Verse of the Day

Friday, February 26, 2010

Father-Daughter Banquet

What a good daddy! After a long, tiring week, Dear Husband still had the energy to take Miss T. to her first Father-Daughter Banquet. Our church, Desert Springs Community, hosts this annual formal event to celebrate family.

Miss T. looked absolutely beautiful, and Daddy looked his usual stunning self. Yes, I am biased!

B, and G. were so excited to see their big sister all dressed up, they tried to imitate her... as best they could. Pretty fun!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Ladies of the Household

They say a picture says a thousand words. What can you see here?

Yes, Mom looks pretty tired... but very content.
T. is growing up to be quite the sweet and kind young woman.
G. doesn't lack for confidence and beauty.
B. wants to be the center of attention, and is starting to feel more comfortable with her family.

Sigh. Time sure does heal. I just can't believe how quickly this family has blended together into this sweet concoction of crazy, loud, fun love!

The turning point? For me, it was simply sleeping more and feeling rested enough to be able to delve into the Word every morning again. He has renewed my strength. For T., her growth is clearly from reading the Word of God and studying it with more frequency. For G., the change happened when little sister stopped competing and started serving her. For B., it was spending a little more time with me in a little girl's Bible study called "Just Mom and Me Having Tea." B. and G. now run around, holding hands, singing in "Jesus Loves Me."

Thank you, Lord, for my girls! Give me the wisdom I need to help them grow and flourish according to your will.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Difficult is Good

This week I had the incredible privilege of writing letters to my new sons' father and to my new daughter's mother. Initially, I thought it was going to be a very difficult letter to pen. What I found was just the opposite.

All I had to do was to put myself in their shoes. If I were the parent being left behind, what would be most important or most meaningful for me to hear?

To the father, I wrote about the strength and character of his sons. I wrote of their ability to grieve and to persevere. I wrote of their ability to love and to help. I described what the enjoyed doing and spoke about what they were good at. I also confirmed to this father what I had previously promised him: to raise his boys to follow in his footsteps--- to teach them to love and to follow the Lord.

To the mother, I wrote much more specific comments: how her daughter is sleeping, how she's eating, how she's coping with sadness--- things that all mothers worry about. I wrote about what her daughter's day looked like and described what she liked to do. I tried to explain how I was here to help her raise her daughter. I had to be honest that I really didn't understand why her life was so hard--- why life had been so unfair to her. But I also assured her that this world is not all there is... that the Lord will eventually make all things new and right again. I encouraged her to remember to hope.

Writing these letters helped me to better understand the oneness we have with other believers in this world. We are all plagued with problems and trials--- some of us more than others. But we are here to help and serve others when they are overwhelmed and overcome with difficulties. When we see someone who needs a hand, we are to be that hand. When we see someone who needs food, we are to feed them. When we see someone who needs clothing or shelter, we are to provide it. We can not save everyone in the world, but we are asked to save and assist those the Lord puts in our path.

Who is in your path that you could help today?

Isaiah 58:6-7 (New International Version)

6 "Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?

7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

Friday, February 19, 2010

2 Month Update

Wow! The kids have been home two months... I've got to say--- it does seem longer! These are recent photos; the bottom one features my sweet 94-year old grandma!

For all of you prospective adoptive families out there, BE ENCOURAGED! This update is nothing short of a miracle!

First, the good:

1. All kids are sleeping well--- and longer.
2. All kids have stopped throwing major fits. Any tantrums are very short-lived.
3. All kids are responding to correction and discipline. No hitting, biting, etc.
4. All kids have pretty much stopped the famous "Ethiopian Pout." I'm sure we'll see it again, but it is not a first response any more.
5. Two of the kids are eating a greater variety of foods. The youngest is the stubborn hold-out....
6. The in-house sibling fighting is at "normal" levels now.
7. All kids can now ride bicycles!
8. All kids are quite affectionate with us; again, the youngest struggles a bit more in this area.
9. All kids really enjoy doing chores around the house; they even do many chores without being asked!
10. Even my strong-willed Guatemalan Diva is learning to serve her sister... and her attitude is much improved!

Now, the "it's gonna take time" category:

1. Can we stop screaming all of the time?
2. Can we sit to read a book... ever?
3. Can we stop running through the house?
4. Can we flush the toilet? Please? And can we aim it in the potty as opposed to around the potty??
5. Can we stay quiet for just a few minutes during (________ )? (fill in the blank with anything we might consider important.)
6. Can we stay together in a public place?
7. Can we sit on a chair or on the sofa, as opposed to jumping on it or doing headstands on it?
8. Can we FOCUS on one thing at a time?
9. Can we stop taking things out of other people's rooms (i-Pods, money, etc.)
10. Can we stop adjusting the bath or shower water to hot? And can we stop jumping in the shower?
11. Can you look at me when I talk with you?
12. Can you stop destroying or breaking everything you touch?

Obviously, many of the above mentioned issues are not exclusive to internationally adopted children! I know adult men who can't aim it in the potty, but that's another post.

We do home school; that has been a significant challenge. This is what the new kids' morning looks like:

1. Family devotions (antsy, antsy, antsy... G. will sometimes pray for a moment) 10 minutes
2. Color workbook (20 minutes)
3. Review of colors and numbers 1-20 (5-10 minutes)
4. New letter of the day and workbook (10 minutes)
5. Puzzle building (10-30 minutes)
6. Califone Card Reading System (basic vocabulary) (5-10 minutes)

In between all the "sit downs" and sibling squabbles, I'd say they do get in a good 60-90 minutes of school per day. I think that's really quite good! They are very much on the beginning preschool level of work.

My other kids have been real troopers during the school day. They have all learned to "go with the flow" and change up their day, as necessary.

Adoption has changed EVERY aspect of our day and family life... for the better!

Now, how's that for a fantastic 2 month update???

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Like Babies in Big Bodies

A grieving child is a hurting child; a soul in transition. Hurting children want to hurt; they don't know quite how to handle all of the emotions their little heart and souls are emitting.

What does grief look like? What might I expect during an adoption transition? Pouting. Yelling. Screaming. Hitting. Biting. Throwing food on the carpet. Throwing food on the wall. Constantly talking. Calling people names. Not listening. Running out of the house. Running away from the family in a public place. Attempting to open the car door while driving. Curling up on the floor and weeping. Crawling under the bed sheets and screeching. Wetting the bed. Peeing on the carpet. Lying. Stealing. General disobedience.

Adopting an older child is not quite what it appears on the surface. These kids may be 5, 7, or 8, but their behavior is indicative of a toddler. I tried to explain this to my 7 year old daughter: they are like babies in big bodies. They have to learn the rules of the house. They have to learn to trust. They have to learn to submit to authority. They have to learn that we will provide for them and that we will love them through their negative behavior and grief. It all takes a ton of time and a bundle of extra patience.

On the flip side of this seeming toddlerhood is having seen too much and having felt too much pain.

How many children to you know who have had a parent leave the family, only to return after a year... with full-blown AIDS... and then die within 3 months... in front of their children? Now add on to that whirlwind of emotion: you have to leave your devoted father behind, your country behind, and go into a totally foreign culture and family? Two of my kids are dealing with this triple trauma.

How many children under the age of 7 to you know in the USA who are left at home all day alone and have to figure out some way to feed and protect themselves and their younger siblings... with no food in the pantry and no money to buy any?

How many parents do you know who have no other option but to give their children up for adoption? We are not talking about the alcoholic or drug addict who "chooses" to give up his or her children because of addiction... we are talking about a widowed woman who went to work--- but was raped by her employer. She now has another child. Additionally, she has HIV, and now carries a stigma that prevents her from seeking another job or from obtaining one bit of compassion from her neighbors. She blankly stares at a photo of her daughter, realizing she most likely will never see her again... this side of heaven.

These are people who have no options: no food stamps; no clean water; no clothes; no jobs; no medical care; no safety net; no hope. Even the churches have little resources.

There are plenty of people in the United States who are poor. There are plenty of people here who are without hope. But let's face it: most of us have some options here. We can find help if we truly desire it and seek it out. About 4.8 million orphans in Ethiopia alone have no options. They are often left to their own devices to scratch out some sort of existence; many end up being not only scratched, but gouged and squeezed out of life.

We have brought home 4 orphans. Each has his or her own story of pain and horror. Each has his or her own way of needing to express that angst. EVERY adoption story includes some sort of trauma and grief, and it often presents itself as bad behavior... there is simply no way around it (whether you see it now, or later). Your job as an adoptive parent is to shoulder the grief with your child; we must share and experience their pain. We must use wisdom in our actions, knowing we are the arms and voice of our Lord. We have to teach them that they can trust us with their sadness, their anxiety, and their distress--- not minimizing it, or ignoring it--- but rather modeling how we must ultimately trust and rely upon our Lord to shoulder the burden of pain for us.

Taking Wild Life to the Wild Life Zoo

So... my parents and grandmother came to town to meet the new kiddos. The kids were so excited to meet their grandparents and great-grandma! We had a wonderful beginning....

The following day, because the interaction was so positive and fun, we decided to explore the WildLife Zoo and Aquarium in Goodyear. As usual with any outing, I warned the kids to stay close to us, attempting use my horribly-pronounced Amharic to caution them to the many dangers of the park. Every kid held an adult hand; every one wore a bright smile and ventured into the exciting environment that is the zoo!
As evidenced by our first photo near the entrance of the zoo, minds were racing! Why are we posing for a boring picture when there are things to do? animals to see? popcorn to be eaten? Also evident in the photo is B.--- standing a good couple of feet from the rest of the crew. Ah... a sign of things to come....

The wonder that fills a child when he or she first sees a lion--- when a child first sees a stingray--- when he or she first sees a boa--- it's so amazing! I had praises on my tongue throughout the afternoon; who am I to have such a great privilege to introduce so many kids to animals, to books, to the wonders of the world, to our Lord Jesus Christ? My heart overflows with joy....

And then, of course, you know you just have to come back to the hard realities of taking 7 kids to the zoo. One who refuses to stop throwing dirt. One who refuses to eat anything but animal crackers. One who refuses to look at the camera. One who refuses to leave the lion exhibit. One who refuses to use words and forceable picks up another child who's lagging behind--- carrying her like one would carry a heavy log... except logs don't kick. One who refuses to listen and prefers to keel over and scream bloody murder. One who's pouting for the umpteenth time, and attempts to get the grandparents to empathize with her. One who's getting oh so bored. One who refuses to wait her turn and pushes another little girl in the bathroom... then tells Mommy to just be quiet when I correct her for her rudeness. One who refuses to walk with the group and runs off just as we try to leave the park. And the list goes on.... Such are the great joys and struggles of parenthood!

Was the zoo worth it? Ask me next week.