Saturday, December 30, 2006

There really are no words....

to adequately reflect on the year that is rapidly coming to a close. I will try my best to take a stab at it. I think that it is an important thing to do both to document what 2006 has meant to our family and to take stock of our lives and move forward into the coming year.

If you take a look back at most years you will be able to see what the high points and low points were and of course all of those routine days that do not seem to make an impact at all. I think the funny thing about those routine days are that they really are the meat and potatoes of your life. Of course we had huge highs:

Seeing our daughters face on referral day.

Finding out that the timing was so perfect that our son could accompany us to China.

That same son's college graduation two days before leaving for China.

The day that we finally received the gift of our second child.

The day that we officially became a family of four

and the amazing trip to the country of our daughter's birth.

The Lows:

Witnissing Katie Starr's terrible grief in China and beyond.

The terrible economy that has left my real estate business in very sad shape.

The terrible stress that we all endured due to the above two mentioned lows.

Allowing the stress to manifest in illness.

Losing our dog Buddy to Kidney failure a week before leaving for China.

The Routine Days:

Katie Starr progressing day by day in subtle ways at first and then in big giant leaps in her true attachment to us.

Learning all about the newest member of our family on a daily basis.

Seeing Justin daily with his little sister (who could literally be his daughter) He is wonderful with her and shows great devotion to her.

Being the parents of an adult child and a toddler at the same time is awesome and challanging - have to keep reminding myself daily not to treat Justin like a baby...LOL

Hanging tough with my father and trying to find new ways to keep our 32 year old family business thriving during the toughest fourteen months of our history.

Meeting and spending time with family and friends as much as possible. We had great opportunities this year to really get to enjoy lots of fun times.

Seeing the real happiness that Katie brings to her grandparents and extended family. It is amazing and we are so blessed

and finally the day in and day out friendships that have come from our adoption journey via our FCC Group and the internet. We have met people that we know will be in our lives for many years to come. Add this to the wonderful friendships that we were already blessed with and we have quite a full life indeed.

The routine days by far are absolutely what our life has truly been about this year. Of course the highs and lows were dramatic and make for unbelievably vivid memories but it is in the routine days that will allow us to take stock and see how blessed we truly are and gauge how far we have come. I am crying tears of joy as I write this because I truly feel that it was such an amazing year and even as amazing as it was we have the opportunity to love, grow and learn even more in 2007.

From our family to yours; we wish you all a happy, healthy and prosperous 2007. We cannot wait to find out what is in store for us and for you!


Lori, Marc, Justin and Katie Starr

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Some Holiday Pics

Let me try this again...

I tried to post this yesterday but Blogger again was giving me fits. I may have to move my blog to a different blogging site so that it will be easier than this.

OK, now back to regularly scheduled programming :)

Here are some pictures from Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. On the eve we went to our Friend's Heidi and Dominick's beautiful new home. They prepared a traditional Italian feast which was awesome. They are wonderful cooks and even better hosts. They made us feel like family and they had a ball with Katie. She enjoyed herself immensely as well.

On Christmas Day we had about 15 people over the house. Again, a good time was had by all. The day ended with everyone watching a DVD that Katie received as a gift from her Auntie Kira - Big Bird Goes to China. I wish I had taken a picture of this room full of grownups (several in the 65-85 range) watching a Sesame Street Production. it was too sweet for words.

The holidays were wonderful for us and I hope that all of yours were wonderful too.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Our Starr has been named again

Katie Starr had her Jewish naming ceremony today so our sweet girl now has her third name.
Here are Katie's three names:
Chinese name: Wu Hong Shan
American Name: Katie Starr Hongshan
Hebrew Name: Kayla Shaina
Kayla is the name of Marc's great Grandmother. Everyone called her Katie and she was very beloved in his family. In Jewish tradition you name a child to honor the dead. It took us all of one minute to name our Katie for this sweet woman. It truly was a no brainer.
Shaina mean beautiful in Hebrew as Shan does in Chinese. Between that and the "S" for Starr it was the perfect second name for her.
We had a very small ceremony at the house. I had prepared something to read during the ceremony and I melted into a big pile of mush. I am not normally a public cryer but I was speaking about the future life of our daughter and the tears started flowing. Justin walked up next to me and put his arm around me and read a poem for the occasion. The tears really flowed then. It is so true that being a parent means that your heart walks around outside of your body for the rest of your life.
Today was truly a special day for us. We named our daughter in Jewish tradition with our closest family and friends at our side. To top it off; Great Grandma Katie's sister Cele was there to see her sister honored in this way. Like I said; it was a truly special day.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Adoption is not for the faint of heart

I have been thinking of writing this post for quite awhile but have been hesitant to do so as the main purpose of my blog is to keep family and friends in touch with our newly expanded family so I usually keep it on the light side. I think what I have to say is important though so here goes.

Blogging and other such websites like mine have proliferated on the web exponentially to the point where there is seemingly no end to them. When I started the process there were websites to view but not anywhere near in the numbers that exist now. It just goes to show you that people seek information and camaraderie via the Internet in huge numbers. They do this through not only websites but also listservs. I own and moderate some of these myself. I know that many of these people; my fellow adoptive parents, view this blog quite a bit as my counter tells me so. It is for this reason that I share with you my view of our adoption thus far as well as the adoption of my friends that are willing to share their experiences with me. There are so many people that will never share the reality of adoption in general and international adoption in particular. They do not want to scare prospective adoptive parents while they are waiting for the arrival of their child. Some of them feel that it is like "airing their dirty laundry". I disagree with this approach. If I had heard a little more of what to expect at least I would not have felt so at a loss and ill equipped.

In a nutshell: Adoption is not for the faint of heart

This is a phrase that came out of my mouth during the early stages of this process and continues to do so to this day. Now don't get me wrong; when I speak this phrase or even think such a thing it is not due to the fact that I regret for one minute the addition into our family of our precious daughter. Quite the contrary!! It has definitely been the one of the three best conscious decisions I have made so far in my life. It is right there with the decision to conceive my amazing son, Justin and the decision to marry and share my life with my wonderful husband Marc. When I say that it is not for the faint of heart I mean that beginning with the paperchase, the long and grueling wait, the addition of a child into your family under extraordinary circumstances while in a foreign country, the transitioning of that child into your life and your family into hers and the ongoing attachment and bonding it takes great heart and stamina to do it well. If all of this is done with the best of intentions, self education and lots of support it is still not easy; not by a long shot.

I had this discussion with a woman whom I have grown to care very much for that just completed her adoption and has recently come home from China. She is already an experienced mother but is now navigating through the rude awakening that is the early weeks of this transition. As we spoke yesterday it brought it all back to me; the knowledge that you waited and waited with such anticipation and then you come home to a child that you feel that you have prepared for in every way humanly possible to find out that you can never prepare for the emotional issues that you are faced with. The sleep deprivation, the real world slapping you in the face after the referral and travel honeymoon period has passed. The struggle to bond with a child that rejects you. My friend has not experienced that particular issue but we certainly did. As I have mentioned previously on this forum, Katie was very bonded to her foster family in China and was turned over to us in her sleep. She really wanted very little to do with us after this very rough start. I struggled greatly with the day in and day out rejection. It was not necessarily rejection that the brand new parent would see but I saw it very clearly being an experienced mother. I remember the early days going to get Katie in the morning; greeting her with so much excitement only to find her almost expressionless. I remembered 21 years before to my son's excitement and joy at seeing me in the morning. It would break my heart at the disparity between the two experiences. Marc thought all was fine but I knew what "felt" normal and this was not it. It became so difficult to greet her each morning with the same excitement knowing what I would be facing. For the first couple of months she would not allow me to hold her close while sitting down without pushing away. She would reach for strange women randomly which is called "mommy shopping" and is a somewhat common behavior that fostered children display when not attaching properly. There were lots of little signs that all was not right with Katie's world and therefore our world. I searched for answers and finally got the really smart idea to call my social worker who gave me some concrete ways to move our attachment and bonding along. These were suggestions that are in any good book on attaching in adoption but she gave me clarification as to how to implement them properly with our daughter. Our SW also gently reminded me that while we had waited for this child for 18 months that she had not waited for us at all and that her trauma was very real. That even under the most ideal circumstances if there is such a thing, there is no escaping the very abrupt way that our children are turned over to us in their county of birth. There is no warning for infants; they just lose all that they have come to know; it does not matter whether it was ideal or not; it was their life. In addition to that, some children come with no ability to attach due to little nurture as well as unmet needs and some come like our daughter did with the ability to attach but with no immediate desire to. Add this potent mix to the sharp dose of reality that is coming back to real life during and right after traveling home and you can have a the mix for a case of Post Adoption Depression (PAD) ; a very real issue that afflicts many adoptive parents.

I did not experience PAD but there were many days that I truly thought "what did I do?" my life had been so easy with my grown son and happy marriage. Thankfully, with a great deal of perseverance and support when I needed it most we were all able to come through those first couple of months with a much greater understanding of Katie Starr and ourselves. It has been reported to me privately by many mothers that real depression set in for them and that they too wished that the veil of silence between mothers would be lifted for the good of us all. I for one cannot stay silent and want to reach out to other mothers and fathers who would just really like to know that they are not alone in the feelings that they and their children are experiencing.

I am happy to say that our life is so much richer because of this child. She has made such huge emotional strides and is truly a happy girl and getting happier by the day. She has taught us so much about the human spirit and true perseverance. This spirit is amazing and is alive in well in our daughter. We have grown in many ways ourselves. Marc, Justin and I have exercised patience, maturity and unconditional love to levels that we did not know in our earlier life before Katie Starr. Life is not perfect as it never was nor will be but who needs perfection when you can have all of the wonderfully messy things that love brings to your life. Katie has been such a gift to us that as you all know we have begun the quest for her sister or brother. We know that again there will be transition issues to deal with as well as potential sibling issues but we hope that our experience will help to navigate those hurdles that we are sure to deal with again. Someday soon we will also deal with the potential fallout that may come due to her coming to terms with her personal story and her life with us a transracial family.

Adoption is not for the faint of heart but we now know how strong our hearts really are and how much love flows from them to the children that we love so dearly. We look forward to the day that our little family is finally complete.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The Pictures and Video that I promised

I was lucky enough to have my computer fixed and all of my data including my pictures were fine. Here are a few highlights as promised:

Katie always enjoys a good meal and she got one at the Bat Mitzvah that we attended

Cousin Barbara, the Bat-Mitzvah's Mom with Katie

Katie and Daddy on the dance floor

Friday, December 01, 2006

My sis-in-law Robin and I at the family Bat Mitzvah

My handsome son

Katie's "Honorary Grandma" The Famous Aunt Shirley and her husband Paul, daughter Mindy and son-in-law Steve.

Marc's Uncle Ronnie and Aunt Mary with Marc and Miss Starr

Hey Justin; do you mind if I use your back for my keyboard?

Three cousins (Marc's brother's sons Matt and Josh with Katie Starr)

This Florida girl is a little bundled up

Daddy and daughter facing the NYC cold together

In front of The Tree at Rockefeller Plaza

Skating Rink at the Same Location

Excited in Times Square!

Resting up before Thanksgiving Dinner

Our Handsome and Brilliant Nephew Sam

Our Sweet Girl

A Couple of Videos

This video was taken at Cousins Mindy and Steve's house during our trip. Katie was definitely our entertainment

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After we came home Katie entertained us a little more

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