Thursday, June 25, 2009

The questions begin in earnest... UPDATED 6/26

Since the very beginning, we have had a certain background dialogue running about adoption for both of our children. During those VERY early moments when we first adopted them, the one sided dialogue was mostly for our own sake. It is a lot easier to discuss the tough things in life with a little practice under your belt, if for no other reason than it helps make it sound more natural the more you talk about it. They both know that they are adopted and that they are from China. Katie went with us at 2 1/2 years old to adopt Ethan, so that made the idea a bit more concrete for her. As far as they both know though, all babies come from China, are adopted and come home on an airplane. Of course, they are still too young to talk about the really tough stuff like abandonment, birth parents, orphanages, foster families as well as the circumstances in China or other such possibilities, but I can see that is coming down the pike just a bit more quickly than this mama would like it to. It breaks my heart to think about busting my children's bubbles or to see the look on their little faces when it clicks that there was another woman who carried them and gave them life but that woman is not their mama. Katie and Ethan's stories are very different but the end result is the same. They both needed parents and we wanted children.
Katie will be the first to get the story. She is pretty far ahead of Ethan in terms of cognitive development and she is beginning to ask lots of questions. The questions that she asks though are still full of wonderment and without a means to an end. She has no frame of reference to know where she is going with her line of questioning. She is just at the stage where questioning is her main vocation in life and she does it quite well.

These are the questions of late...

"Who came to get me when I was adopted in China?"

"What did you do the day that you adopted me?"

"Did I cry like a baby?"

"Did you love me when you adopted me?"

"Did you hold me like a baby?"

"How big was I when you adopted me?"

"Did you rock me in a rocking chair in China?"

"When I came home where did we live, this house or our old house?"

"Why wasn't I with you when you married Daddy?" They both are totally into the fact that Mommy and daddy are married and love to watch our wedding video but are quite upset that they were not there but Justin was.

"Was Justin your baby too?"

"Was Justin born in China?" This is where it starts getting a bit tough.....when I tell her that Justin was born here in the United States she asks....

"Was Justin in your tummy?" She bursts out laughing and tells Ethan how funny that thought is. She never asks me if she was in my tummy. I am not sure if really deep down she figures out that if she comes from China and Justin does not, then maybe she was not in my tummy. Probably a long shot on that one and more about the fact that she has not gotten developmentally from point A to point B.

That last question has brought about daily discussion of those themes over and over. She likes repeating back to us that we are a family and we are forever in each others hearts.....She also expresses her love to us quite often; sometimes I wonder if that is partially to reinforce in her own mind that we love her as much as she loves us.

Our FCC Chapter recently had a children and family counselor speak about these adoption issues as well as development issues of all children. Her basic advice resonated with me. Do not offer any information that is not requested. If you lay the groundwork then they WILL ask the tough questions when they are ready to receive the information. If they do not ask then they are not really ready. Don't give them information that they are not ready for. I can see how true that really is.

Katie is the most sensitive of souls and I yearn to protect her and her brother. As each day moves into the next, I welcome the evolving nature of their childhood and at the same time dread that same process that will strip them of their innocence as they learn the real reasons that our family is forever. In order for that to happen they first had to suffer the loss of their birth family and subsequently, the country of their birth. I pray daily that we live up to the huge responsibility that has been set before us and that our children know peace in their hearts as they begin this journey of realization that they are embarking upon.

Update 6/26:

Today the questions went a bit further…gulp.

My mom came over today and Katie told my mom what I had said about the fact that Justin was in my tummy. "That’s not true..right?", she asked her Nana. I piped in that it is true that Justin was in my tummy and that babies live in tummy’s before they are ready to come into the world. Mom, of course agreed with me. She then said..

”How can that be Mommy…there is no door to get out!?!”

She started immediately talking about something else so we just moved on as well with me and my mom shooting looks at each other across the table...sheesh! Lord knows, I really do not think she wants to know about that door yet!!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Fun in the Sun and Surf!

Last weekend we made an impromptu decision to head to the beach; something us locals do not do as much as you would think. We met Grace and family as well as Lisa and her daughter, Lauren and commented to each other about why it is we do not come more often. We will definitely make it a few more times over the summer. The kiddos had a blast!!

Here are a few photos of our fun in the sun!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Patching Progress for Our Pirate Princess (Say that 3 times fast!)

There is excellent progress to report due to Katie's eye patching. To recap her situation, Katie's left eye is 20/80 corrected to 20/20 and her right eye is 20/200 and had been corrected to 20/60 but had recently started deteriorating to 20/80. The Opthamologist prescribed patching the good eye to force the bad eye to start working a little harder. After 7 weeks of patching we have brought the right eye to a corrected 20/60 and 20/40 on one line of vision. Whooohoooo!

The Doctor has asked us to up the amount of patching from 6 hours a day to 7-8 hours a day. He was very happy with the results and wants to get a greater correction. We have many months of patching to go (if not more) and there will be some lens prescription tweaking along the way as well. We are looking to get it to it's best point and then plateau for awhile until we are able to wean her from the patch.

Katie has been such a trooper. She asks us periodically if she has to still wear it but she never complains about it. It is hard for us because we notice that her bubbly personality fades a bit while she has it on and she withdraws. Who can blame her? No one at all! It is such a disorienting feeling to have one eye patched and it is very unpleasant. Try it yourself to see by patching one of your eyes. It really does suck and hers is worse as it is her bad eye that is uncovered so she cannot see very well out of that eye either. She is such a mature girl for her age and we are so proud of her. We also know that we are working towards a good end and are so excited and happy with the results so far!

Here are a few recent pics of our Pirate Princess!

Our Pirate Princess

Close up activities are very good to strengthen the eye during the patching. Katie loves puzzles so this has been a good way to get the job done.

Cutie pie

They were watching a show about how Tootsie Rolls are made....they are obviously really into this show :-)

Katie loves her her brother so much and the feeling is quite mutual. I know Katie looks quite solemn in these pics, which is what I was trying to explain in the post. She withdraws with it on.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009


Today, we had our IEP meeting for Ethan. For those that are not in the know about that particular acronym, it stands for Individual Educational Plan. I have been attending IEP meetings for the past almost 20 years; first with my son Justin who was a gifted child and now with Ethan who has developmental delays due to his early health issues as well as his institutionalization in an orphanage with less than stellar living conditions. Both children's learning was (Justin's) and will be (Ethan's) guided under what is considered exceptional student education.

Even though my two boys have fallen under that "exceptional education umbrella" for two very different reasons, in my heart I know that both have amazing gifts that will bring them far in this life. Justin has just finished his second year of law school and will be entering his final year in the fall...he is finally in the home stretch and we are so excited for him. He is about to enter his clinic (internship) in an area of law that he feels drawn to and excites him. He is also seven months away from his marriage to Judy. This is a very exciting time of life for him.

Ethan is just beginning his educational journey and I must tell you, his first year could not have had a better outcome. He has not only met but he has exceeded the goals that the educators had for him. It would not be an understatement to say that he has blown them out of the water!! This has been awe inspiring as our little man came to us in pretty sad shape. He was emaciated, had severe oral defensiveness to the point that his primary nutrition at 2 years 4 months came from a bottle, had tremendous gross motor delays, no speech to speak of and sensory integration disorder. He is now a robust, strong, non stop talking "mischief man" who loves to eat and is a joy and a love beyond measure. He can drive us to distraction with all of his antics but as far as development goes, he is doing wonderfully. When we first arrived home and had him assessed in 11/07 he was about a nine month old in terms of development. When we entered him in the PLACE preschool program through early intervention, his teacher estimated him at less two years developmentally, even though he was over three and now the teacher estimates him as pretty much spot on for his almost 4 years of age. Her exact words were that she has some "fine tuning" to do next year but that she has no doubt that when he enters kindergarten he will be able to hold his own quite well there.

I am humbled by this child's courage and tenacity. Of all of life's gifts, I believe that these two are attributes that brought him to this point and will allow him a brighter future than even our imaginations could have ever dreamed of for him when we first adopted him. I am very thankful to his wonderful teacher and the entire exceptional student education department at his school.

Last but never least, is our Katie who is a very bright and sensitive child. She is such a love and charms everyone that she comes into contact with. Yesterday, we got her report from Preschool and she has mastered every skill level with no exception. The teachers described her year as "wonderful", her attitude as "participatory and very helpful" and very ready for 4 year old Pre-K. We are so proud of her!

I am one blessed mama. Justin, Katie Starr and Ethan; they each navigate the world in their own special ways and I know that all of them will reach their potential and find their life's mission.