Monday, February 23, 2009
My bedside book now is The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million,
the account of a Jewish writer's search for the final fates of six relatives fallen victim to Nazi brutality. The author can really tell a story. I'm not Jewish, lost no family in WWII and yet I am captivated by this book.
I think his gnawing desire to know the details of what happened to his family strikes a widely-vibrating chord being hummed in social networking now. Why are so many people like me enmeshed in user boards, blogs, bulletin board sites, Facebook, etc?
Just last week, I discovered both a long-lost first cousin and neighbor girl on Facebook. I've had no contact with either for 40+ years - yet now, I've emailed each of them and they've responded. I am particularly delighted to have heard back from my eight-years-older cousin Clyde, whom I remember as looking a lot like Judy, and having him say the childhood me was "just darling." It's been decades since my name and "darling" were used in the same paragraph.
My good friend Chris (from elementary school) showed me a letter he compiles annually for his extended family, where each household contributes a page about itself, then he emails it out. I was so impressed - and so interested reading it! - that I started a user board for my mom's extended family
and plan to do the same thing for us later this year.Thanks for the family letter idea, Chris. And really - I'm all over your beating me for class president. By one vote. When I'd actually worked on my campaign speech and you just winged it. Truly - all forgotten now, buddy.
But why? Why try to re-establish relationships, keep up with cousins, find old friends on Facebook or Myspace or user boards or whatever?
For me - it's because I hate losing people. I like most people, and love a lot of them. Losing contact seems like such a pale imitation of how we're supposed to live, especially with the tools we have available now. The second greatest commandment is "Love your neighbor as yourself."
How do you do that if you don't know anything about your neighbor, whether he lived across the street 20 years ago, or is slurping Diet Coke over the cubby wall right now?
I think the desire to find what's lost in our lives is hard-wired into us. The lost sheep, the lost coin, the lost cousin, the lost friend, the lost days - we want them back. I think that's why people go to class reunions, and church anniversaries. I think that's why we sign yearbooks, and squint at photo albums. And why many of us drag out dusty boxes of mementos when the blues overshadow any living color.
I imagine one day Julia will start her quest to find what's lost to her, too. There's not much we can tell her - though every scrap of information we have and everything we've been able to surmise will be hers. She'll be googling and posting and mining with other adoptees on her own search for The Lost.
As the author I'm reading now illustrates so well - she'll eventually have to acknowledge what she's lost, however painful and time-consuming that might be.
Because then - and only then - will she be able to acknowledge what's she found.
Posted at 08:45 pm by beckyww
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Hustling out the door at work today to catch the bus - which we take to save money - I heard a few phrases droning from the lobby TV about auto makers needing "more bailout." Their pensions aren't secure, curse the luck. Of course, AT&T quit contributing to ours years ago.
I checked my 401K balance records today. too. It's back to where it was in August. August of 1999.
Driving home from the bus stop in my six-year-old mini-van with an expired extended warranty, I heard a bit about the $75 billion bailout for mortgage lenders. I confess I didn't listen to all of it, because I was mulling over a recent family discussion of the woman with six kids (no husband, no income) who used fertility treatments to give birth to octuplets - and now wants private donations in addition to her taxpayer welfare. Something tells me her medical bills are higher than the cost of the two 90-day prescriptions I mailed off today - though that $500+ will come right out of my pocket, and I doubt she'll pay a dime. The first few months of the year are always tighter, until we hit our deductible and co-pays kick in.
My government seems to think that I need to pay $30,000 for a golf course
in Austin, and $5M for park trails here in San Antonio. Huh? That is the responsibility of the federal government - how?! I guess the marriage penalty we pay in federal income tax helps with that, right?
This year: Our family will take home less income and spend more on necessities than we have ever before.
So I have a question. A sincere question.
bailout? Who is running beside me with a microphone while I whine about no raise, higher medical deductibles and looming college costs? Who's worried that Keith will never retire with health benefits, and insurance doesn't cover things like Julia's asthma spacers?
And where's yours?
Posted at 06:50 pm by beckyww
Sunday, February 15, 2009
We have a treasure hunt at home for Valentine's Day. I'm not sure exactly how that tradition started, but it's set in stone now. This year, Cupid had a PS3 World Tour set waiting at the end of the trail of clues. Rachel was out of town, and Hannah's still half-sick from rounds of viruses assailing us. (Our entire house needs to be boiled in Lysol.)
Lois and her faithful sidekick promptly claimed World Tour as their own, with Lois invoking Sibling Seniority to be drummer.
Never far from the toy drum in the church nursery (1995)....
...and now addicted to PS3 Rock Band. Ringo Starr and Alex Van Halen have nothing on her.
Though somehow, this papier mache mask she made for a school project this week reminds me more of Boy George.
Expert Guitar Hero accompanist. Notice the look of total concentration. The girl is serious about her Nirvana.
Keith and I chuckle because many of their favorite songs were our favorites decades ago. When we sing along, they're horrified.
And the beat goes on....
Posted at 12:26 pm by beckyww
Thursday, February 12, 2009
I always figured if I could truly live by these, I wouldn't need a savior.
But I can't.
And I do.
And Julia is - bit by bit, verse by verse - learning that lesson, too.
"....and a little child will lead them."
p.s. For now - #7 means showing your panties.
Posted at 05:18 pm by beckyww
Sunday, February 08, 2009
Troy, Gabriella and the Kids from the 'Hood
Lois offered to help at Julia's "High School Musical" birthday party with the neighbor kids on Friday night and I said, "Oh, no, Lois - go to the dance with Jamie. It's okay. Rachel and I can handle it."
Then Rachel called. She was needed at her co-op teacher's house Friday night for some DECA work. So that left me with bingo, balloons and buttercream frosting for eight. Especially after Keith announced he had to work outside. Right now.
Much sneaking around and "shhh'ing" while everyone surreptitiously signed the High School Musiscal "Yearbook" that Hannah gave Julia.
The kids belted out the lyrics to "We're All In This Together." Very. Loudly. Parker (the only boy) and Toni (front right) are Julia's very best friends. Parker is Julia's nemesis in the Star Wars sword battles in the cul-de-sac. In fact.....
...Look! Oh, wow! It's a second - and different - Star Wars sword! Who would have believed there are two models?!
Crazy 8 Ball....another great gift especially if you ask it, "Will Julia marry Parker?"
I forgot to buy two sets of eight paper cups - one set to fill with soda and accompany pizza, and the other (later) for cake. So while the kids were upstairs pounding out Guitar Hero, I hurried rinsed, dried and re-stacked the only eight themed cups we had. When Rachel saw this picture, she pronounced me "totally ghetto."
Coloring High School Musical pillowcases to take home - big fun! I was frantically sprinting to the utility room between activities to practice my mad ironing skills setting the designs.
High School Musical bingo with fabulous prizes, thanks to the Target Dollar Spot. There's nothing much more fun for me than an hour alone in Target, just hitting the clearance caps. Kudos to Rachel and Hannah for decorations, as those top the list of the many things at which I fail.
The ever-so-classic High School Musical locker cake. Make a wish, Julia!
Hard to believe my baby is nine years old. I've been debating dragging out the rule imposed on her sisters back in the day - "You get a birthday party every other year." But I dunno We have six lost birthdays with her, and it make me sad to think of no presents, no cake, no spanking, no "I'm so glad you were born" teasing and laughter for those first six years.
So - what the heck - I imagine we'll have a party again next year. After all:
Together, together, together everyone
Together, together, come on let's have some fun
Together, were there for each other every time
Together together come on lets do this right
Posted at 12:04 pm by beckyww
Sunday, February 01, 2009
Back from the Birthday Date
And Mom was right. "Julia. I'm your father."
May the force be with you.
Posted at 05:33 pm by beckyww
Number 9, Number 9, Number 9
Julia turned nine years old today - big fun!
So bowling's not her thing, okay? A Spiderman soccer ball from the Edwards was taken out of its packaging the minute we got home from church. It's being kicked around by the kids in the cul-de-sac as I type.
Dad's waffles for breakfast - ummm! Plus a sausage'n'biscuit for me, who cannot stand sweets in the morning. We went to late church so we'd have time to eat and clean up. Rachel - sans make-up - must, of course, hide her face like a felon.
Birthdays call for the red "You Are Special" plate (thanks again, Paula, for replacing the one we broke two years ago!) That's Rachel's oversized University of Houston sweatshirt Julia's wearing. She's taken to wearing one of Rachel's sweatshirts every night over her pajamas. Interestingly, having newly-adopted kids wear your clothes is a strategy for aiding attachment, according to the best adoption book I ever read, "Attaching in Adoption" by Deborah Gray. No, Rachel is not her parent, but Keith and I knew from the get-go that it was as important for Julia to attach to her sisters as it was to us because we were a unit when she came home. So I am not threatened by her wearing Rachel's sweatshirt instead of mine, or sitting in Rachel's or Lois' lap in church instead of mine. We all know I'm the maternal unit around here.
Elementary-age kids get to take turns being "Star Students" at school, with the teachers often timing their Star week near their birthdays. Julia is Star Student in her class this coming week. Thankfully, Rachel is crafty and offered to work with her on her Star Student board. (I am allergic to glue guns.) After Julia selected the pictures to use and composed the captions, she said, "This is taking forever. How about I go outside and play while you finish?"
A work of art with pictures of her family, neighbors, church buds and cousin Laura. Plus my favorite picture of her in Russia - in the blue jacket and stocking cap, on the playground across the courtyard from the orphanage. The kids could see it, but were not allowed to play there. She was so happy to get to climb on the equipment. For me - that picture is her 'baby picture," and I treasure it. I took it on February 15, 2006, the day after we met her - almost three years ago, I can't believe it.
Tonight, she goes on her birthday date with her Daddy. She'll undoubtedly pick Chinese food (egg drop soup), and then to pick out her family gift (which I'm betting is a Star Wars sword.) Thursday, I'm reading a story to her class and taking donuts for an after-lunch treat. Then Friday, we're having her "High School Musical" birthday party with the neighbor kids.
My birthday was yesterday. Rachel asked me, "Mom, don't you feel you get shorted with one of your kids' birthdays the day after yours?" No! I love it. Gives us one more thing to share. Which is what families do, doncha know?
Posted at 12:38 pm by beckyww
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Saturday, January 24, 2009
Hannah and I represented our agency
at an adoption fair today. Our family has worked several since Julia came home at age six in May, 2006. I love 'em! Love sensing people's hearts and mentally meshing those desires with the questions that either tumble - or fumble - out of their mouths. We've gotten lots of good use out of Julia's kindergarten "Star Student" board, which Rachel creatively and meticiously prepared for class display in early 2007. It tells so much of her adoption story visually - it's a great prop for tabling events.
In case you miss the adoption events
in which we participate, here are handy (real life) question and answer pairs to savor. No, I didn't make them up. I couldn't.Why Russia? Why didn't you adopt children from this country?
The short answer is, "God led us to adopt from Russia." The raise-my-eyebrows answer is, "We're leaving those kids for you!"
Aren't you a little old to have an eight-year-old?
Sure am! Thanks for reminding me. I'm always the grayest mom at the Brownie meetings. Do the math - there's 44 years between Julia and me. But I'm going to be doing something. Something is going to fill my hours. Why not something that matters? When I'm on my death bed, I don't want to be gasping, "I wish I had...."
What does Julia call you? (Yes, I have been asked this)
"Mommy." Which is good, since I don't keep maintenance items that don't call me "Mommy."
You already had three girls. Why didn't you adopt a boy? Didn't your husband want a boy?
Because we had three girls and for a boy to fit, he would have had to have been a "pet" - really, really young. We didn't feel led to adopt a really young child who had a much better chance at a forever family If one of the original three had been a boy, that would have been just fine - but we knew #4 had to be a girl to fit in. My (wonderful) husband wants what he has. That's one of the reasons I love him.
Honestly - wouldn't you really rather have gotten a baby? (Usually half-whispered in a conspirital tone)
Honestly - no. (Usually stated quite loudly.) I have the patience of a gnat and expended my last nerve shepherding three toddlers. Plus I don't like the visual of Similac on the same kitchen counter with my menopause meds.
Did you speak Russian when you got her? Did she speak English?
Keith learned several Russian phrases before we traveled. I learned a few words including "da," "nyet" and "ya-ta-la-le-blue," which means "I love you." Julia knew, "Mama" and "Papa." This sounds harsh and has gotten me flamed for saying so on user boards, but reality is that Julia was moving here and had to learn English, I was not moving to Russia. I kept some Russian/English cheat sheets around the house for about three weeks after she came home, then I tossed them because hand gestures, facial expressions and tone of voice communicate sans language. At three months home, she started regular kindergarten and is performing at grade level in school. So I'm thinking my failure to speaka da Rusky didn't traumatize her too heavily.
How long did it take to adopt her?
Way too long. We were caught in an accreditation mess. We submitted our dossier in November, 2004 and brought her home May, 2006. Judging by user board posts, it's faster now, though the rules have changed. It's very tough and very rare to bring home a Russian child less than 18 months old. If you're in a hurry for an infant, Ethiopia is the place now.
How does she get along with her sisters?
Our three original girls were every bit as much responsible for Julia's assimilation as were Keith and I. I couldn't have been more proud of how they prepared for and welcomed a new sister. She's now Hannah's pest, Lois' sidekick and Rachel's treasure. Understand that Hannah, Lois and Rachel are teenagers now, or, as I like to call them, "hormones with hair." Because of the age split, they're more likely to fight with each other than they are with Julia. Their fusses with Julia are commonly over her refusal to or tardiness in completing an assigned task ("Pick up your shoes") as opposed to interpersonal peer friction ("That's my shirt!") Keith and I had three girls in four and a half years that are now teens. We are awash in hair brushes, straighteners and conditioner. What were we thinking?!
Do you love her as much as your real kids?
I love all four of my real kids really differently. Children are added to any family with different temperaments whether by birth or adoption. They're added at different times in your life when your interests, maturity level and resources (including energy) vary. So how could you ever say you love each child "the same?" My eldest reminds me of my mother, whom I miss every day. My #2 reminds me of how precious life is. My #3 is passion personified. And my #4 is the culmination of a 30+ year belief that one day I'd adopt.
I know someone who knows someone who has a child that need a home. How about yours?
Ummm....how about yours? Adoption is not a trip to the Quik-E-Mart to grab a loaf of bread, some eggs and oh, yeah, Abbu, throw a child in there too, why doncha?
Don't all kids from Russia have Fetal Alcohol Syndrome? That's what I've heard.
No, they don't. But you do your homework before you travel - you decide what you can and can't handle (and stick to it) - you engage an international adoption doctor for evaluation - and you pray for guidance. There are between 700K and 2M kiddos in Russia who need homes. We played with Julia's friends in Children's Home #47 We saw a few kiddos with evidence of FAS, but mostly what we saw were eager faces trying to catch Keith's eye while their little arms wrapped around his legs.
Is your family from Russia?
Just the one member.
Do you plan to take her back to Russia some time?
Yes, in the vague sort of way that I'd like to take bible classes at a university, or go on an Alaskan cruise. We'd like to - really we would - but reality is we have four kids with different needs (like college) that supersede wants. If we can, we will. But I am not going to pace the floor at night worrying about it.
My cousin's ex-husband's neighbor's bus driver adopted a child from Russia who turned into a psychopathic ax murderer with dandruff, acne and bad breath. Aren't you afraid of that?
I'm afraid of lots of things. I'm more fearful of the influence of a fallen world on my girls than I am of a genetic weakness or early childhood trauma-cum-disaster brewing in them. Julia was and is a bright, beautiful, smart child. Like her sisters, I expect her to be a great woman of God some day. (Note: The only thing worse than being told horror stories when you're pregnant are being told horror stories when you're adopting.)
How do you love someone else's child? I just don't think I could do that.
Me neither. Glad I don't have to.
Do you know anything about Julia's real mother?
A lot - I looked in a mirror this morning. I know the most important thing about Julia's first mother, too - that she loved Julia enough to give birth to her. I pray every day that she feels a peace about Julia.
Do you have any children of your own?
Yes. Four of them.
Would you do it again?
At the time to get Julia - yes. Today to get another child - no, stick a fork in me, I am done. Though when I view friends' websites, I sigh and think..... (Keith's answer to this question is not the same. He'd be on a plane in a heartbeat if a bucket'o'bucks landed in our laps.)
How much did she cost?
Julia's adoption cost about $32,000. Lois' premature birth was about seven times that amount. But my babies themselves - they're priceless.
Posted at 05:57 pm by beckyww
Saturday, January 17, 2009
Every now and again, glimpses of my pre-maternal life pop up and startle me. Like, I'll find myself car dancing to Bruce Springsteen. Or I'll buy a can of biscuits without a coupon. Experiences my mom would call "wild hairs."
Red sequined jacket and The Boss on the boom box - definitely not maternal. But a great "Jingle Bell Rock" Christmas card picture with Sarah and David in 1986. Note the bells on David's wheels. He used to say, "Hair is just entertainment." You can't see my wild hair here - a 6" pink-bleached rat tail. My boss Vicki would gulp hard every time I sauntered into the Southwestern Bell Comptrollers building wearing my matching hot pink jelly sandals.
The girls and Keith will tell you - I'm the mean one who is always trying to balance the paychecks with the mortgage payment, car payment, insurance, etc. As Keith says, "We'd have more money if you didn't fritter it away on bills."
Three times at Sam's this holiday season, I fingered - then replaced - certificates for a local spa entitling the bearer to a hair shampoo and cut, microderm abrasion treatment, facial, massage and make-up application - for $45. I kept thinking how much fun it would be to do with Rachel, Lois and Hannah. How we don't have that many more years with all of them at home. Then I would (responsibly) remind myself of fall expenses not fully paid for. And sigh. And walk away to check the clearance corner in the back of the store. (Remember that when you're shopping there!)
Fast forward to riding the bus home my last day of work before the hoildays. Only 10 of us - very unusual - and mostly women chattin' it up instead of taking our afternoon naps. One of my bus buds decribed buying certificates for her mom and sisters, and how much fun they were going to have using them. That did it. I told Keith, "I'm going to get them tomorrow." I surprised the girls on New Year's Day.
We used the first today - for lovely shampoos (with heavenly scalp massages) followed by haircuts.
BEFORE: Rachel told us, "Frown, like they do in all the 'before' diet ads." All we need are numbers under our chins.
AFTER: Rachel, Lois and Hannah have Keith's thick, shiny hair. Hannah went for layers which were Texas-big-hair-poofy before we we traipsed through the grocery store. I just wanted mine shorter. ("Mom, you've wasted a salon cut.") Rachel got her hair thinned with side bangs. Lois got a "semi-dramatic concave bob," which sounds like something you get if you fall off a trampoline - but it looks really cute.
Over the holidays, I (finally!) completed photo albums for each daughter, the first since Julia came home. I devoted a page in Lois' book to her ever-changing locks. "Am I the only person in this family who will ever do anything different with her hair?"
Rachel had a great idea for using the make-up applications - we'll go get them the afternoon of her high school graduation. I'd planned to take that day off anyway. As for the massages, microderm abrasians and facials...well, we're not sure right now. We'll use them sometime this year when we are just feeling crazy.
You know - just having a wild hair.
Posted at 12:08 pm by beckyww