Friday, July 31, 2009

An Orphan - Or Two! - Changed Our Lives

Warner Brothers recently released the horror film Orphan that suggests that it is more difficult to love an adopted child than a biological one and that orphans have something "wrong" with them (in the film, the adopted child ends up being a mass murderer). I find this offensive on so many levels it's hard to know where to start. However, this is not the first time I have been offended by Hollywood and it's certain not to be the last. Let it be said right here and right now that as far as this family is concerned, orphans are 100% lovable and worthy of love and they are every bit as "yours" as biological children. Our lives have been transformed by two little girls from the other side of the globe who have filled our home with love and laughter. Yes, our life is a bit more chaotic. Yes, we've made choices about trading certain things in our lives (sleeping in, having absolute freedom) for other things (four bright little eyes and two wild fros jumping in my bed with a big "Good Morning, Mommy!", the sound of little feet thumping on the wood floor as they race around the house) but our lives are richer for that decision - even on the tough days. If you have it in your heart to open your lives up to an orphan, God will do the rest. All it takes is being willing. We have never for one moment felt that our girls were not "our own", and they become more "our own" each and every day as we choose to love them and be a family. True, they are not the children born of our bodies and this was our choice. They are the children born of our hearts and that is what is most important. They were chosen. They are dearly loved. They are our precious children, our own. And that's that.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Kids Eat Free...Sort Of and I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here!

I fully recognize that it is bad blog form to write too much and to blather on beyond what your average reader really has the time to read or the interest in reading. However, I have come to just accept that as a blogger I write numerous posts over the course of several weeks and store them in my head until I can eek out enough time to actually write them out. What follows is really about 5 posts. Sorry. I also post too many pictures on Facebook. Maybe it's the overachiever in me. Feel free to read a bite or two now and stop back in later for another snack if I bore you or your kids start lighting the house on fire while you are reading.

We are in the midst of a fun and busy summer. Once again, I have been trying to get to the blog for weeks. Such is my life these days. I did have three delicious hours of freedom today though so I can't complain too much (thanks, Superdad!). In addition, my perspective has shifted somewhat in that I used to think "Wow, Mommy really has to take on more work than Daddy in this whole thing because Mommy is spending a lot more time with the Little Ladies." I now realize that this is a blessing more than a burden. My relationship with both girls has really grown in intimacy primarily because I spend a lot of time with them right now. I actually feel like Daddy sometimes gets the short end of the stick on this because he doesn't get to see them as much as I do. As much as I covet the rare quiet moments, I also find myself sometimes wishing they were still up once they've gone to bed because I miss them. That is a big shift for me!

Kids Eat Free...Sort Of

My latest "life in the trenches" story is one that I have been dying to write about since it happened a few weeks ago because it is such a classic Mamaland story. This summer, we have taken the girls out into nature on several trips. On our first big camping trip (yes, we stayed in a cabin but it had no bathroom and with two kids in diapers that is "camping" to me), we headed up to a beautiful spot in the Sierras. En route, we stopped at a ghastly IHOP restaurant in VERY small town for dinner (IHOP was pretty much our only option - certainly not a first choice for us!). The only redeeming factor was that we happened to be "dining" on a Kids Eat Free night. Because we ALWAYS run late now, it was dark by the time we were finally heading up the mountain on the long winding road to the camp. Little Bear was starting to pitch a fit so we pulled off the road and I gave her a bottle and brought her up to the front seat to try and soothe her. No sooner had she finished the bottle, did she proceed to barf the entire thing all over me and her and the entire front seat of the car. If you've never smelled raunchy IHOP-meets-regurgitated-milk barf, let me tell you - reeks. Eden's barf-o-rama mandated stripping down both her and me by the side of the road (I had barf down my shirt and all the way down into my pants...I know, TMI, but it helps to build background for the story) to remove the barfy clothing. This was then followed by trying to scrub the barfy front seat in the hopes of removing the odor as the car would have to have windows closed all weekend because of bears and it was to be a very hot weekend. Once we got Eden resituated and I had found something to throw on, we headed back up the mountain. We had been on the road for literally no more than 10 minutes, when we heard a very familiar sound from the back seat. We turned in time to see Big Bear wipe out the entire backseat - her clothes, her blanket, the carseat, the car door - with IHOP tastiness. This again mandated a beside-the-road stripdown and debarfing - I was at least not a participant this time - before we could head back up the mountain again. By the time we got there, it was almost midnight and I had the pleasure of washing out a very large pile of "extra chunky" laundry in the camp bathroom. Good times. My friend commented that I seem to have been barfed on more times in four months than she has been in four years. I think she may be right. So beware. When IHOP says "Kids Eat Free", you need to wonder why that is. At least we didn't feel bad about having paid for a meal that we got minimal mileage out of. The funny thing is that even when you have a smelly puke covered kid in your lap and you are absolutely exhausted, you are still really glad she is along for the ride. I guess that too makes me a Real Mommy.

My Own Parking Space?

Another thing that makes me a Real Mommy is that I have been in the pediatrician's office every week with some kind of really random toddler issue (including but not limited to a boil!) for one or both of the girls for the last FIVE weeks. I keep hoping for my own parking space but I have been informed that with kids my kids' ages - adoption aside, I'm not even in the top 10 list for Most Frequent Visits at the office. Davis reminded me that at least we are getting our deductible's worth this year. Most recently, Junia came down with a fungal infection that got secondarily infected with a bacterial infection which she then spread to her mosquito bites (from our camping trip) by scratching. On top of that she got a viral infection in a scrape she got from a fall while hiking. Fungal-bacterial-viral. Also good times. If you can believe it, the day after this diagnosis she woke up with pink eye. Thank God for antibiotics. She is fine now but it is scary to see what germs can do to a little body - especially one whose immune system is still on the mend from several years of malnutrition. I promise we do wash our hands but something isn't cutting it around here!

"Whoa, Nibbles!"
The girls have really been thriving as a part of our summer outdoor adventures. Eden is an amazing little hiker and often is in the lead running up the mountain. Junia is often our caboose because she is busy collecting rocks to put in her bug box, which she calls her "rock box". They love the outdoors and love learning about the animals and plants. On our recent trip to visit family out of state, Junia also got to ride a horse for the first time. She had been talking about wanting to ride a horse ever since we saw one on our first camping trip. On our second trip, we stayed at a family camp that offered horseback "riding" for toddlers on miniature ponies. Junia picked out the smallest horse named Nibbles and had the time of her life being walked around the trail on his back. She still talks about Nibbles almost daily. The other day she was alone in the bathroom (potty training is coming along...) doing her thing and I heard her shout "Whoa, Nibbles!". It was pretty hilarious. One thing a friend told me is that part of the fun of being a parent is experiencing things again for the first time through the eyes of your children. It was a neat - albeit unusual - experience for me to have so much fun watching someone else do something that I didn't regret not getting to do it myself.

Don't Forget Me!
It has also been so fun watching both of the girls' acquire language. They seem to learn random words every day. I find myself often thinking "I didn't know she knew that word!" The scary thing is also that your kids provide you with a mirror of yourself. You hear your own tone in theirs and realize they are imitating you all the time. That is sobering. Yesterday, we were headed to the car and I was carrying Eden with Junia following close behind. The door to the garage closed before Junia made it out. I put Eden in her carseat and went back for Junia. She looked at me with hands on her hips and said "Mommy forgot me! Mommy forgot Junia!" I had no idea she knew the word "forgot". I told her that I could never forget her or Eden because they are my girls forever. How true.

Weird Stuff
I also had my first "weird adoption encounter" this week. I'll preface this by saying that I have never had anyone - of any race - respond to our family in any way that has seemed negative. Some people have been annoyingly intrusive but never negative in their interactions with us. People have just been nosy and nosy is pretty harmless most of the time. This week was different. I was at the park with a friend who also has a daughter Junia's age from Ethiopia. They make quite the princess trio when the girls are all together. An older African-American woman came up to Eden and starting tossing a ball to her. I went over to Eden and stood by her as she played. The woman looked at me and then asked me if I was babysitting. I explained that these were my girls. She seemed confused because she asked me about my friend's daughter, assuming they were all sisters. I told her that the other little girl belonged to my friend and that these two were mine. She asked where they were from. I told her they were all from Ethiopia and she replied in a less than friendly tone, "Why did you have to go all the way to Ethiopia when we have plenty of babies here?" I was really thrown for a curve by that comment but I had been picking up on a bit of weird vibe from her anyway so I took my time responding. I told her that I feel that we are all called to minister to the needs of orphans in different ways and that for us, we were willing to open our hearts and our home to those who we perceived to be in the greatest position of need. I told her that while every orphan's need for a forever family is critical, children here in US foster care are not dying on the streets from malnutrition, lack of adequate water and medical care, etc. as they are in many parts of Africa. For that reason, among others, we adopted from Ethiopia. She had no reply and just looked at me and kept playing with Eden until I told the girls it was time to leave. She later told me that she "wished me luck" with the girls. My friend who was with us agreed that there was definitely a racial overtone to the conversation. My friend is African-American as well and told me that conversation would not have played out as it did if I were not white. So it was a weird encounter, and not my first I'm sure. Thankfully my experience "the weird park lady" has been an anomaly thus far. As with my previous Half-Mommy concerns, whatever the reason for the judgment of others, all that matters is what your own kids think at the end of the day.

"I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here!"
One final thought: Do you remember a really awful reality show called "I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here!" that was on several years ago? I never saw it but I read about it and thought how ridiculous it sounded. It was populated with B-list stars in compromising situations. Ironically, I sometimes now I feel like I am trapped in an episode of that show. Here's why. On an almost weekly basis, I hear the following comment: "Oh, hey, my (fill in the blank here - friend, mother-in-law, brother, accountant, etc.) saw you in (fill in the blank here as well - Trader Joe's, Old Navy, the post office, the doctor's office, etc.) the other day". I'm not sure what to do with the fact that I have become a bit of a B-list celebrity in my B-list town because I have two Ethiopian children. As much as I would die for an background part as a member of the Cullen clan in the next Twilight installment, I would make for horrible celebrity. I'm not a fan of people looking at me, talking about me, etc. - especially people I don't even know. I read in an adoption book that if you adopt transracially you need to be prepared for lots of staring and random comments. This part of the process has actually proved more challenging to me than dealing with toddler meltdowns, strangely enough. I'm sure God wants me to learn something from this - probably mercy, grace, compassion, empathy, this list goes on - but it sure makes you wonder who is telling your neighbor about watching you discipline your kid as she was getting lippy in Old Navy. I feel like I could give poor Jon and Kate some competition for cover space on a hometown version of US Weekly - if one existed. Sometimes I wish we could just be invisible when we are out and about as a family. Oh well, perhaps now that I'm a "celebrity", the Twilight producers might be interested in an adoptive Ethiopian mama vampire for the next movie.