Downy Clowny

I’m not doing super well. I’m pretty depressed, and have enough experience with depression to be able to run down a mental checklist and find it . . . depressing: trouble getting to sleep, crying a lot, feeling empty and exhausted, having a hard time enjoying things I like, and on and on. I often have a darker mental space in the winter, and my husband is far away, and I’ve been having to focus on a lot on my son’s special needs; this isn’t, like, inexplicable. But it doesn’t feel like there’s anything to do about it, really. I go to the movies on Sunday afternoons sometimes, on my time away, and I cry through all the previews: dramatic previews, comedic previews, previews full of smashy robots. I have new, depressed habits.

But my family has noticed, and they worry about me. My parents have therefore said that they will watch the boys for a week, and they bought me a plane ticket, and I’m going to see my sweetheart on December 13. I am incredibly anxious about the trip—I have never travelled away from my boys before. But my parents are close to the kids, and Joey will have been in school for two weeks at that point and will hopefully have settled in somewhat. And I will leave a crazily detailed care plan for both of the little noodles. I sort of get that this is a good idea, and I really like the idea of seeing Mr. Book, but I can’t really focus on anything other than the possibility that the boys will never forgive me.

IE: Planned

Joey’s IEP meeting went well; we were offered everything that I wanted for him. He will be getting adaptive PE, speech therapy, an occupational therapy assessment before the end of the year (and there seems to be a presumption that he will qualify for occupational therapy as a result), and a special needs preschool program that I had already decided sounded like a good fit for him: a small class taught by an education specialist that runs four hours per day, five days per week. The program does reverse mainstreaming—that is, one of the typical preschool classes run by the city visits the special needs class for half an hour three times per week so that the kids can all play together.

There were a few ducks for me to get into a row before Joey could really officially be ready to start school; I had to fill out some paperwork, talk the pediatrician’s office into faxing a copy of his immunization record, and make a copy of his birth certificate. But it’s all done, and Joey is going to see his new classroom and meet his new teacher, Mrs. Tong, this afternoon. He’ll start school December 2, since everyone has the week of Thanksgiving off. I asked Joey’s speech therapy supervisor whether there’s some kind of transition plan for three-year-olds starting school, and she said yes: the plan is that you drop your kid off and then return four hours later. I can’t quite imagine.

Joey’s birthday also means that he has graduated from the Buddies program; on Tuesday, his last day, everyone sang to him, and the staff wrote some sweet birthday wishes for us to take home. He adapted beautifully to that environment after a month or so, which gives me hope that he will be able to do the same (hopefully more quickly) in preschool. He’s a sweet and mellow kid at heart.

Open Adoption Interview Project

aip-graphicWelcome to my entry in the Open Adoption Interview Project! This year the project is launching in stages; I’m in the middle wave, myself.

Meet Sarah Salmon! Sarah and her husband have two daughters, ages four and five, whom they adopted from Cambodia as babies. They are Australians currently living in Singapore after 12 years in other Asian countries; Sarah tells me that “We are fortunate that we can take our daughters back to Cambodia every year to visit their birth families.”


1. How did you choose adoption over a gestational surrogate or other ART solutions? I see from your blog that you did use some ART, but not how that was resolved.

My husband and I did a couple of rounds of intrauterine insemination (IUI). We were told by my gynaecologist that it was a ‘non-invasive’ treatment, but the follicle scans and the painful insemination felt very invasive to me. Anyone who has undergone any form of ART knows how emotionally stressful it is, and I did not want to prolong the stress any longer, so my husband and I decided to forgo the gynaecologist’s recommendation to undergo IVF and adopt a child instead. We had been living in India for a few years at the time, and we had seen the number of orphaned and abandoned children across the country who needed loving families. It felt like a better choice to give a child a loving home, rather than trying month after month to conceive a biological child.

2. What about the Cambodian program appealed to you?

My husband and I tried to adopt from India, as we had been living in Bangalore for a few years, but Australian government policy did not allow us to adopt from India as expats. Therefore, we needed to find a country that would be approved by the Australian government. We had been living in Asia for several years (residing in South Korea before we relocated to India), so Asia felt like a natural fit for us. At the time, Cambodia was a relatively easy country to adopt from.

3. You mention that you make yearly visits to Cambodia: What are those like? How do you think your daughters understand them?

My husband and I take our two adopted daughters back to Cambodia every year to visit their birth families, as we want them to retain a connection to their birth country, culture, and families. The girls are only 4 & 6 years of age, so they do not fully understand what it all means yet (e.g. my youngest daughter got confused between her orphanage and her birth village when we were there last month). But we hope that as the years go on, they are able to identify with Cambodia and their backgrounds so that they can develop a strong sense of identity. My eldest daughter, due to her age, gets more out of the trips to Cambodia than my youngest daughter. She always has questions prepared before we visit her birth family. The visits to my daughter’s birth villages are always very emotional – both happy and sad.

4. Are you done building your family, or do you plan to adopt again, or do you have other plans?

I have no intention to have any more children, adopted or biological. I am extremely content with my current family.

5. Have there been any legal or logistical headaches involved in adopting children without their (or your) residing in your home country? Any tips for other families who might go through that process?

There were plenty of legal and logistical headaches adopting both my daughters. The Australian government did not make it very easy for us to adopt as expats living outside of our home country, and I found the government staff to be unsupportive and unhelpful. We were basically left to fend for ourselves; we had to find a country to adopt from that fitted the Australian government criteria; we had to research the legalities ourselves; and we had to take the risk of adopting a child to whom the Australian government might not grant citizenship to. Of course, we then had to navigate our way through the Cambodian government process, as well as the Indian government regulations for our daughters to return to live in India with us. My husband and I hired a lawyer in Cambodia to ensure our daughters’ backgrounds checked out (unfortunately there is a history of child trafficking in Cambodia). We also conducted full medicals on our daughters to ensure they would pass the Australian government medical examination. The whole process of adoption from beginning to end involved jumping over many hurdles, and if it wasn’t for the advice from an Australian expat I found via an adoption Yahoo group, I would probably still be wading through the murky waters of adoption. So, my tip for those starting the adoption process is to ready yourself with patience, and to reach out to the adoptive community for advice and support.

Many thanks to Sarah for the chance to hear her story—if you’d like to hear more (or read her questions and my answers), check out her blog at

Cough, Cough, Wheeze

Excuses: I’ve had a chest infection for just over three weeks now, and while it isn’t getting any better, it also isn’t getting any worse. It is my constant companion, and I am realizing that we don’t have a very healthy relationship.

In one week, Joey will have his IEP meeting; at that point, I will find out whether he is eligible for services through the school district and, if so, what services they think it appropriate to offer him. Everyone who works with him has assured me that he absolutely qualifies for special education; there is one program in particular that sounds like a good fit. Well, in a sense: it is geared toward kids who need more than just occasional speech therapy, kids who have low to moderate special needs. But it would take him away from me four hours a day, five days a week—I can’t imagine. He has been doing better at the Buddies program, the twice-weekly two-hour special needs pre-preschool he’s been attending for the last month and a half, but not so much better that I imagine anything other than his crying and crying if I leave him at school. Ugh. If he does end up in the program, I’ll have to work out some kind of transition plan with the district. How does this kind of thing normally go? I know that weepy, typical five-year-olds get dropped off for kindergarten and do okay, but Joey is just three and he doesn’t work the same way as a lot of other kids his age. This is what keeps me up at night. —Well, this and the coughing.

Part of the IEP meeting involves me talking about Joey’s strengths and weaknesses. I’ve been thinking about what to say. His strengths are his sweet and mellow temperament; his energy; his love of books; and his love of music. At least, those seem like things that might be relevant to his education. His weaknesses: communication; poor motor planning; social skills; some tendency to (mild) aggression when very frustrated or confronted with loud noises.

The boys have colds right now, and are about a month overdue for haircuts, so Joey looks like a Renaissance cherub with a headcold.