Thursday, December 16, 2010

Birthday girl and a sleigh ride

December 16 began with two grown-ups and two big brothers singing "Happy Birthday" to wake up a certain girl who turned four! Determined to take on greater responsibilites with her new age, Anya Rashi immediately handed me her precious "fuzzy" (her pink blankie) and declared, "Mama, you can give this to my baby sister. I won't need it any more!"

(Of course, naptime and bedtime told a different story, and she's happily snuggled up with her fuzzy as I type this.)

She absolutely couldn't wait for Daddy to come home so we could eat her birthday meal of Chicken Makhani, per her request. This was really the first year where the anticipation of gifts was completely tantalizing all day for her. To help the day go by a little faster, she built a fort out of blankets, pillows and our coffee table. She was Tinkerbell (never mind that she's never seen any movie, etc. featuring Tinkerbell), complete with fairy wings, and it was my job to be Buttercup, her fairy friend.

This day was unusual in that she actually played dolls in the traditional sense. Instead of playing dolly hospital, our Tinkerbell was mother to two babies in the fort. I was responsible for four babies -- she's savvy about delegating, apparently. :o)

It was a treat to see Aaron and Nathan eager for her to open their present to her (a little "Dora is a Big Sister" play set), and see them help take the toy packaging off -- no small feat, with all the plastic and wire ties! We also continued a tradition we did with both of our sons, and gave her a really fantastic children's Bible -- the illustrations are outstanding, and the text is great for an older child. She's seen the boys' copies, and was excited to have her very own. (Unfortunately, our cake photos didn't turn out very well . . . we will have to take more in January, when we celebrate with grandparents, aunts and uncles, I guess!)

We decided to use her birthday to transition to her new big girl (twin) bed, which was definitely a hit! In the evening, just the two of us were sitting together. Out of the blue, Anya Rashi said, "I thought I would be bigger!" After a little bit of conversation, I figured out that she thought she would suddenly wake up much bigger with the new, bigger number of four. So funny and sweet!
Something unusual happened on her birthday -- when we were driving the boys home from school, we saw what I can only describe as a rainbow cloud. I don't know if that's an official weather term, but the sun was shining on a nearly transparent cloud, and vertical stripes of rainbow colors appeared in the entire cloud. It was absolutely gorgeous, and we watched it all the way home.

Unrelated to her birthday, we took advantage of our 10 inches of snow this weekend and went on a real sleigh ride with some dear friends. A farm family about 20 minutes' drive from our house offers sleigh rides out to a little cabin they built for their grandkids. We brought all the fixings for a simple dinner, and got to hear the tinkling of real jingle bells on the back of two Belgian horses as our sleigh runners squeaked against the snow. It was pure joy to see the kids' faces as we boarded the sleigh for our sunset ride! Everyone's cheeks pinked up quickly in the 16-degree weather, and we just had to sing "Jingle Bells" as we rode. We roasted marshmallows by the fire, and warmed up in the cabin by a wood stove. The hazy moon peeked out behind trees and clouds as we rode back to the farm, turning the snow silver . . . it was truly magical.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

What were you doing three years ago?

Three years ago to the day, we were in Kolkata, meeting our daughter for the first time! We will never forget the walk up that dim staircase to the clean, bright rooms where the babies and toddlers were. Our eyes scanned the cribs until they landed on Baby Rashi's face -- a face we knew and loved from the pictures we'd received during our long wait.

Those first days were filled with wonder that it was all really happening: after two years of waiting, we were finally holding and feeding this new little daughter! We cannot imagine our lives or our family without her.

I can't believe that three years have already gone by. She is so inquisitive, funny, sweet, and opinionated. We love hearing her try to sound out which letters are in a word, we love watching her quick fingers put a puzzle together, and we even love listening to a little grumbling about wearing tights and a dress -- then seeing her light up at the compliments her Daddy gives her.

We love you, Anya Rashi, and we are so grateful that God has entrusted you to us.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Words of hope

I found this quotation, and thought I'd share it with my waiting friends. Although it's not written about waiting during an adoption, I thought it was so profound regarding "a separation whose purpose we fail to understand." I love the hope it casts during the holidays, when separation can feel even more painful. It was written by Dietrich Bonhoeffer to his fiancee, while he was held in a Nazi prison in 1943:

Be brave, my dearest Maria, even if this letter is your only token of my love this Christmas-tide. We shall both experience a few dark hours -- why should we disguise that from each other? We shall ponder the incomprehensibility of our lot and be assailed by the question of why, over and above the darkness already enshrouding humanity. We are being subjected to the bitter anguish of a separation whose purpose we fail to understand. And then, just when everything is bearing down on us to such an extent that we can scarcely withstand it, the Christmas message comes to tell us that our ideas are wrong, and that what we take to be evil and dark is really good and light because it comes from God. Our eyes are at fault, that is all. God is in the manger.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Advent and waiting

This nativity was outside St. Paul's Cathedral in Kolkata during our trip in December 2007.

I haven't posted for a few weeks, for a variety of reasons. First, I've had a horrible cough for nearly three weeks that mutated into something that required an inhaler and some codeine cough syrup to convince it to go away. But now I think I'm on the road to recovery at last. We had three dear friends from church pitch in by bringing us some meals to help me rest . . . their care and generosity brought tears to my eyes, to say the least.

Second, this week is officially our Christmas crazy week. Nathan is in the Christmas musical at our church this weekend, which Peter directs. Aaron's had several rehearsals for his boychoir concerts this weekend.

Third, our van died and (mercifully!) just needed a new battery. We are so blessed with family who stepped in for chauffeur duty at the drop of the hat until the following day, when we put in the new battery.

Fourth, our adoption morale is kind of low right now, and I just didn't know what to write. We heard back from our case worker after her trip to India in November, and there's very little good news to be had. We are cheering for the families with referrals already, as their paperwork has passed the new CWC hurdle in India . . . but the discouraging news is that things are at a standstill right now, and likely to be that way into 2011.

There are a few reasons for this -- until the families already matched with a child get through the court process and travel to bring their children home, no new babies can be welcomed into our orphanage. Every single child there is matched with a family (which is wonderful), but they're all stuck there as the new paperwork process in India gets sorted out. My heart breaks for all those kids growing older every day without their families, and for all the infants and children turned away because there's no room.

Which brings me to the subject of Advent. While we anticipate Christmas, I can't help but think of Mary and Joseph, waiting for their Child, and being turned away from inn after inn because there was no room that baby either.

And I can't help but think of a weary world waiting for the Child to be born, and for the hope that He would bring. We are weary of waiting, and don't know when our journey will end. But just as Mary and Joseph eventually reached their humble destination, so will we. And just as they rested in the knowledge that God called them to their journey, we can find peace somewhere along our own uncertain journey. It will not be comfortable or easy (although I'm sure it's easier than making a 70-mile trip on a donkey while 9 months pregnant!), but we know what the end will be: a daughter welcomed into our hearts, brought to us because of the love we've received from that other Child.
I hope I can hold onto that idea as the wait continues to drag on.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A must-read

I'm only halfway through this book, but it is so outstanding that I wanted to share it. It's now on my must-read list for all parents, teachers, and care-givers.

The book is I'm Chocolate, You're Vanilla: Raising Healthy Black and Biracial Children in a Race-Conscious World, by Marguerite A. Wright. Of course, I am not raising a black or biracial child -- but because Anya Rashi has very brown skin, she will look different than 85% of her classmates at school, and already is the focus of many questions and comments in public settings. (The conversation in the grocery store a few posts back also reinforced to me that bigots don't care what your cultural heritage is, they just see the color of your skin.)

Truthfully, though, I'd recommend this book to every parent, even those who are Caucasian parents raising Caucasian children. There was a great Newsweek article (Sept. 2009) called "See Baby Discriminate" that mentioned that Caucasian parents do the worst job of talking openly about racial differences or discrimination, operating under the altruistic but dead wrong idea that children are color blind. The article detailed a variety of fascinating studies that show young children do notice differences in skin color -- they just don't attach any negative meanings to them, unless they've been taught to do so.

I'm Chocolate, You're Vanilla is actually fun to read, because in addition to the interesting and readable scholarly writing Wright does, she also cites many conversations with real children. Their answers are humorous, poignant and uncensored. She also includes memories of adults, some famous and some ordinary people, that shaped their racial identities and ideas about the world.

One of the most valuable elements of the book, though, is that it's broken down by ages and developmental stages. I was totally enthralled by her chapters on pre-schoolers, because it so closely mirrored our experiences and some of Anya Rashi's conversation. Just yesterday, Anya Rashi was building a play fort, and happily said, "I wish my skin looked like yours, Mama."

Many of us adoptive parents would be cringing and thinking, "What have I done to make her think white skin is better than brown skin?! I must tell her she's wrong, that brown skin is gorgeous, etc. etc. etc." Instead of unleashing all that, I asked her, "Why is that, sweetie?"

Her answer? "Because I love to eat vanilla wafers because they're so good, and your skin looks like a vanilla wafer." All with a beautiful smile. So I answered, "Your skin looks delicious to me because it reminds me of chocolate, and you know that's one of my favorite things." This isn't the first conversation we've had -- she usually tells me I look like a peach -- but I found it funny that she used vanilla (as so many pre-schoolers do) while I'm reading this book.

One of the book's main points (so far!) is that adults misread what children are saying at different developmental stages, and often ignore obvious differences in appearance that children are aware of, or overemphasize racism and instill fear and mistrust that outweigh what the child might actually experience in life.

Practically speaking, some of the most useful parts of the book are the quizzes, exercises and suggestions for parents and teachers. I love that the author doesn't just throw a bunch of theories and research on the table, but actually shows how to live out better ways of handling charged racial situations.

I hope you get as much out of this book as I am!

Thursday, November 11, 2010


This week we recognized the Indian holiday Diwali, that celebration of light winning over darkness, good over evil. With Indian food and candlelight, we placed our thoughts on the Light of the World, and read a few verses about light. I've been thinking a lot lately about the cultural part of adopting a child from one culture and raising them in another, entirely different one.

When we were in our first adoption process, a parent at our school asked us if we were planning to raise our daughter to be Hindu. The obvious answer is that, since we ourselves are not Hindu, we would have no idea how to teach her to be! Another reality to consider is that India itself is home to Muslims, Jains and Sikhs, as well as Hindus and Christians. We love India and are repeatedly asking ourselves how we can honor the traditions and holidays of her birth country (many of which are Hindu), while also teaching her about and including her in our own devotion to Christ. We want her to be proud of being Indian, and we want her to know the history and modern-day realities of the country we've grown to love.

We are still learning how to combine cultures. We want Anya Rashi to know about all things Indian -- and so we teach her what Diwali is about. In our own family celebration, we make Chicken Makhani and Pav Bhaji (full disclosure: the Makhani is homemade from scratch, and the Pav Bhaji is by our good pal Trader Joe), we light candles in Indian candle-holders, and we celebrate the victory of light overcoming darkness.

We think of our friends Usha and Murli, and other Christians in India doing amazing work caring for the poor, tending the sick, loving the abandoned, and feeding the hungry. We think about the boys from Mumbai who visited our church this summer, and marvel over their stories of rescue from the streets thanks to the love of K. K. Devraj and Bombay Teen Challenge. They are all living the victory of good over evil every day, and we pray for them.

So our Diwali is a bit of a mosaic. How about yours? I'd love to hear how other families navigate this part of parenting.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Costumes & grocery store adoption bonding

Just wanted to share a few photos of our fun weekend. Peter and I dressed as, umm, geezers for a costume wedding reception. Much of our costumes came courtesy of my Mom: I was sporting her fabulous cat-eye sunglasses from the 1960s, along with her hat, gloves, and fur-trimmed coat, while Peter carried my grandpa's cane.

The kids, however, were way cuter! Building off Anya Rashi's wish to be dressed as cheese, Aaron and Nathan agreed to be a mouse and a mousetrap. Nathan even made up a name for his rodent trap: The Mouse-inator 3000!

* * *

This morning brought one of those blessed moments that seem to happen at just the right time along this adoption journey. As Anya Rashi and I were headed toward the check-out at our grocery store, a woman in her late 50s stopped us.

"Excuse me," she said, "but is your daughter adopted from India?" She went on to say that she and her husband have two adult children who were born in Pune! Her son is now the director of aquatics at one of our local YMCAs, and her daughter works for a city Park & Recreation Department. Hoping to gain some wisdom from her, I asked how their experiences had been when their kids were older.

She said her kids have a positive view of being adopted, but ran into a few bumps in the road as they grew up because of other people's perceptions. When her daughter was in elementary school, she came home from school one day and innocently asked her mother "What does n----- mean?" She had never heard the word before, but another child had called her that at school. Her son has been subjected to extensive searches at airports EVERY single time he has flown. He gets profiled as a terrorist every time he sets foot in an airport, and once was pulled out of line for a second search after the first one.

She congratulated us on our upcoming adoption, and said she remembered how hard it was to wait -- she and her husband got the call about their first child during a New Year's Eve party at their house, and her eyes still glowed as she retold the story. She also showed me photos of her gorgeous grown children. It was such a joy to talk with a mom who has raised her kids and navigated some of the difficult parts of having children from another culture.

We said goodbye -- my frozen food was melting, and she was visiting the store with her clients (she works in an assisted living center) -- and both of us walked away feeling blessed, I think.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A year on the list

This was one of our family photos for our dossier.

Last year, on October 27, Peter and I were giddy with excitement to finally be "on the list." I posted that we were going to enjoy that feeling, because it wouldn't be nearly as exciting 12 months later -- and I was right. Here we are, in the same position on the list that we were in June -- frustrating!

Truly, adoption is a marathon, not a sprint. We will celebrate Diwali next Friday with some Indian food and lots of candle-light, but I will secretly be wishing for the holiday to be over so business can start up again in Kolkata and Delhi.

I keep reminding myself that we waited 13 months for Anya Rashi . . . and that turned out pretty well!

This week will be a good one for getting my mind off of the list. We have to start building an operational volcano for Aaron's homework (yikes!), and we need to do some Halloween costume construction. Last time I checked, the boys were going to be a pirate and a knight -- but Anya Rashi was still deciding between a princess, a fairy, a butterfly, a mermaid, a lion, a doctor, or cheese.

That's right, cheese. :o)

Monday, October 18, 2010

I'm a real girl!

At the library last week, we found a fun picture book related to adoption. In The Best Family in the World by Susana Lopez, a girl named Carlota finds out that a family will be adopting her. She fantasizes about her family being astronauts, tiger tamers, pastry chefs . . . and discovers that although they're regular people, elements of her fantasies are part of her new life. For instance, they may not work with tigers in the circus, but her new Grandma has two cats. I thought it was a great way to address the fantasies adopted children sometimes have about their birthparents, while appreciating what their adoptive families actually are like.

* * *

The title of this post refers to something I want to remember when the kids are older. Nathan often tells Anya Rashi "You're so cute!" Lately, she has started to object to being called "cute." Their conversation usually goes like this:

Nathan: "You're so cute!"
Anya Rashi: (fiercely) "I'm not cute! I'm a real girl!!"
After a moment:
Anya Rashi: "You can call me wonderful."

When we were driving and noticing all the spectacular fall colors, Anya Rashi said, "When I see those leaves, it's like God is hugging my eyes."

* * *

Much to the future embarrassment of my children, I am not above dumpster-diving. In our city, there's a kind of tradition that if you're getting rid of something usable, you leave it on the curb a day before garbage pick-up with a sign that says "free." Most often, someone will make it disappear, saving it from the landfill. Also, on the week when there is pick-up for bigger items, your stash on the curb is fair game for anyone who can make use of it.

Last week, we were on the way home from Aaron's boychoir rehearsal when something on the curb caught my eye. After many times on the "giving" end, it was my turn to be on the receiving end! I spied a nightstand that looked interesting . . . it definitely needed some TLC, but looked sturdy and well-made.

Anya Rashi and I took advantage of a warm day and sanded, washed and cleaned it, then put on a first coat of white paint, leftover from when I painted the kids' rooms. I'm not sure where it's going to go in our house -- one of the kids' rooms, possibly . . . But it is a nice, solid piece of free furniture! I'll have to post an "after" picture when we're done.

* * *

We went to a state park two weekends ago to enjoy some of our last fine autumn days. The kids love that park, because there's a huge lake, an observation tower, a statue of a Native American chief, and lots of hiking trails (not to mention some impromptu rock climbing walls!). We have to soak up every last drop of good weather before winter comes . . . and it definitely helps me to stay busy with family things while we wait for our referral.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

A timely gift

The scarf in the background is one that I found during our trip to bring home Anya Rashi.
Well, we are officially in October. Although I absolutely love autumn, I haven't been looking forward to it this year. This is the month when we can expect nothing to happen with our adoption, due to the Hindu holidays Diwali and Durga Puja.

In general, I've been handling the wait pretty well, but my friend Laurie totally undid me this morning. She brought a birthday gift to church this morning for me, and when I opened it I just started to cry. The photo doesn't do it justice, but the pendant shows a family of two parents with four children -- a little reminder of what our family will look like, hopefully sometime in 2011.

What a thoughtful friend -- and a truly beautiful reminder to keep my eyes on the finish line of this long journey that began in March of 2009. I treasure this gift even more because Laurie herself was adopted when she was an infant, and has been so supportive as we wait. She is a gem!

I also want to say thank you to everyone who left a comment about my last post. I was feeling the love from all of you who have been there (or are currently in the poopy-training trenches with me!). I was so happy to read them that Peter shook his head and said, "Only a mother would be this excited to read comments about poop." And he's right!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Fun times with Anya Rashi

Notice that she's stuck a playing card and a big flat magnet into the heating/AC vent. Everyone needs a hobby, right?

She's showing you her popcorn, before it's chewed, mercifully!
With the boys back in school during the days, I've had a few fun weeks of girl time with Anya Rashi. I think ages 3-5 are one of the "sweet spots" of parenting. Anya Rashi is so much fun right now, with many original ideas about how the world works.
She asked me to e-mail Peter at work and tell him that "we love him so much that we are going to croak."

Earlier in the week, she was talking about her baby sister, as she often does. In past conversations, she's asserted that her baby sister "will have black hair like me, and brown skin like me." Things took a turn this week, when she piped up from her carseat, "Mom? I hope my baby sister has white hair, or green hair. Or . . . maybe . . . hair like yours." It's nice to have my plain old brown hair lumped in with such exotic choices. :o)

Tonight at our nephew's soccer game, Aunt Mary gave Anya Rashi a sucker, and was joking with her about not sticking it in her nose because it might get stuck there. Then the conversation went like this:
Aunt Mary: So we don't stick suckers in our noses, right?
Anya Rashi: Nope! Only fingers!

Amidst all the fun, I'm seeking advice from other mamas:
With school starting and our days less interrupted, I've been trying to close the deal on toilet training. You'd think I'd be a pro by now, since I've successfully trained two already . . . but you'd be wrong. Anya Rashi has a will of iron about going #2. Training for potty was a breeze, but she has some kind of major fear about going #2 where she's supposed to.

Compounding the problem is the necessity of running around with two older children (that's why I waited until our days would be free to focus on #2). Often, I have had to use Pull-Ups because we don't have the ability to do underwear clean up at, say, a baseball diamond or piano lesson. I detest Pull-Ups (and considered titling this post "Why Pull-Ups are of the Devil," but thought that was a little too dramatic!) because they prolong the training.

But I've been using them here and there -- until this week. We've been all undies, all the time . . . with zero success. Argh. This girl is stubborn. I've stolen an idea from another mom, who uses a discipline technique called "The Basic Plan" vs. "The Deluxe Plan." The Basic Plan is love and basic meals, but no other frills or treats (no desserts, trips to the library, wearing a favorite outfit, extra fun things like PlayDough, etc.). The Deluxe Plan includes all the trimmings and special privileges.

We're going to have the Basic Plan on days when she doesn't put #2 in the toilet, and hope that she figures out that life is a lot more interesting with the Deluxe Plan. (Don't know if I'm going to inflict Anya Rashi in underwear on the Sunday school volunteers, though . . . she will either have to stay in church with me, or wear the dreaded Pull-Ups.)

Does anyone out there have experience with a stubborn pooper? Please leave your advice in the comments -- I'm desperate! I'd love to have some ideas to try if a few weeks of the Basic Plan doesn't do the trick. Thanks!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Doldrums and gratitude


It's a nautical term that well describes where we are in our adoption process right now. The Doldrums refers to an area in the ocean north of the equator. It's a place where old fashioned sailing ships were becalmed, and got stuck for days or weeks on end, with no air to fill their sails. The perfect storm of weather conditions and location made mighty ships stand still, powerless to move.

Our perfect storm is made up of licensing issues, placing our adoption status at a standstill since June. CARA, the governmental authority in charge of adoptions in India, is changing the process by which orphanages can clear children for international placement. That means we will be waiting more months than we'd hoped to find out who our daughter is.

We have plenty of company, unfortunately -- the other families on the waiting list are in the same boat (horrible pun, yes?), as well as the families already matched with their children. They have to go back and get their children cleared through the new agency before they can move on to the Indian court system. It's maddening, and frustrating for us all . . . and my mind is foremost on the children, who have to wait more weeks and months before meeting their forever families. Sigh.

My only comfort is that God knows who she is, and He is in charge of the whole process. I'm making myself a little crazy though, because I know that for the entire month of October, the Indian holidays of Diwali and Durga Puja mean that nothing will happen at all. I also had visions of being able to announce who our daughter is in our Christmas letter. (Isn't it weird that I'm thinking of that?! And I can't even blame pregnancy hormones.)

In the midst of it all, I am so grateful for Aaron, Nathan, and Anya Rashi, the three blessings we already have in our home. I have the deepest admiration for the mamas going through this who are waiting for their first child -- if it's this hard with the distraction of three children, I can't imagine how they're enduring the wait for their very first.

This week, we celebrated our oldest son. He made us parents in the first place, and has given us a decade of "experience" as Mom and Dad. Aaron, we are so grateful for you on your 10th birthday. You are becoming such a wonderful young man of kindness, intelligence, and strength. You are so compassionate that you would prefer to escort spiders outside our house rather than watch your Mom squash them in a panic. :o) You have an earnest desire to know and follow Christ, and you have wisdom that belies your age. We pray that these core parts of who you are never change, and we can't wait to see what's in store for your future. We love you.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

What I did in the last week of my summer vacation

In the past week, we:

a.) went camping and got lots of mosquito bites

b.) celebrated my birthday with S'mores and more mosquito bites

c.) held a rummage sale with my best friend from middle school & high school

d.) took the kids to watch a classical Indian ballet

e.) drove Peter's parents back to their hometown to see their old house, visit a maritime museum and eat at a restaurant/chocolatier/ice cream parlor that's an institution in that city

f.) celebrated Aaron's 10th birthday today with our family (his party will be on Labor Day)

g.) met the boys' teachers the afternoon before our first day of school

h.) ALL of the above!

The correct answer is "h" . . . and it will be a bit of a relief when school starts tomorrow so we can all catch our breath!

We went camping because my sister called last week and said, "Are you feeling adventurous?" She had a few days off, and booked a campsite at a state park. We haven't been tent camping since Anya Rashi came home, and she loved it! After the first night, she said, "Can we stay FIVE more days?" It's a good thing we didn't, though, or there would've been nothing left of us except some very plump mosquitos.

The Indian ballet was courtesy of our city's Indian cultural group. We saw two short ballets by dance groups from Madison, Wisconsin and from the Chicago area. Although the stories were very familiar to Indian members of the audience, they kindly provided synopses for newbies like us. The first was about the love story of Krishna and Radha, and the second one was based on the story of Rama and his wife Sita, and their twin sons. We had to leave about 20 minutes before the end because Anya Rashi was starting to get a wee bit restless after an hour and 45 minutes of sitting still!

The dancers wore gorgeous, colorful costumes, and bells that jingled with each stomp and step. It was fascinating to see their hand positions, which were similar to the hand positions featured on Indian statues. Each position has a different meaning (although I can't remember offhand what they all are!), and it was really beautiful and artistic to see them incorporated into dance.

Our nostalgia tour of Peter's hometown was especially sweet because his old neighbors were home and were delighted to see Mary Ann and Jim. We had a ball listening to memories. Peter's dad was quite a daredevil as a child, and we heard hair-raising stories about fishing from an active railroad bridge, riding down a hill (in the middle of the road! in the daytime!) in go-karts, and being out on huge waves on Lake Michigan in a tiny fishing boat by himself, etc. In this era of child safety products, we were all left wondering how he survived to adulthood!

Although our heads are spinning a bit from all the fun, we relished every minute of it. Summer is officially done as of today . . . and we will be headed off to school in the morning.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Matri Sneha mini-reunion and final summer fun

Well, we certainly are trying to wring the last bits of fun out of summer before school starts! The last two weeks have been packed full of fun things like babysitting our friends' gerbils during their vacation, going to the State Fair with Aunt Alicia, walking the trails of one of our favorite nature preserves and having our last baseball game. We spent yesterday afternoon at the site of an Extreme Makeover: Home Edition -- it's a family who goes to our church, and we were there as they came back to their new house!

We also did our school supply shopping, and found out who the boys will have for teachers this year. We will be squeezing in a few last summer playdates with friends before school starts, too.

Especially fun for me and Anya Rashi, though, was a visit with another Dillon family. We've gotten together with Michele and Ahly a few times -- we live just 2 hours away from each other. Back when we were waiting for Anya Rashi to come home, Michele and Todd were kind enough to make the drive to our city and show us their India trip photos. It was so good to see their gorgeous daughter in person, and realize with awe that one day WE would really have our daughter home too.

Ahly and Michele were in town because Ahly is starting kindergarten! They were making a special trip together to purchase school clothes and supplies, so of course we jumped at the chance to see them again. It was so great to have two "graduates" of Matri Sneha together again! They are very close to the same size -- Ahly is very dainty and petite, while Anya Rashi has always been tall for her age (she was in the 80th percentile on the US growth charts at her 3-year-old check-up).

We decided to have a a girls' night out at one of our city's Indian restaurants. This particular restaurant definitely makes things spicier than the other restaurant in town! Their "mild" spice-o-meter left Anya Rashi gulping down all of her water, and then my whole glass! I had one of my favorite dishes, vegetable korma, while Anya Rashi had butter chicken and Michele and Ahly had chicken Kashmiri makhani. We also had some awesome garlic naan. While Michele and I caught up on each others' lives, the girls colored and occasionally contributed their own thoughts to the conversation.

It was a Sunday night, and we were among the first customers after they opened. The restaurant gradually filled up with other patrons, many of whom were dressed in lovely saris or salwar kameez. On our way out of the restaurant, an Indian woman named Nidhi stopped Michele and I and asked if our girls were adopted. She was so kind, and asked the girls their names, and told us "this is a very good thing you are doing." She asked a few questions about where they were from in India, and said again that she was glad that we did this "good thing."

It was very heartwarming. There are two Indian moms at our school who are particularly kind and positive about Anya Rashi and how we are building our family. While we are secure in the knowledge that Anya Rashi was chosen by God to be in our family, I'm also aware that she will someday be at school without me by her side. I want to prepare her for those situations we heard about in our pre-adoption classes -- the ones where hurts happen because of family tree assignments, or innocent (or not-so-innocent) comments by other children or parents -- but I also want her to hope for the best from others.

So far, our experiences have been good for the most part, or endearingly funny. In May, one of the boys' Indian-American schoolmates saw me in the parking lot with Anya Rashi at the end of the day. He said, "You're Nathan's mom, right?" Then he looked at Anya Rashi and asked me, "Are you a babysitter, too?" His mother (who I'm friendly with) was mortified, but I absolutely am not offended by innocent remarks like those. (Anya Rashi was paying no attention to him at all, and missed the whole conversation.)

I just took the opportunity to say, "She is my daughter, but we don't look like each other, do we?" Then he said, "Did you adopt her?" I said yes, that her birth parents couldn't take care of her and looked for a family that could. Then he turned to his mom and said, "When can we adopt a baby brother for me?" It was so spontaneous and kind, and I complimented him for having such a big heart.

So, for Anya Rashi's sake, I always appreciate people from within the Indian community who reinforce that adoption is a good thing. It was doubly sweet because Anya Rashi got to share the moment with another mother and daughter who share the same beginnings at Matri Sneha.

Monday, August 9, 2010

50 years ago . . .

. . . these two youngsters promised themselves to each other. These lovely people are my parents-in-law, and they are amazing. Jim and Mary Ann have been such a blessing to me ever since I married into their family -- they have stuck it out through many trials and savored many joys through five decades together. They raised seven amazing children -- all of whom are in "helping" professions like teaching, various medical careers, and serving in ministry.

We celebrated them last Sunday with Mass and a renewal of vows at their church, followed by lunch at one of their favorite restaurants. Peter wrote and sang a song for them, and most of their kids shared stories about them. As an adoptive mom, I was especially moved when Peter's oldest sister, Lynn, spoke.

Lynn is actually Mary Ann's baby sister. Mary Ann's mother died at 42, when Lynn was only two years old. As soon as Mary Ann finished nursing school (when Lynn was 4), she and Jim became newlywed parents to Lynn. During the anniversary party, Lynn described herself as a "youngest, middle, and oldest child." She was youngest in her birth family, oldest in her "adoptive" family, and right in the middle of the 13 kids from both families.

Not many newlyweds are prepared to love sacrificially, and essentially adopt a 4-year-old. In fact, when Jim proposed, Mary Ann said, "I suppose . . . " because she wanted to first ensure that Lynn would be part of the deal! It is a testimony to both of their characters that they never thought twice about raising Lynn together. Happy Anniversary, Mom & Dad. We love you so much, and pray that we will live up to the standard you've set.