Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Already Looking Back On This One

As I am experiencing this Christmas with my husband and children, I am aware of the fact that I will look back on it as one of the best Christmases ever. Somehow, we are right at that junction where everything is just right and I have been trying to take the time and be conscious of that fact.

Evelyn is 9 and still believes. Liam is 5 and so, he is a firm believer and will remember the way things go next year. Ev and I are baking cookies together. The tree seems perfect in its imperfections. Les is a wonderful Papa and keeps all of the traditions alive.

The things I have loved watching my children do or be excited about this year are: paper chains to count down the days, the traditional movies, going to Grandmas, hearing Liam trying to figure out which a morrow HoHoHo will be coming on, dis wom or de utter a morrow, watching Ev write a whole story book for her Papa including an "about the Author" page, and just the general feeling of innocent near psychotic joy as they progress through the countdown to Christmas. They were both locked in their rooms alone for a time today, wrapping gifts for the family, though it is uncertain where Liam procured his give-aways.

I hope that everyone I know is enjoying their family as much as I am this year, it is all I could wish for any man or woman.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Just Watch It

There's a documentary going around the adoption community. I was not going to watch it, I mean, every one said it made them cry and MY adoptions have been completed so… then some adoptive moms I really respect mentioned that they watched it and I started remembering our trips to China and our first days with Fu Mei and Ao Zhuang. I queued it up o Netflix Watch Instantly. I watched it. I cried. I remembered. Oh I remembered so many things.

So many other things came into focus though. The impotent rage Les and I experienced during the wait for our children. Our inability to adequately express to family and friends just exactly what we were waiting for and maybe why those specific little face were THE faces we would now fight hell and The Devil himself to bring home.

Abandonment alone is the single most devastating thing that can happen to a child, even if that child is found and cared for very quickly, that loss of the birth mother leaves a gap, a black hole of pain that will stay with a child as they mature forever. Add to that the indifferent care of an institution in any country and now the heavy hand of the US Government---these children have very little or no chance at all to find love or security or opportunities food a day or week with adequate food even. They will know hunger and neglect of every kind for every single moment of their lives. I am not exaggerating this. Please take one hour and 22 minutes, watch this video and see what you think about the US Hague Convention Laws that deal with International Adoption and how they strong arm third world countries. Then you can just BE AWARE, spread the word, sign petitions, look for this issue when voting.

As an adoptive parent, you are never quite done with the issue of adoption. The adoptive country becomes apart of your daily life, the recipes creep into your cooking. For Les and I we really have Ev because of China's politics and we have Liam because of certain beliefs the Chinese people hold about a medical condition. As stated above, the abandoned, institutionalized child will remain traumatized for their entire life and we do deal with that, each child on a different level and in their own way- but it IS there. During the movie, I was particularly drawn to the family that adopted a boy and a little girl from Ethiopia because their experience was so very similar to ours; older boy, younger girl and the way the mother spoke of waiting for her son to emerge from the institutionalized behavior gave me chills of recognition.

 Don't watch this and grieve for my children, they are here, they have made it! Celebrate that fact!! Evelyn and Liam and all of the children here are thriving and doing well and they are regular American kids and don't ever tell them how lucky they are. Their parents are the lucky ones, we truly are. I would have died if that Ayi had not placed that tiny 14 pounds of nothing into my arms that sweltering day in May in the middle of Jiangxi province, I just would have died without my Evelyn. And we would not be complete without our jokester of a son, our Liam.

The parents need the children. The children need the parents. Its really quite simple in the end.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Blogging vs Facebook

Sometimes it is hard to sit down and write a blog after you have jotted a few quick sentences about your day on fb. You think, "aw, they got the jist", and tend to be lazy and leave it at that so that is one reason my blogging has fallen off a bit - okay- a lot- lately. The other reason is that I have honestly just been depressed. Just back to the wall depressed and I have had no energy or desire to do anything other than maybe exist.

If any of you out there have ever dealt with depression…it's just a…you can't describe it. It's like being in outer space. No sound, no movement. Nothingness. You just fight against black nothingness. And the blackness wins. Day after day after day. Until one day you see a spark. The spark is different for each person, but is makes you start to pull and fight. It's work. I'm trying.

 I'm still on a lot of meds that don't really help because they keep me overweight and sleepy. I have had quite a few issues with my Neurologist and keeping in touch with him as he made a move from one facility to another. I need Botox every three months so I can get off of these oral meds and then I won't feel so bad physically and that will help oh so much! So I am in touch with him now and he is arranging the Botox at his new office.

Meanwhile…The kids are terrific!
Ev is thriving at public school. She has friends, loves math, loves her teacher and eats up having homework. In gymnastics she has moved up a level and her competition season this year should be much more nerve wracking for me to watch. At home, she is nearly the dream child except that she is driven nuts by Liam and she is a bit nasty to him so we are dealing with that issue but I expect that will all settle out when Liam figures out that she didn't hang the moon.

Liam is still evolving as a little person and as a part of the family. This is amazing to me because the evolution that we are seeing is not subtle. It's a daily thing. I'm talking about an adoption thing here, about more and more native personality coming out. Les and I thought we were nuts until we went to Parent Teacher Conferences and the teacher that had him last year said the same thing! He is doing well in school, soaking up learning there and here at home. He loves to play board games and cards. He ca not wait to play baseball in the Spring. He is a very snuggly wuggly little man and I can't get enough of that.

Les is working and working and doing more than his fair share of things here at home to help me keep up. I just do not know how I could manage without him.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Totally My Kid

So there's this thing that's bothered me my WHOLE life. Thing is, I have never, ever mentioned it to another person, not even in one of those, "Hey, tell me ten random facts about you", my sister doesn't know it, my husband didn't know it. It was just one of those little pet peeves that I had that I would remember whenever I watched a particular movie. And then the scene plays out and EVERY time from the age of six or seven, I can never , ever understand why the main character does what she does when there is a much simpler and eco-friendly way to go about the thing (admittedly when I was 6 I didn't know about eco-friendly, I knew about not wasting though).
Now I know you are dying to know what I am talking about right? Like what Movie?? What character??

This movie and the chic in the blue dress and red shoes. And no, it's not the shoe thievery, you do not comprehend what I would do for a pair of ruby slippers, Ms. Gale was ligit on that - plus it was all laws of magic and house flopping and stuff, I can't judge that.
No. Think ahead. They are on the YBR, in the forest and she needs breakfast. She goes up on a little hill, under some apple trees and picks some and starts chomping away. But if you look, bitch has to step around like 5,000 perfectly fine apples already laying there!! She could have just picked up an apple or two and been done with it! She didn't need to pick it off the tree and hurt him and wake him up and wake up the whole grove. Nope. She did not.

Ev and I are driving along a dark highway last night and out of the blue she says, "Hey, Mom? You know what Dorothy does that makes me mad?" And I'm briefly in trouble because I have no FREAKING CLUE who Dorothy is because it's been like a year since she's watched TWoO...
Eventually, I say, "Kid, What makes you so mad?" and, hand to God, she, Evelyn, my 9 year old, born in another country half way around the world, starts going off about old Dot Gale and wasting those apples and making the tree mad. And I was all like "I know RIGHT?!?!" and I was all like just happy, quietly happy. She's totally my kid.

Week One Done

The first week of school has been completed around here and all opinions are in, tallied accounted for and taken into consideration.
First off, Liam. This was the start of year two Pre-K for him so really, no big dealio. Riding the same bus, going to a different room, but having at least one of the same teachers and he honestly could not wait to get back. He has tolerated it great, just a little tired by Friday evening.
Now the big news, Evelyn wanted to stop Homeschooling and go to school this year. Les and I deliberated for quite awhile over the decision but the issue kept cropping up and Ev has always known her own mind, and to be honest, we are the kind of parents that follow her lead. So I signed her up! She's in 4th grade and she loves it!! She is stressing out a touch about some time management things, for instance she is worried about home work and gymnastics but we are helping her to realize she will have time. She just tends to be a BIT Type A and a BIT OCD and a BIT independent....Lord beer me strength.
She already has a few friends, loves the her classroom has lots of bottles of glue, she adores her teacher and is thrilled with the lunch line.

So we are off and on our way for the Academic Year of 2013/2014!!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Did You See That?!

That was summer blowing by!! I barely caught my breath!
The usual things happened when you live near the beach- beach things, Fourth of July on the beach, lots of visitors, the kids runn oft-ed to Grandma and Grandpa's for 2 weeks- let's see that took care of July. August has been devoured by a shoulder injury acquired by moi. Because who else in this house would get hurt or sick? Yes, we really haven't been too exciting in  August, just a whole bunch of Ev's summer training for gymnastics, some more beach time and lots of Mom moaning and aching with her shoulder. Bugs and frogs were caught. Books were read (Ev read 25 books on her own).
My Grandpa Matt had a great big birthday and we travelled for that and I got to kiss his face off!
We stayed in Ohio for a bit, dropping the kids off and picking them up again from Smokewood.
Jodi came by for a visit.
Ryan, Kristi and Olivia Kiley came for a visit.
The Klosterman Clan came for a visit.
Ev had a birthday, now she's nine. Papa had a birthday now he's old.
And I loved every minute except for the part where my kids grew actual inches and gained real maturity that I can measure almost with a spoon. Because no-one ever tells you that time is cruel to you if you are a mother, time goes by so fast when you have children, that you consider, every day about going to The Crossroads to make a deal for just one more day with them.

And now   PICTURES!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Navigation Systems On

And so we come to the section of life where the four year old boy needs to start talking about his Birth Mother. After the long, emotional talks into the night with Evelyn, I considered myself prepared, and after spending most all of my life as a mother to both a girl and a boy contrasting the differences between the two, I am not sure why it ever occurred to me that this particular subject would be the same.
 Can we just say that, in this home, with these two personalities at least, that talking over emotional stuff with the daughter is kind of like a Freudian Marathon that you forgot you signed up for, at the end of a very long day and it involves lots of crying, laughing, photo albums and maybe some art therapy at 2 a.m., where as, with the boy? It's a bit more like drive thru Voo-doo and some random conversation thrown in. No less exhausting- just completely and utterly different and new. I'm not trying to make light of this subject, or my son. ( Well, if you knew Liam...you'd already be smiling because he is really and truly so very funny, you just can't help it). It's just that sometimes we laugh to survive.
We have been taking care of Liam's surgical scar- scar massage and surgical sillicone applied daily. As he lays across my lap, he looks up at my face and gently rubs it, most often focusing on my lips, where he has found, a dark birth mark. And for three or four days he has asked me about this mark very tenderly and concerned. Then one day he said wait, did you say "birth mark" or birth MOM" and I repeated myself, but he responded, "Oh, I think you should tell me about mine and sissy's Birth Mom's". And just like that we were off.
The interesting thing for me with him though, has been that he just doesn't want to hear stories from me. He wants to TELL ME stories. Now, this is something very new to me. This is something Evelyn never, ever wanted or needed to do. I am completely ok that he needs to do this. I know that it is normal for some kids to need to do this. I am not even shocked at some of the scenarios he creates. He is just a small boy, trying to make sense of the very confusing way he got to us, his forever family. And believe me, he IS confused by the whole thing, and I don't blame him. And sometimes he still gets afraid that things are going to change again for him, that his family will swiftly metamorphasize into something else he doesn't know or can not recognize, he doesn't use those words, but I am his Mom, I can tell by certain moods, or certain cries in the night. And so he begins to find his way now.
He tells me stories about what his BM is doing in China. Sometimes she is dead. Sometimes she is alive and shopping at the store for milk. Sometimes she is on an airplane coming here to see him, just to see him, you understand. The other thing is that he has asked about his Birth Father, which Evelyn never has. He also likes me to tell him how he got from his BM to us and how even though she was probably nice and loved him and made a good choice for him, he never, ever, ever has to leave us or his Sissy or Billy Bones or WaWa (his Fish) or Cerina(resident hammy).
This happens-lightening fast and then he wants chocolate milk! Then! He's off!!!!!
Stop crying Sister. And most likely Aunt Kathryn.
It's ok.
It's not sad.
I mean it is.
It is. It really is. That whole bit is. That first part is. The First 21 months. The loss of a birth mother, her terrible choice, the orphanage, the foster care, the first surgery without us, more foster care, the next orphanage. No wonder he is confused.
But then came us! Which includes you guys!
And he's talking now! Which I love because that means we know what he's thinking and we can see that he's healing and we know that he's getting it and we are making his fears smaller and smaller and we can do better and better for him. So this is meant to be a good post. A happy post. A Liam is doing great post. A shadows from the past are getting smaller post.
I don't always have the right words for my kids. I just say things and mortar it up with a lot of "I love you"-s and a lot of trips to see family so you guys can help me.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Midnight Call

“Sweet, crazy conversations full of half sentences, daydreams and misunderstandings more thrilling than understanding could ever be.”  Toni Morrison 

Last night, while hopped up on many different types of pain meds (I was on day 9 of a migraine but that is neither here nor there), I got an episode of "Alien Sister Hand". OH? You don't know what ASH is? That is when your heart knows more that your mind, and your heart takes control of your hand and before you know it, your phone is in your hand and your sister's number has been dialed, and the phone is up to your ear and it's ringing, and in a split second you get it... She needs you. From hundreds of miles away, through the drugged haze, through the tiredness of the day, in the wee hours of the night, over the sounds of the video game going on...over everything else in front of you, somehow, your sister heart knew that she needed you and so, the phone made it into your hand. There is cursory conversation, but she knows. It's time to talk. We have had this dance too many times over the years. And my husband knows too, he grabs the remote and turns down the video game and looks at me and just shakes his head a bit- in wonderment? In exasperation? We don't know, my sister and I, what our men think of us really, and we can't care for we are sistahs and we do what we do and what we must.  

“Sisters function as safety nets in a chaotic world simply by being there for each other.”--Carol Saline

 And then it was my turn because I needed her too, that's how it goes I suppose. We take turns, one goes first and then the other for the big things, later on it gets all jumbled up and we talk over and under and roller coaster-y, but that is after we have settled the stuff that upsets us. So we take the big things and we turn them inside out and upside down, we apply the sisterly soul version of stain treater known as laughter, where no one else could show us laughter before and we forgive each other of whatever the other one thinks she has done that is so horrible. The other thing we do is bring out the sharp truths that no one else can dare to say to us. Those things that you know you need to do, or hear, those things that your own heart has been whispering but you are afraid to face. You say those things and you hear your sister weep, or you hear them and weep and softly say, "I know, I know" then you make each other laugh again because you have each faced another monster under the bed together again and come out okay and didn't have to wake-up Daddy afterall.

“Sister. She is your mirror, shining back at you with a world of possibilities. She is your witness, who sees you at your worst and best, and loves you anyway. She is your partner in crime, your midnight companion, someone who knows when you are smiling, even in the dark. She is your teacher, your defense attorney, your personal press agent, even your shrink. Some days, she's the reason you wish you were an only child.” --Barbara Alpert

 (*I rarely wished I was an only child)

So today I am thinking about my sister, more than usual I suppose, because last night we talked about when we were teenagers, sort of a twilight time between that stormy establishing independence phase and becoming adult women. I think that this time is just as magical as being 6 and 10 together but it isn't given as much attention in literature or in the verbal histories of women, so many sisters miss what is happening between them. Melissa posted a FB post about this time a couple of days ago and I love that she did, it was supposed to be happy but, I knew she was missing me terribly, for one thing, there was about two too many of these ! for it to be happy but, only her sister would know that. And for another thing I immediately began to cry for the desperate need of my sister in the same room. 

“You can kid the world, but not your sister.” -- Charlotte Gray 

Let us be clear here. We fight. I am not above throwing a cookbook at her head if I think she's being stupid and she will be more than verbal if she thinks I am being stupid. We can clear an entire house of adults and children with a Sister War that not a single person but us can even begin to understand the political ramifications of, and it can be so terrible and fierce that no person within earshot can ever imagine how we would ever be on speaking terms again, but more than likely in about 20 minutes time you will find us laughing and crying and almost back to normal. I will never stop loving or abandon my sister. I will always go to her aid. I will always answer her call. The love I have for her comes easy as a summer rain and is just as predictable as the love I have for my children. We have shared the same murky womb, we have so many shared childhood experiences-lost pets, yelling to each other over the sound of grinding big-wheels in the summertime, waiting overnight in wintertime for "the branches to fall", laying flat in the grass in summer and watching for the Blimp...she's simply my dark eyed sister and I love her.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

15.9 kg

Surgery day has come and gone.
We checked him in to the pre-op section. He stood on the scale and looked so tiny. All 15.9 kg of him. They gave him the Versed and Les and I watched as he became goofier and goofier. Before I was ready, they came and took him back to the O.R. and that was it.
Then Leslie, my sister and I sat and waited for 4 hours. And I grieved. Now, I know it was silly but during those 4 hours, I could only think that my son's face was being changed. You see he was having his palate revised and improved after his initial palate closure and this palate surgery is aimed at giving Liam optimal speech and I am ALL about that. But he was also getting some work done on his lip scar and his little nose.
This is where some folks may have trouble following my heart. I tend to think that only the parents of cleft affected children can know what I mean, then sometimes I think any Mom will know what my heart was going through. It was this: Even though I know that the cosmetic changes that the Dr. was going to do were agreed upon by Les and I, even though the changes were promised to be minor and essentially needed to prevent issues later on...my son's face, the face that I loved was going to be changed and I was grieving the loss of that little face. And I grieved hard.
And then, as always, when I think a long time on the medical facts of Liam's cleft palate and his cleft lip, my heart and mind settle on his past and I grieve for the facts of his past.

And then they were calling us back to recovery and the first thing I saw was this tiny little lump in that huge bed. And the second thing I saw was his little face and even though he was swollen, and even though he was still sleepy and even though his face was changed...he was still Liam. And he was different, he was just...a bit...well...none of us can really find the right word for it. He's just really, really cute. And I might feel a bit silly for all of that grieving but maybe not.
Maybe that's why I was able to walk in and look at him and think how cute he was right away.

I can tell you the tales of the first pre-op night, but we have all been there in one way or another. Kids are tough man, and by the next morning he was laughing and eating a tiny bit and drinking enough to come home. Today is post-op day 6, he is still a bit whiney, still a bit needy but much better than I had hoped. His incision looks great, he is almost off of his prescription pain meds, he is eating like a champ (soft foods) and he is cuter than ever.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Catching My Breath, Coming To Terms

I have to admit that I have fallen off of the blogging train for awhile. I must apologize. I don't think that my life has lost validity or that my children have stopped being cute and funny, Lord no! They are cuter and funnier than ever, as a matter of fact. It just seems, that I have been floundering a bit, trying to find my way. I seem to be lost in the familiarity of my life after being sick for so long.

Perhaps it wasn't just that I was sick, it was the nature of the sickness. The strength of some of my pain meds would knock me out and leave me in a haze and I truly have no memory of complete blocks of days, and on top of that my headaches were so bad that I had to just lay in my room and have no interaction at all with my family. That I am literally having to re-work myself back into my life, or I was, that work is almost done now. There is a "but" to all of this though.

But, it isn't exactly the same. The husband is the same, the kids are the same, it's all the same, except me. I am a "chronic migrainer" now and that has an affect on me, on us. The headaches can hit at any time and last for who knows how long... You know? I could go on, but I am sick of it all. Let us just say that the headaches are still a part of our lives and they affect us now in an ongoing way. I get almost caught up, and then a headache comes along and I am behind again.

I am sort of limping along, trying to find a rhythm in what is potentially a rhythmless life now. Maybe my life now is more of loosely scheduled or a highly suggestible kind of thing.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Approaching Fast

Liam's surgery is finally booked and in a breathless instant I went from fretting over when it would be booked to being slightly ill at the thought of all he would go through during the surgery.

He needs a z-plasty with a pharyngoplasty along with a scar revision on his lip and a tip rhinoplasty on his nose. The surgery itself is expected to last 2.5 to 3 hrs with an overnight stay. In the field of craniofacial surgery I suppose what we have lined up isn't that big of a deal for the surgeons but it is for us and I think our Team gets that. 

We are experiencing what all parents of cleft affected children go through right before surgery. The anxiety of changing our child's face. We love him so much just as he is. he is our son and we find only perfection in him and the thought of intentionally changing his face surgically wrenches at our hearts in a way that you can not imagine. We have no issue with the palate, FIX THAT! And fix that fast. But his little face? Oh how I wish we didn't have to make the choice of changing that. 

 Luckily enough for my heart, I know a few families like us and I find comfort in the fact that they tell me that, in the end they do not regret the surgeries they have chosen for their sons or daughters. 

I also know that this time around will be a bit harder for my heart. The truth of the matter is that during Liam's first surgery, I just wasn't quite his Mama yet. It still felt like I was kind of baby sitting a boy for someone. I felt bad for him and it was hard for sure but ...Now? I am fully committed to him as my son and I also know from those same mothers that this will by far be much, much more difficult emotionally. 

As far as what Liam will experience? I guess the first few days are bad but I hear the kids bounce back faster than you would expect. I think the hardest part is keeping them away from their stitches and keeping them on the soft diet. I know that the night in the hospital might be hellish for the little guy. 

March 19 is approaching fast. I want it over. I want it to never come. 

Friday, January 25, 2013


Walking out of the grocery store on a chilly night, a light hearted eight year old slips her tiny, fragile hand into yours as she is skipping along. She looks up at you and says something about the moon or her brother or maybe she thanks you for some oddment that you bought her just a bit ago. But that feeling of that little hand slipping  into yours so completely relaxes you, reminds in a flash of all of the moments you have shared with her and suddenly you feel as if the world is filled with golden sunshine and you are light as a feather.

Papa and Evelyn are not sleepy but the boy and the Mama are, so we head off for a nap. I climb in bed and get our nest of blankets and pillows just so as he runs of to find just the right stuffed animal. He climbs in bed and doesn't object at all when I pull him in close enough to smell his sweet maple syrup scent, and feel the heat of his still chubby in places body, and in a tangle, the boy and I fall asleep and no one bothers us at all. For a good long while.

Evelyn decides she wants her dollhouse back down from the attic and the days of quiet afternoons of Ev and Mama and Peach the Rabbit are back. This time the story is more involved and we talk a bit more, things are changed but the same, and I cherish each and every moment, and I live for the times when she says, "Hey, Mama wanna play rabbits with me?" -oh, I try my best to drop everything and go back to her room and shut the world out and stop time if only for a little bit. I bet you didn't know that little three inch velveteen rabbits could stop time.

Getting a call from miles away, my nephew upset about little things and big things in life. He was calling, allegedly about the little things but really calling because he wanted to talk to his Aunt Michal about the big things, because he loves and trusts her. To have somehow earned the love and trust of that boy...to be on the list of people he would call over such important things is such an honor. My little puppy. My Mykonos.

Playing trains with Liam. Little hands moving trains along the tracks. Big giant four year old falling on the tracks and city Ev and I built- over and over and the three of us giggling and giggling at him. All of the kisses I would get as he came around to my side of town. Suddenly I realized that in a boy's room, its the wooden trains that can stop time.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Personal Best

Make a video - it's fun, easy and free!

Evelyn's first Competition of the 2013 Season was yesterday. We are so very proud of her. She did medal- 6th place on bars. She also improved her personal scores on each apparatus from last year, which is awesome! More than either of those things though, she went out there when she was nervous, she performed a floor routine that had a booty shake in it that she did not like (it is very apparent in the pictures when that part is going on), she got up on the beam and did a more complex routine than ever before, she whipped around on the bars, she was straight up on the vault. She was my little heroine. When we got home that night and her flowers were in water and her medals were hung up, she gave me a hug and told me that, "You are the best Mama a little gymnast could ever have!" So I guess both Ev and I went to bed winners last night, but she did all of the work!

Monday, January 7, 2013

A Very Merry Christmas Was Had

The tree was bought and decorated.
The carols were played.
The cookies were baked and eaten.
Lots and lots of cookies were baked and eaten.
There was much snuggling and not much schooling.
All of the requisite Holiday movies were viewed.
All of the rivers were gone over and all of the woods were gone through, though the Grandparents came to us!
The presents were bought, delivered, opened and enjoyed.
Old stories were remembered and new stories were made.
Yes, indeed. A Very Merry Christmas was had.