Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Sunrise, day before the storm

October 28 sunrise

Snow day

October 2009 snow

We woke up this morning to nearly a foot of snow on the ground.  Actually, we woke up at 5:30, when the automated call from the school district told us that schools would be closed for the day.  Then we went back to sleep, and by the time we got up around 7:00, the snow was starting to pile up.  It's closer to two feet now I think, and still snowing hard.  Who knows how much we'll have by the time it's moved on tomorrow?  I'm trying not to think about it.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Bad dream

I had nightmare after nightmare last night (I think the stress of being trapped in the house with a bunch of sick people is getting to me).  I'll keep the scary serial killer ones to myself and share just this one with you:

I dreamed that the Brazilian National Symphony played for B's birthday.  Why Brazil?  Does Brazil even have a national symphony?  I have no idea.  B sat there sullenly throughout the performance, which I found rather embarrassing in my dream.  Then at the end of their performance, they played a rousing rendition of "Happy birthday to you," at the end of which B folded his arms across his chest and yelled out "LA-AME!"  How humiliating.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

House of plague

B has been sick since Friday night, with what turns out to be H1N1.  Then less than an hour after returning home from the urgent care visit that confirmed the diagnosis, Z came down with a fever.  She doesn't seem to feel bad at all yet, but poor B is hurting.  He's burning up with fever, 103 even with drugs on board, and has a scary hacking cough.  The doctor said his lungs sounded good though, so apparently the cough is not as scary as it sounds.  This afternoon he started complaining that his legs & his head ache.  The poor little dude.  There's really nothing we can do but keep drugs in him & keep him drinking fluids.  I'll call Z's doctor in the morning, since her age puts her in the high-risk group.  Maybe she'll luck out & they'll give her antivirals. 

Let's hope M and I can hold out.  I don't know what we'll do if all four of us are as sick as B is right now, all at the same time!  At least now that debate over whether or not to vaccinate the kids for H1N1 is moot.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Hello Ireland!

Where are you all coming from?  Do leave a comment to say hello please.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

A painful issue brings up hard questions

A giant controversy is brewing in the China adoption community.  More and more evidence is coming to light that corruption is deeply embedded in China's international adoption program.  Read more about it here.  It's not a new story -- here's one from 2005.  It's not limited to U.S. media either.  It's actually been a bigger story inside China, with U.S. papers just now picking it up months after it came out there.  For good background on the issue, read the September 30, 2009 entry here.  Yes, I know he's controversial, and I often have doubts about his research methodology, but he's far from the only person beating this drum.  I think we have to pay attention to what he is saying.

Back in late 2005 and early 2006, the Chinese government managed to convince the rest of the world that baby-buying was an isolated incident involving a handful of corrupt orphanage directors, not a widespread problem.  It is beginning to appear that this was not the truth.  It is beginning to appear that it is common practice in many parts of the country for orphanages to pay for babies, and that it has been common for quite some time.  It happens in different ways.  Sometimes babies are stolen outright and sold to orphanages.  Horrific.  Sometimes family planning officials forcibly remove babies from their parents because the parents have exceeded their one/two-child quota.  Again, horrific.  In other cases, orphanages hire "finders" who spread the word that they are willing to pay for healthy babies.  This is slightly less horrific, since it obviously allows someone in a child's birth family to make a choice of sorts.  But is it really a choice?  If the finder's cash payment weren't an option, would the birth family keep the child?  Would they find a family member, neighbor or friend to raise the child if they couldn't afford to themselves?  Is it any easier for a Chinese woman to hand her newborn baby to a stranger, knowing she'll never see her again, than it would be for YOU to do it?  Of course not.

Then there's China's one-child policy (not actually one child in all cases, but let's call it that because it's a simpler phrase than something more accurate would be).  The fines for having a child beyond your family's quota can amount to three years' salary for some families.  If the child in question is beyond quota, how many families can afford to pay the fines?  There aren't any payment plans.  And hiding an over-quota child is not feasible for most families either.  That child could not receive medical care or go to school.  Upon reaching adulthoold, that child would not be able to get a job or a home.  The policy is truly the villain in this story.  It puts Chinese families in unthinkable positions and forces choices that no parent should ever face.  But the policy is not something that we have the power to change, and it is unlikely to change soon.

I think abandonment still happens in China, but it is much less common than it was a decade ago.  I think it most often happens now with single mothers who really don't have a chance to parent their child given the norms of modern Chinese society, and with children who have special needs that are visible at birth.  Again, these parents simply don't have a chance to parent their children, given widespread poverty and the lack of a social safety net in China.  But Chinese families are wealthier than they were a decade ago, and attitudes toward baby girls are changing.  I just don't think that healthy babies are abandoned as often as they used to be.

I'm astounded at the China adoption community's response to this story.  Many are enraged that the media is talking about it.  They seem to be fearful that it will end China's international adoption program, thereby depriving them of the child they've been waiting for.  I understand the heartbreak of the wait; we waited too, although not nearly as long as some will wait.  I can understand how devastating it would be to see your dream of adopting from China come to an end.  But really, would you knowingly enter into an adoption if you had reason to believe these stories were true?  That your child may have been stolen from her parents and sold to an orphanage?  Or that her parents willingly gave her up for money?  I would not.  That is precisely why we discarded Guatemala as an option for our family.  I would not knowingly be a party to this sort of corruption.

Others in the community simply discard this story as lies.  Perhaps it's not true; we don't have conclusive proof afterall.  But it is certainly beginning to look as if it could be true.  How is it helpful to anyone to bury your head in the sand and pretend like it's not happening?  If you already have adopted Chinese children at home, don't you think that someday they will hear about this?  They'll find it on the Internet when they're older, or worse, someone will say something stupid in the grocery store or on the playground, and they'll hear about it that way.  Don't you think you should be as educated as you can be, so that you can have a thoughtful and honest conversation with your child?

And adoption agencies continue to spoon-feed us stories of orphanages full of abandoned babies who need homes.  Are they lying to us, or do they believe it?  If they believe it, should they?  Don't they of all people have an obligation to know what's going on in China, so they can inform their families?

Other questions I'm struggling with include my own unwitting role in this story.  Did I perpetuate this sort of corruption by adopting from China?  Am I obligated to initiate a conversation with Z about this at some point in the future when she is emotionally mature enough to understand it?  Or do I wait until she discovers it to have the conversation?  And have I made it inevitable that she will discover it by blogging about it?  And how on Earth do I talk about this with her in a manner that is sensitive yet honest?

Speculating about Z's history is simply to painful for me to even get into just yet.  I derive minimal comfort from the thought that her special need may have been recognizable from birth, leading her parents to abandon her in a safe place so that needs they couldn't afford to tend to could receive medical care.  But I have a huge amount of soul-searching to do before I can begin to answer any of these questions and begin to contemplate Z's own story.

This is terribly painful for me.  This is something that was not entirely off my radar screen while we were in the adoption process, since the Hunan story broke while we were doing our dossier, but I believed what I read.  I believed that Hunan was an isolated case of corruption.  I believed that abandonment was an ongoing problem in China.  I believed that thousands of children were waiting in orphanages and had little chance of finding families if families like mine did not adopt.  That orphanage care was by definition worse than being adopted by a family of a different nationality and race.  I don't think I could have gotten deeply enough into these issues before we adopted to see them as I do now.  They are infinitely more complex than I could have known.  Somehow, when the child was still an abstraction, these issues remained somewhat abstract too.  It is also true that it has taken me years to discover how many resources are truly available to adoptive parents, and I continue to discover new ones all the time.

I struggled about whether or not to blog about this.  Obviously I lean toward the idea that I do have an obligation to talk to Z about this someday, or I wouldn't have done it.  The bottom line to me is this:  we, as adoptive parents and future adoptive parents, have an obligation to learn as much about this as we can.  We need to discuss, analyze and debate it among ourselves, so that we can talk about it with our kids someday.  I think they will hear about it one way or another, and they will come to us for answers.  We also need to resolve our own internal dilemmas, and maybe even guilt, over this issue.  That is the road I am headed down now.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

All dressed up

to go out to dinner for Mid-Autumn Festival with the neighbors.  We went out for Chinese, of course.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Crime scene

Chalk kids
I convinced the kids to let me outline them with chalk yesterday. B then made them anatomically correct. That little scribble at the top of his chalk-head is his brain, or so he says.

Inquiring minds want to know

B has been asking me some heavy questions lately. "If the first person on Earth was a baby, how did it get here without a mommy and daddy? Or if a mommy or daddy was first, didn't they have to be a baby before they were grown up? So then how did they get here?"

We talked a little bit about God, what different people and religions think about God and how people got to be on Earth. And we talked a little bit about evolution. But he's curious. And smart. Scary smart.

I think it's time to start taking B to church. Seeing as how I'm such a dirty hippie, it's going to have to be the Unitarian Church. Here is the description of our local UU church's Sunday school program for kindergarteners & first-graders:
"A Discovering Year nurtures children’s spiritual and religious growth through connections to their ever-widening environment. They explore selves, friendships, families, church, nature, and religious and cultural days. Through ritual, sharing times, quiet times, crafts, activities, singing and music, games and movement, stories and talks, they learn to appreciate the worth of each person, to work and play cooperatively, to express feelings, to celebrate human diversity, and to feel part of their UU community."
I hope this will help B start searching for answers to his Big Questions. It will also help me feel part of a community I'll enjoy, since I can go to services while he's in Sunday school. I just hope the church doesn't spontaneously burst into flame when I set foot inside...