Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Cop and a Principal

When it comes to parent a RAD child...I believe it "takes a village". I have realized that I am not an advocate for George and his "disorder". I need to educate everyone who comes in regular contact with him...neighbors, teachers and coaches. George can't be treated like every other child - his life started out with so much trauma mandates that he have his own set of "rules".

And my job, as a parent who truly loves George, is to tell everyone how we can all work together to help George LEARN how to trust and bond.

So, we have had two instances this past week in which I could call on "the village" to help me.

First, there is "The Saga Of The Lunch"

George has decided he hates the lunch I pack him and that a school lunch is the bomb. He says "Moms who really love their kids give them what they want..and I want a school lunch!" Now, Joe and I have discussed this and have agreed that this is an area in which we could say "YES!" But the WAY in which George has treated this issue caused us to say "NO...for now." So, in anger, George threw his lunch away one day. The next day, he left it at home. And after that, he decided HE would pack his lunch. The result? George racked up over $5.00 in lunch fees. And I refuse to pay that fee.

So, I sat down with his principal and told her about RAD, how George desperately needs to understand that his actions have consequences, and asked for her assistance with the "lunch ladies" (who are now harassing me with regular phone calls about the $5.00). She never once doubted me or argued with me or laughed at me...instead, she said, "I've got an idea!"

Yesterday, the principal pulled George into her office and laid out the "bill" from the lunch room. She explained that he just couldn't go through the line and take things. George responded, "I have $20 from my birthday. I'll pay it later." By the way..that is a big fat lie and he knows it! He spent his $20 on really cheap toy from CVS because he couldn't STAND not spending that $20 right away. But that is another story! The principal knew better...she said, "No George. I paid your bill so now you owe me the $5.00" George answered, "My mom will pay you. Can I leave now?" "No George. Your momma didn't take $5.o0 worth of food from the lunch line...YOU did. YOU owe me. And here is how you are going to pay me back. For the next 5 days, you are going to work during recess for me. I have some weeds that need to be pulled - you can start there. And then, I need these white boards cleaned real well. I have some other jobs, too. When you finish those 5 days, you will have paid me back."

She also talked with George about WHY there are school and at home. She explained that when parents love their children, they will make rules to protect them and encourage them to be good people when they grow up. And..she finished by saying if parents love their children, they won't give them what ever they want. She then had George write down what he had learned.

She called me and read what he wrote. He seems to have understood.

So..that was yesterday at school.

Then, after school "The iPod Saga" played out.

Last week, George stole Joe's iPod and tried to sell it to our neighbor. Thankfully, our neighbor asked Harry if George really was allowed to sell the iPod and Harry immediately figured out what was going on. Joe was furious. And so, this weekend, Joe walked down the street to the Greenville police officer who lives a few houses down for us and explained the situation.

Yesterday, while the kids were working on home work, the door bell rang.

"Mom! A cop is here!"

There he was...a 6'2" African-American man dressed in his uniform with his car parked right in front of our house.

"Can I speak to George, please?"

George's knees started shaking.

He pulled George outside to talk "man to man". He told George that he heard about the stealing and that he wanted to make sure that George knew that stealing was wrong. He then told George that there are places where the police have to take boys who make bad choices and that deciding to steal was a bad choice. The cop told George, "You have a loving family around you. I see you with your family all the time! They love you...and they care about the person you are and who you will become! Now, you need to start making really good decisions."

He shook George's hand, asked him to keep a watch out at his house while he is at work, and then told George that if he hears that he is doing better, he'll let George play around in his police car.

And yes..this is THE SAME cop who threatened to kill Gunnar....but that was a really bad day for him!

The point is that I have had to ask for help from people I would have never asked to help me. I am not one to EVER ask for help. But when it comes to George, I HAVE to ask for help!

I need as many people as possible to speak truth and love into George's life. And I am so appreciative for the double-whammy of support George got yesterday.

Friday, March 23, 2012


Anna is grieving. And my heart breaks each and every time she breaks into uncontrollable sobs. The tears flow down her cheeks non-stop. There is very little I can do to ease her pain right now.
The grieving process is normal and healthy and good. This is new for me because George has never really grieved at all. But Anna feels the pain of missing her mommy so badly, she can't keep it inside anymore. The good news is that she finally feels SAFE and LOVED and is now ABLE to truly mourn.
She will break into these sobs at the most unexpected times. As I was braiding her hair yesterday, as her best friend sat beside her and they watched The Fresh Beat Band, she suddenly broke into tears. I thought it was because of getting her hair braided (she doesn't enjoy it - it takes too long and I pull too tightly), but when I asked her what was going on, she cried, "I miss my Ghana mommy so much it hurts."
I pulled her into my lap and we simply held each other as she continued to weep.
She pulled back and looked at me and stammered, "My mommy loved me so much. She worked so hard for me. She really took care of me."
"I know sweetie! I can tell you were greatly loved and taken care of. Your mommy obviously loved you so, so much."
Anna answers, "When she died, the aunties wouldn't let me see her!"
This is something Anna is completely upset about. She mentions it every time she cries about her Ghana mommy. From what we know, there was not father - no dad ever in the picture for her. But her mom...her mom was Anna's rock. And when Anna's mommy died, Anna was not allowed to see her or say goodbye. We have been told Anna's mom slipped and hit her head and died. There is also a conflicting report that she died of complications to obesity. Anna insists that her mommy hit her head and was carried into a room. There, Anna begged to be let in to see her mommy and was not allowed in.
That was the last she saw her mommy.
A mommy who lovingly cared for this beauty. A mommy who worked so hard for Anna. A mommy who loved deeply. And Anna never got to say goodbye.
And now, Anna mourns.
She has asked to go back to Ghana. She wants to just say goodbye. She wants me to go with her and see where she lived and find where her mommy is buried. She wants to buy some red flowers because red was her mommy's favorite color.
Oh, my sweet Anna. You are no longer alone. You are loved by another mommy.
I told Anna that Jesus was with her when her mommy died. Jesus was wrapping Anna in His arms and whispering in her ear that she wouldn't be alone for long. And Jesus worked a MIRACLE in bringing sweet Anna into our family!
We were not going to Ghana to adopt...and God moved in huge ways to bring Anna to America. And then, she was led straight into this mommy's open arms. And it's not just me..we ALL love her so deeply.
Jeremiah 31:13 "Then young women will dance and be glad, young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow."

Monday, March 19, 2012

My Ministry Life

I am going to do a bit of therapeutic venting right now. Or maybe I just need to write some thoughts out. Unfortunately, this is done on this very public forum, so if you have no interest in the struggles in my ministry life, feel free to ignore this post. I promise to get back to RAD, ODD, kids and all that good stuff. Right now...I just am unsure of some things.

First of all...I love Safe Families. I do. I believe the heart of God is for us to practice biblical hospitality. I believe God wants the Church to start caring for the modern day widows (single moms) and the fatherless (their children) right in our own neighborhoods. I have heard God challenge me, asking how can I think I can minister to the widows and orphans in Africa if I am not willing to do it here? So, I have embarked on a life that is attempting to use my God-given abilities to lead this ministry.

When we knew we were leaving WI, I told Joe, "Maybe this is my chance to leave Safe Families and start an orphan ministry?" Crazy, I know. How can I love something, but want to leave it?

We arrived..and a door that clearly opened was to develop Safe Families in South Carolina. I love the people I work with. I love that government agencies and foundations and non-profit organizations are falling in love with the SF ministry model. I love how God has paved a way for this yankee, being brand new in a southern state, to talk to so many people.

But yet, at the end of EVERY day...I have to acknowledge that in my heart, I just don't know if this is what God wants me to be doing. How can God be clearly opening doors...and yet I FEEL like this isn't right? How can I talk to a church or a pastor and get them so excited about this ministry...and yet long for the day when I can talk about orphan care and adoption?

And then I start thinking about home schooling. I see the benefit home schooling has afforded my oldest two and I wonder about Anna and Lincoln and George and even Isabel. Sometimes, I long for them to be home..and home schooling is so prevalent and accepted down here!

And then I start thinking about summer. And how I just want to be at the pool with my kids. It's been OK for me to work during the school year..but in the summer, I just want to be with them!

And then, I start to think about adoption and talking to people about adoption. And then, I want to visit orphanages and encourage mission trips and long-term partnerships.

But, while all that is going on in my head and in my heart, I continue to make appointments to talk to pastors about SFFC right here in Greenville. Is that wrong?

Or is there someone who is really supposed to run with this? Is there someone looking for a job right now?

This weekend, I am speaking at an adoption conference in TN about living with a RAD child. In May, I will be doing the same thing for a conference in NC. Both conferences are times in which I will try to encourage women going through the same things I am going through by turning to the Lord. THAT is where my heart is.

I DO believe that God has allowed me the privilege of parenting a RAD child so that I can share what He is teaching me about love.

So, please tell me.....what should I do? What advice would you give me?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

When Does it End?

There are days that I get tired of the same broken record repeating itself day after day.

George is not in a "my life is horrible" mood.

He hates that I pack his lunch and has begun "forgetting" his lunch all the time and then lying to the school to get a hot lunch. He has lost all his birthday money in paying for these lunches. Today, he decided he wanted me? The boy hates milk but felt he needed to take some today from the cafeteria. When I asked him why he did that, he yelled at me, "'s free! The kids who take it don't pay money, they show this card thing.."

"Yea..that's their meal card that represents the money their parents have paid...oh, forget it."

He can't understand a concept like that. Seriously, that is way beyond his mental capabilities right now.

I asked him what he would need from me to know that I loved him and would never leave him.

He looked me in the eye and answered, "When you give me everything I want."

Someone please tell me!!!! How do I parent this??? How do I convince this child that a mom who truly loves would NEVER give a child everything he wants?

This is what I am up against.

And George has simply become and worse and worse in this department. He wants everything and thinks I do nothing for him and give him nothing. When I asked why the other kids don't complain, he says, "You give them everything they want."

No! I don't! But they don't ASK for much and when I say NO they accept it.

Even Anna.

This is beyond an orphan issue. This is a SIN issue. A boy who is so self-centered he can't see past his GREED and DESIRE for everything.

He hasn't learned yet that those new shoes...they don't satisfy. That 10th piece of pizza...only makes you feel sick. That ride in the car...ends in disappointment because we were just picking up Eleanor and not going to the store to buy you thousands of presents.

The only thing that will and can and must fill that hole in his heart is Jesus. I heard it once and it has never left me...George can't bond or love or forgive or show mercy or grace until he BONDS WITH JESUS.

And for some reason, Jesus hasn't moved in George's heart yet. And I don't know why.

But..I will YET praise HIM who gave me this son to raise. Yes..I will chose to praise a God who is teaching me much about bonding and love and forgiveness and mercy and grace.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

A Young Man...

Time to get back to my verses for the kids!

Harry's turn.

I used to say Harry was my complicated one. He has changed so much in the past year - I hardly recognize the boy who was complicated. He is turning into quite the young MAN. Maybe part of it is that Joe is out of town so much...Harry has had to step up his "manliness" a bit. Maybe it is because we moved away from Watertown, where he was being bullied and harassed horribly. Maybe it is because he has questioned his and our faith so deeply.

Harry questioned Christianity more than any other 10 year old I have ever met. He would brood over the Bible for hours, not sure if he could believe the wild stories he was reading. He would look around at those who called themselves Christians and would laugh as their lives looked nothing like the teaching of Jesus. Harry would ask the hard questions...the really hard questions and then wait for us to really answer them! He wanted to know why there was pain the world and where was God in the tragedies he saw around him. He wanted to know if heaven was for real and if he could trust these ancient words in a book. And most of all, he just needed to see if God was really who He said He was.

Harry wrestled with God. I know it. I saw it.

And now, Harry is on fire for the Lord. He wears his Jesus wii-mii shirt all the time! (It says hii saved me). He raises his hands in worship. He leads our family in prayer. And he is only 12!

I know things can change. I am not naive enough to know that he might have many more crisis of faith where he questions everything about God. I recently read a blog of a friend of mine that he son is writing. Here was a preacher's kid, loved the Lord, called to ministry who has now completely rejected Christianity. I do not think Harry is immune to this possibility.

All I know is that I will continue to cover this amazing young man in prayer and with God's word...

"A young man without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand and qualified to serve in the king's palace." Daniel 1:4

I sought the Lord when it came to picking a verse for Harry, and He clearly led me to Daniel. I had never thought of a connection between Harry and Daniel...even when I have read the book of Daniel lately, I didn't think "Oh...this is just like Harry!" But, when God led me to chapter 1, verse 4, I thought "Yes!"

Then, I wasn't so sure how Harry would react to this verse. It's pretty hefty! But, as Joe and I presented this verse to him, Joe said, "We believe that you are being made fit to serve in God's kingdom, Harry." And Harry was deeply moved.

As he quietly decorated his verse, he drew a palace with gates and Harry standing at the gate, shield in one hand, sword in the other. Hovering above the palace are streams of gold and tongues of fire. It is quite the image!

Finally, Harry highlighted the words "A young man", coloring flames around them.

Harry does not know this, but many years ago, Joe was given a vision of Harry. He saw Harry standing in a black room. Harry opened his mouth and a small flame came out of it. Within a matter of seconds, what started as a small flame turned into a room filled with fire - all coming from Harry's mouth.

We have never told him this vision...but we believe it was a sign of things to come with our son, who is being made fit to serve in God's kingdom.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Some Things He Says

I hear the following every day from George:

"I hate you!"

"You are not my mom anymore!"

"Brown skinned boys belong with brown skinned moms!"

"I am calling the police on you!"

"When I am 18, I am leaving and never coming to see you again!"

These statements are followed by:

"Are you going to give up on me?"

"Do you wish you had a good boy?"

"Are you really never going to leave me?"

Which is usually followed by:

"I am sorry, Momma, for the way I talked to you."

Saturday night, George wrote on a pink post-it-note:
"I heart you mom" (Well, he didn't write "heart", but he drew a heart and then later told me, "You know that means love, right?"). The note went on to say, "You take kar of me."

Someone asked me today (after saying "good-luck" when I told him George had RAD), "What does George want?"

Good question. I don't know what he wants. Things have become very "bad" around the home. He is trying with all his might to provoke me to anger. I am learning that he is comfortable with the fighting and the anger. It actually feeds the parts of his brain that have been thriving because of his traumatic life. George can't reason...his brain doesn't allow him. George can't think actions and consequences coincide. He simply acts...reacts...survives. So, he wants me to yell, scream, fight, cry, sulk, pout...all of these things make him feel comfortable in a weird way! So, he is pushing every button he possibly can right now.

And I have learned how to NOT react. I stay calm. My favorite line has become, "Too bad, so sad."

And every stinking night I tuck him into bed, kiss his head and tell him I love him.

That is what he NEEDS...not sure about what he wants right now...but I can give him what he NEEDS.

Monday, March 5, 2012


Today, George had a great session with his counselor!

Praise God! The counselor was almost giddy as he was whispering to me, "It was a great session! Great session!"


It is amazing what hope can do.

George's RAD caused him to swing from a great session to testing me on everything this evening. Every step, every piece of food, every word that was spoken.

But, I have HOPE.

The counselor - who sees many children with RAD - commented how strong-willed George is. He said George is going to fight and push and needle and pull with all his might to reject me until he is finally exhausted and gives in. And then, the counselor looked at me and said, "Don't forget that God called you to George because He knew YOU were the right parents for him."

Thank you...lately, I have forgotten that.

All roads in this RAD journey point back to God and His ability to equip me through this. So, I am joy-filled tonight as I write this simple blog post. I am filled with gratefulness and joy that God CHOSE me to be George's mom. I am filled with joy over the lessons I am learning. And I am filled with joy over the hope of a future with George.

The Battle

Here is the battle that wages in George's mind...every minute of every day.

This new mom is going to leave me. Moms do that. She will get fed up, she'll get angry, she'll get frustrated and just send me away.

My life in Ethiopia was wonderful. I want to go back to that life. I had parents who loved me and I always had enough food and I had lots of toys and went to school and had lot of of shoes.

I know this life here will get swept away from me, just like it did in Ethiopia - so I might as well get it moving along. If I can control the when and the where and the how it will happen, I won't be hurt as much. No one will hurt me like that again. No one will abandon me again. No one will let me down again. If I make this new family give up on me...the sooner I get back to Ethiopia where life was grand.

But...maybe it wasn't so grand. Wait...I don't want to think that. It WAS grand!

This mom says she loves me...but it can't be true. My Ethiopia mommy loved me - or she said she did. But she gave me up. She lied to me and then left me. This mom has no reason to love me...I am going to be ugly to her. I am going to hate her so she just gets rid of me sooner than later.

This is the battle. This is the inner dialogue constantly running a loop in George's mind.

He truly has no reason to trust me. Why SHOULD I love him? Why SHOULD I stay?

I tell him I love him. I tell him I will always stay.

He just doesn't believe can't believe me.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Still In The Muck

We are still in the muck.

George was wonderful last weekend. After the fiasco of his birthday, we gave him another chance to behave in order to celebrate his birthday on Saturday. He did. He acted beautifully. He behaved and treated everyone with kindness, including me.

He got his birthday. He opened his presents with glee and smiles. He gave hugs and thank-yous abundantly.

And then...starting Sunday...he crashed. Well, his behavior crashed. He started glaring at me. He was mean to his siblings.

By Wednesday, he was biting Lincoln on the bus, yelling at me that everything bad in his life is MY fault, sulking around the house if I ever asked him to do anything. He is at an all time low now...I ask him to do one simple thing and he glares at me, defying my every word. He has reverted to the Ethiopian way of saying "yes", which is simply raising his eyebrows. He knows I can't stand that...and yet...he is doing more and more every day.

And so, I am being the parent..not the momma. I am parenting him in order to teach him how to function. Too bad he fights me on every stinking thing I say. But, I won't give him the satisfaction of knowing he is hurting me. Not any more.

And...I am trying (with every fiber in my being) to say "yes" to as many things as I can to him. A big part of RAD is TRUST. George simply does not believe that I have his best interest in mind. he does not trust that I am looking out for him or making decisions that are for his good and benefit. He sees me as an enemy who will eventually let him down - he has absolutly NO REASON to trust me.

I realized his entire life with me started with a LIE. His Ethiopian mom dressed him up and told him they were going to get sweet drink. That walk into Soddo changed his life forever. That lie shattered his heart into 10 million pieces that I am left to put back together. He was told he was going to do something fun with his mom...and ended up alone and scared in an orphanage where older boys treated the younger boys horribly. He learned that if he didn't think ONLY of himself, he would be destroyed by the other kids in the orphanage. Then, he was told he was going to America with a new family. I don't know what they told him about life in America...but he is very angry and disappointed with our way of life.

We don't have enough toys. He doesn't have his own cell phone. He doesn't have an electric car in the garage. He has to come home at a certain time. He has to tell me where he is going. He has to ask permission for things. He can't watch things like Sponge Bob or Cartoon Network. He has to do his homework correctly.

And he in NO WAY sees that all these "rules" and "don'ts" are for his own good! He sees me as the enemy who keeps him from doing what he wants. He has no clue what a mom does!

And yet...God clearly led George to us. God has plan in all of this. I can't see it. I doubt it every day. And then, every day, I have to realign my steps with His and ask Him to just get me through the day.

I pour love into George's life and honestly, lately, I have no love left because I just don't see it doing any good. Someone explained it this way. I have been pouring love into his life for three years and wondering why nothing has changed....not realizing that as I pour love into his "bucket" - there is gaping hole in the bottom of the bucket. It doesn't matter what I pour in if there is a hole there!

I need that "hole to be fixed".

And so...I am straddling this line between two prominent schools of thought in parenting RAD kids. There is the one side that is all about structure and firm boundaries teaching children they are safe because of those boundaries will will eventually lead to trust. And then there is the other side which believes you must give you child a voice - help him tell me where he is hurting and broken and help him express that and continue to say yes as much as possible and give him power where he has never had power before.

This is hard because of these two main theories for RAD kids are just so darn opposite. I just wish someone could say - this is it! Go this way! But, unfortunately, parenting a RAD kid could take dozens of years before seeing change - and that really stinks in my 21st century world!

Joe and I have said parenting George is no different than parenting a severely disabled child. It is constant and exhausting....and I have very selfishly said, "But I wish he was severely disabled yet loved me..I think I could do that!" Of course, I don't know! I can't say what that life would be like and clearly God has called me to THIS child.

And so, today, I pick up my cross and pray that I will be used by God is some simple way to teach a boy that he is loved.