Saturday, March 31, 2012

Hidden Grief

Did you know that adoptive moms grieve?

Let me try to explain. The last time I felt grief was last February when my wonderful grandpa died. I worked on a slide show for his funeral, and I cried. My heart hurt.

This morning as I stood in the shower and the warm water flowed over me, my heart hurt in the same way. And I cried in the same way. I wept for my little girl who, when she was supposed to have been taking her first steps toward a loving mother, was laying on a rocky street outside a front gate starving to death. I cried for that baby, MY baby. I grieved for her pain. I grieved for the child I didn't have, the one I could love and protect from her conception who never knew that kind of core-changing pain and fear. I grieve for her future self, the one where a confused girl or even woman asks why. Why did this happen to me?

The difference with this grief is that it's not acknowledged. When grandpa died, people looked at me with gentle eyes and gave me a hug. At his funeral, all those who loved him grieved with me, feeling the same sense of loss that I felt. The pain was shared.

But this grief, though it is just as strong for me is not shared. People give congratulations and look for joy in my face. They tell me how "wonderful" she is and how "normal" and how amazingly well she has settled in.

I have a friend who expected a multiple birth, but one of the babies was stillborn. I'm sure she must have struggled with similar feelings. People congratulated her on her beautiful babies and did not remember that her heart was breaking. There is a need to distance the loss. Enjoy what you do have. Count your blessings.

Yet nobody told me when grandpa died to stop grieving because I had so many wonderful years with him. Enjoy what I did have. People wept with me.

Now as I grieve what my daughter and I have lost, it occurs to me that I need to go ahead and feel this grief. I need to weep with her when she weeps. I need to weep for myself, for the pain only a mother can feel when she no longer has the power to shield her precious children from pain but instead hurts with them. I need to write about it and share, and try to help people to understand.

I know this will fade over time, as grief does. We will find our joy again.

Today, at our open house, intended to celebrate Abi's homecoming and share a little of the amazing culture from the country where we met her, I feel a little bit like I'm planning a wake instead, like I expect hushed voices and muted colors and tear-filled eyes. For in a way we are saying goodbye to her old life, and goodbye to the child we had unconsciously anticipated, as well as welcoming the child we have and opening a new chapter for her. It's a strange mix of emotions for me, and one that few people ever understand.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Happy Birthday, Princess Abi!

On this day last year, I cried because my little girl spent her birthday an ocean away.

Today, though, she is here surrounded by the love of her forever family. The thought makes me want to cry again, but with joy, not grief.

We gave her a couple of presents, spreading them out over the last few days. There was a See-n-Say from Grandma N, and her own stuffed Orca (a hot item currently at our house).  This morning we gave her our "big gift" of a new baby doll. Other than that, we plan to keep it completely low-key, because she is still so unsettled at changes or visitors.

Usually I would be upset at the lack of a celebration, party, Grandmas, piles of gifts... This time, though, I just want to hold my girl close and help her heart become one more day secure with us. To me, that is celebration enough!

Here, she's pretending to do her new baby's hair and put coconut oil on it, like I do with her. I think this is the first time she has role-played "Mommy" rather than pretending to be one of the orphanage nannies.  A really good sign!

Happy first birthday in your forever home, little girl!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Rich Environment

This morning at the bright and early hour of 7:30, our whole family went to the local elementary school to discover the results of Abi's Special Ed assessments.

For Curly and Mister, it was the first time they had ever been into a "real school." I watched them with interest to see what they would think of the classrooms full of desks and the artwork on the walls. They peered curiously into the rooms we passed, and asked questions about the daily routine.

The preschool room we eventually entered seemed much more fun to me, as it was filled with toys! The kids played for 45 minutes while we listened to the SpEd team do their best to soften the blow to us that Abi actually doesn't qualify for services. Since we didn't really want to bother with services anyway, we were not as disappointed as they expected us to be. It's nice to know that our observations were correct, that she is doing well adjusting (it's a process!) and that she is very bright and well-adjusted to coping with blindness.  She seems to be a good mix of daring and careful, willing to explore and try new things, but to ask for help when needed and maintain a good sense of safety and avoid danger.

One thing I did not expect AT ALL was the compliment I received from the SpEd teacher during the meeting. My experience in the past led me to expect public schoolteachers to be anti-homeschool, but this teacher described our "rich home environment" as an "ideal place for learning." Whoa!

For unschooling to be successful, one of the most important keys is creating a rich learning environment. Children need to be surrounded by educational materials, and learning needs to be seen as a fun experience that should be engaging at all times. For the teacher to acknowledge that our house is such a place makes me feel so great! I don't get a lot of affirmation that we're doing things right, and sometimes doing something so radically outside the common educational practice is unsettling. I often ask myself, "what if this doesn't work?" or "what if I'm not doing enough?" This was a nice little compliment and hearing that I am doing something well for my kids' education.

As we drove back home, talking about how we'd spend our day, Curly began asking more questions about school. She wanted to know if I liked school as a kid. I told her that at her age, in first grade, I really did. By seventh grade, not so much. She considered this, and decided that she might like school too. It's true. She might.

Monday, March 26, 2012

A Little Humming and Hiccups

Fun with the GGs

On Saturday, Hubby's grandparents, called Grandma and Grandpa GG by the kids, came up from Oregon to visit us and spoil us.  They played with the great-grandkids until I'm sure they were completely exhausted!

They took us out to dinner, or rather, Hubby and Grandpa brought dinner in.  We haven't been going "out" much these days.

They brought early Easter baskets that were easily ten times the size of any other Easter basket I have ever seen in my life.  After my recent trip to Africa where little kids have nothing of the sort, yet are as happy as can be, I wonder if American consumerism is really a good thing or not.  But the kids had a wild evening, buzzed out on sugar and playing with the toy cars.

Grandma and Grandpa were impressed, upon meeting Abi for the first time, how well she gets around and how she plays with the other kids.  She certainly has no problems jumping right into the mix and doing whatever the other kids are doing.

Bean, who ate most of the contents of his basket while I wasn't watching, did not sleep the entire night.  Neither, apparently, did Hubby, but I was spared some of the drama by wearing ear plugs.  I wanted to give Hubby a medal for fielding that one!

Abi discovered a fiber-optic light that delivered rotating colors right to her eye.  Although we don't think she can see color, she could see the light change, and she was fascinated, carrying it around for the rest of the evening.

The best part of the visit was that Grandpa GG blessed us with a pickup truck! He joked that it was a late graduation present that he never had a chance to give Hubby back then. Still, it's a huge blessing, since it's been difficult to take care of the house and do chores like run to the dump or haul gravel for our muddy driveway without a pickup truck.  We're so tickled and I'm sure it will get a lot of good use. :)

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Each One

It's Saturday.

This one poses with two stuffed orcas atop his head. I have no comment.

This one shows off a recently-lost top front tooth. Someone told her that her mouth looks like a checkerboard, since the holes are offset.

This one wanted a lizard behind his ear like Daddy.

This one is trying out a new, fancy-schmancy pair of glasses. They look adorable, but refuse to stay on, because her button nose almost doesn't exist, it's so small.  If we can figure out a way to keep them on her face, they might actually do some good.

Snapshot: Quintessential

I love my husband. He's just the right blend of serious and quirky.  Here he is, testing out a new espresso-maker for the first time, totally excited about it, and sporting a toy lizard tucked behind his ear. Somehow, I don't think you can do better than that at capturing who he really is.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Making The Best of Things

When March in Idaho gives you a big snowstorm instead of flowers, do these kids complain?

Heck no!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Family Photos

 I've wanted to get professional photos taken of our family forever, but I've never, ever done it.  Now that we finally have all of our kiddos home, I asked Kelly at Forever Iris to do a photo shoot with us.

Most of the pics turned out really, really cute, and not only was Kelly wonderful to work with, she had some great idea for poses.  Unfortunately, the weather in February wasn't so cooperative, and so some of the shots ended up with all of us looking miserably cold.  I think we may have a re-do once springtime comes!

Magazine Article

I was asked to write a few articles for the Matilda Ziegler Magazine.  Here is the first one, telling my story of bringing Abi home. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Braille, Braille Everywhere

Sighted kids get bombarded with print in their day-to-day lives. They see letters and logos everywhere.  As they learn to read, they unconsciously pick out letters and words they know, and recognize familiar objects, signs and colors.

Blind kids, on the other hand, miss out on the reading practice unless someone (in this case, Mom) sprinkles Braille around everywhere that little fingers land.  The SpEd teacher at the school district also recommended that I do this, and though my style isn't "let's label everything in the house until the family feels like they are living in a Preschool classroom," I agreed with her that the importance of encountering braille in everyday life trumps my own personal style.

So, I've been pulling out my slate and stylus for a few minutes here and there and labeling.  I've also transcribed a few more books.  I like that I'm keeping my transcriber skills sharp, and providing my daughter with the pre-reading practice she needs so much.  Braille-nerd, for the win. :)

Braille Cards

My mom loves greeting cards. Let me amend that. My mom LOVES greeting cards. She searches out just the right card for each person for every occasion.

With Abi, we discussed singing cards and textured embossed cards. A very, very few cards are available in Braille, and most of those are along the lines of a generic sunflower you might give your grandmother.

Time to get creative.

I got some clear labels, and brailled personal messages onto them. This way, Mom can pick out a fun, cute card, and then add the Braille so Abi can read it.

With a birthday coming up, I got them done just in time!

Tactile Coloring Sheets

Coloring inside the lines can be tricky when you can't see the lines!  Luckily, the problem is easily solved with a little planning ahead and some puff fabric paint.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Snapshot: Optimism

As we were putting the trampoline together this morning, our next-door neighbor remarked wryly, "You guys are sure optimistic that the weather's going to stay nice. We could still have another snowstorm or two." 

Well, I guess if we do, the tramp will get wet.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Playing Outside On A Warm Spring Day

This is just me having fun taking pictures of my kids, practicing my photography skills and trying to get interesting candid shots.  It's great to have a new kiddo in the mix.  Also, I'm experimenting with some new crops, and using "hard light" in Photoshop. Click on any of the photos to view it larger in the photo viewer.