Wednesday, May 29, 2013


There are a few things I have gotten tired of hearing since we began our adoptions over ten years ago. Here are a few of them: *Do you have any of your own kids? (Who do you think these 12 belong to?) *Couldn't you have anymore of your own? (Personal) *I bet that costs you a fortune to feed them! (Umm, and house them, clothe them entertain them, vacation with them...etc) *Are you competing with brad and Angelina? (We beat their record a long time ago) *You must like chaos. (No, not really) *You and your hubby are saints! (Not even close!) *So you have your own baseball team? (I hate maybe) *You running a daycare? (No, we are a family) *So how many of your kids are half & half? (Really?) *Why did you bring foreigners here? Aren't there enough local kids who need homes? (That's another post. If you are interested in adopting I suggest you contact the local foster care system). *I had 2 (or 4 or 6 or 1) and he/she is hard enough. I couldn't handle one more- especially someone else's kid!! (These ARE my kids) *Why don't you just babysit? (Again, really?) It depends on the day as to how I respond. For the record, I don't suggest adopting or fostering children if you don't believe you could handle it. Children are alot of work. Children from dark places are even harder. Traumatized children are not going to get better in a few days (or weeks, or months, and maybe not years.) However, what we have done by bringing 9 more children into our home is not because we hoard, or think we are perfect parents, or have unending supplies and resources. We felt there was more to do in this world and we thought we could make a difference in a few more lives. We stand against abortion, so feel we had to provide a solution. Adoption is a valid and needful way to add to a family. It works for us. Are we done adopting? That's not my decision. God knows our hearts and our abilities. I want to remain open to whatever He requires of us. Do we have a plan to adopt more?Nope. That would have to be Gods plan. We spend a lot trying to give our kids what they need. What we spend the most of is time and energy. Yes, we do get tired. Yes, we "asked for it." And no, we wouldn't change it for the world. So when my kids are sick and hospitalized, or you see us at the doctor "again?", just know we will probably make many more visits than smaller families will due to the number of children we are caring for. We also have numerous special needs kids - many that you would never guess by looking at them - and we spend a lot of time seeking the help they need to thrive and grow. We try really hard to not ask much of other people. We appreciate the ones who stand beside us and encourage us. We are grateful for online groups who deal with a lot of what we deal with daily. We always pay for our sitters and never get enough time to get a date night or (gasp!) go on a trip. We camp so our vacations are manageable and we have more control over our kids environments. We are picky who they spend time with, and who we allow into our lives. It's called parenting. And sometimes it is just plain hard. But we feel like we can make a difference in our kids lives. We may not see it yet, but are hopeful each one of our kids will also give back to others. We know there are some of you who could make this work in their lives too. Be open. It would change your life on a whole bunch of different levels. Positively. We are glad to know so many families who have adopted some of the hardest kids too- kids who came from dark places, but their futures look much brighter already! I don't mind answering questions and love advocating for children all over the world, but please be kind. I am pretty open but some topics are really no one else's business.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Lessons of life

We had just come back from the neurologist appointment with Gb and my mind and heart was still reeling from all of the information I had to absorb (or adjust to again!). Bella had traveled with me, since she takes a very personal interest in just about anything her special brother does! We were hungry and needing a distraction before the hour and 1/2 ride home, so we stopped at a Kentucky Fried Chicken for supper. It was completely empty at first but customers streamed in one right after the other once we got there. As we ate, a large lady came in, ordered and took her place directly next to our table. She had extremely colorful makeup on, which Bella noticed right away and commented on. When the lady looked up, I said "my daughter said she likes your pretty eyes." She looked stunned, but said, "thank you. Thank you." As she ate, she grunted quietly, poured salt over her food with abandon, laughed like she was in a crowd of extremely funny people, and yet stayed completely focused on her interior thoughts and world. It struck me, she was not used to anyone talking to her. For whatever reason, she was alone, lonely, focused on her inner world, and only broke free from her thoughts long enough to hear a compliment from a tiny child. She was stuck inside of her self. I recognize her in my son. From traumatic early life experiences, to malnutrition and need, to enormous brain malformation that will forever keep him young, he tends to function best in his own little world too. We pull him out and teach him signs to communicate so he will have a way to express his needs, but often he is lost in a faraway world, happy with his own thoughts and play, drastically far from any of us, until a sibling or friend gently lifts him up, or calls his name so that he jolts from his hidden world and (for at least a short time) gives us glimpses of a part of his mind that still seeks engaging in life outside of his interior one. In some ways I am saddened. But I look at Gb and see how very many people are investing in his life. His loving sisters, caring brothers, plus teachers and therapists who refuse to stop teaching and reaching him. I compare it to a depressed life in his country of birth, to his blessed life here, with countless doctors, educators and loved ones who will stand in those mental gaps and love him through to this world to be as perfect as he could ever be. Peacefully, we remain determined to bring him out of his inner world to help him thrive as the contented individual who can make everyone smile with his antics. His giggle is refreshing, his determination to be applauded, and his tenacity to carry on when most of us would never be able to face the challenges ahead. He is Gods gift to the world, a teacher as well as a student. Thank you for loving your precious brother, Bella. It has already made you more accepting of those around you who may not be quite like anything you have ever know before. And I know you are a great example of love and Jesus when you wipe your brother chin or share your cookie with him. The special people in the world have so very much to teach us. I pray we will be open to learning how to reach each one .

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Eyes have It

I sat at the eye doctor appointment with the boys today. Not only do we have two African boys, they are both in wheelchairs and both, obviously, have special needs apart from their vision issues. I can't really take the boys anywhere alone anymore. Too big for strollers, they each have a chair for transporting easily. Except it takes one person to push each chair. Of course, that usually means mike needs to take a vacation day to help out. Or sometimes we can fit it into a lunch hour. The general clientele here is over 55. Probably closer to 70. We get alot of stares. Some folks smile as we stroll past, but mostly we see blank looks like they are trying to figure out what we are. This is always quite traumatic for GB . I don't know what he had to face in his first 4 years of life in Africa, but he starts screaming as soon as we walk into almost any medical facility, especially if there are white sheets. Today was a bit different, since he let the doctor do a small exam of his eyes without crying. Until the eye drops. The nurse kindly says, "he's got good lungs." They changed his prescription today. He squints more with one eye which seems he's trying to focus. He only hears with one ear, so he needs his vision to be as clear as we can get it to help him maneuver through his world. As our appointment came to a close today, I met a wonderful older couple who struck up a conversation with Gb. He smiled and clapped and charmed his way into another life again. The couple were open And receptive, relaying their own experiences with adoption when they welcomed two of their grandchildren from an orphanage in Russia. They get what we are doing. And they smiled genuinely at our little man. We don't get that type of encouragement everyday. It felt good. It's a challenging life at times but we wouldn't trade it for any other.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Under Construction - BOUNDARIES

Disclaimer: I am horrible at this I was born in 1960, grew up in a small town in southwestern Michigan, and hit the teens years in the mid seventies. My parents were still together, we managed going to church regularly, and I was taught that dads word was th
e final say (although I think mom usually told him what he needed to say!). I didn't get spankings, although my leg was swatted with the hairbrush if I squirmed or complained too much, and I actually kept long hair until I was about 16, mostly because my dad liked his girl to have long hair. I was the only girl and I was taught it was important to please daddy. I wore hand-me-down jeans that my mom would lengthen with lace when I started growing taller, and I only remember getting clothes when I absolutely needed something. I remember certain purchases were between just mom and I, and I was excited as a teenager to be able to babysit for cash to start buying my own things. I played with baby dolls probably longer than my peers. I had a limit of how much time I could spend on a telephone call, and I NEVER had a call that was in any way private, because I was anchored to our kitchen table with that old coiled cord that could only stretch so far. My brothers did the "hard" work outside with the barn and animals, or trash and lawn care, while I worked along side mom with meal preparations, housekeeping chores, dishes and laundry. Everything was divided according to gender specifics, which also meant I was the only one who had a room of my own since the rest of the siblings were boys. I was in the peacemaker position, because I was between the oldest boys and my baby brother, and yet I had a special place in my dads heart as the only girl. He always said I didn't have shoes until I started kindergarten because they were never needed. He carried me everywhere. I grew up hearing that if I complained there was always someone who had it worse. If I wanted to do something or go somewhere, there were most likely chores that had to be completed before I went. If the chores were not done, it was no use arguing,as I would not be going anywhere. I always knew my mom was the strict one, and dad was the breadwinner. He encouraged my poems and prose, and got really frustrated that I had a difficult time comprehending mathematics. It was never discussed that we would attend college, because on dads income, there was rarely any extra. I did complete college in my 40's, and both parents were really proud of me. They just never thought it was needed. I was just a girl, anyhow. We ate meat at meals, usually with a potato of sorts and canned veggie. Mom tried to surprise us by fixing liver all different ways and telling us we would like this one, but I still can't stand the thought of eating liver in any way, shape or form. Desserts were never elaborate, but we had them after every meal. My favourite was when mom would make fruit dumplings, and part of the appeal was that there was a magical time we could take the lid off the pot and not one moment too soon or too late, else it ruin our dish. We had gardens, canned fruits and veggies, and lived frugally. Christmas was never a guarantee because dad often had winter months off, but somehow there were always gifts under the tree on Christmas morning. My uncle played Santa Claus at the large family gathering on Christmas Eve, and we all pretended like we did not ever suspect it was him. He lived next door to us, and I could recognise his hands in a heartbeat. Typical life, a good childhood. Camping, friends and family around our table and sometimes an odd fellow who would stop by for a chat and we would hear later that it was a distant family member, or old friend from my folks school years. We played outside after dark chasing fireflies, and we knew when mom or dad called, it was time to come. Home. NOW. What I don't get is how I could live such a typical, good life, and have NEVER MASTERED the art of setting good boundaries. I love to help and I love having folks over. But somewhere in my world the whole boundary picture never cemented itself in my mind, and now, at nearly 53 years old, I find I am totally helpless in seeing what will happen until I am in the thick of pain or disappointment because I didn't know how to set clear expectations before I went into __________(fill in the blank.) My oldest daughter tells me I set myself up for heartache because I don't plan ahead by setting clear boundaries. She is right. When I worked in human resources, I had no problem saying THIS is it, or THAT is how IT'S done. But the people I worked with were really just strangers thrown into a building together and we had our work cut out for us. It required little, if any, emotional attachment. It required well executed plans and strict processes. Unfortunately, life is different than that. We are extremely connected and emotional beings, so setting boundaries is not only needed, but healthy! I am trying so hard to understand how this all works. I see the need for it in my life, but executing it is tough. I care too much, want to help too much, and get taken advantage of because I have yet to understand this mystery called BOUNDARIES. So please, if I am one to step on your toes trying to do this new way of living life the healthy/right way, forgive me right off. Exercise your right to boundaries for your own health, and lets dialogue about how we can do this better. I do know when I feel overwhelmed, I shut down. That's not healthy. Boundaries are. Knowing how to set them is an art. Until I get it down, continue to see me as "under construction" and realise I have nothing but your best interests at heart. I am just not very good at protecting Me, while wanting to serve YOU, and wondering all the in-betweens that life throws out there. Yet. "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well!" Ps. 139:14

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


What is a normal time to grieve? There have been several emotional hurdles to bolt over since moms death in January, like her birthday in March and Mother's Day this past month. Now I am nearing Father's Day next month, and realize I am almost gritting my teeth and clenching my jaw in anticipation. Since my dad had the very best Father's Day last year, his graduation day to his heavenly home, I probably should be viewing it as a celebration. I don't. Grief is weird like that. I find myself avoiding places where we used to eat breakfast together, because just passing the restaurant causes me to tear up and swallow harder than normal. I look at things while I am shopping and think how much mom would love this or that little trinket, and I have to remind myself she is gone. For good. End of relationship here on earth. After Mother's Day, my oldest daughter brought her gardening set and we went to their grave to tidy up. We planted a dahlia . Seems like a good place to put something alive and colorful and bright! It thought it would make my grieving easier. Or put a different feel to what goes in circles around in my mind. Or maybe, just maybe, put an end to the pain surrounding my heart. But it really didn't. I feel good we honored them, but it really didn't bring the peace I was searching for. I have had two different friends lose their fathers in the past month. I want to be a available to help them heal, and I know the words I have hated hearing since my parents died, so i want to avoid saying them, but I am at a loss for words. Everything seems so trite in the midst of great loss. Yes, we believe they are in glory, surrounded by family and friends, and we will all be together one day! But the reality is, I saw my folks most every day until their passing, and there are huge holes in the spots where they used to sit. I am glad they are out of pain. I am sad they couldn't live here pain free. I am getting used to them being gone, but I really don't like it at all, and I have no words to say when someone else loses their father or mother that would ever make it seem ok. This is our new normal. This is the circle of life. This is the hard part of being loved and accepted and challenged and protected. When your parents are gone you suddenly realize no one else can or will ever love you more than the ones who brought you into this world. I have nine adopted kids. Kids from dark places, kids displaced from their families or origin. We have taken on the roll of unconditional love to these kids, trying to help them heal emotionally in an area of great loss. We are the parents who will not give up, will not accept less than they are capable of, and will continue to be their biggest cheerleaders. They may have biological parents aching and caring, or they may not. But we have agreed to step up and be the parents they need today. Tomorrow. For their futures. Someday, as life goes, ours will be snuffed out and they will be left to ponder this circle of life. I hope they all will grieve our passing as I have been grieving the loss of my parents. Not because I want them to suffer, but until I grieved their loss, I never totally understood how magnificently my mom and dad built into my life. And someday I hope and pray everyone of my kids will feel the ways (though far from perfect) we have done our best to build them up and make them the very best they could ever be. That they will have know the unending love of parents who cared. Deeply. Someday they will face death too . I hope we have prepared them for a life worth living. I hate loss and grief and carrying on in the midst of pain. But I move ahead for my children and do my best to love them to death. Literally. I hope beyond our deaths they will all understand. I do. I miss you both so much, dad and mom. I don't know that I will ever really stop grieving.