A Pandemic Summer

Well, summer has officially come to a close. As our virtual school came to an end last spring I was very concerned about what summer would look like for us. It seemed like an endless stretch of time where there would be no swim team, no camps, no vacation, no playdates, etc.

As it turned out, it was a pretty fantastic summer. Without all of the business of our normal life we just found joy from spending time together. We were relaxed, and that in itself was incredibly refreshing.

We were able to spend some (carefully planned to be safe) time with a few of our extended family members, and I know that we have never valued that time more than we did this summer. We will never take having dinner with grandparents and cousins for granted again!

We made different memories than our more traditional summers, but precious memories all the same.

After school was officially over these guys decided to have their own classrooms. Playing school was a frequent activity all summer.
We had a few virtual sleepovers with a handful of precious friends and made some interesting new desserts.
Masks all around!
I had to add “hairdresser” to my resume.
Lots of experimental baking and cooking!
Hannah got her ears pierced at the pediatrician. This was supposed to be her birthday present in March. She ended up having to wait until July!
Crazy family games
A new driver in the house!
LOTS of family walks and hikes!
We had a few times to swim together thanks to generous neighbors!
A super fun 4th of July visit with family!
Our own bike parade.
And even an unforgettable talent show!

There were a few movies watched, and a few video games played…

But also there were a LOT of dolls.
A surprising number of teeth were lost. 🙂

We finally got to spend some quality time with cousins, including the newest one!

Whipped cream challenge!
These two cousins adore each other and had missed each other SO much. Nine days together was so good for our hearts!
The kids wrote and produced an original play, “The Scientist and the Popstar”
We made our own water fun.
And we had a handful of outside get togethers with some dear friends. Although very different than “normal times,” spending even a little bit of time with these friends was good medicine to everyone’s hearts and spirits.

Although this summer was not one any of us would have chosen, it will be remembered with joy, and with a deeper appreciation for how much we value the most special people in our lives.

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Adoption Ripples

*I wrote this post about 6 weeks before the bottom fell out of the world as we know it. I wasn’t sure if I would ever share it but I wanted to remember this monumental and precious conversation. With his permission I have decided to share it to provide even more perspective on how hard it must be to be a child adopted from China during a time that China has been made out to be a villain in our global crisis.

Tonight I had a conversation that up until now I had only imagined in my head as a conversation for “some day.”

Kai had a major melt down after dropping his sandwich on the floor. As I was talking to him about it, I realized that he had had multiple melt downs over the last couple of days. I asked him if there was anything else that was bothering him that he wanted to talk about. He immediately melted down and said yes, but he wanted to lay down in his bed to do it.

I was a bit nervous at this point, but we went into his room so we could talk. He immediately had tears streaming down his face.

As a bit of background, Kai goes to a language immersion school, where he does 1/2 of his schooling in English and 1/2 of his schooling in Mandarin. His teachers are Chinese, and they learn so much about Chinese traditions and culture and about China itself.

Kai blurted out, “On my Mandarin days at school I feel so sad because we talk so much about China, and it makes me miss it so much!” As I continued asking him questions about what he remembered and what he was missing he first told me that he was so sad when he thought about his foster family and everything that they did for him. He seemed to pause for a moment and then said, “and I really wonder about my ACTUAL mom”.

It would be disingenuous if I said that sentence didn’t sting just a tiny bit, but the bigger part of me was just thinking, “Okay, we are here now. Let’s do this!”

I let Kai lead the conversation in any direction he wished. We had an in-depth conversation about the reasons why parents give up children in China, particularly children who have major medical needs, like Kai. We talked about how sad it is that children have to leave their birth parents because parents have no other way to care for them if they do not have the finances to pay for necessary surgeries and hospital care.

Kai was hungry for all of the information. He wanted to know every detail about how infants are abandoned, why it happens, and what happens to the birth families after they leave the babies. He wanted to know where he was found and if he had been safe where he was. He wanted to know if the person who found him took him immediately to the hospital and how they knew he needed surgery. I answered everything that I could to the best of my ability, but also stressed that there are some things that we can never truly know and it is okay to feel sad about that.

We talked about his time at Little Flower, the medical care home that cared for him for most of the first two years of his life, and all of the people that cared for him and loved him.

We talked about our journey to get to him and where he was and what he was doing during the time that we were frantically trying to get there.

We made a plan for the coming days. He is going to keep a notebook where he can write down all of the questions about his life in China. Then we will do everything we can to find out the answer. Luckily we can still reach out to several of the people who knew him and loved him during his first two years who can most likely provide him with some of the answers.

But I had to be honest with him that some of his questions we might never be able to know the answer to. He wondered about what his birth mom (we agreed to call him his China mom or his first mom) looked like, and what she did for a living. It was clear to me that he was only scratching the surface of the things that he was wondering about her, and I know that his questions will continue to grow as he does.

For now, he said that he would like to draw pictures of the things that he is wondering about. I thought that was a pretty good solution.

Sometimes things just happen like this. I didn’t know that tonight was the night that I needed to be ready for; that tonight was the night he was going to begin expressing the deep emotions that come from the loss of adoption (and adoption out of his home country and culture at that). I know that I am inadequate to fill the holes that he will naturally have. But I am deeply grateful that I get to walk beside him on this journey. My heart is full of love for this deep thinking and feeling child.

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Kai and Coronavirus

I wrote this a couple of weeks ago, but wasn’t ready to share it yet. Here it is:

Last night I heard Kai playing a game by himself. It sounded like he was a newscaster.

“And so, the Coronavirus came from China. It all started when people were eating bats. The president of China should have done a better job and told the people of China that they could not eat animals that have viruses, but he did not, and now people are sick.”

He goes on to read a “letter” from China.

Dear United States,

We are so sorry we started to eat bats. We hope we can still see you again.

From, China

My heart sank. We all know that children are sponges and take in everything around them, but I thought that I had done a decent job presenting the narrative for this first grader about the virus. Well, I know that this absolutely did NOT come from me…

I started thinking about what he must be feeling and thinking about this formidable disease coming from his own country of origin. It must be overwhelming to a kid who is already struggling with all issues adoption and China related. It gave a possible explanation for several out of the blue major melt downs and lots of tears that have happened over the last few weeks (as if we needed ANOTHER possible reason).

I asked him where he heard about the bats. He told me that he learned it at school. After hearing awful stories about what other Chinese adoptees (and other Chinese Americans) in the United States have had to deal with for the last few weeks, I thought I had been diligent in questioning him and looking for red flags, but I missed this.

He never brought it up in our discussions about the virus or when we have prayed for our world. It just came out as he was playing by himself, as it frequently does for children who are trying to work out complicated thoughts and feelings.

At least I know now, and we can continue discussing the world situation in a different way. What I want him to hear in this house is a love for the beautiful country, the rich culture, and the people of his birth. Covid-19 is a horrible disease, full stop. Horrible for the people of China, horrible for the people in the U.S., and horrible for almost every country in between. Never has it been more apparent that we are all global citizens. We will certainly continue having that conversation in this house.

(I’m going to share another post about Kai that I wrote several months ago. This guy is deep thinker and able to express complex emotions. Although I consider this to be a tremendous strength, it doesn’t mean it is easy…)

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Well, a required time of complete isolation seems like a good time to pick up the blog again.

Why did I stop a year ago? There are a lot of answers to that. Life is busy, but it always has been. I think the main answer is that my kids are just older now. There are fewer opportunities to write about the cute and sweet things that they do and more and more chances that I will be overstepping their own needs for privacy if I write about them.

Still, when I look back at the things that I blogged about, I am so glad. So many precious memories are recorded. Perhaps there is a happy medium where I can write a bit while still trying to afford my kids their own autonomy over their lives and stories. I will try to find that balance.

Right now marks day 16 that we have been in “Social Isolation” due to the Coronavirus. We are so fortunate that we are able to isolate in the mountains and have been able to watch spring literally springing forth day by day.

Everyone in this house is handling the isolation with various degrees of acceptance. I have always been curious about what our life would be like if we homeschooled. If you have read my blog at all you know that for the entire season of fall I continually wish that I was homeschooling. Well, here is my chance. It isn’t exactly what I had in mind.

We have fantastic teachers who are working so hard during this time to teach from a distance. That is fantastic. All of the technology that is keeping us connected to teachers and classmates has been fantastic. What is not fantastic is the amount of work we have had. This seems to vary a lot between the people that I know, but we have had a LOT of work. We are filling complete school days and then some. I feel a bit stressed during the school day because someone needs me EVERY MINUTE OF THE DAY! That hasn’t been my experience in a number of years and I realize that I slightly miss having just a little bit of quiet time built into my day. Maybe we will get there.

I definitely love having more time with all of the kids. I have been able to see first hand how they handle different academic challenges that come their way, and it has actually been fascinating to me to see the things that are difficult that I wouldn’t expect based on their personalities. It is definitely challenging me to figure them out on another level.

We have also had our share of complete break downs. Possibly a few of them were mine. I’m trying to encourage everyone to give each other a measure of grace as we all handle our many feelings about life right now.

Everyone misses “normal” life. We miss our extended family, our church, our school, our friends, our grocery store, all of it. We aren’t unique in that, I know. That makes most everybody.

But we are also grieving. During this time apart, we lost one of our closest family friends, Ryan, due to cancer. Having to cope with such a huge loss without being able to grieve in community has been incredibly hard. All we want to do is to be with them right now, and we can’t. Zoom is fantastic for so many things, but it is a difficult medium for funerals. And it definitely cannot replace hugs.

So, we are sad. So deeply sad.

Also, we are anxious. This is a terrible time for those of us with anxiety. Kaitlyn was 4 sessions in with her lovely new therapist working on debilitating anxiety when we had to begin isolating. My heart has hurt for her as I can completely identify with everything she was already feeling.

So, we are anxious.

And every single day I am reminded how fortunate we are. It is a privilege to be able to socially isolate, and so many people would love to be able to protect their families in this way who are not able to. I am ultra-aware of our privilege here, and I know it cannot be overstated. We are safe at home, and we are fortunate. And we have had time to pray together every single day for our world.

So, we keep on praying.

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Fabulous February- Part 2

Our February adventures continued.

The girls got to attend their first Daddy-Daughter dance with girl scouts this year. They were beside themselves with anticipation. Kaitlyn had a special dress that she had saved since Christmas.

They all had a fantastic night together, and according to reports, Hannah never left the dance floor. I know they had a night they will never forget.

Kaitlyn and Drew also both participated in their school talent show.

Drew has been disappointed in himself each year that he has not participated, and this was his final chance. A few days before the event, he came up with an act from Hamilton with one of his good friends. Drew can tend to be more on the shy side when speaking in public, so this was a big stretch for him. He really enjoyed himself, however, and was great fun to watch.

Kaitlyn and her friends decided to do another dance routine.

So much fun. They loved every minute, and so did I!



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