Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Birthday to My Guys

Two birthdays - yipee!

Throw in Trunk or Treat and it was a FULL weekend of celebrating.

Lincoln was soooooo excited to FINALLY get a DS (it's all he has wanted for over a year).

The kids gave Daddy a little German Shepherd figurine...knowing how much Gunnar means to Joe. Gunnar approved.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Trunk or Treating

We attended our first ever Trunk or Treating event...and boy was it fun! The kids had a blast - and Joe and I were very inspired to kick our car-decorating up a notch next year - already making plans!

And best of all...we didn't spend a dime on our Halloween costumes :) I still haven't been able to shake the knowledge that Americans have spent over 6 billion dollars on Halloween this year. Like Harry said, "That could provide a lot of wells for clean water in Africa...but does anyone care about that?"

Friday, October 28, 2011

Heart Gallery

I brought home a flier from the adoption conference that I purposefully laid out in the kitchen, waiting to see how my family would respond. The flier is the South Carolina Heart Gallery. If you are not sure what a Heart Gallery is, it is a photograph and description of several children who are available for adoption through the foster care system.

I was heart broken when I looked at the flier. Too many children who have no family. Too many children who just want a hope of a future. Too many children that will continue to be overlooked because they are "too old" or "too broken" or "too messed up". But, what I read were descriptions of my own children...loves music, likes to dance, loves to laugh and play...wants to know the love of a family.

I decided to keep the flier to pray for these kids. But I was curious as to what my children would say.

One by one, my children read or looked at the flier.

Eleanor looked at the flier and noticed that many of the kids were around her age and she said, "They deserve a special mom and dad."

Harry read every word and was very quiet afterward. We ended up having an amazing conversation about people in our lives who are so concerned with making their lives comfortable they are missing out on a life of meaning.

Isabel read the flier and then told me how sad she was, but felt lucky that she was not on that flier.

George announced all those kids need a mom and dad and it isn't good to be a kid alone.

Lincoln looked at the pictures, asked me the kids' names and then said, "We have room in our car for one more! Let's adopt again!"

Anna looked at the pictures for quite a while, didn't say anything and then walked over and hugged me.

Can I just insert here how much I love and adore ALL my children?

Joe shed a tear. He was particularly drawn to a young lady who was beautiful and said really funny things about what she likes.

We all agreed to keep the flier and to keep on praying for these kids.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Anna Banana

I call Anna "Anna Banana". No real reason why - Joe I just love giving nicknames to our kiddos.

So, tonight, Anna was playing outside with her best buddy and it was getting dark. I opened the back door and called out, "Anna Banana! It's time to come in."

To which she replied, "OK Mommy Banana!"

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

I Can't Tell :)

Sunshine was streaming through the windows of the church as birds were singing in the beautiful trees ablaze with red leaves. There was a cool breeze to make it the perfect October day in South Carolina.

All the people at the adoption conference were smiling and laughing and carrying on about how much adoption has meant to them. Couple after couple stood to the podium and made the same statements while smiles spread across their faces so wide I thought their cheeks might rip.

"There is NO difference in my love between my biological children and my adopted children."

"I can't even tell which are my adopted children and which are my biological children."

Ahhhhh - adoption.

Even the key-note speaker kept talking about "adopting babies" because "babies" are just so wonderful and cuddly and cute and even more wonderful!

Meanwhile, I sit there thinking I must be a horrible mom.

There IS a difference in my love. I haven't reached a point where I can't remember which of my children are adopted and which are not.

Sigh - adoption.

I love adoption conferences...but at the same time, I hate them. I left there feeling AGAIN like I am unusual or weird or worse yet...a FAILURE for not feeling like these happy moms cuddling their babies and saying things like "I have to laugh when someone asks me which one is adopted because golly, I just can't remember sometimes." When I look at my 6 lined up, I surely can tell right away which ones are adopted.

When I go to school conferences, I can tell right away which ones are adopted.
When I go to a family wedding, I can tell right away which ones are adopted.
When I walk into a store and get stared at, I can tell right away which ones are adopted.
And when I tuck them in at night, I can tell right away which ones are adopted.

My adopted kids talk differently, they smell differently, they behave differently.

What about us moms who are struggling to make this work? What about us moms that 2 years in are still having daily battles (mainly within myself)? I am part of a board where the moms are brutally and refreshingly honest. We tell each other when we are struggling...and believe me...many of us ARE!

But, who gets paraded on the stage at an adoption conference? They JCrew wearing, clear skinned, recently dyed-hair pastor's wife who announces to the crowd with her bleached white teeth that, "Gee willikers, people always ask me if I love my adopted baby here - isn't he cute - the same as I love my biological kids...and let me tell you, golly gee, that I absolutely love this adorable wubbie-tubbie cutie pie." And the audience all claps and smiles and sighs and thinks, "THAT is what adoption is."

And don't get me wrong - for some people THAT IS what adoption is like. But what about the rest of us?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Trip To Ohio

We took a little, whirl-wind trip back to Cincinnati, Ohio. This is the city where Joe and I met, where we dated for 2 years and where he asked me to marry him. We have been back before with the kids, driving around in the car and saying things like, "That is where Mommy used to live." And then, "This is the street Daddy's apartment was on."

But this trip seemed different. We stayed right on the Ohio River and had the opportunity to walk around downtown Cincinnati. This is where Joe and I had so many dates and where we spent so much of our two years while we both lived here. It really was FUN!

Plus..our kids are getting to an age where THEY are fun! Our older ones have such a good sense of humor and they can make me laugh so hard. No longer do I need to carry around a diaper bag or make sure someone is getting to bed on time. It's pretty wonderful to watch my kids grow up into their own people.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

How God Works

God gets the glory.

And here is how He is doing just that in Wisconsin today.

Finally, the Senate will be voting on AB30, The Safe Families Bill. It was one year ago this week that I sat in an office in the state house in Madison and heard the head of DCFS say, "You will never be allowed to do Safe Families in Wisconsin."

It was one year ago this week that I cried in my car driving home from Madison, praying that God would do something.

It was one year ago this week that I determined to keep moving forward. God said, "Keep fighting." So, I did. I recruited families. I placed two little boys.

And then God moved. Along comes Representative Dale Kooyenga. He said, "I'll do this with you." And Representative Kooyenga got busy in Madison.

I and prayed. And I begged everyone I knew in Wisconsin to send emails and make phone calls to their Representatives in Madison. We were making progress!

Then, dum-dum-dum (enter scary music)...the Budget Repair Bill hit. Sigh. Everything halted in Madison - and don't even get me started about the teacher's unions and the ridiculous protests, but I guess from that statement you know how I feel about it all.

God continued to move. He pricked the hearts of certain people in Madison who continued to carry the torch even through the muck of the protests and the fighting and the yelling and the name-calling. Quietly, our little bill stayed alive.

We passed the Assembly committee. We passed the Assembly. We passed the Senate committee. Then....STALL.

I have so much to say about a certain Senator who was annoyed at hearing from his constituents..but I will save THAT for another shout-out after the bill is signed by the governor!

Because of this STALL...we faced uncertainty. Will we ever get this bill to a vote in the Senate? Will it just die here in committee land?

I moved. Now what? I KNOW this is so much bigger than one stay-at-home mom, but who was going to be the bull-dog now? are so foolish sometimes...I AM GOD.

So, here is where it gets really cool! Apparently, a few years ago, this certain Senator had a certain man as his chief of staff. Well...that certain man was called into active duty and had to leave WI, and his job as this Senator's chief of staff. He moved to a state where Safe Families is legal and he and his wife BECAME a Safe Family! Then, in late September, this certain man called up the certain Senator and said, "Hey! I am in town for the night...let's catch up over dinner!" The certain Senator said, "Sounds good."

And over the course of a two hour dinner, the certain man told the certain Senator about this amazing ministry he was involved with..."it's called Safe Families and it is changing our lives and our community". The certain Senator had a light-bulb moment...Safe Families sounds familiar.."oh yes...I have a piece of legislation sitting on my desk waiting for a vote."

God...ONLY God could have orchestrated that dinner. Only God could have known that the once chief of staff for the certain Senator who was holding up a certain piece of legislation would someday become a Safe Family and then advocate for it with NO IDEA that the certain Senator needed to put it to a vote!

To God be the glory!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Another Dose of Adoption Reality


I used to love conferences. I would hear wonderful things about my children, "They are doing so well." "They are so smart." "They are natural leaders."

Now, I experience the "other side" of conferences.

"He is failing most of his classes." "She has a hard time listening." "She is way behind." "We are going to have to think about holding him back."

So many words coming at me as I meet with teacher after teacher. I go from one extreme to the other as I bounce around between the different grades. The reality goes like two hand-picked kiddos suffer from developmental delays, educational delays, emotional delays...basically, they are delayed in every possible way except maybe physically.

They were not rocked and sung to as babies. They did not have nurseries and play rooms filled with stimulating colors and shapes. They were not read to as toddlers. They never sang the ABC song. The did not practice counting to 5. They did not watch Sesame Street and hear the monsters rhyme words. They don't know the letters in their name.

And then, they go to school, where they are surrounded by children who HAVE done all those things.

But wait, they are still learning a language. They still have a long way to go to feel safe and secure. They are trying to catch up from years of malnourishment. So, on top of trying to focus on vocabulary words or the seasons or the days of the week, their little brains are trying to take in a clean classroom filled with colorful posters and bins filled with math manipulatives and mobiles hanging from the ceiling and a tee-pee reading tent in the corner and book shelves filled with books!

Then, you throw in the cultural differences. Here, we look adults in the eye. In ET, if a child looks an adult in the eye, they risk a smack on the head. Here, we value education In ET, there is perceived very little need for education. The list goes on and on.

So, I sat in the conferences with teachers who LOVE my children - thank you Lord! They are talking with me weekly, if not daily some times, to do what is best for my kiddos. They are amazed how far they have come...but overwhelmed with how far they have to go.

This is just another dose of adoption reality.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Hot or Cold

These days, George is either hot or cold.
He is either stomping off to his room, blabbering something about running away and hating us....
he is curled up by my side, stroking my face, telling me how much he loves me.
There is very little in between.
There is very little normalcy.
I am trying this new method of parenting George. He is no longer getting attention when he misbehaves. And I am trying to remember to lavish him with love when he IS behaving.

But, the struggle is in my heart. Because when he is blabbering about hating me and wanting to run away, I take those words deep into my heart and I don't want to let them go. So, when he cuddles up to me, I almost despise his love because I don't feel it is real.

This is the reality of my life with an adopted child who is broken, fragile, and so deeply hurting. He cried to me the other day that he can't remember anything about his Africa Daddy. That made him so sad.

I laid on the couch about 3:30am this morning (some sick kids) and prayed that God would continue what he has started in George's heart: HEALING. Sometimes, I am angry at how long it is taking....other times I am convicted that I am not doing enough in the healing process....and yet other times I recognize how far we have all come. But, this boy needs HEALING. He needs to know the LOVE that never fails.

I read of a friend of mine back in Milwaukee who suddenly found herself on the news and in the papers. Her adopted daughter from Ethiopia ran away because she was angry about being punished. Oh, how I know exactly what that is like! Oh, how I fear the day George DOES walk out the door in his anger and we find ourselves working with the police to find him. Oh, how I fear the day he hurts someone or makes a really bad decision. It COULD happen.

All the love and stability and forgiveness and comfort and food and shelter we provide COULD lead up to NOTHING. I know a BATTLE rages in George's soul! I see it...every day. This child is so torn between good and evil. Evil has won so many times in his short life that he feels more comfortable with that side. We are fighting hard to pull him to the good side. Some days, I am tired of fighting.

Russell Moore just wrote a blog piece saying :DON'T ADOPT! He is right. ALL of us are not called to adopt because this is a HARD, HARD road. I don't understand why God CHOSE our road to be so difficult. He also blessed us with Anna, whose road has been lined with tulips and butterflies (comparatively speaking!). So, I know adoption CAN be so wonderful. Why did God ask Joe and I to take such a HARD road?

If you know the answer, can you tell me?

In the meantime, I muddle through each day, wondering which George I will have any given minute.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Pretty Soon!

Pretty soon, Anna will legally be OURS!

We meet with our new lawyer this week to begin the process. In WI, we had to wait 6 months before we could legally adopt Anna. The end of October marks that 6 month mark. So, we are getting ready.

I have so much to share about sweet Anna! But, I just don't feel comfortable doing so until she is legally ours.

I will say this, disruption is heartbraking! But...I know this....Anna WELDIE was PLAN A. It just took an unexpected journey to bring her to our family.

I can't wait to be able to tell you all about Anna, her life, her story and how perfect she is for our family.

Would you please pray for us? We have to trust the Lord for the money to come - from where - I have no idea - to finalize the adoption. Because of the move, our savings has been wiped out. We are stepping forward trusting that God will provide the lawyer fees and the court costs and the new homestudy fee. Also, please pray for our protection...that we get to finalize the adoption before the end of the year and officially give Anna her new name. Thank you!

Pretty soon!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

"Not a Good Boy"

Every day I am learning more and more about what makes George tick.

Saturday morning, George was having a rough one. I can't remember exactly what set him off. I think it was that we ran out of T*aster Strudel. Or maybe it was because Lincoln got to go with Daddy for a quick trip to the store. It really doesn't matter what the reason is, George will find any way to be angry these days.

My challenge is to not engage him when he is acting that way. So, he stormed up the stairs saying hateful, awful things. Oh, how tired I am of writing this same story out! But, he does it again and again, so this is my life.

Two days in a row of George pouting and whining about not getting SOME THING that he wanted. And Joe finally had enough.

After a bit, George had finally settled down enough to to talk. Joe talked to him about his behavior, how it simply is unacceptable for him to act the way he does when he doesn't get his way. They talked and then Joe said, " ARE a GOOD BE a GOOD BOY."

George's face broke into a million pieces suddenly and the tears raced down his cheeks.

"I don't believe I am a good boy."

Oh, Georgie - why would you say that?

"Because my Africa mommy gave up on me."

I think we are finally getting to a heart issue. George does not believe he is good at heart and so he acts out what he believes he is.

How do I answer? How do I even begin to re-build a child who has been so hurt?

I am learning that this is not a quick-fix and I am learning this is a hard road. Yes, I chose this road....but as I think of my son in all his brokenness and grief...I am willing to walk the hard road.

Through it all, I know God chose THIS broken boy for me. God knew how much I needed to be changed through this . So, not only is my story about adopting a boy from Africa, it is TRULY about a woman who is learning (slowly, I might add) to look more like Jesus.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Fear That Runs Deep

I have observed a couple of things in my relationship with George lately. These things used to drive me crazy, but now, I understand.

George tends to get angry very easily. When he gets angry, he sulks away, usually doing this Ethiopian cry/whine type thing. Needless to say, it totally grates on our nerves. He tries to engage in an argument and I am learning to not go there. I have learned to stay calm, state my case, and then say, "I am done talking about this until you calm down."

We have implemented grounding lately. No more yelling. No more spankings. George now gets grounded to his room. The door can stay open, and he can listen to music or play with his toys, and he can sit in the window and watch what is going on outside...but he must stay in his room. So far.....(huge so far!)....this is "working".

Some times, grounding won't when we are walking to the school bus, or when everyone is going to bed and essentially "grounded" to their rooms anyway. I have noticed that when George is angry with me, he will hang on to that anger for as long as he can. He will do everything he can to make me KNOW that he is angry with me.

Now, for the record, ALL my kids get angry with me. Yes, I am THAT type of mom who sometimes says things the way they are, and a mom who does not treat all 6 kids FAIRLY (not all will get dessert - just those that finish their dinner type of mom). I speak honestly with my children and I let them know what I expect out of them. Sometimes, they don't like that. And they get angry.

When the others get angry, they very easily fall asleep or get on the school bus. But...NOT GEORGE....

I have noticed that George WILL hang on to the anger for as long as he possibly can. Typically, he will climb out of bed after the house gets quiet and tip-toe into my room and say, "I'm sorry, Momma." We reconcile, we hug and George skips off to bed with a smile on his face. This scenario happens over and over and over and over again. I am so used to it I can almost predict to the minute when he will be coming down the stairs.

Well, this morning, something finally dawned on me. This morning, as I was helping Lincoln with his shoes, I sighed and said out loud, "Buddy, you really need some new shoes."

Anna piped in, "Me too, Mommy!"

"Yes, sweetie. You do, too."

"Mom, I could really use a new pair of tennis shoes for volleyball," said Isabel

Another big sigh. "OK. You are right. I will run out to the store today and get you three some new shoes because you really need them."

At this point, George lets us all know how upset he is by his HUGE whine.

"George, I know how important shoes are to you. I know you want to make sure you always have shoes and never want to be without them again. But, can you tell me how many shoes you have right now in your closet?'

He counts in his head meticulously.

"12", he answers. Now, for the record, I think a child having 12 pairs of shoes is ridiculous. But, George needs to have shoes in every room and be able to change his shoes every day in order to feel secure. He has been focused on shoes since the day we picked him up. He would stop on the streets of Addis Ababa when he saw a pair of shoes for sale. He would plant himself and refuse to move. At night, he would cry and scream when we would take his shoes off of him when it was time to crawl into bed. He has purposefully ripped his shoes just to be sure he would get a new pair (I hope this trend is slowly being broken!). And remember the HORRIFIC airport scene? the center of it all!

I try to talk to him about how he could wear a different pair of shoes each day of the week and STILL have 5 more pair to wear the next week before finally putting on a pair for the 2nd time.

No help.

He is angry. No, he is furious. He just can't get over the fact that he is not going to get a new pair of shoes today.

He walks all the way to the bus ANGRY. He walks about 10 paces in front of us. He refuses to sit with us on the curb as we wait. He won't even look at the rest of us as we talk.

But then the bus comes.

Suddenly, he races over to me, wrapping his arms around me and says, "I am sorry, Momma! I love you so much ."

And I get it....he wants to....reconcile before there is any separation between us. The fear that runs deep in his little heart is that we will never be reconciled. His fear is that this anger will forever separate us. And no matter how angry he is with me...he needs to know I love him before he leaves my presence in any way.

And I wondered...was he angry when his Africa Mommy left him? Had he been pouting? Had he been angry? Did he say something mean to her?

And then....he never had the chance to say he was sorry or say he really DID love her.

Imagine that. Loving someone so dearly and suddenly never having the chance to tell them you love them? I can only imagine how that regret and pain run so deeply in a child.

Separated from the one he loved. And then, left in an orphanage. Then taken by strange ferenji who looked nothing like him and spoke a language he had never heard.

It breaks my heart to think of the fear that runs so deep in his little heart.