Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter

We had a really nice Easter. Alex was very happy to see a chocolate bunny in her Easter basket, and Sam got mad about something and threw his Easter basket on the floor, but he recovered quickly. We had Buzzmeovana over for lunch - we tried a new recipe for lamb shish kebabs and it came out good! All in all - a good day and it finally feels like SPRING!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

"I promise"

Last night Alex was snuggling on the couch with me and asked if I would sleep in her bed with her. I said I would snuggle for a few minutes, but I can't sleep in her bed all night. She said, "When I was a baby, you slept with me." I've told her about how, when she first arrived home with us, I slept in her room with her because she missed her foster mom. She has been bringing up Korea and her foster mom recently, on her own initiative. I'm amazed at how much she remembers of what we've told her, but I'm not sure how much she really understands.

So, while still snuggling on my lap and right after talking about her foster mom, she looks into my eyes and says something like, "Promise you will never go away, mom. You have to PROMISE." (I don't remember the exact wording and her grammar is a little off...and I don't remember her ever using the word "promise." Wow.) I said, "I promise I will never leave you." And she said, "No, promise you will never go away ALEX." Did she mean "give away Alex"? Was she worried that she will be "given away" again? I told her I will always be her mommy and she will be my girl forever. That seemed to satisfy her.

I've been thinking about this a lot last night and today. It was a poignant moment, a glimmer of her first conscious processing of what had to happen for her to be adopted. :-( I'm sad to think she might be worried that her status as our daughter could ever be in jeopardy. :-( In combination with the comments she made last week, telling us out of the blue that she was "junk" - and now apparently wondering if she could be "thrown away" or "given away" ? I wonder if the adoption explanations we've tried to give have been misinterpreted? I remember reading a study that showed that 3-5 year old Korean children, adopted as infants, were worried that they might be taken away again. These concerns were generally not shared with their parents and in all respects they were well-adjusted, happy kids.

We've always been matter-of-fact about her adoption and have tried to make sure she understands where she began her life and how she came to be our daughter. But - no matter how delicately you couch it - when you tell a child that her first mother could not be a mother to her, and so she was taken to a new family - does she automatically, if unconsciously, conclude that she is somehow not valuable? That it was her fault? I suppose this would be a rational conclusion, and I've seen it expressed by adoptees before. I naively hoped my kids would somehow escape it. I also didn't expect to see these questions or fears quite this early.

I've briefly questioned the wisdom of our telling Alex her adoption story at this tender age. But only briefly. I still believe in my heart that honesty is the best policy, that by telling her the facts (at age appropriate levels) we are enabling her to understand and integrate her past with her present, are allowing her to question us with the expectation of receiving truthful answers, and are creating an environment in which dialogue can occur without an overtone of secrecy or shamefulness. As sad as I am to think she might be fearful or feel not valued, I would be even more sad if she did not feel she could express these things to us.

And so I plan to get my ducks in a row and talk to her again, sometime in the near future, about her adoption story. Her 3rd arrival day anniversary is coming up in May, so we'll probably have another discussion around that time and look at her lifebook pictures. This time, I may be more careful to emphasize that her first mother (and father) could not take care of ANY baby - and that being adopted means she belongs with us forever. I have to anticipate the "Why" questions this time, too - so I pray I can answer in a way that affirms her. Wish me luck!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Alex update

We are having our ups and downs with Alex. I am wondering if the terrible threes will ever end. She can be so charming, cute, and fun one minute, and then the next she turns into a little raging, tantruming tiger cub.

A recent quote I liked: "Mommy, even when you are bad, I still love you." When she gets frustrated with me or Sam she counts (just like we do with her) "That's one," "That's two," etc. Except she can't put us in time out when we get to three. :-) Poor Alex. When she doesn't like something I'm doing I hear a lot of "Mom, you're being BAD. You're NAUGHTY." I have tried to emphasize the fact that SHE is not bad, but sometimes her BEHAVIOR is bad, but in her mind, they are all the same, I'm afraid. I hope she doesn't internalize the notion that she is "BAD" too much, especially since she spends a fair amount of time in the time out chair. I try to counter it with positive cuddle time, rocking chair time, telling her often how great she is, and catching her being good. It is hard to know what is sinking in. Twice in the past week she has talked about being "junk" and getting thrown in the trash. What is this about?! Bryan and I have not the foggiest notion. We don't want to read too much into it, but it seems a pretty strange thing for a 3-year-old to say. We have never even joked about such a concept with her - so where does she get it? Hmmm.

The bedtime and potty battles continue. She really has a hard time accepting the rules and constantly tries to manipulate them. I don't get it - she knows we will make her go to bed every night and we follow a very predictable routine - yet when it's that final moment when we say good night and leave the room, many nights it's another squall with yelling and tears. She will not initiate going to the potty herself, and if we don't provide the motivation she will go only once or maybe twice the whole day. We're trying for 3 times a day - but lucky to make it two. We try to give her many other ways to have control, like allowing her to wear her pajamas everywhere, but it's an uphill battle.

I've heard this gets better when they turn four. On the bright side, she is really learning to play beautifully with Ava and other kids her age.

Friday, March 14, 2008

book of the month - The Raft

I've been listening to an audiobook called "The Raft" by Bill Trumbull, randomly selected from our local library shelves in an opportune moment when I was there to browse without the kids.

It is a true story of 3 Navy men who got lost on a routine mission (scouting for submarines) early in 1942 - just 2 months after Pearl Harbor - and couldn't make it back to their aircraft carrier in the Pacific. They landed the plane in the water and managed to get the life raft out before the plane sank, but all the survival gear went down in the plane. The US fleet was stretched too thin in the Pacific for much of a search and rescue effort - so after a search plane passed over them the first day, they were on their own. For the next 34 days they floated at the mercy of the elements and had to survive on what they could catch - fish, birds, a couple of floating coconuts. It sounds like it might be boring but actually is a pretty engrossing story - well told and full of good details - I don't know how they remembered the details so well afterward but I guess maybe you would if you were in that situation. I don't know why I like these kind of near-death adventure stories so much, but I do. Some of my favorites are Alive and Into Thin Air. I listened to one called The Hatchet earlier this year, about a boy stranded alone in the Canadian woods with nothing but a hatchet, and I liked that too, but I think it was fiction.

Anyway - if you have a car trip coming up or just need a good true adventure story, I recommend The Raft. You'll be glad to be warm, safe, and dry.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Paper accepted!

Today I found out that a paper I submitted with a group from my work has been accepted for presentation at a national conference in Phoenix this summer. Woo-hoo!

I haven't done very much academic work for the past 2 years. It's a nice feeling of accomplishment to be first author on a paper, especially since it was written in a marathon session just before the deadline. I had thought they only wanted the abstract until just about a day before the due date, and then discovered they wanted the entire paper. I buckled down and pushed through a 12-hour work day to get it done. There were several serendipitous occurrences that day that enabled me to finish it, including key people being willing to help me work on it after hours. I really do have fantastic co-workers. And as a side benefit, I now have the capacity to convert any document to PDF format. Whee.

If anyone's interested, the paper is about how we used a controlled reference terminology (SNOMED CT) to exchange computable data on patient allergies between the VA and the Dept of Defense. If you have insomnia, reading the entire paper could probably cure it, unless you happen to be one of the .001% of the population that really grooves on this sort of stuff.