Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

I say this from the comfort of my bed, using my laptop. I have a glass of wine on the nightstand, a good book next to me and a movie that I have seen before (and enjoyed) on the TV.

The four "little kids" are in the living room gorging themselves on sugar free/caffeine free soda, crackers, chips and dip and cookies. They think they are in heaven - they have their sleeping bags all over the living room and are all set to watch the Disney channel ring in the new year! Ten year old heaven!!! LOL!

The four older kids are at a lock in at church - well, they are at a game arcade, then a bowling alley, and then back at church for music until dawn! They have been humming with excitement for quite some time and it reached fever pitch all day long. They happily left the house for the night - 12 to 15 year old version of heaven. I get to pick them up at 6 AM and I expect that they will SLEEP most of the morning (as the little kids likely will also!). Well, that will get me up to go into work for a little while tomorrow. Then I am anticipating a monster waffle making marathon! What a way to ring in the new year!

I guess when I look back (maybe 16 or so years ago) this looks pretty tame, but to me, tonight it is the epitome of contentment. I am warm, cozy, my honey here with me in good health if you ignore his knee (surgery is scheduled for next week), my kids are all healthy, happy and growing like they should be. What more could you ask for?

Well, unlimited wealth, but that really doesn't matter. A better barn for our farm - well, we are working towards that. A van that has a working heater - a couple more weeks and we will get that done too. So, there really isn't anything profound that we are lacking this year. We are planning to continue working hard, loving our kids, building our farm, and hopefully getting better at all of this. The most important things in life we are abundantly blessed with - family, health (thanking God for my mom's clean bill of health today - for a bit I thought I might be counting the minutes with her again, but all is well), jobs, energy, our faith, our home, and a positive outlook. Most days anyway! LOL!

God has brought about so many things about in the last couple years, I barely know how to even wonder about the future. I highly suspect that our journey will continue, in whatever way God wills.

Tonight, I look at the new year with a deep sense of hope and contentment. I am so grateful for the blessings that we have, and want to be dedicated to being a good steward of them all - my children, husband and home. Life is so much more than I had ever imagined, sometimes hard, sometimes wildly joyful, sometimes uncertain, but always a blessing, even in the hard times.

I wonder about resolutions. Do you make them? I used to, but haven't for quite a while. I saw on another blog that I read that she decided to make ones that were in reach. I am stealing one of hers - one I have never been able to do, to read the entire Bible in one year. Another, to keep writing, in whatever form. Third to build more routines into our lives - I love not having routines, but we all do love them when we get into them. I may make small goals for each month - this month (January) I would like to declutter for 15 minutes a day. Sounds reachable, doesn't it? We shall see!

I hope and pray that whoever might read this is finding contentment and progress in their own life, and that God's hand is upon them. I pray that you have a wonderful 2010! Happy New Year!!!!!!!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Present

God has given us all a present. It is the present.

No matter what our past, no matter the current or past hurts. No matter what.

We can choose to embrace the gifts from God, or we can choose not to.

I watch this with my adopted children. They all have past hurts that brought them to be adopted. Now, God has given them a family. They can choose to embrace it or not. As a parent, my job is to show them the beauty of embracing all the gifts, of looking for the silver lining in those clouds. I cannot make them choose it, but I can work to teach them and show them the beauty. And at some point I have to not take it personally if they choose to not embrace those gifts at times. I have to let them learn from their actions.

That is the hard part. Really hard.

Let me add, that this pertains to all my children, not just those born into our hearts but not through our bodies. I look at Kiley and see the hurts that she has endured with her chronic illness. That could scar her if she let it, just as my adopted kiddos' pasts could scar them. She needs to make the same choices. Alex and Faith have spent years living with this disease that at times totally places them secondary as we work to keep their sister healthy. There are times that they are not the priority because at the time, saving Kiley’s life is. I wish it didn’t sound so dramatic, but it has been at times. There are times they themselves have helped to save their sister from her disease. All three times we have had to call the rescue squad, Alex has called them, starting at age 10. My heart breaks for them. It could scar them just as my other kiddos histories could scar them.

And maybe that is the blessing that we keep teaching. Everyone has something. Everyone. Or someday they will. No one is immune. So, you can either move forward and embrace the gifts, or you can leave them still closed, sitting in a corner.

I lost my father as a child. My mother remarried when I was an adult. The gift to me was the wonderful love my stepfather has for my mother, the way he cares for her, and extra special is the love he has lavished on my children and my family. That is the blessing. I choose to embrace that gift totally. I could spend the rest of my life wallowing in the loss of my father and all that I would like for him to be part of now, or I can embrace what I do have, which is truly an amazing gift, more than I could ever ask for.

Yes, I have a loss. But it has brought me gifts if I will choose to see them. Perhaps empathy with my children who have lost a parent and come to us through adoption. Perhaps as I have walked with others through their own losses, I just have experiences that make it a gift, even if I don’t know it all.

So, how do I help my children learn to embrace the gifts they do have? It is a frustrating struggle sometimes. It is very hard to watch them learn things the hard way. To watch them miss out by choice. But the gift is when they do join in, when they do make steps forward, when they show signs of healing. This is a very long journey with them, with each child, no matter how they came to us. But there are gifts with each step, with each frustration. Sometimes it needs to be searched for very hard.

The child who after 2 ½ years is still struggling with the same phonics, no matter how I present it, all the various ways we have tried it. That is the negative. The positive is the hope for him, how hard he works at it, the rejoicing in each little step, and maybe some days, the patience I am being taught.

The child who can’t quite bring themselves to truly enter in, who appears moody, and at times simply apart. The gift is the moments when that child enters in, the laughter, oh so sweet because there are times it is totally absent, the joy when the child completely interacts with us.

The financial struggles at times, - they remind us so of what is really important and how wealthy we truly are. And when the car bill has been paid, the quarterly gas bill paid, my annual work dues paid, well the relief at knowing that we got it done. Hard work equals our life. It is all worth it. And what we see as financial struggle is generally minor discomfort, not true struggle. I have enough food in the house to feed us for at least a month without need for much of anything outside our larder – maybe not always our favorite meals, but healthy nutritious meals to fill the bellies of all ten of us! That is wealth. So many people in the world cannot do that. It is crazy wealthy, the rest is all minor passing inconvenience or the sacrifices we make for our family.

And the best gift of all, the most eternal. The love of our Saviour, His sacrifice that we can never deserve. That is the basis for all that we do. Our good works can never save us, only the true grace of the Lord. But also, “faith without works is dead”. If we believe in our salvation, it simply must change how we live. And that isn’t always comfortable, but I have seen God do amazing miracles in lives all around me, stretching people into places they never dreamed of, and along with it, into amazing richness!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

All I want for Christmas - SCC

Just another reminder that there is so much to do! As I enjoyed my kids' Christmas - for some of them their first one here - I thoroughly reveled in their faces, the magic, the joy, the laughter, the love.

And yet, my heart breaks for those that don't have a family of their own. There are so many and I am so sad for them all. Please listen to this and think about what you can do. To many of those that read this blog, I am preaching to the choir - we are families with adopted children in our midst. But, if you cannot bring a child home or are not called to it, please think about how you can love on waiting children, needy children, or the families who can. I know that this stretch in our life has been challenging not only with all the adjustments for all ten of us, but for learning to budget and meet the needs of everyone. We have the ability, but sometimes things just come all at once. And that doesn't mean just financially, but health-wise, stress wise, obligation wise, work wise, it all adds up. There are seasons that are more challenging, and we know that we will weather it and come out. But sometimes it feels like a ship sailing through rough seas - and we know that many have it rougher.

Anyway, enjoy the video, let it touch your heart, love on everyone you can!!!! Merry Christmas all!!!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The strangest bedtime conversation...

Kiley pulled me over as I was shooing the crew up to bed - we have a routine that takes a while, including two kids checking blood sugars and getting shots, two taking prescription medications, all getting vitamins, trips to the bathroom (we only have one), getting in pajamas, and everyone getting hugs.

Initially, it seemed that the request to "tell" me something was likely an excuse to stay up later and certainly to stall things. But, as I sat down at the table across from my daughter, a story came out that I still find hard to understand. It seems that little Ben, one of the newer to join our family, had asked if we were really taking a trip to Grandma Jan's (in a nearby state) for Christmas or if the kids were just told that to keep them "happy". It seems that in the orphanage it was very common for the kids to be told to pack their bags, grab their coats as later they were to go somewhere/do something fun. And later, when they asked about it, they were told that they really weren't going, that they had been told that to make them happy. (AAAGGGGHHHHHH!!!!!!! Can you see my mommyhead exploding????)

I was absolutely stunned. After sitting with my mouth open, I was able to close it and then realize that Aman was standing behind me. I turned and asked him if they would really do that in the orphanage. He very directly stated "yes, all the time". I was so stunned and horrified. He laughed because he could clearly see on my face that I was totally blown away by this. I somewhat stumblingly but clearly stated that under no conditions would we ever do something like that to them and that I felt that it was just wrong to have this ever done to them in the first place!!! I said several times and several ways that we would never lie to them to make them feel better for a few minutes or hours or days or weeks or ever. That it certainly was unkind to do that to someone. I could see that Aman was relieved, but also understood completely how much it meant to us.

So, here are my thoughts, beyond what a horrible thing to do to children,: I find it completely amazing that these kids trust us as much as they seemingly do, after adults have done this to them. No wonder they sometimes hold back a little to see if I will truly do what I have said I would do. How could they do anything else??? I am just amazed at how resilient these kiddos are and all that they have been through. I am still basically speechless. Why would someone do that? Is it just one way to manage a large group of kids when you are overwhelmed? I just don't know. And I don't see it as particularly helpful either.

You know, in older child adoption, our kids come to us with life histories, and sometimes (often?) these histories are not what we want for our kids to ever have experienced. I would spare my kids each and every pain they have ever experienced, but I cannot do that even for the kids that I have raised from birth. Then add in my "non-birth" kiddos - the things that happened to them and their first families were not things we would have ever wanted to have happen to anyone, but these are also the things that led to them being available for adoption. They are their life experiences, and to deny them would be useless as well as detrimental. So, we must accept them and build on them and build a positive future together. Their life experiences actually make them who they are. It is part of the whole package.

And in reality, it enriches our lives, all our lives. Truly, I have been stretched in ways I never imagined, or sometimes wished to be, and our experiences have been overwhelmingly positive. How do you reach out to a child you love with your whole heart and accept their love for another mother, when you are also their mother? It is easy and not easy, if we accept the whole package. I need to value who I am to this child and also value who that woman was to this child. We share the love of this child. Whether death or something else has separated my child from his/her first family, it matters not. I expect my children to love their first families as I love my father who has been deceased for more than 25 years, and as I love my "step" father, a man who I have recently begun to refer to as my dad, without any loss of value to my first father. I love both for who they are to me, and I am sure neither would begrudge that, but these two men would instead honor each other for the value each has given to my life.

One of the things I want for my children is for them to know that they can count on me. That I will do everything that I can to keep my word to them, that people can and should be relied on to do the right thing. I don't know what other things will come up that will surprise me, but I am very sure that there will be more. And I pray for God's hand as I try to deal with each one and work out the best for my children's lives as we build from what was to what will be.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Two grandmas

This year, in the midst of all the activity of life, my two remaining grandmothers passed away, within five months of each other.

At the time, both had been ill and struggling with health issues after a long life. Saying goodbye to them at the time was about mixed feelings - sad that they weren't with us, but glad for them that they had gone home to be with our Lord (and knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that they had), and glad their earthly pains and struggles were over and they were enjoying bodies that were strong and complete now.

As time has moved on, there are moments where I catch myself wanting to share something with each of them, or to think about how much they would have enjoyed something.

It has hit a lot this week. It has been a long crazy week. It was little E's birthday on the 18th, and it is hard to think that she is five and we can only pray that she is well. She will forever be a child of our hearts. It is good that she has not come into care, and we have not been called back into the role of foster parents. That means that hopefully things are good with her and her family. But it is still a very hard day for us.

And the 15th was Grandma Dorothy's birthday. Part of Christmas always included traditions that she started, or memories of things she did each and every year for Christmas. I found myself wanting to make her cut out cookies and to learn how to ice them like she used to. She was such an artistic person and elevated her cookie making to a true art form. Not like I have too much time to work on it, but all I could think about was how much my kids would love to decorate those same cookies. So, thanks to my mom and my aunt, I have not gotten her recipe (I had many others of hers, but somehow, not that one) and even some memories from everyone on how Grandma made those cookies! But it is so bittersweet. I am so glad that she celebrated her birthday in heaven and will celebrate Christmas there. I can only imagine!

And Grandma Jean. She was such a blessing, coming into our family when I was an adult, when my mom remarried. She welcomed my brother and I just as her own grandchildren, and our children were truly her great-grandchildren. I could not have asked for a better gift than this sweet lady, who would quietly share life experiences that were helpful to me. We had many things in common and I truly enjoyed the time I got to spend with her. My kids all treasure the teddy bears from Grandma Jean, who sincerely believed that everyone should have a teddy bear.

Both grandmas became sweet friends to each other, and just today, I was imagining them, up in heaven, chatting away at a table or in rocking chairs as they knitted away. I have so many memories of the two of them enjoying each others company. I hope my dad joins them and visits with them - what a reunion that must have been, when Grandma Dorothy arrived in heaven. I am very sure that my dad was among the first to greet her, though there are so many.

So, it is a bittersweet Christmas, catching me a bit off guard. I want to carry forward for my children what these wonderful ladies taught me through their examples. I will remember them and tell stories to my children. I will also remember their faith and how they each lived it out in their own ways.

The people who come and go in our lives are true blessings. We are given the gift of time and love with them. Sometimes, life is so busy, there is so much to do, that we don't think of it each day, but nothing material will ever compare to those relationships and gift of time.

Merry Christmas everyone!!!!! Praying for a happy holiday season for you and yours!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Great news!

Hi,
Some friends of ours just got word that they passed court for the two children they are adopting from Ethiopia!!!! One child has special needs (a limb difference) and the other is 18 months. Funny those things qualify both as "special needs".

Anyway, I am so stinkin' excited for them all. It looks like they will travel late January or early February to bring the darlings home. Of course at the very end of the process, there are a great many fees and expenses that come to bear. JJ has come up with some very creative fundraisers. If you would like to see her blog (it is great by the way) and consider some coffee, or wonderful adoption/love t-shirts please do visit. http://bethe7percent.blogspot.com Her blog is well worth your time!

I am hoping to purchase soon, just need to sort out and make sure I have things covered here! You know - Christmas and a birthday for a child fall at the same time, and to add to that, Steve dislocated his knee badly, the van blower for the heater doesn't want to go, the sump pump is acting up, all that fun stuff. Nothing huge, nothing that cannot be handled, just all at once!!!!

Well, my goal is to try to post regularly, to share thoughts, funny stories, and build a community with like minded people. So, hopefully you will be hearing from us soon!!!!

By the way, the kids are all doing great! It has been just busy as all get out, but totally wonderful! I cannot express how grateful we are for our life and the blessings.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Expectations and value

Hi,
This post was written in response to an email a friend sent me about "helicopter parenting". I feel like I really can comment on this with some amount of respect as many people have approached my husband and myself in public and commented on our children's behavior. We were just discussing it last night. We generally have been approached by total strangers two to three times a week in the last month. Clerks in stores, people in waiting rooms at doctor's offices, people in restraunts. It has really gotten us quite surprised because our kids behavior is far from perfect, but we are seeing a consistent response in public. Perhaps other parents just don't expect or train considerate and appropriate behavior.

Anyway, the post about helicopter parents today got me thinking and I just started jotting out our expectations and values. I sent it back to the friend who had sent me the email. And decided that I would post it here.

I don't think we are strange. I think we are working hard to do the best for our kids and family. It isn't rocket science and we certainly find that we make many mistakes, and I expect that there will be many more. As I type this I hear boys in the "boys dormitory" upstairs banging around and playing when they are supposed to be getting dressed - I am sure getting dressed is part of the equation, but not the only part! LOL! Kids are kids, we are all on a journey, but we are doing it together.

So, here were my comments:

Basically:

Allow your child to suffer the natural consequences of their actions.

Expect responsibility and good behavior. Have consequences for lapses in either.

Don't give them big ticket (or even small ticket) items that they did not earn - these things are not needed! They are poorer for just "getting them", they are richer for having earned them and worked hard.

Allow them to get the grades they earn. Help, but don't do their work for them or put word in their mouths!

Your family is a TEAM, and that means that each and every person in the family (no matter how big or small) contributes significantly to the success of the family - by doing something meaningful to help the family each and every day, and even better if it is several things! The last thing our kids need is to be waited and and feel useless or "non-contributing". The best thing for them is to know that they can make life better for everyone, that what they do helps or hurts everyone, that they can influence how their family life is.

Do things as a FAMILY. If someone is gifted in sports, then the family gets involved - the child isn't just shuttled there - and the child contributes to help earn the fees for the sports, or does something meaningful to compensate for the sacrifice of the family financially (it is not just GIVEN). Gifts need to be valued, by everyone. If someone is a gifted musician, then the rest of the family can help backstage, or with other folks kids while rehearsals go on, or with set up, AND simply enjoy and value the gift!

Limit electronics time. Don't let it take over real life - kids should be outside playing, playing games, having creative play - with parents and with siblings and friends. Real life projects, whatever, but not staring at a shiny box.

When friends spend hours on a social net work and complain that they are bored, your child should really be thinking "get a life - get off your butt and do something!". They should not be at loose ends every minute of every day. They should know how to set goals, to work on projects, to experience life!

When parents have to do things around the house or in the community, get the kids involved. If you are building a shed, even the littlest one can hand you nails, the bigger ones can learn the skills to build the entire thing if they do it along with you! If you are baking a pie - get a child involved! They can help you find things, pour them in - even the smallest child! And soon, before you know it, that child knows how to do it and can bless you, themselves and others with their prowess!

Rarely, rarely, rarely separate the family. Make it infrequent that a child or children does many things away from the family. Get involved in their activities. Not to hover, not to protect, but to live life. Don't allow talents and activities to separate the real foundation of our lives - our family. A child who is constantly gone to sleepovers, activities, etc, misses out on the riches of family life. They become not "integral" to the family unit, and really miss out on the learning that they need, and on building relationships. Have friends over to your house, host sleepovers and bonfires, etc.

If a child misbehaves, throws a tantrum, says something mean or hurtful, etc, they have hurt the family unit, even if someone else just overheard it. It hurts and inflicts discomfort on the family. This must be repaid, best through service. If you made us uncomfortable, whatever, then you need to do something kind to the family to repay the pain/discomfort. It brings home that a child's actions afffect more than just them. Kids in society today seem to think that they can blow a gasket and it doesn't hurt anyone. Well, that isn't true.

DO NOT SAY OR DO UNKIND THINGS! Even in play. It isn't funny. Calling names, saying hurtful things, is NOT joking, is not humor. It breaks down relationships, it causes hurt feelings, it separates people. It is so sad to see siblings setting out to hurt each other, or thinking that physical violence (or even inconsiderateness) is acceptable or a joke. It isn't and breaks down the family unit. Who wants to live in that kind of chaos? That should never be heard in the home or in the family unit. It is totally unacceptable and should be treated as such. There is nothing sadder than seeing siblings who don't seem to decide to be kind to each other. That is not respectful, teaches how they will interact with their own families-to-come, is just wrong and parents must not tolerate it. If someone does this, there must be a way to pay back for the misbehavior. Scolding is not enough, kindness must be acted out. Pain must be alleviated. I fully EXPECT my children to be kind and respectful to each other - that is how I want them to treat others and the people we love the most (our family) certainly should be treated better than strangers!!!!! If you hurt someone, you will make it up to them and just the word "sorry" is RARELY enough. Actions carry a message much better.

The worst gifts I can give my children are physical things. The best gifts are the gifts of belonging, being loved, being valued, being needed, being productive, being responsible, being helpful, and being who God has made them to be.

Activities are not the answer, enjoyment and family cohesiveness is. Learning give and take. Learning to treasure each other. Learning appropriate behavior. Learning respect. Learning to be a grown up. Learning that families are the safest place, where we can trust that we are each looking out for each other, that we will treat each other with respect, that we will live in kindness. Activities should involve everyone, not separate the family unit. We can all contribute - I can even contribute to soccer (I am not athletic anymore) by helping the coaches, the other families, entertaining the other younger kids spectators, etc. I can contribute to my husband's and kids' musical gifts by helping backstage, with productions, with set up, with other families, with getting music ready for them (if they ask), by helping to allow us all to enjoy the music, to teach us all to value and respect each other's gifts. Simply by being involved, finding a way for us all to be involved. That teaches respect, value, and love.

Christy