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Help a family adopt; get a Christmas snowflake. What’s not to love?

12 Dec

I love the blogging world and how it brings me in touch with people I would otherwise never meet. Just like the adoption community does. So, my friends who’ve adopted, I’m reblogging a post from a military family looking to adopt a special needs child internationally. You all know how dreadfully expensive this can be. For just $10, you can help them out and get a pretty Christmas ornament. There’s a really sweet story behind the ornament, too; it’s in the same vein as the hundred good wishes quilts.

So, people, read this touching blog post and pony up for the ornament. You help a military family in a more tangible way than posting to your Facebook wall. Like I said, what’s not to love?



Where do babies come from?

12 Nov


Nicole Kidman, Edie Falco and Sharon Stone did it. Sandra Bullock, Charlize Theron and Katherine Heigl did it. Barbara Walters and Diane Keaton did it. I know someone who was with Meg Ryan when she did it.

It isn’t only women who do it. Tony Shaloub and even Ozzy Osbourne did it.

And I did it, too.

Nine years ago, on September 15, I, with my husband, adopted a baby girl from China. I’ve written about adoption before; it was an angry—some might say “snide”—response to the idiocy many people express about adoption and to those on all sides of the adoption triangle.

But adoption hasn’t only exposed me to idiocy. It has brought me an overabundance of joy. My daughter is beautiful, smart, funny, loving, generous, and kind. We adoptive parents like to joke that it’s ok for us to brag about our children ‘cause it’s not like we’re patting our own genetic code on the back. But I will gladly tell you that my son, who came from my womb, is handsome, smart, funny, loving (in a teenage boy kind of way), generous and kind.

Adoption has changed my vocabulary. My daughter isn’t adopted, she was adopted. As soon as the papers were signed, she became my daughter. I don’t usually say my son come from my womb, as I did above, though I prefer that description. I refer to him as my “biological son” if anyone asks and people frequently ask when they see him and his sister together. He has some smart-ass comments he keeps for people who ask if she was adopted, but he has a smart-ass comment for just about everything. Calling my son “biological” seems to imply, to me at least, that my daughter is somehow not made of the same stuff. Calling him my “natural” child is equally strange for me. Is my daughter then “unnatural?”

Adoption has changed the way many people see me. Because I’ve adopted, many people think I’m brave. They consider the things I’ve done—traveling to China, adopting “someone else’s child”—to be scary things.

Becoming a parent was scary. Deciding to try to get pregnant was scary, in a jumping off a cliff and hoping for a soft landing sort of way.

With adoption, there was no fear. We took one red-tape filled step at a time, confident that there was a child for us at the end of the journey. Traveling to China? With an eight-year old boy? Immediately following lifting of the SARS travel ban? Didn’t faze me. Trying to get pregnant is a tentative sort of venture. Who knows how it will end? Adoption is a deliberate process. Every form filled out, every interview, every trip to a consulate, state or county official says, “We will have a child.”

Adoption has brought me close to people I might never have bothered to know. I don’t usually go out of my way to befriend people whose politics and principles are so different from my own. My adoption community includes people with dramatically different politics and principles.

When I was pregnant with my son, a good friend was as well. We had a bump bonding moment in the ladies’ room at a restaurant in Bloomington, Indiana. She showed me her distended belly button and I showed her mine. I can’t imagine showing my belly button to my adoption community friends. Most of them have never met me in person.

But though our world is mainly virtual, our friendship is very real. We’ve been through the typical things long time friends weather like divorces, illnesses, teenagers. But only my adoption friends can provide comfort when I’ve just held my daughter while she sobs for her real mother.  Only they can assure me that I’ve handled it well, that I’ve done what a real mother does.

People tell me they couldn’t do what I’ve done; that they could never love a child that wasn’t their own. There’s a witty reply: I love her as my own because she is my own, just as her brother is my own.

When my son was born, he was placed in my arms and I had no idea what to do with him. I fell in love with him but it wasn’t an overnight thing.

On September 14, a Chinese woman placed Lin Chun Mei in my arms. On September 15, she became my daughter, Abigail Mei. The next day, pushing her stroller toward the elevator at the White Swan Hotel in Guangdong Province, I knew she was my own, that my love for her was no different than my love for my son.

Before I went to China, I learned a single phrase in Mandarin. When I met my daughter, I told her, “Wo shi ni de mama. Wo shi yung yuan ni de mama.”

I am your mama. I will always be your mama.

The Princess of Snide

Poop you, Jimmy Kimmel!

24 Sep

My daughter claims I am a fashion criminal, but that didn’t stop her from watching the glittery dress parade Emmy Awards with me last night. While I folded laundry, she did her best Joan Rivers impersonation, declaring Clare Danes’ dress looked like a trash bag and Julianne Moore’s was too tight. Sophia Vergara got a thumbs up, but Ginnifer Goodwin and Amanda Plumber didn’t pass my daughter’s muster.

Between spangles, we put up with Jimmy Kimmel’s witless banter, until he dropped an A-bomb.

In one of those stupid so-funny segments the writers insert to keep the broadcast entertaining, Aubrey Anderson-Emmons, who plays Lily in Modern Family, was featured pranking the rest of the cast in “Lily is a Monster.” Never mind that the skit is supposed to be about Aubrey’s misbehavior. Take a look:

Following the bit, which I found forced and humorless, Kimmel said, “That would make a good public service announcement for adoption.”

My daughter recoiled. There are lots of things you want to see your kid do, like ride a bike for the first time, wear a gown and mortarboard for kindergarten graduation, lose a first tooth. But recoiling? My breath caught, then she responded:

“Poop you, Fat Guy!”

Poop you, indeed, Kimmel and Poop you, writers for the predictable segment and ugly, scripted comment. Most of all, Poop you, ABC, for hiring the writers and Kimmel both.

Ann Romney and Hilary Rosen: Who’s raising their own kids?

23 Apr

Nothing like grinding an axe, particularly when two of them–politics and adoption–come together so neatly. I just know you were waiting for me to weigh in on the Ann Romney/Hilary Rosen mess. So, here it is:

Adoption–and Stupidity–are Forever

13 Jun

When my daughter was in kindergarten, her teacher developed a semester-long unit of study on Antarctica. Being the helpful soul that I am, I suggested the class sponsor a penguin. They’re cute, they live in Antarctica and they are endangered. The teacher agreed and the class collected money for the sponsorship. They sent the money off to whichever  “Save Antarctica” organization it was that was collecting children’s pennies for penguins.

Some time later, my daughter asked me, “ Mommy, when will we get the penguin?”

“What penguin,” I asked, having forgotten the penny collection.

“The penguin!” she said, vehemently, apparently believing that additional verbal force might force my brain into remembering.

“I’m sorry, honey,” I said, “I just don’t know what penguin you’re talking about.”

“The one we adopted, Mommy! When do we get to bring him home?”

My daughter wasn’t trying to be cute. The penguin-saving organization called their sponsorship an “Adopt a Penguin” program. In our house, when you adopt something, you take it home and then you care for it and love it forever. My daughter was thinking it was about time we flew down to Antarctica and brought that penguin home, just as we’d flown to China to bring her home. I’m relieved that my daughter’s school didn’t adopt a highway. I don’t think it would fit in our living room.

My daughter has been home for nearly eight years now and one thing I’ve learned in all that time is that people can be pretty darn stupid when it comes to adoption. Actually, people can be pretty darn stupid about a lot of things, but adoption really seems to bring out the insensitive jerk in a whole lot of people.

We may get more than our share of stupid adoption comments because my daughter is Asian; my husband, my son and I aren’t. If you have eyes that work, it’s pretty evident that our daughter was adopted. My son is particularly annoyed by people who, on seeing him with his sister, ask if she was adopted. “No,” he likes to say, “my parents converted to Chinese after I was born.” I will admit, with shame, that I have used a similarly smart-assed response to one too many questions about how I came to be the parent of an Asian girl.

Actually, asking if my daughter is adopted is annoying to me because no one ever asks me if my son is born. That sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? My son was born, of course, but I’m really glad he isn’t born over and over again. Adoption, however, is something that many apparently believe happens repeatedly, as if my daughter wakes up every morning and we have to become a family all over again. She was adopted. It happened once, just like being born. Let’s move on, people.

I’m pretty sure people who adopted children from the United States that look like their parents don’t get some of the super stupid questions that we who adopted internationally do. I was once asked if we planned on teaching our daughter English. English, for crying out loud! Chinese, I could understand. I don’t speak Chinese. My husband doesn’t speak Chinese. Our son speaks some Chinese, but didn’t then. I wanted to say, “Of course, we’re going to teach her English. Are you going to stop being an idiot?”

When my son was born, a switch in my brain was flipped and I became vigilant about protecting him. With my daughter, the protection factor went into overdrive. Perhaps it’s understandable, given the moronic comments adoptees must endure. Because society forces it on families built through adoption, we see potential adoption-related issues in every situation. Recently, a friend’s daughter confessed that she was very worried about being labeled different at her school. She was in tears over her anxiety. My friend assumed, of course, that her daughter’s adoption was at the root of the problem. Nope. Her daughter didn’t want the other children to know she doesn’t like pie.

The real stupidity about adoption comes out over reality. I like to think of myself as real. I’m pretty honest and down to earth. Plenty of people have complimented me on how real I am. But when it comes to parenting my daughter, I become an imaginary being. Apparently, some people believe my daughter was adopted by fairies because I keep getting asked where her real parents are. Her real parents are right in front of you, Ding Bat, and we’ve got the papers to prove it.

As put out as I get when someone asks the real parents question, it really ticks me off when I note that I am her real mother and I get, “Oh, you know what I mean.” No, I don’t know what you mean. I refuse to know what you mean. Because what you mean feels pretty mean to me. It feels particularly mean to me when it’s said in front of my daughter.

Imagine telling a little girl that her father really wanted a boy. Or walk up to a kid and tell him that his mother wasn’t really sure she wanted to have a baby. Even if you know that little girl’s father really did want a boy and that mother really wasn’t sure she wanted to have a baby. You can’t imagine it, can you? But children who were adopted hear how their real parents didn’t want them all the time. They hear it from adult strangers and strange adults. Those are the easiest comments to deal with because I’m usually there when it happens. School, however, is another story. So I’ve given my daughter words to use in response. She lives with her real parents; her birthparents couldn’t take care of any baby so they made a plan for her to be adopted.

I feel pretty good about my daughter’s attitude toward her adoption. On a routine car pool trip recently my daughter had this conversation with her best friend:

“What would you say if someone asked you who your real parents are,” she asked Best Friend. (I swear I did not prompt this discussion.)

“What?” her friend asked. “That’s really weird.”

“Yeah,” my daughter said. “My real parents are my parents.”

We’ll continue to get stupid comments about adoption. We’ve heard them all from “Didn’t you want your own children?” to “How much did she cost?” Usually, I ask why someone wants to know because there are lots of people who are considering building their own families through adoption. But, every now and then, I have to let loose with a snide reply, something along the lines of “She cost too much? Well, how much did your car cost?”

I hope you’ll excuse me now. I have to go feed the penguin.

© Copyright 2011 by Janice Lindegard. All rights reserved.

I Am That Mom; Hear Me Roar

28 Feb

Today, I was going to write about needing a third breast, but I’ve always said that the greatest challenge in parenting is the uncertainty of every moment. One minute you’re thinking you’ll write about needing a third breast and the next you’re writing about being “That Mom.”

I try, on the whole, to be amusing in my musings. But today that just doesn’t seem to want to happen. Call it a confluence of events, but the stars have aligned in such a manner that I find myself royally pissed off. I guess I should have ended that last sentence with the word “angry” so that I wouldn’t end it with a preposition, but “angry” doesn’t have the explosive “P” (pun intended) in it that makes “pissed off” such a satisfying description of how I feel at this moment.

For the first time since she was three years old, my daughter said, “I don’t want to go to school.” Actually, she sobbed, “I don’t want to go to school.” Now, my daughter dawdles. I routinely tell her to go to the car at least 10 minutes before we need to leave. In her world, re-reading the latest issue of American Girl magazine is a vital part of getting from kitchen to car. As is training the dog to stay. Brushing the teeth can be easily forgotten. Playing with mom’s eyelash curler cannot. But today’s tears were not about dawdling.

When my son was in grade school, “I don’t want to go to school” invariably meant that he was being tormented by one of the other boys in class. Now that he’s in high school, “I don’t want to go to school” is a static state. I’m sure he enjoys the hormone-charged cacophonous chaos that is his school, but if he ever said, “Man, I can’t wait to get to school, today,” we would have to up his meds.

My daughter is a good student. Her parent-teacher conferences are a pleasure. I don’t bring a list of questions or stacks of research, as I may have done for another child who lives in our home. Hell, I don’t even bring my husband most of the time. I walk in and sit down. The teacher says, “Your daughter is doing great. Do you have any questions?” I don’t. My daughter likes school. She does well in school. She has friends. No one is bullying her. So, why would she tell me, “I don’t want to go to school.”?

My daughter doesn’t want to go to school because it is ISAT week. For those not in Illinois, ISAT stands for Illinois Standards Achievement Test. The ISATs are the tests used to judge the effectiveness of Illinois’ schools. ISAT scores dip too low and schools “fail to meet adequate yearly progress,” as determined by No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Fail to meet AYP enough times and seriously bad things happen at the school, including the possibility that administration and all of the teachers might be fired. The ISAT is what they call a “high-stakes test.”

For weeks now, my daughter has been inundated with messages about how important it is for her to do well on the ISATs. There have been pep rallies. There have been practice sessions. Her class made “Rock ISATs” shirts with their names stenciled across the back, as if they are so many gridiron warriors out to defeat the terrible test monster. They’ve been playing “Minute to Win It” games to sharpen their test-taking skills. Last week, she brought home a “Be Like Bud” checklist. Check off the good test-taking strategies and she’ll be just like “Bud.” Don’t make the right choices and she’ll be a test-taking “Dud.”

Well, who do you think my daughter wants to be? She’s a girl, for crying out loud. And, though millions of bras were burned before she was even born, she still has an overwhelming desire to please others. Compound that with the “I was adopted so I need to make you happy” issues. Of course, my daughter wants to be like Bud.

What does all this have to do with being “That Mom”? (Let’s forget for a few moments the completely sexist use of the name “Bud” for the “good test taker.” There are only so many things that can yank my crank on any given day.) I’m sure I’m not the only mom who had to cope with ISAT meltdown this morning. But I am one of the moms that is going to get her shorts in a bunch and write a bunch of letters to the people responsible for my daughter’s anxiety. I’m going to be “That Mom,” the one who gets in your face when you mess with her kid.

I am going to get in the face of whoever’s brilliant idea it was to put so much pressure on an eight-year-old girl that she can’t stop crying. I’m going to do it not because I can’t stand to see my child cry. I can stand that. I stand it all the time. I stand it over chores, I stand it over candy, I stand it over every little thing I’ve done that she thinks isn’t fair. But I’m not going to stand it over something that really isn’t fair.

It isn’t fair that my daughter is being forced to bear the burden of a society that has gone insane over its educational system. My son took the very same test when he was in third grade. His school made just enough of a deal of it. His teachers prepared him for it by explaining what was expected and having the students practice. He did great; his teachers were pleased. That was six years ago.

A lot has changed in six years. The issues involved are many and complicated. Our country, ever desirous of being first and best, is not the best at educating children. I think it’s Finland this year overall and I’m pretty sure Singapore is doing a bang-up job in math. We look for an easy answer: the teachers and principals must suck. We threaten them with their jobs. They feel the pressure. The pressure gets pushed off on our children. In grade school, it makes our children cry. In high school, it can drive them to suicide.

I am That Mom. I am going to write letters. I am going to do it for my child. I’m going to do it for her best friend who will be in third grade soon. I’m going to do it for the boys I’m tutoring right now who are getting my services for free because their school can’t meet AYP. Five weeks ago, they couldn’t read English. Last week, they could. I feel good knowing my NCLB tax dollars can go for more than driving a child to tears.

Bring It Up Again, Sam

7 Feb

I’ve told my children lots of stories since they were little. Some of the stories came from books. Some I made up myself. I remember telling my son a story about a blue frog that got separated from the other blue frogs and had to find his way back to blue frog land. I was planning on having the blue frog go through many adventures, with my son rapt. He would love this story so much, I thought, that it would become his favorite and every night he would ask me to tell him the story of the blue frog. He hated the story of the blue frog. He was so upset about the frog being separated from the other frogs that he began wailing, “No! No!” He didn’t stop wailing until I said, “The frog turned around, saw millions of other blue frogs and they all lived happily ever after. The end. Good night.”

I do know some stories that my children like to hear again and again. Unfortunately, they all involve puke. For some reason, my kids think puking and stories involving puking are just hilarious. I’m pretty sure my kids aren’t unique in this. My daughter’s best friend is frequently at our house, so has heard at least one or two of our family puke stories and has laughed along with the rest of us.

More of these stories feature my son because he seems to have the weakest stomach in our house. I would think that the person who the stories are about would not find these stories at all amusing. I know I don’t get a big kick out of recounting the times I’ve lost my lunch. But, my kids laugh hardest at the stories about them. My son, for instance, regularly tells friends about the time he vomited all over the Legos at aftercare. “Yeah, I was just sitting there, playing with the Legos and, all of a sudden I horked all over them. It was a mess!” My son and his friends laugh. I just roll my eyes.

My son’s favorite stories involve him being sick on or near his parents. He recalls being sick once and allowed to sleep in our bed. After sleeping for some time, he awoke. “How are you feeling?” we asked. “I feel much better,” he said sincerely. One second later, he was sick all over the bed. I remember a similar incident when he had been sleeping off an illness on the couch. He came into the bathroom where I was washing my hands or brushing my teeth or something. I asked how he felt. He said, “I really feel ok” and immediately retched on the bathroom floor.

While my kids are laughing so hard they cry when I tell these stories, I tell them completely straight-faced. See, I don’t think they are particularly funny because I am the person who has had to clean up. These puke fests never seem to happen when it’s just my husband with the children. My husband has never been puked on from head to toe so that he had to shower before he could take his clothes off. No, the puke patrol is my personal responsibility.

Though my husband hasn’t been barfed on, he has been victim of an exploding diaper. When our son was very tiny, we lived in a house with a basement family room. The kitchen was at the top of the stairs. Frequently, my husband would watch TV with our son, no more than three months old, sitting on his lap. One evening, as I prepared dinner, I heard my husband shout, “Oh, holy mother of god!” followed by “Oh, my god!” followed by “Jesus Christ!” The litany repeated as I heard my husband’s feet plod up the staircase. The baby came around the corner first, held stiff-armed away from my husband’s body, then came my husband. He handed me the baby. While my husband changed his pants, I cleaned the baby. I had the baby cleaned and changed long before my husband stopped calling on the Virgin.

After I’ve been coaxed into telling my son’s puke stories, my daughter begs to hear a story of her own gastric misadventures. Problem is, there aren’t many. My daughter is always on the alert for anything wrong with her body. Every scratch must be inspected, every sneeze investigated and every slight rumble of her interior workings must be respected so she makes it to a safe vomitorium on time. She is, however, the child who covered me from the top of my turtleneck to the bottom of my blue jeans. I was an experienced mother by that point, though. I didn’t miss a beat. It happened in the bathroom so I turned on the shower, then stepped in fully clothed. I set the baby on the shower floor. Baby, clothes and I all got clean quickly and easily. I believe I actually thought, “Thank God, she only puked on me.”

My daughter doesn’t remember the most spectacular spewing involving her. It happened just minutes after she entered the United States for the first time. When we went to China to bring her home, we were warned again and again about drinking the water, eating the food, etc. So we took great care throughout our trip. The last night in China, though, I got sick. I got really sick. And then I got sicker. The hotel doctor came to our room with a nurse and syringes. He injected me with a magic potion that stopped the vomiting and the nurse injected me with fluids to counter the dehydration.

I felt better. We got on the plane. I felt fine the whole trip. I felt fine until I stopped feeling fine while we waited to go through Customs. I got that unmistakable feeling and began frantically looking for a receptacle of some sort, any sort. Nothing. Nothing, that is, except my new daughter’s lovey, a soft piece of blankie with a bunny head sewn to it. A mother does what a mother has to do.

I didn’t tell my daughter this story until after she’d outgrown her lovey. She never begged to have the story told, preferring to hear one of her brother’s. Recently, though, she included the story in her “all about me” presentation at school. I understand it was a big hit. You can’t beat a good puke story.

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