Monday, February 27, 2012

For SJ's mom

As I've said before the internet and its instantaneous access to information and rumor can be a blessing and a curse for those families pursuing international adoption.

It is a blessing to get frequent updates from your agency. It is a blessing to see a video file of your child-to-be waiting in your inbox. It is a blessing to connect with other parents the world over who are also adopting a child.

I have learned so much from the friends I have made through blogs and internet forums. SO MUCH.

But the dark side of the internet and these online friendships is that it makes it so much easier for rumours to fly. For frustrations to mount. For the words of one person's angry vent to crush the little hope remaining to another waiting parent.

It is so hard. So hard to get your hopes up and see them dashed again. To have no control over the process. To know intellectually what the *right* thing to do is, and at the same time have your heart screaming for decisive action.

Several families have joined together to lift their hearts in prayer for movement on the emigration permit front. I am thankful to them for harnessing their faith for all the children waiting to join their families. I am.

But--there are many of us who do not pray. Who do not share the same faith practices and who do not find comfort in scripture. And to these parents I want to say that I am putting so much positive energy out into the universe. For your child, for my child, for all the children. I believe the universe will come through for us. I really, really do.

I understand if your heart and your spirit need to take a break. If you need to rebuild the protective walls that will allow you to be the best parent you can be for your child. I want you to be strong.

I understand if it seems like this journey will end with your arms empty and your heart broken. I wish we lived in the same city. I would buy you coffee and we could weep and laugh into our cups while the Replacements played in the background. We could go thrifting and buy tiny little 70s sweaters for our sons.

I believe it will happen. I'm happy to believe for both of us. I'll carry both our sons in my heart. Take time for yourself and let me know when you're ready to believe again.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Kind of a big deal.

Well hello interweb friends. My goodness I've been scarce around this space this week. The new pup has me walking 6 miles before 12pm most days and my poor veal-like muscles are struggling to adjust to our new schedule. I'm completely wiped out by the end of the day which is actually a blessing--it's that kind of bone-tired that leaves no room for extra worrying. I keep telling friends and family that "A tired dog is a happy dog!" but really I'm talking about myself.

Today Ruthie-pup and I enjoyed a very windy walk around a local lake with a former student/friend, getting caught up on university gossip. As we walked we passed a man jogging and I said out loud, "Who does that? What kind of life allows you to run at 10:30am?" before I realized, oh right: I do that now. I live that kind of life.

It's been on my mind a lot this week.

I received a message from an old friend asking about my decision process in making this work/life transition. My friend had recently scaled back her work responsibilities as well, in order to spend more time with her family. She asked me how my transition was going and how did I feel about missing out on the challenges/professional benefits that no longer come my way?

The truth is, I feel bummed. It would be a lie to say that I don't think about the professional conferences I used to attend. Conferences where I saw my colleagues from around the country. Where I presented sessions and participated in professional knowledge groups. It would be a lie to say that I don't miss the annual international travel, or the feeling of pride and accomplishment when my students receive prestigious scholarships and grants. I miss the respect from my colleagues; respect that I worked for over a decade to establish.

And it sucks that for my friend and I making the choice to focus more on our young children necessitated that we take ourselves out of the "fast-track" to higher education administration glory. (Such that it is).

At the same time it is amazing to be able to walk my kids to school each morning. To volunteer in my son's classroom every Friday. To meet friends for "walkies and talkies" around a beautiful lake on a Spring morning. To sit and express myself creatively. To have no excuse not to take care of myself.

In the past I worked hard to make sure everyone in my field knew I was kind of a big deal.
Now I work hard to make sure that *I* know the blessings of this life are kind of a big deal.

Who gets to walk the dog for three miles on a weekday morning at 10 o'clock?
I do.

Thursday, February 23, 2012



That's when emigration permit submissions are supposed to start for real. Understandably, those of us waiting to take custody of our children are a wee bit skeptical about this news. Some of us are even more than skeptical--some of us are angry, disbelieving, bitter.

I read a comment on the blog of an amazing advocate for Korea's children that really struck me. I am not judging this parent, as clearly he/she is in immense pain, but the main thrust of the comment was that the person had put away all pictures of the child they were waiting to take custody of. He/she had erased all traces of the child in the home because it was too painful to look at them and consider that this child might never join his/her family.

Ouch. Oh, friend.

I will not take down any of the pictures of YH that we have around the house.

I love that little boy and I will wait as long as it takes for a decision about his future to be made. I hope that the decision will be for him to join our family but if it turns out that he is to remain in Korea I will continue to love him. And to wish him health and happiness.

My frustration with the process as it stands right now, with this "unexpected" delay, will not color my feelings toward my child or the country where he was born.

My fellow waiting parents are beginning to exhibit a most American trait: the willingness and desire to raise our voices in protest.  The belief that getting our government involved will quickly fix this "problem". The notion that if we are loud enough, go to media outlets, get congress involved, we can expedite the Korean government's process. (A process that, BTW, is actually not delayed--there was no "start date" announced by the Korean ministry. The US agencies and the Korean placing agencies *assumed* based on years past that emigration permits would be processed in early January.)

I am thankful that I live in a country where I am allowed to protest what I perceive as injustice. I am thankful that my voice has the potential to influence policies and procedures here, in the US. But I am in no way arrogant enough to think that my voice, my country's voice, should/could hold sway over another country's established process. Because that process is not moving fast enough for me.

Yes--I fully support advocating for the best interests of children who need homes. Of course.

But the desperate pleas and tantrums of waiting families are beginning to take on a strong tone of entitlement. Of cultural imperialism. Of judgement.

I am owed NOTHING by the Korean government.
My son-to-be however, is deserving of choices made in his best interest.

 Let's all take a deep breath. If you believe in God, pray. If you practice yoga, spend a few extra minutes in child's pose. If you play roller derby, skate extra hard.

If you can bear it, look at a picture of your child-to-be.

Good things come to those who wait.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Like clockwork.

It's Tuesday.
Tuesday=supercrazyskyhighanxiety day.

My fellow waiting friends are ANGRY. They are TIRED. They are NUMB.

The placing agencies now say the Ministry has indicated it will start accepting Emigration Permit submissions in early-March. I want to believe this will happen, but even our agency's official update sounds skeptical that this will be the case. We've gotten our hopes up several times before about a "for sure" date.

A family who has been waiting almost a year since receiving their referral got a phone call from their agency alerting them to the fact that their child's foster family wishes to adopt the child. The family in the US lost the referral. In Korea there is no age restriction on families adopting domestically. A pending international adoption can be dissolved if a member of the child's birth family (or any Korean family) wishes to adopt the child. This is true pretty much up until the family adopting internationally takes custody of the child.

Can you imagine how you might feel if at this moment in time, this raw and vulnerable moment, you lost the referral of a child you had loved for over a year? The mama in question has written a letter/blog post to her almost-daughter's foster mother:

A letter to Mrs. Chung

Beautiful. Heartbreaking. Terrifying.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Sometimes we are dumb.

                                                                   Ruthie Millicent

We did an awesomely dumb thing this weekend.
We acquired a new dog.

She's marvelous. Beautiful, sleek, soft. Strong yet submissive, gentle on a leash, very soft mouth when taking a biscuit. Needs training. Needs confidence building. Needs attention. Likes to interact with children but isn't *too* interested in them. Lets an elderly three-legged beagle boss her around. Snores loudly.

She's a sweetheart of a pup who I think could go far--we're aiming to get her canine good citizenship and then hopefully get her into a special corps of therapy dogs of her breed. Trained and coordinated by a local breed rescue group they work with special needs kids/adults with autism/seniors...

We love her and she is bringing us much needed joy and distraction.

Notice I did not say that we "adopted" a new dog (although that is the language that rolls most easily off my tongue when talking abut getting a puppers from the city animal shelter.) I purposely did not use this phrase because I am taking some time to really think through questionable adoption language. What does it mean when I say we "adopted a dog"? What does it mean when I say it in front of my children (some of whom were themselves adopted)? What does it mean when my choice of words inadvertently reinforce the notion that anyone with a fist full of cash can go and adopt a child?

Adopting a dog is not the same as adopting a child. Adopting a highway is not the same as adopting a child. Adopting a law is not the same as adopting a child, nor is adopting a stretch of highway.

There is a good discussion of this topic going on at one of the adoption forums that I haunt. Lots of intelligent points of view being shared by parents who have encountered all manner of questionable adoption language. Parents who have been asked (as recently as last week) "How much did she cost?" by jovial passers-by looking to start a supermarket conversation. Parents who have been asked the details of their child's background history--in front of the child, but with no acknowledgement of the child as a person in and of herself.

So many of these statements and questions are made out of curiosity with no ill intent. I get that. But they are also often made with no real thought to the child involved.

A blogger who I much admire did a wonderful post on this subject not that long ago, and the comments on her post are well worth a read:
Just because the word is the same...

Lots to think about.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Slightly less exhausted.

Last night we were fortunate enough to be invited to dinner at a friend's house. This friend is one of the people who should have nothing to do with me because the last couple of times we've seen each other I've been sour sour sour. But because she is gracious of heart and spirit, she reaches out to keep the friendship blooming. And for that I am so thankful.

And so my lovely friend and her equally lovely family took us in on a rainy night, shared their toys, fed us delicious lasagna, listened to our woes and offered support. And it was magical.

The grown-ups laughed over beers and diet coke. We shared stories from our youth, and listened to the wild rumpus of our own kids chasing and laughing and waging battle on one another.

The kids ranged in age from 10 to 2, and I don't know what was sweeter: seeing my son idolize my friend's eldest child, or seeing her toddler try to win my child's heart with stickers sweetly offered by the handful.

It was a good night; a much needed good night.

My friend also helped me realize that these exhausting weeks follow a pattern (perhaps my fellow waiting friends can relate?):
Monday is fraught with giddy anticipation. It could be THE day!
Tuesday is more anxiety-laden. WHY hasn't it happened? Is my agency update posted on-line yet? Let me hit refresh ONE more time...
Wednesday is filled with moments of negative thoughts followed quickly by moments of optimistic resolve. Clearly it won't be today. BUT it MIGHT be today! Refresh refresh refresh....
Thursday is the saddest day. I give up by 12pm because if the Australian waiting families haven't posted an update by then...Refresh. Half-hearted refresh. Refresh.
Friday I wake up with a weight lifted--nothing will happen over the weekend so I don't have to obsessively check all my information sources. I can leave the phone out of sight all day, I can BREATHE.

Knowing that this pattern exists make me feel slightly more in control of my emotions, and gives me a guide to scheduling activities. Social activities should be consigned to Fridays and the weekends--maybe Monday. They should be limited on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday.

What a relief! Now I don't have to worry about putting on a happy face--I can avoid scheduling gatherings/get togethers that would be most stressful on my bad days. I can take maximum advantage of the good days to shower my friends with love--because they deserve it.

Thursday, February 16, 2012



In the ongoing saga of absolutely NO MOVEMENT on the adoption process, there has been NO MOVEMENT. Well, except for the rapid plummeting of the hearts, hopes and dreams of those of us waiting.

The most recent credible rumor was that the South Korean government ministry in charge of processing emigration permits would begin accepting submissions from placing agencies in "mid-February".

"Mid-February" was Monday. It was Tuesday. It was Wednesday and it is today. And the ministry has not started accepting submissions. At this point families have been matched with a specific child, waiting to take custody of that child, for up to 15 months.

Our US agencies have no idea when the ministry will accept submissons. The Korean placing agencies have no idea when it will happen.

We are all losing our minds.

If you are my friend in real life, and you are still speaking to me, kudos to you. Because man, I don't even want to be around me.

The wait, the unknowns, the worry, the fear--we are exhausted. And we are exhausting. If you don't ask us about how our son/daughter in Korea is doing we feel like you don't care. If you do ask us about him/her, we start to cry or rant. When you make what you think is a light hearted joke about how buying new shoes/looking at getting a puppy/buying a house is a "replacement" for not having our waiting child, it feels like you punched us in the stomach.

Because at this point, it feel entirely possible that we will not get to take custody of these children.

We think of the empty strollers parked in our garage. Of the booster seat strapped to a dining room chair. Of the quilt we made by hand six months ago, waiting to cover a softly sleeping form.

We think of our toddlers in Korea, so attached to their foster families/caregivers. We think of how confusing it will be for them to be handed over to a new family. Or to leave the facility where they've lived their whole lives.

We think of the older children we are adopting. The child about to turn five who knows she has a family waiting for her but doesn't understand why they aren't there yet. Why it is taking so long? Did they change their minds?

We think of the foster families, who have cared for our children since shortly after birth. Who have slept with these babies on their chests, carried them on their backs, bathed them and witnessed their first steps. What an incredible burden to fill their hearts with so much love and then take it away.

We think of the children already in our families. Children who don't understand the invisible sibling. Children who don't understand why we are so quick to cry at the sight of a toddler.

This sucks. It just sucks.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


My two little valentines were drunk on sugar after a day full of classroom parties and love fests. I quickly assessed the situation (a classmate leaving Sweet Bub's room took one look at me and crowed "We've had SOOO MUCH CAAAANDY") and knew I needed to get my kids moving if we had any hope of forstalling a glycemic crash and burn.

After a quick visit to an exotic pet store (to visit a sloth, duh) we headed over to a local park. This park is one that we visited pretty much every day when Miss A was a toddler. True to form the playscape area remains a favorite with parents of younger kids and often there is a mob of little moppets settled in the pebbles, grabbing from a communal pot of buckets and shovels.

Yesterday was no exception; Miss A and Sweet Bubs were the biggest kids by far. I assumed they would play with each other and ignore the tiny minions--but instead each of my kids quickly paired up with a different toddler boy.

Sweet Bubs was approached by a very confident three year old who demanded "Whatchoo doin?" and quickly initiated a game of tag. Sweet Bubs let the little dude chase him hither and thon until they both collapsed in a pile beneath a slide. The little boy started gleefully pounding on Sweet Bub's back yelling "You're it! TAG!" while Sweet Bubs giggled and lamented "I'm not a drum! Oh jeez! He thinks I'm a drum."

The little boy's mother asked Sweet Bubs if her son was "tagging" too hard and he replied, "No--I'm pretty much ok with it." The boys continued to wrestle like puppies, with Sweet Bubs very clearly taking a subdued approach in the face of the littler child's enthusiasm.

Meanwhile across the yard Miss A had taken an 18 month old German boy under her wing. She patiently and gently tossed a tennis ball to him and tried to teach him how to reciprocate. They held hands and meandered about the equipment. Miss A pushed him slowly in the baby swing and laughed when he laughed.

I couldn't help but think maybe their play was a glimpse of what's to come? Eventually? With this guy?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Failure Part II

Thank you all for your kind words on facebook/here about Miss A and the spectre of perfection. She gets her spelling test back today; we'll see how she did and how she handles the results. She had a great experience this weekend participating in a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) workshop for girls so I'm hopeful that her confidence in her abilities is strong.

On my last post MTL left a great comment/suggestion:
"Maybe you can dig up some old stuff of your own that was less than perfect and let her see it..she'll see how well you turned out in spite of it. Of course, assuming you ever did bad on anything :)"

I loved it because: hahahahahha, which of my failures to choose?

I have a few very clear memories of failure from my pre-adult life.

I remember when I was five I entered a footrace at the local park on the Fourth of July. I knew I would win because I was SO FAST. Turns out I was actually a sweaty chubby kid who reached the finish line last, gasping for breath with her ponytail askew.

I remember when I was eight performing in the school talent show with my friends Claudia, Tara and Stacey. We carefully choreographed a routine to "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" that crescendoed with my three friends doing cartwheels one by one while I followed with a somersault. I couldn't do a cartwheel and it didn't matter until I heard the audience laughing as I tucked my triumphant face into my belly and rolled...rolled...rolled.

I remember being in the "smart kid" classes my whole life until seventh grade when I was tracked into an "average kid" math class. From that path forward my math and science classes never lined up with the rest of my smart-kid friends' classes.

I remember failing my driver's test.
I remember failing the open-water swim test at summer camp.
I remember the sting of not winning the academic award for foreign language study in high school, an award I was positive was MINE until I sat in the audience and saw several of my friends lined up onstage at an assembly. They marched on to spot-lighted success while I sat on a moldy chair in the dark.

 And of course the biggest failure of all.

I remember getting into a very prestigious women's college. I remember the pressure to go to the best school I could get into. I remember showing up and discovering that I was no longer automatically a "smart kid" because EVERYBODY was a smart kid. I remember how it felt to not be the smartest, or the prettiest, or the most damaged anymore. I remember how binge drinking and flirting with boys became the only currency I carried to prove my worth. I remember crouching in the window frame of my dorm room smoking cigarette after cigarette with my roommate (also a smart, good girl adrift).

I remember sleeping through class because it was easier than getting out of bed and asking for help. I remember making stupid choices. I remember being asked to take some time away to get my academics back on track. I remember sobbing in my station wagon on break from my summer job at the community pool, trying to figure out how I would tell my fellow high-achieving lifeguard friends that I had bombed out of college.

I remember running away and never going back.

So yes, many examples of failure to share with my little love. And so many examples of success amid the ruins to share as well.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Failure *is* an option

                                                       Miss A dressed as Wonder Woman

Last night at bedtime there were tears. Many, many tears. Tired and frustrated tears.

Miss A was very nervous because she hadn't had enough time to study her spelling words. She sobbed into her pillow and moaned with mounting anxiety that if she didn't do well on the test she wouldn't get a good education and wouldn't go to college and would never have a good job.

She's seven.
She wasn't kidding or exaggerating--her fears were real, her sadness deep.
She was terrified of failure.

This began earlier in the week when Miss A's teacher told me that because Miss A had scored a perfect mark on her spelling pre-test she could instead study ten words of her own choosing for the test on Friday. Miss A was thrilled that she got to challenge herself and she made her list with gusto,  selecting words like "despicable" "reprehensible", "geometry", "narrative" and "communication".

And then, after a long day of learning and cheer team practice, she realized she did not in fact know how to spell all of her challenge words--and her world collapsed. 

It is hard to watch your child spiral off into anxiety. It is especially hard to watch your first-born slip ever deeper into the trap of perfection. I won't go into the details of my family history here, but I will say we have a pattern of eldest children bearing the emotional brunt of being the caretakers, being the hold-it-togethers, being the successful-everything-is-normal face of the family unit. This burden has not served our family members well and it is one that I am bound and determined to help my child escape.

This is also the parenting issue where I feel the most pressure to help her succeed--to help her succeed at failure. Perhaps because of our family history I am the most squeamish about Miss A and her avoidance of failure. It is true that most things come easily to her. She is a gifted athlete in her chosen sport, she is exceptionally bright, she makes friends wherever she goes and exhibits leadership qualities. She is a star.

But even stars can fall and I need her to know, to experience firsthand, that she can fail and the world will not end.

My beautiful girl: You do not need to be the best at everything. You do not need to succeed on the first try. You do not need to conquer a task before anyone else does.

My beautiful girl:  You will succeed at many things, and you will fail at some things. Failure is an opportunity to see how much the people around you care for you. We will be there to help you get back on your feet, to support you in your efforts and to celebrate your progress. Always.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Date with a big thinker

                                                Tending our watermelon crop in the drought

My eldest child thrives on scheduled activity. Never one to spend a day lazing about without an agenda, she gets up at dawn and flits from school to robotics club to running club to cheer class to girl scouts. On her "off" days she fits in a playdate or two, works on projects, adds to her list of inventions-yet-to-build, writes to her penpals, and reads her college algebra textbook.

She is a force. And she is at her best when her mind and body are actively engaged.

She is like me in that she says exactly what she feels as she is thinking it. Not much of a filter on that girl. She feels things intensely and shares that intensity with whomever is near.

My oldest son is his sister's biggest fan and her best friend. But he does not share her temperment. Sweet Bubs is overwhelmingly sweet and silly. He loves to make people laugh and will find subtle twists of expected words or actions that leave us all giggling. He loves to sleep in and on school-days Sean and I fight over who gets to go scoop him out of his bed; he wraps his warm and heavy limbs around you so tight and snuggles his flushed cheeks deep into your neck. He slowly pats your back as you carry him into the dining room for breakfast. It is heaven.

Sweet Bubs is remarkable in that he plays with every child, no exceptions. He has a gift for making other children feel welcome and in preschool he often acted as the "bridge" for socially awkward children who needed some help being introduced to group play. Now in kindergarten he continues to be everyone's pal; one of his classmates recently drew a picture that said "I wish I had a hundred Sweet Bubs".

Sweet Bubs struggles with expressing his feelings--especially the hard feelings. Emotional storms come on him suddenly. I can see the clouds swoop over his brow and down to his quivering chin, followed by a flood of tears. We work on using words to describe what is bothering him, but more often than not he needs to wail while wrapped in my arms. I give in.

Miss A is all about the mind and body, and Sweet Bubs is all about the heart and soul.

He takes time to think things through before he speaks them aloud. In the wake of our Sheila's death he has had many questions about what happened to her. He asks these questions as we drive to pick-up/drop-off his sister.

"Mom, what happened to Sheila's body? Where is it now?"
"Did it hurt Sheila to die?"

He listens to my answers and nods his head thoughtfully. I tell him I will always answer his questions.

Last weekend Sweet Bubs and I went on a date. Sean was working, Miss A was at Girl Scouts. I asked him what he wanted to do and he said he wanted to go to a coffee shop. He said I should surprise him and take him to one he had never been to before, one that was "quiet and cozy" so that we could talk.

We held hands as we crossed a busy downtown street and ducked into our chosen destination. We stood in line behind dozens of hung-over hipsters and Sweet Bubs joked about wanting a cappuccino, no wait a beer, no wait a soda. I got black coffee, he got hot milk and a lemon bar.

As we sat down at our table he stopped to pick up a baby's jacket from the floor and hand it to the child's mother.

We looked at a dinosaur book together and talked about whether T-Rex would like brisket or bacon better. Then Sweet Bubs said "Mom, will YH be sad when we come to get him?"

This was on YH's birthday. My heart was bruised already.

"Yes baby, he will. He will probably be very sad and scared."

"I thought so."

We talked more about how even though we will be so excited and happy to have our YH with us it will be a very different experience for him. He won't know us, he won't ever have been on an airplane before, our house will smell different, our words will sound different, our food will taste different. He might be angry and push us away. He might shut down and sleep all the time. He might be happy one minute and cry the next.

It is our job to love him and show him we are his family no matter what. Do you think you can help me do that Sweet Bubs?

"Of course mama. He's my brother even if he's mad or scared."

My love.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

I'm watching.

                                                                     Walking to school.

I love our neighborhood school.
I really, really do.

In the national conversation surrounding public education my state is usually the butt of the joke. We are not known for our progressive ideals, for our investment in future generations, for our  belief in science. It can be hard for a transplanted Yankee to navigate the public school system here without wincing mightily.


Our neighborhood school is a sweet little oasis. The facilities are old and the playground has seen better days. And yet the teachers are fantastic. The student body is an almost-too-good-to-be-true representation of diversity. The parents are involved. The principal is steadfast in the belief that "teaching to the test" helps no one succeed.

Each class has their own garden plot where they tend crops that are later harvested for a school-community wide celebratory feast. Kids eat the salad they grew out of bowls they made in art class. A dance teacher comes to visit the classes once a week to lead the kids in expressive movement. There are free after-school activities like Robotics and Chess Club and running club...Each week teachers select new students to be "Peacemakers of the Week".

Peacemakers! I die.

We have been so fortunate with the teachers our children have had. We have also been so fortunate that our children thrive in a traditional education setting. I know that each day my children are spoken to kindly, that they are listened to, that they are praised appropriately. I know that at each parent-teacher conference my job will be to review their accomplishments and to discuss how to challenge them more. There will be no conversations about difficult behaviors, social anxieties, or failing to meet milestones.

I also know these days are numbered. It is likely that our youngest son will have a very different school experience. And I am worried that his path will make me fall out of love with my neighborhood school. That my progressive-hippy parenting ideals will have to fall by the wayside in the face of a system unequipped to handle his needs.

YH's future is likely to hold some learning difficulties, behavioral challenges, sensory issues, social problems...and yet on the outside he will look like any other kid. His special needs will be invisible to the untrained eye and will instead present as defiance, stubbornness, hyperactivity, being just plain weird. He may be delayed in some academic areas and yet excel in others. He may be gifted artistically and in athletics.  On the playground he may gravitate to younger kids because his development is more on par with them.

And so I am watching. At pick-up and drop-off I am watching the way the teachers and staff respond to other "quirky" kids. I am listening to the way they tell a child for the five-hundredth time to stop climbing a tree. I see them run out of patience at the end of the day. I see them react as any human would to a particularly annoying child, one who doesn't seem to "get" the basics of social interaction.

I am watching.

And I see how teachers take an extra minute to talk to me about my daughter's accomplishments, turning their backs to the a-typical child hopping up and down next to the bench. I see how much easier it is to give the good news to a parent than it is to talk about the trials of the day. I have compassion for the teachers. I do.

But I am also building my mama-arsenal, preparing for a battle I don't yet know if I will need to wage. I am getting ready to go up against the very people who have thus far been key players in our community support system.

I can kill with kindness. I can kill with legal-ize.
I can do whatever it takes to make sure my kid is supported.

I am watching.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Big sale on chicken thighs.

It has now been three weeks since I left my office job. There is a lot I miss about my former position, and a LOT that I don't miss.

Tonight I met a friend and former co-worker for drinks. We got caught up on the chisme and devoured chips and queso. It was good times.

And about 45 minutes and 2/3 of a margarita into our happy hour I realized that one of the most exciting things that happened to me today was a big sale on chicken thighs at the local supermarket.

That's what I had to talk about.

Chicken thighs.
The unusually low price of chicken thighs.

It was weird.

Don't get me wrong, I am legitimately excited about tasks like grocery shopping--because I've never done them before! I mean, I've never been the person in our home who regularly did the grocery shopping. It's a whole new skill set!

My previous positions required that I readily access detailed information about many, many study abroad programs/academic degree plans/host communities/host universities. I could take a student's most complicated personal and academic situations and find them the perfect international study opportunity. It was a gift.

I was particularly adept at helping a student who *felt* like he/she was *supposed* to go to one international university connect with an international program across the world that really fit his/her goals. Plans for a summer in Vienna would morph into a semester in Nepal. A planned and predictable internship in London would become a longed-for independent research project in Brazil.

I really, really loved helping my students discover the world. I loved that I knew which university in Barcelona offered the biggest selection of marketing courses taught in English. I loved that I could help a student with high financial need find the perfect scholarship to fund study abroad.

I was a font of information at advising appointments. I was thorough during the application process. I was supportive during pre-departure. I waited eagerly for email updates and those first pictures posted to facebook. I couldn't wait for my students to return to the US and share memories with me.

The look on a student's face when she played me the song that was huge in all the nightclubs in Gulu/Toulouse/San Jose--it made my week.

I'm sad to miss out on much of my last group of advisees' journeys. I hope they know that I am thinking of them.

I am wishing them well as they start new chapters around the globe. I hope they know how brave they are, and how much their decisions today will impact every day of their lives from here on out.

Friday, February 3, 2012

It's your lucky day!

Internet friends, it is your lucky day!

Today I got to do my emo-sadsack-rambling to a LIVE (freakishly strong) HUMAN  BEING. Which means you, dear reader, shall be spared some of the intensity of entries past.

You are welcome.

Sean will also be glad once he hears this news, as I made the last two days nearly unbearable for him.

 We've been fighting all week and it is 98% my fault.
                                                   Handsome man in beard hat and parka

In times of stress I have the charming habit of lashing out at the person closest to me, the person who I know can see me at my worst and still want to hang out with me. Horrible, right? Instead of seeking solace and understanding from Sean I redirect my frustration onto him.

I am also one of those annoying spouses who picks and picks at a subject until I get a reaction. In an argument I think and process AS I talk and I view silence as the worst kind of enemy. I am prone to hyperbole and I want immediate responses from my partner.

My husband prefers to listen, think about what was said, think about what his reaction will be, take some time to find the best words...and at this stage in the "discussion" I have already freaked out over his lack of reaction and begun to fire barbs at him until he HAS to respond.

I'm awesome, I know.

So last night's "discussion" was about the different approaches we have each taken in preparing for YH to join our family. My approach has been to function as an information gatherer. I have bookshelves full of tomes about his potential special needs, about adoption, about toddler adoption, about adoption and attachment...on and on. I read dozens of blogs, participate in online discussions, and compile lists of developmental pediatricians/occupational therapists/geneticists/diagnostic clinics. I buy toys and t-shirts and I hand-sew bedding for him.

I sit and silently seethe when it looks like I am the only one who is preparing for this child to be a part of our daily lives. I wait for the merit fairy to descend from the heavens and bestow upon me a very special martyr badge. I make an ass of myself because I cannot recognize that just as in our divergent "discussion" styles, my husband prefers to take a more subdued approach to these preparations.

In fact he is thinking about all the same things that I am thinking about. He is planning for our changing family dynamics and putting intentional thought into how best to support one another through the "knitting together" phase of our growth. He is imagining how we will survive sleepless nights, how we will insure our older children get the attention they deserve, how we will work out the logistics of our first trip to the supermarket as a family of 5....

Sean is focused on the practicalities of our daily lives and I am focused on supporting the (as-yet) intangible needs of our future son. What I perceived as being efforts at cross-purposes from one another are in fact complementary pieces of our survival tool-kit.

The knitting together has already begun.

We're a good team.

(even though it took a giant fight to realize it)

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Some things I know

When he moved in with Mrs. S, another little boy shared their home. That boy left to join his family in the US about a month after YH arrived on the scene.

He likes to throw things. Mrs. S thinks he might be a baseball player.

He takes one bottle per day, at bedtime. Mrs. S pats him firmly on his back until he falls asleep. On a mat on the floor, wrapped in her arms.

He is very close with Mr. S. The examine flowers together on family trips to the countryside.

Mr. and Mrs. S have a son who is in his early twenties. He is a big presence in YH's life. Recently, Big Brother has introduced YH to smartphones. YH loves to play games and watch videos on Big Brother's smartphone.

Once Mrs. S took YH on a road trip to visit her family members in the village where she was born. It was the longest car ride YH had been on and he cried the whole way. They stopped at a dinosaur park by the ocean. He loved the giant dinosaur sculptures but was terrified of the waves.

He looks really good in the color purple.

When his hair gets long he looks sooooo much like a K-Pop star. SO! MUCH!

He is very mischievous and every time he moves he leaves trouble in his wake.

He took his first step two days after we accepted his referral. Now he runs. Now he climbs.

He will have a small party for his birthday this Saturday. There will be a cake and some friends will come by.

I will spend that day with Sean and my older kids.

I will hit "refresh" "refresh" "refresh"...willing the computer gods to spit out new information for me.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Open letter to an adoption agency

Good morning Adoption Agency,

I imagine you are inundated with emails and phone calls from those of us in the Korea program who are anxiously awaiting news on the Emigration Permit front. It is my understanding (from a flurry of activity on Facebook/forums) that the much anticipated "February 1st" business day has come and gone with no EP submissions taking place.

In the wake of this unofficial "news" many waiting families, including my own, are teetering on the edge of despair. We pinned our hopes on February 1, 2012. We prayed and cursed and crossed our fingers that TODAY our phones would ring. We clutched pictures of our waiting children and glanced anxiously at the tiny winter coat folded on our dresser.

The phones didn't ring.
And so we are making statements like "I don't know if we'll ever take custody of YH". We are greedily looking one another over, trying to speculate who will be in the first batch ("I've been waiting since December 2010", "My child is turning 5!", "My son needs surgery"). I've been waiting longer, my child is more deserving, my PAIN is MORE.

We are scared and angry.

I know that you cannot control the information flow from Korea. I know that you cannot control the processing of EPs.

But I also know that you CAN do something very important:

You can make it a priority to send a daily email to the waiting families that says simply "We know you are anxious.There is no news yet." One email sent to an address book/group. You could copy and paste that same message every day for a whole week and it would make us all feel SO MUCH BETTER.

Because as it currently stands, we feel like we are shouting into a void. I don't *want* to send you  pleading, frustrated emails any more than you want to receive them.

Would you please consider this request?

Many thanks,
Nora (whose son in Korea needs surgery and who is too distraught over this situation to actually mail the birthday care package that *should* be there waiting for him on February 4 but won't be)

Some things do not suck

                                                 Louisa takes over the dollhouse

In the midst of all the heavy stuff going on in our lives there is a lot that is totally awesome.

For instance: Hey Nora, how is that stay-at-home parenting thing going?
Internet, I am so glad you asked!

It is going really well.

I am rocking it with the meal planning and cooking. I have made delicious meals that the whole family eats (even Miss A, who will typically subsist on blueberries and air). I purchase healthy, non-processed foods that I then use before they spoil. I use the weekends to make "end-of-week vegetable soup" (throw the leftover veggies/wilted greens/about-to-turn squash into a pot with some lentils and broth), bake bread, and roast root vegetables.

I am MOVING my body every freakin' day and it is awesome. Seriously people, when you sit at a desk for eight hours a day for over a decade it is revolutionary to be able to putter around all day, wandering from corner to corner of your house.

I am picking the kids up from school on time every day, talking with their teachers and getting to know the other parents. I make sure homework is done each night.

The house is reasonably clean and dishes and laundry get washed regularly.

I am maintaining a social life for myself and the kids. I have seen friends on my own, scheduled playdates and facilitated activity participation. 

I am reading, writing and thinking. I am walking Archie (our three legged beagle) and cuddling with Louisa-cat.

Some goals for the remainder of the week:

Take the bucket bike out of the garage and turn it into a Girl Scout Cookie Mobile for Miss A to ride in while we sell/deliver cookies.

Mail YH's birthday care package. I have a block about this. It has been sitting on our counter, packaged neatly in a gallon ziploc bag, for over a month now. I just cannot bring myself to mail it. Isn't that awful? Bad mama.

Continue organizing/purging items stuffed in drawers throughout the home.

We're doing ok.