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.