Friday, January 29, 2010

Report Card Week

Yesterday, we got Eleanor's report card in the mail. Today is report card day for the three kids in elementary school. There is a little bit of a buzz in the air around our home. Having home schooled my children for years and years, there was no such thing as a report card. My kids were evaluated weekly (if not daily in some cases) and they did not go on to a new lesson until they proved mastery - with that philosophy, there is no B or C. You don't move on until you have an "A".



I still get questions all the time about how the kids are doing in school. Overall, they are doing very well. I prayed the most about Eleanor. I don't think there is a person on the planet who doesn't cringe when you say 13 year old girl and middle school in the same sentence. But, she is handling this year with poise and grace. I will never forget my dad saying, "She'll do fine because she's not a ding-bat." HA! I am most grateful for a set of teachers who recognize Eleanor's abilities and her hard work ethic. These teachers are constantly praising. In fact, there has not been a month go by at school that she was not names "Student of the Month" in one of her classes. In November, she was "Student of the Month" in THREE of her classes! Socially, well, Eleanor is quiet and shy. And she made a decision back in September to not get "stuck in a clique", so she eats lunch with different groups each day. No one can say a bad word about her, but the flip side is that she doesn't have that real close group of girl friends. We are still praying that a Christian girl, just one, would come into her life at school to give her that best friend.



Harry - let's just say he's smart and lazy. Two qualities that don't always result in a good school year. We are addressing this issue and there will be some changes in the future.



Isabel - Joe and I keep saying that it didn't take long for her to start running the class. Now, she has her sights set on the school. We are not joking. Talk about an over-achiever! We do hear great reports about Isabel as she is doing really well academically. She is a different bird than her older sister, though, and as the teacher puts it, "Every girl in the 2nd grade wants to be Isabel's friend. I just watch the girls swarm around her when she walks into the room." That's Isabel!



George - amazing! He is doing very basic, beginning reading. But what I love, is that he now knows how to sound out words (phonics)! Also, he is starting to consistently read the words left to right (this was a huge obstacle to overcome for he would see the word BIG and would think GIB). Every subject is work and some days the work gets a bit overwhelming for George, but he never wavers in his attitude and work ethic. He is doing well because he wants to do well.



I can't wait to get the report cards today. Either way, I am proud of these kids and how well they have transitioned into public school. The three older ones have all asked me several times if they could come home again, and I have had to say no even though my heart longs for those amazing learning moments we used to have around the home. I know this is God's will for my kids right now, and He has prepared a work for me to do as well. I do love my afternoons where we gather around the kitchen table and work on homework until dinner. I enjoy hearing about their day and talking about what they are studying or reading. I also am committed to supplement their education, especially with history and a Biblical world view.



This year, more than ever, I have opened up my hands and let go of my kids. I am trusting that God is with them when they are in the school and that they are growing in their witness for Him. Going to school has opened up a whole new set of discussions; divorce, atheism, swearing and bad language, and even racism. Sometimes I wish we didn't have to talk about these things, especially for the younger ones. Let's let them be children for as long as possible! Do they really need to know about the harsh realities of life? That will come soon enough, and when their minds and emotions are mature enough to process it. Hearing their brother called a bad name on the bus was hard and it caused them to question why people are racist. Listening to half of their classmates cry and complain about divorce has caused them to fear that someday Mom and Dad might get a divorce. Putting up with a child saying there is no such thing as God, and then having NO evidence to back up his claim, has caused my children to dig deep into their minds to have an answer ready when someone asks them if God is real. Some good stuff, some bad stuff..but all learning opportunities.

Bottom line is these are God's children and He has given me the blessed opportunity to raise them and love them. And I do love them all! We are a little cramped and we have to say no to a lot of extras, but there is plenty of love in our family. I can't wait to see the report cards and tell each one of them how proud I am of them!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

George Reading!

video

George has been working very hard on reading, so I decided to film him so he could see how well he is doing. Can you believe he couldn't speak any words in English 8 months ago?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Do You Know We Love You?

George has a tendency to act out in a negative way when he is jealous. This is not unlike all children, it is just unusual to see in a 6 year old.

This weekend, I was holding Lincoln. I forget why, I think because it was close to bedtime and he was tired. Lincoln was laying his head on my shoulder, completely relaxed and content. George was very jealous of this moment, so he got a toy that Lincoln had given Isabel (a girl chipmunk from McDonald's) and ran to Lincoln announcing, "Isabel didn't like this. She gave it to me."

Lincoln was crushed and started to cry. I looked at George and asked, "Is that true?"

I knew right away by the look on his face that he was, indeed, lying. Isabel had not given that toy to George. George simply wanted to hurt Lincoln because Lincoln was being held by Momma.

Joe and I immediately addressed this. We both knew what was going on, and without a word spoken between the two of us, we knew we need to get to the core of the issue. So we talked to him. Not with yelling or accusatory words about lying. Instead we simply asked him, "Do you know that Mommy and Daddy love you."

He reverted to his Ethiopian habit and simply raised his eyebrows (which means yes).

Joe then asked, "But, do you think we love Lincoln more than you?"

George's face broke apart and he threw his hands up over this eyes and nodded his head strongly. Yes. He thought we loved Lincoln more.

Oh, how this broke our hearts! We quickly lifted George onto the kitchen counter and looked straight into his eyes and told him over and over again how much we love him. We told him that he is our son....forever....and that we love all five of our children deeply and completely.

I know this is so hard for George to believe. He has been through the ultimate betrayal and abandonment, just two years ago this month! I am sure his Africa Mommy told him many times how much she loved him, yet she still made a choice to send him away. I know it will take years and years of telling George he is secure in our family before that sinks deep.

His love and security in our family has grown immensely in the last eight months. We have the gift of communication now, so we can talk to him about our feelings for him. But, more important to him is our actions. He needs to fee loved through our actions.

So, that night, we watched a family movie. I sat close to George and as he snuggled in, I could feel his body relax. He fell asleep and I carried him to bed at the end of the movie. Sure enough, the first thing our of his mouth on Saturday morning was, "Momma carried Georgie to bed! Momma loves Georgie."

Friday, January 22, 2010

Two Years Ago Today


Two years ago today, a young Ethiopian mother dressed her 4 year old boy in a clean denim suit, tried to find some shoes for him, washed his face and set out on a long walk. The little boy was not sure where they were going, but it didn't matter, he was going with his mom.

The boy loved his mom. She made him injera every day and then pretty much let him run around the village with his best friend, H. Life was hard, no doubt about that. This young mother had buried her husband one year earlier, and then tragically buried her new born daughter. All that was left was her son, Georgebush.

Her husband had insisted she name their son after the President of the United States. "He must have a great name." He had seen a television report while he was in the big city. Hundreds of people crammed around a single TV after hearing rumors that the States had been attacked. The father saw a man with a bullhorn walking through the rubble of a disaster zone. The man was talking to a lot of men when someone in the crowd yelled out, "We cant' hear you." The man spoke loudly into the bullhorn, "But I can hear you!"

The crowd cheered. Her husband asked everyone, "Who is that man?"

Someone answered George Bush.

"I will now name my son after this great man." He thought. A year later, he had a son and named him Georgebush Lema.

That day seemed like an entire lifetime ago. Now, this woman was sick, very sick, and no one had much hope for her. What was going to happen to this little Georgebush? As she got closer to her destination, she prayed to God for comfort. What she was about to do was going to be the hardest thing yet. She was going to give her son a chance. She was going to give him real hope and change.

They reached the doors of CWAE, an orphanage in Soddo. Everyone there smiled and welcomed her. They reassured her this was the best decision. She wasn't sure, but God was continuing to give her peace about it. A few pictures were snapped, and little Georgebush smiled so sweetly. He still didn't fully understand what was going on. Then, one picture of the woman with her son, one last picture.

The woman bent low to kiss those clean little cheeks, hugged him tightly and then walked away. The smile left the little boy's face, unsure if that smile would ever return again.

A Difficult Day...A Race Against Time

A Difficult Day... A Race Against Time
Blocked roads, heat and missing paperwork complicate orphans departure
(Port-au-Prince, Haiti) Because of State Department procedural requirements, on the morning of January 21, 2010, 114 children left the Maison des Enfants de Dieu (Children of the House of God) orphanage for the U.S. Embassy. Of the 114 children, 111 were the orphans eligible for humanitarian parole to the United States and three were orphans who have Canadian/Argentinean adoptive parents and may also qualify for evacuation. Eighty-seven toddlers and children traveled in a bus and twenty-seven infants traveled in a van, accompanied by orphanage staff, representatives from the U.S. ministry, For His Glory Adoption Outreach (FHG), and members of the press. Dead bodies, debris and abandoned vehicles in the roads made movement very difficult. Temperatures inside the vehicles became extreme and began to make the younger children sick. After 2 hours of little progress, the difficult decision was made to return to the orphanage.
After returning the children to the orphanage, staff members returned to the U.S. Embassy and received permission to process the children's paperwork without the children being physically present. Humanitarian paroles for some of the orphans have been completed, however additional documentation was needed for others. The United States Customs and Immigration Service has pledged to work through the night with FHG staff to ensure that all required documentation will be available Friday in sufficient time to allow all 114 orphans to depart Haiti for the United States. Air Transportation from Haiti is being arranged for the evening of January 22, 2010.

Kim Harmon, President of FHG, stated she is "overwhelmed and amazed by the dedication and willingness of individuals within the U.S. Government to assist in meeting Friday's deadline." She continued to call for "everyone to pray, especially for the health of the children."

FHG is a ministry to the people and children of Haiti. Our ministry is dedicated to fundraising and assisting the orphanage, Maison des Enfants de Dieu, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. For previous press releases and updates visit http://www.forhisgloryoutreach.org/.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Haiti Update

Orphans Intend to Depart Haiti
Orphans begin procedures to depart Haiti at U.S. Embassy
(Port-au-Prince, Haiti) On January 20, 2010, 133 orphans from the Maison des Enfants de Dieu (Children of the House of God) orphanage will begin the difficult process outlined by the U.S. Department of State for humanitarian parole and onward transportation to the United States. In accordance with instructions received from the State Department, as relayed by the Joint Council on International Children's Services (JCICS) at 8 p.m. today, orphans along with orphanage staff members have been instructed to arrive at the U.S. Embassy as early as possible on Wednesday morning. JCICS warned that no food, water or facilities would be available for the children while processing at the U.S. Embassy Port-au-Prince.
JCICS further relayed that orphanage requests to the U.S. Embassy for security and transportation for the children have been denied by the State Department. The U.S. ministry associated with this orphanage, For His Glory Adoption Outreach (FHG), was also asked to stop requesting security, transportation or even water at the orphanage location. Following discussions with staff and board members in Port-au-Prince, the difficult decision was made that all 133 children, including approximately 60 children under the age of 3, will begin early in the morning of January 20th to walk the over 2 kilometers to the U.S. Embassy Port-au-Prince. This decision was made due to the limited staff available and the increasingly dangerous security situation at the orphanage in Port-au-Prince. The staff will carry as much water, food and baby formula as possible with them for the orphans while processing at the U.S. Embassy. JCICS relayed that once processing is completed, the orphans will travel to the United States on "cargo jets to locations that are not often known until an hour or so before the flight leaves."

Kim Harmon, President of FHG, acknowledged that "this arrangement is far from ideal for the safety and well-being of the children. We are calling to all who care about these precious children to pray earnestly for their safety tomorrow."

FHG is a ministry to the people and children of Haiti. Our ministry is dedicated to fundraising and assisting the orphanage, Maison des Enfants de Dieu, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.


JCICS STATEMENT

January 19, 2010 8 p.m. est

UPDATE: Haiti


It is once again my job to be the barrier of bad news. Another day come and gone and no change. Despite extensive Congressional support and all of your calls to your Members of Congress we have hit roadblock after roadblock. At this point we respectfully ask that you stop contacting your Members of Congress requesting their assistance with obtaining security, transportation, and water for the location. The Department of State has not and apparently will not provide the small assistance that we have requested.

Given the current circumstances, at this point we are recommending that someone from each orphanage escort the children who qualify for humanitarian parole or adoption visas to the U.S. Embassy in Port-A-Prince. We recommend that the orphanage staff arrive with the children and any adoption paperwork that has not been destroyed as early as possible in the morning in order to attempt to obtain visas or parole for the children. Please understand that this option may not be considered safe and that the U.S. Embassy did not allow some orphanages onto the premises today. Additionally, please note that it has been reported that there is no food, water or facilities for the children to use while at the Embassy. As noted during our conference call earlier today, these are our recommendations only and should not be used to replace your or your orphanage director's good judgment.

It is our understanding that any children processed by USCIS in Port-A-Prince are leaving on U.S. cargo jets to locations that are not often know until a hour or so before the flight leaves. At times children have left Haiti without the knowledge of their adoptive parents.

This is currently the worst case scenario for the children's well-being and safety but at the moment there are no other options.

As we receive more information we will continue to share it with you. While the situation at the moment is terrible I can only hope that our collective efforts produce some positive news. Despite the roadblocks Joint Council has not given up on the save haven and we continue to advocate for its creation and a more transparent and safe process in uniting these children with their adoptive families.

Rebecca

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

YOU CAN DO SOMETHING

I do not take credit for this post - it came from a fellow adoptive mom's blog. Bottom line, there are more orphans today than there were 1 week ago in Haiti and they are in jeopardy. Please join me in making phone calls. If you don't know your representative or senator, go look it up! Google us government and it is so easy! Also, call your governors! The gov of PA was able to bring some children home! While we haggle over visas and laws, children are fighting to survive. We can FOSTER these children while families are found. I have heard people say it is unethical to just take the kids away; is it less unethical to let helpless children starve in the street? We are not talking about ripping children out of the loving arms of a parent or relative. We are talking about current orphans and all the new orphans. Anyway - here is the post. After reading it, make a phone call or two (or five)!

Sweet friends, I received another email from my friend Susan a few minutes ago. She lives here in our town and both she and her husband are doctors. As we all know, there are many, many, many families waiting for kids from Haiti. One blog friend, Amy, is trying to get her daughter home. The media doesn't always have the most up-to-date information, so here it is - first hand from Susan (a mom trying to get two kids out)....

Please call your congressman now!!


Orphanages are out of water and food; New Life Link ran out of food last night. There are numerous cases of looting orphanages in PAP.

WE have made some progress: Haiti has agreed to release our children, Janet Napalitano will grant humanitarian parole and there are planes/ and a secure location with food/medical equipment/hospital stateside that we can use. BUT the U.S. government has NOT granted evacuation and security. Everything else is IN PLACE for these kids.
We need the federal govt (USAID) Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) to approve our childrens evacuation NOW.

A sample of the point we need to make are:

Hello, my name is…


I know that many Members of Congress continue to support efforts on behalf of Haiti’s orphaned children. I extend my thanks to the Congressman/Senator.
I am calling because…
We need your help to get the orphans out of Haiti safely.
Water, food and medicine are running out.
Gangs have looted some of the orphanages and even travel is not safe for the children.
The Department of Homeland security has granted humanitarian parole, but it is only the first step.
The devastation from the earthquake is vast and the orphan's safety - and even life - is at risk.
Joint Council on International Children’s Services, the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, and a team of congressional offices and relief organizations are working to coordinate a staging and housing center to provide:
Physical safety
Medicine
Food
Water
A Staging Center for USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) to process humanitarian parole
The groups working to launch the staging and housing center already have most of what the children need.
But they do not have
Water
Security to protect the children and supplies from the gangs
Transportation to bring the children into this safe haven

We are asking that (name of Member of Congress) personally call:
Secretary of State Clinton, and
Dr. Shah, Administrator Designate at USAID
And specifically request that they authorize security forces be sent to the offered staging center and assist in the extraction and transport of these children from their orphanages to the staging center. All other pieces of a successful operation of this staging center are currently in place, but all hinge on this authorization of security and transport.

If this security does not reach the site within 24 hours, children being adopted and many other children will continue to suffer and may in fact not live long enough to be united with my family and the other 300 U.S. families. Please help! Thank you very much.

Note:
If the Member of Congress needs more information, please have them contact:

The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute
Info@ccainstitute.org
202-544-8500


The Joint Council on International Children’s Services
jcics@jcics.org
703-535-8045

Food

Lincoln MUST be going through a growth spurt. This is what he has eaten today (at it is 10:30am)

4...yes, that is 4 bowls of cereal - and not sugar cereal, granola and Special K

1 Nutri-grain bar

1 bag full of Goldfish

1 bag of natural no-butter pop-corn

3 full cups of milk

And the babies in Haiti have no formula. They have a little milk which is causing them diarrhea.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Who Adopts?

I belong to a board that has become quite a community in my life; we have all adopted from Ethiopia and most of us used the same agency. A recent discussion has been taking place that deals honestly with the realities of adopting an older child. I had to admit that I naively entered into this world of being known as someone who adopted an older child. Adopting from Ethiopia also gives me the distinction of many orphans are not truly orphans in the sense that we usually think; our kids have a living parent still alive. This brings about a complicated dimension to adopting an older child who knows his/her mom is still alive and suffering in poverty in Ethiopia.

Many questions have been posed in the discussion. But one question has come to my mind over and over the last few days; who adopts? Maybe another question that accompanies that is who doesn't adopt?

Most adoptive parents I talk with say something like this, "I have always thought about adoption", or "ever since I was a little girl I knew I would adopt". Rarely do I hear, "Wow! God totally threw me a curve ball and asked me to adopt."

So, does God plant this desire in the hearts of those who calls to adopt years before it is even a reality? Does that seed just grow and grow over the year until it reaches a point where one can't deny the call on their life anymore? Can a person ignore that call adequately?

I have to ask these questions because I probably fall into the common category. Seeing pictures of orphans would tug at my soul and break my heart at even a young age. Don't those pictures tug at every heart? What made me feel that if I ignored the orphans any longer that I would be essentially ignoring God's command to care for the orphans? Why is it a unique thing to adopt? Why is it admired and upheld? If it was more common, it would actually be expected.

Does God only ask 1% of Christians to adopt? I seriously doubt that. Who adopts...and who doesn't? Joe and I could not say for sure that this was the "right" thing to do - we were scared! We decided to stand on God's word and it is a simple as that. But, I also have to say that God had obviously planted the desire to adopt long, long ago. Did He plant that same desire in my wonderful husband and some point in his childhood? Are there some who never feel that nudge to adopt?

I don't know the answer because I did feel the nudge and I did do something about it. And now, I wonder if I will ever stop feeling the nudge to adopt again. No judgement here; I simple wonder.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

A Weekend of Highs and Lows

Another Sunday night and another night finding me grateful that we made it through the weekend. George got sick again. He seems to always get sick on Friday nights. On Saturday, his fever had reached a high of 103.7, right at the point where I debated piling him into the car and finding a doctor. But, as typical with me, I avoid the doctor's office at almost all costs :) I did the double care of Tylenol and Motrin and then used warm mullein garlic oil in his ears (he had complained his ears hurt).

Saturday night, we all gathered at the dinner table with one person missing; George was lying on the couch drifting in and out of sleep. Joe said, "This just isn't right anymore - we are missing one of our own."

Over night on Saturday, I had a hard time sleeping. I was worried about his very high fever and listened as he cried out in pain all night long. Twice I woke to give him more medicine and he would ask if I would stay with him. I wanted to stay.

I know it is hard to understand for some and it may look ugly on the page, but it is finally starting to feel real. Our love is real for our son.

We held him tight for a lot of the weekend and he was feeling much better by Sunday morning. At one point, Lincoln said something very hurtful to George. He said, "I want you to go back to Africa."

George came to me, pointed to his heart and said, "Lincoln's words hurt me here."

My heart broke for George and we had a great opportunity to talk about forgiveness - yea!

George and I were then messing around on the computer when he asked to look at some pictures. As I was scrolling through my photo gallery, George stopped me and said, "That one! Can I see that one."

I pulled it up. It was one of the first photos I was given of George. He has no front teeth, very chubby cheeks and a huge smile. He was dressed in a dapper denim suit and smiled from ear to ear. Standing beside him was a girl, beautiful and dressed with a lovely natella draped around her shoulders. I never knew who that girl was and honestly, I had forgotten about it as I received a dozen more pictures over our waiting time.

Then I heard George say, "That's my Momma."

My heart sank. What do I say? What do I do? I told George how beautiful I thought his mother was. Then I told George that she really loved him. I realized this picture was taken the day he was dropped off at the orphanage. Did he have any idea what was about to happen when he took that picture, smiling ear to ear with his mother? His mother dressed him in the finest clothes she could put on him and he truly looked happy.

All George said next was, "I want to show Daddy."

As soon as Joe walked in the door, George ran to him and said, "I want you to see picture."

I pulled it up and George said simply again, "That's my Momma."

And then he collapsed to the hard wood floor and sobbed. For the first time since he has been with us he cried over his mother. I peeled him off the floor and cradled him in my lap and he just cried and cried. I cried with him.

I told him over and over again how much his mother loves him.

Inside, I was falling apart and I am not sure if I am even close to dealing with this. We had come so far over the last two months! So much affection between us and so much love. I am afraid that all that work is gone. At one point, George said that I was not his momma. His momma was in Africa.

And he is right.

What love of two mothers is now colliding in his heart! A mother, young and sweet looking who made her son injera every day; a mother who sacrificed her relationship with him to give him the opportunity for a better life. A second mother, much older, a little gray and mother to five children; a mother who desperately wants to love this little boy.

The only thing I can do is cry out to God again, who sees us all; Lord, thank you for providing a way to our son. Thank you for a beautiful Ethiopian mother who gave us this gift. Be with her Lord, give her peace that her son is loved and cared for. Be with George, a boy who has suffered well beyond his years; give him peace and comfort tonight. May he know how much he is loved. And Lord, heal my broken heart tonight. Thank you for teaching me how to love George, just in time to help him through this time. Lord, I pray that George will love me and that I can be his forever Momma.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Lord, Bring the Orphans Home!

My heart is breaking! Joe has been completely consumed with news reports about Haiti and the earthquake. He comes home from work and turns on the TV, switching all over our available channels to get the latest, updated information. He has been shaken.

Last night, we all watched Monsters, Inc. I will write more about this little miracle, because for the first time in 8 months, our entire family was able to watch and entire movie and be happy. After that, the little boys went peacefully to bed, the older set decided to watch another movie and Joe and I escaped to our bedroom to watch some more news on Haiti.

20/20 was on and we became engrossed in the coverage. The program did a few spotlights on the children of Haiti. Our hearts broke into many pieces. We sat there crying, we just couldn't hold back the tears. Those beautiful brown faces and deep, brown eyes just crying out for someone to help them. The report then interviewed a man from Catholic Charities in Miami, FL. They are trying to work out a way to airlift thousands of the orphans into the US! Our hearts just leaped. Could they really be brought out of the ashes? The man said, "Our biggest challenge will be determining if this is a true orphan; they might have a living parents some where out there in the rubble."

Joe looked at me and said, "Stay on top of this."

This morning, in the quiet of my home, I remembered a day in our lives back in 2003. My family was on a vacation in Destin, FL. I had my four little ones, and we had just come back from an exhausting trip to the beach. I turned on the news (can you tell I am a news-hound?) and watched an expose on Haitian orphans. Joe was with me and we silently watched as the reporter talked about the conditions in Haiti. We saw dozens of pictures of gorgeous brown-skinned children. We fell in love with them.

I thought to myself that day, "We will adopt one of these beauties."

Reality hit when I found out that Haiti has strict regulations regarding who can adopt from their country. One of their regulations cut us out immediately; you can't have any bio kids living in your home. With four bio kids, we couldn't even take a single step toward this country. God then led us to Ethiopia.

In this tragedy, beauty will rise from the ashes if this airlift and consequent adoption of these orphans can actually take place! I read an article from a Miami paper and saw dozens of comments of families saying, "Keep us updated. We would adopt on of these children." I truly believe there would be NO shortage of homes in America that would embrace these orphans.

Lord, I turn to you because You are the only one who can make this a reality. Bring these children to a home where they will be loved unconditionally, where they will be fed and well cared for, where they will learn about a God who loved them so much that He moved mountains to save them.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Adoption Has Changed My Kids

Lincoln and I were driving home from Joe's work. We take lovely country roads and always enjoy checking on our favorite animals. Pretty close to home we pass a great country home with 20 or so sheep in the front yard. At that house we have a choice to drive right by the home or turn down another street and miss the sheep altogether.

Today, we decided to take the way of the sheep. We were giggling about how chubby the sheep have become over the winter. We noticed two horses hanging out with the sheep, which is a bit unusual.

Lincoln wondered why the horses were in with the sheep.

I replied, "I don't know, Bud."

Lincoln thought for a while and then said, "Mom. I think the horses adopted the sheep. The sheep needed a mommy and a daddy so the horses decided to adopt them."

Beautiful.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Doing Homework with George


I have to admit something...I am surprised that one of my favorite times of the day is working on homework with George every afternoon. Each day after school, George has at least one homework assignment and on most days he has math and some reading.

When we started school back in September, George would get a little frustrated with his homework, especially the reading. Now, it has become a delight to work with George (on most things).

I am struck by the importance of parental involvement in early childhood education! Obviously, George was given something by his birth parents! He wants to learn, and he is fairly bright. He has these very simple reading books, Title 1 books, and he is reading them! He may struggle over a word or two here and there, but generally, he is doing well. He also has these flip cards with basic sight words, and every day we run through the cards. The first time we did them, he didn't know a single word. Now, he can read most of them.

I laughed the first time George brought home a spelling packet - yea, right! I thought there was no way he would be able to spell a word. Now, to be honest, the spelling does not come easy at all, but he is getting some of the words.

There has been some concern that George is having a comprehension or retention problem. I refuse to believe that is the case until I give George some more time.
I think George has been so focused on assimilating into this family and our culture that his little brain and body can only take so much. He is desperately trying to communicate every things he is seeing, feeling and hearing and sometimes we have very frustrating conversations because he is trying to tell me something and I am just not getting it. It is almost like when our 2 year olds start talking and we just can't understand what they are so diligently trying to enunciate. Same with George. Yet, it is amazing how much language he has acquired!

I remember know right away that language was a huge key to our success. When we couldn't even say "yes" or "no" in the same language, that led to great frustration. i remember calling a woman who had adopted several months ahead of me and crying to her asking, "When will he be able to talk to me?" I knew that communication would either make or break our relationship.

Language acquisition for these older children is a huge challenge. The English language has so many nuances, it makes it nearly impossible for someone not born into this language to "get" those subtleties. George still struggles with comedy; we tell him not to laugh at his siblings when they fall down, yet we all bust out laughing when Kung Fu Panda trips and falls down the stairs.

I look forward to sitting at the kitchen table with George. And he has entered a phase of wanting to start doing things alone and then bringing them to me for checking. Unfortunately, he gets a lot of those things wrong because he is just guessing. But, every now and then, he brings a math paper to me with all the addition problems done correctly! Can you believe it?

I am so excited to see how he continues to grow. I remember reading the paperwork from the orphanage that said little Georgebush wanted to be a teacher. Maybe his dream will become a reality some day. As of today, we are one huge step closer!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Long Road to Security

I am reminded, again, of how far George has to come before feeling secure. George is like a jealous toddler at times...most times. He can't stand any of his siblings sitting close to me, talking to me, going anywhere with me. We go through this insane ritual almost every night.

The kids are spaced out on the couches...I finish cleaning up the kitchen and come in the living room to join the family. I chose a seat that is open. George is usually standing, waiting, stalking me from the kitchen into the living room. After I sit, he will cry a little, then try to squeeze himself into any possible spot that any child can cram a body into. If he can't fit, he throws himself onto my lap.

Time for bed, we go through another similar ritual. Joe and I always take the boys into their room together. We tuck them in, pray with them. George acts angry, cries a bit under his comforter, and then grabs me for a huge hug and won't let go....at all. I usually fall over, try to wrangle myself loose and then kiss him on the cheek to say goodnight. I go to Lincoln and we quickly hug and kiss. Then I hear this, "You always hug Lincoln." This is said in an accusatory tone - not a nice observation, more like a betrayed boyfriend.

I know why George goes through this, he has been so deeply hurt that it is just not possible for him to feel secure. Yet. My prayer is that after months of stability and commitment and love, George will finally get to a point where he does not get jealous of his siblings, but understands that I love all my children!

So, what pops into my head when I think of this jealous boy is how God says He is a jealous God. He doesn't want me to put myself into a place where He has to squeeze himself in. And He surely doesn't want to see me embrace any thin else. I have never felt this obsession before, none of my children have been THIS jealous or THIS insecure. And this obsession that George has probably pales in comparison to the jealousy God feels when I turn to something else in my life to bring comfort or security. I serve a God who desperately wants to be in communion with me, so much that He made a huge sacrifice! This jealous God wants me attention, my energy, my all.

Yet again, little Georgie is teaching me about God's character. May I now pursue God they way George pursues me...and the way God has pursued me. What love!

Being Gloriously Ruined

I have been gloriously ruined. Kay Warren used those words and I just can't get them out of my head; for that is what I have become.

I am not the same woman I was 10 years ago, let alone one year ago. As the decade ended a few weeks ago, I thought back to what I was doing in 1999. It was a bit painful to look back on that woman. In 1999, I had two children, Harry just a new born. I was consumed with working out and hanging out with my friends. My marriage was not good, but I didn't care because Joe kept me happy with lots of money. We were living in California, loving everything about that lifestyle...or so we thought. It really was an empty life. Those friends I would hang out with...none of them are in my life today. All those hours of working out....well, you can't tell today - ha! I was pretty selfish - and believe it or not, I was done having kids! I had my boy and my girl and that was that.

Then, Harry started having seizures. Major seizures. After two back to back seizures, each one lasting more than 30 minutes, I was told, "If you son wakes up, there is a high chance there will be brain damage."

Looking back, God was getting my attention...in a big way! He was shaking me out of my selfish life and saying, "Get it together! I have work for you to do!!"

It is a long story, but the bottom line was soon after that I told Joe I needed to leave California, and by the sheer grace of God he agreed and quit his job the next day. Our house sold in less than a month, we came back to the midwest and my husband became a Christian. He has an amazing conversion story, by the way!!!

Since then, God has had Joe and I on a track of refinement. So much of our character needed to be dealt with. The last ten years have found us studying, worshiping and following like no other decade. And at the end of that decade, He asked us to go even deeper in our faith; adoption.

Adoption has gloriously ruined me. Adoption has broken me beyond anything before, and at the same time it has pushed me closer to being the woman God wants me to be. Obviously, God is not done with me, because new areas of sin are coming to the forefront.

Life is hard for us; harder than ever before. No longer is our struggle about adoption or George. It is now that we literally have nothing. The irony is, when we were in Africa, we longed for a life of utter simplicity. Now we have it, and we are saying, "Wait! I don't think I really want this." God is still sanctifying His children.

My sin? Jealousy. The things that I love of this world were thrown in my face this past week. I spent hours at the mall. I visited the most beautiful home that I LONG to fill with children! I listen to women talk about how much they spent getting their hair done. And here I sit, an almost 40 year old woman who can't go get her hair cut, except for maybe at Great Clips, renting a house that is way too small, and stressfully walking through the mall telling her kids over and over again that we can't buy that or that or that.

All I have now...is God.

The adoption brought me to my knees. Now God is keeping me there. He is keeping both of us there. I hope that in 2011, I will look back on this year and say it was one of the greatest years of my life...a year that I learned what it meant to be fully surrendered to God. A year that I truly became gloriously ruined.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Oh...I Forgot!

We had a really nice Ethiopian Christmas celebration! George couldn't wait to eat injera and wat. I was able to get the food the day before at The Ethiopian Cottage, a wonderful restaurant on the east side of Milwaukee. I decorated the table with and Ethiopian table cloth and put out 4 different kinds of wat and a plate full of injera.

For a few days before the actual day of Christmas, George kept talking about teaching his brothers and sisters how to eat Ethiopian food without utensils. Every time we would talk about injera he would motion how to eat it and say, "I will teach the kids!"

So, the table was set, the kids gathered round, and we thanked God not only for our food, but also that we now have the privilege of sharing in a different tribes celebration of Christ's birth. We put wat on all the kids' plates, passed out the injera and watched them dig in. A few minutes went by before I noticed that George was eating his wat with a fork and just holding a roll of injera in his hand!

I gasped, "Georgie! What are you doing?"

"Oh my goodness!", he replied, "Oh...I forgot!" He then unrolled a piece of injera and started eating the way he had eaten food for his entire life. A little awkward at first, it took a while for him to become comfortable eating this way.

I have to admit, it was so difficult for me to watch George eat when we first picked him up. He would often forget to grab a fork and would instead shovel food into his mouth, lots of goo spilling through his finger, rolling down his chin and generally making a huge mess. Sometimes I thought I would literally get sick watching him eat. It took me a long time to be able to look at him while we shared a meal.

Slowly but surely, George started using a fork and a napkin and taking his time with his food. Now, we can talk while we eat, although we do have to remind him to slow down each and every meal. He isn't nearly as messy, but we can always tell which napkin George used as it is absolutely covered and in tatters.

But, when I saw my Ethiopian son struggling with his injera and wat, my heart broke a bit. We have the opportunity to teach George what it means to be an American, including a free education, freedom to worship in any church, and ample supplies of food and fun. He has embraced American life fully! In fact, he rarely wants anything to do with Ethiopia, a child from Ethiopia or anything with Africa these days. Bringing Ethiopian Christmas into our house was a challenging moment for him, he was suddenly faced with embracing his Ethiopian heritage while still embracing his American life. This was much harder on him than I anticipated.

As a family, we have fallen in love with Ethiopia. My heart longs to get back there!We enjoy the food, the clothing, and the beautiful people from Ethiopia. We did not think that our Ethiopian son would want little to do with his home country. I am sure part of this is his way of dealing with the massive amounts of change in his life over the last few years. How could a child possible deal with going from an impoverished African country to a comfortable life in America? The psychological implications are huge for adopting an older child and putting him a in new home that was so different from 6 years of his life.

All of a sudden George has 4 siblings. All of a sudden, George goes to school and rides in a car every day. All of a sudden, George has enough food to eat. All of a sudden, he has two parents who are healthy and love him. We were told to prepare...for what...no one was quite sure. So that made the preparations, mentally and emotionally, pretty difficult. This is new territory for all of us and as we stumble our way through this new normal, I am constantly being forced to my knees before a loving, holy God and asking for His help.

Sometimes I have to be reminded how much change George has faced over the past year. I am now in a place of treating him just like my other children, yet I can't quite do that yet! There are still great circumstances that surround each and every reaction to any situation. I never know what I am going to get when George is faced with something new...but I guess that is part of the excitement of adoption.

Lots of rambling here, I know. I am greatly distracted as I try to write this post. I read a phrase that describes who I am now....gloriously ruined. More on that later, as I have not been able to shake these words. That is now me...gloriously ruined.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Ethiopian Christmas 2010





Nights Full of Cries

I have been sleeping on the couch so I can keep an ear on my two little boys. I am listening to different things, but I need to be there for both of them. Lincoln has a horrible chest cough which is making his asthma much worse. Sleep is difficult for him right now. George...simply cries.

We noticed the first night home with George how much he cried in his sleep. Joe and I would listen to him all night long when we lived in our old house because we were right across the hall from us. Once we moved, we are not near the boys' room, so I haven't been hearing much. I thought that eight months later, the cries would have stopped. I found out this week, they have not.

I have noticed that George yells things in his sleep, probably every hour. He yells words that I don't recognize most of the time; sometimes he yells out the word, "No!" The yells are always followed by moans. It is a guttural moaning that comes from deep within. Sometimes there is crying.

But, he never wakes us during these cries. He stays soundly asleep. There have been times I have gone in and gently rubbed his back and say quietly that everything is ok, but I don't think he has any awareness of my presence in those moments.

Thankfully, when he wakes up, he is generally happy and in a good mood. We have joked about his yelling at night. He thinks it is funny that he yells out in the middle of the night, so now he asks me, "Momma...what did I yell last night?" I usually make up something funny, like "Lincoln no stand on your head!" George will laugh and laugh and then tell all his siblings what he yelled out that night.

A few days ago I started doing some research about adopted children and their sleep patterns. Here is something I read:

Post Traumatic Stress: The older a child gets, the more cognitive he becomes, and the more able to store experiences and memories in his brain. The degree of stress, even trauma, that adoption can bring depends on memories of his past experience (whether in an institution or not, whether well-cared-for or abused in some way) combined with the comprehension of his adoption experience (gradual or abrupt, amount of transition preparation, whether or not brought into a new culture with a new language). A child’s reaction to such stress or trauma may be controlled by day, but released when he feels more vulnerable, as at night. Hence, the sleep problems so many adopted children experience.

I would like to say that George has adjusted to life with us incredibly well in the past few months. Our life is really settling into our new normal. There are no more talks of leaving, no more walking down the street looking for a way back to Ethiopia, no more tearing the room apart or anything like that. George has become a totally normal 6 year old, who has all the issues and discipline that all 6 year old boys have! But, he must still be hurting deep inside and at night, those hurts and fears are running through his brain.

My heart breaks that he still struggles during his sleep. I can't help but think that those nightmares can contribute to a feeling of not getting a good night's sleep. Joe and I have begun praying over him at night, asking God to ease the pain he is in, even boldly asking that those memories would be erased so that he can totally assimilate into his new life. I know it is healthy for him to grieve, and this is obviously the arena in which he is choosing to do so. But, I am ready to see him move on from that grief, for his sake, not mine! He has been through enough - it's time to let the pain go and live for a hopeful future.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Ethiopian Christmas is Coming!

It's just a few days away...

I have read up and asked some questions....

Ethiopian Christmas is January 7th, so we are two days away from our celebration! When I think about how we will celebrate this year, I am struck by the contrast between our American Christmas and the Ethiopian Christmas. From the reading I have done, ETC is very simple. The family usually takes this opportunity to eat some meat, specifically doro wat (a spicy chicken dish, always accompanied with a hard boiled egg). The doro wat is served on injera. There MIGHT be one present exchanged and it is usually clothing. Then the family spends time together and plays games.

Pretty different than our food, gift and decoration extravaganza, huh?

I am so excited to be celebrating ETC this year! In fact, Joe and I are toying with the idea of only celebrating ETC next year and doing away with all the craziness and materialism of our American Christmases. Joe keeps saying, "We've got to do more simplifying, especially at Christmas." I look at this ETC celebration and I think this is an answer to what we have been looking for.

Did you catch that Ethiopians use Christmas as an opportunity to eat some meat? My dear friends who are missionaries in Addis told us that most Ethiopians eat meat twice a year, Christmas and Easter. Just let your mind sit there for a minute...meat two times a year, that's it. Truly, the Christmas feast of doro wat becomes a real celebration!

The presents are simple, if there are even any presents. Clothing. And we are not talking about padding an already crowded closet with the latest trend. A new outfit that will be THE clothing for the year.

And they are happy. I am very sad that George has already adopted an American-kid attitude. The presents were not good enough. The toys have already lost their appeal. The shirt was not like Harry's. Disgruntled, entitled and unappreciative. Our society breeds this in children. No matter how hard we try to keep our children's eyes on the Lord and not get distracted by the world, they are IN the world and can't help but be sucked into it. George played with ONE match-box car for 6 hours one day. Happily pushing it around the house, saying "Beep-beep" as he turned corners. That would never satisfy him today.

Commercials, other kids at school, visiting houses that are stuffed to the gills with toys...all these things breed discontent in children. And no longer is a few presents enough. Thankfully, my older kids are "getting it", but I think this battle is hard-fought in the years 4 - 10.

So, Joe and I wonder what Christmas would be like if we lived in Ethiopia. We would have our meal of meat, give the kids a new shirt or dress, play some games and then remind the children about Jesus' birth. Sounds good to me.

God chose for all of us to be born here in America in this time. He wants us to focus on Him regardless of the distractions and the comforts. That is our generations' biggest challenge. We see very little need for a savior.

How sad.

This year, we are celebrating both Christmases. I am not sure what we will do next year, but I know we will continue to strive to look different than the world around us. So, on Thursday, I will be picking up some injera and doro wat, wrapping up some Ethiopian clothing for the children and wish them all a merry Christmas.

Monday, January 4, 2010

A Little Late


I was a little late. But, the pain it caused was great.

I am guilty, I know it. I tend to stand around church after the service is over talking to people sitting around us. Yesterday I was so excited to visit with a young couple we met a few months ago...we knew he was planning on proposing to her and we couldn't wait to hear all about it. Then, there were many well wishes for a happy new year for many. And, we were enjoying catching up with some dear friends, anxious to hear about their holiday.

As the sanctuary was emptying out, I suddenly realized that I was the one who needed to pick up the boys. I ran up the ramp and toward the Sunday School rooms, buzzed around a few corners and then saw the looks from the teachers. You might know that look. The look that says, "You are late!", but with a smile.

I then saw George, standing all alone, head down. What struck me in the gut was that this is how George stood for the first few weeks of his life with us. Defiantly standing still, head down, refusing to look at anyone let alone talk to anyone.

I did everything I could think of. I held him tight, I lifted his head so I could look into his eyes. I sat down and pulled him onto my lap. All the while, I said many times that I was sorry and kept promising that I was never going to leave him.

It was too late, the damage had been done. George was not the same the rest of the day. He was mean, grumpy, and told me many times he hated church.

I can't even imagine what was going through his mind as he saw each and every child being picked up by his/her parents. What deep pains came rushing back to his mind in those moments? What immeasurable hurts were remembered and the fear of wondering if he would be abandoned again!

As parents, we work from birth to create a self-security in our children. We leave them in a room and walk away, sometimes listening to them cry. But, we always come back. As they get older, we leave them with a babysitter and leave the house. They are scared, may cry a little. But, we always come back. They get even older and we walk them into a school, kiss them goodbye and tell them we'll see them in eight hours. They might be nervous. But, we always come back. By the time my kids are around the age of George, they are very secure in the knowledge that Momma comes back.

George is not. Eight months of Momma coming back is not nearly enough to cover the scars of his birth mom NEVER coming back.

By this morning, George was doing fine. He was skipping around the house before school and gave me lots of big hugs. I learned me lesson, though. I don't want George to have to think about being left behind again. "No talking for Momma after church! Or, at least Momma can talk AFTER she picks up Georgie."

OK, son. I promise...again.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

7 Reasons Why You Should Consider Adoption

Here is are 7 reasons why you should consider beginning the adoption process in 2010. While they are simplistic and overlapping at points, each represents an eternal truth or significant reality that has transformed me and my family over the last year.

1. Adoption is a reflection of God’s grace to us in Christ.
2. You were once Fatherless and now have a Father.
3. You were once without a family and now have a family.
4. Adoption is the wisdom of God’s mission in the world. (Ephesians 3:10)
5. Adoption is an aspect of true religion. (visiting orphans)
6. There are 145 million orphans and vulnerable children in the world, who Jesus considers His brother and sisters.
7. The sacrificial love and patience involved in adoption will transform you and your family.

I didn't come up with this list - someone else did. But, I agree.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Promise

This week, George and I had a lot of time to just be together. No school. Very cold temperatures. Joe was out of town. The other kids are happily playing wii. So, George and I would look at each other and decide to just hang out.

George is always touching me in these hang out sessions. He is either laying his head on my shoulder or he is wrapping his skinny little arms around me or he is simply reaching out to touch my hand. George is craving affection and he just can't get enough.

We were snuggled on the couch late at night, waiting for Joe to get home from the airport when George looked up and me and said, "You promise, Momma, to always be here with Georgie." It wasn't a question. It was a statement. You stay here and promise to never leave me. I promised.

I can't help but wonder if THIS was the boy we would have picked up in Addis, how our summer might have been so different! My world was turned upside down when George refused to touch me and look at me, let alone love me! It was such a hard path. But, look at what I have learned.

I had a clear message about how we love God and how He loves us. That love is different! We love God with a conditional love - we can't help it- we are sinful humans. "If you do this for me, God, I will love you so much!" But God just loves us, no matter what we do or what we don't do. He loves because He IS love. I knew that, intellectually. I could agree to that statement, nodding my head in church as if I truly understood that. But, I didn't.

I don't know if I would have ever truly learned that lesson without George and how we began. God accomplished so many thing when we brought George into our family! Trust me, every Weldie in this house is in the process of being refined because of this adoption. We ALL needed it and we are ALL thankful that we are walking this hard road together. Not one of us has been untouched in this experience. I have written, at length, of my struggles and lessons. But, my children have been touched greatly as well! They have dropped all racists thoughts. They have a sensitivity to Africa. They long to see orphans adopted. They understand hunger...real hunger. They, too, have learned how to chose to love someone. They have learned that God's love can cover ALL. They will never be the same because of George. I am so thankful that my children will be different!

It is amazing how we have come out of this season! I used to ask myself if I would ever feel normal again or if I could really love George. I am back to normal! I DO love my son! Yes, we still have such a long road ahead of us and now my concerns move to education and comprehension and social gains rather than discipline and behavior. But, isn't that life as parents? All our children cause us to stretch and grow because of the different stages they are going through. (Believe me...I will have a teenager in a few days and I already see the rough waters for the next several years with her!)

George has been asking me over and over this week if he can be a baby. A few times this break, we have let the kids stay up late. On two occasions, George and Lincoln fell asleep on the couch. Both times, Joe and I carried the boys into their beds. I can't even begin to tell you how much this has meant to George! Something so simple, that all parents do, yet he has never experienced a parent lovingly scooping up a sleepy child and lying him in his bed. Amazing! He says every morning, "Can I sleep on couch you Momma carry me to bed?"

He also has become heartbroken over baby pictures. When his classmates are the "Star student" of the week, they always bring in a baby picture. George is now asking me, "Why couldn't you be my Momma? I want to go back to be a baby and be in your belly." He sees a picture of each of the four bio kids, the day of their birth being held tightly by a smiling momma. George will NEVER have that picture. My heart breaks, too. I don't know how to fix this one.

When George gets sad, I make another promise to him. George, I will ALWAYS be your Momma. And I will NEVER leave you.

Friday, January 1, 2010

O.....H.....

I....O!

Loves them roses!

I had to warn George, though. If the Buckeyes lose, Momma is NOT a happy person.

2009 In Review

Where do I even begin? I was up a lot last night, running through the track in my mind that recalled my life in 2009. The changes have been immense: failing court and then passing court in Ethiopia, putting two of the kids in public school while still homeschooling Eleanor, picking up a part time job with a realtor, spending 10 days in Ethiopia with missionaries, adopting an older, relinquished child from Ethiopia, selling our house for full asking price, not being able to find a house to buy, renting in the country, putting the four older children into public school, Joe quit his job at CAT, Joe purchases a business and goes into business for himself, begin working on a foster care ministry at church. I think that is about all the major stuff. Oh, yea, and we got a full-blooded, huge German Shepherd!

All of those things have resulted in ONE change in my life; humility. This year, God took the opportunity to break some of my sinful nature. He has showed me repeatedly this year how little control I have and instead, how incredibly sovereign He is. This year I have cried more than ever, I have pleaded with God more than ever, I have prayed with my husband more than ever, I have not wanted to get out of bed more than ever, I have never been more broken....and....I have never felt closer to God.

I read Oswald Chambers yesterday (and I read the wrong day, but it ended up being just "the right" day). He said when God is refining us and wants to use us, He often breaks down those areas that we thought were our natural strengths. All to cause us to give God all the glory in the things we are able to participate in. He has broken my pride this year. I praise Him for that. I used to shudder as I read various Proverbs that say how God detests pride. I prayed He would take it away.

He did. Through a very hard year He has showed me I have nothing to take pride in. This is a good thing, there is no self-pity here, for that would be prideful! I am grateful. But it is definitely not the year I was expecting.

Before bed, Joe and I spent time on our knees praying to God about where we have been and where we hope to go. Our prayer was so simple, "Can you bless us with a little success with the business? Can you find a way to provide us with a house to buy?" I spent many wakeful hours in the middle of the night thinking through the year, and I have to admit that part of me is so scared of what 2010 holds for our family. Joe and I agree that God is not "done" with us yet, He is still doing a work in our lives to prepare us for something. And I am afraid of what that means. Sometimes I think I just can't do this anymore...it is too hard. I didn't sleep much.

Joe let me sleep in today and he made the coffee and took care of the kids. When I woke up, there was my Bible open and sitting on the kitchen table. "Read Jeremiah 29:11."

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

I have read this before, it is underlined in my Bible. But today, it meant so much more than ever before. Joe said, "This is our verse for the year." I will set my foundation on this verse! God has a plan to give me hope...that is really all I need right now, a little hope! And there it is, in black and white, God knows what He is doing and it includes giving me that much needed hope.

We will look back someday and recall how 2009 was a pivotal point in our lives. Right now, it is a little painful to think of how much we have gone through. I am glad 2009 has come to a close and now I have hope for 2010.

Happy New Year!