Verse of the Day

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Nine Month Update

Reality check time... it's already nine months! Glad my expectations have changed radically!

On the positive front:

School: The kids are adjusting very well to a longer school day. We now get in at least 4 hours of instruction everyday, plus we do some additional individual reading.  All of the new kids are starting to read! Additionally, I have done a few different classes lately, just to keep it new and hopefully, a bit more exciting. For example, we are doing a unit on basic geography--- learning directions, working with maps, etc. This has been one of their favorite subjects, as they enjoy the "Geography Songs" CD that we use with the worksheets. We have also completed a unit on manners, which will need to be repeated.... I introduced table manners, making proper introductions, and telephone answering basics. All the kids have an interest in learning to do some basic cooking. That sounds like another fun unit!

Sleep: I finally found the magic bullet that works to quiet the two talkative boys: soccer deprivation! It is the only threat that has continued to work effectively. If a boy is found talking and playing in his room after we say prayers, that child does not get to participate in whatever soccer-related event is next. If that offender has a game the next day, he has to go to the game and sit on the sidelines. He also has to apologize to the coach, and explain why he is not allowed to participate. Thus far, and it has been 3 weeks, neither boy has talked at night time. The cost is simply too high. And they know I'm not joking.

Affection: The kids are wonderfully affectionate! They love giving and receiving hugs, and they are quick to forgive and forget when someone hurts them or if they get in trouble with Mom or Dad. In particular, the youngest is just a sweetheart! He loves to sit next to me and "pets" my hand and puts his head on my shoulder. He just melts my heart. In general, the kids seem very happy and relaxed. They do stress over things and do not worry.

Understanding Money: For each of my 4 youngest, I purchased a three-section bank that has separate compartments for spending, saving, and giving. I give the kids a small allowance, and they are required to immediately divide the money between the banks. This has really helped them to understand the value of money. They love giving to church, and look forward to doing this every week.

On the difficult front:

Food: One child remains unbelievable fussy. He can get quite sad and extremely stubborn if food is not what he wants. The other major issue we are dealing with is wasting food. I want them to know we have plenty of food, and I want them to know they can have as much as they need... but then they also have hard time understanding that food is expensive and should not be carelessly wasted. Just a learning process, I'm sure--- but frustrating when you're trying to control the ever-climbing food bill.

Sunday School: The older two are causing problems in the classroom because of excessive talking and not listening. They have each been put in time-out in class. They don't seem to understand that they are being disrespectful and that they hamper the learning of the other kids. Soooo thankful we home school, as I'm pretty sure their inattention and disruptive tactics would not be tolerated in a public school setting.

Soccer: The same two who can't control their mouths in Sunday school also can't control their mouths on the soccer field. Today, I gave our sweet coach permission to do whatever was necessary to curb the disrespect. He liked the idea of push-ups and laps.

Meanness: Girls can be quite mean. I can handle it when it happens in our own home, but it is much more frustrating when it happens in public. One little lady loves to yell at people what they can and cannot do--- and she can't understand why other girls get offended and yell at her. She lacks tact in a big way! We have had a few days of very early bedtimes, trying to help her understand the connection between her mouth and how others respond to her. Could be a long battle. She doesn't understand that she can back down from her survivor-mode; she doesn't have to fight for everything.

Early Maturation: Both my 8 year olds are starting puberty. Bummer for the entire household.

Birthdays: The three new kids celebrated birthdays this month. For one, it proved to be a difficult and sad time. We tried to really downplay the whole thing, but it was just hard. Events that we might consider happy and joyful often produce the opposite for our kids. I am so thankful that all of the adoption training classes and books prepared me for this aspect. I know not to expect my kids to react how I might want them to.

Discipline: One child in particular loves to challenge everything I say--- thankfully not every day, but on some hormonally-charged days. When I discipline that little one, she responds with a smirk or a smile. Not exactly the kind of response I'm going for.... I have to really think: "Don't take this personally, don't take this personally!" over and over in my mind. Wish I could be the perfect parent, but that's just not going to be my reality.

I pray that this update is not discouraging to anyone contemplating older child adoption. I think the most important issue to remember is that you, as the parent, have to be unbelievable resilient and constantly ready to learn something new. You HAVE to be in the Word every single day, sometimes multiple times a day! I find that I make lots of parenting mistakes, but that when I go to my God and seek wisdom, and then go to my children and humbly apologize for blowing something, they just respond with love and forgiveness. We all learn from mistakes, not smooth-sailing.

Monday, September 20, 2010

A Desperate Situation and a Plea for Help

Lalibela, Ethiopia:  In the tukul that is now burned to the ground
Kassa, our wonderful tour guide:  red shirt
Last December, T-Man, Timbo, and I visited Lalibela, Ethiopia. We had the time of our lives, and much of the positiveness of the experience was because of one sweet, funny, interesting tour guide named Kassa.

The top photo is Kassa's family. Kassa not only took us through all the sights in Lalibela, but he also invited us in to his tukul.  There, we met his father (in photo, with hat), his mother (seated next to me), and his sister. These people are extremely poor, yet they invited us into their home to eat a snack and enjoy some delicious coffee. They were very dear people.

I have recently learned that Kassa's father and mother were killed in a house fire.  In fact, seven tukuls were completely destroyed by a fire that swept through the area in the middle of the night. His sister is in a nearby hospital; I still have not heard about the extent of her burns.

Kassa emailed me, asking for help. He had a desperate tone:  he now has nothing, and has nobody to turn to for assistance. He is responsible for paying for his sister's medical bills, and for helping her to restart her life. Kassa also lived in this house, so now he, too, is homeless.

I have verified the validity of this story through a third party in Lalibela.

If you are moved by this story, please consider coming along side our family to help Kassa.

Email me if you would like my address to send a donation.  Please include your email address.

This is the letter Kassa sent me:

Hello my dearest mother K., 
How are you and your family? I really don’t know what to say about my situation 
everything here is against me. I have this bad news to tell you.I fell like I 
am cursed. There was an accident last week. There was fire accident and our 
house is burnt. The bad thing is my father and mother could not escape and have 
lost their life. Some fourteen houses were burnt because of the fire accident. 
Many peoples were victim of the accident,seven people including my parents died 
and five were seriously injured, it is my sister among the seriously injured 
one. As the accident was in the night most of the victims could not escape safe. 
I have no words to tell you how hurt I am because of the lose. I lost my parents 
our property and here I am thinking about my sister. she is referred to Dessie 
hospital 300 kms away from Lalibela for further medical assistance. We are not 
sure how it helps her recover. However, dear mother Kristen,I don’t have any
thing to cover thecost for the medical expense. I fell like I am in the middle of nowhere. 

my Dearest K., you have done everything for me when you were in the 
Lalibela. I want you to help me now save my sister. I have lost everything. She 
is the only one I have now. Please for God’s sake help me have her. May be I 
will get her recovered.Even, if not I fell, at least, like I did everything to 
save her and I won’t feel anything. ut I need your favor. I want you to send me  
money so that I can take her and buy some materials we lost by he 
accident. mother K., I wish I could tell you everything I need but I feel 
like I am bothering you,but if you are willing to hear it. I need a lot of 
things for life.I have to begin again. It is from zero that I start now. I need 
some one to help me and show me the bright future.Would you please take some 
courage and tell me that you stand by my side? For God sake. 

words really fail me to express my sorrow. I am no one without your support. 
Please save our life. I will be looking forward your reply soon. God Bless You 

Yours Kassa. 

Monday, September 13, 2010

Sickness and Sadness

A virus of some sort has invaded the household: headache, sore throat, nasal and chest congestion--- the typical late summer, early fall bug. These viruses are more of a nuisance than a threat. I don't worry about a cold developing into something fearful and deadly. All I need to do is monitor my kids' temperatures, measure the Motrin, hand out extra vitamin C, and pray for healing. I know I can take my child to a physician if I need to; I'm not all that concerned about them... it's only a bad cold.

Try telling that to a child who equates sickness with death. Mr. B. was crying last night: was his little brother going to die? Poor, sweet B.! He wailed with fear and anxiety. I tried to settle him, reassuring him that Asher only had a cold and that he would, in fact, recover. Daddy also talked with him--- in this incidence the "doctor" was able to convince him that all would be well.

This afternoon, Miss G. asked me if she would die because she had a sore throat.

These kids have witnessed so much sickness and death. They've seen people in their own families die, usually after developing a cough and fever. How long will it take for these kids to be able to comprehend the vast difference between American health care and the virtually non-existent health care of Ethiopia?

Did you know there are only 0.0286 physicians for every 1,000 people ( in Ethiopia that has population of over 85 million people? Compare our statistics:  The United States has 2.3 physicians per 1,000 people (CIA World Fact book) and population of approximately 310 million... and we are said to be entering a time of "physician shortages." Talk about a stark contrast in health care access!

The next time you casually pour the liquid Motrin for your febrile child, be thankful that your were born where you were born. Be thankful for all that you have access to. Be thankful for physicians, dentists, pharmacists, and medicine. And then when you have a moment, start to think about what you could do in addition to being thankful. Let's look beyond our own lives and our own children; consider for just a moment how you might be able to make someone else's life a little better.

Need ideas? See

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Hollywood D-Man

D-Man meets Mike Chat

D-Man had a blast today, working out with Mike Chat--- founder of XMA (Extreme Martial Arts). Some of you may remember Mr. Chat as the Blue Power Ranger from a few years ago. This workout certainly fostered D.'s desire to learn all the crazy flips and kicks that XMA enthusiasts enjoy. Needless to say, D-Man thinks it would be awesome to do Hollywood stunt work.  Great.

Happy 9th Birthday, Mr. B.!

Brothers of Mischief

Mr. B. loves being the center of attention!

The race track was a big hit... although it is already in need of repair

Notice anything different?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Happy Birthday, Sweet Mr. A.!

Mr. A. is a bit subdued on his special day
Miss B. and D-Man trying to get the party to lighten up

Life just seems better with a little frosting



Birthdays are just all right, especially with orange soda

Mr. A. celebrated his seventh birthday today. Everyone was quite excited about the day... with the exception of the birthday boy himself. Asher was quite subdued the entire day; perhaps his little heart was having difficulty balancing missing his Ethiopian family, and appreciating what he now calls home. He couldn't really explain (or understand, I'm guessing) why he felt sad. Poor baby; my heart just broke for him today. Thank the Lord for frosting and orange soda. They provided some much needed emotional band-aids for the day.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

No Progress, No Matter

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Some days are just plain dismal.  You feel like you're on the open sea on a sailboat--- with no wind in sight.  The sun is beating down on your sunburned head; you're thirsty, hungry, and desperately tired.  But you can't sleep.  You have to keep trying... keep praying. What's going on? You know where you're supposed to be going; in fact, you have a compass and timeline--- the whole itinerary spelled out, step by step. But your sails are just hanging there, doing nothing.  Your shipmates are totally oblivious to your apparent struggle; they sing and frolic and throw the last tidbits of food over board to feed the fish.  Nothing, nobody is cooperating; in fact, they seem to be coming against you with some extraordinary kind of negative force. You just sit there, feeling like you've made no progress.  In fact, you feel like you've gone backwards a ways.

We've all been in that place of frustration and anxiety. Raising children challenges every person, whether you've had one child or raised fifteen. Some days you feel like nothing you do is productive, or listened to, or considered. Your kids don't share your excitement for learning or for trying to learn--- they ignore, challenge, pout, argue, disobey, lie, and cheat... with a smile. Sigh. Such is life with a bunch of rambunctious children! Some days it does seem like three steps forward, two steps back.

But even in the scenario of three steps forward, two steps back, I have to somehow remember that there is still a net progress of one step! The kids are still continuing to made steps forward... they just aren't at the pace or in the timing I would appreciate.

Expectations and comparisons. These is the clear problems here. We expect, or hope, that our adopted children will act the same way our biological children did. We expect, or hope, that our adopted children will learn at a certain pace, or show some sort of appreciation of what you do for them. This is simply not necessarily the case.

I realize there are people out there who believe that raising older adoptive children is the same as raising older biological children. It is not. I've done both... it is not. One is not better than the other; they are just different. With your biological children, you have such privileged information:  you know their temperaments, you know their fears, you know their experiences, you know how they learn. With older adopted kids, you are not dealing with a "clean slate." You have to be a detective and piece together the history, the hurts, the injustices, the anxieties, the emotions of years that you do not have access to.

Because we can't flip back and review our child's history, sometimes it just shocks you at the seemingly trivial issues that make your child lose control. And to add to the challenge, the practices and disciplines you used as a parent with your first kids don't necessarily translate; you have to make a constant effort to re-educate and re-train your parenting and teaching brain. Sometimes what "works" is down right counter-intuitive. Parenting older adoptive kids takes considerable effort, perseverance, commitment, and prayer to endure.

Which takes me back to prayer. I honestly don't know how people raise children without praying continuously. I know I don't have all the answers, but I do know the One who knows everything! And, I know that I know that I know that anything the Lord gives me to do, He will give me the ability to do it. But... He does not promise that the task will be easy, enjoyable, smooth-sailing, or that it will even meet my definition of success.

One of the most encouraging quotes I've read lately comes from the book, "Back to Jerusalem," by Brother Yun, Peter Xu Yongze, and Enoch Wang:
     ...let us clarify from the beginning that we have no desire to sit down and make our own plans. We only want to hear the voice of God and not human opinions, for we know that when the Lord reveals his will to us and we obey, our mission will be a success regardless of the results. Success is obeying God. Failure is when we don't obey God (p 79).

So, although the day appears dismal, it truly is not. If I continue to take one day at a time, pray for wisdom, teach my kids, learn with my kids--- all with a humble reverence to our Lord-- He will make my path straight.  My kids' lives are truly and totally in His hands. If I just continue to listen and obey Him, I can give Him my all. My children's success, or lack there of--- and how ever that success is defined-- ultimately rests with the Lord.  They are His children.

This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalm 118:24, NIV)

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction faithful in prayer. (Romans 12:12)

Let us not become weary of doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9)

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. (Ephesians 4:2)

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Babies No More

T-Man and the girl he's "not dating."
Sweet Friends

Ah, perhaps I do prefer the photo of T-Man with a girl....

Good friends from church

Looks like they're growing up....