Saturday, September 27, 2008

Disney Whirl.... I mean World

It was a whirlwind... a fast pace, hot and humid, long line experience that I was, during the first day, not sure I could survive. There was the fact that I was, well... it was THAT time... and then there was the fact that we had all been sick with severe allergies (and, in fact, still were - and are). So - yeah - we were exhausted right from the start. Then there was the fact that Libby (who I will NEVER tell ahead of time that we are going on vacation again) did not sleep the night before we traveled nor the night before Disney (yep - that's 2 nights in a row of pure, unsettled excitement). So by the time we boarded the tram for Disney she (and I) were spent. Just terribly spent.

But! In the land where all dreams come true (oh if that could only be true - we'd be in Africa next week getting Lulu, our old house would be sold, and there are a few other things my sister and her family are privy too knowing - get that, Becka - HAHAHAH LVeryL! - a little inside humor going on there) - as I was saying - in the land where all dreams come true - we did indeed not only survive - but we enjoyed it (okay - pause here to say that Billy kept reminding me that he was orginally supposed to be on a fly-fishing trip). Okay - so I enjoyed it. Billy enjoyed my family and probably Disney -but he'd rather be in Florida in December next time around.

All joking aside - we really did have a wonderful time. It was truly magical! Watching Libby's eyes go wide at the sight of Mickey or one of her favorite princesses just can't be matched. She was in love with the overstimulation of Disney. By the end of the week she thought we would buy her anything, we would entertain her forever and Disney was our new home. She loved it and didn't want to leave.

Watching Libby and Taylor (my sister's oldest) play together was such a blast. And - OH -their sweet princess dresses that they wore for the princess dinner in Epcott - they both beamed as they trotted around the house with their dresses on saying "look at me daddy". They were both so precious and beautiful and innocent and sweet - and completely terrified of the princesses - but, oh well. Actually, Taylor finally warmed up and there are some pictures to prove that she actually met the princesses. Libby - well, while mesmorized by the princesses there was NO WAY she was going to get close enough for a picture with them.

On the way home Libby (remember she's 2 and I never talked with her about the Disney mantra of "all your dreams will come true") must have put all the subliminal messages together and she proudly told me - "Mom, you can do it. You can do it. Whatever you dream, you can do it." Wow - she really does listen to EVERYTHING. The girl takes it all in. I'm still not sure, though, what she thinks I can do....maybe that will come to light in the days to come.

All over Disney we had the opportunity to see other Asian women/teens. Some were working at Disney. Others just visiting. But without Billy or I saying anything, Libby was taking notice. As a large group of Asian girls walked by us Libby said, "Mommy look. They are all Chinese girls." And then later, in Epcott, while watching a video in the China region a Chinese man with a long, thin beard, wearing a long robe was on screen narrarating and Libby said, "Mommy, is that man me?" My heart was so... well, I don't know the right word. I wasn't sad, but I was. I realized that she knows she looks different than her mommy and daddy and she has questions - already. I mean, we talk about it. We read her life book - but I just never knew what was sinking in and what wasn't until that moment. She saw something in that man that was more like her than Billy and I could be. And then there was the funny thought of - what if that really were her dad? Hey- you just never know.

So - I can't say anything else without saying this to my sweet sister who put this whole trip together and invited our family to join them - I love you! I am so blessed by you. You are so servant hearted. You work so hard. Your girls are radiantly beautiful. I love your patience, your kindness, your ability to stay calm in any situation. And your love for your girls is just so precious. You worked so hard to make that trip a special one for your girls' memories. I loved watching you do that. You and Jason have such a wonderful family. I'm so proud! Love you! And, truly, there are not that many people in the world that I could have done Disney with. You are such a breeze to be around. So laid back and at ease. You balance this intense sister out. Thank you.

So here's what you are waiting for - vacation pictures:

Our first night at the resort Taylor and Libby enjoyed the large garden tub.

Every morning Becky fixed us all a big breakfast! Yum!

Our first tram ride into the Magic Kingdom. To the far left is my sister, Becky. In her lap is baby Camryn. Then Libby, Taylor and Jason - Becky's husband.

First thing, first day, Magic Kingdom - I ran into my roomate from college - Jennie Davis! That was so cool of God! I mean, of all the people there and all the places we could have been - we were both at the same place first day out. Love that! Love you Jennie!

Just minutes before meeting Mickey and Minnie, Libby crashed....

...which meant a total meltdown as she woke to a larger than life mouse saying hello to her. She was terrified!

We LOVED the Buzz Lightyear Ride!

Cinderella's Castle - right before the fireworks. It really was magical!

Beginning of second day - Epcott! Libby and Taylor play before we arrive.

We were almost devoured by a large shark. No worries, though, we were ready for the challenge and swam out!

Later in the evening, we dressed Libby up for a princess dinner. She was dressed like Sleeping Beauty (aka Aurora - for those who love Disney trivia - is there anyone out there like that?? really??)

How beautiful are they? Love this pic!

Real princesses - all daughters of the King of Kings!

Libby is shaking the statue's hand while Taylor considers letting him carry her. This statue was in the China region of Epcott.

I look a little crazy in this picture, but Billy and Libby look so cute!

A couple of modeling careers in the making.

Third day - we were just chillin' and in the afternoon we decided to take the kids to Chucky Cheese because we just weren't sure yet if they were getting enough stimulation.

Fourth Day - Animal Kingdom. Here we are with the Jungle Book characters. Libby was still scared, but not freaking out.

Of course, the Africa area of the Animal Kingdom was important for us to visit.

Here, Libby plays the drums with a really cool African man. Loved watching him play.

The best show by far was the Lion King show. Libby LOVED it! and so did we!

While Becky and Jason waited in a long line for a water ride, Billy and I took care of the girls. Billy fell in love with Camryn. Isn't this picture so cute! Becky and Jason watched the girls while Billy and I went on the Everest Roller Coaster. It was AWESOME!!!

In the Orlando airport Libby had a final chance to take her picture with Mickey. As you can see in the photo, we bought her a stuffed Mickey Mouse. She sleeps with it every night.

So, what do you do after all that walking and riding and waiting in lines? Well, you need a Disney Detox. Our detox plan - go to the river. So today we had a family day on the Guad. So relaxing. Here, Libby peaks over Billy's shoulders as we hike along the river.

And below - my favorite two pics from today:

She is just so cute! And - her hair is starting to grow out! YEAH!


amie said...

adorable!!my two favorite photos, the one of you and libby in the mouth of jaws and the one of libby peeking over billy's shoulder!!
She is growing up so fast! And such a cutie.

becky said...

Thank you sis! I love you too! We had so much fun with you guys. I'll try to make our next vacation a little less active for Billy:)

Alli said...

Loved reading about your trip and I loved the pics! Still so excited that you got to see our Jennie! How fun!

Becky said...

Why does that last picture remind me of Mr. Grinch?

Allison said...

Ooh, your trip looks so fun! We are taking Maggie for her first visit with Mickey in April. I canNOT wait!

Houghs said...


I wanted to thank you for your kind words and prayers as Danielle and I work towards our second adoption. We will keep you posted as we progress.

Lynn, Danielle and Jessica Hough

Jenn said...

What beautiful, wonderful memories!! Love it!!

Monica said...

Wow! It looks like you guys got to do a lot of neat things there! (Sorry your allergies dampened your fun a bit, but it is great that you were able to make great memories, anyway!) ...even the misery of a vacation makes for more colorful memories after the fact...I remember our 3 day horseback ride through the back country of the Canadian 3 year old daughter so sleepy after 6 hours of non-stop horseback riding that she literally fell asleep and nearly fell off her horse (yes, she was riding independently...the guide who was planning to lead her horse ended up needing to lead the horse of our 7 year old special needs son, instead...and frankly, our youngest WAS quite the accomplished horse-woman already at the ripe age of 3, anyway!)...but the part we all enjoy looking back on most is the utter MISERY of my non-horse loving husband and the kids' grandparents who came with us. The three of them have solemnly vowed NEVER to go near another horse as long as they live! A vow they have kept for 3 years now, and I have no doubt will honor to the grave! Still, that vacation is the one that comes up again and again every time we all get together. We wouldn't trade the misery of that vacation for anything...even though there are three of us who would also NEVER do it again! (The rest of us, the 3 kids and I, would go again in a heartbeat!) It was a very bonding experience for all of us!

Monica said...

Oh, and your observation about Libby really taking note of other Asian people reminds me of my oldest daughter (now 13). Though all three of my children are Chinese (and adopted), only the oldest really seemed to grapple with the ethnic difference between herself and ourselves (her parents). Her grappling began EARLY. She was always way ahead of her chronological age--talked in paragraphs using large words and complex sentences with clear pronunciation before she was even two. She also read on a first grade level at the age of two and by the time she was three she was reading fluently on a fourth grade level. At the age of three, she could read aloud any page out of the Bible almost as well as most adults. I say all that, simply to say that she was cognitively very precocious. She knew all her colors very well, yet she continually insisted to me that I had BLACK hair. (I have blonde hair.) At the time, I didn't read much into it. But, then, a little while before she was to turn two years old, when we made the decision to let her get a kitten. Taking her to the local pound, she and I looked through dozens of kittens and cats needing homes. There were several light colored kittens that were sweet as could be. Darcy wanted NOTHING to do with them. Instead, she kept coming back to this large, old, black cat that had the most hateful disposition. The cat clearly HATED children and wanted nothing to do with my daughter what-so-ever. I could read that cat's mind, "I'd rather be EUTHANIZED then sent home with a CHILD!!!" The cat hissed at us, tried to scratch us and clearly was NOT interested in coming home with us! Yet my daughter CRIED to get THAT cat. She didn't want any OTHER cat, just THAT one. I put my foot down. There is no way I was bringing a cat into our household that had such a severe anti-social behavior. The next day, we checked out a local pet store. There were some adorable long-haired Siamese kittens, but my daughter wasn't the least interested in them. She went straight for a black kitten. That kitten was friendly and delighted in her gentle attention. We bought her and brought her home. The next day, as I was washing dishes in the kitchen, I overheard my almost two year old talking away to the kitten in her lap. As she gently stroked her fur, she was telling her kitty, "I have BLACK hair. You have BLACK hair." And, suddenly I realized why she had wanted the hateful cat at the shelter...only because it had BLACK hair. She never again insisted to me that I had black hair. There was finally someone else in our family with black hair (the cat) and that was enough for her.

When Darcy was four, we were at a huge bluegrass festival that her daddy's band was playing at. The crowd was nearly all caucasion. I noticed, though, that there was a little boy, about two years old, playing off to the edge in the grass who looked Eurasian. I began scanning the crowd looking to see who his parents were. Finally, I spotted a young woman who was watching him from afar. She looked to be Korean. I saw that she was intently studying MY daughter, playing not too far from her son. Then I saw HER scanning the crowd and I had to smile, knowing that just as I had tried to locate her son's parent, she was now, herself, trying to figure out who my daughter belonged to. I stepped in a bit closer to my daughter and she moved in a bit closer to her son. A few minutes later, she came up to me and said in perfect English with a perfect mid-West accent, "I notice your daughter is dark complected. Do you mind if I ask what nationality her father is?" I replied, "He's caucasion...we adopted her from China." And then, BECAUSE I WAS LOOKING INTO AN ASIAN FACE I hurried to add, "She has ALWAYS been dark complected. I put sun-screen on her, but she is just naturally very dark." Now, had I been talking to a white person, I would have taken that young woman's neutral observation to be a COMPLIMENT...but, because she was obviously Asian, her words stung like a reproach in my heart. I had so often been lectured by Chinese friends how I should protect my daughter from tanning so darkly. (In China, the darker the skin, the more rural and uneducated the person is assumed to be.) This woman was speaking to me with the same mid-West accent I have. She was dressed similar to me. Her mannerisms were similar to mine...BUT HER FACE WAS ASIAN and because I saw her face first, her words took on a different meaning to me than they would have if they had been spoken by a pale, blue eyed woman. What I knew about Chinese experiences with many friends from mainland China, colored my interpretation of the MEANING behind her words. When I told her Darcy was adopted, she got very excited and told me SHE had been adopted as well. It turns out she had been adopted from Korea through Holt International, the same organization we had adopted our daughter through! This young woman had grown up the middle child of five in a Caucasion family. The other four children were biological children, she was the only one that had been adopted. She had a pleasant childhood and loved her family deeply and had always felt equally loved in the family. She seemed to have grown up quite well adjusted, happy, and accomplished. She had married a white man and they had this one child. I asked her if there was anything she wished her parents had done differently. The conversation that followed changed my views forever on the need to acknowledge an adopted child's birth culture. When we had been preparing to adopt Darcy, our social worker had stressed to us over and over again about how important this was. We had nodded our heads in her presence, but rolled our eyes in her absence. We felt like, though we are a mixture of Irish, Dutch, and American Indian none of those cultures are OUR culture...we are AMERICANS and our child would be an AMERICAN. Enough said! philosophy changed after that chance encounter with that grown adoptee. She obviously thought the world of her adoptive parents and had had a very happy childhood...yet, when asked, "Is there anything you wish your parents had done differently?" She became thoughtful and said, "I wish they had known more about Korean culture. I grew up not knowing anything about what it is to be Korean. I thought I was white, like my brothers and sisters and parents. You will think this is silly, but I thought I would grow up to have white babies just like my mother. I don't know what it is to be Korean. It feels like a piece of me is missing. In the last few years, I have been trying to learn more about Korean culture on my own, but, I wish I would have known about it when I was growing up." And, as I looked at that beautiful young woman's face, I realized how unfair things can be...she is as white as I am culturally, yet, I had misunderstood the intent of her first words to me because I interpreted her words based on the culture I expected to have influenced her, based solely on her Korean features. The moment she had opened her mouth, I had known she must have either been born here or come here at an early age...but, still I was assuming that her parents were Korean and that THAT culture colored her view of the world. In that moment, I realized, that the world is ALWAYS going to see my daughter's Chinese face first...and make certain assumptions, rightly or wrongly, solely on the basis of her Chinese features. This young woman MOURNED that her self-concept had been "I'm a white person." when she WASN'T...she was Korean...but she didn't know what it was to be Korean, and so she felt like a piece of herself had been forgotten, lost. And, it saddened her.

I home-schooled Darcy and when she was five, I enrolled her in a language class at the Chinese School of Greater Kansas City. The school is run by first generation Chinese parents to teach their own children how to read and write in Chinese. That year, they decided, on an experimental basis, to open their large school up to adopted Chinese children to help them learn to speak and write Mandarin Chinese. My daughter was in that first class. There were about 25 adopted girls in that class...and probably about 250 kids altogether at the school (which met on the weekend). Suddenly, I was the one who stuck out. My daughter was the one who MATCHED. The school was crowded with Chinese adults and children alike. Darcy blossomed there. And it was in that place that she first really began to appropriate her own Chinese-ness.

A couple of weeks after beginning classes at the Chinese school, Darcy spotted a long red and black dress at Wal-Mart that she couldn't take her eyes off of. I was NOT going to buy any clothes that day, but, she begged just to try it on. We had plenty of time, so I didn't see the harm. I stressed to her that we were JUST trying it on...that we were not going to buy anything. It was a pretty dress...very Asian in design. In the dressing room, Darcy put it on and her eyes widened as she stared into the mirror...and under her breath came an awe-struck whisper, "Mom! This dress makes me look CHINESE!" It almost made me cry to realize that she hadn't realized she looked Chinese without seeing herself in the dress, first. Of course I bought her the dress. I still have it 8 years later, and now it is her little sister who wears it.

If our children are to whole, they need us to help them to explore what it means to be them. The have their adoptive background and culture...but they also have their birth background and culture and if that is ignored, they will lose a piece of themselves along the way.

Today, we live in a small town in the Ozarks. The only diversity here are a few black players on the local college team and a few adopted children in our very large church. Darcy goes to public school now. She is continually amazed at the ignorance and stereo-types that she runs up against in her school of 600 (6th, 7th, and 8th graders). But SHE knows who she is. Her self-esteem is not hinged to matching her mother or peers. She embraces her Chinese heritage...and, I daresay, uses it to her advantage! When stupid assumptions are made about her, she is amused rather than hurt...and she isn't past taking advantage of such ignorance. When kids assumed she was a foreign exchanged student and spoke in amazement about how good her English was, she simply smiled and tossed her long black tresses. Someone asked her, "How did you get here?" She shrugged her shoulders and replied, "I flew on a plane, what do you think?!" She didn't bother to add that it was TWELVE years ago! She is very petite for her age, but she doesn't get bullied because the rumor has regularly circulated that she knows Martial Arts. (Duh...all Chinese kids know Martial Arts from the womb, didn't you know?) I'm glad she can laugh at it. Not as easy to laugh at are racial remarks when kids call her "squinty eyed" or other such things. That doesn't happen very often, though...and when it does, Darcy does not INTERNALIZE it. She has not grown up wishing she had blonde hair and blue eyes. She has grown up embracing her own uniqueness...the design God lovingly bestowed on her.