Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


Big Sister tried out her free Tae Kwan Do class today and told me explicitly that it was not for her. I told her she was brave to try something new and didn't ever have to go back unless she wants to someday.

This whole experience has shown me one positive thing... at least I know that Little Sister will probably be able to handle herself in any situation. She has a secret weapon known as the 5 Alarm Scream. We often joke in my family that no one will ever try to steal LS because her screaming will scare them off. All that being said, we are having a good week with minor meltdowns. The Early Intervention team will be here next week to evaluate her and set-up a plan of action.

Monday, October 29, 2007

When Adults Don't Listen to Children

Yesterday, Big Sister (BS) told me that a little boy in her preschool class has been spitting on her during lineup. She wasn't upset about it as much as she was confused wondering does he like me or not? At the age of nearly five, it's difficult to distinguish between good playing around and inappropriate conduct on the part of your peers. I wrote a note to her teacher this morning asking her to look into the situation for me and intervene when possible.

When I went to see her this afternoon, she told me that she got my note and told BS that she should come to her and let her know if something like that happens. Then she proceeded to tell me that BS came over to her several times today with "minor problems and tattling." I proceeded to tell her about Saturday's misadventure with the evil twins when she looked me in the eye and had the nerve to ask me if I saw it happen. I explained that I didn't see it happen, but I did see the girls laugh and point at my daughter following her over to the next moon bounce and that they did later admit to hitting her. The teacher said, "Oh, because sometimes kids exaggerate. You need to make sure she's not exaggerating."

I left the school today quite upset with this teacher's attitude. We are talking about my child, not some kid who is known to tell lies on a regular basis. This is not the first time I have encountered blase attitudes about bullying. As a former middle school teacher, I witnessed it first-hand all the time. Bullies will continue to get away with their behavior because teachers and administrators continually look the other way. I have heard on more than one occasion that kids who are bullied need to "suck it up and learn how to fight their own battles." This is the reality of life as we know it.

I never thought Big Sister would ever have a problem in school since she is very social, sweet and smart, but tomorrow afternoon, I am taking her to a Tao Kwan Do (sp)trial class.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

A Warning to Protect Your Child

Yesterday afternoon, I took my two daughters to a Halloween festival in a nearby community center. The event was well coordinated with both indoor and outdoor activities including games, arts and crafts and even a few rides. We began our exploration by walking around outside where my older daughter, Big Sister (BS) noticed several moon walks, you know those inflatable things that kids like to jump in? The first one that caught her eye was shaped like an airplane. She really wanted to go in so I let her. My mistake! She came running out crying 2 minutes later saying that two girls started verbally abusing her, calling her a "Baby" and punching her in the stomach. I was outraged, but remained calm on the outside. I asked her to show me the two girls (still inside) when she saw them again.

My mistake was letting my child go inside something that was enclosed. I couldn't see her or protect her.

Next, my daughter wanted to go on the pumpkin-shaped moon walk which was very open and had a monitor carefully watching the children. As she stood in line, two little girls (twins)approached, around the age of 6-7, completely unsupervised, pointing and laughing at my daughter. I went up to them, kneeled down to their level and said, "Do you see that litle girl over there? She is my daughter and don't you dare hit her again." I asked them if they understood. With that, they took off running. I looked over at BS who gave me the thumbs up and smiled.

We continued to enjoy the festivities, but when it was time to go, we spotted the twins again eating cotton candy and standing with a man, presumably their father. I heard them say, "Theres the little girl." The man heard and said, "Oh, do you know that little girl?" That's when I stepped in and said, "Yes, they do know her. They were hitting her before in the airplane moon bounce." The man seemed surprised, reprimanded them and made them apologize. I thanked him and walked away.

Lessons learned: Never let your child go inside anything alone unless you can clearly see them from the outside.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

More Fall Photos

Each of these photos were taken by Big Sister with her camera:

10 Things I Love About Autumn

Written by Big Sister:

1) The way the leaves look all brightly colored

2) The sound leaves make when I step on them

3) The weather feels just right, not too hot or cold

4) Trick or Treating on Halloween

5) Celebrating my birthday!

6) Visiting a pumpkin path

7) Having Thanksgiving dinner with my family

8) Eating pumpkin pie

9) Fun school (fall-related) projects

10) The smell of pinecones

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Making strides with my velcro baby

We have been home with Little Sister (LS) for five months now. For 24 long months leading up to our adoption day, I had prayed, wished, hoped and dreamed of this child, a sweet, calm Mei-Mei. Our older daughter (Big Sister) has always been a happy, yet highly active child. In my prayers, I asked God to send me a calmer little girl, one to counter-balance Big Sister. Excitedly, I even discovered that the name we had chosen for her meant "Trees near the water." I remember thinking how serene and lovely that sounded. Did I get a calm child you may wonder? The answer is yes and no.

LS was without question the saddest little girl I had ever laid eyes on when I met her. During our China trip, she didn't sleep more than 4-5 hours a night. Rather, she would begin screaming at the idea of bedtime. Something about going to bed at night greatly disturbed her. We asked our facilitator to call the orphanage and see if they could help, but instead, they laughed it off, saying there weren't any problems or maybe I was just an inexperienced mother. Later, I discovered that my daughter had a crib mate and cannot sleep without her blankie. Why couldn't her nanny take the time to tell me this information or send along her precious blanket. I would have gladly purchased ten new blankets in place of the old one.

During the day, LS was calm and relaxed, but at night, she changed into a inconsolable child screaming on top of her lungs as though her body were engulfed in flames. The memory of these episodes still rattles me. I will admit that I was not prepared for this child or situation. During the excruciatingly long wait for this baby, I had been glued to my computer, longing for the latest gossip about when the next batch of referrals would be coming out and reading stories from mothers who had joyous "Gotcha Days" with happy, smiling babies. I wondered why God gave me this particular child. God doesn't make mistakes my friends tried to reassure me. Still, I felt so completely overwhelmed.

Fast forward, five months later. LS still has her issues, including delayed speech, sensory integration disorder (as diagnosed by our pediatrician) and temper tantrums that lead to more screaming, yet this beautiful little person is making progress every day. The greatest miracle for me has been to see her relax, learn to trust and learn how to be happy. When she laughs, it's like seeing a flower blossoming from bud to full bloom. She knows that she is home now. She knows that every time her belly is hungry, Mama will feed her. Every time, she lays to down to sleep, she knows that her blankie is with her and that no one will take it away. She knows that she is loved. My older daughter came to me rather easily with an easy transition. LS was different. She came to me and said, non-verbally of course, "Mama, fight for me. Fight to save my life." I'm here precious daughter. I'm here.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Things to do after your referral has arrived

*Thank God for answering your long-awaited prayer

*Share the good news with your family and friends

*Go out and celebrate

*Get your nursery or child's room ready

*Buy clothing, bottles, diapers and whatever else you think you will need

*Finish last minute child-proofing

*If traveling abroad, make photocopies of all important documents. Be sure to leave one home with a friend or family member in the event of an emergency.

*Attend a pre-travel meeting and get your itinerary

*Prepare a packing list for you, your spouse and child(ren)

*Make arrangements to take time off from work

*Recharge your camera and video cam

*Buy extra batteries

*Take a deep breath, your life is about to change

Friday, October 19, 2007

What to do while waiting for your referral

*Read everything you can about adoption, attachment, and post-institutionalized children.

*Take the time to learn about the country, culture and traditions of your future child's homeland.

*Join an online support group so that you can connect wih other waiting families

*Look into joining a local group of adoptive parents for monthly or bimonthly events.

*Child proof your home.

*Take a vacation.

*Plan a romantic weekend getaway with your significant other.

*Go to the movies.

*Take a long, leisurely bubble bath by candlelight.


*Write a journal of letters each month to let your child know what you were doing during the wait.

*Get a manicure, pediacure and massage. You won't have time later!

*Choose a pediatrician who specializes in adoption.

*Declutter your house.

*Take parenting or other relevant classes.

*Renew your passport if it has expired and you plan to travel abroad.

*Buy new luggage if needed.

*Visit adoption websites for information and inspiration.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Autumn Moon Festival

For many centuries, Chinese families have enjoyed a fall celebration on the 15th day of the 8th moon, occurring around the fall Equinox. This day is most meaningful to rural farmers, but celebrated by city dwellers as well. By autumn, fruits, vegetables and grains have all been harvested. Farmers can enjoy the abundance of their crops, especially if it was a good year. In celebration of the Autumn or Harvest moon (as it can be referred to as both), families reunite happily for a feast of delicious foods, including moon cakes. Children are told the story about a moon fairy living in a crystal palace who comes out to dance on the moon's shadowy surface. The legend dates back to ancient times.

Here in the United States, Autumn Moon Festivals are not only celebrated by Chinese-Americans, but also by adoptive families with Asian children. We attended one this past weekend in Des Plaines, IL, hosted by the Cradle Adoption Agency. At the event, I had the opportunity to meet other adoptive parents with children from China as well as Korea and Vietnam. My daughters enjoyed making paper lanterns, colorful collages and other crafts. In addition, they had games set-up for the children, a buffet of Chinese food and topped the night with professional dancers. Little Sister especially enjoyed seeing the Lion Dancers and squealed loudly every time they popped their heads up or weaved in and out of the audience. The festival gave our family a way to celebrate the Chinese culture of our daughters' homeland. Fun was had by all.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Progressive Playdates

Here's the scoop:

We are settling into our new community and Big Sister (BS) is happily attending preschool five days each week. Every day, she comes home with a big smile on her face which lets me know that she is enjoying it. A few days ago, one of the mother's called asking if BS would like to go over to their house for a playdate. I said, "Sure." Then she asked if I wanted her (the mother) to pickup BS and take her home after school, adding that I could come get her after the playdate.

My thoughts on the matter:

*Why would I let a stranger take my daughter home? (I've only met the mother once)

*How nice that BS is making a friend.

*Exactly how many car seats does this woman have in her SUV?

*Does this mean she doesn't want to know me? Why couldn't the invitation include an hour with BS, me and LS?

*Is this the way things happen when your daughter turns FIVE?

The Outcome (so far!):

I told the little girl's mommy that I would feel better taking BS over to her house since it was the first playdate. I drove her over there after school. They live in a very nice house and neighborhood. The little girl seemed happy to see my daughter and they played together for an hour. After the hour, I returned, picked up BS and we all went home.


Okay, other moms out there. Can you shed some light on me? Am I being too overprotective of my precious daughter? Is this how things work with older kids where suddenly Mom is out of the loop and it's just about the child? I'd love to hear from someone whose been there and done that.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Every Adopted Child Experiences Loss

When we adopted our older daughter, Big Sister (BS) almost four years ago, she went through a brief grieving period, mourning the loss of her beloved foster mother whom she then lovingly referred to as "Mama." For 4 or 5 days, she cried inconsolably for the only mother she had ever known, yet magically, by the sixth day, she looked up at me and said, "Mama." Somewhere deep inside her, she decided that since I was taking over the role of her caretaker, I must be her new mother. In a swift moment, her sadness turned to joy as she laughed and smiled happily discovering all the comforts of her new existence. At the same time, it certainly wasn't all sunshine and rainbows. She had to overcome the language barrier, new surroundings that looked and smelled differently and internalize her deep-rooted loss that came in the form of night terrors.

Next month, Big Sister will turn five and while she is secure and happy, the profound loss of her birth family and culture may someday plague her. I hope not, but it's a possibility. She is now at the age of beginning awareness, wanting to hear her birth/adoption story again and again. As we talk about it, she looks at the little photo album given to us by her Chinese foster mother, the only photos we have showing her early life in China before our forever family was formed.

Some adoptive parents choose not to discuss their child's adoption until the child asks questions while others opt not to reveal the secret at all. Obviously, interracial families may have a difficult time keeping the secret. I have always discussed adoption with my daughter since she was very little. We have several adoption-related (children's) books, most focusing on Chinese adoption. In addition, we celebrate our "Gotcha / Adoption" Day each year. On this special day, we look at photos from her lifebook and talk about our magical day. The day is usually topped off with dinner at a local Chinese restaurant and a small gift representing the Chinese culture.

Now that I have adopted a second daughter, Little Sister, we will continue the discussions and celebrations. I wonder how our Mei-Mei will react when she hears her story, so different from Big Sister's, never having a lovely foster mother to nurture her, only a room full of nannies. Will I embellish the facts or tell her the truth that she was severely neglected in the orphanage and left with no one to call "Mama." Time will tell. Most likely, I will gently tell her the truth but without the hard cold facts. When she is old enough, she will discover them on her own.

No matter how an adopted child comes into our life, they will always at some point experience loss. It's a point well driven by any adoption social worker. We cannot deny it, erase it or overlook it. We can only love our children enough to hopefully make the hurt go away.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Book Review #2 - The Memory Keeper's Daughter

Looking for a good book? Check out Kim Edward's first novel, "The Memory Keeper's Daughter." Take my word, you will be enthralled with each page. The story begins with a woman going into labor during a snowstorm. Her husband, a doctor, is forced to deliver the baby because their obstetrician is delayed. To his surprise, twins are born. Since it's 1964, his wife is under anesthesia and completely unaware of her happenings. The second baby is born with Down Syndrome. In a split second, the husband decides to send the baby away to an institution without consulting his wife. When she awakes, he tells her about the second baby, but lies and says that she died shortly after birth.

Throughout the novel, Edwards breathes life into each character and creates a beautifully written web of lies that takes decades to unfold. Metaphorically, Edwards entwines the craft of photography into the story like tiny fibers woven on a fine wall hanging. The main character, Doctor Henry, loves to take pictures and prides himself on his work. Pictures become more priceless than gold as he learns to live with his devastating secret.