Saturday, June 30, 2012

Blogaholics Anonymous . . . and Nathan Update!

This week, the blogaholic in me found lots of great new adoption reads to share with you. They're all short and sweet and so worth your time.

Twelve - What's an appropriate gift to take when you meet your new daughter for the first time? Especially when she's twelve.  Read one adoptive mom's musings in Walmart on the night before she travels to Ethiopia to adopt two older children.  What do you take for the twelve year old?

Progress - How do you get rid of all the negative behaviors in a way that fosters deep connection to your adopted child?  What's the right kind of discipline?

"Maternity" Photo Session - One couple's cute photos commemorating the wait to bring their adopted child home.

Overthinking Fundraising - What do you think about fundraising for adoption?  Is it something you would try?  Is it the right thing to do? This blogger shares her perspective on adoption fundraising.  You can even leave a link to your own fundraiser at the end of her post.

Tonight is a big night at our house because it's the night that . . . (dramatic pause) . . . NATHAN COMES HOME!  We did it. . .ummm, I mean. . . He did it!  He made it through the whole week!

Yesterday I got a new photo from camp.

Now that's more like it.  If I'm not mistaken, that's a real smile on Nathan's face.

Bring it on -- stinky laundry and all.  I can't wait to meet that bus tonight!

Enjoy your holiday weekend.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Encouragement for the Journey

You've probably heard me say that my favorite adoption parenting book is The Connected Child by Dr. Karyn Purvis.  What you might not know is there's a gold mine of teaching by Dr. Purvis and others at her website, Empowered to Connect.

I especially appreciate the videos.  They are short.  They are encouraging.  And did I mention that they are short?  When you're in the thick of parenting a child from what Dr. Purvis calls "the hard places," you don't really have time to kick back and watch a long parenting video.

Here's a taste of what you can find at Empowered to Connect.

If you'd like to connect with other parents and join the conversation, check out this Facebook group:  Trust Based Parenting.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Missing someone, sniff. . . sniff

Would someone please put me into a medically induced coma for the next few days?  Just wake me up Saturday evening.  Around 8 pm.

Because that's when Nathan comes home.

Last Saturday night we put our 12 year old son on a bus for summer camp.

It was his first time.

The camp is 560 miles from our home.

It's supposed to be the Rolls Royce of Boy Scout Camps, and 33 boys from his troop were going together.  It looks like tons of fun.  It wasn't cheap.

Problem is, he's only made a couple of friends in the troop so far.  And both friends opted out of camp this year, leaving Nathan to go it alone.

He didn't really want to go.

He teared up a little.

But we put him on the bus anyway.  To go to camp.  560 miles from home.  Without a friend.

I need that coma as soon as possible.

Now at this point, there are two types of people reading this post.  There's the crowd that's saying:  "Dana, cut the cord already.  The kid is 12 years old, and Boy Scout camp is fun.  HE'LL BE FINE."

And then, there are those of you who are gasping, "What?  You made him go to camp?  By himself? Are you insane?" You know who you are.   And now you're thinking, "Well, how was he when you talked to him?" 

Yeah.  I haven't talked to him.  Did I mention that electronics aren't allowed in camp and there are no phone calls home, unless there's a problem? 

So I guess he's fine.  "Coma. . .  please."

Here's a photo of Nathan and Mike, right before Nathan left for camp.  Mike's trying to look more upset than Nathan.

And here's Nathan, texting his friends, letting them know that he'll be offline for the next week.

If it had been up to me, I wouldn't have made him go this year.  But Mike thought this was the year -- friends or not.  Maybe that's why God gave boys a dad and not just a mom.  Dad's look at things in a different way.  I suspect my boys need that kind of leadership in their lives.

Just like I need a coma to make it til Saturday.

By last Sunday afternoon, I was toast.  And then it hit me.  The kids may be unplugged from electronics for the week, but there's no way all those adult leaders checked their iphones at the door.

So I sent off a little email to the Scoutmaster's wife.

"I know that Nathan was kind of (understatement) homesick when he left last night.  Could you tell me how he's doing?" 

That was ok, don't you think?  Low key.  Not too desperate.

The next morning she sent me this photo of Nathan having breakfast with a friend.

When I saw this photo, all I could think was, "Cue the deer." 

If you're unfamiliar with that expression, here's a little explanation from The Urban Dictionary.

The expression "cue the deer" comes from Funny Farm, in a scene where a couple was showing their home to prospective buyers. The sellers wanted to make their home as attractive as possible. As the potential buyers were approaching the home, Chevy Chase's characters says "cue the deer" into a walkie talkie, and a small deer is released from a cage and scampers across the lawn, charming the socks right off the buyers.

Yep, when I saw this photo, all I could think was, "Cue the smiling kid.  Sit him right there next to Nathan, so Nathan's mom will know he's ok."

Nathan looks ok.  He's not brimming over with unspeakable joy, but he looks ok enough. 

Hopefully his days at camp are so full of swimming, hiking, white water rafting and other outdoor fun that he doesn't have much time to be homesick.  And maybe that smiling kid really is his new best friend.

As for me, I'm sure I'll be fine as well.  I'm just thinking it would go by so much faster if I could be uncounscious until about 8 pm Saturday night.  Suggestions anyone?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

When Fear Looks Like Disobedience

Yesterday, Karen shared an amazing guest post about what older child adoption looks like in her family.  Karen shared that older child adoption is exhausting.

Karen gave me so much to think about.  With all the challenges of parenting my older adopted child, am I really trusting God, or do I suffer from the sin of independence?  Does any part of my weariness come from trying to make this journey in my own strength?

We need people in our lives who surface questions like that.

Karen's post also caused me to think a lot about the kind of behaviors that fear triggers in our children who've come to us with a background of trauma.

Remember 10 year old Cami rolling on the floor and whining at her sister's kindergarten graduation?  Later that day, Karen discovered that all the talk about the end of school and summer vacation had put Cami in fight or flight mode because Cami didn't know what the terms end of school and summer vacation even meant. 

Fear can make our older adopted children behave in ways that mistakenly look like disobedience or immaturity. 

Remember when I posted the following story last year?

"I hate everybody in this room!"

Earlier that morning, Wenxin and I packed his lunchbox for his first day at Colorado Kids Camp. We filled his water bottle and put on sunscreen. We talked about how Daddy and I would go to the meetings for our conference and he'd go to camp. (Our other kids were at home with grandparents, but since Wenxin's only been home 10 months, we chose to bring him with us on this work trip to Colorado.) We planned to pick him up at 3 pm and then come home and swim together. So far so good.

But when we pulled up to the elementary school where the kids camp was held, the whole atmosphere changed. Things went downhill quickly.

Wenxin began to cling to my leg and whine. He didn't want to stay. He wanted to go with Mom and Dad.

First stop: the Health Check station where they weed out any kids who might be sick. Wenxin tried his darnedest to fail the health check. Cough, sore throat, stomach ache? He had them all.

On to his class: Wenxin refused to take a seat. In fact he stood, stiff as a board, in the middle of the room and mumbled loudly, "I hate everybody in here!"

The teacher greeted him. At my request, she brought the day's schedule over and explained about all the fun things they'd be doing. But Wenxin wanted no part of it.

I asked if I could move with him to the side of the room where we could just sit together and observe the class for a while. He gathered his sunscreen and water bottle from the desk. He took the name tag they'd prepared for him, emphatically throwing it to the floor.

By this time Mike had parked the car and come in to see what was taking so long. I walked over and talked with Mike for a moment and when we looked back, huge tears were rolling down Wenxin's face.

Our hearts hurt for him, but we were not surprised. Over the last 10 months, we've learned that certain situations trigger anxiety in Wenxin. A big one is places that look "institutional." This includes doctor's offices, schools, churches, etc.

I talked with Wenxin and told him that all the kids at the camp had parents who would be picking them up at the end of the day, just like we'd be picking him up. No children would spend the night at the camp. I tried to ease his fears.

Context is everything. With no context, if you saw an eight year old boy refuse to take a seat, say that he hated everyone in the room and purposefully throw his name tag to the floor, you would probably think that his parents should impose swift consequences for his disobedient and disrespectful behavior. What eight year old acts like that?

But what if you knew that only three years ago, this child had been removed from the only home he'd ever known and placed in an orphanage that housed 1000 kids? Would that make a difference? Could you see how getting in a line with a bunch of other kids and being dropped off at a place that looks an awful lot like an orphanage might push all his buttons, putting him into "fight or flight" mode? Could it be possible that even though this kid now has loving parents and life is good, this makes him even more afraid that he might somehow lose everything again, for a second time?

We did not punish Wenxin for his behavior because it was rooted in fear, not rebellion. Mike sat down with him at the edge of the room and I went out to talk with the Kids Camp director. At that point a couple of really good things happened.

First, Mike began to play with Wenxin. When I came back in the room they were quietly having a war, taking turns shooting each other with a bottle of sunscreen. The tears were gone and Wenxin was smiling. The next think I knew, Wenxin was sporting Mike's sunglasses and conference name tag. As he laughed and played with his dad, he relaxed. Play is a key to Wenxin's heart.

Next, the Kids Camp director was quick on her feet and assigned a teacher to stick close to Wenxin for the whole day. She had that teacher come and get to know Wenxin while Mike and I were still there.

Finally, I felt we might be able to leave. So I asked Wenxin, "Would you like to wear Dad's sunglasses when we leave, or can he have them back now?" Wenxin chose to take his seat in class, hiding out behind Mike's sunglasses, and we were able to slip out the door. Wenxin had a great "first day" at Kids Camp, and since then, he's marched right in like a big boy each morning.

Lord, give us the grace to parent our kids from "the hard places" with eyes of informed compassion.  Give us wisdom to see behind the bad behavior.  Help us ignore the weird looks and insensitive comments from folks who just don't understand.  Help us to be gracious to those people too, because not that long ago, we didn't understand either.  Amen.

Would you consider joining this site and becoming a regular part of the community at Death by Great Wall?  You can follow Death by Great Wall by clicking the join this site button on my sidebar.  Or if you prefer, you can sign up to receive new posts by email. 

Coming up tomorrow:  a little post on why I'd like to be in a medically induced coma for the rest of this week.  It's true.  Check back tomorrow to see why!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Exhaustion - Guest Post by Karen

One of the things I missed by not having biological children was being awakened every two hours by a hungry newborn.

The closest I ever came to that schedule was the 8 days I spent on a long distance sailboat racing team.  A schedule of 4 hours on, followed by 4 hours off, translated into 3 hours of sleep every 5 hours -- except it was too light to actually sleep during the day. 

In the same way, the newborn life must be a grueling existence. Exhaustion. Utter and complete exhaustion.

Although she wasn't a newborn, Becky, adopted at 14 months, had a really tough time sleeping as an infant. 

Then came Katie, adopted at age 4  -- up every single morning by 5:15 am (maybe, if we are very, very lucky, it's 5:30).

I am almost 50,  and if I don't get my 8 hours of sleep every night, I look like I didn't get my 8 hours of sleep. Being perfectly honest here -- the thought of a child who would sleep through the night and maybe even sleep in greatly appealed to this sleep deprived mom. With an older child, at least I wouldn't be making negative progress, decreasing what little sleep I was already experiencing.

Which brings me to Cami.

Cami, adopted last year at age 9, sleeps well. She goes to bed when Katie and Becky do at 7:00 every night. She sleeps till 6:30 or 7 every day -- when the other girls are already awake. Yeah!  Maybe there is more sleep in my future?

But I am more tired than ever.

Here's what I did not count on -- the emotional energy expended on parenting my older adopted child far exceeds anything I have ever experienced. From the moment I hear her footsteps coming down the hall in the morning till she is tucked in bed and soundly asleep, I am on alert. High Alert. Code Red Alert.

Is she regulated?

Does she feel connected?

What will derail her before breakfast?

It's hard enough to parent any child struggling with the drama and hormones of the preteen years. When you navigate those same waters with a child whose fear trigger is super sensitive and whose window of stress tolerance is very small, it's a veritable mine field that requires full and complete concentration.

A lapse in attention to this landscape for even a moment can result in a monumental meltdown over the lack of a certain breakfast cereal. You must be aware of every single word out of your mouth -- watching sibling conversations as well -- and you have to think about every single thing. You can NEVER let your guard down. It saps every ounce of energy out of you every single day.

Recently, about a week before the end of school, Cami began getting very irritable with everyone. She was short tempered and at times downright nasty to us and her siblings. It came to a full boil the morning of Katie's graduation -- which was also Cami's last day of school. She fussed and carried on throughout the graduation -- rolling on the floor during the presentation, whining and fussing.

As I walked her into her school later that morning, I asked her, "Do you know what summer vacation is? Do you know what the last day of school means?"

Her answer: "No."

For the past week, we had been talking about these things in the general conversation -- and they are good and happy things. Things to be celebrated. A time to have fun. Only she didn't know that. Consequently, her fear radar was triggered, and those fears manifested themselves in less than pleasant behaviors.

Every.  Single.  Thing.  Every. Single. Day.

It is utterly and thoroughly exhausting.

Recently, a fellow mom of older adoptees shared an interesting perspective. She had been up late several nights in a row dealing with some fallout like ours.

"I guess this is making up for all those newborn nights I didn't get with her," she said.  

Then, the same week in church, these verses:

Even youths will become weak and tired,
and young men will fall in exhaustion.
But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
They will walk and not faint.

Here is what I realized -- my exhaustion is not really from the journey I am on. I am tired because I am trying to walk this path in and of my own self.  I think that because I reach out to friends for support, read a few books on the subject, and confess my weakness in parenting, that I am not suffering from the sin of independence.  But I am. 

These good and necessary activities will not relieve the exhaustion. Neither will two or three nights of straight through 10 hour sleeps (although I would be willing to give that a try)!
I need to trust Him that this is where He wants us. He gave us clear confirmation through this journey that all these children were to become part of our family. The evidence is there.

I need to trust Him that He is in this with us. He has provided what we needed -- when we needed it -- through the adoption process, the medical journey and our educational trials.  Evidence again that He provides.

I need to trust Him that we will make progress. We have come so far with Katie, so there is hope for Cami. More evidence.

Sounds like this might be a "me" problem.

Cami, with her dad, after a recent surgery 

So this morning, as I hear the footsteps come down the hall, I will commit this child's healing to Him, and ask for His strength to sustain me. I will whisper His name when the meltdown appears on the distant horizon. I will mutter the scriptures that promise hope and healing and strength. I will play my praise music loudly and sing joyfully when I feel like hiding in the closet crying.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains.
Where does my help come from?

My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;

the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm
he will watch over your life;

the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

Karen's three beautiful girls!

Thank you, Karen, for such a raw and honest, yet hope-filled post!  One of my biggest joys in our adoption journey has been getting to know women like Karen.  Although we've never met in person, she's encouraged me over and over again to look at Wenxin's behavior with eyes of informed compassion.  You can read more of Karen's adoption journey at her blog, Casa de Alegria.

What are your thoughts?  Feel free to post comments for Karen on the form below.  

If you liked this post, you might also enjoy this one on building trust in older child adoption.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Blogaholics Anonymous

I'm a blog addict, an information junkie. I read decorating blogs, home organization blogs, adoption blogs, political blogs - anything that makes me learn or think or laugh or grow. Here's a smattering of posts I've enjoyed lately. Disclaimer: By posting these links, I'm not saying I endorse all the views expressed; but I am saying they made me think.

For His Birthfather: I'm doing the best I can, Sir - do we ever think about their first fathers?

2 months - what does it look like when you adopt two older kids at the same time?

Whose RAD is it Anyway? - is attachment always the child's problem?

How to Live Your Best Life - what are we willing to risk to live our best life? 

Have a great weekend,

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

When Life Gives You Lemons, Write a Blog Post!

The doctor broke the news.  I have arthritis in my knees. 

These were his exact words.  "When I looked at your photo in your chart I thought, 'Wow, she's really young to have arthritis.'  But then I looked at your age and saw that you're 50."

I'm sure there's a compliment in there.  Somewhere.  Sort of.

But let me back up.  Sunday, we spent the afternoon at a resort with my sister and her family.  The grown-ups chatted by the pool while the cousins played in the water.  As we were relaxing in the sun, I noticed that my right knee felt weird.  It looked weird too.  By the time we got home that night, my right knee had swollen to twice the size of the left one.

Monday afternoon, I sat in the doctor's office and received the bad news.  Arthritis.  The reason my knees have been clicking and making crunchy sounds for the past few years.  But not the reason for my current injury.   The doctor suspects I have a torn meniscus, although it will take an MRI to know for sure. 

Doctor:  "Tell me exactly what you were doing when you noticed something was wrong with your knee.

Me:  "I wasn't doing anything.  I first noticed it was hurting as I sat down on a lounge chair out by the pool."

Doctor:  "One of those chairs you lie down on?"

Me:  "Yes."

Doctor:  "Those are really low - do you think you injured your knee when you squatted down lower than normal to climb on the chair?"

I was speechless.

Am I really so old that I can injure my knee by the simple act of sitting down?

Well yes, apparently I am.

We talked about taking care of my knees from here on out.  Bummer.  One of my bucket list items is to train for and run a race with Julia.  It's right up there where walking on the Great Wall of China used to be.  You remember how that worked out for me, right?

But I know myself, and one of the best ways to get me to do something is to tell me I can't.  So today I'll pop that pain pill and strap on that lovely black knee brace before I head out for my day.  But in the back of my mind, I haven't quite surrendered to the bad knees thing yet.  Not at all.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Blogaholics Anonymous

This has been a great week here at Death by Great Wall.  If you missed my post on Adopting a Boy from China be sure to take a look and watch the video.  It might change your life -- in a good way!

And because I'm a blogaholic, here are some posts I enjoyed this week.

How to Get Two Hours of Sanity Each Day (with 4 boys home for the summer!) - you will want to kiss this mom for spelling it out so simply for us.  This is brilliant!

How to Have a Story - if you are a Christian, this might get you thinking.

Sealed Records Are Wrong.  Period. - one of my favorite adoption bloggers.  If you are an adoptive parent, you need to hear what Susan has to say.

Is it Ever OK to Complain About the Expense of Adoption? - adoption usually IS expensive.  So what do you think?  Is it OK to complain?

As always, I'm not saying I agree with all the views expressed in these posts, but I am saying they made me think. 

My sister and her family come into town this evening, and we're all looking forward to celebrating Fathers Day swimming with cousins tomorrow.    Next week the younger kids have VBS in the morning, and while they're at VBS, I'll be helping Nathan shop and pack for his first ever "sleep away" camp.  It's out of state, 10 hours away, so you might want to pray for Nathan and pray for Nathan's mom.  Yikes.   This growing up stuff is hard.

Hope you have a fun-filled weekend.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

How Did You Get A Boy From China?

"How did you get a boy from China?" 

It's a legitimate question.  I get why someone would ask.  But often, the immediate follow-up stings.

"I thought they wanted boys."

I understand the question, but when it's put that way, I cringe.  Please be sensitive when you ask questions of an adoptive parent -- not so much for the parent's sake, but because little ears are often listening, especially when we are talking about them.  "I thought they wanted boys."  What does it do to Wenxin's heart to hear a statement like that?

But getting back to the original question, let's talk about adopting a boy from China.

A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing.  Smile.  Here's what today's average informed person knows about China adoption:  China has a one child policy.  (What most people don't know is that China now allows some families to have two children.)  Chinese families want their one child to be a boy because in Chinese culture, adult sons are responsible to care for their aging parents.   For this reason, baby girls are often abandoned at birth so the parents can "try again" for a boy.

This limited understanding of a very complex social problem gives people the idea that there aren't any boys in Chinese orphanages.  Nothing could be further from the truth. 

When you look at "waiting children" lists from China there are always boys --lots and lots of boys. 

Here are just a few reasons a Chinese boy might be waiting  -- sometimes for years -- to be adopted:

  • Chinese parents may give up a male child when the parents already have one or two other children.
  • Chinese parents may give up a child who has medical needs, even medical needs that seem minor to Westerners.
  • Sometimes parents die, and there's not another family member to take the child. 
  • Adoptive parents seem to prefer girls, especially when adopting an older child.

So I want to shout it from the rooftops, "Yes,you can adopt a boy from China. . .  Yes, you can.  We did, and our family wouldn't be the same without him." 

Would you consider adopting an older boy from China?  If you're an adoptive parent, how do you answer personal questions about your child's history?

Love Without Boundaries produced an amazing video about adopting a boy. Take a look.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Big Reveal -- My Home on the Web Got a Makeover!

I chose an interior designer to redesign my home on the web. 

Elizabeth, of The Mustard Ceiling blog and TMC Designs, worked with me to give Death by Great Wall a whole new look. 

I'm glad she didn't fire me in the process.  It must be hard to work with a picky person who almost knows what she wants -- to find that vision in her head that even she can't see clearly yet.  

It's probably even harder when she names her blog something weird like Death by Great Wall and then tells you that the design must look "whimsical," and not too serious or "deadly." 

You probably want to blow your brains out when she rejects your first design and you make two more, only to have her flip flop and decide she really does love the first one -- "if we can just tweak it a little."

But Elizabeth didn't blow her brains out or fire me.  She kept working and came up with a design I love.  I stared at it all weekend.

So, take the house tour.  Click on stuff.  See what you find.

Check out the About page or the Frequently Asked Questions.

Those cute little icons right at the top of my sidebar will take you to Pinterest and Facebook and my Contact page.

And if you like what I'm doing here at Death by Great Wall, promoting awareness about older child adoption, grab the code for my blog button (midway down the sidebar) and share Death by Great Wall on the sidebar of your own blog.  Thanks, Jennifer Peterson, for leading the way on this!

Lastly, Elizabeth is running a 20% off special on custom blog designs for orders placed through June 14. So if you're in the mood for a makeover, check it out.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Blogaholics Anonymous

Old photos of my girls that never made it onto the blog.  Sweet memories!

I'm a blog addict, an information junkie. I read decorating blogs, home organization blogs, adoption blogs, political blogs - anything that makes me learn or think or laugh or grow. Here's a smattering of posts I've enjoyed lately. Disclaimer: By posting these links, I'm not saying I endorse all the views expressed; but I am saying they made me think. And some of them are just for fun!

Realistic Expectations:  Attachment - A great overview of post-adoption attachment problems that kids adopted internationally (specifically, from China) may experience. 

18 Summers.  How Many Do You Have Left? - perspective on summer with our kids from one of my favorite bloggers.

Regan Baker Design - This is a typical post from my favorite interior design blog.  You can count on House of Turquoise for gorgeous, inspiring photos every time.

7 Simple Ways to Help a Friend Move - Friends moving away is one of those unavoidable sad parts of life.  Here are some great tips on how to help when it happens.

Date Night - Plan B - I inserted this link 12 hours after I published this post.  It's too good to wait until next week.  This story illustrates how parenting a child with a background of trauma differs from parenting your average child.

Thanks to everyone who "liked" Death by Great Wall on Facebook so far.  If you haven't visited our new page yet, click here.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Look What I Did Last Night!

Sometime in the wee hours of the morning, after endless fretting over the right cover photo, I hit "publish," and Death by Great Wall got its own Facebook page. If you're a Facebook user, please follow this link and "like" Death by Great Wall on Facebook.

The other thing I've been doing this week is working with a blog designer on the makeover for Death by Great Wall.   I can't wait for you to see it.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Should Adoptive Parents Search for Birth Parents?

Wenxin, meeting his "new" family at the airport, back in 2010

Tuesday I wrote about adoption loss -- specifically, an adopted child's loss of personal history.  I talked about the loss of medical history and the loss of his or her original family tree. 

Today, I want to ask some questions.

What's our role as adoptive parents in helping recover our children's missing histories?  Should we search for their birth families, or is searching a decision that should be left to them when they're older?  If we decide to search, when do we share the information we find with our child? 

Leave a comment and let me know what you think.  I'm hoping to hear the perspective of adoptive parents, adult adoptees and first moms.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

It's Summer! Let Them be Bored!

I'm a big fan of letting kids be bored.  OK, boredom is not really my ultimate goal; my goal is to give them enough unstructured free time that they can think and dream and play and create.  When kids experience that on a regular basis, they rarely stay bored for very long.

Monday was the first day of the first week of summer -- and I didn't plan a thing.  We turned off the TV and the video games. 

The next thing I knew, Wenxin found bamboo skewers in the kitchen and got the idea to use grapes and Cheerios to make kabobs.  This is the same kid who a year and a half ago could not entertain himself for a minute.  He was used to having every moment of every day structured for him in the orphanage.  But over the last year and a half he's learned to use his imagination to play and create.  Even his sisters thought the kabob thing was a good idea. 

I could have found a "summer fruit activity" on Pinterest and gathered the materials, but I really didn't need to because Wenxin has an imagination, and he's learning to use it.

Unless we give our kids time and space, unless we take the risk that they might get bored, unless we relax and let them relax, we may never see what their brilliant minds are capable of creating.  Eventually it may be something much bigger than fruit and Cheerio kabobs.

Nathan wasn't into the fruit and Cheerio kabobs that day because he was too busy making a movie.  Using his ipod, he took over 900 still photos which he used to create a one minute, thirty second stop motion movie which you can watch below.  (For some reason, when I uploaded it, it ran extra fast.  Maybe Nathan can help me fix it later, but for now you can get the idea - in about 30 seconds flat!)

It was a good start to summer.  And no one said, "I'm bored."

Photo Sharing - Video Sharing - Photo Printing

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Adoption Loss - Personal History

Wenxin, with the only dad he's ever known 

One of the losses inherent in so many adoptions is a loss of personal history.  The truth of what happened in a child's life up to a certain point simply vanishes.

Recently, two seemingly insignificant moments drove this truth home to me.

First, Wenxin got sick.

Mike travels internationally.  It seems to be an unspoken law of nature that everything falls apart when Dad's away.  During Mike's last overseas trip, Wenxin came down with a fever and a bad headache.  When Wenxin's temperature rose to almost 105 degrees Fahrenheit, I took him to Urgent Care.

The doctor thought he might have the flu.  She began to ask me questions about his medical history.  All I know of his medical history before we adopted him in 2010 is the scanty information in his adoption file.  And who knows if that's even accurate?

The doctor made an interesting statement.  "If he tests positively for the flu, I'll prescribe Tamiflu for him.  Generally, we aren't giving Tamiflu to kids this year.  But since we don't really know his medical history -- for example, we don't know if he had problems with wheezing as a baby -- we'll err on the side of caution and give him the medicine."

Most moms are experts on their kids' medical histories.    Most moms remember if their kids ever had breathing treatments for wheezing, or were prone to ear infections or had food allergies.  I don't know any of those things about my son.  I'm only an expert on the last year and a half.

Wenxin has lost a chunk of his medical history.

The second incident occurred when Nathan brought home an ancestry assignment from school:  Trace your family tree back to an immigrant or a Native American.

I couldn't help but wonder, "How would Wenxin do this project?"

I guess he could just write his name on the poster and turn it in.  He is, afterall, an immigrant.  Maybe it would just be an easy A.

Or, he could, of course, trace our family history since he has been permanently adopted into our family.  Our family tree has become his.  He has been grafted in.

But the issue isn't really "how to do the project."  The assignment itself drives home an uncomfortable truth:  Wenxin's original family history is a blank.  We don't know the names of his birth parents.  We don't even know for sure where he was born or on what date.  That is a loss unique to adoption and very common with kids adopted from China.

Recently I've been reading about DNA testing on some adoption message boards.  There's a company called 23andme that will analyze youre DNA and send you a report containing info about your ancestral origins and your health.  23andme will also let you know if any of your relatives have submitted their DNA.  You have the opportunity to anonymously ask them if they'd like to establish contact.  As the database of kids adopted from China grows, in the future our children may have the chance to connect with distant cousins and maybe even siblings.

It got me thinking.  I wonder if future scientific developments will help our kids fill in pieces of their missing histories.  I think it's likely.  While I don't plan to do anything now, I'll be watching.  When Wenxin is old enough to weigh in with his thoughts and desires, he may choose to let science give back some of the history he's lost.  We'll see.

Special Note:  This week, Death by Great Wall, is getting a design makeover.  If everything goes according to schedule (do makeovers ever go according to schedule?) we should have the reveal by the end of the week.  Be sure to drop by and check out our new look!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Blogaholics Anonymous - Just three links this week!

I'm a blog addict, an information junkie. I read decorating blogs, home organization blogs, adoption blogs, political blogs - anything that makes me learn or think or laugh or grow.

This was my last week homeschooling before summer break and Nathan's last week at the International Community School.  Add in Julia's soccer tryouts in the evenings and a weekend soccer tournament for Katherine -- at the beach -- weekend soccer tournaments are so much more fun when you can hit the beach after the final game --and I didn't spend much time online this week.  The following three posts, however, are outstanding.  Sometimes less is more.

Disclaimer: By posting these links, I'm not saying I endorse all the views expressed.

The Ugly, Beautiful Truth - What do you tell an adopted child about his history when you don't know the answers for sure?

The Harder Path - When you adopt an older child, do you allow her to stay in contact with friends from her birth country by phone?  How does this affect her language acquisition and her bonding with you?  What's the right thing to do?

Giving Back - I've gotten to know Jennifer Peterson as she's regularly left comments on Death by Great Wall and as I've read her blog.  Here, a regional newspaper interviews her about being a foster parent to 16 foster kids over the years, eventually adopting five of them.