I even have a superstition that has grown on me
as the result of invisible hands
coming all the time..
Namely, that if you follow your bliss
you put yourself on a kind of track
that has been there all the while,
waiting for you.
And the life that you ought to be living,
is the one you ARE living.
-joseph campbell

Friday, March 25, 2011

Hear Ye, Hear Ye.... New Blog

Important Update!!!!!

I have started a new blog, continued in the spirit of learning from and sharing our life's journey.  Hope you will join us there......

Drawing Maps of China

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Cami's Adoption Day

It was about this time in August of 2007, we traveled to China for our first time

and we met the sweetest baby in the world!

I wanted so badly to create a video that showed the heart of our story.
Instead, I ended up with a video tainted by so many technical problems,
it's hard to follow the story in places.

But I hope you will try.
During this special time,
as we celebrate Cami and who she was and all she has become,
I invite you go back with us to the beginning of our journey.

There are some places where the film freezes.
The music usually continues.
Please wait, and the video will resume.
(Like I said, there are some technical difficulties)
But it is still a treasure to us.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Paradox of Adult Children

Lately they come to me,
smelling faintly of
smoke and leaves
and other people's cars.

They come
for renewal and validation,
they come begging,
like street performers
hiding behind
tricks, or grades or funny stories.
Aching for approval or more often,
for money,
willing me to open
the mother wallet
and let the spirits move
to finance their dreams,
or their snacks,
or gas for their car.

They come to me
all false bravado and devil may care
never knowing
I see
the trembling hand
or lowered shifty eyes revealing
haunted hurting hearts.

At night
they come to me
still needing some small goodbye ritual
and never knowing
I can still see them
all blankets and thumbs and small feet kicking.

They come
with more questions than answers.
tilling secret gardens,
proof they are growing away from me,
don't need me

But still,
they come.
Finding their way
in from the cold
They let me reach for their hand
For a moment
I pull them close and smell their hair
and know they are mine.

Behind stubble and bangs of a nameless color.
they still sweat grass and pool water and wind.
mixed with a secret scent we share,
branded onto my heart
from the first day
I knew them.

Even though they have again stolen my sleep,
overtaken all my prayers
and recklessly wrapped themselves up
in most moments of possible peace.
There is hope
down the hallway
they come.
To me.
To home.
hearts still open wide.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

A Story, A Story

Lately I've been contemplating parenting at my age. My friends are becoming grandparents and I'm knee deep in speech therapy, gymnastics classes, inflatable pools, and poster paint.

I no longer wonder if I can do this......since I am doing it every day, with the help of coffee and an occasional Advil. I can still carry my girls up and down the steps. I never understood that story about picking up the calf and then one day you can't do it.....so I'm going to try and prove it wrong.

And I have found myself considering the relative advantages of parenting young children in middle age. I've seen enough time go by in my life, and I've seen enough changes, both in myself and externally, that I am more accepting of the ups and downs of daily life. And I'm less flustered by attacks on my time or my plans. Maybe I've learned how to be careful and not make too many plans, since ANYTHING can happen and often will happen.

Another observation I've made is the gift of being more fully present in the days of my life. I used to think I was working "toward" some yet to come time of life. Now I believe I am where I'm suppose to be and this is IT. There is not a dress rehearsal.

I try to remind myself everyday that a smile, a kind word, or a hug when things go wrong can make an even bigger impression than mommy turning into the Incredibly Hulk and ranting and raving about bad drivers, slow checkout lanes, and spilled ( I knew that was going to happen) juice.

Today started with a little stress. Delilah was going to try to take a preschool gymnastics class again. When she tried being in a class a few months ago, she did not listen to her teacher and she ended up roaming off to explore the gym on her own and quickly became a danger to herself and lots of gymnasts and cheerleaders practicing big tumbling skills. We had to remove her from the gym and hold her while she cried and Cami finished the class. Delilah wanted to go back in. She just didn't want to follow the rules.

So after lots of encouragement, role playing, and instruction, Delilah was excited to have another chance to go to her very own class. Cami has been attending a class, which made Delilah miserable to be left behind. And today she did great. Even though I was stressed about it, she walked right into the gym with her teacher and pretty much ran circles around the other little girl in her class. But she stayed with her teacher and followed her instructions, even when I could tell her brain was tempting her with it's own ideas. At the end of class, she was given a Popsicle and she left feeling really great about life.

Since I had watched Delilah push her bangs out of her face for an hour, I left the gym and drove straight to the hair salon where we often go for the girls haircuts. It was closed. Dark and empty. So many places have not been able to survive the economy. We will miss "Crewcuts and Pigtails", where the girls sat in little cars for haircuts and watched a DVD player installed at eye level and ate animal crackers. The haircut was barely a blip on their radar. A great concept, but a luxury, so when the economy changed, people didn't have to take their children to get haircuts as often. But today I was on a mission and would not be put off that easily. I drove across the street to a CostCutters Family Hair Salon.

I noticed a sign on the reception desk that said, "No Checks". I didn't have much cash, but I knew I had my paypal card. Delilah's bangs trim took less than 30 seconds and I'm pretty sure the $5.95 price was total profit. The stylist didn't taper, feather, or anything special, but at least the eyes are now more easily seen.

I pulled out my card to pay and even added a nice tip because the woman had been kind to Delilah and given her a little butterfly clip at the end. I was ready to leave, but suddenly the woman said, "oops, your card was declined". She tried it again. We waited. I hate those moments of waiting on a machine to decide my fate. Declined again. Hmmmm...... I thought I had money in that Paypal account, but it is also the account that some reoccuring charity gifts and miscellaneous charges are taken from and I don't keep up with when everything is due to be removed.

The hair salon didn't care about all that. They were just waiting for me to pay them. And I had no other way to pay. So, I did what all quick on their feet thinking moms would agree made sense. I offered to go home and return with the payment AND my other daughter to have her bangs trimmed. Luckily they trusted me enough to let me go.

I zoomed home and instructed Cami to quickly run to the bathroom and put on her shoes and we jumped back in the car heading for the salon. As soon as I walked in I decided to pay off the first haircut just to make sure the new (for emergency use only) card I had grabbed at home would work. It worked fine and I thought that was the end of my troubles. (Note to self: Keep more cash on hand)

Up hopped Cami, into the chair of the fastest bangs cutter in the South. She had her ten seconds of attention and we re-gathered at the reception desk to pay for this second haircut. Again, I was poised to leave, when the message appeared on the computer screen, Card Declined. "Let me try that card again".

Oh no.....the second decline said something about too many transactions for the same amount at the same place. I had caused suspicion by paying for our haircuts separately. The computer brain that decides whether or not to accept my plea for payment decided I was not worthy.

Now What? I was starting to feel like a criminal. As if someone would go to such trouble to rip off a hair salon for a bang trim. But seriously, they were looking at me.....waiting. Okay, I said, I will go to the bank and get cash this time. I'll come right back. Thankfully they trusted me again and Cami and I dashed to the bank, and we did dash, because honestly, this whole event was starting to bore me. There were a hundred other things I needed to do. On the way to the bank Cami started seriously complaining that she needed to use the bathroom. (Didn't she just do that at home? I knew I told her to, but I couldn't remember following up to see if she had. In mama-world that could mean most anything)

It definitely meant when I returned to the hair salon I couldn't just run in and toss them the money. I had to manhandle the car seat buckle for the 20th time and bring Cami back in with me. Ah! Cash. It always works. I paid again for an overpriced bang trim and left another tip because she trusted me. Again. Then, with receipt in hand, we had to pay homage, again, to the restroom at the back of the shop. And when you are with a 4 year old in a new bathroom, it must be properly explored and she MUST do all of the steps by herself which includes pulling off her own paper towel and coordinating the foot operated trash can. When said 4yo decides to do all her business in the salon bathroom in addition to all the exploring, long spans of time can be spent there. But I was patient and I smiled, because, what did it matter really. I was thankful for little bodies that work the way they should and for little minds that have room for details such as the scent of soap in this brand new place.

Finally we exit. I'm feeling more than a little conspicuous by now. It would be nice to go home and crawl back into my cool bed. But since we were on a roll, I decided to take Cami on one more adventure....... to Staples. I thank the stylist and told her we would be back, though definitely NOT today.

Staples was uneventful. But I have to say Cami has a knack for finding the coolest things in stores! We came home with a dry erase board by Crayola that has templates for writing letters and numbers along with blank templates for drawing. Something good for school. And as I re-entered the atmosphere of my house, I found it to be just as I left it, messy and muggy and waiting. Delilah was eating corn chips in the den right out of the bag and leaving a trail behind her.

I wanted to forget it all. I wanted to forget I was a mom for a little while and sit down quietly. But breakfast needed to be cleaned up and lunch needed to be made, and even more pressing was the box of paints Cami had found at the store. Not the muted and pale watercolors we've had before, but real, thick and dark, poster paints. These were the real thing. School paints. And we are a school, right? So as soon as we set the bags down, the paints just HAD to come out.

It was about as messy as I expected. Delilah somehow got paint on the BACK of her shirt and in her hair, but it's washable and the table cleaned up fine. I gave the girls a limit of two papers to paint and then the noodles were ready and finally I had that sit down with a cup of coffee. And I thought about how crazy the day had been and how happy we all really are and what the world must be coming to if you can no longer write a check for a haircut. And I realized that while it's far from perfect, I am DOING THIS. And I'm thoughtfully present and aware of all these precious days, though long they may be. And as tired and old as I feel, in the big scheme of things I hope my children remember me laughing. I hope they remember the paint. I hope I show them my soul because it's ageless. And I'm thankful to be right here where I am.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Memory and Language

Having often wondered what memories of China are stored in my girls little minds, today I had an experience that chilled me to the bone.

My understanding of the research was that children who lose their birth language may lose memories from that part of the brain. Having an experience as a two year old in China and then being adopted and losing the Chinese language as an unfortunate side affect of learning English might mean the experience was also lost.

I have proof that isn't true. And I might have the research wrong. So feel free to comment the correct facts if you know them!

Today has been a most difficult day with Delilah. She has been oppositional in a way we haven't seen since her first weeks home with us. We traveled to Inner Mongolia on June 8th last year so we are coming up on several important one year anniversaries.

One of the behaviors Delilah returned to today was refusing to wear a diaper. She isn't potty trained and we are not pushing it as we are still sorting out her medical issues. Today we walked down memory lane as we saw her the way she was last summer...... absolutely determined not to wear a diaper.

She did other things too. Like standing in front of the TV so no one could watch, taking something from her sister and running, just for the effect of it all. Ornery. That might be a good word to describer her today. But it was purposeful and intense, as if she was trying her best to behave badly.

Late in the day, something came to my mind and I shared with Mark that it was probably about a year ago exactly that Delilah was removed from her foster family and taken to the orphanage where she had never been. We discussed how we might see this odd behavior over the next month. Orphanage life is brutal, but it is especially hard if you are almost three years old and you've never lived like that. How sad and frightened she must have been! She must have wondered who would take care of her. She must have wondered where her family had gone. I hated thinking about it last year, and I still hate it.

There are some things we know about her time at the orphanage. We were told she cried so much that a particular nanny took pity on her and invited her to go home with her at night.

We also know Delilah came to us with a severe injury to her left heel. She was heavily bandaged and had been to the hospital every day for a week. Her heel had been almost amputated in an accident we were told happened on her way home with the nanny. She had been riding on the back of the nanny's bicycle and her foot had gotten entangled in the spokes and there had been a crash. It was a terrible injury. It may have been handled differently if it happened to a child here, but we were just thankful she could walk and we could keep her out of pain and the antibiotics kept infection at bay. It was an open flesh wound, no doubt quite tramatic and painful and frightening for a child. Especially a child who had just lost the only family she had ever known.

Today Delilah began to speak to us about this experience. She talked about it for a long time and she knew details of the story that we could not have told her because we did not know them!!!! She had been angry all day, judging by her statements and her behavior and her anger showed as she recounted the day the accident happened.......

"I sit on lady bicycle and go fast. I put my foot back and it get stuck in back of bicycle. I get big boo boo and cry and cry, .............. but other lady pick me up. I was soooooo mad. I miss you. Why you not pick me up?"

It broke my heart to hear her slightly mixed up timeline. How I wish I could have comforted her when she had such a scary experience and felt so alone. When I think of how trauma looks in the eyes of children, Delilah's accident is a good example.

And you see, she is mad........ who wouldn't be! She wants someone to be accountable. Who would let such a thing happen to a little child? Why weren't we there? It hurts her to remember being so alone. And her reaction is to hurt us back by pushing us away with her oppositional behavior.

I know we will see the face of this pain many times, but today we held her and we told her how we wish we could have been with her then too, and how we were coming to her as fast as we could. We told her how we would have picked her up and held her if only we could have been there.

We also told her in every way we could think of that we would always be her family. We would take care of her forever. I still think it must be a difficult concept for children to internalize, so it's crucial I make a point of emphasizing our permanence as a family regularly.

So if I ever wondered what memories are hidden behind all the changes my girls have seen over the past couple years, I now believe the memories are alive and well, for better or worse, and I may see more of them as time goes by. I need to be open and alert and ready to recognize the precious nuggets of truth in the stories they tell!

I'm excited and thankful to see Delilah able to relate memories from her first language in the language of her forever home. Quite an accomplishment for a still three year old!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Learning to Be

Responding to a call for water.........a bowl......and how about that trowel in the garage, I decided to stand by the window and watch my little girls playing in the back yard. I was sure they would ask for something else again soon.

I had noticed the girls did not seem to fuss or argue with each other outside. I think they feel they have enough space, and I think they somehow understand the concept of sharing the world outdoors. They have learned to work it out.

One will dig and the other will hold the bucket. Delilah likes to swing and Cami likes to push.

I usually let them play out back alone because I can see them from all the windows in the kitchen and the den and I can always find something TO DO in the kitchen, to clean up from one meal or prepare for the next.

But today, as I lingered by the door after doling out drinks of water, I allowed myself to be swept away, my spirit soaring like the little girl I used to be. And I saw something surprising. I saw my little girls already know something I am spiritually pursuing. Although they look busy at first glance, their busyness has a holy rhythm to it.

They know the doing is not the only important thing. They know how to simply BE.

Enraptured by the crow pecking in the mud for a worm, really feeling the wind lift the hair from their neck, hanging upside down on a swing and taking in the world from a new point of view. The kinds of things I try to remind myself to stop and become aware of, they are naturally enjoying.

And there is another secret I saw unveiled from my post by the door. My girls know how to stop. They will comfortably sit and swing their legs for as long as they want to. They will sing a song, all the verses. They will take a break for water. They will step into the bush or climb up the tree for a closer look at something. Everything is worthwhile. Everything is meaningful. It is all connected.

I'm not sure how we lose it, as adults. We mistake busyness for meaning. We come to see stillness as a waste of time. And with it, we lose more than we understand. There is a great gift in re-capturing the ability to sit comfortably in the pauses of life. I have an idea I will be delighted by what happens in the spaces in between, as soon as I learn to be still and be comfortable with the being.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Believing in Love

Spring is all around us now, reminding us how it was never really gone at all, just hidden away, for a time, unable to show it's face in the shadow of winter's force and power. But given a chance, Spring will begin again.

During this time when what has been hidden and thought to be lost returns, fresh and more beautiful than we remembered, I find myself thinking of the other people who have loved my daughters. Other people. Other Springs. Other countries. Other lives.

There is some disagreement in the adoption community about whether or not we should tell our daughters from China they were loved by their birth parents. I think the West romanticizes love too much. I think we put love in a box. I don't think we really know what love is. Most of us have never have our love for anyone put to the kind of test which would cause us to expand our definition of the word.

Cami, at age 4 and a half, is already asking about her birth mother. "Why didn't she keep me"? There are many things I cannot tell her for sure about her mother, but I can tell her that she carried her, warm and safe, in her womb for 9 months. Because Cami was a healthy baby, other than her cleft, her birth mother probably ate very well and stayed healthy, likely out of concern for the baby within.

I can also tell Cami she was loved in China by the women who kept this tiny cleft baby alive, and not just alive, but thriving, in a bleak, despairingly poor orphanage. Yes, she was loved. I believe in this kind of love without hesitation.

Delilah's story is different. She lived two years with a foster family. We visited them when we went to China to adopt her, and their love, devotion, care, and grief shook the foundations of everything I previously believed about adoption. I can tell Delilah she was loved. We looked into the eyes of the family who loved her. We saw them fall to the ground in grief. We held their hands. And ultimately, we took their baby across the ocean. We took the best they had. And I am haunted by the brutality of that event. Damages done. We were unknowingly part of a disaster of kharmic proportion. In the name of Love.

And now, I find all these people living in my head. The unknown mothers, the nannies, the foster family. The names don't come close to describing what they did and who they are to us, even now and for all time forward. They became part of us when the small child connected to them joined our family.

During these days of early Spring, I hear their voices and I see their eyes, their veined hands and bowed heads, bending over, tending to a child, my child, and then looking up with surprise, to find the child has gone.

I just read a novel by Lorrie Moore, called "A Gate at the Stairs". It is the story of a college girl who was hired as a nanny by a family preparing to adopt. Ultimately, the child cannot remain with the family and the nanny is no longer needed either. But the connection with the child will stay with her and she speaks eloquently of the connection between all the people who love a child:

"A little later in life, when this time seemed distant and shrunken, and every friendship from it had dwindled, I would encounter many women with stories sadder than Sarah's (foster mother)......Still, it wasn't, strictly speaking, Sarah's story. In the end I felt it belonged as much or more to Mary-Emma, whom, I realized, I had never stopped unconsciously to seek, riveted by little girls who would be her age in stores and malls and parks........

Mary Emma, a little girl with four women wondering after her, looking for her, sort of, without her even knowing. That was love of the most useless kind, unless you believed in love's power to waft in from a burning sky to the unseen grass it had designated as its beloved, unless you believed in the prayers of faraway nuns, unless you believed in miracles and magic, rapture and dice and Sufic chants and charms behind curtains and skillful clouds at smoky, unfathomable distances.

When I imagined all of these women with their hearts seeking and beaming their futile, worthless love through the air toward Mary-Emma, I pictured them all in a line, part search party, part refugee camp, and in my mind I set them on a path that went over hill and over dale and even on into meadows and trees.

Of course I was with them. "

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Their Prince Has Come

It was a cold and rainy winter afternoon. Mark was home, unable to work in the weather. The girls were climbing on him, fussing with one another, and generally crabby and bored.

I happened to ask about toys.....wasn't there a toy they might like to play with, even though I know all toys pale in comparison to a day off with Dad!

Mark asked the girls if there was anything in the world they could play with, what would it be. Cami gave it a long thought and then spoke up.

"There was this one toy......remember, mom? The white pipes you brought home from the toy library".

We talked for a while about the white PCV pipes and connectors. Open-ended toys like this offer so much to children. With a sprinkle of imagination, they can be used in a wide variety of ways and provide experiences which translate into math and reading concepts. Building toys are my favorite for children at every age.

A few minutes later, Mark told the girls he had to run an errand and he would be back home quickly.

How excited they were when he returned with long pieces of plastic piping and assorted connector pieces . With eager helpers by his side, Mark set about cutting and measuring and sanding the pipes. Less than an hour later we had a box full, and the girls set out to experiment and see what they could create.

What was really created that day was a memory! A memory of a Dad who can make dreams come true. A dad who took the time to sprinkle some magic on a dull day. We are thankful everyday for the special Dad we have!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Sensory Appreciation

Going through the days and nights with Cami and Delilah is like walking through a sensory mine field. Before adoption I thought we all more or less experienced the world in the same way. Everyone knew what hot and cold felt like. We knew what felt scratchy or smooth. I thought everyone noticed these details vaguely and went on with their life.

I had no idea!

I have learned that some children seek extra sensory input. They actually have a physical need to run, spin, climb, swing, push and take in all the world has to offer. Both of my girls are hungry for sensory input. It works out well for us to spend time outside each day. We also have a trampoline in our den, and many hours each day are spent playing dance and gymnastics. An equal amount of energy is expended reaching for the forbidden sensory fruit like jumping off the stairs, scaling the pantry shelves, and building their own obstacle course.

Trying to stop sensory seekers is difficult because even struggling in my arms or fighting off my interference in their shenanigans gives some degree of satisfying sensory experiences! To them. It gives bruises and sore muscles to me!

Being outside can fill alot of needs at once. There is the bright sun, a breeze warm or cold, the feeling of grass and soil, and space to run and jump or climb. Shoveling or gathering stones or leaves seem to be enjoyable sensory work. We have tried crates full of beans and rice indoors, but time after time, the best exercise turned out to be throwing the beans EVERYWHERE before I could stop it.

Cami is sensory seeking most likely because the first two years of her life were spent in an orphanage where her view was probably the same day after day. From the pictures I've seen, there was not much color there, and I don't know how much she was allowed to explore her enviornment. In the winter, she wore a large puffy jacket day and night so movement was restricted.

When we first met Cami, she was a little girl scared of so many things we hardly notice in our world. The noise of airplanes or the sound of birds singing were startling to her. She could not bring herself to reach out a touch a furry stuffed animal! Yet because her primitive self craved all the sights and sounds she had missed, she quickly put her trust in us and allowed us to introduce her to the world at large! She managed to overcome her fear of many things in order to experience the sensory input they provided. One part of her brain knew what she needed.

Another part of Cami's brain did not like the stimulation of the moving, twirling, talking, and very typical world. So while Cami is busy seeking out new experiences, she is, at the same time, distracted by a part of her brain sounding off alarms that "enough is enough, too much already". So hers is a fragile balance. And at the end of the day, especially a noisy day filled with new sounds, tastes, or activities, Cami often has to let off steam in order to compensate for too much sensory input. The letting off steam is not pleasant (see earlier post about raging) so we try to counterbalance her world from the outside.

And we try to respect her sensory needs and allow her home to be a sensory safe place. I cut the tags out of her clothes because they bother her. I wash and comb her hair very gently because any stimulation of her scalp is interpreted as painful. We avoid situations where I expect good behavior when there is a great deal of activity and noise. Restaurants, for example, are not a good place for us right now. I try to keep our world peaceful, though it is challenging.

The other player in our sensory maze is Delilah, our party girl! She is also a sensory seeker. And her need for sensory input has no end. She loves to experience the physical world with her whole body.

Delilah's babyhood was not bland. The photos from her foster family show a colorful home and she slept with her foster mother and it seems she was carried everywhere for the first two years.

Delilah craves sensory experiences because it is what she has grown to expect. She could almost be sensory typical, if she had a stopping point!!!! We worry about injury, though so far Delilah is both bouncy and followed by a troupe of guardian angels. I have also wondered if she registers pain within normal range because so little seems to bother her!

Delilah loves to have her hair washed and brushed. Tangles do not seem to bother her, nor does the water running into her face when I rinse out the shampoo. She is a daredevil who climbs and jumps with no regard to danger. She has learned to appreciate sensory input without learning internal regulation.

So what do all these sensory differences mean in our real life???? It means when I have two girls in the bath tub, one is crying because hair washing is so brutal and then the other is crying because it is absolutely, positively, two hours later, water gone cold, time to get out.

It means if one girl lines up all the blocks according to color and size, the other will likely jump off the chair and crash them all to the ground. And then there will be crying again. It means one girl likes to be dressed to the shoes most days, and the other doesn't seems to notice hot or cold on her body as discomfort. It means going out into the world and trying to pack up two overstimulated girls to come home is very, very difficult. And that is a sensory experience I try to AVOID!!!!!

Having children with special sensory needs means we do what we can to help our girls make peace with their physical world. We continue to offer safe sensory experiences and we continue to help them transition from one sensory state to another. And we hope, with love and maturity, the day will come when sensory input will come and go mostly unnoticed by the conscious mind of these beautiful and busy girls.