Sunday, November 29, 2009

My Final Benediction

For the past several years November has brought gifts, news, events, and epiphanies that have foreshadowed and changed the course of the rest of my life. So far this year I am free from that, but there are still 2 days left in the month. So there is still time.

Each event has built upon the other. I suspect that this year's event is only that I share what happened last year, as I promised at that time that I would.

I'll go backwards just a little.

It is beyond ironic to me that November is National Adoption Month.

In November of 2006 is when God first placed the desire to adopt in my heart. Once that happens, for those of you who know, there is no place to go but forward. You can think about it, analyze it, parse it, slice it and dice it, and try to run away from it (I tried all of the above and more) but it is in your heart. If you are honest with yourself, you cannot get away.

In November of 2007 my long-term boyfriend/fiance broke up for good, forever. Yes, I know I wrote that it happened in June of 2007, and that is when I started adoption proceeding. That is true. I also wrote that there was a coda to the story, and the short version is we had one more get together that lasted about a month. When I told him I was adopting Ava and Elle, he turned on an immediate dime and it was really over. 5 + years down the drain.

Then last November on Thanksgiving Day I received a phone call that rocked my world. The younger brother of my girls was being placed for adoption. Did I want the opportunity to adopt him?

It was actually a whole lot more complicated than that, but that was the jest of it.

Did I? Well yes, I did. With all my heart. But I was in complete shock. I was near the end of my financial allocation for adoption, and there was no more. I said I had to think it over (pray about it) and try to get some clarity.

I will say this. Even though my first adoption was not complete, I had it in the back of my mind that there was one more child for me. I chalked this up to a sort of a phantom fantasy. It seemed that the actual reality would only upset the apple cart in my perfect world. (lol) However, it was clear enough in my fantasy that this child was a boy, under the age of 5 with brown skin. I had researched domestic adoption again, and only come up with frustration. Then I started looking at the little boys at the "O" that needed families, but I did not feel led in that direction. At which point I would laugh at myself and tell myself I must be freaking crazy.
That's one reason the phone call was so shocking. It addressed my phantom feelings/fantasy and more. Stevenson was 4 years old, just a little over a year younger than Elle. It felt like a missing piece of a big puzzle. (For one thing it explained to me her 'middle child' behaviors that I had already experienced on my visits.) I realized that Ava was 4 years old when he was born, and that she was probably very attached to him. (I found out I was right about that)


It was just Lucas and I for Thanksgiving that day. So after I got off the phone, I told him. He said he thought I should do it. I told him I wanted to, I just did not know how I was going to manage it and I was not going to make an emotional decision. My entire body felt like it was buzzing, literally. And that continued for days. Which is exactly how I felt the first time the desire to adopt was placed in my heart. I knew I had to make a decision. I knew what my heart wanted, but I just did not know how I could do it. A brief hard look at my finances told me what I already knew: after adoption expenses, it was going to be TIGHT. And just where would those adoption expenses come from? Much less the $ for living day to day?

I will confess that I still don't know all the answers to those last two questions, a year later. But I do know that our lives are made up of a mixture of (mostly) self-determination, uncontrollable outside circumstances, and grace. I knew I was being graced right then. And I was afraid. But again, my heart was telling me to go forward.

After a nearly sleepless night, Lucas asked me the next day if I had made up my mind yet. I said no. "But Mom! What if he is meant to be the best soccer player ever and he never got his opportunity!"

That was kind of dramatic, but true. I ended up calling back 2 days earlier than I said I was going to and telling them I was going to do it.


"OK" I was told "But you can't change your mind about this."

"I'm not going to change my mind."

When I went to Haiti in April, I stayed longer than I normally would have because I wanted to meet and spend time with Stevenson. I was unsure how this was all going to take place on this trip, but the last night I was there is when M. brought him to the hotel, along with their birth mother.

It was a short visit, but one of the most intense 30 minutes I have ever experienced. In addition to extreme sadness there was extreme happiness. When I met this boy I was immediately taken with him. I was glowing. For days afterwards, even with all that was going on. For me, it was love at first sight!





He was smiley and sweet. His sisters were so happy to see him. Our time was very short together. I gave him a stuffed turtle which was really a back pack; it had a toy car ("machine!") inside and a pair of sunglasses.







I know it was explained to him what was happening, but I'm sure his (now) 5 year old little brain could not comprehend it. This was also the night that M told Ava and Elle that he would be coming to live with us. For all us, it may have been one of the happiest and saddest days of our lives. Ava cried herself to sleep, happy and overwhelming sad at the same time.



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He went into the orphanage after that. It was rough at first. He was so upset he did not eat for a week and he got sick, but they finally got him turned around. He's doing good now.

I'm glad he is well now but that broke my heart. Again. The choices people have to make in the face of that kind of poverty breaks my heart. I feel like if his mom has to make these kind of sacrifices and choices who am I to whine about money? It may not be easy for me, but it's attainable. I'm not fooling myself. I have to have some work done on my house (expansion)before I will be approved for another home study, and that is in addition to adoption expenses.

But the Lord has brought us this far, I trust him not to fail me now.

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I will continue to reflect on this turn of events as time goes on. I have a year's worth of thoughts in my rolling around in my brain, so trust me, I have plenty to say!



Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving


So much to be thankful for this year. It almost goes without saying, except I say it anyway. To validate it, and give praise to the One from Whom All Blessings Flow.
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Lucas went to North Carolina with his Dad, and of course Nick is in California, so it was just the girls and I for their first Thanksgiving holiday. They are not totally convinced on this American traditional cuisine, but we reviewed the story about the Pilgrims and the Indians, and I talked about how they farmed and hunted and traded and worked the whole traditional food aspect of it in there so they could kind of understand. They liked some of it, especially in comparison to the cafeteria turkey dinner they were served about a week ago. After that, I was afraid they would never eat turkey again, but they did, and they liked it, and they proclaimed me a good cook and a good mama, LOL.
Hoping I'm not jinxing myself but life seems a little easier lately in terms of their adjustments. We are miles away from the beginning, and we never had really horrible times, but we've had some tough ones. Once in awhile that still happens, but everyday seems like we are making progress and improving our relationships and our bonding as a family. I know I say stuff like that alot, but it's because it's true. The first year IS hard, and it's not over yet but I consider myself blessed and I would not change a minute of it!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Race On The Playground

Not the kind of race you usually associate with the playground.



This is a tough story to tell, and I only know how to do it in a straight-forward manner. I'm still in shock, and I don't know that I have any helpful insight or commentary at this point.





Except for the fact that we are on a furlough week, today was low-stress at work. It was the last day before our furlough-Thanksgiving break, which is 5 days, and because of our restricted hours, I actually had time (and just enough money) to do my holiday grocery shopping ALONE and pick up the kids early. When I got to the school, I walked in the front door and immediately sensed something was wrong. The PE coach was standing near the front door talking to a man and a little girl who were seated on a bench in front of the office. Coach runs the after school program, but he is usually gone for the day by the time I get there. (the YWCO counselors who do the bulk of the work anyway, finish the day) I recognized the little girl: she is in my Sunday School class. I know her mom, and I assumed the man was her father. As I walked by them he was asking her "was it the big one or the little one?" all the while following me with his eyes. I kept walking, but instinctively I knew he was talking about my girls. He may as well have said "was it the big BLACK one or the little BLACK one?" My kids are not the only black kids in aftercare, but they are the only ones that come as a package, so to speak. I thought 'I wonder WTH this is all about, and worked hard at keeping my anger and my panic level under the radar since I had no facts about anything yet. Just an instinctive fire alarm going off inside of me.



I got to the cafeteria and one of the YWCO counselors caught me at the door and said, "oh good you're here. Something happened today, and Coach needs to talk to you." I said "he's up front with L_ _ _ _ _ and her dad" the counselor said "well, I guess I need to tell you what happened today. Your girls are not in trouble or anything, but something happened"



I was glad he sorta clarified that. The girls have not had any behavior issues at school, but they've had some at home, and at that point I was wondering if some of it had spilled over.



But no. We went into the room next door and he proceeded to tell me that Ava and L----- had gotten into a minor altercation on the playground that included some shoving and some arguing. L----- ended up on the ground, and although she was not hurt, she was mad. At that point she called Ava the "N" word. Ava did not know what it meant but she knew it was bad. She must have said "I am not" because at that point L----- said she was because her skin was brown and not like her own.



I was so shocked I think you could have knocked me over with a feather. But my mind was racing. Where would this kid get this stuff and why did she think it was OK to bring it to school? All right, I realize that is not even a reasonable question sequence. The only answer possible is that she got it from an adult in her life and she is too young to control her emotions when she gets angry. But she must have known it was wrong because I found out later from Ava that she tried to apologize before Ava told anyone, and then she tried to lie about the fact that she said it.



At any rate, Coach finally came back and told me what happened. I asked him where he thought L------ got that word, and he said at first he was not sure because her dad was a policeman and he is Hispanic. He was 'interrogating' her when I walked in the front door, and he finally got her to admit what she did. Then Coach slipped a little and let me know that the Dad thought it came from Mom's side of the family, as they are divorced and apparently there is some animosity there. In my head I was imagining Mom and/or her family disparaging Dad, some of it based on his racial identity. I imagined if they had an issue about Hispanics, it did not stop there. Of course, L------ is half Hispanic too. And she is a very beautiful and sweet little girl. My heart is breaking for these little kids. But most especially for my own daughter. When we got home, I took her aside and asked her what happened. Her eyes started filling up with tears almost immediately, and spilled over when she got to the heart of the story. She definitely got that it was about her being brown and different, even though she did not know what that word meant.



I told her it was a bad word and we don't use it, and that L------ was in trouble because she did. I also told her it was not OK to shove little kids. But I told her most of all, "don't EVER let someone else make you feel bad about yourself by something THEY say. It's THEIR problem and those bad things are not true." I also told her that when Jesus looks at us he does not care or even see the color of our skin and he only looks at what is in our hearts, because that is what is important. That she is beautiful and we are all beautiful to Him. Also that if L------ apologized by chance, that she should accept her apology and not hold a grudge, because that is what Jesus would do, and what He would want her to do too.



She cried for a little while and I knew it really hurt her. And she does not even understand all the implications, she only knew that this little girl singled her out because she is different, and tried to make her feel like she was less than because of the color of her skin.



It may seems harsh that I'm tagging the Mom on this but there is a little history there. Mom goes to the same church I do, and like I said, her daughter is/was in my Sunday School class. But last Sunday, her mom pulled her out and put her in with the older age group, which is really not appropriate. It was obvious that there was a problem there, but I was trying not to take it personally. I really don't know this woman but I see her at school functions and at church and I am always friendly towards her. After church Sunday I saw her at a grocery store, and she obviously snubbed me. When I greeted her she turned her back on me.



I thought "Wow, she really does have a problem with me and I really don't even know her"



Based on all the evidence, I can only guess that she is one of those that 'does not approve' of my lifestyle. This is the same issue with my X-boyfriend/fiance' so it's semi-familiar territory.



I don't know what will happen next. L----- will be "written up" by the YWCO program. Yeah, she's five years old. I'm shocked that a 5 year old can be 'written up" but I guess it has to be documented. And it forces the parents to acknowledge it. It's really up to the parents to correct this. Church will be interesting on Sunday. There are at least 30,000 people in this county and probably 200 churches, and we happen to attend the same one. As well as Coach. He and I are on the same volunteer team.



I'm not a huge proponent of "political correctness", however I am even less a fan of hateful behavior. The huge majority of people I know or meet, Black and White, Hispanic and Asian, are pretty open and accepting of my family. Most people just love these girls. Still, it's jarring to encounter this personally, I won't lie.



And if you are thinking that the Deep South is hopelessly entrenched in this, I would have to disagree. Much has changed here, and in our country in general. I have lived in other places, and seen the ugly face of racism up close. I have always know it was morally wrong. The South has staged much of the institutional changes and there are still generations of grudges to be eased for people of both races. The media is obsessed with the dramatic. But you can encounter hate anywhere you go, as well as love. We can only hope and pray that love wins.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Monkey Bars




We stopped by the playground at the school on our way home from church yesterday. The girls have been itchin' to show me their prowess on the monkey bars. They have been working on this skill since they got home in April, you might remember their attempts over the summer...








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And now, for some lady-like poses!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Gone Again


My oldest has decided to go back to California, so we saw him off on Wednesday. I'm sad because he won't be close by, but I'm happy because he is happy. If those conflicting emotions make any sense!

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Monday, November 2, 2009

Kickoff to the Holdays




For me, Halloween always marks the beginning of the busy holiday season. Even more hectic, (and more fun) when there are little kids involved.
The girls adored the Halloween thing, and it took them no time to figure it out! Elle was a princess (check out the Barbie cowboy boots with her dress!....Princess Pistolero to be sure!) and Ava was an angel. She wanted to be a butterfly, so I let her think that angel costume was a butterfly costume, it had wings after all. And butterflies have halos, don't ya know???


We carved pumpkins in the afternoon.



Then got dressed and went to the open house at the Volunteer Fire Dept. The weather was strange. Rained during the day, and got really muggy, I had to turn the air conditioning on. Then it quit raining. Then it started getting cold, and started raining again, which is pretty much what it did for the rest of the evening. Mostly just drizzle tho.








Running in the rain to the VFD

Ava is checking it all out! Elle giving me an earful as usual!

Cotton candy for the first time...it looks so inviting, but it tastes so...nothing~ They decided they really did not care for it after all. After this we started the trick or treating. They were so darn excited and happy, they could hardly believe it. Suffice it to say, they LOVE Halloween!

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