Tuesday, May 29, 2007

True Feminism

I don't actually think of myself as a feminist or a non-feminist. I think women should have equal opportunities to men. I think men should have similar opportunities to women. This is evidenced, at least in small part, by our family goal to have Jason become a full-time-stay-at-home-dad, while I go off to be our family wage-earner. Fortunately for me, this is one place where Jason and I see eye to eye. And I know you're thinking it-- but I do recognize that complete equality is neither physically possible, nor is it likely desirable. I'm thinking a bunch of pregnant men running around would give me (and many other women) a gigantic headache!

Like many strong-willed, independently-minded women, I hope to raise my daughter to be equally independent. I hope to teacher her self-reliance. I hope she becomes confident and trusts herself above all others. And along with that comes my complete (well, almost complete) lack of concern over gender-specific attire and such. Don't get me wrong, I like dressing her in pink now and again. I want her to grow her hair out. I am not anti-femininity by any stretch of the imagination. But if Marcie wants to wear her brother's hand-me-down Car clothes-- even his (gasp!) underwear (seeing as how they don't make it in girl version), I'm not gonna get in her way.

And when she picks up the Thomas trains, or she climbs in the giant dump truck, or she points out trucks and buses on the road, I feel no concern that she is not appropriately girly. I just don't think it should-- or does-- matter.

But I think the true measure of feminism has nothing to do with how a mother raises her daughter. I think for true signs of equality, we need look no further than a mother-- or father's-- attitude toward their son's attire. Choice of toys. And such. And last week I got an ever-so-brief lesson in what that really means when we were at a local park. Casey saw a scooter laying on the ground, and he decided he wanted to test it out. So he did. Mind you, he was completely unconcerned by its appearance. Here he is riding it at the park:

Now, I have no concerns that because Casey selected the pink princess scooter it's an indication of his sexuality. He's four, for crying out loud. And I wouldn't even really mind if it were. He is who he is. But something inside me screamed out in alarm-- I mean, if he picked this out for himself, would I purchase it? Or would I direct him toward a "more appropriate" Spiderman version? And if Marcie were his older sister instead of his younger one and she had a scooter like this, would I be content with Casey riding it as a hand-me-down toy? Or would I feel compelled to purchase him a more "masculine" scooter? I'd like to think the notion of my son riding around on a pink, frilly scooter evokes no reaction in me at all-- just as it clearly evoked no reaction in him. Maybe I should be taking a lesson from Casey in what it really means to be a feminist!

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Drumroll please . . .

So I've been away from blogging for an entire week. And, very uncharacteristically, I've also been away from reading other blogs for most of the week. I'm starting to go through withdrawal!
When I left off, I was anxiously awaiting the results of my final exams to see where I'd pan out in class rank at the end of it all. I was also coming down with a pretty nasty cold. As for the cold, I'm doing much better -- no thanks to my bar review schedule, though. Monday I studied for about 4 hours after our Barbri class, and I landed in bed completely dizzy and wiped out. I felt better Tuesday, but after 5 hours of a Barbri torts lecture and another 3 hours of studying, I went to another three hour lecture. Wednesday I took it easy because my parents were in town, and we celebrated my mom's 33rd birthday. Obviously, it isn't really my mom's 33rd birthday-- and my mom's not the kind of lady who's hung up on age at all. It's just that I forgot to buy candles, and since Jason and I both celebrated our 33rd birthdays this past November, we had two #3 candles lying around, which we used. We had delicious carrot bundt cake and cheesecake, too.

Thursday was grueling. The Barbri lecture (by one of my all-time favorite legal scholars-- Erwin Chemerinsky!) was from 9-5. I immediately went to another torts lecture following that-- finishing my day around 10pm. Then Friday I took it easy. After Barbri, Jason and I ran some errands and headed out with my parents to the law school awards ceremony.

There's no way I'll be able to keep this pace and survive all the way until the end of July-- but this is graduation week, so I've sucked it up for now, and I'm hoping to settle in to a normal routine this coming week.

Here's the basic run-down on the graduation stuff.

Friday night was the awards ceremony. I think it was pretty close, but in the end, I did end up getting the Legal Scholar Award. This was given to me because I earned the highest GPA in the evening division of law school. There aren't a lot of us in the evening division-- which basically just means among those who attended school part-time over 4 years instead of full-time for 3 years. But I worked hard to keep this standing, and I really wanted this award. It came with a very generous cash gift. We went to Spaghetti Factory for dinner because that's what I really wanted. We never go there (even though it's a great price) because the kids don't eat pasta. So it was a treat for me.

Then, this morning, at graduation, they asked me to put a doily on my mortar board. Being a traditionalist and not wanting anything on my cap, initially I refused. "No thanks," I said. "I'm kind of a traditionalist."

"It's for Order of the Coif," they explained. Order of the Coif is a national honor society-- not every school is able to initiate members into this society. And the students admitted must be in the top 10 % of their graduating class. My school inducted 33 members. I was one of them. They did a special induction during the awards ceremony during which we were recognized. It was cool.

During the graduation ceremony, there were two main speakers. A prestigious keynote-- one of the Supreme Court of Minnesota justices (whose name escapes me at the moment). He spoke about legal ethics and the importance of being ethical in practice. I missed most of the speech because I was reviewing intentional torts and defamation elements in my mind (still trying to memorize). The other speaker was our class valedictorian-- who gave an entertaining and engaging speech dispelling three myths of law school graduation. She also touched a bit on ethics-- she explained that a friend of hers received a reference request for her moral character application. The request read: Does this applicant hold herself up to the standard you expect of an attorney in the legal profession? He wanted to to know if it was a joke-- would it be more helpful to answer that question in the positive or the negative, given the reputation of the legal profession today . . .

Anyway, when they read names, they also indicated the honors the individual received. So students learned as they were walking across stage whether they were in the top 5% or the top 15% (or if they were in either). I knew I was in the top 10% from receiving Order of the Coif, but I was delighted to learn I graduated magna cum laude, which means I was in the top 5% of the graduating class!

So there you go. Law school is officially over. I am officially a graduate. I worked my butt off. My husband worked his tail off holding the family together. My in-laws were our safety net, watching the kids whenever we needed their help, always encouraging me. My siblings and siblings-in-law stepped up time and again when I needed someone to watch the kids or help me out with something. My parents listened to me gripe about the test or grades or whatever. My friends reminded me that I need to strive for balance in my life-- that life is not just about law school. And my kids . . . . well, they're a major part of the reason I went to school in the first place. I loved teaching, but being an attorney means they get a stay-at-home parent (hopefully in the next two years). So while everyone congratulated me and celebrated me today because I was the one who read the books and outlined the material and wrote the exams-- I know this accomplishment isn't just about me. It's about all those people who pushed me along the way.

And I'll just mention one other thing. I didn't get into law school. I was rejected from every school to which I applied, and only wait-listed at the University of San Diego School of Law. I'm not sure why-- I actually had the numbers for any of the schools. I guess I didn't show well on paper. Regardless, a mere three days before the start of orientation, USD offered me a spot off the wait-list, and I accepted it-- with a lot of prodding from my parents and Jason. I find great satisfaction in being the kid who didn't even get accepted-- but still earned the highest GPA in my unit and graduated among the top 16 people in the school. It just goes to show you that you can't always judge a person by what they look like on paper.

Photo credits: My mom and Casey at her birthday party, me and Marcie before I left for graduation (Casey refused to take a photo with me, while I shouted after him, "You'll regret that decision in 10 years when you want to know where your picture with me is!"- he didn't seem to care), Jason and me, Jim and me and Yee (me with my in-laws) , me with my parents, my study group (Paul & Delinda)-- who are going to help me prepare for and pass the California bar!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Catching Air

I have a feeling Marcie is going to like rollercoasters (just like her Mama). Check her out:

Friday, May 18, 2007

Bows and the Bathtub

No time to write at the moment. But enjoy!

I'm so impressed Grandma was able to tie actual ribbon bows in her hair!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Sniffles and Hacking

Marcie finished her antibiotic eye drops on Saturday for the eye infection. Guess what she woke up with yesterday? A cold. The poor child hasn't gone (I think maybe literally) a whole week healthy in I-don't-remember-how-long! A part of me wonders why. We don't have her in day care. (But her brother is in preschool and apparently likes to bring home germs!) And a part of me thinks, Well, at least she's building up her immune system now.

She had her 18 month check up yesterday. I had class so Jason took her. They wanted to give her vaccinations even though she has a cold. They explained that it's still recommended by the American Pediatrics Association to do it and that most doctors will. Jason told them they can wait a week for her immune system to build up some. She's been on antibiotics almost continuously for so long-- her body needs some time to heal itself. And this cold. They were pretty high-pressure, but Jason held his ground. She'll go back next week for the shots.

Here are her stats:
Age: 18 months, 1 day
Height: 32.75 inches (80th percentile)-- this is less than before. At her 1-year, she was in the 90-something percentile.
Weight: 27 lbs (80th percentile)-- so for all those people out there who comment what a "healthy" girl she is, she is exactly proportionate!
Head Circumference: 47 cm (65th percentile). We think her head is large now! Not too big for her body, just large. I can't imagine if her noggin were also in the 80th percentile!

We're also sleep training. Marcie goes down to bed like a dream now (thanks to Jason). No tears. She just lays down in bed and puts herself asleep. It took about 5 days to train her to do that. But she's still waking up at least once in the night-- and sometimes twice and screaming for me. Then falling right back asleep if one of us goes in with her.

I've been really paranoid (that's not the right word for it-- cautious is more appropriate) about sleep training. Though Marcie has transitioned into our family beautifully, I know that sometimes children only exhibit attachment problems at night. One school of thought is that if you don't show up when your child is screaming for you, she will feel abandoned. Another school of thought is that if you're there for hr the other 98% of the time, it's all fine. I don't think either is necessarily right 100% of the time. And I think that with children adopted in the later parts of infancy from an institution or from foster care, you really have to trust your gut.

I can hear in Marcie's scream that she is not actually scared. Her nighttime screaming and crying is her tantrum screaming and crying. And so I've taught her that if she pitches a fit, I will come. It's time to re-teach her. It's important that she know how to put herself back to sleep.

Last night she woke up twice. The first time, I was still up. After a couple minutes, I just appeared in her doorway and told her, "Mommy's here. Go back to sleep, Marcie. Lay down." and she did. The second time, she didn't calm down from my words. So I went into the room and rubbed her back and told her I loved her and it was time to sleep. I kissed her goodnight and left the room.

She woke me up again around 5:45am this morning, which is normal for her. So I think that's a good sign. Of course, I've said that before and been wrong. Plus, apparently she woke up Monday and Tuesday nights, too, and I didn't hear her-- so Jason went in with her. He's not up yet, so it's possible he spent part of last night with her, too.

Anyway, that's what we're up to these days!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Yep. It's Over. Sort of.

Today was my last law school exam. So I'm finished. Unless I failed one of the exams. Which is unlikely. I mean, I know I didn't bomb either of them. Besides, the rumor is that if you do fail a final exam, they have you either write a paper on the topic or retake the test until you pass it. Of course, that all has to happen in the next 9 days or so because graduation is a week from Saturday.

I felt really prepared for both exams. I honestly don't think additional studying would have helped me perform on either of them. Yet I do not feel like I nailed either of them. And in law school, it's never just about you you do-- it's about how you do in comparison to everyone else.

Why do I care? As has been pointed out to me-- I have a job lined up for the fall. My grades don't really matter. I'm not going to be class valedictorian or anything. And even if I did earn Ds in these last two courses, I would still graduate in the top 10% of my class. . .

Well, the answer to that is fear. Pure and simple. I have been number one in my section (not the school, mind you-- just my puny section of students who began law school in the fall of 2003 and will graduate in 2007) since the fall of 2004. That's a long time. And a lot of pressure. Especially since there's no award for being first in the Evening section. Except that there is. An award. For being number 1. And I happen to know that number 2 is less than .05 behind me. So my performance this week will actually determine if I am awarded an honor for being first in my section. It's not the end of the world if I don't get it. I'm still graduating. With honors. But it'd be a bummer to work this hard for this long and then not get that darned award. Of course, I'm sure the #2 person feels similarly!

So even though law school is over and the bar is still a couple months off, I have managed to find something to be obsessed and high-strung about. What a shock.

In the meantime, to help calm my nerves while waiting for the actual awards and graduation ceremonies, I am . . .


My first bar review course started Monday (the day before yesterday). I skipped (gasp!) the first two classes because they conflicted with my final exams, and I'll make up the bar review classes next week.

Geesh. Talk about giving a girl a little bit '0 stress. Have her finish her last final and begin studying for the bar exam before she even gets to celebrate the graduation part!

Oh well. I guess I'd better get used to not having any real vacations if I'm going to be an attorney!

Car Scares

Does this ever happen to you?
It's happened to me a few times now, and it scares the hell out of me every time.

Here's what happens:
6:00am (maybe 5:45am) Marcie wakes up. Bright eyed. Cheery even. This morning she sang out "MOMMY!" and got right up in my face to wake me up.

6:02 am Marcie gets dressed.

6:05 am Marcie watches her brother get dressed.

6:10 am Marcie and Casey brush their teeth.

6:15 am Marcie drinks a couple of milk and snacks on dry cereal while she toddles around and gets into things. Casey gets a bowl of cereal and 30 minutes of TV (if he was good when it was time to dress and brush his teeth).

6:30 am Marcie harasses Casey and they bicker. I intervene. Casey tells Marcie to stop trying to eat his cereal already! I remind Casey he needs to eat his cereal.

6:35 am Marcie watches me make Casey's lunch and Jason's breakfast. She begs for more food because she's finished eating her dry cereal. She wants bread with peanut butter. More often than not, I don't relent because I know she's had enough dry cereal.

6:45 am The TV goes off and Marcie begins following Casey around while he plays. Marcie checks on me in the bathroom, where I'm usually showering and putting on make up at this point in the morning.

7:15 am We say good bye to Casey and to Daddy. I search for a sweatshirt or jacket to put on Marcie. I load up the car. I put Marcie in her car seat and buckle her in. I try to entice her to read a book in the backseat.

7:30am We finally pull out of the driveway to go to Grandma's house where Marcie will spend the day.

7:40am I chat with Marcie while we are at a stop light. I can see in the rear view mirror that she is occupying herself by untying her shoelaces and bending over to reach a lace and chew on it. We smile and laugh.

7:45am I look back in the rear view mirror, and Marcie is still playing with the shoelace.

7:47am I look back as we round the corner to Grandma's street and Marcie is passed out. Sometimes she's slumped sideways. Sometimes her head is tossed back. I feel sudden panic. How could she fall asleep that quickly? She didn't even look tired! IS she asleep? Did she get something and choke on it? Is she breathing? I call out to her, "Marcie! Marcie! Wake up!" Horrible thoughts run through my mind -- I try to remember how to do mouth-to-mouth as I pull into Grandma's driveway, ready to pull her out of her car seat and throw her on the grass to perform whatever life-saving technique is necessary.

7:49am I put the car in park and turn off the engine. I leap out of the car, race to the side her car seat is on, and begin tugging on the straps to undo them. I try to check her pulse with my left hand while I unbuckle the belt with my right. No luck. So I lean over her face, hoping to feel her breath on my cheek. I do. And I feel sudden relief.

7:50am I lift Marcie out of the car seat and walk her to the front door. I am so glad she is okay. Grandma reaches out for Marcie, and we quietly remove her shoes so she can nap.

But seriously-- a nap? Already? The kid hasn't been awake even two hours! She 18 months old! She goes without napping at all some days!

All this worrying sure does tucker me out sometimes.

B.S. #3-- Timeline

4/07 Lots of research on Taiwan adoption

5/08/07 Selected potential Taiwan agency

5/10/07 Contacted CCAI about new China requirements (we qualify)

5/14/07 Received CCAI application

5/15/07 Submitted CCAI appliction (mailed it) (fee waived for second-time adoption!)

5/15/07 Contacted Adoption Options, our homestudy agency

5/15/07 Received Financial Statement/Verification of 90-day average bank account balances from our bank

5/17/07 Received homestudy application paperwork and filled it out. (Fee waived for second-time adoption!)

5/18/07 Delivered homestudy application and 2 photos of each of us to our homestudy agency (Adoption Options). Paid first homestudy fee.

5/21/07 Received homestudy packet/information.

5/22/07 Application officially accepted by CCAI. Received medical risk document and fee payment schedule to get notarized and to return.

5/24/07 Jason's first physical appointment

5/25/07 Request for criminal clearance letters at the County Sheriff

5/25/07 Notarized CCAI agreement and risk statement

5/25/07 Mailed CCAI agreement, risk statement, and first fee

5/25/07 Mailed I600A with fee for processing and fingerprinting

5/27/07 Asked two friends to write letters of reference

5/27/07 Asked future (potential) guardians to write letter of guardianship

5/30/07 Received Fingerprint referral notices for week of June 4th

6/1/07 Received criminal clearances in the mail

6/3/07 Requested letter of recommendation from preschool teachers

6/3/07 Requested letters of reference from two more friends

6/5/07 Karen's DOJ fingerprints

6/6/07 Karen's USCIS fingerprints

6/20/07 Jason's USCIS fingerprints

6/20/07 Jason's lab work for medical exam

6/21/07 Mailed agency documentation to home study agency

6/26/07 phone call from Jason's doctor letting us know his lab results are in (yeah!)

6/26/07 Karen orders birth certificates from New Jersey via vital chek

6/28/07 Karen's physical exam

6/28/07 Paperwork to pediatrician for the kids

6/29/07 Karen's blood work and TB test

6/29/07 Jason's DOJ fingerprinting

7/1/07 in-home visit w/ social worker

7/2/07 Karen's additional blood work (b/c first set didn't include Hep B results)

7/25/07 Mailed request for certification of Karen's birth certificate to State of New Jersey

7/27/07 Casey's TB test

7/30/07 Casey medical form completed

7/30/07 Received Karen's birth certificate from NJ

7/31/07 Kare's medical form completed

8/1/07 Jason attempts to get missing labwork completed, but lab closes early

8/1/07 Received medical insurance verification

8/1/07 Marcie's medical form completed

8/1/07 Karen & Jason request employment verification

8/1/07 Mailed all documentation and photos to homestudy agency

8/22/07 Mailed Jason's employment verification and final payment, post placement fees, and post placement deposits to homestudy agency

8/29/07 Homestudy draft sent to CCAI for review

8/30/07 Homestudy draft given the green light for finalization

9/11/07 Walked in the homestudy to USCIS and received our I-171H in return!

9/12/07 Notarized all adoption documents

9/12/07 Certified all adoption documents with County Clerk

9/12/07 Certified all adoption documents with Secretary of State

9/13/07 Overnighted dossier documents to Red Tape Solution, courier service to deliver paperwork to Chinese Consulate in Los Angeles

9/14/07 Chinese Consulate authenticated all our documents

9/18/07 Received authenticated documents

9/19/07 Karen's passport photos for dossier; selected Family Life and Couple photos for dossier

9/20/07 Jason's passport photos for dossier; printed photos; completed photocopies to Fed Ex dossier to CCAI

9/21/07 Dossier packet mailed to CCAI via Fed Ex

9/24/07 Confirmation of dossier received by CCAI-- dossier enters critical review

10/1/07 Out of critical review! On to translation. Should be mailed within a week.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy Mother's Day!

To all you moms out there, Happy Mother's Day! And a special shout-out to my own mom, who never gets to spend Mother's Day with her kids, but is always on our minds . . .

Every year on Mother's Day, I think about my journey to motherhood-- how I got where I am. When Jason and I first began our quest for children, I just assumed we'd be pregnant within 3 months, become of a family of 3 within the year. Not so. And as the months dragged by and we took stock of our goals, we quickly realized that our goal wasn't pregnancy, it was family! And fortunately for me, I have a rational husband who shared my sense that family isn't about biology, and off our first adoption adventure we began.

When we first contemplated open adoption, we were skeptical. Who isn't really? What with all those crazy-scary Lifetime movies about birth families changing their minds and taking back their children, it would seem that adoption can be a scary and risky venture. And it can be. I mean, here in California, for instance, biological parents have up to 3 months (90 days!) to change their minds and rescind the adoption. Adoptive parents then have to return the child (the child they've been caring for!). But my guess is that the statistics on this are more rare than Lifetime would like us to think. (Admittedly, for those to whom this has happened, the statistics don't mean anything because the pain of it all is so hard to bear.)

In any case, we thought open adoption was a great idea. The notion that we could know our child's birth family-- his ongoing medical history (which of course changes over time as relatives age). The idea that if he had a question about his biological mother, he could just ask her. The notion that he would always know adoption was a decision borne of love and not of passivity or lacking concern. And if I were to do it again, I'd choose an open adoption again in a heartbeat. I wouldn't do it any other way-- we've gained so much from the relationship with Casey's extended family. And so has he. More aunts and uncles to love him. More grandparents to spoil him. More cousins to play with. And even a big brother and big sister to mentor him and teach him to play ball and to cherish him. There is no lack of love in Casey's world. Open adoption has not been co-parenting-- there is no question who makes the decisions about Casey. Open adoption has been about Casey knowing who he is and where he came from and how ended up as part of our family. It works a little differently for everyone, but putting Casey's interests first means honoring who he is. And that means where he comes from, too.

Last week The Washington Post did an article on open adoption (thanks for e-mailing it to me, Alison), and what I love about the article is how it features the child's birthmother. Because today, on Mother's Day, that article speaks to me especially vividly. I think about how Casey's birthmom would have had the joy and the pain of watching him grow up, grateful that he was healthy and well-adjusted and loved, and sorrowful for all the times she had to say good-bye. Birthmothers-- or first mothers-- they make real sacrifice. And that makes them mothers. So today, on Mother's Day, I want to say Happy Mother's Day to birthmothers, biological moms, first mothers out there. It's so easy to be forgotten. We focus so heavily on how "real" moms do the parenting (and we do!). But that doesn't mean birthmothers aren't real moms, too.

As an adoptive mom of two, I am so very grateful for the gift my kids' biological mothers gave them-- and me. If Casey's birthmom had lived, he would have always known who she was. And she would have always known how well he was doing. But it would have been painful, too. To see him and not be with him. Marcie's birthmom won't have that benefit. If they celebrated Mother's Day in China, I wonder what she would be doing today. I imagine she wonders about Marcie every day. I imagine she prays that Marcie ended up in a good home with a family who loves her and takes good care of her (she did!). I imagine the pain of not knowing is sometimes unbearable. And that would make Mother's Day even more difficult for her.

We have made a commitment to our children-- that they will grow up knowing their roots. I hope that it means not only knowing extended family (for Casey) and learning about China (for Marcie). I hope it also means they will grow up honoring their first mothers for the sacrifice they made-- not selfishly, but lovingly.

I know there is a holiday here in the U.S.-- Birthmother's Day-- celebrated the day before Mother's Day. I think it's intended to honor those women who give birth but do not parent those children. And it's a cool idea. In theory. But I don't think it needs to be a separate day. First mothers, Long-time mothers-- we're all mothers just the same. And today is a day to honor all moms, near and far.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Cheating-- on becoming a parent for the second (or third) time

So you know we've decided to begin our process for kiddo #3. I was talking to a friend who is a mom of one this week about whether she and her husband are ready to start thinking about #2 yet. Her daughter is almost 1. She laughed at me. Not ready yet. And that made me think about how I felt when we were contemplating number two so many years ago.

We've always planned on having at least 3 children. Where the kids would come from, the number of years between each one-- those details, well, we left those to be determined.

When Casey was about 16 months old, we began talking about preparing to welcome a second child into the family. In my head, I thought a two-and-a-half year spread between children would be just about perfect. And our first adoption took about a year from start to finish, so we figured we should start the process again when Casey was around 18 months old.

But when the time came, I suddenly wasn't sure it was right. I didn't know if I had it in me. I still knew I wanted Casey to have siblings to grow up with. As one of four kids myself, I (literally) can't even imagine growing up as an only child. And I want Casey to have that same sense of one great-big-happy family that I was lucky enough to grow up with. But I felt so conflicted about it. Two years, it turns out, really isn't that long with a child. If we had a second child, it would mean less time and attention from us for Casey-- at least initially. Was that fair? Would he understand? Did I want to give up even minute of these precious years?

I remember calling my mom and asking her if she felt similarly when I came along. She basically told me I was nuts. And while I felt better about the notion of adding to our family, her comments didn't completely alleviate my deep-seeded concerns.

But by the time Marcie came along, my worries had completely dissipated. The adoption took longer than we'd anticipated, of course, because of the number of waiting families for babies from China. And as much as Casey loves Marcie, these past nine months have definitely been a transitional period. When I sit on Casey's bedroom floor to watch him get dressed, for instance, Marcie pretty much always toddles over, backs her way onto my lap, and plops down. Inevitably, this irritates Casey who wants my complete attention. And he starts dancing around the room, sometimes singing and sometimes screeching like a dolphin. It slows him down. When he finally gets a shirt on and Marcie wants to go point out what character he's wearing, he gets mad that she's poked him in the chest. Initially he responded by pushing her back. Now he knows better. But it took time. Training. And we're all the better for it now. But I'm not going to cherry coat it-- it hasn't been easy all this time.

Another thing I think I considered but couldn't really anticipate for sure was how Marcie's sleep pattern would disrupt Casey. For instance, the other night, when I put Marcie to bed, she started to cry. This worried Casey, who wandered out into the hallway and stood outside her door on the opposite side of the baby gate from her. He began yelling, "MOMMY! COME HERE! MOMMY! MARCIE NEEDS YOU!" Now, bless his heart for trying to help his sister out. But not good for his routine. I told him if she cried for more than 5 minutes, I'd move him into our bedroom. Fortunately, they were both asleep shortly thereafter. And I think Marcie's middle of the night wakings have disturbed Casey on occasion, too. There have been far too many nights where I've just bounced from one child's bedroom to the next, calming them down and sticking around until they fell back asleep.

And so here we are-- given the current wait times for adoptions, we know we have to get started soon if we hope for our children to be fewer than four years apart in age. I have no qualms about bringing a third child into our family. I've spent so much of these past 5 years researching, talking about, or participating in an adoption, I imagine it will feel very strange some day when we are no longer actively contemplating it!

So, as conflicted as I felt-- as worried as I was that I'd be cheating on Casey to bring home a sibling, I can honestly say I don't feel that way at all this time. Bring it on! (Of course, Jason who will be staying home full time by the time we bring home #3 may feel a little more overwhelmed by this prospect than I do. But I doubt it.)

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Here's to Salud!

When I was in high school Spanish, if someone sneezed, there would be one of two reactions (depending on who your Spanish teacher was). If you had Profe Daubert, it'd be "Jesus" for sneeze one. "Maria" for sneeze two. And "Jose" for sneeze three. (Jesus, Mary, and Joseph) That's how they do things in Spain. But in another teacher's class-- say a teacher trained in Mexico, you'd hear: Salud, dinero, then amor (health, wealth, and love).

Poor Marcie could use some salud wishes heading her way.
She has conjunctivitis. In both eyes. She's not contagious anymore after today, but getting her to take those drops in her eyes is no picnic.

She was healthy for a whole 3 days before she got the eye infection. Those three days came on the heels of 10 days of antibiotics. For a double ear infection and strep throat.

The strep/ear infection came on the heels of 5 days of health. Before that she suffered a two-week stomach bug which resulted in more diapers than I'd like to count and a painful, painful diaper-rash-yeast-infection.

Before the stomach bug, she'd been healthy for about a week. Prior to that, she'd been on antibiotics for 10 days for (I think) an ear infection. She's been sick off and on for so long-- and so it seems like a really long time ago that we saw the doctor for that. But I think that's right.

All of this for a child who's not in daycare. Just with Grandma all day. Go figure. Apparently Casey is bringing home all sorts of goodies from school-- even though he knows from the book that Germs are not for sharing. I am hoping that all this illness will mean that she'll have a nice and healthy year in preschool beginning this fall!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Here we go again . . .

So. We've decided to adopt. Again. We always planned on having three children, and even though Marcie hasn't been home for very long, by the time the adoption processes, she will have been. Home for years, in fact. So it's time to start.

When we selected Marcie's agency, CCAI, we researched a bunch of places, narrowed it down to a couple. Checked their BBB records. Did a search to see if there were any pending or settled law suits. And then called every single reference in Southern California on their multi-page list. And talked to them all. They ended up being a fantastic choice. Did they make mistakes? Yup. They did. They are an organization of humans, so mistakes are kind of par for the course. But they apologized. They fixed it. Fast. They cared. And we would use them again in a heartbeat. Except. . .

Except the wait for China has grown so long, that we estimate if we started the process tomorrow (which we wouldn't, given final exams and pending law school commencement), we would probably meet our child some time in the year 2011. And by then Marcie will be somewhere in the neighborhood of 5 years old. So there'd be about 4 years age difference between them. Which isn't insane or anything, it's just a little more than we were planning. Hoping. We may still end up going with China, but we're exploring our options.

We had been contemplating Africa-- Ethiopia in particular. And if we were going to, I'd be leaning toward AAI- Adoption Advocates, International. Though I've also heard good things about CHI- Children's Hope, International. So I'd have to do my background homework, check references, and make a decision. But if you happen to be in the same boat as me, that's where I'd start. The Ethiopia program is relatively centralized and stable. Things seem above-board. There is a great need for families for the children (of course, that's true everywhere in the world).

And some people-- a lot of people, actually-- have suggested we look into Latin America: Colombia or Guatemala seem to be the two recommendations we receive most. Unsolicited, of course, because we are not interested in adopting from Latin America. The children are beautiful, but I'm a really risk-averse person, and it just seems like so much depends on the in-country facilitator and there are risks about the "baby market" and so on. I know it works for a lot of people. And I'm happy for them. It's just not a good choice for me. It'd give me an ulcer. And even if I'm totally wrong about my impressions about the stability and potential ethical issues, it doesn't matter. Because that would always be at the back of my mind.

Ultimately, though, I'd like to stick close to China. It just makes sense. We've already made a commitment to our children-- that they will know their roots, whatever we can share with them. And since that takes us to Ohio and China already, it seems like it'd be most convenient for us to stay in the general region of China, at least. Plus, it just fits our family-- my husband being half-Chinese and all. I know that's not important to him, that our kids share his ethnicity. But between Jason's family and our many Chinese and Taiwanese friends, this is a culture we know something about. So it works for me.

So that brings me to Taiwan. The thing about Taiwan is that it is really decentralized, which means that the agency you work with more or less dictates your experience. With China, even though I love, love, loved our agency, I think most people have a pretty similar experience. Everyone submits the same paperwork. Everyone goes on the same waiting list. Everyone travels about the same length of time after their referral. And so on. Not so with Taiwan.

I am learning that Taiwan is like doing a domestic adoption, but in a foreign country. And that's okay. But that means there are some risks, too. For instance, in Taiwan, a referral can come when the child is very young-- a couple weeks or a couple months. And after you accept the referral, the child moves through the court system. This is just like in the United States. Except in the U.S., you can foster your own child while the paperwork process (and I think you can if you move to Taiwan, for that matter-- but that's another issue entirely). Anyway, during the 4-6 months it takes for the paperwork to proceed, the birth family can change its mind and opt to parent the child. Which means you may think you have a child coming, but it turns out he or she is not your child. Which I imagine is heart-breaking.

Another thing about Taiwan is that the type of program you enter more or less dictates the wait you have and frequently the relationship you have. Some programs are birthmother programs. That means the birthmother selects your family. You get to meet her (often). You get a full medical history. You may have ongoing contact with her. Other programs operate more like China did-- you wait until your paperwork gets to the top of the list and the in-Taiwan agency (which they call a nursery and we call an orphanage) matches you. You get all the medical information provided by the birth mother, but it's a closed adoption-- usually no ongoing contact and no exchange of information over time. So the agency you choose needs to reflect the type of adoption you'd like to have. (As a side note, I have been told that there is an adoption registry for international adoptees so they can find their biological families later in life if they want, but I haven't researched this yet.)

So this is where we are. Searching for an agency. Finding one with the right fit that offers the type of adoption we want and works with a nursery we like in Taiwan. Later, I'll post how I've approached my search. I've read articles about how to select an agency, but I think they are rather cursory-- especially for such an expensive and emotional endeavor. But for now, this is where we are. Getting ready to start our paperchase.

And yeah. I'm in the middle of finals. And preparing for graduation. And getting ready to start my Bar prep class to take the big exam in July. Doesn't this make it the perfect time to select an adoption agency and begin our homestudy? Heh, heh. Anyone who knows me and is reading this must be chuckling. This is such a Karen-thing to do. To launch an adoption journey in the midst of everything else. . . but I know it'll be well worth it in the long run. I've got evidence of it at home already. Double proof, in fact. I just can't imagine my life without Casey and Marcie.

Once we figure out what we're doing-- who we're using, and the whole shabang, I'll start a new blog just to document that journey. But no worries, this one's not going anywhere!

Saturday, May 05, 2007

And Casey, too

Casey's pretty cute, too. And we had quite a busy day, today. After I took Marcie to her Little Gym class, I took Casey to his soccer class. Then the three of us ran went to Office Depot so I could get notebooks for my final outlines. The computers were down and it took forever. But Casey didn't really mind because right by the register was a display of flat screen/televisions playing Ice Age. Next we headed out to purchase a birthday present for a party later in the day. As we were driving through the center of town, we discovered the Band Festival going on!

So of course we stopped. This is one of the things I love about living where we live-- these small-town festivals. Anyway, we got out and wandered around a short while, listened to some of the music, and then hopped aboard our local train for a ride around the park. We happened to get on the train when it needed to take on water and blow out steam, and we were right up front-- so the kids watched everything with great interest. The train is 100 years old and runs on diesel fuel (as it always has). Here's Casey posing in front of it:

After the train ride, lunch, and a nap, we had a birthday party. So Casey, Marcie, and I headed over to Casey's friend's house. Marcie was the only little girl there and got quite a bit of attention. There was a bouncy house and ice cream cake and a pinata, which both kids took some swipes at. After all the candy fell and Marcie went around picking it up, she'd pick up a piece and sniff it. If it wasn't chocolate, she'd put it back on the ground and move on until she found another Hershey's miniature.

Later on, after dinner, we went over to Jimbo's to get Casey some "special green apple juice." You might know it as Green Machine by Naked Juice. We're hoping Casey will like it and drink it because it actually has quite a lot of greens in it-- and he just doesn't eat green vegetables. He asked if he could wear his Dash Incredible costume. And really, who are we to stifle his creativity? So we let him. Here is is:

He was dancing around the store when he lost his shoe. He's such a goof-ball sometimes.

And here he is examining an apple. Interestingly, people kept looking at us and smiling. I just thought it was because our kids are so darn cute. It didn't dawn on me until I started writing this entry that it was because of Casey's costume!

Beautiful Marcie

I have so many wonderful photos of Marcie. In case you're wondering how she's adjusting, aside from not sleeping through the night still, she's doing pretty darn well.

I have to admit, society really gives girls so many more fashion options than boys. Here's what Marcie's been wearing:

This was a hand-me-down dress from Emma in South Carolina. All day long, people kept pointing at Marcie in her matching hair kerchief. It is cute, isn't it? I just wish I'd snapped the photo before letting her have some chocolate milk from the box. . . Marcie has a similar combo outfit from Casey's birthfamily-- and I can't wait until it really heats up so she can wear it!
This beautiful dress (with petticoat layer thingies) was a gift from my Aunt Joanne in Massachusetts. I was a little worried it wouldn't fit her b/c it's a 24 month sized dress and Marcie is into 2Ts and 3ts already (and sometimes bigger for the shirts!). But it fits. I put her in it for a birthday party we went to last week. Not only is it a super-girly dress, but she was the only female toddler there, so she really stood out. You can seem me helping her stand up on my lap.

And this is what I mean when I say girls really kind of have more options than boys. The previous photo was super-girly. And here, she's in a polo shirt and stretchy pants. And playing with a truck, no less (you go, Marcie!). Marcie is really diverse in her toy interests. Here it's the truck. But then today she essentially asked me for a doll (which, for about $3 I couldn't refuse), which she hugged and hugged and hugged all day long.

And this is us-- Mommy and Marcie. I'm so very, very lucky to be her mom.

Friday, May 04, 2007

National Teacher Appreciation Week

By the way, the first full week of May is National Teacher Appreciation Week. Whatever your feelings about teacher pay and time off, teachers spend a lot of time with our kids. It doesn't matter if you spend a lot of time on a gift or have your child make a thank you card-- it really is the thought that counts.

Don't forget to help your child thank his or her teachers this week! And if you know a teacher, thank her, too. They really are responsible in many ways for our nation's most important resource-- our children.


My posting over the next week or so will likely be sporadic. Really, hasn't it always been? But I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed these days-- treading water, mostly. I have to wrap up work and prepare for finals and begin studying for the bar all in the next two weeks. Less time than that, really. And I'm having trouble holding everything in my head. I mean, holding it in there in consistent spurts of time to write it down to hand over to someone else to take care of, anyway.

The kids continue to amuse me, though. They are my shelter from the storm of wrapping up school and final exams. Sometimes I find myself so filled with frustration with them (like when they sweetly refuse to brush their teeth, or put on clothes, or whatever it is I'm asking) I want to explode. And then one of them will do something that just knocks me off my feet and sends my spiraling into tizzies of laughter.

I know I'll never get these years of their lives (or mine) back. So I'm really trying to appreciate the small moments with them. Casey has begun telling me, "You be James, Mommy," when we play with the Thomas tracks. And asking me to set them up to run in a particular pattern. We like to pretend one of our trains gets stuck, and the other one is going to be really useful and a good friend and come help out the stuck train. Even Marcie likes to push the trains on the track, and Casey has gotten much better about sharing them with her and allowing her to play.

Marcie, too, amazes me daily. She hates having us feed her-- wants to do it herself. Casey would let you spoon feed him baby food until he was pretty much 3. We didn't, mind you, but he would have let us. Marcie, on the other hand, really wants to be independent. Last night, for instance, she refused to take a sippy cup of water handed to her. She pushed it away and said, "No." As soon as it was set down on the table, though, she picked it up and began sucking down the liquid. And she answers questions and follows directions. She's had the "no" down for a while now. But she also says, "yeah," which cracks me up.

So I have just two more days at work (until August, when I return for several weeks before moving on to the law firm). I have two more final exams. And two weeks until graduation. I have two weekends before my first Bar Review course begins. I have two children, too. Hmm. The number 2 seems to figuring prominently in my world these days. I'm cool with that.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

THAT t-shirt (again)

So a while back I wrote about how the new UO t-shirt is kind of offensive. After I posted, I told Jason about it. He laughed. Laughed. Not at me. At the t-shirt.

Then I told a friend of mine from law school about it. And he laughed.

Finally, a good friend of mine sort of called me out on it this week after reading the blog. She said she thought it was funny. And so did her husband. Who is adopted.

So what's the deal? Is it offensive or am I too sensitive?
I'm the first to admit I can be a little, well, sensitive to things. And while I'm a big believer in the notion that UO should have the right to sell the shirt, that wouldn't necessarily mean I think they should. I feel that way about many things in life. Things I think should be legal but people shouldn't do anyway. But that's a topic for a whole different post. My point is that I have a t-shirt that I think other people might be offended by. But I still bought it. Actually, I didn't. I got it as a gift. But I thought it was hilarious, and I wear it all the time. Well, all the time when I'm not around small children who might ask me what it means.

(And before you think I'm a weirdo freak, the t-shirt says WTF? Which really isn't that offensive except for the F part of it. But it's just the letters, literally. And that's what makes it funny to me. Because I often find myself asking this question in my head when I'm out and about in the world.)

So, what about that shirt. For a while pink was the new black. And UO sells a shirt that says "Rehab is the new black." And even one that says "Scientology is the new black." And I think at least the scientology one is kind of funny. But back to the adoption t-shirt. IS it offensive? Certainly, it pokes fun at celebrity adoptions. There does seem to be a lot of media surrounding Angelina and Madonna lately. But is it fair to say that this t-shirt intimates that all people who adopt do so because it's a trend or a fad? I mean, does anyone who actually chooses adoption do so for that reason? Would anyone in their right mind think we do?

Maybe I haven't given the general public enough credit. I know I didn't adopt because it was the cool thing to do. And I know my kids won't think we chose adoption lightly. And is the t-shirt even directed at us main-stream folks who build our families through adoption?

I don't have the answers to any of this. I can obviously see both sides of the issue. And perhaps it really is more complicated than this-- perhaps for adoptees struggling with identity, such a t-shirt really is offensive. But it doesn't really make me feel any less conviction about the family-building choices we've made. Was I offended? Yeah. I guess I was. But mostly because I guess I don't give enough credit to regular old America to understand that it's not a commentary on adoption at all. . . and maybe a little because I myself couldn't see that either.

Offensive and rude? I dunno. But I'm still at least a little glad they aren't selling it anymore. . .

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Just Now

I just caught a glimpse of the Marcie's referral photo-- a copy of which is sitting on my desk at work. Kind of wedged in between a photo of her with Casey and a photo of her taken around her first birthday. I can see Marcie in there-- in that passport-style, referral photo. Beyond the gummy mouth and pudgy face. Even the photos of Marcie from November, in which she's smiling-- they don't really do my beautiful daughter justice.

She's grown so much in these past 8 months. Yeah, physically. But emotionally, too. Of course she continues to wow us with her ability to follow directions and repeat language. But the thing I love most about Marcie is her smile. When she smiles, it's a deep, full smile. It creeps across her face. It squishes her eyes and brightens her cheeks. It's as if she's given herself over completely to that moment of joy, the one causing the smile. I love it. I love how her smile lights up her entire face-- how it overcomes her.

In many ways, Marcie has a total poker face. But when she smiles-- man, the world is a more beautiful place for it.