Monday, April 26, 2010
Well, based on the "need to know" principle, I now know. Ellie has been battling some chapped lips and rash around her mouth that is getting worse and this afternoon, after Dee'Anna asked what it was, I looked, it was worse and I took her to the doctor where I got the diagnosis of perioral dermatitis. The doctor gave me a course of treatment to try which included Aquaphor and lotrimin. If that doesn't clear it up, we'll try something a bit more aggressive in a couple of weeks.
When I got home, I spent some time "Googling" the term and was disturbed by what I found and the fact that the doctor didn't spend more time telling me what it was and letting me know how bad it could get. Of course, this wasn't our "regular" Dr. H. so I'm forgiving.
The easy to understand definition is: Perioral dermatitis is a skin disorder characterized by tiny red bumps (papules) around the mouth. Apparently, it can also itch, which explains why she has been picking at her lips. Poor baby.
Now, because I thought she was suffering from extreme chapped lips, I've been "dosing" her up with Chapstick. Not a great idea apparently as creams (especially steriod creams) of all kinds tend to aggravate the condition and make it worse. Fluorinated dental care products (toothpaste) and skin products containing petrolatum (vaseline), paraffin (chapstick), or isopropyl myristate may also trigger the condition. Great. She'll never brush her teeth.
I found a REALLY interesting article called Flouride: the Silent Killer that if you have time to read will really open your eyes to the dangers of flouride -- something I never knew was dangerous. It's made me re-think toothpaste. What a shame that I have about 12 tubes sitting in my pantry.
Interestingly, I also found this information: Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, (SLS) as well as Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate (ALS) are the two MAIN contributors to this skin affliction. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is what is added to soaps, shampoos, bubble baths, dish detergents etc... for the lather and suds. Perioral Dermatitis can also be flared up by alcohol, spicy foods and caffeine. (No, Ellie has not been hitting the alcohol, BUT ... she has developed a HUGE liking to coke.)
The prognosis indicates: Perioral dermatitis is a difficult condition to treat effectively. It often requires several months of treatment.
Interesting to read is the fact that:
Perioral dermatitis commonly occurs in children (and in adults), and it is especially common in children with darker skin.
I've read several sites that have indicated some natural helps for it, including probiotics (getting them tomorrow) and Balmex diaper cream (I'll try that too) and several sites have mentioned California Baby products (which are, fortunately, sold at Target). I'm going to try those as well. It might just be that Ellie's skin can't take some of the products we are using on her.
I managed to get a chance to take a ton of pictures of the boys that night, so it was a good night for me. I'm always glad to get to share pictures with them and their parents.
Josh continues going to his pitching lessons each week. Tonight, since practice was cancelled, he and Kevin went to the park to practice anyway. He was fortunate that one of our friends who is a coach and umpire was there and worked with him a bit. Kevin indicates he improved a lot working with him too.
Here are a few of Josh.
What a ham!
Heart contents by Maria at 9:06 PM
Friday, April 23, 2010
I saw on my friend Lori's blog a recent post about things that make her happy. I'm so glad, that in the midst of such sorrow and pain, she is still able to find things that make her happy.
Because I tend to be Negative Nelly as of late, I'm going to reverse the trend and list 10 things that make me happy. Finding these ten things I think will help me by showing me things that I can do to BE more happy and less negative.
My list might seem odd -- but it's my list and considering who I am ... odd seems a bit fitting! In no certain order they are:
1. Reading -- I LOVE LOVE LOVE a good book and could stay curled up in bed reading for hours -- if I had the opportunity. Occasionally, I find those times and opportunities and it makes me happier than even chocolate!
2. Sunshine -- I am absolutely happiest when the sun is shining. 70-75 is my favorite temperature and I love to just sit in the sun and feel it's warmth on my skin.
3. Giggles -- Josh and Ellie routinely chase one another around the house at night -- going around and around the circle of our downstairs. They are both giggling the entire time they are doing it and it is the BEST sound in the world.
4. Holding hands -- I love when Kevin and I just reach out and take one another's hand -- for no reason and in no certain place or time. I think that's just one of the most romantic things in the world and it makes me happy.
5. Watching movies -- I am such a movie freak and to me, there is just nothing better than a tub of popcorn, a soda and a movie. While I prefer they be in a movie theatre, I can be JUST as happy at home on the couch or piled up in the bed watching a movie.
6. A clean house -- There is probably nothing that makes me more calm, happy and at peace than when my house is clean. It is such a rare occurrence that you can see why I'm less than calm and peaceful, but the rare times that it is clean, I am very, very happy.
7. Good music -- While my definition of "good music" is probably nothing like anyone else's definition, there is a place in my soul that often longs for a good song. I love to sing along (however bad that is or isn't -- only my steering wheel knows) at the top of my voice while I'm driving down the road. A good song can instantly take me back to a place in my past or touch a place in my soul that nothing else can do.
8. The ocean -- I love the sounds of the ocean, the smell of the salt, the taste of sea spray. While I'm not really fond of sand, I love adding sunshine, a good book, the ocean and a cabana with a fruity concoction and just whiling away the day.
9. Animals -- I love my dogs, my cats -- all the ones who have been a part of my life and who still are. But, overall, animals genuinely make me happy. I can see a farm animal, pet a goat, watch a kitten, pet a dog -- any animal -- and be instantly transformed into a smiling, happy person. I think animals are one of the most wonderful of God's creations.
10. Creating -- I love to create things: scrapbook, hair bows, picture books, photos, cakes, casseroles, calendars -- you name it. I love taking a bunch of unrelated items and making them into something and having that something to give away, to capture a memory, to make other people happy. I understand why God called everything He created good. While not everything I create might be considered good, in my heart it is and it makes me happy in the making of it.
So while things like my friends, family, my home, my children and such are blessings and contribute to my happiness and fullness as a person, they aren't necessarily included in this list because somehow they are the things that it seems are expected to make me happy. The list above are the things that are only about me -- the inner things that can put a smile on my face and fill my heart with happiness.If you are reading this, consider yourself tagged. Take the time to evaluate the things in life that make you happy -- you might be surprised.
Sunday, April 18, 2010
All the kids LOVED their cupcakes at AP's birthday party...
... but none more than Pudding.
We discovered the girls have matching pjs and they wore them the first night. Too much cuteness!
Here is Pudding combing Ellie's hair.
Hotdog is SO beautiful!!
This was BEFORE the wagon crash:
I'm not sure if I have any after the crash, but let's just say that Ellie's face and Pudding's shoulder were sporting some road rash after the wagon flipped over. Poor babies. Hotdog was none the worse for the flip and was ready to go again. Ellie and Pudding -- not so much.
Later that day we all went up to the ballpark and watched Josh's team play baseball. I'd like to report he hit it out of the park. Heck, I'd like to report they won, but neither is true. *sigh* Maybe next time.
This is Ellie at the ballpark putting a band aid on her mouth. Poor girl fell in the parking lot as soon as we got there and skinned her knee so bad it was bleeding. Then Pudding fell and got a big ole goose egg on his head. It was a hard day for the "Littles".
After the ballgame (where I just didn't get enough pictures because there was SO much going on), we went out to the mall for some dinner and to hit the Gymboree outlet. Allison has a great double stroller and all three kids swapped in and out of it. She told me later that when Ellie and Pudding were in it, people were saying, "OH -- look at the twins!" They do favor a lot and are the same size. They have the SAME personality -- it's so funny!
Today (Sunday), our friends left to go home and Ellie was sad that her playmates left. So were we. We hope they can come again soon.
Ellie wore her Bur*ger King crown around all day telling me she is a "Pincess" -- as if we didn't already know.
While Josh mowed and Kevin did some weed eating, Ellie and I pulled some weeds in one of our flower beds. We also planted some of our veggie seeds in hopes they will soon sprout. Ellie had so much fun planting (read: playing in the dirt). She also LOVES her new Dora watering can and waters our veggie plants every day for me. We hope to plant our garden in the next week or two.
I'm hoping she will enjoy seeing the plants/veggies grow and then eating them.
We've had a great weekend! What a shame Monday has to come.
Heart contents by Maria at 6:56 PM
Saturday, April 17, 2010
We realized Ellie and Hotdog have the SAME pjs.
Pudding is even more cute in person than in the pictures. I'm wondering if she'll just leave him here!!
Heart contents by Maria at 12:01 PM
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Today, Ellie told me she needed to go potty so we took her diaper and shorts off and went to sit on the potty. Nothing and then we went to the kitchen and she found some malted milk balls. We took her and them back to the potty and I left her in there to "do her business". A few minutes later I heard the music in the potty start up. I didn't want to get TOO excited because last time that happened, she had just put powder in the potty to set off the activation sensors.
This time, however, her potty had pee pee in it!! WHOOP WHOOP!!! Go Ellie!! We made a big deal (and pictures -- she will DIE one day over this!) of it.
THEN, tonight, while Kevin was giving her her bath, she said, "UH-OH -- POO POO" and started pointing to the potty. He took her out and set her on it and she went to poop there!! BIG GIRL!!! We all had to run upstairs and clap.
Sad, that one of the highlights of my day involves clapping over poop, isn't it?
Heart contents by Maria at 8:31 PM
We were so proud of Josh tonight as he hit the scoreboard for an out of the park homerun. He was SO HAPPY. It showed in his face as he crossed homeplate to his team mates cheering him and congratulating him.
Here's the team waiting for him to cross home plate:
Blurry, but here he is crossing home (you can see the back of his leg):
Lots of team love:
It was one of three out of the park home runs we had tonight. And, even though we still lost by two runs, it was a great night and one I'm sure Josh won't soon forget. I'm sure he'll have some sweet dreams tonight!
Here's a sweet photo of Ellie congratulating, "Bubba".
Heart contents by Maria at 8:14 PM
Last night he went to his first pitching lessons at Hit After Hit. He was so respectful and I was very proud of him. I could tell he was a little scared because he didn't talk a lot to the teacher. He simply answered the questions with one word answers. I think he'll loosen up as time goes on. I was very impressed with the staff and facilities there, and think that Josh will definitely learn a lot there and I am hopeful it will help him realize his goal -- to pitch well. This is the first year he has expressed serious interest in this and I am glad we are able to help him explore this option. He says he wants to try out for the middle school team next year.
Speaking of middle school sports, he is struggling a lot trying to make a decision about playing for the middle school versus playing his last year as a Viking. My heart is with the Vikings, so that's my choice, but I'm not voicing that choice to him and am trying to let him make those decisions on his own. Yesterday it was Vikings; today middle school. Either way, we will be there to support him.
And last, but certainly not least, here are a few pictures from the first game. WHY couldn't Josh play a different position? It is almost impossible to get a good picture of him playing third base. *sigh* Ellie is certainly enjoying her time at the baseball park this year. She already has three "boo-boos": one on each knee and one on her elbow from running and falling on the asphalt. She comes home filthy and exhausted.
Here's the team at the introduction time of the jamboree:
Josh and Kevin
Josh at third base. He tells me his hat was sideways because the sun was in his eyes. I'm surprised the officials didn't tell him to straighten it up.
Josh and one of his former team mates.
Ellie wanted Daddy's attention -- she patting him on the leg. *sweet*
Heart contents by Maria at 7:13 AM
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
I've tried to find some healthy substitutes -- to fill up on fiber, fruit, water. Nothing works. It's in my head, I think. I have tried to compromise with some chocolate kisses dipped in reduced fat peanut butter. Mildly satisfying but I just have thought about sugary food ALL DAY LONG and I don't have a clue why. I'm keeping a log of my food intake and you can see today was HORRIBLE. I ate a sugar free pudding. Nope, that wasn't it. I ate a marshmallow Peep (yes, from Easter) - nope, not it either. I had the four kisses -- nope. I ate an apple, two mandarin oranges. I can't seem to find what it is that is going to make me feel "full" and stop that craving. Of course, I've also had the "normal" food types -- tuna salad, a cheese stick, egg white/turkey sausage on english muffin, a fresco style taco -- so not just sugary junk today. I'd like to say I threw all the sugary stuff out. I didn't, but I did add many healthy choices to choose instead of it. I've been doing so well, but today = HARD!
This has gone on for a couple of days. I hope it will pass quickly. This is the part of "healthy choices" that I'm not so fond of. *sigh* Tips ...
In the good news department, I lost 5 pounds during week one! Yay!
Heart contents by Maria at 9:51 PM
Monday, April 12, 2010
I'm pleased to report that I've not eaten fast food (other than Subway) all week. I've had very minimal amounts of sugar and have gone very light on the breads. I've not had any potatoes (including the fried ones I'm so very fond of!!). I've developed a real love for whole mandarin oranges (Cuties) and apples (especially when I allow myself the indulgence of reduced fat peanut butter!!).
All in all, our entire family is eating a bit better. We still have a long, long way to go and I am trying to remind myself that week one was really the easy part -- staying the course over the long haul and continuing to make better choices will become harder. I discovered that tonight as I worked in the concession stand and did cave in to a hot dog. Fortunately, I had enough "points/calories" to afford myself that for the day, but I REALLY wanted ballpark fries tonight.
I do find I seem to have more energy, so that's a bonus.
So even though I have weighed a few times through the week, the official weigh in is tomorrow. I think I'll put a widget up on the blog following my progress to goal 1 - "Losing Ellie" (ie., 23 pounds). Hopefully the number will continue to rise and by mid-summer I will reach goal 1.
Thank you to ALL who continue to be supportive. You readers are just great and make me feel accountable and want to succeed!
Heart contents by Maria at 8:46 PM
Sunday, April 11, 2010
However, the reaction was much like the one time I gave her Robitussin (and then took her to a basketball game). Silly me, skipped a day and tried giving it in the morning.
I have spent quite a bit of time researching this lovely product and now have decided that based on her reactions, as well as those of countless others I have read about, I will never give her that again. I am now researching homeopathic remedies for allergies as I refuse to subject her to any more of the side effects the poor girl has been experiencing. I think this comment I found on the Internet describes what we are experiencing to a "T".
Woke up around 2 am and was just angry. Yelling, stomping, gritting his teeth mad at everything. Couple hours later fell asleep. Got up for breakfast in a worse rage.
And this one ...
My 7yr old son was on this drug and he will NEVER take it again. Zyrtec made him a different person.
And this one ...
3.5 yr old son behavior changes (moody, aggressive, sleepless nights, hyper-active, emotional, lack of attention/focus, defiant).
And another ...
My son's pediatrician and allergist recommended Zyrtec for his severe allergies (certain trees and grasses, ragweed, cats). Soon after starting it his mood changed. He became violent and had uncontrollable tantrums. He began hitting and throwing and throwing fits about the smallest thing.
And the stories like these go on and on and on. WHY do we continue to allow pharmaceutical companies to manufacture products that are doing this to us and our children??
I will find her a homeopathic remedy for her allergies -- one that will not cause these horrible side effects.
She has been waking up around 4 a.m. crying inconsolably. She throws herself around the bed, kicking, thrashing and crying. It usually takes about two hours to calm her down and eventually she will allow us to hold her to calm her and then she has to have us cuddle right up with her in order to go to sleep. Add to this the horrible tantrums, defiance and crying spells since she started taking it and I'm at my wit's end. We had finally made it past those horrible sleep issues and everyone was sleeping through the night -- and then along comes Zyrtec. I'm throwing it out. I don't care what I paid for it -- it's gone. I feel horrible for subjecting her to it to begin with.
Please be aware that your children could experience the same effects.
Heart contents by Maria at 11:40 PM
Friday, April 9, 2010
Before we left, I knew I would be tempted by the popcorn. I really enjoy some movie theatre popcorn. AND THEN .... I had my eyes opened.
A quick Google search showed that a medium movie-theatre popcorn (between 11 and 16 cups) with butter boasts a whopping 67 fat grams. Holy smokes.
I found this article interesting, and thought you might as well:
Researchers sent samples of popcorn and toppings from three different theaters belonging to each of the chains to an independent lab for analysis and compared their findings to the chains' own nutritional information.
The results showed Regal's medium and large popcorn packed the biggest punch, with each containing 20 cups of popcorn, 1,200 calories, and 60 grams of saturated, artery-clogging fat. That's the equivalent of two Pizza Hut Personal Pan Pepperoni Pizzas, plus an extra two days' worth of saturated fat.
According to Regal, the medium contains 720 calories and the large has 960 calories, but the CSPI found both the medium bag and large tub containers held the same 20 cups of popcorn with the higher calorie count.
AMC's 16-cup large popcorn tub didn't fare much better, weighing in at 1,030 calories and 57 grams of saturated fat.
Both Regal and AMC popped their popcorn in coconut oil, which contains 90% saturated fat.
Cinemark earned kudos in the report for being the only major chain to pop their popcorn in non-hydrogenated canola oil. As a result, their popcorn offerings contained only a fraction of the saturated fat content of the others, ranging from 2 grams in the 420 small size to 5 grams in the 910-calorie large popcorn bucket.
All of the chains used a similar "buttery" non-hydrogenated soybean oil topping that adds about 120-130 calories per tablespoon. Some Cinemark theaters also offer a real butter topping that adds 9 grams of saturated fat per tablespoon.
Even without the buttery topping, researchers found movie theater popcorn is seasoned with an unhealthy dose of salt. Sodium levels ranged from 210 milligrams in the smallest 6-cup offering from AMC to a heart-stopping 1,500 milligrams in the large tub from Cinemark. That's an entire day's worth of sodium before the credits roll.
After reading this, I couldn't have enjoyed the popcorn anyway, so I popped a 100 calorie bag of popcorn, threw it in a Ziploc bag along with a 100 calorie pack of chocolate covered pretzels and went on my way. I wasn't tempted at all because, honestly, I think it's more about the habit of eating something at a movie theatre than what I'm actually eating. The 100 calorie popcorn was fine and I didn't miss the other.
We took Ellie and she had a "goodie bag" of her own as we don't let her eat popcorn. She had some pretzels, a few Skittles and some 100 calorie chocolate chip cookies. They lasted her the entire movie and she was happy. She was such a good girl during the movie. It's her second one and I was so impressed. Of course, we did a matinee so there wouldn't be a lot people there and we sat on the front row of the middle section so she could walk around in front of us if she wanted and she could see well. I was just amazed at how well she behaved.
Afterwards, we headed to IHOP for a late dinner (after some double coupon shopping at KMart, thank you Coupon Queen Kelly for the head's up) and I was pleased to be able to find an alternative/more healthy menu with some nice options. I ended up with the scrambled Egg Beater eggs, turkey bacon and some whole wheat French toast with sugar free syrup. Honestly, I couldn't tell any difference than what I normally eat except that this meal had only 570 calories, 14 grams of fat and approximately 12 points as opposed to the choices I would have normally made. Since I had not eaten a lot during the day, I felt ok "splurging" a little on a higher calorie/fat meal.
Day four is in the books and I'm still feeling pleased with my choices. Now the weekend is upon us so we will see how that goes. I'm headed to the grocery store tomorrow (on a full tummy and armed with coupons) to stock up some healthy, quick, easy, tasty food.
Heart contents by Maria at 8:53 PM
Thursday, April 8, 2010
Today went well. I worked from home today with Ellie here and we made very healthy choices with our food.
In addition, today we added the dreaded EXERCISE to our regimine. Turns out it wasn't so bad. It was too cool to wash toys outside so we went for a walk. Ellie rode in the wagon and Josh and I walked. We took turns pulling her -- him on the way and me on the way back. Guess what? Our roads are hilly!! Great resistance, I suppose. We walked two miles. I was not quite so happy to learn I only burned around 170 calories. Oh well... it's better than eating that many I suppose. We will try to incorporate that walk into our week several times a week as I know it will be helpful for both Josh and I. Ellie certainly enjoyed the ride too.
I found a couple of on-line sites where I can get the "points" value of foods (which I am mentally counting but not officially following Weight Watchers).
It actually hasn't been so bad -- so far. I'm trying to keep in mind it's a change of lifestyle and not a diet.
Heart contents by Maria at 7:20 PM
I received two emails today from totally different people in two different parts of the US that may never know one another, but both of which made me stop, ponder my convictions, my reactions and where I stand on many things.
The first was from Helena at Newsy.com. She writes [excerpts] ...
I saw your post on the protesting and recent upheaval going on in Kyrgyzstan. I think you will find the following video interesting and relevant to this discussion [of Kyrgyzstan's recent upheaval and my comments regarding that].
The video gives background to the Kyrgyzstan protests and troubles. It also shows a number of different opinions on the fighting and upheaval of Bakiyev. I hope you will consider embedding this video to your site.
Newsy.com videos analyze and synthesize news coverage from multiple sources. Its unique method of showing how different media cover the news helps viewers better understand complex stories.
And I began to ponder the implications of posting it, whether it was a ruse to direct readers to their site, whether it was political in nature -- so many things. So, I figured it best to go watch the video and determine for myself what I thought about posting it on my blog.
I was disturbed by only one thing in the video -- but not about the video itself. I'm saddened to read that the people of Kyrgyzstan feel that Americans and their relationship with the [now former] Kyrgyzstan administration might have been a catalyst for this upheaval, based on their support in exchange for space for the Air Force base. Now, I'm certainly not a political kind of girl. I care but I don't spend a lot of my time analyzing, studying, worrying about these things. I have enough to worry about by being "Switzerland - ie., the neutral party" to a twelve-year-old and a two-year-old. However, I would SO hope that ALL Americans aren't seen as only wanting to exploit this country for land. I personally have so much compassion for this country, for their struggles, for their lack of adequate power sources, natural resources, export products, and income. I am saddened that they have had to experience this violence in order to make changes that they feel are better for their countrymen. In a perfect world, there would be plenty to eat, plenty of energy resources, plenty of jobs, a free market, uncorrupted leaders, children who did not have to be given up for adoption and could always be wanted, needed and have parents who could care for them without making difficult decisions. In a perfect world, there would not be wars, violence, death. But that is not the world in which we live. We live in a fallen world because of sin. I know many of you reading this don't share my beliefs. But fallen mankind is the reason, I believe, for all the bad/evil things in the world. Satan. In a perfect world ... well, that's in the future -- a future where Satan is bound forever in the lake of fire and we are free from the bonds of sin.
As you read, Helena asked me to embed the video into my blog. I have reached a compromise with myself and will post the link to the video for those who choose to want to view the video. I'll reiterate that I don't find anything wrong with the video, but I make a point of only posting things on my blog that I want to share and not to become commercialized by posting things that others want me to post. This is where the compromise comes in to play.
The other email was from another adoptive parent. It was called, "Too Many Questions" and it struck me hard because it made me realize that one day Ellie and our family will also face these same kinds of questions that PanPan and her mother faced. In a perfect world, we wouldn't have to. I felt a strong sense of protection for my sweet baby for the time when she first realizes that she doesn't look just like we do. Honestly, many days go by and I just don't even SEE it. I am saddened for the first day she is old enough to understand the questions that are asked by strangers about her. Today, in the car, I was looking in the rear view mirror and told her, "You are SO beautiful!" She said, "NO!!" I replied, "Oh, Ellie, you are so pretty!", she again said, "NO! NO!" and hid her head. Why? Are we already having self-esteem issues OR is it simply a case of a two-year-old who wants to be disagreeable? Will I ever stop questioning if everything in her life is "because" of being adopted? I doubt it.
I will post the email: Too Many Questions and a wonderful resource called Tips for Helping Your Children Deal with Intrusive Questions in a separate post for those who are interested.
In a perfect world, I wouldn't have to. I'm sure the parent to whom this happened will not mind me telling the story because it is the perfect example of what people say to children who are adopted who "look" differently. This mom and her children were at the zoo. Two of her children are relatively close in age and are both Asian. Her kids were at the playground when a woman walked up and asked her, "Was it a buy-one-get-one-free sale?" Right. Sigh. May my child never face that kind of ignorance. And if she does, may we be as graceful as this mom who just walked away with no comment. Seeing how I'm not a perfect mom, and not nearly as tactful, and this isn't a perfect world, I'm sure I won't be nearly as graceful.
Heart contents by Maria at 4:25 PM
When you and your child look different, the world wants to know why.
by Eliza Thomas
My daughter and I stand at the bathroom mirror to brush our teeth. Her skin is smooth, and she has a freckle on her right temple. When she smiles, she has two dimples, not on her cheeks, but beneath the corners of her mouth. From above, the curve of her eyelid reminds me of a swallow, skimming on the wind. Sometimes I want to cry when I look at her, she is so beautiful.
Above her face I see my own. Short, unkempt brown hair and brown eyes, deep-set behind strong glasses. I’ve never thought I was pretty, but at age 52, I don’t mind. My daughter and I look very different. I don’t mind this, either.
My daughter PanPan is Chinese. She was abandoned somewhere near the coastal city of Ningbo and taken to the Children’s Welfare Center when she was a few weeks old. She was about five months old when I adopted her in 1994. This is all I know for sure about her beginnings.
Over the years we have fielded many questions from strangers. We live in Vermont, and as an interracial family, we stand out. Some of the questions are ridiculous—“Does she speak English?” I was once asked when my daughter was seven months old. Some are thoughtless and rude—“Where did you get her?” a veterinarian asked when I took our dog for a rabies shot. (I never went to him again.) Most people ask where she was born, how old she was when I adopted her, who her birthparents are. To most questions I can truthfully say, “I don’t know.” But the questions never go away.
A Difficult Encounter
The most difficult encounter, however, was with a little girl who looked a lot like PanPan. Two summers ago, my daughter and I visited a beach along the river near our home. PanPan was splashing in the shallow water a few feet from the shore. When I spotted another Asian girl, I looked around for the parents, thinking that maybe I’d found another family like our own. Instead, I saw a white father and a dark-skinned woman, perhaps from the Philippines. The girl looked more like her mother than her father, and nothing like anyone else on the beach. Except my daughter.
The girl stared at PanPan and then at me. She drew closer, her stare needy and intense. Probably she had been stared at in just this way.
“Are you her mother?” she asked me, her voice filled with skepticism.
“Yes,” I said. “Where is her real mother?” she insisted.
I knew perfectly well what she meant. “I’m her real mother,” I said. I looked over at PanPan, standing apart in the water, a few feet away. She had stopped splashing. A little girl with features like her own wanted to know if I was her real mother. I waded over to stand by her side. “Here I am,” I said.
“But,” the little girl continued in some confusion, “she looks Chinese.”
“We’re a Chinese-American adoptive family,” I said, loading all the information in one short sentence. “Soon we’ll be celebrating our family day,” I said, cheerily. “We’ll have a big cake.”
“Where is her father?” This child was relentless. I sidestepped, and said something positive about single-parent households.
“Why did you adopt her?” the girl persisted. The answer is simple. I wanted a child. But I don’t know why the names Shen PanPan and Eliza Thomas came up together. I put my arm around my daughter’s shoulder. “We were always meant to be a family,” I told the little girl. I looked down at PanPan. “I waited for a long, long time for you,” I said to her.
“Me, too,” PanPan said. She’s heard the story a million times, me waiting in Vermont, the tiny referral photo, her waiting in China, our trip home. Her favorite part is how the woman from New York threw up on the plane.
The girl’s mother called out to her daughter. “Anna, stop bothering those people.” Anna backed away slowly. PanPan and I decided to make a castle. I thought we were safe, and for a while we were.
We made a tower. We dug a tunnel and laughed when our hands met. PanPan, who is more fastidious about such things, went to the water’s edge to rinse the sand off. I bent over to dig a moat, and when I looked up, Anna was back. Inescapable. Her parents, towels and beach paraphernalia in hand, called to their daughter.
“Anna, we’re going now,” they kept saying. But she just stood there. PanPan returned. Then Anna asked her final question. “Why did her mother give her away?”
I have tried to imagine the event. A woman carries a bundle in the early morning hours. She hurries down the street to the train station or the police station; she must leave her child somewhere she will be found. This is China, 1994, the one-child policy is firmly in place, complete with fines and sanctions. The economic and social pressures to have a healthy boy are ancient and extreme. This baby is too great a burden. This baby is a girl.
She lays her bundle gently down. Maybe the baby cries. Maybe the woman does too.
“Too many questions,” I said.
I turned my back on Anna, and picked up my daughter. She buried her head in the crook of my shoulder. I saw Anna’s parents pulling her away across the beach.
“That was a lot of questions, wasn’t it?” I whispered. She nodded into my shoulder. “We can talk about them any time you like,” I said. She nodded again.
Later, in the back seat of the car on the way to get ice cream, PanPan said calmly, “What about our talk?” This was the first time someone had said PanPan’s mother had given her away. Although it came out of the blue on a sunny afternoon, this sorrow will reappear, at odd moments, as implacable as Anna. I know our talk was only the beginning of a long conversation.
Imagining her birthfamily
I told PanPan we would never know her birthmom, but that I was sure that she loved her. I told her that her birthmother made sure she would be safe while she waited for me. I told her we could only try to imagine her birthfather.
“Actually, I think I do know something about your birthmother,” I added. “She must have been smart and stubborn and funny and beautiful.”
“Why?” she asked.
“Because that is the way you are.”
“Why would we be exactly the same?” she asked reasonably.
This is a good question. Maybe she got her crossed toes and wacky sense of humor from her birthfather. I imagine her birthmother has beautiful eyes and a determined nature, but maybe I just imagine it. Maybe my daughter is stubborn and smart and funny simply because that is the way she is. Maybe we are just lucky that we find the same things funny, or maybe this is something we’ve developed together over time.
When PanPan wants to explain something, which is often, she uses her hands, palms up, presenting her ideas as if on a platter. This isn’t a gesture she has learned from me. I’m sure it is as genetic as her lovely crossed toes. Lately I find myself making the same gesture. I’ve picked it up from her. I read articles on nature vs. nurture, but on some level I simply don’t care. We are a family.
I have a Xerox of a tattered note with her birthdate and name on it, but I’m not sure whether her birthparents or the caretakers at the orphanage filled in the information. The interpreter in China told me that the word “PanPan” means “anticipation.” He suggested that perhaps the name had been chosen in anticipation of a boy. Better luck next time, something like that. But then, on our way home, the Chinese immigration officer who issued PanPan’s visa smiled at me. “Your daughter’s name is beautiful,” she said. “It means ‘hope.”
Now PanPan is six and in first grade. Her current concerns are spelling tests and math problems. She has a new cat. She says she will adopt a child when she grows up.
I told her that I was going to write this essay. I asked her about the conversation on the beach, if she remembered any of the questions. “Sure,” she said. “The little girl asked why you adopted me.” Practical as ever, she asked, “Why are you going to write about that?”
I was glad that this was the question she remembered. The reasons why I adopted PanPan are filled with hope and happiness. But she will wonder again why her first mother left her, and we will have to put the pieces of that together.
When PanPan was three, I got her a toy telephone. She’d sit on the kitchen floor and pretend to dial everyone she could think of. Sometimes she’d call China. “Hello, this is PanPan,” she’d say into the phone. “How was your day?” she would ask politely. After an appropriate pause, she would say, “We are fine, thank you.”
I’d like to believe that PanPan’s reply could, by magic, bounce over the Pacific and find the person longing to hear that answer.
We are fine. Thank you.
Eliza Thomas and her daughter live in Montpelier, Vermont.
This article is (c) Adoptive Families Magazine
Heart contents by Maria at 4:10 PM
- Make sure your child knows she does not have to reveal personal information and has a choice about how to respond.
- Empathize/Practice answers: “Sometimes it hurts the most when school friends don’t even realize that their questions make you feel bad. Well, we can’t change them, but we can figure out answers. Let’s see what we can come up with together.”
- Find an older adoptee mentor.
- Join an adoptee support group for your child.
What to say?
Below you’ll find questions that adoptees are frequently asked along with strategies for responding. The answer your child chooses will depend on the situation, her relationship with the questioner, her mood that day.
Q: Why didn’t your real mother want you?
Ask a question: “Why do you want to know?” “Are you asking why I was placed for adoption?” “What do you think?” “Do you want to know about adoption?”
Disagree: “She didn’t give me away. She gave me my parents.” “Of course, she wanted me. That’s why she made sure I was adopted.” “Actually I was always wanted. My parents wanted me even before I was born.”
Confront: “It’s an adoption thing. You wouldn’t understand.”
Use humor: “It was an accident. She turned around and a tornado came and before you knew it my crib was floating into the sky like in The Wizard of Oz and I landed here.” “I’d love to tell you but my father, the king, does not permit it.” “That’s privileged information. You don’t have security clearance.”
Divert: “That’s a good question. Want some candy?” “Don’t worry about me. I’m fine. Want to play on the swings?”
Educate/Explain: “Lots of kids join their families through adoption.” “Some moms are too young to keep their babies.” “I’m just lucky. I’ve got two moms.” “Don’t you know that millions of kids are adopted?” “The laws of China made her do it. It had nothing to do with me.”
Share: “My birthmother was too young” “I was born before she was ready.” “I really don’t know why but it must have been sad for her.”
Withdraw: “I’d love to tell you my life story, but I have to go home now.” “I don’t really feel like answering that.” “It’s private.”
Q: Where do you come from?
Ask a question: “What do you mean?” “Are you asking where I was born or where I live?” “Where did your ancestors come from?”
Use Humor: “Outer space.”
Educate: “I was born in Korea but I come from New York City now.”
Q: Is that your real mother?
Ask a question: “Do you mean my birthmother? No, I don’t live with my birthmother.” “Are you asking about adoption?” “Who do you think it is? My fake mother?”
Use Humor: “She’s the one who makes me eat green vegetables.”
Educate: “That’s my real mother—the one that adopted me.” “You saw my real mother. She dropped me off at school today.”
By Susan Caughman, with lots of help from Gail Steinberg (PACT, Richmond, CA, www.pactadopt.org), Joy Lieberthal (Adoptive Families), and Debbie Riley (CASE, Silver Spring, Maryland, www.adoptionsupport.org).
Heart contents by Maria at 4:00 PM
Heart contents by Maria at 7:22 AM