Tuesday, January 31, 2012

It's the Little Things

The longer I parent, the more I realize that it is usually the little things that make the biggest difference in our children's lives. For instance, last week David took John (just John) to go open up a savings account at the bank. Now that he has a little bit of money coming in from his Chinese/English translation business (he's earned $110 so far), we thought it was an appropriate time to teach John how to make deposits at a bank, and balance a bank register. Then yesterday, John's ATM card arrived in the mail. For almost 45 minutes David and I worked with John on his cursive, so that he can sign the back of his card appropriately. Signing your name seems like such a little thing, but to John it was an enormous task to be mastered. What really struck me though, is that this little thing is vitally important to our son's future. He will never have to sign documents with an X, because he is now literate. And boy was John happy when he finally learned how to "sign" his name in cursive, on his very own ATM card!! His own money, his own bankbook, and his first debit card....WOW!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Cold, cold winter!

While this winter has been exceptionally warm here in upstate NY., I can't help but think about how cold it is in Heilongjiang Province, where Leo currently lives. With limited heat. There is a photo in the book Kids Like Me in Chinahttp://www.amazon.com/Kids-Like-China-Brian-Boyd/dp/0963847260 of little children all bundled up, all huddled around a small space heater. In the colder orphanages, children are bundled in so many layers that they actually lose muscle tone. Think of Ralphy in the movie A Christmas Story, bundled up so tightly that he can't walk. Central air and heat is a luxury that the Daqing orphanage simply can't afford. Stay warm little Leo, we're coming to get you soon!

Thursday, January 26, 2012


Today I hit a big sale today at a shoe store! Shoes were on clearance, and then there was a buy one pair get the second pair for half price. Everyone who knows me knows that I HATE to shop, but even I can get excited when I get things are deeply discounted. I don't know the boys' shoe sizes, so I bought several pairs of different shoes in several different sizes. In all, I bought 6 pairs of shoes for only $35!! I'm asking for updates on the boys' sizes before we travel, and I'll pack the shoes that might fit. Three pairs of sneakers are Marvel Hero light-up sneakers! Little boys just love light-up sneakers! I can't wait to see them on their little feet!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Changed my mind

I changed my mind and just reset my blog to "public." Yes, there are anti-adoption groups that have been making me the target of nasty accusations (that we adopted John so that we can make him earn money for us!), but today I decided the heck with them.  I've realized that by making my blog private, I was letting the idiots of the world censor my voice. Again, the Heck with them!!  The anti-adoption factions clearly have NO CLUE what life in an orphanage is like for these waiting children. John has told us horror story, after horror story. His life was filled with trauma, and he's writing a book to share his story with the world. Adoption isn't the solution to poverty, I know, but our adoptions have brought happiness and health to our children and our family. So there!!! On another note, I have a meeting with Ben's teachers today so that we can get his Individualized Education Plan (IEP) in place for next year. Hooray! Ben is receiving the best education possible, and he will also receive extra reading help and extra test-taking time when needed. I am just thrilled!!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Strategies for parenting

An online friend of mine asked me what I do to keep my sanity when things are tough with the kids. She just adopted two little ones, and things are not always easy. I sent her this reply, and I thought it would make a good post. When we first adopted, anytime I even hinted that things weren't all butterflies and lollipops, people would immediately suggest that our adoptions were a mistake. I can complain all day about our bio 16 year old, and my friends and family will commiserate, but I don't dare say anything negative about our adopted 15 year old. And, for the record, John was difficult to like the first few months. We loved him, of course, but until he unlearned his orphanage behaviors, and relearned family behaviors, it was hard to like his behavior. John was a big bully and just not nice the first few months. 
 I don't know if this will help, but I'll tell you some of the strategies I used to stay sane when we had the four (very, very demanding) foster children (ages 2, 3, 5 & 8), plus a foreign exchange student, our 2 bio sons who were 10 and 13, and a surprise 11 puppies. The puppies nearly did me in because I had to get up to feed them every two hours...the mother was just spent and couldn't nurse them.
Every day, I'd sit on the rowing machine or run on the treadmill for the minimum of one hour. These exercise machines are in our recreation room (basement) and the kids are in there with me playing, whining, fighting, watching TV or whatever. But I had my ear-buds in my ears, and I CAN'T HEAR YOU! If I had to get off the machine to intercede (fighting), then I added another 15 minutes onto the time I had previously allotted. The timer sits on the shelf, showing the little ones how much longer I was going to exercise. In the summer, once a week my mother in law would come over. She would watch the kids on the swings while just I drove the riding lawn mower for an hour. Again, I CAN'T HEAR YOU. My mother in law would wave to me if I really needed to intercede, but for the most part she could just ignore the crying and whining because she knew I'd be done in an hour. And she was a fresh face, who hadn't been listening to the whining all week. After I was widowed (with four children at home) I would take the kids to the school track, with balls and squirt guns etc., and run around them as they played in the grassy center. If they wanted to talk to me or be WITH me, they had to run with me. My 16 year old is now ranked nationally as a runner, and our 13 year old ran a 15k (9.3 mile!) race when he was only 9. So they did eventually learn to run with me to get my attention, and we still run together regularly (although everyone but Ben can beat me now). I also ran with the 6 & 3 year olds in a double stroller. Again, ear-buds blocked out their fighting. We ran 3 miles to a park, I got them out to play, and then 3 miles home. 90 minutes of sanity a day. For me, everyone was better behaved when we weren't in the house all day. We did an excursion of some sort every day. We rotated playgrounds etc. Several moms take kickboxing and  taekwondo with me every day 12-2p. Their little ones go in the playroom with their leapsters, the older ones can read, and we moms take an hour  or two for ourselves. I also sit in the hot-tub with my husband every night. All children must be in their rooms by 8:30pm---or else you're going to be really embarrassed when you see your mom naked. The teens can read or do homework, but no one is to come downstairs after 8:30pm.  Once a week, our kids have a sparring class (taekwondo) that lasts until 7:30pm. My hubby and I sit in a local tavern and simply catch-up with each other. We cherish our "date-nights," even though they only last an hour or so. At least we get out, alone, once a week!
We have a behavior chart on a white board, and every morning when the kids do what they are supposed to do without fuss (up on time, breakfast, teeth, dressed, practice guitar at 6:30am-7:00am) then they get a mark on the good side of the chart. If they fight, complain, or oversleep, they get a mark on the bad side of the chart. On Sunday nights, if the child has 5 MORE good things then bad things, he gets $5 allowance. If they have 5 more bad than good, he owes me an extra job, such as cleaning the garage. Every child does his own laundry. The only laundry I do is my own and sheets. Each child has a hook on the back of his door with his towel. I'm sure the laundry isn't sorted or folded nicely, but I don't care. It works for me! And, I'll admit it, drinking wine helps too!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Changes and sacrifices

Today we went skiing again. The conditions haven't been great this year, but it is still one activity that we can all enjoy together, no matter how old. Ben continues to amaze us with his progress. Sickly and weak a year ago, he is now fearlessly tearing up the ski hill. This spring he is also going to compete in Taekwondo. The state championship tournaments are held Feb-May, and the Junior Olympics is in June.The "big boys" competed all over the nation last year, and Ben wants to be just like his big brothers. However, this will be the last year that any of us be on the competition team, because of finances. Six boys in private school will take its toll on our budget. And I really won't be able to leave the two little guys at home in order to travel with the big boys. What I found great, is that when I mentioned to the boys (quite casually) that we wouldn't be able to afford all the travel involved in competing next year, they were completely ok with NOT competing. Connor went as far as to say that we "Do too much. Really. Just too much. We SHOULD cut back on things." In fact, both John and Connor also offered to discontinue guitar lessons, if our budget gets too tight. Here I thought they would be absolutely devastated to give up competitive martial arts, and they both said they would be just as happy to do school sports in the future (that are mostly free)! Austin competes in three school sports, and he's happy, so I don't know why I'm surprised. I am just thrilled that none of the kids even implied that if we had a smaller family we wouldn't have to worry about money. They are all looking forward to having more little guys in the house....EVEN AUSTIN. God is good.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Flights to China

Instead of exercising for hours this morning, I spent all morning on the computer. First, I was checking flights to and from China. Because I was an international travel agent for many years, I am super particular about flights. And I want more information than the online sites provide the average consumer. For instance, I want to know the fare breakdown (or fare ladder). That allows me to see how much each segment of the flight actually costs. So, if Rochester to Harbin is a through fare, then it will be the same price as Rochester to Beijing. That means I'll book our flights directly with United right to Harbin. But if it's a point to point fare, it might be cheaper to book to Beijing and then book Beijing to Harbin with China Air directly. I hate not having access to the United Apollo system anymore. I also spent a long time today reading other people's blogs. Their stories are so inspiring, and truly uplifting. Their stories keep me going, during this long process. I had to set our blog to private today because the anti-adoption crowd has made us their latest target. So our story won't be available to inspire others without an invitation from me. Boo. Hiss.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Other people's perceptions

Almost 10 years ago, I was widowed. Only a year later, I got engaged, to my husband of almost 8 years now. And we're still deeply in love. But 9 years ago, when we got engaged, we set our wedding date for 18 months off, only to appease OTHER PEOPLE. Upon discussion and reflection, we finally decided that people who were against me remarrying, would be against it anyway. No matter when it happened. We knew that we knew what we were doing. We were in our late 30's, not lust filled teens. So, we changed our wedding date, and we married, less than 2 years from my late-husband's death. Now, once again, we've heard criticism from the choir. This time, it's not our good friends or family who were concerned for me; it's a website. Yes, we've been tried and persecuted via the web. There is a website that quotes our adoption blog and claims that 1. We are child collectors, and 2. We adopted John so that he could establish a business and subsequently make us rich.
Of course, anyone who knows us, will laugh or gasp. For some reason, I am actually a bit upset. I even took the time to explain that John has earned $75 on his business, and that he kept 100% of the money. And it cost over $20,000 to adopt. How many $10/page letters would John have to write to "make us rich." Why do I actually care what these weirdos think? It did make me want to remove all photos of our family. I did remove photos of our house. Ick. Weird people have it "in" for us because we are "child collectors." According to this group, international adoption is bad, bad, bad!! Really bad. And we're bad people because we adopt. Hmmm. Anyone who has seen the gains made by John and Ben could testify otherwise. Why do I even give a crap? I don't know. But it does bother me that I'm being held up as the bad guy, when our adoptions have been great for everyone involved. This is why we held off over a year telling people that we are adopting again. Ugh. Didn't they learn in kindergarten, the golden motto? If you don't have anything nice to say then Shut the Hell Up!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Saints we ain't

I posted a link to this blog on my facebook page, and so now everyone under the sun knows we're adopting again. I did have to clarify to my facebook "friends," that we definitely are NOT saints. Yes, we want to make a difference in the world, which is why we chose to adopt children with medical needs, but we also just really enjoy having a large family. The camaraderie, the laughing, the noise, the fun of a houseful of  boys is what makes us happy. I am extremely fortunate (PTL!) that I am a stay at home mom (with a housecleaner too!), so the work of a big family isn't too much for me. Yes, I sometimes get upset that things are always getting broken, but overall, a household of children brings us unlimited joy. We do spend a fair amount of time at various Dr. appointments, after adopting, but helping the children get healthy is rewarding too. Ben's mouth was so abscessed and infected that he could hardly eat when he first came home. He only weighed 29 lbs at age 6 1/2, and he was feverish from the infection. Here in the U.S we take oral hygiene for granted. Even our foster children had excellent dental care. Ben had constant mouth pain in China, but a quick trip to a U.S. hospital (we had all his dental work done under general anesthetic so that he wouldn't be traumatized) and he can eat again. Just not hard candy, because he has four crowns! Anyway, my point is that you don't need to be a saint to help orphan children. You can sponsor a child's education in a foreign country, pay for a child's operation (Love Without Boundaries), or donate bottles/wheelchairs to orphanages worldwide. Or adopt!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Older Children adoption

Twice this week I've come across (in my yahoo adoption groups) families who went to China to adopt an older child, and the child simply refused. Wow. I can't imagine the pain these families must feel. After a year and a half of waiting, all the paperwork, all the money, all the training and all the hoops, to get to China, then to have the child essentially reject you. That is a terrible situation for everyone. When we adopted John we didn't even know that he had the option to refuse to go with us, although we did ask him if he wanted to be adopted (through the translator). He said yes, of course, but he was so obviously frightened and nervous, I couldn't tell for sure what he really felt. But, what a nightmare situation for those who are attempting to adopt children who really don't want to be adopted.  And, at age 10, the age where the child has to sign for himself and agree to the adoption, the child can have no idea what kind of a horrible life he/she will have in China after aging out of the orphanage. Occasionally a child can stay in the orphanage as menial labor, but usually the orphan child lives a life of poverty or worse. Many of the children become beggars or prostitutes. The last name Fu (Fu, KangChao) means orphan, so it's not as if our child could quietly blend into Chinese society and get a job. Without family, in China, you are nothing but a bad omen. And looking at how amazingly far John has come in less than 2 years, I can't help but think what a waste it would be to the world if John was left to live on the streets. Almost 2 years later, I realize how blessed we are to have our son John. He could've said, "No." He chose us to be his family. The thought still boggles my mind.

Thursday, January 12, 2012


Money, as you probably know, is a big part of the adoption process. Most people don't have an extra $25,000 sitting around. We don't either. Lots of adoptive families have fund-raising pages and hold events in order to raise the funds. Now that we are just waiting for our article 5 and Travel Approval, I'm starting to worry about the orphanage donations. Yes, donations is the word they use, although the fees are mandatory. Last week I took my wedding ring set (from my late-husband) to be appraised so that I can list it for sale on Craigslist. Ken died almost 10 years ago, the ring just sits in a drawer, and we need the money for the adoptions. We also rented our cottage out over the 4th of July holiday, when we have always reserved that week for ourselves.I am hoping that little extra income from the cottage rental will make a dent in the bills.But we actually HAVE a cottage, so fund-raising isn't something I'd feel comfortable doing. We can always take out a home equity loan, if we have to, so I don't want to sound like I'm complaining. I'm not. I'm just saying that adoption really is expensive. Recently, I activated the adsense google ads on this blog, but so far that has not generated a single dollar. Yesterday, I called Royal Caribbean to see if we could cancel our cruise (Feb. break) and get a refund on our credit card. Nope. We will lose $3,000 if we cancel now, plus the price of the airline tickets. I booked the cruise last year, thinking we'd have the boys home by now. Instead, it looks like we will be going on a very expensive vacation, only 6 weeks before going to China. Not a good way to manage money. If we were two weeks earlier with all our documents we could've gone to China in February, and not the cruise, but Elizabeth thinks we'll need at least three weeks to receive travel approval, since we're adopting two children. Our article 5 will be picked up Feb. 1st.That means we should get travel approval mid-to late February, while we are on the cruise probably. Oh well, this too shall pass, and years from now we will look back and remember fondly. Money isn't what we remember, when we look back. Once again I have to remember that my plan is not His plan. On a positive side, I spoke to Elizabeth at our agency for 45 minutes last night. She assured me that the travel agency will somehow be able to get us rooms in Guangzhou during the trade show. The rooms show sold out (or triple the price) online, but the agency always holds a few rooms just for adoptive families. She said the last time they had serious trouble during the trade show was 2003, and then they simply housed the family in the suburbs an hour away. I wanted to stay in the Holiday Inn Shifu, but beggars can't be choosers. What this means is we have tentative dates now. We can we travel to Harbin April 7th, begin the adoption of Dang, Tong (Leo) April 9th, fly to Jinan April 11th, adopt Fu, KangChao (Sam) that week, fly to Guangzhou April 13, have our medical appointment etc. and our consulate appointment on April 19...home April 20-21. Whew. Got all that? Looks like today I'll be looking at flights!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Trip dates--foiled again. And Article 5 should be picked up Feb 1st

If you've followed this blog from the beginning, you know that originally we hoped to travel in December (last month). We need to travel during a school break so that John can come with us and not miss more than a week of school. Yes, I know, the trip is educational etc.etc. , and for some kids missing school for a trip to China would be ok. But John is in 9th grade this year, he has only been speaking English for 18 months, and missing even one day is tough for him. Well, obviously we didn't get to travel in December. The next long break John has is Easter break in April. So last night I was emailing our agency about traveling during Easter break, and that too looks to be problematic!!  The Chinese holiday (sweeping out the tombs) is either April 2-4 or 4-6. The actual holiday is the 4th, but we are not sure when the government offices will actually close. If we travel that week, we might not be able to complete the paperwork needed due to closures.  In addition, the second week in April is when Guangzhou has a huge trade show. All the hotels show sold out. I spent hours online looking at hotel options, and even held two rooms at the Holiday Inn Shifu April 6-14, just in case we manage to coordinate our travel for those dates. So....if we can't make April work, we will need to stall our paperwork and plan on traveling in June, after school lets out. I hate to make our kiddos wait any longer though. Somehow, this will all work out. Again, I need to remember that this is all God's work and He is in control. Oh yes, I also found out that our article 5 will be ready for pick up Feb. 1st.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Over a YEAR now

I began this blog just about a year ago, a month after we submitted our application to adopt again. I'll be cliche and say, boy does time fly. Yes, sometimes I get frustrated that our adoption is taking a lot longer than I anticipated. Sometimes I see blogs that feature families who have adopted 6 children from China within 18 months (I'm NOT kidding or exaggerating) and I wonder why our process drags out. But then I remember that I'm not in control, for a reason. I remember that my timing and my agenda are not the focus of our adoptions, our children are. The timing will work out for the best. I do have faith; I just have to keep reminding myself! It's been almost two years since our adoptions of John and Ben, and I continue to be amazed at their progress. John has recently started a translation business. Actually, it's much more than that. He does not just translate letters (English to Chinese) for parents of children who are waiting, he also composes reassuring individual letters to children written from his own perspective. I'm just bursting with pride! Yesterday, John watched the video of a 12 year old girl (her parents emailed it to us) at least 5 times before writing her a letter. In the letter John recounted his own fears about adoption, and reassured the little sweetie that she would be well-loved by her new parents. It's amazing to me, this work that he's doing. I  think it's therapeutic for him too. Next week, we hope to create a movie of John speaking directly to waiting older children, answering their questions and alleviating their fears. Parents will be able to purchase the DVD and send it to their waiting child. John even built a website for his business, although it's a bit rough still! Yes, I am a proud, proud mom. http://adoptionletterstranslate.angelfire.com/index.html

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Bragging rights--or not!!

One big thing I've learned as a parent of many years (our oldest is almost 29) is that I can't take credit (or blame) for how these kiddos actually turn out. I do my best, to be sure, but they are each individuals, and they make their own choices, and, really, they each had their own personalities from the day they were born!! My oldest, Leah, was colicky and difficult from day one. She was also amazingly brilliant. She skipped school for 1/2 her senior year and barely graduated, although she scored 100% on all her regents exams and a 1500 on the SAT, without any prep classes or effort. She eventually married a tattoo artist and lives a nomadic lifestyle in Arizona. She's happy. I should be happy. Or so my husband tells me. My second daughter wasn't brilliant, but she was fun and personable. Her biggest goal was to marry well, have fun, and not work any harder than absolutely necessary. She's succeeded. I should be happy. She's happy. I guess I'm happy. Our son, age 16, is just like me. Highly driven, almost obsessive, and a straight A student at an all-boys college prep-school. He runs 45 miles a week, minimum, wearing a 14lb weight vest. Yep. A chip off the ole' block. He's been buying and selling study guides, school supplies and contra-band-soda at school, and has now branched into an ebay business. He found an eraser on the floor in 7th grade, sold and traded all day,and came home with $25. He will do fine, with whatever he pursues. John, adopted at age almost 14, has more spit and vinegar than them all.!! This is a good trait in our house!  He spent the first 18 months fighting me, since he spent a life-time fighting for survival, and then he decided to get my help to start a business of his own. It's all good. Really. He's recently launched his letter writing and translation business, and I swear I spend 2 hours to his 1 coordinating his contacts. He is also writing a book about living in China and being an orphan. He's going to be rich someday.  John is simply amazing, and we're all very happy for him. Connor has been our "highly gifted" prodigy since infancy, and I home-schooled him for several years because he was so advanced. He's been working for a few months on his Itunes game App, to be launched next month. He took a John Hopkins University class a few years ago (age 10) in computer programming, and has been crazy about all that stuff since. Connor is a lot like Sheldon, on the "Big Bang Theory." Highly annoying, at times, and not always aware of normal conventions. Connor will either succeed, or just be weird. We love him just the same. Honestly, he brings creativity to our inside the box thinkers. Connor is a builder too. I took him to the lumber store, yet again, and yet again spent $100 on "stuff." I overhead the guy helping Connor ask, "What school do you go to? I like the way you think!"
Ben is just adorable,overall. Adopted at age 6 1/2, Ben is as smart as a whip, but he struggles to learn. We recently found out that Ben is dyslexic, which makes perfect sense. Hooray! Now we are empowered and we can get the help he needs. Ben is charming, outgoing and delightful, although he does have a temper at times. What will Ben do? What will he become? I can't wait to find out. All I can do is love them all, give them guidance, take them to church (even when they don't want to go) and PRAY TO GOD that they will be happy. Be happy my children. We love you all, so, so much.

Top Ten Things I've Learned as a Parent--REVISED

10. Both eye-rolling and fart noises are universally understood.
9. All kids believe their friends have it better. In the adoption circles, this is, "Mommy shopping."
8.  Siblings fight. I don't know why and nothing I can do will prevent it.
7.Kids are not grateful. Not foreign exchange-students, not foster children, not adopted children and not bio children. Get over it.
6. Block all international telephone calling. (We had a $700 phone bill from hotel in Guangzhou)
5. Internet must be 100% monitored AT ALL TIMES. Kids easily bypass all kidsafe software
4. All teens want to sleep all day and stay up all night. I still refuse to accept this one.
3. Kids want you to show them affection, just not in public. A pat on the head works wonders
2. 80% of parenting a is just being there, 100% of the time.
1. Sharing a weekly activity together goes a long way in building relationships. I run 5k races with them, take martial arts with them, and attend every game/event.
1. I  do the best that I can, but my children have their own free will and eventually make their own decisions. I cannot take credit or blame; they are all individuals.I need to be happy that they are happy.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Don't do anything the first week that you are not prepared to do forever!

The best advice I received (from an exchange-student host parent) is the title of this blog. I was just reading the book "No Biking in the House without a Helmet On" and I was reminded of this advice. The first big meltdown/temper tantrum the author had to deal with from her newly adopted daughter was when the mother told the daughter that she couldn't have soda, a week after they got home.  I immediately remembered that an earlier chapter described the pleasure everyone took when they all finally found a cold soda machine in the hot, hot climate of Ethiopia. I was also reminded of the first battles we had with John when we got home. In China, we spent a great deal of time just sitting around the hotel room. The weather wasn't great, and the hotel (The Garden, in Guangzhou) was in a high-priced boutique shopping area. I hate shopping. Consequently, we let the boys watch an unbelievable amount of TV. In addition, because we didn't know the language, we let them order their own food and drinks in restaurants, we let them sleep in as late as they wanted (to offset the boredom) and we stopped at fast food restaurants regularly. We all know that the rules change when traveling. We grab or do whatever is the most convenient.And we so, so, so wanted the kids to be happy and like us, and just be happy. We didn't want to be the parents who say no all the time. But even at the time, and I blogged about it, http://petersadoption.blogspot.com , I knew that I was making a mistake. I knew, even then, that John would have a "rude awakening" when he found out that we get up by 6am everyday, we don't watch TV (we rent movies for family movie nights), and we don't drink soda. Yep. It's been almost two years since the adoptions and John still tries to sneak soda when he can, and I still have to drag his butt out of bed every morning. The TV hasn't been much of an issue because we simply do not receive any stations!! According to John, he got up before 6am for most of his life and never drank soda before meeting us, and yet we are still finding that our "changing the rules" after arriving in America is an issue. So---my biggest advice to those who are adopting is.... "Don't do anything the first week that you are not prepared to do forever!"

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Later Jan 5--after educational assessments

After 5 hours of tests, the Dr. determined what we suspected: Ben has a very high IQ, but he's also dyslexic. Really, Really Good to know! Hooray--we are now empowered!!  His high IQ is why he is actually above grade level in math (using blocks and manipulatives), and why he's been able to be at almost grade level in reading, with lots of extra help. A normal special education assessment would not have picked up on his central auditory processing disorder. Next step is to present the report to the school and see if the reading teacher has been trained on a specific reading system (there are 5 to choose from, but Wilson is the most common around here) that Ben needs to use to overcome his processing disorder. The Dr. is willing to train her (and me too!), at no extra charge, if she is not appropriately trained in this specific system. However, the school may require more documentation, since Ben isn't performing horribly in school. He's so smart, he's managed to squeak by (and any deficits would have been blamed on language acquisition). We may have to go to a the language and communication center in Rochester for additional tests just to confirm the Dr. diagnosis. We'll cross that bridge if we come to it. Special education services are provided by our local public school, and they hate sending a special ed teacher over to the private school without lots of documentation! Anyway, the appointment was fruitful, and now we can help Ben learn to read better!

educational assesments

I've blogged before about the challenge of meeting the educational needs of adopted children. First of all, internationally adopted children often lack some basic language skills. Many adopted children are not even fluent in their native language, due to the lack of exposure to normal conversation! Sitting in a crib all day is not conducive to language acquisition. Ben was 6 1/2 years old when adopted, and he had never attended any type of school in his life. However, Ben did speak some dialect of Chinese,but Mandarin speakers could not understand him, even in China. Consequently, Ben lost his ability to speak (his version of) Chinese since his adoption, but he still doesn't have the English vocabulary of a typical 8 1/2 year old American boy (yet). Supposedly, it takes 6-7 years of language immersion to be 100% fluent (reading, writing and speaking) in a language. What this means is, that in order to make certain that Ben receives as much extra help as he needs, we need to have him identified as learning disabled. Our government, in all its wisdom, mandates funding and services only for students who have disabilities. As an English Second Language Learner, there are some supports in place, but for Ben to really succeed we need to establish that he has learning deficits, not just language deficits. By the way, in NYS highly gifted children also receive ZERO support or special classes, as we found out with Connor. We are fortunate that (being in a small private school) our school has gone above and beyond to help all of our children. To make certain that they continue to receive the help that they need, today I am spending the entire day having Ben evaluated at Encompass Resources for Learning. This is the first step to obtain an IEP (individualized education plan). Yes, we can request that the local school district perform the special education assessment (for free!), but I do not trust the powers-that-be any longer. I used to believe that the public school really wanted the best for every child. It took me 20 years of having children in the school district to realize that the evaluators and administrations are really trying to find a way to do what is cost-effective and easy for them. With the budget cuts, and special education being a huge part of the budge already, it is easier, and cheaper, to determine all (but the most severe) children average. Yes, Ben is just slightly below grade level---which is an absolute miracle, considering he's lived here less than two years! But he gets tons and tons of extra help that he will not continue to receive in higher grades without an IEP. I only mention this on this adoption blog because many parents accept what the school says at face value. Don't. It's tedious and frustrating, but as parents of children who are adopted, it is crucial that we fight for our children's educational needs. Again, we are extremely fortunate that we have the resources (both financial, my time and my educational background) to take the steps to take to get what our children need. So---yes, hiring an independent evaluator to test Ben is an expense we don't need, and it will take several days, but we strongly believe that it is money well-spent. Next up---let's see how Sam and Leo do with our homeschooling April-September. Will they also need an IEP? Probably. I'm prepared.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Care packages, photos and letters

Today, I mailed packages to our two little guys in China. I included toys, candy, disposable camera, photos of our family, and assorted little items that a boy would enjoy. However, I didn't get too carried away sending things because Ben told us that he never received any of the items that I sent him, other than the photos of our family. I did enclose a short letter too, with John's help. Google translate, just so you know, is wayyy off the mark. I wrote the letter, translated with Google, and then showed it to John. He just laughed and said that half of it didn't even make sense. Lately, John has been helping other adoptive families write their letters too, for a small fee. He wrote a nice personal letter to a 12 year old girl from Beijing who will be coming home to her family next month. Other translation services can give accurate translations, but John can actually speak to the child's fears. John remembers what it was like, less than 2 years ago, to be pulled from his home, his culture, his friends and his "family." Fortunately, John also knows that he is fortunate to live here in America now. In the meantime, we just wait for April and hope our little guys adjust to our family as fast as John and Ben.

Monday, January 2, 2012

A Plan....maybe. And a rant

Today I received a phone call from our pastoral associate at church, with a brilliant idea! She knows a young woman, who is a recent college graduate, who might be able to stay at our house (with the kids and dogs) when we go to China. I spoke to her for about 15 minutes, and she is going to come over to meet us and the kids on Wednesday evening. I am not going to say problem solved, yet, but we might just make it work. For us, money is always the biggest factor when planning. For instance, both Austin and Connor can probably stay with one of their friends (for free), but then we have to pay to board the dogs. Is it less expensive to have someone stay in our house and let the 2 boys take care of the dogs? It might also be less costly if we leave all four of the children home with the sitter, but we really do view this as the only opportunity to take the boys back to their home country. I doubt we'll adopt again, although I never know for certain what the future holds. The cost of adoption holds us back, more than anything else.

And if you think it's less expensive to adopt from the United States, think again. Adoptive parents in the US usually pay for the birth mother's medical expenses and living expenses while pregnant, the attorney fees, the court fees, and the travel expenses. Then, the adoptive parents have to be prepared to maintain contact with any and all assorted relatives, any of whom can sue for visitation rights (and win). Yes, there are thousands of children in the US foster care system. We are certified foster parents ourselves, and have provided respite care for five children to date. We would've happily adopted the sibling group of four foster children we had in 2008-2009, if the US system would have allowed it. Our foster children had three different fathers, which means that they will not be legally free for adoption until all the extended relatives get their shot at parenting and fail. By then, they will be messed up teenagers. These four darlings, ages 2, 3, 5 & 8, lived with us off and on for a year, every time they were between relatives' homes. It was a nightmare situation for them. So, for those critics who assert that we are neglecting our "own" country's children while adopting from oversees... get your facts straight. There are way more willing adoptive parents than there are children in foster care, but our government places too many barriers to adoption.  Read the statistics, easily found on the US government sites, or on Listening to Parents.  And, by the way, kids in US foster care get a week of free summer camp, tuition assistance, medical care, dental care, clothing, education, and Christmas gifts every year. Most orphanage children internationally suffer from malnutrition and the basic necessities of life. End of rant.

Sunday, January 1, 2012


This time of the year everyone is busy making New Years resolutions. I resolve (virtually every year) to lose 10 pounds; every year I lose the weight ,only to gain it back again by the year's end. This year, we will be adding two more little guys to our family and that should be enough accomplishment for now. After skiing yesterday, I cleaned out the basement and brought up the box with the little boys' clothes. It's a bit early, but I was thinking it was time to wash them and put them in their bedroom. We received our letter that our I800 was sent to the NVC on December 22nd. By my calculations, we should receive our article 5 in two weeks, and then our travel approval by the end of January!