Friday, February 28, 2014

Trans-Racial International Adoption from an Orphanage/Foster Care System, with an emphasis on China (part I)

[the three parts in this tome were first written by me in 2008 for the now-defunct blog zarfing sunshine.  Since I'd like to talk about the lasting impact of orphanage/institutional care here at the life waiting, I'm reposting here with my very own permission.]

December 7, 2008

Where to start: We thought we'd have biological kids with no issues and instead are home with (soon) three trans-racially adopted children who were born with medical or genetic conditions which will impact their entire lives.  Ta da!  Where do I buy a ticket.

The information below is what I have gathered, researched, and distilled from countless sources on adoption, attachment, trauma, and race.  The presentation stems from a conversation (a five-hour conversation) I had with my mother 18 months after our first child came home.  For those 18 months, we were living in a reality so foreign to our expectations, so all consuming, that we didn't much communicate with anyone who didn't Get It ... who didn't have a traumatized, wary, beautiful child of their own.  I have talked about loss on this blog.  We were not the only ones whose expectations were not met.  I figure that our need to therapeutically parent our children has resulted in more loss (emotional and financial) than we care to quantify.  Because of this, we are keenly aware of, and grateful for, those friends and relatives who have stayed by our side and who continue to support our family vision.

There are many reasons why folks entering into an adoption may not understand the complete emotional impact of their future child's former life.  When we were considering adoption we did a fair amount of research on countries (including the US) and programs with various agencies and groups and never once were offered information on attachment, grief, or trauma.  Though it is every individual's responsibility to understand the contracts they are signing, and nothing forgives our initial naivety about international adoption, everyone along the chain should claim responsibility for the health of the children and families involved.

[Before I go on: I have thought through the wisdom of posting this now, while we wait for China to approve our final adoption.  As you read through these posts, you may feel I am placing blame or pointing fingers at governments and countries of origin.  Not so.  Humans are biological beings, driven by DNA to need specific input for growth.  No one country, or one childcare situation,  has a monopoly on good or bad caretaking.  I know of children who are not attached to their biological parents due to ineffective parenting skills or in-utero drug and alcohol use.  It has twice been our humble honor to adopt a child from China, and we will be forever grateful that the country entrusted us with their children.  I truly believe that, in the majority of cases, governments are doing the best they can with the children left to their care.  My mother once asked why China, with its great wealth, could not care for more children better.  I wondered, as she asked, why America (with its great wealth) cannot do the same. Why American elementary school teachers do not earn a living wage, for example.  Why newborns continue to be left in dumpsters.  Why America has the highest infant mortality rate of any other developed country on the planet.  The short answer is: They can, they simply choose not to.  I do not understand the reasons, and I still do not place blame.]

International Adoption into the United States is a business.  The home study agencies, placing agencies, facilitation agencies, and t-shirt producers are all in the business of making money. Relatively few are non- or not-for-profit.  Because everyone along the entire chain needs to be paid for their work (just as every doctor, midwife, anesthesiologist and RN needs to be paid after you give birth in a hospital), the entire system relies on maintaining a large enough group of people who are willing to make a cultural, emotional, and financial (there is no insurance co-pay for adoption) leap that is only possible when the destination is presented as attractive and safe.  This is why it is rare to read about the difficulties in adoption unless you're in a position to need that information (e.g.: your new child intentionally hurts the family pet then you look up "Nancy Thomas").

When we were beginning our third (current) adoption I did more research into the US foster/adopt system.  Because we had a child in mind, my search parameters included kids in our waiting son's demographic and excluded infants of any race.  As you read what I have to say about the impact of pre-adoption care, keep in mind that this deprivation and trauma is not exclusive of back-woods, under-financed orphanages in third-world or emerging countries.  In the US, the bulk of the healthy (no birth conditions) seven-to-twelve year old boys I saw available for adoption were described with euphemisms like "would be best as the youngest child in the household" (possible meaning: acts out sexually or abusively), "very active, loves the outdoors" (ADD, ADHD), "is looking for a strong father figure" (defiant), and "needs someone willing to advocate for his needs" (FAS, PTSD).

Luckily, we've learned. We've researched, read, listened, listened, listened and found someone to talk to specifically about our children's emotional needs.

How does it happen?  How do children born on this beautiful and lush planet become angry, withdrawn, beings intent only on emotional and physical survival? I'm writing here of three specific topics: Control & Anxiety, Trauma, and Grief and have divided the information in to three parts: Before You Meet Them, How They Respond, and How You Can Help.  This post  will only cover the first part.  It is important to remember that all experience lies somewhere on a spectrum.  Not all orphanages are bad ... or good.  This series will talk about what I consider to be the "average" experience.

Part I: Before You Meet Them

Webster's defines trauma as "a disordered psychic or behavioral state resulting from severe mental or emotional stress or physical injury, an emotional upset."  In China, as in many countries participating in international adoption (IA), children are housed in group care facilities we refer to as orphanages.  In China, the children are technically foundlings, children found after unknown parents have abandoned them.  Regardless of how well the children are treated in the orphanages (and some are treated well), there can be a reasonable assumption of "emotional upset" if not "severe ... emotional stress" associated with the abandonment and institutionalization of a pre-pubescent child.

Grief, "deep and poignant distress," can also be assumed.  Distress comes from the child's losing known faces, sounds, smells, tastes, and both physical and emotional feelings.

Anxiety ("painful or apprehensive uneasiness of mind usually over an impending or anticipated ill, fearful concern or interest") is the result of this grief/trauma combination.

To understand how these three forces can work together in a small body, one needs to first understand the attachment cycle.  For most biological parents, attachment happens without any planning.  For adoptive parents, a conscious effort must be made at every interaction with their child until that child is healthfully attached.  Children attach with people when those people satisfy basic needs for the child.  The pattern is rage (crying, screaming, quietly searching with hands or mouth), satisfaction (diapers are changed, milk/forula is given, blankets are replaced), resolution (body is comfortable, tummy is full, body is warm).  By repeatedly having their needs met by primary caregivers, a child emotionally connects with and trusts the folks providing the resolution.  Ultimately, the child becomes healthfully attached.

A healthfully attached child believes three things: they are lovable, trust in their parents is wise, and help is available. In short, these are kids that everyone wants to be around. There is a spectrum of attachment, from this healthy attachment to severely unattached (RAD -- reactive attachment disorder -- falls on this end).  Along the middle are diagnoses like: insecure, avoidant, ambivalent, anxious, and disorganized.  Children who do not have a healthy attachment to a primary caregiver are at risk for never forming attachments.

There are many reasons why children who are in institutional care (including foster care) might not have the attachment cycle completed.  (There are also many reasons why a biological family might not form healthy attachments, but that's not my area of focus.) In most orphanages, children are fed and changed on a schedule ... not when they're hungry or wet.  There are rarely enough caregivers to give one-on-one attention to each of the children.  And, frequently, the nannies are young and untrained.  In addition, the child:caregiver ratio is so disproportionate that an institutionalized child almost never learns what it is like to live in a small unit, a family.  What they do learn, and quickly, is that people in a position to satisfy needs come for a short time (an eight-hour shift, perhaps) then go.  There is no consistency.  Older children learn that if nanny tells them something they don't like (don't go on the stairs, no hitting, etc.) it's only a matter of time before nanny leaves and another takes her place

In short, the children are not learning that it is safe and wise to put their trust in adults, they do not learn that help is available to them without question.  Because of the uncertainty, the children are at risk for developing low self esteem, figuring that if they aren't worth the effort to satisfy their needs, they surely can't be worth much at all.   Infants are especially vulnerable because of their size and inability to meet their own needs.  And, if an infant grows into toddlerhood in a situation where needs are consistently unsatisfied, their worldview can become fairly bleak

Institutionalized children also learn to level out their emotions.  Crying doesn't work when they're wet or hungry, so the skill is lost.  On the other hand, children who are consistently happy and engaging are most likely to be fed, changed, held, and spoken to.  A star is born.  But, this star has learned to be charming to get what they want at the same time they're learning not to completely trust adults. And, they've learned to be indiscriminate with the cuddles they use to get necessities.

As they become more anxious about having their basic needs met, a child's anxiety begins to skyrocket.  As infants, children have a twenty-minute anxiety window before fear and the related chemicals (cortisol especially) begin to, essentially, corrode the brain and shut down the system.  In childhood, the brain creates tens of thousands of connections each day, enabling us to learn, grow, and sustain our own life.  Cortisol acts as an acid wash in the brain, breaking apart those precious connections.  Once the connection is lost, either the skill is lost or it must be relearned at the expense of learning a new skill or making a new connection.  Imagine, then, what has physically happened to the brain of a child who was left by their biological parents and found an unknown time later, then brought to group living situation where they eventually learned to not cry.

Also inherent in most group care situations is a fair amount of physical restraint.  It would be untenable for a staff of 10 to manage 30, 40, 50 infants if each had freedom of movement.  In infancy, most children are kept confined to their (usually shared) crib.  As they age, they are frequently put in "walk abouts" for long periods of time or stationed on small toilet chairs as a kind of basic potty training.  In the winter, they are bundled so thickly they can't move their limbs.  In the summer, hands are tied down so they won't pick at mosquito bites.  Most children miss one or two cognitive and physical developmental steps.  Many never learn to crawl, and go straight to cruising on their toes.  Unfortunately, crawling (the coordination of four limbs for syncopated forward motion) is just one of the ways the brain learns to wire itself correctly.  Remove the skill and you've removed the brain functionality.  Stimulus, visual and tactile, is at a minimum.

There is also outright physical and emotional abuse at the hands of those the children trust to care for them.  They children still learn to trust, and to love, their abusers.  But, they also learn that adults will use their superior strength to hurt.

Food is not plentiful.  Clothing and toys are shared.  Rooms are unheated.  In some countries, many of the kids aren't even citizens, they are non-entities living at the grace of the folks who donate money to their orphanages and foster homes.

Have I covered everything?  Abandonment or relinquishment by those who were supposed to love them forever, check.  Emotional trauma, check.  Low-stimulus living environment not conducive to mental or physical development, check.  Abuse at the hands of their caretakers, check.  For the kids who grow mature age within the system: An unhealthy sense of omnipotence, check.  Deprivation.  Loss of individuality.  Let me know if I've missed something.

At the end of this cabaret of emotional strain, the new parent arrives.  What is the most phenomenal day of our life is simply another, unwanted upheaval for our children.  They are taken away from every sense memory they have.  They lose everyone who is important to them.  Gone are the cultural norms they've spent nine months ... two years ... eight years perfecting.  In most cases, they are removed from folks that look like them and placed in families where they are the only.  Unless they are of legal age, they do not make the adoption decision for themselves.  The path of their life takes a most dramatic turn and they have no ability to make impact.  They are powerless.

Or so it seems.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

and, in the end

The moment we heard the autism diagnosis for The Blonde, we made two changes:
1. We spoke to her more concretely and with less metaphors, idioms, and jokes 
2. Everything else.

Autism (aka: Autism Spectrum Disorder or ASD) is a combination of differences in brain development resulting in difficulties with social interaction, sensory processing, motor coordination, sleep, and communication; repetitive behaviors; and gastrointestinal disturbances.  Folks not on the spectrum are referred to as "neurotypical" which tells you a bit about how folks within the autism community perceive of the disorder.  Autistic people are not damaged, they're just not typical.  Which, I guess, makes them super-duper spectacular!  

The adage used frequently to couch the autism experience is: If you've met one person with autism … you've met one person with autism.  No two people manifest the brain atypicality in the exact same way.  Though there are repeated patterns of behavior and thought (hand flapping and spinning to bleed off excess energy, say, or a communication of omnipotence based on the inability to fully connect to other viewpoints), every autistic person is unique.

When the doctor confirmed the diagnosis she followed on with, "There's no 'cure' for autism because there's nothing broken.  There are, however, thousands of paths for your family to follow.  You won't be able to follow them all, so choose what's most important for your family and go from there." In essence: You can address the sleep and the motor coordination, or the sensory processing and the social skills, but to address all of the issues at once would be too overwhelming.

It made sense at the time.  It took me months to figure out what the reality of this advice really is: No matter what you do, how hard you try, or which paths you take there will always be another equally valid path you could have travelled.  And, you will ponder that path incessantly. My life with kids has been an endless plate-spinning circus show (cue the "Sabre Dance" music!).  It's hard work, and I've managed to keep all the plates spinning on top of their wobbly sticks.  But, it's stasis; it's not growth.

Like many folks on the spectrum, The Blonde wanders at night when she can't sleep and elopes when under stress.  (This latter is a nice way of saying she runs away and hides when she's upset.) Living with autism (my daughter is autistic, the rest of us live with autism) can be like like living with OCD, bi-polar disorder, and schizophrenia. No one who meets my little girl in public would know that she is capricious at home, elated one moment and sullen the next.  Though we have found some triggers and patterns, there are still moments when her moods and ability to move between them surprise us.

There are days when I just feel like stopping it all and pretending that there's nothing atypical about my child, that she doesn't need constant adult supervision or time out from the classroom to simply sift through all the sensory input.  Can't she just go to gymnastics with the rest of the girls her age?  Learn the piano in a group lesson? Join kids on stage?  She's fearless in front of crowds, has a perfect ear for music, and would dance 'til dawn if we let her.  What would the damage be if we stopped the occupational therapy, enforced rest schedule, and somewhat limited diet and just let her roam?

From experience, we've learned that the less structure she has the more out of control she becomes. She will create structure when it's not there, even if this self-imposed system does not mesh with the physical reality of time and space. She does not feel safe without boundaries. Calm consistency is key.  And, that's totally easy because we're all robots.  No, wait, we're not. So, yeah, calm consistency though key is neither completely calm nor consistent.  I've learned to mask irritability with antic behavior, pure frustration with singing, and exhaustion with a cheerful, "now you read to me for a while."

In the end, I want what all parents want: Happy, resilient, growing people who are capable of forming healthy relationships. It will all come.

I'll say that as a mantra: It. Will. All. Come.




Thursday, February 6, 2014

in which we discuss the unmentionable

While I wasn't here at the life waiting I was trying an experiment at scattering gratitude.  It didn't exactly work.  Well, not as I was expecting it to.  Turns out I live most of my days in supreme gratitude, sometimes extreme gratitude.  Writing about that felt self indulgent and unnecessary, so I've moved my keister back here.

scattering gratitude isn't the only experience in the past year that didn't go as expected.  Parenting, it turns out, can hand you more surprises than a surprising amount of surprise.  Parenting swims in the deep end of the surprise pool.  It orders the triple-scoop surprise sundae and tops it with every hot surprise sauce they have on the menu.  The whipped cream?  Surprise.

And, I shouldn't have been.

The Blonde was 30-months old when she joined our family.  Since she has albinism, she is legally blind and that comes with a whole host of sensory and social issues.  Even so, we always knew something wasn't typical about her, her extremely high energy, her intensity, or her lack of body awareness and that her low vision couldn't explain it all away.  From kindergarten on (she is now in 3rd grade), she has required an intensive 1x1 aide to be with her in the classroom.  Back in K, we just thought she was upset or traumatized or off-kilter because of her vision or infant care.  It took us five years of knowing The Blonde, of trips to multiple therapists, psychologist and psychiatrists, of working with educators, para-educators, and doctors to finally come to a diagnosis of autism at the beginning of the school year.

Autism.

I had spent years avoiding the label, despite her being in active occupational therapy for sensory processing disorder.  Nope, didn't want an autistic kid.

Most folks around us shuddered a the label as well.  "She's too verbal," they'd assure us.  "She loves you so much."  These folks didn't know about the lies at home, the bold-faced lies, and the stealing, and the midnight rambles.  They weren't privy to the private conversations between herself and her imaginary world.  They hadn't watched her pick the plastic pearls off a pair of leggings, then a hole in the leggings, then at herself.  No one but family was with us at restaurants where she became physically impossible to restrain.  She saved her flopping, flapping, pinching, vocalizing, and spinning for home.  Where we invited no one.  Where we hid from playdates and birthday parties.

Then, in one week last summer, I watched as one of her meltdowns led to an emergency, listened as I was told she jumped into a lake from a paddleboat (she can't swim), and stared as she held herself back from dancing on stage during a show in which she was not participating.  The song?  "Stubborn Love" by the Lumineers.
She'll lie and steal, and cheat, and beg you from her knees 
Make you think she means it this time 
She'll tear a hole in you, the one you can't repair 
But I still love her, I don't really care

At that moment I Knew, knew without a doubt, that my child was autistic.  By the time the chorus came ("keep your head up, my love") I was in tears.  I went home, watched "Neurotypical" and "Temple Grandin" again … and again … and announced to her doctor that we needed a diagnosis.

When you have a special needs child, folks like to sigh and nod and trot out the old "Welcome to Holland" essay written by Emily Perl Kingsley in 1987.  It likens the discovery of disability to planning for a trip to Italy only to end up someplace else entirely and ends: "But... if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn't get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things ... about Holland."

In autism circles, the joke is: "Welcome to Beirut."  Or, to be more current, "Welcome to Syria."  Because living with autism is like living with live IEDs.  You never know (you. never. know.) when an explosion will trigger.  In my less stellar moments, I refer to The Blonde as "our little domestic terrorist."  I can't remember the last time I had a more stellar moment.

This post started with the concept of gratitude and my realization that I live in an extreme version of it.  I can think of no other way.  No, I am absolutely not grateful that my child has to experience the daily inner pain of autism.  Not. Grateful.  But, if I didn't look to the light, I could not survive this experience with her.  I'm grateful my child can verbalize (like a TV trial attorney!).  She is beautiful and full of light.  She sings songs of her own composition, dances to her own tune, and sees in ways I will never understand.

And, writing.  Writing is a catharsis.  Perhaps it's equally as narcissistic to write here as to write about my successes in giving praise.  But, hey, whatever works.  I've jumped on this blogging bandwagon about as many times as I've revisited Weight Watchers.  But, that's another post.

and this is the life we were waiting for ...


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

was there a check-box I missed?


Because I don't remember signing up for this.  Or opting out of this.  In fact, I have no recollection whatsoever of being asked if I'd like to sit down one evening with my husband and a child and explain to that little person that they do, in fact, have a learning disability (without once using the words "learning" or "disability").  Yet, that was my yesterday.

My today is also traveling well charted, yet initially unexpected, territory: Will all of my children be able to live independently?  Considering the frequency with which we ask ourselves this question, I'm guessing the answer is "no."  It's the wondering that really wipes the mojo out of me.  In some ways, it could be easier to just know.  Not that I've walked even a yard in these shoes, but I fantasize that someone will look at us and say, "Mr. and Mrs. D, your child will never be able to live without full-time support, and this need will stretch long beyond your bodies' abilities to care for them. It's best to start looking into alternatives now, so you all can be prepared before the time comes."

When folks tell me, "You should write a book!" I wonder what on earth they want me to tell.  For me, the story is how this indulged only child (and grandchild) raised in an all-white South California enclave who managed to succeed in every challenge I ever attempted (except one, that whole conception thing) wound up the parent to three "special" children of a different race … and lived to tell about it -- and, occasionally, thrived at it.  I am not the person, mother, woman, wife, daughter or friend who started this journey seven years ago.  Or, I am, I just hadn't met me yet. That's the story.

There are days where the living-to-tell seems intangible and the thriving a myth.  Today is one of those days.  Today is one of the days I am clear as diamonds that I am not the right parent for this child or these children.  Not enough patience, understanding, energy, intelligence, or perseverance.  I'm tired and cranky and couldn't ad lib my way out of a parking ticket, let alone a conversation with a disconnected child who cannot process all the sensations entering their head minute by second by every single moment.  I try to understand.  Really.  I do.  But it's almost impossible to be completely empathetic with a person who's life experience, who's sensory living, is the polar opposite of my own.  Despite all that I've learned and read and practiced, sometimes the only response I can find is, "I think it's time to go to your room and calm down."  They're safe in their rooms, safer than they'd be if I left them alone while I went to calm down in my own personal space.  At least, that's what I tell myself.

The universe usually speaks to me in these times.  When I was angry and frustrated recently (and alone with the kids on vacation) the manager of a store we frequent went out of her way to tell me how much they appreciate our kids and our family.  The kids, apparently, are better behaved than the average and she just wanted to thank me on behalf of her team.  Moments later I was able to pay the compliment forward: A child walked right up to Big Brother and asked, "What's that stick and why are your eyes closed?"  Not in a mean or teasing way, but clearly in search of information.  BB and I explained it all to him while his mom looked on in that edge-state all parents enter when their child's behavior is bordering on the iffy.  While the other family was still there, I asked BB how he felt about the interaction, and he confirmed that the boy had been polite and not mean, that BB had felt recognized and respected for his difference.  "Nice job, mom" I said to the now beaming mother. 

Tomorrow will likely be a "nice job, mom" kind of day.  But, today isn't.  Today is frustrating and enraging and depressing and I've spent the better part of it beating myself up over not being able to be everything to every one of my kids at every moment.  I think that's the definition of self-inflicted insanity.  And, I'm clear on that.

Clear as diamonds.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

repost: 5 things mom & dad didn't know they taught me

[originally posted on wunschmachen, February 19, 2006]

1. food has a soul
2. being strong and being scared aren't mutually exclusive
3. everyone is an artist
4. we were a long time coming, we'll be a long time gone -- treat the planet accordingly
5. you can choose your path, but you can't predict your journey

Sunday, February 10, 2013

about paint


For the past three weeks, the flu has marched through our house with a relentlessness unequaled by tide or time.  By the fifth day, all of us were coughing and I could tell who was up and who was down based on the tenor of those throaty explosions. In the middle of the madness, I breathed a sigh of relief: The only crisis we're facing right this moment is whether to be vertical or horizontal.  It felt so normal, like I imagine other families feel on a regular basis.  

Moms run their personal taxi services, dads are who the kids wait for to come home, and kids go about the business of being the highly scheduled vessels of so many expectations for school, friends, and (the ultimate!) college.  In our family, we've found different goals and have arrived at alternative expectations.  I taxi less and rest more.  Rather than balancing the triumvirate of education, athletic and/or musical mastery, and friendship our flock picks and chooses.  The choices are never stable.

In Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity, author Andrew Solomon begins his work with the statement: "There is no such thing as reproduction" then spends 700 pages illustrating his point with interviews, statistics, profiles, and self exploration.  Through chapters on deafness (and Deafness), Down Syndrome, autism, multiple severe disability (MSD), prodigies and traspeople, Solomon explains how it is difference that unites us rather than perceived commonalities.  The focus of the book is how a child of difference has moved or transformed their parents, their established lives, and their conscious and subconscious perceptions.

From birth until we met The Boy, my life was pretty phenomenal in a scheduled, expected, and "normal" kind of way.  Then, we marched ill-equipped into a world I never knew existed.  The fury, sadness, disablement, and pervasiveness of a life lived in institutions was unimaginable to me until we witnessed it, until we invited it into our perfectly calm and ordered world. While reading Far from the Tree I instantly felt a sense of kinship with the families profiled.  It didn't matter if their child was schizophrenic, deaf, a prodigy, or committed crimes … their story of discovery and acceptance (and rejection) was mine.  

Two weeks ago, before The Blonde succumbed to This Year's Flu, I spied her old haunts in our bathroom: All the places she had found blemishes in the paint and had enlarged them by endless and compelled picking.  It's typical for children who were infants in a low- or no-stimulus environment to have sensory wiring that isn't quite optimum.  This is a nice way of saying that a diagnosis of Sensory Processing Disorder was not a surprise to us.  Since that diagnosis The Girl has applied herself to various therapies with glee.  The picking has stopped.  We no longer find sifting piles of paint, like so much sand, on our floors.  It is, in a very surprising way, something to celebrate.  Perhaps she can draw or paint a recognizable representation of house or person, perhaps she can't.  But what she can do is not unconsciously seek whatever sensation that picking gave her.  That's progress.

To fully understand why a lack of touching is a seminal moment for our family, and for me personally, means to go back to the beginning.  Back closer to that phenomenally unsurprising life I led before children.  It's the book I was supposed to have been writing since 2011 when I stopped posting here.  Between September 2011 and today, depression and exaltation have marched through my life with a relentlessness unequaled by tide or time. I think I'm finally ready to do what so many folks have told me to do and "write a book about it!"

[deep breath]

Thursday, January 31, 2013

never follow a hippie to a second location

"Write another blog!" I said, "It will do you some good."

So, I set out to write another blog. The theme was, essentially, we're not your typical family and the title was going to be "Another Color," short for, "In a black and white world, we're a family of another color." Again, I was going to attempt to write about my experiences parenting three extraordinary children.

[Let's take a moment here to state what I believe is the obvious: Each child, each person, is extraordinary. It is only our societal and somewhat agreed upon definition of "ordinary" or "normal" or "typical" that somehow elevate a chosen few out of what must then be considered the quagmire.]

But, every single variant of "Another Color" had already been taken as a blogspot URL and I discovered that this blog was still live (as opposed to first-blog wunschmachen which chronicled the starry eyed path I took to family, the masterwork zarfing sunshine which I retired after my consumed-with-anger-at-adoption phase ended, or changing ocean tides which somewhat pulled me back from the brink -- all available as full-color PDFs) and that this site's title, sentiment, and direction were exactly what I had been looking for … in another color.

So, I'm back. Back to talk about unmet expectations and the gifts that not meeting them has unearthed. Back to muse on how far we need to go as a culture and a race (not caucasian, human) to understand difference. Back to an in-the-trenches look at what I've decided is not a war but a lifestyle. Back to wondering how on earth I entered this community of outlier, misfit, rebel families that see progress in terms of vanished paint flakes not painted pictures (I'll explain that, honest). Back to being the mom to three kids who don't quite fit the mold, never will, and who have to live in this world anyway. Back.

Thanks for having me.