Hope and Healing in Older Child Adoption


How long does it take to heal the body? How long does it take to bring a child from hard places, especially places where they spent a long time in deprivation and/or sick, to a healthy level? How long does it take to say, for certain, “Ah, they are healthy now, really”?

The answer: Far far longer than you might imagine.

The other answer: Be patient, because it can happen.

Our Marta has been home for over three years. They have, at times, felt like forever. Those years have, at times, felt like a blink. She came home to us bearing scars from her past life that will never leave her, inside and out. She came home to us much less well than we expected; thought not actively ill. Perhaps, that sounds like I’m using double-speak. I’m not trying to, rather, I’m trying to be accurate because I think this discussion of our older adopted kid’s health is important. It’s not discussed at length, possibly because each child is unique, of course, and each one comes with their own constellation of issues and needs and whatnot, on every level.

Adopting older children is complicated beyond imagining. All too often that phrase is thrown out and folks nod their head and then move on. Unless you’re actually in the trenches of older child adoption. Then you might sigh with recognition, shudder with dread, break down weeping that someone else has said it out loud, or lift a wry toast of your martini in homage. But, it is – challenging.

One of the really complicated parts of older child adoption can be the nurturing them back to health. And I used the term “nurturing” not “nursing” them back to health. Because only sometimes does the child come home actively ill and needing to be ‘nursed.” And then, I presume, the transition to a base level of recovery from that illness is marked; but then you fall back into this category of health/wellness that marker is much more blurry.

We must NURTURE our older children back to health. For their heart, that nurture will be a lifetime job. For their body, it can take so very much longer than expected. Indeed, new physical issues and problems can take time to reveal themselves just because they have to get over more serious issues first. For instance, they might have a certain parasite issue that you couldn’t even know about because of their overall lack of nutrition and/or other illness or bacterial problems. It can be like peeling an onion. But even once you’ve gotten the bases covered, seen platoons of specialists and had reams of tests, you might not be there. You might think that kid is healthy now, SO much more healthy. And they are….they are objectively healthier than they were on arrival.

But health, it’s a continuum, isn’t it? And that continuum is so much longer and wider than I realized. As I said, Marta has been home almost 3.5 years. She came home just recovered from a very serious bout of TB. But she came home well. On paper. As the years have passed, we have watched her health improving in her skin, her hair, her body filling out, her immune system strengthening. In fact, I thought by last year, about this time that we had made it. We had nurtured her to a really good, lasting base level of health.

But ya know what? She had more leaps to make! Who knew? This girl had more health to gain and grab onto. I was sure she was as healthy as she could be. And she was, for that point (2+ years in). But, guess what she did? Not only has Marta finally gained about 10-15 pounds, last spring she GREW AN INCH!!!! NO kidding! I know! I was stunned myself! I had to remeasure twice, no three times. She grew. She grew!

Marta came to us as a tiny girl. Not a young little girl. Just a tiny person girl. Her age is roughly a mid teen. Her growth was stunted due to deprivation. Her growth was FINISHED by every standard medical marker. Her health got better, and we knew that she would always have compromised lungs from scarring and a big cough and asthma. We feared she’d always be first down to any bug. But, we had no expectations of her actually growing, in any way, certainly not taller. BUT SHE DID. She grew. An inch. That’s HUGE! Maybe not huge on the yardstick but huge in terms of wellness. But -and mark this- it took almost THREE years home to before she was able to grow one inch! She is healthier, she is NOT first down with any bug. Her immune system can be a touch fragile but she was one of the last to get the most recent cold in the house. Her cough is dreadful and lasting, but it’s just a cough. We got her another of her biannual chest x-rays this week. And it is noticeably improved!! Scarred, yes. But, her doc said she her films just keep improving.

How long is that? How much time and patience and work and nurture and food and care and safety and relaxing into a new home does the body need to deeply heal? Because that’s what this is: DEEP HEALING of the body. Her heart and head will be a lifetime of the same nurture, with skirmishes from hormones and trauma triggers. But her body, it’s healing. It’s healing not just on the surface with her now luminous skin and her bright eyes and her features filled out instead of gaunt. It’s healing on a deep inner level, a truer wellness.

So, how long should you expect that deep healing to take when you bring home a child from hard places? I think you should be thrilled by the first stages of healing, heck, by every stage. But, I think that I wish someone had told me to be patient and to hope for more than we first imagined. To expect it to take so very very much longer to heal deeply, physically, than I ever could guess. Don’t get me wrong, I also know that every new marker is so worth it, and such a welcome sign of healing and hope. And I’m so grateful. I’m amazed. I’m shocked that her health is still making such forward progress. It’s been so long. A second lifetime. But this one, it’s all about the healing.


Voices from the heart…of a birthday

So, sometimes this adoption stuff is a kick in the heart, not only a kick in the gut  There is such beauty and gift and joy.  But make no mistake, there is such heart-ache….and breath-take. Attachment is a lifelong gig, I think.  Attachment and the navigation of those depths and shallows of the heart is an ongoing diving expedition.  It has it’s own phases {weeks, months, days, hours} and tides that ebb and flow.

My Little Man has been working through some stuff lately.   One of the things that doesn’t get mentioned much in the blog-o-verse, or even too much in the literature and the reference books on adoption is that birthdays can be a mine-field.  Of course, right?  Well, yeah, duh.  But, too often, that’s easy to forget.  Too often, it’s easy to overlook that part of it, the loaded moment, the undercurrents.  Because the kid is excited, amped, hyper, for their birthday.  It’s all about the presents and the party, right?  And the parents and family, ideally, they are also so bonded in that it’s just another happy day, another kiddy birthday party.

But, it’s not just that; maybe not ever, I don’t know.  As my kids get older we have moved into different waters in the adoption issues.  I have posts rattling in my head and am not sure how to get them out or if I should.  Heck, even this post was supposed to be a short mention.  But it’s almost impossible to snip this stuff down to a sound bite or a visual blip.

But for this post, we are talking about the heart of a birthday.  Specifically, the backseat voice of my son’s heart on this birthday.

We were driving to basketball practice, again…the night before his birthday.  It was dark in the car, kind of quiet, he had the sniffles and it was drizzly out, we were a touch late.  A standard night.

Then he said, “Mom, I remember when I was a baby and I first met you.”

I said, “You do?”  {He was three months old}.

He said, “Yes.  Do you remember?”

I said, “Yes. I sure do.”

He continued, “I remember you cried and you said, ‘Oh, I love him so much!’ Didn’t you?”

“I did, honey.  That’s right.”  I paused, kind of holding my breath, waiting to hear if he had more to ask or say.

He did.  “I also remember the last time I saw my birth mom.”

“Do you?”  {He was weeks old}.

“Yes, she was crying.  Do you think she cried then?”

“I know she did honey.”

“Well, I remember.  I remember her kissing me and saying ‘I love you.  Blessing, blessing over him. I love him so much.'”

I was blinking now, trying to drive in the drizzly dark with my sweet tender son in the back seat.


I had to gulp, “Yup, buddy?”

“Do you think she said that? I remember?”

“You know, honey, I think she did.  I just bet she did.”

“Yeah,” he said “that’s what I remember.”

Just like that we were at the gym and he was clambering out of the car, running into practice.  Just like it was any night.

I guess, it was.  But I just had to take a minute behind him, to gather up the pieces of my heart that had just broke again a  little bit for my boy.

Adoption is an event.  But it is also a thread of attachment that continues to tug.  With echoing voices from the deep….from the deep jagged shoals in both of our hearts.  Just like that.

Shadows in Adoption, part 2: Food

A while ago I wrote a bit about those “shadows” that you find in adoption.  I was not, and am not, talking about those big monster issues that sometimes are part of the whole adoption process: RAD, or serious attachment issues, and such….rather I’m talking about those remainders that snag here and there.  I want to shine a light, again, on those little flickers of shadow that cross our days or behaviors here in our house with some of our kids.  Because I suspect that they might well have flickered across a few of  yours as well.

So, this post is going to address that gnarly issue that so many of us struggle with: food!

Ah, food issues.  They are legion, no? Yes.  For so many of us, myself included, food has issues.  Some good, some bad, some snarly, some prideful and snobby.  It’s all over the map.  But for our adopted children, especially our children who might have been adopted a bit older (or a lot)….those food issues can be complex and run DEEP.

When we first brought our Gabey home he was 18 months old.  And he had the standard food-transition issues.  First he wouldn’t really eat, only wanted bottles of milk. So many many bottles of milk.  It was total comfort food and we were happy to provide that. In fact we did, and took him BACK to the bottle so we could cuddle and rock and feed him and have that eye contact as much as possible.

He dug it.  But, soon enough he decided that real food was appealing too, and quickly branched out.  He impressed us with his instant taste for spicy salsa (but, hey, he’s Ethiopian, we figured he had some exposure…) and his happy joy in smearing ketchup and gobbling fries and pasta and all the usual toddler  yummies.   After about six months, he seemed very much just like any toddler, some days picky, some days voracious, always up for a cookie.

So, we didn’t pay too much attention to it for awhile.  I mean, he was a busy busy toddler, seeming to be tracking on all counts.  Language?  Yup, gaining at warp speed.  Gross motor? Yup, very fast agile busy little guy; could keep up with big brother, no problem.  Fine motor? Yup, paid attention to tiny details and was in normal zone for a toddler.  Cognition? Oh my, very very sharp, figured things out fast and great memory.  No worries.

But one thing was a little skewed and it was his eating.  Over the past few years, his drive to eat has gained momentum.  And that is an  understatement.  This boy is DRIVEN for food.  He is kind of fixated on it.  Not to the exclusion of everything else.  He loves to play and go wherever someone else is  going, he wants to be in on any activity.  He will follow his uncle around like a puppy; hoping to  help with those cool tools and be allowed to use that wrench or drill or oh any tool he can grab.  But, if he’s not distracted by some fun, if any whisper of boredom hisses, he is begging for food.  Relentlessly.  And when he eats, he will eat to bursting if we let him, asking for seconds, thirds, fourths…. Unless it is green veggies or carrots. No problems there…gross.  Don’t get all shocked, we cut him off -but by redirecting the urge.  

This evolution into this obsession with eating, more more more, initially had me presuming he was simply,  um….gorging.  Then I realized that it’s more than that.  Deeper.  It’s as if his “Off” switch is broken.  Or at least gets stuck.  It is as if he is impossible to fill.  Sometimes, now and then, he will say, “I’m full.”  But not often.  Watching him ask with such need and such a push to the request has sounded a tiny bell in my head.

This boy, my boy, I think he was hungry.

I don’t know.  Not for certain. I don’t have documentation of his being hungry and I don’t want to project drama or be unfair.  But, I think he was hungry.  Not starving maybe.  But the hard facts are that he was unable to be raised by his family.  He is an orphan.  And, the government orphanages and even the best care centers aren’t exactly overrun with funds for the abundance of every nutritive need.  It doesn’t work that way.  And my boy, well, my mama heart has to wonder.  Was he hungry?  Just some? Enough that now, way deep down, he might worry about being hungry again?  Even though we have, thankfully, an abundance of food and no one goes hungry in our house (unless they are putting on a hormonal girl drama, by their own choice and standards of Oscar worthy merit).  

So, what to do? I don’t want him to become obese or unhealthy.  And, truthfully, he is getting really stout.  But I want  him to know, for now and for ever, that he will not be hungry.  Even if he doesn’t know that he needs to know, now.  He does, it seems.  Karen Purvis says, “Never deny food.”  And so, I won’t.  I can’t.

So how do you provide the security/food your child needs and requests while at the same time keeping them healthy?  Well, here is what I’ve got, so far.  [If any of you have other brainstorms, please let me know in the comments!]: I do NOT deny him food.  And yeah, go ahead, tell me to only offer him celery.  Right.  Look at that face and tell me again. 

Ha.  Rather, what we say is “You bet.”  But we also say, “First, finish your dinner (not with extra helpings).” And we also say, “Let’s count, have you counted five fruits today? Or veggies? How many? Two? How about an orange? ”  We go for fiber and produce to fill the need if we can coax him into it.  But, honestly, some days, as he comes home from school and asks for a cookie I just say, “Yup.

Because if I have to pick, I’ll pick attachment and bonding to this boy.  Easy choice, slam dunk.  That security in our love and his safety here in our family is more important than “husky” size pants.  Will I encourage him to move and run and jump and play sports? Yes!  Will I encourage him to eat healthy choices? Yes!  But will I also withhold food when he tells me his tummy is hungry?  No.  I will not.

It’s a shadow.  But one that I think is best to see in the light.  And maybe, with time and yes, good healthy cooking, this one might fade away.

Shadows in adoption; part 1

I’ve been thinking about shadows.

I’ve been thinking about adoption shadows – by which I mean little passing things that flit across the tarmac of our families.  I sometimes think of them as remnants.  They aren’t full blown issues that come and squat down smack in the middle of the family room, taking up too much room on the sofa.  Rather, they are shadows that flutter by, reminding you “Oh yeah, there’s still stuff here.”

Specifically, I want to talk about my sweet Gabey.  He’s been home about 3.5 years now! Already! He came  home an adorable wide eyed serious toddler, and has evolved into a LOUD funny smart sweet mischeivous prince of the palace.  He charms the socks off of all he meets, if he’s so inclined.  If not, then, he turns  his attention away, no matter their efforts.  And, I used to say that his adoption was our easiest ever – out of five.  And, in many many ways, it was. It so was.  But, as it goes in real life, nothing is ever really that simple.  It would be a grave error to think, simply because his homecoming seemed simple, and his knitting into our clan seemed so smooth…..it would be a deep mistake to think that all that meant that it was simple, or seamless.  Because, it is not.  It cannot be.  Adoption isn’t like that.  And you’re fooling  yourself and doing your kid(s) a disservice if you think it is.  Which is not to say that you should keep a klieg light on it all, all the time.  Certainly not.  But, don’t dismiss those shadows.

When I speak of the shadows, I”m not only talking about that ever so topical one: attachment.  It’s there, it’s always there…but it’s not usually a shadow so much, now is it?  Usually, if you’re talking about attachment you’re talking about that big tangly monster of issues that IS taking up so much room on the sofa.  Now, I’ve got a few different shadows that I’ve been seeing and thinking about.  This post  however, after all, might as well start with the biggie.  All that attachment stuff is the first thing that comes to mind for most of us; it’s the big gorilla, most of the time.  Sometimes, though, sometimes, attachment IS more of a shadow.  It can be a shiver glinting by at a family gathering or a after a school play.  I didn’t think my Gabe had attachment issues, not really, not now after over three years here.  But, you know what? He does.  Maybe more than I realized for awhile.  He does.

These attachment issues are more fleeting moments, but they are there and we would be remiss to not keep that on top of our awareness and work to walk through them.  More now, we see him willing to walk away with someone who is, effectively, a stranger, when we are football games.  Perhaps he is willing to walk further and beyond because he is almost five and testing those boundaries. But perhaps it’s that sometimes, deep deep down, there is a gap.  Maybe.  Maybe that’s why sometimes he still turns his back and snuggles into me backwards when coming in for a hug.  Because somehow frontward is TOO close, for him.

So, what do we do about this new awareness, this new sighting of these shadowy attachment tangles? Well, we don’t take it for granted.  We do the work.  We connect.  Every way we can.  When he needs us to walk him into the darkened room (another shadow, another post), we do it.  When I can help him with his shirt in the morning, I do.  When he wants to run to me to let me smell his breath after brushing his teeth, I breath in his little boy toothpaste.  When he sits near me and asks, “Which shoes mom?”, meaning, which feet do they go on….I say “Yup, that way,”  about his tumbly socks and shoes.

and as the little boy he is...he likes to make faces now for the camera too....

This special boy, he is getting bigger.  He is realizing the world is a much bigger place than he knew.  He is almost five now and  his shoes, his heart and understanding are all taking giant steps forward.  No matter the shadows, I want to make sure I hold his hand as he goes.

Turn Key in Adoption: Forgiveness

So, I’ve written about turn key’s in adoption, specifically in adoption adjustment and attachment.  If you’ve read my blog  you know that I talk now and then about various keys or concepts in the adjustment process; the turn keys are the ones that seem to really matter.  At least they do ’round here.  If I was really organized, I’d  have them all on a separate page about adjustment  in adoption.  But I’m not that good a housekeeper, even on blog.  In the meantime, if you want to check out the other posts in this series, go here, go here, go here, here, here, here, here, and here.  Whew.  I didn’t realize I’d written all those posts over the past few years.  Guess this is something we just keep dealing with and I keep processing.  Um, yup, yup it is.  If you are parenting an older adopted child and/or a child with hard history or issues,  you might well be in the trenches too.  If you are, read on.  I’ve been thinking and that means I gotta write.

So, I’ve been thinking a lot about attachment lately, due to the awesome Empowered to Connect Conference and ongoing discussions with Coffeedoc.  But also, just the intensity of parenting these past few months has been kind of insane.  I’ve also had some great conversations with friends lately, one more recently got me thinking out loud and hence, this post.

Anyhow, attachment in adoption is a long, nuanced process.  Adjustment to a new family for a child is a long, nuanced process.  It takes much much longer than most folks realize.  Indeed, it’s a lifetime, isn’t it?  Well, yes, of course it is.  And, to stay thematic, there are turnkeys to that process. These are some critical components that can help the process along.  These keys can open doors, to the heart of a new child, to the blending of a family.  But one of the keys, one of the most important keys to attachment in the whole adoption process is a key that is for the mom.  Ok, it’s for the new child and for the sibs and the dad, the whole family.  But, the blingy diamond studded key to this is maybe, especially,  for the mom.  That key is FORGIVENESS.

Ok, set down those flame throwers.  Hang on. Now, attachment is a two way street.  And it’s so SO SO easy to forget that.  We adoptive parents turn cartwheels trying to heal and help our new kids, to check off the copious list of attachment markers and tools.  Are we nurturing, feeding, tutoring, clothing, rocking, walking, singing, playing, holding (and on and on) this new child?  Can we sit out the storm and hold them through their grief, weather their rage, calm the fury, be present through it all?  Can we help them feel safe, can we help them feel heard, can we help them trust?  Yeah, it’s a big list, in more ways than one!  And each and every one of those items on that list is so big, so important.  And each one is critical in helping these kids attach to us, to their new family, their new lives – to bridge from their past to the future in the now.

But the one factor that doesn’t get talked about too much is the attachment flip side.  It’s the dark side of attachment when you’re adjusting to an older child or a child from hard places or with tough behaviors.  It’s so easy to have the best motives and intentions.  It’s so easy to get caught up in the honeymoon of a baby or toddler or new older kid and the romance of it all.  But you know, that honeymoon ends and the romance fades and real life  happens.  Sometimes after, oh, twenty minutes.  Some of you might get a little more lead time.  But sooner (20 mins) or later (20 months), real life hits ya.  And you realize, maybe this isn’t exactly what you expected.  Sure, sure, you read the books.  You took the classes.  You heard the experts and knew the possibilities.  But, a raging storming angry grieving child in a textbook is quite a very different thing than a raging storming LOUD angry crashing grieving child that is turning YOUR ACTUAL household upside down.  And who continues to suck the time and attention and sometimes very air out of a room with their need and the seeming impossibility  of meeting it.

That’s precisely when you need to go looking for your keys.  Take a deep breath, look at your key ring.  Remember, touch that kid, tears are ok, food and dinner is safety.  But, look closer.  There is a small but shiny, flashy diamond key on your key ring.  See it? Grab tight.  Look at it again.  It’s the key of FORGIVING.  Because, ya know….that’s YOUR key.  For you.

You have to forgive that kid.

It’s easy to forget that, though it sounds shocking to say it out loud.  (And don’t flame me, ok? Try to understand where I’m coming from, read the blog backwards if you must).  But that hurt scared little kid, or big teen, didn’t ASK to have this change, this adoption, this move, those hurts, those losses, those disabilities, that complicated brain chemistry, that rage, this new family…you.  I don’t think anyone stands in a cosmic line asking to be handed a big bag of trauma and loss, please, and then “Please, sir, can I have some more?” discombobulation, dislocation, and grief.  Even so, those things are no picnic to be instantly parenting either.  Thus, there is a chasm.  And the only way to cross it is to bridge it….with forgiving.  You, for YOU, have to forgive that kid for the uproar and commotion that is happening in your family.  You have to forgive her for her lack of ability to cope.  You have to forgive him for the tailspin that you are in, due to the dance you two are slamming.

You have to forgive him, not because he needs forgiveness, but because YOU need forgiveness.  You need to lift that burden of responsibility OFF your new child.  And off of you.  Neither one of  you would choose this tough path.  I betcha you’d both rather just instantly fall madly in love with each other and go have ice cream as you feed the ducks in the park.  Well, that’s for Spielberg and  the movies.  What’s true is that you cannot love what or who you cannot forgive.  And you can’t like the one you can’t forgive.  That’s how it’s set up.  That’s the deal.

But ah, forgiveness….?

It heals.


That’s how it’s set up.  That’s the deal.  So, if you can’t intellectually do it, pray for the grace to do it.  It’ll come.  You may have to do it over and over and over.  I hope and pray that my family forgives me over and over and over.  I need it that often.  And, because they are my family, I expect them to try.  And because this new little (or bigger) one is your new family, because you COMMITTED to them, then you need to try too.  That’s how it’s set up.  That’s the deal.

We forgive each other.  And if we turn that key, then the door to healing and love and even like…and maybe even attachment…it opens wide.

Conference, day two

So here I am at lunch, day two (and final) of this conference. I guess I’m doing wht they call “live blogging”…..yeah thats right, I’m just hip like that!

Another great morning. I have missed running into a new friend (Elaine, where are you?) but have a good seat and the talks have been very good, meaty, much to digest. Additionally, we’ve heard two personal stories from extra guest speakers: moms who have been “through the fire,” so to speak. One of them was the great fav blogger pal of mine, Lisa Qualls (from the “one thankful mom” blog, a minimum daily requirement blog for me). No surprise, she gave a moving talk; brought numerous folks to tears…inspired. Another speaker was a gal named Debbie (I’m sorry I can’t remember her last name at this second) and her story also was just inspirational. And all too close to home for me…not in all ways, but, the ones that count. Yeah, blinking away in my seat again.

The other talks this morning laid the groundwork for the afternoon sessions: talking about sensory processing deficits and integration, the effects of history of brain development and so on. This afternoon is about addressing behaviors arising from some of these issues and finding ways to heal and connect. Of course, because thats what this conference is all about.

And i am grateful to be here. I’m getting close to maximum saturation myself…fantasizing a bit about a double espresso and some good chocolate to perk me up. ( I know, supposed to pound the water instead….what can I say, old dog, not many new tricks, etc etc…). But I’m gonna take notes in these afternoon sessions….I know they will be helpful. And they are, not only for my kids who have difficult needs or backgrounds…but really so much of this is good for all of my kids. Each and every one. And can I use reminders, refreshers, and new ideas? Oh. Yeah. Absolutely. Every single day.

So, heading back in. I have met some really nice people- Jamey of Zehlalum family! Lisa! Buttercup from Farmboy and buttercup (old virtual pals,that one, very nice to connect in person!)….and tho I still feel like my usual doofy self, I do love meeting these gals…a great treat! So, this afternoon if any of you are here or reading this, come say hi! I’m still the old gray mom, looking desperate for more caffeine and maybe some M&M’s…..

Connections and conferences – great buoys in the adoptive life.

>The Race Card

>She did it.
My daughter, she played the race card.
I guess I knew it was coming.
And it’s not like we haven’t had all the usual discussions over the years, comparing skin tones, talking about history and social aspects of racism historically and now, current events etc…
So I was kinda hoping, in my heart of hearts, to get a “bie,” a pass, on this particular, barbed, targeted lob.
Oh foolish me.
Because this is part of, a huge part of, transracial adoption.
Some will argue that it shouldn’t be, that we should be ‘colorblind.’
To which I say, “Baloney.”
You can’t be colorblind if you have a multiracial family.
You shouldn’t be colorblind any way; but you sure better not be if you are raising a family of many hues.
Because if you are a white mom and are raising kids who have skin color that is different: brown, nutmeg, mahogany, ebony, dark, light, pink….whatever…..then you have to deal.

It’s easy to deal with when they are little and adorable and just so darn cute.
But, what’s so easy to ignore is the looming fact that kids grow up, into the people they are meant to be, and if you have a brown skinned baby, that person is going to be a brown skinned teen and adult.
As they should and will.  
And then you are going to, not might, not could, but you WILL get to deal with a teen that looks different than you.
Overstated, you think?
Think again.
It might seem like nothing, when that teen is still a baby or toddler and looks different than  you.
It might thrillingly radical or like you are making a stand for something, that we are all God’s children and such.  Well, yah…….
And might not seem like a big deal since you loooong ago, as a wee one, knit this now teen into your heart and soul and very fiber of your being and she’s just your kid who has a messy room and hates math but makes you laugh with the way she shuffles in to say goodnight.
But this teen is gonna be a teen with teen attitudes and fussing and pushing boundaries and all the usual teen standard issue, expected, and even on some levels necessary, drama.
But this teen, she’s got a little extra ammunition.
And if you don’t know it yet, you will soon enough…but teens, they like to stockpile what they can -ammunition – to lob at you when they are irritated or angry or feel like they are being unjustly asked to do, oh, anything.  Like dishes or homework or chores or ________ (insert request here).

Our kids are savvy.
By which I mean, kids these days, are very savvy and tuned in to the culture at large.
I swear they have a usb port somewhere on their person that is a direct connection to the http://www.worldOteendom……that feeds them a constant stream of teen and/or early adult content somehow.
This is to say that, no matter how limited and guarded you think you are about keeping your kids sheltered from the pervasive cultural attitudes that float about, from the net, from tv maybe, from MTV, whatever….some of it does drift in, more than you realize.

This teen, she’s actually a PREteen.
But she knows enough to know she could play the race card, she could give it a try if she’s angry.
So she did.
I asked her to fold her laundry.
I know!
She was so angry that she stomped and shouted at me, “Just because I am black doesn’t make me your slave.”
What?” I said.
You heard me,” she said, arms crossed glaring.
Nice try,” I said. And I should’a then just probably repeated, “So, fold your laundry please now,” and walked away.
But I”m not that good.
So, I said, instead, “Come with me.
And we went to talk to the cool headed Dad, who never really gets his buttons pushed by the girls (the boys did that, not so much the girls…you can see the fun we have ahead with four teen girls at home now, but I digress).  

I made her repeat her declaration; mumbled this time.
He gazed at her and said, “Nice try.”
Then he said, calmly and well, “You are our daughter. Ever. Period. You are the daughter I walked the floors with when you were swaddled.   You are the daughter we have kissed and fed and tickled and hauled to sports and schools and kissed your booboos and wiped your tears.  You are the daughter who is part of the team of this family and who has responsibilities because you are old enough to have them, along with the privileges that go along with that too.  You have brown skin and I have white skin and God gave you to us as our daughter, and us to you as parents.”
Now, please go fold your laundry.”

And so she did.
The race card.
Prepare for it.
It’s gonna happen.
This won’t be the last time, I’m quite sure.
Maybe it shouldn’t even be, maybe I shouldn’t wish for it to be the last time.
I write this post not to show that we did any good job with this fired lob.
I’m sure we could’a should’a handled it better and/or differently.
I write this post because so many families now have adopted transracially, and so many of those families still have only smalls.
It’s easy to forget or dismiss the reality that you are charged with raising every child to adulthood, not just into kindergarden and we are charged with teaching them how to navigate this world as a person of color.
And it’s not a nothing.
The world is not colorblind.
Not only should we as parents not be so, but we need to remember, always, that our kids are not either.



I was recently sent this book to read and review, go figure, and yeah it surprised me too that they approached me.  I guess they figured that we adoptive mom’s can relate…and we can; although we don’t always agree of course.
I think I was supposed to pound out this review in a much more timely manner, sorry Ms. O’Dwyer and publicist.  Life got in the way.  As a mom, much less an adoptive mom, I know you understand that.
However, in the spirit of ‘better late than never,” here it is:

I got the book in the mail, after promptly forgetting that they were sending it to me:
Mamalita, An Adoption Memoir, by Jessica O’Dwyer.

So, when I opened the mailer, it was a happy surprise; who wouldn’t be happy with a new book in the mail?  I got the pleasure of anticipating sitting down to read and hopefully savor this book.  Here is the jacket description:

Mamalita is the true story of an ordinary American woman’s quest to adopt a baby girl against almost insurmountable odds in Guatemala.”   

Now, to be honest, I wasn’t sure about this book to start.  Obviously, I am an adoptive mom and have adopted here in the states as well as internationally, from Ethiopia.  That makes my family a multiracial, multicultural blended up  mix of people.  It also makes me place adoption and adoption issues pretty high on my personal radar.  All this is to say that I had kind of tangentially followed the roller coaster of the adoption world in Guatemala over the  years, but from afar (no pun intended), and I was a little hesitant to read this memoir.  I feared a skewed perspective or an unfair or romanticized treatment of what was and is still an extremely complicated, layered, and challenging topic.  International adoption is not for the faint of heart, nor is it for the unscrupulous.   You must have hard eyes to see and hold a steady gaze at the roller coaster of process; making sure along the way that your desires are jiving with foundational ethics, preferably those laid out by the Hague Convention.

So, with that disclaimer and mindset, I began.  I found this book honest and compelling.  I didn’t find it a read that I wanted to shout to all my friends to go pick up, quick.  Because I was and still am kind of conflicted about it, the whole seamy side of adoption and the pervasiveness of it in Guatemala.  It took me a bit to come to a kind of reading rapport for the author, largely due to my aforementioned guard regarding Guatemalan adoptions.  However, as the story continued I found myself appreciating her honesty and the clear eyes she used to see and describe both the beauty and the hardships in Guatemalan adoption. 

Many of her feelings and lurches and loops are common ground within the adoption world; they mirror my own and most other mom’s passion and desperate need for information, control, and the worry as well as the exhilaration.  What I found most compelling was Ms O’Dwyer’s choice to move to Guatemala, to stay with her daughter and  make sure the process not only proceeded rather than stalled, but to find the cracks in the process, to get the paperwork done through the ever-changing officials, to track down her daughter’s birthmom.

Adoption is a system that can lend towards corruption; it only takes a few greedy unscrupulous souls to get involved.  This book exposes that seamy side and, as well, exposes how near we all can come to it, even unwittingly, if we but close our eyes with fatigue and temptation. O’Dwyer was willing to dump her facilitator, ask hard questions about her daughter’s story, and learn how to finish the job through the shifting channels, willing to live in country and care for her daughter as long as it took.  She didn’t live completely immersed in the culture, she was part of an oddball subculture of PAP’s, potential adoptive parents.  I’m not sure how she, as a white female foreigner, could have done anything different.  It’s not possible to blend in,  and O’Dwyer’s navigation of these tricky cross cultural waters are some of the most interesting parts of this book.  She came to a depth of appreciation for her daughter’s country and culture that few adoptive parents actually do; even as she missed her  home and life in the States and endured frustration and difficulties as a foreign woman, living alone. 

Mamalita is an honest, frank retelling of the Guatemalan adoption process: the good, the bad, the ugly. It is a book that might well engender some controversy in this heated climate of international adoption.  If only because of that, it is worth a read.   It shows us the near precipice where desire, desperation, and truth stand and take stock of each other. I still think about this book because it reveals the complexities of this difficult process, adoption, and it’s not a comfortable thing; nor should it be.  O’Dwyer shows us the heart of a mother, in this case, an adoptive mother and how she will literally go the distance and move the map of her home to go get her child.

>Little Big Love…

>It’s the feast of the Little Flower: St. Therese of Liseaux!

Which means it’s also my Marti’s feast day: Marta Therese (get the connection?).

St Therese is one of the fav’s at our house, you all know that.  I’ve written about her many times, and posted multiple novenas to her here on blog.  But whether you want to talk about her being a Doctor of the Church; known for her solid writing/teaching and doctrinal insight, or whether you want to talk about her humble “Little Way”……St Therese is about Love. 

And wadda ya know…so is our Faith. So is God.  So, should be, myself. 

And I kinda always thought we added “Therese” to our Marta’s name because we prayed novena’s to this saint on Marta’s behalf.  We hit St. Therese up for many prayers to bring our girl home and get her healthy.  St. Therese had TB too.  St. Therese wasn’t highly regarded among the other nuns in her convent.  She was thought to be slow or dim, she was often overlooked, she was young, she was small.  She was one of God’s “little ones.” 
And so is our Marta, to be sure…one of God’s “little ones.”
If I know anything, I know that.
But really….
I am learning, every single blooming day, that I think we were compelled to add “Therese” to Marta’s name also because this saint teaches us how to love. 
In the little things. 
Which of course, means that they are the very biggest things. 
Because this saint struggled all her life to die to her self and her pride and her desires so she could love Jesus better. 

And she ultimately was given the grace of real understanding of the biggest simplest secret: that the Love was waiting for her.  She didn’t have to scale great heights, or go on far missions, or accomplish amazing feats to prove her love.  All she had to do was lift up her arms(heart) and open herself to Love.  And, um, do it.  Love.  Love in the little things.  Every day.  The next thing, right in front of her.  Do the chore before her without complaint.  Smile at the irritating Sister and bite her tongue.  Not correct the error of someone being catty, but let it roll off her back. 
It wasn’t easy for her, she didn’t possess any “saintly” or superhuman patience:

“I understood how easy it is to become all wrapped up on self, forgetting entirely the sublime goal of one’s calling.

Rather she figured out that:

“…perfection consists in doing God’s will, in being what he wills us to be.”


We can do no good when we seek our self.”

Or, in other terms, to be us, and to love. 

And yeah, it sounds so simple.  Like stupid simple, right? 
Well, yup, it does.  So why do I fail and kick and fuss and gripe against it every blooming day?
Because it’s the hardest most profound thing we can do, any day, any moment. 
And yet, also the most sublime and simplest. 

To bring this ramble back around…and so it is with  my Marta Therese. 
She too, teaches me how to love. Really. 
Really love.
Because it can be so hard with her.  Because she is small and suffers the after-effects of the TB that ravaged her. Because it’s still sometimes strange and it’s still often hard and it’s sometimes ridiculously complicated.  Because I am slow and am ridiculously complicated and strange. Because she has delays and it makes things very slow and often limited. 
But oh, I know, she is aptly named. 
She is one of the small ones. 
And she loves, to the best of her ability. 
And I am called to love her. 
And sometimes that is simply an act of will. 
And sometimes it is with a tired fuss.
And sometimes it is with a stabbing intake of breath, glimpsing her for a moment as God does. 
He sent me one of his special ones, to give me remedial lessons. 
Because I too am slow.
And need so  much to learn to truly really love. 
The little way.  
It’s so big.  

So today we celebrate, I am thinking upon, St. Therese of Liseaux, and her intentions: 

 “I ask Jesus to draw me into the flames of his love, to unite me so closely to him that he live and act in me.”

And I am asking her for her prayers, for our Marti Therese, my family,  and for me. 
So that I can lift up my arms and  heart, and love better, more truly, all those littles ones given to me…..eight of them. 

See, remedial lessons, lifelong….me. 
And so I can say, “Thank you, here I am Love, lift me up.” 

>International Adoption Conference this weekend!

>This is where I will be this Saturday!
It’s local and has some great forums and best of all, my dear pal and social worker, Amanda Heiderich, is the keynote speaker!
Not to be missed.
It’s called “International Adoption: What to expect when you leave the airport.”

The forums are on:
Older Child Adoptions
Trans Racial and Trans Cultural Adoptions
Special Needs
A Parent’s Perspective

I know! How am I gonna choose?!  Every one, right up my alley.  Oy….choices choices.
Anyhow, I’ve arranged the sitters (thank you Olivia and Tom) and I’m going. I’m excited, I’m gonna Tivo the ND game and go to the conference and clap really loud for Amanda too, because everyone else will be doing the same thing.  She is terrific and a great resource for anyone who has interest in these topics.  This should be a great day of info and hopefully hanging out with interesting folks who are standing on the same page….I”m really looking forward to it!

Be there or be square!
{No, that doesn’t date me….all the really cool hip people are saying that again!}

>American Girl

>No, not THAT American Girl…we have had plenty enough of those thank you very much (and I’ve found less expensive alternatives, fyi…).

Rather, we have an American Girl for one year, today.
Today is the one  year anniversary of our arrival home, in the USA, with our Marti.
Today, one year ago, is the day she became, immediately a US Citizen.
{IR-3 Visa’s are cool that way. }

 (ok…a looong trip home and I was sick and we were fried….don’t judge)

 This day was long awaited and anticipated and much fought for.
Some of you know how we were delayed and how her visa was held up, due to now revised (again) visa requirements for adopted children overseas.
Suffice it to say, this homecoming was much longed for, for us all.
We needed to get her home, we needed to get home from Ethiopia…because I was so sick and we had littles at home too, plus she just needed to move into this new part of her life instead of being held up so long.

And so, here we are.
One whole year.
American Girl.

She’s been lots of new places now.
At first it was all so new and different, even the grocery store simply was mind boggling.
Now, she is used to much of it here…enough to even be able to complain about the hard parts (school vaccination rules + stupid, no fun, ouch).
And that is what we call blessed progress.
We will take it.

It will take a lifetime for Marta to learn about America, and even then she will still be Ethiopian. 
She is a girl of two countries that she will call home and that will shape her.

For tonight, we celebrate this anniversary.
It’s marked on the calendar and you know what she’s asking for…….that’s right:


>"Can I go with you?"


Lately, Gabriel has developed a new intensity.  Some of that is just standard issue three year old boundary testing.   However, it occurred to me, today (because I am a slow study) that part of this intensity is actually different from my other kids when they were three.  There is an undercurrent of intensity to his relentless pursuit to “go.”  He wants to go.  Everywhere. Nothing makes him happier or can get a grin and a jig out of him faster than being told, “You bet, let’s go.”
We’ve all been thinking that it is just “going” for the minor adventures that are “going” places in our busy days.  But, as I drove today to Sarah’s school for a class project (Living museum, very cute), I was stewing about Gabey and his kind of desperate begging to “Go with you.”  Especially when it comes to myself and his dad, Gabey is desperate to go.  With us.  Anywhere.  Everywhere. 
Today it finally dawned on me, and you could argue that I’m overstating it, but my gut thinks otherwise.  Knows better.  Gabey IS desperate to “Go.” He has a much more intense need to go with us, beyond your standard three year old desire to go and be with their parents.  His is different.  His is, after all, an adoption remnant.  It’s very easy to think that he’s been  home two years now, and thus he is over all his adjustment.  I know better.  But even so, daily life sweeps a lot of latent stuff off the radar.  That’s just how it plays…until it smacks you upside the head or you run into a wall.  {Well, in  my house, that’s how it plays…we’re a fast moving place.}  
This need has a root. 
Gabriel was left.  
He was left at eleven months. 
It wasn’t just being left on the side of the road.  
But he was taken to an orphanage, in a planned relinquishment by his great uncle.  
Goodbyes were said.  
And he was left.  
And he was old enough to not understand. 
Not even a little. 
But old enough to be confused and scared and missing his family.
And I can see in his pictures from that time how closed his face was. 
The immediate shock of that event is submerged by those pics, maybe, but it still shows.  
It’s so easy to forget that he experienced that. And it imprinted.  And it’s deep and it’s primal.  A primal scar.  And sometimes, I see a glimpse of it, when he cries out in his sleep, “Don’t leave me!” Or, when, now, every day, he clings and grasps and holds on and says, “Can I go with you?”  He will say it twenty times in a row, he does not want to take no for an answer.  Sometimes we have to say no. 
But now, as I realize what is under that relentless questioning desire and need, I am saying more often, “Yes. You betcha.”  
And then I get this, the sweetest smile on the sweetest face.  
And my heart swells right up to my own grin.   
 “Yes, my Gabey, you can go with me.  Forever.”

>Turn-keys: Transitions


 Photo by Danielle, from Domodossola, Italia, from Wikimedia Commons

Ok, so I’ve written about a couple of turn-keys in adoption adjustment, here, and here, and here
There is another key in the process of adjusting in an adoption.  {Now, if you haven’t adopted older kids, a lot of this might just be gabble to you…I know.  And I will put up this disclaimer…this will be disjointed due to my hard to pin down thoughts but also due to the assault on my mind from allergies, and my muzzy head which swings back around to my meandering thoughts. Fair warning.  But if you have adopted older child, I think you will probably understand what I’m talking about.}
It’s a player in all adoptions but I’d say, in my experience, it is a very BIG player in older child adoption.   And really, you could quite fairly say it’s more of a pass key than a turn-key.  But it is a turn-key in that I don’t think you get in, make progress, continue to connect, without this:

Another simple term.
To go from one state to another, one place to another, a change on some level.
Transitions are hard.
Heck, transitions mean change and change can be hard on all levels, for any or all of us.
Lots of kids have problems with change, transitions, big or small.
How often have you had to give the “five minute warning” that it’s gonna be time to go?
Like, every day, right?
Right then, you see what I mean. 

In adoption adjustment, that term comes in all shapes and sizes and forms.
Because adoption is pretty much NOTHING BUT transition.  
It’s all transition, all the time.
Whew, no wonder it’s hard!
No wonder we are all so tired!

Of course there are all the obvious, literal transitions:
from the past to the future,
from then to now,
from first family to second,
to new ways,
new families,
new language possibly,
new culture,
new city and country,
new place, new people.
With no time out to breath the familiar.

But the transitions that are the turn keys, the ones that open the doors or close them shut, are usually the emotional transitions.  Yeah, swinging emotions and moods. And those, well, those are complicated.

The parent trying to help a newly or recently adopted child, especially an older child, adjust faces a steep and swift learning curve for navigating these emotional transitions.  And there are NO books or articles or experts who can guide  you precisely through them.

But those emotional transitions, the swings, pack a wallop.
And I guess the reason I want to post on it is that it’s just SO easy to get blindsided by them.
By which I mean, and this is one of those keys:  Transition comes at a cost.

I think that it is best to know that MOST of the time, it seems, one step forward, or two, or more, will almost always be followed with the two step cha cha back.
Sometimes giant steps backwards, sometimes, if you’re lucky, only small ones.
But those steps aren’t only simple regressions, they can be emotional spirals of grief or anger or dark deep untouchable mood or acting out.
Because that’s how it plays, it seems.

Maybe those steps forward, are just kind of so scary, way deep down where it can’t be touched or explained completely, that the only thing that makes sense somehow is to follow the trigger, ride the swing down.
It’s primal reaction in a way.
It can’t be just halted.
If it could, oh I think, I know,  all of us would.
Halt it.
But it can’t.
It seems that it has to be moved through.

And it’s in the moving through it, the swinging through it, that the healing comes. 
Hard to remember…but it is.
That’s why it’s a key.
A passkey AND a turn-key.
Emotional transition.
Without that emotional, moving, transitioning, through it, they can’t get beyond it.
It will snag you, them.
It has to be passed through and over and beyond.
But sometimes it has to be done again and again.
Yes, swung through again and again.
Yes, it’s exhausting.
For the them, for you, for everyone.

Luckily, a key is made of strong stuff.
And it works to turn those locks, to tumble them…as many times as necessary.

Then, at some point, different for each emotional scar or hard place, for each child, that key finally turns, tumbles open that lock for good.
The swinging can stop.

We aren’t there yet on most of these transitions.
We are still swinging.
But I trust, and pray, that sooner or later (hopefully sooner), that key will turn that lock for good.
And my child from hard places can leap out of that swing, flying free from the spiraling hard emotions.

I’ll be waiting to catch her and laugh with her at the giddy free air of it.

Until then, I hang on tight to the key, holding her, holding on to the swing.
Waiting for that leap.


>This is a post about detours.


And apropos of this theme, I have a detour before I start blathering on about detours:

As I’ve been stewing about this post, this subject…a great lot of um, stuff (this is a G rated blog, right? right) has hit the fan in the Ethiopian adoption world. And I have a fair bit of thoughts about it rumbling through my brain…but those are for another post(s). {New requirements, across the board, for all families to travel twice – complicated and difficult and possibly good in the long run but a huge hurdle in the short for so many} For the moment, I offer my condolences and my ears to hear and heart to hurt for all of the children and families affected – for the cold slap in the face of worry that this news brings. But again, it’s too easy to slide into the tempest of this news and start fretting aloud and repeating everyone else’s words, and those who are in it, right now. And I’m not. I don’t own those words. So I won’t go there, not today. Maybe another day, ya never know! But I will probably also go off on a tangent or two…as I said, this just opens up so much fodder for pondering and processing, for me anyhow, which means, of course, for you!

Back to current post:

Anyhooo. As I said, I’ve been stewing about detours. It’s hard to write all this because it’s close. It carves right under that spot in your chest, right in tight to your heart and lungs. So if you cut too close you kind of gasp and can’t breath, and you hold your breath as you talk closer to it, so that you can be really careful. Because you need to protect your own heart and also the hearts and breathing of the ones you love. I don’t know, it’s hard to make this make sense. I know I’m not making sense, and yet, this disclaimer must be put out first. Because its a raw spot. But it’s also a spot that needs to toughen up, heal, move forward and that only happens by bringing it out to the light and looking at it, and thus, this post.

Right. Now that most have clicked away out of confusion and impatience, it’s just us friends. Hey there.

So. A few times in my life, parenting life mostly, I have had some detours.
Scratch that: Ok, any life, my life, yours, we all have detours because no life goes as we initially plan it. Then it would be dull and boring and unsatisfying.

But I’m talking about the hard turn detours. The ones that have you ending up somewhere you never dreamed, parenting wise. Others have written beautifully about all this. I don’t seem to be able to (again, hence this post). Probably the best known piece on this is here, known as “Welcome to Holland.”

So, I’ve been to Holland, figuratively speaking. And you know, while the place has it has it’s beauties, it’s still a tough landing. And we have found ourselves detoured there once again, recently. And you know, this “Holland” is a complicated place. And like all control freaks (me), that detour thing?…..it makes you (ok, me) want to kick and fuss and whine.

Because I don’t like detours….because they weren’t in “THE PLAN.” And that PLAN, well, we are, were, supposed to follow it. I mean, I had it all mapped out, you know? Knew where the bumps were, the turns, the scenic spots. Knew the time to get to our destination, and the best roads to follow. Heck, had even traveled it once or twice before. And when you are sent on a detour, even to somewhere with it’s own intrinsic beauty, well, we control freaks kind of um, freak out a bit. Maybe we get frantic, or very quiet, or very deeply indigo blue. Maybe we stop trusting. Maybe we question if we ever did. Or do. Maybe we stop looking out, because the view has changed. And we get stuck with the rut of “but.” As in, “But it was supposed to be Italy, not Holland.” Or, “But, it was supposed to be in the PLAN, page 42.”
And maybe it takes some time to realize that those detours are for us.
Those detours are for us.
Those detours are given to us by God himself.
Not as a punishment (because they are challenging, sometimes very hard, so it is easy to mistake them as such).
But as a gift.
A gift.
To call us back to Him.
To love Him better, right now.
To call us out of ourselves.

To save us from ourselves.
Those detours are not to deprive us/me of Italy.
That detour, this Holland, is to break our/my grasp on my own deadly vision: Us. Ok, me.
Finally, I realize that my struggle with this detour is me.
Of course.
It has been ever so painfully shown to me (thank you Fr. Luke, ouch) that struggle is in my unwillingness to look….beyond my own miserable me. My plan. My day. My feelings and desires and needs. Those very things are what drag me into the indigo abyss. And that is not where I wanted to be or choose to stay.
And I forgot my prayer.
I – not so long ago – literally prayed this: “Save me from myself, Oh God, send me a child, the one you choose.”
I forgot.
And He did what I asked.
Eight times.
Oh, dear, how could I forget that prayer?

This detour is for us. For me.
It all just IS for the child — They haven’t detoured. I have.
And they are waiting, pretty patiently for the most part, for us/me to step off the plane and start walking with them.
Really. Not grudgingly. Not counting the steps.
They are waiting to show me Holland. Again. Or – their Italia.

This blog, this post, helped me realize that it’s ok to get frustrated with the detours.
But it’s also ok to say the heck with it all, and we can make our own “Italy” right here.
I knew that, right?
Yeah, on the good days.
But I keep forgetting.

But, you know what?
I want to go to Italy.
I love Italy!
And who says we have to be stuck anywhere…..because detours are all about seeing new places with new eyes.
And I want to create some Viva Italia, starting now.

>Great minds work together…

>….and can accomplish great things.

To that end, I am giving a shout out to the whole adoption community: the families, the parents, the kids (young or grown), the pros, the educators….the ones in the trenches.

photo (c) Writers in the Schools 2007-2010

That’s what’s happening around here.
We want your ideas, requests, wishes…..what do you need, what do you want, what do you wish you could find when you’re talking about resources AFTER you come home with your child?

My good friend and fabulous social worker is frustrated with the lack of extended post adoption resources around here, and, really, in general. Not only for the immediate post adoption needs…but the ones that are harder to pin down sometimes, the long term ones too. Because that cute little baby or toddler is gonna grow up into a middle schooler, a preteen, ack, a teen, and eventually an adult!

Please don’t slough this off just on the placing agencies…think a minute. Goodness, we all know that post placement visits are mandatory and most all agencies are available for those calls of sheer confusion or just needing to check in…or, the ones of desperation. However, most of us don’t make use of that built in resource. If you’re like me, you tend to scavenge around on your own, and then wonder why you keep bumping into walls. I do, anyhow, mostly. And I’m kind of crazy resourceful, in general. So when I start beating the bushes and running into walls…you know there is a lack, a need, a gaping hole that needs to be filled.

Post Adoption Resources. It’s a hole.

Yes, there are books. That’s always a good start.
But I’m talking about someone, a real person or people, who you can connect with on the other end of the line or face to face real life and talk to about any or all questions you might have. Because it’s easy to think that most issues or concerns fit into a tidy slot. But you know, when you’re talking about families and kids, and specifically adoption issues of some kind…often they don’t.
There is no one size fits all.

So, my terrific caring social worker, smart as a whip gal that she is….she wants to build up the resources. She really understands this stuff and it is her passion. As for me, I’m just glad she’s got this idea tumbling around and the determination to make it happen.

So, let’s help.
Please, in the comment box or my email or any which way you know how to reach me, send me your ideas, your wishes, your wants, your “gee why can’t I find this” feelings on what would be great to be able to access in post adoption resources.
It can be anything that strikes you, that’s what brainstorming is all about! Newbie parents, babies, toddlers, but also older kids, older child adoptions, school issues, cultural, medical, etc etc…..throw it out. Our list has already begun, and we want to grow it wide to see if that need can be met and how.

Here are few we already have on the list: Post Adoption Services/Resources:
esl, private/group
mentoring (kid, mom, parents, family)
cultural connections, links
advisor to IEP’s and spec ed
Referral resources for all of the above as well as providing it, plus referral for medical, theraputic, educational, legal, assessment, translation professionals as well.

Any other ideas?
Any other wishes?
Like what you see/what’s on the list now?
Here’s your chance, tell us!<br
Even if it’s just to say “yeah, that tutoring thing-I’ve been looking for that.” Please tell us that too; then we can know what is most wanted too. />
Please, leave a comment, let us know, what you would like to see, locally, nationally, in person or online.
Help us start to fill a hole.

That way we can keep on helping each other.
That’s really why we are all here anyhow, right?

>Bloggy Road Trip

>I am doing a guest post today!  Who’da thunk it!?
No kidding.   Yup, surprised me too..but I’m  honored (and shocked and surprised…another mini “Sally Field” moment).
Lisa at “A Bushel and a Peck” asked me to babysit a post day on her blog while she’s out of town.
So, I’m no fool, I said “You betcha!”

Now if you all haven’t checked out her blog, you should go, right now.  (No, not only to read my post…) You should bookmark it and check it daily, or at least really really often.  She is one of  my daily hits and mom heroes.  She has eleven beautiful kids and is a talented, amazing mom.  She is an inspiration to me; and a great resource both for regular old family stuff, larger family ideas, and also the full spectrum of adoption topics. 

My post today, on her blog, is another about older child adoption and adjustment.  About the dance of older child adjustment.  I’ve written about the dance of waiting, here.   But now that dance has changed.  It’s a very different sort of dance indeed.  Go, read, let me know what you think.  Say hello to Lisa for me and update your blog list if she’s not on it.  You’ll be glad you did.

>The turn-keys: Tears


So, here we are again.  Turn-keys.  Those things that I’m finding to be critical, yeah – Key – to our adjustment with this older child adoption. I’ve written about a couple already, here, and here.  And now, I want to write about another: Tears.

What? Tears?
How can those be so important?
Well, they are.
Yeah, it surprises me too.

I am learning that those tears are very important, critical, on different levels and in different ways.  Those tears are part of the adjusting, and I am not sure you can really adjust to all the new of an adoption without them.  And those tears are for everyone, of course.  Because each person in the family needs them….to process the intensity of the changes and the building of new relationships. Now I’ll spare  you the blathering about the tears of the rest of us: the jealous tears, the overwhelmed, the frazzled, the blue ones (yeah, it’s tough on moms too).  Those are fodder for a different post.

With a younger child, toddler or infant adoption, there are also many tears.  They are also critical to the adjustment process.  But they are easier to parse out, to understand.  They are typically more, not completely, but a bit more developmentally tracked and explained.  They are simpler because the child is still slightly simpler.  No less heartbreaking, but easier to console and repair.   The tears of the turn-key I’m talking about here are the tears of the older adopted child.  In this case, our daughter.

It’s hard to sort through all this coherently.  But I’ll give it a go.
It seems like it wouldn’t be complex, I mean, it’s crying, right?
Crying is a no brainer.
Kids cry all the time.
They cry, you console.
Except, not.

When an adjusting older child cries, honestly, at first you kind of brace yourself in dread.  You wonder, and fear a little bit, is this going to slip into something bad?  Is it going to blow in like a hurricane – tank the day? Because you don’t know this child so intimately yet. You haven’t always seen this before.  And you know the potential.  So, you brace for it…..whatever IT is.  And sometimes, it IS something very hard: rage, deep scarred grief, irrational fear.  Sometimes, it’s just overwhelmed or misconception or misunderstanding.  Sometimes, it’s just mundane, but ever so powerful, hormones.  Or lack of sleep.  Or an incoming virus.  It’s all over the map, crying.  Tears. 

Even so.  It’s all good.  Seems counter intuitive.  Our (ok, my) first reaction might, or is, naturally to wish it away, to sigh, to find the fastest way around it all.  But, that’s not necessarily the answer either.  Those tears are important.  If this child is grieving the life they left behind, no matter if that seems unlikely as that life might have been very very harsh, then that grieving must be done.  It’s valid; that life was what they knew, loved (some parts) and grew to themselves in. 

It’s all too easy to think of grief as a ‘hanging on’ to something.  It is and it isn’t.  When done right, it’s a ‘hanging on’ to the good, and letting go of the bad.  It’s ok to miss the ones or the place  you loved.  And that can totally jive with learning to love new ones or new places.  But, I don’t think it can be done without the tears of it.

Then there are the tears of rage and grief of the hurt – for both old and new hard things.  Those are kind of scary – for everyone.  And it’s so hard to know how to help.  And I”m not sure there is any way to really truly help – at least in the overt sense.  You can’t fix it.  I can’t fix it, or what has happened.  But you/I can BE there.  Just be there.  Hold on to them, sit next to them, let yourself get their tears dripped onto you.

That, that mess, is a fix.  It’s the only and best one.  Because you are there, they are not alone, and you’re not gonna run away from it.  And so, it gets less scary, for both of you.  But, oh, those tears…they hurt.  Both of you. 

Then there are the new tears.  These are the tears that can be both wonderful and frustrating.  The frustrating ones are the ones that you, and maybe she, doesn’t understand.  They just kind of spring up….from a misunderstanding, frazzled nerves, hormones.  From being a teen girl.  From sensory overload in a new country.   From language gap, culture gap….all sorts of gaps. Those too, mostly just need a little time, maybe a little space, maybe a time to hold or sit nearby.  They need to wash away….the weary effort, the bruised feelings.  And they do.  

Way back, oh 85 years or so ago, I learned in science class that water is the universal solvent.  Well, I would say that the water shed in tears, when you are talking about an older child adoption and adjusting, is one of the universal glues.  Can be.  Maybe not always (I’m talking about us, here, always, ever…that’s all I know), but oh so often they are.  These tears are bonding.  The happy over the top joyful tears…they are  just fun.  They pull you all in with a grin.  But the other kind….It’s hard not to care about a child who is sobbing next to you (even when you wish it weren’t so).  For the child to allow you to see them, hold them, at their most vulnerable….that is the beginning of trust.  For you to sit with them, hold them, get soaked by their tears…console them.  That is the beginning of family. 

A few days ago, a sibling moment occurred.  It was a pretty typical moment – if had happened between most of the kids.  However, it was the first between Marta and another.  And it was a a flash.  But, it cut to the quick for her.  It launched one of those tear spilling, walking away times.  It meant the evening would now be redirected.  And it was.  But, it was one of those turn-key times.  Because as I consoled Marta and talked to her about what happened, she slowly sat up in bed and hugged her pillow to her.  Then Bananas came in and flopped on her bed on the other side of the room they share.  And she saw Marta, still crying.  I said, “Has this happened to you?”  And Bananas laughed and said, “Oh yeah!  See, Marta, it’s like this…..” and she went on to act out the same interaction with the same sib.

And very soon, Marta was laughing with us as she snuffled up her tears, eyes red rimmed.  And I froze the moment in my mind.  These tears were healing.  These tears were bonding.  These tears were typical of any sibling scuffle.  And this image, two sisters laughing about a sib, both on their beds in pj’s, while one allowed us to see her snuffling and gulping a bit as she came to calm, the other trying  hard to make her laugh and move on…that’s a FAMILY.  That’s what happens in families.  So, yeah, these tears: they helped turn a bit closer to family.  And I am grateful for even this tough turn-key.  Another one made of gold.


>So many of the things that are involved with adjusting to an adoption keep crowding into my head. So, I’m processing stuff. Which means I have to post, you know it…its how I process. Bear with me. I wish someone had talked about this stuff when I was researching wondering dreaming about it all. I know, heaps o’ books out there, but for my meager mind, I need things categorized a mite differently. Maybe. All those books are so helpful and even now crowding my bookshelves and stacked on my night table. I am still using them and will be for a good long while, maybe ever.

But even so, this is how my mind parses things out:
You know how you hear about “Turn key” businesses? Where you can just step in and the biz runs properly, right out of the box?
Well adoption is the exact opposite of that.

But even so, I have decided that there ARE “turn-keys” in the adoption process, the adjustment process. And I think they really are critical to the fine tuning of an adoption, at least for us, me, our family. These are the keys that literally turn and open or close the process of adjustment (at least in my opinion, I’m just a mom, not an expert, so take this for what it is).

Sadly, there is NO ONE key to the whole process; though wouldn’t that be fantastic!? But I think these are a number of keys: time, touch, trouble, trust, truth, talk, terror even. I’ve written about the terror often enough. And time, downtime, that is. And recently about the trouble. But one of the most important keys, a true “turn key,” is one of the hardest (of course!).

Oh my.
I think this is one of the biggest.
In some ways, it’s everything.
Think about it: TRUST.
There has to be so much of that.
But how hard it is to find, to grab, to hold, to create, to hang onto?
If you have it, it seems solid..and you are more fortunate than you may realize.
If you do not, or cannot, then it can be so ephemeral, so heartbreakingly out of reach.

I think it is what we are all searching for, as much or more than happiness, or possibly, love.
Because you cannot trust without love.
Because you cannot be happy without trust.
They flow and feed each other.
So, yeah, its big.
When you have brought an older, hurt, child into your family is it gigantic.
It is everything.

Gee whiz, trust. Sounds like a basic. I have realized I really took it for granted, that foundational unquestioning trust. I trust my kids, beyond those moments of obvious lying or um, borrowing, and run of the mill kid stuff that most kids have to test out. They trust me. Even if they hate me for holding them to curfew or being strict, they still, if push came to shove, would admit that (even if I am “so wrong and clueless”) I have the best intentions on their behalf. I trust my husband, I trust how things work. I trust God. Right?

Well, this adoption has taught me that actually, I have MASSIVE trust issues! (It’s the curse of the control freak, always) God, husband, kids, new kid, the whole shebang. Not too fun finding that one out! But, really, helpful, because with the entrance of a new, older, child into a home….everyone’s level of trust is laid on the line. And you know what? You have to deal with it.

As mom, you have to deal with it yourself and for the others too. I’d love to say that foundational trust is unshakable. And it might just be for Coffeedoc and Buddybug. And thank goodness for that! But for the rest of us? Well, it was shaken some. You can see that shake in the jealousy, the attention seeking of new and old kids, the acting out, the frazzled tempers and moods (yeah, mine too, once or twice. Ahem.). Really, so much of that turmoil stemming from questions of trust, different levels, but still the same bottom line. And for our new sweet girl? Well, its still not there for her either. How can it be?

So, how do you build trust? How do you parent a child who just plumb does not, cannot truly deeply TRUST you? Its much harder than it seems and I think its one of the huge reasons that it can be harder to adjust to older child adoption. When you’ve raised a child from baby or toddler that trust has a million times over to be proven built tested and reinforced.

A new child, older, coming from a completely different world and ways? Do they have that tested track record with you? No. Do you trust them immediately in the same way as your children already at home? Honestly? You can’t. You don’t know them well enough yet to know their expressions moods triggers. You don’t know when the honeymoon will switch to a meltdown or if it will even. So that takes time to trust and anticipate their actions and reactions. And so, until you build that foundation of trust…. Well, you’re flying, um parenting, without a net.
And for the new child? Well, that trust is gonna be a long time coming, deep down. They might well trust that you will feed house and clothe them. But the deep trust, the kind that withstands the misunderstandings, the corrections, the grief the anger the complete discombobulation….that isn’t there, not really. And so when they feel like they are drowning in all the change how do they trust you will save them, pull them up and not let go? Well, maybe they don’t. Or maybe they are trying, but you have to do your part. Which is: be there, hang on, get over yourself (Now don’t get all worked up and think I’m judging, I am totally typing about ME here), and don’t let go.

Sounds easy. It’s not.

But as you do it, you both are reaching a bit toward each other. Even the silly kinds of trust make such a huge difference. That you can tease and just be a little silly, for fun not hurt. And that really ice cream seems weird but is wonderful, try it. And that if mom says she will come in and kiss you goodnight when she gets home, she will. Heck, even that, just like a small child needs to learn, I always come back.

And just that effort, that repeated reaching, I think {and continue to hope and pray}, brings you (ok, me) all a bit closer, laces your heart to the other….a tiny bit at a time. It may not feel like it at all. And trust is really something that doesn’t feel like much except a sort of sureness, an absence of fear. But it is the grounding for the feelings that feel like everything: happiness, love, joy.

So, really, I would love someone to hand me a shiny big ol’ turn key to all this, to precisely fit this one critical lock. And then to open the door to a deep firm trust, for all of us. Trust in each other, trust in love, trust in the time and effort, trust in the good, trust without hurt, trust without doubt or question or fret. But I guess this particular turn-key is crafted from the clay of our (OK, my measly) hearts, bodies, and just plain old presence, again and again and again – for the whole family, old and new. But this key, once its made, will be one to treasure tight.

>Counter Intuitive Adjustment

>There is an odd part of the adoption adjustment process that I want to talk about, to kind of sort it out in my head. I’ve only really actually been able to see it clearly this time around. I suspect it plays out much more with the adjustment of an older child into the family. I’m talking about that boundary…the one that is so hard to cross the first few times.

I’m talking about trouble. I mean Trouble with a capital “T” (to borrow from “The Music Man”). And I guess I should throw out the caveat that I’m only talking about OUR house and family and experience here. So don’t flame me, I know well enough that every single adoption – young or old – is unique and different from every other. However, that said, I have noticed something lately, and it feels important, at least to me/us. Its a whole counter intuitive experience.

Trouble. You all know it. There are different kinds of course. But I’m talking about routine ‘trouble,’ the kind found in oh, every single family in the world. The usual stuff of squabbling and testing boundaries and annoying behaviors and flat out breaking the rules to see how it plays sort of thing. The sulks, the tantrums, the rudeness, the ignoring…..life with kids. Not all kids, not all the time…but really, most every kid, some of the time.

With the adoption of an older child, ok, this older child, there are phases. You can read about them in the books. The honeymoon phase is the most fun, supposedly, the giddiness of meeting and all the excitement of the new.

All new, all the time.
Frankly, its wonderful and exhausting.

Part of that exhaustion comes from that very newness. Every single thing is new, needs to be explained, or pointed out, or giggled over. Everything is heightened. And it takes a little while, but then you realize that everyone is kind of walking through the day on eggshells. Don’t make a false step or the eggs will crack and the mess might spill out. Everyone is on their best behavior because no one is quite sure how it will play when they are not.

But you know, that can’t last.

It doesn’t. And while it is a whole ‘nother kind of exhausting to leave that golden honeymoon phase, it is a relief in it’s own way. Because now, it becomes real. Things get rocky, possibly very very fast. It can be ugly. It hurts, there can be tears all around – anger, fury even, snits, snot, names, accusations, hopefully not hits pinches and shoves between the kids (but you know, it’s possible).

And, as mom, you know what you have to do. You do it before you’ve analyzed it and set out a plan. You deal. Ideally, calm cool and collected. But, sometimes you (ok, ok: me) react instead of plan. Because while some moms might be able to only discipline in calm cool collection, according to their calmly evaluated plotline…THIS mom tends to react and maybe even has been known to um, yell, once or twice. (I am not admitting this, I am just saying that there is a possibility that there has been a slip or two over the years.)

What I am saying is: the kid(s) are in Trouble. Capital T.

Now. We are in this new phase now. Our new daughter has been in Trouble. Capital T. And it happened before I knew it. It has now happened a number of times. And, really, I now think it is such a good thing. Let me be clear, the trouble itself is not good. No one digs it. But the ability to be in trouble….priceless.
Let me give you a for instance. On this trip, we went to a swishy restaurant with all the kids – because we are maniacs. (But that is a topic for another post.) I won’t bore you with the details, but suffice it to say that not long into the dinner, about halfway through, I got up and took Miss Marti outside.
In mom code, that’s big stuff. Capital T stuff.
And I took her off to the side of the restaurant and told her in no uncertain terms that she was behaving poorly and in Trouble and it was all not ok. She is a stubborn little gal and so this included some back and forth between us, heads shaking, arms crossed, tears…the works. Shortly, we came to terms. More tears. Now hugs. And a long one. Done.

But then, for the second or third time since she’s been home Marti looked at me and laughed a small laugh as she said her (Ethiopian) Mom’s name. And then pretty much re-enacted our ‘discussion.” Then she pointed to me and said my name: “Mom.”

I smiled and said, “Yeah. She would have said the same thing. Because we are both moms. Your moms. And we love you. So listen!” And then I got a REAL hug and a REAL smile and we walked inside to continue dinner (Waving at the bar patrons whom I had unwittingly provided the evening entertainment. doh!).

And you know, when she went inside she was happy again. Not sulky.
And it felt like things clicked one more notch down toward settled (still a ways to go, but every notch is something).
Because all that – that discipline, anger, apologize, forgive, move on thing?
That’s NORMAL.
And the other kids feel more normal if they know I will take her out (of the restaurant…c’mon on!) and she can get in the same kind of trouble they can.

It’s a comfort, in a totally counter intuitive sort of way.
And it’s one notch closer to “Normal.”
For all of us.

>Adoption Adjustment: Branches


Vincent Van Gogh, Almond Branches in Bloom, c 1890

So we have been home for almost a month now. And while I am sure it is no surprise to you all, it comes as some surprise to me that we are still adjusting, in a big way. We have adopted a teen but we are making toddler baby steps, forward and backward and sideways….occasionally falling flat on our backsides, occasionally grinning wide with surprise.

I can’t process it all well enough to post coherently. I haven’t come to any great or profound conclusions (as if I ever do, doh!). I am still very much in the “do the next thing” mode. But I am sustained by all your prayers and thoughts and unspeakably grateful for them and beg you, any or all of you, to not quit!

Anyhow, everyone keeps asking, “How it’s going?” And, “Is it all settled in now?” and all those sorts of questions. Frankly, at this point in the process, if I think someone is about to ask me that sort of question, I tend to want to turn on my heel and skedaddle as fast as possible. Because I have no good or reliable sentry on my mouth. While I can be discreet for others and their private issues, I tend to just honestly answer anything that most anyone asks me.

This trait makes my husband, dear Coffeedoc, kind of nuts. He always points out that I don’t have to answer EVERY question I am asked. And yet, I feel compelled to do so. (Yes, I am aware that some therapist could earn themselves a condo beachside w/ this…thank you.) Now, my lack of desire in answering this sort of question is not because it’s too horrible to answer, but just because it’s (the whole adjusting process to this new member of our family) still all murky. It’s a mixed bag of good, hard, funny, frustrating, strange, and sweet. And that’s hard to answer in a short polite social response. But then again, I would have loved to know or read some of this when we were in process, the first half of this process.

So, in no coherent order, here are some notes on the process:
The language thing is still in a ridiculously difficult spot.
I am speaking more Amharic to her (pidgeon amharic, simple poorly constructed baby talk level) than she is speaking english.
But I think her understanding of english is increasing.
She is doing better at Rosetta Stone.
I believe we are in the “silent phase.”
But that phase has rapid fire machine gun bursts of amharic from her.
Which is confusing and frustrating for us both.
Marta loves to swim and boat, she has an adventurous spirit.
However she cannot swim at all and has to be watched closely so she doesn’t splash and drown in her enthusiasm.
Which is mildly nerve-wracking.
She loves music.
By which I mean: loves loves loves music.
Marta sings along to her ipod just like Buddybug used to when we drove on road trips: meaning loudly and just slightly off key.
She has started piano lessons and is very happy about it, music is the universal language is it not?
I love our piano teacher for being a good sport.
Marta loves sports; like watching sports on tv, especially football and basketball.
This is going to make for a fun football season, go Irish!
Shooting hoops is pretty fun too!
Teen sisters will always have issues juggling a shower and sharing a bathroom.
Girls loves shoes.
Marta will always be a tiny person.
She is picking up knitting amazingly fast, which makes me feel a little guilty for being such a crummy inept knitter.
But it will be nice to have one competent crafter in the family.
Sweet potatoes are disgusting.
Salsa is dangerous.
Ice cream is nothing but wonderful.
Marta is not a night owl.
Neither is her mother.
Marta is an early bird.
So am I.
Marta, still, loves going to Mass.
It is probably her very favorite thing.
This humbles me.
She is learning the rosary.
This amazes me.
I am getting pretty fast with a language dictionary.
Marta is not.
Emergency dental surgery is scary and hard.
Doctor appointments are not fun, and a little scary too.
She is definitely a teen, with the requisite moods and drama.
We have finally made it to the point of feeling safe enough to cry frazzled tears.
We are glad to be there, but it is hard to watch and makes us worry too.
It all still feels a little, or a lot, strange.
We are hoping that ends soon.
I wish we could fast forward the clock many days, to a time many months from now, where we are all used to each other.
The best thing about Marta is her disposition: joy.
Coffeedoc and I think that is simply remarkable.

It’s totally dopey, I know. But, it occurred to me today that this adoption process is all very much like a bunch of tied together branches. It’s not your normal family tree….some branches are strong, some fragile and tender, some bending and trying not to break. We are branching toward each other, just barely beginning to sprout anew, still raw in places from the grafting. I pray our roots and the seasons will help grow us all together.

>Adoption: Adjustment and Laundry


** Warning. I’d love for all my posts to be “butterflies and rainbows” as a dear friend says…but during this time, they cannot be if I am to be honest to myself and anyone else. So, sometimes, they are just odd. You all know already this blog is a lot of stream of consciousness drivel. Fair warning.**

My laundry room.

Officially: laundry at “London Terrace Towers”….but a gal can dream….

I never knew I’d be so grateful for laundry.

No kidding.
Occasionally, this thought, this gratitude, has popped into my addled mind…this gratitude for laundry. But really, not so much. I have spent many a moment over my many years resenting the freakishly replenished piles (by which I mean: heaping mounds) of dirty laundry.

But especially of late, coming home and trying to tread water in the tsunami of adjustment involved in this adoption {And, I presume, older child adoption in general}….. I am grateful for laundry.
I am grateful for the normalcy of mountains of laundry needing to be gathered, sorted, washed, swapped, dried, hung, folded and sorted again.

We control freaks love having something that we can control, and that in a nutshell, is the beauty of laundry. I can stand in my little laundry room, folding, and hear the machine’s old familiar churn and the dryer’s whine, and things are normal.
I can sort and fluff and fold and create new clean order again and again.

And I know this might sound like I am hanging on by my fingernails, or failing and slipping and grasping at straws….pathetic….but to be frank, the laundry is, oddly enough, a comfort. Right now, laundry is less a burden than a signpost that life really does go on and returns to the particular habits of my family.

Laundry is a sort of comfort everlasting (in my house, at least). It is constant; a task that can be well done and appreciated (mostly). I can do it with mindless rote motion, or do it and stew or daydream as much as I choose. And, gloriously, I have time alone, for no one wants to join me in the laundry room.
And so it is even peaceful in it’s own noisy way.

I know. This is as mundane as it gets. But that, that very thing, the utter mundanity of it, is exactly what makes me stop and think and smile. Because, we are taught, in my Catholic faith, that even small things, the most mundane routine mind-numbing or unpleasant chores, can have infinite value.

And so, with a smile, and a rueful nod, I can agree. Only once before, during a hospital health scare of my dearest, have I so searingly been aware and grateful for the rote routine of my laundry chores. I said a prayer of thanksgiving for it then, long ago. And now, during this odd uncomfortable time of adjustments, I whisper it again.

I am thankful for laundry: for the clothes to wash, the machines to wash them in, for the chore on every level and the comfort it brings to us all…but right now, especially to me, in those sharp raw and uncertain moments, I am simply grateful for the chore and the routine it implies. And when I don’t know how to manage all this jaggedy new or to move through these big things, or the snaggy small things, if I am gripped with fear or fretting or exhaustion…I can literally stand and quietly do the laundry, and feel like me again, have our family feel normal and not only new. I know these motions, blindfolded, and they remain….and continue even while we find our new normal. It’s comfort. It may well be silly, I know. But for those of you who wonder about this adjustment and how it’s different…this is one unexpected reveal.

The machine churns and slogs along, the dryer whines and turns and turns. And obviously, I am reminded again and again, so must (and will) I.

>Face Act: commentary, clarification

>This is from MlLane Layton, to clarify some misconceptions, worth a look. Mclane is doing good work, important work, and her heart is in the right place and she is trying to help sway change. Needed change. Read. Think about it, help if you can.

And I just want to remind anyone who might forget in the jumble of the legalese and legistlative verbage, this is about our kids. Yours. Mine. Ours. And they have faces…..

Open Letter to the Adoption Community

July 31, 2009

As an adoptive Mother, the President and Founder of Equality for Adopted
Children, and a former senior legislative aide on Capitol Hill, I would
like to address some questions that have been raised about the newly
introduced Foreign Adopted Children Equality Act (FACE Act). These
questions have caused some to suggest the bill should not be supported.
This is unfortunate, because the FACE Act will bring significant
improvement to the adoption process and will, if signed into law,
provide equality for our internationally adopted children as well as
save adoptive parent’s time, money and regulatory hurdles. I know
because I was deeply involved with its predecessor.

The FACE Act was introduced to amend and improve upon the Child
Citizenship Act of 2000 (CCA), a bill introduced by Senator Don Nickles
and Senator Mary Landrieu. At the time the CCA was introduced and
passed, I was Legislative Counsel to Senator Nickles and was responsible
for shepherding the CCA through Congress. The bill was conceived after
my husband and I adopted three siblings from Eastern Europe and I
discovered that despite the fact that my husband and I were both
American citizens, our citizenship did not transfer to our foreign
adopted children as it would have if they had been born to us abroad.
As a lawyer I found this disturbing because I knew that under adoption
law, once a child is adopted, that child is entitled to all the same
rights, duties and responsibilities as a biological child. The law says
they are to be treated as if they were the “natural issue” of
the adoptive parents. CCA was drafted to remove discrepancies between
the treatment of children born abroad versus children adopted abroad to
U.S. citizens. In short, to bring adoption practice into line with the
law and in the process ease a number of procedural burdens unnecessarily
borne by adoptive parents.

The CCA began the process of addressing a primary inequality: If an
American gives birth to a child overseas the child is considered a
citizen from birth and is given a U.S. passport and a Consular Report of
Birth (which acts as the child’s birth certificate). The child is
allowed to enter the United States as a citizen with documentary proof
of citizenship. In other words, the child does not have to go through
an immigration process. Not so for an adopted child who must obtain an
immigrant visa, go through a very different (and more costly and
cumbersome) process even though they are every bit as much the son or
daughter of American citizens. Unfortunately, the United States is one
of the few developed countries that still treat internationally adopted
children of their citizens as immigrants and force adoptive families to
go through an immigration process to bring their children home.

U.S. Court decisions have established adoption laws that recognize that
adopted children are entitled to full equality of treatment as
biological children. Yet despite the passage of CCA, not all
inequalities have been addressed. The FACE Act would align U.S. adoption
laws with U.S. statutes by recognizing all children of U.S. citizens as
equal, whether biological or adopted. The FACE Act would rectify
inequities both past and present. Regrettably, as I know is often the
case with legislation, some have misunderstood the contents of the

Protecting Safeguards and Meaningful Procedures

Some allege that by removing adopted children from the immigration
process the bill removes the safeguards that protect adopted children,
their biological families and their adoptive families. This is a
completely incorrect assertion. This bill absolutely upholds current
requirements in regard to approval of parents to adopt a foreign born
child, preserves current safeguards, and maintains current regulations
related to intercountry adoption. Here’s how:

* Upholding Requirements and Procedures.

* The FACE Act continues to require that before citizenship attaches
to an internationally adopted child, adoptive parents must be approved
by the U.S. government as fit to adopt, just as under current law.
* Adoptive parents will still need to meet the same requirements
currently submitted for approval of an I-600A or I-800A including an
approved home study, criminal clearances and all other documents that
are now part of the approval process.
* Preservation and Maintenance of Safeguards and Investigations.

* The FACE Act continues to uphold and require all immigration
safeguards currently in place to ensure that a child has been adopted
legally without fraud or trafficking.
* Conditions required to fulfill an I-600 or I-800 form will continue
unchanged including an orphan investigation as mandated under current
* The U.S. government will continue to affirmatively determine that a
child has been adopted appropriately and that the child meets the
adoption requirements of U.S. adoption law for international adoptions.
* A welcome change in the FACE act would be the elimination of the
paperwork, procedures and costs required to file for an immigration visa
after an adoption has been completed and the child has been approved by
the U.S. government as having complied with U.S. adoption law governing
international adoption.

Put simply, American adoptive parents abroad would take their
documentation of a legal and appropriate adoption and follow the same
process as American biological parents who gave birth abroad. The
entire process would be simplified and standardized for both sets of
parents and most importantly, would apply equal treatment to the
children as established in U.S. adoption law. Time and travel costs for
adoptive parents would be reduced lowering further the barriers to
international adoption.

The FACE Act makes no changes to current regulations related to
intercountry adoption. Current adoption law language does not detail
what must be done to approve a family to adopt or what paperwork must be
filed to get an immigration visa. Rather, the details are found in the
regulations implementing the law. This bill and subsequent regulations
would do the same. The FACE Act merely sets the parameters of how the
law would be implemented and the subsequent regulations would provide
the specifics of how it would be implemented.

Establishing Equality for All and Respecting Heritage

Another unfortunate misunderstanding of the FACE Act arises from a
section of the bill that amends Section 301 of the Immigration and
Nationality Act (INA), which defines who is a U.S. citizen at birth.
Currently, this section of law provides automatic U.S. citizenship to
children born to U.S. citizens abroad, but not to those adopted abroad
by U.S. citizens. The practical effect is that under the status of an
immigrant instead of a citizen at birth, the adopted child could never
be President of the United States even though a child born in the same
foreign country at the same time to American citizens could. Amending
this section of law to include our internationally adopted children as
citizens from birth will finally correct one of the major remaining
inequalities that our children suffer under federal law.

Some have erroneously concluded that this provision will strip adopted
children of their birth country’s citizenship and erase their birth
history. In actuality, the FACE Act will help support adoptees who seek
to learn more of their original birth history and reconnect with their
country of origin. The FACE Act includes provisions that state:

* “It is the sense of Congress that the government of each
foreign country from which children are adopted by citizens of the
United States should provide documentation of the adopted children’s
original birth history to the adoptive family in accordance with the
laws of such country.”

* “Nothing in this Act, or in any amendment made by this Act, may
be construed to abrogate any citizenship rights provided to an adoptee
by the adoptee’s country of origin, or nullify the facts of the
adoptee’s birth history.”

Granting of citizenship from birth cannot eliminate the fact of where a
child was born, or to whom that child was born, or deprive them of their
original citizenship rights any more than what occurs now when U.S.
citizenship is granted to them under the CCA.

To the extent a foreign country allows dual citizenship and the
privileges that accompany that citizenship, that child will always have
those privileges as a citizen of that country in the eyes of that
country. No legislation passed by the U. S. Congress can change
citizenship laws of other countries. If a country chooses to negate the
citizenship rights of a child born in that country because they become a
citizen of the United States, there is no law that the U.S. Congress can
pass to rectify that decision.

Further, although Congress cannot pass laws ordering other countries to
provide original birth documentation to adoptive families or to change
their citizenship laws, these provisions mark significant steps towards
establishing U.S. policy in these regards and would strongly encourage
countries from which children are adopted by American citizens to
provide such documentation and maintain such rights.

Protecting U.S. Citizenship and Preventing Family Separation

The FACE Act also improves the current citizenship process for
international adoptees with a provision that rectifies the damage that
is done when adoptive parents fail to take the necessary steps under
past and current law to acquire U.S. citizenship for their child. Prior
to the CCA, internationally adopted children had to go through a
naturalization process to attain citizenship. Many parents wrongly
assumed that their adopted child was a citizen because they themselves
were citizens. Unfortunately, this was not the case and there are many
adult adoptees who found out much later in life that they are not

Even after the CCA was passed, the problem remains due to the way the
law is implemented. Currently, only adopted children who arrive on IR3
visas (where both parents, if married, saw the child during the adoption
process) receive automatic U.S. citizenship upon entry into the United
States. Adopted children who arrive on IR4 visas (where only one
parent, if married, saw the child during the adoption process) must be
readopted in their new home state (whether required by state law or not)
before citizenship attaches. If the child is not readopted prior to his
or her 18th birthday, they lose the right to automatic citizenship.

Over half the international adoptees enter this country on IR4 visas and
risk losing their citizenship rights if their parents fail to readopt
them. Many children do not find out they are not citizens until they
apply for a passport or for college scholarships. A number of adoptees
have been deported back to their country of origin due to minor crimes
they have committed because their parents failed to take the necessary
steps at the time to acquire citizenship status for their child. The
FACE Act rectifies this for all future international adoptees by
conferring citizenship upon completion of the adoption and the U.S.
determination that the child was adopted according to law. Citizenship
is conferred with no further action required of the adoptive parents.
This is a significant improvement over current law and will eliminate
the tragic stories of adoptees deported to their country of origin with
no knowledge of their original language, no support structure and no
ability to return to the United States.

For deported adoptees, The FACE Act allows these adoptees to file for
and receive U.S. citizenship if U.S. citizens adopted them under the age
of 18.

In summary, the changes made by the FACE Act are significant but easily
implemented. The FACE Act would:

* Remove internationally adopted children of American citizens from
the immigration process saving time, money and, for many, travel costs;
* Confer U.S. citizenship upon internationally adopted children
immediately upon completion of all the necessary steps without requiring
readoption within the U.S.;
* Improve upon the current system by encouraging foreign countries to
provide original birth documentation; and
* Provide the added benefit of making our internationally adopted
children eligible to run for President.

The sponsors of the FACE Act – Senator Mary Landrieu, Senator Jim Inhofe
(S.1359) and Representative Diane Watson and Representative John Boozman
(H.R. 3110) are great friends and supporters of the adoption community
and have crafted a bill that will provide equality under the law for our
internationally adopted children and allow them to benefit in all ways
from full American citizenship.

In closing, I recommend that all read the relatively short FACE Act bill
in its entirety. It can be found at:
In addition, I
invite you to read a detailed section by section explanation of the bill
as well as answers to Frequently Asked Questions that can be found at
the following link:
Once you do so, I believe, like me, you will find this bill worthy of
your wholehearted support.

For the sake of our internationally adopted children,

McLane Layton

President, EACH

>Call to Action

>More from McLane Layton. Please, once again, call, write, visit. Let them know, these kids are our kids.


Since this petition was launched on June 30th it has received over 1600 signatures! Please take a moment and continue to support the FACE Act legislation (S.1359 and H.R. 3110) by calling your Senators and Representative on Tuesday (tomorrow), Wednesday and Thursday. It is imperative that they hear that this legislation is important to you, their constituents.

Read below for how to make your voice be heard.
FACE Act – Call to Action
On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday call your three Members of Congress (two in the Senate and one in the House of Representatives).
You can find your Representative at http://www.house.gov/
You can find you Senators’ at http://www.senate.gov/
Ask to speak with the Legislative Director or Chief of Staff
For maximum effect, we are asking you to make these calls within this 72-hour window!

What should you say or write to your Members of Congress?

This is an issue that is critical to our internationally adopted children, so speak from your heart. Tell them why internationally adopted children of American citizens need automatic U.S. citizenship from the time their adoption is final and why this is so important to you!

Ask your Senators and Representatives to become a Co-Sponsor of the FACE Act.
If you are speaking to a Senate office, provide them with the bill number S.1359.
If you are speaking to a House member, provide them with the bill number H.R. 3110.

Please feel free to use the following text as a guideline when speaking with your Members of Congress:

“As a constituent of we are requesting that you support the Foreign Adopted Children Equality Act (FACE Act) by becoming a Co-Sponsor of the legislation. For information on becoming a Co-Sponsor, please contact Senator Mary Landrieu, Senator James Inhofe, Representative Diane Watson or Representative John Boozman. Thank you for representing your constituents by becoming a Co-Sponsor of the FACE Act.”


>Open letter to Michelle Obama

>This post is an open letter to Michelle Obama.
I know, I know…another letter. Really?
And to Michelle Obama?
A joke right? Um, no.

Yes, I wrote a letter, here, and Coffeedoc wrote a letter, here, with the details about this whole situation.
So, yeah, you could say we are on a letter binge…
But I prefer to say that we are determined to let no avenue shut down before we’ve tried it, no stone be unturned, or miss shouting from a rooftop.
My best rooftop, right now, is a cyber roof.
And this is mine.

Lest anyone forget, this is my beautiful daughter, Marta, above.
And that picture was taken this past Saturday, the 15th of May.
That’s an notable day in that I was in DC, hoping to meet Michelle Obama. {no, really….} Michelle Obama was in Merced, speaking. We missed each other.
Yes, I’m kidding. Mostly.
But the 15th is also a day when my Marta was supposed to be home and we were supposed to be pantomiming to each other in a desperate bid to communicate, and laughing as we failed once again.
But she is not here. So I have decided to shout from my cyber rooftop and send an open letter to our First Lady. If any of you are good pals with her, please pass this along.

Dear First Lady,

I am writing to you out of sheer, shimmering, waning hope. It is the hope of one mother, reaching out to another mother.
It is, to steal a phrase, a call to hope. A call to change.
But this time, the change and hope are those of a mother, of a family, of a girl. That one, in the picture above.

That is my daughter, Marta. She is currently in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. On March 31st, 2009, she legally became our daughter. She was so, in our hearts and souls, for the past year. She is staying in a foster care home until our government allows us to go and bring her home. You see, she got stuck in the rollout of the new TB screening protocols of the CDC. But this is the catch: she doesn’t need screening. She’s had TB. She has successfully completed documented treatment for TB. But since she will always show a scar on her xray, the CDC protocol shifted her forward to the sputum culture requirement and that takes eight weeks to clear. And so she is stuck, away from her home and family.

We have spoken with as many people as we can find about this at the CDC and US Embassy and many have agreed that it is an “unfortunate” snare. But we have also been told that this sort of protocol certainly can’t just be changed for one girl, or, as we also believe, that an adopted child can be considered a different class of immigrant and be allowed to come home. That just can’t be done.

Mrs. Obama, respectfully, as a mother, I ask you, “Why not?”

Why can’t we change this?
It’s a bureaucratic hitch. It’s not what anyone intended. It’s not what is best for the child or any children who are affected by this. My husband (a physician), the W.H.O., even the man who wrote the instructions for this protocol at the CDC, agree that the data shows that a child who has gone through TB treatment is no risk to the public, and suffers by being kept from the love and care of their family. Instead these children are kept for months in orphanages, without the level of love, care and provision they would have here at home where they could begin to grow and thrive and learn to love in a family again.

This protocol for immigrants is an effort by our CDC to lower the incidence of TB. That is an admirable effort. However, in this application, to the adopted children of U.S. citizens, it becomes instead a trap. It is a trap for our children that does nothing to lower the incidence of TB in the world, rather it might even make it worse by keeping vulnerable children in difficult conditions; those not conducive to optimal health or healing on any level.

It puts our children in the category of “other.” “Stranger.” “Risk.”
They are not “other.” But they are being treated as such.
They are not a risk or threat. They are OUR children. America’s children.

Mrs. Obama, you are the woman who represents hope and change and action in our nation.
So, I want to ask you if we can look at this closer…indeed, if we can hope?
Can we dream and make change?
These are our children. The children of U.S. citizens.
They are our hope, as all our children are. These children are the embodiment of hope, for our families, for our country, for each other. They are living waiting breathing hope; waiting for their families, their legal, matched, real families, to come and get them to bring them home.
They wait.
They dare, still, to hope.
They dream, even so, of change.

Any mom, but most certainly an adoptive mom, lives hope every day.
She dreams of and for her children.
She sees the challenges and faces them as clearly as she can, even while she yearns for the best for her child.
You are the First Lady, as well as the “First Mom.”
You understand this.
You see the challenges of our nation’s children, face them clearly and you hope and work for change and for them to live to their fullest potential.
These children, the orphans who have been adopted into our families, are our children, our nation’s children and all of our future as well.

So, I am appealing to you.
Some will laugh at me, again, and point and say I am a fool.
But I don’t care. I can take it, I am a mom.
Any mom will advocate – as far and high as she must – for her child, for her children.
Marta is my daughter, my child. And she needs to come home.
The other children caught in the trap of this protocol are the children of American moms, our children. And they need to come home.
You are a mom. You are the “First Mom.”
I think, if you can know of this, you would understand… so, foolishly perhaps, I appeal to you.
You know that any mom will try to change the world if she has to, for her child.
Because, we can. Yes, we can. We are mom’s. And we hope.

Thank you for your time and attention reading this, if you do.
Thank you for your willingness to step out to face the challenges.
Thank you for being willing to make change happen.
This may be a ridiculous shout into the cyber void.
But thank you for the hope.


Michele Gautsch

>Dads United. Coffeedad’s letter

>This post is from Coffeedad. It’s his turn. This letter is his, the dad side of things, and from his perspective as a Father, and also as a physician.

This letter is an open letter to anyone who has a heart to hear us and also wants to know why we are pushing so hard.
Why don’t we just quit and accept that we have to wait?
Stop being so pushy already…sheesh. Right???
We are advocating for our daughter to come home because she needs to be home, because we love her, because it is right to allow her to travel to join her family.
We are advocating for this protocol to change in it’s application to adopted children because to apply it to adopted children, especially those who have already completed treatment for TB and/or who are HIV+ is, simply, wrong.

So we won’t quit.
We will fight for our child.
We will fight for these children.
Here is Tom’s letter. Please read it. Please forward it, along with mine, to anyone who might hear or listen or get it to anyone who can.
Thank you!

To Whom it May Concern:

This is a picture of my beautiful daughter, Marta, above.

My wife Michele and I have recently become the parents of my new 12 year old daughter Marta. Marta is Ethiopian, and sadly left orphaned by the ravages of AIDS in her country. Without any family, she was taken into an Ethiopian government run orphanage in Addis Ababa. Somehow in her young life, she also contracted tuberculosis for which she has recently completed eight months of standard tuberculosis treatment, with thankfully good response and several follow up sputum smear tests, all of which were negative. On March 31 of this year her adoption was finalized and we legally became her parents. Both Michele and I are United States citizens. Had our adoption become finalized just one month earlier Marta would be home with us now and I wouldn’t be soliciting your help.

The day before we were to travel to Addis to pick her up and bring her home we were notified by the Embassy through our agency that she would not be cleared to travel for a minimum of two additional months, and perhaps longer, due to very recently implemented new CDC Technical Instructions for the Screening of Immigrants. This new protocol requires negative sputum cultures in anyone with any suspicion or history of tuberculosis, without any regard whatsoever to whether it was known or unknown, treated or untreated, successfully or unsuccessfully.

This very burdensome and overly stringent requirement has been implemented only by the US and only piecemeal, in regard to some countries, despite the fact that the CDC and World Health Organization as well as the American Thoracic Society and the Infectious Diseases Society of America all individually or in collaboration have reported that:

“patients with drug susceptible pulmonary and other forms of infectious tuberculosis rapidly become noninfectious after institution of effective multiple drug chemotherapy” – A.T.S., CDC, I.D.S.A.

“after 14-21 days of treatment, infectiousness averages less than 1% of the pretreatment level” — A.T.S., CDC, I.D.S.A.

“as yet no case of clinical or bacteriologically confirmed tuberculosis disease associated with exposure during air travel has been identified”
— W.H.O

“the overall public health importance of such events [potential transmission of tuberculosis during air travel] is negligible” — A.T.S., CDC, I.D.S.A.

Three weeks before our scheduled Embassy Visa appointment for her, the CDC implemented their new guidelines in Ethiopia and a few other countries only. If Marta were from China, India or Russia or any one of a hundred other countries, her negative sputum smears would be sufficient for the CDC, and the State Department would issue her Visa and allow her to travel. What is more, if we had given birth to her while living in Addis Ababa and she was now coming back to the United States with us for the first time, she would not be subject to any kind of screening at all. If she was coming on a student Visa, a work Visa, a visitor’s Visa, a diplomat’s Visa or any one of 50 other Visas she would be here now and also subject to no screening.

The injustice of this situation is compounded not only by the very questionable medical basis for subjecting her to it in the first place, when virtually every one of the other 300 plus passengers on any flight here from Addis Ababa is not subjected to any kind of medical screening and statistically at least one of them or more will have active tuberculosis, and dozens are likely infected, but the situation is further worsened by the Embassy’s false assertion that no one there has the authority to waive her CDC required two month long sputum culture test for any reason and the CDC’s Department of Quarantine assertions that no one there has the authority to direct the Embassy to waive the requirement since the CDC is only advisory to the State Department.

I had a long conversation this week with one of the head doctor in the Atlanta Office of the CDC Division of Quarantine who could not refute any of my above assertions, acknowledged the inconsistency with which this screening algorithm was being applied and even that the legally adopted minor child of US citizens was a very different “immigrant” than the general immigrant population for whom the Technical Instructions were written. Nevertheless, he also told me that they would not waive the testing requirement for Marta or anyone else and that they would also not process our I-601 medical waiver “for persons with Class A or suspected tuberculosis” on the technicality that until the two month test was over, her medical evaluation was still incomplete. If after the two months that the test takes, it came back positive, then we could use the waiver. This loop invalidates the use of this waiver; it negates it’s use.

My request for your help is two fold. First, please help us get this test waived by whoever has that authority and get my Marta, child of US citizens, home now. Second, please realize that many, many other families who have or are in the process of adopting orphans are caught in the same net since all children with positive HIV tests are also subjected to it and that an ultimate solution is to recognize these legally adopted children of US citizens, as “US citizens” when the adoption is finalized not after they have come to US soil.

I can supply copious medical documentation of the marginal impact of this sputum culture requirement on the importation of tuberculosis and the negligible or non-existent risks of infectiousness to travelers and our citizenry for persons who have received or are receiving treatment for tuberculosis and have negative sputum smear tests.

Please consider this letter with a mind to what is right and decent, and with the medical data supporting our case. If you are a father, please consider if this was your child and what you would do. Please help us bring our daughter home and change this policy for adopted children, our children.

Thomas L Gautsch, MD

>What’s the goal, really?

>As many of you know, our family is being held up in a bureaucratic snare. A trap, a mill…call it what you will. We are coming to think of new terms for it. We will admit, we are frustrated.

We are receiving the run around, ever so politely expressed, but that is what it is. Our inquiries, indeed, the inquiries from senator’s offices even, are being punted back and forth like a football: “We are not in charge of that.” “They oversee this decision.” “That would be the __(fill in the blank: CDC, State Dept, Health and Human Services)_____ domain.”

And so it goes, no one wants to own this, no one wants to really look at it and see what is being said.
And really, we have decided, that no one really wants to look at what is not being said.

So we will. It is not politically correct. I don’t care anymore.
Everyone has said, “It’s not personal, please understand.”
I beg to differ.
It is very much personal, and I don’t understand.
Not at all. Or, actually, I think, we do all too well.

Let me back up. This is the quick summary of the trap: The US CDC has determined to put in place screening measures for all immigrants for tuberculosis. This sounds like a reasonable and reasoned, thoughtful measure. Until you start examining the data. And you realize that most first world countries do not do this, rather, they screen immigrants once they have arrived. And then, if needed, they treat them.

However, our country has decided that the rates of TB have risen enough that they need to do something. And so they have put in place sweeping protocols to screen for tb. Our country has decided to screen immigrants before they arrive on our shores. These are called the 2007 technical instructions. The problem is, these do not outline what to do if a person already HAD tb, and had already been treated. [The 2008 technical instructions for immigrants already in the US expand on the 2007 and they point out that any person who has already been treated, does not need screening, and in fact, may travel freely.] Therefore, any person wishing to come to the U.S. must have a clear skin test, or chest xray or 8 week sputum culture. Period. That sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?

Does it?

What is this really?
Dare I suggest, this is a case of “other.”
Us. Them.
We are here safe and sound in our country. I believe this is a protective measure, but misplaced. I love my country, don’t get me wrong. But ‘they’ are there, and we don’t know what ‘they’ have that might hurt us. And so ‘they’ have to be screened, and kept there until we are sure ‘they’ are “ok,” right? Right?

Do they? What’s the goal? What does that mean?
Is this a measure to lower the levels of TB in our country, only? Is it a measure to lower the levels of TB in other countries? Or is it to keep out risk, or those who are “other?” Is this a question of comfort? Are our levels of comfort being challenged? Well, I think so. This screening is not being done, for instance, on European immigrants, nor Chinese, nor East Indian.

Should children, any of them, of American families, be swept under this measure?

The reason I question all this is because this policy is being applied to kids, without seeing them as individuals, each unique. Kids. It is not being applied foreign temporary workers, not students, not most of the immigrants who arrive on our shores: adults who can easily slip into the system and disappear. This policy, in our particular case and others too, is being applied in broad sweeping strokes to kids. Our kids. Our Ethiopian kids.

Hmm. Look closely. Who are “they?” Are they dangerous to us? Really? Is their goal to come into the country and infect us all? Or to milk the system and our resources? I don’t think so. These kids have one goal: find a family. Find a safe place and a home. That’s it. Do we need to think of these kids as a threat somehow to us? Um, no. Are we at risk from them, these children, really, are we? No. The data supports that. Coffeedoc is more than happy to provide it to anyone interested. The CDC should be too.

This is Christmas dinner at the government orphanage where my daughter lived. This is what
they had as a special celebration feast. Hard to get better, if you DO have tb or any illness on that diet, don’t ya think?

If we were really screening for TB as a matter of compassion and concern for health, wouldn’t the answer be that if you found TB, you would bring that kid home to their family so they could be treated swiftly? Really? Or is it better to leave that child who has a family here, there, alone, sick and scared where they can’t even get the proper nutrition to support the medicine?

We have been told that the CDC is trying to keep our communities, our family, the population at large, ‘safe’ from infection. Um, really? Because on that plane coming home, it’s almost exclusively a population that has been walking around being exposed to all sorts of viruses and infections, utterly unknown in type or quantity. How does letting a child who has already completed treatment for TB keep that community ‘safe?’

I know. You are rolling your eyes, thinking, “she’s on a rant.” Maybe.
But I am tired of this.
This is a stigma.
There is a stigma against scary words and labels: “HIV+” “TB” “Immigrant” “Virus.”
I’m tired of the stigma, of wondering if I can say that my daughter had TB.
Well, she did.
My daughter had TB. She was treated for it, successfully.
She’s over it now.
But they won’t let her come home, because of arbitrary, political, well meaning but misapplied protocols.

But look closely, just below. These aren’t adults. These are children. Our children. This is their Christmas dinner, again. Do they look like something we should fear, somehow?
Are they, really, “other?”
So, I am asking again. What’s the goal, really?
Is it to help with compassion, to help find and treat a treatable disease? Is it to help lower the rates of this worldwide, as the world leader our country is and should be? Is it to help these children be united with a family? Or is it, to somehow attempt to protect, ineffectively, “us.” I’m asking. What’s the goal?

>Adoption and Counting

>One of the little known facets of adoption is the whole counting thing.
It is found with all types of adoption, domestic or international.
But the international counting gets a little more obsessive, I’d say.
There is counting everywhere you turn (and NO not only for those of us compulsive controlling types, we all do it, I took a poll).

You count the paperchase, each step in it gets its own countdown.
You count the months from dossier landing, anticipating a referral.
Once you get a referral you count the weeks until court, then the weeks to travel.
Then the days to travel count down.
Then you count the days you are in country.

Of course, if you are just a really laid back kind of person, or really detached in the spiritual holiness sense, then you don’t count. You just live in the present moment.
Good for you.

I’m not that holy.
I count.

I even count the hours ahead, eight, of the time each day….kind of checking in, figuring out what she’d be doing now.
Don’t judge me, I can’t help it.

But today, as I was out trying to make a dent in the elfin duties of the season, another sort of counting was rattling in my brain.
I was counting kids.

I am often asked how many kids I have.
This often happens when I show up with a towering cart at the market or when I am shopping for stocking stuffers and buy in gross.
Like today.

And so today I was thinking, what do I say?
How do you respond to that when you are in the process limbo?

To the observer, when I am buying in bulk or when I have all the kidletts -big and small – in tow, I am sure they must think the number looks something like this pic, below.
Yeah, two of those are officially mine. Front and center, the cute ones.
And I can go all philosophical on you and say, that pic is from World Youth Day in Cologne, they are all my children, as a mother in this world I care about them all.
But that would be too flip.
And nauseating.

But really, how do I answer that?
I could say I have seven children. Count the bouncy balls in my cart: seven.
But then am I short-shrifting “M”, so far away?
Will that somehow resonate across the globe?
Somehow, oddly it feels like it does.
But then again, the process can make you a tad hyper-sensitive too and I don’t want to overstate (for a change, but I will, I can’t help it).
And so, if I follow that, I say “I have eight children.”
Then it too, feels not quite there.

Because while on this side of the world we’ve been given the ok and it’s almost a formality that she is our daughter….on the other side, in Ethiopia, it is very much not a done deal.
And it could go wrong.
It’s happened.
Until the court says she is our daughter, can I claim her?
Can I?

I have in my heart and head and energy and effort. I’ve taken the hits of scorn and derision.
I have fought for her.
And I have prayed for her, and do, every day.

But until it’s official in her country and culture and legal process, can I boldly, baldly say, “I have eight children?”
I think so…
But then again, I almost always feel like I need to clarify – we are waiting for court, so we can go get her…bring her home.

So, I think the only way for me to do this is to count.
And I count eight.
Eight children.
I have eight children.
Because she is mine already, part of the fabric of me and us.
And if, God forbid, something unthinkable happens I will still have eight children, I will simply be torn from one.
And the controlling freak part of me wants to push through the counting, shorten it all, because I have claimed her and so it only makes sense that we go bring her to us.
Then she can claim us too.

And we can count, together. A new kind of counting, forward and infinite.

And I bought her a stocking today anyhow, just because. I counted.

>Adoption. Why? Ever? Now?

>Today I sat with Gabe. And for a long time, I held him. And I kissed his head, like this. Like I did when we were in Addis Ababa. When he was just learning, from scratch, that I was his mom and that I would be there – no matter what, forever.

And I had the time to think.

It’s National Adoption Month. A month dedicated to raising awareness of adoption. And in one quick way, that makes me laugh because just by walking into a restaurant, my family raises awareness of adoption! And maybe not always as the best reps, if we are having a bad day, eh?

But as I said, today, as I had time to hold and comfort and kiss my baby boy, as he recovered from a small procedure, I had time to think about the whole concept: adoption, National Adoption Month and the whys of it all. Coffeedoc too was with me and we had time to talk around this, one more time.
Obviously, adoption is a topic dear to our hearts. And the concept of raising awareness through a month dedicated to it is a grand idea. Typically it is fleshed out and presented as a (falsely) ‘noble” thing or a great service to waiting kids, another option for unplanned pregnancies. And that is all good. This month of PR gets the faces of kids out there into the media and world of the forgotten ones, the ones who just need a family.

But, the high concept begs the smaller question.
Not why in the big societal picture (that’s still big question ‘why’).
That is well documented and presented.
But, smaller:
Why? Why me? Why you? Why now? Why ever?
Why bother? Why risk? Why struggle, spend, split open your life?

And as I smelled his head and felt this sweet boy’s weight in my lap, breathing easy and still deeply sleeping, I thought about why adoption is so important on a small intimate level. I thought about one of the real deep reasons “why” for me.

Because raising these kids, loving them, working for them, fussing at them, doing for them, breathing in their smell at the top of their head as they sleep is everything.

It saves me.
It saves me from myself.

When I am doing it right, and that is really not nearly often enough, adoption, the mothering, saves me from myself.
{It’s almost a prayer: “Save me from myself O Lord!”}

And that’s a good (ok, it’s critical)enough why, for me, for now, for ever.