Friday, July 30, 2010

Music Camp

OK - I know, I have been a horrible blogger lately! I think it is summer. I also think I am suffering from a serious case of writer's block. Ideas used to pop into my head all the time. Now, I don't have too many thoughts popping into my head other than, "Should we go to the pool at 11:00 or wait until after the break at 2:00?" Seriously, my summer has been full of just hanging out with my kids.

I think of how different that is from last summer. There wasn't a day that went by that didn't find me crying last summer. I was unhappy, yet forcing myself to pretend that I loved George just to get him through it. If I would have let him know how miserable I was...well...I am positive he would not be where he is today. Remember, God sat me down and said, "You must love this boy, like I don't have a choice. Trust me."

So, I trusted God. My human-ness screamed at me to give up, go back, throw it away. But God said, "Hang on, don't quit, continue to love." I realized that God is a God who never gives up, and thankfully, he continues to pour out love on us, even if we don't realize it.

Last summer, I had my first experience with River Valley Alliance Church's Music Camp. It really was my first taste of a Christian community out here. The girls participated. The boys did not. Each morning, as I dropped off the girls, I would take George and Lincoln into the sanctuary where they campers were warming up to worship songs. We would sit there the entire worship time, mainly because I didn't want to go home with George without my girls. Back then, they were the glue that held me together. Eleanor would love me. Isabel would love George. It is just how we made it through a day. George liked the music, so he would sit and listen. He would usually sit a few chairs down from me, not wanting to sit anywhere near his new Momma. I remember wondering if he would ever join the kids in the music camp? Would he ever drop this negative attitude and just enjoy singing and dancing again?

Oh how things have changed in a year! This year, George was there! George wanted to go to music camp. George smiled and sang and danced as he stood on a riser. He especially enjoyed the worship songs because they were songs he has heard many times before. The director made a CD of his songs and we listened to them every day. He was so excited about the concert! He had practiced the choreography with his sisters and brothers in the living room, he sang along to the CD in the car, and he proudly wore his new music camp t-shirt.

Concert time: George sang when he could. He danced when he could get it all together. It was not what one would consider a stellar performance; many songs were song with George struggling to find that one word he knew. He was usually a 1/2 beat behind the motions. This was very hard for George, but he never gave us. He was up there, he was smiling, and he was worshiping Jesus!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Sisterhood of Adoption

Once we adopted, I was instantly installed into the Sisterhood of Adoption. It's kind of like a sorority just for moms who made the decision to bring in a child, love them and care for them as if they had come from our wombs. I have realized that I can't talk to moms who have not adopted about some of the things I feel and experience. It is not their fault, they just don't understand. But, just one word to a member of the sisterhood and there is that nod of recognition or that sigh that says, "Oh, yes...I remember that."

There is something so comfortable about that common ground. Sometimes words don't even need to be spoken. We just "get" each other.

I had the chance to meet some of my sisters last week at the Madison Zoo. It was a sweltering hot day and it was so crowded, but what a day of refreshment it was! For once, I didn't feel like we were being stared at. For once, I wasn't watching out for mean glances or words muttered under one's breath toward George (yes, that happens where I live!).

Instead, there were four families with children adopted from Ethiopia along with children adopted through the foster care system, a child adopted from birth domestically, and plenty of bio children. But as I watched these children interact, there was such understanding and acceptance among them. Eleanor even said on the ride home, "That was so nice! No one thought we were weird for having a big family or for having adopted. Everyone got along and no one asked me stupid questions."

A few days later, standing in the hallway at church, three families who have all adopted came together. In one corner of a hallway three families gathered with children from China, Korea and Ethiopia. Each family now has 5 children, so imagine the many many many smiles. One friend had just come home with her son from China. A few words were spoken about the adjustment and that was all that needed to be said. We get it. We've been there.

There is a sisterhood of adoption; something that brings mommas together in this journey. It's just like the sisterhood of motherhood; once you're a mom, you're a member for life. This sorority is just a bit different, but it is just as sweet.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


We had a great weekend...a missionary weekend! It is amazing how you can meet someone for only a week and instantly feel like family. That is the case with our friends who are serving with SIM in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. They are on a break, spending several months in the US getting some much needed rest. We felt so fortunate that they squeezed out some time to spend with us.

We enjoyed laughter and we updated each other on what's been going on since we picked up George last April. They were amazed at George, for the boy that played and laughed before them was not the same boy who pouted, screamed and cried in Africa.

On Saturday morning, our friends laid out an abundance of gifts from Ethiopia and let each of our children chose a treasure. George chose a necklace in the shape of Ethiopia and a wooden puzzle. Lincoln and Harry both chose a t-shirt and the girls chose jewellery (hair clips and bracelets).

So, we had a weekend of Ethiopian culture, music, and language. And George was affected.

Saturday night, George fell apart.

George has never talked about his Africa-Mommy. If he ever says anything about her, it is because we asked. This night, he grieved the loss of his mommy. Oh, did he cry. And he let a lot of information just come flooding out..."My Africa-Mommy was so nice to me. She made me breakfast every was a good breakfast. She was pretty and I didn't want to say goodbye." He sobbed.

I held him and told him over and over again how much his mommy loved him. I told George that I love his mommy.

Then he asked me, "Is she in heaven with my Africa-Daddy?"

I didn't know how to answer. She has AIDS, but I have no idea if she is alive or not. I couldn't answer.

He cried. Then he said, "I want to make my Africa-Mommy a card."

So, we moved to the kitchen table where George poured out his heart into a card for his mom, whom he misses so greatly and still loves with all his heart.

This is what he wrote:

"I love mom. I miss you. I love you. You're a good mom. I like school and I am learning a lot. I miss Dad, too...and mom. Love, George."

He drew a picture of two brown people with big smiles holding hands and wrote "Mom" and "Dad" underneath.

We are going to send his card away and pray that it his Africa-Mommy sees it.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

My Joy Giver is Not So Joy-filled

Isabel is nicknamed our "joy-giver". Ever since the day she was born, she has brought immense joy to our lives. She is always singing, always happy, always singing...always full of joy. She giggles freely, laughs completely and loves with wild abandon.

She was the first one to really love George. She accepted him, warts and all, right from the first minute. When George stood at the window sobbing and screaming that first day, the rest of the kids had looks of shock on their faces and eventually hid away in their rooms. Not Isabel. She stayed in the room and quietly kept moving closer and closer to George. Her warm smile eventually "won" him over. They started playing with a balloon and George laughed. It was the first time I had ever heard him laugh!

When the rest of the kids, and Joe and I, struggled with our feelings toward George, Isabel remained steadfast...she would challenge us when we were unfair toward him. She would remind us that not everything was his fault. And she would come to his defense...often.

Thinking back, those were such hard days. I clearly remember when each of the kids broke down. Each one in their own way. Not Isabel. She never complained, never whined, never questioned why we had done this.

But now, where is my joy-giver?

Our lives have really settled down. The chaos is at a minimum - for I can't say that when a house has 5 children that there will never be chaos. We have slipped into a routine and we all are learning what to expect from George in particular. And since things have settled down, my joy-giver has changed.

She is struggling right now. There are few smiles. There are few laughs. She fights with George constantly. She kicks him out of her room, she yells in his face, she tells him to get away from her. It is so sad.

I wonder what is going on in her heart? How could she change so drastically over-night? It seems as if her mind and soul are dealing with the pain of the past year now...after the rest of us already screamed, cried, pouted and locked ourselves in our rooms. We have all come out on the other side and are moving on. She never did that...and now, she is struggling.

I have been hearing God nudging my spirit for months now...spend more one on one time with Isabel. Now. Don't let the week go by without a mommy-daughter date. I am trying to fill her love-bucket with how she wants to be loved. I am praying for her every day with more fervor and passion. I want my joy-giver back.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

What Did You Say???

Here are a few things I have heard recently that make me go, "What did you say?"

George was called "a colored boy". Are we still living in the 1940s?

I was talking about the Dollar Tree with someone. We have a new one in town and I mentioned that we had made our first trip a few days ago. The person I was talking with said, "Did you notice there was a black man working there? I was so impressed with him, I mean, he was just trying so hard. He was really working. I guess those stereotypes of blacks aren't all true."

Then there was the woman at the soccer field who said, "We just love watching your black boys play. They are just so much better than the rest of us. You must be so proud of your boys." OK, what she said was awful, but she was thinking that George and Tersony (who was adopted from Haiti) were brothers. She obviously could not notice how these two boys look nothing alike...oh...other than their brown skin.

Thankfully, George has been shielded from these idiotic words. But, I know someday he will hear them and wonder. Until then, we continue to marvel at his beautiful, soft skin and tell him how handsome he is.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

What Is Compassion?

Compassionate justice is inconveniencing ourselves for the sake of the community.

Joe and I had to think about this one for quite a while. Are we willing to inconvenience ourselves for the sake of someone else?

Now the question is for you...are you willing to inconvenience yourself for the sake of a hurting, lost, orphaned community?