Okay, January, you can't bring me down today. Yes, all my worries are still there, but you know what? My life has so much sweetness and light in it, so I'd better take some time to appreciate it. Even if they're small things, here are a random list of 10 random things that are making me happy this Monday...
January has always been my least favourite month. Everything is just DARKER and HARDER after Christmas. This January...whew. Lots of stuff threatening to drag us down.
We've all had three really bad colds in a row, the first one starting way back at the beginning of December. We just had a two week break from snot and I thought maybe it was over, but Vivi was the first to succumb to the latest virus on Sunday and now Adeline and I are sick again and David is valiantly fighting it off (but probably losing).
We had a tough re-entry into the world after holidays and Adeline has been very out-of-sorts, tired and crying just about every evening and she has a bunch of new fears/old fears re-emerging. We are working through it and things seem to be getting better and Adeline seems to be calmer, more rested and more at ease this week, but it's hard seeing your child so fearful and not really knowing how to help. The fears she verbalizes are mostly about monsters and a fear of the dark and being alone, but I think it's deeper than that. Just getting her to talk and really listening to her has helped, I think, and we've given her some tools such as a loud cowbell by her bed so that she can sound an alarm if she needs to, permission to come camp out on the crib mattress at the foot of our bed any night and we're getting her a video monitor for her room so that she knows that we can see her at all times. Of course we tell her again and again that she is safe, that there is no such thing as monsters, that we will always protect her and that nothing will ever hurt her in her bed, but her fear is real and no amount of logic or love is going to make it go away right now.
We're also in the process of making some decisions about school as we are increasingly unhappy with Adeline's school. Actually, I don't want to say it's her school that is bad as the teachers, staff and policies are all great...it's the demographics in Adeline's class and the broken-ness of our public education system that has left Adeline's excellent kindergarten teacher alone with a group of 20 children, 15 of which are boys and the vast majority of which have come totally unprepared for kindergarten and are starting at the very basics academically (as an example, Adeline was the only child in her class who could rhyme or knew her letters). In Adeline's class there are two children with autism, one of whom is aggressive and physically violent on a daily basis (Adeline has been pushed, tripped a few times and punched in the neck twice and has also endured verbal attacks and lots of "mean looks" from this child). There is also at least one other child who has daily anger issues/impulse control issues, but luckily for Adeline he sees himself as her protector right now. Then there's a new English speaker who could use some extra attention...how can Adeline's teacher do any teaching with all this on her shoulders? Adeline is very sensitive and this constant miasma of fear and aggression in her class takes a toll on her emotionally and the noise and chaos of her class is too much for her senses to process and her teacher says that Adeline often wears the noise-cancelling headphones. Adeline's teacher describes her as a model student, but that's not enough for us. She's bright and respectful and a rule follower and came to kindergarten with some good academic and social skills, but she is getting NOTHING at school. While her classmates hold scissors for the first time and learn what sound "B" makes, Adeline is spending her days doing colouring sheets and other busy work, living in fear of being punched in the neck and having to conform to silly girl culture or face being ostracized. We're seeing the start of girl-drama and bullying ("You can't wear red. If you wear any other colour than pink or purple then you're a boy and can't play with us", "You can only wear TWO braids. Only I can wear one braid, because there's only one Elsa at school and that's ME", "Dinosaurs are for boys. You shouldn't like dinosaurs", "Your glasses are weird", "You're a baby. Why are you so small?" etc etc etc). Unfortunately with only 5 girls in Adeline's class I can't just say "Go find better friends, who like you for who you are" as if you're not "in" with those narrow-minded and sometimes mean girls then you have no friends. Our neighbourhood is a hippie/yuppie/gentrified kind of place with lots of stay-at-home, well educated parents, but the other demographic at Adeline's school is literally from the other side of the tracks. Other grades have a mix of both neighbourhoods or are mostly families from our neighbourhood, but there is no one from our 'hood in Adeline's class. One of the reasons we chose to send her to this school was so she could have friends in the neighbourhood, but that's not how it's gone. Many of the parents of Adeline's classmates show a real lack of respect for education by allowing huge numbers of absences and not making their children complete their assignments or sending them unprepared when we've been asked to do something at home. I don't want Adeline to think this is normal and the right attitude to have towards school and her classmates will never catch up, never mind thrive, without support from home. Adeline loves to go to school, but I do think that it's where her current fears and insecurities are coming from and I just don't see that she's learning anything at all except how to sit still and be quiet and I actually think her natural exuberance and desire to explore, experiment and learn is being dulled. So we're looking at options and have our fingers crossed that our first choice (a private school) comes through, because other than that I think I'm looking at home schooling and while I know I could do it and would enjoy it, Adeline is SO VERY SOCIAL that I don't think it's the best choice for her either. We just love Adeline so much and want her to have a fabulous life. She's an exceptional kid and she deserves a great education in a place where her needs are met, she isn't scared or overwhelmed, where she can learn among other children who are being taught that education is important and where she can hopefully make some good friends. I also hate that there is no music or art at Adeline's school - 30 minutes of singing a week isn't music and following instructions to make a craft exactly like the example isn't art. It's her spirit we're most concerned for though, and we think we've found a school where that spirit will be tended, and now we wait to see if we can get in and then start making plans to come up with the money...
So yeah. Lots going on in January.
But good things too...
Vivi is 18 months old now and is a HOOT. So cute and funny all day long. Talking in little sentences and learning new words all the time, playing, singing, dancing, laughing, hugging and kissing all day long, loving books and music and cookies... Just love that girl so much!
Adeline is back to violin lessons and is making good progress and continues to love it and be very proud of herself. She is excited to be preparing for her first music festival and she has made some lovely friends in her group class, which helps a little to mitigate the bad friends she has at school. Adeline has also made some great leaps forward in her swimming and is loving the water more and more. She and Vivian have also been doing some really nice playing and sweet interacting lately, which always warms my heart.
And February is coming... Hopefully in February we will find out that the private school has a spot for Adeline for the fall and maybe we'll have some of those glorious crisp and sunny days we often have in February that always improve my mood and trick me into thinking that spring is here.
Then spring...ahhh spring...I really feel like I NEED you this year.
Time to finally tell a secret.
On January 4th last year, we were getting ready to go to the pool for a family swim to end off our Christmas holiday. I was half in my bathing suit (which also made me half naked) when the phone rang. Usually if we don't recognize the number we let the machine get it, but something made me say to David "You should get that".
And it was our adoption agency calling. With a secret for us to keep and a wish to hold in our heart.
We were told not to tell anyone as it would just be too hard if it all fell through. Not to lose our hearts. To be hopeful but not to make any plans. That things were changing every single day in Vietnam and while they hoped that they would be asked to find a family for this sweet baby, it wasn't guaranteed. Even if they received her file, it was possible the match wouldn't be approved for our family. We were told that it could be up to a year before she could come home if the match was made. Maybe less. Maybe more. It could be that another agency in another country would get her file. It could be that her file would never be completed and she would remain at the orphanage.
We were asked...do you want to move forward to bring this baby home if everything goes as our agency hoped?
We didn't hesitate. Yes, yes, yes.
Then we went swimming. And every minute that Adeline was under water, David and I talked...and dreamed...and wished...and hoped...and made plans...and smiled...and worried. Luckily Adeline is almost always under water at the pool, as we had so many dreams and wishes and hopes and plans and smiles and worries that day. We vowed not to tell Adeline, as we knew that our hearts could survive if that beautiful baby never became our daughter, but we didn't know if Adeline's tender heart could withstand it, and we knew how hard the waiting would be for us, and how it would be impossible for Adeline.
Then we began to wait. And hope.
We were told that we would probably find out if baby Khanh had been assigned to our agency in a couple of weeks and then up to six months after that we would find out that we had been matched, then up to six months after that we would finally be able to travel. We hoped for the shortest timeline possible, which was traveling to Vietnam late in the summer, but we braced ourselves for having to wait for the winter or even possibly for 2015. And of course there was the constant thought of "Or maybe she won't come home at all". As the "couple of weeks" turned into months and there was nothing but silence from Vietnam, we worried constantly that something was wrong and the longer the silence went on the more we swung between steadfast hope and deep despair. A child waiting a year for a family that is waiting for them is terrible, and to see that timeline stretching out further and further and knowing that the little baby we saw in those photos was spending day after day in the care of an orphanage rather than a family was heartbreaking. We worried if she was getting enough to eat. If she was being held and talked to. If anyone looked into her eyes with love and delighted in making her smile. If she was sick and if she could get medical help if she needed it. A million worries for a little baby on the other side of the world, but nothing that we could actually do for her.
Sometimes I had to put the photos away. Not knowing was just too hard. Wondering and worrying and wishing was just too hard.
They said not to lose our hearts. But we did.
Every night I wished on the first star I saw, and my wish was always for baby Khanh. I wished that she would be safe and healthy and loved and that she would soon find her family, even if that family wasn't us.
We waited two months and twelve days hoping to hear just that Khanh's file had been given to our agency and we knew that once we had that piece of information that our next wait could be six months to hear that we were matched and then another wait of perhaps six months to hear that we could travel. Two months and twelve days of checking my email hundreds of times. Two months and twelve days of jumping and running every time the phone rang. Two months and twelve days of part of my heart being on the other side of the world.
But then two months and thirteen days came, and there was an email from our agency finally. On March 17th we got the news that all at once Khanh's file had been assigned to our agency, our match had been officially approved and that once we sent back our acceptance we were just waiting for the provincial authority to set a date for our official adoption ceremony, which would likely happen in just four to six weeks. No one was expecting this news, including our agency, and we didn't stop smiling for days. Baby Khanh was now our Baby Khanh - our daughter, Adeline's sister, Nana's granddaughter and we could finally just be happy and make our plans and shout it from the rooftops that our family was growing. Of course we still worried, especially after our first hard adoption experience, but we were assured by our agency and we tried to assure ourselves over and over again that everything would go right and Khanh would have her family.
And the rest of that story has already been told, starting here.
Well, not really the rest of the story. The rest of the story is what we're living every day, with our wonderful littlest girl.
Sometimes people say how lucky Vivian is that she was adopted by us, but truly, we are the luckiest people alive to have been given the honour of raising our two amazing children. I don't believe that we were "meant to be" as I hope no higher power would cause enormous pain to a first family or to a child just to bring us our family together, but I do believe that when Vivian was in need of a family that there were bigger forces than Vietnamese bureaucrats that brought us all together. I can't think of a better match for Vivi than us or of a better match for our family than our sweet Vivi.