Saturday, July 23, 2016

Adoption's Lingering Effects

Most days, I don't think about the fact that Grace was adopted. She is my daughter. I get her to school, take her to gymnastics, feed her, help brush her teeth at night, do her hair, and care for her in countless other ways, like every mom does. A part of me loves when I talk about my daughter to people who have never met her and never seen her, because then I don't get any adoption questions, just regular questions about preschool, or gymnastics.

Most days, I don't think she thinks about it either. She calls us Mama and Dad, knows that Remington is her brother, and refers to all of the extended family members exactly the same way that he does. She calls it "my room" and "our house" and is not an ounce a lesser citizen than Remington. She knows Remington grew inside me, and she grew inside someone else, that he was born in our house and she was born in Ghana and we brought her home. She knows about the orphanage, but hasn't gotten to questions about her birth mother yet, or why she didn't stay with her. I am following the wisdom of books on the topic, where we answer her questions, but don't over provide information. When she asks, we will answer, but we don't bring it up.

There are a few lingering effects seen on a day to day basis. The biggest one is food. I don't think she could explain it, but she gets very, extremely, distressed when she is hungry, and food isn't immediately provided. This goes way beyond hangry. This is Grace screaming at me that she wants to go to the restaurant, as I am literally driving to the restaurant, but just not there yet. "I want to eat at the restaurant NOW!" kind of a thing. When she sees other people eating, and she isn't, again, she gets frustrated. This particular kind isn't a mad scream, but a stare down at their food, standing right in front of them, clearly hoping to be offered some. Most people actually do offer her some at that point, and I usually don't say no, because it is a lot easier to let her eat her desired object than have a fit. Sometimes, we do have to pull her away, and she isn't happy about it.

Drives home from preschool were another time that she was clearly experiencing mental distress over wanting lunch, and not having it immediately, and I would deal with screaming, kicking and tantrums on our somewhat of a drive home (preschool is about 20-25 minutes away, long story). So, as strange as it seems, I instituted lunch snacks, for my own sanity. I would always provide a medium healthy thing (applesauce packets, veggie chips, kind of a thing) to eat on the drive from preschool to home, and it made it so the ride home was pleasant instead of grumpy.

I saw another instance of what I think is a lingering adoption affect at my sister in law's when I was apparently paying too much attention to my niece, and Grace started to cry. When I brought her in the other room to talk to her, that's what she told me about why she was crying. Remington, on the other hand, was totally fine.

But the biggest thing, in my mind, that is hard about having adopted her instead of giving birth to her is the chunk of time that we missed out on. This was especially hard today as we were watching baby Remington videos, and little Grace videos, and then Grace asked, "What about baby Grace videos?" We talked about how we watched little Grace videos... but she was older when she came home, so we don't have many. I told her we have some from when we visited her in Ghana. So we watched those... but too few. We took a ton... but we were only there for a week, and every single one was taken the only place we could be with her... i.e. on the ground, in the parking lot of the orphanage.

I cannot even put into words how sad I am that I don't have a video or a picture of the day that Grace was born. I don't have a picture of her first smile, her first roll over, and I have no idea how she learned to crawl. I don't have those cute pictures of her at each month old. I barely have any pictures of her before our Ghana trip, and that was after her first birthday. I have two, literally two, pictures of her at 10 months old, when we got the referral. I have a few from the day she legally became our daughter (just before 1), and only because God was good enough to miraculously make it so that THE DAY we became her legal parents, our coordinator (from Oklahoma) happened to be visiting her orphanage in Ghana. She took a few pictures, and we are thankful for them, because otherwise that would be yet another moment we don't have. I suppose we have her passport photo too, but even that was after 1. So yeah, no monthly pictures for our sweet Grace.

I am so thankful for her, I am so thankful of our times together, I am so thankful for all the memories and time I have had with her, and I know that there are families out there (my heroes) who adopt kids significantly older than Grace, but I am confident they miss the days, months, and years that they didn't have their child too.

If I had three wishes, one of them would be for those years back, to be able to have her from day 1, shoot, I would love for her to grow inside me instead, so that I could have felt her little kicks inside me too. But only if I had three... because I also would need one for her to be 100% healthy, and not have the different health problems she has to deal with.

Honestly though... as strange as it is, and I have no proof... I think her medical problems are why we were able to become this sweet girl's parents. I believe that her birth mother may not have felt equipped to take care of her health needs, or pay for her health needs, and did the best thing she could think of. True or not, somewhere in our paperwork was also that another couple wanted her... till they found out about her problems.

You know... I should wish that her birth mother decided to keep her. I know that she might not have some of her issues if she could have just lived with the family that gave birth to her, live in a country where everyone looks like her... but I don't.

Selfishly, I want my spit-fire daughter. This girl who made me a mother, something I longed for. The girl who makes me laugh and smile and who has a passion for life that I just adore. I am very thankful for Grace, and even though it means I don't have those moments, pictures or videos, I am thankful I have the girl.

Monday, June 20, 2016

10 years

In the grand scheme of human existence, ten years is relatively small. Depending on how long you live, it can be a relatively small part of life too. But at age 32, ten years is almost a third of my life... and I have been married for that long.

Add in the fact that we were dating for almost four years before that, meeting at age 18, in 2002, means that we have been together for 14 years! Plus, Blake pointed out on our trip that we are only four years from being together for half of our lives, and the percentage of our life together will just grow from there.

In a world so full of divorce and short, quick relationships, I can honestly say that I am proud that we have made it to this point. To anyone looking in from the outside, let me be the first to say that our relationship isn't perfect. The last ten years have had some hard spots, especially during the time that we were trying to become parents. We have had arguments, small and large that we had to work through, together. But we weathered each storm, together.

If I have wisdom to impart, it is relatively simple, and nothing that hasn't already been said. For example, find compromises. One battle relatively early on was that Blake couldn't stand to eat dinner with a messy kitchen. I, on the other hand, wanted to eat while dinner was fresh, and deal with dishes afterwards... but if I sat down to eat, he would still clean, and I would feel guilted into doing dishes early. But we worked it out. I prefer drying to washing, he is the opposite. So, my side is now to make sure dishes are dried and put away before he gets home, and he does the washing and dish washer loading (immediately after dinner is made so he can eat). We both are happy, and both contribute. Laundry is similarly divided- he folds adult clothes, I fold kids. Point being, arguments will continue until you find a compromise that works.

Second, give each other room for personal interests. I get that Blake needs video game time, and I try to make sure he can unwind with it often. He knows I like doing my races, and he lets me sign up and run. We have done races together, and I have played video games with him, but for the most part, now, after a decade together, we no longer feel the need to do as much together. We enjoy each others' company, and do things together that we both enjoy, but also feel free to seek our own interests apart too, and our relationship is healthier for it. 

We celebrated our ten year anniversary with a second honeymoon of sorts. We drove up the coast, just like we did ten years ago.
2006

2016
 

2006

2016

2006

Appetizer type lunch with a beautiful view.

2016

Appetizer type dinner with a beautiful view.
 2006



2016


Me on the deck. 

A bunch more from this year:













The trip was great! Our first stop was in Solvang, just like ten years ago, but instead of hanging out in town and seeing a musical, we decided to go on a bike ride to a few of the vineyards around. Even though I had originally thought we would do ten miles, we ended up only doing six miles or so, as the hills were way worse than I had expected! (I even had to walk my bike up one of them!).

We stayed at the same Bed and Breakfast that we did ten years ago, though it has a new owner now, and I think that the refurbishments made over the last decade were for the better. They had an amazing restaurant, where we really wanted every course to have more food than it did.

We drove up the coast again, like ten years ago, but instead of Ventana, we stayed at a an AirBnB water tower with an amazing view! We loved all the wildlife there, and enjoyed the peace and tranquil time together there.

While we loved everything we did, I think that the memories that will stick with me most are the conversations that we had, covering our kids, our history, our memories of previous trips, and what we hope to happen in the future (and random stuff like video games ;-) ). I am truly blessed to have a husband who I can also count my friend, and spend hours talking to contentedly. I am so thankful for our time together over the years, and am happy to say that we are as happy with each others' company as we were ten years ago.

I would also like to thank my grandma, my parents, and my in-laws for making this trip what it was. Without all of your contributions, it wouldn't have been possible with our current budget, so thank all of you for being generous, and gifting us your portion of our special trip. Also, I would like to thank my parents and my brother and sister in law for watching the kids, getting them to all their places, and keeping them entertained while we had our time together, and actually had time to finish a conversation. :-D

To Blake, I love you so much! Here's to ten (plus) more great years together!
 


 

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Preschool Year 2 Complete, and Next Steps

Here is Grace on her first day of this school year, and then the pictures from today. I can't believe we have already made it through two years of preschool! She looks so much older than she did on the first day, and the little girl in the yellow dress is long gone, but replaced with a much more mature, kind, thoughtful girl than the girl that is left behind.








Next year will be so different in so many ways. First off, to any uninformed, there is this newfangled thing called "Transitional Kindergarten."

In 2010, in California, a new rule came into affect that seriously affects (possibly negatively) both of my fall babies. Basically, instead of the start kindergarten as long as you turn 5 before December 1 (if parents decide), there is a new strict September 1 cut off. In other words, since Grace was born in October, and turns 5 after the cut off, she CAN'T be in Kindergarten at our local school.

Does it matter that gymnastics has made her gross motor skills excellent? No. Does it matter that she can write some of her letters already, has a great memory, or has learned to sound out and spell words (like frog! so proud)? No.*

If she started at our local public school in fall of 2016, she would fall into the fall kids gap, and be put in their two year transitional kindergarten program. It is a blend of preschool and kindergarten, takes things really slow, and once the kids exit, they go into first grade.

I still might have considered it... if it wasn't for two other mitigating factors. First off, there is a public Montessori program at our local school that you can enter through a lottery. I've seen and read great things about Montessori, and the way that it has every child able to advance at their own rate in each subject, which I think would really benefit both kids, but especially Grace (really strong in some areas, weak in others, while I think Remington gets most things quick).

Here's the catch. If I took option 1, and put her into transitional kindergarten, she would be locked into their two year program, and would not be eligible to join the lottery for the 17-18 year, because she was already put into a class. So, I went with option 2, put her into transitional kindergarten for 1 year at the same preschool that Remington will be going to, plus giving her one more year of familiarity and routine. Now, I will be able to try to get her in the lottery for the Montessori classroom for the 17-18 school year. The school did let me know that usually around 90 apply and only 30 make it, but at least I will have done my best to give her that opportunity. If we fall in the other two thirds, then I'll be bummed, but it will still make more sense to my "old school" way of thinking, and she will have a regular kindergarten class. She will also have the opportunity to be advanced as the school decides, either through GATE or just skipping grades if she really is far above her classmates, but I honestly hope that the Montessori structure will allow her to achieve her best, while still being with age level peers.

The other mitigating factor is that this way, for one year, the kids will be at the same school. Same field trips, same performances, and bonus, I will get to be in the working force again!

I have literally been working for months on getting all my paperwork squared away, but I have officially done it, and come September, I will be on the sub list for their preschool on the mornings they are both in school. I also might be on the elementary sub list, but its more complicated (different side of the school, and would need to get care lined up for the non-school time for both of them, since they will just be in the AM).

So, big changes coming our way in September! But for now, we will enjoy our summer together with all of the activities we have planned.

*I might have been able to get her to test into something, maybe, honestly I didn't look into it, because I have definitely already missed the Montessori chance for this year, and besides it will be helpful for the same preschool thing for the year. But a friend with a fall baby told me about how crazy strict they are, and how her son didn't make it over something minor, and I didn't want to put Grace through all that if I have a different plan anyways.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Two videos

Don't really have time to post, but just throwing up two videos of my kids in their main sports right now. Grace is into gymnastics and Remington is learning how to skate and shoot for hockey.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Distance

Distance usually refers to the physical length between two objects or places. You might ask Siri what the distance is to a city near you, or the distance between two places.

But distance also refers to emotional connection at times too. If someone is acting distant, it evokes feelings that they aren't making the effort to maintain that tie that makes people friends or that makes a family member more than just family.

The two are not entirely unrelated. Over my 32 years of life, I have found over and over again that the people that I physically see the most are the ones that I have the strongest bond with, the ones that I share the most with.

This goes without saying as a child, since you typically play with either your friends at school or your friends in your neighborhood. There are other cases that you play with your parents' friends' kids, but it is really cut and dry- you are a child, you have no little to no power over who you play with, so your friends are the ones you see. I would say that this holds fairly true through high school too.

College was tough for me. I had some good friends in high school, but many were a grade younger than me, and when I went to college, I allowed the physical distance, the not seeing them every day during school and after, to cause emotional distance. My closest friend that graduated with me didn't go to school near me, but we actually kept up pretty well over e-mails, at least for a while. Sadly, I didn't realize how far apart I had allowed our connection to stretch until I was asking my friends to be my bridesmaids. Most said yes, but one said no, that she would attend, but didn't feel like we were close enough to be my bridesmaid. Honestly, it hurt, really bad, to hear that. But reflecting back, more than ten years later, with more maturity, I see it. I can acknowledge that whatever intangible thing it is to be close friends with someone had stretched further than any friendship should, and I hadn't done my part touching base, even though I could have. Even though I went to a university less than 20 minutes away from my former high school, I didn't meet up with them just to hang out like old times, and it is one of the things I would do differently if I could.

Out of college, as I started teaching professionally, I made friends with fellow teachers and with women the same age as me in my Bible Study group. I saw these women often, and we bonded, we cried, we prayed together and they heard my struggles with getting pregnant, the arguments with my husband, pretty much any and every problem I faced during this season of life. I had women that I felt comfortable with pouring out everything to, and I heard their problems too. I am so thankful for everyone that got me through some of my hardest seasons I have faced. During this time I had problems with my family, but the biggest gut wrenching trial was my desire to be a mom going unfulfilled for year after year. I don't know what I would have done without my coworkers and Bible Study group women getting me through it.

But here again, that pesky physical distance struck when I became a stay at home mom. It is partially my fault, again. Life with one quickly followed by two, and I didn't keep up with most of my former coworkers. I didn't go back and have lunches, or meet up for dinner occasionally, and I lost many of these ties too. Our Bible study group was strong, and tight and we knew each other so well, having prayed for each other so often, but as time went on, it fractured physically with some moving away, and some simply not attending or attending a different study (I'm guilty of this). I am so thankful for the few friends from group that I still see, on a regular basis, and again that physical tie- we make the effort to get together, so we are still close.

I write all this today for a reason. The previous breaks were my fault. I wasn't even too far to hang out, I just didn't make enough of an effort (though to be fair, they didn't either), and without seeing these people on a regular basis, when it was easy, the relationships didn't keep up. But I am now in a season of life that people I care about are moving away from me- physically.

First, it was my sister in law, and now my cousin in law, and I know of some friends that might move away too, and it brings me down. See, what the paragraphs above are trying to illustrate is that while friendship is easiest when you are physically with the people enough to talk and share, it doesn't have to be. You can be friends, even with distance, if both people are willing and able to make the effort to continue to talk, continue to have scheduled time together, continue to bond over struggles.

My good friend Erin is a good example of how friendship bonds can be repaired, and hopefully she doesn't mind me sharing our story. She was one of the ones from high school that I let drift away, that I didn't keep the friendship strong in college. She was a bridesmaid, but I think we will both admit that was one of the weakest points in our friendship. After her wedding, I first learned that she was pregnant with her first child... not from her. Instead, I learned it from her mother in law, who happened to be my co-worker. This was my wake up call that I had let our friendship get away from me, and I was determined to get that one back.

Now Erin didn't (and still doesn't) live super close to me, a 30-40 minute drive away, which is doable, but far enough to be inconvenient (no "Let's get a coffee" distance). But from that point until today, we have both made an effort to see each other and catch up every couple of months or so (more than just social media surface level interactions). As a result, our friendship is strong now, and she is one of the people I know I can call when I am freaking out over something, or just need someone to talk to who is older than 4. I have held her kids as babies, and been to their birthday parties, and swam with them every summer since my kids arrived.

To any friends reading this who fall into the first section reading this. If we had a bond, but we haven't talked in forever, it is never too late. Let me know, reach out to me, and we will work together until we find a time to hang out (even if I might have to bring my kids).

To those moving away physically (or who have already moved), please don't let our physical distance damper our emotional one. I want to be someone you call to talk when you need a friend, and I want to know I can still touch base with you too, time change or not. Friendships can be hurt by distance, in more than one way, but it can be prevented, and repaired if needed. Call me, text me, e-mail me, and though I might delay, I will respond, I will set up a time to talk.

Perhaps you are reading this, and are hit with a longing for a friendship that you used to have, with someone else, and you haven't made the effort- do it now. I wonder how many friendships are out there, ties broken, but both people wishing they weren't. Someone has to be the first, so why not be you?

Ecclesiastes 4:9-11New International Reader's Version (NIRV)

Two people are better than one.
    They can help each other in everything they do.
10 Suppose either of them falls down.
    Then the one can help the other one up.
But suppose a person falls down and doesn’t have anyone to help them up.
    Then feel sorry for that person!
11 Or suppose two people lie down together.
    Then they’ll keep warm.
    But how can one person keep warm alone?
12 One person could be overpowered.
    But two people can stand up for themselves.
    And a rope made out of three cords isn’t easily broken.
 p.s. Sorry, no pictures this time, just a cathartic post this time.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

One Year Gilmore Girls anniversary

Today marks one year since I shifted my reading away from whatever interested me or whatever happened to be similar to things I liked in the past, to the Gilmore Girls Challenge.

For anyone who doesn't remember, this is a book list that is comprised of the books read by Rory Gilmore on the show the Gilmore Girls, over the seven years the show ran. Rory was a highly intelligent girl, Ivy League bound, and as such, her book choices include a lot of classics, non-fiction, and books that also fall into many lists of "books everyone must read in their life" as well as some modern, interesting stories (not that I like everything I have read or will read).

When I filled out the checklist, I found myself intrigued by a lot of the books on the list, and a lot of regret over all of these classics and well known books I had heard of and never read. So, I decided to read them. All of them. I knew from the outset that this was not going to be a short term goal, but a long term one, as there are more than 300 books on the list, and a chunk of those are 600+ page classics.

As this is my one year anniversary, I felt it was a good time to reflect on the experience so far.

My major triumph for the year was Don Quixote. I had wanted to read it for a long time, had even bought it for myself years ago, where it just gathered dust, and this was a good time to break it open. It literally took me almost a whole year to finish it, and that only happened with the help of the audio book version, but I did it. The funny thing is that I enjoyed it. It took forever, it wasn't even close to a hooking book that kept me coming back... but when I made myself listen or read it, I enjoyed the story. There is a lot of wisdom in there, and a lot of humor, including parts that genuinely made me laugh. There is true friendship, and devious tricks. Really well written, interesting story. I want to say I recommend it... but honestly, unless you have a deep desire to get through classics, it is a long journey.

The two major offshoots from Don Quixote that I have read so far are Madame Bovary and a Confederacy of Dunces. The second was funny, and I loved his filing system, the first was a sobering tale of being unsatisfied with the good that you already have. I very much recommend both.

An interesting experience of this year is the author discoveries. More than once, I have read a "Rory" book, and enjoyed the writing so much that I sought out the other books by the author. The first major example of this happened from Bel Canto. First off, the book is AMAZING. It has probably shaped me more than most books I have ever read in my life. Basic premise is of a hostage situation... but the terrorists are not portrayed as evil, just human, and you hear the story from both viewpoints. I have now read enjoyed a number of her other books as well.

Eric Larson is another author who I admire from this adventure, as he is incredible in his ability to write non-fiction, historically accurate books that are as enjoyable as any novel, with his unique ability to find historical individuals to follow.

I've read books set in the past, present and future, in places near, far and fictional, that made me laugh, think and cry. They have shaped my understanding of the world, and the lens that I look through. I am much more proud of my book list from the past year than from the years before, sprinkled with so many classics and fond memories of the stories.

This last year I read 43 of the books from her list.

So, combined with ones I had read previous to starting the official challenge, I am up to 82 out of the 339 listed on http://www.listchallenges.com/rory-gilmore-reading-challenge/, almost 25%. Still a long way to go, but I look forward to the journey.


Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Easter 2016
























Holidays as a parent are a funny thing. As a kid, you just knew the excitement, you knew what to expect from each holiday, you looked forward to it, and then as you grew out of the age of having the fun, you moved into the world of "these are the fond memories I have of x holiday."

Then there was the phase of young adult without kids, where holidays were meh at best. You visited family, exchanged gifts or had brunch, whatever, you celebrate the holiday, but there is no sparkle to it.

But as a parent, you have to be the magic maker. I have so many memories of what I liked about Easter, for example, but my desire to give my kids the same fun memories isn't as easy as waving a wand and saying "Easter magic!"

For months before hand I agonized about what exactly should be in their baskets, what should be in their eggs, how I was going to also keep it God centered (trip to church, Bible verse CD, Christian tattoos, stamps and stickers), how I was going to limit the new toys coming in (one big set to share, and playdough tools and art supplies in each basket) and help other people too (the Easter Bunny brought a basket filed with stuff to donate). So much stuff.

I also wanted to make sure we did egg dying, but I am trying to limit food dye (so we did it with natural ingredients), and I wanted them to do an Easter egg hunt, because I remember how much fun I had doing Easter hunts.

The night before Easter is when the "Easter Bunny" is hard at work, filling eggs, stuffing baskets, hiding eggs, and setting up the magic.

But, sigh, expectation and reality so often don't meet. For example, we were fortunate when we went to the Easter egg hunt at a local church that we decided to go early, since there was supposed to be other fun things to do besides the egg hunt.

We took the kids to the bathroom, and then headed over to the egg hunt area, to see the fields with the eggs surrounded by kids, who for the moment were held back by the ribbon surrounding the area. We heard (20 minutes or so before start time) the announcer trying to get the crowd riled up and excited, though he was hard to hear and understand. Blake and I heard it though. He was trying to get everyone to cheer, and said something about on the count of three yell. But after the 3, 2, 1, too many kids just went, and started collecting.

This, mind you, is 15 minutes before it is supposed to start, and though they tried to get the kids back, rein them in, get them back of the way, what started as a trickle became a floodgate opening, and soon, all of the kids were in, collecting eggs.

Blake and I, hard core rule followers, hesitated because we knew they really were not supposed to be collecting yet... but it got to a point where we realized that it wasn't going to be contained, and our kids were walking away with nothing if we didn't let them go. Again, we being rule followers, our kids only got the ten eggs each they were supposed to, but we saw tons of kids with overflowing baskets, and we couldn't help but wonder about these parents.

How could they not restrain their kids when it clearly wasn't time yet? Why did they completely ignore the sign about ten eggs? What is wrong with people? I read later about a Pez sponsored hunt that went haywire too, with parents pushing kids out of the way for eggs. Really? We felt really bad for the people who arrived on time to see no eggs remaining.

The kids had fun, but it wasn't the idyllic egg hunt I pictured.

My natural egg dyes worked, but not dramatically, and honestly, the kids were really not thinking this egg dying thing is so fun. They were over it fairly fast, even if the dyes had worked better. Perhaps another year it will be more fun, but this year? Another picture in my mind damaged by the reality.

Easter morning started with a battle over the dress I wanted Grace to wear, so not how I wanted to start the holiday. She eventually gave in, partly because I told her she could pick my Easter clothes.

I got a great video of Remington saying it was so silly that the Easter bunny hid an egg in his shoe, only to have Grace talk about how her egg she found was boring. To be fair, she had fun, just not with that particular egg.

They liked what they got, and I know they will have more fun in the future with their Easter presents, but all of it really makes me think. How do you create nostalgia? Am I doing it right?

How do I ensure that my kids grow up with fond memories of special days like Easter and Christmas?

Yesterday we celebrated family day, which is what we call the day we brought Grace home from Ghana (can't believe she has been home for three years already, crazy how fast time flies). We had a fun morning at the aquarium, and a special lunch at Bubba Gumps, but I had a moment yesterday evening.

The kids were playing with Blake in the spaceship he made for them (spaceship 2.0, not the one he made Easter morning, but a new and improved one), and laughing, and talking about their space walk, and I realized that this is it. Those laughing, imaginative bonding times with us and each other, that is where it is at. It isn't the holidays.

Holidays are filled with "holiday traditions" and family gatherings, and busy hustling from here to there, so much so that they don't typically have a lot of the just play time that they love. I work so hard to make the holidays what I think they should be, based on my memories, but more important are that every day I continue to have a household environment that encourages playing together.