Thursday, August 30, 2012

Calling the NOT called.

Shocking statement:
NOT everyone is called to adopt.

Some in the adoption-advocacy world would have you think
that every family should add to their numbers through adoption. 
I find that a dangerous statement to make.

Adoption is HARD.
It's not for everyone.
 There are situations, circumstances, dynamics
that shouldn't be messed with.

Sure, I read my bible.
I know what it says about
"defending the cause of the fatherless"
"help widows and orphans in their distress".
But I can't find in my Bible the idea that 
"adopting a child makes you more Christian"
because it doesn't.

Of all the orphans in the world 
only 4% are under the age of 5 years old.

Did you know that?
I know I didn't when we first thought about adoption. 
I pictured snuggly babies in fuzzy blankets.
Apparently, that's the exception rather than the rule.

Older child adoption is HARD.
Kids come with their own sense of "right" and "wrong".
They have survived more than most Americans will ever witness, 
much less actually experience.
They are stubborn and define "strong willed child".
They can act out.
They can make you want to rip out all of the hairs on your head by the roots.
They machine gun attack you with questions when you just need a moment of quiet
to have your first cup of coffee.
They think they know EVERY thing there is to know about EVERYTHING.

You EARN their love.
They don't freely give it away.
But if you're lucky enough to earn it..
it's a beautiful thing.

Sometimes I get a glimpse of the fear and desperation 
that inhabits the hearts of my "older" children.
It reminds me that while NOT ALL are called to adopt personally,
we really need to rally around those who are.
This is not rookie stuff.
 This isn't just a pile of junk.
These are the treasures of a 6 year old boy.
These things are under his mattress. This is half of his stash.
Most of the items I gave him when we met in January of this year.
A notebook, photo albums, a pencil pouch...
a magazine from Ethiopian Airlines, a loose picture of his brother,
church papers, a bible, a gold medal from our Kidlympics.
He stores away his treasures.
He sleeps on top of this lumpy mess every night.
He keeps it safe. 
Someday he won't feel the need to save everything he has.
Someday he will feel safe enough to let some things go.
That day is not today.
It's only been 4 1/2 months.

I have a friend  who is advocating on behalf of a special pair of children.
She met them personally in Ethiopia and she's helping them get home.
They have a family who is coming for them
when many others wouldn't.
"but they are SO old!"
"wow... what about previous abuse? would it even be SAFE?"
Faith is hearing the thing you're supposed to do
and believing that the Lord who calls you wants what is best for your life
and trusting Him to lead you into the best.
Sweet brother and sister pair who have been given their heart's desire: a family coming for them.
not everyone could take on these two.
Not everyone should.
But if you personally feel that the Lord has blessed you
so that you can be a blessing to others
I know a family who would greatly treasure
any sort of donation to their adoption fund.
They are under a time crunch to get the money needed to continue 
their pursuit of these two sweet faces.
Here's the link if you want to help bring them home:
Help Helen & Habtamu Home!
(click then scroll down to "Helen and Haptamu found their family!")
 I'd prefer "Helen and Haptamu's family found them..." alas.

Could you donate and tell them you believe in them?
Could you toss a few dollars into their bucket and tell them it's going to be okay?
Could you tell them you'll put their names on your fridge and pray for them because you know there will be hard stuff... but you'll hold up their arms through it all?
Could you encourage them as they armor-up for the journey ahead?
I'd appreciate it.

And as for us?
Our "older kids" are learning and growing and doing some amazing stuff!
Just last night I helped our 8 year old son with his 3rd grade homework.
He's been in America for 4.5 months and he's sounding out words and learning to read!
It's amazing.
I'm humbled and blessed to get to be a small part of this.

Monday, August 27, 2012


Late summer 1996.
We were a couple of kids playing house in a little apartment.
I was a 19 year old mommy-to-be and he was my adorable, doesn't-look-old-enough-to-drive hubby.
Sporting a giant belly with the rest of my body following that leader.
Stifling summer heat, a pitiful apartment maintenance man constantly on call to fix the A/C that could NOT get cold enough. 
Typical first-baby style: several false alarms, tears and "I'm going to be pregnant FOREVER!!", and sweet family lovingly reminding me "no one was ever pregnant forever".

August 19th, 8lbs, 2oz of cute chubby baby goodness was born.
A little girl becomes somebody's Mommy.
A big strong tough guy becomes a Daddy.
We become a family and were forever changed.

Colic and diapers and spit-up and wardrobe changes.
Couch naps with him on my chest, feeling him hiccup - but, on the outside this time.
Vacuuming while bouncing with him in the snuggli attached to my chest - every.single.night. starting at 9pm. Because otherwise he would just cry and scream.
First-time mommies learn a lot by trial and error.
First-time mommies learn about boy stuff like peeing across the kitchen while uncovered during a bath.

Little baby boys get bigger. They grow and they grow and they learn to walk. They grow some more and learn to run and jump over big things and climb trees and make their mommy nervous. Very nervous. 
The first time he got hurt and bled... I cried too.
The first day of Kindergarten...I cried too.
I was the first mommy waiting outside that day... because I just couldn't stand the thought of him walking out of the school on his first day and not seeing me standing there. 

Now, that sweet baby boy is sixteen.
He has turned the corner into becoming a big tough guy, too.
I struggle with this change.
I still look at him and see that scar from the first big ouchie - with rushing to the doctor and getting super glued back together.
I still look at him and hear him singing "Tinkle, tinkle, widdle staww!"
And yet, he's pulling farther away. 
He hardly even needs me anymore, you know.
I've taught him all about being independent... washing his laundry, letting him burn stuff in the name of learning to cook, ironing his own stuff. And now, he is mostly independent.
And I'm looking back on these 16 years and screaming at the hourglass to 

He's such a great kiddo...
I mean, young man.
We hear all the time how wonderful he is.
He's funny and kind and well-liked...
and he's polite to the neighbors and adults in our lives.
He loves the little kids in the house like they've been here forever
and that's just not such a common thing for a teenager who went from being oldest of 4 to oldest of 12 in a matter of 20 months. 
He's wonderfully uncommon.

And I suppose it's nearing the time when I'll have to share him with the world.
The day will come when he will pull out of the driveway with a bunch of stuff and go start his life away from the shelter of our home. 
And I'll still picture him with a head full of golden brown curls, snuggling up in his Daddy's lap eating cookie dough and watching VeggieTales. 
Because, now that I've got 16 years of experience at this, I know...
that's what Mommies do.

I love you, kiddo.
(P.S. You'll ALWAYS be my baby boy.)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Soaking it all in

Some days are very, very hard.
Some days I want to run away and scoop elephant poop in the circus.
Any circus.
Even a really crappy circus.

Just being honest with you, there are mornings I wake up on the wrong side of the weekend.
School just started. I could cry with all the planning and preparation, lunch boxes, snack baggies, paperwork and meetings, emails and tell-me-about-your-child questionnaires. I don't want my girls going to school with their hair all looking crazy and fuzzy... even though I KNOW it's bound to happen sooner or later. I don't want the boys going to school wearing their sisters' socks... but I suppose if that's the worst concern I have, that's not too bad. I don't want to forget to send that special whatever on the right day or turn in the student-of-the-week binder on the right morning. I don't want to forget the permission slip or that it's Orange Day and, oh yeah...someone needs a 1 1/2 inch binder with a clear front pocket. Today.

But there are other days.
Days that are really, really sweet.

Yesterday was one of those days.

It was this sweet girl's birthday!
Sweet baby girl!! Turning SIX!!

So, as is typical in our fam...
I made a cake, bought some gifts, decorated the dining room with crepe paper and plastic table cloth and we partied like the awesome G-rated rock stars that we are! She enjoyed her pointy birthday hat, balloons, special seat at the table along with all the other perks of having your birthday fall on the first full day of school! 

And then suddenly one of our boys disappeared. 
He was in a near panic.
There were bags and backpacks being rifled through.
Multiple trips up and down the stairs.
Then we realized what he was doing.

He needed a gift for his sister for her birthday.

And he was choosing from his most prized possessions - 
the things I had brought him when I came to meet them the first time this January. 

He chose to give her the frog with our photo on it's tummy. 
I printed this photo, cut it out, and put it in the frog tummy.
He kept it safe and treasured.
**Don't judge... 5 days, cold showers, no make up and
I was about to abandon my babies back to the care center for
who-knows-how-long. **
I had handed that to him the last day we were together before I left for 3 long months to wait for clearance to bring them home. 
Having watched him lovingly look through his box of all the things he adores and making a face that they weren't good enough... I realized how important this was to him. 

After she had opened her gifts and no one handed her the frog... he made another panicked dash up the stairs. 

I ran after him and caught him just as he was about to dash back down the stairs 
with his hidden bag of quarters - his tooth fairy money.

I pulled him into his bedroom and looked into those sweet brown eyes and said
"buddy, it makes Mommy's heart SO happy when you want to give your sister a gift for her birthday! Why don't you keep your money and your frog... 
and let Mommy and Daddy give the gifts for now, okay?"

He looked a little confused, but also a bit relieved. I could see the panic leaving his face and I began to wonder about gift-giving occasions in his first family. 

I gave him a huge hug, squeezed him tight, told him how much I love him and how happy he made me because he's so sweet... he smiled and said "I love you, Mom!" and we went back downstairs for the rest of the party.

Later as I was watching our kids just sitting around in the living room, enjoying being together, watching the birthday girl unwrap her gifts and chattering about the cool things she had been given... I just looked around and felt SO thankful for what I've been given. 
We don't have the coolest "stuff"... 
and we sometimes send the kids to school wearing their sisters socks... 
but, I wouldn't trade this for anything.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Just smile and nod...

So, apparently I offended quite a few people with my
"things I'd like to say to homeschooling mommas" post.
Yikes. Sorry about that...

instead of that crazy-honestly-sharing-from-my-heart stuff...
here's some pictures of the first day of school! Yay!
"zero calorie blog posting! none of that filling stuff weighing you down!"
Sweet baby girl - first day of high school! (She does have arms.)

My 7 in Elementary School!! CRAZY stuff right there!
Left to right - 1st, 1st, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th!
First day of school in America! They were so excited!

Non-cooperative high school boy. Sad...

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Things I'd like to say to homeschooling moms

FINE. Reposting.

I had no intentions of offending any schooling-option-mommas out there with this post.
I wholeheartedly agree that there are those of you out there who homeschool who would NEVER think of degrading those making a different choice than you. This post is not about you.
However, judging by the response of those who have kids in public school, you are in the minority. Public school parents DO hear this stuff A LOT. Take it for what it's worth... not trying to offend - simply open the eyes of those who may not understand that what they say - while true and not meant in a mean way - can cause pain to others.
**************************************** carry on.

90% of the time when someone finds out we have 12 kids they follow that up with
"I bet you homeschool, too."
It's more of an accusation than a question.
Like 12 kids = homeschool family.

I'm here to say...
tomorrow is the first day of school!
Public school.
We have homeschooled before... a year here, a year there...
but ultimately... it's not the best choice for our family at this time.

So... here's 10 things I want homeschool moms to know, 
from me - a public school mom: 

(forgive the "we/us"... I did not take a scientific poll and I don't speak for all public school moms.)

1. You guys tend to give us an inferiority complex. Or maybe that's just me.

2. We hate it when you call it "government school". There's an indoctrination-undertone there that's just icky. It's elitist and backhanded. Please stop. Yes, we know the government funds schools with tax dollars, but the common term is "public school".

3. Just because we send our children to school doesn't mean we don't love them and miss them during the day. For some of us it's just the best choice for our families. For some of us, our husbands don't support our desire to homeschool. For others of us, our children's personalities would make any learning impossible at home or drive us to drinking. Or both.

4. Does your 8 year old really prefer Tom Sawyer over Captain Underpants? Really?

5. If I promise not to presume that because you homeschool you make all your own clothes, never watch tv, sing from hymnals instead of the radio, all play violin or harp or piano or all three, and that your kids are going to someday implode and rebel...... would you please not presume that I don't homeschool because I'm just "less than" or that I don't love my kids as much as you do yours?

6. Most of us wholeheartedly agree that under a condensed setting in a home environment, an entire 7 hour school day can become a 2-3 hour school day with the same amount of learning. You don't need to convince me that you can get done in half the time what it takes the teacher in school the full day to do. Breathe in... breathe out. I'm okay, you're okay. Okay?

7. When we complain about purchasing school supplies or homework that takes till bedtime or permission slips or parent/teacher conferences or packing lunches and you come back with "whew! So glad we homeschool!" we kinda want to kick you in the shins. Not with steel-toe boots on, maybe with our flip flops and not hard... just enough to get your attention. Yeah, we get it. You don't have to sit up for 3 hours trying to re-teach Algebra to a kid who isn't understanding it from his teacher.... and you don't have to sign permission trips to anything... and you can serve cereal for lunch if you want. Let's put that phrase into the category "things to say inside your head, or at the homeschool convention".

8. Whenever something bad happens in a school - abuse, shootings, violence, etc... and all the homeschoolers start up with the above statement ("whew! So glad we homeschool!") it's actually pretty harsh. Yes, we know your kids aren't in the schools. But ours are. And we love them A LOT and we totally lose our ability to focus on anything of minor importance whenever something horrible happens - even on the other side of the country.

9. Christians send their kids to public school, too.
9b. Most teachers are NOT evil, brain-washing, communist, liberal, sex-ed instructing, Bible-hating bigots. They really aren't. I've been blessed over the years to have my kids in classrooms with teachers who go to our church, participate in Bible study before school, tell my children (without fear of repercussion) that they are praying for our family, and who have cried with me during difficult times. I have had teachers where I can send a quick text or email saying "may the force be with you. bad morning." and they know that kiddo may come in like a whirling dirvish. They are kind when they email or text back "mental adjustment happened between your door and our door... no worries."
Sometimes Christian homeschoolers like to drop Bible verses when speaking with Christian public-schoolers. Sometimes I wonder if they think that "if I just give them *my* take on 'train up a child' then they will burn their car-rider pick-up tags and join the HSLDA!"

10. Sometimes public school is a GOOD option... even when compared to home school. I'm looking forward to the school year for many reasons. Our three newest boys NEED to be separated to learn how to learn and be their own person apart from the three-some that they have NEEDED to be for quite some time. They need to be kids. In a class with other kids. Having fun. Showing off on the playground. Not trying to be the dad. Learning to speak English and learning social queues. This is a good thing for them. My little three need some time with Mom without the big kids around. My bio kids need separation from always being one of 12. In their classroom - they can just be an individual. They need the normalcy of a classroom routine free from attachment and therapeutic parenting and meltdowns over incorrect translations. They need to be with friends and have a break from feeling responsible for someone's ability to learn the language.

Let's lose the mommy-hierarchy/pecking order and just love each other because we have much in common. We know what it's like to be up most of the night with a sick child. We know what it's like to bandage boo-boos and sneak a cookie before dinner (but don't tell the other kids!). We have scrubbed our fair share of toilets, sinks and floors and we have all had a child turn up their noses at something we've served them to eat. We have all fallen short, we have all had proud-mommy moments. Any mommy out there who gets out of the bed, does her best to train up her children in the way they should go, and lives to try it again the next day... deserves respect.
No matter where her kids learn long division.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

2 Years!

We've been home with our first three (adopted) kiddos for two years this week! 
It doesn't seem like it's been two years... but then, it also feels like forever.

Sometimes I forget they have not been here since birth.

Sometimes when one of the girls asks if I gave her this toy "when I was a baby", 
I answer "yes"... then remember, she was 5 when she got that teddy bear. 

These three are so much fun.
I can't believe there were years they weren't mine.
I can't believe there were months when someone at a desk in an office said "you'll be too overwhelmed with three at once" and told us we couldn't be their parents.
I remember the day they said "okay".
I remember how I sobbed and didn't hear anything else my social worker said on the phone.
My mom was there... and she couldn't decipher my crying... so I mumbled "they said YES!"
I called my husband... who said "of course! Was there ever any doubt?" 
Ummmm... yes. There was doubt. I had doubt they would see it my way.

It's been a great two years!
We've learned so much... they've grown SO much (over 6 inches EACH!!)...
and yet, they still sing that song their first family taught them. 

Translated it says:
He is my Lord
He is my Creator
He is my God that I worship
we will never die
we will keep on moving
we will be named sons and daughters of the Lord

It's wonderful when I hear them singing this song.

Sometimes I think about their family in Ethiopia - and their family in Heaven - and I wonder... 
Does she look like her first Mother?
Does he have her nose? 
Do echoes of their laughter make it to Heaven?
Would their family recognize them today?

Adoption is born out of loss... 
but He makes beautiful things out of the dust and brokenness and pain.

Thankful for 2 years at home with these crazy littles!!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Chicken drama

Hang on - not sure where this is going.

Oh my word.
This day.
Happy "End of Chick-fil-a Appreciation Day" everyone!
If you're anywhere on social media... it's been a doozy.
I'm sick of hearing about where everyone did or did not eat lunch.

Here's my unsolicited opinion on the whole thing. (because you didn't ask)
There were several schools of thought on the day:
1. Every God-fearing, Bible-reading, Church-going person who calls themselves a Christian should go eat at CFA today to support the company. (since the mayors of two cities said they can't build there due to their religious views)
2. If you love like Jesus, you'll stay far from CFA today to show the gay/GLBT community that you love them, like Jesus would.
3. Bash those who ate at CFA today because they are clearly lining the pockets of THE MAN and they should have used their money more wisely like building wells in poor countries, helping people adopt, feeding children, supporting missionaries, buying cedar chips for dog beds in the local humane society... ad nauseum... because their cause is more important daggnabbit!
4. I'm sick of hearing about chicken. I hate chicken. Eat more cows. Besides CFA has MSG in their chicken. And it's too expensive. And Bah-humbug while we're at it.


Folks, this world is a SERIOUSLY messed up place when we can spend an entire day (and an entire blog post, news reports, newspaper articles, etc) talking about whether or not to support a particular restaurant by making a food purchase there on a particular day... or bashing those who do or do not participate.

I read stuff today that made my blood boil.
Stuff like "do you think that eating at Chik-fil-a is going to show Jesus' love to the gay person driving by?"  and "that money should have gone to something more deserving" and even an article "exposing" further "evils" of the CFA empire.

I did not go to CFA today. It's not because I like or do not like gay people. It's not because I support or do not support a stance by a business owner. It's not even about freedom of speech/opinion/religion. I just don't take this huge flock of children out to eat ANYwhere unless it's a special occasion or it's free! CFA makes this peppermint stick milkshake in the winter that makes me want to kidnap the poor unsuspecting shake-maker and force them to work in a shake-making sweatshop in my garage for the rest of his/her life only making me peppermint stick milkshakes at my beck and call. I pink fuzzy heart waffle fries in all their glory. I love their little dipping cups of ketchup and I love the indoor play place. They could come out and say they hate puppies, coffee, rainbows, hummingbirds, "Hang In There!" motivational kitten posters and pistachios and I'd still eat there when those peppermint shakes are in season. *yes, there is a "season".

I shop at T@rget. I shop at Home Dep0t. I shop at Who1e foods some times. I buy from Amaz0n and I desperately wish to take my kids to Disney... and I don't research the president of each company's stance on kitten posters or coffee intake or even Christian values. Why? Because it's a STORE. They have things I need there... I go there to purchase them. I go where the prices are fair and I get good quality for the money.

Those who ate at CFA today made a statement - for whatever it's worth.
Whether they were anti-gay marriage, pro-freedoms, or just had a hankerin' for a fried chicken sandwich with pickles... they ate food from a company who bought their buns and pickles and chicken and flour and super-secret seasoning blend and potatoes and tea bags and lemons and ice cream and ketchup and napkins and styrofoam clamshell containers from some vendor somewhere who may be gay. The bun delivery guy may have a lesbian daughter. The pickle-makers might hate puppies and motivational kitten posters, too. 
I don't know. But I know that a bunch of professing Christians sitting around puffing themselves up arguing over who is better - those who ate chicken or those who didn't eat chicken today - isn't glorifying the God they claim to serve.

For the love of all things cute and fluffy... can we please drop the chicken drama now??