Monday, December 5, 2011

Gonna Have a Green Christmas - Kenya here we come!

We are trading foggy weather in the mid 50's for rainy weather in the low 70's and a Santa less Christmas! Trying to get a family of 6 (and with 3 little ones) means frequent trips to the store despite having packed 3 weeks ago! I think the extra time just allowed me to think of one more thing that seemed a "necessity"! Nothing like having an allowance of 12 pieces of checked luggage to convince one that you must pack a box of cheerios because that is baby boy's favorite cereal and we may not be able to find some in Nairobi!

I don't know if I am not really worried about being in transit for 24 hours with the little ones because I am learning not to borrow tomorrow's troubles or because the kids are pretty good listeners. However, as usually happens, well behaved kids always pick those times when they have an audience to act up - and they will have a captive audience of a couple hundred travellers in a confined space! A friend who recently travelled from Austria with a 2 year old and a 3 year old advised me to have very low expectations and hope to be pleasantly surprised! I also have prayer warriors on high alert! Our plan was to travel on the same date with my sister and her family for extra help, but our schedules did not allow for this.

I am so excited to see the little ones' sense of wonder as they go on their first safari and big brother playing the guide with one safari under his belt. I am also excited to spend a Christmas without the distraction of so much commercialization and to be able to fully contemplate the reason for the season! I told the kids Santa does not visit Kenya and it did not even faze them one bit! I think sometimes we project on our kids what we think they want, but they are totally okay with no gifts and just spending the day eating and playing! The kids are totally excited and telling everyone they meet they are going to Kenya. I wonder what they will be thinking after 11 hours in a plane on the first leg with another 8 hours to go for the second leg after a 10 hour layover

Friday, December 2, 2011

No Parenting Awards for Me Today!

Yesterday was a parenting failure day. Big Brother normally gets to borrow books from the school library on Fridays. He started looking for his library books yesterday morning before school and he was getting upset thinking he had lost them. I did not remember seeing new library books this week and since they had a field trip last Friday, I assumed they had not borrowed any last week. Instead of taking the time to really listen to big brother who was trying to tell me they went to the library on Thursday because of the field trip, I simply decided I did not have time to deal with the tears and worry. I was more stern and impatient than I should have been and left him even more upset – nobody likes not to be “heard”. From my actions, it was obvious that my priority was to get to work a little earlier than to spend an extra five minutes being kind and empathetic. And for that, I let Big brother start his school day sad and I spent the rest of my day feeling like a failure and disappointed at myself. And also feeling like a total fraud because just that Sunday during lunch out, several people came up  to us telling us how impressed they were at how well behaved all the kids were and what a good parenting job we were doing!

The fact that big brother was right – I found the missing books later in the day – only served to make me feel worse. However, I used this as an opportunity to apologize to Big Brother and let him know that mommy sometimes messes up. Hopefully, seeing a person he thinks the world of humble themselves enough to admit they were wrong and apologize planted a seed in his heart. And precious boy that he is - his forgiveness was immediate and unconditional. I think of how many times the Holy Spirit convicts me and instead of humbling myself and asking for God’s forgiveness, I dig in and make all sorts of excuses and justifications. Hopefully, this is a lesson for me to be quick to take correction from the Holy Spirit so that I can delight in the freedom found in God’s forgiveness.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Evil + Silence = Murder of a Child

A picture of a starving orphan in Ethiopia will soften any heart and open up wallets during adoption fundraising efforts. But people meeting a starving former orphan who has spent a couple years in a middle class adoptive home in America somehow does not seem to soften the same heartstrings. At least not enough to make an anonymous call to Child Protective Services. If only one of the people who are now giving the police statements on the abuse Hana Grace-Rose and Immanuel Williams suffered had done so before Hana was murdered. And that a group of mothers would sit together with the murderer in the same knitting club and listen to her openly discuss her dislike for Hana and how horrible the adoptive children were , how she regretted ever adopting them and how Hana was made to stay outside amongst other atrocities. Not a single one of these mothers made a call to CPS. After the fact, none seemed too surprised and questioned themselves about the mom’s involvement in Hana’s death. Where were they when Hana was alive? Why didn't they speak up when they knew what was going on. Evil does not happen in a vacuum; mostly it is because good people remain silent.

Have we discussed ad nauseum the difficulties of raising older adopted children and painted ourselves as martyrs to be pitied that we get a pass when publicly mistreating our adoptive children? Has the pendulum swung so far that we have lost basic notions of love and kindness or are those notions not reserved for children from tough places? Where is the outrage from adoptive parents? Where is uproar over the injustices these two children suffered? Instead of revulsion and outrage towards parents who would treat any child the way Hana and her brother were treated, there is a rush to look for excuses for the parents and for books and people to blame.

Where are the voices of waiting prospective adoptive parents who were berating the Ethiopian government for the slowdown in Ethiopian adoptions? The actions of an evil couple are going to most likely make it an even tougher sell that Ethiopian children should be entrusted to American adoptive parents. I think it would be good for the Ethiopian government to hear loud and clear that all adoptive parents do not hold the same worldview as this couple nor the other adoptive families who watched the abuse in silence.

The police report reads like a horror story. The doctor concluded that HGW died from a culmination of chronic starvation caused by a parent’s intentional food restriction, severe neglect, physical and emotional abuse and stunning endangerment. May this not be the endnote of Hana’s life. Hopefully when we see a child being treated worse than we would allow a dog to be treated, may we not be so quick to give the parents a pass simply because they are raising a child from a hard place. A child’s very life might depend on it.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

A six month recap!

February – celebrate 3 kids birthdays and once again I am proud that I keep to my guns of no birthday parties or presents. Because Lord knows the kids have more than enough toys and it is an uphill battle to teach them gratitude when they have more toys than they know what to do with! This year we kept it very simple – a family dinner at a place of the kids’ choosing and cake and ice cream at home. After all you can eat pizza and a trip to MacDonalds, I think I am done with fast food for a while. But the kids are as happy as can be – the highlight of their day was blowing out candles! They did not stop talking about their birthdays for a month! Shhh… not letting them in on the fact that most American kids think it is their constitutional right to get tons of presents on their birthday!

March – celebrate daddy’s birthday and the daddy extraordinaire that he is, instead of a nice grown up dinner where he could eat good food while still hot, he opts to celebrate his special day at a place no one goes to for the food, but where it is noisy, filled with flashy lights, tons of kids and a big stuffed rat! The kids had a wonderful time and looking forward to daddy's birthday next year - we did get him a second dinner of his favorites! I am so thankful that the Lord chose him to be the father of our kids – he is a wonderful dad who loves playing with his kids no matter how tired he is and really enjoys spending time with them.

April – celebrate Easter and again skip the customary Easter baskets and instead focus on what Easter is really about! We did go Easter egg hunting and my little Ms. OCD took one look at the grass filled with thousands of easter eggs and got really upset that someone would make such a mess! She did do a good job cleaning up though! A new member joins our family – our sponsored girl in a Ugandan orphanage and we begin daily praying for her and praying that mommy and big brother might be able to take a mission trip to visit her next year.

May – a time to celebrate my role as a mom and oh what joy it is having a day where I don’t have to think about what’s for breakfast, lunch, dinner or washing dishes! And as an extra bonus, I got a week’s worth of laundry folded! What bliss! Enjoyed a marvelous lunch at a Pakistani/Indian restaurant and homemade cards and flowers from the chief.
June – celebrate another birthday and I am now mommy to a 7 year old! Where did the time go? Another trip for pretend fair food at a mini amusement park (which said 7 year old still does not know is recommended for 0-5 year olds)! But the kids again had a great time and birthday boy’s special day also coincides with a whirlwind visit from overseas friends and family and he gets to go on a Duck Tour in the City and is serenaded by the captain. This also marks the college graduation of the world’s greatest babysitter and we are happy as clams at the homestead! Mommy and daddy are happy that the kids are once again in excellent hands (she was with us 2 summers ago) and it also does not hurt that she is an excellent cook! Not looking forward to when she leaves for grad school, but in the meantime, everyone is dusting off their musical instruments and making some noise (she majored in music)! We also had big brother’s piano recital and he looked oh so serious! Celebrate father’s day and once again enjoy Pakistani/Indian Cuisine – I think this might be a family tradition. We don’t have to contend with crowds, long wait times or having to remember to make reservations weeks ahead of time. Daddy also manages a couple of trips to Universal Studios - sans mom who nfortunately has to work and misses out all the fun! We are able to do a few excursions to the beach and the kids are fearless around water - I really need to sign them up for lessons. Big brother was in our local swim team last year, but a pool that is not heated + early morning swim practice = a shivering boy who was not too excited to return to the team this year.

July – enjoy out town's Fourth of July parade, lunch with friends and fireworks at the park! I also sort the kids’ clothes and toys and clean up the garage. After spending 14 hours doing this, I am glad that we are in the "no more toys" phase! Large families on both sides + 4 kids + birthdays + Easter + Christmas = a house and garage filled with toys! Looking at the possible thousands of dollars spent on toys that we were giving away (and which the kids rarely play with and sometimes forget they have) I wish this was an ideal world where the money spent on the presents would be given in the kids’name to either a family adopting or an orphanage. We tried suggesting that last year without much success - the kids are well loved and I think adults get so much joy giving presents to kids feel like the children might feel cheated  if they don’t get presents! We have so many educational toys which cost a pretty penny and if there were all they were cracked up to be, I should be raising 4 Einsteins! The kids are very simple in their wants - give them a ball, some bubbles, some play clothes and mommy's tupperware and they are entertained for hours.  It is amazing how creative in play they are with just a few cheap items. We also enjoy God’s amazing creation amidst the California's redwoods on our annual family camping trip. The kids once again do amazing and have not stopped talking and asking about camping! Hoping I can rustle up the energy to do a quick weekend camping trip about an hour away.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Egyptian Crisis Through the Eyes of a 6 Year Old!

Big brother turned on the t.v. the other day to watch a cartoon and as luck would have it, the t.v was on a news channel and he inadvertently watched coverage of the demonstrations in Egypt. As he saw the "peaceful" demonstrators throwing stones at the police, he was so perturbed and exclaimed, "mommy, mommy, those bad guys are trying to kill God!"  Not sure I won any parenting awards, because I did not really explain the significant news story of the day that is even preempting coverage of congress woman Gifford's recovery and whose outcome is likely to change the world (though not likely in a positive way). I mean, after all these years of teaching big brother we always use our kind words even when we disagree, how do I tell him that tens of thousands of grown ups were using rocks and stones to make their point! And this was a reminder that I need to ramp up our religious education - never occurred to me that at 6 he did not know of the everlasting attribute of God! So, I took the easy route and only reassured him that God is everlasting and ignored the rock throwers!

Sidenote: Egypt is the country that makes me think I am losing my mind when I find myself in disagreements at the water cooler as I point out to seemingly knowledgable sounding co-workers that Egypt is in Africa. I get some pitying looks from some who will never even glance at a simple world map (even if it is to "prove" me wrong)! How the American educational system has failed us!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Political Correctness Run Amok - MLK Day

At four, big brother was finally let into the secret of different skin colors during an MLK celebration at his pre-school. I think that this is something that kids figure out in due time without our help and the irony was not lost on me that a celebration of Martin Luther King's life's work to teach that we are all created equal, Big Brother finally learnt that we are different. Now this is in a private pre-school so it was not as if there was some State mandate to teach this.

Fast forward two years later, and big brother's first grade class is treated to a movie presentation of Martin Luther King's assasination. Granted it is a cartoon, and maybe I am rather slow in feeding my six year old a diet of cartoon images of violence and death, but still I think it is a bit much. I think in our efforts to out do each other in how much we esteem diversity (never mind the fact that I live in a supposedly pretty liberal and diverse state, but where racial segratation is the norm in most neighborhoods) I think sometimes we forgo commonsense. I am having to fast track teaching my six year old about prejudice and hatred based on race because the public school system in its quest to be politically correct has introduced concepts that I think are a bit premature for six year olds. Kids can be pretty cruel on their own and in trying to find their place in the playground pecking order, I think sometimes in our politically correct world, we give them things to add to their arsenal. I am sure most four year olds leave alone six year olds do not intrinsically use race as a weapon in the pecking order wars, but I think adults introduce this concept, even when we think we are doing good. Not sure this is really what MLK fought for and died for.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Mental Retardation, Autism, PDD-NOS........

Just when I thought I had my mind wrapped around Baby Boy's autism diagnosis, I get thrown for a loop! We have been getting Baby Boy services based on his developmental pediatrician's provisional diagnosis of autism and the school district testing has all been geared towards getting an I.E.P in place to best address his needs based on an autism diagnosis. Today we had more testing with a psychologist from the Regional Center to determine if the Regional Center would continue providing services past age three. I may be totally reading it wrong, but it seemed like the psychologist came into the testing trying to discount Autism. The psychologist did not even know that we had been seing a developmental pediatrician (probably because she had not read his file - something she could have been doing during the 30 minutes we were waiting past our appointment as she chit-chatted with the receptionist).  She found the report after I pointed out it had been faxed months ago and she quickly skimmed through it before beginning the testing. The thing she immediately latched on was that the diagnosis was provisional - said that fact really helped her, but at the time I was not really sure why. The testing that had been scheduled for 3 - 4 hours only took 1 1/2 hours which included asking all the intake questions (that were already on his file) and also included the psychologist keeping up with her texting! Boy did she try to get baby boy to "pass" his test! She would get into his line of vision, loudly call his name and work totally hard to make eye contact! She also spent 20 minutes trying to get him to feed a doll. She does get an A+ for effort! When the test was completed, she told me he seemed to make good eye contact (any child would if you kept at it for almost an hour) and he had good pretend play skills! Wow, if someone repeatedly showed me and told me to do the same thing more than thirty times in a twenty minute time span, I am not sure that would qualify for good skills! She would ask qualifier questions to try to discount things that everyone has observed that fall on the autism spectrum. She then concluded the indications were more in line with mental retardation and the school district would best address his needs! Bottom line was she felt he would not qualify for Regional Center Services.

She could be a psychologist worth her title and a pretty efficient one at that that she takes less than 1/2 the time others in Baby Boy's team take to do the same testing, but the fact that she begun the testing already wanting to discount autism while others seem to be leaning in that direction and the fact that she contracts with the regional center and it would be in the Regional Center's best interests to get a diagnosis that they would not be obligated to pay for services makes me a little suspicious. That and the not comforting discovery while researching Mental Retardation that African American children are much more likely to get a mental retardation diagnosis while white children get an autism diagnosis when presenting with the same behaviors. Not sure if it is denial and I still want to hold on the the dream that baby boy could very well be an autistic savant sinces he occasionally dispays some flashes of brilliance. A mental retardation dx kinda puts a damper on that dream (never mind the probability of that actually being the case is practically nil - there are only about 25 known living autistic savants). But a mama can dream! Oy Vey!