Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Julia's friend, K, spent the night with us this weekend. Around 10 pm, I insisted that the girls go to bed because they had an out of town soccer game the next day. We turned out the lights, but within minutes, Julia was back in the kitchen looking for a night light. Her room was too dark, and K was afraid.
The only night light we found had a burned out bullb.
In a flash of inspiration, I remembered the box of Halloween stuff we'd been meaning to bring down from the attic.
"Hey, tell Dad to grab that plug-in jack o'lantern from the Halloween box," I yelled. "They can use that for a night light."
As they brought down the crazy smiling jack o'lantern, in all its orange and yellow glory, I remembered an important fact. K's family doesn't celebrate Halloween.
And from the look on K's face, I could see that having that jack o'lantern smiling at her through the dark all night was definitely not going to lessen her fear.
I love Jesus and seek to follow Him. And my kids trick or treat.
K's family loves Jesus and seeks to follow Him. And they "just say no" to Halloween.
Thankfully, a Christmas box in the attic contained a couple of night lights. Hmmm. . . there was an angel and a Santa Claus. . . For this occasion, I picked the angel, just to be safe, and soon the girls were fast asleep.
K's mom and I had a good laugh about this the next day. She shared a little about how their family came to the decision to abstain from Halloween. My family has read similar information and come to a different decision. We were both OK.
I love this about the body of Christ. When we are at our best, we can respect our differences, the fact that on some issues, the way we live out our faith may look different. I'm not talking about compromising key doctrines of the faith. I'm not talking about a touchy-feely "the Bible can mean different things to different people" kind of thing. I'm talking about arriving at different conclusions about how to apply scriptural principles to a situation that's not specifically addressed in the Bible.
So whether or not you trick or treat tonight, be safe, love your family and most of all, love God and seek to honor Him in all you do. Happy October 31 everyone!
Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Lori at Five of My Own posted this hilariously true video on her blog today. I loved it so much I stole it! Created by Kristen Howerton of Rage Against the Minivan, Jillian Lauren, and Deborah Swisher -- with the help of all their kids -- this video gives you a earful of what people say to transracial families.
If there's one thing I've learned along our adoption journey, it's that the unexpected tough times -- the meltdowns, the tantrums, the defiance, the whining, the over the top emotional responses that take us by surprise -- are really opportunities in disguise. They are opportunities to understand our child. They are opportunities to show love. They are opportunities to build trust. When our child is hurting and doing everything in his power to push us away, we have a chance to show him once again, that we're not going anywhere. This mom and dad are here to stay.
Last week we had an "opportunity," and of course, it came at an inconvenient time -- a time when I'd have rather been sleeping.
"It hurts! My throat hurts! Make it stop!" It was 1 a.m. and Wenxin could not be consoled.
We weren't surprised because Nathan had been sick for days -- sore throat, fever, cough -- sick enough that we took him to the pediatrician, something our family doesn't do for every little sniffle. However, the doctor had no magic pills to zap this nasty bug. Like most viral illnesses, it would just have to run its course. When Wenxin began to get sick, we knew he felt awful. We'd been watching Nathan feel awful for days.
Still, Wenxin's reaction seemed a little over the top. As we sat up with him in our family room in the middle of the night, nothing we tried helped.
"I don't want to snuggle! I don't want you to hold me!" Fighting me on the sofa, he arched his back and screamed, " MAKE IT STOP HURTING!"
Mike made him a mug of warm water with honey. "No!" We offered cough drops and throat lozenges. "No!" Finally, he let me feed him a cup of children's ibuprofen. Of course, that stuff doesn't work instantly.
I tried to calm him with my words. "Mama knows you feel bad. I'm not going to leave you while you're sick. You'll get better."
Wenxin responded with . . .more kicking. . . more screaming. . . huge tears.
I prayed softly over him, asking God to heal his sore throat.
Eventually, Nathan wandered into the living room. The noise had woken him up. "I'm afraid something is really wrong with Wenxin," he said. "I'm scared." At only 12 years old, even Nathan knew this was not a "normal" reaction to a sore throat.
We reassured him and sent him back to bed.
"Maybe he has a really low tolerance for pain?" I sort-of-joked out loud. Mike and I both agreed that he was truly sick. We also agreed that all this screaming couldn't possibly be helping, but that point seemed lost on Wenxin. We asked each other, "Where is this over the top reaction coming from?"
Exhausted, I asked Mike to get his guitar. Wenxin screamed while Mike strummed. Mike and I sang praise songs together. In a few minutes, Wenxin's volume went down and he snuggled up with me -- just a bit. Mike, who's a little out of practice, stumbled on some chords, bringing the tiniest of smiles to Wenxin's lips. Finally, around 2 a.m., calm descended on the room, and we were ready for bed.
Stories like this make us scratch our heads. We've come so far. Most days, Wenxin's just another kid in our family. And then something like this happens. . . something that seems really abnormal. . . .at least, really abnormal for a nine year old.
We've been piecing together what we can about Wenxin's history. For whatever reason, sometimes the records you get with an international adoption aren't completely accurate. Wenxin's special need was listed as burn scars, from a severe burn he received, according to his adoption records, before he was one month old.
Wenxin, however, insists it happened when he was in foster care. He believes he was three or four years old -- old enough to walk and old enough to remember.
He's told us the same story in detail several times. The last time he told me, I said, "You know, Wenxin, when Daddy and I went to China to adopt you, they gave us some papers that told about your life. In the papers, they wrote that you were burned when you were a tiny baby, before you lived with your foster mom."
"Fine." Wenxin said sharply. "I was a baby."
Then, turning to walk away, he mumbled loudly, "LIARS."
On that night, weeks later, as we tried to get Wenxin to calm down and let us comfort him, Mike said, "This makes me think that maybe he does remember being burned."
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"Well, a burn injury is extremely painful. If he has a memory of that time, it might explain his over the top, emotional reaction to any type of pain."
It's a possibility. It's a possibility, although we may never know for sure.
We can, however, be sure that even after a year and a half, we are still in the process of building trust with Wenxin. Kids who are older when they are adopted have probably had their trust broken many times. How are they supposed to know for sure -- not just in words, but deep down in their hearts-- that these new parents are any different? Will we really be there for them when they are sick . . . or upset. . . or out of control?
I think we did OK that night. Finally, around 2 a.m., I asked Wenxin if he'd like to sleep with us, since he was sick. That made him really happy. As we got in bed, he wrapped his arms around me and snuggling up close, had a coughing fit, right in my face.
So I wasn't surprised a few days later when my throat began to hurt and I began to cough. By early afternoon, I decided to take a nap on the sofa. Wenxin brought me his favorite blankets and tucked me in. Made my heart smile. Looks like we're not just building trust. Hopefully, we're building compassion too.
Friday, October 26, 2012
Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Today I'm reposting the story of how it all started. Way back in 2009.
At the bottom of this post, you can use the linky tool to share a post about the beginning of your own adoption journey. It can be a post about why you adopted or maybe the post where you announced your plans to adopt. Share anything that paints a picture of how it all started. I can't wait to read each and every story.
Simply put – Because that’s where Wenxin is.
We’ve known we wanted to grow our family through adoption now for years. But there were so many questions. Boy or girl? Infant, toddler, or older child? Domestic or international? Healthy or special needs? Adoptive parents are called on to make decisions that biological parents never face. Those decisions can be paralyzing.
We tended to face those decisions that would alter our destiny (and that of all our children) late at night. There were many groggy, after-midnight conversations. Some options were ruled out. Others reconsidered.
Mike is a “possibilities” guy. Narrowing down options goes against his very nature. Exasperated, at one point I said, “Honey, there are millions of orphans in this world. If we have to consider each one individually, we’ll never do anything!”
My heart was drawn to waiting children. A lot of adoptive parents prefer girls – especially when looking at older kids. Our family seemed to be missing a boy.
And then we found him -- a sweet six year old Chinese boy on the waiting children’s list of an agency recommended by friends. Mike said, “Get more info on him.” After months of seeing things from different perspectives, suddenly we agreed on this child. I shot off a quick e-mail to the agency. So as not to seem too picky, I also listed four more kids we’d consider. The agency e-mailed back that the others were already being considered by other families, but offered to send Wenxin’s info. My heart leapt.
Suddenly we were holding photos, a video, biography, and the medical records of the little boy who just might be our son. But we were leaving town for two weeks in just two days, and we desperately needed our pediatrician’s input.
The receptionist was kind, but not very encouraging. This doctor is booked for months in advance. She also told me that the fee was $250 and definitely not covered by insurance. She took down all the details and left for a moment.
“Can you be here in 30 minutes?” she asked when she returned. Pandemonium ensued as we tossed our other 3 kids into the van and raced through rush hour traffic as fast as we could. It was kind of like driving to the hospital in labor.
Dr. Lagod reviewed his file. He looked healthy, but sad. She warned us of attachment problems that can occur with adopted kids. She pointed out that while his physical exam and lab work look fine, we know nothing of his birth parents. What about drugs and alcohol in pregnancy? This kid comes with a world of unknowns.
Dr. Lagod wished us well and refused to take payment for her services. She’s known us for a long time. She’s cared for each of our babies since birth. She was with us in 2001 when our daughter Sarah was born with a fatal chromosomal disorder. She fought for appropriate treatment for little Sarah, valuing her as a person, in spite of her severe handicaps. She attended her burial.
We felt as if God were sweeping us along on this adventure. Wenxin has some burn scars from an injury as an infant. The next evening as we surfed TV channels, we settled on the news show, 20/20. The main story was about amazing advancements in the treatment of burn scars. I didn’t dare look at Mike. When I did, we were both teary- eyed.
A Christian doctor we’d just met the week before agreed to have a plastic surgeon friend look at photos of Wenxin’s scars. No need for further treatment at this time. Another green light.
For the next two weeks, we traveled as a family to Alabama and on as a couple to Colorado. Mike and I prayed and talked. We tried to shock each other into reality by brainstorming “worse case scenarios.” We made phone calls to the agency with nit-picky questions. At one point I said, “This is either the greatest thing we’ve ever done, or the stupidest.”
But aren’t all acts of faith like that?
For me, I think what sealed the deal was realizing that as scared as I am of all the unknowns, the thing I’m most scared of is that we won’t be able to adopt him. Mike agrees and we are taking the plunge.
So China it is. Let the journey begin.
When this post was originally published in 2009, I did not include Wenxin's photo per China adoption regulations. I'm so glad I can include it now. That photo won our hearts!
Use the easy linky tool below to share your own story. Afterwards, please link back to Death by Great Wall from your blog using a text link or by grabbing the blog button on my sidebar.
More than one adoption? Link a post for each one. Don't have a blog? Share your story as a comment. Don't worry about what really qualifies as older child adoption. If you have a story to share, we want to hear it. Thanks!
Shared at Growing Slower's Tuesday Baby Link Up and Simple As That's Simple Things Sunday.
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Packing Light - LOL - Remember, there's a whole school in there!
Yesterday's post on orphanage behaviors was heavy. Today, I'm feeling the need to share something a little lighter.
One of our big reasons for homeschooling all four kids this year is having the freedom and flexibility to travel as a family. Mike and I work with an international ministry, and our work involves travel both at home and abroad.
Of course, cost is an issue and many times, the reality is that Mike does the traveling while the kids and I stay home. But when a church in New York invited Mike and me to speak at a conference - and volunteered to fly the whole family up -- we jumped at the chance to take our homeschool on the road.
Later that day, we visited an Underground Railroad stop in Skaneateles, New York. It's a private residence today, just like it was back then. It's amazing how normal people, in normal houses, played a huge part in changing history. A question to ponder: If we'd lived in the time of slavery, would we have broken the law and allowed runaway slaves to hide in our house?
The church that flew us to New York also invited us to attend an Army football game at historic West Point.
We added one day of vacation. . . ahem, school field trip, that is. . . to the end of our stay and took a train to New York City. Metropolitan Museum of Art anyone?
Monday, October 22, 2012
"Who wants to hold a real Civil War musket?"
Saturday night, I took the kids to a one man play by a Civil War reenactor. After the performance, he invited all the children up front to take turns holding a real Confederate musket.
I sat in my chair and watched as one by one, Nathan and Julia took their turns, and then came back to join me. Finally, only Katherine and Wenxin were left waiting in the big group of home schooled kids. Then it happened. As I watched, Wenxin went from relaxed, engaged, hands outstretched to take his turn holding the musket -- like any normal boy about to get the chance to hold a real weapon -- to rigid, alone in the crowd, standing at attention with arms pressed firmly at his sides. He averted his eyes to the ground as big, silent tears dripped from his chin.
For a moment he remained frozen, glued to the floor while all the other kids clamored around him, completely unaware of his distress. Then suddenly, Wenxin broke away and marched over to me. Eyes still on the ground, he stood ramrod straight.
"I don't want to hold the musket. I want to go home. I want to go home now."
All my questions. . . and attempts at comforting. . . and offers to go back and wait for another turn with him, were met with downcast eyes and stony silence. I was getting nowhere.
Finally, I asked Katherine if she knew what happened.
"Mom, I don't know. . . surely he didn't mean it. . . but it really looked like the man skipped Wenxin on purpose. . . He let everyone else have a turn, and when he got to Wenxin, Wenxin held out his hands, and the man pulled the musket away and gave it to another kid."
I hope she was wrong. I really do. There was a mob of kids, all wanting a chance to hold the musket. It would be so easy to skip over one in the confusion. And yet, I wondered. Did this man see an Asian kid and not want him to touch his prized antique gun? His piece of American history?
Let me say, that from the bottom of my heart, I do not think that's what happened. But it's the first time in two years it even crossed my mind that someone might discriminate against Wenxin because of his race, and for what it's worth, it was not a good feeling.
The bigger thing I wondered about was this standing at attention, eyes down thing. I've noticed that Wenxin does this from time to time. He does it when he thinks he's in trouble, especially if he knows he's guilty. He snaps to attention, averts his eyes, and tries not to cry. He looks like he's trying to be brave in the face of certain punishment. He also does it when he's embarrassed and feels foolish. And when he does this, he won't let me comfort him. It's like it's just him against the world. He puts on a brave face, stands at attention and just waits for what's coming.
At least that's what it looks like to me. I imagine him in the orphanage, lined up with other little boys after someone has been naughty. He looks down, trying not to call attention to himself, and come what may, he determines to look tough.
Outside Wenxin's Orphanage
Maybe it's not even orphanage behavior. It could be cultural -- a Chinese thing. But I do know that our kids who grew up in orphanages did whatever it took to survive. And sometimes the very same behaviors that made them survivors in that situation, make it difficult for them to adjust to life in their adoptive families. Manipulation, grabbing, lying, hoarding -- all may have been tactics that helped our kids survive. Instead of proving they are bad kids, these actions may actually prove they are resourceful and strong. And with patient guidance, they may be able to use their resourcefulness and strength to learn the new skills they need to live in a family. I've seen it happen with Wenxin.
In retrospect, we all made too big of a deal of the musket thing. As I tried to comfort Wenxin, Nathan ran back up front and informed the man that his little brother had been overlooked and was crying. Nathan ran back to tell Wenxin that if he'd just go back up front, he'd get another chance.
"I'm not going up there again."
Then on the way out, I stopped at the book table to buy a book for Nathan, and the man's wife mentioned the musket, and someone shared the situation with her.
"Just a minute," she said, as she ran back into the auditorium.
"Oh Wenxin. You know she's getting the musket. Please hold it for Mama when she comes back."
"I'm not touching it."
So when the lady came back, musket in hand, I was the one who held it. I oohed and aahed and asked a few questions. I'm pretty sure Wenxin never took his eyes off the ground. He didn't give the musket the honor of even one little glance. As soon as possible, I ushered all five of us out the door, feeling a little like I'd just been in a Civil War battle myself.
I wish I could have a do-over of that evening. (Wouldn't it be nice if grown-ups got do-overs?) This is what I'd say:
"Wenxin. I can see you are disappointed. Would you like for me to go back with you and help you get a chance to hold the musket, or would you like to skip it and go home?"
Short and sweet. Minimal drama. Simple choices.
I'm certain he would have chosen to go home. And that would have been OK. We made this into a much bigger deal than it needed to be. Hopefully, I'll do better next time.
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Tuesday, October 16, 2012
The face of China adoption is changing.
I took some time Sunday to catch up on reading my favorite blogs. I happened on a real gem by Sandra at Our China Blessings. She talks about Searching for Connection -- how both Sandra and her 13 year old newly adopted daughter went to a meeting of Families with Children from China (FCC) searching for connection.
Sadly, they left the meeting still searching.
Seems to me that most support organizations for Chinese adoptive families cater to families who adopted healthy infant or toddler girls through the non-special needs program. Not a lot of boys. Not a lot of older children who still speak Chinese and are struggling with cultural adjustment. Not a lot of special needs.
I'm not criticizing Families with Children from China. Organizations like FCC meet a real need for families who adopt baby girls from China. And in the past, that covered almost all China adoptions. What a gift for those little girls to grow up with peers who look like them and with other families that resemble their families.
But the face of China adoption is changing, and more and more of us are parenting adopted kids who are older, or who are boys, or who have disabilities. One size doesn't fit all anymore.
Where do families who choose Older Child Adoption go for support?
Most of us go online. But it sure would be nice to find support in person.
I confess I've never tried FCC in my area. I've asked about it. My main question was, "Are there any adopted Chinese boys?" The person I asked could maybe remember meeting one. At the time, it didn't seem like that would really meet our needs, so I didn't pursue it further. Maybe if more of us attended the culture clubs and camps, the dynamics would change naturally. Maybe the first step is up to us. I think these groups naturally tailor their programs to the needs of their members.
Take a minute and head over to Sandra's blog to read her beautifully written story of their search for real life connection in the adoption world.
And take a moment to share here about how you are connecting with other adoptive families in real life. How hard do you work to make this happen? How would you advise those of us who are still searching? Leave a comment! Your experience and perspective will be a blessing to other parents who stop by Death by Great Wall, looking for info on older child adoption.
Shared at The Long Road to China.
Monday, October 15, 2012
We're finally back from our ten day trip to New York. Today's pics were shot in Central Park. Can you believe I got such great photos of my boys? My girls are easy to photograph. They'll pose at the drop of a hat. My boys, not so much. Getting great shots of them is a rare treat.
Another rarity is a photo that actually has me in it. Like most moms, I'm usually the one behind the camera. And I like it back there. I get to be creative, and behind the camera, I don't risk looking fat or tired or old. But since I want to leave my kids with photo memories of their childhood that include me, I'm trying to get in front of the camera a little more these days.
Wenxin pointed out that I always pose with all the kids in front of me so I don't look fat. Am I really that obvious?
How about you? Do your kids have photos with you in the picture?
Wednesday, October 3, 2012
Calling all bloggers touched by older child adoption: adoptive parents, first moms, and adult adoptees. Posts from prospective adoptive parents are welcome as well. Today through Saturday, I'm hosting a linky party here at Death by Great Wall, and you're all invited.
Link to a post you've written that paints a picture of older child adoption in real life. Your post can be funny, heart-warming, or gut-wrenching -- because really, older child adoption is all those things at one time or another.
First, add your link using the inlinkz tool. Link to a specific post -- not your blog's home page.
Second, at the bottom of your post, link back to Death by Great Wall with a text link or by grabbing the Death by Great Wall button on my sidebar. (Side note: I LOVE people who put my Death by Great Wall Button on their blog's sidebar -- like Jennifer at Peterson Ponderings.)
Last, visit some of the other posts in this linky party. Leave a comment and introduce yourself. You might even find a new blog to follow.
I can't wait to read your posts!
Tuesday, October 2, 2012
If you are Chinese, you might want to skip this post. Because my family's unconventional Moon Festival celebration might make you cringe. For example:
There they are. Howling at the moon. Every last one of them.
I don't think Chinese people usually do that.
Wenxin's been our son for two years now, but this was the first year we celebrated the Moon Festival.
Because even though I write an adoption parenting blog, I've got a long way to go as an adoptive parent.
That first year, when the Moon Festival rolled around, we had just arrived home from China and were still dealing with jet lag. Wenxin was grieving and raging, and honestly, it was all we could do just to hold things together around here. No Moon Festival for us.
Last year, I intended to buy mooncakes -- I really did -- until fall hit with a vengeance. School. Soccer. Julia's birthday. Before I knew it the Moon Festival had come and gone, and I was on my way to becoming the worst adoptive mom ever.
Back in the summer, Wenxin brought it up. He told me about the Moon Festival in China -- how it was really fun. He wondered if our family could celebrate it this year.
So this past weekend, while I was running from soccer game to soccer game and packing for New York in between, I googled "when is the Moon Festival in 2012?" It looked to me like the Moon Festival ran a whole week, so I figured if all else failed, we'd hunt down some mooncakes when we got to New York and celebrate up there. I also posted a Facebook message to ask my friends where they buy them and discuss favorite mooncake fillings (more on that later).
6:30 pm Sunday night, I checked Facebook and saw this message from my friend, Jerry. Jerry's wife, Evelyn, is Chinese.
"It's tonight, you know. Tonight's the night you give the mooncakes."
I called an Asian food market downtown.
"Are you still open?"
"Yes, we're open til 8."
"Do you have mooncakes?"
"No, all gone."
Panic. Panic. Panic.
Googling Asian markets in town.
I found one that looked to be close to my house and called. Now it was 6:45.
"Are you open?"
"Yes, we are open until 7."
"Do you have mooncakes?"
"Yes, we have a few."
I grabbed my purse and ran to the car. Mike looked up from pushing the lawn mower just in time to see me screech off. A woman on a mission. In search of mooncakes.
I pulled into the Asian market parking lot at 7:02. I could see the owner reaching to unplug the "OPEN" sign.
"No, no, no, no!"
I ran to the door and pushed it open before she could lock it.
"Mooncakes," I gasped and staggered inside.
Selection was limited. The few that were left had red bean filling. Mooncakes, at least the ones I bought, are small -- about the size of moon pies, for my southern friends. Many of them have a whole egg yolk cooked inside -- like a full moon. I opted for the no egg version. (I know, I'm a wimp.) There was a decorative tin with 4 mooncakes for $21. I decided to buy a single mooncake ($5.99) for Wenxin, and then another single for the rest of us to share. Something told me that would be enough.
"What do families in China do on this night -- besides give mooncakes?" I asked the owner.
"Usually we share a huge meal, like Thanksgiving, " she said.
I didn't even have a plan for dinner.
"And you have to wait until the sun goes down."
Finally, a part of this whole moon thing that I could get right. It was already getting dark outside.
Remembering there was a little jasmine rice left from lunch, I raced to Wal-Mart and bought a bag of frozen pot stickers. No, they're not Wenxin's favorites. We'd never even tried them before. But I was winging this Moon Festival thing, and it was the best I could come up with on short notice.
So while Chinese families around town were feasting on big meals, our celebration was more like "Moon Festival in Time of Famine."
No, that's not the appetizer. It's the whole meal.
But it didn't matter. When Wenxin saw what I was doing, he got so excited.
"Should I put on the Chinese music, Mom?" He ran to find the CD of Chinese folk songs he brought from China.
We did our best to eat pot stickers and jasmine rice with chopsticks. I even broke out some fortune cookies.
And then there were the mooncakes. Even though I lived in Asia for seven years back when I was single, this was the first time I'd ever had mooncake. I've heard them compared to fruitcake in America.
When I sliced the mooncake that Nathan, Julia, and Katherine were going to share, everyone yelled, "Chocolate!"
"No," I corrected them, "It's red bean." Yummm.
The looks on their faces as they chewed and swallowed confirmed one of my theories about traveling in Asia. "Eat, eat, eat, but stay away from the desserts." For most Americans, smashed red beans just don't belong in cake -- of any kind. Oh well, Wenxin can't stomach cheese pizza. But he seemed to genuinely enjoy his mooncake.
Next year, I'll try to give the "feast" part a little upgrade.