Wednesday, December 28, 2011

How's it going?

Our new daughter is doing really, really, amazingly well, especially considering everything she's been through! She began calling us "Mommy and Daddy" from the first moment, without any coaching from us. However, she did cry and scream and pace for a good 2 hours after she was brought to us at our guesthouse, desperate to go back to the caregivers and friends she was comfortable with at the orphanage. She wouldn't let us comfort her for a long time and finally let me pick her up and rock her and then she fell asleep in my arms. She woke up crying but this time let me comfort her right away and the crying didn't last very long. It was really heartbreaking to watch her go through such grief and illustrates the tragedy that is the flip side of every adoption.

We had some really sweet moments with her, too, in Ethiopia. I'll never forget the proud smile on her face as she pranced around the guesthouse showing off the new shoes we brought her. She came to us with literally the clothes on her back and nothing else, and the shoes from the orphanage had holes in them and straps that didn't stay fastened. She slept in her new shoes and hair bow that first night. She insisted on the shoes for several nights, and as it turns out sleeping next to a child wearing shoes is not the most comfortable! Thankfully we transitioned her to slippers once we got home!

The airplane rides home were not too bad. The parts of the flight where seat belts were required were really the only screaming, crying spells and then a kind flight attendant allowed us to use the infant tandem seat belt so she could sit on our lap and be strapped to our seat belt, which went over a whole lot better! Actually the in-airport time was worse than the on-plane time, the wide open spaces of the airports just made her want to run wild, and she was not too keen on our rule that allowed us to survive 3 other toddlers, "You may walk and hold my hand or be carried." We discovered that rule is easier to apply to a child who has not spent the last 13 months cooped up in one room of an orphanage!

In just 1 week she has gone from not even wanting her daddy to get near her (all her caregivers at the orphanage were women so we were warned to expect that) to a total Daddy's girl. She cried when he went back to work on Tuesday, and when he got home she squealed "Daddy!", ran to his arms and wouldn't let him put her down the rest of the night! The last couple of days she's called me "Mommy-yay" and we know that in her language of Amharic, adding "yay" to the end of name is an expression that the person is especially dear to you. It melts our hearts to see the progress in our relationships with her!

She loves her sister and brothers, and immediately began playing with them after we got home. Really it seemed like she was relieved to have other kids around again after being with just adults all week in Ethiopia after leaving the orphanage! At one point the Saturday evening we got home our 3 older children were acting out The Grinch movie they'd seen the night before, setting toys out under their Christmas stockings and then sneaking in with a big bag and "stealing" them. It wasn't just a couple minutes before our new 3 year old was in on the action running down the stairs squealing, "Steal toys! Steal toys!"

She is still adjusting to our time zone; she wakes up around 3:45am every day and sings us what sounds to be Ethiopian children's songs for an hour or two before finally falling back to sleep an hour or so before the other 3 kids wake up!

She's totally potty-trained which is awesome, but we are lamenting the fact that the Amharic word for pee-pee is "shint", so we (and strangers who may happen to be nearby) hear, "Mommy, shint!" every 30 minutes :)!

In Ethiopia we were treated a few times to her dancing, complete with the traditional Ethiopian shoulder shimmy. She's a really, really good dancer! Since we've been home we introduced her to our Wii Michael Jackson version of Just Dance and she loved it, doing complicated moves our 8 year old can't master! The first song, "Billy Jean" ended and she declared in perfect English, "I LIKE IT!"

We are recovering from the trifecta of a new child, jet lag, and Christmas, but really enjoying our new little girl and so thankful God brought her into our family!

 I just love walking in the room to find my children 4 to a chair!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Home for Christmas!!!

Our family of 6 together at last in the airport on Christmas Eve!  

So grateful to be posting this from my home where all 4 of my children are sleeping under 1 roof (which means I need to go sleep now, too, while I have a chance -- more updates and pics. later)!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Embassy Clearance!!!

We got some very big news today!  The American embassy in Ethiopia has cleared our adoption case!  Our new daughter is finally coming home!!!

My husband and I will fly out this Saturday (his parents are coming into town to take care of our 3 kids here) and then we'll be back home with our new little girl the morning of Saturday, December 24th, Christmas Eve.   We will have all 4 of our children together at last for Christmas -- how's that for God's timing?!!

We are overjoyed and in shock!  With the bad news from the embassy last Friday and then even more again yesterday we felt our case had the very real potential to be delayed for several months.  The last few days we have prayed and cried through the agonizing decision of having me go to Ethiopia to take custody of daughter and stay with her until she cleared immigration, even if that meant several months.  We couldn't stop thinking about the Bible's words in Luke 15, when the shepherd leaves the 99 sheep to go after the 1 lost sheep.  We decided I would go shortly after Christmas, not knowing when I'd be able to return, leaving the 3 children who had always known life with a mother to go to the 1 child who had been without parents for far too long.  
Then this morning we got the amazing, miraculous news of clearance!  We had to call our caseworker to see if she was looking at the say email and ask her if it was for real?!!!

We're so thankful to have had so many praying for our family and now ask for prayers over the transition phase for us all.  We expect nothing less than chaos for a long while with kids ages 8,6,4, and 3, but who are we kidding, it was chaos before!  Also, prayers over the plane ride home would be great -- 20 hours on an airplane with a 3 year old who doesn't speak English, has never before worn a seatbelt, and we've only parented for a few days -- we're going to need some gracious, understanding flight mates!
Praising God for moving mountains to get our sweet, spunky girl home!

Friday, December 9, 2011

More Embassy Questions

The wee hours of the morning did not bring the news we'd hoped for.  The U.S. embassy in Ethiopia did not send us an email with our clearance to travel to bring home our daughter, instead they have some "follow-up questions" and will be getting back to us.  We have no details about what the questions are and do not know if these questions can be cleared up in just a matter of days or if they will delay our case for months.  We have already contacted the offices of our local congressmen and senator earlier this week and are further requesting their help. 

Please pray for comfort in the midst of more delays and unknowns as far as when we can bring our daughter home.  Pray for us to have clarity and wisdom in the coming days as we make decisions about how to proceed.  Decisions like should we leave our 3 children here in the U.S. to go be with the 1 in Ethiopia, in order to take custody of our new child and begin parenting our little girl who has been without parents for too long, even if it means I may have to stay on in Ethiopia for an extended period of time?  Could we help our case clear quicker if we are physically present in Ethiopia?

And of course we are really praying to just clear early next week and not face all the worst-case scenarios!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Embassy Update

We received word that the phone conversation the American embassy wanted to have with a party on our Ethiopian adoption case, finally happened today (after about 2 weeks of waiting for it, did you know there's not much voicemail in Ethiopia?).  We are desperately praying that the phone call provided the information the embassy was looking for to be able to clear our case and that some time during their half-day workday on Friday (roughly midnight to 4AM tonight our time) they will send us an email that we are cleared to travel and schedule our exit interview in Ethiopia.  If this insanely awesome email comes tonight, we will request an appointment next week and fly out this weekend to take custody of our 3 year old little girl! 

Over 2 years into this adoption process and here we sit SO. VERY. CLOSE!  I can hardly stand it, the suspense, because there is still a scenario where not only are we not cleared, but our case is sent for further investigation that could take months!!!

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to ride a roller coaster constantly for 2 years?

I think I know what that's like.  Good thing I have complete trust in the creator and operator of the ride.

God is good and He is in control no matter the news we do or don't get tonight.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

On a to-do list scale, is 1 out of 10 bad?

There were ten things on my to-do list for today and I just realized I accomplished exactly ONE of them!

But, I got several other things done that were not on the list.

Too tired to erase the things that did not get done and write in the things I actually did just to feel a sense of accomplishment regarding my day.

The good news?

I don't have to worry about making a list for tomorrow!  Today's list will just become tomorrow's to-do list!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Life at the Never-Ending Slumber Party

It's been a never ending slumber party around here the last few weeks.

Night after night after night after night.

My 3 children are sleeping all in the same room.

One in each bunk bed and one on the floor.

The little girl on the floor has her own room.

And her own bunk beds that she couldn't wait to have.

So she could finally have a top bunk to sleep on.

And someday her little sister from Ethiopia would sleep on the bottom bunk.

Only about  2 weeks after the excitement over the bunk beds faded,

the sleep issues began.

And my 6 year old didn't want to sleep alone anymore.

She'd cry and cry at bedtime, which we'd never really dealt with before.

We offered the option of a pallet on the floor in her brothers' room

And the slumber party began.

The other morning when I was wondering why I was so tired?

It hit me.  

I live at a never-ending slumber party!

Find more Wordful Wednesday here.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Christmas Traditions

Per tradition around here, I let the kids make the Christmas wrapping paper. 

Saturday morning (thankfully it was still warm here before our cold front on Sunday) I rolled out paper on the driveway and gave the kids red and green ink pads to stamp their hands and feet across the paper. 

This year the 8 year old was less interested in stamping than he was in managing his younger brother and sister's work.  Fine by me!  Instead of reminding the 4 year old over and over and over not to put the red hand in the green ink, I sat on the patio, painted my toenails (really!), took a few pictures, encouraged, and let the 8 year old handle most of the project management, which he totally loved.

I finished the Christmas dresses I made for my daughters.  They are easy pillowcase dress style, only I didn't make mine with a pillowcase, and I did a fabric tie around the neck instead of a ribbon.  My 3 year old has a matching dress and even if we don't get her home from Ethiopia before Christmas, I'm still getting a picture of she and my 6 year old daughter in their matching dresses some day.  And I made the hem extra wide so I can let it out and they can wear the dresses next year!  But we are still clinging to hope that our new little girl will be home this year for Christmas.

My husband had his annual gingerbread house decorating with the kids.  They did a gingerbread village this year with several small houses instead of one big house.  I've started purchasing this village kit for them on purpose because I couldn't handle all the drama and moaning of trying to get the roof to stay on that big house when the icing just kept it sliding right off in year's past!  Anyway, the kids like each having a little house to decorate!

And we are reading our Countdown to Christmas Advent Devotional Book each night after dinner.

I'm grateful for the daily chance to reflect together as a family on the true meaning of Christmas -- Jesus!  Not Santa, not presents, not parties, but God's love for us, for the whole world!

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
1 John 4:9-16

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Quick Update

We got a new picture from our agency of our 3 year old daughter in Ethiopia.  Our caseworker said she looks very active (some of the pictures were pretty blurry).  Yep, that's our sweet, spunky little girl!

An excerpt from the update on her said, "She takes an afternoon nap from 1:00 pm to 3:30 pm but sometimes she does not want to take a nap."  Ha!  Why does that not surprise me? 

I should probably go sleep now, while I can, but instead I'll be anxiously awaiting an email from the embassy.  We got an email from them last Friday requesting 1 piece of information from our adoption agency.  Our agency submitted what they requested on Tuesday of this week, so we are hoping to hear back from the embassy very soon!

In other news, my 4 year old son is talking my ear off!  It is constant, non-stop dialog about a wide variety of subjects, with a lot of "Mom.  Mom?  Mom?" thrown in for good measure just to make sure I'm listening.  Good thing he's really cute and says some hilarious things because otherwise the endless chatter would just wear me out!  Just the other day he asked me out of the blue, "Is jello a liquid or a solid?"

That question from my 4 year old!!

"Hmmm," I thought, "I graduated with a degree in biomedical science and I'm pretty sure I don't know the answer to that question.  It's kinda both.  I mean, are we talking jello that's been in the refrigerator for several hours or jello that's just recently had the boiling water added to it?"


And something else that's wearing me out, Madeline the puppy is undecorating the Christmas tree!  She brings me ornaments all casual like she's bringing me her tennis ball to throw for her and then I realize what it is she really has in her mouth!  Seriously, what were we thinking getting a puppy last February?  This would have been the first Christmas in a very long time without a toddler to worry about messing with the tree and now I have the dog to worry about! 

Mommy's Idea

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Feety Jammies

Have I mentioned before how much I love feety jammies?

My 6 year old and 4 year old love them, too and absolutely couldn't wait for the weather to get cold enough to wear the "jammies that cover our feet!"

Too bad I can't talk my 8 year old into wearing them!

P.S.  I realize the technical term for these pajamas is "blanket sleeper" but in our house they are "feety jammies".

Monday, November 28, 2011

My 3 year old lives in Ethiopia

I was reading an adoption-related article recently, and there was a feature on a particular couple.  I don't remember the main content, but what struck me is that near the beginning as the article introduced the couple, it said, "They have one son who lives in Ethiopia."  I thought to myself, "Wow, that's cool.  I wonder what kind of work he does in Ethiopia, maybe mission work?"  Then I saw a picture of the couple and thought, "Hey, that's really strange, they look so young to have a grown-up son living in Ethiopia!"  Then I read a bit further and realized their son is actually an infant, living in Ethiopia, while they live in the U.S.  Even though we are intimately familiar with this scenario and international adoption, the ludicrousness was still striking.  I mean in what world do infants and young children live entire continents apart from their families?  But, I know of many families besides us living out this exact scenario right now as they await the approval of the U.S. government to be able to bring their children home.

My 3 year old daughter lives in Ethiopia.

The American embassy sends us emails with her name that includes our own last name tacked right on to the end of her first name, she's officially on our health insurance, her monogrammed hooded towel hangs on a hook in our kid bathroom next to her brothers' and sister's towels.  But she does not live here with us.


That yet is huge because we are very thankful to have reached a point in our adoption where her homecoming may just be a few weeks away.  But it is a very odd, tough place to be living apart from your young child.

I've bought her Christmas presents, guessing what I think she might like, but fully realizing I really don't know my daughter.  I've spent a grand total of 3 hours with her, spread across 3 different days, nearly 4 months ago.  Isn't a mother supposed to know her child better than that?  I have no idea what her favorite color is, favorite animal to have on her jammies, favorite princess for her little toddler panties.  What makes her laugh?  What is she like when she first wakes up in the morning?

I've been to a few kid parties lately to celebrate the birthday's of my kids' friends, and oh how I pity the mom I'm meeting for the first time at the party who innocently asks me how many children I have and how old they are.  There is just no short answer to that question, and what she thought was small talk turns to the topics of orphans and third world countries and adoption roadblocks.  It has actually become an interesting social experiment to me (hee!  hee!), because in my experience people react in one of two ways at this point, either they are very excited and enthusiastic, interested to hear more and full of questions OR there is a completely awkward silence when the poor other mom has no idea how to respond and looks so completely relieved when we are interrupted by a child who needs something!

I know that most likely this living-apart-from-my-daughter is short-lived, that we will be able to take custody of her soon and begin to get to know about her all the things parents typically know about their children (well not everything, of course, there will always be parts of the first 3 years of her life that we'll never know).  I've heard that once she's been home a while, it will be hard to even imagine life before she was here, that this waiting for her to come home will be a memory, rather that our reality.  

I also believe that there will come a day when we are not living one day at a time, not knowing exactly when we'll wake up to an email that will give us permission to bring our daughter home, the day when we'll frantically book tickets to Ethiopia on just a few days notice to go get our daughter.  There will be a day I don't have to respond to all requests with, "I'll be there next week, if I'm not in Ethiopia."  There will be a time when we don't have to explain to family members who want to make Christmas plans with us that we have no idea where we are going to be around Christmas time (even though it's less than a month away) or what life will look like for our family this Christmas.

But, for now, for today, for this phase that we are in, I'd just like to acknowledge the craziness of it, the sheer ludicrousness!  And then with that done, I'll go to Target again to stock up on toilet paper, because apparently I have no idea how to prepare to bring home a 3 year old child from a third world country, my experience just lends itself to hurricane preparedness.  See?  Craziness!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Holiday Images

Thanksgiving morning, my 6 year old washing potatoes with some help from our furry little friend!

Friday we cut down our own Christmas tree.  It was a beautiful day and so much fun, likely to be a new family tradition!

Enjoyed some homemade hot chocolate while decorating the tree!

Hung 4 stockings over the fireplace, praying our 4th child is HOME for Christmas!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

We're gonna need more circles

We're praising God for our blessings.

Listing them out,

naming them,

scribbling them down on imperfect circles,

and hanging them up,

on fallen branches from our own yard,

so we can reflect, 

so we can remember,

so we can thank Him

from whom all blessings flow.

The very same God who guided the Pilgrims safely to the new world,

across seas so rough they thought they'd surely perish in the journey,

is guiding and sustaining us today.

Wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving 

full of counted blessings!

Psalm 107:1 "Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever." (NIV)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Submitted to the Embassy!

Today our adoption case was submitted to the American embassy in Ethiopia.  Hooray!  One big step closer to bringing our girl home!

So, now we wait to get an email from the embassy which typically takes 1 to 2 weeks.  The email will either let us know we have been cleared and can schedule an embassy date (for often as quick as 1 week later), which we will travel to Ethiopia for, pick up our daughter and get to come home with her, OR the email will be a request for more information.  Lately the embassy has been requesting something on nearly every case, it seems.  They have requested an interview with birth parents for relinquishments (even though the interview was already done by the Ethiopian court), requested to interview police officers for abandonments, asked for more documentation or corrections of documents already submitted.  Then once you submit whatever the embassy is asking for, they can still come back and ask for something else, or send your case for further investigation with USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration).  All that to summarize why we still don't know when we can go get our little girl -- could be 2 weeks, could be 12 weeks from now.  Please pray we clear quickly!

Ethiopia is 9 hours ahead of us, so the email from the embassy will come between 12am and 8am our time -- hmmm, think we'll have any trouble sleeping these next few weeks as we wake up at all hours of the night just dying to check our email and see if maybe we have one from the embassy?  And people wonder why pre-adoptive parents suffer from adoption induced psychosis!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Dryer Dough

I think I've shared here before about my little trick of rising bread dough in the clothes dryer.  I run the dryer for a few minutes on the hottest setting, then turn it off, stick the pan with the dough in, and close the door quickly before all the hot air escapes.  It works wonderfully to cut rise time in half!  However there is a key point about this method:

The dryer must never be turned on while the bread dough is inside!!!


No idea how it happened!

Thankfully the clean-up wasn't too bad and really I had a good laugh the whole time I was scraping the dough out of the inside of the dryer!

And a plus: every load of laundry smelled of fresh baked bread for days afterward!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Whole New World of Hair Products!

My 3 year old officially has more hair and skin products than I've had in the last 10 years combined!

I've studied websites, I've watched some videos, I've got some products, I now know what the terms "pre-poo" and "no-poo" mean, but I still feel pretty unprepared for our new daughter's hair.  Somebody tell me it's really not as hard as it sounds!  I must say, though, that I think my Ethiopian daughter's curly hair is awesome and I can't wait to style it!  I have fought my straight hair my entire life, trying to get just a little curl or body, so learning about curl patterns and detangling is pretty fun!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Those Two

My kids are friends.

They really, really are.

And for that I am very grateful.

I pray they will always be close.

Those two, in that picture above, can play together for long periods of time without me having to settle anything.

Which is so wonderful!
But, I have to be careful,

because the peaceful play allows me to slip away and do laundry,

or help the 8 year old with homework,

and those two?

Are legendary mess-makers!

Oh yes they are!

They are obsessed with gathering dirt and leaves and sticks and flowers by the bucketful.

That I am actually fine with.

Dirt brushes off. 

Dirt is no problem.

But those two, through various sneaky methods (like coming inside for a drink of water to take outside), add water to their dirt concoctions and invariably end up coating themselves, the patio and the dog in mud!

I cannot tell you how many times those two have assured me, "We won't make a mess!"

And I've bought it because they look so innocent and seem so believable.

But, minutes later there is always a mess.

Usually a head-to-toe kind of mess. 

"I was carrying the bucket with both my arms around it and it all sloshed out!"

Perhaps, though, these mud soup making (and spilling) days will be what creates a relationship between those two so strong that they'll be there for each other as adults especially in the muddy, messy times!

Find more Gratituesday at Heavenly Homemakers.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Tell me your wall is the same!

I had the semi-annual experience this week (and no it is not exactly every 6 months that this occurs because no way could I stick to any sort of FlyLady schedule) of feeling sure my house would be less filthy if I lived with zoo animals than with my children!  What could possibly make me think such a thing?  

The wall nearest my dining room table.  

Usually I don't notice it much at all, but roughly twice a year (typically by accident rather than by purposeful cleaning) I get a close look and see amazing, disgusting amounts of food and drink remnants splattered, dripping, and crusted all over the wall!!

So, instead of writing an actual blog post today, the 409 and the Mr. Clean eraser and I spent some quantity time.

You'll be glad to know that despite my lack of quality blogging, other people have written some excellent things.  I'm only going to link to two because then it's more likely you'll read them and they are definitely worth your time!

This has been circulating around the internet for several days now, but if you haven't seen Jen Hatmaker's post How to Be the Village go read it.  It covers the ins and outs of how to support an adoptive family with hilarious honesty!  I can relate to so much of what she shared.

Then after you read that, come back here and click through to this delightful post written by blogger Boo Mama about meeting the child she sponsors through Compassion International.  We were beyond blessed to get to meet our Compassion son Mathews while we were in Ethiopia this past August and I cannot more highly recommend how awesome it is to sponsor a child!  Boo Mama's account of her day with her Compassion child is really sweet and in typical Boo Mama fashion, hugely funny!

Happy Friday Everyone!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Sick Day

Here's what a sick day looks like at our house:

Also around our house, actually throwing up at school in the 2nd grade entitles you to a free day off at the slightest hint of a stomach ache in 3rd grade.

I'm thankful the 8 year old was feeling much better by this afternoon, ate a good dinner, and that there was never any actual throwing up!!

Find more Thankful Thursday here.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

New Pictures from Ethiopia!

Today we got some new pictures of our little 3 year old daughter in Ethiopia.  I'm rejoicing in the fact that this month, since we've passed court now and she's legally our child, I can share the cuteness from our new pictures!  And also, praying hard for the day we no longer get monthly updates on our daughter because she is HOME with us every day!

 Her precious, sunshiney face:

And the face we are going to have a very hard time ever saying "No" to after she comes home:

Find more Wordful Wednesday here.

Monday, November 7, 2011


I have so much to be thankful for every single day, picking a few to reflect on today:

  • The fun my 6 year old daughter and I had doing her 1st Grade Family Turkey project.  The  instructions were to cut out the given turkey, decorate it creatively, and mount it on posterboard.  My daughter chose to make her turkey into a "Rapunzel turkey" like from the movie Tangled.  It turned out ridiculously hilarious - purple sequins and long yarn hair!
  • Matching doll and little girl nightgowns.  Thank you Kohl's for a cheap, sweet, will be worn over and over again blessing and smile for both my 6 year old and me!  May she never outgrow delighting in dressing like her doll!
  • Some weather cool enough to inspire me to get our the "winter blanket" for our bed.
  • And discovering Madeline the puppy is the exact same color as the blanket!
  • She is really not allowed on our bed, but who could resist such a soft, fluffy blanket?  I snapped the picture and then made her get "Off!".

  • My children's schools and teachers!  Because I won't be able to do much once our new daughter comes home, I have been spending a lot of time lately in my kids' classrooms (pre-K, 1st grade and 3rd grade) - going on field trips, reading in the class, assisting with in-class projects, etc, and I am so grateful for the 2 amazing schools my kids attend (the elementary is even a public school) and wonderful teachers they have!  Really, I could not be more pleased!
  • My 4 year old who has said for a while he wants to be a pastor when he grows up (my husband has encouraged/planted ideas), the other day told me, "Now I want to be something like a pastor, you know what it is?"  Me:  "No, what?"  Him:  "A priest!"  It made me laugh so hard!  We are not Catholic and he's never been to a Catholic church, so I have no idea where he got that one!  That little guy makes me laugh every day!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

How Does God Feel About Orphans?

In honor of Orphan Sunday which is this Sunday, November 6th, instead of sharing my own views and beliefs regarding orphans, I want to defer to God's words to all of us:

"Learn to do good; Seek justice, reprove the ruthless, defend the orphan, plead for the widow." Isaiah 1:17

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." James 1:27

"When you reap your harvest in your field and have forgotten a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow, in order that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands." Deuteronomy 24:19

"A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling." Psalm 68:5

"God sets the lonely in families." Psalm 68:6a

“I will not abandon you as orphans, I will come to you." John 14:18

"To do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more." Psalm 10:18

"Your princes are rebels and companions of thieves. Everyone loves a bribe and runs after gifts. They do not bring justice to the fatherless, and the widow's cause does not come to them." Isaiah 1:23

"Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute." Psalm 82:3

"He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing." Deut. 10:18

"And the Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance with you, and the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, who are within your towns, shall come and eat and be filled, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands that you do." Deut 14:29

"But you do see, for you note mischief and vexation, that you may take it into your hands; to you the helpless commits himself; you have been the helper of the fatherless." Pslam 10:14

"The Lord protects the strangers; He supports the fatherless and the widow, but He thwarts the way of the wicked." Psalm 146:9

"Do not move the ancient boundary or go into the fields of the fatherless, for their Redeemer is strong; He will plead their case against you." Proverbs 23:10-11

Can we call ourselves followers of God and ignore these verses?

There are 147 million orphans in the world.

"2.1 billion people on this earth proclaim to be Christians. The truth is that if only 8 percent of the Christians would care for one more child, there would not be any statistics left." from Kisses from Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption by Katie Davis

So what can you do?

Love them, pray for them, visit them, feed them, speak out for them, care for them, provide for them, adopt them.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Slowing Down Life

For a while now, but more in earnest the past two months, we've been trying to slow down the pace of our family's life. We don't function well when more time is spent telling our kids to get their shoes on and get in the car than is spent encouraging them, teaching them, loving them.

We know this.

Also, with our new daughter coming home from Ethiopia hopefully within a few months? weeks? (My standard response now to ALL THE QUESTIONS I'm getting about WHEN?! is "could be 4 weeks, could be 4 months" and that is the sad truth!) it is going to be imperative that we have a slowed down life for a long while as she transitions into our family and our world. Imagine being a 3 year old who spent an entire year in one room of a care center, with the the exception of occasional walks outside to the other care center down the street. Do you think a trip to Target might be a tad overwhelming? How about the observation room at your new sister's gymnastics? Church? A school carnival?

We are very excited to introduce our daughter to a bunch of new experiences, things we totally take for granted as regular, every day stuff. BUT, we are going to have to ease into those things, slowly. And, she is going to need a whole lot of our focused attention, meaning less attention for other things.

Hence again, the need for the slowed down life.

But, I'm going to be honest here. After 2 months of really trying to slow it down, of feeling like I say "No" to outside requests for my time about 50 times per day, LIFE IS STILL NOT SLOW!

So it begins again, another attempt to clear our plates and calendars.

And maybe it's just because I'm really noticing now as I'm forcing myself to hyper-evaluate every request, even if it's just a one time, one hour commitment, but doesn't it seem like the demands are rather relentless?

To complicate things, the demands are for good things so it's hard to say "no".

Really, many come from my church, some even as boldly as "You were recommended for this committee, let us know which time slot every other weekend would work best for you to volunteer." Me: "Huh? They're not asking if I want to sign-up but just which time slot?" Yeah, I wasn't probably as kind as I should have been in my response where I detailed all that my husband and I already do for the church, our family situation with a new child on the way via adoption and that we just couldn't commit to any more. But, thank you for thinking of me!"

I'm sorry if this sounds like ranting, I don't mean it to be. I actually am not one of those people who believes God has me on this earth to just serve my family. I do believe in volunteering outside of my own little world, in Mark 16:15 Jesus said, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation." But, there is such thing as too much.

So in a society that seems to value "busy" and "multi-tasking", I feel like I'm swimming upstream, but thankful for the opportunity to keep trying and asking for God's discernment.

Romans 12:2, "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."

Find more Thankful Thursday here.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Dog Mop

The good news is that I have a dog that doubles as an automatic, self-propelled mop for spills like orange juice.

The bad news is that once the spill is cleaned up, the furry dog mop needs a bath!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Adoption 101: Choose a Great Agency

I've gotten some questions about adoption in general and although I'm absolutely no expert, I'm going to share some key things we've learned about navigating the adoption process.

Seeing as how I've spent the day at all sorts of festivities with Robin Hood, Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, and a knight, and I'm completely worn out, I'm only going to highlight one key thing tonight and I'll share others later.

Choose a Great Agency

I cannot begin to tell you how key this is.

With everything we've been through adopting from Ethiopia -- slowdowns, investigations, major changes in procedures, unknowns, etc. -- I am so glad we chose well at the beginning. There were many nights we were (still are) able to sleep soundly knowing we could trust our agency. That doesn't mean we haven't asked questions here and there. It doesn't mean we didn't visit the region our daughter was from and poke around into her story. Because we did ask questions and poke a bit, but the trust proved true and in fact, our agency's reaction to our times of asking or poking made us respect them even more!

Also, for us, a key deciding factor in the agency we chose was that they run their own care center in Ethiopia, so the children in their adoption process are transferred out of the orphanages where the care is not as good and into the care of our agency where it is a whole lot better! Now, having so long between our trip to meet our daughter and the time we can bring her home (which is still unknown), I'm so thankful she's well cared for! There is no way I could have left her in Ethiopia if I did not believe that to be absolutely true!

I got further assurance of the care level this past weekend. My husband and I attended an adoption conference and part-way through one of the sessions I realized I knew one of the speakers. She was one of the people who had recently travelled to Ethiopia for humanitarian work and met our daughter, took pictures of her, found out we were her family and emailed the pictures to me. After the presentation we met this lady face-to-face and it was so fun to gush together over how amazing our new little girl is. But also, this lady shared with me that they saw the children walking outside their guesthouse as a group with their caregivers and that they watched through the window for a long time before going out and playing with the kids. She told me how struck she was by how well the nannies interacted with and took care of the kids even when they thought nobody was watching!

So, how do you choose a great agency?

1. Do not go with the agency that claims the shortest wait or lowest fees.
Pretty much all agencies are playing in the same arenas with the same rules, so if someone is claiming to do it much faster or cheaper that would be a huge red flag to me, likely either they are not being honest in setting expectations or they are doing something shady to achieve the faster or cheaper.

2. Pick an agency with a proven track record for the type of adoption/country you are doing.
An agency could be great at domestic adoptions but not have enough experience in a particular country. Some basic Internet searches can uncover any scandals that may be brewing around a particular agency.

3. Talk to other families who have used the agency.
Go beyond the references the agency will provide you because those people are guaranteed to only give you a glowing report. Instead seek out adoption groups in your city, your church or other local churches (remember when we began the adoption process our church did not have an adoption ministry, so we attended meetings and events at other churches) and ask those people what agency they used and what their experience was.

4. Pick an agency where you feel like you connect with the staff.
I picked the OB who ended up delivering all 3 of my biological children, not just because she's a great doctor, but because I loved how sweet and kind she was, yet she still gave honest answers. My theory was, being pregnant and giving birth are very emotional experiences and I wouldn't want to go through them with someone I wouldn't consider as a friend. Well, I'm hear to tell you adoption is a very, very, very emotional experience and we've been blessed to always be treated kindly and with compassion by our adoption agency staff.

5. Pick an agency that offers real post-adoption support.
You are going to need support. We are going to need support, I have no doubt. We attended a 2 day optional training course offered for free by our agency where they provided tons of real help for the issues many adoptive parents face. But most important, I know staff that specialize in post-adoption that I can call on if and when we need help. In fact they emphasized, "Call before you lose your compassion" (meaning your compassion for your new child and the "hard places" they've come from that is contributing to the really annoying behavior).

There are a few other things I could cover and maybe even some big things I'm forgetting, but just like my 4 year old's little session of cutting his own hair tonight (Oh, yes he did! Thankfully only a few strands were snipped - he was "trying to get rid of the bumpy part".), I'm ending it.

** That is our little girl in the top picture, just an earlier picture of her than what I've showed before -- such a punkin'!! **

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Halloween 2011, minus one muchkin

Dorothy, Robin Hood, and a knight

Wishing you the happy of Halloween -- the fun of dressing up, the fellowship with neighbors otherwise rarely seen, and, of course, much more candy than your mom lets you eat on all the other 364 days of the year!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Real life, only better

Jen Hatmaker wrote this hilarious post about The Fake Family after adding two children adopted from Ethiopia to her 3 kid household. And it was so funny to me because for months now we've been doing the same thing, conjuring up in our minds all these goals we wanted to achieve as a family before our new daughter comes home from Ethiopia.

You know things like: get our puppy better obedience trained, have regular family devotions, raise our voices less, clean out our closets and drawers, prepare more freezer meals, teach the 4 year old to dress himself, somehow train the 8 year old to flush more than 50% of the time, get the older 3 kids using their checklists and performing daily household chores, become experts at Karyn Purvis methods of discipline - "Are you askin' or tellin'?", get the carpet cleaned, Christmas shop early this year, make homemade injera, have daily one-on-one time with each child, replace that light switch plate that has been cracked since we moved in the house nearly 5 years ago. . .

Because she will be here some day!!

It's ludicrous and funny and nuts but the motivation is genuine.

She made us want to be a better family.

Even though it's true of all four of our children, with this forth one, it is most apparent, she is God's child and He is allowing us the privilege and responsibility to parent her. And we want to get it right.

Though I know we'll fall far short of the ideal, perfect family -- no matter what we try I can't imagine our kids not being loud, our dog not stealing food off the table, and my husband and I never forgetting the right attachment-based parenting methods, resorting to blurting out, "What's wrong with you?!" to our beloved children every now and then -- the goals are not bad things to aim for and we'll keep trying for all our sakes.

But the reality is that she'll be coming home to an imperfect family. An imperfect family that will love her like crazy for the rest of her life and stick by her even on the days she'd rather disown us!