Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas Recap

I’m hoping my coffee kicks in soon. I’ve been getting up at 5:00AM to swim. I swim 4-5 miles a week. The kids are on break, so I have to find time while Tom is home. Bear with me; I’ll try to put coherent thoughts together. This is only one part of our completely altered schedule over Christmas break. I’m itching to have school routine. I’m going to print off a calendar for Sidney and X off the days.

I have to comment on proud I am. She’s doing amazingly well all things considered. She’s been thrown into loads of people, eating in noisy places, and the generally over stimulating nature of the holidays, and there is a noticeable improvement over last year. If I tell her it’s important to eat, she’s sitting down in a noisy room and doing so. If I tell her, we’re going to grandma’s house for a little while, eating, opening gifts, and coming home after a while, she’s content with the answer. It doesn’t mean it’s easy in between, but I can tell her anxiety in over stimulating situations is easing somewhat. There are moments of anxiety rather than a constant state of flittering around.

Meanwhile, Eli is relishing the time away from school. He cracks me up. We went down to our good friend’s house the other night and played the Wii dance game. Jill, my BFF (I only use this phrase, because it’s hilarious) and I were amazed at his outgoing nature. He’s typically quiet and reserved in school. At home, he’s the polar opposite. He put his whole self into the routine. That was only after the kids came downstairs to find the adults playing the game. Land of 1000 Dances will never be the same. Tom can do quite an alligator. Did I say we are slightly uninhibited in our family?  There’s incriminating video of yours truly floating around somewhere.

As I write about the joy in our season, my thoughts constantly go back to Sidney’s “brothers and sisters” in Chenzhou. I’m talking about the kids she left behind in the orphanage. Their wellbeing never leaves me completely, and it shouldn’t. That’s the part about being an adoptive parent that’s not written in the books you read beforehand. If you think of the kids still waiting to come home, include them in your prayers. I can’t look at the abundance around me without thinking of them. My future plans include doing some kind of fundraiser for Half the Sky, but I need to put it together. I know I can choose where to direct the funds, and I will send them directly to Sidney’s orphanage. Look for upcoming information.

Okay, I’m off to my day which includes more work, prepping for the next Christmas and finding a couple of items I’ve never heard of. We are off to BobBob and JeanJean’s this weekend. According to Sidney Grandpa BobBob is one of the funniest people she knows. One day we were randomly getting into the car before school, and she announced to no one in particular, “Grandpa BobBob’s funny!” Notice the double use of my parent’s names. She’s done this since she came home, and it stuck. My nephew Finn even uses a double name for Grandpa BobBob and Grandma JeanJean. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Yesterday wrapped up three Christmas performances involving one or both kids in a week. In light of what happened, in Connecticut, I think this morning’s Christmas Sunday School program was something positive to focus on. I don’t think I’m unique from anyone else in the country that’s struggling with the gravity of the event which took place. So many lives senselessly taken. Unfortunately with a 10 year old is in the house, there’s not much that remains a secret. Saturday morning as I got out of bed and came downstairs to greet Eli, it was the first question he asked.

What followed wasn’t an easy conversation. How does a parent explain? I chose not to sidestep the facts. There were many children who died. We will never completely know what was wrong with the person who did it. We have to pray for the families of the victims. They need as much strength as possible. We talked about our faith and beliefs about the person who did this. I told him to talk to me if he has questions, and I know eventually something will come up in the car. Eli and I have solved the world’s problems in the car, always in the car. There’s something about mom being preoccupied by driving that makes it less threatening for him to bring up weighty conversations.

That’s when I made the personal decision the TV was going off. I no longer look at the news on the internet when the kids are in the room, and when I talked with my mom she passed along another piece of helpful information she heard someone talking about. Once you’ve talked about it with your kids don’t keep rehashing it. And I agree, there is no way Eli can comprehend the gravity of what took place. 

I almost think discussing such weighty matters will be simpler with Sidney when she’s the same age. There’s worldliness to her short time on the planet that’s unexplainable.  There’s an innocence that’s been lost. That doesn’t mean the sparkle of a small child isn’t there. I saw it on Thursday night at the end of the school Christmas play. As Santa came literally dancing down the aisle, Sidney’s face became 100% child. Her entire being was lit up and amazed at this man in a red suit. It’s a gift to witness. As the little kids were invited up to sit in Santa’s lap, she took off without hesitation, leaving her mother in the dust.  

Thursday, December 13, 2012

“Yes Sidney the alphabet soup went to Martha’s brain. If mommy buys you alphabet soup, it will not go to your brain and give you more words. No, alphabet soup cannot make a dog talk.” So was the dialog coming back from preschool this morning for the fifth time this week. Sidney is convinced alphabet soup can actually go to a dogs brain instead of its stomach like Martha on M*rtha Speaks on P*S. She’s obsessed with the cartoon right now. Sidney asked if she could eat alphabet anyway. How was I supposed to know it’s been replaced by characters and stars? At least I tried. 
Snow! Is that an ornery face or what?
Sidney spent an afternoon in “playtime” yesterday. We have difficulty getting her to eat in different environments, and with kindergarten next year, we decided it might be a good idea to help her learn to eat at school. Thankfully, the adult in charge has experience in this area. She’s gone to the extent of leaving small plastic zipped bags of treats out, so she knows it’s there. This is one of the many reasons we continue sending our kids to private school.

This leads me to Eli. He’s in fifth grade this year. We have a public school, but there were a couple of things that happened when he was in kindergarten that lead us to private education. Beyond 8th grade, the grades cut off, and he goes to public high school. His class size continues to shrink. I’ve also observed that kids sometimes have a tough adjustment to go from this small protected environment in 8th grade to public high school in 9th. Thankfully, if we make this choice, he already has a good friend in the public school that he hangs out with.
My trombone player.
Tonight we are on the second concert of the week of three. Miss Sidney is more than excited to stand on stage and sing her heart out. Anytime she is the center of attention and singing, she is happy. And music and singing have always been a constant for her. I’ll never forget her coming home from China and singing a haunting melody with theatrical motions. Of course, I didn’t understand a word and was totally blown away. She was only 16 months, but it was obviously something rehearsed that she’d learned.

Okay, time to break Eli the news that he will be taking a shower before his concert.  I don’t know what doesn’t register about good hygiene for a 10 year old boy.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Regular or Decaff?

With school and more time around a variety of kids, we notice a recurring theme. Typically, it begins with Sidney counting her fingers. Then she places her tiny palms against mine as I instinctively lower my ring and pinkie fingers. Our hands match. Then Sidney lowers her hands and begins counting my fingers. She’s gotten to 10 instead of six. It’s in this moment that she repeats the same words. “I have three. You have five.”  In the last several weeks, she has come to the clear realization her hands are hands are different from her family and people around her. I remember commenting a couple of years ago that we existed in a bubble, meaning she didn’t identify with any differences in her physical makeup. It was a luxury, and I basked in it.

“Mine are different Mommy. Daddy you have big hands.” We reassure her, “God made you perfect for what you need to do. Have you seen mommy’s toes?” She looks perplexed and looks down at my stubby toes. “Mommy those are yucky!” I nod my agreement later coming to the realization I have agreed to the ugliness of my own feet. I explain my feet are perfect for what I need to do. There is nothing she can’t do with three fingers. She was created for what she needs to do.  

But I know the stares, and she is starting to pick up on all of this. Children are forthright in their attitudes, expressions, and vocabulary. Its natural curiosity and I certainly can’t blame them. Honestly, I’d never seen anything like Sidney’s anomalies prior to bringing her home. It’s until I see a sideways glance that I remember there is any difference. Her hands and leg have zero impact on the day to day normalcy of our lives, and its great her mom could give a rats gluteus maximus (I can’t say a** in a family blog) about stares. I meet them with a knowing smile, offering grace. I think about how I might have reacted before bringing Sidney home.

Challenges in life are positive. It’s a blatant reminder of our purpose and God’s will for Tom and I to continue in our pursuit of advocating for the best of her needs. Whether this includes my refusal of any special needs programs or Tom’s response to the question “Where is she from?” And his response “____, Iowa.”  While we advocate and continue to count six fingers across two hands, we continue repeating our mantra. “You only need a ring and pinkie finger to drink tea, holding your pinkie finger in the air.” Good thing we are coffee drinkers.