Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Officially the Parent of a Teenager

Now, the mood swings, the grunting, the sleeping in until noon, all have a reason.  I know try to contain the shock and awe at the fact that I'm old enough to have a teenager... trust me I feel old enough.

(earliest picture I could grab, others were pre-digital camera)

(reading to Grandma)


(picture with his Dad!)

I have loved watching our son grow and mature into the person he has been called to be.  He is lovely, gentile, thoughtful, compassionate, empathetic, smart and funny.  
He is a good friend, a good brother, and a good son.
When he was born, he didn't really cry or give us any grief.
After all the horror stories my mother had told me about how horrible of a child I was, we were relieved to find that our 1st child was not like me.
However, after 13 years, he is exactly like me.
The number of times he is told 'You are just like your Father, you walk like him, talk like him, even joke like him' is probably more than he likes.

Unpacking that, there is one very important thing to remember - I will never take credit for our kid turning out so wonderfully.  For if I took the credit when they turn out good, I have to also then take the credit when they turn out bad.

This is what parenting is all about.  I love seeing our children grow into wonderful mature people.  Forget the pain, suffering, sleepless nights, the crying, tantrums, the gray hair and the aching body they give us... to see them grow gives us hope!  Okay, it gives me hope.  Hope that one day (soon) they will be leaving my house and I can FINALLY get a good night sleep again!  :-)

I can't wait to see how all the other children turn out... even if the rest wind up being detriments to society, at least I know we got one right.  I'm sure the others will turn out OK as well though.  We'll see.  :-)

So Happy Birthday K!   Love you lots.  Although, you probably won't have read this yet, because you are still in bed.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

I am a Coward

NOTE:   This post was also featured on No Hands But Ours - another great adoption blog focusing on Special Needs.

Hello, my name is The Yeti...
... and I am a Coward.

Ping enjoying a horse ride, even with Spina Bifida
Now, I'm not ALWAYS a coward.  There are many many things in life which I face bravely.  I can wrestle with bears wrapped in bacon... but for the life of me, children scare me.

Now that might seem odd as I currently have 4 (and one waiting in China) children.

Maybe it isn't so much the child that is scary, but more of the what can happen to them that I find scary.

I read some of the stories here on No Hands, I talk to many adoptive parents of children with special needs, and I know a few family with children who have special needs or other disabilities... and I think... I am such a coward.

I know I have two children with special needs, so maybe that sounds brave.  But I don't feel brave.

Swimming is a great activity for children with Spina Bifida
We tell our family stories in safe places like No Hands, we tell our stories in the shopping malls, church, Yoga class, pottery class, yes, even poetry time at our local Starbucks.
We tell our family stories to encourage others that this adoption thing can be done.  That it can be done well.  That children can find loving homes.  That children with special needs can be loved, and excel in life and accomplish so many more things than anyone could have expected!  That our families can be complete with the joys of children...

... but it is scary, see... and I'm a coward.

See I read and hear some of these stories, stories like Lilah (covered here on No Hands), or the little guy with hearing loss because of a cleft, or my friends whose daughter will never walk and has other issues... and I'm scared... I think "I could never do that" or "I could never deal with that, all the doctors, and unknowns and blah blah blah".

My children are brave.  My children with Spina Bifida... they don't get the choice to be brave or to be a coward... they have to be brave.  I have the luxury of being able to be a coward.

So much braver than me...

However, being a coward isn't all bad.  Well, okay, it is.  But the good news is that you do not have to be a coward.  If you have ever read these stories and maybe been a little scared, maybe started thinking "You know what, adoption is too big, it is too hard, special needs are too scary"... that is never the intent of our stories.  We mean to encourage, to show that family works - regardless of how that family is made, or what special needs may be present.

I never though we could adopt a child with special needs... now, I would not change anything.  I love my children, all of them.  The special needs don't even factor into the love.

And even if they are as scary as you think, once you see your beautiful child, all the fear will dissipate and be replaced with love.  Eventually.  Once they stop yelling at you in Chinese... or pretending to slit your throat while you sleep... you know what, maybe is wasn't the Special Needs that I should have been worried about.

So, I'm The Yeti... and I'm a coward.  :-)

Yes, you should get educated about your child's special need and maybe have your wife read a book about it, but then again - you should be getting educated to be a better parent anyway, special needs or not.  You should also parent according to you child's unique situation... I will probably never ask my children with Spina Bifida to be a professional gymnast... but that doesn't stop us from having a great life.  From one coward to another... read and get educated on special needs, they are not as scary as you might think. :-)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Tale of Two Fathers

NOTE:  This post is also featured on We Are Grafted In - another great  blog for adoption.  This has also been re-posted here because I got some feedback that the "Blog Roll" links didn't work properly - so sorry if this is a repeat for some of you.

Fathers Day 2011 Photo
I guess since it is getting pretty close to Fathers Day, it would be a great time to reminisce and pontificate over the roles and impact fathers can have on their family.  It would also be a great time to dig out a dictionary and look up what the word pontificate really means.  Because really, I just used it 'cuz it sounded good.

There was once a young man standing in a SuperStore store pacing nervously back and forth just outside of the dirty grungy  washroom.  He looked to be the age of 16, but in truth was probably closer to 20.  His distant stare shifted back between the 4.95$ Timex SPORT watch on his wrist, and the light green door with peeling paint and a slightly off centered iconic woman embossed in white, against a plastic background.

Elsewhere, a slightly older gentleman was sitting in an office, staring at a pile of paper.  Government stamps abounded on the paperwork and his hand was slightly tired from signing so many pieces of paper covered in words to which he was still trying to come to terms with.  His focused gaze calmed moved from paper to wife sitting beside him - staring at the same stack of papers, with the same questions racing through her head as his.

Slowly the peeling green door started to open.  A slightly older woman a little heavy set begins to step out and is startled by the wild eyed young man who instinctively moved towards the door when it opened.  As his face fell from the disapproving eyes of the older woman, he noticed a slight figure slip out from behind her.  His face lifted as the slight figure was the very reason he had been pacing for the last 20 minutes, as if waiting for the world to change.  Her green eyes met his, and in a fluster she grabbed his hand and started walking out from the washroom area as fast as she could without breaking into a sprint.

The slightly older gentleman reached across the table to hold the hand of his wife reassuringly.  She smiled slightly and shook her head as if to say "We are crazy for even trying this.  Everyone thinks so."  With a confident smile he reassures her that this is the right decision, and that despite what friends, family, and even their own doubts think, this is the right decision.

Racing for the doors, the young disheveled man finally plants his feet as asks the only question which can quell his racing mind.  "Are you pregnant?", he asks.  The young girl nods her head as they stand staring at each other knowing their whole world has changed... hopefully for the better.  "Only thing we can do now, is wait.", the young man offers as if to provide a small measure of reassurance to a terrified young woman.

The social worker interrupts the silent conversation the gentleman was having with his wife.  The type of conversation which can only be had by two people who had been married for over 15 years, and gone though life together as if they truly were but one person.  "All done, you are ready to adopt!  All that is left now is to wait.", the social worker offers, as if to provide a small measure of reassurance to a hopeful couple, wanting desperately to hold onto an old dream, almost forgotten, and almost given up on.

Time passes for both couples.  Both men struggle to come to terms with what it means to be a father and husband.  One young and full of blind optimism, and confidence that all things can be overcome.  Lacking in wisdom or any real parenting skills of which to speak.  The older gentleman, well versed in parenting theology having consumed many books on the subject matter, yet lacking in wisdom or any real parenting skills of which so speak.

However, as time marches on, both fathers can be found each night walking their new baby girls.

A tiny blond girl in the arms of her young father, feeling safe in his strong arms as he sings Aerosmith rock ballads to her before laying her down in their bed by her exhausted mother.  Praying over his new baby girl, she drifts of to sleep.

In the aged arms of the other father rests a slightly larger daughter with black hair, brown eyes, and a very different complexion.  While she begins to come to terms with her new life, and leaving everything she once knew a half world away, she finds peace in the strong arms of her newly found father who gently Steven Curtis Chapman to her and lays her down with a prayer and a kiss as she drifts off to sleep.

Now, it may be shocking... okay, not really, I'm sure you've figured out the story by now... but, just so the younger readers can follow along, I am both Dads.

Our first pregnancy was not exactly planned.  I mean, we were married already, had a 700 square foot apartment which we paid 419$ a month for - but had just bought a 1 bedroom condo, and a two door car.  I wasn't even in school, and had no real education to speak of.  We had just decided to wait 3 to 5 years before having children.  And yes, we really did run to the closest SuperStore and bought a pregnancy test kit.  The wife ran into the Women's Washroom (she wasn't gonna wait for us to walk ALL the way home) and pee'd on the stick while I paced back and forth for what seemed like an eternity.

Three biological children later, we started adopting.  Our first child is home from China, and our second is still waiting for us, hopefully coming home this fall.  Getting these children into the family was a little more... deliberate.  Adoption dosn't seem to happen by "accident".  I have not run across anyone who said to me "I don't know what happened.  My wife and I were at home just filling out paper work and BAM!  27 Months later, a kid showed up!  Dang, I should have used a pencil!"

In the end though, all my children know they are loved, growing, bright, confident and exactly where God wants them to be.  Which means, I must be the father God had chosen for them... for some reason... I don't always see that reason though.  But if I follow Gods leading in this journey of parenthood... then I can be a good father.

There is no wrong time to become a father, nor is there right or wrong way to become a father... if you are called to be a father, then you know what, be a father.  Don't worry about being a perfect father... just be a good father.

So, to all you Fathers out there (or soon to be)... good on ya!  Cherish every moment you have with your children, however the came into your life, because they will be gone far too soon.

How a father is made is not nearly as important as what the father is made of.

Keep your sticks on the ice, and go hug a child... hopefully, one of yours.  If not one of yours, ask permission first.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Best Friend

Wife:  Hey, can you drop the kids off at school today?  There is no way we're gonna get 'em to the bus on time.
Me:  Yea sure.  I'll drop 'em off.  C'mon kids, Daddy is driving you to school!  Lets go.
... we arrive at school ...
Pings Teacher (PT):  Hey Pings Daddy!
Me:  Hey.  How's it going?
PT:  Really good.
Me:  Oh good.  Okay baby, gimmie a kiss before you go play with your friends.
Ping:  You no shave.
Me:  Fine, let me give you a kiss then.  *Ping runs off and starts playing with a little girl in the sandbox*
PT:  That's Elly.  She is Pings best friend.
Me:  What?!  She has a best friend?!
PT:  Yes.  Elly just decided that she likes Ping, and that they will be best friends.  And Ping LOVES it!
Me:  That's AMAZING!  She has wanted a "best friend" for so long now!
PT:  Yea, well, she is getting it.  She is playing super with all the kids now.
Playing in the school sandbox
Well, didn't that just make my day!

Ping has watched her brothers and sisters make friends, have play dates, sleep overs and what not.  And Ping KNOWS she didn't have that.  And she wanted it!

Unfortunately, her first few months were a little rough.  Remember the swearing in Mandarin?  Yea.  Imagine that, but in a class room with other kids.  She had started school within just a couple of weeks of getting to Canada.  So no English... what so ever.  IT was crazy that she wanted to go... but I think she felt safe in a big class of children... you know... far away from me.

But the point is, she HAS a best friend now!  The next week, she got invited over to a different girls house, and she went and had a great play date!  If your kids can make friends easily, then that's great... don't take that for granted because some kids really have to work at it.

Other Friends Mom (OFM):  Hey, you must be Pings Dad.
Me:  Yup, that's me.
OFM:  I'm Maggies Mom.  Ping had a play date with us yesterday.
Me:  Oh yea.  She had a great time.  She had been waiting ALL week for the play date.  Every day, "Daddy, I go to Maggies today?", "No baby, Wednesday".  "Okay, so I go now?!"  ... every day!  She was so excited.
OFM:  They played for 4 hours together - not one fight!
Me:  Awwwwesome!
OFM:  Yea, and I remember the play date the girls had about a year ago.
Me:  Oh.  Uh, yea sorry about that.
OFM:  No!  Don't be sorry!  Ping was so polite now!  She played so great.  It is AMAZING how different she is now, and now polite.  Oh so polite.
Me:  Well, thanks.  I know we've been working with her, and she seems to really have a desire to have friends, and to "no be rude" as she puts it.
OFM:  Well its working.

Oh the joys of parenting!  You work for hours, days, weeks, months, years to help raise your children up right.  To behave right.  To speak right.  To be polite.  Courteous.  Kind.  Etc.  And so often we see what still "needs to be fixed" and not always how far they have come.

Thankfully there are moments like these which can help reset your point of view and see your children through fresh eyes.

I'm so proud of how far Ping has come.  Some days, I don't have enough patience with her... most days I do. But the change has been so gradual from Angry Swearing Mandarin Truck Driver to loving daughter that some days I forget all the past behaviour problems, tantrums, or even that she is adopted.  All that fades away and she is just simply "my child"... so I can get mad at her and send her for a time out just like the other kids when she eats all my Jelly Beans in the cupboard!

I couldn't do that before.
Before, I just had to buy a new bag of Jelly Beans.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Kids Say the Funniest Things

A little over a week ago...
Wife:  Hey, you got your hair cut!
Me:  Yup.
Wife:  Let me check it out... oooh, looks nice.  Turn around.
Me:  Thanks.
Wife:  Oh.
Me:  Oh?!  What oh?!
Wife:  Oh nothing.
Me:  What?!  What?!
Wife:  Well, you know, its just... well, no... nothing.
Me:  ...
Wife:  It's just that, well... its getting just a little... maybe a smidge, just a tiny bit, but nothing to worry about, thin on top.
Me:  What?!  *runs to the mirror*
Wife:  It's not THIN... you know... just thin... er.
Me:  AAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!  See what you are doing to me?!

Couple Days Ago...
Son #1 (K):  Hey Dad, what is that grey stuff in your beard?
Me:  What?  Food?
K:  Noooo, I think it's grey hair!
Me:  What?!  Grey hair!  Never!
K:  Uh, it is grey hair.
Me:  Let me see... *runs to the mirror*  
K:  So?  You are getting soooooo old!
Me: AAAAAAHHHHH!!! See what you kids are doing to ME?!?!  I'm going to work...
... 30 minutes later...
Mike:  Hey, wanna get some coffee?
Me:  Yea, sure.
Mike:  Oh hey, did you know you have some grey hairs in your beard?

A little later in the week...
Ping:  Daddy Daddy!  You need to shave!
Me:  Yes, I will shave.
Ping:  And your tummy too?
Me:  My tummy?
Ping:  Yes.  You need to shave your tummy.
Me:  *looks at tummy*  I didn't think I needed to shave my tummy.  I guess I cou...
Ping:  And your BACK!
Me:  What?!  *runs to the mirror*
Ping:  Oh Daddy... you shave soon!  Then I give you kisses!
Me:  AAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!  When did I get hair THERE?!  See what you kids are doing to ME?!
So just to be clear, big scary, hairy horse?  OK.  Daddy, not shaved?  BAD.

A little later in the week...
Daughter #1 (G):  Piiiiing, you can't eat all the cake!
Ping:  What?  Why I no eat all cake?!
G:  Because it will make you fat!
Ping:  OH!  Like Daddy!
Me:  What?!  *runs to mirror*
Ping:  *teehee*  DADDY HAS A BIG TUMMY!
Me:  AAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!  See what you kids are doing to me?!

*siiigh* It's just been one of those weeks.

I've been called:
  • bald
  • old
  • hairy
  • fat

These are not labels I stuck on myself.  Noooo.  My labels are more like:
  • Awesome!
  • Super!
  • Great!
  • Rough n' Rugged (tm)
  • Alarmingly Hansom

Never the less... there are labels stuck to me which I don't like.  Hmmmmm... I guess I could try to change them.  I mean I could... work out... loose weight.  Wax.  Uhhhhh, wait... no waxing.  I think they might have to live with the hair.

But then as my children climb all over me, and snuggle up on the couch that night to watch Family Movie night... I noticed something...  the only person who actually cared about these stupid labels... was me.

The children (and wife!) calling me old... fat... hairy... bald... didn't care about those things.  They saw the hugs, cuddles, the accepting father... the goofy, forgiving Dad who will always love them no matter what.

Those were the "labels" they really cared about.  It was those labels which I should have cared about.

Ahhhh, but human nature right?  We all get stuck on the wrong thing from time to time.  So how much so our children?  What labels are they looking at... maybe we don't see these labels?  Maybe we don't care about these labels.  They might.  For the last 2 weeks Ping has been asking me why she is brown.
She noticed she looks different than her Mom, Dad,
and 27 brothers and sisters.

I tell her, it is because that is the way God made her, and that she is BEAUTIFUL!  That we are all different, even those of us who have white(ish) skin..  K has green eyes.  G has blue eyes, D has grey eyes... We have blond hair, brown hair, black hair, and hints of red hair in the family.  To me... these are not labels which matter... to her... they matter.
Oh they look innocent and cute when the sleep.
Cuz they can't call you fat, hairy,
bald or old when they are sleeping.

Now, what to take from this?
  1. My wife is probably screaming at the computer right now because I got the children's eye colours wrong.  C'mon!  Green vs blue eyes?!  There's like NO different... not in eyes.  In sky vs grass?  Yes.  Unless it is blue grass... then they are similar.  But I digress
  2. Ping actually still cares about the hair... she stands in the bathroom doorway and waits for me to shave before she gives me a kiss.  I'm still waiting for that to change... I might be waiting a long time.
  3. It is now 3:23AM my time and I am no longer sure what I'm typing.  I hope this was funny, clever, brilliant, touching and insightful.  Failing that... I'll settle for coherrent.  Failing that, I'll settle for something not offensive.  Failing that, just stick another "moron" label on me.  My kids won't notice it.
  4. My wife has probably already called me to correct me on the children's eye colours.
  5. Bad labels suck.  And I'm not fat... just... husky.  You know, rough and rugged.   But we have to raise our children label free.  Or at least, BAD label free.  May we covered them with good labels.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Hair Cut! (No, not me this time)

Just in case y'all are not following Braided Tresses, you've gotta check it out... Our Little Helper Angel (LHA) has finally gotten her hair cut to help cancer patients, the orphanage donation, and raising awareness for International Adoption.  All while only 12 years old... kinda makes you feel lazy and un-productive eh.

Anyway, check it out: http://braidedtresses.blogspot.com/

I think the world could do with a few more LHAs.  :-)

And on a related note... since our LHA has cut her hair, and we've already done the congee diet (all three of us so far - Thanks LHAs Dad!) ... I think we (or maybe just Me) need more ideas for fundraisers...

Okay, maybe just me... LHA has done an amazing job fundraising... she has sent us some babysitting money... she had a bake sale... cut her hair...

... I ate congee.

Lazy, unproductive 30-something year old that I am.

I'm glad she is NOT keeping track... but so far, I think our LHA has raised over 1000$ for the Orphanage donation, while I've raised... I donno... 60$... and thats all from one family (you know who you are - thanks.  :-) )...

Sooooo, c'mon, gimmie some good ideas to raise some $$$!  We'll pick an idea, set a $$$ goal and move that ChipIN bar closer to the right!