Saturday, January 31, 2009

Adoption Day 2009 (1 of 2)

(A huge THANK YOU to MorMor for coming and spending the day at home with Meera so that Kyle and Owen could have their Mama and Papi all to themselves --and vice versa-- on this very special day!!!)


Adoption Day 2009 (2 of 2)

"Give me your tired, your poor. Your huddles masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Friday, January 30, 2009

Thinking About Tomorrow, And The Past

Tomorrow we will celebrate our 4th Adoption Day. And it is on our minds.

In our house, Kyle usually wakes up first and comes to snuggle with Braydon and I in bed. He is such a sweet sweet sweetie pie. Anyone who knows Kyle well will attest to this: he's a dreamy cuddly love bug, sweet as can be (sometimes excessively so!!!). The other morning, he snuggled into our bed, as usual. Bleary-eyed and still half-asleep, holding his Honey Bunny close, he looked into my eyes. Just staring at me, his big brown eyes peering into mine, his very first words of the day were, "Mommy, why did you pick me?" I was stunned. Because we have never talked about adoption in terms of "picking" someone. We have talked about how we "chose" to adopt, and we've talked about how K & O's birthmother "chose" for them to be adopted, but we have never implied that we "picked" Kyle and Owen nor told stories of other adoptions using that language. And the truth is that, unlike many Haitian adoptions, we did not "pick" K & O; we said we'd take any baby and then waited for a referral. We were matched with K & O by our agency and the director of the orphanage. So, lying in bed, half-asleep myself, my mind was quickly jump-started, and then spinning fast, with Kyle's question.
H: What do you mean?
K: When we were in Haiti with the birthmother. Why did you pick me?
H: Because we wanted you.
K: Oh.
H: Why did you pick me?
K: Because I wanted you.
I understood Kyle's question better a few days later. He was up on the kitchen counter trying to get something out of the cupboard. A photo on the side of the refrigerator caught his eye and he called me over to look at it with him. It is a photo sent to us three years ago by an American couple who went to K & O's orphanage to get their son. In the photo the couple are sitting on steps, surrounded by about 40 kids from the orphanage. K & O know what the photo is.
K: Look, mommy, there are lots of babies.
H: That's right.
K: But you just wanted us.
H: That's right.
K: Because you dreamed about us everyday.
H: That's right.
Recently, sitting on my lap after dinner, Kyle whispered in my ear, "When I was in my birthmother's belly I was just wishing and wishing and wishing you'd come get me." I responded the same way I always respond to these types of comments from my boys, "We came as quickly as we could," I said. "But I was waiting for you for so long." "Yes," I said, "and we came as quickly as we could." "Yes," said Ky Ky, "but it wasn't quick enough, we needed you and you weren't there."
Another day, before school, Kyle ran up to me and whispered in my ear, "I will live with you forever!!!" And then ran off to put on his boots.
A couple of days ago, playing in the playroom, out of nowhere, Kyle asked, point-blank: "Mommy, why did you adopt me?" We talked about it a bit and then he said, "Before I was born, when I was with God, I saw you and Papi, and I told God that I wanted you to be my parents." This is all very interesting, especially because we have never talked about God as playing a role in our adoption. Although many adoptive families do talk about it that way, we have not. We don't talk about it having been "God's plan" or about us being "chosen by God to be together" etc., etc., etc. We have always been very matter-of-fact about the adoption process as we see it, in a very simplistic, age-appropriate way. But Kyle continually puts God into the picture.
For the past month or so, Kyle has been saying basically the same prayer every single night at bedtime. Huddled together, I hear him say this: "Dear God, thank you that I can have this mommy and this papi. Thank you for giving me this house. I really appreciate it God. Amen."

For Owen, all of this plays out seemingly completely differently. They're twins but they never let us forget how very unique they each are. Owen, the little rascal, is such a riot and keeps us on our toes --and laughing-- all day every day. One of his latest strange-little-funny-twists is that he has taken to calling me and/or referring to me as "Birthmother" in reference to Meera. "You're her birthmom and her mom!!!" he regularly proclaims. He says it in an up-beat, cheery way. And it always cracks me up. The other day, for example, I stubbed my toe. "Ahhh!!!" I exclaimed, "I stubbed my toe!!!" Owen instantaneously ran over to Meera and said, "Sorry Meera, bad news! Your birthmother stubbed her toe!"
But for all his funnies, deep down inside Owen has a profoundly impacted adopted heart. He has lots of questions. Deep questions. Probing questions. Heartfelt questions. He wants answers. Real answers. Not sugar coated. He wants the truth. His stance is very different than Kyle's at this point in their lives. Over the past month or so he's received quite a lot of new information from us, because of the very real questioning he's been doing.
Owen's most recent questions revolve around his birthmother, and he is talking a lot about wanting to meet his birthmother. We tell him that someday we will go to visit Haiti (being careful about our wording here, after the "Send Me Back" exchange a while back), and we have assured him that when we do we will try to find his birthmother. Because of some circumstances surrounding our boys' early histories, we are quite unconfident that we'll ever be able to find her, but we have promised Owen that we will try. He has asked about when we'll be able to go. We've told him, simply, "when he's older." Notably, he does not question that or ask to go at any given time, so we believe he's comfortable with that answer, and we leave it at that. But he talks a lot about what will happen when (and he is confident it is when, not if) he does meet her. His thoughts about meeting her are always the same: "When I go visit my birthmother I will say, 'Birthmother, let me go back into your belly!' Then, if she was sitting down, I'd climb up right onto her lap." He sometimes adds, "And I will say, 'Birthmother hi! I love you Birthmother!'" And recently on a couple of occassions he's added, "And then I will say, 'Birthmother thank you for my mommy and my papi!'"
But the biggest challenge with Owen right now is trying to assure him that he won't be abandoned by Braydon and I. Owen has the classic textbook adoptee deep fear of abandonment. There is a hole in his heart that we continually to try to fill, but that seems --at least so far-- truly infinitely deep. "I was so worried," he said to Braydon and I one night, after getting in trouble at bedtime, "I was so, so, so worried that you would call the fire department and tell them to come and the fireman would come here in his firetruck and he would spray fire on this house and he would spray fire on my door and he would burn our whole big house down and I would be in it and I would not be able to get out and he would keep making the fire until our whole house was burned down and I would burn too and Papi and Mommy and Kyle and Meera would be standing outside and nobody would come and get me and I would be burned and dead forever and ever."
Another day he said to me, "Mommy, I had a dream -- actually, it wasn't a dream, but it was just in my imagination -- I had in my imagination that you put me in the road and a big car hit me and deaded me and I was dead forever and ever." And just yesterday, standing in the kitchen early in the morning, throwing away the wrapper to his cereal bar, he said, "See this trash Mommy?" "Yes," I said. "I was just thinking in my imagination that you and Papi could just put me in this trash. You could just put me in this trash! And then the big trash truck would come and take me away. I would be dumped! Dumped into the trash truck! I'd be taken away forever and ever!"
We tell him over and over and over and over and over that we'll never leave him; that we're a family forever; that we will never, ever do these things to him, etc., etc., etc. We hold him, we love him, we pour out our reassurance upon him in what we say and what we do. We respond and we act proactively. We do these things every day. But Owen's fears run deep. And a lifetime of reassurance still may never assure him; that we must know as adoptive parents. And yet we still must try to assure him. We must never stop trying. And so we keep going and he keeps questioning -- questioning with questions, questioning with his behavior, and questioning with his statements, daydreams, and dreams. He has nightmares regularly; he always has. And his nightmares now, as he articulates them, are so transparent -- his fear of abandonment; his fear of re-abandonment. And so, although it is earlier than I ever expected, we have been truthful with him in cold-hard-world terms. "Yes, Owen," I said to him one night sitting on his bed with Braydon, after another long and hard-fought bedtime battle, "yes, it is true, your birthmother left you. She left you. She did. But you know what baby? She could have put you in the road and let a car hit you. She could have just put you into the trash. She could have put you in a fire and let you burn. But she didn't. She didn't. She didn't do those things. She didn't do those things because she loved you. She loved you so much and she wanted you to have a good life. So she did the right thing. She put you in a place where you would be taken care of, and she chose for you to be adopted so that you could have a good life. She was a good, good birthmother. She did the right thing." The look on his face can only be described as peaceful relief. "You know, Owen, because we've told you many times Owen, that your birthmother could not take care of any child. And that's why she decided for you to be adopted. Because she loved you and Kyle so much and she wanted you to have a good life." Nodding he simply says, "I know." "And here's the thing, Owen, your Mommy and Papi, we can take care of children. We can take care of three children. And we will never, ever leave you. Never ever."
And that's all we can do. Express to him daily, through our words and our deeds, that we have the capacity to do this and that we're in this for the long haul. And still, he questions. And that is o.k. It is hard -- for us all -- but it is o.k. And we try to remember too, that although Kyle's vantage point on all this seems to be quite different, he needs the assurances just as much. And so we try to parent as best we can.
There are books about these things. I've read a bunch of them. I understand it all intellectually and emotionally. I think I 'get it' about as much as any non-adoptee probably can. But still, I am not an adoptee (and furthermore, as Kyle and Owen themselves prove, adoptees each experience adoption uniquely). Like Meera, I've been nurtured by my mom for my entire life. My boys know they are loved and valued... just as much as Meera is, or any other child is. But they also know that they had a life before us. And that we were not in it. And that other people were in it. We know that too.
As we get ready to celebrate four years together tomorrow, we can't help but think about everything that adoption has been, and is, for each of us.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Meera Grace 8 Months Old

Meera turns 8 months old today. This feels like a big milestone for us because Kyle and Owen were 8 months old when we brought them home. The newborn baby baby infant stage that we missed with our boys was so wanted by us with this third child. We are sad to see this phase go. We wish Meera could be our baby baby baby girl forever and ever. And yet, of course, every new day and every new stage and phase is an awesome discovery along the way. We recognize things about Meera now that we remember from our early days with K & O. And it feels familiar sometimes -- familiar is a feeling we did not have for the first 7+ months of Meera's life. Our time with her has, so far, been so different from our time with Kyle and Owen when they were babies. But now little things remind us that she is reaching the age that her brothers were when we became parents for the first time. Like, when I'm cutting up whole-grain bagels and putting the pieces in the freezer for Meera to gnaw on later. That is something I did so very often when K & O were little. Or like when Meera stands up slapping her hands upon, while holding herself up on, the ottoman in the family room. We spent hours watching the boys do that when they were babies. It is all bittersweet and full of emotion. Some of the feelings are similar and yet the whole entire experience is so incredibly, incredibly different on so many, many levels. We feel profoundly blessed to have been able to have a newborn by birth and to have been able to adopt by choice. And while Meera is sooooooooooo easy in comparison to K & O as babies (just simply having a singleton is sooooooooooooooooooooooooooo easy compared to TWINS!!!, and that is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of comparisons between her and them)... we feel truly grateful for the opportunity to parent both a single baby girl and two twin boys. What an amazing journey we find ourselves on. Milestones like this -- the 8 month mark -- make us pause and reflect on it all. And it all astounds us. Still. It still just keeps astounding us. Day after day. As for Meera~~~~~ what a sweetie pie this baby girl continues to be. This month has been another biggie for her. She got three new teeth on top, so she now has five teeth total. And she likes to use them for serious eating! She wants little to do with traditional baby food (i.e., pureed things). She refuses to eat applesauce, but loves to chew on fresh apple. She pushes away pureed bananas, but adores pieces of fresh ones. She whole-heartedly rejects pear from a jar, but can't get enough of a fresh raw pear. She likes to suck on fresh pieces of cut-up orange, and -- like her brothers -- loves mandarin oranges from a can too. Her favorite snack, by far, is Gerber Wagon Wheels, carrot flavor. Meera is pretty much an all-organic baby, but we do make an exception for this snack and Little Miss couldn't be more appreciative! As for 'baby food,' she still likes green beans and rice, and she loves sweet potatoes. Otherwise, she'll take 'real food' over 'baby food' any day. Physically, Meera is still 100% uninterested in rolling over!!! But she wants to stand all day long. When you hold her hands and get her to 'walk' standing up, she laughs like crazy. She can sit on her own now for prolonged periods of time. She can stand holding on to something for stretches of 5-10 minutes. She's done with her playmat and her swing and her bjorn chair. :( But she's loving the johnny jump-up thingy and her new jumparoo that her brothers bought her. At Meera's 8 month pediatrician appointment she measured 27 inches, 20 pounds. This is the 75th percentile for height, and 95th for weight. A big deal this month has been Mommy going back to work. Meera is one tough little cookie and seems to be handling it well. And she is building a strong bond with Margie, and vice-versa. But man, oh man!, does she ever squeal with delight, and laugh big belly laughs, and cuddle like there's no tomorrow, when Mama comes home from work!! [and let me tell you, there is absolutely nothing better than that at the end of the work day!!!] She loves her Papi too, especially when he just calmly hangs out with her -- which he is so good at doing. But still Meera's soft spot is for her big bro's. My goodness gracious does this girl ever adore her brothers. Her favorite part of the day is when she goes to get them at school at 1:00 (Margie confirms this to be true when Meera is with her too)... she could not be more excited and huge-smiley-happy-faced when she sees K and/or O approach her as they come out of their classrooms for pick-up. Oh my oh my! Just watching her get so excited is enough to make your day. Meera still rarely fusses and rarely cries. She definitely knows what she wants and lets it be known, but she chooses her battles carefully (which means that she basically gets whatever she wants when she does want it since it is so rare for her to assert herself!). The biggest development this month, though, has been Meera talking. She says "hi" (sounds more like 'haaa,' but it is clearly recognizable when you know what to listen for) and waves 'hi' with both hands. She says "Hi Kitty!", "Hi Book!", and starting just yesterday... "Hi Baby!" (to a special baby doll that she got for Christmas from MorMor and MorFar). She also waves 'bye bye' when someone is leaving her presence. Meera still loves the bath, the stroller, and toys toys toys. She is a happy, happy, happy 8-month-old girl!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Just Another Day In The Life

First, we dress up!!!...

...and then, we make lasagna.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Overheard Today

Backstory: Since school started back up after the Christmas break, K & O have been sledding at school every day. We love this about their school -- they are outside a ton, every single day, rain snow sleet or hail. Their daily sledding at school this winter (despite the fact that we don't even have what I'd consider 'real' snow on the ground, just patchy crusty icy spots of "snow" that doesn't even fully cover the ground) has been a serious highlight of their lives of late. They talk about it non-stop and we hear lots and lots about the sledding every day. Even though K & O are in separate classrooms, the two kindergarten groups often play together outside. I haven't blogged about it yet this year, but K & O are still good friends with Wil (see this post from last year). This year Wil is in Owen's classroom, but I've noticed on a few occasions that both K & O keep a special eye out for Wil and they don't let anyone mess with him. Wil's mother has mentioned to me more than once how appreciative she is of this (she's noticed it too). On the playground, K & O are definitely each other's #1, but Wil is surely their #2. Driving home from school today in the car...

K: Owen, why was Wil and Joshy not sledding today?
O: Oh, you know.
K: No, I don't. Please tell the story.
O: Oh, you know!
K: No I don't!!! PLEASE tell the STORY OWEN!
O: Well, o.k., but it is a pretty short story.
K: O.k.
O: We were sledding even before you came out. And Wil and Joshy weren't listening to the teachers. They weren't listening. Not at all. So they had to not be sledding. And that is the story.
K: Oh.
O: See Kyle, it was a short story. {at this point I notice that Owen looks at me in the rear view mirror when he says this... and I begin to suspect there is more to the story but that he is self-conscious that I am listening and doesn't want to spill it while I'm around}
[silence for a moment]
K: But the rest. Tell me the rest. Tell me the whole story Owen. I didn't know what happened. About how Wil was sledding.
O: Oh. {I notice him look at me again in the rear view mirror but I quickly divert eye contact and act like I'm totally oblivious}
O: Oh.
O: O.k., o.k., o.k. Well, I snuck over to Wil when Miss Joyce wasn't looking and quickly told him to get on my sled before Miss Joyce sees him and I got him on it and I got on it and I pushed us down and Miss Joyce was running after us but she couldn't catch us.
K: Oh! Did she get mad?!
O: No, actually she was laughing!
K: What did she say?
O: She said 'Wil has a pretty good friend!'

Meera's First Ponytail!!!