Friday, February 25, 2011


Adoption is a long, taxing, emotionally draining process. It's scary, daunting and outright overwhelming.  The highs are perilously high.  The lows are like the bottom of a dark ravine, where the walls blot out any light at all. That's when the fear and anxiety pounce. Sometimes, my fear of the future is nearly suffocating.

I worry. A lot. I worry about our little girl's health and wellbeing while she's so far away. I can't protect her. I can't take her to a doctor. I can't provide for her at all. I can't teach her and play with her.

I worry about our kids. How will all of this affect them? Will they feel neglected or ignored when their new sister demands our attention? Will they bond with her? Ever? Will they have to stick up for her at school or play areas?

What about our marriage- how will it fare? I know this will push our love to it's limits. Will we manage it well? Will we pull together or fall apart? Divorce is not an option, but I don't want us to end up loveless and isolated either.

I worry about her adjustment. About specific behaviors. What will bedtime look like? How on Earth am I going to get three kids ready in the morning in time to take our son to school. (I know, wake up earlier. Easy for you to say!) Am I going to be strong enough for all this? Will I let all three of my kids down in trying to help the one?

With all the fear and anxiety I know one thing - that if this truly is God's will for our family then it will be ok. It might be tough at times, downright painful even, but I know that if this is God's will for our family then He will bring us through it eventually. He will make our children, our marriage, and us parents strong for the task. He will equip us. He will guide us. He will be right there with us, and when the going gets tough He will comfort us.

So I worry, more than anything else, about whether this is truly God's will. If it is, then we're fine. If not, then I don't even know what. I look for signs, for indications of God's intent. I look for His encouragement.

That's what the Lifesong grant means to me. It's not just about the money, although that's a huge help. It's another little message from God. It's Him saying "Yes, this is what I want from you. This is my will for your family, and I am right here with you. You won't face any of it alone."

It's affirmation, too. Affirmation from the folks at Lifesong who reviewed our application. Affirmation from friends and family and my poor Facebook acquaintances who didn't accept my friend request expecting to be hit with a round of mass begging. It tells me that the people around us, who know us and love us, really do believe that we are the best family for this little girl. That we're not crazy in thinking we can handle this. That we're not alone.

The whole thing brings me to tears, because this is the hope and encouragement I can cling to when it feels so dark. When the waiting gets so long. When the worries get so deep. When I manage to miss our daughter with every fiber of my being, even though we've never met her or held her and she doesn't even know we exist. This is where I find hope for the future, in the encouragement we receive right now.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Well Intentioned, Part 1

I realize that when one enters the journey of adoption, one becomes quickly immersed in the well-intentioned comments of other. Generally, they are full of kind intentions and subtle wounds. Nothing is "meant" by them, but they hurt on some level just the same.

The other day at my son's soccer class, another kid's grandma was talking to him and he spouted, proudly, that we're adopting a new sister. He threw that little tidbit out with his usual excitement, positively bragging about this neat new kid sister he's looking forward to having. The lady stopped, looked taken aback, and then turned to me for confirmation. Her face was a mask of obvious shock and disbelief. "You're adopting?" she asked me, cautiously. "Yes," I gushed. "We're adopting a little girl from Bulgaria. We hope to have her home this summer." The woman looked flustered. Finally, she seemed to gather her wits enough to say "Well, I merit you!"

Thanks, I suppose, but I don't want to be merited. I don't want to be treated like I get "extra credit" for this. See, I'm simply adding to my family. I'm adding a child, specifically. No one would tell me what a saint I am if I said I was pregnant. No one would say "what a good thing you're doing" if I told them I had gone off my birth control. The news of a new biological child would be met with happiness, congratulations, or celebration. There might be some high-pitched squealing and jumping in place. Questions about names, dates and gender would flow. They'd ask how I feel, how I'm eating, if I'm sick. They'd smile and nod knowingly about stretch marks and swollen feet and just be happy for me.

Calling me a saint for taking this child into my home implies that she is a burden in a way that any biological kid is not. There's the implication, and sometimes the outright statement, that there must be something wrong with this kid. Because if there wasn't, they wouldn't need to be adopted, right?

I told hubby how I felt about this little encounter and how it bothers me when people seem to think our new daughter qualifies us for martyr status. He asked me, so very astutely, "What would you rather she said?"

"Congratulations" I said. "Just like any other pregnant woman. I just want the world to be as happy for us as I am."

The Breakup

Dear Starbucks,

I don't know any easy way to say this, so I'm just going to come out with it. I'm breaking up with you. It's over between us.

I thought we would be together forever. You've always been there for me, and we've always had such great times. Remember when I used to just drink coffees and draw? All the times I hung out in one of those overstuffed leather chairs? I thought it would never end. When I started having problems with caffeine, you somehow managed to create decaf espresso for me. When Mera couldn't have dairy, you put soy milk in my drinks.  When I was on a diet you gave me sugar free syrups. When I was in a hurry you were fine with that.  Even if we just touched base really quickly at the drive-through window, our time together was so special.

I'll admit I wasn't always as good to you as you were to me. I got so much more than I gave. And then there was that Dunkin' Donuts incident a few months back. But it wasn't the same, and I just missed you even more when I strayed. You forgave me so readily, and welcomed me right back. No questions asked. I didn't deserve how good you were to me.

But yesterday that decaf caramel macchiato gave me such a migraine. It almost totally derailed a really great day with my family, and I'm still paying for it today. Our relationship has become so draining for me. I feel like I just can't keep up with you anymore. And I don't think I want to.

Please, don't take this personally. I'm giving up all caffeine! It's not you, it's me. And I know writing you a letter like this is cowardly, but I figured if I said all this to the barista I would just confuse the crap out of her. It'll be awkward for a while, I'm sure. I know it'll be hard for me to see you with other people. I'll probably be fighting the urge to rip that green and white cup out of their hands in jealousy. But I think if we can be mature through all of this we don't have to make it tough for everyone else. And I want you to move on. You deserve to be happy.

Goodbye forever. Take care of yourself.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

One in Every Crowd...

Warning: what follows is a rant with two parts. And a story. There's always gotta be a story...

Today a group of us half-day preschool parents decided to take the kids to Chik-Fil-A for a little playtime and lunch. Feed 'em processed chicken and chocolate milk and let them run around together in the play area. This is normally a great time had by all, as the kids have a blast and the parents kvetch. Fun fun. So after we have been there with the kids playing in the play area for probably going on an hour, I see my 4 year old push another little kid who is a friend of his. Not cool. I pop in there to tell him to keep your hands to yourself, apologize, and if I see that again we're leaving.

That's when some other mom in the play area, who I do not know, starts telling me that my boy has been pushing other kids this whole time. In fact, she says that my kid and his friends have been pushing and shoving to the extent that they were making other kids cry and those kids left with their parents because it was so bad. I apologize and explain that I didn't see a thing until now. I tell my boy that we are out of there right now, he can't play if he can't play nice, and we leave.  On my way out I pass on to the other parents in our little group what our kids have apparently been up to that we failed to notice. They've started a gang while we were distracted.

I have two problems in this story. First, those moms got me heated. Why? Because they chose to do nothing at all while my kid is apparently terrorizing the play area, but then throw him under the bus when I show up. I don't expect people to parent my child for me, but those play areas are not an easy place to watch your kid's every move. I was outside, with 10-month-old sissy, there were about 12 kids in the play area and five adults, too. It was tough to see what was going on. I was looking, but apparently I wasn't able to see everything that was happening. It happens sometimes. As a parent, you might miss something nasty your kid does. So if someone else sees something, they should do you the courtesy of giving you a heads up. If you're in the play area and you see a 4-year-old knock over a toddler maliciously, or even just being way too rough on accident, don't just sit there. Ask that kid who his parent is and then go talk to them. Stop the violence before someone gets seriously hurt and then bring in the parents for the matter of discipline. Not because you need to do someone else's job for them, but because moms actually don't have eyes in the back of their heads. All our kids are in the play area, that means we all have a stake in the behavior of the group. You want your kid to have a safe place to play? Me too. Let's make that happen by not letting behavior get out of hand because "if it's not my kid, it's not my problem."

That's part one. People who watch kids beating each other up and do nothing.

Part two, the one in every crowd. So there's a kid in this playground group who I will call the Hun. My boy is not perfect, but he's generally a very well behaved kid. Just yesterday I took him to a play date with another friend and his two brothers. Four boys, ages 2 - 5, all playing together for 2 1/2 hours. Not a SINGLE altercation. Total peace and harmony, and small disagreements resolved with talking. It was amazing. I was so proud. Flash back to a week ago, when he had another playdate with a girl from school. Again, total peace. A couple of disagreements over toys, both resolved with words and no fighting or pushing or yelling or anything. My kid is, apparently, capable of peace.

But the Hun seems to be a constant altercation. Today, within the first 15 minutes of the little herd of kids going into the play area we had three come out to complain about the Hun pushing them. That's three of four. The only one who didn't come out with a complaint was the Hun himself. We told our kids to tell him to stop, that you don't like that. We told them to play nicely. The Hun's dad just sat there and said nothing.

See, he thinks we should just let the kids play and fight it out if needed. I think this is crap. We should not be telling our kids to fight until you figure it out, because that leaves them with no clear boundary. It also sets them up for trouble. If we let them push but then get mad when they punch, how are we setting clear limits? If a whack on the shoulder is okay then why is kicking not? If pulling on someone's clothes is fine, why can't I pull their hair?

What seems to happen every time this kid is a part of the play group is what happened today. The kids start off fine, then the Hun starts pushing and the whole thing escalates. It only takes one little bully to turn the whole group into a ball of aggression. And his dad seems content to just let it happen, under the misguided idea that this is liberated parenting that empowers the kids. The Lord of the Flies is not empowerment. It's anarchy, where you let a 5 year old decide what's appropriate. And that's just a recipe for disaster.

It's not empowering our kids when we just let them go do whatever they want with no consequences or repercussions for their bad decisions. It's crappy, lazy parenting.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Ruminations Part 1

Working through the process of adoption brings you to realize some misconceptions that other people hold. The craziest part is when you find yourself up against a misconception you used to hold yourself.

Someone who shall go unnamed told me to "Adopt American." When I first read these brief and illuminating words I was a bit irritated. As if a kid should come with one of those little flag stickers on it, showing how I support American industry and genetic productivity or something. Support the economy, buy kids local. grrrr...

Then I remembered myself, several years back. I remember when Angelina Jolie made her first big splash in the news for her international adoption of whichever of her 25 kids came first. (I love that family, but I can't keep up. Sorry, no offense meant) It seemed like overnight every famous person was running off to identify some poor little orphan in a third world country and take it home to love and care for and maybe carry in a cute little Gucci bag, a la Paris Hilton. I remember watching it all unfold and saying "Why don't they adopt one of the perfectly good American kids in need? How about helping out at home before running off to some other country?"

At the time, I saw the whole thing as self serving. It was a publicity stunt, a ploy. Adopting a kid in the U.S. wasn't dramatic enough. There had to be press clippings of the famous person of the moment looking saintly in some hovel. It wasn't high profile enough to get a kid close to home, was my thought. I looked down on them. I knew I was interested in adopting some day, and I smugly told myself that when it was time for me to adopt I'd adopt from home because we should help kids close to home.

You know how to make God laugh, right? Tell Him your plans.

Now, years later and an international adoption underway, I realize what I didn't realize back then. Kids are not just interchangeable parts that you swap out from one place to another. It's not a matter of "Remove child A from foster home B and insert into family C." This is not Ikea furniture, it's a family. These children don't just require a home, they require the right home. The home that is the perfect fit for them. The place where they mesh, where they belong. A home where the details have been thought out and those details match what that child needs.

We have a tendency to take a "beggars can't be choosers" approach to orphan care. The kid needs a home, give them a home. Don't be picky, anything is better than what they have now. But that's a terrible way to approach the foundation for this child's entire life. You wouldn't want someone to tell you that about marriage, would you? "He's nice enough, and he wants to marry you, so just say yes. Don't be picky!" You or I would be screaming "No! That's not enough! I don't want to settle! I want to be loved, to be happy, to feel fulfilled and have my deepest needs met. Not just sold off to whoever is available." Yet we seem to say that to these kids and to the parents who are willing to adopt them. Just take what you can get.

I realize now that the kids available for adoption in the U.S. just don't fit with my family at this time. Maybe in the future we'll decide to do this again, and maybe then we'll decide that it's time to adopt "at home." But at this juncture, everything in our lives and in our hearts is telling us that the perfect child for us is in Bulgaria. And that there is a child in Bulgaria whose perfect home is here, with us. That's way more important than having a kid with an "I Buy American!" sticker on her chest.

Perhaps the crisis of orphan care is a global matter, and we should be looking at the whole Earth as our country. Perhaps we should look at adoption as a chance to make our family something more vibrant and dynamic than what biology could have provided.

I know one thing for sure. As soon as her little foot touches U.S. soil, my new daughter will be an American. So there.

Against all better judgement...

Here is my new blog. It feels like the sounds of one hand clapping, but oh well. I've got stuff to say so I'll say it.

Bear with me.