Sunday, March 28, 2010

Weekend Musings

One of our favorite things to do on a saturday is to scout out the local thrift store for bargains. This saturday was an added bonus, since the store had an additional 50% off of all purchases!! I had a few things to look for, but the kids were just looking for whatever caught their fancy.

Since alot of people crowded the store, and we got there in the later part of the day, many of the items had been picked over. I managed to find a small lavendar receiving blanket for our soon-to-be baby girl, then watched the kids as they picked through the toys, searching for treasures. Once all the purchases were made, we headed to the van for the ride home.

Tommy had purchased a set of small airplanes to construct. He tore into the box and pieces scattered. His dad said, "Tom, don't lose the pieces, we'll have to work on it together at home."

Tommy located a small booklet in the bottom of his box, leafed through it impatiently, and announced, "Dad, I found the DESTRUCTIONS but I can't read them and they aren't helping me at all!"

Again, we assure him, we will work on it at home. A few minutes later Tommy stated, matter of fact, "Well, that was a waste of 50 cents."

Ah, the joys of saturday!

I took the kids to my oldest daughters home to see the baby chicks and ducks she had just purchased at our farm supply store the day before. She is totally in love with these helpless yellow peepers and was thrilled to show off her "babies." I admit, they are truly adorable. After instructions on how to handle them without hurting them, she let all 7 of her younger siblings gather around the "cradle" (box), oooing and ahhhing around their cuteness. I wished more than once that I had brought my camera along. Bella cooed at one of the ducklings, holding it gently, talking baby-talk into it's tiny face. Stepping back, I realized how new babies bring out the gentle side of us all. Human, or otherwise.

Mike also finished a project last night that turned out just as I had envisioned. When we adopted Bella, we got her gramma too. That has been a much added blessing in our lives the last 3 years, and our only regret is that Bella's natural grandfather had passed away tragically before we had an opportunity to meet him. He had made a bunkbed for a couple of Bella's older siblings that we inherited, painted and have used since Bella retired her baby bed. Since we found out about her tiny baby that is due next month, we switched rooms so the baby could have the smaller lavendar room, while Bella and Mere were set up in the back bedroom that is a tiny bit larger for the two. The problem is where the window is, because the bed overwhelmed the room and took up too much space, but there is not a wall long enough to put it on. Mike solved that yesterday. He took the beds apart, cut 2 feet off the length of both the beds and mattresses (yes, they were innerspring!!), we stitched off the ends and poof!! New beds!! They are a mini- bunk set! It sets against the wall now, allowing them more center space for play. A creative solution to a space problem. Yay, Mike!!

During this time we have also had to deal with Mike's father. He had a minor heart attack last week, and has been in the hospital since then. He is facing a quadruple bypass this coming week, and Mike's stepmom is requiring nearly as much care as his ailing father. This is the part that makes life hard. Ailing parents, young children and a very busy life. But this is the stuff life is made of.

Today it's raining, and cool. I got up to cinnamon rolls and a hot steaming cup of coffee. The kids are waking up and getting into their grove for the day. We have a sports banquet this afternoon to celebrate the oldest three and their basketball accomplishments. Another weekend will close when the sunsets tonight.

This weekend typifies our life. A life that we are loving living.

Friday, March 26, 2010

A Walk of Faith

We are stepping out on faith.

Since meeting our Bella's birthmom several months ago, we have prayed for the unborn child she is carrying. We really enjoyed meeting her, and have spent alot of time praying for her lifestyle, her safety and the wellbeing of this child. We figured this child would be another baby destined for foster care, since the birthmom has such a struggle with a typical, responsible lifestyle. We think of her as a sweet, kind woman who has made some very devasting choices. For herself, and her children.

This past week has connected us again with this young woman, due to the fact that she contacted an attorney with the intent to place this unborn child up for adoption. She has chosen us to become the parents.

We are getting used to the idea. We had hoped for it, and were actually very disappointed earlier in her pregnancy when she decided, against advice from her family, that she wanted to try to keep this baby. Without all the details put down here, let's just say we felt that was an impossibility for her to undertake, and 5 children have already been placed with other families. We did not understand how she thought she could raise a child, when so much of her life she was not able to even care for herself. So we prayed for her and the baby.

Now that we have been named as the prospective adopting parents, it changes several things in our home. First off, this is going to be an inner state adoption. I will need to live in the state where the baby is born until her adoption is secured. There is fingerprinting clearances that we will be waiting on results for, and all the piles of paperwork that the attorneys (ours and hers) need to complete. We will take physical custody of the baby upon her birth, but our family will be apart until it is final. Fortunately, we will be just across the state line, and I will not have to go for weeks without being with my other children. We will have a temporary home with a friend and I will still be able to be be a part of the daily happenings here. Fortunately, we had recently completed our Ethiopian homestudy, so that was a big piece of this puzzle that leads us to the new baby.

However, since our homestudy was done as part of our Ethiopian plans, we have now had to put the Ethiopian adoption off. Our homestudy states that each child must come in birth order, so with this baby coming to us in April, our International Adoption must be put on hold until the youngest is 9 months old. That isn't a big ordeal to us, except the paperwork will need to be started over in December. There will be little that will still be effective. Our hearts still consider a child across the seas that is going to be a part of our home eventually, and will follow the steps to where God leads us when the time is right.

We believe God has brought us to this point where we are available and nearly paper-ready to adopt domestically. It was not a part of our initial adoption plan, but we have found out that is exactly how God works. Our heart has always been to follow God's leading, especially since the last seven children entered our lives. We found out that God's plan is always a step above all that we could ask or think of, and we are excited about the new baby we are waiting for.

It's been interesting to hear others' views on our new baby. We find those who know us best can often be the most negative. We don't like to defend our decisions, but at the same time, how can we ever describe the plans God has for us? We just hope to be willing, prepared and faithful to HIS calling.

We will be excited to share our good news when the baby is born. It's a girl - and we can't wait to hold her, love her and introduce her to the family. Thanks for your prayers during the last few weeks she has with her birth mom before she enters this world.

We are stepping out on faith, believing God will meet all our needs. There are blessings ahead for our family, in the form of a tiny miracle that we didn't plan on. And that FAITH will carry us in the weeks and months ahead.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Back from Jersey...

I am so thankful that I live in a world where access to my long distance grandsons is possible.

Bella and I had a great adventure last week. We boarded a bus that carried us to the airport in Chicago, then caught a quick flight to Detroit, which eventually carried us to Philly. It was great to meet up with our second oldest daughter, Jenni, from Oregon, and Scott, Britt and the boys. We talked the entire way to Scott and Britt's house and had a great visit. I thought I would list some of the highlights of our trip.

1. Singing hymns and spirituals (lead by the driver!)with strangers on the bus. What an interesting time!
2. Waiting to board the airplane that Bella insisted calling a "space ship."
3. Trying to keep a seat belt on Bella while on the plane. Yeah, right.
4. Using an airplane toilet while Bella waited in the seat alone. (Where could she go, right?)
5. Bella anxiously looking out the airplane window, just to fall asleep right before takeoff...she missed it all!! (But caught the bright lights of the city when we landed back in Chicago at the end of our trip!!)
6. Running through the Detroit airport with a 25# backpack, dragging a sleepy Bella, then making it into our flight JUST before the doors shut. We barely made it!!
7. Seeing my baby grandson looking so big and beautiful (hadn't seen him since birth!!) and getting those long awaited hugs from the big boys!!
8. Watching the kids play with the puppies.
9. Going to a hibachi grill and seeing Kaid's eyes light up with the antics of our personal chef!
10. Shopping for beads to make necklaces!! Learning how to make them the right way!
(Thanks Jenni!)
11. Shopping. Eating out. Laughing. Talking. Crafting with the kids. Decorating cookies, eating birthday Mudslides, and Carrot cake! Enjoying Sweet Potato Fries in Ocean City!! YUMMY.
12. Watching Jenni go surfing in 40 degree weather. She was warm, (thanks to Scott giving her the warmest wet suit!!) but tired. Scott, on the other hand, was freezing!!
13. Gathering shells on the beach and competing with Jen for the best find.
14. Holding Keane, playing with Keegy and watching Kaiden dance. What a hoot!
15. Laughing with Britt. Going to my first IKEA store...oh, the plans I have now!!
16. Giving 11 puppies their first vaccines.
17. Watching the boys play guitars, jump on the air mattress and chase the puppies.
18. Watch Scott play his guitar with the worship band at their awesome church.
19. Meeting Scott and Britt's friends and putting faces to the names we've been hearing about.
20. Making it to Philly completely without a GPS, and the adventure of it all!

There were so many things crammed into our days in Jersey, but I thoroughly enjoyed every moment. I hated seeing the boys cry when they dropped us off at the airport. Bella said, "Mom, we're gonna miss those boys, huh?" Oh yeah...

I was sorry to leave the day before Keegy ended up in the hospital with a bad virus. I always wish I was closer to them, especially when one of them are sick and I wish I could help out somehow.

Bella made it through her tonsillectomy/adnoidectomy with flying colors once we got back to town, so now we settle into our spring routine, wishing for nice weather so our camping schedule can begin soon!

As this spring trip to Jersey came to an end, I am thankful the most for family to love, places to visit, and loved ones who welcome me. Our time went so quickly, but I have many pictures and wonderful memories to carry me into our next visit with those adorable grandsons!!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Getting Out of Dodge!!

I am counting down the days!!

I am "getting out of dodge," so to speak, on Thursday. It's not so much that I need a break or anything, it's the object of my trip that is so exciting.

I am going to see my New Jersey grandsons!!

I am fortunate that my husband is sensitive to my need for space. We have devised a wonderful plan most weeks where I take two nights away from the house to do or go wherever my heart leads me. Sometimes I go pick up all the things from the grocery store that I couldn't focus on with 4 or more little ones in tow. Sometimes I find a dollar store or discount store and check out everything on every shelf throughout the entire facility. Sometimes I join a friend for dinner or a movie (or, happily, both in one night!!). Being home with kids can be trying, and I feel much more refreshed after my nights out, much more capable of being a good mom once I find my own center again.

But these type of long weekends are more fabulous than that. This is an across-the-states flight to the welcoming home of my son, my dear daughter-in-law, and those big cheeked, smiling eyes of the most beautiful boys in the world. Kaiden, Keegan, and Keane.

The time will go too slow before I leave, too fast after I get there, and not nearly soon enough to the next visit. I count the days between visits by how much they grow, how many more words they say, and the type of things we are able to do when we are together. This time, I have a couple new books to read them, hopefully fit in a movie while we are there, and of course, a walk along the beach gathering perfect shells before I leave. And, they have 11 puppies in their home right now, so I am sure there will be NO lack of excitement.

I catch myself praying selfishly sometimes. I wish they were closer to us, where PaPa can enjoy them too. I wish their home was as close as my oldest daughter in town, so a visit could be arranged whenever the whim should hit either of us. I wish we could call them on sunday morning and arrange a picnic that afternoon. Or when I find a new place to go sightseeing and looking at dear running across the fields, I could just pick them up and we could go around or about. But that is selfish. They are thriving and learning so very much right where they are planted!!

I love these boys, and I am grateful for their parents who do a wonderful job in raising them to be happy and healthy. They surf, they skateboard, they get to experience wonderful adventures that they couldn't have here. And who knows, as the wind blows and God leads, maybe one day they will be closer to home for us to have more contact. But until that day, how nice to feel the welcome when I tell them I am hopping an airplane this week so that I can be there just as long as possible so that I can get hugs to last me for the months when they are not around.

I will miss my babies here, but I am soooo very thankful for the time I will get to be with my babies there!

Grandkids have to be the best part of life, and I am so very happy that I will be loving on mine really soon!! Here I come, New Jersey. I hope you leave the lights on for me!!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Damage is Done

I have been thinking alot the past few weeks about DAMAGED GOODS.

I LOVE to clearance shop. Sometimes I will find a terrific deal on something, just because it has a small stain, a tiny piece missing or some other issue that makes a store unable to sell it at their normal price, so they clearance it, just for scroungers like me to find at a "bargain basement" price. I scoop it up, bring it home, repair it or clean it, and am proud to show off my deal that is perfectly fine after all!!

I can be really passionate about finding the good in something, and I think that whole mind set is what often drives me on to my expectations of people. I think as I am nearing the ripe old age of 50 this summer that I have become MUCH less judgemental of those around me, and have tried really hard to find the underlying goodness that must surely be in every one.

This is one way that those beliefs are playing out in our lives lately:

We have adopted 7 kids. Those who know us have their own opinions of what we've done and why we've done it, but it really boils down to one fact: we wanted to be parents.

Because we were not able to have more than three children biologically, we met a little 4 year old who needed us about 8 years ago, and we fell in love with her. Her adoption lead us into a foster care program where we were able to welcome other children into our home, some with the intent to adopt from day one, and others whom we assumed would be short term members of our family. Fast forward to 2010, and we have added seven lives into the fold, and each of them have entered our front door with their own sets of challenges.

I have never thought of our children as anything other than "our children." Lately, with counseling appointments, psychotherapists involvement, and intense school meetings were we are partnering to determine our kids needs, the term "damaged" continues to surface.

Damaged. Damaged children. Children do not enter foster care without having trauma in their lives. Children who lose parents, for any reason, come into a new family with past issues (resolved or not) and past experiences that either help them adjust or hinder their adjustment into a new family. But there is always major adjustments. What we know now is, the damage done in their previous lives, continues on for a very long time, and often, the end result will still spell "damage."

Damaged lives. Trauma that keeps them fearful. Issues that make them question their self worth, their ability to love and be loved and the inability to trust. Some kids absorb (to the point of suffocation) all the love out of others. Some kids push love away like a plaque. For those of us who are determined to LOVE them in spite of their challenges, it often feels like every ounce of energy is sucked out of our bones. It's like wrestling with a tiger, and it feels like the tiger will eventually win. You can't help but wonder, "why try?"

Damaged lives. Children, who were helpless pawns in the lives of irresponsible parents, pay for their pain in countless ways. Sleepless nights, or fantasy worlds that could never be true, but they need their fantasy to ease their endless pain. Some lie, cheat, steal - possibly because the skills they needed to learn was never taught in their early years, and maybe because they knew in order to survive, they had to have the moxie to do whatever it took to "make it."

I have both kinds of kids. Kids I want to trust, but know it's still a long time away before they earn that trust, and kids that I need to push into every crevice of learning to assure that they at least TRY the things that are out of their comfort zone.

They are lonely in a crowd, emotionally younger than their peers. They look good on the outside, and yet are jumbled like scrambled eggs in their tiny hearts. They make poor decisions, if they can make them at all, and they pay repeatedly for making the worst choices possible. I often want to throw my hands up and say, "I don't think I can make a difference in their lives. It's just soooo hard to see that anything I have done can really help them at all!!"

But, we trudge on. They deserve it. They are damaged due to their birth parents choices, and someone has to help the cycle of damages STOP. I wonder how much we can really do, but I can not imagine not trying. I can't stop advocating for them, surrounding them with positives, and continuing to love them in spite of their behaviours.

I don't like the title of "damaged children." It's what they are, though. They have stains, and rips in their hearts, and pieces missing that is not one single fault of their own. But they are WORTH whatever trouble it takes to try to work out those damages in each of their lives, and hopefully one day we can proudly say, "Look where you came from, and look at how you shine now!!"

Not because of me, but because God gave me this heart and I pray He continues to give me the strength, day to day, to repair, replace or restore each piece in their lives that need it.

Damaged goods? Only for a while.
Is it permanent? I hope not.
Can I make a difference...? Maybe. Hopefully.
Can God make them whole? I pray He will. He can.