Saturday, October 27, 2012

Projects for Our Little One

It still hasn't sunk in that we are legally parents. It probably has to do with the fact that we have still not seen her in person, held her, taken care of her, etc. But it hasn't stopped me from getting more serious in planning for her arrival!

One of the major things that was a concern to me about adopting a girl instead of a boy is having a whole new adventure in learning how to care for hair that is so different from my own.

But like everything in life, I overcome a lack of knowledge by extensive research and treating new areas of information like a school class that I will be tested on, and I learn. My FAVORITE site to teach me about how to do black hair is at chocolatehairvanillacare.com . It helps my confidence to know that the woman who is able to do beautiful enough braids and twists etc. to have a whole website about it is also someone who wasn't born with that kind of hair and had to teach herself before she could teach others.

Among many things that she posted that will be extremely helpful in the future was how to make a hair braiding practice board. She even mentioned in the post that it isn't required to learn how to braid with a practice board, it is more for those of us who want to make sure that we really learn how to do something before doing it for real. So, I made one of my own. I did tweak one thing, and that is how each piece of yarn was attached. She slip knotted them, and I couldn't figure out how to do that. I threaded each piece of yarn through a needle, and then tied a knot to get it to stay.

Here is a picture of mine:

Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App
This is if I want to use it horizontally.

IMAG0333, Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App
Or I can use it vertically.

IMAG0331, Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App
Here are some of my first attempts with it, center and left are cornrows and the one on the right is a flat rope twist. I am excited to have this to practice with, and I think it will serve me for many years. For the first few years she is home, she will have so little hair, I will need the practice board to actually do braids on. Then, I will have a squirmy toddler/preschooler who, if she tolerates the braiding time at all, will not want me to spend any extra time with her hair trying to figure out how to do stuff. I will need to be fast and efficient in the time I do braids, so that it ends as quick as possible for her.

I have also been working on a quiet book. They are all over pinterest, and it keeps me busy and occupied during those moments when I am antsy to do something to get her home, and I am powerless to move the process along. I feel like I am connected with her as I work on it, and thus is a craft that brings me lots of joy.

I started with the cover. My previous sewing projects means that I have no lack of fabric around. I was going to be really on top of it, and take pictures as I went, but I forgot. I wanted stability, so there is cardboard sewn into both sides, and then covered with fabric.

Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App

Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App

Honestly, I haven't decided how to attach the pages yet. I either will make button holes in the middle of the cover, and then put binder rings through them and through the pages, sew ribbon on the cover and then thread each of the pages and knot them together or I will sew down the middle to attach all of the pages together. For now, I have a cover, and am starting to work on the pages, and will deal with how to put it together later. 

IMAG0321, Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App

This is my first completed page. I am REALLY happy with it. Each shape is felt, and has a loop on the back. The background and seaweed are also felt. The parts are sewn together. The lines are made out of fishing line which I braided to make a bit thicker than a single piece of fishing line. I knotted the ends, and then sewed them in place when I attached the seaweed. Both of the fish and the jellyfish can be moved back and forth by little hands.

The last project that we are moving along with is her room. Years ago, when we were trying to get pregnant, we planned for the nursery to be a classic Winnie the Pooh theme. For that reason, we painted the walls a pretty light yellow. I got some wall decals, and even put them up. After time passed, we weren't getting pregnant, and we knew there was a strong possibility of adopting an older child (3-4) so we took those decals down, and I put the things I had bought away (but never got rid of them).

The fact that our little girl is only a year old... I get that dream back! It has been so much fun getting her room ready, especially since it means all those classic Pooh things come back out. These two pictures are the theme/ color scheme for the room:

IMAG0328, Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App

Here are the two main pieces of furniture we have so far (a crib and a chair will also be added later):

Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App

For those who are curious, as strange as it seems, being her legal parents is not enough to get her home. Here is the easiest way to understand it:
  • She is not a U.S. citizen until we readopt her in the United States after she gets home, so at this point she is an immigrant requesting a visa to live here. 
    • She can't get a visa processed until we file a document called the I-600, which has to be filed in Ghana by us, in person. 
      • Two of the requirements for filing an I-600 is proof of adoption (adoption decree) and proof of birth (her birth certificate with our names on it). 
        • It typically takes 4 weeks to get the adoption decree and birth certificate after you pass court. 
So that is where we are at right now, and why we can't take this precious girl, who is ours, home yet. 

We know, logically, that things can get delayed, and slow our process down, but we decided to act on faith (and hope) and we booked tickets and a hotel room for the week after Thanksgiving (which is more than four weeks after passing court). It could get pushed back, and we realize that, but if things go smoothly (please pray that things go smoothly) we will be filing our I-600 at the end of November.

From filing the I-600, it is typically another 2-3 (usually 3, but why not hope for 2?) months to getting her home. Fun stuff!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Legal Parents!

Photobucket

We may not have her home yet, but we are LEGALLY the proud parents of this beautiful, precious little girl!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Obstacle Course Runs Reviews

 Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App
Wow, we made it through our third obstacle course 5k in three weeks. Every weekend we have spent a portion of one of our two precious days off driving for a couple hours, getting wet, muddy and scratched, and running a 5k. Crazy!

Today, on our drive back from our latest run, Blake and I were talking about which we liked best (and included our May race as well), pros and cons of each, and which we want to do again, and which we want to skip.

I decided that it might be helpful for someone else to hear these reviews as well, in case you live in an area where one or more are offered, and it can help you decide which to go to.

So, in order of best to worst.

1. Rugged Maniacs
http://www.ruggedmaniac.com/

Pros
- Great obstacles that were challenging, but not impossible, so you felt great defeating them
-Super fun slide
- Well organized
- (minor detail, but I appreciated) Best t-shirt, where I actually wear it as just a Saturday shirt instead of a running only shirt
-Obstacles were evenly dispersed so that you didn't go too long without one
- Great mud (as opposed to watery, gravelly mud that hurt your hands) which was slippery, but not painful
- SoCal location had you rinse off in the lake afterwards

Cons
- The SoCal one has a very large hill, way harder than any obstacle
- The wall that you have to climb up and over was used more than necessary.
- Long check in lines, would have appreciated a mailing option for the bib/ chip

2. Ridiculous Obstacle Course
http://www.rocrace.com/

Pros
- Lots of fun, random obstacles, including a tarzan swing, fireman's pole, water slide, etc.
- Well organized
- Evenly dispersed obstacles
- No mud, just water
- Nice shirt
- Had mailing option for bib/chip
-Fun costumes

Cons
- We didn't have anyone join us, so we missed the company of others
- While the obstacles were fun, they weren't challenging, so there wasn't a big sense of accomplishment at the finish. 

3. Run for your lives
http://www.runforyourlives.com/

(This was today's race, and we really expected to enjoy it more than we did)

Pros
- Lots of zombie fans in attendance, so it was easy to talk to people
- You get to run from zombies
- Most challenging race yet, physically and in terms of fear (real electric fence and wires that shock you!)
- Good mud
- Good rinse off place in the lake again (in So Cal)
- Huge sense of supporting others on the course, especially since the best way to avoid the zombies was to run in a pack.

Cons
- Not well organized (to be fair, I believe it was the first year). There was even one water station that you had to pour your own water, and there were lines at some obstacles.
- Most challenging race yet (yes, this goes in both, it has the same hill as the rugged maniacs one in SoCal, but when you are having to sprint past zombies, it takes a lot out of you, and starts to detract from fun).
- The fun factor goes down significantly when you run out of flags (which happened to me early), and you feel less a sense of accomplishment when you end the race without any. I would suggest more health packs (where you can pick up an extra flag later) which I didn't see any on the course, and would have brought back excitement for me.
- Long line to get bib/chip
- Even the small sized shirt is really big on me, so I probably won't wear it much.
-Big portions of just running

4. Del Mar Mud Run
http://delmarmudrun.com/

(Sad thing is that we were the ones that convinced others to do this course).

Pros
- Had many of the same obstacles that we liked in the ROC race
- Had the mailing option for the bib/chip
- Well organized
- Fun costumes
- Decent shirt

Cons
- Mud was very gravelly and hurt your hands and your knees as you crawled through it
- Almost every obstacle was centered around mud or was just mud, and nothing else to do
- Nothing was very challenging, just muddy
- There was a long line to rinse off, and it wasn't a very effective way to clean off
- When you finished, there was no rush of accomplishment, you just felt muddy!

Bottom line on the four we did-

We want to do rugged maniacs again next year.

If we can find friends who are interested, we may do the Roc race and the zombie race again.

It would take a lot for us to be willing to do the del mar mud run again or any run that centered so much around just the getting dirty part without more interesting obstacles as well. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

News!

Did you hear that the NHL owners proposed a 50/50 split of the revenue? I am really hopeful that this means that they can figure out a solution and get the games going by November 2!

Now... have I had any other news today? News about when we go to Ghana/ become parents/ move on with this long process? No. Nope. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Nothing.

But the hockey thing is good right?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Secret Option D

We got word last week that we were likely to have court in Ghana today (done with power of attorney) to declare us the legal guardians of our little girl.

As I got up this morning, I THOUGHT that there were only three ways this could go-

A. We get named legal guardians, big celebration, it is official, there is much rejoicing and we start to plan for a trip in Ghana in approximately a month.

B. The judge could tell our power of attorney that we need to show up for court (it happens, for various reasons), he gives a new court date, and we prepare to go to Ghana soon, as in a week or two. Crazy, wild, not our first option, but an option.

C. The court date could have been postponed. Sometimes judges have too many cases or end the day early, or even our "likely to have court" fell on the not likely, and we were actually still waiting on an original court date.

Most likely, one of those three DID happen today. Except, you see, I got secret option D.

D. Your agency doesn't get word from their Ghana contact and you have no idea what took place or not ... at all.

If you asked me this morning, I would have said option B was the worst, followed by option C. But I didn't consider the angst of the unknown.

If forced to bet on which occurred, I would guess C, only because options A and B seem to me that our contact would have told us if one of those occurred, and would only not say something if it was an uneventful day. Especially if it was just pushed to tomorrow. Logically, I could see how someone would think, oh, court isn't happening till tomorrow, so I'll tell them then.

But if he had a busy day, maybe he wouldn't have a chance to share how court went well. I really do doubt that he found out we are going to court in a couple of weeks, because that is short enough notice for a trip as it is, and I assume that they would want us to have as much time as possible.

Who knows? Not me! I have secret option D, and lots of questions and anxiety and wanting to know what is going on in a country far away! Ghana has never seemed so far away as it did today, where even though our agency tried to contact him, because of the time difference, it might have arrived too late for him to answer back before tomorrow.

It doesn't help that for us to find out, he has to write our agency, and then they have to let us know. So, even if he writes an e-mail back tonight, I might not hear until tomorrow anyways because our agency's business hours have ended. Super big sigh.

Hoping to have more news (even if not better news) tomorrow.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Mud Run and Obstacle Race Tips

For the last two weekends, a big chunk of my Saturday was spent getting to, doing, and cleaning up after a mud/ obstacle run. I enjoyed the second one more than the first (Rugged Maniacs versus Del Mar Mud run) but I feel that I learned enough from the two of them to offer some great advice for anyone planning to do one of these in the future.

1. Wear skin tight clothing or clothes designed for water (i.e. board shorts).

The first run, we made the collective mistake as a group to just wear regular clothes. I wore a combo skirt/short thing, my friend wore loose capris, Blake wore cargo shorts and his brother wore exercise shorts, and we ALL regretted our choice after the first mud pit. Anything that can hold water will drag you down, and make you feel like you are taking the mud with you. It is also very uncomfortable. The worst part about my choice was the skirt portion because it was just an extra, sagging weight.

For the second run, I and my friend wore tight shorts, and Blake wore board shorts, and we were all much happier, and didn't notice the weight.

2. Protect your knees.

Mud runs include lots of crawls through mud pits, forced to stay low by barbed wire or something else. Both of our runs also included a crawl through a tunnel, and going up and down mud hills can also mean that your knees land in the mud.

After our first run, all of us had small scratches on our knees from crawling except for my friend who wore capris. So the next thing we learned was that it was wise to cover our knees for the next race. Two of the people we ran race two with wore high socks that covered the knees. I didn't have any high socks, so I tried out tights, which worked great! Protected my legs, but didn't hold water (see rule 1).

3. Bring a change of clothes, especially shoes.

While you are running, you embrace the mud, the wet clothes, the uncomfortableness that comes with doing a mud run, you signed up for it! Then the race ends. You are still wet, and muddy, and uncomfortable, and no longer loving it. Race 1- we didn't bring a change of clothes, and while we had towels, we had to make due with wet clothes all the way home. As far as shoes went, even though I didn't bring my sandals, I couldn't handle the wet foot/shoe/sock sensation any more, so our walk to the car, I was barefooted. My friend not only went barefooted, she donated her wet muddy shoes, so she literally had no shoes on the way back to the car. Race 2- it felt great to be able to ditch the wet, muddy layers, and feel warm and dry, with feet protected, and out of wet socks.

4. Go with a friend.

I haven't done one alone, but I can tell you that a big part of our enjoyment of the races came from having people to do it with. They can help you through obstacles, encourage you on the ones that freak you out, and laugh with you as you run in muddy, wet clothes or fall in the latest mud pit.

5. Tie your shoes well, but don't use duct tape.

Many people duck taped their shoes on, only to have that duck tape strewn across the course. None of the four people who did either race lost their shoes in a mud pit, and we had just doubled knotted them.

Hope these tips help anyone thinking of doing an obstacle/mud run in the future!


Friday, October 12, 2012

Teacher's Heart

"Don't take it personally."

It is a very common phrase, used often, and for various occasions, and I have been told it numerous times about my students, and you know, I can't help it.

My job is to teach them. That is what the school, parents, administration etc. wants me to do, and I think I do it well. But that isn't my goal. My goal is for them to learn everything they are supposed to in fourth grade.

At a glance, it looks like the same thing, but it isn't. Even the best teacher, giving the best lesson, will have a sprinkling of students that don't understand the concepts or remember what they are taught. It is a natural consequence of various ability levels in the class. But I take it personally. I don't know why, but I want so badly for every student to understand, that I feel that I haven't done my job well until they all get it.

And so, when there are days like today, when I take an extra half an hour to do math problems with the kids that don't understand it, and still have kids that don't get it at the end of the day, I get discouraged. I feel like I have somehow failed. If I could have just done ____ then they would all understand.

It is worse with the kids I tutor. I think "I went over that!" when I see what they missed on a test or a quiz, and wonder what I could have done to have helped them understand just a little bit more.

There is an upside to all this, and that is that I take their successes personally too! When the kids do great on a test, I take pride in contributing to their success. Of course, most of the work is done with them practicing, reading, studying, working with their parents etc., but I was a part of their success too.

As our adoption keeps moving towards the finish line, I know in the back of my head that I may not be able to finish the year with these students. I'll be honest, for my daughter's sake, I hope that I don't, so she can spend that much less time in an orphanage. But at the same time, I know that when I have to give my classroom over to a long term substitute, I will have moments where I wonder and worry how my students are doing. I will worry that my leaving hurt them academically, and I will take any low grades that they get in my absence (because I know I will ask) personally too.

That is my teacher's heart.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Well Said

 This is a repost from http://jenhatmaker.com/blog/2011/11/02/how-to-be-the-village that was so well written that I wanted my friends and family who read this blog to read it. My commentary will be sprinkled throughout in bold.


"Our good friends just returned from Ethiopia last night with their two little boys. Ok, they've had their "airport" moment and we were right there with them. What are some things we can do now to support them in the "real life" journey without overstepping our boundaries? Thank you so much for your transparency and honesty. Everyone can benefit when you share from your heart.

I was so moved by this email. Having benefitted from a community that practically smothered us with support throughout our adoption journey, I am so grateful for all the other good friends out there, loving their people and asking how to help. Since reading this email, I’ve been marinating on her question, and I’ve decided to write this Field Guide to Supporting Adoptive Families. (And it will be brief because I will try to remember that this is a blog and not a manuscript and the rules of blogging include succinctness, so that is exactly how I’ll proceed today, except for the exact opposite of all that.)
Let’s break this down into two categories:

Supporting Families Before the Airport

Your friends are adopting. They’re in the middle of dossiers and home studies, and most of them are somewhere in the middle of Waiting Purgatory. Please let me explain something about WP: It sucks in every way. Oh sure, we try to make it sound better than it feels by using phrases like “We’re trusting in God’s plan” and “God is refining me” and “Sovereignty trumps my feelings” and crazy bidness like that. But we are crying and aching and getting angry and going bonkers when you’re not watching. It’s hard. It hurts. It feels like an eternity even though you can see that it is not. It is harder for us to see that, because many of us have pictures on our refrigerators of these beautiful darlings stuck in an orphanage somewhere while we’re bogged down in bureaucracy and delays.

-I love this description of waiting purgatory. We are just at the first stage of it, and I already know it is bad, and can only imagine how much worse it gets once we have actually met her. As it is I am going crazy wanting more information in any small quantity about her process or about her.

How can you help? By not saying or doing these things:

1. “God’s timing is perfect!” (Could also insert: “This is all God’s plan!” “God is in charge!”) As exactly true as this may be, when you say it to a waiting parent, we want to scratch your eyebrows off and make you eat them with a spoon. Any trite answer that minimizes the struggle is as welcomed as a sack of dirty diapers. You are voicing something we probably already believe while not acknowledging that we are hurting and that somewhere a child is going to bed without a mother again. Please never say this again. Thank you.
- I don't feel quite as strongly on this point as the original poster, but at the same time, it is MUCH better for my general spirit to hear "We are praying that it goes quickly" than it is to hear that God's timing is perfect, just because I want her home so very much.

2. “Are you going to have your own kids?” (Also in this category: “You’ll probably get pregnant the minute your adoption clears!” “Since this is so hard, why don’t you just try to have your own kids?” “Well, at least you have your own kids.”) The subtle message here is: You can always have legitimate biological kids if this thing tanks. It places adoption in the Back-up Plan Category, where it does not belong for us. When we flew to Ethiopia with our first travel group from our agency, out of 8 couples, we were the only parents with biological kids. The other 7 couples chose adoption first. Several of them were on birth control. Adoption counts as real parenting, and if you believe stuff Jesus said, it might even be closer to the heart of God than regular old procreation. (Not to mention the couples that grieved through infertility already. So when you say, “Are you going to have your own kids?” to a woman who tried for eight years, then don’t be surprised if she pulls your beating heart out like Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.)
-This does bug me, and bugged me even before we got our referral. I KNOW we could get pregnant, I KNOW everyone has their story about their neighbor/friend/roomate/ etc. who got pregnant right after adopting, and I know it could happen... but when you say it, it cheapens my process. I am so excited to be a parent, that when you add these comments, it is like saying that it is okay you got your consolation prize, maybe you'll win next time!

3. For those of you in Christian community, it is extremely frustrating to hear: “Don’t give up on God!” or “Don’t lose faith!” It implies that we are one nanosecond away from tossing our entire belief system in the compost pile because we are acting sad or discouraged. It’s condescending and misses the crux of our emotions. I can assure you, at no point in our story did we think about kicking Jesus to the curb, but we still get to cry tears and feel our feelings, folks. Jesus did. And I’m pretty sure he went to heaven when he died. -This, thankfully, has not been said to me... and I hope that continues.

4. We’re happy to field your questions about becoming a transracial family or adopting a child of another race, but please don’t use this moment to trot out your bigotry. (Cluelessness is a different thing, and we try to shrug that off. Like when someone asked about our Ethiopian kids, “Will they be black?” Aw, sweet little dum-dum.) The most hurtful thing we heard during our wait was from a black pastor who said, “Whatever you do, don’t change their last name to Hatmaker, because they are NOT Hatmakers. They’ll never be Hatmakers. They are African.” What the??? I wonder if he’d launch the same grenade if we adopted white kids from Russia? If you’d like to know what we’re learning about raising children of another race or ask respectful, legitimate questions, by all means, do so. We care about this and take it seriously, and we realize we will traverse racial landmines with our family. You don’t need to point out that we are adopting black kids and we are, in fact, white. We’ve actually already thought of that.

5. Saying nothing is the opposite bad. I realize with blogs like this one, you can get skittish on how to talk to a crazed adopting Mama without getting under her paper-thin skin or inadvertently offending her. I get it. (We try hard not to act so hypersensitive. Just imagine that we are paper-pregnant with similar hormones surging through our bodies making us cry at Subaru commercials just like the 7-month preggo sitting next to us. And look at all this weight we’ve gained. See?) But acting like we’re not adopting or struggling or waiting or hoping or grieving is not helpful either. If I was pregnant with a baby in my belly, and no one ever asked how I was feeling or how much longer or is his nursery ready or can we plan a shower, I would have to audition new friend candidates immediately.

Here’s what we would love to hear Before the Airport:

1. Just kind, normal words of encouragement. Not the kind that assume we are one breath away from atheism. Not the kind that attempt to minimize the difficulties and tidy it all up with catchphrases. We don’t actually need for you to fix our wait. We just want you to be our friend and acknowledge that the process is hard and you care about us while we’re hurting. That is GOLD. I was once having lunch with my friend Lynde when AWAA called with more bad news about Ben’s case, and I laid my head down on the table in the middle of Galaxy CafĂ© and bawled. Having no idea what to do with such a hot mess, she just cried with me. Thank you for being perfect that day, Lynde.

2. Your questions are welcomed! We don’t mind telling you about the court system in Ethiopia or the in-country requirements in Nicaragua or the rules of the foster system. We’re glad to talk about adoption, and we’re thankful you care. I assure you we didn’t enter adoption lightly, so sharing details of this HUGE PIECE OF OUR LIVES is cathartic. Plus, we want you to know more because we’re all secretly hoping you’ll adopt later. (This is not true.) (Yes it is.)

3. When you say you’re praying for us and our waiting children, and you actually really are, not only does that soothe our troubled souls, but according to Scripture, it activates the heavens. So pray on, dear friends. Pray on. That is always the right thing to say. And please actually do it. We need people to stand in the gap for us when we are too tired and discouraged to keep praying the same words another day.
-Top three things to hear are spot on.

4. If you can, please become telepathic to determine which days we want to talk about adoption and which days we’d rather you just show up on our doorstep with fresh figs from the Farmer’s Market (thanks, Katie) or kidnap us away in the middle of the day to go see Bridesmaids. Sometimes we need you to make us laugh and remember what it feels like to be carefree for a few hours. If you’re not sure which day we’re having, just pre-buy movie tickets and show up with the figs, and when we answer the door, hold them all up and ask, “Would you like to talk for an hour uninterrupted about waiting for a court date?” We’ll respond to whichever one fits.

Supporting Families After the Airport

You went to the airport. The baby came down the escalator to cheers and balloons. The long adoption journey is over and your friends are home with their new baby / toddler / twins / siblings / teenager. Everyone is happy. Maybe Fox News even came out and filmed the big moment and “your friend” babbled like an idiot and didn’t say one constructive word about adoption and also she looked really sweaty during her interview. (Really? That happened to me too. Weird.)

How can you help? By not saying or doing these things:

1. I mean this nicely, but don’t come over for awhile. Most of us are going to hole up in our homes with our little tribe and attempt to create a stable routine without a lot of moving parts. This is not because we hate you; it’s because we are trying to establish the concept of “home” with our newbies, and lots of strangers coming and going makes them super nervous and unsure, especially strangers who are talking crazy language to them and trying to touch their hair. - I partly disagree with this as a whole. You are welcome to visit, but don't think I am strange when I very purposely limit it to short visits, small groups and/or big gaps between the new people.

2. Please do not touch, hug, kiss, or use physical affection with our kids for a few months. We absolutely know your intentions are good, but attachment is super tricky with abandoned kids, and they have had many caregivers, so when multiple adults (including extended family) continue to touch and hold them in their new environment, they become confused about who to bond with. This actually delays healthy attachment egregiously. It also teaches them that any adult or stranger can touch them without their permission, and believe me, many adoptive families are working HARD to undo the damage already done by this position. Thank you so much for respecting these physical boundaries. - Again, I partly disagree with this. I understand that she will be a first grandchild, great grandchild, niece etc., and there is a level of normal healthy affection with family members that we want to encourage as well. With that said, I likely will not just allow her to be passed from loving hand to loving hand at a party or Christmas etc. It will be me or Blake holding her... then someone else, then us, then someone else etc. to try to keep parents as the primary caregivers.

3. For the next few months, do not assume the transition is easy. For 95% of us, it so is not. And this isn’t because our family is dysfunctional or our kids are lemons, but because this phase is so very hard on everyone. I can’t tell you how difficult it was to constantly hear: “You must be so happy!” and “Is life just so awesome now that they’re here??” and “Your family seems just perfect now!” I wanted that to be true so deeply, but I had no idea how to tell you that our home was actually a Trauma Center. (I did this in a passive aggressive way by writing this blog, which was more like “An Open Letter to Everyone Who Knows Us and Keeps Asking Us How Happy We Are.”) Starting with the right posture with your friends – this is hard right now – will totally help you become a safe friend to confide in / break down in front of / draw strength from.

4. Do not act shocked if we tell you how hard the early stages are. Do not assume adoption was a mistake. Do not worry we have ruined our lives. Do not talk behind our backs about how terribly we’re doing and how you’re worried that we are suicidal. Do not ask thinly veiled questions implying that we are obviously doing something very, very wrong. Do not say things like, “I was so afraid it was going to be like this” or “Our other friends didn’t seem to have these issues at all.” Just let us struggle. Be our friends in the mess of it. We’ll get better.

5. If we’ve adopted older kids, please do not ask them if they “love America so much” or are “so happy to live in Texas.” It’s this simple: adoption is born from horrible loss. In an ideal world, there would be no adoption, because our children would be with their birth families, the way God intended. I’ll not win any points here, but I bristle when people say, “Our adopted child was chosen for us by God before the beginning of time.” No he wasn’t. He was destined for his birth family. God did not create these kids to belong to us. He didn’t decide that they should be born into poverty or disease or abandonment or abuse and despair aaaaaaaall so they could finally make it into our homes, where God intended them to be. No. We are a very distant Plan B. Children are meant for their birth families, same as my biological kids were meant for mine. Adoption is one possible answer to a very real tragedy… after it has already happened, not before as the impetus for abandonment. There is genuine grief and sorrow when your biological family is disrupted by death and poverty, and our kids have endured all this and more. So when you ask my 8-year-old if he is thrilled to be in Texas, please understand that he is not. He misses his country, his language, his food, his family. Our kids came to us in the throes of grief, as well they should. Please don’t make them smile and lie to you about how happy they are to be here.

6. Please do not disappear. If I thought the waiting stage was hard, it does not even hold the barest candle to what comes after the airport. Not. The. Barest. Candle. Never have I felt so isolated and petrified. Never have I been so overwhelmed and exhausted. We need you after the airport way more than we ever needed you before. I know you’re scared of us, what with our dirty hair and wild eyes and mystery children we’re keeping behind closed doors so they don’t freak out more than they already have, but please find ways to stick around. Call. Email. Check in. Post on our Facebook walls. Send us funny cards. Keep this behavior up for longer than six days. - I haven't been at this stage yet, so I don't know, but number six seems to me to be very wise advice to help us after we get her home, especially since it will be our first time parenting ever!

Here’s what we would love to hear or experience After the Airport:

1. Cook for your friends. Put together a meal calendar and recruit every person who even remotely cares about them. We didn’t cook dinners for one solid month, and folks, that may have single handedly saved my sanity. There simply are not words to describe how exhausting and overwhelming those first few weeks are, not to mention the lovely jetlag everyone came home with. And if your friends adopted domestically right up the street, this is all still true, minus the jetlag. <--Thumbs up for this.

2. If we have them, offer to take our biological kids for an adventure or sleepover. Please believe me: their lives just got WHACKED OUT, and they need a break, but their parents can’t give them one because they are 1.) cleaning up pee and poop all day, 2.) holding screaming children, 3.) spending all their time at doctors’ offices, and 4.) falling asleep in their clothes at 8:15pm. Plus, they are in lockdown mode with the recently adopted, trying to shield them from the trauma that is Walmart.

3. Thank you for getting excited with us over our little victories. I realize it sounds like a very small deal when we tell you our kindergartener is now staying in the same room as the dog, but if you could’ve seen the epic level of freakoutedness this dog caused her for three weeks, you would understand that this is really something. When you encourage us over our incremental progress, it helps. You remind us that we ARE moving forward and these little moments are worth celebrating. If we come to you spazzing out, please remind us where we were a month ago. Force us to acknowledge their gains. Be a cheerleader for the healing process.

4. Come over one night after our kids are asleep and sit with us on our porch. Let me tell you: we are all lonely in those early weeks. We are home, home, home, home, home. Good-bye, date nights. Good-bye, GNO’s. Good-bye, spontaneous anything. Good-bye, church. Good-bye, big public outings. Good-bye, community group. Good-bye, nightlife. So please bring some community to our doorstep. Bring friendship back into our lives. Bring adult conversation and laughter. And bring an expensive bottle of wine.

5. If the shoe fits, tell adopting families how their story is affecting yours. If God has moved in you over the course of our adoption, whether before the airport or after, if you’ve made a change or a decision, if somewhere deep inside a fire was lit, tell us, because it is spiritual water on dry souls. There is nothing more encouraging than finding out God is using our families for greater kingdom work, beautiful things we would never know or see. We gather the holy moments in our hands every day, praying for eyes to see God’s presence, his purposes realized in our story. When you put more holy moments in our hands to meditate on, we are drawn deeper into the Jesus who led us here.

Here’s one last thing: As you watch us struggle and celebrate and cry and flail, we also want you to know that adoption is beautiful, and a thousand times we’ve looked at each other and said, “What if we would’ve said no?” God invited us into something monumental and lovely, and we would’ve missed endless moments of glory had we walked away. We need you during these difficult months of waiting and transitioning, but we also hope you see that we serve a faithful God who heals and actually sets the lonely in families, just like He said He would. And even through the tears and tantrums (ours), we look at our children and marvel that God counted us worthy to raise them. We are humbled. We’ve been gifted with a very holy task, and when you help us rise to the occasion, you have an inheritance in their story; your name will be counted in their legacy.

Because that day you brought us pulled pork tacos was the exact day I needed to skip dinner prep and hold my son on the couch for an hour, talking about Africa and beginning to bind up his emotional wounds. When you kidnapped me for two hours and took me to breakfast, I was at the very, very, absolute end that morning, but I came home renewed, able to greet my children after school with fresh love and patience. When you loved on my big kids and offered them sanctuary for a night, you kept the family rhythm in sync at the end of a hard week.

Thank you for being the village. You are so important. "






Thursday, October 4, 2012

My thoughts on the Hockey Lockout

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Last year, this time, I could not care less what was happening in the hockey world. I didn't fall in love with the sport until after January, and from then till the Stanley cup finals I was hooked.

When summer came, without hockey, I was bummed, but knew (or thought) that I could make it a few short months until it returned in October. Now.

But alas, about a month before pre- season games started, I heard about the lockout possibility. Which then canceled the preseason, and now has officially canceled the first two weeks of the season. It is seriously amazing how disappointed I am, and how I truly was looking forward to games starting again.

My number 1 bone to pick is that the owners are not allowing negotiations to take place while games continue. Maybe I don't understand the dynamics of the situation, but they could freeze player salaries until they get their issues worked out, but still give the fans the games, and still allow the workers to continue and both sides could add to their pile of money that they are arguing over like kids who can't come to a decision!

Last time negotiations happened, players were getting 57% of the revenue. Basically, owners want that to change to be less than 50%, and the players aren't going to give that to them. Both sides believe that the longer they hold out, the more likely the other will give in- players need paychecks, owners need the ticket sales, someone will cave. At this point, according to what I read, only the players have made concessions to try to find a point they can agree on, but every article says the same, that the NHL -1 won't change their offer closer to the current player agreement, and 2- they will not allow the players to play games while negotiations are still happening.

Do you know what I have my students do when a decision needs to be made and no one is willing to back down? I have them rock, paper, scissors. A random, arbitrary, non-biased decision that both are willing to abide by. Problem solved, classroom life continues. What can be the "rock, paper, scissors" for these two? Who will they both listen to? Because until some outside party steps in, and says hey, this is what is fair, both of you sign, or the NHL is willing to budge, there will continue to be no hockey and no money to fight over, making their argument even dumber.

Of course, I have no bearing whatsoever on this lockout, I just hope that someone who does can figure out a solution, and soon!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

First Birthday Presents

IMAG0299, Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App

On October 26, our little girl in Ghana will be turning one year old! Because of the timing of the trip, she will be getting her gifts slightly early, but I am so glad that we have the chance to get a few things to her! 

We will not be taking this trip, but never fear, we will be flying there at least once at some point in the future. Our previous coordinator has been asked to escort a child home from Ghana, and so she gave us adopting families the chance to send items to her to take there with her. Even better, we get pictures! I am so excited for a new picture (or two, or three or ten :-D) to enjoy and share with others. I am also hopeful for just the tidbits of information that we might be able to find out after this trip- is she shy or outgoing? cry easily or a happy kid? is she talking yet? can she stand on her own? can she color? can she understand simple commands? I would love more about her story as well- who gave her her name? what do her caretakers think about her as far as easy sleeper? is there a certain way she falls asleep? what does toys does she like to play with?

I have no idea how much I can expect to find out, but I know that any information is way more than what I have about who she is, and extra information will continue to connect me to our girl so far away.

So, the items in the box. First thing that draws the eye is the pretty pink dress. The first item of clothing we have bought for her! I had a plan to have Blake pick it out, all on his own, and I was doing really well at that too... until I mentioned that my favorite was this pink dress, and then he put back his top choice and got mine. I almost didn't let him choose it because I had said it was the one I would pick and I really wanted it to be the one HE would pick, but ... how much can you argue when he is picking the one you wanted anyways?

My hope is that the pictures of her will be with her wearing her new pink dress (even if we never get it back afterwards, we will have pictures of her in it, AND come on, kids outgrow stuff all the time, it might not even fit her if we got it back).

The shapes you see in the background are baby blocks that I sewed together from fabric that I had in the house and stuffed myself. One will be for her, and the others will go to other kids waiting for families, and it felt great making them knowing that they had such a great destination.

We made a photo baby board book with pictures of us and our family members in it (her grandparents and aunt and uncles) with very simple words about how much we love her and want her home. I hope that by her looking at it, hopefully often, she will learn all our faces, and we won't be strangers.