Thursday, November 29, 2012

Giving Thanks, Day Twenty-Seven - My Dynamic Duo

I like even numbers.

We have two cars.

Two dogs.

Four children.

Even is good.  Why?  Things that are even can be paired.

If one is good, two is better.

David and Henry have long been a package deal.

Neither of them does anything without the other.

They have been like that since Henry was born.

I was so worried about David not being the only child when Henry was born I couldn't think about what a gift Henry would be to David, and vice versa.

As long as they have each other, they will never be lonely.

Jack never had that; he was always the third wheel to David and Henry's party.  He was too little, too young, too destructive, too much of a baby, too loud, too....something.

Clearly, Katie never had that sort of a relationship with anyone.

Until now.

We very much have the Jack and Katie show going on.

They play dress up and have tea parties together.

They play outside together.
Katie never gets to drive, in case you were wondering.  She seems to be OK with that.

They go pretty much everywhere together.

They go to different schools this year, but they hug at each other at the end of the school day when they are reunited.

Henry is particularly fond of Katie as well, and he spends a fair amount of time snuggling her, playing with her, reading to her, and just being a sweet big brother.  He gives her piggy back rides, helps her get ready for bed, gets her snacks, waits on her, brushes her hair, and wants to hug and kiss her every day before they leave for school.

He will never let her be mistreated or not taken care of.

He is a fierce protector of her and he loves her deeply.

But Jack and Katie?

That's a whole different story.

Jack firmly believes we adopted Katie for him.

I think Katie thinks we had Jack waiting for her.

Together?  They are a hot mess.

They get into trouble and take out all of the toys we own.

They yell at each other and argue every day.

They look enough alike to be twins.  Real ones, not just virtual.

Their ages are just six months apart.  

They were made for each other.

They figured out really fast that they are a great team.

Apart they are were great.  
They're rarely apart anymore.


They're awesome.

Giving Thanks, Day Twenty-Six - Katie's Birth Parents

I think about Katie's birth parents.  

A lot.

My feelings and attitude about them changes.

A lot.

I try to put myself in her birth mother's shoes.  She was very young when Katie was born.  My husband is literally old enough to be her father; Chris and Katie's mom have the same age difference as Katie and her birth father.

Her birth parents were married.

Katie was their first child.

The prenatal testing in Russia is not the same as the prenatal testing in America.  

I'm sure her parents had no idea Katie has Down syndrome.

  I try to imagine what it was like to give birth to her and have the doctor's tell Katie's parents about her diagnosis.  I wonder a lot what that was like for them.  Did someone convince them to give her up?  Did they know right away that's what they would do?  Did they want to try to keep her?  

Were they mad?  Were they upset?  I can only imagine they were.  How could they not be?  I've never given a baby up for adoption, but I have given birth to three that I brought home with me.  I cannot imagine the physical ache that I would have had if I needed to leave one behind at the hospital.

What about her dad?  What was his role in the decision?  

Katie's parents had to write rejection letters that were in the file we received.  They are very brief, devoid of any emotion, and make me want to hit someone and hug her parents, all at the same time.  

I wonder if Katie has her dad's hair and her mom's eyes?  Which parent gave her that silly little sense of humor?  Or does she get that from us?  Is her mom tall?  Does her dad have that huge smile Katie's got?  Are they smart?  Do they have more children?  Are they still married?  Does Katie get her love of singing from her dad?  Or maybe from me?  Is her mom's hair silky and smooth like K's?  Who has the blue eyes?

Katie's birth parents gave Chris and me the most incredible gift.

By placing Katie for adoption, we were able to receive this amazing little person.

Instead of feeling like her parents discarded Katie, I choose to believe that they gave Katie the most incredible, selfless, brave gift ever.  They only way Katie would have a chance to have any semblance of a normal life in Russia would be for her to be adopted.  

We will always make sure Katie knows she is adopted.  We want her to be proud of being adopted.  I want Katie to be proud of being Russian and American.  We want Katie to think that her birth parents did something incredibly difficult but good when they placed her for adoption.  They gave her a chance.  And we took a chance.  

I don't know what it's like to give a child up for adoption.  Hell, I don't really know how to parent an adopted child.  We're learning this as we go.  I do know how to love her and how to be a mama though.  I don't know what is "right" in the world of adoption and what is wrong.  I do know that I am thankful for her birth parents.

I hope she thinks that her birth parents realized they couldn't provide what she needed, but that they hoped someone else could.  I hope she never feels like they thought something was wrong with her.  We will teach her that her birth parents loved her so much they wanted her to have more than they could give her.  

I hope they wanted her to have an education and access to the best opportunities available to her;  those things are not in Russia, and are not in the society in which her birth parents lived. 

I am very thankful for Katie's birth parents.  Whatever their reasons, whatever their motivation for not bringing Katie home from the hospital with them, I hope they would be proud of her today and proud of how we are parenting her.  She is an incredible girl and an amazing gift.  Every day I am still surprised that I get to be her mama.  It's not always easy, but it is so incredible and rewarding.  There is no way we will ever be able to thank her birth parents for our sweet girl.

Giving Thanks Day Twenty-Five - Opportunity

May 16, 2012

Seven months ago, Katie was still in her orphanage.

She was almost five years old and couldn't speak at all.

She didn't know how to play with toys.

She ran around like a wild, feral animal during our visits, unable to focus on anything for very long.

She made very little eye contact.

She yelled a lot, because it was the only way she knew how to communicate.

She didn't know how to drink from a sippy cup.

She wore a diaper.

She had horrendous skin and very little hair.

She could eat her dinner in seriously less than two minutes.

She ate like she was unsure of when she would eat again.

She had never had a bath in a tub.

She didn't know that a stove is hot.

She could only stand to be held for a very, very short period of time.  Not because she wanted to do something else, because she couldn't handle being touched so much and being so close to another person.

When I hugged her, she would just let her arms hang.  There was no hugging back.

When she got upset, she would throw herself on the ground repeatedly, flailing her arms around just screaming.  No tears.  Just noise.

She didn't know what to do when we read a book.  

She would scream at the boys if they came near her.  She was afraid they would hurt her or take her toys.  She had never had toys before.  She didn't know what to do with them, but they were hers and she had never had something of her own.  Ever.

She ran with awkward, bowed legs that had spent far too much time in some sort of baby walker or play area.  

She had never gone to school.  She would never have gone to school if she stayed in Russia.  She had no hope and no future.

This is the ugly side of adoption.

All of the paperwork that seemed so daunting?  That was not the hard part.  The hard part was bringing home a child who had been alone for her entire life, who didn't know how to depend on anyone else, who had experienced trauma that has forever shaped her, who had no ability to express herself in any manner other than fear.  That - all of that - was the hard part.  And we really didn't have it that hard.

Now?  Katie has opportunity and hope.

She has so many people who love her.

She has a bath every night and a full belly every day.

We read books each night and she picks them out.  She asks for books, and she looks at them on her own all the time.

If she gets near the stove she signs hot and says, "Ot mama."

She speaks.

She signs.

She knows how old she is and says, "I five!"

Instead of throwing herself on the floor when she's sad, she comes to her mama or daddy and lifts her arms to be held.

Her favorite thing to do is snuggle.

She runs like a typical five year old girl; sort of clumsy, but without crazy bowed legs.

She knows who her mama and daddy are, and she loves us.  Fiercely.  She will sometimes just smile at me and say, "My mama."  

She hugs and kisses.  A lot.

She cries when she's sad.

Sometimes she still throws herself on the floor.  We're still working on that.

Not only does she know she has a mama, she also models that behavior with her peers.  At school

She spends time each week in the typical preschool class.  

She can identify the letters A and B.  Let that sink in.  She can identify the first two letters of the alphabet of a language she learned seven months ago, after never, ever knowing how to speak in her native language.

All of that? 

That my friends is redemption. 

Katie has a chance now.  She has opportunities that she would have never, ever had.  She would have never even been able to dream of such opportunities because she simply didn't know they exist.

I am so thankful she knows now.

Giving Thanks, Day Twenty-Four - Being Silly

In our family, we do silly well.

Does anyone else think it's really weird that my sister and I are doing exactly the same thing in the above picture?

Katie needed a bit of an initiation into the silly photo.  Love that she and my grammy are both looking at us all like we've lost our minds.

Jack does silly well.

Really, really well.

Katie picked upon it really quickly.

How different does she look now?!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Giving Thanks, Day Twenty-Three - Black Friday!

Happy Black Friday!

I will not participate this year in this.

Or this.

Or this.

Instead, we will look for one of these.

And we will get out some of these.  
My favorites!!

Or this.

And this.

We will hang these.  
(Up high so little fingers can't touch!)

And we will hang these.  
And talk about when they made them and giggle at the pictures.

I may do a little online shopping and might go out later tonight, but I would be totally happy to not go at all.  

Happy Black Friday!

Giving Thanks, Day Twenty-Two - Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!!

I am thankful for my four little turkeys.

And especially thankful this year for our newest turkey. 

We had a great Thanksgiving.

My iron is broken, so we had no special autograph tablecloth.  Sad face.

I was happy to have the remainder of our pumpkins out on the table, and of course my favorite turkey dishes!

We had a fantastic turkey!  I think it's the best one I've made.

Everyone was very interested in watching my dad carve the turkey.  

We all wrote in our thankful journal.  And I love to go back and read what everyone wrote in previous years.  In 2010 Jack wrote "I want a baby sister!"  Imagine that - wishes do come true.

We had quite a feast, with turkey, stuffing (or dressing if you're from the south!), sweet potato casserole, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, rolls, pumpkin pie, pecan tarts, fudge, chess pie, cheesecake, pumpkin gingerbread with homemade caramel sauce, and coconut rum cake.

Katie was a big fan of Thanksgiving dinner!

Imagine our surprise when we sat down for dinner and spied Theodore Thanksgiving sitting on the top of a curtain rod in the dining room!  The boys were screaming with excitement.  And Katie screamed right along, because she thought she should be excited too, although she didn't quite understand why.

We played outside in the 70 degree weather, had the windows open all day, went for a walk, and shot David's bee bee gun.

We had a great day and have much for which we are thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving!