Saturday, November 13, 2010

Oh, But She's Adopted.....

My beautiful baby girl Karma

I find myself saying that a lot lately and I am not really sure why but I know its a habit I have to break, and soon.

Karma the day she came to us. 
The second they placed her in my arms
she was mine!
I developed it as a way to try and explain WHY I have so many kids as there seems to be some new unwritten rule in our society that says anything more than 2 or 3 kids is strange and out of the ordinary.  I get stares everywhere I go and hear whispered (and sometimes Very loud and blatant) comments ranging from the innocent and benign "oh wow, look at all those kids" and "that poor mama, she's a busy lady" to the occasional "why would anyone want that many kids?" "surely you are done having kids now" "you don't want any more right?" and my all time favorite one I have ever gotten, said with all the rudeness and disgust he could muster "I sure hope those are not all yours!"

I don't know who wrote this rule or when it was put into place but now it seems that if you have more than 2 or 3 you are some sort of freak of nature.  People are free to stare at you and say anything and everything they want and you are expected to just take it because you "choose" to be said freak.  You are a "breeding machine" that many think "need to be stopped".  Maybe it stems from all of the reality shows like "Kate Plus 8" (formerly "Jon & Kate Plus 8") and "19 Kids and Counting". 

Don't get me wrong, I also get the nice well meaning strangers too.  The ones who say things like "I know how you feel, I had-insert some large number here-kids myself, they are all grown and gone now".  These are all usually sweet older ladies, although I have heard it from a few men.  These are few and far between the ones listed above however.  Some of the people may not be meaning to come off as sounding harsh or judgemental.  I guess it is quite a sight to see me grocery shopping, pushing one of those huge carts around with the older 3 kids in it and the baby in her Baby Bjorn or Hotsling attached to me.  Maybe these people just do not understand how often I hear these comments and therefore, to me, they sound way harsher than intended.  I will never understand why strangers think its randomly ok to just vomit from the mouth whatever pops into their head.

Oh, and if 1 (or more) of my kids is having a break down or temper tantrum in the store, or where ever we may be, LOOK OUT!  The comments get real nasty and real ugly REAL FAST!  The "she needs to take them home"  and "doesn't she realize they need a nap?" and I even once heard "I can't believe she brings them all out in public like that"  REALLY?  SERIOUSLY?  Should I leave them at home by themselves instead, would that make your day easier because I am all about making YOUR DAY easier!  I have seen on shows such as "SupperNanny" that when your child is throwing a fit in the store you should leave and yeah, that sounds GREAT in theory, if you only have 1 or 2 kids with you.  When you have 4 kids, age 4 and under in the store you are on a mission.  You are focused on completing the task as quickly as possible and just getting out of there.  Rude and inconsiderate people only make this experience worse.  Its no picnic for me to listen to them screaming, at least you can walk away.  I have to go home with these little monsters.

So, ever since Sariah was born, it may have even started the last month or 2 of the pregnancy, I have developed a very bad habit.  Something that I just randomly spit out and feel the need to tell any and every stranger I meet.  I point to Karma and say "Oh, but she's adopted!".  This somehow seems to make me feel better in the moment and has many times made the rudest of people stop and gasp and even say "oh, sorry, that is wonderful of you guys......" and go into some random thoughts about how great they think I am for adopting her.

Its not the praise I am looking for, I am just trying to give them some explanation as to WHY we have 4 kids as if its illegal to do so.  As if saying "she's adopted" somehow magically makes it all ok and sadly, it does exactly like.  Suddenly I am this weird "supermom" in their eyes, almost like a martyr mom sacrificing myself for this poor adopted baby girl.  It has become a very bad habit and I find myself saying it multiple times to almost every stranger I can while we are out in public.  It has gotten so bad that several times, while on the phone paying bills or whatever they will hear 1 (or more) kids in the background and as "oh, how many do you have?".  Without even thinking about it I just reply "4, but-1-is-adopted".  I have even started typing this online anytime I am in some sort of mommy support group, chat, FB Page, you name it.  I will type "I am a mom of 4 ages 4 and under, but on is adopted".  I am pretty sure I even put that on this blog somewhere in the intro! 

This is not something I need to share with every person in the world.  I have even joked with my hubby that I should have a special "going out in public/shopping" shirt made  up with the phrase "Yes I have 4, but one is adopted!" om it so I don't have to explain it 10 plus times on every outing we go on.  I said this to him as a joke but I have realized I really do this.  I seriously explain to everyone all day long that I have 4, but one is adopted.

We by no means ever have or ever would plan to tell Karma we are her birth parents, she will always know she is adopted.  At the same time, she is getting older now, almost 18 months, and she is more and more aware of things every day.  I don't want her growing up and hearing me say over and over again "oh, but she's adopted".  I don't want her to feel like she is somehow less than our biological children and I know that growing up with this being thrown in her face on an almost daily basis will make her feel just that way.  She will think that she is somehow less than our other kids and that mommy must love her less, why else would she run around telling anyone and everyone she can that I am adopted.

This is a habit I developed as a means of defense, something to use to help shield the rudeness of others but its something I must stop.  Its making me feel guilty so I can only imagine what it will make her feel once she is old enough to understand what I am saying.

The truly sad thing is I should have never had to start this.  People should think about things before they just blurt them out.  Our society has become so rude and so callous to one another.  We live in a "me me me" world where people give no thought to others and care only for themselves.  How dare I actually take my kids out in public and disrupt the peace of others lives.  That's how many feel I know because they make it known to me in words, dirty looks, shrugs, huffs, puffs, you name it.

So the next time you are out in public and see a mom with X amount of kids (whatever you may consider as "a lot" or "too many") and you get the urge to blurt out something about it, even if you think its funny and know in your head you are only joking DON'T!  You don't know what the circumstances of that family are.  Maybe they are foster parents, some are adopted, maybe they are not even all that 1 mothers kids.  She might run a daycare or be caring for a sick friend/relatives children.  She should not be made to feel like she has to explain herself to every Tom Dick and Harry who walks by and feels the need to question "why so many?".  You may not think the things you are saying are rude at all, you may think they are funny or you may even be genuinely impressed with this mom and her skills to handle so many kids.  Speaking from a mom who has walked in her shoes, she can no longer distinguish those comments though.  She has been judged and criticized one too many times by people who DID mean to be rude and ugly to her about her personal choices so now all comments just blurr together and get lumped in the rude/harsh category.  So even the most genuine and well meaning of "supportive" comments are just another stone thrown at her, another ding in the armor she has had to build up to societies judgements and then she turns into the looney lady who walks around telling everyone "OH, BUT SHE'S ADOPTED"  See I am normal just like you, its ok, she's adopted, we are not crazy!!

We do not live in China people, we are free to choose to have as many or as few children as we like.
So, if you hear me saying this or see me typing this please feel free to call me out on it.

And to answer the other question I hear at least a dozen times a day.....

NO! We surely ARE NOT done having kids.  Will we have more, that has yet to be decided but it is a door we have left open.  We love all of them equally and that's all that matters to me.

Christy PROUD PROUD mommy to 4 beautiful, wonderful, special, irreplaceable children!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

In Honor of Veterans Day-A Little Family History

Pictured above are my grandparents, Joe and Patricia Culbertson.  The picture was taken shortly after they were married and days (I want to say THE day but its been awhile since I was told the story as my grandparents passed away in 1997 and 1998) before my grandpa shipped out to Hawaii to serve with the Navy.  He loved to tell me this story when I was a kid.  I used to have a letter that he wrote to my grandma shortly after arriving in Hawaii but its gone now.  I think my mom may have it but not sure.
My grandma also served with the Navy/Red Cross as a nurse.  She was stationed in CA and cared for wounded soldiers.
They, like many back then, married quickly after meeting since my grandpa was shipping out soon.  They did not know if he would return or not.  Thankfully he did and they went on to raise 11 children, 9 of their own including my mom.  Four of their children went on to serve in the Navy, Marines and Army.

The photo above and the fact that it is Veterans day inspired this Blog:

I am big time into Family History and also enjoy learning about the Historic periods during the Revolutionary War, the Civil War and WWII.  I am honored to say that I have family members who served in all of those wars (as well was WWI, The Korean War and Vietnam that are known of, there may be more).

I am blessed to have a nifty little book(pictured above) that lays out my family history for me on my maternal grandfathers side.  It does not go into details of who or when but it is assumed that my family fought in the Revolutionary War as they arrived in America somewhere around 1691, possibly before.  Records are hard to find that far back.  I hope they fought on the American side.

The book briefly details that the name of Strickland originated in England and appeared as early as 1235 but actual records can only trace the portion of the Stricklands I am a descendant of to around the mid 1600's with Matthew Strickland II living in the Isle of Wright Co, VA.  There is no birth date, only a death date of 1691.  It is assumed, therefore, that there was a Matthew Strickland I who must have immigrated to the Isle of Wright Co, VA at some point in the mid to late 1600's as the land Matthew II had was a land given through inheritance but no records of his life/existence have been found.  It is assumed he immigrated from England but again is not certain.

Early Strrickland Family Line

John Thomas Strickland was my Great Great Great-Grandpa, I think.  I admit get confused easily with this.  His daughter, Olivia, was my grandpa's grandma and her son, Louis, was his dad.  So Louis would be my great-grandpa, Olivia my great great-grandma and then John T. my great great great-grandpa.  Whew, my brain hurts now haha.

John T. Strickland served and died in The Civil War.  He was Conscripted into the Confederate Army.  Wish he would've served on the Yankee side but what can ya do.  He was conscripted which mean he did not go voluntarily and was just forced to serve on the side that the state he lived in (Missouri) was fighting on.  There are several awesome letters he wrote to his family while at war that are included in the book.  I tried to include them at the bottom of this post but I do not have a scanner so I had to take pictures with my camera, I hope you can read them as it is really interesting.  Talk about fighting, starvation, many eating their own horses to survive and his knowledge that he was dying and would likely never make it home to see his family again.

John T Strickland with his wife Narcissus (they had some interesting names back then!)

John Thomas was born July 5, 1828 in Garrett Co, Georgia.  He died at Arrowrock in Saline Co, MO on July 7, 1865 while returning home to his family after serving in the Civil War.
John T. Strickland married Narcissus Adeline in Garnett Co, Georgia on November 25, 1851.
They had 6 children:
John Clement  Born Oct 22, 1852  and  Died Oct 9, 1853
Olivia  Born March 5, 1954  and Died Jan 6, 1946
Henry Lee born Feb 14, 1857  and Died Feb 28, 1922
Isaac Thomas  born March 14, 1859 and Died Feb 28, 1935
Joseph Allen  born Nov 7, 1851  and Died Jan 24, 1923
Esther Elizabeth  born Nov 25, 1863  and died April 22, 1941

As you can see from the dates they immediately had a child after they were married.  Sadly, their first child died before he even turned 1.  There are no details in the book as to why but I have seen a lot of babies/children who died early on throughout the book (as it traces the lines of all 6 of their kids).  This is especially true of any listings from the 1800-1900s.  It makes me sad to think of those children and the pain of their parents.  I would love to one day try to go in and find records of these events for myself to see the details of what happened but I may never know the reasons why.
It also shows that their youngest was born in 1863 so I wonder if John T ever even got to meet little Esther Elizabeth as he died in 1865.  It says he was Conscripted into the Confederate Army Oct 12, 1864 so I guess he did get to see her first year of life.

Olivia Strickland, my Great Great-Grandmother, went on to marry Mr. John Culbertson  on April 20, 1871 and they settled in Kansas City, MO.
They only had 1 child, a son named John Louis Culbertson, went by the name  Louis, who was born June 23, 1887.  Again, the book does not go into much details of their lives but back then it was a rarity to only have 1 child so I wonder if Olivia suffered from some infertility issues and if there were more pregnancies they never went full term, I will probably never know the details on this either.

Louis Culbertson went on to marry Nellie Mae Morris July 7, 1909.  He served in WWI in the Navy and they had 4 children together.
Nelson Earl  born June 27, 1910
Joe Durl  (my grandpa) born Oct 24, 1921  he died Dec 6, 1997
Margaret Olivia  born Aug 19, 1923
Esther Lee  born March 19, 1926

None of the above are living today but as of the date when this book was made they all were, therefore I do not have death dates for them.  This book was made in 1962 WAY before the Internet.  So I think, if I actually applied myself, I could turn up a lot more details on the lives of these people.

Joe Durl Culbertson went on to marry a woman named Betty Tash (not my grandma!) in 1941.  They had 2 children named Carolyn Jo,and Jacquelyn Lee.  They were divorced however in 1945, SCANDALOUS for those days.  I do not know all the details as I was never told, but my grandpa had sole custody of the 2 and my grandma helped raise them as her daughters.  However, they do not associate with our family.  I can count the number of times on 1 hand that I saw them at any family function as a child.  I assume they are still living. (UPDATE-8/13/2011, discovered Carolynn died in Jan 2011, exact date unknown)
He then married my grandma, Patricia Albers on June 6, 1946.  How sad that I know she was born on Aug 1 but have no idea in what year (the book does not say) (UPDATE- 8/13/2011- went to the Culbertson/Marshall Family Cemetery today and saw the birth date on the headstone listed as 1928).  She died in April 2,1998.  They had 9 children together.  One died as an infant from SIDS, she was my moms twin sister.  Another died as a teenager in a house fire, his name was Jerry.  Two more died as adults, my Aunt Terry in a car crash and my Uncle Timmy in a private plane crash.  Only 5 are still living to this day, including my mom but unfortunately, through bad choices they have made, I only ever see my oldest uncle.  He has brain damage that he suffered in a motorcycle accident and has the mentality of a child, he lives with my mom as he cannot care for himself completely.<-- UPDATE 08/13/2011  My Uncle Louis Culbertson died Aug 1, 2011.  Cause of death still unknown at this time.  His body was not discovered for 2 days-see blog here- funeral was held Sat Aug 13, 2011.  Private family graveside service only.  Body was cremated, ashes buried next to my grandparents.  No marker as of yet but one will be placed soon provided by the VFW.  Louis was a Vietnam Vet.

Some day, when my children are older and I have more free time, I plan to look into the family history in more depth.<-- UPDATE 08/11/2011 Inspired by seeing the family cemetery in Collins, MO I am trying to look more into this now.  Blog coming soon.  Oldest READABLE headstone dates back to 1777 (birth date, not death date, death date was 1816).  Many more headstones that were so worn and faded they were unreadable, a few headstones were nothing more than large rocks/boulders.

Here are the letters from John T. Strickland to his family while serving in the Confederate Army:

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