a blessed surprise

Since entering the adoption realm in 2004, admittedly painfully unaware, I’ve done my share of reading.

My share of gleaning.

My share of asking.

Since then I have also been asked many questions about adoption by potential adoptive parents. And one question in particular has always stood out to me. Maybe because it was one of the first questions I asked myself at the very beginning of our own journey into adoption….

“How will our biological child(ren) feel about an adopted sibling?”

And the answer, at least in our experience, has been one of the biggest surprises in this journey.

And one of the biggest blessings.

Not to imply that adding a new child to any family isn’t without challenges. But worrying about our biological children not ‘accepting’ an adopted child just wasn’t necessary.

No bitterness.

No jealousy.

Okay, occasional jealousy over who got a few more M&Ms.

But really, just love.

Real love.

My kids surprised me… their hearts were exponentially more open and accepting than I ever anticipated. In fact, they’ve completely embraced their new siblings as just that.

Brothers.

Sisters.

I bet your kids surprised you, too.

Whatever Wednesday

Each Wednesday we post links from the previous week that touch on special needs adoption. Our hope is that these small snapshots provide you with a glimpse of life after adopting through China’s waiting child program… both the long-term blessings and the challenges that come with parenting a child with special needs. We also hope to raise awareness about a variety of special needs.

Biting the Medication Bullet
momma to a child with special needs Elizabeth at Three Channels… on patience and God and parenting a child with special needs

Sensory Diet for Schooladoptive momma (foster to adopt) Hartley at Hartley’s Life With 3 Boys… on her son’s sensory diet during the school year

Skipping a Teachable Momentadoptive momma (domestic, transracial) Mary Dell at Torrefaction… on one child’s curiosity again and again – and again – about her son’s limb difference

What Were We Thinking?
adoptive momma (China) Ann at Our Place Called Home… on her daughter’s transfusions and bone marrow transplants and a lack of donors as an adoptee

Special Needs
adoptive dad (China) Adrian at Forever Family… on his daughter’s abilities beyond what he is “supposed to be able” to do as a result of her special need

Late Breaking News Direct from China
adoptive momma and waiting to adopt (China) Shelley at Learning Together at Home… a momma’s reaction to a video of her future son WALKING

Want to See What FASD Looks Like?
adoptive momma (Korea and domestic, transracial) Dorothy at (Sub)Urban Servant… a great link that shows what many infants look like who are diagnosed with fetal alcohol syndrome

a red letter dayadoptive momma (China) Stefanie at Ni Hao Y’all… a boy with clubfoot receives some exciting and unexpected news

Dearest Gift
adoptive momma (Taiwan) Sara at Precious Wonders & Little Monkeys… on parenting a child exposed to Hepatitis B & C – along with some wonderful news [HAT TIP to Sarah of my little lantern]

All The Things She Doesn’t Say

Sometimes the things our children don’t say are the most important.

We went on a walk yesterday.

Cheeky is much smaller than my other kids. Shorter legs, weaker body, sweet, sunny personality that gives her no need to move fast, those things make walking a little challenging for my youngest. She tries, though. Oh, how she tries. Walk. Fall behind the group. Run to catch up. Walk. Fall behind. Run. Walk. Repeat for six or seven miles and you’ll get how Cheeky’s hikes go.

Anyway, we went on a walk, and she was wearing shoes that were a little big because she couldn’t find her sneakers and had to borrow a pair of her sister’s old shoes. I didn’t think much about the big-ish shoes. Cheeky was smiling, after all. Happy. So enthusiastic about the blue sky and the orange hat her brother let her wear and the walk and just…well, just being alive.

Her cheeks were red from heat, but she didn’t complain about the bright sun. She just walked and skipped and sang, and I thought all was well.

Until we walked up a steep hill.

I made sure Cheeky was in front of me, because she isn’t always very good at balancing. That’s when I noticed the back of her foot. Blood was oozing from a broken blister that looked red and raw and very painful.

“Cheeky,” I said. “Does your foot hurt?”

“Yes. It hurts a lot,” she replied.

And she just kept on going, climbing up that steep hill like she didn’t have a two-inch blister on the back of her foot.

We cut the walk short so we could go buy bandaids. As we walked through the first aide aisle, Cheeky spotted Dora bandaids. “Look, Mommy,” she said. “Dora!”

That was it. No begging me to buy them. Not even a polite request.

She wanted them. I knew she wanted them, but she wouldn’t ask. Not even when Sassy picked up a package of neon bandaids and asked me to buy those. Even then, Cheeky was silent about the Dora Bandaids.

I put them in my cart, of course. Cheeky had the blister. She got to choose. That’s how it usually works in our house. I think Cheeky has noticed that, and I think she noticed that she got what she wanted rather than Sassy getting what she wanted.

And think that mattered to Cheeky.

But she didn’t say that. She just watched those Dora Bandaids go into the cart and onto the conveyor belt. She watched them be put into a bag, and she watched that bag as it traveled from cart to car and from car home. Then, she asked if she could put a bandaid on her blister, and she gave me a huge hug and thanked me.

For a bandaid with Dora.

But, I think, for something more.

Maybe for buying her what she didn’t ask for. Or maybe for letting her have her way. Or maybe for putting her wants above the wants of my other daughter.

My little one loves to talk, but I have come to realize there are many things she doesn’t say.

She does not always tell me when she is hurt. Especially if we are doing something like taking a long walk. She won’t tell me if she is overheated (an issue because she really doesn’t regulate her body temperature very well). When we eat dinner, she consumes what is put on her plate without complaining that she doesn’t like it.

Those are little things, but one day, there will be bigger things on her mind. I think that maybe there already are. It is obvious to me that she watches to see what the other kids are getting, and she is anxious about getting her share. It isn’t that she is greedy or even that she wants a lot but simply that she wants to know that I am treating her the same as I do the others.

If I give someone a slice of fresh baked bread, Cheeky hovers in the kitchen doorway, waiting to be asked to join in. If I buy The Professor a book, Cheeky stares at that book as if I’ve given him the moon. She is the same with chores. If the older kids have been asked to do a job for me, she waits by my elbow, hoping and praying that I will ask for her help, too.

As I watch her watch me, I can’t help but think how strange it must be for her. She has been brought into a family related by blood, and she is the only member who is not related that way. Cheeky knows that. She has seen baby photos of her siblings, stared hard at their red newborn faces. She has seen pictures of me holding each of my other kids when they were tiny infants. She has pointed at photos of me playing with the other children when they were toddlers. She has flipped through photo albums of Christmas and Easter and birthday and every-day photos.

And she is not in any but the most recent ones.

Cheeky loves to talk, but there is a lot she doesn’t say.

She doesn’t say that she worries that I might not love her as much as I do her siblings, but I feel it. I feel it in the way she hugs me. The way she kisses my cheek as if she must stake her claim, lay herself fully upon my heart so that I won’t turn her away.  She doesn’t say that she still feels like an outsider, a newcomer, a child who was pulled in but who might not be able to stay, but I see it in her eyes when she watches me have one-on-one time with another one of my kids. I see it again, in a different way, when I spend alone time with her. I feel it in the way she holds on tight as I grasp her hand and lead her on a walk around our field…just me and Cheeky. I see it in her glowing face when I say, “Come on, Cheeky, let’s knead the bread dough together. That will be our job today.”

There is no doubt of what I see reflected in her face when she is watching me. She longs, with a desperation I cannot fathom, to belong.

It is a desperation that I hear in all the things she doesn’t say.

Oh, Cheeky, if only you knew how deep my love is for you. If only you knew how truly and wonderfully you belong.

That is what I want to say to my little girl, but to a child who has lost everything and has been forced to rebuild her family, to rebuild her entire world, words are only a small part of what she needs.

So, I do what I have been doing for a little over a year. I tell her the story of how she came to be. Of Birth Mom and China Mom and Me. Of the empty place at the McCoy table, the empty seat in the McCoy van, the empty place in my heart that was waiting to be filled.

Waiting for her.

And then I treat her as I must…..as if she has always been mine, always been here, always been part of this family.

And all the while my soul keeps listening and my heart keeps breaking for all the things my darling girl cannot say.

Stride

We have hit our stride.
Rory has been home for almost 14 months, and it’s time to call it good. And oh, it is such a relief.

The past year been like hitting my head against a wall, in that it’s so much better now that it’s stopped. I’ve never, ever been so glad that a year was over, and I would repeat sixth grade before I’d live through the first six months again. Of course, we had our beautiful moments. Of course, it’s always tough to see calendar pages flip, and I’m always telling myself not to “wish my life away.” But it has been a tough year, and that’s putting it mildly. And suddenly, with little fanfare, it seems to be over. Last month I posted to No Hands But Ours about how I wasn’t ready to do the squishy lovey one year post. If this month were our one year marker, I’d be more inclined, although I still resist putting a rosy haze over the changes any of us went through last year. I can’t imagine our lives without Rory now, although sometimes I still do. (I also sometimes contemplate what life would be like with Sam as only child, or with Sam and Lily as a tanned and tow-headed pair of co-conspirators, a role they took on tonight when Wyatt and Rory went off to do some twin thing in the playroom. It’s not personal. It’s just one of those things.)

Things that felt impossible six months ago, like taking all of the kids to the swimming pool without another adult, or the three youngest to a bead store for a little craft action, today manage to seem like good ideas. (Although there are some situations, like kid concerts, that I still avoid like the plague. I can’t see any possible way that would be fun.) The house is cleaner, our lives slightly more organized. We buy milk in glass returnable bottles, and the process of returning the empties no longer strikes me as the straw that might break the camel’s back. In fact, I broke two full ones the other day (it was bound to happen) and dealt with the result with far more equanimity than I would ever have expected of myself. We make plans. We look ahead. We sit at home, and I periodically actually sit down on the couch with a magazine without anyone on my lap.

On the Rory herself front, too, we’ve made one of those startling leaps. Her language suddenly shot up to a level where she feels she can talk to other people, outside people, even people she has never met (whom she really likes to tell that she is from China, and rarely fails to ask if they know Baba Mike, her foster dad). She chats with us about all sorts of things, about how she feels and what she thinks and what she did and will do today (all of which she avoided before). Lest you think it’s perfection, very few people can actually understand her, and she’s still got a weird sort of noun fatigue, with little gaps of common words simply not finding a place in her hear (like sausage and soup, which she forgot yesterday). She handles the gaps so much better, though. “I don’ know what that is,” she’ll say. Tonight she turned to me from the kitchen counter and declared that she wanted to make “a nakkin.” You can have a napkin, I said, and reached for one. “NO! I wan’ make a nakkin!” Well, I said, you can make a nakkin, here’s the paper towels. “No! NO! A NAKKIN! A NAKKIN TO GO ROUND MY NECK!” I was still obtuse (she often makes these sort of napkin bibs for herself or for dolls) and she was near tears. “It’s ok,” I said. “Stop. Breathe. We’ll figure it out.” And she actually did stop, and hold back the howls of frustration I could see right on the edge, and I looked at her, and what she had, and what she was doing, and I said “oh! a necklace! You want to make a necklace with your beads!”

Which was what she wanted to do, and then sat and did, very calmly and very well, too, considering that she made the beads at art class and I never, ever thought she would get the tiny thread through the tiny holes. Of course. A nakkin. We had another, similar near breakdown a few nights ago, when we had guests (which is always tough on Rory). She wanted a tub, she kept repeating it, getting angrier and angrier and more and more determined. It was 9:30, there would be no tub and I was getting frustrated, how could i make her see that there could be no tub and not have her loose it so badly that we might as well have just had the tub, because it would take less time? And just as I was getting my stubborn reared up and ready to go, (and pretty much matching her and forcing us both into a standoff) she stopped, thought, and said, “then I have tub tomorrow?”

Well, yeah, sure. You have tub tomorrow. Situation defused by Rory, who might, at that moment, have been more mature than I was (but note how she found a way to control it, too. I think that’s ok). She’s come far, and all of a sudden, it shows. We both have. I know it was gradual, but it has a way of feeling sudden, as if someone quite quickly uprighted our household snow globe, and things were settling gently into place.

Cross-posted at RaisingDevils.com.

China introduces "special focus" children

CCAA will now be spotlighting certain children on the shared listing as “special focus” children, opening up new opportunities to help place these older and/or children with more significant special needs.

The opportunity to adopt two children at the same time is addressed and seems to be something CCAA is more enthusiastic about, when at least one of the children being adopted is a “special focus” child.

Read an article outlining the new program on Rainbow Kids.

And another article about the new program on China Adopt Talk.

"What’s wrong with him?"

I have three delightful children.


When I have them all in tow, we get a lot of politely curious question in public.

A LOT.

We hear, “Are they all siblings? Are the girls twins?  Are they all triplets? and Are they all yours?” (especially when my blond haired, blue eyed husband is with me) almost every time we are out of the house.  I have three really close in age Asian children.  I’m not Asian.  We attract attention.  I get that.  And most of those questions don’t bother me or them.

But then there’s the line of questioning centered on the fact that one of my three is a boy.  From China.  And people are educated to the one child policy ~ to a point.  So I’ve also heard, “He’s from China?  How did you get him?” more times than I care to count.  Because I’ve learned that series of questions is frequently followed with, “I didn’t think they let their boys out.” 

Sigh.

Mercifully it usually stops there.  But sometimes it doesn’t.

I’ve become wiser since then, but I’ll never forget the first intrusive questioning along “the boy line.”

I was standing outside the preschool where I had just paid the registration fee (one month’s tuition ~ per child) and first month’s tuition (per child) to secure my older two a spot for this past school year.  The director told me that I could take my kids out, show them the playground, and meet the two year old teachers as my son would be in one of the two year old classes.

As I stood there watching them interact with the children nearby, one of the teachers came over and commented on how adorable my kids were.  Usually that type of comment would bring a smile.  But that time it was in “that tone” of voice.  The tone that let me know ahead of time to brace myself…

(In retrospect I now know I should have scooped my kids and made a strategic exit).

I smiled and mumbled thanks, hoping that my lack of eye contact would make it clear I was not in a chatty mood.  But she would not be deterred.

“Are they both adopted?”  and when I affirmed her question, she quickly followed with, “From China?”

Right at that moment my 2 1/2 year old son was running and tripped.  As I bent down to help him up, I heard, “What’s wrong with him?”

In my typical, trusting that people are kind, sort of way, I began to answer that he was fine, just a tiny hint of a skinned knee.

It was as I stood back up and saw her face that I realized she wasn’t talking about his fall.  Rather she was prying, in a very rude manner, into my son’s personal business.  It was one of those rare moments that I could find no words.  By the time I had completely righted myself, she repeated herself, “What’s wrong with him?”

Luckily he had already headed off to join a kid at the sandbox, but my oldest, the one that doesn’t let a word of conversation slip by, had joined my side.  She had heard the woman’s question and was looking up at me, mouth hanging wide open, waiting for my reply.

So I gave the most eloquent response I could muster as my three year old watched (and listened with rapt attention).  I simply said, “We are blessed beyond belief to have him in our family.”

In my mind that was a “conversation ending” response.  One that signaled that I really didn’t think it was appropriate for her, a complete stranger, to be asking me such an intrusive question, especially in front of one of my young, impressionable children. 

But it wasn’t.  Instead she came again with, “But China doesn’t give their boys away, so what is wrong with him?”

In that moment the sun was shining, but I was certain the birds stopped chirping as it occurred to me ~ maybe for the first time ~ that some people really were going to ask that type of question about my children.  I became somewhat jaded toward all future folks who gave our family a second glance. 

In my total unpreparedness for such a line of questioning, I glanced down at my watch, got out a cheerful, “Come on kiddos, we’re going to be late for our play date,” (which was true, we were headed to meet friends at the pool), and got the heck out of dodge as quickly as possible. 

When I found out the next week that “question lady” was going to be his teacher, I promptly withdrew my kids from the school.  And lost the before-mentioned deposit.  That may have been an overreaction.  It may not.  What I knew was that she asked an insensitive question, in a blunt, callous way in front of me.  (And that she asked it in such a negative tone, in front of my kids?  We won’t even go there).  I couldn’t risk my son’s first school experience to possibly be marred with a teacher that brought about self doubt.

In the months that followed, I prepared myself to answer that question with more confidence.  To simply smile and say that there’s nothing wrong with him.  In that tone of voice that commands that the conversation is over ~ at least in front of my children.  Or even more proactive, I’ve learned tactics to head the “what’s wrong” question off before it comes.  To respond to, “He’s from China?  I didn’t think you could adopt boys from China?” with a quick, “Actually, many people don’t know that there are boys waiting for families in China.  If you’re interested in finding out how to add a Chinese son to your family I’d be happy to share some of our experiences.”

Because it’s a fine line between me sighing and taking a deep breath when someone is uneducated about boys being adopted from China (hey, I didn’t know when I started this road myself) and being…well, whatever it is that I felt when the first person asked me, “What’s wrong with him?”

next shared list

Will be released August 17th!

Fantastic news for all families who are hopeful that this month’s list will bring news of their child. If you do receive a referral off the shared listing, or have received a referral off the shared listing in the last few months, please leave a comment, we’d love to share in your joy!

Congratulations to the following families who have recently been matched off the shared list!

Courtney
April

tainted milk scare… again

Two years after the huge tainted formula scandal, a new fear is growing in China… potentially due to tainted formula once again.

There are growing concerns that tainted infant formula is to blame for health concerns in China among the very young. Recently three infant girls in Wuhan, and one in Beijing, have been diagnosed with symptoms consistent with infant puberty, as well as abnormally high hormone levels.

Read the entire article in Time here.

Dads and Adoption

I admit, it is very late, and I have been at a loss on what to write! So in scrolling through my pictures, I came to a very endearing shot of Kevin and his daddy. And it got me to thinkin’…

I post my thoughts, my experiences, my feelings on everything from attachment in adoption to open heart surgeries. The mom’s perspective is abundant. But what about dad’s side of the story? (…and I realize there are many single moms…I admire you a whole bunch. I have a close friend who is a single adoptive parent and she is a blessing! I mean that whole-heartedly.)

Since my husband is not about to get on this blog and write a post, once again you will get a mom’s perspective on the dad’s perspective. Clear as mud? ;)

Each of our four adopted children have attached so differently to Rob. Our first son, Quan, trauma bonded to him. Our first daughter, Kimmie, bonded to me (after lots of work to get her to attach to either one of us). Our second daughter, Candie, bonded equally well to us both at first, though clearly she is a daddy’s girl now through and through! Our second son bonded to me ferociously.

Since our most recent adoption is fresh on my mind, I will focus more on it. Kevin came home in March with the idea that I belonged to him, and Rob could take it or leave it! Rob has always been so patient. He would say, “She was mine before she was yours, buddy!” But he would have a big grin on his face. Rob is so patient with our children…his motto is “You will like me one day! You’ll see!”

Slowly Rob has inched his way in. With tickles. With silly peekaboo games. And with me talking about “Daddy” lots during the day while he is at work. Kevin and I call daddy so he can talk on the phone (which he loves to do!) So when Rob gets home from work, Kevin is delighted! He may not run into his arms, but he will at least give him a small hug now.

He used to not let Rob do anything for him, but now he is 90% okay with his daddy taking care of his needs. My favorite part has been watching this relationship blossom. I guess because I love seeing Rob melt when Kevin gives him love. I love hearing Rob carrying on a three year old conversation with Kevin. I love seeing the two of them sit next to each other at the dinner table; Rob coaxing Kevin to try new foods. I don’t particularly like the worry lines that pop up around Rob’s eyes when we discuss Kevin’s future heart surgeries. But I do love the fact that he loves this little boy with a passion. And he has from the moment we were matched with him.

I’ll never forget it. Not ever.

We had been praying for God to show us if Kevin was our son or not. We were scared. We knew his heart condition was intense.

I was in the shower one morning and Rob came in, opened the shower door and proclaimed “He’s our son. I know it!” He had big tears in his eyes.

I said, “Rob, are you prepared to possibly bury a child?” (not that we’re guaranteed tomorrow with any of our children, really)

“I know that’s a possibility. I’m in.”

And at that point, so was I.

There’s just something about your husband being 100% sold out. It’s good. And I love it. And I love him. And him. And Him.

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Whatever Wednesday

Each Wednesday we post links from the previous week that touch on special needs adoption. Our hope is that these small snapshots provide you with a glimpse of life after adopting through China’s waiting child program… both the long-term blessings and the challenges that come with parenting a child with special needs. We also hope to raise awareness about a variety of special needs.

Dear Weirdoadoptive momma (China) Shirlee McCoy at And Then There Were Seven… on albinism and people with fetishes
Some Things Money Can’t Buy adoptive parents (China) the Straights at Straight Talk… on a very sweet, precious phone conversation
While I’m Not Lookingadoptive momma (China) Robin at Dreaming of Tea For Three… on a sweet surprise with a referral photo during the long wait for TA
To sign or not to signadoptive momma (China) Sandra at The Daily Grind… on her daughter’s cochlear implants, sign language and attending an oral deaf school
Update on Kateadoptive momma (China) Amy at Raising Tomatoes… a quick surgery update
Lukeadoptive momma (China) Nicole at The Baker Sweets… describing their medical challenges these past three years, including the latest: seizures
So How Much Does She Really Hear?adoptive momma (China) Sarah Kate at The Shoe Princess… hearing tests before and after cochlear implant surgery
Why I Say “Disabled”adoptive momma (domestic) Mary Dell at Torrefaction… on why she uses the word disabled to describe her son
Sensory Seekers and Sensory Avoidersadoptive momma (foster to adopt) Hartley at Hartley’s Life With 3 Boys… a concise description of two forms of sensory processing disorder