Monday, March 23, 2009

Where to Begin?

We have had a couple of very busy weeks! We swam with family friends, visited with cousin Willow and her moms, celebrated St. Patrick's Day, dined with cousin Katie and Tucker, took all of my students on a field trip to DC (that was a LOOONG day), took Payton to a track meet, sold some of my plants in anticipation of a serious landscaping makeover, and FINALLY we attended an adoption conference hosted by our first agency. The conference was the highlight of the last two weeks and my mind is reeling with the awesome information we took away from many of the speakers at the conference which focused on adoptees. I don't know where to begin. I really hope some of our family and friends might consider coming to next years conference with us!

Firstly, the conference renewed my passion for adoption and made me want to learn as much as possible from adoptees so I can be a better mom to Payton. Secondly, it confirmed my belief that racism is, unfortunately, very much alive in our society. Thirdly, tears streamed down my face as an adoptive mom and her adult daughter shared their story of a birth family reunion. The adoptive mom spoke of meeting the birth mom and said of her, "We had nothing in common, and we had everything in common." Every time I put Payton to bed, I say a prayer for C, Payton's birth mom, as I know our hearts are both wound tightly around Payton's life and well-being. We are so different and really have nothing in common, but we have EVERYTHING in common. I don't know what Payton will want as he grows older, and discussion of his birth family will be on his terms and when he is ready, but I selfishly hope he asks for a reunion at some point. I want to thank her for the precious gift she gave us. C is an angel.

At another session we had the privilege to hear bio and adoptive siblings share their stories during a q and a session. Wes and I were very curious about how these siblings felt as Payton may (or may not) have a white sibling some day. We were disappointed that none of the sibling groups were CC/AA, but still found their stories to be very interesting and helpful. What was most interesting to me was that their internal family dynamics, according to their perceptions, were not all that different that bio sibs. But the their tone changed when someone asked how their families were affected by racism. One teenage Latino adoptee seemed very angry and said he felt very helpless when it came to the battle he fights against racism every day. This young man had actually been detained by immigration coming back from a mission trip with his family! He also had several problems with comments his teachers and friends made AT SCHOOL. Finally, someone asked him what he thought he could say or do to stop people from being racist. He thought for a minute and said, "I don't white?" Ouch. My heart ached for this boy and for my son.

The reality is that Payton will face racism. Of course we thought long and hard about what being a transracial family would mean, and of course we buried ourselves in readings and research during our wait, but hearing from adoptees last weekend re-ignited my passion to be an active participant in the fight against racism. I hope I can give Payton the resources to be prepared mentally, to speak out, to maintain his dignity and composure, and to not feel like the only option he has is to give in and "be white." I especially worry for Payton's sensitive high school years, when he will no longer be a little cute baby/toddler, but a typical black high school boy. Will clerks follow him a store because they think he is stealing? Will white women move to the other side of the street and clutch their purses a little tighter? Will white parents not allow him to date their white children? I've personally witnessed many of these things happen to people I know and it really bothers me. Sure, there are "bad" black people, just like there are "bad" people of any race, but that does not justify the racism of so many people here in America. When I heard another African American, adoptee, and conference speaker (currently a professor of education), share his story of how much racism hurt him as a young boy and especially as a teenager, I felt anger boiling in my own heart. To bring it home a little more, Wes overheard an older member at our local gym, just this week, ask the management to stop playing "N-word music" and "N-word tv" on their channels. And people are really naive enough to think that because we have a Black president, there is no longer racism in America? The N-word is still used to talk about people who look like MY SON! I cannot even write it out because it makes me so mad. How can we humans have such hatred towards people who look different, when the same God knitted each of us in our birth mother's womb, knowing that we would all be unique and loved in his sight. But I am reminded that the answer is ALWAYS education.

Another statement this speaker made was helpful to me as an educator and my me rewind a bit and look at my years as teacher through a new lense. He said that today's suburban white girl is taught that a "good white girl" should be "color blind" and treat everyone the same. And he said that one of the problems with the teacher population in the US is that 80% of the teachers are of the "good white girl attitude" and therefore they overlook much of the racism in the classroom or brush it off as a student being "oversensitive." I must say that I was raised with this "color blind" attitude and have, through college courses, personal experiences, and continued reading, realized that we are not the same. Acknowledging skin color and heritage is okay, in fact, it is more than okay, it is necessary for a healthy coexistence. I feel sorry for Payton's teachers as he goes through school, as I know I am going to be a little overbearing and very sensitive to any racism my son experiences. Moreover, I have already acquired some readings and handouts on why "family tree" assignments can be very traumatic for adopted children, esp. adopted children of color, that I plan to give each of his teachers at our very first meeting. And honestly, if they still insist on doing the assignment, I just might let Payton skip school that day. Each adoptee at the conference mentioned how awful "family tree days" were in school and how many questions the other kids asked and how uncomfortable it made them feel. I don't want Payton to deal with that if he does not want to. I know this post is mainly applicable to adoptive moms and dads, but this is my personal forum, and I do think ending racism is important. Call me oversensitive if you want, but I am a mommy who wants to protect her baby from the "big, bad world," just like everyone else.

Here is a picture of Payton with the key-note conference speaker, Allison Larkin, adoptee and author of The English American. After signing a book for Payton, she took a moment to pose with him! She is hilarious and her book has been a great read, so far. I am sure I will have more to say when I finish reading!

Payton was a trooper and sat through an 8am-4pm conference! We did not have a sitter so we took him with us. He charmed everyone, all day, and never once shed a tear! (But I did feel a little guilty taking him as I know waiting parents looked at us and ached a little more, wanting their future son or daughter.) Those memories are not-so-distant for me and I remember looking at adoptive moms and dads with their children, and thinking "WHEN, OH WHEN, will my little one be here!" He is here now, and I am loving it!

In other amazing news:

My friends, Nate and Sarah, got their referral this week!!!!!! Their children, Eden and Caleb, are going to be travel home from Ethiopia this summer! Praise God! Their adoption has been a LONG, LONG journey. Please say some prayers as Eden and Caleb wait, that their health would be restored and their wait to meet their mom and dad is a very short one.

We got our court date this week! WOOHOO! On April 17th we will attend Payton's finalization hearing via phone. The judge granted our motion to waive personal appearance. We are praising God for this as we just did not have the finances to plan another expensive trip out West in the very near future. On April 17th we will be a forever family (at least, in the eyes of the government). In our eyes, we've been a forever family since his placement. I am so excited for the 17th!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Kiss Me, I'm Irish?

Pate and his Mom in the morning before heading off to school. I am so blessed he is a morning person, even though I am NOT.
GaGa's glasses.
Pate and GaGa at St. Patrick's Day dinner... we ate Chinese, Payton ate sweet potatoes. Really.
Pate and Daddy.

So maybe our little Pate does not sport red hair and freckles, but our little man got a thorough dose of Irish celebration on St. Patrick's Day. I LOVE St. Patrick's Day ! It is a chance to celebrate the tiny bit of Irish heritage I have, but also because I teach my favorite lesson of the year! Several years ago Wes and I took a trip to Ireland. I put together a simple slide show of those pics for my students and go through the slides. I use it as a SOL (end of year test) review... discussing climate, religion, religious conflict, Colombian Exchange, Cromwell, potato famine/immigration, James Joyce, Northern Ireland, IRA, etc (all part of the state's required curriculum). But it would be so boring to ONLY teach these things. My lesson incorporates some Irish Tunes (U2, Children's music (the Unicorn song and of course traditional Reels), discussion of the difference in sheep tails in the US and Ireland (US farmers band tails, Irish do not b/c of the climate), and Irish folktales (cutting down fairy trees=big no no). I love the lesson and the kids are usually engaged. Some are even willing to "put on their dancing shoes" and learn the "3" and "7" step in Irish dance. We end the class listening to "Tim Finnegan's Wake" while we eat Irish Soda Bread and drink Mt. Dew. (I got this idea from one of the parents of my students 4 years ago who was a guest speaker and brought in soda bread.) She came again last year when I taught her 2nd child, and I anticipate I will teach a 3rd kiddo next year and hope she will return again. This parent has such a unique story to share about growing up in Northern Ireland.
I explained to Payton a little about St. Patrick's Day (like he understood ;) and also told him we are a trans-racial, multicultural family. So we will celebrate St. Pats day, and Kwanzaa, and who know what else as the years pass. It is fun to celebrate to unique and wonderful qualities of cultures around the world!
Here is the traditional soda bread recipe I used:
4 cups of wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 egg
2 cups buttermilk
3 tablespoons butter
Bake for 40 minuets at 400
My cousin, Willow, helped me make a loaf of bread for each class. Thanks Will, you are the greatest!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Six Months Old!!!!

It is so hard to believe that our little man is 6 months old (on Monday, I am posting now because I won't have time them). It feels unreal. We took him for his six month check up a little early because we needed to send in his paper work for our lawyer to use for finalization. YEA! At his check up, Pate was 15 lbs 3 oz and 26 inches long. He remains on the bottom end of the growth charts for his age, but seems to be steady, so the doctor was not at all concerned. As far as his health is concerned, the pediatrician feels like he is doing great. She could not hear his heart murmur at all, but said not to be surprised if it shows up again at his 9 month appointment ( the type of murmur his has/had often does). I am glad our little boy is looking good!

Payton loves to eat on his socks. YUCK! As you can see in this photo, he is working on removing one which he usually puts straight in his mouth. I love this pick that Annie snapped for me last week. She watched Payton when all of my regular sitters were unavailable. She is a life saver (and very brave to take on a third baby for the day when she already has four month old twins of her own to care for).
Here is Payton chilling in the jogging stroller that my cross country athletes got for him. We had beautiful weather this week, so we journeyed to the river several times this week. It is about a 3.75 mile walk out and back. We take Lily with us and it makes her so happy. I feel blessed to live in such a beautiful area.

This is a pic of our social worker, from agency #1, with Payton at our last post placement visit. She just loves him and we are grateful for all of the work she has done for us over the last year. I had to snap a pic of Payton with her for his life book. Who knows, she may be back in a year or two if we start the process all over again. I am willing start the process for baby number 2 right now, but I am not sure that our finances will have recovered enough to embark on adoption again in the near future, so it might be awhile before Payton has a little sibling.

Payton is NOT a good eater. I am envisioning him as the picky kid who won't eat anything that touches something else and only likes two foods. He just not much on food. I have tried to give him rice cereal every nite this week, but he ain't havin' it! He just spits it right back at me. I have started making some other foods (like bananas) and freezing them so I will have them when he is ready. But I am not sure when that will be, since he won't eat the rice cereal! My cousin Cristen suggested the Super Baby Food Book as an excellent resource for making my own baby food. I am going to check Amazon for a used copy this weekend. Does anyone have a good suggestion for getting him to like eating so-called solid foods?

Heeeellllooooooo Payton!

Check out Payton's new sleeping position these days! So cute.
Payton has changed a lot this month. He is very interested in reaching and pulling his toys toward him and gets frustrated when he actually pushes them away. His most amazing accomplishment this month is that he sat up from a lying position all on his own. I was playing peek-a-boo and pulled the blanket down and he was sitting there, staring me in the face! Crazy. Wes witnessed the whole thing and said Payton was like the incredible hulk; he gave a big grunt, and just sat up. He is also noticing voices and sounds more and turns to them. He also demonstrates preferences for certain toys, like his singing ball. I love that he developing more of a personality and can't wait to see more of the little person that Payton will become over the next several months and years.

Cancer Sucks!

Payton is already developing a loving heart. Lily had two treatments this week and was feeling a little exhausted last night (partly from the chemo, but mostly from stressing at the vet). Here he is loving on his sweet four-legged sister.

Cancer super stinks for so many reasons, but mostly because it hurts the beings we know and love. Lily, as I posted last week, is once again out of remission. However, all of her vital organs still appear cancer free, but it is becoming less and less likely that she will go back into remission. The oncologist gave us several new chemo options to try, but some of them are impossible for us to afford (one is $1000 a vile)! We have opted to try a drug that is only $9 a vile. While the drug is relatively inexpensive, we still have to pay the vet for bloodwork, boarding, and a check up with each visit. A little over $8000 later we are simply running out of monies, so we are sticking with the $9 drug. It breaks my heart, but I still can't stop loving and fighting for our sweet Lily Lu. Just this morning she jumped onto the couch with her favorite toy, crouched, and gave Jackson (the other boxer) the "I dare you to come and get it" growl. Chaos ensued. Her spirit is healthy, her body is not.

Cancer has affected so many people I care about and just yesterday and I received some terrible news about my friend's mother. Her cancer has spread once again. They have traveled to so many hospitals and tried so many drugs. I don't want to put too many details as they have tried to keep much of their journey private, but I do ask you for prayer. Her family is aching and they are pleading to God for a miracle. My heart is crying out for this family as their spirits are so broken. Please, lift them up in prayer, God knows them by name, even if you do not.

My aunt is also continuing her battle with cancer and amazes me with her strong spirit. She is an amazing woman. We received mostly good news about her last scans, and I continue to rejoice and pray that her spirits remain high and of course, that the cancer would just go away.

Cancer is honestly one of those things that makes my ask God, why? He has never given me a clear answer, and I will keep asking and questioning and wondering, but all the while I do know that my God can heal. I found the book The Shack to be a good read for thinking about the bad things in the world and how that relates to the Christian faith. It sure did not answer all my questions, but the book did give me a new perspective on contemplating these disasters in life.

Friday, March 6, 2009

One Cute Cowboy!

Lily Lu

Thanks for all of the sweet thoughts about Lily! We know that some of our BRBR family check this site and are praying for our girl, so THANKS to all of you. Lily went to the vet three times this week. She had her appointment with a specialist 2 hours away on Tuesday. The ultrasound ($500 later) indicated that the CANCER HAD NOT SPREAD to her liver. We are so grateful! Lily was actually having a reaction to her most recent chemo combo and her liver couldn't process the toxins. Her liver is almost back to normal functioning (revealed in tests conducted by our regular vet on Tuesday). This meant she was able to have chemo today. The vet went back to a drug (l-spar is what she calls it, but I think it is called L-aspirignase or something along those lines). She has responded to this drug in the past, but the more she uses it, the more likely it is that she will develop a severe reaction to it. I am not sure where we will head after this treatment. It is our prayer that this treatment will severely reduce the size of her pre-scapular node, because it is about the size of an orange right now. Again, Lily is still her playful, happy self and we are so glad her spirits are high. Sometimes I am so torn as every cent of our "extra" money is paying for Lily's treatments. But we took on a responsibility when we became doggie parents, and I think we owe it to our girl to make sure she always gets the best of the best. When her time on earth is done, she will let us know, and we will make the right choice.

Monday, March 2, 2009



Today I was fortunate enough to get a day off for snow!!! Always a wonderful treat. We took advantage of the extra time to get some things done. We cleared out our front room and set up an area to be Payton's playroom. I suspect this space will evolve over time, but for now it works. We used a series of coupons to get a huge (12 ft) summer baby gate (only $60)to put up to keep the dogs out. They have tendencies to give Payton kisses all the time and this will give Payton some extra space without having to share his blankets with dogs. I don't really believe in leaving kids in what used to be called play pens (they now bare the glorified title pac n play). Payton needs more room to roll and play. Here is video of Payton's first time in his new play room. Notice how he reaches for toys in front of him and gets frustrated when he can't quite get them to do what he wants (which is usually to his mouth).

Wes also surprised Payton and I last weekend by putting together Payton's high chair. He sits in it while we eat dinner and I allow him to play with a bowl and baby spoon. My hope is that this will make him a bit more willing and ready to chow down when we re-introduce solids in two weeks. He looks like such a big boy sitting in his high chair!
In other Payton news, we are in the process of getting our final documents together for finalization. We had three documents notarized today (one of which was our petition to waive our right of appearance). We are praying that we will not have to fly back out west to finalize as our pocket books are really feeling the strain of adoption these days and buying more plane tickets just doesn't fit in the budget. Hopefully we will find out soon. They attorney requested a recent family pic for the motion to waive and I went digging into the computer pic files and discovered we really do not have many family pics. I should be more diligent about getting some of us together. I am going to have my sister come take one for us tomorrow. Does anyone else notice they have lots of kiddo pics, and not many family pics?

On a sad note, Lily is not doing well. She is out of remission again and her liver values are off the charts. We are taking he to a specialists tomorrow for an ultrasound to see if the cancer has spread to her liver. She is still feeling okay and loves playing with her tennis balls as usual. She is our girl and this is just weighing on our hearts so much.