Verse of the Day

Sunday, January 31, 2010

It's Going to Take Some Time... maybe A LOT of time!

So I decided to be a good mommy and take all the kids to the park today. And what a beautiful day in Arizona! Sun shining, clear skies, perfect temperature... sigh. It may as well have been cold, cloudy, and raining! This adjustment thing is just going to take some time.

And I'm not talking about the new kids; I'm talking about one of my other daughters! In addition to the three new Ethiopian kids, we also have a seven year old little girl adopted from Guatemala. Miss B. has been home just over two years now; we celebrated her home coming on January 15. Needless to say, she has had a difficult transition (of course it should be noted that this is absolutely nothing compared to her initial homecoming transition! That was really, really, really, hard!). Park Day could have been renamed "Pout Day."

She pouted when I played soccer with all of the kids. She pouted when I played tetherball with her sister and her brother. She pouted when I played on the play set with all of the kids. She even pouted when we had a snack. She spent more time sitting on the ground, pulling away from everyone else than playing in the park. She just wanted mommy all to herself. A day with the family is not what she had in mind.

At least my husband and I knew this was coming. The day another little girl set foot in this house, we knew we would be in for a tough transition.

It's not just pouting. It's disobedience. It's meanness. It's whining. It's tantrums. It's regression to toddler hood. It's jealousy... big, ugly, green, oozing jealousy.

And yes, we talked with her before the adoption--- she was part of the decision. And yes, we prayed about this with her for months. And yes, we've spent more time with her, and we've maintained individual times out just with her. And yes, we spend time in God's Word, reviewing and praying why jealousy and meanness and disobedience are sinful. And yes, she has and continues to be disciplined in a Biblical fashion. I can only reiterate with her over and over again that we love her, and cherish her... but can not tolerate her behavior.

Now I can relate a bit more to people having twins! I've got two seven year old diva twins who both crave the spot light....

What I do try to keep in my mind is that first and foremost, "this too shall pass." Second, I remind myself that I should be more upset at my daughter's disobedience towards the Lord's commandment to obey parents and love her neighbor (family). Sometimes I forget that crucial distinction, and get madder than a wet hen that she is disobeying me alone.

Adoption is a family affair. It changes everything... and everyone. I simply have to hold on to the hope that I have that the Lord gave us this mission--- and all of these kids-- for a reason and a purpose. Should He will that my little B.'s heart be softened and changed--- wonderful! But I also have to remember that this life and this family are HIS. He can do whatever He chooses with this family, and with the individuals in this family. My job is just to pray like crazy every single day, storming the gates on behalf of my children--- and teaching them--- faithfully and with great hope-- every single day. We have nothing if we don't have hope!

Say a quick prayer for my little Miss B., would you?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Adjustment Issues for the Older Child

Yeah, life can be a little challenging... especially when you're dealing with a grieving child. Grief can present itself such a interesting array of attitudes and actions: screaming, crying (regular and "fake"), "extreme pouting" (a.k.a pouting lasting longer than 30 minutes), tantrums, eating too little/too much, sleeping problems, etc.

I think the most important issue to keep in mind is that you are the adult. You are the one who needs to keep his or her attitude in check and in balance. One critical help is being prepared (e.g. reading tons of books); the other is finding the time to be in God's Word for daily refreshment. I find that the mornings I have gotten up before the sun, to connect with the Son are the days I can respond in a Biblical fashion to my children. The days that I get up late and just "wing it," are the days I find myself resorting to old and often unproductive ways of dealing with my children (read "screaming.")

My social worker, Lisa Peterson of Building Arizona Families, also gave me some good advice. She said if a child is just throwing an absolute fit and can't calm down, try the "hug hold." It works! When my little girl is losing control (screaming, spitting, biting, kicking, hitting), I simply sit on the floor in a straddle position. I pull the child up next to me; her back to my tummy. I wrap her arms around herself, and then I wrap my arms around her. If she is really out of control, I gently rest my legs on hers. While in this position--- all wrapped us-- I pray out loud. I sing out loud. I bless her out loud. I rock her. It gives her a safe place to just scream and cry--- . Be prepared to be in this position a while (lean up against the bed or a wall). I have found real success with this very simple type of intervention. Thank you, Lisa!

Some of the other ideas that help children adjust are just plain common sense: limit stimulation, offer familiar foods, establish regular routines, keep outside visitors and activities to a minimum, limit gifts. From two first hand experiences involving being children home at Christmas time: limit, limit, limit! You may think your child is doing just fine with life--- and then they go into hyper drive or crying fits. We have to remember the severe culture shock these kids endure, and the conflicting emotions they must be feeling.

Other tips that have worked for us during the first month include: individual bath times (with infant bath toys), individual reading times, and lots of singing. To help with my stress level I also order groceries online and do any shopping I can online for clothing, etc. My kids get very wild in the stores, so avoiding them for now is optimal!

Three books I found helpful in my preparation as an adoptive mom are:

"The Connected Child: Bringing Help and Healing to your Adopted Family," by Karyn Purvis
"After the Dream Comes True," by Michelle Gardner
"Attaching in Adoption, Practical Tools for Today's Parents," by Deborah Gray

Books I found helpful after the child has been home for a while (child is fluent in English and understands instruction):

"The Heart of Anger," by Lou Priolo
"Parenting by Scripture," by Kara Durbin
"Say Goodbye to Whining, Complaining, and Bad Attitudes in You and Your Kids," by Scott Turansky

Some of these books I have read in great detail; others I skimmed for the "pearls."

Bottom line is this: have numerous parenting tactics in your arsenal. Every child is different, but every child is a sinner who needs love, correction, and guidance. Every child adopted internationally is going to have some sort of grief. Our Guatemalan daughter who has been home over 2 years has periods of grief and unsavory behavior at every major life change. Few of us would be able to relate to the unimaginable stress and sadness our children have endured. Be prepared to ask for help... even professional help, if need be.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

My Soap Box

I wish I could take all the credit for the following few paragraphs, but I can't. I found this on another adoption blog called "Blessings from Ethiopia" It was so beautiful, I changed it up a bit and posted it here:

We are often asked WHY? Why would you adopt FOUR kids? How can you raise SEVEN (or ELEVEN, if you count your husband’s older children)?
Why would we do this? Do you even know how old you are??? Why devote our lives to this "cause" (if you can truly even call it that)?
Here's why:
Because if we claim to be disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, WE ARE ADOPTED, too. Adopting a child is such a beautiful example of what our Lord does for us when we become children of God.
Because we are not our own; we believe that this life is not all there is. We are not here to simply pursue our own agendas, or our own dreams. We are here to be servants of our Lord. We are attempting to align our dreams and aspirations with the vision He has for us. He asks us to take care of the orphans and the widows in the world, and to go out and make disciples of all nations
Because we believe that in the end, it won't matter what career ladders we climbed, what financial investments we made, or what gadgets we could afford. It will matter that four lives were saved.
Because we have seen hopelessness firsthand in Ethiopia and Guatemala (and elsewhere), but believe we are to extend hope to those He puts in our reach… knowing each child is made in the image of God.
Because we believe that the orphaned street child who plays soccer on the rough pavement of the streets of Addis Ababa or Guatemala City is no less valuable to the Creator than the polished child on a suburban soccer team here in America.
Because we see nothing more worthy of our focus, time, resources, and lives.
Because injustice is wrong.
Because mercy is right.
Because we know that, while adoption is not the solution in and of itself to the world’s 143 million orphans, we have seen with our own eyes how it rescues those who can be adopted.
Because we are to be the hands and feet of Jesus. Praying for someone to be well fed clothed, and comforted is not enough. We are to feed the hungry. We are to clothe the naked. We are to bring the poor into our homes. We are to comfort the suffering and hopeless. Faith without works is dead. Prayer without appropriate, necessary action is not complete.
Because we know that, if it were our own flesh and blood abandoned and starving, we would want someone to love them and call them family, too.
Because these kids are no different from your own. Not at all.
Because it's just not okay with us to say “no” to a child who needs a home when we have one.
Because it's just not okay with us to say “no” to a child who needs a family when we have one.
Because it's just not okay with us to say “no” to a child who needs room to thrive when we have room and can make room.
Because it's just not okay with us to do nothing.
Because it won't be okay for them if we do nothing.

D-Man is now an Orange Belt! Look out!

D-Man graduated last Friday night! He is now an official Orange Belt in Taekwondo! Not only did he know the necessary material to move to the next level, but he also successfully broke both a brown board and a black board! Did I mention, HE'S NEVER BROKEN BOARDS BEFORE??!! I was very proud.... Congratulations, D-Man!

Monday, January 25, 2010

A Hero in My Book...

I'd like you to meet Joy Casey. Joy is the Executive Director of YWAM's (Youth with a Mission) Adoption Ministry. This woman works tirelessly... and without pay, I might add... to assist families in the adoption process. Joy is not only a wealth of information, but a spiritually mature and infinitely compassionate servant of Christ. Without her wisdom, discernment, and dedication to our adoption we would not have had the incredibly positive experience that we did. Joy, along with other ministry staff, met us at the Addis Ababa airport... at almost midnight, just to make sure we were greeted by a familiar face.

My hat is off to you, Joy Casey! May the Lord richly bless you, your family, and your ministry!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Prayers on the Plane

If you read the AZ Republic Newspaper article, it did take us quite a long time to get home! In fact, we had to spend an additional day in travel. Thankfully, the Lord had great mercy on my family: We survived an attempted airline bombing.

Reporter Jackie Coe interviewed us for the AZ Republic; she did an outstanding job. She was professional and compassionate; she took the time to listen to our story and get the facts straight. To her, I say many thanks.

What is not clearly mentioned in the article is the prayer I prayed in my heart in the moments of uncertainty on that fateful Northwest Airlines Flight:

"Lord, I don't know what is going on up front on the plane, but I am comforted that you know. Lord, if this is my time to die, let your will be done. I know being in your presence would be so much better than staying in this world. But Lord... I am here on this trip doing your will... I brought home the kids you chose for this family. I don't quite understand why you would have me come all this way, only to die now. I can not imagine my husband raising our kids alone; I ask for your mercy on my family. Please, Lord, allow me the great privilege of raising all of these children to your glory! But whatever, Lord, let your will be done."

After I prayed, I was filled with an enormous sense of peace and comfort. I knew we would not be harmed. I knew we would live.

As I reflect on the airline episode, I am so grateful and overwhelmed. I can't get through a church service without crying! The Lord shielded our family; He protected us from harm. How many people get to have the experience of impending disaster, only to feel the love and protection of their Creator? What a blessing to experience the "peace that passes all understanding."

The other issue I reflect on is the Sovereignty of God. He is in charge of everything, and allows all--- both what we would consider "good" and "bad." He uses both to teach us something about Him... if we are willing to listen and learn.

When I came home, I remembered grabbing my dear husband and holding him close. In a moment, I thought, "Oh, I feel so safe." Then, "Oh gosh, I'm NEVER safe! No one can protect me from the evil schemes of man!"

Floods of Scripture came into my mind... like little reminders of who I am... and who Our Father is. HE is my husband. HE is my protector. HE is my all in all. HE is my home. HE is my Savior, Father, Redeemer. HE alone is my salvation, my peace, my joy, my strength. And I AM HIS.

The Lord also challenged me in coming days. He reminded me that I had told Him that I was willing to die for Him. I needed that little reminder... would I continue to obey Him regardless of the consequences, regardless of the cost? Am I really willing to sacrifice all for His sake?


Buckeye family aboard terror flight is safe, adjusting to new members

Buckeye family aboard terror flight is safe, adjusting to new members

The Adventure Continues... On the Way Home

Here are a couple of photos I managed to snap before the kids went ballistic! Oh, the airplane is just so exciting! Look at all of the buttons! Look at this, Mom! It's a remote control to change movies every 30 seconds! And the lights! They go "off" and "on" and "off" and "on!" Sigh. Twenty five hours in a plane is bad enough... but then it got worse.

Abdissa Benti Leye

Yeah! Here come the kids' passports and papers! All is clear to travel to the US!

Abdissa Benti Leye is the Country Representative and Program Coordinator for Children's House International in Addis Ababa. He is both an attorney, pastor, and dear friend to all of the staff and children at the Thomas Center. We are delighted with how he handled our adoption case, and can not say enough good about this godly man. Thank you, Abdissa!

Ethiopian Cultural Center

Adoptive families enjoyed a delicious dinner and plenty of traditional music and dancing at the Ethiopian Cultural Center. This was a fabulous opportunity for the kids to say goodbye to their friends. Our two oldest (new) kids loved the experience... lots of food and loud music. Our little one, however, was quite overwhelmed by all of the commotion. Poor guy didn't eat or drink anything... he had just "had it."

Goodbye Party at the Thomas Center

The Thomas Center goes to great lengths to help new families feel welcome, and adoptive kids feel special. The last full day in Addis, all adoptive families and kids gather at the Thomas Center for a party, complete with snacks, cake, beverages, and gifts. Every family member in the adoptive family receives a wrapped gift--- traditional Ethiopian clothing. We all put on our new shirts, and then drove to the Ethiopian Cultural Center for dinner and entertainment.


Beautiful Tsebay!

Views from the upper balcony of Ethio-Comfort.

Views from Ethio-Comfort Guest Lodge

These are views of the Ethio-Comfort Guest Lodge. The hotel is very comfortable and secure. The owner and manager of the hotel, Tsebay, is very sweet and kind... and bilingual (Amharic and English), which proved to be most helpful with three Amharic-speaking kids!

Family Photos

First Family Moments

First family moments are quite physical... tickle, tackle fun!

Thomas Center, Addis Ababa

These are views of the Thomas Center. Our impression of the facility is very positive: the children are truly loved and cared for here.

Images of Thomas Center

First Kiss from Mr. A.

... and now, the REASON for the trip!

This is the inside to the Thomas Center in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. This is where we first meet our new children: B.Tesfaye, A. Bilisuma, and G. Mihret. Photos include G.'s bunkroom and first photos with kids.

The photo on the wall shows a picture of our family--- with B., A., and G.'s photos superimposed on it!

Visiting Kassa's Family

We had the great honor and privilege of meeting our tour guide's family. Kassa works to provide for his father, his mother, and his sisters. Kassa's mother made the best coffee--- the best we had on our entire stay in Ethiopia!

In and around Lalibela, people live in tukuls. The roofs of the tukuls are conical in shape and traditionally thatched with grass. The walls are built of irregular red local stone, scoraceous basalt (the same material out of which the churches of Lalibela are carved), and mud mortar. Sometimes the walls are also plastered both inside and outside with a mixture of mud and straw. The tukuls usually have two levels: the upper floor housed the bedroom or living room; the ground floor is used as a store room and kitchen.

Photos from Overlook Near Mountain View Hotel

On our return trip from Yimrehane Kirtos, we ate lunch at the delicious restaurant at the Mountain View Hotel. The views are simply breath-taking!

... and no, I did not give Mr. T. permission to stand up on the railing!