After a three year break, I returned to the public school classroom today. I have to admit, it was good to be back. I'm sure there will be days when I want to pull my hair out, but not today. It was a successful day, and overall, a well behaved class. The regular teacher left me pretty thorough plans, and that always helps. Don't know why after a year of having my application turned in they suddenly started to call me to substitute. It could be that a friend put in a good word for me. Or my going back around last week to show my face in all the offices. Maybe they got really desperate. My dad says it was because he prayed (I'm leaning toward that as the most probable reason). Whatever the reason, I'm thankful. My bringing in some income will certainly help the financial crunch we are in.
A full two days of expectation and endless turns of the ignition finds Eight Heart's mass transit riders not knowing whether their services will resume in the near future, or at all. Significant funds already gobbled by two house payments and new business endeavors left local government at a loss for providing transportation to its citizens. After lengthy debate and discussion in a closed chamber session, they've tabled the matter. Talks are scheduled to reconvene Monday--following payday--when it is hoped that the much needed repair and maintenance will be financially feasible. Meanwhile, general morale ebbs as residents miss previously scheduled events.
"We couldn't go Putt-Putt. The van wouldn't start." stated a young woman regarding the current transportation crisis. While saddened by this development, she remains cautiously optimistic, "But if we can watch a movie, I will be happy."
With lawmakers eager to woo disheartened constituents, in all likelihood, her wish will be granted.
Most Sundays and Wednesdays we walk to church. It's delicious and makes me feel like our family stepped right out of a Norman Rockwell. Only thing missing is white gloves and a frisky puppy tagging along behind us. This morning, as we waited on the stoop for Abby and K to locate their Bibles, Ian--lost in thought--turned Cara's stroller around in the opposite direction from church. When they emerged I laughed at Ian as I brought her around and started off,
"You silly goose! Where do you think we're going this morning? Church is that way!"
He looked across the street and pointed.
"Nah. That is the church building. We are the church."
I decided it wasn't the right time to discuss the outburst. We had dinner, and ball practice and aerobics. As the days went by, no time seemed exactly "right." I mentioned it to the master and we both agreed that we should sit down and talk to her about how she was feeling. Funny how when you don't really want to do something, the opportune moment never presents itself. And besides, HOW was I to go about it? I can't just sit my five year old down and say, "Hey, let's talk adoption." Well, I suppose I could, but I doubt any productive outcome would spring from a forced, one-sided lecture. I drew a blank on how to introduce the topic naturally. The incident had all but slipped my mind, until Wednesday night. I was discussing with the children's mission class about passports, what they were, and why missionaries needed them. I asked the class if any of them had passports. We have two children from Mexico and I mentioned that Marina had two passports. A Russian one and an American one. I smiled at Marina. She did not smile back. When we got home I had the other children ready for bed and asked Marina to bring a piece of paper and some crayons from the art cabinet. I asked her to draw a picture of her family. She took her dear sweet time, savoring this unexpected reprieve from bedtime. She drew grass and a flower and clouds and then started on the people. She chatted as she drew, "I'm drawing Abby first because she let me play in her room today...and you have a mouth Mommy, and TEETH...I'm drawing Daddy with two legs, because it is day time. Before he takes his fake leg off..." This was taking longer than I bargained for, but it was fun, and she was enjoying herself immensely. She drew the stick figures, and I added names above each head. As she finished up K and Ian, I began to second guess myself. As I looked at her drawing I thought:
She has drawn our family. The page is full. Complete. It is a good drawing, and she is happy. Why say anything to change it? No one else belongs there! Is it really so important that I bring painful stuff up? Just hug her, post her picture on the fridge and send her to bed. This hurts, and I don't like it.
I said, "Marina, someone is missing from your picture. How about you draw your birthmother?"
Instantly she stiffened. She looked at me with eyes that seemed to be waiting for a trap to spring.
I tried again, "Could you draw your birthmother?"
"I don't know." She shrugged.
"Well, just try, o.k.?"
"There isn't room." The voice that sparkled with enthusiasm seconds before was dull and lifeless. Maybe this was a bad idea. A really bad idea.
Trying to keep my tone light, "Sure there is! You can draw her right here next to you."
Seeing that I was not going to let it go, she reluctantly picked up a crayon and added another head to the picture. I was relieved to see that the figure did not look different than the other, smiling heads. If she had drawn something morbid or grotesque, I'm not sure what I would have done. Probably would have called it quits and started searching for a therapist on the spot. I asked Marina if she remembered her birthmother' name. She said she didn't--even though we've told her on several occasions that she has her birthmother's name. I wrote 'Marina' above the head, and to differentiate between the two Marina's, added her last name. By this time, the master had gotten the other children to bed and joined us in the living area. I suggested she give her birthmother some hair. She picked up a yellow crayon and I said, "Yes, I think she might have blond hair like you." She glared at me, put down the yellow crayon and exchanged it for brown. She colored in long brown hair. But then she proceeded to color her hair, mine, and Abby's brown and Cara's orange, so I'm not sure that had any significance. She gave the boys sprigs and then let Daddy tease her about not giving him any hair. Her smile came out again and she relaxed. "Daddy, you don't have any hair!" I made several suggestions trying to get her to explore what her birthmother might look like, but she resisted this, and I had to let it drop. When the picture was finished the second time, I pulled her into my lap and brought out the infamous bag of rice. I reminded her of the conversation and I asked her why she had punched the picture of the lady. She said she didn't remember hitting the rice. And maybe she didn't. This is a child who, if over-stimulated, stressed, or physically tired (at this point, she was most likely all three) cannot remember her own name. I wasn't getting where I wanted to with this line of questioning. I dropped the rice bag, swung her in a cradle hold, took a deep breath and sailed in:
"Marina, I know you may feel sad and confused when you think about your birthmother. It is o.k. to feel sad. But I hope you will not be angry with her. She couldn't take care of a baby. Any baby. She was sick. Not like when you get a cold sick, but very, very sick. You needed someone to take care of you and she just couldn't give you what you needed. She hoped you would be adopted. And you were! God gave you to us to be our little girl and we love you very much."
So I am crying now, and tears are standing in Marina's eyes. I know I said some other things about trying to meet her birthmother when we were in Russia and telling her how sorry I was that we didn't have a picture but knowing her birthmother must have been very beautiful because she is so beautiful....Maybe she needed to hear my ramblings, and maybe she didn't. But I needed to say it.
Anyway, we did finally kiss her and send her off to bed. She went calmly and quietly, but just as she reached her bedroom, I thought I heard her make a faint noise. Was it a sob? The master went to check on her. I felt emotionally spent and talked out. He stopped at her door and listened. She was laying in her bed weeping. Heart-broken, gut-wrenching sobs. Children should not have to cry like that. They shouldn't. Ever. Outside the room he cried with her for a few moments, but when he went in to comfort her, she tried to dry it up and hide that she had been crying. She's hurting, but she is not letting us in. It's as though....as though she is trying tobe strong for us. Is that possible?
Perhaps it was enough to cry? The tears may have been the release she needed for now. Or did I only dredge up my daughter's sorrow unnecessarily? How can I know if I am doing the right thing?
A few weeks ago, in the rush to get dinner on the table, I overheard a disturbing conversation between Ian and Marina. As per the status quo, they had been bickering most of the afternoon.
Ian: Look Marina, that woman is Russian. referring to the WaterM*id Rice Lady. Who, is clearly not Russian, but I think is supposed to represent a genie. She is a cartoon figure with bouffant hair, Asian styled eyes, and balloon pants. These pants do look an awful lot like the pants the male Russian folk dancers wear in some pictures we have in Marina's baby book. I'm guessing it was the pants that led Ian to say that. Marina: No, she isn't. If Ian had said, 'The sky is blue,' Marina would have answered the same way. Ian: Yes, she is. voice changing to taunting, sing-song I bet she is your Russian mommy.
Heretofore, I had only half attended their words; I instantly snapped to attention. I'd never heard any of the birth children tease, question, or ridicule Marina's status in the family and the direction of Ian's comment alarmed me. They fight, but with honest, above-the-belt punches--things so silly I usually laugh, "You're fighting over that?!" To me, because of my own sensitivity and insecurity, this jab belonged in an entirely different category. I thought, "Oh, no! Has he said these ugly things before, when I haven't been around?" In the next instant, I also remembered how as a child, I tormented my younger sister (both of us born to our parents as full biological siblings) with tales of Mom and Dad finding her in a basket on the front porch. I can still hear my own taunting, sing-song voice, "You're not my real sis-ter...You're not my real sis-ter." Inwardly, I breathed a sigh of relief. Most likely this was a new take on normal brother/sister stuff-not adoption related at all-at least on Ian's part. Nevertheless, I couldn't let his statement go unchallenged, though I wish now I had waited and heard Marina's response.
Me: firmly No. Marina only has one Mommy. Who is that? Unison: looking guiltily at me and answering reluctantly You. They didn't realize I was listening. Me: repeating words I have said a million times. Yes, I am Marina's mommy. Marina grew in another lady's tummy--her birthmother--but I am her mommy forever. Looking sharply at Ian. Just like I'm your forever mommy. Adding briskly to signal this conversation was C-L-O-S-E-D Now, get that rice put up and finish setting the table.
I turn back to the pot on the stove. The children turn toward the pantry. It is clear from their hushed tones that they think I am no longer able to hear them.
Marina: Ian, let me see that bag. Ian: No. Marina: louder hushed tones Ian! Ian: Why? Marina: whining Let me have it! Ian: Why do you want the rice? Marina: I am going to punch it. My back was to them, but I hear Ian hand her the bag and she hits the rice bag with a balled up fist. It's amazing it didn't bust all over the floor. Ian: suppressed giggle You punched her! You can tell he did not see this coming from his little sister and is highly amused. They have gone from being arch enemies to best buds--also typical. Marina: triumph mixed with bitterness. Yeah. I punched that Russian momma.
As I'm sure you have guessed, this is not the end of the story, but this entry grows long. Follow-up post to come.
FOR TODAY, Monday, September 14, 2009 Outside My Window..."And the rain, rain, rain came down, down, down in rushing, rising rivulets..." I am thinking...that if I had as many prospective clients, as I have prospective employees, I would be all set for a successful daycare. I've heard from an awful lot of stay-at-home moms calling to see if I'm hiring yet. Um, no. Businesses generally need income before they can manage out-go. I usually ask these ladies if they have experience in childcare or teaching, to which they respond, "Well no....but I have kids," or "I've babysat alot." *sigh* Running a good early childhood classroom is a whole different ballgame from "baby sitting," and being a mom does not necessarily mean that you are cut out for childcare. Believe it or not, folks, managing a classroom and caring for large groups of small children takes skill and special gifts. It's not a job that "just anybody" can do--or at least, not do well. Listening to the radio this afternoon, I heard the statistics for the shortfall of registered nurses in this country and thought, "I should have made that my major instead of early childhood education." Not only would I be in demand and most likely have my choice of positions, no one would tell me, "I've been to a hospital, so I think I could work as a nurse," or "I've taken care of a sick person before. That's nursing, right?" I am thankful for...my Chi iron. After four months of chi-lessness, I broke down and bought a replacement on Friday. My little sister had a shower this weekend in our hometown, and I just couldn't face a room full of old friends and relatives with THE POOF. It really is a shallow, vain thing to be thankful for, but I am. I can't help it. From the kitchen...This rainy, cooler weather has put us in a soup mood. Large pots of potato soup and gumbo, should feed our crew for the better part of the week. I am wearing...2009 VBS shirt and black capri pants. I am creating...slings! I made a beautiful pouch style sling this weekend for my sister and nephew (I wish I had gotten a picture!), and I've had a request for a ring sling from a new friend.
I am going...except for Wednesday church, I have no travel plans this week. I am reading...Parting the Waters by Jeanie Damoff (I read a little and ponder and pray. Read some more and ponder and pray. Not a story you can just plow through), Have A New Kid by Friday (I must not need new kids, because I'm not getting much out of this one), and The Mysterious Benedict Society (kid's bedtime book that has me hooked. It is excellent!) I am hoping...for a good return on all the hard work and money that is going in to fixing up the daycare. I am hearing...the master munching popcorn as he reads Princes of Ireland. One of my favorite things...Have I mentioned my Chi iron? Around the house...Cara is cruising, Randy's language is exploding, Marina is learning to keep a cleaner room, Ian is lovin' some guinea pigs, Abby continues to experiment with new hairdo's, and K has added songwriting to his list of accomplishments. A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week...finish last online course to renew my childcare director's license, and fill out application for a private tutor (hey, options are a good thing.) A picture thought I'm sharing:
Yes, Ian had a guinea pig party, complete with guinea pig cake (made by mom), races, and carrot pinata (also homemade). He, he. My kids are nothing if not creative. He's been wanting a guinea pig for over a year, and we told him when he turned seven, he could get one. Of course, our luck is that Disney would release a movie starring the rodents only a few weeks before--making guinea pigs a hard-to-come-by commodity. In the end, we had to make over an hour drive to purchase his new best friends and store them at neighbor's house for the week. It was well worth seeing his expression when we wheeled them in though. He's in love.
Debbie did a post this week on [adoption] questions she gets when she is out with her daughter, Isabel. She asked for other adoptive parents to leave the questions they have received in comments. Rather than clog up her comments, I thought I'd address a few in a post of my own. Right after we brought Cara home, I did a similar entry here--of course, since no one knew we were adopting (we didn't know ourselves), it came as quite a surprise and folks peppered us with questions. We don't have to deal with many questions on a day-to-day basis, and I'm thankful for that.
1. How much did it cost? By far the most frequent. If it is someone who is asking because they are seriously considering adoption themselves, I will honor this question with a straightforward monetary amount. If not, I keep things pretty vague, "Our international adoption was rather expensive." or "Not very much." Depending on which adoption they are asking about. I really feel I need to come up with something better, especially since Marina is old enough to understand what is being talked about. I don't like people discussing her as though she were a cut of meat. I've thought, "Not as much as your Escalade." Or, "Just a few dollars more than your new swimming pool." But that was Ethyl talking, and so far, I've been able to keep her at bay.
2. Just this week someone at church asked us, "Does she [Marina] remember her life in the orphanage?" And we've been asked that before. This is a tough one. No. And Yes. No, Marina does not have specific memories of her first 13 months of life, i.e., "I remember when...." Judging from her verbal development, I would be shocked if Marina' s first true "memories" date before the age of four--three and a half at the earliest. Prior to that, her brain did not possess the linguistic capabilities required to store them for retrieval. But I believe in some part of her brain, expressed usually as primal emotions, those experiences do still affect her. Example: She immediately takes to grey haired older ladies, particularly if they are in lab coats/hospital scrubs. Once, when I was taking the older children to an eye doctor appointment, she ran to a nurse (probably in her mid-sixties) and hugged her, smiling, and looking in her eyes. For Marina, that's HUGE. For a moment, I thought my child had been body snatched, and then it hit me. The nurse reminded her of the orphanage doctor. Not that Marina could have told me that, or understood why she instantly liked and trusted this stranger, but I honestly believe it to be the case. When we were visiting the orphanage, the doctor was the only one Marina would smile for and follow with her eyes when she was in the room. She would even reach out for her, and the doctor always spoke sweetly to her in a sing-song voice. None of the other caregivers that came and went did that. I believe the doctor may have been her one source of adult/infant exchange from her first year and on some level Marina was attached to her. She as other "buried" memories from orphanage life that are not so pleasant, but I won't go into that.
3. Concerning Cara: Is she mixed? or What is she mixed with? These type of questions regarding Cara's racial background peaked around 4-5 months of age and were always from AA women. I guess they are just more aware of color? And are not shy about asking? Haven't had one in a while, though at church the other day someone was remarking on her big brown eyes and asked if we knew What her parents looked like? I got the feeling it was a backward way of asking if she was white or not. Anyway, I told her yes, "We know exactly what her parents look like. Her father is a good looking bald man age 35 with a prosthetic leg and her mother is a 5 ft. 4 in. brunette who could stand to lose 15 pounds." This summer when we took Cara down to the agency to show her off, the director kept commenting about "how light she was." She said that when Cara was a little baby, she had almost looked bi-racial African American (is this why she drew attention from the AA ladies at the grocery store?), but now she could "pass as white." The way she said it was as though she thought that we should be pleased about this. Now this lady is not a prejudiced person--they place children of all races and mixed races with parents of all races and mixed races--and she relates so well with the different groups. I've witnessed that myself. It makes me wonder if she thought we were relieved that her skin tone had lightened up? We didn't--and still don't--care. We hadn't even noticed. Should we have? Did she mean that Cara will have an easier time in life if she can, "pass for white?"--in the sense that she won't stand out from the rest of her family? I don't want her to have to "pass" for anything. Along those same lines, a relative recently made the comment that Cara's looks were changing, and then she said, "She doesn't even look Hispanic any more." I didn't know how to take that. Was she just making a statement of fact--as she saw it--or insinuating that "not looking Hispanic" was a good thing?
4. And just for grins, the question that makes me chuckle every time: Does she talk Russian? and Does she understand Spanish? Seriously people, THINK BEFORE YOU SPEAK.
I was running late to aerobics on Monday, and when I arrived, they were finished with warm-up, and going strong with cardio. I grabbed my gear and jumped in the step routine. BIG MISTAKE. It wasn't three minutes later, a bomb went off in my right calf, and I went straight to the floor. Apparently, I "popped" a tendon. Popping a tendon HURTS. One time in high school I pulled a ham string at drill team practice, but other than that, I've never so much as strained a muscle. No broken bones, sprains, or spurs either. I'm unaccustomed to being incapacitated. I've been laid up for two days. I don't have time for an injury. But the good news is that I'll have loads more sympathy for the master. Never again will I tell him, "Why don't you use your crutches?" or "How come you don't just hop?" when he has his prosthetic off in the evenings. Crutches are horrible awkward devices of torture, and hopping is exhausting and--in this house--dangerous.