Monday, August 5, 2013

A Window

Today I got home from work to find 1 extra child in the house. Apparently there were 2 others just 30 minutes prior for a total of 3 guests. On Wednesday night, 1 child will be having 1 friend over for a sleep over and another child will be having 2 friends over for the same. Even when it is only the family, our house is rarely quiet. 

That noise is often arguing, often yelling up and down the stairs at someone across the house, sometimes the sound of someone in trouble, and so very often laughter. Tons of laughter. 

Our kids are happy kids. Good kids. Fun kids. Enthusiastic kids. So much has happened over the past 21 months. We have watched the kids learn English, learn about The United States, learn about me, learn about Josh, learn in school, learn more about God, learn, and learn, and learn, and learn. We have fallen in love with them and them with us. We have watched them get comfortable in their new lives and in their new family and in their new home.

Every once in a while I catch a glimpse of the hurt in their hearts. Tears shed. Words written. Feelings allowed to escape in the form of words. That look upon a little face. Aching for the friends left behind. Broken for the family so far away. Crushed for the ones lost to the grave.

It hurts to see their tears. It's difficult to find words to ease their pain. I tell them that I am happy to see these windows because it tells me that they have not forgotten those precious people that mean so much to them. I tell them that I am happy that they trust me enough to see it. I am thankful that they were loved so much, long before we ever met.

And then as quickly as it appeared, the window closes. The laughter resumes and life continues.

Obviously this is very personal. I only share the generalities because the specifics are private. I thank you for respecting that. And I thank you for wanting to learn more about this journey. A marathon of epic proportions. The path is beautiful, fun, blessed, and happy but we didn't get here easily. I tend to forget that this is a decades long journey.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

In Lovish

We have told our kids that they are not allowed to get married until they are 30. The person they marry will impact their adult life more than anyone else, including us. Love is such a powerful thing. It can bring warmth, friendship, partnership, and great delight. Or it can bring pain, sorrow, and even danger.

We had been married for 2 or 3 years when my father-in-law shared something with me and my sister-in-law. We were camping and sitting at a picnic bench. He told us that he started praying for the women that his sons would marry when Josh was very little. It was likely before I was even born. It is something that has stuck with me all that time. He knew how important a good marriage is. He was preparing his sons for not only their grade school or even high school or college years, but for their adult lives.

I was just a couple months shy of being 20 years old when we got married. I was so very young. I didn’t yet know who I was or what I wanted in life. But I knew I was in love. I had found a man who was kind and patient and loving and shared my same core values. I knew that we could build a life together.

Josh has always been a good husband. He looks out for me and takes care of me in so many little ways. Now he is a stay at home Dad. His patience now extends to our kids. His provision for his family is not in bringing home the paycheck but in making sure that we use it wisely. He reads the Bible daily, out loud so I can listen as I put on my makeup in the morning. His love now covers children who were not born of his DNA but joined to him in a journey of healing.

A couple weeks ago we traded in our 7 passenger SUV for a 12 passenger van. The purpose in doing so is to be ready for more kids whenever our 2nd adoption takes place. That evening, after buying the van, I told Josh thank you for buying the van and agreeing to another one of my crazy plans. He replied that he has talked me out of the really crazy stuff. I laughed that he thinks adopting 2 more kids is not the craziest thing I have ever tried to talk him into. Ok, there was the sibling group of 7 that I tried to talk him into…. And then the sibling group of 5…. But how many men would be willing to agree to skip trying for biological kids, go from 0 to 4 kids overnight, be a stay at home Dad, AND adopt again?!? He is an amazing man.

Recently our kids decided that we are “in lovish”. They defined in lovish to mean being too much in love with too much kissing and too much touching. Apparently we hold hands too much and cuddle too much on the couch during a movie. I’m happy to be in lovish. And I hope that one day, each of my kids will be in lovish too.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Mommy Self Doubt

Oh the pressure! SO much pressure! Am I doing it wrong? Am I good enough to do this? Am I capable of loving enough? Am I teaching the right ethics, the right behavior, the right work ethic? Am I stifling her? Am I encouraging her too much? Will she grow up to have self esteem? Will she do good in school? Am I helping enough with her reading? Am I using the best methods? Is our discipline approach working for this kid at this time? Should I take her to a doctor for that? Are her chores appropriate for her age? Are we feeding them the right things?

I think all Moms feel this way. In fact I'm sure of it. I do think that adoption adds an extra layer. Maybe the total amount of pressure is the same. I don't know. But I do know that I ask myself questions that are not "normal". I have found that the only thing that lessens these feelings is talking with others who are feeling the same things. I am so very thankful for the moral support that SO many face-to-fact, long-distance, and virtual-but-real friends have given to me repeatedly again and again.

Parenting has taught me so much about my relationship with God. He wants me to come near to Him. He wants me to ask for help. He wants to give me good things. He wants me to tell Him my fears and hurts. He wants my trust. He wants my heart. He wants me.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Not again!?!

Well, it is time to come out of the closet with our secret. If you haven't figured it out already, we are preparing for the possibility of adopting again. Yup, you heard me. Again. In fact we have completed a new home study through DSHS. 

Now you are probably thinking "this is the same nut who has totally scared me away from ever adopting!" Well first, I truly hope that I haven't scared you away. But I do realize that is possible with my overly raw and graphic posts about the realities of adoption. Why do I write in this way? I don't know. It's just how the words come out. I guess it's my own way of processing these thoughts.

I have struggled to articulate why we would want to adopt again. Heck, I can barely explain why we adopted the first time. Because it was the plan. Because I visited an orphanage for a couple hours when I had just turned 18 and it was clear to me that since God had not built me with a desire for bio kids or the whole prego experience, that adoption was where I would aim. You will hear adoptive parents say that you can't adopt because you want to do a good deed and "rescue" a child. Good deeds are one time acts. This is a relationship. A commitment. And yet, I have found myself thinking "well yes, I did want to rescue a child and I want to do so again, what is so bad about that?"

The Blind Side is playing on TV. I have watched the whole movie twice now but I can't bring myself to watch the first half anymore. Michael picking up leftover popcorn and washing his clothes alone at the laundry mat breaks me down. It makes me want to go out and adopt 20 more. It makes me cry so hard that I can't really think much of anything. I have been pondering this question of "why" for a while now. Tonight, the movie was playing in the background as I worked on some stuff when I heard it. The answer.

Mrs. Tuohy: So what happened?
Michael: Why'd you do it?
Mrs. Tuohy: What?
Michael: All along you wanted me to go to Ol' Miss.
Mrs. Tuohy: Well of course I did. We love Ol' Miss.
Michael: Why did you do this for me?
Mrs. Tuohy: What?
Michael: Everything! Was it for you or was it for me? Was it so I would go to school where you wanted? Was it so I would do what you wanted? 

Why did you do it? Was it for you or was it for me? There is the core question. I'll be honest, this started being for me. It felt like the right thing to do. Why create another child when I could save a starving, scared, and alone child? I am a good person. I am that good.  Ha! What a load of crap! I'm not "good." I fail. I fail often. Regularly. I don't deserve my kids. They are loving and kind and strong and they are good. I don't know why God would see fit to entrust me with such precious cargo, but he has. And if He is willing to entrust us with more, how could we ever say no? We did not decide on looking for a sibling group of 4 so that we would be put on a pedestal. People often say how impressed they are. I have even been called a saint. Me! A saint! Oh Lord help us, if I am what a saint is, then the whole world is doomed! I often think that God called me to have 4 kids because nothing less would teach me any degree of patience. And now I am starting to think that God is saying "well if 4 won't do the trick, we can keep going!" 

Throughout my life, I have struggled with asking God what is my purpose in life. 

  • I have asked Him why He made me so aggressive and strong willed? I'm not sure we ever would have made it through all of the adoption process if it weren't for this fire in my soul that has caused me to ask "why" so often. 
  • I once lived as a missionary kid in a country that was so very different from America. I now have 4 kids who want so badly to fit in with their friends. And I really do know first hand what that feels like.
  • I work in a comfortable office and have a comfortable job. If I really believe in God, why am I not out on a mission field somewhere? This comfortable job of mine pays the bills for our family. My family is my mission field for the next 13 years minimum.
  • We bought a large house (3100 sq ft finished plus another 1200 sq ft unfinished). Why would God give us a bigger house than we need when so many people have no home at all? This house is big enough for more kids. Many more kids!
  • I have a BA in Linguistics. Why on earth did I spend all that time and money pursuing a degree that I don't use? I have 4 kids for whom English is their second language. I had NO idea how often I would use my phonetics class.
  • My husband has the patience of Job. He is so patient that it drives me nuts. Well it did. Now I am just in awe and learning from him everyday and so very thankful that God gave me this amazing man to balance me out. Seriously, we complement each other in our strengths and weaknesses so much, it's amazing and divinely designed.
During the most difficult times in our adoption journey were the times when I felt the most clear about God's plan and design for my life. In all of my failures, in all of my flat on my face moments, I have been clear on what my aim is. I know how far I am from the mother that God wants to be and that my kids deserve, but I know. I know where God wants me. I know why I am here, in this moment, in this day, in this place. I have prayed more, confessed more, begged for strength more, apologized more, and loved more than I ever knew possible. And here is the greatest part, I know that there is so much more to come! I will learn more. Grow more. Love more. 

Would more kids create more stress? Yes!
Would more kids be a financial strain? Yes...
Would more kids require our 4 kids to adjust? Yes.
Would more kids involve a major adjustment period for those new kids? Yes.
Would more kids feel overwhelming? Yes.
Would more kids push us as still fairly new parents? Yes.
Would more kids bring more little people to love? Yes!!! And LOVE is the bottom line. 

This picture is my little Ryan dressed up in his sister's bathrobe. He is a ball of fire, full of energy and always good for a laugh. His tears are so infrequent that when he does cry, I feel like my heart breaks in half and it is so very hard for me to say no to something if I see those bright eyes well up. He rarely stops smiling even when I threaten to duct tape him to his chair at dinner time. We try and try to get him to stop running but his feet just don't know how to slow down. He LOVES life and he has so much to teach me. Just look at that smile!

So I guess my intentions are selfish again. I want to be immersed in God's plan. I want to cling to Him because I can't do it alone. I want to pull close to my husband as we strain to grow quickly to be what we need to be. I want to be in the deep end. I want to be in the ocean.

Sunday, March 10, 2013


Are my kids broken? Well that is a very loaded question.

My kids' bodies are covered in scars. They were not beaten when living with their extended family prior to the orphanage, and while corporal punishment is common place in Ugandan culture, I don't think that they were hit to the point of leaving any scars even at the orphanage. Their scars are from living in a rough life where kids gathered fire wood, worked in the garden, carried water daily, hung around open fires, and toys were rocks and sticks and metal playground equipment that knocked out teeth when play got carried away.

My kids' hearts have been broken, yes. We actually just talked about this today. We talked about how just leaving their extended family in Uganda broke their hearts, and then getting word 6 months later that their beloved Grandmother had died, broke their hearts all over again. And while that brokeness is healing, there will always be a scar on their hearts in that place.

Adoption comes from brokenness. A child would never need adopting if it weren't for the fact that we live in a broken world. Children are all too often the ones who pay the price for the sins of adults. It's not fair. Nothing about it is fair. People often say "your kids are so lucky to have you." I know what they mean. They are trying to compliment us for being good parents. But are they really lucky? Lucky to lose their first mother? Lucky to leave behind all their friends who they still miss to this day? Lucky to be forced to live with strangers who look funny, smell funny, speak words that make no sense, and have expectations with which they are not familiar? 

Adoption = Scars. It's just a fact. Even a child adopted at birth, given up by a teen who is a good girl that found herself in a situation that she wasn't ready for, and given to loving parents who adore her, will someday be forced to face the brokeness that lead to her story.

I challenge you to look at my kids. Look at their faces. Are they broken? Their hearts have scars but that is not the theme of their lives. Look at their eyes. Do you see pain? No. They are happy kids. They love life in a way I didn't understand until I fell in love with them. Do they still hurt? Yes. Deep wounds take the longest to heal. But their wounds aren't the end. They are the beginning. My kids run wildly, jump like bouncy balls, laugh loudly with their whole bodies, and they love. They love with all their hearts. They love me. Even though they know all my faults, they love me. Even though I lose my temper and yell, they love me. Even though I am not the perfect Mommy that they deserve, they love me. And that is our story!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Can You Imagine?

Sometimes people pretend that they know what our life is like. They assume that because it has been over a year now, that we are "normal" now (whatever that means) and that we don't deal with adoption related/caused stuff anymore. It's true, the "stuff" becomes less over time. But so much is still there.

Sometimes people say "I can't imagine." Many times people say "I can only imagine." I always appreciate these words. I appreciate when friends acknowledge that we deal with some tough stuff. And just as much, I appreciate that friends do relate.

Recently I spent some time getting to know a couple of women who asked questions about my life, my family, my kids, and all the stuff that is not so "normal" (whatever that means) in our lives. They often hedged their questions with "if it is ok that I ask" or "I hope I'm not asking too many questions." My reply is that I am happy to answer questions. I'm thrilled that people are interested and want to understand.

There are so many things that never get said. Once you are on this side of the fence, you hear about all kinds of "stuff" that families deal with. It's not generally shared because these children are people. Small people. But people nonetheless. Their deepest pain and suffering does not belong on a billboard over their heads. That said, I know that many adoptive mamas wished they could help the world to know more about the "stuff" without betraying their children's trust. 

So I am going to try to give you an idea of what I am talking about. Please know that this is not a contest. Parenting is difficult no matter which way you go about creating your family. This is just the only way I can find to share these things. Some of these apply to us. Many of them don't. All of them are real issues that real families are dealing with right now. So here we go:

Can you imagine your child literally throwing herself into walls because she is so desperate for attention that she will injure herself to get it?

Can you imagine your child slamming her head into the tile floor when she doesn't get her way?

Can you imagine your child biting you, kicking you, spitting at you, aiming to hurt you?

Can you imagine your child dumping her entire closet and refolding every item twice a week? It sounds nice until you realize that it is because she thinks it will make you want to keep her and not send her back.

Can you imagine your child just walked into the area where the dog just peed and so you yell at her to stop but she keeps walking into it and so you snatch her up and plunk her down 6 feet away and then you see that she is now shaking from head to toe?

Can you imagine your child flying into a full blown rage multiple times per day because her entire world has just been flipped upside down and you just said the word "no" (to a 6th cookie) reminding her of how hurt her little heart is?

Can you imagine video taping your child's tantrums and keeping records of every bump, bruise, scratch, and owie because they are so violent that they have led to questions of abuse in the past?

Can you imagine trying to explain to your child why her first mother kept her siblings but not her?

Can you imagine trying to explain to your child why she was thrown away like garbage, left to die in a pile of trash?

Can you imagine trying to explain to your child why she was abandoned, why she wasn't wanted?

Can you imagine knowing that your child was a prostitute prior to coming into your life?

Can you imagine knowing that your child was raped by her step father with a plastic bag over her head because she screamed too much and that she was forced to participate in the sexual abuse of her sibling?

Can you imagine your child scarfing down adult sized portions into a toddler sized belly until she cries with pain but still wants more?

Can you imagine your child eating until she pukes?

Can you imagine knowing that your child was witness to murder?

Can you imagine your child telling you about laying in bed next to her first mother while her mother prostituted herself in order to feed her child, your child?

Can you imagine your child flying into a rage when the food is over even after eating extreme amounts because she still feels the hunger pangs from months prior of going without food for multiple days?

Can you imagine your child wanting you to go to school with her because in the orphanage she went to school without any food for 12 hours and she knows that if you go with her that she will have food?

Can you imagine your child needing to sleep with a water bottle in order to be able to sleep because her survival fears just won't let go of the hold that they have on her?

Can you imagine your child needing to have some canned food under her bed in order to feel safe because she only knows survival and the canned food provides her with the feeling of a safety net?

Can you imagine everyday tasks suddenly triggering painful memories? Like throwing out coffee grounds triggering memories of eating leftover tea leaves. Or a storm reminds her of having collected hair to eat. Or clipping toenails reminding her of the time that she was so hungry that she sat at the feet of women and ate their clipped nails.

Can you imagine knowing that your child doesn't truly love you, yet?

Can you imagine knowing that you don't truly love your child, yet?

Can you imagine your child asking you point blank on day one "will you beat me?"

Can you imagine your child puking up her food so she can chew it again?

Can you imagine your child being consumed with fear when you loose your purse because your keys were in it and now the "bad people" can come and steal her and even though you find your purse, her confidence is shaken to the core and takes weeks to repair?

Can you imagine knowing that you will never know the exact date on which your child was born?

Can you imagine your child peeing all over her books and toys because she is so desperate for control that it consumes her and her pee is one of the very few things that she can control?

Can you imagine your child leaving a little pile of poop for you to find every morning, her brain compelling her to do things that make no sense to you or I?

Can you imagine your child posing a threat to animals or other children?

Can you imagine seeing your child's little body covered in 50+ scars? 

Can you imagine not knowing how all of the scars on your child's body took place?

Can you imagine changing your child's diaper only to find live worms wiggling around in her poop?

Can you imagine your child having giardia so bad that you layer 3 diapers on her at night and yet her little body is so inundated with this parasite that the effects still cannot be contained and this goes on a night after night for months?

Can you imagine your child sexually stimulating herself while sitting on your lap?

Can you imagine your child asking to touch you in very inappropriate places?

Can you imagine your child telling you about specific events that lead to the scars on her body and how they were intentionally done to her?

Can you imagine listening to your child tell you about being hit with multiple strikes, multiple times per day, every day?

Can you imagine your child being so very traumatized at such an early age that it has essentially rewired her brain but because of her age at the time she can't even tell you what happened?

Can you imagine your child telling you about going days without food?

Can you imagine knowing that your child was sold by her first mother; sold into the orphanage where big American dollars would be spent to come and get her but now the damage is done and can't be undone?

Can you imagine your child telling you about how their first mother didn't want to place them for adoption and how extended family took them from her home in the middle of the night? Can you imagine how you would feel when she told you that her mother wanted her back but she was instructed in the orphanage to call and tell her that they were already in America?

Can you imagine your child saying, "Every night I prayed that you would come. And I waited. And I waited. And I waited for you. But you didn't come. Why did you take so long?"

Can you imagine holding your breath each time your child says "one time..." for fear that this will be the time that she tells you about being raped?

Can you imagine?

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Mommy Wars

Mom's putting on a show in public. Soft sing-song voices that may or may not persist behind closed doors. My kids are cuter. My kids are smarter. My kids are dressed better. Your kids are covered in food. My kids' birthday invitations are hand crafted, the cake from scratch, and the favors expensive. I look so rested and relaxed. {Hemmm, no bitterness from me on that one... nope... none.} My husband is so sweet to me, gives me gifts, is better to me than yours is. My kids do the cutest things.

What does first place get you? Does it make you better? If so, better how? Does first place make you a better mom? Does it matter how stiff the competition is? Why on earth do we do this? It's like we are hardwired to fight this pointless fight.

I have learned that adoption has a way of bringing this out in full force. Our journey was more difficult. My kids have more labels, more diagnoses, more "stuff." My kids were older when adopted. We adopted more siblings at one time. My kids' tragedy is worse than your kids' tragedy. My kids are more difficult than your kids. 

We had been home about 7 months. We were still so very overwhelmed. We were drowning every day. Every single day. Months 1, 2, 6, and 7 have been our most difficult thus far. It was then that someone said "well whatever you are dealing with is nothing compared to what she (she being a new mother of a tiny infant) is dealing with right now." Whose days were more difficult? Hers or mine. I don't know. I've never been there. I'm guessing that this new mom was probably thinking and feeling many of the same things that I was at that time. But it's too difficult to compare that apple to that orange. In so many ways it was the same and so different at the same time. But the bottom line is, why does it matter? Does her struggle make mine feel less painful? Does it make me any better?

Please let me say clearly that I do not consider myself better than, more special than, or more dedicated than someone who has adopted 1 child, adopted an infant, adopted domestically, or decided not to adopt. Single kids need adopting. Infants need adopting. Kids in foster care need adopting. Bio kids need loving. People with no kids are valuable. God brings us together to accomplish His will. We have been so very privileged to be a part of others' lives. By helping. By encouraging. By giving. And we have been so very privileged to be the recipients of so much support. By helping. By encouraging. By giving.

I wish we could stop competing. Keep in mind that you can always say more later, but words spoken in judgment cannot be taken back. So many words spoken serve so little purpose other than to be hurtful. Some words spoken are said with malintent. Others are said in innocence but still cause hurt. This is just going to happen. It's life. But why do we engage? Why do we join in when we could forgive and move on? Why do we perpetuate that which we know in our hearts to be so damaging? Because we are human. Flawed. Insecure. Selfish.