Tag Archives: family

A Halloween tale with a happy ending: An Orphan Blossoms in America

A few years ago, KitKat shared a scary Halloween tale of lost socks and lost patience. This year, I have a scary story of my own. A poor rural Chinese family gives birth to a baby boy. This would usually be cause for rejoicing, but this family already has two children—a school-age daughter and a three-year-old girl. Given the political and economic circumstances in China, they aren’t allowed to have three children, so one of them must go. The older daughter is in school and contributes to the household. Due to a centuries-old tradition, the baby boy will be responsible for supporting the parents in their old age. Therefore, the “logical choice” is the precocious preschooler—the girl with the smile like sunshine whose antics make her parents laugh and delight in her warm, open personality. They’re poor and not able to support all of their children. The girl is malnourished despite being well-loved.

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The ceiling of the Tianjin train station has a mural of a guardian angel, protecting those on their journey

The parents are too heartbroken to part with their darling daughter, so her grandparents volunteer to take care of things. They bring her to the train station. With so many people coming and going, nobody will notice a small child left behind. At least, not right away. Eventually a train station official notices the small girl crying on the platform. She’s looking for Lao-ye and Ye-ye and wondering where they are. The station official gives the frightened child a piece of candy and takes her to his office while he calls the local police. He’s hoping it’s a case of a lost child and not an abandoned one, but his heart tells him otherwise. Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, children are going from house to house saying “Trick or treat!” The whole evening is devoted to frightful pranks that aren’t really scary, because they’re only make-believe. However, for the girl back in China, the scenario that’s unfolding is truly frightening.

The girl is taken to the police station where they keep her for three days. They are waiting to see if she is in fact a lost child and merely separated from her family or one of the many unfortunate girls whose family cannot afford to keep her, due to a social system that places responsibility for aging parents on the sons.

After three days in police custody, the officials face the sad fact that nobody is searching for the child. They bring her to the local orphanage where she is given a new identity and a chance for a better life.

KitKat and I are both parents of adopted daughters and the story I just told is my imagined “horror story” of my daughter’s early childhood. Blossom was abandoned on Halloween, so witches and ghost decorations in the stores always make me reflect on this. My daughter turned 21 last November. This is a milestone for any young person, because they are finally recognized as an adult in all respects. But for Blossom, birthdays have always carried a little twist: You see, her birthday was “assigned” to her the day she came to the orphanage.

When we first discovered that, I was a little dismayed. “You mean, we won’t know how old she really is?” I thought. Then, upon reflection I realized this was a pretty trivial matter. After all, she came to the orphanage when she was around three. The orphanage director was a doctor and assessed her as being three years old. In thinking about my (many) nieces and nephews, I realized that the margin of error on predicting a three-year-old child’s age is only +/- six months at best (in other words, you’re unlikely to mistake a six year old for being three) so I figured this was close enough to not worry about it. Her assigned birthday meant she would always be one of the older kids in her class, so that seemed to add a layer of security, ensuring she would be sufficiently mature for the various rites of passage.

Traditionally in China, all children were considered “one year old” at birth and then would age by one year at the lunar new year and on each lunar new year thereafter. So the fact that Blossom’s true age was a little “off” from her celebrated birthday actually seemed to pay homage to her Chinese heritage.

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Gong, Hua (soon-to-be Blossom, in the Green School Hyogo t-shirt, front row) with her classmates at the Tianjin Children’s Welfare Institute

When the orphanage officials brought Blossom in to meet us, her Mama and Baba, for the first time, my immediate reaction was “Oh my God, she’s only two!” Our information had told us she was four-and-a-half, but she was a little peanut and didn’t look older than two. I panicked a bit, because as parents of two other children, we weren’t really expecting to go all the way back to the toddler stage. However, soon after interacting with her, we could see that she was no toddler. For example, she could tie her shoes—and we could tell that she was quite clever in making little remarks (even though they were in Chinese and we couldn’t understand anything she was saying). We asked the orphanage director how confident he was in the age he had assigned to her and he responded, “She’s four alright—four going on eight!” (referring to her precociousness).

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Blossom being carried off the plane by baba to start her new life in America

So we had no medical reason to change her birthdate—and I had another more important reason to keep it. With an older “waiting child,” the rules are different than for adopting a typical international baby, thus I had been inquiring into Blossom’s adoption availability, only to be told another family was working on adopting her. For whatever reason, they decided not to proceed and the day the orphanage called to tell me that she was available to us was the same date as her assigned birthday. So, you see, on that day she was “born” into our family as our next daughter, so in my heart her birthday has always seemed appropriate.

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Always challenging herself

Unlike a lot of adopted children, Blossom has never drilled us for details around her adoption. One of the blessings of adopting a child of another race is it’s a pretty in-your-face move. When you see our family, four Scandinavian Minnesotans with a short Asian girl, it’s clear she’s adopted. Which in many regards, has simplified things. And truthfully, although we’re all well aware that Blossom has a different genetic and cultural background. (When her parents are acting too weird, she likes to lord over her img_3303siblings the fact that she’s actually NOT genetically predisposed to the weirdness, although they are.) But, we don’t really give it a second thought in our day-to-day lives. I knew I would adopt before I ever had biological children, so she was always part of “the plan,” and we’re very much a regular family with all of the idiosyncrasies that brings. I wish I could tell her birth mom that our shared daughter is living a life filled with opportunity that she never could have imagined on that sad Halloween in China. And Blossom acknowledges the uniqueness of her circumstances by wanting to contribute to the betterment of the world in some way. And I know she will. She already is.

Choose a Door

Well, it has been a while since my last entry. As Stormy posted on Facebook, “We’re just taking a ‘spring break’ from our blog.” It could be also described as a dry spell, but I like how she put a marketing spin on it.

There is a lot on my to-do-list that has been on hold lately. I seem to have lost some drive. I could blame it on kids, work or activities, but since hectic is my normal life my best guess is it is due to a lack of inspiration or just a temporary shut down. I even turned down going out on a Friday night to instead hang out in a quiet, childless house in my pajamas doing absolutely nothing. This is very unusual for me. I usually thrive on action and hate to miss out on any fun.

This inaction has my to-do-list rapidly growing, including some things which are now even months behind. To break this pattern, I have decided to force some action and just start ticking things off. Thank goodness for another Stormy Facebook post, “Interesting experiment… Which door would you pick?” that finally helped me get started. First item to complete: My next blog.

I think Dove has done many great campaigns. But #choosebeautiful Dove campaign is my favorite. I played it a few times, fascinated at the visual stories. As a mom, I loved–and understood–the woman pulling her daughter through the beautiful door. I would do the same thing. It made me smile at the friends who direct each other to go through “beautiful.” Again, I could picture each of my girlfriends and how I know they are meant for that door. I would make them go through it even if they were hesitant. It also was fascinating to hear why women picked a door and their feelings after. Interestingly, as watched, I never pushed myself to decide which door I would/should go through.

When I sent the video in a group email to my mom and sisters, my mom immediately wrote back stating she would hope that she, and all of us, would choose the beautiful door. Faced with the direct comment, I honestly couldn’t answer that I would. (By the way, my dear sisters, I did notice you totally avoided choosing in your commentary.)

I wish I could say that I would walk proudly through the beautiful door alone. But the reality is that facing the doors alone, I know for certain I would enter the normal door. Admittedly feeling shitty about it afterward, but still believing I went through the one best meant for me. I can’t point to an exact reason why. Believe me, I would love to announce to the world, and myself, that the beautiful door was mine. I even tried thinking about all the beautiful things about me, and why I deserve to walk through that door. I know logically it is the “right” door to pick. I understand the power of walking through that door. But I just can’t claim that door as mine.

Hard not to feel beautiful wrapped in cousin laughter and love.

Hard not to feel beautiful wrapped in cousin laughter and love.

With that said, I know surrounded by my girlfriends I would walk through it, as I would with my mom and sisters beside me. Not just to push them through it. Not because of peer pressure. Simply, because that is how I feel when I am with them.

Certain people make you a better version of your self. Or maybe it’s a reflection of how they see you. Or just the light they add to you when near.

I would like to think that someday (or just some days), I would automatically choose the beautiful door on my own. Not just because I know it’s the right image to show my daughter. And certainly not because I think anything is wrong with normal. I embrace my imperfections, crazies, and stumbles as an interesting and important part of who I am. But I do believe it is important to feel truly beautiful at least sometimes while standing alone. This is a place where I could use some growth.

Which brings me to another item on my to-do list, my vision board (as mentioned, I am months behind on some things). Maybe this year I will fill it with things that help me achieve personal moments of beautiful both inside and out.

Cheers to Dove for making me think and inspiring me back into action. What door would you choose?

Dear Other Two Moms:

The other night my daughter asked, “Were you happy I was your baby? Was I cute?” Granted, she probably suspected that this question would stall bedtime at least another fifteen minutes as I cuddled her and told her the story, again, about how it felt the first time I saw her. The vivid memory of sitting at the Eastern Orphanage in Korea anxiously waiting to meet my daughter. Finally, the counselor pointing to a woman walking in with the most beautiful baby girl on her back … “That is her.”

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They both are still surprised when a stranger can guess one of them is adopted. 🙂

I have told my daughter (by adoption) and my son (by birth) that there isn’t one of their stories about how I came to be their mother that is more special than the other. They are completely different stories, but both include joy; some pain points; worrisome moments; and the delivery of the most incredible gift, unimaginable love, and biggest responsibility of my life. (The toughest part comes in the work and exhaustion of raising them!)

With two children who came to me in very different ways, it is important to me that I celebrate and share with them their individual stories and how it makes them unique. One part of my daughter’s story that I have shared with her is how she has three different moms who each love her very much. This “mom circle” includes her birth mom, her foster mom and me (her mom). In fact, she was told this story from before she was old enough to even understand the words that I was saying. This story also led to her infamous self-introduction: At the age of four, we were at the first day of swimming lessons. A girl walked up to her and said, “Hi, I have a new purple suit.” My daughter responded, “Hi. I have three moms.”

So with the timing of National Adoption Month and soon to be her seventh birthday, I want to attempt to write a note to her other two moms whom I share with the great honor of this title. Since, I have no way to actually get a letter to them, I decided to blog it. Perhaps they will feel the energy of it. Or someday when we go back to Korea as a family, or if Chloe ever seeks them out, it can be shared. Or maybe, it is purely for me to know that I have recognized them and documented something in their honor. So, with that said, here I go.

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Dear Other Two Moms:

First and foremost, I want both of you to know that you are and always will be important to both her and me. You are not forgotten.

Birth Mom, I didn’t know you at all except through a few forms from the orphanage that you filled out which shared some basic information about your life and the adoption decision you made. I haven’t read these to our daughter yet, but I will as she gets older.

Foster Mom, I did meet you. Our last day in Korea when you passed her to us for the final time and watching you say goodbye is etched in my mind. Our daughter loves to look at the photo album you sent with us that chronicles her nine months in your family. One of her favorite photos is of her 100-day celebration.

Secondly, if either of you ever do actually read this, please know it could never be enough or say enough to acknowledge and thank you for the sacrifices you both made that brought her to my life. So perhaps consider it more of a note in time with an update and a few facts about how she is doing.

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Rapunzel makes for a perfect braid model.

If our daughter was writing this, I am sure the first thing she would mention is “I can braid!” At the moment, it is what she sees as the most exciting, self-appointed goal she has reached. It has beat out the excitement of learning to read which happened around the same time. Her dolls, herself and me are always adorned with different braided hairdos. She would also be sure to mention that she is going to have a piñata at her birthday, is one of the fastest runners in her class and is also really good at the monkey bars.

Actually, she would go on and on and on. She talks a lot. There have been multiple times where she finally takes a breath and then notices, and comments, that I am not fully listening anymore. I have told her honestly that sometimes I can’t listen as long as she talks. She can wear me out.

Our daughter is beautiful. (I mentioned this in a past blog that I do work hard to make sure she is recognized for all her wonderful attributes beyond just this.) She is also smart, funny, and extremely flexible … freakishly flexible. She likes to sing and actually can hold a tune. (She wouldn’t get that from my genes). She has lots of friends and is a bit of a tomboy. Though she prefers sparkles and dresses when she races her brother and his friends.

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She also has attitude.

She does like to tattle. Her flair for the drama can cause the tiniest touch from her brother to create the loudest wail from her. (Though granted, half of the times the wails are well founded and caused from more than a touch). They have bonded as siblings in the truest form. It is a love/hate relationship. But no one better mess with her but him!

I am working with her on not lying to get out of trouble. “You saw me wrong” or “You heard me wrong” is her usual defense. She does not like anyone to be angry with her. Though it doesn’t stop her from doing things that may make us angry. When she is in trouble, it is usually turned around on us and we are told how we hurt her feelings by being mad.

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She goes to Korean camp with her friend who we first met in Korea.

She dresses herself in crazy, unmatched outfits and gets really sad if you suggest she or her outfit is anything but super cute. She loves Littlest Pet Shop but is “not that into” Hello Kitty anymore. She is proud of being Korean and loves to make and eat Be Bim Bop and Japchae. And, there is nothing quite like being caught up in one of her laughing attacks.

There are many moments in my life with her during which I think of you both. I want to know more about the stories behind the photos we look at together. I often reread the adoption forms hoping to catch something that I missed last time. When I am filling out her medical forms, I want to ask you about her family history or if she had the same reaction to colds when she was a baby. Sometimes, I just want to ask you both to tell me, in your own words, how you made such brave and selfless choices. One of you to give her a life you couldn’t provide and one of you to make sure she was cared for and loved till we would arrive. Both of you having to say goodbye to her. Once in awhile laying in her bed, I close my eyes and wish I could show you how she is doing and hopefully you would feel proud or content in the choices you made and the path you provided her. If nothing else, make you giggle hearing some of her perspectives and comments.

I am not a perfect mom but I love her. I want you to know that you both helped to create an incredible girl. I also want you to know there is no way to be eloquent enough to express all that I would like, nor anyway me to be able to cover the full spectrum of all that is her.

Thank you both for making the decisions you did which provided me the opportunity to be one of the three moms blessed to play a part in her life. I hope she gains strength by having received all of our love different ways and carries it with her always. Please know, I don’t take it for granted that I am the one who received the most with her as a constant in my life, thanks to both of you.

As I tell her every night, I love you to the moon and back.

Forever,

The Third Mom

My, what big eyes you have

My first attempt at writing of a blog was when I adopted my daughter from Korea. I saw it as a way for me to share with everyone who had been so supportive through our journey and as a journal for Chloe when she got older. I adoptionhad heartfelt plans to keep it up, but once back home and in “normal routine,” life and parenting took over.  It was the same as my son’s memory book that ended at age two, but now I had two kids and even less time. I was able to get one additional post done the past five years. Another example of my grand parenting aspirations replaced with just trying to be a “good enough” mom. Every once in awhile I still put it on my to-do list because I know there will come a time that Chloe has questions.  And with many pieces of her history missing, I want to at least provide her all the details about the past that I am part of.

Before adopting I read everything I could get my hands on about issues she might have and ideas to help her. I listened intently during all of the adoptionattitude classes. I whispered reassurances and promises in her ear on the long flight home. But, to be completely honest, once we settled in to our family I haven’t thought much about Chloe’s adoption. It is not because I don’t care. It is simply that Chloe is my daughter. There isn’t a difference to me between my two children.  I don’t think of it. I love her and she can make my heart soar with her beautiful smile and hugs and also can drive me nuts two minutes later. The only difference I see is that – unlike my son – her tantrums include a really high pitched screech.

You may wonder how I cannot be faced with it every day – she is Korean and I am not. It is hard to explain but I look at Chloe more than myself. Like my son, I see myself reflected in her. She just looks like my daughter and like our family. When I get asked questions about where she is from or glances, it takes me a minute to register how they know. And, until now her only question has been “why does bubba (her name for her brother) look different then rest of us?” His “yellow” hair sets him apart from the rest of our dark hair.

chloeThe one thing I do notice about Chloe’s looks is that she is stunningly pretty (at least to her mom). I make a point to discuss all her other assets and the things she is good at so not everything is focused on her looks.

Well, the other night she surprised us. In a very sad voice she announced, “My eyes are littler than everyone else’s.”  As stunned as I was, all the things I had read about and my own “mom sense” had me ready to help her though this and discuss anything she wanted. The problem is she is five.  So as I began talking, I was interrupted with another important question, “When can I have real pixie dust so I can fly?” This was a harder question for me and a much bigger issue for her. This is the third morning I have been woken with “can I have real pixie dust for my birthday?”

In a few weeks, Chloe has her first week of Korean camp which I hope will be the start of a lot of information and prompt open discussions. Now if anyone can just help me with where to get pixie dust. Adoption I am ready to tackle with all honesty and full disclosure, but her imagination I want to keep intact as long as possible.

What goes up must come down: A Spring Break fairy tale

Well, I am back, and not too happy about it. As Stormy mentioned in her last post, I was off enjoying Spring Break with my family. Now usually, I would say “enjoying” a family vacation is a bit of a stretch. It usually means whiny kids out of their element, too much together time and expectations set way too high on the quality memories we would create together. Plus, family also includes my parents who we stay with in Arizona. This adds to my personal stress of keeping my children from disrupting their calm lives and of wanting to show off how great my children are turning out due to our fabulous parenting skills. (This usually is when my parents witness all of us at our worst, as I try to force the unrealistic image of a perfect family which then turns into a complete family meltdown.) Toward the end of vacation, I usually start dreaming about my escape back to work. But, this trip was different.

Perhaps my children have reached a new stage. Now they are old enough to also appreciate the difference the warmth of the sun and relaxed schedule can make to them and their parents’ mood. Nor, do they need the same strict routines to function like somewhat tolerable human beings. Or, it could be that I have

View from my thrown

View from my throne

relaxed a bit and decided if my five-year-old daughter wants to do her normal nonstop morning chatter to her grandparents, instead of me, there is no need to intervene. Instead, I took the selfish approach of picking up my book and enjoying the morning quiet. After a couple days, it became the morning routine and household joke as I stumbled through the kitchen, poured a cup of coffee, waved to all (without a word) and headed outside to my lawn chair to read. “There goes Mom again.” I’d be joined a couple hours later as the kids jumped into the pool. Which leads me to another great stage, I didn’t have to be in the pool morning till night watching the kids play. They both can swim on their own now. I could pretend to watch (with my sunglasses masking my gaze) all the “look at me” and “watch this” tricks poolside. Once in awhile I would make my appearance as the special guest jumping in and getting lots of excitement and applause for it.

Aside from a few outings, we pretty much just hung out, relaxed and enjoyed the setting. (One outing was on horseback, a favorite activity since childhood of mine that I will post about in more detail later.) I didn’t even check in at work more than filtering through emails once a day. Pretty impressive with a new website launching the day I returned. I do have to give my unplugged-from-work credit to my great and completely self-sufficient staff, who told me (and meant it) to STOP whenever I tried to check in. It was the only time I actually liked being told to “STOP” and I paid attention and took the advice to quiet my rambling thoughts. For ten days, I truly relaxed. I won’t get into full boasting of all of the luxuries and other tidbits that made this trip so perfect, but it was simply a fabulous escape from reality.

What goes up must come down. And I realized this up in the air, just before midnight on Sunday and about 30 minutes away from landing back in Minneapolis. I had planned the late return thinking the kids still had the following day off to catch up on sleep and after all of my rest, certainly one day short on sleep wouldn’t be too hard to handle in exchange for taking full advantage of my vacation time. But on that last leg of the plane ride it suddenly all hit me. Tomorrow, instead of leisurely walking outside groggy from so much inactivity, I would be running to a work in 30-degree weather after only four hours of sleep. I would be faced with issues from a website launch, a frantic pace of catching up on all that sat idle waiting for my return, and to top it off, it was my birthday. Yes, I was turning 44 up in the air and I certainly didn’t see it as a something to celebrate. As I mentioned in a previous post, I had lost an entire year and only recently realized it wasn’t my 43rd birthday. With midnight looming, it looked like I was facing my own Cinderella story.

It was no fun realizing I was right. I kept a good face on at work but inside I was miserable. All of the things that had made me so happy had been swept up and taken away. I kept trying to be mature and told myself I was lucky to have had that time to enjoy, but the more rational I tried to become, the more irrational I felt. I wanted my fairy tale back.

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It would be a shame to end the post that all was lost and it was a horrible, no good, very bad day (I loved that book as a kid!). There was a slight happy ending that I made for myself. I did what any mature working woman/overstressed mom would do. I came home, put on my pajamas, and hid in my bed with a bottle of wine. Under the birthday disguise, I claimed a free night and wanted my servant children and husband to bring me food as needed. After spending my night with hours of T.V. (all favorite shows I had recorded but never time to watch) and a few too many glasses of wine, I finally dozed off, content.

Looking at the forecast ahead, the temps are rising so hopefully my mood will follow. Onwards and upwards! I won’t give up hope on for my own happy-ever-after ending though.

And it all comes tumbling down

I am tired, and when I get tired things start to drop. It starts with one or two small things. But then the momentum hits, and soon I am buried in a list of have-to-dos that have been missed.

This isn’t my norm. The majority of the time I can go to work and successfully manage an overworked marketing staff that supports six sales divisions. Afterwards, I can come home (down a glass of wine) and transform to mom mode and successfully manage two young children (and a husband) to keep our chaotic household and schedules running fairly smooth. In addition to these major commitments, I get my workouts in, and keep up on emails, finances and my favorite shows. Admittedly when things are up and running, I sometimes impress myself with my seemingly superhuman energy and well-performed juggling act.

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But right now I am not keeping up. Things are dropping on every side. I am showing up late and missing school events. (Why is my child always the first to perform? Five minutes later and I would have seen it.) My family is now dressing straight out the hamper of clean clothes that I planned to put away but now is almost empty and it is time to wash everything again. I screwed up a date scheduled with my husband and completely forgot my dad’s birthday. There is a major homework assignment due for my son and I somehow missed the month of preparation available to avoid the last minute crisis and cramming session. And, I have no idea what deadlines I have missed on all of the projects piled on my desk. In the midst of this downpour of dropped balls, workouts don’t stand a chance – though it hasn’t seemed to slow down my eating.

I have been here before, so logically I know it will pass. I will pick myself up, regain my stamina and get back into my rhythm to once again skillfully manage my work/life balance (never really balanced nor manageable – “organized chaos” may be a better description).

But currently the logic of waiting it out seems to be overridden with three intense urges:

  1. Stand in the middle of my living room stomp, cry and scream – throw a full-blown tantrum.
  2. Wiggle my nose like Samantha from Bewitched and magically fix Bewitchedeverything. (I am not as cute as her wiggling my nose. Yes, I have tried in the mirror!)
  3.  Run away (not an option but a blissful fantasy).

So instead, I am trying to take the piece of advice my mom always gives: Just breathe. This may seem easy, but it truly is work for me to try to calm my mind for a minute and take a few deep breathes. But I am willing to try.  Breathe and remember that in a few days I will be in my happy place again. Thank goodness for girlfriends, a cabin and a good local dance bar!

And if this breathing thing doesn’t work, I will continue to just keep topping off my wine glass to help sedate me or I will be joining my daughter in throwing a fit in the living room.