Thursday, May 26, 2011

Summer break, almost!

When I was in school, I was sure that the summer vacation was because we, as students, needed the break from school. We had worked so hard that we deserved the summer off.

When I taught school, I was sure that the summer vacation was because we, as teachers, needed the break from school. Truly, we had worked so hard that we deserved the summer off. That was a little closer.

Now as a parent, I can tell you without doubt, the summer vacation is because we, as parents, need a break from school!!!

I love my daughters' school but it is about 20 miles away from our house. This year we were fortunate to have a great family to carpool with so that cut down the number of trips to just one a day, but it is more than the commute. It's also the guitar lessons, the "team" projects, the need for clean uniforms each day, breakfast and lunch, much less dinner, in addition to my work schedule!

Last week I wrote how the show "The Middle" reflected our lives.

I'm beginning to think that they are watching our lives and writing the next episodes!

Last night they were also looking forward to the last few days of schools and the mom began to celebrate prematurely, which ended up having severe backlashes.

At the last minute, each of the children suddenly remembered some HUGE assignment that was due before the school year could end.

Unfortunately this was sounding very familiar.

Within the last week we have had to stay late while one test was completed, emails about some missing assignments, and a school drop off time at 6:00 a.m. for one last band concert, in addition to final exams, books that had to be turned in, and lockers cleaned out! BUT I kept thinking, after Friday, we were through! I started trying to plan something to celebrate the end of this school year. Initially I wanted to finally have our garage sale with the stuff I have been gathering for months, but then I thought we really need to make the first Saturday something more special. Maybe we would actually go see a movie. Or go to one of those game places. Or maybe sleep in and be glad we didn't have to go anywhere!

But a discussion we started earlier in the day kept gnawing at me, something that had casually been mentioned about one more band concert.

I finally asked, specifically about the concert.

Oh that.

Yes, there is one more band concert.

BUT no one has said anything about it.

Oh, that.

Yes, they had passed out something about that.

So the day and time?

Saturday at noon.


Even further than the school.

I guess our celebrating will be put off a little longer too!

See why I know the summer vacation is for the parents?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Stellar student!

My writing is being accompanied by Grace teaching herself how to play a new song on the piano. A song she has heard on the radio, then found a video of someone on YouTube teaching the chords, and can now play, all within a short part of the afternoon.

She did this recently with Clair de Lune also.

And a church song.

Last week I got two emails in one day from the school.

The first from her English teacher, who has done a fantastic job this year, honing Grace's writing skills, as well as her creativity.

I made small additions to it and would like to share it as “the model paper”. I’m also sharing it with our English department head. I’ve attached the paper (with very few revisions). Keep this paper for future reference. Your use of the MLA format was nearly perfect.

Well done!

It was a report on why the battle of San Jacinto was so important to Texas history.

Then I got one from the principal.

Congratulations!  Your student will be honored this Friday, May 20, at our MS Quarter 4 Award Ceremony.  They are being recognized for their achievement in academics, academic competitions, or for our IB Learner Profile attributes.
I thought this might be from a recent award she has won as an emerging leader but instead it was recognition for one of the IB (International Baccalaureate) learner profile attributes. She won for her Thoughtfulness.

Amazing! For once I am speechless. She has achieved so much so quickly. I am humbled by her initiative and her success.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Getting ready for summer

Do you watch the TV show, The Middle?

There aren't a lot of things on TV that you can watch with your kids that isn't on Disney but this show is pretty close to PG and invariably the mom is living my life.

The show is about a middle class family who is always broke, mom and dad work full time, with three kids, one in high school, one in middle, and one in elementary.

This story this week focused on the mom taking the 14 year old daughter shopping for a swimsuit. The mom had commented that ever since the daughter had urned 14 her personality had taken a HUGE change, as she is usually the only one who is easy to get along with. But now at 14 her mood swings were constant and she stayed in a love/hate relationship with everything.

Sue, the daughter, hated every swimsuit she tried and the pile of rejects around her feet grew quickly, the mother trying to help only made it worse, and hysteria was rising each time the mom tried to open the fitting room door. My girls are always sure that they would never act like they do in the show and pointed a finger at each other when I laughed.

Swimsuits are the one thing we decided everyone needed new for summer this year and since both my girls are 13, I was hoping for one last easy time to accomplish this feat.

But let me set the scene: Earlier at work I had taken a nose dive fall that covered a good 10 feet before I landed, which included a cup of boiling water, an armpit slammed in the corner of the table, and a very large black and blue knot coming up on my knee, so the Advil I took at work was just about gone when we got to Kohl's. All their swimsuits were 50% off on their late night sale and we had checked them out on line first and saw that there was something for everyone there.

I decided it was easier to tackle one at a time, so since we came to the department that fit Grace first we started there. There was no where the choice there was on line and sizes were difficult to find in styles deemed modest enough, but pretty quickly we found some choices for Grace and off to the dressing room she went.

I'm not sure why I was crazy enough to try to find myself a swimsuit when I was in so much pain, but the sale+a gift card burning a hole in my pocket, made me look. I felt somewhat like Sue myself, but ended up with the ONLY one that fit in a style I liked, so that was my choice. Easy enough!

On to Annabel's department with my pain continuing to increase and Grace's interest waning.

We had even found a suit on line that looked exactly like she wanted on line and there it was in the store. The problem is that it did not seem to be what she wanted after all and she would ask for bigger sizes while I continued to search for the qualities she had set.

When I finally go into the dressing room with her, she was not a happy camper and the suit she had on was huge but she was convinced it was too short. It hit her just above her knee! I really wasn't sure how to answer her as it was a LOT longer than it should be, it would have fallen off when she jumped in and overall was not a good choice.

I convinced her to try on the smaller ones and just let me see.

I forgot to mention that each time I went into the dressing room she freaked out that the door was somewhat open, but she had chosen the largest room and was not even visible until you got way into the room! So I am trying to pull the door shut as quickly as possible, hand her a suit, critique what she had on, and try to clear out the thousands she had tried on.

We finally "settled" on one and while I was pretty sure she would not wear it, thought we could bring it back later if we needed to but at least we would had something.

As I am trying to crawl to the register I passed one more display of suits that I had not noticed before. There was the perfect suit, revealing very little, in an acceptable color, and actually in her size! When she tried it on, I've never seen this happen before, but it looked like it was made for her. AND right beside that display were "work" out shorts with all the holes that could even cover even more! Wow!

If this was my last year of having it easy with swimsuits, I dread when they are both 14!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Obviously too much going on, as I wrote this a week ago and just now remembered to print it!

Today has been a funny day.

I have to admit that when the alarm went off I was not sure I could even get up.

This weekend we had our biggest event of the year and while I love the results, it really takes a toll on everything from work to home as every day routines are ignored and all thought and energy is focused on it.

Plus I just get really tired.

BUT I get some really fantastic help from a variety of sources and could not do it without them. Today was a day to thank some of these individuals that I did not want to miss.

We have a great group of people who volunteer weekly, but for this it takes even more and some of my church members even came to help out. They ended up doing some rather tedious work, among which was changing the color of the bow on 450 cups!

These people amaze me and before I could thank them, I received a donation from them to pay for future events!

Then two things happened about Annabel almost simultaneously. The hospital called to let me know what my share of the bill will be after insurance.

To say it was a shock is an understatement. While I know I am glad we have health insurance, our share would not be nearly as much if we did not have insurance. How is that possible? Or if I did not have a job, help would have been available.

Then I got an email with Annabel's Chinese name as the subject line. Hmmm, that seemed odd as no one calls her that. It was from a woman who was responsible for moving Annabel from the orphanage to a foster home when she was two years old! I had communicated with her briefly before I adopted Annabel, but we had lost contact as her email had changed. She has some pictures to share and hopefully can fill in some of the huge blanks in Annabel's past.

When we got home there was a large box with Chinese writing on the outside.

I hoped it might be for Annabel because Grace has gotten several letters and cards from her foster family recently. Annabel has not heard from hers and each time it is more difficult for Annabel to hide her disappointment.

The box was for Grace and it was full!

I only know how much it costs to send something from here to China and would guess from China to the US would be equally as expensive, plus this box was big and filled with clothes, shoes, and food! The cost of the contents had to have been huge!

The most amazing thing was that everything fit and were actually things she liked! They have not seen her in 2 1/2 years! And she has not lived there in over 6 years.

Of course for her, as in all these examples, it wasn't what was received, it was the fact that people care, care enough to take the time to reach out, and provide that connection. That we have people all over the world that are thinking about us and care and are kind and good. A little of that really helps.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Happy Mother's Day!!

Well past my bedtime and at the end of an extremely hard weekend, but feel I shouldn't let the day go by without talking about Mother's Day.

I am very fortunate to still have my mom and even better to have her right next door.

My mother is my biggest supporter and tries to keep me balanced when I get out of whack.

But I want to write about two other mothers.

A local newspaper asks the local celebs if they could travel back in time to any time or place, where would you go.

I know where I would like to go, back to where the biological mothers of my daughters made the decision they could not raise them.

Life in China in the 90's is nothing like it is today. Communication is much more accessible today, free enterprise is growing, opportunities are improving.

Still in parts of China nothing has changed. It is a land of stark contrasts, considerably more than what we see here.

While opportunities are increasing, if you become pregnant and are unmarried, or if you live in an area that still does not allow the second child, or if you know your limitations financially, your options are VERY limited.

I don't know the circumstances surrounding either of my daughters' birth mothers. I probably never will.

I have read lots of books that describe what was happening in China during the 90's. For many the desperation accompanied by their pregnancy led to tragic consequences for their babies and ultimately for the mothers.

Many chose to end their children's lives rather than face the risks that the future held.

All I know is that there are two women who chose to carry their daughters to full term and then place them in a place where they knew they would be found. They risked everything to ensure their babies had a chance at life. With their devotion to these children, I was given the chance to be a mom.

My heart and my life are full because of these two and I feel for the mothers who have the loss instead.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The better to hear you with, my dear!

When you grow up in China in an orphanage or a foster home, bodies of water are seen as a convenient place to do laundry, not a place to swim.

When I adopted Grace and while we were still in China, the second hotel had a swimming pool. After finding suits for everyone, we made our way to the swimming pool, and Grace jumped into the deep end, with absolutely no experience in swimming, and proceeded to come close to drowning. But she loved it so much it was almost impossible to get her out!

For Annabel it was a similar situation, but I was a little more prepared and had a floatie to keep her head above water. Within a few minutes though, she jumped out of the pool and started jumping around on one foot, shaking her head, trying to get the water out. She would jump back in and back out, trying to work the water out of her ear.

Later that night I put some swimmer's ear drops in her ear to try to help alleviate the water trapped in her ear.

Oh my goodness, the pain she felt was so intense, and I was very glad I had our guide right next door to translate through this terrible situation.

Before you leave China on an adoption journey, one of the last stops is a physical exam. I requested that the doctor check her ears. He reported that she seemed to have an infection, but nothing was prescribed.

When we got home, one of the first stops was the pediatrician, who immediately made a referral for an ear specialist. One look by him and we were sent to a pediatric otolaryngologist, who quickly set up surgery to repair the hole in her ear drum caused by extensive ear infections that went untreated, which was difficult to explain, since she had NO English, but went without a hitch, and quickly enough healed, and taking a shower, swimming, all those things became much easier since water did not get through the hole in her ear.

The other ear also has a hole.

This one has affected her hearing.

The doctor hoped it would clear up on its on but 2 1/2 years later, it is still there.

We set the surgery up for July, far enough into the summer that by then I expected she would be bored, and the timing was just right. I hated for her to face the beginning of the summer still trying to keep a plug in her ear for any swimming or any time around water. What I really hope too is that the improvement in her hearing will assist her in hearing the sounds of the different English words that are still difficult to master.

Unfortunately the doctors plans have changed and now the only time available is next week for the surgery or put it off until next fall. Wow! That certainly changed things up. I was sure we could make this work as she can go back to school on Monday, but there would be restrictions. She could not participate in physical activities for three weeks! Wow! I started a nervous little laugh but finally just exploded into laughter knowing how impossible that will be. We will just have to see. The benefits of course, far outweigh this inconvenience, but still!

Keep her in your prayers. Oh and me too while trying to keep her quiet for three weeks!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Where were you?

I flew in from a conference Saturday night, really late.

I had chosen the remote parking lot of the airport and as I left the parking area, I recognized the location from the last time I was there in that exact spot. It was September 15, 2001. The scene was one of desolation, isolation, disbelief, and the eeriness of the area being deserted, with a wind blowing some rubbish through the area.

It caused me to reflect on the huge changes the attacks on 9/11 had caused and how daily life for all in the world changed.

I have tried to explain to my daughters about what happened, without scaring them too much but still feeling the need to emphasize the terror that reigned the attacks.

I tried to explain to Grace why the screeners took her bottle of hand lotion and tube of tooth paste that her cousin had packed for our trip to China. The sheer fear on her face as her items were grabbed and taken away will stay with me. That bad men had caused everyone to be afraid of some many things, including bottles of liquids, even hand lotion and tooth paste was too difficult to understand when you are 11.

I've been very careful about the discussions of the countries involved in the terrorist attacks and the fight that continues in those regions. My daughters have good friends from most of those countries.

Last night when I sat down to watch the weather I was shocked to learn the news that the man who had caused so much pain was finally caught and killed.

It was joyful seeing the people take to the streets to cheer and chant in support of the country rather than protesting and complaining. For a short time we were all united again.

In some ways I wish we were in a time and place like England celebrating major victories during World War II. Businesses closed, schools closed, and a time to rejoice the victories was made.

Instead life kept going on and when I tried to explain what had happened over night, Annabel was excited that we would no longer have to go through the long processes at the airports any more. I realized that initially I thought the same, only reality struck and instead of feeling like things had been solved, I felt a new sense of apprehension of the increased risk of retaliation.

I'm not sure my daughters got it, but they understood the derogatory remarks made about the ethnicity of their classmates. I love their school. It was stopped immediately and the strongest warning was made.

I know life has to keep going on. I guess I want to still have the hope and faith that Annabel has that removing this one person will help re-establish the peace, the calm, and the innocence that we had prior to those attacks. I just pray that it at least keeps going like it is. This is the new norm. I don't think we can go back.