Friday, January 25, 2013

Do You Like It Here?

Do you like it here? Yes, that is one of the questions our girls get asked often. Each time they do, I want to say, can you qualify that and ask if they are happy they left everything behind, or if they like the cold and snow or merely how is it going with the new parentals?
Honestly,  I hope my kids are ok with my stink eye look chased by a "put on" smile.
That is like asking me while having a vaginal exam...Do you like it here? well not really, thanks for the small talk!
Ok having a vaginal exam is a lot easier than what our girls had to go through, but it creates just as awkward as a position. A moment ago when the visual popped into your mind as you were reading, I can imagine others thinking  'eeewww, creeper" then after replaying the comment in your head, maybe calling a friend, to I wrong to think that was a weird question? You still felt it intrusive, or too intimate a question. But you had a choice to answer and you can change your circumstances.
Our girls on the other hand, spend copious amounts of time, putting up with people asking them questions about a time in their short lives that was hurtful, possibly blocked out and maybe even triggering a moment of grief, without the ability to change the circumstances.
Now, well meaning Jo Blow did not mean to ask something like that, they just did.  Plus our girls have great friends that were adopted from the same place, and they have us, older siblings and they love chatting but not about hurt, or how to answer stupid questions or why they had to be adopted. Our girls just want to fit in, they just want to play with their friends and most of all they want to be normal and not look different. Looking different brings up questions, and it brings up feelings. And yes them looking different than us, was our choice!
But for the record, my girls always answer yes, although it is often subdued and/or without expression.
Do they wish they were home in Kinshasa with their extended familyYES!, Do they wish they didn't have to be adopted YES! Are they happy in their new family, YES,  but they would have rather kept everything the same, then worlds away where everything is different.  One day when they get older, they will see it differently but for now, everything was good in their easy to retrieve memories, and the darkest deepest parts of their hearts and heads know a different story, that with remembering will one day bring  healing and resolution, peace and conclusion. So my last point is..

In order to like something you have to be thankful for it. Appreciate it.

No my girls do not have to be thankful, they are not lucky and it doesn't matter if they love me. I am thankful, lucky,  and love them enough for both of us.

So here is the life application so to speak...
Please do not ask if they like it here, ask them what they like to do here.
Do not ask them if where they are from, ask them what part of town they live in now.
Do not ask them if they know how lucky they are, remind them how lucky we are as their parents.
Do not ask them if they are sisters, compliment them and say what a great help the oldest must be to me.
Don't ask them what languages they speak, tell them what great English they have.
Dont's ask them to hug you, rock paper scissors them for a high five or low five, or better yet, tell them to hug mommy and daddy every day because they really need lots of hugs.
Don't ask them if being in Canada makes them happy, remind them, that them being in Canada makes you happy!

It takes a village and we are so thankful for all those that surround us!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Yes they are mine!

I know a million stories of strange questions that people ask trans racial families...but...Are they mine? Seriously, no I stole them, they are calling me mommy and I am buying them clothes for fun. The fact that they were mine for a long time before I got to hold them, the fact that they were mine, before I knew where they came from. THEY ARE MINE!
I remember a Dr Seuss book Are You My Mother? where the little bird goes looking for his mother. My kids are not searching, they know who their mother is, their father, brothers, sisters and no they are not from Africa, they are from Merville.
I know also that the million little questions are people's :
A: nosiness
B: curiosity
C: our girls are a novelty
D: have considered adoption
and E: my all time favourite, they know someone somewhere that adopted so that makes them an expert.

I know my job is to field questions with dignity and respect and be an advocate for adoption. BUT....
Can I just get through the grocery store. My youngest doesn't care about being adopted, or born in Africa, my oldest does. Miss G  doesn't want people to say she is from Africa or anywhere else for that matter.  She knows she is adopted, she doesn't need to be defined by a circumstance that changed her world, that involved a TON of LOSS. Yes, lets rub it in. What about asking what school she goes to, does she like dance...heck ask if she plays soccer, that would be culturally a common she can tell you, no she plays hockey.
Tell her she looks beautiful and do not ooh and ah over the fact her lil sister Miss P, is pretty darn cute and right now is attempting to pull something off a shelf, as you have stopped me mid aisle.
You see I knew this would happen, I knew it all would happen, was I prepared for it, yes, do I get tired of it, YES. Do I need to be an advocate for the 147 million orphans waiting for a family and encourage people to adopt yes;  but I can do more good for the 147 million orphans at my computer,, talking to a group or on Facebook, than I can  in the grocery store. My sunday is OUR day, to not think of the million little details of our lives that garner attention. Surprise I am white, so is my husband, we have white kids and we have brown kids, we have one kid, who is white and really too old to have come from  my body...guess what she didn't!
I have five children, I love them all the same, each one has different birth circumstances that I have not shared to random strangers in grocery line ups.
Simple convo: Hi,  how are you, my name is Colleen and I had a difficult labor and my child was born in Comox and I couldn't breast feed. Imagine if that was the norm in grocery line ups.
I have asked someone if they asked the lady behind me where her children was born, cause that was the sarcastic Colleen coming out. I have also pretended to have a hearing disorder. I have ignored and I have answered quite basically and honestly.
Catch me on a good day, and you may get the name and phone of the agency we worked with. Some days I may even listen to your long drawn out, my friends, sisters, brother, cousin from his third wife, adopted a child. Oops I am really getting sarcastic LOL.
I am in all seriousness I am an adoptive parent, are my daughters adopted yes, will there always be questions, YES.
So pretty soon I am heading out to greet the day and so pray with me, that I will honor all the things they taught me in our education classes. I am the most thankful mom in my neighbourhood and I just want to let my girls be known as "our" girls. Not someone else's, or that their beginnings were rough. Don't get me started on all the comments I get about dead parents and poverty, aids, and how thankful they are...that is another post.
Yes someone asked me if they had Aids!
So Happy Monday fellow moms, sorry for the rant, to readers that have watched this adoption unfurl, we are grateful beyond words.
Life is a journey and most roads are full of pot holes where I come from. Stay tuned for the results of my week. I plan to keep score. Maybe if I had a sign on my face that said, don't talk to me...instead of the...please come and share your life story and I will listen...oh well as I tell the girls, this is how God made me....use me, and correct my attitude...cause there really is 147 million orphans out there that need families.
I also know it is Martin Luther King day and I should be writing a blog about the incredible  wisdom and grace, visionary and advocacy of an incredible man, but today my mind is not deep and teary.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.
Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Love on somebody today!

Friday, January 11, 2013

To capture a gift so rare....

Recently I have been reading a few journals, one dated 1934, is from my maternal grandfathers early days here in the valley. The other one from 1886 was written on a ship from Liverpool to India, while travelling through the Suez canal, by my paternal great grandparents, missionaries to India and Africa. In my experience there is a not a gift so rare or precious that equals the cursive hand writing and stories of life written in OUR history book. I love it, I wish there was more, I wish I could have known and or at least been more interested so I could ask questions while my grandparents and my grandmother was alive.

I am challenged and encouraged that one day our girls will read about the road that led to their adoption and so I continue to keep track of many small details in their journals.

The journal of my grandfather's tells of cows that sold for $3 and six cords of wood for a few dollars and a hot meal. The stories of horse and buggy from Tsolum to Cumberland to sell eggs and how each outing to make a sale or consider a purchase was usually completed with a meal or least coffee and cakes. No cell phones, no texting, no sending an email, real honest, conversation about the day and the times and sharing of family events.
I can take myself back to to a time when cell phones were not invented. We had a party line growing up and had to wait until someone was finished talking. No one eaves dropped and got sued, everyone was most often respectful and honestly if we wanted to talk to someone we just jumped on our bikes and went to their house. Our parents never called a week ahead to set up a  playdate, we just did it. We had sleepovers and we talked all night, not texted friends and took pics with our iphones and up loaded them to FB. Life was simple,  in my grandfather's day, down to earth, honest days work days and when folks looked after folks. This was simple life depicted in my grandfathers journal, everyday for the year, 1934.

To me the greatest gift is the gift of time. I don't remember ever knowing or reading where someone has mentioned on their death bed, I wish I had worked more, spent less time with family and friends. Each person accountable only to themselves.

I want to be the person that has no regrets... being able to have spend time with those I love.
I want to the be the person that puts people and relationships as a priority.
I want to know that every time I say hello to somebody and ask how they are,  it was because I wanted to know and if I had to stand there and listen to how well they weren't, that I would be ok with that too. LOL
I want to be the person that tells stories and passes on history through family conversations and journals.

I want time to be the person that God has made me, wife, mother, nana, auntie, niece, friend and cousin. Walking in His purpose and plan for my life, not living life as a 9 - 5 clock watcher. .

I want to be the person who writes about life and then realizes maybe 79 or 127 years later someone actually reads it.  I know after chatting to a friend today that my snail mail letters to the older generation is a rare thing for many people. I still write notes and cards at Christmas, I still send thank you notes and my girls wrote thank you notes for Christmas gifts, my bigs write thank you notes, they respect their elders and they understand honor. They also realize there is no replacement for genuine time spent.  I pray that we don't lose sight of a few minutes of time, some change for postage or the art of letter writing. I am thankful  that cell phones and technology allow us to see our grand-baby in his first bath, that we can chat anywhere in the world almost like there are next door. I do not want to ban cell phones and text messaging but I sure do think we are moving away from conversations and replacing it with a text because it is faster and simpler and takes less time.
I want to be the person who is not stingy with time, I want to be able see history in the making and not be so busy, it passed me by. I want to see history as a gift.
And I want to capture that gift so that years from now, I can reread of the days when life was busy, crazy and a whirlwind of activity. Because this time when the littles leave home, we will be empty nesters with experience.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Time will tell.....

Six months ago today. Two little people spent their last night (for awhile) in Kinshasa. Watching them sleep, (I was exhausted literally so this is not too deep) I realized their world had changed without their permission, and their world was going to change a whole lot more. I imagined it happening to me and that was the good thing, because it was a long way home and I needed to up my "compassionate" tank before we left. Little did I know then that six months could go so quickly.

The summer filled with swimming and trampolining concluded with a 7th birthday party and visit with some of the Kinshasa kiddos our girls had known. Then we had our family Dedication at church, where we were married, exchanging rings and I'dos, symbolizing a life long commitment. (It was Miss G's idea, good one huh!) and then two days later the greatest little gift...Baby J. born to our daughter and husband. 

Swimming and haying and frog catching filled many hours of every day! 
We fell in love with horses!


We celebrated fall and the changing colors with our DRC tunics!

We finally got to read the book I wrote for the girls and they knew enough english to understand. Miss G started school, we enrolled in dance class, trampoline and swimming and we finished all the million medical, dental and vaccine appointments for the time being.
December and Christmas came amid shouts of loud, really loud, really really loud singing of all the new songs our girls heard each day. We celebrated Miss P turning four and the girls got to experience the snow we kept talking about. Playing in the snow, ice skating and tobogganing became squeal with delight days, kid style. ( I now had to drive to the bus stop in the snow, and had tons of wet laundry constantly drying on heat registers, so I wasn't squealing)
Time did tell. Many had said when things were rougher in the first few months that it would get better. Many said time will go fast and you will look back and  you won't believe where you came from. When they said it then, I didn't beleive. I didn't think it was going to change and I was too fatigued to think straight. (remember I am 50 and God invited me back for a masters round of parenting lol) But change came, sleep came, bedtimes got easy..honestly if you are reading this...and waiting for bedtimes to improve ...they one day will became easy. I would have been a hard sell but now I believe.

Carry me to Kinshasa became a reality in 2012, the girls came home and we had a new grand baby all in six months. Hard to top this year...but now I am not so tired and I am expectant and anticipating where our lives will go next. For now it is raising our littles here on the farm, discovering the many firsts, making traditions and history and learning together.
MissG wondered the other day if 15 was too young to have a husband and then as I was trying to scan the crowd of fellow grade one boys that maybe eyeing her up, I realized for her, fifteen was old. She cooked and cleaned at five, cared for her sister before that and has many deep personal thoughts about life beyond her years. So I put my momma bear attitude on hold for a bit and answered that indeed in Canada 15 is too young. She was happy with the answer, I started secreting plotting a convent for her teen years. Have you seen this kid, she is stunning and a smile that lights up any room. She is kind to friends, enjoys a good laugh and has started joking in English and her hints of sarcasm fit perfect in our family. Miss P on the other hand has said she is never leaving home but one of my bigs said that too, and he kept coming home for years after leaving for university.  Everyday we learn new things about them and everyday we encounter new things about us.

and now here we are...

Saturday, January 5, 2013

What can happen and eventually what does....

To say that adoption takes over your thinking, eating, sleeping and finances is an understatement. To truly grasp the intensity you must either be walking through it right now, been a recent walker, or standing on the stand lines watching a friend or family member struggle with the million what if's.
I never intended to let anyone or anything control my thinking, the inner most special recesses of my heart, but all it took was a whisper followed by a text message.
It was that simple, although we had been in what I call the international adoption arena, (because it feels like a championship 15 round fight lol )for over a year and because we had loved on a  little girl and had released her in our hearts back to her birth family, it caught me totally by surprise.
Here was in control Colleen, with her ultra more than me control husband with nothing to do on our hands but wait. You see ultimately the day we looked into the eyes of our children was the day the clock slowed to a less than fair pace. The day the Lord whispered adoption was the first step of faith, the day the text came was the day the rubber hit the road. Simple, "Call me when you a get a minute pls" from our SW
There was no turning back, or was there? I don't think we considered that, although now that they are sleeping upstairs in their bed and they are MINE...I can consider alternatives to crisis mode.
I went nuts, I tried to drive, I stopped the car and with fumbling hands tried for the fifth time to get my husband on the phone. I laughed out loud, I cried, I pulled over again. I wanted to see someone I know, so I could tell them but I needed to tell Jussi first.
My heart was beating so fast I was completely unprepared for the gamut of emotions, that should have been..oh hi, yes that is awesome..great news, we have been waiting. To oh my, girls, I thought it was boys...what are their names? No don't tell me, to the inconceivable thought that we needed to make a decision. Why do they give you a choice?

First let me tell you it was a yes....without a doubt, God does not place the children into families and then ask our opinion. But we had a few days to ponder the information and decide if we had any questions for the agency. Big mistake on the agency part, it basically spells out, ok it is Friday call me Monday and that roughly spells out to...57 hours of we need to claim these babies as our own and you don't work weekends????? Easier said than done.

Needless to say the rest is history and the time from that day to the day we actually held our children in our arms, eventually consumed everything we did.
We painted, we saved, we planned, we raised funds, we walked, we talked, we shared, we cried. We asked for help, we asked for support, we asked for prayer and we asked for space. We lived on a edge of a precipice preparing to either jump over or fall back to the side we were on. That was because the elusive piece of paper that says nobody contested all of our judgement papers and now the children are yours took a very long time. They were ours for eight months before they were really legally ours. What if's came easy, doubts, what will we do if this happens, guarding your heart for disappointment. In this eight months we had fallen in love with two littles that graced our computer screen that day. Was it love at first sight? Was it the beginning of the end LOL.
One thing was for sure, ten months of our life was consumed by adoption talk, adoption preparation, adoption blogs, adoption circles. We wanted to belong to somebody who actually could say their kids came home. We wanted to read success stories and we separately wanted it more than we could think or imagine.
It did happen, not in the time we thought it would, it did happen but not in the way we thought it would, it did happen but not as easy as we thought it would, but it did happen.
And nothing about those ten months matters anymore.
We are the champions, the arena is behind us and we are enjoying every day I get to do this...and believe me it never looks like we planned here either. Happy day, C