Entry: The Answer Woman Saturday, January 24, 2009

Hannah and I represented our agency at an adoption fair today.  Our family has worked several since Julia came home at age six in May, 2006.  I love 'em!  Love sensing people's hearts and mentally meshing those desires with the questions that either tumble - or fumble - out of their mouths. 
We've gotten lots of good use out of Julia's kindergarten "Star Student" board, which Rachel creatively and meticiously prepared for class display in early 2007.   It tells so much of her adoption story visually - it's a great prop for tabling events.

In case you miss the adoption events in which we participate, here are handy (real life) question and answer pairs to savor.  No, I didn't make them up.  I couldn't.
Why Russia?  Why didn't you adopt children from this country? 

The short answer is, "God led us to adopt from Russia."  The raise-my-eyebrows answer is, "We're leaving those kids for you!"

Aren't you a little old to have an eight-year-old?

Sure am!  Thanks for reminding me.  I'm always the grayest mom at the Brownie meetings.  Do the math - there's 44 years between Julia and me.  But I'm going to be doing something.  Something is going to fill my hours.  Why not something that matters?  When I'm on my death bed, I don't want to be gasping, "I wish I had...."

What does Julia call you?   (Yes, I have been asked this)

"Mommy."  Which is good, since I don't keep maintenance items that don't call me "Mommy."

You already had three girls.  Why didn't you adopt a boy?  Didn't your husband want a boy?

Because we had three girls and for a boy to fit, he would have had to have been a "pet" - really, really young.  We didn't feel led to adopt a really young child who had a much better chance at a forever family  If one of the original three had been a boy, that would have been just fine - but we knew #4 had to be a girl to fit in.   My (wonderful) husband wants what he has.  That's one of the reasons I love him.

Honestly - wouldn't you really rather have gotten a baby?  (Usually half-whispered in a conspirital tone)

Honestly - no.  (Usually stated quite loudly.)  I have the patience of a gnat and expended my last nerve shepherding three toddlers.  Plus I don't like the visual of Similac on the same kitchen counter with my menopause meds.

Did you speak Russian when you got her?   Did she speak English?

Keith learned several Russian phrases before we traveled.  I learned a few words including "da," "nyet" and "ya-ta-la-le-blue," which means "I love you."  Julia knew, "Mama" and "Papa."  This sounds harsh and has gotten me flamed for saying so on user boards, but reality is that Julia was moving here and had to learn English,  I was not moving to Russia.  I kept some Russian/English cheat sheets around the house for about three weeks after she came home, then I tossed them because hand gestures, facial expressions and tone of voice communicate sans language.  At three months home, she started regular kindergarten and is performing at grade level in school.  So I'm thinking my failure to speaka da Rusky didn't traumatize her too heavily.

How long did it take to adopt her?

Way too long.  We were caught in an accreditation mess.  We submitted our dossier in November, 2004 and brought her home May, 2006.  Judging by user board posts, it's faster now, though the rules have changed.  It's very tough and very rare to bring home a Russian child less than 18 months old.  If you're in a hurry for an infant, Ethiopia is the place now.

How does she get along with her sisters?

Our three original girls were every bit as much responsible for Julia's assimilation as were Keith and I.  I couldn't have been more proud of how they prepared for and welcomed a new sister.  She's now Hannah's pest, Lois' sidekick and Rachel's treasure.  Understand that Hannah, Lois and Rachel are teenagers now, or, as I like to call them, "hormones with hair."  Because of the age split, they're more likely to fight with each other than they are with Julia.  Their fusses with Julia are commonly over her refusal to or tardiness in completing an assigned task ("Pick up your shoes") as opposed to interpersonal peer friction ("That's my shirt!")  Keith and I had three girls in four and a half years that are now teens.  We are awash in hair brushes, straighteners and conditioner.  What were we thinking?!

Do you love her as much as your real kids?

I love all four of my real kids really differently.  Children are added to any family with different temperaments whether by birth or adoption.  They're added at different times in your life when your interests, maturity level and resources (including energy) vary.  So how could you ever say you love each child "the same?"   My eldest reminds me of my mother, whom I miss every day.  My #2 reminds me of how precious life is.  My #3 is passion personified.  And my #4 is the culmination of a 30+ year belief that one day I'd adopt.

I know someone who knows someone who has a child that need a home.  How about yours?

Ummm....how about yours?  Adoption is not a trip to the Quik-E-Mart to grab a loaf of bread, some eggs and oh, yeah, Abbu, throw a child in there too, why doncha?

Don't all kids from Russia have Fetal Alcohol Syndrome?  That's what I've heard.

No, they don't.  But you do your homework before you travel - you decide what you can and can't handle (and stick to it) - you engage an international adoption doctor for evaluation - and you pray for guidance.  There are between 700K and 2M kiddos in Russia who need homes.  We played with Julia's friends in Children's Home #47  We saw a few kiddos with evidence of FAS, but mostly what we saw were eager faces trying to catch Keith's eye while their little arms wrapped around his legs.

Is your family from Russia?

Just the one member.

Do you plan to take her back to Russia some time?

Yes, in the vague sort of way that I'd like to take bible classes at a university, or go on an Alaskan cruise.  We'd like to - really we would - but reality is we have four kids with different needs (like college) that supersede wants.  If we can, we will.  But I am not going to pace the floor at night worrying about it. 

My cousin's ex-husband's neighbor's bus driver adopted a child from Russia who turned into a psychopathic ax murderer with dandruff, acne and bad breath.   Aren't you afraid of that?

I'm afraid of lots of things.  I'm more fearful of the influence of a fallen world on my girls than I am of a genetic weakness or early childhood trauma-cum-disaster brewing in them.  Julia was and is a bright, beautiful, smart child.  Like her sisters, I expect her to be a great woman of God some day.  (Note: The only thing worse than being told horror stories when you're pregnant are being told horror stories when you're adopting.)

How do you love someone else's child?  I just don't think I could do that.

Me neither.  Glad I don't have to.

Do you know anything about Julia's real mother?

A lot - I looked in a mirror this morning.  I know the most important thing about Julia's first mother, too - that she loved Julia enough to give birth to her.  I pray every day that she feels a peace about Julia. 

Do you have any children of your own?

Yes.  Four of them.

Would you do it again? 

At the time to get Julia  - yes.  Today to get another child  - no, stick a fork in me, I am done.  Though when I view friends' websites, I sigh and think.....   (Keith's answer to this question is not the same.  He'd be on a plane in a heartbeat if a bucket'o'bucks landed in our laps.)

How much did she cost?

Julia's adoption cost about $32,000.  Lois' premature birth was about seven times that amount.  But my babies themselves - they're priceless.



January 31, 2009   07:11 AM PST
I totally can't follow your logic for why a boy would have had to be really young to fit into your family, but I guess all that matters is that it makes sense to you.

You could just say you thought Julia was too young for a gender change so you decided to keep her a girl.
January 27, 2009   06:01 PM PST
You didn't list my favorite response to a person that learned everything they know from Dateline. "Why a Russian child?"
Me "Because God told me that he loves the children in Russia too"
January 26, 2009   08:27 AM PST
Children are one of God's best gifts! I love being a mom and I know you do too! You are great!
January 26, 2009   08:27 AM PST
Children are one of God's best gifts! I love being a mom and I know you do too! You are great!
January 26, 2009   08:05 AM PST
The quality of mercy......oh my!
January 25, 2009   10:38 AM PST
You're a lot more patient than me.

I would look them in the eye and say, "We're still working the legal kinks out. By the way, can I borrow $2,000?"
January 25, 2009   06:52 AM PST
The people that come up to you have no idea what is about to hit them- love it!
January 25, 2009   06:03 AM PST
ok i was hoping for a new post when i came here this morning and you did not disappoint - oh my gosh i am still chuckling.

my favorite is the "my cousin's ex-husband's bus driver..." SOOOOO true! i get that one all the time.

i also get the one about how "lucky" we are because their "cousin's ex-husband's bus driver" adopted a child from russia and they are autistic and can't walk and etc etc etc. i'm still not sure how to answer that one - can you help?

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