Monday, November 22, 2010

Speaking about Adoption...

When asked to speak about our adoption experience, it's hard to pin point all the things I hope to convey with my answer.

Our lives were good before the adoptions. We had three children, one had left the nest and 2 others were not far behind. There were college plans, the last years of high school and good things happening in the lives of the nieces and nephews, too.

Mike's job was going well, while my own career in Human Resouces was satisfying at the time. I had thought for years that we would adopt, but other than looking at profiles of children online, we had not discussed adoption in depth. I felt there was something missing.

Then we met Nicole. She was almost 4, living with friends of ours in a foster home, when we found out she was available for adoption. We spent a difficult weekend discussing "starting over," and I was ready to throw caution to the wind, and jump into parenting a young child again. Mike, not so much.

Because we are committed to our faith in God, we prayed much, discussed every issue we could think of, and by the end of the weekend had decided we would walk the path towards this child, making her a part of our family. Our first steps toward adoption lead us to consider fostering other children a year later. We had successfully integrated one child into our home, and loved how she had changed our lives. Perhaps there were other children who needed a home, and we could make a difference in other little lives.

I believe we did. We were able to make a difference. But what a difference they continue to make in ours!

We can no longer rent 2 hotel rooms if we travel. NOW, hotel management suggests 3 rooms for our family of 9.

Fast food for 9 usually means going to two separate orders, since our large one won't fit on their computer screens!

Strangers ask if we are running a daycare, but often hear the response from the children, "We are a family!"

We drive a 15 passenger van, look for the best deals on everything we buy, and love to eat at Buffets where everyone can get what they want!

We have toys in the livingroom, plastic plates in the cupboard and are always missing someone's shoes.

We love movie nights at home, bedtime prayers and lively conversations at dinner time.

There is not one of my 10 children I could live without and not a single one of them that is loved or wanted more than the other. They enrich our lives beyond measure and make us proud. They have grown us and made us more sensitive. Each of them are a gift to us, the most wonderful part of who we are, making us better parents, neighbors and spouses. We learn from their questions. We have more joy in our lives because of the sparkle in their eyes.

If we had not considered adoption, our lives would probably still be good. We would have jobs, and plans for our futures.

But because we considered adoption, our lives are fuller, better and without a doubt, more wonderful because of the little lives that keep us laughing. They love us unconditionally, teaching us day to day how to give of ourselves to bless someone else.

I think adoption is one of the biggest blessings I have ever experienced, all in the form of smiling faces, gentle touches and hugs from little arms.

My kids may not have had the best starts to their lives, but we are thankful that their futures are promising. They all have potential that was waiting to be uncovered, and we are grateful to be a part of helping them to reinvent their lives.

There are many children waiting to be loved in a foster home, or adopted into a family. The opportunity to love someone who needs you. To encourage a child to reach their highest to become all they can be. To invest in another person's life is what adoption means to me.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Turkeys, Pilgrims and Indians

My school age kids are all about the Thanksgiving holiday coming up next week.

Tara talks about Colonial Days, and even tried making a felt hat last night. She announced this morning that the felt glue didn't even work because it fell apart when she picked it up. I assured her we can try again tonight.

Bella found out recently that her heritage is American Indian and is quite proud of it. She tells every one who will listen to her that she was "born from an Indian." Part of it is trying to connect with all the other adopted kids in our family who boast of their heritages, and the other part is the novel idea that she has something the rest of us do not have.

In Bella's mind, being an Indian means she is a hunter. She sees herself in buckskin clothes, feathers in her hair, traipsing through the forest to hunt deer. Hunting is a part of our oldest daughters' life also, and an exciting connection they can share. She also informs us she can hunt racoon, and she is proud to know that her daddy has a bb gun, which she will one day learn to shoot all by herself.

While playing with her this week, I told her since she is of Indian heritage, perhaps she would like to get our turkey this year. We live in a somewhat rural area, and it's not unusual to see wild turkeys in the fields, or even crossing the streets in front of the car when we are driving down back roads from time to time.

"Bella, maybe you could get a turkey for us this year for Thanksgiving dinner!" I asked her, a tinge of laughter in my voice.

She looked me straight in the eye, and in her most incredulous style, responds,
"I can't drive!"

Ah, yes. Turkey hunting has not yet crossed her mind.

Mere can not wait to decorate sugar cookies and help cook, along with eating the delicious cinnamon rolls that are waiting in our freezer to be thawed out on the holiday morning.

Me? I look forward to this holiday, since there is nothing but cooking, eating and relaxing with family and friends. Watching the Macy's Parade while we eat sausage balls and cinnamon rolls in the morning, catching whiffs of all the wonderful smells coming from the oven as the turkey cooks. We'll gather around several tables, eating so much we have to rest before playing games. We'll make memories of things that are said and done during the day. Hopefully someone remembers to snap a few photo's this year, since I relaxed so much last year I totally forgot!

Nothing makes me happier than having family and friends gather under our roof, eating all the good foods of the holiday.

We are connected by the love we share for each other, the memories we have made and the new ones we are making day to day.

No matter where the turkey comes from, it's like Bella said last night, as she snuggled in.

"We are family, right mom?"

Yes, Bella, we are family. Pilgrims, Indians and even a few turkeys!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Calling Out the Saints

A tradition in our church has had me thinking for the last few weeks.

On a particular Sunday of the month of November, our church takes a few moments to remember those who have left us here on earth to spend their eternity in Heaven. The names are read aloud, while candles are lit for each name mentioned. Faces flash on an overhead screen, a last look (for many of us)on the faces of Saints who have gone before us.

After the names are read and candles are lit, music soothes raw emotions as a time to remember is allowed to those of us in the pews. We are invited to call out the names of people whom we have lost in our lives, giving tribute, one more time, to the loved ones those around us may not have ever met, but that we each know as a missing piece in our family puzzle since their passing.

As the music played, my heart immediately remembered Pop. He was not my Pop, or Mike's Pop. He was someone we had just met this summer while visiting our kids in New Jersey. He was a kind, gentle man, who we waved at while he mowed the lawn, and met briefly as we shook his hand. We knew him more as the head of a family who had welcomed our children into their fold, since our family was much to far away to be with them day to day. He was spoken of highly by our son, who also has great regard for Pop's son, Dan. He was the top of a chain that seemed to speak wonderful words of a loving God, down to the lives who must now live without their beloved father on this earth. His passing was within days of our church ceremony, and his name and legacy was fresh in our hearts.

Just before the music ended in this service of remembrance, my heart travelled back to the days of loss of my own grandma Thelma this year. I have written of her life, and the legacy she left to us in her passing. She will never be forgotten, and I spoke her name aloud into the silence of the church, reverently giving appreciation to a loving, saving God, whom she now walks with on the streets of gold.

As the service moved on, I was simply reminded in the calling out of these names, Pop and Grandma, just how small our world on earth really is. Although my grandma and Pop would probably have never met on earth, they now rejoice together in Heaven, and they are connected by a thread that makes perfect sense to me now. My son, Scotty, was loved and prayed for by both of these Saints of God, although their earthly lives were over 700 miles apart.

I don't believe any of this was accidental in the broad scheme of life in a Walk of Faith. I was grateful to honor two wonderful saints who have now passed into eternity, and I wonder now, just who am I praying for or connected to today, that will only be made know when I enter those pearly gates when my name is called into eternity.

I miss you, Grandma. I know Pop's family is missing him too.

Small world. Tremendously HUGE God!

Holiday Resolve

We (ok, mostly me) are determined to put a whole different perspective on the holidays this year.

Every year we are thrilled that we have a house full to buy presents for, and Mike, especially, loves to wrap them. We spend hours late into the night wrapping gifts to all the old classic movies roaring in front of us and talk about how exciting Christmas morning will be when the kids eyes pop as they see the glowing tree surrounded by colorful wrapped gifts we chose perfectly for them.

Typically, I have shopped throughout the year, found semi-perfect (but good) gifts for each, and are still wrapping presents the night before Santa's visit. The gifts do get piled high, and it is somewhat magical, and we do enjoy the time spent wrapping and watching our favorite old movies.

But, this year, even more so than last year, I have been burdened by the intensity of the expectations to get/do more and more each year. I love to shop and buy, but I also want to teach my kids about the giving aspect of the holidays. Somewhere we may be covering that up.

I have heard of families who only purchase 3 gifts per child. This approach is not about the money they spend, but about the amount of wrapped gifts. After all, baby Jesus got three special gifts from the Wisemen, and none of my kids are better than Him! That plan may work for some families, but it isn't the one I want to adhere to.

I also know people who "shop 'til they drop", "spend 'til the end," and "Charge!!" We have tried for years to be careful not to purchase gifts on credit, because before our cards would be paid off, the toys would be a distant memory, if remembered at all.

We typically determine a money amount each year, divide it per child, and shop for the best deals for the money. That has always worked for me, and I still prefer
it. I have a set amount to spend, I try to stay close to that, and then I try to make the gifts look "even" between the recipients. I NEVER want anyone to feel left out or disadvantaged in any way.

And I am still cool with all that.

However, somehow, the whole holiday process is being revamped in my own heart, and this is what I am processing these days. We are cutting back on what we spend, but hoping what they all "get" from this holiday add more to their lives than any amount of money ever could.

My kids lack for nothing. Oh, there is always some new toy or gadget they want, but they all have PLENTY of everything. Toys, clothes, food, games, etc. They may not believe it, but it's true. Every day I am finding broken things that I trash, or extra things we don't need. It appears that an overabundance of items in a childs life makes them selfish and expectant, and they can not possibly take care of all the things us parents (in our desire to give them all the good things in life) thrust at them. I am still learning this concept.

I lack for nothing. I do not have all the last minute technology, and I do not have clothes that make me drop-dead gorgeous. Come to think of it, I am pretty enough when I smile, and as long as I have clean clothes or a nice outfit for a special occasion, I am fine. Sure, I get swayed by the colors of each new season, and I attend events occasionally where I feel like I can not possibly compete with Ms. Fashion Plate, but that's OK. I don't really have to. I am well fed, well read and well...well. I try to eat sensibly and I hate exercise, but I am always open to improvements (as long as it is cheap and has good results). I have friends and family who love me. I have way too much "stuff" in my house, but I am learning to discard things every week that I can part with. I am not defined by what I have.

I put Mike in the same category as me, but I do not speak for him. We have both noticed how very blessed we are, and how little we need. Part of that is because of what we have learned over the last few years.

Kids thrive on time and attention. Kids need parents who set boundaries, yet love them unconditionally. Kids need to know their parents love each other, and want what's best for them. Kids need to know that if the whole word crushes them down, there will always be someone who will be there to pick them up, dust them off, and encourage them to try again. Kids need a place to thrive, a place to rest and a place to have fun. They need friends and family that give them positive feedback when they do well, and remind them when they need to make better choices. Kids need to know, under no circumstance, will their family ever leave them for any reason.

Unfortunately, on our journey to our Ethiopian children, we have seen many international children who will never have the security of any of these things that kids need. Most do not have the food to sustain them, or the family to love them. They scrounge for food, and live in overcrowded orphanages. They long for a family to call their own, someone to love them and make them a part of their lives forever.
Their needs will not fit in a golden box with white ribbons.

How does that fit with our Christmas plans? I am feeling, deeply, the losses these Ethiopian children face day to day. I am yearning for ways to make a difference in their lives, lasting differences that will help them develop beyond what their little hearts could ever hope to imagine. I want to be the one to make a difference in the lives of children.

We, as a family, are incredibly blessed. Blessed to be born in a land of plenty. Blessed to go to bed with our belly's full and our mornings fuller yet. Blessed to have care when we are sick, and a home that is warm. Blessed to have each other.

I am hoping our focus is a little bit more towards others this year. A little less of "I want that." A little more of "Can I help?"

A little less of "What can you do for me?" and a little more of "What can I do for you?"

We have set some positive plans in place through the holidays to help us learn how better to live this way. Some volunteer opportunities that will include every one of us, hopefully putting a bit more emphasis on "them" instead of "me." We have taken on a few projects that put a different twist on giving. It's a start.

It's challenging when all the world assaults us with their plans for the holidays. After all, we "deserve" to treat ourselves, and we are happier if it's all bigger, brighter and better than the year before.

But our family is taking a few steps back this year to refocus. I hope we all come out of it with the resolve that it is the best possible kind of Christmas we could ever have.

And that this year will just begin a new type of holiday spirit in us all.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Mistaken Identity

I have been experiencing a series of events recently that can only be described as Mistaken Identity.

We ate pancakes the other night,formed in the shape of Pumpkins. It was Halloween, afterall. After dishes were cleared and bedtime routines were started, Mike brings a can with a yellow cap to me, looking perplexed, and says, "Do you think this furniture polish is toxic?"

I told him I wouldn't drink it if I were him. It appears we all had.
He thought it was PAM spray for the griddle.
The pancakes slid right off.

The benefits? Our house had a wonderful lemony smell all evening.
I have seen no ill effects, but I wouldn't suggest trying it at your home!

It reminded me of the time a dear one of mine was in agony, and chose the muscle pain relief cream, BEN GAY, instead of PREPARATION H. Another case of Mistaken Identity.

Or the time that Mere was a baby, and daddy was in charge of bath time. When I snuggled her to bed, I realized she had a different scent that smelled vaguely familiar, but not quite the normal baby lotion smell. Daddy checked.
"You probably wouldn't use NAIR on a baby, would you?" As he whisked her off my lap and back into the bath, I realized the identical pink bottles had caused a case of Mistaken Identity.

And the friend of mine who superglued her daughters eyes shut, thinking she was using eye drops. Mistaken Identity. No matter how bad it made her feel (both her and her daughter.) And come to find out, it happens alot, AND, eye lashes do grow back.

Bella came running in this week, saying, "There is a dead MOHAWK out there!"

Someone else ran in. It was a MOLE.

No wait, Mere reports that it's a WOOD PUCKER!!
Mistaken Identity, for sure.

What about the times I call people by the wrong name? Like Keegan is Kaid, and Keano is Keegy? UGH! When I want Mere, I call Tara. When I am trying to get Tommy to come to me, I call him Scotty! Mistaken Identity!

I have seen old friends out in public, I think, but was afraid to call out to them, just in case it was another case of Mistaken Identity.

Of course, part of the fun of Halloween is Mistaken Identity. I mean, how many kids want to dress up as THEMSELVES to go trick or treating??

I have no doubt there will be more episodes of Mistaken Identity around our house.
And from now on, I will check the PAM before Mike is allowed to spray it on the griddle!!