My Family

My Family
Here we all are!

Friday, November 30, 2012

National Adoption Month 2012 - Final Thoughts

As this year's month honoring and recognizing the importance of adoption closes I wanted to share some thoughts.  Adoption has been a part of my life, most of my life.  I have to remind myself sometimes that it is still a "foreign" idea to some people and one that they struggle to understand.

As a young child my parents had close friends who's two daughters were adopted.  My mother would often comment on how great it was that the adoption agency matched them to children who matched their physical traits - eye color, hair color, of course skin color.  This way no one would know they were adopted.  Clearly, the message was, adoption is a secret and somehow a shameful thing.  It seems so old-fashioned to me now, but when you see how many people spend thousands to achieve a biological child, even to the point of having a surrogate carry their biology, it's not so old school.  

I understand the desire to experience pregnancy and birth and as someone who was easily able to achieve that I don't want to be insensitive.  For me, the end goal would have been to be a parent, not of a child who looked like or had personality traits similar to my own,  just to be able to be a parent and have children that were mine.  May I add, having biological children is no guarantee that your offspring will be like or even look like you.  We all know people with bio kids who we've thought - wow how did that happen?

Just last week I helped out in Jacob's classroom and heard quite a few kids ask Jacob incredulously, "Is that your mother?"   He'd reply yes and then the obvious follow-up, "I didn't know you were adopted." Oh how Jacob loves those conversations.  In a few years it'll move on to the, "Don't you want to know who your real parents are?" or "Don't you miss your real parents?",  Comments my older adopted kids have heard.

My point is - for those who are sick and tired of hearing about adoption, I'm sorry, but until the day kids meet our family and rather than questioning our relationship they will simply say, "Cool."  It may take another generation of teaching and so I will continue, like I have a choice.

My request, plea really, is that you take the time to talk to those you know or parent and discuss family and the variety of ways God makes families and that it has nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with how you look or even what you like to do.  

It is fiercely, and I mean fiercely,  pursuing connections with each other and claiming over and over again - we are family.  We are a chosen family - God made us a family and chose our family by picking each and every one of you specifically for this family.  He chose us as your parents and each of your siblings to be your brothers and sisters.  You may question why, as every child in every family does, but we were meant to be together - so deal with it.  No one's going anywhere and you can count on that.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Another One Flies the Nest

It's always a bittersweet day when my kids move out.  I'm happy for them, but know it'll never quite be the same again.  With this particular kid it is a definite shift in the dynamics of the family.  Although Ella is the third eldest of the next group of siblings, she is the eldest in the ability to lead as an older sibling.  She will be, and already is in many ways, the heir apparent to the throne of sibling hierarchy.

Christopher is our bridge - 6 years younger than Melissa and 6 years older than Shannon.  He is truly the middle child - five are above him and five are below him.  He is the only sibling who doesn't have a close in age brother or sister.  He is the "Boss", as Ella nicknamed him.  He was the first and still so far the only sports enthusiast of the siblings. He has never caused any serious trouble - at least that I know of so far.  It's amazing the stories some of your kids think they should tell you long after it's happened.

We are grateful he will still be near by and will still be a PCA(personal care assistant) for the younger siblings who need his services and that he will be desperate for extra cash due to his high rent.  Works for me.  I loved to tell people when Chris was old enough to watch the kids by himself that I didn't know any adult that could handle these kids by themselves.  They'd be overwhelmed.  Now, of course, the screen did much of the babysitting, but he could G-tube feed Shannie by the time he was 10 and her seizures didn't seem to freak him out either - all of which he did while also keeping track of Chad, Callie, Christian, Ella and Jacob I might add.

He has a soft spot for Shannie, although his roughhousing with her when she was little freaked people out.  I would always point out the humongous smile on her face as he as roughing her up.  Callie won his heart as well.  What he loves about her most, he often says, is that she doesn't care what people think of her.  She just does what she wants.  He always "makes" her give him a hug when they see each other for the first time.

He's been a little nostalgic the last week or so and joking about how he'll miss the constant noise and messes that come with this family.  Melissa told him how she had to have the TV on all the time when she first moved out because she couldn't stand the quiet.

Letting go is what parenting is all about.  I think I'm pretty good at it, but that doesn't mean it isn't still hard to do.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Adoption story #3 - Melissa

Every girl should have a sister and Mark really wanted to go to Korea - why not combine the two! We started the process to adopt a little girl from Korea when Kelsey was about 18 mos. We were open to special needs and were hoping she'd be under 2 yrs. old.

When her paperwork came I remember holding it thinking - I hope her BD is in the spring - already 5 family BD's between Aug. 28 and Oct. 4. Well, it was Sept. 1 - oh well it'll just be the time of year for BD's I guess. Of course we immediately fell in love with Ka-Sil Lee when we saw her. Mark wanted the name Lisa, but I wanted to keep Lee as her middle name - mine is Leigh as well, just not the Korean spelling. So, we compromised with Melissa and called her Lissy or Lissa.

Melissa had qualified as a special needs child. At 3 mos. she developed a subdural hematoma which required surgery to relieve the pressure of the blood leaking into the space between her brain and her skull. Why she developed this hematoma was unknown. It is generally from some sort of head trauma, but her foster mom said there had been no falls or bumps and there was no reason to suspect otherwise as she had a long history of taking great care of her foster children. It is a mystery to this day. Korean doctors recommended removing the shunt placed in her skull leading into her stomach after she arrived in the US. They neurologist here recommended leaving it alone as it was causing no trouble for her and it remains in place to this day. The only time it's caused any trouble was during her pregnancy - it seemed to be a situation no one had encountered and after much consideration it was again agreed to leave it be.

Although not a typical special need Melissa's conception was not ideal to put it mildly. Melissa's birthmother was a 16 yr. old farm girl from a small village outside of Seoul who was walking home from school and a Korean soldier "forced himself upon her" which resulted in her pregnancy. It was information important to her story, but made no difference to us. Regardless of the soldier's decision, ultimately God alone decided that Melissa should have life and nothing else was important to us. We knew she was meant to be our daughter. I will say that I grieve more for her birthmom then any other due to these circumstances and all that she had to cope with as a young innocent girl. I wish she could know what a great daughter she created and what beautiful grandbaby girls she has. Since that is more then unlikely, I pray she has found great joy in her life.

Mark's first international trip, other then Canada, was to pick up Melissa. He was excited and probably just a little nervous. An adoption escort, a person who brings back children to their adoptive families, asked Mark to help her move 26 boxes through customs in Korea. They loaded 2 large carts, each pushing one, and customs split them into two lanes. Customs asked Mark what was in the boxes and he replied explained he didn't know they belonged to "that lady" who had already passed through customs as she was a frequent visitor. He explained the boxes had supplies for the orphanage. They opened up one box and to Mark's dismay they were full of syringes. They then removed him to the a small room with a bright light over the chair like a movie scene of an interrogation room. They proceeded to open the boxes finding tourniquets and syringes. After about 6 boxes they called in a supervisor who was very angry and shot questions at him about what these supplies were for and why didn't he know what was in these boxes. The 13th and final box had baby clothes and formula in it - thank the Lord. Then he believed Mark's explanation and let him leave. Not a great introduction to international travel, which I might add never seemed to dim his enthusiasm for it.

Mark had some paperwork to finish up the first day in Korea and was ready to meet our little girl.  He went with Miss Park, the social worker, to the foster home where she'd been since she was born, other than when she had surgery.  Mark meet the foster parents, two other foster girls that lived with them and their biological 20ish daughter.  He was able to coax her over with an Asian pear, apparently her foster mom did not think that suitable food for a toddler.  The irony is Melissa had terrible onion breath from some onion chips her foster mom had given her.

After a bit they all went outside to walk around the neighborhood.  Many of the neighbor ladies seemed to be giggling at Mark.  He wasn't sure, but wondered if it was odd to them culturally that a man would come to get a child.  We'll never know I guess.

The next day he went back to social services to finish some more paperwork.  The building was huge, but overcrowded with hundreds of kids, foster parents and social workers.  They had a tiny elevator and it was stuffed with people.  Mark, who is generally not claustrophobic, was anxious to get out. They told Mark he would need a full fare ticket, a cost we had definitely not planned for as he'd brought an employee pass for her.  Finally, all was in order to go home.

Early the next morning the foster mom, social worker and Melissa met Mark at the airport.  The foster mom, who had been very stern and stoic looking up until this point.  Cried non-stop until Mark got onto the airplane.  He was a bit shaken by that as she'd shown no emotion previously.  In hindsight it was, of course, a good sign that she was attached to Melissa.

Melissa seemed quite bewildered by the whole situation.  While waiting for take-off Melissa fell asleep.  About an hour later she woke up and started crying and screaming, "Ahma!".  Mark didn't know what she was saying, but a Korean woman nearby explained she was crying for her mother.  He felt so sad for her.  Of course in those days we had not thought about attachment or how terribly traumatic this was for her.  Seems ridiculously ignorant, but we adopted through Children's Home Society, a very reputable agency and taken all the classes required and not once do I recall anyone mentioning the fact that this would be an emotional and heart-wrenching loss for her.  It seems so ignorant, but we all just thought we were doing a good thing and were excited to have this new daughter in our family never really considering the impact it would make on her to suffer such a loss.  Loss of the only mother she'd known, the only country, culture and language she'd known.  All of that was left behind.

After about two or three hours she finally cried herself to sleep and the rest of the trip went smoothly.  When they arrived the other kids - Chad, Conor, Jonathan and Kelsey - and I met them at the airport.  Some dear friends were also there to welcome her home.

None of her early health issues have caused any problems for her and for that we are so very grateful.
She's a beautiful, strong, smart young married woman now with two beautiful girls. I found a Korean proverb that says  - Even children of the same mother look different.  How true that is in our family.  Melissa once told me she would forget that she didn't look like us until she looked in the mirror and was reminded we didn't resemble each other. Her daughters, Kaia and Brynn, have given her faces to look at that resemble her own, something she'd been missing a long time, which I'm sure have healed some of her loss in a way nothing else could.

Thank you God for choosing us to be her parents and thanks Melissa for being our daughter.
                                                          We love you Melissa!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Menial Means Meaningful

Gratitude.  Thankfulness.  Contentment.  Satisfaction.  All great words for the month of November. Many people are submitting daily, or multiple times a day, things or people they are grateful for on facebook.  Maybe it's just inherent in the life I lead, but thankfulness is a feeling I never have trouble realizing.

Today both Shannon and Chad needed showers.  I helped Mark lift Shannon, he showered her and I dressed her and braided her hair.  Mark ran Ella and Jacob to school and I got Chad into the shower.

Every time and I mean every time I perform these, menial if you will, tasks I am overcome with gratitude.  I'm grateful that I can do these things for myself.  I'm grateful that today Shannon enjoyed her shower pain free.  I'm grateful that Chad, generally, has a wonderfully positive attitude and enjoys the process of showering, shaving, lotioning and dressing. I'm ever so grateful my body is strong and the process generally never causes me any physical pain.  I'm grateful for warm, clean water that's there whenever I need it.  I am sometimes absolutely overcome with gratitude and reminded yet again how incredibly blessed I am that I live a life that is so full of meaning and significance.