Friday, October 31, 2008

Spidey, Indiana and the Indian

We had a wonderful Halloween, a really enjoyable time. I spent much of my day on the run, volunteering in Matthew's class in the morning, running home to grab adoption documents for the FINAL batch of notarizing (Yea!!! Still feel like I ought to be celebrating that one, but how?) for the dossier, then back home to cook up some chili for dinner tonight then off to school for parties in 3 classrooms. Whew! This evening we got together with some families from church for dinner, then group trick-or-treating. It was so relaxing, with no stress and good company. Joshie lost it for a little while, mainly due to exhaustion I think. He was worn out before we even left school!

Awhile back we went to get costumes and I was appalled at how expensive they were for items that will fall apart the first time the kids wore them. So when we had a family trip to Grand Junction, we hit a thrift store where we found the perfect items. It took a bit of thinking outside the box when we drug the boys to the women's section to look, but once we took it off the rack and started talking about what could be done, they caught on and soon thought it was the best idea ever!

So we had Matthew as an Indian:

We had Kenny as Indiana Jones, and a dashing one at that!:

And Joshie as Spiderman in a store bought suit as Mommy has neither the time nor tine inclination to learn how to sew.:

Dominick has a tradition of trying to take off part of Halloween from work and going in costume to the kids' school. He couldn't do it last year, but this year he did and he kept it a secret from the boys. They also had never seen his costume before, but I was the same one he had worn in high school before we even started dating and it gave me the creeps even then! He went to Matthew's and Kenny's class and was a huge hit! I love the look of sheer delight as Matthew discovers it is his Daddy under that strange, scary costume. He didn't go to Joshie's class as he was afraid it might scare them too much.

Matthew is often a pretty serious little guy. He knows how to have fun and when he lets loose he really has a great time, but more often than not he can be found quietly playing something less boisterous. I think that is why I loved this photo of him I captured today in his class...the kids had formed a loud and crazy Conga line and he was having the time of his life. He still looks a bit like my little boy in this picture, the little boy who is fast slipping away to be replaced with a more mature version of himself. While I really like the young man who most often appears today, I have a twinge of loneliness once in awhile for this little guy who has almost completely disappeared.

I thought for awhile our day was going to be marred by some behavioural issues with Kenny earlier in the day, as "Control Man" reared his head yet once again, and he had to be spoken with pretty sternly about it. I have a funny feeling we are in for a bit more of it over the coming week but hopefully it won't last long and we'll be back to the old Kenny quickly. Luckily, these phases are further and further apart and much shorter in duration than they once were. That doesn't make them any less frustrating to deal with at the moment. I actually asked him today "When was the last time you were a Mommy?", and he gave me a strange look and said quietly "Never...", to which I responded "Then I think I know a little bit more about that job than you do since you have never done it before so I think you need to leave me alone, not tell me what to do, and let me do the job I know how to do.". Don't get me wrong, it isn't anything really major, but it exasperating to be told every step of the way what to do, how to do it, and why I should do it! Maybe this is just good preparation for the teenage years when I will no doubt loose at least 50 IQ points in the eyes of all my kids.

I know Kenny is also dealing with some feelings of inadequacy right now, as he made the comment two or three times yesterday evening about his poor grades this last report card and how he did not get the A's that Matthew got on his. I feel caught between a rock and a hard place with this one, as Kenny's grades WERE lower than I think he should have had and he admitted that he wasn't working quite as hard as he should have been, but after speaking with his teacher, acknowledging where he is, etc. I think his grades were really more of what I would consider a "B-" average rather than a "C-" average...if he were to be a standard student who could be graded on appropriate work. But his lack of skills coupled with his less-than-ideal focus this past quarter led to a lower than expected grade.

Both Dominick and I sat him down last night and reiterated what our expectations were of him...that he bring home no C-'s or lower as long as he was truly trying hard and it wasn't a subject where the work was simply too far over his head (none is right now), and that he work as hard as he can, regardless of the ultimate grade he receives. I explained to him that we realized there was no way possible for him to get the kind of grades Matthew currently gets, as he is simply too far behind and will be in "catch up mode" for several years to come. We also let him know that we felt that if he got straight C's that would be a real accomplishment and would be equivalent to Matthew getting A's. We talked about how we know it isn't fair that this will all be so hard for him for so long, but it wasn't our fault nor was it his fault and all we could do was work hard together as a team to help him succeed. While I didn't pick up on any real competition between the two, I sensed more that Kenny is disappointed in himself that he can not perform at a higher level over all. I can't imagine how frustrating it must be at moments to think at a 3rd or 4th grade level if not higher, and only be able to provide "output" that is barely first grade level work. While we all know this is temporary, it is a long road to pull him up to where we all know he can be.

I also explained that even though it took him longer for his homework and the other boys were out playing while he was stuck at the table, it would not be fair of me to tell them they couldn't play just because he wasn't done yet. He seemed to easily understand and agree with this, seeing the logic in not punishing someone for something they had nothing to do with. Again, we reiterated that we knew this wasn't "fair", but we all had no choices in the matter and school work was terribly important at this stage. I also said that we will celebrate when ANYONE works hard, and it would not be fair to Matthew if we didn't act like his good grades were important just so Kenny didn't feel sad about his own grades. He very quickly said he wouldn't want that to happen, and he is proud of Matthew's good grades too...and his sincerity was clearly evident in that. I think this is all about disappointment and frustration in himself rather than jealousy of Matthew.

It is going to be very hard on all of us to have so many kids struggling on so many levels with school work, and to have 3 of the 5 coming from behind and learning language. We have to make it clear that each child will have their own independent expectations based upon their individual ability, and we will need to find a way to somehow move away from comparison (which we have never done but they will inevitably do) to encouraging each child to do their very best, whatever that level might be. I have some doubt about our ability to do justice to this, to get a clear message across to them about the bigger picture of their education. The natural tendency to compare yourself with your siblings and others around you will be a hard one to combat, and this is an area I am giving lots of thought to so we can come up with an effective approach.

We are looking forward to what will hopefully be a relaxing weekend with a few chores mixed in. I know we had 3 very tired, very happy little boys tucked into bed tonight...well at least until Joshie had a nightmare while I was writing this and ended up snuggled in our bed across the room from me. We have no big plans other than church, and we'll enjoy one of our few remaining weekends together before ski season begins and we are booked for 4 months solid. I am not complaining this year though, as it will make the time pass much faster as we wait to learn about adoption travel.

I hope all of you had a great Halloween too!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Insight from Others

The readers of this blog never cease to amaze me, I am often treated to your insights through your public comments and private emails and walk away from the virtual encounter much wiser and with a broader perspective than I otherwise would have had.

As I have discussed in the past, this blog is a love letter to my family, primarily to my children. When I sit down to write, be it late at night or early in the morning light, I don't think of the hundreds...or do I daresay thousands...of you who are reading it in an attempt to glean something from it of value to you as you perhaps walk your own adoption path. No, instead I think of our sons and our future daughters, I quite literally picture them reading this as older teens or young adults and I think about what I want to share with them. It allows me to approach the writing with an honesty that comes straight from the heart, as I have nothing to hide from my children. If I thought too much about the rest of you, I might find myself freezing up, or writing in a more stilted, less open manner. Of course I know in reality that Dominick and I made the conscious decision to continue to keep the blog public, and we know that there is an "audience" beyond our children who are reading about our daily lives, our struggles, and our triumphs. We have allowed ourselves to be "on display" so that others might learn from our mistakes and successes. What I often don't discuss is how much your support, encouragement and insights have helped us as well.

Today I received an email from a long time adoption buddy in response to yesterdays post. In that post I shared about the very real and justifiable fears of older child adoption, about worrying that your child will not know how to love and that they will be unreachable or will find you unlovable. Having already battled for one child's lost soul it is not an enviable position to be in and is far more tangible to me than just a title to a chapter in an adoption training book. My sweet fellow adoptive mommy pointed something out to me that helped me see things from a different vantage point.

In her email, she spoke of the powerful impact that siblings play in families, and how the dynamics of positive and negative sibling relationships can affect the ultimate happiness within a family. I hope she won't mind my sharing her comments anonymously with you:

"I think Matthew was probably a factor in Joshua's healing, and I think that Matthew and Joshua have been big influences for Kenny- especially in what you have shared about Matthew's heart... wow. And now, you have three loving children to help the girls learn... how to behave, how to love, how to respond to difficulties, and how to enjoy family life. You are in a great place!" .

Once again, I was humbled and realized that Dominick and I are not in this alone, that we have another leader in this family in Matthew, and other foot soldiers as well in Kenny and Joshua. We are often asked how we think we can manage this with 5 kids from such backgrounds that most people wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole. We receive looks of utter disbelief when we describe traveling around the world with 3 kids in tow and actually are incredibly joyful about the opportunity rather than filled with dread. I can't count how many times I have had anticipatory comments thrust at us about how poorly the kids will get along once the girls arrive and the adjustments that will inevitably have to be made.

And yet, none of the naysayers lives in our family. For that, I suppose I am thankful as the LaJoy's are simply not naysayers. Instead of thinking "Why should we?" all 5 of us think "Why not?", and then we jump into the water with both feet.

It is impossible to explain how the solid, steady, supportive character of a 4, or later on a 7 year old boy can make all the difference in the world. Matthew was 4 1/2 years old when all hell broke loose as we brought Joshua into our lives, and yet in many ways it was Matthew who held us all together with his calm demeanor, his patient spirit, his understanding soul. His grace under fire was so far beyond my own, I probably don't even recognize the number of times when I actually looked to him to keep me going when it felt as if all hope was lost. He was 7 when Kenny came home and although his place as the eldest in our family was usurped by Kenny, his maturity secured his role as the eldest, and his kindness, understanding and welcoming acceptance of a new sibling so close in age was something I doubt few adults could muster.

The girls will have far more than us parenting them and providing them with role models, they will have 3 brothers who truly know how to love and show it daily, who are respectful with each other and with us, and above all else who see our family as a team and offer themselves as members of that team to do whatever is necessary to accomplish the goals of our family. Kenny, Matthew and Joshua all will be helping us parent by example as they reflect the values of what it means to be a LaJoy, and as they model the qualities we have come to admire so much in each of them.

"Team LaJoy" helping one another get ready for school.

Aside from their family, there will be others in their lives who will make a profound impact. Family friends, caring teachers, involved activity leaders, and therapists if necessary all contribute to who our children ultimately turn out to be. Often we don't give credit where credit is due in this area, as it is oh-so-easy to want to claim the glory for ourselves..."Gee, aren't we Super Parents? Aren't we great?"...when at times it was a 7 year old boy who helped you keep your cool, a caring therapist who accepted your call late at night, a beloved friend who listened to you cry over your child's struggles, or a teacher who did all they could to help your child reach his or her potential. In this area Dominick and I have been bountifully blessed, so many have touched our lives who have made a tremendous difference and aside from the "Support Team" we have in 3 wonderful little guys we also have a "Supplementary Support Staff" provided by God which has made it possible to have the incredible family we have, against all odds.

So to my friend who wrote, thank you for the reminder that was much needed. Thanks for helping to quell the fears that occasionally creep in. To all of you who give so much back as you read this blog, I can only hope that you have received half as much from me as you all have given.

Monday, October 27, 2008


I am going to wax philosophical today, so forgive me for the inane wanderings...

I have spent the past couple of days contemplating the concept of "love". I was asked to do the children's portion of the service this Sunday but had forgotten and found myself reminded 10 minutes before "showtime" and had to scramble to come up with something appropriate. I quickly looked at the Sunday School material, jotted down a couple of notes, and ended up "winging it". The Sunday School lesson was about God's love for us, and as always I am amazed at how easily children accept and offer up their love. For them, love is not complicated, it is not filled with anxiety about whether others will love us back or not, it is not anything "dirty" nor does it have any other meaning other than pure, simple love. Oh, to be a child again!

Later that evening I met with our Senior High Youth Group where I again decided to follow the theme and have our group discussion about the many sides to love. What a fascinating discussion that was, and how terrifying it can be as the mother of young children to imagine my own so-far-very-innocent children sitting there sharing the thoughts, feelings and emotions associated with more mature experiences. How I wish I could preserve their innocence forever! And how impossible that would be...

Contrasting the two, it was a reminder of how important these years are with our kids, of how difficult it is to infuse them with the morals and values we hope they will carry with them for the remainder of their life, of how much they will struggle with their own beliefs as they turn them inside out trying to find meaning in their life. I would NEVER return to that age, preferring instead to be where I find myself today, confident about certain truths (even if others vehemently disagree), able to see things from many different perspectives and yet still see the morsel of connectedness in even the least obvious places.

One question I asked both groups was "Why is it so hard for grown ups to say 'I love you' to others? Why is it hard to say it to someone other than a romantic interest?". I know that our life experiences play a key role in this, that we can feel freer or more stifled in expressing our love for others based upon how we have been treated by others in the past. If we have been hurt, it becomes more of a challenge to open up and let love in. If others have rejected us, we tend to withhold our love, or at least our open expression of it for fear of once again being emotionally injured. I saw how seriously damaging this can be firsthand with Joshua.

I have had times in my life when I have felt very unloved, I've had surprise moments when others rejected me totally unexpectedly, I have had love whither and die away. I have also been cherished by the man who would become my husband. Daily for the past 9 years I have been at one love stage or another with a new child in my life, a child who started out as a total stranger but whom I promised to care for as my own forever. With our adoptions, love has had to be worked at, regardless of how others try to present it as a fairy tale romance. I have privately spoken with so many other adoptive parents who are terrified to admit that they don't feel any love for this child they now find themselves parenting, and they wonder if that makes them a bad person.

The incredible thing is, at least in our case so far, love wins every time.

Perhaps this daily "Love Workout" I have participated in for so many years has honed my ability to lay it out there, to let others know exactly how I feel about them with no artifice. The truth is, somewhere along the line...I think with Josh...I "got it" that this is not a game we are playing, life and love are real and affect us forever and far more deeply than we often understand. With God's help, I began to quickly see that I had a job bigger than I ever imagined, and that was showing my kids how to love. That meant I had to be as real as I could possibly be, that only being "half authentic" was going to net me "half authentic" kids, and we were already starting behind the 8 ball in the "Love Department".

Fearless love is hard to achieve, it is hard to be "fearless" when something as strong as love holds so much power over us. But when you are starting with an infant who rejects love in its entirety, you know you have no option but to dig in your heels and split yourself wide open so he can see the real you all in the hopes that your honesty will help him see it is OK to open himself up. When you bring home an older child who is world weary and jaded by the sheer numbers of people in and out of his life who never were the ones who stuck around forever, you have to build love slowly and only time can convince them that finally they can let their guard down. I think that may be where we are with Kenny this past week or so, another brick or two has tumbled down from the wall that now is only about a foot high, but still exists.

Friendship is a place where we often say they are "dear" to us, they are our "best" friends, that we "care deeply" about them, but we hesitate to go for the gusto and say "I love you". Whether it is due to thinking those words should only be reserved for use with romantic love interests, or fear of homophobia, or just being unable to say those words in an unfamiliar context, we rarely hear friends proclaim their love for one another.

And what a shame that is.

I have a couple of friends in my life with whom I can share those words along with my innermost thoughts and fears. I have said it in the past to friends and found myself ultimately rejected later on, and yet I would never have taken it back for a moment as what I felt then was real, it was meaningful, and love should always be acknowledged. To have had love and lost it really is far better than to never have loved at all...and this includes friendships just as much as it does romance. I remember a couple of years ago when one of my very closest friends wrote me a card at Christmas and told me how much she loved me, how important I was in her life and even today she never hesitates to tell me. What a gift she has given me, but surely what a gift she has given herself as well! Freedom to express those thoughts gives our souls a lift, it tears those bricks down and creates ever closer bonds.

And what about those times when we withhold the magic words? What about the unspoken "I love you's" that never reach the light of day? How much have we lost by not revealing our hearts? How much deeper could a relationship be with that kind of honesty, or what relationships never gain solid footing because of our inability to say what we feel for fear of we trade safety for intimacy, and we are the losers for it.

The world's view of love today is so skewed. "Love" today really means "sex". It takes a ton of work to help our children see love as the many layered verb and noun that it is...we can love something or we can be "in love". We can take the more worldly perspective of it which is oh-so-narrow or we can take it in a more spiritual context which is far broader and rewarding. What I want more than anything in the world is for the boys to see love for all that it is, but more importantly to be able to express it with abandon!

And as I contemplate all of this "love talk", I sit here in the silent evening worrying about the love of two more children, children who have seen what love is not, but perhaps don't understand what love is. I often have moments of insecurity as I worry that I will not be lovable enough to them, that they will find me someone who is impossible to love. I worry that the damage already done to their souls will be undoable, that we as a family will be unable to reach them and I worry about what that will do to our family dynamics. It is in these quieter moments when one admits what might happen, when one worries about what they have heard has happened before to others, when one is assailed by doubts and finds themselves lacking confidence. This is not a snugly, cute little baby we are eventually bringing home. This will be real live people...little people, but people with a history nonetheless. They bring baggage, as do we, and it is difficult not to let that overwhelm you at moments. And despite the messages brought to us by Hallmark, love really doesn't conquer all.

But I have to believe in Love. It is the one constant in my life, it is enduring, it changes hearts and lives. If God is Love, then I am surrounded by it daily, and most likely so are you. That is His one major tool for reaching us, it is the biggest, baddest Makita Power Drill in His toolbox and it drills right into our hearts when we rip off the protective armour.

Love, we can live without it, I suppose, but who would ever want to?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

My Baby Boy

It is nearly 11:00 PM and I am once again battling insomnia, which seems to hit me every few months and lasts much longer than I'd like. I guess I am entitled to feel a little run down, as there is much going on in our lives and much more rattling around in my heart. After having been to Denver and back for an overnight trip, I am ready to hunker down at home and not see the light of day for awhile, but I doubt I will have that luxury.

We are going through a soft and tender time right now with Kenny, as if he has suddenly reached a new level of attachment. Tonight we were at our friends house who now own our old rocker which I sat in many an hour as I rocked both Matthew and Joshua to sleep. I love that this piece of furniture is used to soothe another beloved child to sleep who is now an important part of our lives. This very rocker had come up in conversation this week while I was rocking Kenny in our old recliner, and I talked about how I would rock and sing the other boys when they were very young. I took a moment to show Kenny the rocker tonight, and he sheepishly asked if I would rock him in it. So I turned off the lights, pushed the door closed a little, and pulled him up on my lap. He had a huge grin on his face as he snuggled in close and asked me what I used to sing to the boys, and so I sang in hushed tones the silly little songs I made up for each of the boys. He giggled and then said "I wish I had a special song...I wish you had sang to me when I was little." So I proceeded to make up a song on the spot and quietly sang it to him.

It moves me deeply to think of Kenny's unabashed yearnings to go back in time, to try and regain what was lost. It is something neither he nor I have any control over and something we both wish we could do...turn back the clock and have him be in my arms as a baby. I think he is at a stage where he is beginning to recognize all that he was not able to experience now that the initial shock of displacement has worn off and the hardest work of settling in has been completed. I know that there must be moments when we talk about the boys when they were babies or the cute little toddler things they did when Kenny must feel very left out. I try to encourage him to talk about it, and I often say things like "I wonder what you were like! I'll bet you were adorable and did many of the same things...I wish I had been there.". I make every effort to acknowledge that A) He was once little too B) He was (and is!) very cute and C) I wish we had been together.

It hurts, folks. Older child adoption comes with many rewards and many heartaches as well. We are called upon, as parents, to help them heal, to help them move forward...but we forget we often need to hold their hands as they revisit their past, as they try and capture the little bits and pieces that they can manage to gather. We have to take kids in big bodies and allow them to be little for awhile, and often those watching from the wings don't understand why our kids act so young sometimes, why we are not correcting them or why we seem to "baby" them at moments. And you know that all that little guy wants is to be rocked by his mommy because he never got the chance to. We are lucky in having those friends closest to us who understand, but not everyone does. After all, it isn't often you see an almost 10 year old boy who is fascinated by playing with the toys on the toddler aisle or who still pretends and plays dress up like a 5 year old.

There is also the pain that comes from watching your beloved child struggle daily with school work, who sits at the table for over an hour to write 5 sentences and it is so difficult to write each individual word that he has forgotten what he was trying to say and ends up with sentences that make no sense at all. What makes it even harder is when you have a child who exhibits great intelligence, but is stunted by his earlier lack of education and one on one attention. We just had report cards, and Kenny's was not great. He came home with 2 C-'s and a D, and a couple of C's. The A+ he had on the first report dropped dramatically. I attended parent teacher conferences this past week and we had a long talk about Kenny's developmental level, his speech issues and how they are creating real problems for him in learning to write, about his overall basic skills. I sympathize with his teacher who debated over how to grade him...does she grade him based upon effort only? Does she grade him based upon his performance on the work at the level he really is which is about 1st grade? Does she grade him based upon performance on 3rd grade work? We all agreed Kenny has grown by leaps and bounds, that he has made incredible progress even since the beginning of school in reading and language, and that he has had difficulty at times transitioning in his own mind from having no expectations placed on him due to his obvious inability to follow along last year to now having new expectations placed on him now that he has some basics skills. It is understandable that this would be tough for him, as before he was expected to do what he could but everyone knew he couldn't really do much at all...and now he can do more and he can't just do as he pleases during class. This does not mean he has any behavioral issues at all, because he really doesn' is just that now he needs to get serious and realize he has to do as much as he can even if he can't do it all.

I have had to learn very quickly that my expectations of my child's school achievements need to be revamped, that my ego needs to be checked at the door because this is not a race, he is not being compared to anyone unless I am doing that comparing, and that it may take him until he is 20 to graduate high school. But it is far more important to me that he graduate having solid skills than it is if he graduates "on time" but can't function as well in the real world because it bothered me to have a child held back or have lower grades while in this all-important foundational time. He needs to read well, to write well, to compute well.

I have also learned that there are moments that may prove uncomfortable when dealing with school experts, and that I am the only advocate for Kenny that really counts. While I do think everyone has Kenny's best interest at heart, we are all coming at it from very different perspectives. One specialist is seeing his speech, one is seeing his ESL skills, one is seeing his reading skills, etc. But who is looking at the whole child? Who is watching out for his character development, his nurturing, his life experience enhancement? Who cares for his heart? Dominick and I. All the experts in the world will NEVER know my son better than I do, and I must not hesitate to make that clear. We spoke at length about the need to hold Kenny back, and when that decision might need to be made. Some on the team felt it would fine to continue to push him on up and see how he stood in middle school or high school, I disagreed and felt it is important to do so in the next year or two so we don't get further and further behind and miss critical basics as well as not give him time to create new friendships if needed before we hit the confusing middle school years. There may come a time when we have to go against the grain and do what we feel is best, despite the urgings of the experts. When that time comes...for any of the kids...I need to have the strength and courage to do what I know I need to do, and if need be learn what I need to learn to homeschool them if necessary in order to get them caught up. But my child is not merely a special needs child, an ESL learner, or a lower level reader. My child is Kenny LaJoy, a child I love and admire very much, a child who is counting on me to make the best decisions possible for him. A child who is more than just his special needs, no, Kenny is much, much more than that.

Often lately I find myself looking at my newest son and wondering how I would handle all that he has had to deal with this past year. Even at my more mature age, would I have the resilience he has? Would I have the patience he has? Would I have the courage he has shown? Would I have the willingness to open up the way he has? No, I actually don't think so.

We who bring home older children learn through experience how very hard this is for a child, for a family, for all involved. We are asking so much from our new children, far more than we can ever imagine going through ourselves. I look at Kenny, and I see my hero, for he has done something I would never be able to do myself, and he has done it successfully...he has let love in, he has embraced a new life, he has taken on the challenge of learning so much...and he has done so without a single complaint. He also has the sweetest smile, the kindest heart, the most forgiving spirit.

He really is my baby. Man, I love this kid.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

God's Promises

With adoption it seems so easy to connect with God. I read a T-Shirt recently that said "Birth is an act of nature, Adoption is an act of God". While I don't think I would quite relegate birth to a mere act of nature, I wholeheartedly agreed with the sentiment about adoption being an act of God. It would be very hard for me not to see that when He has been an integral part of each of our adoptions and vital in the lives of those around us. But it has been with this adoption where He has risen to new heights in terms of involvement, and it seems the more we let go, the more we offer ourselves up with abandon, the more we see Him.

There is another family for whom this is truth as well, someone we just "met". Isn't it funny how we adoptive families are a little-known "Club" of sorts, and you can pick up the phone and speak with someone the first time and feel as if you have tons of things in common? The mere fact that your heart is guided in a certain direction is enough to allow for hours of conversation. As all of you regular followers know, there is a little boy who has been laid on our hearts this past year. He is special...he is Kyrgyz...he is older...he is cleft affected.

He was left behind.

Two of Kenny's 3 buddies had found their forever families, and in an odd and God-shaped twist of fate they ended up in the loving arms of a couple who we actually met briefly at a church service in Kyrgyzstan...the service where our own children volunteered to stand at the front of the church, globe in hands and help pray for the orphans of the world. Orphans praying for orphans, a moment that was unstaged and yet as perfectly planned as if it was orchestrated by the grandest imaginations in Hollywood. And there, in that very room, were the newest hearts to be touched.

Only Amir was left. The youngest of the bunch.

We never had the privilege of meeting Amir in person. Instead, we were introduced to him through Kenny's memories which come in spurts. Stories of playing with treasured Pokemon cards, of listening at Director's closed office doors and giggling, of younger and smaller kids falling prey to the taunts of older, stronger kids. There is no doubt that the protective side of Kenny was honed as he attended to Amir, his youngest heart-brother.

For some reason, Kenny's new youngest brother's heart was touched by Amir's loneliness. Joshua has prayed relentlessly every single night for Amir to find a family, for Amir to be safe. Even when the rest of us forgot to include Amir, Josh was the stalwart Prayer Warrior for Amir. A 5 year old child often reminds me what love is really all about, what faithfulness really means.

Yesterday, we learned that faithfulness has been rewarded. The family with whom we have been corresponding recently has made a firm decision to adopt Amir, they are well prepared to handle any special needs that arise, they are experienced parents of both bio and adopted children. They waited for God to speak, and He did. If you enjoy my blog, I am sure you will enjoy Carrie's as well: . This is an amazing family to read about and Carrie's writing touched me...I have found a kindred spirit in her, as well as a much needed mentor as we move out of the realm of one and two kids adopted and step into the "Crazy Adoptive Family With Tons of Kids" neighborhood.

You know, God does make and keep promises. Whether your God is a merciful God, a vengeful God, a loving Creator, a Father Figure or a Rule Maker...He keeps His promises. Do we keep our promises to Him? Do we truly give ourselves up to His rule in our life? Do we "Let go and let God" the way the bumper sticker implores us to do? Have you ever seriously tried it...going against the grain and against every single fiber of your being to do what you know He wants you to do? Even when it is the LAST thing you want to do? Yes, your life turns our differently than you ever expected. Yes, it can be so terribly hard...He can ask a lot of us. Yes, it can be scary...terrifying is more like it. Giving up control can be the single most difficult challenge of your life, until something happens and you suddenly realize that control you thought you had was all an illusion.

Sadly, I am a hard headed individual. I have definitely had to learn things at the School of Hard Knocks. I spent the first half of my life thinking I knew it all, and I am spending the next stage of it admitting all that I am ignorant of. I also spent years assuming I could run the show, and now I have learned that I don't do it nearly as well as He does. I had a plan for my life which never included 5 kids from halfway around the world, never included living in Colorado, never included not having a college education, never included a desire to become involved in ministry work EVER, and never included writing a blog that has been read over 41,000 times by strangers all over the planet.

But God made me a promise, actually He made it to all of us. He said He would do extraordinary things with us if we let Him. That includes being the mom to girls when you only see yourself as the mom to boys. That includes having a much bigger family than you ever imagined...and hundreds more socks missing mates! That includes sticking your neck out from time to time and caring for people that others might overlook...and I am not just talking about orphans but the people we all encounter in our daily life. It means not being afraid to show our love for others as He has shown His love for us in so many ways.

I rocked Kenny in my arms last night, his long legs hanging over the side of the recliner as he laid cradled there close to me. We talked quietly about how happy he is to have a family and how very hard it was for all of us at first. I asked him if he now felt that I was REALLY his mom and not just another woman taking care of him. He grinned up at me and said "Oh yes mommy, it took awhile but now you my mommy forever and I know it.". He then asked me tentatively if he felt like my "for real" son now, and if it was hard for me too at first. I explained to him that I was always very committed to him, and that love takes time to grow...that I always knew I was his mommy but now more than ever it really felt like it. We whispered quietly about those first days over a year ago, how he acted and how he has changed and grown up so much, about how he was so scared we would change our minds and send him back to Kyrgyzstan or that we wouldn't like him after he did "bad things". He admitted to not liking having our rules at first, and how he had been told he would get anything he ever asked for...and then he giggled at that thought now. He said "I know more now, and I know love is more important than toys...a LOT more important.". And then he said "God promise he take care of us, and He really does. He brought me wonderful family, wonderful new brothers, and soon sisters. How come everyone doesn't have God?".

God's promises are the ones that are never broken. Aren't we fortunate?

Friday, October 10, 2008

50 Things You Never Wanted to Know

You all know far more about me than you probably ever wanted to if you have followed the blog for any length of time, but I thought I would share a few things you might not know...and might laugh like crazy over as well. Here goes!

1) I played the clarinet all through school and LOVED marching band, especially halftime shows at football games.

2) Orange and yellow are my favorite colors.

3) I met Dominick when I was 13 talking on the 80's version of the internet...the CB radio.

4) My "handle" was "California Sunshine" and his was "Charlie Brown".

5) All my growing up years I played slow pitch softball and was a pitcher.

6) I think I was somewhere around 12 when I wrote my first letter to the editor of our local paper.

7) The first guy I dated and kissed played the tuba and thought it was really cool to show me his rat collection. Hence, the reason we dated only about 2 weeks.

8) I once took baton twirling. I was rotten at it.

9) My favorite candy is anything chewy and fruity...Skittles, Jelly Beans, Orange Slices.

10) I still have the entire collection of the Little House series of books that I read when I was 7-10 years old.

11) I almost never wear jewelry other than a watch and my original engagement/wedding ring which is now 26 years old.

12) My first job was at Sav-On Drugs where I scooped the most enormous ice creams you have ever seen in their ice cream department.

13) It was at that job that I learned how to make change the "real" way and used an old Sweda cash register.

14) I have worn glasses since I was in 3rd grade.

15) I read at college level in 3rd grade as well. Maybe the reason I needed those glasses???

16) I never took more than Algebra 1 in math...I HATE math!

17) I once bowled a 266 game, and it was in our state tournament as well!

18) We almost moved to Bismark, North Dakota before moving to Colorado a few years later.

19) I am scared of being scared...I hate having people jump out at me or even just walk up behind me and quietly say "Boo!". I despise horror movies.

20) Different jobs I have had include: Cashier, pharmacy tech, international customer service rep. for antibody manufacturer, circulation clerk at a newspaper, office manager at a pest control company, insurance agent, customer service at a propane company, sandwich maker. So far "mom" is the best one!

21) Music I love: Jackson Browne, James Taylor, Bonnie Raitt, Journey, Eagles, Bob Seger, Pat Benatar, The Carpenters and almost every single non-contemporary Christian song we sing in choir.

22) Music I hate: Anything by Donna Summer, rap, punk, or opera.

23) Songs I am embarrassed to admit I like: Funky Town, Don't Worry...Be Happy, Hot Potato by the Wiggles, We are the World, and lots of Michael Jackson stuff.

24) TV I watch: MASH re-runs, suddenly hooked on Extreme Home Makeover, Law and Order and its derivatives, hmmmmm...nothing really that is worth watching on TV anymore.

25) Favorite Restaurant: The Melting Pot in Denver...a fondue place

26) What's in my fridge right now: String cheese, leftover chicken and potatoes, Folgers coffee and we don't even drink coffee, a large bottle of beer for marinade and we don't even drink alcohol, NO DIET COKE which will no doubt throw me into a frenzy tomorrow morning, turkey pepperoni.

27) Household chore I hate the most: Hanging up/folding laundry.

28) Household chore that I don't mind doing: Cleaning toilets

29) I always wanted to be: A professional photographer, a quilter

30) One thing I really stink at but should be good at: Sewing, no how. Oh yea, and Algebra.

31) One thing that would surprise you that I could see myself being or doing: I think I could enjoy being Amish. But I might be too happy and too loud to be Amish.

32) Hardest things I have ever done: Continue to parent Josh when I was rejected so badly. Pass all the pest control licensing tests in California the first time, empty out my dad's place when he died, make it financially the first 2 years we lived in Colorado, continue to hold hope for 2 children still not home, learn to let go of grudges, learn how to be a true friend and to be open to others' presence in my life.

33) Easiest things I have ever done: Fall in love my husband and my children, learn to read, write this blog.

34) What is currently in my "hope chest": Tons of Kazakh/Kyrgyz souvenirs including the stained terry cloth shirt we first saw Matthew in, letters and cards that have encouraged me or mean something to me which I have collected for the past 15+ years, an F14 Tomcat patch from my dad's career.

35) If my house burned down, other than getting my family out, what would I try to save: Honestly, not a darned thing. It's all just replaceable stuff to me, junk that an insurance check could take care of. While I'd miss photos I would make do with what is online. I just don't care much about things at all and probably wouldn't even shed a single tear over it, seriously.

36) Things I wish I could change about myself: Everything about how I look, my vision, would get rid of troublesome allergies and asthma, would be kinder to others, would be smarter, would have more musical talent, would be a better friend, wouldn't be so lazy, my clumsiness.

37) Things I wouldn't change about myself: My love of reading and music, my taste in men...old or young :-), my intuition, my willingness to be open to others.

38) My idea of a perfect day: Waking up to hugs all the way around, having an hour or two to read uninterrupted, having all the Diet Coke available to me that I desire, hearing from loved friends and family, seeing a rainbow, hearing rain and having blustery weather that makes you want to stay in, having a warm fire in the woodstove.

39) My idea of an awful day: A phone call that startles you awake at 2:00 AM. It is never ok and life always changes when that happens.

40) The biggest surprises of my life has been: My ever growing relationship with God, soon being the mother to 5 kids which was totally unexpected, living in Colorado which is my paradise, that I ever married so young as I never imagined that, that I never went to college as I always imagined that, that I actually have several friends who care about me.

41) I hate carrying a purse, they are heavy, burdensome and never stay on your shoulder.

42) I have easily spent over 25,000 hours researching our adoptions over the past 10 years.

43) I actually like Tang.

44) I may be the only person on the planet who hates the music of the Beatles.

45) I have been in Reader's Digest twice...once quoted in an article about love and once last year having had a letter to the editor printed. Our family was also featured in an article in Kiplinger's Magazine.

46) One thing I might like to do one day but don't know how to: Write a book.

47) One of my most treasured possessions, a pot lid from when I was a kid that has tons of dents in it from my mom letting me beat it with a spoon to celebrate New Years Eve.

48) Vacation I have always wanted to take: I'd dearly love to visit Washington DC, and I have always wanted to go on an Alaskan cruise.

49) I hate sleeping without covers on, and I am not even all that fond of having just a sheet...I like heavy, enveloping blankets.

50) Fondest childhood memory: Running around in the twilight playing hide and go seek with my brother and neighbor kids. It was the quintessential childhood experience and something you don't see many kids doing these days.

You Take the Good, You Take the Bad...

Sorry I have been relatively silent this week, I have a lot going on right now and am struggling to remain caught up. I am trying to get everything done before I leave for California on Sunday to visit my mom for a week. I am flying out compliments of United Airlines and their continual booking errors when Kenny and I traveled to Chicago to go to Shriners and ended up bumped so many times I lost count!

It will be wonderful to have a little time alone to visit with mom, which I haven't really had in almost 10 years. In our case, it has been a real sacrifice for our moms as we have adopted as we have been unable to afford to spend time with them as we would have hoped to do all these years. We simply couldn't manage the airfare...and the distance we are from where they are makes it almost the same cost as driving. If we were further it would make more sense to only fly, but we are at the "tipping point" when we consider one or two of us flying versus driving. If several of us go as when I took all the kids, driving then becomes a bargain! So we will have a "Girls Week" as Dominick and I both realized this may be the last time for a long while that I can ever really easily go out alone.

We had an up and down day yesterday, as I received a call from Kenny's teacher that she needed to talk with me in person before she realized she would see me in the hall later that morning! It seems that Kenny has been "zoning out" in class when things get challenging, and that he started arguing with her in class the other day. She tentatively told me this and what her response was..."Young man you will NOT be disrespectful with me"...and as she saw the smile creep over my face I could see her visibly relax. I told her she handled it perfectly and it is almost word for word what we say at our house. I explained that we have inordinately high expectations in the Respect Department and would never tolerate any of the kids arguing with us, rolling their eyes, or even speaking to us with a disrespectful tone of voice. She said she hoped she hadn't stepped over the line and was glad to learn it was ok. "Ok?" I said, "It was PERFECT!!". She then added that Kenny ceased immediately and understood HE had crossed the line.

This is all stemming from frustration with math homework that he is really struggling with and doesn't understand at all. He is also just having one of those cyclical weeks we have which are growing further and further apart, thankfully, but do still occur. I guess because it is not THAT hard, I don't always discuss it on the blog, or maybe because I just don't have time to share every single detail of what happens in our daily lives and tend to just hit the highlights. But for those considering older child adoption and reading this to glean some nuggets of insight, perhaps that is not really fair. Things have improved dramatically since Kenny's arrival, but as I explained to his teacher yesterday, we still struggle with control issues periodically. He still thinks he is the "Adult In Charge" sometimes, and has to be strongly reminded that HE is the CHILD and WE are the ADULTS. Is that due to institutionalization? Personality? Lack of trust in competent adults? Or a combination of all 3? Probably a combination as Kenny does have an innate sense of leadership, it is built into him and can't be denied. Harnessed it will take him so far, unharnessed he will be able to write the book "How to Lose Friends and Turn People Off".

I then asked his teacher if she had a moment to be with me while I pulled Kenny out of class and spoke with him with her present. She said "sure" so we went to class and I called Kenny out. He was filled with trepidation as he walked towards the door as he and Matthew had both already been in trouble that morning for not doing as they had been asked (Don't grin as you read this, but they were playing with Legos instead of brushing their teeth 2 minutes before we had to leave...minor infraction!) and he had been testing the limits a lot the past few days, so no doubt he knew more was to come.

In front of his teacher in the hall I told him that I knew he had argued with his teacher and was not paying enough attention in class. I made it clear in no uncertain terms that he is NEVER to argue with his teacher again, and if he did he would get in trouble at school as well as at home. After a good chewing out, he returned to class while his teacher and I talked...she said "I can do that myself, but why is it so hard to see someone else do it to him? He has gotten into my heart and it was hard to watch him get in trouble from someone else." I said "I know exactly what you mean, and he IS a sweet natured boy and is struggling against so much, but not doing having high expectations just delays us dealing with it later on down the road and we don't have time to lose". She talked about how incredibly far he has come in the year and half we have had him, how he has matured, how much he has learned, and just how far he might be able to go eventually. We also talked about how, realistically, he hard it is for him to focus when things are over his head, how difficult it is to walk that fine line of encouragement and discipline, and that compassion for just how hard everything is for him still makes it hard on our hearts to sometimes remain firm.

And I walked away feeling so incredibly blessed that Kenny has this remarkable woman as his teacher, who you can tell cares a great deal for him and yet has the strength to do what is best for him, even if at moments it leaves her feeling like the "Big Bad Teacher".

On a much happier note, we were stunned...and I do mean STUNNED to get our I171H in the mail yesterday!! For those readers who are uninitiated into the world of international adoption, that is THE form you need from immigration granting you approval to adopt. It is sort of like the end of the second trimester, so to speak, with the end of the first trimester being the completion of the homestudy. The end of the third trimester is when your dossier is approved a few months down the road and delivery is when you travel! We just went to Denver a week ago to file the paperwork for this form, and were told it would be at least 4-5 weeks at the earliest before it would arrive. I so casually opened the envelope knowing for sure it wasn't the document we needed and thinking it was something on Kenny's paperwork for citizenship or something that I actually had to take a second when I saw the form to realize what it was! I got on the phone right away and told Dominick who broke out in laughter as we both see how God is making this an extraordinary journey, far different from our others. That is twice now that things have moved with the speed of lightning in all of this, catching us totally off guard. So now I can complete the dossier when I return home from CA, which is almost done, send it off the state for Apostilling (unless I drive it over myself, which I might do) and then off to our agency for submission and translation!

I also had another unexpected and wonderful surprise this week, as I was honored to receive an invitation from our church's Conference Office to become a member of their Faith Nurturing Ministry Team. This came totally out of the blue as I don't really know anyone at the Conference, am not really involved in anything Conference-wide, in other words I am not someone who should have come up in conversation with anyone about such a thing. But, for me, it was God speaking again and was an answer to my foolish prayers in which I asked for confirmation that my time pursuing the licensed lay ministry program was not going to be wasted. I had entered into this with Him now knowing or understanding the "why", and I still am not certain in the long run the answer to that question, but it is clear He has a plan and I need to act.

As I work with the youth in our church who are all struggling to understand how He speaks to them, if He really exists, how do you hear Him, I would give anything for them to have just one experience like this so they could feel what it is like...and I feel an incredible sense of urgency to get this across to them, as they NEED it, they NEED to know He is real and present, that walking with Him is the coolest thing they will ever do and bring greater joy and insight than they can imagine. And yet I feel so amateurish in my attempts to express this and help them "see". I want my own kids more than anything to walk through life with this gift of His. Perhaps "Faith Nurturing Ministry" is a perfect fit for my yearnings. Surprise, surprise...God knows best.

Now I am off to do laundry, pay bills, clean house and other assorted mundane things! If you are reading this and still have stacks of laundry waiting for you, good for you for ignoring them! hahaha!

Monday, October 06, 2008

The Birds and the Bees and the...Oh My!!

We had great news today that a good friend who is pregnant was finally in the hospital ready to deliver. I received the news earlier in the day, and this evening after TaeKwonDo I took the boys over to the hospital to see the new baby...who had decided he/she was not really ready to arrive yet and Mom was still in labor!! My troop and I ran into the expectant Daddy in the hallway as we were on our way to their room and he was the one who informed us that Baby "Abu" (the unknown baby's nickname in utero...hahahah!) had decided to stick around in mom's tummy awhile longer, and he encouraged us to go in and visit for a few minutes. The boys had surprised me with how excited they were about it all, and so off we marched down the hall and quietly peeked into their room and were invited in. Mom-to-be was sitting upright in a rocker, hooked up to a fetal monitor and in pretty good shape for the moment, all things considered.

Watching the boys take it all in was so interesting, they were filled with wonder about it all. They heard the baby's heartbeat and watched the monitor, and all 3 were pretty quite as we were there...which for Kenny and Josh in particular is unusual! Not wanting to stay long but wanting to wish our friends all the best I gave hugs and the boys offered shy smiles, and Kenny being his usual up front self stepped forward gave her a handshake and said boldly "Good Luck Miss T-". It was a riot and we all laughed at that as we walked out the door.

As we walked back towards our car I was bombarded with questions about the mechanics of all of this, and I realized this was the perfect opportunity to open up a conversation on a deeper level about child birth and conception, so on the way home we stopped quickly by the library and I found the same book I had used with Matthew a couple of years ago which provides factual information in a clear manner with cartoon like drawings. I may be modern but I am not ready to have my children see what in my estimation is an equivalent to "soft porn" as I try to explain things to them. Although there were many things I elected to explain myself, and we did not read the book itself, overall it was a great tool and helped explain things very well before so I wanted to use it again. Kenny has been asking a lot of questions the past few months and I had been meaning to check the book out but kept forgetting, so I was glad now to have it and be able to better provide Kenny with some answers as well as introduce Josh to the basics and take it to another level for Matthew, who had vague recollections of our initial talks about all of this but was fuzzy on a few things.

I know many parents have a terribly difficult time with this subject, and I am so happy that for me it is quite natural and not at all uncomfortable. Maybe it is because we have already tackled so many personal, intimate, difficult topics already that sex seems far less intimidating. I mean, after all, staring your 4 or 5 year old in the eyes as you explain it is ok for them to be quite angry at their birth mom for abandoning them, well that is more loaded by far than a mere talk about sex and body parts.

I don't know about others, but in talking to our other friends with kids this age I find that adoption brings up the deeper questions about reproduction much earlier than is typical for their peers here. It is quite logical that when we have conversations that explain their adoption and talk about babies being in other mommies tummies that any kid would make the next step in thinking and ask how those babies get there in the first place.

I guess I could try and push it aside until they are older, but that somehow seems like a cop out and unfair. After all, they have a right to answers that help them better understand how they came to be in state care, why we couldn't make babies and instead turned to adoption to build a family. In conversations in the past with other parents I have had strange looks when I revealed that we had already had "the talk" with Matthew when he was about 5 or so and continue when appropriate his "sex education". I have had disapproving glances when Matthew hurt himself in the crotch at 2 1/2 years old and came running up in public sobbing "Mommy, I hurt my penis!" if knowing the correct term for his own body part instead of calling it his "winky" or "wee wee" was somehow oversexualizing him or something. I have never understood why some people think that information alone will lead to behavior, and I'd far rather that we were the ones imparting that information along with a good dose of our own morals and beliefs than to have the school do it. That is our job, anything else is supplemental but I would feel like an unfit mother if my sons entered health class someday and didn't already know most of the material taught there. As I told all 3 boys tonight, we should be the first place you come with questions, not the last...and we will never get mad at any question, even though Kenny asked if we would.

As we talked about the wonderful world of pro-creation, relating it to what our friend at that very moment might be going through, the responses were quite interesting. We saw an actual size drawing of a 6 months old fetus and we talked about abortion and what that word meant, how some people honestly think that a fetus at 6 months is not a real life until it is born. The look of horror on all of their faces as I asked them what they thought about it was enough to tell me that, God forbid, should they ever find themselves in that circumstance they would think twice about whether or not a fetus of 6 months is "really" a living person. I also brought up the fact that no matter whether or not their birth moms could keep them, they loved them enough to give them life and that many women in their country make a different choice.

We talked about cell division, Fallopian tubes, and deodorant. We talked about Kenny's cleft and birth defects and how all of that happens. I was continually impressed with the thoughtful and introspective questions asked. We were asked which one of us couldn't make a baby, which one had parts that didn't work. Matthew asked me if I was ever depressed or sad that I couldn't make a baby of my own to which I was so glad I could truthfully respond "Not at all, I think all along God had prepared my heart and I just didn't care if I had a child that looked like me. Besides, if I had given birth you three wouldn't be here and I don't even want to think about not having you, it would be too sad!". I did explain, however, that many women are deeply affected by not becoming pregnant, that many men and women can not imagine being able to love a child that does not share their blood or look like them...and that there was nothing wrong with that either, that everyone is different.

As Dominick and I have had our own discussions lately, he has done a stellar job of imparting other just as equally important information to the boys. He and I have had many discussions about girls and their body image, the pressure on them in society today, how past interactions with men can really damage a young girl, and how important he and the boys will all be in helping the girls to feel emotionally secure and whole. In turn, Dominick has often pointed out to the boys lately the overly skinny models on magazine covers, the unrealistic expectations that girls be "model perfect" and how that is not real life but girls think they need to look like that because that is the example set before them. He has made a point of telling the boys that they will need to be gentlemanly to their sisters, and that the girls will take what they say to heart so they should watch their words carefully and think about their feelings. He has taught them that their own compliments of their sisters will be able to work miracles with their self-esteem and even gone so far as to explain that if their sisters feel loved, appreciated and confident in who they are then they will not feel such a strong need to turn to a boy to get that feeling. We have both emphasized to all three that the respect they show their sisters and mother is the respect they will eventually show their girlfriends and wives, and that young ladies who will make good wives will appreciate that behavior. I know it may seem a little overboard to say such things to a 5 year old like Joshie, but we believe that it is never too early to start teaching responsibility and respect. Maybe we are wrong, but it is what works for us...and maybe we are Parenting Freaks of Nature! hahaha!

I have no doubt that we will have plenty of additional questions during the coming days as they digest some of what they learned, as new things they see and hear in their daily lives brings new questions to mind. And I am continually reminded of the miracle of birth as I look at my three sons. It doesn't matter a whit whether or not I experienced it myself or not, my life is lived in daily amazement at what the birds and bees hath wrought.

It's not all just about cells is about souls colliding.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Why Me??

I am reading the most fascinating book right now, actually I am re-reading it for a second time in two weeks. It is titled "Who Needs God" and is written by Rabbi Harold Kushner, who was also the author of "When Bad Things Happen To Good People". This is one that I need to purchase and mark up with highlighter, it has so many profound statements in it that really hit home with me. I think what I connected with the most was that it put aside all issues of denominationalism, the differences in how we practice our various faiths, and in reality was not at all about "religion" but emphasized a need for a belief in God, however that may play out in your own life. So often I think we get hung up on the minutiae and debates about which religion is right or wrong, that we forget what it is all about...a belief in a Creator much larger than ourselves. As Christians we can argue about pre-tribulation or post-tribulation Rapture, we can argue about creation versus evolution, we can debate ad infinitum about which translation of the Bible is "correct" or not, we can be those who believe in literal interpretation or non-literal interpreters.

When it all comes down to it though, much of that is absolutely meaningless if you can't feel God moving in your life. I mean, who cares about discussing the finer points of your religion if you don't really have a basis for that faith in the first place?

Adoption, unlike any other experience I have ever had, has helped me to draw closer to God. Since I was a teenager I sought Him out, heard His voice, and let Him guide me long prior to ever having any formal religious training or influence. I just knew He was there. I don't know why or how, but I did. But it is through relinquishing control in the ways we are forced to with adoption that one learns what it means to "have faith". We find ourselves so utterly helpless, that we have to trust that a Power greater than ourselves is at work so we can find the courage to continue. There a million small ways in which we have to trust God during the selecting an agency, determining which country to go to, accepting the referral of a child whom we have perhaps never met. It all requires faith.

I have eluded on the blog to a lot of things going on in the background of my life right now. I have been struggling mightily against a Force that is unable to be denied. I have questioned it, fretted about it, sobbed about it, worried about it and ultimately surrendered to it. I have kept quiet about it for awhile as it worked its way deep into my soul, so I could begin to feel some level of comfort myself with it.

It seems that God is calling me in a way I never expected. I have been asking "Why me?" for months now, and don't actually understand it at all, nor do I agree with God's timing. But after having had many signs along the way that I at first worked very hard to ignore, then found myself mystified by, and even tried to convince myself I was crazy, I found myself at a defining moment...and with tears streaming I understood the words of the hymn as they were sung...

"Here I am, Lord.
Is it I, Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night.
I will go, Lord, if you lead me.
I will hold your people in my heart."

Yes, He was talking to me...He was actually telling me repeatedly "It's you."

So, still without really understanding why or how I may be someday used, I have given up and am enrolling in a licensed Lay Ministry program which will begin in January. There was a sense of urgency imparted on me to move forward, even as I tried to bargain with Him that I needed to wait until our family was complete and we were all somewhat settled. However He was having none of those delay tactics, and under the constant barrage of signs I was wearing down. I am doing such a poor job of explaining this and wish that I could find a way to say "He wouldn't leave me alone! And He kept at me from all directions and I got so very, very tired of running from Him.". I know that to many readers this makes no sense. I know to most in my life (and most do not know of my decision yet) this seems like sheer lunacy, as if I don't already have enough to handle at the moment. Who am I fooling, even to ME it seems like lunacy!

But how do I say "No"? How do I tell Him "Hey, thanks for all the blessings, I really appreciate it...and that 'service' thing...uhhh...well...I really don't have time for it. Maybe we can talk about it another time."

I knew I had made the right decision when after making a phone call to learn about enrollment and upon finally turning in the application, a sense of peace filled me unlike I have had in along time. Interestingly, between the time I phoned and the time I picked up a pen to actually complete the application , He escalated things and really pounded it into me...and once it was in the mail, it was as if the seas had calmed.

As I struggled with this sense that I was being called somehow, I was ever more grateful for the incredible husband I have. He legitimized it for me, he reassured me that I was not nuts but that he too saw God working to steer me down a particular path despite our doubts. As I asked the rhetorical questions over and over again, Dominick answered them by saying "You don't have to understand why, you don't have to know how it is all going to turn out or how it might be used. Just do it, and He will eventually let you know why.". And I guess that is the truth. As long as I was able to cling to..."It doesn't make any sense and I don't want to waste the precious little time I have for no reason when I can't possibly imagine how I would ever use this training."...I was able to come up with a perfectly logical excuse not to do anything.

There is also another issue, and that is how I see myself and my fear of being laughed at. I have never seen myself as a particularly righteous person, and certainly not "religious" in the traditional sense. I am not one to memorize chapter and verse and be able to whip those verses out at a moment's notice. I see someone who takes up the call of ministry in whatever fashion as being a person who looks...well...nothing like me. They are more faithful than I, they are more virtuous than I, they are more knowledgeable than I, they have an air about them that is nothing like me at all. If I stood back and looked at myself, quite honestly I would be the very last person I would ever imagine doing serious ministry work.

I am also very concerned about my ability to handle the course work. This is not a program that leads to ordination as lay ministry is very different from being an ordained minister, however from what I understand this course of study is extremely challenging, and I doubt whether I am smart enough to pass the classes.

And so here we go again, stepping out on faith, and this time it is all about faith! I will once again be put in the position where I will learn to ignore those who laugh at me, where I will have to recognize that if this is what He wants He will provide in every way for all I need to get through it. It is my fervent hope that when it is all said and done two years down the road, I will have the answers that at this time seem so elusive. I will understand why He so adamantly said "No, not later, NOW" and I will better be able to see the answer to "Why me?".

Friday, October 03, 2008

It Must Be "Race Awareness" Week!

On the way to school today Kenny asked me "Why do kids think I am Chinese? All kids in my class call me Chinese and I tell them I not but they not listen. I not like to be called Chinese.". Hmmm...reminiscent of the exact conversation I once had with Matthew, and expect to eventually have with Joshua as well. We live in a racially diverse community if you consider Hispanics and Caucasians only to represent the wealth of ethnic diversity of America. NOT! So with my 3 being the only Asian children that I am aware of in their school of over 530 kids, it is not as if their peers interact with Asians on a regular basis. Many of their comments are not meant to be hurtful, they are assumptions based in true ignorance. They know what Chinese people look like, therefore all people that are dark skinned and have certain facial features must be Chinese. Unlike myself, who grew up in the melting pot of Southern California and was surrounded by Chinese as well as Japanese, Filipino, Samoan, Korean, Vietnamese and many other Asian cultures, the children here have no real conception of the various Asian groups.

So, before I went to Matthew's class to volunteer this morning I dropped by Kenny's class and asked his teacher if I could come in sometime and chat with the class to explain the difference to them, as it was upsetting to Kenny to continually be called something that in his mind was very different than who he really is. I was pleasantly surprised by her immediate response of "Sure! Do you have time today? Are you going to be around?" so we arranged for me to come to the class after I was done in Matthew's room.

When the time came I asked for a pull down map, and began talking about Kyrgyzstan, Russia and China and the differences between them. There are several Hispanic kids in the class who came to this country not able to speak English and so we talked about the difficulties in learning a new language. We also talked about adoption and why Kenny looks nothing like me. I am always amazed at how open kids are to talking about things that adults would consider taboo. They don't mind asking why Kenny talks funny, why I didn't grow a baby in my tummy, or why Kenny's lip looks the way it does. I wanted to make a distinction between Kenny's cleft issues and his language acquisition issues so they would understand they are separate things. I also reiterated several times that it doesn't matter if Kenny grew in my tummy or not, I love him just the same and that we are his forever family...that he will never leave us. We talked about what an orphanage was like, what he did not have, and most of the kids have seen Matthew and Joshie too and we explained that they had the same circumstances but we had all formed a loving family. Interestingly, the kids seemed pretty interested in if Kenny's first mommy loved him or not, and if we knew anything about her or his possible brothers or sisters. Kenny surprised me by piping in frequently with his own explanations, even adding in when we talked about the food "That's why I am so skinny! I need to grow more with good food!". As the discussion was winding down I explained that now they all knew the truth about where Kenny came from and if they hear any of the other kids talking about Kenny being Chinese they could prove they knew a lot more and explain that Kenny was Kyrgyz, not Chinese. I think it went well, but the most important thing was that Kenny felt supported in his challenge. As I walked out the door I heard a chirpy little "Thanks Mom!" thrown my way, and as I turned back to wave good bye he threw me a kiss. Sometimes, I guess it doesn't even matter if the others "get it", but what matters most is knowing you are not alone in your struggles.

Matthew talked about it later as he remembered when I went into his classroom and talked about adoption and Kazakhstan when he was in kindergarten as well as 2nd grade. I asked him if he thought it had helped and he said "No one calls me Chinese anymore, so I think it worked great!" he then told Kenny I might have to do it next year too with a new group of kids in his class, but by then everyone should pretty much know and not bug him anymore about it.

It is at moments like that when I realize our decision to adopt children from similar backgrounds/ethnicity has really been a good one. They can reinforce one another as they work through these kinds of things, they can affirm for one another that they are indeed normal despite the comments of others.

Funny how we can go weeks...even months at times...without race ever being noticed or mentioned, and then suddenly it settles in around us for awhile and we begin once again to walk that line between acknowledging it and not making it all that we are about as a family. Sometimes that can be harder than it appears.