Thursday, May 28, 2009

Birthdate Reversion

Or: Why Adoptive Parenting Is Weird Sometimes

Remember our daughter's January birthday? No, you don't. You can't. You mustn't. Forget anyone ever said anything about January. This is not the birth date you're looking for.

Once upon a time at the end of our pre-child days, we received that most remarkable of phone calls, the one telling us we had a daughter waiting a world away. It was April, and she'd been born in December. On the very day we had delivered our completed dossier to the agency, in fact. What a story!

Oh, but there was more to story. Well, actually, less. That birth date was just an estimate and the orphanage doctor didn't think she could be that old when they took her in. We were told to consider her a month younger, January birthday. Okay, Ethiopian Christmas baby, that's cool.

Ah, funny story . . . (not really). There's this little thing in adoption called paperwork. Actually it's such a big thing that it consumes your life almost as much as an actual child, but I digress. The important thing to know about this paperwork is that the parts of it that come from another country may well be full of typos and translation errors and contradictory facts like, oh, say, two different birth dates. So while Anna's medical records show a January 2007 birth date, everything else says December 2006: adoption decree, Ethiopian birth certificate, visa, and so on. We've been observing the January date, but anytime I have to be able to actually prove it I have to remember to say December because that's what's on paper. Confusing and occasionally embarrassing (you don't know your kid's birthday, lady?).

So to make a short story boring (too late), I thought I could get these reconciled when we did the Oregon readoption process. A lawyer is now working on our readoption papers, and he says that there is no clear-cut process for changing a birth date, so while we have a shot based on the existing medical records, the court might refuse. We could try again with perhaps a new doctor's affidavit, but there's no guarantee on that either and, well, do you know how much lawyers charge for this kind of thing?

At this point we need it done--so there's no confusion as we get new insurance, doctors, etc.--more than we need to spend all kinds of time and money on the chance we can get the date moved one month. It just seems a bit silly to fight for now that we're measuring her age in years. And really, isn't it more fun to celebrate before all the Christmas hoopla makes you feel like if you have to deal with one more present or social gathering or baked good, your New Year's weight loss will start off with gagging on the birthday cake?

Still, it's weird. We're deciding our daughter's birthday? After we've celebrated it twice? Obviously she doesn't understand time well enough to realize this is a change, but someday she'll find out. The really difficult question to answer is why no one really knows her birthday. . . . Having no story of her to go with that day is one of the harder things for me to accept and figure out how to explain. But it's the reality that we will just have to grapple with one year at a time.

All that to say . . . hey, did you know our daughter's birthday is the exact day we dropped off our dossier? Cool story, huh?

Mark it down: DECEMBER. There is no January. If you send cards in January, we will tell her you are tardy and senile.

Born at the right time . . . whenever the heck it was.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Book Review: The Unlikely Disciple

Full disclosure: I got this book for free from the publisher by offering to review it here, which I did because I wanted to read it. My first foray into blogger whoredom, some might say. Will shill for books! But I will always state clearly if I received something for blogging about something.

I did a crazy thing recently: I read a book. I mean read it, for fun, at my leisure, in places other than in front of my computer, with no red pencil or tracked changes in sight. Hey, for a person who edits books all day and often doesn’t want to see another printed word by the end of the day, unless the alternative is dealing with a fit-throwing toddler, finishing a book is a major accomplishment. Happily, Kevin Roose gave me a story that made me want to keep reading: The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester at Americas Holiest University.

Kevin Roose was a student at Brown University in Rhode Island, which is the academic and philosophical opposite of Jerry Falwell’s “Bible Boot Camp,” Liberty University, or by conservative Christian standards, “a notch or two above Sodom and Gomorrah.” But after visiting Falwell’s church in the course of a job, Roose was frustrated that the “God Divide” between himself and the evangelical students he met seemed so great. Were they really so different? Or just living in separate worlds?

Roose noted a study showing that 51 percent of Americans don’t know any evangelical Christians, even casually. And neither did he. (But before you rush to judgment on that, churchy folk, how many liberal non-Christians hang out in your bubble? Most of us are guilty of sticking with those most like us.)

So what did he do? He crammed on Christian literature and music, B.S.’d Liberty’s application essays with Christian lingo, and registered for classes at Liberty as his “semester abroad.” Undercover, of course. (Cue suspenseful music and situational hilarity.)

Let’s just say that his experience gave new meaning to baptism by immersion. Roose lived in a dorm, joined the Thomas Road church choir, learned acceptable substitutes for colorful language, and started spending Friday nights at Bible study instead of at parties or watching R-rated movies. He visited a group for guys struggling with, um, certain temptations, and he even landed a face-to-face interview with Jerry Falwell, which turned out to be Falwell’s last.

As you might imagine, plopping a secular liberal into a lot of these situations is a recipe for tension and humor, and Roose writes with plenty of snap and wit as well as honesty, charity, and thoughtfulness. I really enjoyed the sharp humor and storytelling and would recommend this book for those qualities alone.

But The Unlikely Disciple is more than just a fun book with a clever premise. I think there is real value here for the Christian who is willing to consider, “If that’s how outsiders see Liberty, how do they see me?” If someone went undercover to your church, how would they experience it? Are we making our faith into a bubble, and if so, how can we let outsiders in—or better yet, step out of it ourselves? After all, if there really is a “God Divide” in America, God’s people should be the ones trying to bridge it. Kevin Roose showed that it can be done, because on a personal level, the divide is not so great after all.

The one criticism I might have of the book is that it purports to reveal evangelical culture without clearly defining what an evangelical is. If it's the broad standard of someone who believes the Bible and calls themselves “born again,” evangelical includes me, but by Liberty's strict standards I'd flunk out. I mean, I’m a Presbyterian—a conservative one who takes the Bible seriously, sure, but not one to take it all literally as they do at Liberty. I’d consider myself evangelical but not a Liberty fundamentalist—and I’m guilty of looking askance at Falwell and his style of fundamentalism and politics from the outside almost as much as Roose.

So a little more nuanced definition of terms would probably make the broad spectrum of Christianity clearer for Roose and his readers, but then again, that’s the point—at Liberty there are only two kinds of people, saved and unsaved, and they’re not likely to consider you saved unless you meet all the criteria of conservative evangelical (really fundamentalist) theology. But what Roose says of Liberty is just as true for all Christianity: “Once you dig under the surface, Liberty is every bit as messy and diverse as any secular college, and lumping everyone on this campus into a single category seems irrational and simplistic.” Indeed the same goes for any group—secular college students, those of a different political party, those of any certain age or generation. Roose’s peek into life at Liberty gets its wallop from his outsider-gone-underground perspective, but his best contribution to the cultural conversation is illustrating how the same we all are at the basic level.

And if Roose can convince at least a few secular liberals and a few conservative fundies to give each other a chance, at least one of Jerry Falwell’s prayers will be answered: that Kevin Roose would enter journalism “in key places where he can make a difference in the culture.” He’s certainly on his way, and I’ll be watching to see what he does next.

Kevin Roose’s blog:

Kevin Roose on Twitter:

Liberty in the news last week: LU pulls the plug on campus Democrats

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day

Today I:
  • wrote--for me, not work.
  • called my grandfather and thanked him for serving on a Navy PT boat in WWII. He downplayed it as just something millions of us did but I think was happy to remember it. Only 4 of the 15 guys from his group remain to share memories.
  • took a two-hour nap. Oh, glorious day!
If anyone would like to declare tomorrow a holiday as well, I would totally be up for a repeat.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

I Fight Authority

Authority always wins.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Pre-Summer Saturday

Saturday we took Anna to the local kids' fishing derby. We didn't fish, but Anna did:

play some games

get her face painted

try to decide what she thinks about cotton candy

and of course bring home some balloons and little plastic junk toys. Most of them have mysteriously disappeared while she's sleeping. It's the darndest thing.

It was such a nice summery day that we all went to the beach at sunset, something I don't do nearly enough. Anna now yells, "BEACH!" with a toddler accent that sounds as if she's calling me a mean, overbearing woman. (Maybe I am, but that's no way to talk your momma.)

Sunday and Monday nights were the last Frontline and last Young Life Club, but I'm not emotionally capable of describing them just yet. For now I'll just say they were packed and special.

Tonight: semi-improptu grown-up geeks with no life American Idol party here. The Dark Horse versus the Prince of Darkness showdown seemed as a good a reason as any to eat ice cream with our YL leader peeps. BYO phone.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Recent Progress

I thought I'd give a house and moving plans update on this fine Friday morning:

We had our house inspection yesterday. It took for - ev - er and I had Anna and the dog out and about, shopping, etc., the whole time. Tiring! But I don't expect any problems from the inspection, and we should know today if the buyers' loan is all set, so in a couple days we should know for sure that we are on our way to our early July closing date. (As a side note, we thought we might be getting a second offer to consider if the first didn't work out, but then we didn't hear anything on that. And that's fine.)

We are making progress on moving plans. My parents are flying out to help us pack up, then the ladies are flying home and the guys are driving the truck across the country. Pretty sure we girls are getting the better end of that deal, although we are taking the cat and dog with us, which could make things a bit, ahem, hairy.

I have figured out what health insurance to buy for us and how to avoid the dreaded preexisting condition waiting period. We are not COBRA eligible and can't risk a gap in coverage, so this was essential. The bad news is that what I expect us to spend in premiums, deductibles, and copays is more than I earned last year. Get me a sign: I literally will work for health insurance. (Rent, food, shoes, etc. are so overrated.)

Last weekend I was freaking out because I realized that if I did Anna's readoption papers myself, they might still be in process when we moved, and then I might not get them back to do the next step or it might be a mess with us no longer living in the state. But Michigan has completely different rules and it seemed risky to try to do it in a different state than she came home to. Ack! I decided to call a lawyer to do the readoption for us. It is costing us a chunk of change, but I am relieved to have a pro doing it and to know the time will not be an issue because he'll handle it.

Moral of the story: DO NOT procrastinate!

Yes, this is the moral of almost every tragic tale I tell. Obviously I don't listen to myself.

On the docket for today and the next few days:
  • hair session with Anna
  • get readoption papers to lawyer
  • community kids' fishing derby and YL car wash tomorrow
  • last Frontline of the year Sunday
  • last Young Life of the year Monday
  • finish up some work and start sorting for a massive moving sale!

What's that about procrastinating? Time to get a Round Tuit!
Click here to finally get around to it

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Recasting Mother's Day

Mother’s Day has simple and good intentions, but for many it is a difficult day. Many feel unworthy of it, and many wonder why there’s no day for them. Indeed, the cards and commercials can make it seem like a day for none of us—for who could be so perfect as these sanitized, sparkling, fake families?

In the midst of the myth of Hallmark perfection, let us also remember those often hurt or forgotten on Mother’s Day:

The women who have lost a child--born or unborn, young or old, an only or one of many, recent or long ago but not forgotten . . .

The women and men who have lost or never known their mother . . .

The women who want a child but are still waiting, and those who will never be able . . .

The women who want to adopt but are still waiting, and those who will never be able . . .

The women whose family members don't recognize their motherhood or children as "real" because they came via adoption or marriage or they don't look the same . . .

The mothers who placed their children for adoption and struggle to find their place in their lives, and the mothers who did so secretly and silently endure the condemnation of "I don't understand how any woman could do that" from those who have never even tried to understand . . .

The mothers unknown around the world whose children have journeyed to America without them, their identities lost and too often forgotten . . .

The single mother who feels blamed for society's ills . . .

The lesbian woman whose motherhood is scorned as second class . . .

The woman who regrets her abortion . . .

The woman in the depths of postpartum depression who despite her best efforts, at this moment regrets her baby . . .

The women whose daughters endure abuse and whose sons rot in jail . . .

The women and children and orphans who live on $1 a day while we spend $1.5 billion on throwaway cards . . .

The women who are not called mom but take the time to bake her brownies, go to his games, staff the nursery, take her underwear shopping, vote in school board elections, send birthday cards, attend graduations, chaperone trips, walk to the well, and work for peace . . .

Women who feel they don’t fit, women of complex stories, women of the real world . . .

This day may not be easy for you, but you are remembered, and you too are worthy of honor.

To all the women who have loved me and those I love—thank you for blessing my life and our world with your love.

Partly inspired by this blog post: "For the Childless Woman on Mother's Day" by author Vinita Hampton Wright

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Why do we stand for it? World AIDS Orphans Day

Today, May 7, is World AIDS Orphans Day. I've written before about HIV/AIDS and the 40 million reasons to care.

Today I'd like to point you to a post by Erin at Full House, Full Hands and ask with her: why do we stand for it? An excerpt from her post:

In the United States, if a child loses a parent to accident or illness, it is considered a terrible tragedy. Such stories are covered by the media, communities mourn and show their support, etc. In Sub-Saharan Africa, parents dieing is a normal part of life. It is still a terrible tragedy for those children, but it happens so often that no one else really pays any attention.

And do you know what makes this really, truly horrible? Do you know what makes my gut twist and my heart ache? HIV IS COMPLETELY TREATABLE.

If a person contracts HIV in the United States or another country where there is treatment readily available, they have an excellent long term prognosis. Most HIV+ people receiving treatment now have close to normal life expectancies and can live in good overall health. With treatment, HIV+ children can be healthy and happy. They can go to school, grow up, go to college, have (healthy!) children, and live long enough to raise them and beyond. Without treatment, an estimated 50% of HIV+ children will die before the hit their second birthday. My Solomon was almost one of those 50%.

HIV does not have to be a death sentence, and yet for thousands of people every day, it is, because the world doesn't care enough to really do something about it.

Can you imagine for one minute if some terrible disease struck the United States (or whatever country you live in) and was killing thousands and orphaning thousands every day? Can you imagine if another country had treatment that could lead to good health and a long life, but it just was too expensive or too difficult or too much trouble to get that medicine to us? We wouldn't stand for it.

So why do we stand for it now?

Erin knows of what she speaks--her family has adopted two HIV+ children, and much of her life's work is helping finding homes for more. But at the present rate of apathy in the Western world, it will not be enough for many millions. If that doesn't sound right to you, I encourage you to check out her suggestions for ways to touch an orphan's life, starting getting educated about HIV and sharing that knowledge with whomever you can--be it two hundred church members, twelve blog readers, or just two friends.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Monday, May 04, 2009

SOLD! One Thunderdome

We have officially accepted an offer on the dwelling known as the Thunderdome.*

Can I get a yeeeeeeeeehaw!?

The offer came in Friday, and we signed it this morning with our agent. The price is a little lower than we were asking but right where we expected to end up.

But the most Providential? Instead of closing in the typical 30 days, thus causing us to be kicked out before we're ready to go to Michigan and have to effectively move twice, their offer was to close in 60 days. Right around July 5. We wanted to pack up and leave town around July 8. So we made an addendum with the slight adjustment of closing and being out of the house July 8. Perfect! (Or if for some reason they balk at that, close enough.)

Of course we have to pass inspection first. That should happen within a week or two.

Then it's time to start packing and sorting for a garage sale. Lots to do, but just knowing the house is taken care of is such a huge relief!

* Thunderdome explanatory note: I accidentally nicknamed our house this at Young Life camp. We were doing an activity one night that was being code/nicknamed “the Thunderdome” so the kids wouldn't find out about it. During cabin time one of the girls says, “I saw in your notebook something about the Thunderdome.” I immediately said, “That’s what we call our garage. Now as I was saying..."

I didn’t think before I said this (obviously), but I did have a reason: comedian Brian Regan does this bit about how ridiculous it is that people name their houses and why not your apartment or, heck, everything in it? (“Hand me the can opener.” “You mean . . . Umberto?”) Anyway, it got around that our house was the Thunderdome. After all, it is kind of dome-like inside with the crazy curved ceiling—and spaceship-like on the outside. It truly deserves a name.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Her 'Do These Days

I tried a new hairdo on Anna the other day and I really like it, I think because having her hair back really shows off her little face. It's 8 cornrows from the bottom up to a puff. This versatility is why I'm learning to 'row! Just wish it didn't take me so long.

From a distance my cornrows now look almost respectable--to white people, anyway. (Ha!)