Monday, November 5, 2012

Halloween Revisited

So tonight was Halloween.

Yeah, you heard me.

Why?  Cause our governor picked it up and moved it.  Of course it had to be done -- on the real Halloween no one had power and many of us has trees/sand/water in the house.  No one could go out on Halloween night.

So the governor freaking changed the date.


What all this has meant for us and our extended family is a reeeally loooong  Hallllooweeeen.

It started about a month ago when I started sewing Max's costume.  He went as a lion.  And no, he didn't really get a choice about it.  Lions are just what we do in my family.  But whatever -- my little guy is so obsessed with animals that he thought it sounded great.  (Phew.  I would hate to have had to put the smack down on my two-year-old.)

So seriously, I sewed his costume.  Which means that it was fifty times as much work and five times as expensive as the costume you get at Target.  (I'm not sure how much of that I realized going into it -- in the old days my mom used to make our costumes because it was actually cheaper.)  But work and expense aside, I am so glad I managed to do it -- I mean look at this guy:

We did all the Halloween-y stuff, of course.  We went to the pumpkin patch and carved a pumpkin:

Before the storm we went to the Trunk-or-Treat over at church -- which we knew was going to be our major celebration this year.  Jason's mom had sent us a pop-up book all about Halloween so by the time we got there, Max had his "trick-or-treat!" pretty much perfect.  (When he realized that people would give him candy while wearing his costume it also made the wearing of said costume much more fun!)

And then it happened:
And Halloween was cancelled.

Actually on the 31st I had the crew over at my house (for warmth) and explaining the whole thing to Max and The Cousins was...traumatic.  Enough said.

Except then the governor saved the day!

Trick-or-Treating was a blast.  Of course.  I think it took Max about one house before he decided that walking around in the cold and dark and getting candy was just about the Best. Thing. Ever.


Happy Halloween Little Guy.  Nevermind that it's November 5.

Rethinking James

I have tried to write this post a dozen times.  It has been, at various moments, preachy, nerdy, and generally ambivalent.

Why?  Today is "Orphan Sunday" in churches across America.  The issue: the whole idea of an "Orphan Sunday" makes me feel like a cat getting rubbed from tail to nose.  I mean it seems great at first glance, right?  Who wouldn't want to help children in need, after all? Just saying that I don't like Orphan Sunday makes me feel like someone who tortures small bunnies or something.  And yet there it is.  I would like to explain why I feel this way, but the truth is that someone else has already done it better.  

But since it is Sunday, after all, I want to take slightly different approach.

The thing is that the whole "orphan crusade" is based in large part on a verse from James.  You see bits and pieces of this verse everywhere when you join the adoption community -- on websites, on T-shirts, on blog after blog after blog.  It's not a long verse and seems reasonably straightforward:

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (James 1:27 NIV)

It doesn't get much plainer than that, right?  So earlier this evening I was wondering why in all my Sunday school and seminary classes over the years I have never thought of this verse in the way that it is so often being used these days.  So I looked it up myself.

And realized something that made my classicist heart smile.

You see, I have always used the King James Bible, and in it, this verse is slightly different:

 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their afflictionand to keep himself unspotted from the world. (James 1:27 KJV)

When you put "orphans" and "widows" together (as in the New International Version) the verse seems to be talking about two distinct groups.  There are children without parents who need care and widows without husbands who also need care.  Two groups, two directives.  Adoption seems like a simple answer to the first problem, right?

But when I look at the King James Version, I see a different picture.  Here you have the "fatherless" and "widows" -- it seems like a single group now.  A child and a woman have both lost someone -- the same someone -- and we are to care for them together.  This suggests a wholly different mission: that we care for families in need.  This is much, much harder -- this is family preservation.

So much in one little word change!

So, because I couldn't help myself, I put on my super-nerd hat and looked up the original.  It looks like this:

θρησκεία καθαρὰ καὶ ἀμίαντος παρὰ τῷ θεῷ καὶ πατρὶ αὕτη ἐστίν, ἐπισκέπτεσθαι ὀρφανοὺς καὶ χήρας ἐν τῇ θλίψει αὐτῶν, ἄσπιλον ἑαυτὸν τηρεῖν ἀπὸ τοῦ κόσμου.

I highlighted the word in question -- if you spell it our letter by letter it reads "orphanous."  Clearly it is the root of our word "orphan."  If you look ὀρφανός up (in the handy-dandy Greek lexicon on the bookshelf that hasn't been cracked open since grad school) there are several definitions, among them "orphan" and "fatherless," but also "bereaved" and "desolate."  Bereft.

Yet another variation on a theme.  

And now I see a connection to another post that I recently saw about Orphan Sunday that has stuck with me.  Fair warning that this post might not sit well with everyone, but it has been knocking around in my head for days.  As an adoptive mother I want adoption to be sunshine and rainbows.  It isn't.  I think we all need people to remind us that just because things seem good on the outside, that's not always what is going on inside.  Before you start thinking that I am ragging on adoption, let me also just say that as a wife I also want marriage to be sunshine and rainbows too, but of course it isn't either.

And so we come back to where I started.  One Bible verse.  Several take-home messages.

Caring for children who need it is a big, difficult, tangled-up issue.  Maybe part of my problem with Orphan Sunday is simply that it's just not big enough.

But apparently James 1:27 is.

It's kinda nice when the Bible comes through for you that way.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Blank Spot

(Nov 3) This will be a short post since we are still getting everyone in the family back on their feet in the post-Sandy world.  But I figure I already missed yesterday and two days in a row...well dang, I just plead extenuating circumstances.

But I had an interesting adoption-related experience today that I thought I would share.

I think it is tempting to look at a newborn as a "blank slate" of sorts.  I don't actually think they are -- I firmly believe that most of our temperament and talent is in fact inborn and waiting to be discovered.  It's just that babies are.. well... kind-of blobs.

When you adopt even a slightly older child (Max was 2 1/4 when he came home) the idea of the "blank slate" is more of a "blank spot."  There are whole years of Max's life that I know nothing about -- and likely never will.  As time passes, even his memories of the first two years are slowly going to fade away.  This makes me a bit sad -- and so I treasure every moment where I can see him accessing those memories.

Today it was about a hat.

A very cute lion hat that I got out for the first time in months since it is finally getting cold out.

He took one look at it, hesitated for a moment, and said, "Russia."

Why?  Take a peek:

...leaving the baby home... the hotel getting ready to go out for a walk... the park...

...taking a walk to see the cars...

It's a pretty distinctive hat and it probably has some crazy memories for him -- good, bad, and well, just plain crazy.

At least he was happy to wear the hat this afternoon.  I tell myself that's a good thing.  But dang I wish I could see inside his little mind at moments like this.

But I can't.

And all too soon I know that it will all be a blank spot.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

...And we survived...

November as it turns out, is NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month) and also National Adoption Awareness Month.  I will do my best to participate in both of these happenings.

But for now I have other things on my mind.  

Like the fact that I am sitting at home with my parents, my sister-in-law and her 5 kids after feeding 12 of us for dinner.  There will be 9 people sleeping all over my house tonight.  Yesterday, I had all of them plus another friend and her 4 kids over for the day.

Why, you ask?

Because I have power.

Sandy knocked us all out around dinnertime on Monday.  It's now bedtime on Saturday.

This is not a complaining post.  It is a grateful one.  The truth is that after Irene last year, the satellite images of Frankenstorm scared the heck out of me.  After the lights went out on Monday the three of us huddled in bed and I listened to trees snapping and splitting in the wind.  

And I woke up around 6am to find the lights on. 

Grateful doesn't even cut it.

That day I was literally the only person I knew with power.  Not an hour away, whole neighborhoods have washed away.  Trees are down everywhere.  School has been out all week and the grocery aisles smell like fishsticks.  And I have internet.  

Like I said, grateful doesn't even cut it.  

And I figure that's a pretty decent way to start out the month.

Monday, October 15, 2012


Many adoptive families celebrate a day they call "gotcha day."  This is to celebrate the day that a child leaves the orphanage (or wherever) and becomes a part of their new adoptive family.  Other adoptive families feel that this just brings a feeling of "otherness:" to an adopted child and that -- even more importantly -- "adoption day" per se is often a traumatic enough event that celebrating it seems just a

I agree with both points of view.  Really.

See, the thing is that I think that joining a family -- in whatever way -- should be a cause for celebration.  After all, most of us have eaten more than our fill of birthday cake and ice cream, right?  But for my Max, the day of his birth and the day that he joined us are not actually the same.  And if someday he looks back on the day that he left the orphanage with a real sense of ambivalence, well, I can totally understand that.

Which is why I'm glad to be Mormon.

I haven't talked much about my religious beliefs on this blog, largely because (unlike in many cases) they actually had very little to do with the thought process behind our adoption.  My beliefs, however, have everything to do with how my family will continue on.

Most marriage ceremonies end with the words "until death do you part."  Mine doesn't.  I was married in a room surrounded by mirrors to remind me that Jason and I were going to be together for "time and all eternity."

We call it being "sealed" -- this idea that our families are not just part of this life but also part of whatever life comes after it.  And it doesn't apply to just marriage -- it applies to the whole family.  Children born to a couple who have been sealed previously are automatically sealed to them as well.  But for Max and others, this sealing is a separate ceremony.

It's all about creating a family.

Our family started here, in Washington DC on October 3.

Our family grew by one on our nine-year wedding anniversary in the same temple:

Some people just have wedding anniversaries.

But for the rest of eternity we get to have "family days."