Friday, October 31, 2008

How Abandonment Can Affect Future Relationships

Must-read post at Jane's Blog. Here's a snippet:
I have also got some things figured out about my relationships. I feel really LUCKY to have that figured out at age 36. Basically, right now I realize that anyone that I am attracted to is bad for me. The perfect man for me could knock me flat on the sidewalk by falling onto me from heaven and I wouldn’t even notice him. That is because on a deep level I believe that I am



and I find men who will be happy to do that for me. If 99% of people want to make me happy, believe you me, I will find the 1% who will make me miserable. So I’m not saying that i will never date again, but I realize my limitations and that right now, whatever I do, I am going to pick the wrong partner. So until I can heal the part of myself that believes I am



I have no business having a relationship.

I really appreciate Jane's honesty.

Talking Adoption

I'm always looking for adoption conversations, especially reports of the actual words used. That's why I love it when y'all share your conversations in the comments! Here's a snippet from an article I ran across:

He says his daughters are “as American as anybody else” but says he talks to them openly about their Chinese heritage and their birth parents.

Cara [age 6] has already started to ask some tough questions.

“Once in a while you get asked ‘Why would my birth mommy not want me?’ And you try to explain that they made the choice that they couldn’t raise you but they wanted the best for you. So what they actually did was in your best interest,” Childs says.

Click here to read more about this family's adoptions.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Happy Halloween!

Zoe and Maya say "Happy Halloween!" I couldn't resist -- here are the girls showing off their pumpkin creations! A handful of Sharpies and these Mr. Potato-Head-like plastic pieces, and the girls had a ball making funny faces on their pumpkins. This was sooooo much easier than carving, and since they could do it themselves, the girls loved it. Each pumpkin got two faces, so I expect the girls to be out spinning the pumpkins around to show off each side for the next few weeks!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Poll Results: Fear and Dread

I guess it shouldn't come as any surprise that the majority (13 out of 22 --almost 60%) of poll respondents dread having to answer the "why did my birth parents abandon me" question from our kids. This is the thing that makes adoptive parenting different from *just* parenting, isn't it?

So why do we dread the discussion so much? It reminds us of our children's pain? We're afraid we'll say the wrong thing? It's painful for us to deal with the fact that someone else gave birth to our children? We feel a little twinge of jealousy that we have to share our children with someone else? We worry that we haven't been good enough parents if our children are thinking about their birth parents? All of the above? None of the above?

I think it would be perfectly natural to have any or all of the fears or feelings I listed. Even when we know intellectually that our children don't have to choose between us and birth family, that our children's natural curiousity about their birth families doesn't say ANYTHING about us as parents, it can feel a little threatening. And we know that talking about birth parents can bring pain for our children, especially the first time you get the HARDEST birth parent question -- why did they leave me?

I don't think we can avoid our children's pain -- they WILL have to deal with it, and the best thing we can do to help them deal with the pain of loss is by giving them permission to feel that loss and to talk to us about it. So we, as parents, need to get comfortable talking about birth parents. That's why I'm a big proponent of practicing birth parent talk from the moment you get your child. Don't start "your adoption story" with your child's first meeting you -- start it with birth! If your child is an infant, by the time she/he really understands what you're saying, you'll have had a chance to decide what you're going to call the first family, China family, tummy mommy, birth mother, natural mother, etc., you'll have practiced and decided on how you're going to get the child from birth to orphanage to you in a truthful and age-appropriate way, and you'll have nary a stumble!
And I think it's important that you make birth family comments pretty frequently -- both so that you get the practice, and so your child knows it's ok to talk about them. I like some of the suggestions in Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew:

When you understand the fears and ambivalence your child may have when it comes to discussing his birth family, you will be much more effective in drawing out his hidden thoughts at strategic times. I believe that conversations about the birth family should be initiated at times of pleasure and celebration and at times of stress or vulnerability.

Positive times for initiating might include the following:

The child's birthday. "I wonder if your birth mom/dad are thinking about you."
Mother's Day/Father's Day. "I wonder what your birth mom/dad are doing today."
Child's accomplishments."Your birth parents would be proud of you just like we are." Physical features. "I wonder if your birth mom has curly hair like you."
Spontaneously. Whenever your heart wells with gratitude to the birth family. "I'm so glad they gave you to us!"

Conversations about the birth family might also be initiated during vulnerable times like these:

Physical exam. "It must be hard not knowing your full birth history."
Beginning college."I'll bet your adoption issues make saying good-bye extra difficult." After an acting-out episode."Have you been thinking about your birth family lately?" Family-tree assignments in school. (The adoptee's family tree is very complex and will n ot conform to the usual configuration.) You might say to the child, "With your permission and approval, I will talk to your teacher and ask if you (or we) can make a special family tree that will include both sides of your family."
After the child has been teased by a peer because he's adopted. "I know it's hard to be singled out because of your adoption, but remember we love you and so does your birth family."
The next highest on the dread list is the sex talk. Ahh, how well I remember having "the talk" with Zoe! We were in China, so I didn't have my usual option of finding a book on the topic to use as a springboard for "issues" discussions. But Wendy has recommended It's Not the Stork. Any other suggestions, dear readers?
Yes, I always like to have books on hand for jump-starting important discussions -- I'm such a nerd! So I recently bought Ready, Set, Grow: A What's Happening To My Body Book For Younger Girls. The authors point out that girls are hitting puberty earlier these days, so this book is geared for a slightly younger set than their original Ready, Set, Grow book written twenty years ago -- how's that for a scary thought when your daughter is about to turn 8. We haven't had time to do more than skim the book, but so far it looks good.

It's not like we haven't talked about any of this before -- being an all-girl household with kids who've never accepted the concept of "privacy," we've had LOTS of discussions about breasts and "fur!" When Zoe was little, we showered together, with me holding her, because she'd scream bloody murder if I tried to shower alone. I got really good at doing things one-handed during this period of Zoe's life! I remember putting her down one morning in the shower, and she stood there -- right at "fur" level. And there she goes, poke. . . poke, poke. . . . poke, poke, poke. . . .! And she has long been obsessed with breasts. I remember when we were trying to potty train, and I did the usual, "Don't you want to wear big-girl panties like mama?" And her face lights up, and she says in a yearning voice, 'And a BRA?!!!!" It seems she was only interested in potty-training if she was guaranteed a matching set of lingerie! And she still says she wants "breasts like mama's." I haven't had the heart to break it to her that given our VERY different body types, she's highly unlikely to have breasts "like mama's!" (though she's likely to be very happy about it in the long run -- gavity is NOT kind to us zaftig types!).
And for those dreading the "economy is going to hell in a handbasket" talk, here's an article about popular kid's lit for financial hard times!

Roll Call

Thanks to all who responded to my roll call request in the “I Love SiteMeter” post! It was great hearing from you all!I admit it – this is why I blog instead of sitting in my bedroom writing in a journal. I like to know others are reading, I LOVE it when there’s interesting feedback and give-and-take in the comments!

So thanks to the three Wendys, especially Wendy in Ohio who I can always count on to comment. And I’m glad to hear from you Ann BF, who followed us in the “Fulbright Apartment” in Xiada – my girls still ask about your family and can’ quite accept that y’all are no longer in “our” apartment. Thanks to Joanne, who gave me the opportunity to meet her daughter even before she did – it still gives me goosebumps to think about it!

And it’s great to see readers I recognize from our Xiamen Adventure blog – glad you’ve decided to come along on this journey, too, Carol, and Dee and Sheri (and Wendy in Ohio and Ann BF, too!). And thanks for chiming in, Elizabeth in Alabama and Elizabeth in Kansas, Tracy, and Pletcher Family!

Also, thanks to Mimi and Syd’s Mom, thanks for contributing to the conversation on the blog by posting comments, even when we can talk in person!

For those who hadn't posted before, see how easy it is? Now you can post more comments!

It really is easy to post a comment -- you can do it without creating an account. Just click on the word comment at the bottom of a post, and follow the directions.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Guatemala recruiting adoptive parents internally

Good news -- another country working on increasing domestic adoption and foster care:
At church on Sundays, Juliana Tocay fibs and introduces 3-year-old Katerin as her daughter. The truth is too complicated to explain.Tocay is Katerin's foster mother, making her family part of a much-watched test of whether this Central American nation can take care of its own needy children.After essentially closing off the pipeline that sent nearly 5,000 children for adoptions in the U.S. last year, Guatemala has launched an ambitious campaign to recruit foster parents and even adoptive parents at home. Only a few dozen families are participating and, as Tocay's experience illustrates, it will be a tall order to change the culture of a country that typically views only biological children as true members of the family.

Sounds like it will be a hard road, but I think it's great that Guatemala is taking first steps. Click here to read more.

New Book: Adoption Conversations

At least, the book is newly in English -- the Dutch version has been out for a while. I heard about it on an adoption list I'm on, and wanted to pass on the information. I haven't read it, and would be interested in hearing from those who have. Adoption Conversations, by Renée Wolfs, is described as an "in-depth practical guide, written by an adoptive parent for adoptive parents."

The website goes on to say:
Adoption Conversations considers the following:
How and when to tell your child their adoption story;
Common fears children have about adoption;
Advice on sharing particularly difficult information with your child;
Useful conversation techniques, including naming and identifying feelings;
How to make a memory book or life story book;
How to help your child deal with adoption-related grief, sadness and anger;
How to respond to questions from your child, family and friends, and others in your community.
Sounds very good! Ordering info can be found here.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Jade's Story

Littlewing04 mentioned Jade in the comments to a previous post, and I've had people asking me about who Jade is, so I thought I'd post about it to bring folks up to speed.

Back in 2007, a story hit the media about a Dutch diplomat and his wife relinquishing parental rights to their daughter adopted from Korea. Here's a Time Magazine article, under the headline, "Can an Adopted Child Be Returned?" about the case:
Every child is a gift, as the saying goes. But in a case that has stoked outrage on two continents, a Dutch diplomat posted in Hong Kong has been accused of returning his eight-year-old adopted daughter like an unwanted Christmas necktie. The story, which first appeared in the South China Morning Post on Dec. 9, began seven years ago, when Dutch vice consul Raymond Poeteray and his wife, Meta, adopted then-four-months-old Jade in South Korea. The couple, who also have two biological children, brought Jade with them to Indonesia and then to Hong Kong in 2004, although Poeteray never applied for Dutch nationality for the child — a curious oversight, given that he worked in a consulate. Then, last year, the Poeterays put Jade in the care of Hong Kong's Social Welfare Department, saying they could no
longer care for her because of the girl's emotional remoteness.

According to a spokesman from the South Korean consulate in Hong Kong, the family also said that Jade did not adapt to Dutch culture or food. "They said she had not adjusted to a new home, that there were some problems," he says. But some specialists are skeptical of that explanation as well. "My gut feeling is it's just an excuse," says Law Chi-kwong, an associate professor of social work at the University of Hong Kong. "That only happens when the adoption took place when the child is
already six or seven years old. It would not happen to a child they raised for several years, raised in the family."

A nanny who took care of her said Jade wasn't treated like a "real daughter." The family adopted at a time they thought they were infertile, and then after the adoption they had two biological children.

We all know that sometimes, tragically, adoptions are disrupted. And it is sometimes hard to know what all is going on in such a case. But I have to say this one really smells bad. Where's the "forever" in Forever Family?!?

Recently there was happy news:

A Korean girl called Jade who was adopted by a high-ranking Dutch diplomat in Korea in 2000 and then abandoned six years later in Hong Kong has found a new family. The nine-year-old has been adopted by an expatriate family in Hong Kong and currently lives a normal life, an official at the Hong Kong Social Welfare Department said Saturday. For reasons of privacy, further details about the adoptive parents cannot be disclosed, the official added.

* * *

Since the Poeterays hadn’t applied for Dutch citizenship for Jade and she had no formal residence status in Hong Kong, the child was virtually stateless until the recent adoption.
Both The Original Heping (littlewing's blog) and Ethnically Incorrect Daughter have posted about Jade.

I've been following the blog of a family trying to adopt a child whose adoptive parents are disrupting the adoption: 6Across . It's been a real rollercoaster, and I could do with less God talk (sorry, that's just me!), but I'm anxious to see how the situation works out for them. And I can't help but cry for poor Sweetpea who's the victim in all of this.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Zoe's Favorite Holiday

Driving home from ballet we go through an older neighborhood with huge houses and beautifully manicured lawns. Many houses have fall and/or Halloween decorations up. We were oohing and ahhing over the decorations, with smart-aleck Zoe correcting me when I said, "Look at the Halloween decorations at that house," to point out that they really only had "FALL decorations."

Then Zoe says, "Guess what my favorite holiday is."

Going for the seasonal, I hazarded, "Halloween?" Nope.
Going for the loot, I said, "Christmas?" Nope.
Going for the culture, I said, "Chinese New Year?" Nope.
"Then what?" I asked.
"Gotcha Day!" Zoe exclaimed.
I had to know, "Really? Why is that?"
Zoe had an instant response, "Because it makes me happy!"

I asked Zoe later if she wanted to go back to calling our first-meeting-day "Gotcha Day," reminding her that she didn't like that phrase when she was little. "Should we keep calling it Family Day?" I asked.

"No, that's kind of confusing," Zoe says. "Confusing how?" I ask.

"Because I have a regular family here and a birth family in China," she says.
So we're on the lookout for a new name for our Gotcha/Forever Family/First-Meeting/Love-at-First-Sight Day. Any suggestions?

Nepal: Dutch Couple Seeking Son's Bio Parents

Here's the story:

A Dutch couple is in Kathmandu looking for the biological parents of their eight-year-old boy whom they adopted here in Nepal and then took to Holland, Kantipur Daily reported.

They were compelled to come to Kathmandu for this seemingly unusual search after their adopted child started asking about his original parents. “After Sangam started asking us about his parents, we came here looking for them,” the Dutch couple told Kantipur. The Dutch couple had adopted the boy when he was just 7 months old in the year 2000 from Nepal Children’s Organziation (NCO), an orphanage at Naxal in Kathmandu, and then took him with them to Holland.

Click here to read more.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

One Year Ago Today . . .

. . . I had brain surgery! Kind of hard to believe it was a year ago -- it's still hard to believe I had brain surgery in the first place. I've had a 100% recovery, no physical or mental deficits (at least I don't think there are any mental deficits! If you've detected any, break it to me gently!).

The girls have recovered, too. No doubt the whole thing was harder on them than on me -- I managed to sleep through most of it. And then afterwards things were topsy-turvy, with six weeks for all of us at Mimi & GP's house (as much as they love them and as much as they love being at their house, it was still stressful for them because it was a change), and then six months without me driving. But a year later, it seems like nothing happened!

I feel so fortunate -- my mom says I must have been sprinkled with fairy dust as a child (I said if so, wouldn't I have avoided the surgery altogether?!). But part of the fairy dust WAS my mom -- we wouldn't have been able to get through it all without her!

Adoption and Religion, Part II

Here's another excerpt from that law blog:

1. It seems to me there is one important reason why we'd want to make sure that
adoptive parents raise the child in the birth parents' faith: To encourage the birth parents to put their children up for adoption, by removing or mitigating one reason for them not to do so (a fear that the child will be raised in a way that endangers the child's salvation). And that's true even if we don't share the parents' beliefs; so long as such birth parent fears are real, they may deter adoption placements that would otherwise happen, and that would help the child, the adoptive parents, the birth parents, and the taxpayers. It's true that there might be some opposite effects, if children end up being unadoptable because of long delays caused by waiting for just the right religion. But I suspect that the effects will quite likely be positive.

2. For international adoptions, there may also be similar reasons focused on the belief system of the birth parents' country. If Morocco stops allowing adoptions to
Britain or the U.S. because there's no assurance that the child will be raised Muslim, then that might materially diminish the quantity of win-win-win-win adoptions.

* * *

So the Times story, if accurate, is pretty troubling, both based on its particulars -- among other things, there's now one child who's more likely to have to spend more time in a Moroccan orphanage rather than in what seems likely to be a loving family -- and in what it says about the mistaken attitudes and priorities of the English child welfare system. I hope U.S. authorities avoid going down that path, both for First Amendment reasons and for the other reasons I outlined above.

Things I find troubling? The a priori assumption that encouraging birth parents to relinquish children is a good thing. The characterization of adoption as win-win-win-win -- sometimes, but it's more usually loss-loss/win-win. I'm not sure I want to put taxpayers on that list, as Prof.V. does.

What to you see -- positive as well as negative -- in these comments?

Adoption and Religion

Consider this post from a law blog I frequently read:

"Muslim Converts 'Not Islamic Enough' for Their Adopted Son to Have a Brother"

That's a headline from a Times (London) story:

When Robert and Jo Garofalo decided they wanted to adopt a child in Morocco they knew it would not be easy. Although the law in the Muslim state had been changed to allow foreign adoptions, the couple were required to convert to Islam first[, which they did]....

So when, earlier this year, they approached Surrey [U.K.] social services for approval to adopt again from the same Moroccan orphanage, they were surprised to discover that they would have to go through the whole process again. The couple were particularly concerned that, in order to assess Samuel’s “attachment” to them, he would have to be monitored and even filmed while playing. Equally disconcerting was that even though social workers indicated in an initial report that they would be prepared to support the second application, the couple were left with the impression that they were being asked to do more to show they were living a Muslim lifestyle.

* * *

A few thoughts:

* * *
4. . . . . [T]he rationale seems to be that an Islamic upbringing is in the child's best interest, because Islam "is an aspect of Samuel's identity," "heritage," "legacy," "religion," and "culture." And this, I think, is wrong as a matter of morality and sound government policy (and would be wrong in the U.S. as a constitutional matter).

The trouble, I think, is that (a) small children (Samuel was only several months old when he was adopted) don't have "religion" or "culture" or preexisting religious or cultural component to their "identity," and (b) the government shouldn't take a stand on how valuable the children's "heritage" or "legacy" is. Religion and culture is something that children are taught. Identity is something that is formed by those teachings, by the child's innate biological makeup, and by the reactions of peers and the rest of the adoptive society -- not by the religion of the child's birth country.

And whether a child should be raised in the religion of his birth parents or birth country, or raised in a much less devout version of the religion, or in another religion, or raised in no religion at all is a matter on which different sets of reasonable parents can differ. I know of no empirical basis for a belief that the child will be deeply scarred by one decision or another. And in the absence of such an empirical basis, the government shouldn't take the view that one's life, whether adult or young, should be linked to the accident of the child's birth. . . .

One commenter, J Adams, posted:

This strikes me as more UK bull****. I adopted three kids from overseas - we baptized them here as Catholics. As far as I'm concerned the "birth parents" and their "culture" can go jump in the lake - given the abuse our kids suffered. Their culture now? American. If some agency told me I'd need to convert in order to adopt I'll tell them to go to hell and move on. When does this madness end?

Reaction, anyone? Look at those quote marks around identity, heritage, culture, indicating just how unimportant and silly it is to consider it. After all, culture is something that is taught, so there is no problem in teaching a child the a-parents' culture and ignoring any birth culture. No empirical evidence that a child will be "deeply scarred" by ignoring birth culture? And is that our standard --parents can do what they will so long as a child is not "deeply scarred?"

There's even more in the original post to talk about -- I'll post more later. But I thought I could first separate out this topic of religion-culture-identity.

Comments? And of course you should feel free to comment on the original post!

Monday, October 20, 2008

I Love SiteMeter!

Judging from the sparse commenting here, you'd think less than a dozen people are visiting the blog. But according to SiteMeter, there's been over 3,500 hits since the blog's inception in mid-August. Now it could be that there are less than a dozen people visiting dozens of times a day, but somehow I doubt it! SiteMeter says the daily average is about 60.

Even more fun than the numbers is finding out where people are from -- Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, China, Germany, United Kingdom, Canada, Japan. And just about every part of the United States, too: Youngstown, Ohio; Fort Worth, Texas (Hi, Mom!); Dillon, South Carolina; Vacaville, California; Lawrence, Kansas; Massepequa, New York; St. Paul, Minnesota; Tacoma, Washington; Las Vegas, Nevada; Traverse City, Michigan; Sunapee, New Hampshire; Chattanooga, Tennessee.

But my favorite part is the "Referrals" list -- how it is people found the site. Some it's because I'm on other blogs' blogrolls, and I thank you for including me! Some it's from emails to listservs -- and thank you for telling folks about Adoption Talk.

And I love looking at the various searches that get people to the blog. Some make sense -- you do a search for "talking to kids about adoption," you're likely to find us. And how about the person in Japan, using a French version of Google, looking for corruption in Chinese adoption? Found us! Searches for books we've reviewed, articles posted (the Newsweek article about the decline in international adoption was a frequent search that got people here), topics we've discussed ("parent teacher conference & international adoption," "disabled orphanage," "discussing skin color with kids").

The weirdest one is the search of blogs for "wife sharing." EEEEWWWWWWW! How did THAT lead here?!

Anyway, thanks for the hits! How about a rollcall in the comments? Where are you from, how did you find us, why do you read?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

What Kids Say About Being Adopted

I love how much great stuff there is out there in cyberspace! I was playing around on the computer A LOT last night (my girls had a sleepover at Mimi's & Grandpa's!) and found Adoption Clubhouse, and these things young teens and pre-teens have said about adoption:

Ann marie, 13, NY January, 2007
sometimes if something comes up in class about being adopted i get upset.its hard for me because my sister just had a baby and i always think about what is my birth mother doing? does she remember me? dose she ever want to see me? all theses questions run through my head. Then after thinking about them i get upset. i like being adopted but theres something there thats missing from me.

By Kathryn, 16, Pennsylvania January, 2007
Over the years you can and may try to hide the fact that you’re adopted. For so long, I tried to run away from it, not wanting to believe it. But as I get older, you have to come to peace with it, and maybe later in life, you can look back and reflect of all the experiences you had,whether it was getting made fun of, learning about your past, and so many other good things. We are different from other kids; we share something special that not many other kids have. We should be proud of it.

By Andrew, 15, New York November, 2006
I am 15 and was adopted from Korea (south) when I was about 3 months old. I never saw my real parents (That i can remember of). I love my life now, but I always imagine what that feeling must be like... I mean, finding or seeing your real parents? I want to experience that. No one I know of has any information on them, so I don't even know if they are alive or not. I want to see them, but for now, I'll live my wonderful life in the USA

Anonymous, 10, Illinois May, 2006
A lot of people ask me what my real mom looks like. I say you don't have to know, because I really don't know what she looks like. Then people start bothering me about it though. Try to ask your parents or someone from the orphanage.

By Melissa, Age 9, Illinois, USA April 2006
My mom always said to me that being adopted is not bad, but it's hard to believe it's true if people tease you about it but it's not. I'm tan and family is white. It's more noticeable because we're different colors. People say that my birth parents didn't want me, but really they just couldn't take care of me. If they could have, they would have. Your parents love you just as much as if you weren't adopted. So don't listen to what other people say, they just don't understand. Just walk away with your head up knowing they're wrong and don't say anything to them.

By Anna, Age 13, New Jersey, USA January 2006
Person: What is your real name?
Me: I would tell you but the fact I have two might make your brain explode and killing people is frowned upon in many countries.

By Kathryn, Age 14, Pennsylvania June 2005
Adoption is really special because you were wanted, and picked to be in your family. If I could change one thing about adoption, it would be knowing more about your birth family. Being adopted is good and bad because you were wanted, but it can be hard to do projects and answer questions at school. In my family, nobody else is adopted. So I get pretty lonely and left out at times. But after I went to the Romanian Embassy for adopted kids, I met all these other children from Romania just like me. It was really a great experience because I have never known other
adoptees from Romania. I met a girl there named Claudia who just came from Romania 1 year ago. She ended up living 5 minutes away... when the embassy was in Washington DC. It was really cool. Now we are best friends and we share something in common.... adopted from Romania. It is really cool and I am so lucky to have met her. I wish I could have other adopted brothers or sisters like me, but at least I have Claudia and all her brothers and sisters who are adopted too.

by Heather, Age 10
Hi my name is Heather Me and my Brother are both adopted! We are from Different Birthmoms but look exactly like each other! We both look like my dad. I was there when my Brother was born, I got to meet his birthmom and birthdad. I was the first one to hold him [after his birthmom and dad of course]. I am SO happy that I am adopted because if I wasn't adopted I would not have the wonderful family that I have now! And I wouldn't have my brother either. I LOVE BEING ADOPTED!!!!!!!!

by Lilly, Georgia USA, Age 10
Does it feel strange to be adopted? When someone asks me tons of annoying questions like the one I titled in my writing I usually say: "No, it feels no different then being human. By the way are you writing a biography of me or something because your asking me tons of questions."

You can read more from other great kids by clicking here!

Friday, October 17, 2008

New Poll: What are you dreading most?

Sex, babies, periods, birth parents, hard stuff -- are you dreading "the talk?"

I had to include the "I hate you" moment -- when your child is mad enough to yell that at you. Hasn't happened to me yet, because yesterday Maya skipped right past it to: "I wish you were dead, then I can wear anything I want!" Yikes!!!!!

So here's a mini-poll you can answer in the comments -- what do you think I said?!

a. Well, if I'm going, I'm taking you with me.

b. You'd be living with Mimi, and I guarantee she wouldn't let you change clothes 3 times in one morning.

c. That's so MEAN! Don't you love me anymore?

d. I love you anyway, Maya.

Extra bonus points for guessing what I was thinking as well as what I said!

Also, post comments about the real, actual, genuine poll in the comments, too.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Sound Familiar?

Here's an international adoption story:

It took 18 months for me to adopt says La Plante

Lynda La Plante has criticised adoption laws after revealing that she had to wait 18 months to bring her young son back from [a foreign country].

The crime writer, who became a mother at the age of 57, has spoken of her anger at the long delays and bureaucracy which hold up the adoption process for infertile couples. . . .

In an interview with Woman's Weekly, she said: 'I wasn't allowed to bring Lorcan back to the UK for 18 months, while all the paperwork was sorted out. 'That meant he missed a year and a half of my mother's life, and she died two years ago. It's all wrong.'

As part of the adoption process, she had to satisfy both British and [the sending country's] adoption authorities before applying to immigration officials to bring the child into the UK.

British families adopt around 300 children from abroad every year. . . . [A]dopting in the [sending country] can be costly, with some agencies charging up to £25,000 [about $40,000].

Have you guessed the country from which Ms. LaPlante has adopted? It's the U.S.

Click here to read more.

Angelina Jolie Will Adopt Again

There are six children now in the household she shares with partner Brad Pitt, and, Jolie told TODAY’s Matt Lauer Thursday in New York, the question isn’t whether they will adopt another child, but when that will happen.

More here.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Why the Wait?

Commenter LAH asks:

Malinda, I'm wondering if you want to address this sometime in your blog. What
are the real reasons wait times are so long?
Very good question -- why have wait times for international adoption from China to the U.S. lengthened from one year to three years? I wish I had an answer! All I can do is add to the rampant speculation. But that won't stop me, it seems!

I do think that there are fewer non-special-needs children available for adoption from China. There are definitely fewer traditional abandonments, and mostly that's a good thing. The reason it's not a 100% good thing is that some children are being sold on the black market rather than being abandoned in the traditional way, and it's hard to know where these children end up. It's likely that some end up in the sex trade, others are sold into slavery to work in factories and on farms, others are "adopted." Those adoptions may well be to good families, but of course we can't know since they are not being screened. Some of those adoptions may be to acquire a daughter-in-law to raise to marry a son of the family -- an ancient Chinese practice that has not died out. And some end up in orphanages who are paying "finding fees" for "abandoned" children, and are adopted domestically and internationally according to CCAA rules.

I think the main reason for fewer abandonments are economic -- Chinese people are simply better off now, and able to afford more children. There's also some change in attitude, especially in the cities, about the value of girl children. Add to that some steps family planning authorities are taking to incentivize the parenting of girls -- additional benefits for keeping girls, like higher oil rations, increased school subsidies, etc.

Another reason is that the one child policy is actually WORKING in many places in China. People are stopping after one child, regardless of the sex of the baby. And a lot of the reason for that is not coercive policies so much as it is belief in what it takes to be economically successful in China today. When we were in China in 2007, I was amazed by the unanimity of opinion among college students and faculty at Xiada -- the only way to have economic success was to limit yourself to one child. Raising children is simply too expensive in modern China. Success = One Child.

Of course, that attitude is not necessarily gaining traction in rural areas, but the number of people making a living by farming in China is slowly decreasing, and movement to the cities is growing.

When we visited Zoe's and Maya's orphanage, Guiping SWI, the director told me frankly that they had less than half the children they used to have. She said that in the old orphanage building, they were very overcrowded with over 60 children. She was chagrined that they had built a grand new orphanage and had less than 30 kids -- and most of them in foster care.

So yes, there are fewer children available for adoption. And then there have been increases in domestic adoption -- and there would probably be more increase if SWIs weren't interested in hard-currency infusions from foreigners.

But does that mean there are too few to meet the number of domestic and foreign applicants? That's harder to know. I think there are probably more children in Chinese orphanages than we know about or see. There are thousands of rural orphanages all over China. At one time, there was a brisk "trade" in children from these orphanages to the larger orphanages that do international adoptions. The Hunan scandals that shone light on a variety of this kind of transfer pretty much shut down all transfers, even legal ones, because SWI directors were afraid of misstepping and being accused of trafficking. I don't think the transfers have resumed, or if they ever will resume. The CCAA promised new policies for transfers, but as far as we know, they have not materialized.

And it doesn't seem that there are a lot of domestic adoptions from these smaller orphanages -- most adoptive parents in China are interested in children from the "better orphanages," just like international adopters are, for reasons of physical and mental health of the children.

So, will wait times increase, decrease, remain the same? No idea. If they do increase or stay the same, I hope it is because children are staying with their birth families. THAT'S a real adoption success story!

I know there are prospective adoptive parents who are probably saying, "Easy for you to say, you've already got your children." Yes, and I understand the frustration -- it's hard to consider that the best interest of the child might be not to be adopted by you when you have so much love to give. And wanting what's best for a child is hard to figure when the child is an idea, an abstraction to you. I wish I had an answer for you, but I don't.

Korea Aims to End IA by 2012

Excellent piece in the NYT about international adoption from Korea:

Daunted by the stigma surrounding adoption here, Cho Joong-bae and Kim In-soon delayed expanding their family for years. When they finally did six years ago, Mr. Cho chose to tell his elderly parents that the child was the result of an affair, rather than admit she was adopted. [doesn't this just tell you how strong the stigma is/was? You'd rather your parents thought you had an affair?!]

“My parents later died believing that I’d had an affair,” said Mr. Cho, 48, a civil engineer who has since adopted a second daughter.

Now, with South Korea becoming more accepting of adoptive families, Mr. Cho and Ms. Kim feel they can be more open, with relatives and nonrelatives alike. Ms. Kim, 49, attributed the change partly to the growth of other nontraditional families, like those headed by single parents or including foreign spouses.

“We feel attitudes have changed,” she said.

Just how much, though, is the critical question as the South Korean government is pushing aggressively to increase adoptions by South Koreans and decrease what officials consider the shameful act of sending babies overseas for adoption. Since the 1950s, tens of thousands of South Korean children have been adopted by foreigners, mostly Americans, because of South Koreans’ traditional emphasis on family bloodlines and reluctance to adopt.

But last year, for the first time, more babies here were adopted by South Koreans than foreigners, as the government announced recently with great fanfare: 1,388 local adoptions compared with 1,264 foreign ones. What is more, South Korea — which still is one of the top countries from which Americans adopt — has set a goal of eliminating foreign adoptions altogether by 2012.

Click here to read more. The article raises doubts that the goal is possible for special needs adoption, and shows that Korea still has a ways to go in lessening stigma associated with adoption. Adopting parents are still trying to hide the fact of adoption by faking pregnancies, changing jobs, moving, etc. And, there still seems to be prejudice about single parents -- there are complaints that allowing single-parent adoptions domestically (Korea does not allow singles in its IA program) is lowering the standards and are not in the best interest of children.

It's great to see Korea step up to the plate and tried to deal with stigma associated with unwed pregnancy and adoption. I'm wondering how much of this has been the influence of many adult adoptees from Korea who have long lobbied to end IA from Korea.

One argument they made was that international adoption actively prevented Korea from dealing with the stigma issue -- as long as Korea could send children overseas, they didn't have any incentive to try to reduce prejudice toward unwed pregnancy or try to redirect Confucian ideas about bloodlines. So the argument went that international adoption should cease so that Korea would deal with this as a domestic issue. How interesting that Korea is dealing with it BEFORE ending the IA program.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

20 Things -- #1

As I mentioned in a previous post, I've been looking again at Sherrie Eldridge's book, Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew. I thought I'd post about some of those twenty things. I'll be skipping about in the list, but thought today I'd start at the beginning:

Number 1: I suffered a profound loss before I was adopted. You are not responsible.

Eldridge, an adoptee herself, talks about the importance of acknowledging that adoption starts with loss. "The first thing your child wants you to know is this: I am a grieving child. I came to you because of loss -- one that was not your fault and one that you can't erase." She says that most adoptive parents romanticize adoption -- "You are a chosen child!" "Be thankful you were picked." That denies the loss, rather than helping their child grieve the loss and find closure.

She argues that part of the reason for this denial is that we live in a pain-avoiding society. But pain is a normal and natural reaction to losing a set of parents, isn't it? We can't prevent our children from feeling pain, the only reaction then, is how best to help them deal with the pain. She suggests that parents need to embrace and share their own pain -- infertility, pregnancy loss, etc., in order to achieve intimacy with our children.

Eldridge suggests the following things our children need to deal with loss:

1. Validation of their wound and loss.

She advocates DIRECT statements of validation: 'A parent might whisper to her adopted infant, "You must miss your birth mommy. We are sad too that you had to lose her.' 'It really hurts, doesn't it?' is a phrase that can be used by parents in every phase of the adoptee's life, for it demonstrates empathy and compassion.

2. Education about adoption and its emotional and relational repercussions.

Eldridge says that adoptees need to know that their first loss creates emotional wounds, because "shame falls away as self-disclosure grows."

3. For adoptive parents to put aside their false guilt (ouch, that hits home!).

Eldridge argues that false guilt is a control mechanism, quoting Children and Trauma: "If a parent can find some way in which the trauma was her own fault, it becomes possible to believe that further trauma can be avoided. Guilt offers a kind of power, however illusory, over helplessness."

4. Freedom to express their conflicting emotions without fear of judgment.

Eldridge describes this as the most important of adoptees' needs -- "a safe place to share their feelings about adoption, both positive and negative, and to feel protected and loved unconditionally regardless of what comes out of their mouths."

It's interesting to re-read this book after 7 years of adoption-parenting. I read it first while waiting for Zoe, and it was all very abstract. I wasn't sure I bought the idea of a primal wound -- how could a newborn experience loss? I can't remember anything before age 3, how could an infant remember the loss of birth parents?

Seven years later, I can definitely say that the loss is real. I can't say I understand the mechanism of infant feelings of loss. But I can say that as Zoe's understanding of adoption has grown, she has experienced those feelings of loss. I've blogged a lot about Zoe's feelings this year, but it certainly hasn't been the first time she expressed those feelings of loss.

When Zoe was 4, we read a book called Horace. It's a very cute book, and Zoe asked me to read it again, and again. In that book, Horace is told by his adoptive mom, "We chose you when you were a tiny baby because you had lost your first family and needed a new one." Yikes! One day, inevitably, Zoe asked, "How did he lose his first family? Was it at the mall?" I explained what they meant, connecting it to her story. Within days, Zoe had become increasingly clingy. She asked me, "Do you leave and go shopping after I go to sleep?" "When I'm in ballet, do you stay in the lobby or do you leave?" I believe she was finally connecting her adoption to loss, and was feeling insecure about whether she'd lose me, too.

So, what do you think? Do you agree with Eldridge's list of 4 things adopted kids need? How do you go about creating that safe environment for processing loss? Do you think there is a primal wound?

HipHop Grannies in China

The youngest is 48,the oldest is 71 -- good for them!

"False Guilt"

I was flipping through the book, Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew, and came across this definition: "False guilt is the emotion we experience when something painful happens over which we had no control, but for which we feel responsible." The author goes on to say, "Children of divorce feel it, a widow visiting her husband's grave feels it, and adoptees of every age feel it."

I'm wondering, in light of our discussion of adoption guilt whether we should add one more to the list -- adoptive parents sometimes feel it.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Adoption from Cambodia

Putting a face on the U.S. ban on adoptions from Cambodia:

Kerri is from the US and has been living in Phnom Penh for the past three years. She came to Cambodia three years ago to find the biological sister of her already adopted Cambodian son, Kameron. Chenda is the sister and she was found working as a domestic helper for a relative. Later on, Kerri noticed a boy who used to play by himself in a box at the Russian Market (hence his early nickname "Box Boy") and took him in too. The family calls him Noah now and I have personally seen how Noah has changed from a malnourished little boy to a playful, confident child who speaks excellent American English.Kerri is stuck in Cambodia because the US government has a moratorium on Cambodian adoptions because of child trafficking problems.

Retracing Her Steps -- Pearl Buck

Interesting story about a group returning to Pearl S. Buck's stomping ground in China:
More than 70 years after the Nobel Prize winning Pearl S. Buck was barred from returning to China, her hometown there is opening a museum dedicated to her life and work.

A group departs Monday morning from the Hilltown-based international foundation for a two-week trip to China. The trip, called the Footprint Tour, will not only visit the museum, but also homes and significant sites in the country where the author and humanitarian lived for the first 40 years of her life.

The city of Zhenjiang has for years given tours of Buck's childhood home. When officials there decided to open the Buck Museum and Philanthropy Pavilion near the home, foundation curator Donna Rhodes became an adviser. The museum will focus on three areas: the author's writings, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning “The Good Earth”; her family and seven adoptive children and her humanitarian causes and legacy.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

More About Guilt

I've been enjoying the discussion in the comments on my last post about "Adoption Guilt" -- let's see what this one spurs!

When I decided to adopt, I really wanted to avoid feeling like a rich, white American woman oppressing dark-skinned women of the Third World. I can't even have a maid here in the States because it makes me feel exploitative!

And I didn't want to feel like I was CREATING orphans -- some argue that international adoption actually creates orphans, since demand always creates supply. So I smugly chose China. After all, China's supply of orphans wasn't about my desire to adopt (I was only taking advantage of the government's oppression, not oppressing anyone myself, if I had really thought about it).

China wasn't like Guatemala, where baby stealing for purposes of adoption was such a problem that the government required DNA testing to link the child with the woman claiming to be the relinquishing birth mother. And there were tons of stories about poor Guatemalan women getting pregnant in order to relinquish a child for money payments. And it wasn't like India, where there were scandals about baby buying, where adoption "facilitators" were offering desperately poor India women a pittance for their babies and then making thousands of dollars by placing the child for international adoption. [I'm not knocking anyone who adopted from other countries, just setting out my guilt-avoiding thought processes.]

But China was free from corruption, I thought. And then came the Hunan scandal, and a report of women in Yunnan Province having babies in order to sell them. And the idea that China is somehow different from other sending countries doesn't seem able to stand up to scrutiny.

So maybe guilt is unavoidable?! Now, these guilt-inducing thoughts are not something I ponder every day. It doesn't interfere with my joy in my children. But it's one of the reasons I spend so much time focusing on issues in international adoption.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Zoe didn't get the memo . . .

Apparently, she thinks adoption is about rescue, after all! She made a Halloween card for me today:
Dear Mama,

Happy Halloween! I was so scared, afraid and sad when we both met but I'm happy I do all this fun stuff now!!! Thank you for adopting me or I wouldn't have all this fun. I would probably be bored somewhere else. So again thank you!!


Zoe Elisabeth YiLing

LOL! It seems I "saved" her from boredom!

From my girls' province

Top Official of Guangxi Province Faces Graft Charges.

So China Daily reports. More here.

Plans Dry Up For Breast Milk Bank

Yes, that's the actual title of the article reporting that plans to open China's first human breast milk bank have been suspended (suspended?! OK, no bra jokes!).

The article also reports a decline in breastfeeding in China. I bet the milk/formula scandals will reverse that trend.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Feeling Guilty

Do you ever feel guilty for adopting your child? One reader emailed me to ask that question:
After recently adopting my daugther I have times where I feel guilty that I have
taken her from her culture and life in China. No matter what I do (e.g. Mandarin lessons, chinese dance, playing with other Chinese children, etc.) it will not be the same life she would have had in China. And, I'm under no illusion that just because she came here, her life would be "better". It's still a loss for her.

I also question how I get to be her mother, when her birthmother MAY have wanted to keep her but couldn't due to any number of cicumstances which may have been out of her control. I have a sense of "guilt" about that, that I am trying to "work through". I do love my daughter and I am so happy that she is a part of our family but I still have these feelings too. Just wondering if others have had these feelings and worked through them.
And another blogger has posted on the subject at Parenting the Adopted:

Most, if not all, moms feel guilty about one thing or another. It’s just the way we are. As an adoptive mom, though, I have felt more than just the typical mom guilt. I go through periods of guilt for adopting Lucas and for proceeding with adoptions for Rhett and Claudia.

All three of them have living mothers. All were relinquished by their mothers to their respective orphanages for the express purpose of adoption. All listed their reasons as extreme poverty. Were it not for the unrelenting lack of food and resources, would they have continued to raise their children themselves?

* * *

Because I just cannot stand that any parent should have to make an adoption plan for their child simply on the basis of lack of food, I feel guilty for being the adopter. Shouldn’t I have instead offered a way to support them instead of taking their children?

I wrestle with that question every day.

Short answer from me: YES. I wrestle with guilt, too. It doesn't take away from the love I have for my children, but I do feel guilty for the losses that adoption represents for them. Guilt isn't always rational, so I get to feel it even when I realize that my kids have gained a permanent family that they likely wouldn't have had in China. But doubts about that -- would money to pay over-quota fines have made a difference? -- ratchet up the guilt.

So the majority of my guilt is reserved for the plight of their birth families, especially their birth mothers. I definitely feel guilty that I get to raise their children mostly because they are poor and I am not. What I spent on the adoptions probably would have allowed 20 Chinese families to pay over-quota fines and keep their kids. So, yes, I beat myself up over that fairly frequently.

So the answer to the reader who emailed me is, "you're not alone." Does anyone else out there suffer from "adoption guilt?" Or are WE alone on this?! How have you dealt with the guilt? Are there any resources that have been particularly helpful? Are there specific things you do to combat the guilt?

One thing I do, and it is pitifully small, is donate to Love Without Boundaries Unity Fund. Love Without Boundaries has long provided medical care for children in Chinese orphanages. The Unity Fund provides medical care for children to keep them out of orphanages and with their families:
In 2005, many of us had our lives changed forever on a very special medical
mission to Henan, the most populated province in China. We had gone to operate on orphaned children, but as word of our medical team spread, the crowd of rural families wishing for their children to have surgery began to grow. Farmers, who were unable to afford the life changing surgery for their children, walked on foot for days in the hopes that their children could finally be healed. We met family after family who told us stories of their worries about being able to heal their children and many who told us they had considered leaving their babies at the orphanage so that their children might receive medical care. It was then that we realized that in providing medical care to families living in poverty, we could possibly prevent children from becoming orphaned. What an amazing thought that was.
This fund is especially meaningful for me since it is possible that the inability to pay for Maya's medical care played a role in her family's decision to abandon her. I know, it's just a little bandaid to assuage my guilt, but so be it!

The Quake and the One Child Policy

Interesting report on how family planning officials in Chengdu are amending rules to allow families affected by the Sichuan earthquake to register illegal children and apply to have additional children:

The Chengdu Population and Family Planning Committee, located in Sichuan’s capital, said that families affected by the disaster can obtain a certificate to have another child, the Associated Press reports.

The Chinese government normally enforces its one-child policy by fining couples who have more than one child. However, the committee’s announcement said that if a child born illegally was killed in the earthquake, parents will no longer have to pay
fines, though previously paid fines will not be refunded. If a couple’s legally born child was killed but its illegally born sibling survived, that sibling can be registered as the legal child, the authorities explained.

* * *

[Steven]Mosher, [China expert] who has followed the one-child policy since its inception and described it in his most recent book “Population Control”, went on to comment that "The natural human reaction to losing a child is to have a make-up child as quickly as possible. But this will not be possible for most of the couples who have lost children to the quake, regardless of what the government policy is. Most women of childbearing age have been sterilized, or their spouses have been sterilized. Unless the government begins offering free tubal ligation and vasectomy reversals to these poor people, there will be no more children."

Head's Up For Floridians

The Orlando Sentinal writes:
Florida is the last state in the nation still to have a constitution marked with one remnant of the Jim Crow era: a rule allowing legislators to ban Asian immigrants from owning land.

This November, voters have a chance to remove the so-called "alien land law" of 1926 from Florida's Constitution. That would complete a nationwide purging of the rules once in force in more than a dozen states."What it does is eliminate the unfortunate vestiges of racial discrimination," said Sen. Steve Geller, D-Cooper City, who persuaded legislators to put it on the fall ballot after years of lobbying his colleagues.

* * *
Passage is not certain. In New Mexico, a similar law had to be placed on the ballot twice before voters threw it out in 2006. That left Florida as the last state with the measure on its books.

You can read more about the Alien Land Acts here.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

John McCain and the "G" Word

OK, you now know from the title that this is an explicitly political post. But this isn't just a random political post -- this is about racism and racist speech and my children from China, which is what this blog is about.

So now that you know what's coming, you can avoid it by clicking away RIGHT NOW and by not scrolling down any further! Danger, Will Robinson, Danger! Run Away! Run Awaaaaay!

Eight years ago, I thought John McCain was a great candidate with a compelling personal story and a maverick approach. Then he said this: "I hated the gooks. I will hate them as long as I live."

McCain refused, at first, to apologize. He said he only meant the horrible prison guards who tortured him during his captivity during the VietNam war. He said he couldn't come up with a more polite term to call his captors. I thought at the time, "Why not call them 'my captors?' 'sadists?' 'torturers?' 'the enemy?' Why that word? Why does your anger spill over from that justifiably directed at your inhumane captors to all Asians?" As Katie Hong pointed out, he called them Asians, because that is what gook means:
Contrary to McCain's attempt to narrowly define "gook" to mean only his "sadistic" captors, this term has historically been used to describe all Asians. McCain said that "gook" was the most "polite" term he could find to describe his captors, but because it is simply a pejorative term for Asians, he insulted his captors simply by calling them "Asians" -- a clearly disturbing message. To the Asian American community, the term is akin to the racist word "nigger." A friend of mine, a white male Vietnam veteran, pointed out that veterans, especially Vietnam veterans, know how spiteful the term "gook" is. It has everything to do with labeling someone as "other," the enemy and yellow. McCain sent the message that all Asians are foreigners and remain forever the "other" and the enemy.
For what it is worth, I will point out that he did eventually apologize. But it was one of those "I'm sorry IF I offended anyone" apologies. And he said he wouldn't say it again because "some people" find it offensive. Doesn't exactly sound like an epiphany, a recognition that he was not simply angry at his captors, which was justifiable, he was also harboring some hateful attitudes toward Asians.

Some people might point out in defense of McCain that this happened 8 years ago, and that it isn't relevant today. I hope those same people see McCain's attempts to link Obama to Bill Ayers, a tenuous connection that ended ten years ago, as equally irrelevant!

I'll also add that maybe this isn't the sin of the century; maybe it isn't reason enough not to vote for a candidate you otherwise love. But if so, I think we have to ask why it's ok. Do you agree that if he had said the n-word that he shouldn't be a candidate today? Or maybe you just think he wouldn't be a candidate if he'd used the n-word because politically that would be suicide. If so, why is it ok to say gook, but not the n-word?

Or perhaps you think it is justifiable that McCain harbor negative attitudes toward Asians in light of what he experienced in captivity. Sorry, I'm not willing to give him a pass on that when he wants to be President of ALL Americans. If his experience, which was truly awful, makes him hate Asians for as long as he lives, then he needs to look for another line of work.

Here's a recent reaction from one young man to this racial slur:

I agree with him. I would find it really troublesome to have as President a man who looks at my daughters and sees "gooks."

UPDATE: I don't know what happened, but the comments disappeared! I promise, I didn't delete them! I have had trouble in the past with comments being disabled when I post a YouTube video, but comments definitely worked at first on this one. I don't know where they went. Sorry, sorry, sorry.

UPDATE UPDATE: They're back! No idea why. Hopefully they'll stay this time!

Then and Now

Here's Zoe in her little orange and white outfit on October 8, 2001.
And here is Zoe wearing the same outfit TODAY!
This has become part of our family-day tradition -- trying on the same outfit she wore as a baby. I have pictures of it shrinking and shrinking, year by year! Zoe says this is the LAST year she's going to put it on -- we'll see about that! She's so skinny I bet we can get it onto her body for a few more years.
We followed our other family-day traditions as well: we went out for Chinese food, we watched our first-meeting video, we looked at our "Journey to Zoe" scrapbook, and I gave Zoe a little gift from China (on our adoption trip I bought 17 little presents to give her on each anniversary until she is 18 (did the same for Maya!)) -- little cloisonne shoe ornaments.
All of this, of course, followed homework and ballet for both girls. Whew! Didn't take them long to fall asleep today!

October 8, 2001

Seven years ago today. I can't believe it! It feels like it was just yesterday. Seven years ago today, I held Zoe for the first time. Look at that face! How could I not fall in love with that face!

This is what I wrote to Zoe about that day:

Dear Zoe,

How do I find the words to describe the most incredible day of my life? After waiting through four months of paper-chasing, twelve months of waiting for a referral, and two months to travel to China, I finally got to hold you!

Our guide, Vicky, told us that you would be at the hotel at 6 p.m. Mimi and I walked around Nanning, bought the bottle and formula we were told you were used to, got everything ready in our hotel room, prepared the gifts to be given to the orphanage folks, and then waited in our room to be told you had arrived.

Around 3 p.m., Vicky said you would be earlier than we thought -- around 4 p.m. What a long hour that was! But, with a knock on the door by Vicky, the wait was over. We grabbed our gifts for the nannies and orphanage director, and our camers, and headed for Vicky's room down the hall.

I first saw you in the hallway being carried in the arms of Mr. Gan, the orphanage director. You were wearing an orange and while outfit, and no socks and shoes, and my first thought was how cute and tiny your toes were! My next thought was how beautiful you were! You were so small and so scared, staring at us with huge dark eyes.

I wanted to hold you right then, but first we had to go to Vicky's room and go through some formalities -- introductions and gift-giving. Then, Mr. Gan FINALLY handed you to me.

You were so scared, and so brave -- you didn't cry at all. You laid your head on my shoulder and snuggled in. I couldn't believe how light you were, and how warm you felt in my arms. I felt overwhelming love as I held you.

Mr. Gan gave you, as a gift from the orphanage, a DVD of children's songs and cartoons in Chinese. He also gave you a photograph of all the staff of the Guiping Social Welfare Institute.

The most precious gift -- next to you -- was a note from your birth parents giving your date of birth. The note was written on red paper, which signifies a wish for good fortune.

Mr. Gan also returned the things I sent to you after getting the referral -- a blanket, a photo album with pictures of your new family, a rattle, and a soft doll. He also gave me the disposable camer I had sent with a request that they take pictures of your life in the orphanage. Another precious gift -- he had answered the list of questions I had sent in that box, telling us about your name and your life in the orphanage.

As we headed back to our hotel room, I suddenly realized that I hadn't given your grandmother -- your Mimi -- a chance to hold you yet! She was as happy as I was to hold you for the first time.

Back in our room, we put you down on the bed with some toys -- that's the first time you cried! You wanted your mama to hold you! I was SO happy to do so! I held you, clasped to my heart, until you fell asleep. What an amazing feeling to have your trusting child fall asleep in your arms!

After about 30 minutes, you woke up. Your amateur mother changed your diaper for the first time -- you hated it! Then I gave you your first bottle. You loved it! Not long after, you went to sleep for the night and slept peacefully through the night. I stayed awake, listening to every rustle, every murmur, every breath, and shivered in joy.



Seven years ago, I thought I had reached the pinnacle of happiness, had felt incomparable love. Seven years later, the depth of my love for this child, my joy at having her for my daughter, makes those feelings at our first meeting seem pale, insubstantial. I can truly say that I would never go back to my life before kids. Zoe and Maya have made me complete.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Guest Review: Shaoey and Dot

Book: Shaoey and Dot
by Mary Beth and Steven Curtis Chapman

Review by Miss L., age 4!

What this book is about: This story follows a little ladybug and a little baby girl left in a basket in China. The lady bug stays with the little baby from being found, to being taken to the orphanage, to being adopted by her new family, and the flight to her new home.

What I liked about the book: I like the ladybug the best because of the funny way she is dressed. I also like the baby girl in the story, because I like babies. I love this book so much I want to read more stories about Shaoey and Dot.

What I didn't like about the book: I don't like the one page in the book that doesn't have the ladybug in it. I want to see the ladybug on every page! This page really bugs me everytime I come to it. I also don't like that the book ends. I want to know what happens when the little baby girl gets to her new home, and read more adventures of the ladybug and the girl.

What I learned/How the book helped me: This book helps me to learn the English words to describe how I came to be adopted into my family.

About Me: My name is Miss L. I am 4 years old and I was adopted from China 3 months ago. I now live with my mommy, daddy, and big brother in Canada.
Thank you, Miss L., I love your review! Thanks to mama, Shelley B., too.
Miss L. gets to choose her book, since she's the first child reviewer. I've offered her the second Shaoey and Dot book if she'd prefer to have it over Mr. Rogers' Adoption book or the White Swan Express. So there may be 2 more kids' books for 2 more reviewers, and there's Wanting a Daughter, Needing a Son for an adult reviewer!

Free Hugs China

OK, this tickles me; I'm not quite sure why it tickles me but it does!

It seems the Free Hug movement began with a guy in Australia, and now there are YouTube videos documenting Free Hugs in various countries.

Monday, October 6, 2008

ACCKKKK! Say it isn't so!

Xinhua, the official news organization of China, reports:
BEIJING, Oct. 4 -- Lindsay Lohan wants to adopt a child. The 'Mean Girls' actress - who recently confirmed she is in a relationship with DJ Samantha Ronson - is looking forward to becoming a mother, and would like to help a child in need.

She said: "At some point, I want to adopt a kid as well. A child in need or a newborn from another country, I'm not sure."

I bet those stints in rehab will look great in the homestudy!

And why in the world is Xinhua running this?!

Racism without Racists

That's the headline of a NYT op-ed piece about a study related to Obama's campaign. But there is definitely relevance beyond that, including our children:
“When we fixate on the racist individual, we’re focused on the least interesting way that race works,” said Phillip Goff, a social psychologist at U.C.L.A. who focuses his research on “racism without racists.” “Most of the way race functions is without the need for racial animus.”

For decades, experiments have shown that even many whites who earnestly believe in equal rights will recommend hiring a white job candidate more often than a person with identical credentials who is black. In the experiments, the applicant’s folder sometimes presents the person as white, sometimes as black, but everything else is the same. The white person thinks that he or she is selecting on the basis of nonracial factors like experience.

* * *

Still, a huge array of research suggests that 50 percent or more of whites have unconscious biases that sometimes lead to racial discrimination. (Blacks have their own unconscious biases, surprisingly often against blacks as well.)

One set of experiments conducted since the 1970s involves subjects who believe that they are witnessing an emergency (like an epileptic seizure). When there is no other witness, a white bystander will call for help whether the victim is white or black, and there is very little discrimination.

But when there are other bystanders, so the individual responsibility to summon help may feel less obvious, whites will still summon help 75 percent of the time if the victim is white but only 38 percent of the time if the victim is black.

One lesson from this research is that racial biases are deeply embedded within us, more so than many whites believe. But another lesson, a historical one, is that we can overcome unconscious bias. That’s what happened with the decline in prejudice against Catholics after the candidacy of John F. Kennedy in 1960.

Overt racism being driven underground is both a good thing and a bad thing. I think it makes folks believe that all racism is gone, and that unconscious racism is just what people who are overreacting see that isn't really there. It certainly makes racism harder to combat when it isn't as obvious as "Whites Only" signs. And people think they only have to say "he/she didn't mean anything by it" to excuse all manner of racist behavior. But the fact that you don't realize you harbor negative attitudes toward races you feel are inferior to you doesn't make it hurt any less to hear the comments!

New Poll: What to do with negative information

The new poll is based on a situation discussed on APC a few months ago. What do you think?

Please comment!

Video Review: Peer in the Distance

Video: Peer in the Distance
Directed, Written & Produced by Dr. Changfu Chang

Review by Zoe

What this video is about: Two girls and they never met, because they live apart. XinPing lives in the country and WanWan lives in the city. They both have hard things in their lives. WanWan goes to school and has lots of lessons after school, so she always works. XinPing lives on a farm and has chores, and has to walk a long way to school.

What I liked about this video: That they knew each other and sent letters for a long time. I liked that they were friends even though they didn’t go to the same school.

What I didn’t like about this video: That they didn’t get to see each other in person.

What I learned/How this video helped me: I learned what life is like for girls living in China.

Zoe doesn't have school today, so we had a chance to see this DVD. I've had it for a while, since I went to an FCC-sponsored presentation by Dr. Chang, where he showed another video, A Long Wait for Home. That was also a great video -- not quite appropriate for Zoe's age, though. In that video, three birth parents discuss why they abandoned their children, how they feel about it now, etc. I think it's a very important and helpful video, because we haven't heard these voices from China before. But I also think there are some limitations on how helpful these voices are -- they don't strike me as very typical of birth parents in China. Still, I'd recommend both DVDs!

You can see a trailer for Peer in the Distance at YouTube.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Poll Results: Skin Tones

A friend told me that when she showed her husband this poll, he grumbled about the "chick" descriptions of colors! LOL! I admit, I'm pure chick in this regard -- I like the food descriptions, because I think kids can understand, and it gives me an excuse to tell my kids they're so yummy I have to eat them up!

I wasn't surprised to see that 10 out of 24 voters used "tan" as the description of their child's skin tone. But I wonder -- is it "tan" the word people use? or is it "tanned?" Tan strikes me as descriptive, while tanned seems to suggest there's another, lighter color underneath. . . .

Eight people haven't described their child's skin color in any way. Why is that? Are your children too young to have noticed, do you think? Perhaps they haven't asked? Is there some other reason?

How old were your children when they seemed to notice the difference in skin tones? I remember very distinctly reading a book called "Zoe and Her Zebra" with Zoe when she'd just turned two. On the fly leaf, there was an illustration of a dark skinned, dark haired girl holding hands with a pale skinned, red-headed boy. Zoe immediately pointed at the girl and said, "Zoe!" She pointed at the boy and said, "Mama!" (At the time I was coloring my hair and my hair was reddish). She then wanted to put our arms next to each other and compare the colors.
And I'm assuming, like me, your description of your child's skin is usually prefaced by the word "beautiful!" I go on about their beautiful golden skin, and their beautiful black hair . . . . I'm pretty sure that's why Maya says that black is her favorite color! And I remember having to get onto Zoe's preschool teacher who told the children that "black is a sad color," as she encouraged them to use more variety in their drawings. Aaack!

There's that box again!

Remember me writing about Zoe and her box? The fact that she was found in a cardboard box is somehow important to her, and it shows up in most of her talk about her birth parents. Well, she wrote a story this weekend, a story she assured me wasn't about her, and the box is back:
Wan An and Her Best Friend
By Zoe
I was once a baby found in the garden on Tuesday night, when a man who was cutting trees found me under a tree stump in a box. The man called his wife to see what he had found under the tree stump. The woman also his wife, thought that she wanted the little girl to be their child. The husband agrees, so the next morning they went to the court house where the judges were and showed them the little baby girl and told them that they wanted to have that girl for a child, so that’s what the judges did.

So 8 years later the girl was 8 and they called her “Wan An” which meant night. They called her that because she was born at night time. Now let me tell you about Wan An. Well, her birthday was October 23, 2000, her last name is Banks, her middle name is Tree Stump because like at the first part of the story she was found under the tree stump in the woods.
Her mom’s birthday is January 1, 1995, her dad’s b-day is March 16, 1960.

So as she got older she grew. Soon she was 10 years old after two years. Her mom was 46 after 2 years. Her dad was 51 after 2 years. After her mom thought she was responsible she talked to Wan An about getting a pet, so they did and it was a kitten! Wan An named the kitten “Moon Light” because she was white as the moon. Now she had a kitten named Moon Light, a mom named Alexander, and a dad named Jorge.

When she was three, her parents signed her up for school. She went to a Catholic school called St. Paul’s Catholic School. She also went to St. Paul’s Catholic Church on Sundays.
On summer vacation, she bought a toy mouse for her kitten, and a scratching post and other cat stuff.

At school, she had a best friend named “Sun” who was born like Wan An only at the morning on the same Tuesday. Sun was a kind person to Wan An so Wan An was a kind person to Sun. They always walked home together and talked about going out to dinner every night.

Now let me tell you about Sun. She has a mom called Sarah, a dad called Jack. Her middle name is Dawn because she was found at dawn and the last thing is she has a puppy named China because she is a Chinese puppy! So one evening the two families talked about going out while Sun and Wan An played checkers.

Sun’s birthday is on the same day as Wan An’s so each year they are like twins. One day they found out they grew in the same birth mother’s tummy so they really were twins!

The End
Tree Stump? Her middle name is Tree Stump? Where does she come up with this stuff!?? And I guess I should be prepared for the I-want-a-pet discussion when Zoe is 10!

Guest Review: Once They Hear My Name

Book: Once They Hear My Name
edited by Ellen Lee, Marilyn Lemmert, Mary Anne Hess

Reviewed by Wendy

What the Book is About: The book is a compilation of several adult adoptees from Korea's story of adoption, but more importantly their journey to self-identity.

What I Liked About the Book: I really liked the diversity of the group chosen for the book and all of the advice (although not blatant that I received from reading their stories and life experiences.

What I Didn't Like About the Book: There is nothing I didn't like. However, I would have loved it to be longer!

What I Learned/How the Book Helped Me: I have learned many things about I approach parenting and things that I think are/will work and other things that I knew were important, but ingrained in my mind the significance of their importance--my daughter learning her birth language.

Wendy adds: I highly recommend!

Wendy was the first to get a review in, so has her pick of the adult books, and has chosen The Primal Wound! That means the next grown-up reviewer gets Wanting a Daughter, Needing a Son (even if you have the book, you might want it as a gift for another adopter or a relative who might want to learn more!).

Thanks, Wendy!

Newsweek: Decline in Foreign Adoption in America

Newsweek is running a brief story on the decline of foreign adoption in the U.S.:

If Brangelina is any indication, American interest in adopting foreign children is stronger than ever. So why is the United States adopting fewer of them? According to early projections by the State Department, foreign adoptions have dropped an estimated 10 percent from last year—the fourth straight year of decline since the high-water mark of 22,884 in 2004. Experts say the downward trend is likely to continue as countries such as Russia, Guatemala and China, which in recent years had been among the largest providers of orphans for adoption, have either dialed back their programs or ended them entirely. "It's not that American interest has diminished at all, or that there are fewer kids who need homes," says Chuck Johnson of the National Council for Adoption. "The declines are directly the result of bureaucratic or political issues."

Their interactive graph gives additional information when you click on the lines (mine is just a pretty picture of their graph -- not interactive!), and for several of the countries, including Korea, Russia and Ukraine, officials cite declining birth rates in their countries as increasing interest in domestic adoption.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Prizes for Book Reviews!!!

Be the first to email me your review of a grown-up book about adoption, and I'll send you a copy of Kay Johnson's Wanting a Daughter, Needing a Son, or Nancy Newton Verrier's book, The Primal Wound. First reviewer gets first choice of book, second reviewer gets the other book!

Be the first to email me your child's review of a children's book about adoption, China, or race, and I'll send your child a copy of The White Swan Express by Jean Davies Okimoto & Elaine M. Aoki, or Let's Talk About It: Adoption by Mr. Rogers (yes, THAT Mr. Rogers!). Same as above, first reviewer gets first choice of book, second reviewer gets the left-over!

Click here for info about a suggested format for the book reviews! Grown-up reviews can follow the same format as kids' reviews.

Maya's School Picture!

Actress Kristin Chenoweth, adopted, works on memoir

Kristin Chenoweth, actress, is working on a memoir to be published next year, titled "A Little Bit Wicked."

"I had a ghost writer; I'm not going to pretend I wrote it by myself. I worked on it solid for three months," Chenoweth said. "It's about my adoption, but it is about my life. I didn't want to call it a memoir, because I don't think that fits yet," she said, laughing.

One thing it's not about is the search for her birth parents. "It's actually kind of the opposite, about what it's like not to do that, and what it's like not to have that family history, but to connect with the people who raised you," Chenoweth said.

* * *

Because I wanted to kind of give other people inspiration." Not to mention permission not to look if they don't want to. "There's so much pressure," Chenoweth said. "Every time I meet somebody, and they say, 'You're adopted — have you found your birth parents yet?'