Friday, December 31, 2010

17 years

17 years ago I was a 20 year old girl, dressed in a white gown and walking down the center aisle of  a church. I talked the entire way down that aisle, yes I did, and if you have ever met me, you will have no trouble believing that one.
17 years ago there was this 21 year old fella standing at the front of the church, waiting for me to just get there and take his hand.
For 17 years I have had this guy all to myself. It doesn't feel that long. They say that time flies when you are having fun. They are right.
Not every day is fun. Not every day is sweet and bright. Some of our days have been downright dark and difficult. But, we hold hands and we hang on.
I look at this picture and I think that I was never that young or thin or blissfully ignorant. But there it is. The proof. We both were most definitely that young.
Like Les said earlier, "17 years. And Counting."
I'll take it. I'll take every single moment that I can squeeze out of life.
I will absolutely take all that Heaven will allow.
Because this first bit has been a show stopper.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Kids Are Weird

I just walked by Ev's room and saw the strangest thing. All three kids were playing, but I have no earthly idea if it was three individual games or one big imaginative free for all.
Brev was in the little play tent holding a strobing pumpkin light and he was doing these 360 degree barrel rolls while chanting- kind of listlessly- "I wanna get out. Get me out. I wanna get out." Evelyn was in the middle of the room on all fours pretending to be the wolf from The Legend of Zelda and she was howling and howling and howling. Liam was standing just outside the tent, wearing blue fairy wings. He had a wand in one had and a foam sword in the other and he was repeatedly whacking the side of the tent all the while saying, "MommmmmmMommmmmMomMomMOMMMMMM".
 I simply crept away in fear and wonder.


Yesterday I decided that I wanted Brevin here with us for awhile. So I kidnapped him! Yes I did. I just looked at my sister and I said, " Can Brevin come home with me?" and I didn't really wait for an answer. I just sort of grabbed his hand and headed towards my car with him. You see we were at a family function about an hour away from both of our homes and I just couldn't bear to come home empty handed, so to speak. So you know, Brev was loaded into my car and we came here with only the clothes on his back.
I did have to run out and purchase some pj's for him because he is so tall now that NOTHING I have in this house would fit him. I didn't mind though because I had to run our for some emergency party supplies too.
And so there was playing that ranged all over the house. There was root beer and pizza, cookie baking, eating the cookies, a fire crackling away in the fireplace, hotdogs cooked over the fire, Christmas stories, Christmas music, found fairy doors, fire side pow wows,  tents to sleep in.... I sure hope he had fun. I know we did and I know that I would kidnap him again in an instant- even with a 4 a.m. wake up and a round of musical beds!

                         OH! And a random Billy Bone's picture just for the sake of catdom and beauty.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

We have also been....

Wearing fancy shoes......

Learning to drink from straws.....

Going to Christmas parties...

Torturing the cat...

Baking (aka playing is sugar)...

                                                   Eating Christmas cookies for the first time....

                                                                Braiding our own hair...

Driving boats across cold Northern lakes...

Friday, December 17, 2010


I wrote the previous post two days ago. And then there was a terrible reactive moment in the house, in my heart and in my mind. Then I left the kids with Les and I went and had some quiet time. And I prayed and I examined and I forced myself to take a deep, dark, long look. At myself. A look at this process.

The dreaded process of attachment. The process of growing love. And it was hard. In so many ways it was awful. I had to be open and honest with myself. This is really hard for me. I have no issue seeing right to the heart on matters that affect my family or my friends Also,  I will, without a by your leave, fill these folks in on what I think/feel/advise- sometimes bluntly and with little grace. I am terrible about providing the same service for myself. Very hypocritical - I know.

The Adoption Powers that Be, those "experts", the Advisors call it a process for a reason. It would be nice if we could just get our children with the emotional equivalent of cup a soup. You know, just add hot water and viola! But sadly, we Mama's have to work for it sometimes. And let's be clear, you start at square one for each kid. Just because I was at point 27,962 in my journey with Ev, did not entitle me to any "cuts" with Liam. Nope. Back to square one.

It feels awful to be in two different places with your kids. There is so much guilt for me on any given day but to feel as if one child is getting more and better parts of me and my heart? Well, that leads to crippling guilt. And I had a timeline in my head. A Jeopardy Tune rolling about in my subconscious, keeping time, marking the minutes and hours of this ethereal state of ....dum dum dummmmm....."The Process".

I was talking to Les and we came upon a startling realization. We were worse. Worse! Worse off than those first awkward, painful hard days in China. Time had rolled on and we expected to be this perfect shining new family. I mean, even though we thought we did NOT have those expectations, we did. Unrealistic, lightning quick expectations. And when we didn't meet those expectations, the guilt, the anxiety, the self doubt and resentment set in and started a downward spiral. Pleas see that I am talking about US and what we expected for ourselves. The one thing that I hold on to is that I/we have never really expected Liam to do the work of this thing.

I found myself out on a cold snowy night and in the depths of something ugly and dark. And I looked and I was able to see what went wrong. I had forgotten to grant myself permission.
Permission to struggle.
Permission to take time.
Permission to let things happen.
Permission to stop working so hard at getting things right.
Permission to stop comparing Liam's Mama to Evelyn's Mama.

I granted myself that permission.
Now my heart feels lighter. Now there is room. Some bad things were cleared out and now there is room for love to grow.
It's a difficult spot to be in. There is love for Liam already, heck there was from the moment I saw him playing with that broken truck in the middle of sweltering China. But that's not the love that I am talking about. That first love is the necessary love. The love that is there to incite you to make a commitment, to drag you through the routine of diapers and bottles and first moments and language barriers. The kind of love that Liam needs now is the deeper more permanent, all out love. I have learned that, that kind of love is so valuable and precious that it can not be rushed. It can not be expected to simply appear because we want it.

Just with the simple act of granting myself permission, I have found us in a new place.
I do not expect to sail from here into a bright a shining future. No indeedy. I know that there are still some hard days ahead- that's just parenting plain and simple. But hating myself a little less will certainly help.
I sat and remembered my journey with Ev and I realized that it too was long and bittersweet. Now I look back and I cherish every moment of us opening up to each other. I shouldn't try to rush things with Liam.
 There is a song called Song for You, written by Alexi Murdoch and there is this part that gets to right where I am:
So today I wrote a song for you 
Cause a day can get so long 
And I know its hard to make it through 
When you say there's something wrong 

So I'm trying to put it right 
Cause I want to love you with my heart 
All this trying has made me tight 
And I dont know even where to start 

Maybe thats a start 

We are about 5 months into a life long relationship. It IS the start. It's okay to take time. It's ok to be imperfect. He deserves the time. 

Unintentional Lies

I think I may have been blogging a seriously one sided look at what our life is lately.  It has been unintentional. For one thing I am never sure how to put the negative things into writing and do it while letting the good things peek through. I can't seem to strike a balance like these women....

Adoption is this:

The Beginning

Adoption is Hard

Honestly 1 year later

AND it's this

Three Months, Two Years and Forever

And every messy, and great thing in between. All mixed up and happening together in almost eery moment of the day. I can not even begin to link to the positive, loving, "we love this kid no matter what"posts in the blogs above because even though these Mamas have struggled, they have also loved and committed themselves. Go ahead, look at their blogs, read through just a few entires and it will be apparent that they love, LOVE those kids. Even when they feel like they don't, they are coming from a place of love, for sure.

Though, my daily truth is currently closer to that difficult end. There are these glorious golden moments when I can actually feel that love that is there and waiting and straining to grow, and I talk about those. There are the moments when I look at Liam and my heart seizes up and I know what our future with him will be, happy and full of love and I write a blog entry. Mostly though?
Mostly I feel alone and frustrated and resentful.
How can I say that?!?! How?!?! How can this be the reality of my emotions? I don't know, it just is.  My reality.
I worry constantly about what will become of us if I can't ever get to the place with him that I am in with Evelyn. I worry constantly about whether I was the right Mom for this kid.
And I know all of the things that go into a successful adoption. Meeting them where they are, time and more time. Patience. Understanding. Daily routines. Time. And did I mention time?
I see Liam. This little boy who is so sweet at times, who can rub my arm and smile up at me, he can wake up first thing and ask where Papa is, he will squeal and run to his sister. I also see a boy who can't quite believe that he has to try a bit to fit in here. I see a boy that will hit, scratch and claw at his sister for just walking by. I see him in public or with extended family being this perfect little version of himself and I wonder where that kid came from. I know it's not all him. It's not. It's me too. I am impatient and quick to judge. I want what I want for my family and I have a hard time getting into the trenches with Liam and staying there. I know now, more than ever that attachment and bonding is a two way street.
Quite frankly, I am the one having the most trouble.
And that doesn't feel good. And it doesn't feel Christmas-y. And it certainly doesn't feel Happily Ever After.
It feels hard and messy and dark and ugly.
It feels exactly like failure, as a matter of fact.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

What I Won't Say

It's December and that biggest, best most sparkly holiday is truly upon us. We have presents hidden all over the house, I have cookie recipes out and a baking list made up. A tree is softly glowing in one corner of the living room. I have Christmas cards ordered. We are getting ready for our first round of holiday visiting: Aunt Kathryn and Uncle Chris are headed our way tomorrow ( I sincerely hope that my cooking skills magically reappear before I cook for ClevelandKat ). I am just brimming with all kinds of emotions.

Let's just focus on the positive ones. OK? I mean I could talk about the adjustment/attachment/bonding issues that are on going here. I could complain about how much harder this second adoption was/is/shall continue to be. I could talk about how I am utterly disappointed in myself for not pulling the perfect version of me right out of the hat for Liam. I am not going to though. I am trying to make it through here. I want to enjoy Christmas and make is as magical and stress free as I can. So I won't say those things.

Instead I will tell you how cute Liam looked as he tromped through the snow, investigating pine trees at the Tree Farm. I will tell you how Evelyn's eyes sparkled and shined the entirety of Tree Day. I will tell you how wonderful it was to have the house full of that fresh pine smell and the piano tinklings of Vince Guaraldi. I will tell you that no matter how hard I find some things right now, the magic of Christmas and having this fat cheeked boy here with us, well, that simply outweighs all of the other stuff. I will tell you that I have no idea how we are going to get all of the presents wrapped and under the tree and have it all remain secret ( I don't even like Ev to see any wrapping paper!). I will tell you that I know when I am in the last moments of my life here in this realm, I will let my mind drift back and it will fall on remembering this Christmas and it will be one of the best that I have ever had.

Sunday, December 12, 2010


In the past two days, I have displayed a surprising lack of ...well of ..... thinking.
Let's see. Number one on the list is when I shoved the memory card for the camera into the cd slot on the iMac. Now we have to pack up said Mac and haul it into the store for the removal. This wouldn't be an issue I suppose, if Les wasn't down with a pulled back and could do the actual packing and hauling. So that was well timed- both the lower back sprain AND the sd card snafu.
Number two is when I accidentally took a double dose of my Avandia (sugar pill) and then also forgot to eat so I ended up at the grocery store, alone, with my vision getting dimmer and dimmer and all the while I was having these HUGE cravings for any thing with sugar in it. I purchased a few emergency items and when I got in the car I began to eat. And let me tell you it was not pretty. I must have looked like something out of a science fiction film! Like Species, you know?!?!
Last night I sort of forgot to change Liam's diaper before bed, so this morning's diaper was sodden.
I also broke my toe this week. I leaned down to speak to someone seated in a chair, bumped the chair and SNAP! - there went a monkey toe.
While cleaning off the truck's windshield this evening, I kind of stripped all of the rubber off of one of the windshield wipers.
And still I am having the cooking issues!

Les better make it off of the couch soon or the whole house might be down around our ears.

Christmas is under way here, it's all official with the tree and everything! I have pictures! It's just that they are literally stuck in he computer right now. ( boo hiss )

( I hope I don't forget and shove a cd into the cd slot on top of the camera card that's stuck in the computer. It's going to be close)

Friday, December 10, 2010

High Points

  • I went visiting the other day. I discovered that my Aunt Mickey's furniture is made of titanium because just sort of accidentally, barely kicking her chair will break your toe. 
  • My cooking and baking skills are on the fritz! Does this happen to anyone else? You just CAN NOT get any thing right in the kitchen for awhile? BUT it's Christmas and I want to bake and cook my heart out and I want it all to be scrummy and lovely for my family. I just seem to be messing everything up.
  • I think my house is lovely with soft Christmas votives glowing away in small corners.
  • We are going after the tree tomorrow. Ev knows this and will be up at the crack of dawn ready to go.
  • At the end of the month I will have been married to Les for 17 years. It feels like just yesterday....
  • The sight of two kids running about in Santa hats carrying stars and moose and bells, well there is nothing better. Nothing. There were two of them! Two kids in my house!!! At Christmas.
  • This time last year we were still struggling with paper work and wondering who our fourth person would be.
  • We will begin ST soon for Liam. He was assessed at a 6-9 month level. No surprise to me and the therapist was confident that we could get him caught up.
  • We all sat and watched Charlie Brown for the first time this season. I never get tired of that tradition.  
  • Also while visiting I remembered that my big, huge, loud, crazy family has some wonderful people in it. I also remembered that Aunts and Uncles and Cousins are among the most special people that you can have in your life.
  • My new addiction are these blueberry and acai berry things. They are covered in dark chocolate and I am eating them all day.
  • I get a bit sappy this time of year. It's true. 

Little Wonders

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This song was playing tonight as my children twirled and laughed and danced and spun about. I sat there in rapt wonder watching these two creatures that have inhabited every corner of my life and heart. As the snow was falling outside and making the world white and a bit dangerous we were here, wrapped in the light and warmth of our own little place in the world.
Tonight, watching my children dance, that was the only Christmas present I need. Because it's just these type of small moments that make me realize what in incredibly lucky woman I am. I see them there dancing and smiling and they look at me and I know what my life would be like if they weren't here with me. My two little wonders...

And yes, Liam is wearing blue fairy wings upside down on top of his monster pj's! Be thankful he's not in a tutu as well.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Today my Uncle David died. He was the youngest of my mom's three brothers.
I am not sure of the entire story yet, but the details do not really matter. My Uncle is gone.
I haven't seen much of him for years upon years. My military life keeps me moving and not always close to family.
But when I was a young girl? He was simply the coolest Uncle. I remember a tall, tanned, long haired young man in his prime. I remember the cool rock-n-roll music he listened to. I remember the way he looked driving his Iroc-Zs and Trans-Ams. I remember being picked up to go spend the night with Uncle David and Aunt Lori. I remember a soft spoken man with a quiet laugh. I remember someone who always took the time to be kind to me.
This family of mine is big and has many branches and I am sure that everyone on our tree is hurting tonight as we ask ourselves why we are one less. I am sure that the pain my Grandmother's heart feels must be nearly unbearable. I am sure that his daughter's world is flipped upside down, never to seem quite right again.
Today a son was lost. A father is gone. A brother has left. An Uncle has passed.
I can not really process the events of the day. The incongruity of shopping for food and toys, out among the carols and lights, while grief swirls within my heart and mind is almost more than I can grasp.
He was a good Uncle. He will be missed.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Cold Eggs and No Ham or Liam's Bad Morning or What Happens When You Make a Mess to Make Mama Mad

Liam is an eater. The kid can eat. He eats anything and would prefer to be fed every two hours or so with a small snack in between. No kidding. We call him the Hobbit.
When he is the slightest bit hungry and I walk into the kitchen, he looses his mind. He runs in and gets frantic. He yells and gestures to his cups. He drags kiddie bowl after kiddie bowl out of the cupboard. He wraps himself around my legs and whimpers. He bargains, he pleads, he moans, he demands. He stands right in front of the stove and tells me to hurry ( in not so nice language may I add). It's pretty awful sometimes.
We have a new rule. Liam isn't allowed in the kitchen when I am cooking. He is just too ill mannered and it's not very safe trying to cook with a 27 pound hungry, angry, inpatient Hobbit glued to your legs or under your feet. So he stands watch right outside of the kitchen. He still makes all of the bargains and demands but at least I am not tripping over him.
This morning, the eggs were taking their own sweet time getting cooked. Liam was displeased. Liam stood in the doorway and began with the sweet smiles, the bargaining, the bribing. The next stage is whimpering. Then it got ugly and he was banished.
He walked promptly over to where his sister was coloring and deliberately dumped out every single crayon in a 96 pack out on to the floor. Then he walked over and looked at me as if to say, " Ok NOW are you gonna get me my food?" ( His wait up to this point had been less than 4 minutes).
Well, I carried his food to his chair, Ev got her food and dug in but then, oh then, Liam realized that he was going to have to pick up every. Single. Crayon. Before He could eat.
It was awful. The most horrible thing to have ever happened in the history of man. Oh how he wept. Oh how the tears and snot flooded out.
And that is how Liam got cold eggs and no ham for breakfast. This will kill his Aunt and Grandma by the way. They will call and fuss at me for not feeding him the instant his eyes flash open from sleep.

                            Go ahead. Enlarge this first one and get a glimpse of his expression.

Rest assured that he was given breakfast. And alot of it actually, I was just too busy keeping him from cramming it all in his mouth at once to take any pictures. Once he figured out that he really and truly was going to have to clean up his own mess, he got those suckers back in the box in record time.

Oh ! And I started taking the pics just to document his whole "doorway politicking" the whole crayon fit was just a free bonus.

Friday, December 3, 2010


I have this kind of pet peeve. It's horrible adoption language.
Terms, phrases and questions like :
Real brother and sister
God Bless You
Where is their real mother?
Oh. China doesn't want their girls. Right?
Hey how did you get a BOY out of China?
Adopted daughter
Adopted son

I really dislike being out in public and everyone assuming that I feel like giving a lecture on International Adoption. I really dislike people looking at us and then making the decision, that yes, they are going to talk with us about us.

A conversation with an adoptive family can go two ways- the right way and the wrong way.

Here is an example of the right way: recently I was in Indiana to be with my Grandpa as he underwent a procedure. As we were sitting and waiting to hear news, a church friend of my Grandparents came to sit with us. She knew something about my children and wanted to see pictures. Then she began to ask real and earnest questions about the process. She listened to the answers. She was kind, respectful and was genuinely seeking knowledge.

The wrong way looks like what happened at a visit to Liam's new doctor the other day: the nurse walks in, she looks at the chart for a minute and when she looks up, she looks at me, then at the kids, then back at me. Then her voice gets real high and she says , "Oh! They are just so cute!"" Is their father Asian or something?" " Did you adopt them? Are they yours?" Then we get right to the "Are they real brother and sister?" " Did you get them at the same time?"  "They are so cute!"
She never once actually acknowledged that the kids were in the room and had higher brain function, even though one of them was her patient. She never once took my cool answers and lack of eye contact as a hint. She was not genuinely interested in the kids or our story, we were just interesting to her in a nosy kind of way, a story to tell at lunch. She wasn't mean or snotty. She wasn't malicious. She was just... clueless.
Clueless is ok. I guess. I can educate clueless. I can talk easily to my children about clueless.
It's just annoying when all I want to do is get my child to the doctor and home again without some stranger jumping on raw emotions.

It makes me glad when people see that my kids are cute. Every mother wants to hear that others find her children as charming and utterly scrumptious as she does.  I just don't like feeling that we have to lay out all of our roots and beginnings and coming togethers for every Tom, Dick and Jane that gets a hair up their butt.

And people? Just stop asking if my husband is Asian. For Heaven's Sake!

Update: My friend Tara suggested that we dress Les up in full Chinese Regalia, photograph him and then show the picture to those folks that think asking about my husband's cultural identity is the way to go. I think we might do just that.

Since I wrote this post, we attended a Christmas get together, it was basically full of casual acquaintances. I was cornered by a drunk individual who wanted to discuss adoption with me. His opener was, "Hey. Michelle. Hey. You've adopted twice now obviously. I was wondering. How much does that cost?" That was just the opener folks. I did find out that he and his wife are thinking about adoption and have been for several months. I did continue to answer questions that were appropriate because his wife was not drunk and I thought she was genuinely seeking information. Though I wish that I would have said, " Hey, you guys can call me and we can talk when you are both sober and I am not with my family at a party". Why I didn't say that is a mystery to me. 

No One Can Tell You

The little hands of my children have always fascinated me.  Evelyn has always had these tiny, capable hands and Liam has these wonderfully chubby hands that can cause all sorts of mischief.
This morning, with wild sleep tangled hair, Ev decided that they should color. She drug out the stuff and they proceeded to get on with it.

I was enjoying the quiet and the slowing of requests when I glanced over at them. When I looked, I saw these little hands scribbling away and I had one of those moments. One of those Mama Moments that grab your heart and wring it out.

My children will not always be here with me, quietly coloring on a snowy morning. If I do my job right, they will grow and become individuals of their own right. They will one day fly my nest and seek out adventures on their own.
I intend to enjoy them fully while they are here. I want to be able to remember a six year old girl's hands, the nails covered in chipped red polish, the hang nails, the sweet imperfections.

 I want to remember a two year old's chubby fingers and wrists, the determined grip on not one but two or three crayons.

 I want to remember what it feels like to be walking along and have a cool tiny hand slip inside of mine as we make our way down a sidewalk. I want to remember cleaning accumulated goo and sticky business out of crevices made by toddler chub.  These are my children and every bit of them is precious to me.

For now, the moment has passed. Those little hands so quietly coloring a moment before have moved on to  other things. My two children are standing at a window, watching big white chunks drift lazily down from the sky. They are standing close together and mingling their breath, then they reach up with those precious hands and trace designs in the fog. And they are giggling and plotting about Papa coming home and taking them out into the new winter.
I never knew it was possible to feel like this. No one ever told me.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


Well, here we are. The first snow has fallen and has left a crisp white dusting over everyone's leaf piles. When I walked outside today and took a deep breath of the fresh air, I got that unmistakable sting in the nose that warns of winter coming. Time to settle in, snuggle down and wait it out.
We had a very nice Thanksgiving, made bittersweet by thinking about our upcoming move and  not knowing where we will find ourselves next holiday season. We spent the actual Turkey Day at home, sort of puttering about and taking it easy. The next day we went to Smokewood and celebrated with my family. On Saturday, we drove on down to Columbus to visit Aunt Rae and the gang. We spent the entire time with good food, great company and completely enjoyable conversation.

I have not been picking up my camera as much lately. This has been going on for awhile now, as I was completely disappointed in our Halloween pictures. I guess I spend too much time tending the two kids and not enough time forcing them to pose for the camera. This is all an elaborate way to say, "I didn't get many pictures at Thanksgiving." I really didn't. Not one picture with a single adult, not one snap of the turkey or the dinner, not a single frame taken at Aunt Rae's!!! What was I thinking?  It was Liam's first Thanksgiving after all AND the first time that he met Rae, Jeff, Scott and Audrey. Well, I will just have to get better. I did force The Terrific Trio to sit still in Grandpa's big recliner for a few pictures, but to be quite honest they were BAD (the kids) and I nearly strangled them (yes, still referring to the kids).

I will have to get back in the swing of picture taking. Until I do, here are a few that I managed to get.