Every day the wonderful happens…

and I'm here to blog about it.

Conversations About Race February 28, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Elizabeth @ 2:41 PM

This month over at Grown in my Heart, there are some great discussions going on about adoption and race. The stories I have heard have made my heart ache, but I have benefited from knowing the reaction that parents have taken when their kids have been taunted or discriminated against. I know that it isn’t IF race is going to be an issue for our family, our children, but WHEN. We are a trans-racial family now, and we live in a white, white, white area of the world. For awhile I thought (ignorantly) that it was enough that we were open minded parents. That WE didn’t discriminate. I thought somehow through osmosis that it might just make everything A-OK with our kids.

But I have to face the fact that it won’t. We have been reading the Sesame Street book, “We’re Different, We’re the Same” the past few nights. (Another favorite of Matthew’s is I Don’t Have Your Eyes). I have been trying to make an effort to point out to both boys our differences. Sure, it’s sweet that if you ask Isaac if Matthew’s skin is different, that he says no. (He actually told me they both have red and green skin, but that’s how conversations with a 3 year old tend to go.). The fact is, though, that Matthew’s skin IS different, so we talk about that while reading the book. I also make sure to go over WHY it is different and why that is okay, and how many other colors of skin there are, and why they ALL are okay. Because one day, someone is going to point it out, and they might not be doing it in a kind way. They must hear it from us, at home.

One thing that I have to remind myself is that it is OKAY to point out something obvious. That someone is black, that they are Asian, or Jewish, or gay, or whatever. That is fact. They know they are black or Asian, etc.. Sounds simple but I come from a part of the country where people still whisper certain words while looking sideways. “you know, the black girl” or maybe “the Jewish couple”. It isn’t a crime to point something like that out. What makes it bad is if you are assuming something negative about the person BECAUSE of that. I had to remind myself of this back at Christmas-time when we were at a portrait studio getting the boys’ pictures made. I told Isaac to be careful because there was a baby in a carseat behind him. He turned around and said, “that a brown baby!” and then went back to playing. I thought about melting into the floor and dying, but remembered that it IS a brown baby. He didn’t do anything but point out the obvious. Had he said, “oh gross, a brown baby,” well then we would have had some serious problems.

I guess my point is that I have finally realized that I am going to have to be the one initiating conversations about race at our house. As I read Isaac the book again today before his nap, I asked him if he knew WHY Matthew’s eyes were different from ours. He didn’t know, so I told him it was because Matthew was from Korea, and that people born in Korea have eyes that look like that. And in true Isaac fashion, he thought about that for a second and said “yes, he from Korea and that’s why he say “shui, shui*” and “di-dee-go!!!”.”

I guess that’s true too.

*Shui shui is the Korean phrase that Matthew uses to tell us he needs to go pee pee.

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Adventures in Korean Cooking

Filed under: Uncategorized — Elizabeth @ 2:28 PM

I love to try new recipes, and especially enjoy learning to cook new Korean food. About a month ago, I tried my hand at jencha, which are basically fried meat fritters. It was kind of like the filling for mandu, but instead of wrapped in a dumpling skin, it was dipped in flour and egg and pan fried. They were served with seasoned soy sauce. Matthew loved them, not that it was a surprise to anyone…..he is a meat fanatic!

I had a lot of meat left over and didn’t want jencha again the next night, so I decided to make up my own dish: Korean Meatloaf! Basically I just stuffed what was left in a loaf pan (it was made with ground beef, pork, and tofu) and baked it like a regular meatloaf. Then I sliced it and poured some seasoned soy sauce on top. I doubt it will end up being the most popular dish I prepare, but we all enjoyed it!


For Lunar New Year, I really wanted to try something different, so I tried my hand at rice cakes. We had tried some in Korea, so I was familiar with what the consistency should be. The cakes themselves turned out perfectly, and I toyed with a few of the suggested toppings: toasted sesame seeds, toasted black sesame seeds, and cinnamon.


I may have toasted my black sesame seeds a little too long, because those cakes tasted as if they had been rolled around in an ashtray. Seriously, it was bad. The (pure) cinnamon was just a little too much, if you know what I mean, so then I tried mixing cinnamon and sugar. Unfortunately that didn’t work as somehow the sugar turned to a watery syrup and made a huge mess. None of them tasted great to me, so I gave one to Matthew. He took one bite and spit it out while shaking his head, “no”. Although he did the same thing when eating one on the plane home from Korea (actually he threw that one across the plane), so I can’t be sure if mine were all that bad. I declared that if the Korean doesn’t like them, we shouldn’t worry too much about it and try to force them down. So I threw them all away and we just ate sugar cookies.

I also made seafood pancakes not long ago, which DID turn out great, but I forgot to take a picture. It has been a lot of fun incorporating these new recipes and tastes into our everyday life!

 

Blind Faith February 24, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Elizabeth @ 3:47 PM

Matthew has been impressing us so much lately. He walks around the house or wherever we are saying, “wha dat?” and pointing to anything and everything. He is so hungry to know everything. He repeats all of our words. If we are quiet, he begins to point things out to us and tell us what they are. He is learning his colors and his shapes, even some of his numbers. His intellectual development seems to be right on track for an almost-three year old. When you think about the fact that he is having to learn an entirely new language while in the midst of a life altering, traumatic situation, it seems miraculous. When you add in his neurological disorder, and the fact that we were prepared for such extreme deficits, I can’t see how he is anything short of a miracle.

When we started our adoption journey, we knew that special needs/waiting children was where we were being called. We never had any idea, though, of what special need we thought “fit” our family. We thought we could only handle something minor, something correctable, but we weren’t exactly sure what that was. We considered the idea of cleft lip/cleft palate, a need that many consider minor, although it can entail years and years of therapies and surgeries. We felt pretty comfortable with something orthopedic, because it wouldn’t necessarily interefere with the child’s HEALTH. I felt pretty comfortable with a hearing loss or microtia/atresia, but Jason never really jumped on board. I think we both knew we would just have to make our decisions on a case by case basis.

Never in a million years did we discuss seizures. Never did we discuss neurological disorders. Never did we think we felt comfortable with the possibility of lifelong developmental delays. But then we saw Matthew’s picture. The description with his picture only mentioned a “history of seizures”. When I made (what I thought was) the bold move to call the social worker to inquire about him, she sighed loudly. “Do you know anything about schizencephaly?” she asked me in a resigned voice that led me to believe she had had MANY inquiries about this beautiful boy…and exactly the same number of people who said, “No, he’s not for our family”.

I was on a mission. I started googling. I joined a Yahoo group for families affected by schizencephaly. I asked a million questions. I got almost no positive feedback. The one bright spot was finding out that people affected by this disorder do not get worse. They are how they are. And what I knew was that Matthew seemed to be doing well.

We asked for his file, and the social worker still seemed dubious with us. We sent the file to our international adoption doctor. The first question she asked us is how we came to get his file. She was silent for a little too long when we told her that we actually requested his file and were very excited about it. She was very honest with us. She said things like, “he doesn’t seem to be mentally retarded”, “you should be prepared for him to be in special ed”, “he may not ever be able to care for himself”.

Our social worker was shocked to hear that we got a consult and were still interested. We asked for more info from Korea and once we received it, we asked if we could please be his parents. I think our social worker almost cried. I remember her saying, “this is the most wonderful news that I have heard in a long time”.

All of these memories came flooding back to me this past Sunday when we were at the zoo. Matthew was running along and he stopped to look at the macaws. He pointed and said “blue, blue, red,” telling us the colors of the birds. I marveled for a minute about his brilliance and then looked at Jason and said, “What in the world would we have done if he was as delayed as they told us he was?”. Jason kind of shrugged, but I began to freak out a little bit.

No, SERIOUSLY, what would we have done? What were we thinking? How were we so delusional that we thought we could have handled that? Why didn’t anybody sit us down and shake us by our shoulders and say WHAT ARE YOU THINKING?

Would it have made a difference?

No.

That is what blind faith is. That is when you KNOW that you know that God is leading you somewhere, to a good place. When the rest of the world looks at you and shakes their head and thinks, “what a bunch of schmucks”.

I am NOT saying that Matthew is perfectly okay BECAUSE we had faith and tried to be sensitive to where God was leading us. What I am saying is that we would have been just fine no matter what. God would have provided the strength, resources, and everything else we would have needed to care for him.

I had someone who is starting her adoption journey ask me the other day what I considered to be managable special needs. I threw out a few ideas, but the only real answer is….the one your child has.

 

Protected: Extreme Feats of Balance February 23, 2010

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Why I Want to Go Back February 22, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Elizabeth @ 2:22 PM

The other night during one of my water aerobics classes, I had some new participants. I was talking a little bit about my boys and explaining how Matthew joined our family. One of the women asked me how our trip to Korea was.

I surprised myself (and probably everyone there) by quietly considering the question for a bit and then answering completely honestly.

“Traumatic.”

I don’t like that that is my honest answer. I would love to be able to say it was the trip of a lifetime and one of the best experiences of my life. Obviously, Matthew joining our family is one of the best experiences of my life, but that trip….oh dear, it was one of the hardest things I have ever done. Maybe THE hardest thing.

I blogged from Korea and shared some of my feelings. It was very cold and that was hard for me. I was homesick and out of place and missed Isaac so deeply that I throbbed most of the time. But that wasn’t what made the trip traumatic, those were just the salt on my wound–the easy things to blame it on at the time.

Matthew had been with his foster family for two years. TWO YEARS. As far as he knew, that was his family. He wasn’t treated as an “other” or a “less than”. He was a son, a brother. Not “foster child”. He was not lacking for love, nutrition, or attention.

Being the mother of a child almost exactly his age, I was putting myself in the foster mother’s position. Imagining saying goodbye to Isaac. Thinking of all the instructions I would have to give to the foreign family who would be getting on a plane with my child. Favorite foods, favorite songs, bedtime routines….all of the little things only a mother knows. It is still making me cry thinking about it all these months later.

Then I would picture Isaac in Matthew’s shoes. How could he understand? What would I have told him that would make any kind of sense? How confused he would be if suddenly he was on a plane and in Korea? The unimaginable TRAUMA, CONFUSION, BETRAYAL, ANGER he would feel, and rightly so.

My entire heart, mind and body was so heavy with all of this. I was an emotional wreck and physically ill over everything. Seeing the grief of the foster family brought it home on an entirely new level.

I will NEVER forget Matthew’s foster mother telling him I was his “omma” with tears in her eyes. The look of confusion on his face, because he was old enough to know there was something wrong with that. I honestly at that moment felt dirty.

I will NEVER forget at the end of one of the visits that the foster mother told Matthew to come to me so I could put his coat on. She kept pointing to me and saying “omma”. He was shaking his head “no” and crying. She left the room because she was crying. She finally had to come back and do it herself and she could barely see his zipper because she was crying so much. And I wanted to melt into the floor.

I will NEVER forget his sister holding his hand and saying to me that she always loved his hands and asked me if I thought they were cute too, as her voice cracked with tears. Every time I touch one of his hands I think of this.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I am SO glad that things are the way they are now. I am starting to see things that make me think even with all of the loss and trauma that Matthew has experienced that this is for the best. That in some ways we all needed each other.

I am also SO glad that we made the trip. I am SO glad that I lived through those emotions, that I tried to process things from every angle, even though it was excruciating. It was only a glimpse of what Matthew had to process, but it was valuable for me to feel some of that pain. And I am so glad that I can talk to him about his foster family firsthand and explain to him how much he was (and still is!) loved.

But now I want to go back. One day, I need to go back. I want to visit Korea during a time that is simply meant for fun, enjoyment, exploration. I want to go back and visit the foster family during a time when we don’t both feel as if our hearts are being ripped apart. If Matthew wants, we can look into any information on his birth family….and yes, there will be a lot of feelings that go along with that.

I know as we get a little more removed, I will remember the trip even more fondly, but it is still quite raw right now. I want to experience as a family–Isaac actually asked me this morning if he could go to Korea. When I asked him why, he said “to see Matthew”. Then I reminded him that Matthew is here with us forever now, but I told him that one day we could all go together.

Now THAT would be the trip of a lifetime.

 

Protected: All This in a Week? February 21, 2010

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