cross-country car rides with newly adopted children. So far, in less than a month, K has ridden in a car in 6 states. (TM still has him beat...by the time he had been home for four months he had been in 11 states.) Thankfully for all involved K has turned out to be a great traveller. We don't ever intend to drag our newest members on endless road trips...the timing of things just seems to happen that way. This time it was a visit to J's grandmother who turns 107 in August. (She's doing amazingly well, by the way, and if her eye sight was better, I'm pretty sure she could still beat us at cards.) Because of J's teaching schedule, last week was our one window of time where we could go. And it's the kind of visit that really shouldn't be put off. So, off we went, spending more time travelling than time at our destination. Books on tape are wonderful things.

But that's not all, 36 hours after returning from that trip, we turned our car in another direction and took A to camp. This trip was much shorter and we could return in the same day, but it still involved crossing state lines.

So, between the trips and necessary packing and unpacking they entailed, we are still moving into the newly redone portion of our house. This also involves a lot of unpacking. And then there were all of the doctor's appointments...and the homeschool conference I spent two days at...and the four birthdays and one anniversary (well, it's still to come [on Sunday], it will be our 17th)...and getting B ready for his first time at Boy Scout camp...and there are still painters and workmen around off and on...and my family is coming to visit in three weeks and at the moment they have nowhere to sleep as I haven't worked on those rooms at all...oh, and the minor little detail of integrating a new child into the family...well, you can see why blogging didn't even make the top 20 on my list of important things to do.

As you probably aren't really interested in my to do list, I'll move onto to how K's doing. The appointment with the surgeon went well and she confirmed what we thought. That is, K's palate is not cleft. The only clefting was his lip, which is repaired (she thought it was a very good repair), and his gum line. There is a small hole in his gum line that goes up through the nose and he's missing one tooth, but that's it. The best news is that he won't need surgery for another 4 to 6 years. At that time he will have a bone graft to repair the cleft gum. I am so thankful that his mouth is in such good shape. The other piece of good news we received today is that all the tests the pediatrician ordered have come back normal. We have also started to see some growth in his development. He says 'mama' and yesterday he said 'dada' (though these words aren't associated with anyone or anything yet). This is much more language than we heard in Vietnam. He also seems to be developing much more receptive language; he is beginning to understand what we are saying. We do have a speech therapist coming on Thursday through Early Intervention to do a screening. If K were a 1 year old, he would be right on target...my gut feeling is that there is nothing really wrong, he's just suffering from having lived in an impoverished environment for so long.

But all the medical stuff sometimes seems a distraction from what is really important: the question of how K is doing emotionally. I think I can honestly say he is doing very well, especially considering how short a time he has really known us. He really adores all of his brothers and sisters and B continues to be his absolute favorite. (I'm not looking forward to B being gone for a week. I can't exactly explain camp to K.) But there are still a few things that I'm keeping an eye on....behaviors that you don't normally see in a child who has never been moved. K still has a lot of trouble with eye contact, especially with me. It's getting better. I'm not giving him a bottle of chocolate syrup and half and half at night just to up his calorie intake. He loves it and is willing to meet my eyes more while he is drinking it. I'm also seeing more eye contact in everyday interactions. (That's as opposed to emotionally intense interaction where I am cradling him.) K is also slightly less avoidant with me in general these days. He came up to me a gave me a hug around the legs today. (It's these sweet little moments that keep me going.) He also still has a tendency to do the spacey orphanage stare when something is upsetting and to not show any reaction to getting hurt. We've tried to scoop him up and hold him close whenever either instance happens. On the whole these are truly minor things, though, and for the most part is a happy boy.

The experience of becoming TM's mother has proved to be very helpful with this adoption. In some respects the adoptions were like night and day...as difficult as one was, the other has been easy. But, even though they were different, I find myself dealing with some of the same stuff emotionally. I have now learned about myself that I do not fall in love instantly with an older child...I have to learn to love them. This terrified me with TM. I wasn't sure I would ever feel about him as I did my other children. But even if love isn't instanteous, it still happens and it's just as strong. Knowing this, I wasn't nearly as panicked when K felt like someone else's child for those first few weeks. Each day I act like I'm his mother and each day he feels a little less like someone else's child a little more like my own. I am constantly aware of how two-sided this whole attachment-thing is. But he is a charming little guy (and is really very cute now that his skin is rid of the scabies and the sores which resulted from them). I will say it is so much easier to learn to love someone who is not trying to do you bodily injury. (I love TM so fiercely now and he is such a great boy; looking back on those first few months is like remembering some other child.)

I'm looking forward to just staying home for the next couple of months and not have any major life events...no adoption to worry about...no remodelling...no big trips. Uneventful and calm sounds wonderful, though perhaps not the best blogging material. I'll do my best. I've had more than one person say we should write a book about our family. But really, I just can't believe it would be that interesting. Now, a book about taking seven children on a 'round-the-world-tour...that would be interesting. If we could only find an underwriter....

Thursday, June 05, 2008

It's always something

I had some nice pictures of the new kitchen to share. But, it seems that our camera has had something go seriously wrong. It was acting funny the last two days in Vietnam and now I know for sure. The pictures look fine on the camera's screen, but when I tried to upload them, the color was all off and whole sections of the picture didn't line up. I'm glad we hadn't taken anything truly important, although I am a bit sad that we don't have the pictures of the huge flowering trees (both purple and red) lining the edge of Hoan Kiem Lake. Maybe we'll try using M or B's camera this weekend.

In adoption news, we've started the rounds of all the doctors with K. Today was the pediatrician, complete with three shots, two vials of blood, and an X-ray. It's not my preferred way to spend a morning. I'm a bit disappointed that K still weighs-in at just 20 pounds, even after a month of us feeding him lots of food (including half-and-half with chocolate syrup). But he continues to be a funny, happy guy, even if his shorts do have a tendency to fall off his waist. Monday is the cleft team visit and we'll find out for sure if he ever had a cleft palate. The pediatrician thought it looked as though it had always been intact, so we'll see what the surgeon says.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Heaven, I'm in heaven...

We have spent the weekend moving into the new kitchen. I love it! I also love being above ground; it feels so luxurious. We can now shed our mole people personas. As I start emptying boxes and putting things away, I'm realizing that I have a major housewares addiction. I'm starting to wonder if my desire for a large family is merely a front for the extraordinary amount of bake ware, dishes, glasses, etc. that I own. My only defense is that I personally purchased very little of it. The majority of it all is either wedding gifts that have survived for 17 years or inherited items from disbursing my grandmother's and mother-in-law's homes in recent years. But still, it's probably safer if I just never set foot in Crate and Barrel or IKEA again.

Pictures will soon follow. Right now it's hard to see the actual kitchen for the piles of things waiting to be put away.
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