Friday, June 19, 2009

What It Mean, I Born In China?

You know, the international adoption gig can be so strange as time passes, your kids grow up a little and you end up with two very normal little kids who beg to take gymnastics classes, ride bicycles in the cul-de-sac, and learn to float in swim lessons. Just like everyone else.

But then there are days that throw you a little. These are days that bring a flood of memories filled with hot dark civil affairs government buildings in Chinese capital cities, scared screaming babies, and Chinese officials speaking a mile a minute in a sea of chaos.

The fact that we could never get a straight answer on exactly where Ava spent her first 8 months of life in Yueyang County, Hunan has admittedly always bothered me. I've told myself it shouldn't since I got the gift of Ava, isn't a happy healthy beautiful child enough? I've told myself it isn't my story, it's hers, why should this continue to nag at my consciousness? Time has softened the "need to know more, need to know the whole truth". Although I have tried, I simply cannot let it completely go. In the back of my mind there is still something about her first 8 months of life that is locked up in a director's need to hold tight information he deemed possibly unnecessary or embarrassing for the orphanage.

The official paperwork stated she spent approximately 6 months in the orphanage. But, I have pictures showing the baby room empty with captions that read "babies in foster care due to construction". When I questioned our agency several months after we came home about any foster care, our agency reported that the orphanage stated that no records were kept on how long construction took and which babies were sent to be fostered. Due to the fact that this orphanage has always been relatively small and fully embroiled in the international adoption program with the CCAA, I found that hard to believe. Strict paperwork is required by the CCAA.

I had a sense that the director wasn't giving families full information when I met him the day after we met Ava. I thanked him for taking such good care of the 5 babies that came to us that day. He wouldn't look me in the eye. I told him I would send pictures of Ava as she grew. He bowed slightly and looked at his cell phone. I asked him for a business card to keep in touch, he told me through an interpreter that he had forgotten them that day, and that they weren't needed.

Over the years since 2002 a few families have been able to visit the orphanage, to my knowledge, more recently in 2007 and forward. I read these listserve posts when they return home over and over looking for bits of information that may piece the whole truth together. I print the photos of the orphanage and surrounding areas off to place in Ava's big box of all things adoption. Were the children fostered? What does fostering mean at Yueyang County? I suspect that when a child goes home with an orphanage employee at night, that might constitute fostering vs. living full time at a family residence.

Somewhere in about mid 2004 Yueyang County officials began telling families that their children were fostered. As Ava grew a few families posted that they were able to visit the orphanage. Some were allowed to take a few photos of the inside, some were not. Some were treated very kindly and were taken to lunch by the orphanage officials. Recently, a family traveled to Yueyang and was granted permission to visit the facility. When they inquired about their daughter's orphanage file, they were shown information they didn't know existed. A time and exact date of birth. The family shared an email address for the director. There is even a photo of the director, it is not the same man we met in Changsha in 2002.

I emailed the mother who visited just a few weeks ago and asked if she thought the director would check a file if a family made a request via email? She said it might be worth a try. I'm working on a draft to ask this director whether he would be kind enough to search for a file created and closed 7 years ago. I have no idea whether he would process such a request. I think that I will include a photo collage of the referral picture and a few photos of Ava growing up.

Just as the dust was settling on this issue yesterday another one boiled up. I was putting Olivia to bed and after her story she asked, "Mama, what it mean I born in China?" This is the first time she has shown any interest or understanding about her adoption. I did my best to explain "born in China" to my sleepy 3 year old. In typical Liv fashion she seemed to take it all in quietly and with great intent to understand. Then she asked to see pictures of China and our trip in 2006 when she woke up. Today we are looking through photos of our trips to China. I am reminded how time passes quickly. On some level, I suppose I am again determined to know all that I can about my babies precious first few months of life. Even if it means I have to keep asking.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Cul-De-Sac Summer Day 2

Is it just me or is that transition from school year delicious'ness called SCHEDULE into summertime ridiculous'ness eat what you want, sleep when you want, yell at your mom when your want just a little bit like driving toothpicks under your toenails? Maybe I'm just the type of gal who doesn't transition well. I remember being a manager at work several years ago in a new job and feeling way out of sorts when I didn't know with whom I would eat my lunch. I had to smack myself around a bit saying I was making way too much money and supervising way too many people to be worried about lunch, but I was. A few weeks later I'd inevitably adjust to whatever the situation was and wind up fine and dandy. I guess I'm your average hate the new "job" for a week or so and then settle down and relish each moment type of gal.

Last week was my official 1st week on the job as "At home Mom, to two." I was at the beach thinking Oh, this year will be easier...the girls are older...I'm used to transitioning to having 2 at home...and gee whizzz aren't they being rather well behaved?" Hmmph, I guess the fact that they weren't THAT much work had something to do with the Muffin Man and my father helping out quite a bit. Perhaps the good behavior had something to do with WE WERE IN PARADISE and all they had to do was choose between swimming in the gulf of Mexico or the fabulous resort pool. Oh yeah, ice cream at 3pm might have helped mood balance too.

Now reality has set in. Ava pitched a big bitch this morning when I wouldn't let her have sirloin soup for breakfast. Why we would even have sirloin soup in the pantry is a mystery to me. All this makes me think I need to take the Muffin Man's grocery card away, but that's another drama for another day. Liv insists on riding her two wheeler in the cul-de-sac about 18 hours a day in circus bear circles and can't understand why she keeps falling off and skinning her knee after the 10,000th lap. She looks at me like I'm ET when I try to tell her to do 5,000 to the left and 5,000 to the right. Presto, no skinned knee caused by vertigo.

I took them both grocery shopping with me this afternoon. You know where this is going right? Mayhem ensued and I threatened them loudly as they pulled organic crackers down off aisle 9. I rounded a corner and saw a mother with no less than 4 children, calmly walking beside her as she put toothpaste into the cart. These calm mothers need to give up the secret.

I'm just telling myself I simply need two weeks to get into the groove of the "new job". I'll be basking happily at the pool in no time right? I'll figure out a way to get Ava to practice her times tables and she will go to 2nd grade knowing what 3 times 4 equals. She loves her advanced math class, but we've hit the wall practicing times tables, period end of story. Livi will undoubtedly master the cartwheel this summer pulling herself off the bike and finding another way to contort her little body into rapid concentric circles. All will align for us in the universe. We will get our groove on, won't we?

UPDATED THIS MORNING: I decided to take the girls to the free park concert last night. I got the fried chicken and Polly Pockets packed in the cooler. We even had healthy carrots, or did we? I arrived at the concert in the next town and realized I'd left the packed cooler in the garage. I forgot to put the damned thing in the car. Oy. Looking forward to day 3 and 4 and 5 and 67. Day 67 is when school starts in case you're counting.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Oh Captiva, My Captiva

We're back, after our week in paradise. I'm all cranked out because I could move there, sit on a lonely beach and start margharita's at 3pm each and every day. Is that any way to live a life, accomplishing nothing, achieving little unless you count a pickled liver, and functioning at the rate of a sea snail? Probably not, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit to want to trying it out for a few years or decades. Please oh, Vanguard accounts of the world...earn momma some vacation home dollars for a happy retirement.

My most stressful problem was how to keep Olivia from becoming polka dotted with the pesky skin condition that turns that adorable kid about 6 different shades of human within 1 week of being in the sun. I know she'll get me good for this one day but I made her wear a rather unattractive hat each and every moment we were outside. And the darn kid is still native brown. So far she's only lightly spotted, I'll report back if she enters techni color status for the summer.

Ava's lovely black silk hair quickly turned to fish wire as she swam in the pool and ocean every day. But, that's nothing a good baking soda and ultra swim shampoo treatment won't cure here when I get around to it.

Oh, yeah and there was the dilemma about whether or not to eat the Muffin Man's steak fajita's for three meals or four emptying a refrigerator full of leftovers onto my ass. I opted for three meals, and yes I'll be paying for it this week and next as the old summer wardrobe is not as comfy loose as it was 8 days ago. With these problems world peace would be a cinch for me. I'm ready to come work for Obama any day he makes that call and springs me from the cul-de-sac.

This week away from it all was about more than a hollywood glad rag magazine and flip flops. It was educational. We saw dolphins dancing off the side of a boat ride, jumping in the ocean as we built sand castles, and even hob nobbed with manatees at a local marina. Believe it or not the Muffin Man even saw a 9 ft. manatee glide by while he was swimming in the ocean. I probably would have freaked out and scared the poor barnacle infested thing over to the bay side, so it was good only he got to swim with the sea cow.

It's back to reality now. Kids are out of school, husband travels for work this summer and I'm left making nachos at 7pm for the kids, popping in a movie and calling it "family time"as justification for the not-so-nutricious-cheese fest. Stop on by the back yard for a lemonade.