Thursday, April 25, 2013

Letter To Munni

I've been a cleaning fool while Munni is at school.  One of my biggest challenges is paper management.  My house is small, I mean really, really small and I tell people if they blink they will miss the tour :)  So, it's crucial I stay on top of it but I just haven't figured out a method that really works for me!  Anyway, while going through all the paperwork, I happened upon this letter I wrote to Munni after my first trip to meet her.  I had completely forgotten about it.  Reading it made me realize how much has changed in such a short time.  I'm writing it here in case I lose the paper :)  Here it is:

December 20, 2012

Dear Sweet Munni,
    I am sitting the the Hyderabad airport waiting for my flight to go back to the U.S.  I can't even put into words how much I wish you were here with me!
  You completely rocked my world Munni!  You were so much more than I imagined and the way we connected and bonded so quickly, was a confirmation from the Lord that He brought us together indeed!
   The first moment we met, I will always remember your sweet smile!  You had an exam at school so you weren't there when I came.  They went to get you and you so quietly walked in.  M. was talking to S. in Hindi and I had no idea what they were saying.  All of a sudden, I heard your name and they both looked behind me.  There you were!  You looked so cute with your green school uniform and backpack as big as you were!
    I knelt down in front of you and told you how much I love you.  You just smiled :)  I took both of your hands and kissed them.  You liked that!  I asked if I could hug you and motioned as if I would and you smiled so I went for it!  You were so small!
     You sat on my lap and I gave you the pink sunglasses I bought for you.  They were a big hit- you loved them!  You recited your numbers 1-100 in English.  I was so impressed and you sounded so cute in your little Indian accent!
     I also brought you Gummy Bears- You loved them!  Orange was your favorite!
     Then this man came to take your picture for court and for your visa.  I got to hold you for the court picture and I loved it!  You were a little taller than I thought - you grew 7 inches from January 17th, 2011!
     After the pictures, your caretaker took you back to change you and get you ready to leave with me!  I was going to have you for 3 whole days!!!

My flight must have been called because that's all I wrote.  It was such a sweet reminder of all I felt when I met her for the first time.  What an amazing moment!

I love you sweet Munni!!!! 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

First Day Of School...Munni Style!!!!

Monday was Munni's first day of school!!  After she found out that the teachers in the US don't slap children across the face, she was excited to go. That was a cultural difference that I wasn't prepared for, especially since I'm a teacher!  Then we went to buy her uniform and I'm learning that I shouldn't tell her we are going to do something until we are doing it because I heard about 10,000 times, "Mom, uniform?"  She danced and hugged the bag when we finally purchased it - a day later.

When I woke her up Monday morning, she sat right up and said, "Mom, school!"  She was very, very excited!
My heart is breaking as I take this! Sooobbbbb :(

We walked the 10 minute walk to school holding hands.  We prayed for her day and I told her that Jesus was going to be with her all day.  Then I asked her if she knew where Jesus was and she smiled at me and pointed to her heart.  I LOVE THIS GIRL!

We got to her school and into her classroom and her teacher made her cubby for her.  I love, love, love her teacher.  She suggested that we come into the classroom ON SUNDAY so that Munni could have some one-on-one time with her and get to know the classroom set up.  I am a teacher and I can honestly say that I would never suggest to meet a family on a Sunday.  I'm just being honest :)  Her teacher absolutely loves her students and it radiates from her!

Her little cubby at school:
 I gave her a hug and a kiss and left in her the care of her teacher.  As I walked out of the room, I'm pretty sure I felt some heartstrings snapping.  Thankfully I had my sunglasses on and I cried the whole way home.  One of the sad parts of adopting an older child is that everything seems to be on fast forward.  It's painful to know you missed out on the early years and selfishly, I wanted to keep Munni all to myself :)  But I know that she was ready for school and I always want to do what is best for her.

I got to my house and had about 4 cups of coffee and may or may not have watched her Gotcha Day video 5 times.  I still can't believe how much she's changed in terms of really coming into her own.

After school, Munni went to her after school program.  I am still off work this week and I wanted her to experience all her new transitions while I could readily come to the rescue if needed :)  When I got to the Community Center, Munni was upstairs in a different group.  The young gentleman told me that she was crying.  Uh oh.  I ran upstairs and found her room.  She was sitting with kids her age and the environment was much more calm.  They must have been talking about American Indians because they all had feathers taped to their foreheads.  As soon as she saw me, she lit up!  I waived her to come to me and she gave me the biggest hug :)  We got to the car and she was non-stop talker!  I asked her if she cried and she said yes because she missed me.  I told her that I cried too because I missed her.  I told her that Simon and Rollie and Lola were looking everywhere for her at the house.  She laughed when I told her that.  She showed me everything in her backpack, showed me what she didn't eat from her lunch bag (ho ho's  What the heck?  Those were my favorite when I was her age!) told me about the "pizza song" and "bird song" they sang, all about the playground and the big slides and on and on.  She clearly had a great day at school.
When we got home, she had to change for her soccer practice.  I was helping her get her uniform together and that's when I saw it.  She took off her pants and guess what?  She was going Commando.  What??  I asked her where her underwear was and she just laughed at me.  I asked her if she had an accident at school and she got really frustrated, "No mom, promise!"  I asked what happened and she told me she forgot to put them on!  In the morning, I had laid out her uniform and was going back and forth between her bedroom and the kitchen.  I never saw that she didn't have any on!  She was SO excited to put on that uniform and go to school that she forgot the basic layer :)  She kept saying, "Silly me!" I couldn't stop laughing.

Today she awoke with the same enthusiasm for school only this time, I made sure she wore her underwear :)

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Keeping It Real -2 Months Home

I've had several adoptive mamas contact me lately asking how we are doing but asking more in a way of, "Please tell me that you are having struggles too."
Yes, we have struggles.  A lot of struggles.
Adoption is hard.  Period.  And I think there is this guilt you have as an adoptive mom that after SO MUCH WAITING and longing, and crying, and begging, and deal making with God if-he-would-just- bring-your-child-home-you-will-be-the-best-parent-ever-for-this-child-and-love-them-into-healing that when your child does come home and you hit that first temper tantrum or act of defiance and you try all your Karen Purvis methods you learned so that you could be the best mommy possible while you were doing all the waiting and they aren't working and you start questioning if you really are the best mommy for your child....  It stinks.
I started to go down that path with Munni.  I think all the medical crap was an added measure of just-how-great-of-a-mom-do-you-really-think-you-are? thrown in my face by the enemy.
Her background is the perfect recipe to create a child with RAD, one who will poke out your cat's eyes or burn down your house.  I'm not joking.  I know of two families who were interested in adopting her but turned her down due to the physician's advisement that she would have serious mental and emotional problems.  Add to this recipe the fact that I am single and also a first time mom.  Of a six year old.  It's like going 0 to 80mph in 1 second and I'm trying to jump on.  I've been with her 24/7 since February 14th with only 1 break of 3 hours where she stayed with my mom.  That's a lot of one-on-one time :)  I can honestly say that in the last week or so, the fog has started to lift and I've been able to spend more time with the Lord and pray and I feel like he's shown me some truth that I needed hear.
Ready for it?  I'm not perfect.  Munni is not perfect.  I will never be a perfect mom and Munni will never be a perfect child.  That's reality.  So then we move on from there.  You might be thinking, "that's obvious," but God also showed me that I need to throw off the guilt.  Unless you've adopted, you aren't going to "get" the guilt I'm talking about, just like I don't "get" pushing a baby out :)  You see, there's this guilt you feel as an adoptive parent that you can't say that anything is hard or that you child is driving you crazy or that you got really mad at your kid and seriously contemplated spanking them (which you probably don't know that you should NEVER spank an adoptive child), and that some days you look at them and wonder what in the heck did you get yourself into, because of the guilt.  You tell yourself that you begged for this child.  You prayed endlessly, you cried, you asked other people to give you money so you could bring this child home.  It's the Cinderella of parenting.  You've adopted this child with said background and now that this child has a family, everything should be perfect.  But it's not.  

One of the hardest things for me was Munni's temper tantrums.  Any little thing would set her off and then she would literally scream at the top of her lungs for at least an hour straight, holding her hand over her one eye, grinding her teeth between screams, and giving me the death stare.  She wouldn't let me comfort her and she wouldn't let me leave the room.  I'm not kidding when I say the TOP of her lungs.  If you were walking by my house you probably would have thought to call CPS.  It's very, very trying to sit in a room with a screaming child-not just because of the screaming but the fact that she wouldn't let me comfort her was the hardest.  Anyway, one time I had to leave and went out to the front porch because mama was gonna lose her mind.  As I sat there, I thought about all she has been through and if I had to go through what she did, I would either be in a straight jacket or on a drinking binge.  She is manipulative.  She has the street smarts and survival skills that most adults don't have.  Because she had to.  So my job is to help unravel all of that and love her through it.  It's not my job to heal her- that's Jesus' job.  
After about 5 minutes on the porch, I turned to my trusty friend Google.  I poured over every parenting book I could find, reading reviews, matching up situations, until finally I found, "Parenting the Hurt Child" by Gregory C. Keck and Regina M Kupecky.  I bought it with my 1-click and may or may not have paid the extra money to overnight it :)  Talk about balm to dry, crusty lips; water to the parched mouth; 7 course meal to the starving belly; a lifeboat amidst the raging waves; a Godsend.  This book validated all MY feelings and also gave me REAL situations that were almost exactly like what I was going through with Munni.  It also gave me so many amazing ways to build up her positive, loving experiences account.  The more positive experiences she has, the more they replace the negative ones.  I would HIGHLY recommend this book to anyone adopting an older child.  Munni has responded so well to the techniques they teach.  
Probably the angriest I got with Munni was when she hit Rollie.  Sweet, loving, calm and gentle Rollie.  She was in the middle of one of her tantrums, had thrown a bunch of stuff and still couldn't get a reaction out of me.  That's when she looked at Rollie and then looked at me.  I knew what she was thinking so I told her she would be in BIG trouble if she chose to hit him.  She looked right at me and hit him.  I. FLIPPED.OUT.  I scooped her up, in my meanest and loud voice told her that it is NEVER O.K. to hit a dog and marched her down the basement steps and into the garage.  I set her down and slammed the garage door.  We stood in the garage for about 10 minutes.  See, these are the things you come up with when you can't spank :)  But let me tell you, she screamed and cried like her arm was being cut off.  She knew she was in trouble.  The book told me to save anger and a loud voice for serious behaviors only.  To me, this was serious.  1) It really, really made me mad that she hit Rollie because he is the sweetest dog ever and 2) I know that Rollie would never bite her but I don't want her to think she can hit dogs because you never know how a dog will react.  I was bit in the face by a dog when I was 22 years old.  It was an extremely traumatic experience.
We stood in the garage for about 10 minutes and then I picked her up and we went back upstairs.  I explained to her why it's not O.K. to hit animals.  After that, I made her apologize to Rollie.  It took awhile, but she did.  And then I loved on her.  We did a fun activity together and I repeatedly hugged, kissed, and told her how much I loved her.  That's the last time I had to get really angry and loud with her.
The book showed me that except for serious situations like the Rollie incident, I don't have to let her frustrations and meltdowns alter my emotional state.  I think every parent could relate to this.  When she would start one of her defiant acts, I could feel my anger rising.  I know it's not about me, but when you are in the situation, sometimes it's easy to take things personally.  For me, being able to step back emotionally and stay calm has been huge for both of us.  She still screams and cries but it's not for an hour and her turnaround time has decreased significantly.
In retrospect, I would have allowed myself to have more break times from her, even just a half an hour. Again, the guilt factor and longing factor prevented me from doing that.  I missed out on the first 6 years of her life and I didn't want to miss out on any more.  But, I've learned that not only is it O.K. to have small breaks for her, it's healthier for me and ultimately her because I can be a better mom.  If I could do it again, I would have asked a family member or trusted friend to sit with her so that I could take my dogs for a walk.  I would encourage any adoptive parent to make sure that you have some time for you- whether you are married or single- I think it's really important.  I'm glad I learned this for the next time :)
I'm not going to go into how wonderful I think Munni is because the majority of my posts already do that :)  I love her more than I could have ever imagined but I wanted this post to encourage anyone out there who might be going through a time like this and to tell you,  IT IS NORMAL!!!
The other day we went to the park and I did this photo shoot:

Looks like a perfect day at the park, right?  Wrong.  There were tears, screaming, throwing of sunglasses, and crumpling to the ground.  Not everything is always how it looks.  We had a wonderful time at the park and we had a miserable time at the park.  That is real life.  And it's O.K.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

A Piece of Me...

There's something about going to your child's country and seeing and experiencing it for yourself that will change you forever.  It will linger in your thoughts, your dreams, your senses.  You will catch yourself at times looking at your child, wondering what their life would have been like had they stayed.  You wonder what her life was like before you.  You wonder about her birth parents and the family she will never know.  You look at her different expressions and wonder if her mother or father made that same expression.  You look at her dimples and wonder which parent they came from.  And then you think about all the children who are still waiting to find their family.  
And it haunts you.  
I loved it and hated it at the same time.  A wise man I met on the plane coming back from my first trip told me a very accurate saying.  He said, "If you have patience, Ind*a will take it from you.  If you don't have patience, Ind*a will give it to you."  I can't think of a truer or more succinct statement that so perfectly describes Ind*a.

I think what resonated in me the most was the vast disparity between wealth and poverty.  When we drove out to the Taj, what I saw completely jarred me.  I kept thinking that this would never fly back home.  How could there be so much wealth and technological advances and so much extreme poverty at the same time?  I've lived in 3rd world countries.  I lived with the Maasai in Kenya in the Great Rift Valley, and traveled to villages in Uganda and Tanzania.  I lived in mud dung huts with no electricity and no running water.  I saw first hand how hard a woman has to work in order to provide for her family.  I saw the slums of Nairobi with their tin roof huts.  I saw children with boated bellies running around naked and crying.  I saw babies with flies living in their eyes.  I cried with women whose babies died.  I met mothers with babies who had no names because they hadn't reached the one year mark.  Why waste a name on a child that may not survive?  I spent time in Mexico and saw the villages living in the D.F. dump.  I saw children roaming the garbage looking for food.  For miles, all I could see were giant waves of trash, garbage and debris.  And life existed right there among it.  
None of those, and I mean none, came close to what I saw in Ind*a.  And what was most unimaginable is that extreme poverty exists right along side the most technological and modern advances.  If a child is wandering the streets, it's Karma.  I asked my in-country coordinator about this and questioned, wouldn't it bring good Karma to you if you helped the untouchable?  She gave me a very wise answer.  She said that when someone is looking for a defense of their action or non-action, they will make any theology or mantra fit their excuse.  That stopped me in my tracks.  I reflected on areas of my life where I was making excuses because it was just too hard, or too uncomfortable, or would require self-sacrifice or I was just too selfish.  
Ind*a has changed me.  A piece of me will always long for it.  When I first got back, I was so angry and the thought of going back made me physically sick to my stomach.  People would contact me on my blog, telling me they were just starting the adoption process from Ind*a.  I would ache for them because they were still in the honeymoon phase, naive of what was to come.
And then God started his gentle nudging.
And slowly, my heart was healing and opening again.
I found myself thinking about it more.  I imagined myself with Munni traveling back one day.  I would think about the experiences I had and smile.
Information would come my way such as these facts:

Size/Area - 1,229,737 sq miles
Population - 1 billion
Time Zone - 10.5 hours ahead of EST
Language(s) - Hindi
Compulsory Education - 6 to 14 years
Literacy - 73% (male); 48% (female)
Religion - Hindu (80 %), Muslin (14%), Christian (2%) other (6%)
Although India occupies only 2.4% of the world's land area, it supports over 15% of the world's population.  Only China has a larger population.
There are an estimated 35 million orphans (all of sub-Sarahan Africa has 43 million).
9% of all children in India are orphans.
No country can rival Ind*a's children in need.  Of Ind*a's nearly 400 million under 18, over 70 million are child laborers, 10 million are bonded laborers (a form of slavery to pay off family debts), 13 million are homeless, 2 million are street children without families.
There is a widespread child abuse, and there is a deficit of 40 million girls because of female feticide
-over 20,000 ultrasound clinics thrive on this illegal practice.  There are 575,000 child prostitutes and there is a massive trade in Bangladeshi and Nepali girls sold into prostitution.
Malnutrition affects nearly half of all children under age five.
The adult literacy rate has a wide discrepancy between males - 73%, and females - 48%
Only 59% of boys and 47% of girls attend secondary school.
AIDS has spread rapidly in India and some estimates have said that by 2020 there could be 200 million carrying HIV.

This is not O.K.
I feel such a pull on my heart to do something.  I know I am only one person but even a waterfall has to start with one drop of water.  I don't want to find an excuse to not do anything.  I know I have to give of my time, my money, and my talents.  I'm not sure yet how this is going to look, but I'm excited where God will lead me.
Every morning I wake up, I look to my right and see what a blessing God has given me in Munni.
I am blessed.  She is blessed.  We are a family.
And there are 35 million more Munnis out there waiting for theirs.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Things I Saw...

One of the most thought provoking days I had in Munni's country was the day we went to the Taj.
It was a 5 hour car ride filled with the sights, smells, and sounds of India.
India has a very distinct smell of campfire, dirt, and spice that I would recognize anywhere.
The things I saw that day made a deep impression in my memory.

I saw...
Groups of families living under a bridge in the busy intersection, making food over a fire while the rest of the world went on its way.
Little girls smaller than Munni, weaving between cars begging for food. or money. or something that will bring their "overseer" profit.
Men peeing everywhere.  Men in suits and men in rags.  It makes no difference.
A motorcycle passes by with a man in front, a woman behind, a baby on her hip and two toddlers between them.
We slow down to weave around the herd of sheep, with no shepherd, as they make their way somewhere.
There are no lanes or traffic signs and it appears there is no rhyme or reason for how this all works but somehow, everyone understands this organized chaos.
Off in the field is an abandoned, half-built structure.  Boys are playing a game of pick-up cricket.  I smile and think of the basketball courts and baseball fields back home.
A man on the side of the road with a basket.  He knocks off the lid and out pops a cobra.  I recoil.
I think he may have gotten bit, but he goes about his business charming the serpent with his pungi.
A dog hobbling along on three legs.  The fourth looks mangled.
A black, stinky, stream of sewage runs along the side of the road.  People walk around it, over it, and through it.
A man, dirty and aged by weather, stands next to a wooden cart filled with colorful fruit, many of which I don't recognize.
Abandoned tires are formed into modern art structures.
Trash and debris are everywhere.
I look off into the field and see random people walking here and there.
A man stops where he is, squats down, and poops.
Another dog on three legs.  This time it looks like an infection.
Off in the fields, another game of pick-up cricket.  The boys are wearing rags and smiles.
Car horns fill my ears.  They are used for navigation, not anger.
A rickshaw on my left slowly makes its way.
The farther out in the country we get, the dirtier the clothes.
Saris aren't as colorful, dulled by wind and dirt and washing by hand.
Several toddlers with no pants on, chase a rooster around.  Their faces are full of joy.
A man showering himself on the side of the road.  I'm glad he's wearing boxers.
A huge ox is pulling a cart stacked tall with some kind of long grass.  An old man sits at the front of the cart with a long stick to keep the beast moving.
A pack of dogs, all but one are running on three legs.
Another motorcycle whizzes by with a family of four.  The mom wears a full burka.
A baby is alone, trying to go down a set of stairs of an abandoned building.  Where is his mom?
Another game of cricket is passing time for some young boys.
A dog lies in a ditch on the side of the road, bloated with death.
Off in the distance is a huge Krishna statue.
Its colorful and frightening stance commands attention.
Several cows with their hip bones protruding, wander across the street.
We come to a stop and a monkey jumps on our car.
Its teeth are bared as it performs tricks for money.
Munni and I look at each other and the monkey jumps off and runs to the next car.
A man with no legs and a tangled mess for arms, scoots his way among the cars.
I wonder what happened to him and how has he survived this long?
I notice that the children are smiling and laughing.  The adults are frowning with looks of despair in their eyes.
A woman washing clothes on the side of the road.  Her baby, wearing no diaper, is sitting in the dirt playing with a stick.
Off to the right, another man is squatting in the field.
A dead dog on the side of the road, its neck in an unnatural position.
A motorcycle "gang" goes by and they are all wearing bandanas across their faces.  They look like bandits but instead are shielding their lungs from the pollution.
A mother sits on an old tire, breastfeeding her infant.  Her face is vacant.

Finally, we arrive at the Taj.  The guide hops in the car and "preps" me for the beggars who will attack me when we get out of the car.  He tells me that he knows that white people want to give them money but it only makes it worse.  This makes me so sad.  We get out of the car and instantly are engulfed by a mass of children and disabled adults.  All I can see are open hands.  The guide turns to what appears to be a 2 year old boy.  He asks where his mommy is and tells him to go away.  I am holding Munni's hand and she is staring at the boy.  I wonder what she is thinking.  Does she have memories like these?
We get in the camel drawn carriage since everything has to be "green" once you are inside the Taj compound.  It smells of urine.  We arrive at the official gate and the guide stands in line to get our tickets.  He is back in a few minutes and we walk to the entrance.  It is Sunday so it is very crowded.  We all huddle through the archway and as we walk through the other side, there is it.
In all its glory.
Majestic, Stunning, Shimmering, Peaceful.
There is an immediate sense of calm when you see it.
Even the birds seem to sense this as it appears they are flying in slow motion, circling this beautiful homage of love.
It truly took my breath away.

**My camera was in my carry-on that was stolen at the DFW airport on our way home :(  I only have my iphone pics...