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. 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Embracing Adoption :: Video

This is a video that we did for adoption awareness month. 

We wanted to communicate our belief that everyone should be involved in adoption. But not everyone is called to adopt. There are so many different ways that people can support adoption without being the ones to adopt. I can't imagine having done this without the large amount of support that we have received. And I certainly cannot imagine considering adopting again if it were not for knowing that we would have that support again. It makes all the difference in the world.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Racism in Our Lives

I never expected the racism that we would face. It showed up very early on, but the surprising thing was who showed the most racism. The kids. Our kids were racist, very racist, when we first met them.

I remember one particular day, being in Uganda and washing dishes (by hand people, you know, sink, soap, water, and sweat running down your back in the Ugandan humidity). JoAni straight out asked me, “Do you have black people to wash your dishes for you in America?” I wasn’t ready to try to explain a dishwasher given the level of English we were using at that time. So I just said “no” given that if our dishwasher died, we certainly would not be hiring a black person to come wash our dishes for us. Can you imagine that Craigslist ad? “Seeking an African American female to perform dish sanitation.” Yeah, no!

JoAni asked about our President and how he was chosen. I told her that our President is black. She told me that someone had made a mistake because a black man couldn’t possibly be the President of a country full of white people.

EVERY single time we left our guesthouse, our kids would ask us over and over if we would be coming back. They were so scared that we were going to ambush them and just dump them off somewhere. One day we were in the car, almost back to the guesthouse and JoAni said “oh we are here!” So I was teasing her and said, “Oh we are? I will ask the driver to stop so you can get out since we are back already.” We were still a ¼-½ mile away. She replied by saying “no, no, no, I am the child of a Muzungu (white foreigner) now, I can’t walk.”

In Uganda, you see dark brown faces walking, and walking, and walking. Ugandans walk. Then you look at the motorcycles. More like dirt bikes. Fondly known as boda bodas. No helmets. Swerving and careening in between cars., up on sidewalks, on road, off road. Young brown men drive them with their paying passenger perched behind them. Women ride boda bodas side saddle style. I have absolutely no concept what it is that keeps them from flying through the air each time they hit one of the thousands of massive bumps in the road. In their full length skirts, one hand holding  some kind of wares to be sold in the city, one hand holding the bike, and their faces looking completely calm. The day that I took Ryan to the hospital for malaria, my car passed a boda boda with 3 adults on it.  As we came parallel beside them, 3 little toddler faces popped out from between the larger bodies sandwiching them on. Can you imagine? It wasn’t uncommon to see. No car seat. No helmets. No crush zones or air bags.

Occasionally you would see a Muzungu on the back of one of these death traps on wheels. A stupid Muzungu. You know who you are if you are reading this. I work in auto insurance claims…. Yeah, stupid Muzungu. So why is the Muzungu stupid for riding on the boda boda and the Ugandan is not? Well it’s simple. The Muzungu has a choice. The Ugandan does not. Cars are so very expensive in Uganda. Fuel and maintenance are expensive by American standards. Very few Ugandans have the financial resources with which to hire a car. We didn’t just need a car for the 6 of us plus a driver. We had to have a station wagon or minivan. Resident cockroaches or not, a minivan was a luxury among luxuries.

So there you have it. Muzungus ride. Brown people walk. There was no arguing what they saw day in and day out. We didn’t even try to explain racial equality. We knew that they had seen injustice and they would have to see equality before they would ever understand, much less agree.

Since we have been home, we have only run into one flat out negative experience. I picked up the kids. They had been playing at a park with a splash pad with their cousins. Half way home Sylvia’s voice came from the back row of the SUV. She was seated on the left side. “Mommy… child say my skin is black and is ugly.” I asked her to repeat herself a couple of times. Surely I was hearing this wrong. Her English was still not solid. Maybe she was saying something different. Maybe she misunderstood what the other kids said. I came to understand that their cousin B had been with them and had tried to warn the kids to stay away from that mean kid. Their cousin was old enough and smart enough to have understood the whole deal. So I knew it was true. I drove a little more with my mind racing. What would I say?

I turned off the radio. I even turned off the fan. I barked back into the rear view mirror, “Listen up! Can you hear me?! I need you to hear me. That child is stupid. It’s not nice to call people stupid… uh… But some people just are. Your. Skin. Is. Beautiful. Do you hear me?! That boy does not get to decide. Your skin is beautiful. If you let him decide, he wins. If you decide, you win. He is stupid! Got it?” A solemn, tentative, and relieved chorus, “Yes Mommy.” Oh how I doubted myself after that. I felt that I handled it horribly. Of all the mommy-doubt-moments, that was one of my worst. I posted on Facebook about it. And a high school classmate of mine who happens to be African American, complimented me saying that I had done well. I can’t begin to explain to you how much her words meant to me.

Recently the kids learned about Martin Luther King Jr. Last year their English wasn’t good enough to understand what was being taught about him. This year they were FULL of questions. I pulled up some of his speeches on YouTube. They struggled to understand between the vocabulary and poor audio quality. And I struggled not to cry. We have explained segregation and the fact that we would not have been allowed to be a family 100 years ago. They get it. They definitely get it.

Tonight Sylvia called up to me from the bottom of the stairs, asking me to teach her how Rosa Parks sang. I told her I had no idea what songs Rosa Parks sang. Sylvia said “I only know♪ Free at last ♪ Free at last ." I told her that was not Rosa Parks singing but was Dr King speaking. Standing at the railing I said “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!” And with that I went into my room and cried.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

God's Timing Is Perfect

God's Timing is Perfect. It's a platitude for the suffering. You had a death in the family. God's timing is perfect. You can't get pregnant. God's timing is perfect. You can't find employment. God's timing is perfect. You have cancer. God's timing is perfect.

Let's first clarify something. This is my blog. My place to write what I think. And so here is what I think about "God's timing is perfect:" What a freaking load of CRAP!!!

Now before you decide that I'm going to hell, just hear me out. If you still disagree, well then I refer you back to my prior statement. This is my blog. My place to write what think. 

I'm not big on getting into the nitty gritty of theology. I think that far too many Christians get wrapped up in the details while failing to get the primary point, LOVE. But... this is one detail that I am willing to get wrapped up in.

Do I believe that God is sovereign? Yes, absolutely. Most people think that my prior statement and this one would fundamentally oppose one another. God can do anything. God can influence people. God can defy the laws of physics. But (and this is a big but) God allows free will. It is the foundation of all of Christianity. The idea that we can choose God or not. In order to allow that choice, there has to be free will. 

So does God ever exercise his powers to control our world? Yes. I think so. I'm not totally sure. I think He does but I have no idea to what extent. I pray. I pray often. Very often. God help me. God show me what to do. Help me hear you. Those prayers I believe that He certainly answers. Usually not in the way that I am hoping. I prefer lightning bolts. I've made that point clear. But God is God and He has yet to agree with me on this point. What about when people pray for other people to be influenced? God lead the judge to approve our case. God guide the embassy to handle our papers quickly. Well these requests are a bit different in nature.

God's timing is perfect. I know that people have heard this phrase or even uttered this phrase in hopes of comforting themselves or others. My experience has mostly been around adoption. The process is taking so very long. God's timing is perfect. We think we are supposed to be looking for a group of 4 but there aren't any so do we wait or did we misunderstand. God's timing is perfect. 

Yes, God's timing is perfect. But adoption is full of people. Brilliant, I know. Sometimes stupid, (my theory on the stupidity of the human race and the miracle that we are not extinct yet is a different subject for a different time), many selfish, all human, and all FULL of free will PEOPLE. People, with free will, all along the road of the adoption journey. 

I do believe that God uses all things for His purpose. I do believe that He can take even the biggest mess and find the beauty in it. I do believe that God has plans that I can't see. But there is a huge difference between creating the mess and finding the good in it and using that for His purpose.

God didn't create death. It wasn't His plan. He doesn't design pain. He doesn't inflict illness. He doesn't cause pain. He doesn't want children to lose their parents. He doesn't want parents to lose their children. He doesn't want you to suffer with disease, physical pain, and suffering. He doesn't facilitate miscarriages. He doesn't orchestrate for children to live in institutional settings for years on end. He doesn't. He just doesn't. No. You can point to verses in the Old Testament. We could go round and round. But I am firm on this subject. My conclusion is No.

God did not plan for my kids to be orphans. That's right. I'm the back up plan! God did not design the pain and fears and hurts and scars in their lives. I believe with every bit of my being that He will use all of these things for His glory if they let Him. But this wasn't the plan.

So when things are going to hell in a hand basket DON'T feed me that line of crap! Yes, I will understand that you mean well. Yes, I know that you believe what you are saying. But no, I won't swallow that pill. No.

Friday, February 8, 2013


While still in Uganda, I realized that Ryan's ears had been pierced at one time. I asked the girls about it and they said it was so that the bad people wouldn't take him. That was as much as they could tell me. I thought that perhaps it was to look like a girl so that the LRA wouldn't try to kidnap him to be a child soldier. But he was too young for that, the LRA hadn't been active in Uganda for years, and when they were in Uganda it was primarily in the North and, to the best of our knowledge, our kids had always lived in Southern Uganda.

After getting home to the States I tried asking the kids again but didn't get any more information. So I posted on one of my support group sites for families that have adopted from Uganda. The person who replied was our friend Sara that accompanied me to the hospital in Uganda when our Sarah was so sick. She ended up spending a year in Uganda in order to bring her babies home. She told me that it had to do with witchcraft. 

I started googling it. 
Ears pierced. Witchcraft. Uganda.
The sites popped up. Words bolded.
Human sacrifice. Abduction. Child sacrifice. 

I read as fast as I could. Skipping from one page to another. Eyes wide. Mouth open.
I couldn't breathe. I struggled to not throw up.

Children are often kidnapped. Their genitalia, tongue, or head cut off and used in witchcraft rituals. Or the child is buried alive under a construction site to bring luck and fortune to the new shop owners. It is estimated that every year 3,000 children disappear from their homes in connection to witchcraft.

There are other witchcraft practices like removing a babies eye teeth (canine teeth) before they grow in. This would involve a parent taking a child to a witchdoctor where they would use sometimes unsterile knives or bicycle spokes to dig the teeth out of the gums; A practice which can damage future adult teeth, leave gums mangled, and even cause death due to the unsterile and dangerous conditions. We know that our kids' Grandmother, who had been raising them, was a Christian. Our kids' gums show no evidence of this. Obviously we are thankful for this in multiple ways.

A person is considered to be impure for human sacrifice if they are circumcised or their ears are pierced. So Ryan's ears were pierced to make him impure to witch doctors and therefore protect him from being kidnapped. Our kids asked us within the first week of meeting them in Uganda if there were kidnappers in America. Of course we didn't understand what they really meant by this. Actually, it does not seem that our kids know about the horrible things that a kidnapper might do to them. But it is very clear that it was beaten into their heads to be afraid of kidnappers and to not let strangers lead you astray. 

This fear is ingrained in them so deep. I know that their Grandmother did not give them these fears to be mean. She did it to save their lives. They had to be on guard. They had to be careful. The fear is still with them. A couple of months ago the deadbolt broke on our back door. Sarah instantly started trembling. She was terrified. She just stood there trembling from head to toe. When our kids were first home, they wouldn't go alone into any room at any time for any reason; they HAD to have someone with them at all times. Ryan had been potty trained before we ever met him. He has never once had an accident during the day. But up until just a month ago, he wore pull ups at night. He would wake up if he had to pee. But he was SO very afraid of the dark. He could not bring himself to get out of bed in the dark. It just wouldn't happen. We are so very proud of him for overcoming this fear. But I suspect that it will linger, at least to some degree, for a long time. He has to actively fight his fears. All of our kids have flashlights under their pillows. I only wish we had known to give them flashlights in the very beginning. We had no idea that our kids were sitting in their beds trembling with fear every night; their whole bodies rigid with fear.

How evil does a person have to be to cut the genitalia off of a child or to throw them down in a pit and fill in the dirt over their little bodies? Maybe the children are drugged and not conscious; I sure hope so. But the image I have is of screaming terrified children. Screaming or not, THAT is PURE evil! And that scar is physically on my son's ears to this date.

Link to a BBC article on witchcraft in Uganda.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

I Wish I Was Just Paranoid

I feel like a hawk sitting on a tall power line. I watched all of the activity around me when it comes to my kids. I watch who is doing what. I watch who is looking at what and for how long and in what way. I watch hands with fingers in relaxed positions or balled up in fists. I watch for who is talking, or more telling would be who is not talking. Body tension. Rigid responses. Tone. Any exchange of touch. Anything. Everything.

I thought that my kids were sensitive to where they stood in the extended family pecking order. Did they see themselves as true family members? Did they really believe that they were loved equally? Did they believe that they were valued equally? Did they feel like full fledged members of the family. I had started to think that I was paranoid, overboard, overly protective, and extreme. Was it just a case of being a new mom? Did I really know what I was talking about?

A couple of weeks ago we were all piled onto the couches watching a movie as a family along with a couple of guests. Josh had the bright idea to show the kids African Cats. Their homeland. Africa. Yah... our kids were raised in the suburbs. They hate wilderness. They hate "the bush." It scares them. So there we were, snuggled under blankets, people piled all around, watching the movie while being subjected to a thousand questions!

Where are they going? Why are they fighting? Is she going to die? Is that one bad? Do they eat people? What are they doing? Why are they digging? Why are they chasing that animal? Why are they running?

The mommy cheetah had several cubs that had been the center of the movie for a while. She was trying to distract a lion away from her cubs to protect them. She was risking her life. And then it came. Sarah was nestled near me. She turned to me and asked, "if you had kids, would you die to protect them?" I thought I knew what she meant but hoped that I had misunderstood. "What do you mean Sarah? I have kids." Her sweet little voice carefully clarified "No, I mean if you have kids like B, E, and C." (Their cousins who are biological products of both parents.) Kids... bio kids.... if you had kids of your own. "Sarah, I have kids, I would die for you."

I was sort of stunned while at the same time not surprised. My head spun for a while. For a day or two actually. I had hoped I was wrong. I had hoped that they didn't perceive any difference. I had hoped that I was paranoid. It was a dull aching pain.

I had initially not wanted to share this story with anyone at all. It is certainly painful. But we have received so much support from so many people. People with genuine questions, genuine interest to understand our lives in order to better support us. 

So what can you do? Trust that while an adoptive parent's demands and actions might seem excessive, they are likely considering more factors than you are aware of or even can imagine. Know that older adopted kids pick up on EVERY thing, even if it doesn't seem like it.

I have heard SO many stories of well intentioned friends and family causing significant harm without meaning to do so. So many stories of parents packing up their kids half way through an event because others have ignored their requests to not feed their child and these well meaning people overfed the child to the point of being truly painful and accompanied by tears. Or in many cases food speaks love and provision to a child with a traumatic past and now that child is reaching to someone else for love instead of his/her parent. So many stories of sweet little faces being scooped up and carried around only to wrench away from their parent when returned to their rightful place. Have you ever heard of parent shopping? It's when a child is so much in survival mode that they will literally smile and coo at strangers, looking for the next provider. Their past has taught them that these actions are necessary, required, imperative. It's NOT cute. It's NOT sweet. It's NOT entertainment. It might look like all of these things but if you could read that child's desperate thoughts, it would break your heart too. What might look like normal childhood behavior on the outside isn't always "normal," or more importantly healthy, on the inside.

PLEASE know that adoptive parents are often dealing with SO much more than you see on the surface. I share these over generalized stories because so often these things are not known because it simply isn't respectful to lay out a child's... a person's... deepest struggles to the world. So some of these struggles are our own. And some of them are stories I have heard from others. But ALL of them are things I hear over and over and over and over again from other moms of kids who were adopted at older ages.

Does any of this make you feel paranoid like you are afraid to make a mistake? Let me tell you, if you say to your friend "please tell me if you would like me to do anything differently around your kid as I want to support you in your attachment process" and then follow that with your actions, you will probably have a friend for life. I recently asked a friend "when your son does x, how should I respond?" NOW, the one caution is that you can NOT ask this in FRONT OF or within earshot of any kids. That would negate your good intentions.

So let me tell you a story of someone who did an AWESOME job in supporting us in this way. I'm not going to go into the details of the story because this post is open to the world. Josh's parent were in town. There was some behavior that needed immediate attention. I pulled that child aside, discussed why the behavior was a problem, and examples of what is appropriate. Then I needed Josh's parent's buy-in. I gave his Dad the run down on what was going on and the specific behavior that was and wasn't okay. His reply was "okay, if he/she does that around me I will just say 'would your mommy consider that to be appropriate?' and if he/she continues I will ask her to go see you." He mirrored the vocabulary that I was using which would show this child that we were all on the same page. He immediately accepted our request, trusting that we had good reason. His support meant the world to me. 

I don't share any of this to criticize you. I don't share this to hurt you or point fingers. I share this because the consistent theme we have seen is people wanting to support us and they want to know how we need that support.