Saturday, September 29, 2012

Birthday Bean!

Today, Bean turned three! We had a small celebration with just us and Alyssa, to keep it low-key for Abi. I have really wanted to simplify our many holidays, so it was just right. We gave him a couple of toys, an outfit, and a new winter coat. Just enough to enjoy, and Bean was totally thrilled.

We're going to try for a bigger party later for the extended family and maybe some friends to celebrate all the fall birthdays, but for each individual day I couldn't bring myself to plan, coordinate, and then deal with Abi's extreme neediness on top of it to do a big party. Happily, Bean was 100% satisfied with the small, intimate celebration. Yay!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Eyen Dot-tor

We headed to Spokane today to visit the "eyen dot-tor" (eye doctor), otherwise known as Abi's Pediatric Ophthalmologist. He wanted to check her pressure, which was way too high. Not a surprise. He also wanted do discuss future treatment, which for now is to wait. We don't want to further damage those fragile eyes. We discussed her glasses, and whether they help her vision or not (not) and how they are helpful as a protective shield, if nothing else.

After the appointment, we stayed to enjoy the city, choosing to get lunch at the Olive Garden, tour Riverfront Park, including the carrousel, and ride the escalators in the mall.

Then, we drove home listening to a book on tape, and the three youngest kids fell asleep. I was impressed at how well Abi did, handling a break in routine and all the messing around at the doctor. The other three did great, too, so we had a really nice day together as a family.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Oh yeah?

In my current mood of annoyance with all of the "can'ts" out there (see previous post), I'm going to finally put together a post that I've had floating around in my head for a long time.  As I surf around the internet looking at things blind people have done, I have to chuckle, because most of them were things people said could not be done in the first place. Here's my list:

Blind People Can't Skateboard

Tommy Carroll does.

Blind People Can't Cook

Christine Ha just won USMasterChef.

Blind People Can't Climb Mountains

Erik Weihenmeyer climbed all seven summits, including Everest.

Blind People Can't Hike

Bill Irwin thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail
Mike Hanson did it too.

Only Modern Blind People Do Anything Besides Music or Storytelling

"Blind Jack" Metcalf was a civil engineer and built roads.

Blind People Can't Use a Sewing Machine

Diane Rose is a quilter.

Blind People Can't Own a Business.

Becky Andrews Does

Blind People Can't Play Sports

Ever heard of Goalball? Beep Baseball?
How about Marla Runyan?

Blind People Can't Be Visual Artists

I've seen a bunch of examples, the most recent being Sonia Soberats.

Blind People Can't Make Their Own Beds

Here's How It's Done

Blind People Can't Fix Cars

Unless, like Bart Hickey, you're a mechanic.

Blind People Can't Travel Without Someone Sighted Along To Help

Ryan Knighton does, and then writes about it.

Blind People Don't Care About Politics.

Unless you're the governor.

Blind People Can't Do Peace Corps

So they told Sabriye Tenberken, who started a school in Tibet anyway.

Blind People Can't Play Video Games

Terry Garrett plays Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

I think I'll stop there because Mister wants me to help him with an art project. I was going to go on to list parents, teachers, thieves, athletes, pastors, bums... Blind people can and do accomplish just about every career, sport, hobby or game they want to. So if you're blind, or have a blind child, or know a blind friend, or see a blind guy crossing the street, how about tossing away the word "can't" and go about living a typical life full of everything in the world?

That's all. :)

P.S. You don't have to be a Super-Blind-Guy to do something cool. Some of these people have the personalities to be a stand-out, and some don't. Some are remarkable, and some aren't. Some are the best in their field; some are average. All of them wanted to learn to do something, and then did it, and I can bet you that all of them had people tell them it couldn't be done and they shouldn't bother to try, or that it wasn't safe, or that they would just get frustrated or fail. I'm glad they didn't listen. :)

This is such a common theme, it has its own special page on TV Tropes, the "Handicapped Badass" trope. I laughed when I read the explanation on that page:

One of the few tropes where you might see it more in Real Life than in any fiction; it's what happens when people don't accept Sorry Billy, But You Just Don't Have Legs as an answer. 
Of course, it annoys real-life disabled people often enough, too, when they are expected to follow this trope and be "inspirational" instead of just going about their lives, possibly (God forbid) wanting a few accommodations. On the bright side, at least it isn't vomit-inducing pity.
This is a good place to stick a few quotes I like:

“Blindness is not a handicap; it’s something I’ve always lived with. The real handicap comes from the prejudice people have about blindness.” ~Michael Hingson

"Blindness is not a handicap, it's just a damned nuisance." ~Paul Knowles

"Blindness is not a disability, it is an opportunity." ~Helen Keller

A Bad Word

I'm going to do something I rarely do on my blog: rant. This particular pet peeve has to do with the word "can't."

Over the past several years, I've gotten more involved in the blind community, hoping for understanding, information and support. While I have found these in some measure, I also found something else I was not expecting: the word "can't."

It's everywhere! I thought that the main problem that blind people have is the limits that sighted people place upon them. Instead, I've discovered that many of the limitations and myths are perpetuated by blind people who have learned to be helpless or lazy. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. After all, blind people are as diverse as anyone else, and not everyone is going to be a go-getter. Certainly, of the people I've talked to, most encourage me that blind people are highly capable.

Still, hearing that blind people "can't" eat with a fork properly, "can't" cut their own meat, that they "can't" learn to use a cane at a young age, that phonics "can't" be taught with Braille, that parents "can't" teach blindness skills, or even that sighted people "can't" learn to read Braille by touch... it's all baloney! To my surprise though, almost every one has some area where something "can't" be done. Oddly enough, these areas don't overlap, and one person will insist that something is impossible that another person just assured me is easy to learn with the right techniques.

For every blind person whining that they "can't" cut their meat, there is another one out there ordering steak, cutting it and enjoying it. Nowhere else is it so obvious that learned helplessness is crippling, and it's all based in expectations and belief, not in reality.

So, I guess I'll take a deep breath, and keep doing what I've always done: ignore the people who say something "can't" be done, and go do it. :)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Holding a Book

People using e-readers who say they miss holding a book, there is a compromise. I love these!

Since I first discovered discovered the iPod Touch and started using it as an e-reader, I bought one of these cases, both for protection, and because I still love holding a "real" book. This is a real book that talks, though!

This isn't any sort of paid advertisement for Pad and Quill. I just love their cases, and I love that they are a locally-owned, family company. I hope that doesn't change. :)


The wildfires in this area continue to blanket us in thick smoke. We all have coughs and runny noses now, although other families report much worse trouble.

We need rain!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Tuesdays and Thursdays

Preschool had me really worried for a whole bunch of reasons. Would Abi use it as an excuse to push me away, thus disrupting all the months of progress we'd made on bonding? Would she be weird and think I was leaving her there, that it was another orphanage? Would it be so geared toward the sighted kids that she'd be bored and learn nothing? Would the teachers accept her? Would she make friends?

I worried about the other kids too. How would it work to do some formal homeschooling during that time? Would my other kids balk? Would they be bored? Would they behave? Would the church staff be frustrated with us there? Would our being there hinder Abi's preschool experience? Could I find a ride for all of us?

So many worries swirled around in my head regarding this fall, I almost didn't have the courage to do it at all. I just about gave up on the project before we even tried it.

Teacher Marnie added tactile foam shapes
to a matching activity.
The thing is, I'm stubborn. And creative. I try to find solutions to problems before quitting. Since the other two kids went to Preschool there, the teacher is a friend, and I trust her. I began emailing with her weeks before school started. She was willing, so we started brainstorming.

We decided that it would be best if I did stay in the building during the Preschool time. It worked better logistically for me getting a ride; it worked better for Abi's several special needs (attachment issues, blindness, semi-English learner), and it gives me and the other kids a nice break to get out of the house and go somewhere different.

As today unfolded, I nearly wept with joy at how well things have been working out, and how blessed I am to find friends who care about me and my children to be willing to think outside the box and help us. Here is what we do on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

My wonderful babysitter, Alyssa, had volunteered to chauffeur us to Preschool, but unexpectedly got a job instead, so rather than leaving us hanging, her mom Arla offered to help. We've become friends in the weeks since, and we both enjoy these mornings together, as moms of large families who often don't get much social time.

Doing Math
Once we arrive, and I get Abi settled into her class, I take the other three upstairs to the cry room or nearby Sunday School classroom. The pastor of this church has graciously allowed us to use these rooms, and we do our best to leave them clean and tidy when we're done. 

The older two kids complete some math or handwriting pages, and Bean plays with the nursery toys. Sometimes, he takes a little tour of the sanctuary, where he is fascinated with the pipe organ. Once, we even saw a man playing, practicing for an upcoming funeral. Sometimes Arla stays; sometimes her twelve-year-old daughter joins us and does her homeschool work also. Sometimes Arla drops us off while she runs errands; sometimes we make other plans or Hubby gives us a ride before work.

Once they're done with their pages, the kids are all free to play. Sometimes, Curly teaches Bean his shapes or colors; sometimes they take turns playing games on the iPod. Today, they spent quite a bit of time examining the world maps hanging on the wall of one of the Sunday School classrooms.

Bean can draw a circle, but
can't quite manage a star!
Today was special too in that the Preschool kids had Chapel, and we were invited to join them. We went to the sanctuary where the pastor gave the kids a little lesson about Jesus' love, comparing the outstretched arms of the cross to a hug. Many of the Preschool kids hugged the pastor, mine included. He's new there, and seems like a really nice man.

The kids then got to ride the elevator back downstairs where it was Abi's snack day. I think she thought she was the school Princess. Teacher Marnie makes such a big deal when it's a kid's snack day. She got to set the table and choose who to sit by; she chose her little brother! I was grinning as she led him to his chair, and he just about burst with joy to be invited into her Preschool classroom!

Getting comfy with the iPod Touch
Being in the class for a little while gave me a chance to observe the teachers with Abi, and once again, I was absolutely blown away. Teacher Marnie took time to explain to Abi about the bar under the table when her chair would not push in all the way. Up in the chapel, she made sure Abi had a chance to feel several of the crosses in the room when the pastor used it as a visual in his story. Every time she took a moment to make sure Abi understood what was happening, she did it in such a gentle, subtle way, Abi did not feel singled out, just included.

Curly teaching Bean to draw shapes
At the end of each morning, the kids head out to the playground for recess. Before school started, we agreed that I would supervise Abi on the playground, for safety and liability reasons. The other kids are always welcome to play also, although the two bigger ones tend to play a little too vigorously for the preschoolers and I have had to ask them not to play sometimes. I'm worried that other parents will feel uncomfortable or that their child is unsafe with bigger kids playing rough. Curly is so disappointed that she is no longer in Preschool herself; she loved Teacher Marnie's class and she hates being too big now. Sometimes, I think she would do great in a classroom herself, until we sit down to do bookwork, and she is done after half an hour. When she found out that school kids have to do seat work for many hours each day in second grade, plus homework, she was once again happy to be a homeschooler!

The other morning, we got there a bit early, and spent some time on the playground. My four were happy spending time playing with one another and with "Willy, the cutest whale" on the bicycle-go-round. For my part, I breathed a sigh of relief as I watched my worries dissipate and float away on the fall breeze.

Riding the bicycle-go-round

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Saturday, September 15, 2012

My Boys

Two very representative photographs taken tonight.

Happy smile on a clean boy. I love to snuggle with Mister!

Uhhh... Bean has a paper bag on his head.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Reasons Why You Should Not Ask

The other day, when speaking with a friend, she asked what my adopted kids' stories were. As in, their stories before they joined our family.

Like many others, she was innocently curious. Unlike some others, she was completely respectful and apologetic when I was reluctant to share details. She made an interesting observation about it: "If I was an adoptive mom, I'd know not to ask that."

She was absolutely right.

Why? Those days are behind us, right? What would it hurt, and people just ask because they really care, right?


Here are a few reasons why it's not always appropriate for adoptive parents to share their child's history.

1. It's painful.

Imagine the most painful event of your life. A death, a rejection, losing a job, a spouse, a parent, a child. Now imagine your world being turned completely upside down and being ripped away from everything you have ever known and thrust into a new place, with a new language, new smells, new food, new rules... and nobody could explain to you why it happened.

Then imagine complete strangers bringing it up over and over and over.

People usually ask in front of our kids. Please don't do that. Please.

EVERY adopted child has a painful story. That's why adoptive moms know not to ask.

2. It can come back in unexpected ways.

Imagine this hypothetical scenario.

Two moms are chatting at the park while their three-year-old children play. One mom (Mrs. Smith) asks the other (Mrs. Jones) to tell the story behind the recent adoption of one of the children. Neither child is listening, and both women are discreet, trustworthy people. The story is told. Life moves on.

Three years later, Mrs. Smith hosts a dinner party with some friends. While chatting, another mom (Mrs. White) mentions that their family is adopting. To support her friend, chatty Mrs. Smith tells the story of the Jones' family adoption, including all of the juicy details behind the child's back story. Because Mrs. White is also adopting, it should be safe to tell her. She forgets that the other guests at the table are listening intently, as is her now-six-year-old son.  The party ends, the guests go home, and life moves on.

Two years later, Junior Smith is playing outside the church with Junior Jones. Unbeknownst to anyone outside the family, Junior Jones has been asking his mom and dad about his adoption, and they are praying hard about the best way to tell him about his past and help him develop a healthy identity. He is understandably confused and beginning to question who he is and why this happened to him, because he is at that age. While the two boys are playing at church, Junior Smith, full of the self-importance of an eight-year-old, says, "Do you know what my mom said about you?" He then proceeds to spill many of the details of Junior Jones' confusing, painful past in front of all the other church lads. Some ask things like "why didn't your mom want you?" or "What was it like to be starving?" or "Were you really abused?"

I'll leave it there, as anyone who is a parent or has ever been a child can picture the rest of the scene, including the repeating questions, comments and taunts that come in the following months.

Junior Jones has been irrevocably scarred by these innocent, "discreet" conversations and bad timing. One more burden of grief has been placed upon his little shoulders; one more memory has joined the horrible ones that still haunt his nightmares.

3. It doesn't matter.

It's not a huge mystery or a big secret. It simply doesn't matter. Children don't generally go around asking one another, "were you born by C-section?" No. Why? It doesn't matter to them.

It matters immensely to the adopted child and family, but it shouldn't matter to anyone else. It's not something that grandparents need to share at Bridge Club, nor is it something to write on a college application.

We humans are innately drama-thirsty, and a good juicy story like this makes good telling. It's tempting, until we adoptive parents consider the consequences. Haven't our children already experienced enough pain?

4. It's their story, not ours.

 Biological children belong entirely to their parents. Adoptive children don't. There is a tiny corner of their hearts that belong to their pasts, their bio parents and themselves. We adoptive parents care for them and love them just as deeply as we do our bio kids. They are "ours" in every sense of the word, but that only applies to us. To them, there is a piece missing.

Their stories belong to them, and to tell their stories to everyone who comes along violates that. Again, it's not a mystery or dark secret, but it's really up to them whether they want to share that part of themselves with others. As adoptive parents, we often prefer to respect that. Some don't, and that is their choice.

Some things, I'm comfortable sharing. I've been fairly open on this blog, but mostly I've shared my story. Where my children are a part of my story, I have shared some. Many things I have not shared. Their stories.  Those stories belong to them.

To finish this post that's already becoming too long, it doesn't bother me if you ask (as long as the kids are not listening). You probably don't realize exactly what you're asking. But please don't be offended if I don't tell you. Please be like the friend I recently spoke with, who smiled and respectfully withdrew the question.


In our rural town, where we're usually spoiled with lovely, clean air, this week has been blanketed with smoke. Every September, both wildfires and burning fields fill our air with thick, choking smoke. Luckily, so far the asthmatics in our family have been all right, even with an hour at the park this morning.

For this reason, when the kids suggested a picnic lunch, we opted to have it indoors rather than out in the yard. We've been trying to keep the doors and windows closed against the smoke, but we can still smell it inside. I'll be glad for a rain to clear the air.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


It's not often that I choose to decorate my house with words. I'm not the type to stick vinyl letters on my walls, nor do I have cute sayings or verses written everywhere. Still, once in a while, when something is exactly right, I'll put it up. This metal sign showed up in the window of a downtown shop, just where I could see it walking past, and I commented several times on how much I loved it. Hubby bought it for me, and I hung it on our wall where I can see it from my seat at the dinner table. It's a reminder for myself more than instruction for anyone else, because I feel like sometimes I don't truly know what it looks like to love others.

10 ways to love

without interrupting
without accusing
without sparing
without arguing
without pretending
without complaining
without knowing
without punishing
without forgetting
without wavering

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Just for fun, when Abi needed favorites for Preschool, I asked everyone. :)

What is your favorite color?
What is your favorite food?
Abi like apples.
What is your favorite animal?
My favorite kitty-cat
What is your favorite book or movie?
Super Why
What is your favorite toy?
I like to play making coffee.
Where is your favorite place to go?
go park!

What is your favorite color?
Ki (red)
What is your favorite food?
apples and chicken nuggets.
What is your favorite animal?
What is your favorite book or movie?
Super Why
What is your favorite toy?
Where is your favorite place to go?

What is your favorite color?
What is your favorite food?
What is your favorite animal?
What is your favorite book or movie?
Over the Hedge
What is your favorite toy?
Willy, the stuffed Orca
Where is your favorite place to go?

What is your favorite color?
What is your favorite food?
Homemade macaroni and apples
What is your favorite animal?
What is your favorite book or movie?
Book: The Hobbit
Movie: The Polar Express
What is your favorite toy?
My doll and my horse
Where is your favorite place to go?
Hodgins toy store

What is your favorite color?
What is your favorite food?
What is your favorite animal?
What is your favorite book or movie?
Book: The Forgotten Garden
Movie: The Princess Bride
What is your favorite toy?
my iPod Touch
Where is your favorite place to go?

What is your favorite color?
Sky Blue
What is your favorite food?
What is your favorite animal?
What is your favorite book or movie?
Terribly difficult.... Going to say The Lord of the Rings.
What is your favorite toy?
Favorite toy now? Um, Laptop. As a kid? Legos.
Where is your favorite place to go?
Coffee shop

Monday, September 10, 2012

If You Get Looking

from Sesame Street, Season 38 episode 16

There's not a huge amount of support for transracial families in the media and culture, but there is some. It's there if you get looking. This little cartoon showed a mother and daughter drawing pictures on a steamy window together. 

As a side note, it began with the Mommy asleep on the couch, which is also highly accurate. ;)

Sunday, September 9, 2012


The metaphor has been used so many times, it's become a bit cliché. A mother bear guarding her cub becomes a force to be reckoned with if anyone comes between the two. The word that comes to mind is fierce. To protect her baby, that mother is fierce.

Every one of us becomes a mother bear to some degree when we have our children. I remember after Curly was born taking a walk with her and thinking that if anyone ever tried to hurt her, there was a power within me to tear that person apart limb from limb, as if I'd somehow discovered a tiger within myself that I hadn't known was there.

In the months since Abi has come home and I've labored to love her and bond with her, I've discovered an entirely new level of fierceness within myself, a wildness that will stop at nothing to protect this little girl from harm. The knowledge of what she has been through, the pain and grief that she has had to endure, and the grief that I have endured to bring her close to my heart has somehow taken root within me as a love that is far fiercer and more protective than that for any of my other children who have never been deeply wounded.

This fierceness manifests itself in completely unexpected ways. At church, when well-meaning people try to interact with her, in spite of my repeated requests not to do so, I find myself feeling like an annoyed mother grizzly, ready to tear out the throat of that person who's petting my baby and calling her cute. Today in the nursery a mother kept trying to play with her; we eventually had to leave and go to another room. Yes, she is cute but she needs to be left alone to solidify her bond with us. It's not a preference. It's a life-or-death battle for our child's heart. I realize people don't understand that, especially people who have never parented a traumatized child.

This afternoon at Curly's baptism, several people brought their dogs, and allowed them to run loose and play. Again, my every nerve was on high alert. Fiercely, I guarded my daughter, physically standing over her as she sat on the grass in the sunshine. Once in a while when one dog growled playfully at another, she shrank into me in terror. I reassured her, thankful for the bond that allowed her to take comfort at least from my presence. At the same time, I felt a fierceness within me that if any one of those big rottweilers and border collies came anywhere near my daughter, I could cheerfully rip them in pieces, and then start on their owners. My heart ached for my little girl whose life has been painted thus far with fear, to even have the small fear of a dog to worry about at her sister's baptism.

Our friends don't understand this fierceness. I'm sure we look like helicopter parents, jealous of the attention of friends and relatives. Surely to them we're smothering this little girl. Why couldn't she run and play at the park with the other kids? What was wrong?

The lady who owned one of the Rotties asked if we'd like to introduce Abi to her (very nice and gentle) dog in order to desensitize her. We replied that now was not a good time. I had no way to tell her about the wild dogs who prey upon children in Ethiopia or the terror-filled stories that the nannies used to get the children to eat their food. I had no time to explain the hours I spent forcing Abi to pet poor Shadow as she screamed and shook in my arms. There was no way to describe the sensation of a blind child who cannot hear the soft sound of a dog walking on grass until suddenly he is there, right in her face, larger and heavier than she is, and appearing completely out of nowhere, with foreign breath and sharp teeth. The fact that she will willingly pet a small dog sometimes at the park is such a huge milestone, and to push it farther at this point would do more harm than good, but the words would not come to say so.

All I could do was stand frozen over my little girl, protecting her with my mother fierceness, in the face of misunderstanding and prejudice. I never realized all those years of trying to please, of caring what people thought, of trying to fit in, that all of that would be completely swept away in a tide of absolute ferocity that I must at all costs protect this little heart while it heals. For it is healing. And it's as fragile as a newborn baby as the tiny owner unlearns a life of fear and neglect and learns to trust.

I am glad our friends forgive me. They trust me. They don't understand, but I can tell they trust that I'm doing what I need to do. Like a mother bear whose cub cannot yet fight its own battles, I stand over my daughter with a fierceness that bubbles up only from the depth of love that has grown out of the years of praying for her, of waiting for her, of loving her when she would not allow me to touch her, of understanding the pain she's endured, and of watching with breathtaking wonder at the way her heart is healing, and the trust she has begun to give us. It's a rare and precious gift, and I do not take one second of it lightly.

Shall We Gather At The River

For a while, Curly has been making noises about being baptized. We wanted to make sure it was her decision, and not ours as we don't want our children to become Christians simply because their parents are. As a second-generation Christian myself, I know how detrimental it can be when children take on faith merely as something their parents do, and jump through the hoops because they feel an expectation to do so.

We talked to Curly about it, and our pastor did also. In spite of being young, she was pretty determined to be baptized as something she wanted to do. 

I think when we got to the park and she realized the water was going to be really cold, she just about changed her mind! Talk about a test of faith!

We posed for a family picture to commemorate the occasion.

Some adults were baptized ahead of Curly, and I think she was impressed at their stories, and their resolve. One man in particular told us that to him this was as meaningful as the decision he'd made to join the Navy and give up years of his life in service to our country. He'd decided to give his remaining years to God, and the tears in his eyes and the emotion on his face left no doubt to his sincerity.

Then Curly took her turn telling the assembled people that she wanted to be baptized to show others that she had given her life to Christ and wanted to live as a Christian. I know she was nervous to say that to all of the watching adults, but she didn't falter.

Hubby was invited into the chilly water to help baptize his daughter, which I could tell was really special to him.

Our pastor said the usual words and he and Hubby carefully dipped her under the water.

She popped up, teeth chattering, and I could tell she was proud of herself for what she'd done.

Hubby helped her out of the river and toward the dry clothes we'd brought.

"I did it!"

Afterward, the kids enjoyed the nearby playground while the adults chatted.

Several people brought their dogs, and as a result, Abi stuck quite close to me, because she wasn't sure when one of those big, scary dogs would come her way. Having her take security from me in that way shows a big milestone in our bonding, and I was glad to see it, although I was annoyed that she couldn't run and play due to all the loose dogs.

Several of the kids jumped right into the water, despite the cold. Even Bean talked a friend into taking him swimming, sans clothes. Of course, he had a great time!

Watching Curly take this step brings back such strong memories of my own faith when I was a little girl. I was only five when I was baptized but I remember it clearly, and I have never regretted the decision I made that day. I hope Curly feels similarly when she looks back on today.