After my post about Jazzie standing in front of her class discussing her adoption with such confidence, I got several e-mails from people wondering what I have done and what I have told Jazzie to instill that confidence in her about her past.
To be honest, I don't know what exactly I did that has caused Jazzie to be so proud and confident, but I can tell you what I have always done from the moment Jazzie came in our lives. From the very beginning, I have always talked to Jazzie about us traveling to China to get her. I have always talked about China, since we have a lot of artwork and artifacts from China in our home, which evoke conversations. I have never NOT talked about it. From the very beginning I have read adoption books to Jazzie and I always pointed out similarities between Jazzie and things that were happening in the books.
I have never been afraid to talk about her adoption or her birth parents. I have a friend who has trouble even saying the word "birth mother". Even though I am Jazzie's mother in every sense that is important, the truth is that I did not give birth to her and there is another family out there. So why deny that? Why not talk about it? I have never forced anything down Jazzie's throat, but I have always been honest and open and I have always taken the time to mention something about her adoption, China or her birth parents whenever the opportunity has presented itself. As long as Jazzie knows that I have no problem talking about it, she will hopefully not have a problem talking about it as well.
Now that Jazzie is older, she is asking a lot more questions, and I am always honest. I have never tried to romanticize her beginnings. Often times I have to answer her questions with "I don't know", because we really don't know much. I have also talked to Jazzie about the one child policy. She might be too young to fully understand, but I want her to knowthat her birth parents made a choice. Sure, I tell Jazzie that I think her birth mother loved her, but she still made a choice to not keep Jazzie because of the circumstances. It breaks my heart to imagine how Jazzie feels to know that someone decided not to keep her, but I think it is better to be honest and try not to sugarcoat things. I don't want to tell her a different story now because she is young and might not understand. Jazzie is very bright and a deep thinker and she understand more than most people give her credit for. I want her to be able to say later: "My mom was honest about everything for as long as I can remember". I struggled with knowing in my heart that I was doing the right thing by telling Jazzie about the one child policy and families preferring a boy at such a young age. But I recently read some writings by an adult adoptee who struggled with the fact that she was always told that her birth parents loved her, but then didn't understand why her birthparents didn't keep her. If they really loved her, why not keep her then? After reading that, I knew that I did the right thing by discussing this with the girls. They need to understand there was a choice involved.
I have also always told her that it is okay to be sad or mad and that it doesn't bother me if she is and that I understand. The last thing she needs is a guilt trip from her mother. I try to keep Jazzie's and Tahlia's birthparents' memory alive by putting up a special tree each Christmas in honor of them. The girls know this and understand what it stands for. We celebrate Chinese holidays (with just our family or some close friends) to keep their heritage alive. We decorate the house with items that we purchased in China. This also keeps the conversation open since it gives me an opportunity to talk about Chinese customs and traditions.
From the very first year that the girls were at school, I asked their teachers if I could come in and talk about China and adoption. Jazzie and I would talk about what we were going to discuss with the class and then we would give the presentation together. Teachers are very open to this kind of thing and welcome it. I have always been very involved in Jazzie's school (and now Tahlia's), so Jazzie has watched me and listened to me talk about China and adoption over the years and now wants to do it herself. I do make sure that it is okay with Jazzie if we talk about it to other people (I want it to be her choice) and she has always been very excited to do so.
I make sure the girls understand that they get certain traits from Matt and myself (the way they talk for instance), but that a lot of things are only theirs and that they might have come from their birth parents. Jazzie for instance will often mention that I am the only one in the family with blond hair. I in turn will then mention that I got my blond hair from my mom and that she got her black hair from her Chinese mother. Just the other day she asked me why she was deaf and I told her that she was born that way and that I wonder sometimes if someone in her Chinese family is deaf. I just want her to know that I wonder about her birthparents, so it's okay if she does as well. I have always used the term "Chinese mother". I want to honor the women who gave birth to my daughters. For their sake. I want them to know that I am not threatened by them (even though we will probably never know who they are) and I want my girls to know that I respect their birth parents.
I was talking about all of this to a friend yesterday morning and I asked her if she ever thinks about her daughter's birth parents. Her answer was "never. I am her mother". I agree, but how could you NOT think about them? At least, I can't. Her daughter has also never asked any questions and my friend is always surprised when I tell her how often Jazzie does ask things. To me it seems like if you don't open the door and let your kids know that it is okay to talk about it, they won't.
Like I said before, I have never forced any conversations on the girls. It is more in the little things and it is never planned. These kind of things do not come up very often. But when they do, I think it is important to talk about it honestly and openly and with lots of reassurance. We have always told the girls that we were meant to be a family. Forever. It was decided a long time ago that we would be together and that the way we became a family might not have been the "traditional" way, but it was a lot more special.
We have yet another snow day today (our third one in a row) because of a nasty snow and ice storm that came through. There are still many roads that have not been cleared and there are many power lines down, which is why school is closed again today. Here is how we spent our day yesterday...
We made some lanterns:
We played outside and admired the pretty trees:
Jazzie loved finding big pieces of ice:
We had some hot chocolate (with marshmallows, of course!)
And Matt and I spent about three hours clearing the snow and ice off the driveway:
I had to laugh when I saw it because it is so true to life. In the picture Matt, Jazzie and I are all wearing jeans and Tahlia (who hates jeans) is wearing black leggings :-)
My favorite part however is the little balloon coming out of Tahlia's mouth: "Mom!" One little word that comes out of her mouth about a hundred times a day. She sometimes drives me crazy with all her "MOMMMMMM!'s".
Today the girls and I made sugar cookies that Tahlia will bring to school tomorrow along with her lucky money envelopes. The sugar cookies will serve as "mooncakes". Last year we made my version of real mooncakes and even though they are really good, the kids in Tahlia's preschool were not brave enough to try them :-) That's why we stuck with sugar cookies, which will be a safer bet for a bunch of 4 year olds eating/liking them. We will make our real mooncakes next weekend when Matt's family comes over to celebrate Chinese New Year with us, but today we had a good time making "preschool mooncakes" as Tahlia called them.
Remember Jazzie's homework assignment? Well, while dropping Jazzie off at school yesterday, her teacher pulled me aside and told me about what happened in class when Jazzie was describing the pictures in her timeline.
The very first picture is when I first got to hold Jazzie in China. This sparked a lot of questions from the class: "You are adopted"?? "You were born in China?" It's funny how after all this time, the kids have never put two and two together. Jazzie's teacher told me how Jazzie stood in front of the rest of the class and answered all the kids' questions, filled with confidence and pride.
I am so proud. All our talks with Jazzie about how she came to join our family have done their job. I have always been honest with Jazzie when she asks questions and my hope has always been (and will continue be) for my girls to be able to talk about their adoption story without fears, anger or shame. I want them to be proud and confident.
Tahlia really enjoys helping me bake (I enjoy it too!). Yesterday we made our much beloved pumpkin bread. My girl is getting really good at cracking those eggs. When she first started helping, there were many times when I had to fish out some egg shells from the batter. However, she is a real pro now, ready to join a long line of bakers in our family. Here is a little video of Tahlia helping. Sorry it's a bit long (about 5 minutes), but she is just too darn cute! I love her answer towards the end when I ask her what we need to do after the batter is all mixed ;-)
Matt visited his aunt again today. She is still holding on, but not doing very well. Family has flown in from out of town to see her and her husband has signed the "do not resuscitate" orders. Things are not good. Every time the phone rings, I think that it's "the" call with the news that she is gone. She had a rough night last night and I just hope that she can be as comfortable as possible. Apparently she asked for some soup yesterday, but was told there wasn't any soup available that was appropriate for her diet (low sodium and such). At this point, who cares? I mean, really. Give the woman some soup if that is what she wants. Matt said it best when he said: "She is dying; give her whatever the freak she wants". I am telling you, I find this very difficult and I cannot even begin to imagine what it would be like if this was one of our parents...
And speaking of somber, I want to say how sorry I am for all the March DTC'ers (and all the others waiting) who got their hopes up, thinking that they were finally going to get their referral, only to be knocked down. Again...
Jazzie had to make a time-line of her life for her science and social studies homework. The time line had to include 5-10 major events. When I first read the assignment I wondered: How many major life events can a 6 year old have? But Jazzie has actually had quite a few ;-) Here are the ones we chose:
Meeting mommy and daddy in China
First cochlear implant surgery
Hearing her first sound
First day of school
Getting a baby sister
Graduating from her oral deaf school
Losing her first tooth
Being a flower girl at her big sister's wedding
Second cochlear implant surgery
I am very proud of Jazzie for doing all the work by herself, with just some minor help from mom:
Last night we got a phonecall telling us that Matt's aunt (who has been sick for a while) was admitted to the intensive care unit at the hospital and that she isn't expected to leave there alive. Even though she has been sick and we have been expecting something like this to happen, it was still shocking news.
This morning Matt and I left the girls with a sitter and went to the hospital to see his aunt. When we first got there she had her eyes closed and was talking to herself. I tried to listen to what she was saying, but I couldn't really understand her over the sound of all the machines she is hooked up to. I did hear her say something about electricity and I was wondering what she was thinking or hearing or seeing.
After sitting there for a few minutes, she opened her eyes and I think she was a little surprised to see us sitting there. She held both our hands and asked about the kids. We talked to her for a few minutes, but she was so weak. At one point she looked out into the hallway and said something about seeing an orchestra. I couldn't help but wonder what she was thinking knowing that all the family came to see her (for the last time maybe). Does she know that she will most likely not make it out of that hospital? And if she does, how does that make her feel? As we were leaving Matt and I kissed her, told her we loved her and told her goodbye. I turned around one more time before leaving the room, gave her a big smile and waved. I just didn't want her to see a sad face as we were leaving.
I feel so bad for her husband, her children and Matt's 95 year old grandmother who is facing having to bury her daughter.
I know this is life and that it is inevitable, but this is sad. This is hard.
First of all, I want to make sure that everyone understands that I did not mean to offend anyone who chooses to say "Metcha Day" instead of "Gotcha Day". I understand it is a personal choice and even though I like to call it Family Day, all I was trying to say that I personally have no issues with the term "Gotcha Day". However, I have read about adult adoptees having issues with it. It is because of that reason that I started saying Family Day instead, since the last thing I want to do is hurt my girls. Whether it is now or in the future.
You might remember from this post that Jazzie likes a bold color on her lips when it comes to lipstick. For her, less is obviously not more:
Jazzie and Tahlia were helping Cera clip coupons today. You gotta love these money saving sisters:
And this is how I like to keep busy in the evenings:
This afghan is almost done. After it's finished, I'll be moving on to the next one:
We've all heard about positive adoption language. To be honest, before we adopted Jazzie I was probably guilty of using some negative adoption language myself. However, I have learned a lot since we've had the girls. "Real mother" versus "birth mother" is one that comes up a lot. Since it is true that I find the question whether or not I am Jazzie's and Tahlia's "real mother" a bit offensive, I also know that (most) people don't mean to be offensive when they ask it. Lately I've had a lot of people ask whether or not Jazzie and Tahlia are "real sisters". I usually just answer "yes" and leave it at that, or I say something like "yes, they are real sisters, just not biologically related" if I want the person to know that they have just used some poor adoption terminology. I don't think I am as sensitive to it anymore as I once was.
The other day I was reading a blog and came across the term "metcha day", instead of "gotcha day". The author found the term gotcha day not politically correct and thought that metcha day was more appropriate. To each their own, but I think that is being a bit overly sensitive. The author listed some definitions of "gotcha" from the dictionary:
Used to indicate understanding or to signal the fact of having caught or defeated another.
A game or endeavor in which one party seeks to catch another out, as in a mistake or lie.
Okay, so anyone who has adopted and has experienced the day we saw our children for the first time, will agree that there are lot of words we can use to describe our emotions, but none of them are "defeat", "mistake" or "lie". Another definition given:
- that one has caught, captured, or gained power over someone or something.
For me this almost holds true, but the other way around. My girls have captured my heart and soul. I have never known a love so deep.
I have no problem with people wanting to call the day they first got to meet their children "Metcha Day" (it is after all the day you met your child). A friend of mine refers to it as "Forever Family Day" and my neighbor refers to it as her son's "Adoption Birthday". And while I like to say "Family Day" myself, I do not agree that the term "Gotcha Day" is inappropriate or offensive.
I've gotcha and you've got me.
I've had you in my heart for a long time, but now I've finally gotcha in my arms.
I've now gotcha in my life where we are meant to be together. Forever.
For a while now Jazzie has been telling me she wants earrings. And of course what Jazzie wants, Tahlia wants. So several weeks ago I told the girls that if they wanted earrings, they could have them.
We were at the mall and we went to check out the ear piercing place. There were two other girls getting their ears pierced, so the girls were able to watch. As I was standing there, I was imagining earrings on Jazzie. All of a sudden it hit me that I am not sure how that would work with her processors. I am not sure if they would bother her earrings, especially since they sit right behind her ear lobe. After I expressed my concern to Jazzie, she immediately told me she didn't want earrings anymore, because she doesn't want her ears to be bothered. After all the issues we've had with this last cochlear implant surgery, she is very leery to do anything to her ears, especially since things are finally getting better.
Even though Jazzie decided against the earrings, Tahlia still wanted them. However, I suddenly wasn't sure if I was ready for my baby to have her ears pierced. I talked her out of it at the time, but ever since that day Tahlia has been asking to get her ears pierced. Matt reminded me that I did promise her she could have them, so I explained to Tahlia that it would hurt for a second. She didn't care. I told her she would not be able to take the earrings out and that she would have to sleep with them on. She didn't care. So, yesterday afternoon we went off to the mall. I was still thinking she would change her mind, but she never did! You could tell that she was a little nervous as she was sitting in the chair. She wanted to sit on my lap, but she was actually very brave and didn't even flinch when it happened!
I can't believe I let her have earrings. I am not ready for my baby to grow up, but I guess she will anyway. So I present you Tahlia and her new earrings (pink ones, of course!)
The weather people teased us when they said a big snow storm was coming yesterday. Here is what we actually got:
Big deal; no snow day for us. Now they are saying we will get it today. I will believe it when I see it.
I am beginning to think that we should have waited to tell the girls that we are going to Disney World. They are asking us every day when we are going. How many more days until Disney, etc. I am going to have to make a special Disney calendar or something so that they can see how much longer before we will go and see the princesses. That is all they talk about...
The girls were playing school in their play room yesterday and made Lily their class pet :-)
Tahlia is is starting to change so much. People keep telling me she is losing her baby look. It is true. But as I was cuddling with her in bed last night, I was kissing her soft cheeks and rubbing her little hands and I realized that she still has those little dimples in her hands. SO cute! She still is my little baby, even though she is 4 1/2 years old now.
Just look at those cheeks. I am telling you that they are softer than you could ever imagine!
And don't you just love Jazzie's toothless grin?
I wonder when her teeth will start to grow in, so that she can eat a bagel again ;-)
I am so excited to be seeing this at the end of this month. I have probably seen the movie over 100 times with my friend Bonnie and we are plain giddy to be seeing the stage version.
Thanks you all who left comments or sent e-mails about my Disney question. After spending hours on line, we have decided to stay here. We figured that if we are going to go to Disney, we will splurge and do the whole "Disney experience" and stay at one of their luxury resorts. In turn, we will drive rather than fly and save a lot of money that way. On the way, we will make a stop in Tampa and visit with my very best friend Cath who moved away from Ohio several years ago.
So Matt and I have decided that we are ready to take the girls on a Florida/Disney vacation. I would love to know from all you BTDT people where good places are to stay. We are not gung-ho about staying in one of the Disney hotels (although I am not against it). We would consider staying somewhere outside of Orlando. I would like to stay at a place with a great pool for kids and of course, the more cost effective the better :-) We are looking at going in late February or March; before the crowds and before the heat!
We are getting ready for Chinese New Year. Just like last year, the girls will be going to school in their Chinese dresses and give lucky money envelopes to their friends. I will be going to Jazzie's school to give a Chinese New Year presentation. Her teacher has given me complete freedom to come up with a great Chinese New Year lesson plan. I am really looking forward to it. We will be going out to dinner with some friends to celebrate instead of going to the annual FCC event. We used to go every year, but I do not feel as compelled to attend FCC events as I used to. I always thought it was important for the girls to know their heritage (I still do) and for them to see other families like ours. However, we have friends who have adopted, not to mention Matt's sister and husband have a daughter from China. I think our girls are confident in who they are and where they come from. So instead of going to a big event like the FCC Chinese New Year celebration, I'd rather spend it with close friends and family. I think it is more meaningful that way.
While eating lunch at Chick-Fil-A yesterday, a man askes me: "Hey, is your kid from Guatemala?" Now I usually have NO problem with people asking me about my girls, but it was the tone of this guy that turned me off.
The other day Jazzie told me for the first time: "I wish I wasn't deaf". I think she said it because off all the problems we've been having with this second implant. Her incision STILL does not look good and she still complains of pain. I told her that I would not want her to be any other way. I love her the way she is, being deaf and all. Jazzie would not be Jazzie without her cochlear implant and our lives would not be the same without it either. I really mean that.
My bathroom was starting to look really good (yes, I said was). The room was basically done, without the exception of the granite counter top which has been ordered. We just have a temporary (half) top for now...
However, Matt had to cut a big hole in the drywall in order for the vanity to fit. Our builder messed up and didn't make the opening big enough. Of course that hole has to be fixed and now the bathroom is looking like this:
At least I have a very handy husband who will be fixing the problem correctly, unlike our builder.
I am going through some of the girls' old clothes and toys and I came across this cute little Asian cooking set. It was the very first thing that I got for Jazzie while we were still waiting for her. Every time I look at it, I get very nostalgic ;-)
Can I just say how proud I am of my girl? Jazzie has always loved books (even when she was a baby) and that love has grown over the years. Now that she is in first grade, she is in an accelerated reading class and is reading chapter books.
I just want to share this video of Jazzie reading and show people how well Jazzie has done with her cochlear implant. Most deaf people don't read above a 3rd or 4th grade level, but because of her cochlear implant and a lot of hard work, she is doing not just fine; she is doing excellent. I just want to shout it from the roof tops...
And here is just a little clip of Jazzie reading when Alex was around last night. It is such a "big brother-little sister" thing ;-) I thought it was so funny when Jazzie told Alex to "stop so he wouldn't ruin it" when he corrected her.
And yes, that is bright pink lip stick she is wearing!
Matt has been working hard on re-doing our bathroom, but I have to tell you how hard it is for a neat freak like me to live in chaos:
Yesterday Matt started painting and I started seeing the end in sight:
For now we are using the girls' bathroom since we have no sinks right now and all the stuff that was in the bathroom is scattered around in our bedroom. Again, this is really hard for me since I like order and everything in it's place and not like this:
Soon. Soon everything will be back to normal and it is going to look awesome. But for now I am trying to deal with the mess as best as I can. I'm trying; I really am. I think my husband would say that I have actually done quite well with the whole thing :-)