About C: My Second Foster Sister

I was in college when my parents got the call.  There was a special needs child who needed a home.  To say “special needs” is such an understatement in her case.

C was nine years old.  She had cerebral palsy and was fed through a g-tube.  Her parents didn’t have electricity and so they would sometimes run an electrical extension cord from the neighbors to her medical equipment.  Sometimes. Continue reading

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Holden Beach (aka Beach #1)

It feels like we’re always on the road, but we’re never really on vacation.  Our destinations have usually been to visit friends and family who live hundreds of miles away.  This summer, we took a nice long vacation and explored our neighboring state to the south.  What was special about this trip was that we were able to spend our vacation with the friends and family we are always visiting.

Family Portrait at Holden Beach

Week # 1 — I  thoroughly enjoyed Southern NC. I was worried about bringing my family to the “South,” but everyone has been so loving and welcoming. For the first time, we were told that we were a beautiful family. Usually the compliments are about our daughter and not us as a whole unit, so we felt especially welcomed. Continue reading

About A: My First Foster Sister

I come from a big family. I am the youngest of six, and then some. From time to time, and in no particular order, I’ve written about my siblings. There are a few entries that I haven’t gotten to yet, and in the spirit of Foster Fridays over at Don’t We Look Alike?, I’m going to write about a little girl named A.

My family had just moved from New York to West Virginia, and we children were down to two: Marji and me. My dad and mum had gone through the state licensing program to become foster parents, and they were invited to meet a little girl who had been born with some health problems and couldn’t go home. For starters, she couldn’t eat food and was fed through a g-tube (a hole was cut through her skin above her tummy, and the food she was given went straight into her stomach). She also had severe breathing problems, which were an issue because her parents were smokers and had a couple of german shepherds. Her parents decided that they didn’t want to quit their habit or get rid of the dogs, and so the only solution was for this fragile girl to live in another home. (It should also be mentioned A had a twin sister who was born healthy and was able to remain at home.)

Well, dad and mum drove to the hospital and were introduced to A. She was attached to so many tubes that were helping her breathe and eat. They both knew that they would be taking her home. The hospital staff was so very happy to hear this, because of all of the other prospective foster parents, my parents were the only ones who were not revulsed upon the sight of this poor girl in the condition she was in.

A came home, and she was the little baby sister I always wanted. She was loved by so many people in our neighborhood and our church, not to mention our large family! My dad was working as a truck driver at the time, and so there weren’t many men in her life. She would usually cry when held by a man, but that changed when my brother the Marine (I still need to write about him!) came home for a visit. Oh, how she loved him! and vice versa.

This little girl with strawberry-blonde hair thrived in our home. I remember when she had figured out how to swallow without choking. She also was very capable of breathing on her own in our pet-free, smoke-free home. She started to become mobile and jabber.

She was so healthy… that the state of West Virginia said that she was able to be reunited with her family. This is the goal of foster care after all. Still I was devastated the day she was removed from our home. I felt that my parents had done all of the hard work, and that she was unjustly being removed from our home. I also was scared that she wouldn’t do well. Ultimately, I felt that her parents didn’t deserve her if they would rather have dogs than a little baby.

I’ll be honest: To this day, I still don’t think that they did. I’ve come to learn some facts about her early childhood with them, and I know that she didn’t have an easy life.

Even though she was with our family so briefly, she was loved with abundance. We think of her often. She’s now a young lady in her early twenties. I wonder did she go to college, is she a hard worker, does she still like big bouncy balls? I hope that the little bit of good we did was enough.

– –

A wasn’t the only child that my parents fostered, and someday soon I hope to write about B and C. (Seriously, those are their initials, and they lived with us in that order.)

Adoption: Officially Ours

Our agency told us a while ago, but we wanted to wait until we got the official paperwork before we made a public announcement.  Now I can’t seem to type it fast enough.  She’s ours, 100% ours.  And, as Okey points out, we are officially hers!

Maybe it’s like this in other states, but we did not step foot in the courtroom once.  It was a strange feeling to have this part of the adoption process occur behind closed doors, as it were, considering how much paperwork and involvement was required from us in the beginning.  We might have called the lawyer more than once just to make sure we were still on track, and she’d assure us that we were actually ahead of schedule.   The adoption was finalized in roughly three months.  In fact, the decree was entered on Wren’s nine month birthday.  (How cool is that?)

We are just so elated.  This news is one of the best Christmas presents ever.

Wren at Seven Months

Girl, oh girl. You stole our hearts the moment we learned of you, and I don’t think we’ll ever get them back.

This past month, and right on cue, Wren started teething.  She was fussy and her appetite diminished.  She ran a slight fever, she tugged on her ear, and then the snot came.  I kept checking to see which tooth was coming in, and it felt like her top right one.  I was surprised when the front bottom right made its appearance.  Then its twin appeared the next day.

Even though she seems to have stopped crawling, she hasn’t stopped moving.  She now prefers to roll around and will scoot.  She can also pull herself to a stand and will stand by herself next to the ottoman.

We also had a busy month with family.  Both grandparents stopped by for a visit, and we said farewell to my brother and his family as they moved to the other side of the world.

Wren with her maternal grandparents (i.e., mine)

Wren with her paternal grandparents (i.e., Okey’s)

About X (and a Recipe)

Country Living Blackberry Rose Ice Pops

Evidently all three of my sisters got together and ate popsicles that my talented sister X made. And when I say talented, I mean puts Martha-Stewart-to-shame talented. Invent and patent a custom teddy bear to hold photos?  Sew wedding gowns?  Upholster her living room and sew coordinating curtains?  Create the awesome “hands of love” quilt for Wren?  Raise three beautiful and smart children, the kind that reassure you that there is hope in the next generation?  Take all the creativity genes that should have been shared among her sisters?  Yep.  That’s her.

So when she forwarded the popsicle recipe to all of her sisters, it didn’t shock me to see that it contained a rare ingredient: rose water.  The note on the recipe said that high end grocery stores would carry this ingredient, so off to Wegman’s I went.  Alas, I could not find this delicacy.  I tried to call my sister to figure out what I could use as a substitute, but she didn’t pick up.

I came home and realized that not only did I not have the rose water, I didn’t even buy enough blackberries so I raided my fridge for other fruits to get to the target weight of 27 oz.  I researched substitutes for rose water online and learned that I could use vanilla or almond extract.  Neither of those seemed like they would go with blackberries and peaches, plums, and blueberries.  Then I had an aha! moment.  I have spearmint growing in the backyard, so I picked four leaves and tore them into the simple syrup to maximize their flavor.  I continued to follow the recipe as best as I could (except I switched out an orange for the lemon) and wow! this tasted great.

Here’s the link to the official recipe:  http://www.countryliving.com/recipefinder/blackberry-rose-ice-pops-recipe-clv0712

Here’s what I did:

  • 9-1/3 Tbsp. of organic cane sugar
  • 9-1/3 Tbsp. of water
  • 4 torn leaves of fresh spearmint

Heat and simmer until sugar is absorbed.

Using a food processor, puree the following:

  • 18 oz. of blackberries
  • 4 handfuls of blueberries
  • 2 plums
  • 1 peach
  • 1/4 orange

Combine and then pour over strainer into another pitcher.  Then pour the mixture into moulds and freeze.  My concoction took longer than five hours to freeze, so I think this is something best made a day in advance.

Polly’s Improvised Fruit Salad Ice Pop

When X and I reconnected after I made the recipe, we had a good laugh.  You see?  She also omitted the rose water.  So maybe she took the creativity genes, but at least she left me a few improvisational ones.  😉

PS  Why do I call her X?  Because my parents didn’t give her a middle name (it’s a Scottish thing), my sister would use the letter X to fill in the middle name section on forms.

She is My Daughter: Race and Family

One of my aunts told me at the reunion in May that a transracial adoption such as ours was not possible for her family many years ago.  Even though we’ve come along way as a nation in regards to racial equality since then, we still felt a lot of racial tension from strangers, ironically, that weekend.

I have not wanted to turn this blog into one that is adoption themed so I haven’t talked much about that aspect of my life lately.  The reason for that is simply this: I do not want to qualify my relationship to my daughter.  She is my daughter, and I love her – period.

I think that there are enough good blogs out there that curious people can access about transracial adoption.  I just want my blog to be about our life.  The fact is, though, our family is interracial.  We shouldn’t easily dismiss racial tension so I am posting our encounter as an acknowledgment of its existence.

The last morning of the reunion in Texas, a lot of my family met up at a Denny’s.  I needed to make a bottle for Wren.  Rather than flagging down our waitress, I went to the bar to request water.  A woman sitting there asked to hold my daughter. I replied with a smile, “No, I do not know you.”

She asked again.

“No, I do not know you,” I said.

She pointed to her dark skin right above her wrist, “She needs a little brown sugar in her life.”

She was implying that my white husband and I (with our processed sugar complexion) were somehow inferior. I glanced to where my extended family was and told the stranger, “They are only part of my family.”

I wanted to add so much more, but I was uncomfortable.

She clarified her position, “I am a nurse.  It is okay for me to hold your daughter.”

“No, I do not know you.”

“It’s okay. Just sit here next to me.”

Again, “I do not know you.”

She asked if I lived in the area, and I was glad to say “No.”

She asked to see Wren’s face, I reluctantly complied before I returned to the table to make Wren’s bottle.

The encounter was strange.  I did not feel physically threatened, but I was on edge because it was our first encounter like it.  Plus, I didn’t know her.

She kept her eye on and circled around us a few times before she made her next approach with a friend. By this time we had moved to the front of the restaurant, and I was surrounded by my family. The women worked their way through the group and started to question me again.

I remained sitting as I was feeding Wren, but I was vigilant.  I remained calm and gave brief answers.  She wanted to know how old she was, what her name was and also how it was spelled.  She seemed to approve.  At last, she wished us a safe trip.

Those two women at the restaurant weren’t the only ones concerned about our family’s composition.  I overheard one caucasian man say to another, “Does that baby belong to that woman?”

God must have granted me extra patience that day.

Back in April, I commissioned a friend to draw a portrait of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.  I finally got around to framing it.  I printed out an excerpt of the famous “I have a dream” speech on some textured cardstock and used that as a matte.  The whole speech is powerful, but it’s the dream part that gets to me.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

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.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day, this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning “My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my father’s died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring!”

My family owes a lot to the civil rights movement and especially to one of its most loved leaders.  We also owe a lot to the families who opened the door for adoptions like ours.  My husband and I are not the first to adopt outside our race, and we certainly won’t be the last.  We have learned a lot from other families’ experiences, and I hope that families down the road can learn from our experiences as our society continues to change.

So what is it that I have learned?

As parents, we need to show how our child to respond to situations appropriately. It would have been easy to get riled up or wish you would have thought of a sassy answer, but that wouldn’t have been right.  It’s best to remain calm and answer questions politely (when appropriate).  We need to remember that our family is uncommon, and our reactions will shape what people think of transracial adoption.  We’re going to stand out; let’s not look like a sore thumb while we’re at it.

Also, that even though Wren and I look nothing alike, people still identify me as her mother and her as my daughter.