Monday, September 30, 2013

Sunday, September 29, 2013

4 Years and Just Look At All The Changes

Our family has gone through a lot of changes in the past 4 years.  Some go by without notice.  Some are out there for anyone to see.  Recently, Sydney came home from college to discover that Lucas has finally won the battle they started 4 years ago in the Philippines....who is the tallest.  I'm not sure who was more surprised.  They stood in the kitchen, her looking up, him looking down.  I would have expected joking, ribbing and all out gloating.  What we got instead was arms linked and a willing photo of two siblings that have traveled a long road to be family.  Inches may separate them in height but the relationship that began in the Philippines can't be measured.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

What's In The Bag

I broke the cardinal rule of good mothers and wives everywhere...I forced the men folk to go to the grocery store with me.  Even worse it was a warehouse store.

All was forgiven when we came across these:
\I wish I'd had a chance to grab a picture of Eli and Lucas' faces when they recognized the packaging.  There was no way they were leaving that store without these two favorites from the Philippines.  Loading the car was hilarious as I realized I was the only one unloading the cart.  I turned around to find each of them holding a bag as if it were as fragile as eggs and as valuable as gold.  

I then had to explain that eating the entire bag in one sitting could and would probably have some unpleasant side effects.  

Friday, September 27, 2013

Hit Hard

Let me start by saying that the teenage era has arrived and hit Lucas hard.  I think the kid has every teenage malady known to exist.  A little attitude (sometimes a lot).  A little mood swing (always).  A whole lot of new found intelligence (he thinks he's smarter than his mom - he's not).  A belief that girls are the best thing to every happen to him (that changes on a minute to minute basis).

The poor kid doesn't know what's hit him.  His sisters (although female) and brother (who is quickly entering this phase) understand and totally get where he's at....and then they tease him mercilessly.  That doesn't deter this wayward teen from continuing his pronouncements, explanations, opinions and elevated sense of self.  It is amazing to watch, no matter how many teenagers you've watched go through this phase of life it is amazing, hilarious, sad at times and stupefying.

I must now go and tell my mom how much I appreciate her patience, tolerance and  for not locking me or any of my 4 siblings in a cellar until we reached 20.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

"I Miss The Philippines"

The statement of "I miss the Philippines" is not one that we hear come from Eli often.  He keeps most of his thoughts and feelings about his birth country under guard.  Partly because he didn't have a lot of positives, partly because he doesn't have as many solid memories as Lucas.

So when he unexpectedly announced this evening that he missed the Philippines we were surprised.  I asked him what he missed and he said the food.  Okay we have a couple Filipino recipes that I think come pretty close to original but none of those were the ones that he was remembering and missing.

He said it was chicken, with "stuff" on it and lots of sticky rice with "stuff" in it.  Yep I don't know exactly what the magic "stuff" is or was.  None of my Filipino recipe books showed a picture of what he is talking about or least not the way he remembers it.  

I feel like I failed him.  He gave a big sigh and said, "That's ok.  Forget about it."  I don't want to forget about it and I don't want him to forget those pieces he does have fond memories of....so the search is on.  Google don't fail me now.

Monday, September 23, 2013

What's In A Name?

I've been working on filling out some forms where I was entering the boys' Filipino names and their American names.  Lucas swung by the table and was looking over the papers.  Since he discovered our file cabinet full of the paperwork used for their adoptions he's fascinated by the volume of paper and kinds of information asked.

I know some adoptive families actually discard the paperwork copies except for the most vital pieces.  It's a lot to store.  I can't do that.  I'm attached to each of those documents.  It was a tremendous amount of work and I guess I think it's helped Lucas and Eli to understand why it took so long to get them home plus how many legal hoops adoption requires.

Lucas was examining the paperwork and says, "I know Sydney picked Lucas for my name.  Why did you think it was a good idea?"  I asked if he still liked his name and he said, "Yes but how did you get that one."  So I explained about searching for names that wouldn't add to teasing that they get from having Pickle for a last name and that we thought Lucas was close to his birth name of Lowie.  I then said that I thought he looked like a Lucas.

He thought that over for about a minute then said,  "I get it Lowie - Lucas, they are close, they both start with L.  Well what about Eli, his name doesn't sound like Towie and doesn't start with a T?"  I said I thought Eli looked like an Eli and it was an easy name to spell because it was a short name.

Then in all of his 13 year old wisdom he enlightened me, "You got it wrong.  He's a Ted.  Towie/Ted.  He's a much better Ted."   Where on earth this kid gets his view points never ceases to amaze me.  Eli happened in at this point, heard Lucas' pronouncement and said, "Dude!  I'm not Ted!  I'm Eli...mom he can't change my name, the judge said I'm Eli, that's me!" 

Well before they ended the name game via a slug fest, I let them know that no one was changing anything and Lucas could name his kids anything he wanted and Eli could remain Eli and his brother was not the boss of names.  All is well.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Being a Man

It's a rare thing to have either Lucas or Eli solo.  Circumstances arose this week-end that put Lucas and I in the car for a quick (30 minutes each way) grocery run.  It's always an eye opener and a brain perplexer to engage in these road trip conversations...and it's never dull.
 
One of many topics....more of a declaration came a mere 5 minutes into the car ride.  Lucas was babbling.....and I do mean babbling to the point where I confess I stopped listening.  I always know when it's important to him and time to tune back in when he starts the sentence with, "Mom!  You know..."
  
His statement of great importance?   "Mom!  You know I want to be a man that changes the world."  As a mother I'm thinking.  Wow, my son is aiming high, has goals and wants to be the best man he can be.  That is right up to the point that he follows his statement with, "or a comic book hero."  How quickly a conversation takes a new path.

For some reason I thought this declaration required some kind of input from me....ummm.....nope.  As I turned to look at him (in awe) this is what I find.  To give him credit he and his team had just played and won a great football game but really?....The kid can be engaged in a conversation and be in a sleep coma in 5 seconds flat.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Girls Are All Drama

I hear it at the elementary I work in.....I hear it coming from the boys' and their friends.  How they are "going out with so and so".   Urghh!  They are kids, they don't drive, they don't date....really?  What do they think go out means?

We constantly explain this concept to the boys.  Eli usually could care less about these issues.  It doesn't mean he doesn't have an opinion but no more so than his opinions of school, football and which sister he's not currently disgusted with.

Lucas.....well he's the socially aware preteen.  He recently "broke up" with a girl...really how can you break up with someone you only see at school and you don't talk or text to?  Needless to say he made a fairly smooth transition to single status as this is probably his 10th break up in 6 months.

At supper he gave us the latest couple statuses of his friends.  Who broke up with whom today, who was upset, who wasn't and then came the epiphany.  He said,  "You know what?  Girls are all drama, drama, drama, drama."  So as I was choking on my chicken, Eli thought he'd go in for the kill by saying, "Ya, I know right?  They are all drama queens!"  Really?  Didn't know he knew the term, didn't know he was even listening to the conversation.

What followed was a 10 minute discussion on their views of the whole concept of going out with someone.  Interesting but definitely something we'll be revisiting.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Did You Teach Me To Talk?

We were watching a family show this evening, where a mother was speaking to her toddler, adopted from China, trying to get him to say and repeat words to her.  Lucas was winding down for the night and had paused to watch with us.....normally this is not his "type" of show.

He got really excited and said, "Mom, is that how you taught me to talk when I was a baby?"  Gulp!  It instantly registered with me what he had asked.  I wasn't sure how I was going to answer in that instant.  You kind of run all these type of questions, subjects and discussions through your head a billion times in the process of adoption....how am I going to answer the tough questions?

Let me just say....you are never 100% prepared and what you thought would be your response is most likely not what is going to come out of your mouth.  In this case, Lucas beat me to the punch.

He said, "Oh. Wait.  You taught me English.  I didn't come home until I was a bigger kid.  But I think my first mom taught me when I was a baby to speak Tagalog.  It probably worked the same way as when you taught me here...you would say a word and show me what it means, then I learned.  She probably did the same thing."

This isn't the first time that he has "forgotten" that we weren't with him as a baby or toddler.  Like any kid he wonders about the things and people before he has actual memory.  He is slowly coming to terms with not having nor ever having knowledge of those earliest milestones.  I'm sure there will be many more of these times to acknowledge that we don't know.

So while we didn't teach him Tagalog, we did teach him English.  Some day I hope he is able to comprehend how much he has taught us about life, loss, perseverance, determination and the awesomeness that is Lucas.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Changing Diapers

Lucas is not stranger to caring for little ones, it was one of his "jobs" in the orphanage.  He primarily helped to feed and play with the babies and with that came changing their diapers.

We were standing in a check out lane when a frazzled mother came up behind us.  She was carrying a little one on her hip, who was apparently trying to deafen her mother and half the people in the store by throwing a huge tantrum.  I give the mom huge points as she wasn't coming unhinged at the raving child.  The little one wasn't really bothering me, after a certain point if the scream doesn't sound painful you overlook it.  I just happened to look back to make sure the boys were moving along with me, the baby looked at me, I made a funny face and the kid shut off in mid scream.  Let me tell you I'd have paid for a picture of Lucas, Eli and the moms' faces.  It was a fluke...I know that...but it worked.

It not only worked for the toddler, it worked on the boys...all the way to the car.  They climbed in, put their seat belts on and then I hear Lucas say, "Mom?  How did you know how to make that kid stop yelling?  Can you teach me that?  I'm going to need to know that when I have kids.  Oh ya....when I have kids you have to show me how to change diapers."

I said, "Luke you know how to change diapers.  What are you talking about?"  He said, "That were Philippine diapers with the pins or we tied them.  I don't know anything about American diapers.  You'll have to teach me."  Well I explained disposables are basically peel and stick.  He thought he could handle it.  Wait til his future wife finds out how well educated he is in the diaper duty area.  Another thing to look forward to!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Did You Go To School? Do You Ever Want To Drive A Car?

Homework....at any age, from either side of the table, child or parent...homework is homework.  It can bring anxiety and frustration to the child and it can bring those same feelings to the parent.

The lesson I carried away every night after homework sessions with the girls was that I possessed neither the patience nor the intellect of a 5th grader.  School was easier when I was there....you know back in the stone age.

The girls were savvy enough not to mention the fact that I did not always possess the answers or understand the exact "new" way of doing math.  All three girls possess a strong sense of self preservation...they kept quiet...the boys don't hold that trait.  They very clearly want me to understand my short comings as demonstrated tonight when attempting math of a 6th grader.

What possessed me to think I could aid the "brilliant" son with attitude is beyond me....come to think of it, if he's so smart how come he asked for help?  Anyway....his question to me, as I had to stop and think about a way to explain the directions, 10 different ways, was, "Oh. That's right, you didn't go to college, you just graduated high school.  That's probably why you have to think about it."

Really.  Really!  The immature part that only graduated high school wanted to tell him good luck figuring it out.  The more mature mom who is supposed to take the high road and help him no matter what goof ball things come out of his mouth prevailed.

Now that is not to say that one day when he's wanting to take the car that I won't suddenly remember this shining moment and see how fast he can back track from his statement.  Then we'll talk about borrowing the car.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Pickle Power

This picture shows you what has been occupying our week-ends for August and September.  This is the first game that Lucas has played without a brace on his leg and it was amazing to watch.

They both ended up running for long yardage touchdowns.  Give them a football and if there is a way around the line they will run all out.   Eli is our runner, he'd just as soon not get tackled.  Lucas is a runner but wow the kid can tackle hard.

Pretty proud of them for trying a sport that they only knew minimally a few weeks ago and as with everything giving it 110%!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Listen to Him Teach

Eli is our son that would not stay at school in the Philippines.  Before arriving home and a little while after, we along with the school worried that he may decide once again that school was not for him.  Luckily he stayed at school.

He started out thinking he was "dumb", he'd been told he wasn't smart.  I will never forget the day in 2nd grade that he came home and said, "Mom, I'm smart, I can do it."  I wouldn't want you to think that school is his favorite thing....he's a kid but he is getting it and passing it on.

The biggest brother arguments we have going right now is over the latest thing they've learned in school and who absorbed the most information and can retell it.  Eli teaches through homework, through supper and play.  It is interesting to listen to his teaching style.  He has little patience....it will not probably be his life's work...but he does have a way of stating things that helps others understand the lessons.

It's funny (ok only sometimes) when he turns his teaching voice on Mike or I.  He sounds like a 40 year old man.  Tonight's lesson even came with hand gestures and head tilting.  I can't wait for parent/teacher conferences to discover which of his teachers are the models for these mannerisms.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Brain and Mouth Disconnect

The beginning of the school year holds a lot of hurdles for Lucas and Eli.  Adjusting to a new grade, teachers, peers....it is really confusing for them at times.

Lucas told us something last night that really struck home.  He said, "Mom, How come I have the right words in my head and know what I want to ask in class but when I raise my hand, they don't come out right?  What's wrong with my mouth?"

We have had so many talks about their English acquisition over the last 3+ years but it is an ever changing progression that it's hard to know exactly where each of them are struggling and/or what it is that they are thinking about their struggles.

Eli has passed Lucas in his verbal English skills.  This was expected and explained early on by a terrific educator right after the boys came home.  Eli was largely non verbal and therefore began his verbalization in English.  While he started school at a first grade level, in essence he was much like teaching a child to speak, no matter the language, as a toddler.  He wasn't running two languages through his brain in the same way Lucas did.  

Lucas would first hear the words in English, translate to Tagalog, then re-translate back to English for a response.  Can you imagine the mental exhaustion level?  Although he too has lost his Tagalog, English does not come easily or without a great deal of thought.

So out comes the pictures and diagrams of the brain and that the different areas of the brain control and at what ages do most of the pathways within the brain develop....it's some heavy study for an adult...heavier for the person trying to understand why his brain and mouth aren't connected the way he'd like.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Could We Adopt Him?

The conversation was unexpected.  It had nothing to do with what had or was occurring at the time.  Something triggered it but like many of these conversations we will never truly understand what the instigation involved.

Mike, Lucas, Eli and myself were on the way home from a doctor's appointment, Lucas was very excited as the doctor gave him a complete release from his broken foot and he's back to full activity.  We were explaining and joking that the doctor's "do anything you want" did not mean ANYTHING Lucas wanted...there are parental restrictions.

Out of the blue, Lucas says, "Can we adopt (name changed) Tim?" Tim being a much talked about, special needs boy that grew up with the boys in Zamboanga.  They have talked about, worried over and prayed for this boy since they came home.  Lucas was his protector,  Eli was his playmate.  They both understand Tim's special needs in depth and have given our family a verbal portrait of this boy.

I call him a boy, when in actuality he is several years older than Lucas.  To us and to Lucas and Eli he is forever the age he was when they left the orphanage, frozen in time and their memories.

Lucas worries constantly about those left behind, those of whom he now understands will most likely not be adopted for numerous reasons.  He also understands that, no we cannot adopt Tim.  I think he just had to ask and that it had been weighing on him for some time.  

After talking about Tim for a while, Lucas said, "Does it cost a lot of money to adopt?  I want to do that when I am old enough.  I need to know how much money I will need and how to adopt.  You will have to show me."

This isn't the first time one or the other of the boys have said they want to adopt.  Each time they mention the subject, the idea seems to be more formed.  While we can't adopt "Tim" and the boys will most likely never know what became of him, the idea of "we can adopt" and "we can be a family for someone" is taking up resident in their hearts.  

Have any of you out there contemplated whether or not  you could adopt?  I can tell you from first hand experience, a person can do a whole lot more than they ever thought possible and if you are wondering or contemplating.....make a call to an agency, make a call to an adoptive parent, start the journey and if you aren't quite at that point yet....say a prayer that the choice you end up making will be the best possible decision.....simply said....start...take the step...the leap of faith. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Who Trained the Experts?

Have you ever been on the receiving end of "experts" in any field?  I've always wondered what exactly entitles someone to be an expert.  A definition of expert is: A person with a high degree of skill in or knowledge of a certain subject.

I don't know about you but I would not want to be thought of as an expert in any field.  Having knowledge or experience...okay....expert....no way.

We've run into quite a few experts lately in regard to Lucas and Eli and either their history, education or just someone who feels obligated to tell us their views on "how we should be doing things."  My philosophy is..."if you haven't lived or experienced it first hand...don't comment under the guise of an expert, unless asked."

I think one of the areas throughout our adoption that frustrated me to no end was to be directed to read or listen to "experts" who in the long haul had never experienced adoption personally or some never having been exposed to adoption in any format other than what they'd read themselves.  Not all of our reading was in vane.  Those authors and experts that we consulted, who had first hand knowledge have been invaluable.

It's one of the reasons that adoption blogs and  parents are such a valued resource to us.  We have learned more from these people in the trenches than we have from the experts.

The reason for my little anti-expert tirade?  Early on we had one of these people make a remark that proved to be totally untrue but has stuck with us til this day.  Have you heard the saying, "you can't unhear something?"  She had no basis only bias.  Recently we were subjected to this slanted view point from another so called expert...again when we explained that their viewpoint was not the case in Lucas and Eli's experiences...the expert retreated and chose to not have the "unsupportive example used in the format."  

If an expert cannot either defend their area of expertise or open themselves up to the possibility of more than one conclusion for a given area, I believe them to not be an "expert" but a person who know longer looks for answers and is one who has closed off to possibilities...don't close off my kids' possibilities...it makes me very irritated and the expert appear ignorant as we prove them wrong time and again.

And that my blog friends is my non expert opinion about the world of experts.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

A Very Public Announcement

Any one who has had an opportunity to be around young children know that they will inevitably say something, at some point, in front of a ridiculous amount of people, most likely a boss, a doctor, teacher or minister that will not only embarrass you but will be remembered .....  forever.

That would be Eli's claim to fame today.  Our neighbor was having a farm auction, where there was a huge crowd.....maybe I should go back and explain that our community is not what you would call racially diverse....it was a topic early in our adoption and one we talk about with the boys as they are one of few non-Caucasians in school.

For whatever reason today was the day that Eli decided to broadcast that fact to the auction crowd when he went with Mike and Lucas to load up some purchases.  Jumping out of the truck,  Eli looks around and declares...."Hey Luke!  They're all white!"  What on earth possesses that boy some times is beyond my understanding.  

Of course no one,  I mean NO ONE,  bothered to tell me about this until we were sitting at the supper table.  Of course it was preceded by Eli announcing to everyone, "Hey you remember when we were French?"  What!  Like I said the boy never leaves a room or farm auction unnoticed.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Brother Helping Brother

In light of the tragedy that befell our community this week, this is a glimpse of the new leaf that has turned over at our house.  No arguing, bickering or reminding.  Brother helping brother.

Mike turned around yesterday to find this scene of Lucas helping Eli with his homework.  I don't even care if it was right or wrong...this was important, this was amazing.


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Even In America

A tragic, horrific crime was committed in our small community, less than a mile from our home.  A five year old little boy was killed by his 17 year old foster brother.  Crime, in our rural community, generally consists of petty theft, speeding and the like....not something of this horrific, unexplainable nature.

Lucas and Eli aren't the only ones with questions and fears about this crime but as a parent trying to explain the answers to their questions while not giving anything but facts (within reason) is near to impossible.  They were hearing so many things at school and it has been very confusing to them.

They individually approached us to ask their questions and talk it over.  I can only say that as they sat here and processed everything, the one prevailing thing that they both kept voicing was, "But he was just a little boy.....but this is America.  You mean really bad things happen here?"  

No matter how we try to protect our kids sometimes the world and violence intrude into their lives.  Oh the questions they asked break my heart, "Mom, why didn't their mom protect the little boy?"  "Why would a brother kill his brother?"  "Was the little boy afraid?"  "Did he hurt?"

I've never known either of the boys to maintain any degree of quiet for an extended amount of time....for the last two days since this tragedy occurred.....they are quiet, playing together without arguments, staying close to either Mike or I....generally they are trying to reestablish their feeling of safety.  

We can give our kids the world and then the world can come screaming into our serenity and blow a hole in the foundation you are attempting to build.  There is prayer for the family involved...unimaginable.......and prayer for our communities' children as they struggle to understand.


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Grandma's Birthday Card

Today was my mom's 93rd birthday.  We took Lucas and Eli to visit for a few minutes between school and football practice.

We stopped to pick up a birthday card.  When I say we stopped I mean it is a major undertaking to shop for cards with either of the boys but when you take both it's full stop, read every card in the aisle and debate which will be the best choice.

I think it's safe to say the majority of people do not put the amount of thought that these two guys do into gift buying let alone cards.  Someday I'm thinking their girlfriends and wives will be very fortunate.

I did narrow their search criteria to musical cards as my mom's eye sight is very bad and I thought perhaps she'd be able to hear the card if not read it.  This helped but they were going through every silly singing card on the display until I noticed Eli step away and look at one card really closely with the strangest look on his face.

He brought it to me and said, "Mom.  This is the one.  I think grandma can see this one.  It has lights and maybe it will be bright enough."  I've never seen a card quite like this one.  It has candles that light on the inside and you blow them out and then Happy Birthday plays.

We gave it to mom and I wish I could have recorded her, Lucas and Eli as they opened, blew and reopened that card.  I'm not sure who was smiling more.  Here's the card....hope you enjoy it!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Writing and Reminders

I've written and re-written an article for Holt magazine about the boys' lives since coming home nearly 4 years ago.  As I wrote about previously this story has/had a different perspective than the ones I'd written previously.  More details were requested and it's been kind of hard to try to condense their stories into 1000 words.  There is just so much that has happened in their lives.  

The editor asked for a few pictures to go along with the article.  In digging through pictures I came across these two and they made me realize that Lucas and Eli truly have come so far in such a short time.  There is 9 years difference in these photos.  The one was taken about 4 months after they entered the orphanage, the other was one I took today.  If I was unable to capture their story in words, I think the pictures tell a lot.