Thursday, April 28, 2011

why adoption?

going on a bit of a tangent this time.  a few things have happened in the last month or so that have really struck a sour note and i'd like to set the record straight.

when people find out that my husband and i have three adopted children the almost automatic response is, "wow ... that is so good of you to be willing to adopt." 

why?  why is that people's response?

first of all, what does it say about the children that we have adopted?  what is wrong with them that makes us so good to be willing to adopt them?  nothing is the answer.  they are just children -- and children deserve parents .... it's that simple.

second of all, what does it say about us as adults?  that we are settling for second best by adopting? oh good grief .... get over it please.  just because we don't have a family made "the old fashioned way" does that make of less value?  no is the answer.

i don't ovulate.  just don't.  call it secondary infertility, call it what you want.  but we knew that if we were going to have a family that this was the route we were meant to take.  and lets take it back even further.  as a single, young adult who had no idea that i had fertility issues, i knew then, after living in the Philippines as a short term missionary, that my family would be made of children adopted from the Philippines.

IVF was not the option for us.  some people choose that .... and that's fine .... i'm not judging that.  we all have to be comfortable with the way that our families are made.  for us, IVF never even made it into the equation for consideration.

what i do take issue with is the assumption that we would have PREFERRED to have had kids biologically.  that somehow because we couldn't have children in the "home grown" way that we are settling for second best.  NO .... NO ..... NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

i meet so many people who won't even consider adoption.  i agree that you have to get your heart into a certain mindset ... be ready for the journey .... and if you've lost a child through the tragedy of a miscarriage or other scenario then yes .... you have to grieve before you can move on.

but adoption is just a different way of making a family.  some families are single parent families, some families are blended families, some families have grandparents as primary caregivers.  ours just happens to be adoption .... it's different .... not better not less valuable than another .... just different.

someone had the audacity to say to me a month or so ago that you can't get what it means to bond with a child if you don't go through the agony of child birth.  oh bunk!  that is such a crock.  truly!  you find ways to bond .... experiences are what bond you .... and at the end of the day ... that child is craving love ... to be accepted and have a mum and a dad.  you can bond.  we certainly have! 

ah ... i hear the doubts .... but it hasn't always been easy, has it?  of course not .... and you tell me that raising your kids has always been wonderful!  we all have the journey to make as parents .... it's just different.  all families have issues and pitfalls .... adoption is no different, and i am sick of people thinking anything else.

if you have lost a child, or if you think you are too old to have a child.  i challenge you to consider adoption.  it is a valid, wonderful way of forming a family or adding to your family.  it is certainly the path less chosen .... but a beautiful journey it is!  of this, i can assure you. 

so please, all i am asking is that you don't consider my children to be second best.  they are not.   but when you think to yourself, "surely you would've preferred to have had biological children?"  you are actually saying, "you've settled for second best .... you poor thing."  and i get angry at that.

we are blessed to have these children in our lives.  they are an amazing gift to us in the exact same way that biologically born children are.  how they came to us may be different .... but the need that they fulfill in our lives is exactly the same as yours.  we are the lucky ones .... we are so grateful to our Father in heaven for these pearls of joy in our lives.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
Psalm 119:14-16


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

on the lighter side

i was on facebook this morning and saw this.  so i take no credit and infact .... give total credit to Adopted the Comic.  she also on facebook and you can follow her there. 

enjoy this take on teenage angst .... adoptee style!  <g>

just a reminder to smile a little ... and remember that okay .... sure as adoptive parents we have some unique issues to wrestle with.  BUT, all parenting is a challenge and we are all in this together -- whether our kids are adopted or "home grown."

Sunday, April 24, 2011

a special kinship

i have to admit a sadness in my heart over one aspect of my relationship with my children.  it is that i will never be able to really understand the path they have to walk ... the loss, the grief and the choice to overcome.  i can certainly get informed and support them ... and hold their hands as they walk the path ... giving them encouragement and affirmation of our love for them -- but understand?  no.  i am forced to acknowledge that there is a deeper place where i cannot understand their needs.

so our adopted kids have these huge holes in their lives that we can't fill.  as a parent i find that exasperating!  shouldn't i be able to provide for all their needs?  to show them that they are loved and accepted by their parents, and even a heavenly Father who cares for them so?  no ... i must recognise that in this i cannot meet their needs.

enter stage left:  a special kind of friend. friends who provide a different perspective. 

Lea sharing her special
drawing and pics.
we have been blessed with a number of friends who are adult adoptees.  and not just adult adoptees .... but ones who have engaged and owned their histories and in some cases, have re-established relationships with their birth families, or families of origin.  they can answer questions for our kids and provide a place of understanding and knowledge that i just can't. 

i thank God for these friends in our lives.  for us as parents they provide feedback and insight from a perspective that makes all the difference in the world in how i engage with some of our kids issues.  for our kids because they can see an adult, who is like them!  they are adopted and get what those holes are in their lives.  how precious!

i do think our kids are on the young side of understanding and appreciating the blessing that these relationships are.  but that's ok.  it's all about building a foundation.  these relationships, in some form or another, will provide a grounding for our kids.  and when they are older they will have a sense of comfort with these friends and probably dump painful stuff on them because they have a safe relationship with them already.  and our daughter, even at 8, lights up when she sees these special friends because she gets that they are "like her".

i imagine i'll be jealous as these relationships continue to develop.  wanting to be able to provide the answers myself rather than pushing them towards people who i know "get it."  but .... i would rather push them to people i know, love and respect for their answers than having them go out the door and face the darkness of their inner demons alone.  so, yes .... i'll be jealous.  but i'll get over it .... because i love my kids too much to not want them to have these relationships.

these special kinship
relationships start early!
so when my daughter takes her pictures from her birth mother and her drawings of her time with her birth mother to our friends house and hounds her until she sits on the couch and talks to her about all of it .... i will smile.  when i get a skype call from my best mate and "ningang"... and the kids clammer over who is gonna say what or show what they've been doing at school .... i'll let them .... because i know that these experiences with these friends will build a foundation for a future relationship where they can talk and be understood.
its a special kinship. it's the unspoken knowledge in our children's hearts that they are understood in a very special way.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

reality check ....

so .... just in case you thought that my life is nothing but wine and roses and that i am always functioning in a state of bliss with regard to my family ....

bwaaaaaa...hahahahahahahah .... man!  have i got you fooled!  get a reality check!
today .... i love my family.  i don't like them and would prefer they take a hike and let me have a very long vacation on my own, but i love them.

they are driving me crazy .... ready to go back to school, bored witless (some would say that is my fault) and bouncing off the walls.  fighting happens every few minutes and i feel like a witch with a capital B .....

so don't worry.  we are a real family ... with real dysfunction.

the solace i find in that is that we are pretty darn normal.  so inspite of all our differences, culturally (we have three cultures represented in our household!), emotionally (two highly emotional females) and gender based ... we are pretty normal. 

so i take a deep breath ... (in out, in out)
i smile ... well sort of
turn around and face the fray
and remember that we are ok ...
dysfunctional ....
but then .... who isn't?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

welcome back to where you are

recently i took my daughter on a return visit to the orphanage where she spent the first three years of her life ... her first home, Rehoboth Children's Home.  it is an amazing place that my husband and i will forever be grateful for.  all three of our children  come from this little place in the mountains east of Manila.  it is a true haven for these children while they wait for the families that they deserve.

we had been back before with Lea .... but that was to pick up our boys.  this was a different visit .... it was a visit who's purpose was to re-engage with the roots that give her the foundation of her heritage .... she may be aussie now .... and proudly so.  but her roots are in the philippines .... and owning roots is as hard as it is rewarding.   

we teach our kids to be proud of being filipino .... PINOY AND PROUD is a comment that you will hear around our home. and talking about all things filipino is not uncommon either.  but to live it ... just "be" in amongst a group of people who share your birth right .... nothing can beat that. 

Lea, in the middle with two girls
from the home walking down
the street
 many families don't take their kids back until they are much older .... in their teens even.  saying they can't handle it, it is emotionally too hard.  i am not one to judge what is best for another family .... as parents we all have different roads to navigate.  all i know is that for us to leave these homeland visits to when the kids are older would be a travesty for them.  some of the opportunities that we have for them to re-engage with their roots are precious.  and for my daughter, who is an emotional volcano at the best of times, to leave it until she is a teenager would have been a real deal breaker for us .... and we knew it.  we needed to begin re-introducing her to what was her place of origin now ... so that as a teenager she will be able to cognitively own more of her journey. rather than reject it, which is the norm for teenagers anyway -- to reject out of hand anything mum and dad say because that's just "what you do."

we were in the Philippines for a week (nice thing about living in Australia, it's not really THAT far to travel!), and stayed in the guest apartment of the orphanage.  for the first few days she would not go into either the baby house or the house for the older children.  she would happily play with kids outside .... but wouldn't go in.  fair enough .... i can't imagine some of the feelings that would've drug up in her. 

Lea with some of the babies
 but there were these girls .... a small group who Lea really clicked with (i am astounded at times how well children can communicate even when they don't have language!).  and after we went out for ice cream on the third day .... that was it ... she was in her element and i could sense a real "change" and acceptance, even joy, in being in this place.  it felt good! and it didn't take long after that for her to be comfortable in everything in the home.  to the point of one day i left her in the home while out for a few hours and she had lunch and even took a nap with the girls (i would be lieing if is said she didn't come running out to see me as soon as we got back <g>) .

she really made herself at home .... during the big kids nap time she would then play with the babies in the baby house, or just run around with some of the staff helping out with chores and soaking it all in. she ate the food, she worked really hard at owning a language that she had lost (ang Dios, aye mabuti! God is good!).  at one point i took her to a mall to do some shopping and she was bopping around and having a great time .... i had to pull her up and remind her that in Australia ... she would stand out a little bit and i could easily find her.  here in the Philippines .... i could sooo easily loose her in a mall and i needed her to stick close.  she turned at me and smiled and said, "mum .... you're the one who doesn't fit in here!"  she found that highly amusing!

lea and her mates in the
"girls gang"
on the last day the emotional pain of seperation was starting to hit ... a few tantrums here and there and an inability to cope and focus on much.  she was struggling.  she knew that we were leaving .... that this was no longer her home.  but it was a special place, with special people and special relationships.  i can't imagine what a child's mind must have to process in that sort of a situation.  that this was once her home .... but isn't now .... and yet the tie's that bind are so strong.  i can't walk this path for her .... but i can certainly walk it with her .... give her support and encouragement to engage in and own her life.

i look forward to more of these visits with Lea and with the boys .... spending time at the orphanage but also going out in the province and seeing more of the beauty of the Philippines so that our kids understand that they have an amazing birthright in that country .... and it has a beauty and a character all it's own.  there is a reason that filipino's have been voted the happiest people on earth!

so welcome home my darling girl .... to your adopted home that you love so much.  i know your heart is confused .... that there is a sense of loss not being around other filipino girls your age.  but always remember, that while you are a child of two cultures .... first and formost you are a child of God ... and heir to His eternal home in paradise.  selah!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Happy Birthday Son

today i was talking to my son about his 6th birthday tomorrow .... and the presents we had put away and that there were some from nan and pop, ate and bunso and even ninang over in canada.  and he looked at me with big eyes and asked ,"mum .... will there be a present from m******?"

m****** is his birth mother.  my heart ached ... we can never know the true depths of loss and grief that our children experience in the loss of their birth family.  no matter the circumstances .... they have lost their first family. 

i have no doubt that she will be thinking about her son tomorrow.  wondering where he is and what he is doing.  i pray, dear son, that one day you will be able to hug and kiss her and let her know how much you love her. 

this is for you .... where ever you are.

From God's Arms to My Arms, to Yours -- author unknown

So many wrong decisions in my past, I'm not quite sure
If I can ever hope to trust my judgement anymore.
But lately I've been thinking,
Cause it's all I've had to do.
And in my heart I feel that I should give this child to you.
And maybe, you could tell your baby,
When you love him so, that he's been loved before,
By someone, who delivered your son,
From God's arms, to my arms, to yours.

If you choose to tell him, if he wants to know,
How the one who gave him life could bear to let him go.
Just tell him there were sleepless nights,
I prayed and paced the floors,
And knew the only peace I'd find, was if this child was yours.
And maybe, you could tell your baby,
When you love him so, that he's been loved before,
By someone, who delivered your son,
From God's arms, to my arms, to yours.

This may not be the answer, for another girl like me.
But I'm not on a soapbox, saying how we all should be.
I'm just trusting in my feelings, and I'm trusting God above,
And I'm trusting you can give this baby
Both his mothers' love.
And maybe, you could tell your baby,
When you love him so, that he's been loved before,
By someone, who delivered your son,
From God's arms, to my arms, to yours.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

glorious survivors

i remember when we were over in the Philippines in January 2006 picking up our daughter.  what a whirl wind of memories that was! so many moments to be treasured and adored! 

but there is one memory that sticks in my heart and mind as much as all the amazing moments of starting our family wrapped together. 

talking to the administrator of the orphanage, they said to us that when they go in to match families with children ....they do not look for the perfect family that has no problems .... they desire families who have struggled and made it through difficult times.  she said, our children are damaged goods .... considered culturally to be unwanted in their society ... we want to put them with families who have struggled and survived .... so that they can be an example to the children of survival and strength.

she is a very wise woman.


i blew it today.  ever had one of those days with your kids where you wish you could start all over again and give it another go?  rewind so that your kids don't see the worst side of you?  today was one of those days for me ...  yes i did the right thing and gave each of them a kiss at bed time and told them i loved them ..... but will that make any difference to tomorrow? 

i have lots of choices when they sun comes up tomorrow.

i have to make a choice to show my weakness and my humbleness to them so that they can see my reliance on my Father in Heaven .... to grow and change and be the person He wants me to be.  it is in that that we can be an example of their opportunity to be better than their circumstances and to follow their Father God. 

picture of our daughter
we rec'd on allocation
whoa .... am i asking too much of a 4, 6 and 8 year old?  to grasp the concept of failure, forgiveness and moving on in victory?  hmmmm .... that could be argued in many different ways.  BUT .... i kinda figure if i don't start now .... they certainly won't hear it as teenagers.  if when they get to that age where they hate even having to acknowledge that we are the people that they have been forced to live with, if there is some inkling in their mind of our willingness to fail before them and to rise above it ... it is my hope that those memories and the consistency upon which we dealt with them then, will linger on.

what is going to happen as they start to get to a cognitive awareness of of their history and birthright?  of the fact that they were basically discarded by their own society (talk to an adult adoptee ... they will confirm that they do struggle with this stuff).  unwanted, unloved.  given to strangers from a foreign land, speaking a different language, put in a situation that is not familiar .... and with people who have COMPLETELY the wrong colour skin.  my 8 year old is certainly well into starting to wrestle with just these basic issues and they create a sense of doubt and uncertainty in her life.  what is going to happen, when as a teenager (or when it is age appropriate), we share more of her birthright with her?  of the details of how she came to be with us? 

many adolescent and adult adoptees go off the rails as they discover more and more of their history.  some grab hold of the challenge at hand .... and others drown in the overwhelming emotions that engulf them.  how they deal with the chaos in their hearts really depends on the examples that have been lived out before them by us, as parent survivors in our own right.   don't i owe it to my kids to be giving them a foundation that says i am weak .... but i can find strength in surviving and growing and being better today than i was yesterday?  in seeing their parents, live an honest and very fallen life before a Father God who loves us so much and craves for us to rest in Him?  may i be that for my children.  selah.

and well, as far as tomorrow goes. 

it's a new day .... looking forward to what it brings me. 

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power
is made perfect in weakness."
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults,
in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.
For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:9-11

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

... walking a fine line

here is an issue i always struggle with .... where is that line between acknowledging our child's pain/loss/grief and insisting that they behave appropriately?  in other words .... is it ever ok to let our kids pain be an excuse to act poorly?

i contest it is a very fine line to walk.  and a line that meanders far more than i care to admit.
  • my eldest (who is 8) and i have recently returned from a trip to the Philippines where we spent a week at the orphanage that was her first home as well as spending some extended time with her birth mum.  upon return behavior has shifted and temper tantrums have ensued. 
  • my middle child (he is 6), was relinquished when he was 3 and has a very strong cognitive memory of his birth mum and family.  he was absolutely convinced that i would be seeing her and why couldn't he go.  there was confusion and anger on his part too.
these are just a couple of examples of some of the issues that seem to be pervasive in our lives.  i will sound bigoted when i say this, but i don't think that folks who don't have adopted kids can understand the balance that we must achieve between acknowledging the loss and grief and insisting on right behavior.  i am told quite often that my kids behave no different than any other kids ... but I KNOW that under it all there is a driving theme of grief and loss.  folks who don't have adopted kids don't understand that angle.
but what do i do?  how do i walk with them?  my eldest is stubborn as and doesn't want to talk to me about her tantrums.  getting to the bottom of what drives her at times is almost impossible .... no matter how approachable we are as parents.  my middle son is so much more quiet and does the reserved defiant thing ... how do i get through to him?

and when the lashing out or temper tantrums drop for no reason .... how do i handle that?  we've all been told in our pre-adoption seminars that you don't isolate your child because it reinforces their sense of not belonging.  ok.... i get that.  so we put them on stools in the middle of the living area and they can get it out of their system that way.  but does that resolve anything?

and, quite frankly, my oldest has been with us for 5+ years and while there are still moment of insecurity there .... she knows we love her and will not reject her.  i have to believe that it is appropriate to send her to her room and and tell her that when she is ready to be rational about it all we can talk about it.  but even that doesn't get through very often.

i reckon that each child is really individual and has to be dealt with differently.  and too, their age, cognitive reasoning and the length of time they have been home really makes a difference too.  man i wish there was a simple answer.  here are these kids who are lashing out because they don't know how to handle the grief and loss going on in their heads .... they cognitively don't get it yet .... and my heart breaks.  all i want to do is cuddle them and tell them that it will be ok.  but i also know that letting them get away with that behavior doesn't help them at all.

i can only speak for younger children here .... but i am coming to believe more and more that concrete lines of discipline mean as much to a child's security as does a good hug.  (me, i'd prefer the hug!  <g>)  when they know that there is discipline because of poor behavior they seem to find a sense of security in that .... especially when i take / make the time to follow it up with a discussion about our love for them, trying to find out (if possible) the triggers behind it, and a hug while saying that we will always be there for them.

there have to be rules .... they are functioning as part of a family.  it's good for them to understand this.  they have to learn to respect each other and our roles as parents.  it is affirming for them and provides a sense of security.

do i get it right?  oh no!  none of my musings or posts ever come from a place that says, "i've got it right".  i just have to keep trying and working on it .... because even in my failure i am an example to my children ... of how they can change their behavior, they can grow and they can get through their grief and loss.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Celebrating Difference

one of the things that we do with our kids to help them own being different and to be ok with that.  we take the time to actually focus on the difference and frame it in the right context.  how does this help them accept that they are different?  well ... let me paint it this way ....

difference is like a rainbow ....

we all have our part to play
we all have a unique space to occupy
we all have different gifts and abilities

but at the end of the day .... we are all part of a beautiful tapestry of life that God has woven us together in and we should celebrate that.  celebrate all the wonderful things that make us unique and special.

i really like the books by a guy named Todd Parr.  they are visually appealing to kids and he deals with hard issues in a very positive and uplifting way.  i don't always agree with some of his examples .... but that's OK.  what i do like is that he isn't afraid to touch on those things that you and i might shy away from and he lays it out there and makes it positive.

and to me, that is the key .... framing our kids differences so that they see the positive in them and don't focused on a perceived negative.  i have to admit that i am pretty bigoted here .... because while i know that my kids will have some hard issues to deal with in their lives ..... i don't see anything negative about the lives that they are living now. 

no, no .... i'm not saying that there isn't the need to wrestle with the loss and grief.  absolutely not!  that is a topic of discussion for another day.  but what i am saying is that i think the fact that my kids are different is pretty darn cool .... our whole family is different ... we all have differences. 

so how do we do that practically with our kids? 
  • Filipino and Proud is a common statement around our house
  • we have phrases from their native language that we continue to use
  • in our house ... we all have chocolate skin.  mum and dad have white chocolate skin .... but the kids have milk chocolate skin.  and, some of our friends from Africa have yummy dark chocolate skin.
  • we regularly talk about birth family roots and pray for the kids birth families
  • we don't shy away from talking about adoption issues .... it's always out there and free to be discussed if the kids are in the head space for it .... we are always approachable!
  • and one of my favs .... we eat a regular diet of Filipino food!  oh yum! 
there is a time for everything under the sun .... as the Good Book says.  including grief and loss .... but it also calls us much more to a life of joy and beauty ... and we need to celebrate the beauty and diversity that God created in each of us .... if we celebrate it .... our kids will celebrate their own personal diversity and be comfortable in their skin. 

viva la difference!  <g>

Sunday, April 10, 2011

what i want for my children

i just want to be a good parent .... for my kids to reach their potential and to be happy .... i want the best for them .... is there anything wrong with that? not at all .... but what does that mean?

- does it mean that i give them what they want?
- does it mean that i try and provide opportunities for them to own their history?
- does it mean i am their best friend?
- does it mean i am not afraid to discipline them?

these are questions that run around in my head constantly.  when i am with them or not ... it is something i think about.  

but here, right now .... all i want to say is that i fail and i succeed.  our kids are resilient yes .... but the best thing i can do for them is to apologise.  if i screw up and either say something infront of them i
shouldn't or discipline them in a way that doesn't encourage them to learn and grow .... then i need to apologise.  own it .... because the more i own my imperfections and humanity in the face of a Father God who loves me unconditionally .... the more they will be willing to risk and own their own mistakes and foibles and understand that they can fail .... and try again.

i pray that in my humbled, fallen humanity, i can be to my kids an example of how to grow, survive and be more today than they were yesterday.  selah.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Getting to Know Me ....

i am a 50 year old mum of three adopted children, all from the Philippines.  a dynamic daughter, Lea, who is 8, a gentle and soft hearted son, Raymie, who is 6 and a rambunctious 4 year old boy named JJ.  they are the light of our lives .... and my husband and i cherish each and every moment we have with them.

my husband (Scott) and i are committed to raising our kids with a full knowledge of who they are, their history, heritage and roots.  this is not always an easy journey.  but it is a fulfilling and inspiring road that we walk down and relish in it.

it would seem that there is a place in this bloggy techno world for someone to share this type of journey and hopefully encourage and inspire others as they also walk their own road.  perhaps you are considering adoption?  perhaps you are waiting for a match or have your children home with you already.  or maybe you've just stumbled across this blog because of the title.  i hope that whatever reason brings you into my world will encourage you and see you grow as a person.

our journey is not just about us as a family .... but more importantly how we encourage our kids to own their history and be proud of being from the Philippines .... being "pinoy".  it's about accepting difference ... of Being different and being okay with that.  and too ... even at their precious young ages, coming to terms in an age appropriate way with the what's and wherefore's of being adopted.

i make no bones about the fact that the road i walk is underpinned with one very major thing:  an unwavering faith in an Almighty God who loves me deeply and completely.  He died on the cross for me because He loves me .... it is this security and affirmation of my place in this world that gives me a foundation to build on.  you may not believe in these things .... and that's ok!  my challenge to you is to accept that we are all different and not walk away.  think you can do that?

so rock on up ... pull out the preverbial picnic blanket and relax.  life is a journey ... discover, learn, fail ... GROW.  it's a great way to be!