Friday, November 30, 2012

The real story

Yesterday I blithely mentioned that I was going to make some rye bread for dinner. As I was making it, I realized that those words didn't really communicate what was involved and why it took so much of my afternoon to accomplish this task. Here's the real story.

Now, I know that I make a little more work for myself by grinding my own flour for things and that making bread from scratch is more time-consuming than buying it off the shelf. That's a choice I happily make because the bread tastes so much better and is much more economical. (Once you've paid for the wheat grinder and heavy duty mixer, that is.) So I'm not feeling sorry for myself. Amused, perhaps, but not sorry.

Making rye bread is a little more involved than making straight wheat bread because it uses two types of flour. In preparation, I grabbed the bucket of rye berries and started the grinder to get that out of the way first. Sometimes efficiency isn't all it's cracked up to be, because in my desire to get things going, I didn't check the basement to see if I had any rye flour already ground. I really didn't think I did and so merely went down to get the container I keep it in. Well, now I have a lot of rye flour and I'll probably be making a lot more rye bread in the future. But step one in the bread making process was done.

Step two involved grinding regular wheat. I head to the pantry to get a bucket of wheat berries and discover they are all empty. Never fear, I have more. Over two hundred pounds more. It's just in the basement. Back down I go to haul up a new 50# bag and then proceed to fill my empty storage buckets. With that done, I can proceed to grind the wheat. (Have a mentioned that my wheat grinder sounds like a 747 taking off from the kitchen?)

Normally while wheat is being ground, I leave it and to other things, such as clean up the kitchen. Yesterday, I had very industrious children who wanted to do things. Instead of cleaning up the kitchen, I get TM settled in the butler's pantry because he wants to continue to practice his soldering skills so that he can eventually assemble the robot he got for his birthday. He is getting pretty good at it. I don't know about you, but the idea of arming a ten year old boy with a soldering iron is something that needs a little supervision. So, in between keeping on eye on the wheat, I was keeping an eye on him. And just to add a festive touch, I was also occupying teaching K. and H. how to make construction paper chains. G. and L. are still up in bed at this point, thus keeping the chaos at a slightly lower level.

The jet airplane lands, er, the wheat grinder finishes and I can start the bread. The boy is still soldering and the chain makers are still cutting and gluing. I'm standing in my pantry and digging out molasses. Molasses is one of those things which I always assume I have, so I'm not concerned that I have enough. And when I see three bottles of molasses on the shelf, I'm sure I have enough. What is it about molasses that causes people to use a bottle to the last third and then open a new one? It turns out I did have enough, but only because I made TM put down his soldering iron and come hold molasses jars upside down over the mixing bowl while we let every bit of molasses possible drain out. There are now no bottles of molasses on my pantry shelf.

The dough gets mixed up and I put a damp towel over it to sponge for a bit and I think I will finally get a chance to clean up the kitchen. Until I realize that I have two dishwashers full of clean dishes. Now I have to go look at my chart and see which child is responsible for emptying the dishwashers, find that child, convince that child he wants nothing better than to drop everything he is currently doing and empty the dishwasher, and wait for the dishwashers to be unloaded. And then, I can clean up the kitchen.

Of course, while I'm waiting for the dishwashers to be unloaded, G. and L. make their appearance. I spend the next few minutes trying to convince G. and she wants to go upstairs and put her underwear and pants back on. L. has already accessorized with her superman cape and cowboy boots. (We don't let her sleep in either of those things, if you can imagine.) By the time all of this is done, the dough is done sponging and I have to pay attention to it again. I add in the rest of the flour, let it knead, put it in the bread pans, and place them into the oven to rise.

This would be the perfect time to clean up the kitchen, except that some children remembered my mentioning cookies, and are starting to hover around the edges wondering when they will make an appearance. So I start the cookies. These go off uneventfully, aside from one moment when I realized I had doubled some ingredients and not others, and then having to stop and refill various sugar containers. Now, the bread is baking, the first cookie sheet is in the oven. B. wanders in asking if dinner will be ready before he has to leave to babysit. I say what I always say, "I don't know... possibly... I hope so." He starts rummaging around in the refrigerator because he has enough experience to understand what this really means is, "Fat chance, you're on your  own."

I get a couple more trays of cookies ready for the oven and then start to clean up the kitchen. Until I remember that the next morning our history co-op will be arriving and we (meaning the children) need to get the third floor picked-up and the rest of the house as well, if possible. I stop cleaning the kitchen and start herding the masses towards the worst of the mess. Before I can even turn the sink on, the timer goes off and it's time to switch the cookies.

And so it goes until J. gets home. Bread? Check. Cookies? Check. Soldering practice which didn't involve major burns or fires? Check. Crafts made and cleaned up? Check. House made marginally presentable? Check. Dinner ready? Check... but only because A. took care of heating the sauerkraut and German potato salad. (B. did find something to eat, don't worry about him.) Clean kitchen? Hmm, not so much.
_________________________________


Continuing to advocate for the children in Bulgaria. Their files were sent back which means that they cannot be advocated for on Reese's Rainbow or have any funds donated towards their adoptions. It means they are essentially invisible and unwanted. It tells the government and the agencies that yes, indeed, their initial assumptions were correct. No one wants a child like these. They are not worth it.

But they are! They are created by God in His image and we are called to care for them. They are truly the least of these. I cannot let them go; I think about them in nearly every free moment that I have. I'm going to post one of their pictures here at the bottom of each of my posts each day. Would you join me in praying for each of these children? Pray that a family would come forward who is willing to adopt them. Love them. Pray that they will know they are not forgotten? There is still hope for these little ones as their files can be specially asked for, it just adds time to the process.


This is Brandi. She is 6 years old. She lies in her crib and waits and waits and waits for someone to scoop her up and tell her how loved she is. Just imagine a grin on her face, her hair allowed to grow out. Imagine how transformed she will look when she is loved. Pray that she doesn't have to wait too much longer for her parents to find her.

(You'll get a break from these pictures on Saturday because Theodore officially has a family! That leaves five of the seven children I've been advocating for. Sadly, there are still more children in much the same situation from the same area who also need families. Susanna at The Blessing of Verity has their pictures and stories.)

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Arts and crafts Thusday

Sometimes you just have to ditch the textbooks and do something different. That's what happened today. There was a general attitude of grumpiness around the house and I could feel myself following along in that direction, so I decided to head it off at the pass and do something completely different with our morning.

(An aside, this ability to notice storms of grumpiness brewing, either in myself or in the masses in general, and being able to think constructively about ways of changing the mood of the house is the hallmark of a good and calm parent. I wish I were able to manage it more often. To do so is really a sacrificial exercise because sometimes what I want to do more than anything else is to wallow in my bad mood and make those around me as unhappy as I am. This never works out and only succeeds in ruining the entire family's day. After the fact it never feels as good as it seems it should have to give in to that selfishness. I love the days when I can manage to be the grown-up. The day goes better, I'm in a better mood, and I feel better about myself in general.)

So anyway, back to the change in plans. I have found that allowing my children to create things is a great way to get the attitudes back on track. So the older ones pulled out the art curriculum that we sometimes use and worked on the next lesson, and I created a project for the younger ones... they made construction paper Christmas trees. (Sorry, no pictures yet, I'm still pondering the pay-for-photo-storage-thing.)

One thing about having a large family is that I can forget that my little ones haven't done a lot of things that I did with my older ones. I feel as though we have just done them, and sometimes it doesn't occur to me that it is all brand-new for the younger group. My resolution for this school year has been to try to do some of the more typical preschool things with the littles. I did a quick search on Pinterest and found a simple, cute idea that involved gluing strips of construction paper on a larger sheet to make a tree. (And we got some practice in smaller and larger, to boot.) The three youngest were thrilled and had a great time with glue and paper. And the final products are charming, even if some of them are not really tree-like. They are hanging on our picture wire. Add in some Christmas music and it turned into a fine morning.

We followed it up with a (failed) experiment that was supposed to use a fan and rice to create sand dunes. The fan wasn't strong enough, so our rice didn't blow as it was supposed to, but it did blow the rice enough to make a mess. Just one more item in a long list of experiments that don't work quite the way the book says they're going to. Oh well.

That was the successful morning, now I need to reclaim the afternoon. My plan is to make rye bread for dinner and see if I have enough time to make chocolate chip cookies. That's always good for people's general moods.

And more Christmas music. Because it's after Thanksgiving.
________________

Continuing to advocate for the children in Bulgaria. Their files were sent back which means that they cannot be advocated for on Reese's Rainbow or have any funds donated towards their adoptions. It means they are essentially invisible and unwanted. It tells the government and the agencies that yes, indeed, their initial assumptions were correct. No one wants a child like these. They are not worth it.

But they are! They are created by God in His image and we are called to care for them. They are truly the least of these. I cannot let them go; I think about them in nearly every free moment that I have. I'm going to post one of their pictures here at the bottom of each of my posts each day. Would you join me in praying for each of these children? Pray that a family would come forward who is willing to adopt them. Love them. Pray that they will know they are not forgotten? There is still hope for these little ones as their files can be specially asked for, it just adds time to the process.




This is Harvey. He is 3 years old and is the size of an infant. Harvey is extremely malnourished and also has some cranial-facial issues. This little one also touches my heart since K. was malnourished (at some points in his life, rather extremely) and two of my children have cranial-facial issues. It is something that sounds very scary, I know. But my children are so much more than their diagnoses. This little boy has never known what it is to be loved and cared for. Doesn't he deserve at least that?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Dealing with anger

And I'm not talking about the usual suspect, but myself. I find that I still am overcome with anger towards H.'s previous life. As my dear husband kindly points out, it really has no purpose or function. I can't change anything by it, and I am glad that she is here now, but emotions are funny things. Rationally I know all of this, but the anger is still there.

As we slowly undo all that has been done, and we both discover what she is capable of, the anger resurfaces. I want to go back and protect my child from hurts, and slights, and being overlooked. I want to go back and tell her that she is smart, that she does matter, that her opinion counts. Recently we have been hearing a lot about her friend, Eric, who lived at the children's home with her. We hear what Eric likes, what Eric doesn't like, what Eric does, what Eric doesn't do. Eric. Eric. Eric. (He has been adopted and Eric is not his given name... for the curious.) We figured out after it first started that it wasn't really about the real Eric, since Eric's likes and dislikes included things that we were pretty sure weren't part of the real Eric's world, but more a stand-in for having opinions and voicing dissent. It was as if H. needed to play with these concepts and attribute opinions to someone else before she was ready to attach them to herself.

At some point, though, one grows tired of hearing so much about a fictional character. At the start of yet another litany of, "Eric likes...", I turned to H. and mentioned that it didn't really matter to me what Eric liked, but I was really, really interested in what H. liked. She was absolutely stunned. What did she like? It was if the idea that anyone could be interested in her was a brand new concept. And it made me want to cry.

I live in two emotional worlds these days. On one end of the spectrum, I am so excited for H. as she learns new things and discovers what she is capable of. She is her own best cheerleader and radiates absolute joy when she accomplishes... well, anything. Even the act of being able to take her own shower, something that we take for granted in a child that age, has boosted her self-esteem to unknown heights. And I am as proud of her as she is. Mainly because she works incredibly hard for every single gain. Not only does she have to learn these new things, but first has to overcome the idea and self-image that she can't do it.

The idea of not being capable was one that plagued us in those first few months. It was a process of encouraging and insisting; helping and letting her stew about something on her own. It was actually really frustrating to have a capable child look at you, dimly, and shrug her shoulders as if what you were asking her to do was something that had never entered her consciousness. More than once I made a quick exit on the pretext of filling my coffee cup before my small amount of patience evaporated. I often felt as though I was the meanest mother in the world.

But everything thing where that scenario played out, she was eventually able to do. As a reward, we were treated to a huge smile and sometimes joyful jumping as she exclaimed, "I did it! I did it!" And then my anger would kick in. If she could do it for me, why not teach her to do it earlier?

Once again, this is difficult to write. I want to be truthful, but the truth is a tricky thing. I don't want to give the impression that my child was not well cared for in her previous placements. She has never communicated anything negative, though she is clear in her desire to not go back. I am grateful for her care. And maybe this is why I find it so difficult to purge my anger... there is not really a bad guy that I can blame. There wasn't really a bad guy, but there was never the best either. There was no one to think about her needs before anyone else's, no one to make sure she was being challenged and not just a passive observer, no one to talk with her and answer her questions (at 9, she was asking the interpreter at one of the doctor's appointments what clouds did), no one to think she was more than a child to be pitied because of her face.

And as I write this, I realize that some of my anger isn't really about H. at all. But having experienced these emotions for this child, my child, who is so much more than her diagnosis, it kills me to look at pictures of other children who still wait for families. Children are in far worse places than my H. was. Children who have no one and as things look now will never have anyone. And I can't do anything about it, except continue to plead with others to look into their hearts and ask themselves if they couldn't be someone for one of these children.

To finish, since my daughter does have someone (in fact a whole lot of someones), I will now brag about her accomplishments. She is really reading. We are on lesson 11 of AlphaPhonics and she gets it. She can sound out words and blend those sounds together (as long as they don't break any phonetic rules) and she understands that these words she is reading mean something. She read 'hand' this morning and then held up her hand. She gets it.
_________________________

I think this is one of the sweetest looking little boys...

Continuing to advocate for the children in Bulgaria. Their files were sent back which means that they cannot be advocated for on Reese's Rainbow or have any funds donated towards their adoptions. It means they are essentially invisible and unwanted. It tells the government and the agencies that yes, indeed, their initial assumptions were correct. No one wants a child like these. They are not worth it.

But they are! They are created by God in His image and we are called to care for them. They are truly the least of these. I cannot let them go; I think about them in nearly every free moment that I have. I'm going to post one of their pictures here at the bottom of each of my posts each day. Would you join me in praying for each of these children? Pray that a family would come forward who is willing to adopt them. Love them. Pray that they will know they are not forgotten? There is still hope for these little ones as their files can be specially asked for, it just adds time to the process.


This is Kramer. I can't think of a time a child has touched my heart like this little boy has. (OK, maybe I can, it was H.'s picture.) He is 8 years old and has CP. Because of the CP, he has languished in a crib without appropriate food, love, or therapy. How can anyone look at this little boy and think he is worthless? Not worth the effort and love to allow him to flourish and reach his potential? He needs a family. He needs a mother and father who will love him. Please...

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

National Adoption Month 2012

November is National Adoption Month and uncharacteristically for me, I have yet to write anything about it. In looking at the calendar, I realize that unless I write something soon, I will have missed it entirely. (You can read posts here from 2011, 2010, and 2007.)

I have thought about writing something quite often, but yet I have hesitated. I don't have to think too hard about why I have hesitated. This has been a difficult month. With our going out of town, we threw our family system into a state of chaos that we hadn't seen in a while, and dealing with chaos doesn't leave a whole lot of energy left over for anything else.

And honestly, when I am living in chaos, I seriously wonder whether I should really invite anyone else to voluntarily join me in that chaos. Why should I even suggest to someone whose life is running pretty smoothly that they should abandon that and actually choose what could be a much harder road? In my darkest moments, I fleetingly ask myself why we did.

There is a framed portrait hanging in my living room of my first five children. D. is a baby, and the others stair step up from him to M. at age 10. Four of my blond, beautiful children are sitting in a line, each holding onto the sibling in front of them, while the bald, chubby baby is facing all of them and grinning. It was at this moment in time that I would rock and nurse baby D., a wonderfully happy, joyful baby, and sob. I wasn't sobbing for D., but for a little boy somewhere who didn't have a mommy or a daddy to hold and rock him as I was rocking my baby boy. My heart was broken for a child I couldn't even name.

It was also at this time the J. and I started to seriously discuss adoption. It had a 'now or never' feel about it, as if if we didn't choose to pursue it now, we never would. It was a nearly three year process as we slowly made the decision and then did paperwork in order to complete our first adoption. We went into it with the same expectations that most do when starting down the adoption path. We wanted to give a child who needed one a home and we wanted another child to love. It all seemed so simple.

If you have been reading this blog for any amount of time, you know it wasn't simple, and it continues to not be simple. It was and can be hard. Very hard. And hard not just for J. and I or for our other children, but hard for that first adopted son as well. He, perhaps, has had the hardest journey of all.

But during the hard times, I sometimes go back and remember. I remember sobbing for the little boy I didn't know, except I know him now. That time period during which I was weeping for him lines up exactly with the time frame of him going into orphanage care. It was during the months he spent in the orphanage that I spent crying for him. I may not have known his name, and he may have felt as if he had lost everything in the world, buy God was already working to redeem his story.

So now we come back to the question of voluntarily taking a more difficult path in life. My life may not always be easy (or quiet), but there is something to having a role in a redemption story. (And I want to be clear. We are not the ones doing the redeeming. Not by a long shot. This is God's work, God's story, God's work of redemption. We just get to tag along.) And redemption is costly. In this case it is costly in terms of comfort, ease, and resources. But those costs pale in comparison to the ultimate redemption that is offered to us by Jesus.

As this National Adoption Month draws to a close, ask yourselves what is really important. Ultimately important. We are instructed to imitate Christ. How better to imitate our Lord and Savior than to sacrifice our comfort and ease to provide love to a child who is without hope. It won't be easy. It will be hard, and some days you may ask yourself why you chose the path you did. But you will understand God's love for you in a way you never did before and consequently you will experience His joy and peace as well.

Who doesn't want front row seats to a miracle?
________________


This child is 10!  That is a crib she is in, now imagine any 10 year old you know in a crib. All day. Every day.
How can we live with ourselves?

Continuing to advocate for the children in Bulgaria. Their files were sent back which means that they cannot be advocated for on Reese's Rainbow or have any funds donated towards their adoptions. It means they are essentially invisible and unwanted. It tells the government and the agencies that yes, indeed, their initial assumptions were correct. No one wants a child like these. They are not worth it.

But they are! They are created by God in His image and we are called to care for them. They are truly the least of these. I cannot let them go; I think about them in nearly every free moment that I have. I'm going to post one of their pictures here at the bottom of each of my posts each day. Would you join me in praying for each of these children? Pray that a family would come forward who is willing to adopt them. Love them. Pray that they will know they are not forgotten. There is still hope for these little ones as their files can be specially asked for, it just adds time to the process.


This is Garnet. She is 10. Ten years old and lying in a crib. It's all she's ever known. How can we let this happen? How can we leave her there knowing now that she is there? Despite what she has lived through, she still looks as though she has life in her eyes. Imagine what she would look like with the love of a family.

Monday, November 26, 2012

In which we take the circus on the road

I was going to upload some pictures earlier and write a quick post about our Thanksgiving trip. That is until I got a notice that evidently I have used up my free storage on Picasa which means I cannot post any pictures. Well, unless I pay to increase my photo storage. I suppose I should have known that Blogger stores all photos on Picasa and that I have a Picasa account as a result, but I didn't. The whole thing was news to me. As to paying... well, I'll have to ponder that a while, so no pictures for the moment.

So you will have to imagine pictures that A. took on the road as you read this. I think she is becoming quite a good photographer, but you'll have to take my word for it.

We left for J.'s aunt and uncle's house on Thanksgiving morning, and it did feel a bit like a circus. Or a clown car because we were trying to make the trip without using the trailer. That made 12 people and their luggage in the van and the car top carrier. Oh, and a puppy. And a pen. And dog food and bowls. And dog toys. The puppy felt as though she required a lot more thought and stuff than anyone else.

The trip went surprisingly well. No one peed in the car, and since we were travelling with two newly trained three year olds and a four month old puppy, that is quite an accomplishment. And we made it with just one stop in our 3 1/2 hour drive. The rest of the trip was equally calm.

A lot of that was due to the fact that we kept Gretel on a leash and spent a lot of time running around with her outside. No accidents at all, in fact. She was a very well behaved puppy. Which leads me to the question I have for all of the more experienced dog trainers out there. Why, why, why did the puppy do so well and the minute we get home, she starts peeing in the house again? She does know how to ask to go out and we let her out the minute we notice. In fact, sometimes she doesn't even try to ask. She doesn't have the run of the house and is in just the kitchen and rarely by herself. Today we have kept her on the leash and close to us all the time (except when outside) and she has been fine, but I'm sure she would really appreciate not having to be leashed inside and I would appreciate not having to hold her leash. Suggestions? Please? She is such a good dog otherwise.

Well, it's not quite the post I was planning on writing, but it's the post you get. I hope life will have settled down a bit by tomorrow.
______________

Continuing to advocate for the children in Bulgaria. Their files were sent back which means that they cannot be advocated for on Reese's Rainbow or have any funds donated towards their adoptions. It means they are essentially invisible and unwanted. It tells the government and the agencies that yes, indeed, their initial assumptions were correct. No one wants a child like these. They are not worth it.

But they are! They are created by God in His image and we are called to care for them. They are truly the least of these. I cannot let them go; I think about them in nearly every free moment that I have. I'm going to post one of their pictures here at the bottom of each of my posts each day. Would you join me in praying for each of these children? Pray that a family would come forward who is willing to adopt them. Love them. Pray that they will know they are not forgotten? There is still hope for these little ones as their files can be specially asked for, it just adds time to the process.


This is Chad. He is 9 years old and has always lived in an institution. An institution with severe neglect. No one has ever even asked to look at his file and now it looks as though they never will. Pray that God will not let this little one become invisible. Pray that his parents will find him and show him what it means to be loved.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

What you surround yourself with

When I was in college I did several stints working retail at a couple of upscale department stores. I always think about my experiences working at those stores at this time of year because of all of the hoopla surrounding shopping and such. And aside from the fact that I think everyone should work retail at least once in their life because it helps give someone an appreciation of the person on the other side of the counter, I wanted to share with you the most important lesson I learned from those experiences. The more we expose ourselves to something, the more likely we are to embrace that thing, whatever that thing may be.

Now I'm generalizing a bit, but I don't think I'm wrong to do so. Let me tell you about a certain black leopard print dress. When my co-workers and I were asked to unpack and hang a certain collection of dresses that had come in, we spent the entire time making fun of it. It was ugly...  particularly one black and white knit leopard print, long-sleeved, very tightly cut, turtle neck dress. Really, we asked ourselves, who would buy this dress. And to top it off, it was really expensive.

That was at the beginning of summer. (The question of why the store was selling a long-sleeved turtle neck dress in the desert in the summer is another question entirely.) I was working full-time and spent a lot of time looking at that dress; trying to sell that dress; putting that dress back on the rack. I even sold a few of them. And you know what? I began to like the dress. I didn't hate it anymore. I began to think that perhaps I might even try the dress on.

By the end of summer, when the dress was marked down a bit, I bought the dress. (You knew that was coming, didn't you?) In the course of less than three months I went from laughing at the dress to actually purchasing the dress, all because I spent three months looking at it. Now, you might be tempted to say that it wasn't just being surrounded with the dress that caused my attitude to change, but that the dress was not actually as laughable as I first thought it to be. I can pretty safely assure you that it really was that laughable, because I need to tell you the rest of the story.

So I now owned this dress. At first I was pretty excited, but didn't wear it because the appropriate occasions for such a dress are few. I went back to school and the dress went with me. I graduated from school and the dress moved with me. I got married and the dress moved with me. And do you want to know how many times I actually wore that dress? Probably just two or three and they were all occasions of the costume variety. I finally got rid of it after M. was born and my body shape had changed just enough that it would not be quite as flattering (if it ever really was) as it had been.

I knew fairly soon after quitting my department store job that the dress was a laughable mistake. All it took was a few weeks out of the department store environment to make that clear to me. It was as if I was waking up from a dream and I looked at the dress and thought, "What on earth was I thinking?!"

While I regret having spent the money on the silly dress, I don't regret the lesson I learned. It is very easy to be influenced by your environment. What you spend your time looking at and thinking about is what is going to become important to you. So be careful what you surround yourself with. Once again, the Bible has it right. "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." (Philippians 4:8)  And the reason we are admonished to think on the honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, and excellent is that the inverse is also true: the more we think about the vain, foolish, and ugly, the more we begin to value these things...until we buy into them completely.
________________

Continuing to advocate for the children in Bulgaria. Their files were sent back which means that they cannot be advocated for on Reese's Rainbow or have any funds donated towards their adoptions. It means they are essentially invisible and unwanted. It tells the government and the agencies that yes, indeed, their initial assumptions were correct. No one wants a child like these. They are not worth it.

But they are! They are created by God in His image and we are called to care for them. They are truly the least of these. I cannot let them go; I think about them in nearly every free moment that I have. I'm going to post one of their pictures here at the bottom of each of my posts each day. Would you join me in praying for each of these children? Pray that a family would come forward who is willing to adopt them. Love them. Pray that they will know they are not forgotten? There is still hope for these little ones as their files can be specially asked for, it just adds time to the process.


This is Brandi. She is 6 years old. She lies in her crib and waits and waits and waits for someone to scoop her up and tell her how loved she is. Just imagine a grin on her face, her hair allowed to grow out. Imagine how transformed she will look when she is loved. Pray that she doesn't have to wait too much longer for her parents to find her.

Friday, November 23, 2012

And a happy Thanksgiving to all of you

It's belated, but we were too busy enjoying family and good food yesterday. I am so thankful for

family,

                                             children,

                                                                                               good food,

                                                                     puppies,

                                 warm houses,

                                                                                                                         time to relax,

         bonfires,

                                                            comfortable beds,

                                                                                                                              books;

the list could go on and on.

And I'm also thankful for all of my readers who continue to check in and read my endless ramblings. I hope your Thanksgiving was filled with things to be thankful for as well.
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Remember to pray for these little ones who have very little to be thankful for.


Continuing to advocate for the children in Bulgaria. Their files were sent back which means that they cannot be advocated for on Reese's Rainbow or have any funds donated towards their adoptions. It means they are essentially invisible and unwanted. It tells the government and the agencies that yes, indeed, their initial assumptions were correct. No one wants a child like these. They are not worth it.

But they are! They are created by God in His image and we are called to care for them. They are truly the least of these. I cannot let them go; I think about them in nearly every free moment that I have. I'm going to post one of their pictures here at the bottom of each of my posts each day. Would you join me in praying for each of these children? Pray that a family would come forward who is willing to adopt them. Love them. Pray that they will know they are not forgotten? There is still hope for these little ones as their files can be specially asked for, it just adds time to the process.




This is Harvey. He is 3 years old and is the size of an infant. Harvey is extremely malnourished and also has some cranial-facial issues. This little one also touches my heart since K. was malnourished (at some points in his life, rather extremely) and two of my children have cranial-facial issues. It is something that sounds very scary, I know. But my children are so much more than their diagnoses. This little boy has never known what it is to be loved and cared for. Doesn't he deserve at least that?

and


Here's Theodore. He's 10 years old, but because of where and how he has been living is much younger developmentally. He is by all accounts a sweetheart. Please pray for him. [He does have several families interested in adopting him, but the Ministry of Justice still needs to make a decision so nothing is settled yet.]

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Payback for procrastination

Or I could have titled it, "Holiday preparations." The one I chose is more honest, though. Procrastination is one of my besetting sins (to borrow a phrase from Anne Shirley). I have lost track of the number of times I have vowed to turn over a new leaf and do things right away (or, imagine, early). I know my life would be less frantic at moments if I were to do this, but somehow it just never happens.

For instance, had I kept up with the laundry the past couple of weeks, doing a load or two every single day, I would have saved myself what will eventually be ~11 loads done in a two day period. Or if I had actually thought about what my family was going to wear for Thanksgiving dinner (we do dress up a bit for it), oh, say a week ago, I wouldn't be scrambling for clothes right now. (Thus the need to do the laundry in order to see what everyone has... when the pile gets too big, you just can't fine anything in it.) And routinely, if I didn't let the papers pile up on my desk every two weeks, I know the bill paying would be a lot less torturous.

I need a "Procrastinators Recovery Program", or something along those lines. Has anyone kicked the habit? How did you do manage it? I really, really want to know.

In the meantime, I'll go back to my laundry (the trouble with getting it clean is that it needs to then be folded), and figuring out clothes, and making two pies, and forcing encouraging my children to pick up the house so it ceases to be the mine field that it has become. And you can all head over to this blog:  Adventure 4 Eli + Kai. Because if you do, you'll get to see pictures of Joseph (now Kai) and his new family! Talk about something to be thankful for.
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I think this is one of the sweetest looking little boys...


Continuing to advocate for the children in Bulgaria. Their files were sent back which means that they cannot be advocated for on Reese's Rainbow or have any funds donated towards their adoptions. It means they are essentially invisible and unwanted. It tells the government and the agencies that yes, indeed, their initial assumptions were correct. No one wants a child like these. They are not worth it.

But they are! They are created by God in His image and we are called to care for them. They are truly the least of these. I cannot let them go; I think about them in nearly every free moment that I have. I'm going to post one of their pictures here at the bottom of each of my posts each day. Would you join me in praying for each of these children? Pray that a family would come forward who is willing to adopt them. Love them. Pray that they will know they are not forgotten? There is still hope for these little ones as their files can be specially asked for, it just adds time to the process.


This is Kramer. I can't think of a time a child has touched my heart like this little boy has. (OK, maybe I can, it was H.'s picture.) He is 8 years old and has CP. Because of the CP, he has languished in a crib without appropriate food, love, or therapy. How can anyone look at this little boy and think he is worthless? Not worth the effort and love to allow him to flourish and reach his potential? He needs a family. He needs a mother and father who will love him. Please...

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Truancy, or since when did parents become the enemy?

I know, it's hardly Thanksgiving-y, but it (truancy) has been in the Chicago Tribune a lot and today's quote on the front page pushed me over the edge. (And I think I'm getting too predictable. J. can look at a newspaper and know ahead of time which things are going to make me mutter over my coffee.) I've already done a lot of thinking about truancy and this series of articles has brought all that to mind again.

But back to the quote. It is from a state representative (Linda Chapa LaVia) who chairs the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee. She is creating a task force because, "Kids are dying on the streets because they are not at their desks reading and writing." Deep breath. Children are not dying because they are not at their desks. Children are being shot because of a complete breakdown of families. This is not a truancy issue.

In fact (and this may not surprise you), I have a whole lot of trouble with the notion of truancy. The idea of truancy pits the government/schools against the parent. It is in effect saying, we know better than you how to raise your children. It is far more important for your children to be under our care than under yours. You are incapable of making good decisions about your children, and you need to let us make them for you. And after enough years of this, everyone believes it. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I understand that there are dire family situations out there; that there are parents who do not do the things they should for their children. I know we live in a very broken world. People who travel in adoption circles probably know better than the general public just how true this is. Children do get hurt by those who should love them. But let's not kid ourselves that forcing a child to sit at a desk at school is the answer to these problems.

If everyone is so concerned about education, why are we not educating parents along with the children? Why does the system work so diligently to separate children from their parents? Why does it seem that everyone thinks parents are the problem instead of the beginning of a solution? Please don't get me wrong. This is not a problem caused by the teachers. The vast majority of teachers truly care about children and teaching, but they don't want to be the parent to every child in their classroom. The problem is the mindset that says the educational system is in charge of children, instead of being a resource that parents choose to make use of.

And it's not just low-income, people of color (though with truancy, that's really the population we're talking about), who fall into the school-in-charge trap. How many times have I heard of parents considering taking their family on a trip, but opt not to because the child will miss too much school? As if the worksheet will profit the child more than the experiences the child would have had with his or her family. It's a small example, but one the illustrates how the needs of the school come before the needs of the family. And it makes me wonder who, really, is in charge.

I realize I don't show my crazy-radical hand very often, and I promise to go back to keeping it under wraps again and talk about nice things, such as how I have enough dough ready to roll into 6 dozen crescent rolls.
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This child is 10!  That is a crib she is in, now imagine any 10 year old you know in a crib. All day. Every day.
How can we live with ourselves?


Continuing to advocate for the children in Bulgaria. Their files were sent back which means that they cannot be advocated for on Reese's Rainbow or have any funds donated towards their adoptions. It means they are essentially invisible and unwanted. It tells the government and the agencies that yes, indeed, their initial assumptions were correct. No one wants a child like these. They are not worth it.

But they are! They are created by God in His image and we are called to care for them. They are truly the least of these. I cannot let them go; I think about them in nearly every free moment that I have. I'm going to post one of their pictures here at the bottom of each of my posts each day. Would you join me in praying for each of these children? Pray that a family would come forward who is willing to adopt them. Love them. Pray that they will know they are not forgotten. There is still hope for these little ones as their files can be specially asked for, it just adds time to the process.


This is Garnet. She is 10. Ten years old and lying in a crib. It's all she's ever known. How can we let this happen? How can we leave her there knowing now that she is there? Despite what she has lived through, she still looks as though she has life in her eyes. Imagine what she would look like with the love of a family.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Being thankful for the things which we take for granted

I just finished paying bills, which despite the best of intentions always puts me in a bad mood. A bad mood which always spreads to my children and the whole lot of us are pretty unpleasant to be around. It is hard work to pull back from the brink and remind myself that things aren't really as dire as they feel when I'm writing out the checks and subtracting the amounts. (Why is it always subtracting? Why don't I ever get to do addition? I like addition, there's no borrowing [pun intended] involved.) But they are paid for another two weeks and we still have some left over for food. And we can also enjoy heat, electricity, a roof over our heads, and running water.

These are the thinks we take for granted here in the first world and rarely think about them until they don't work. And then we complain if the companies involved don't get them working fast enough for our taste. I know I don't stop often enough to really be thankful for things that many people live without.

I mean, how often do we stop and give thanks for something as simple as a toilet?

(This graphic is from Water for People)

The alternatives to clean, indoor plumbing are not very appealing, especially in the winter.

We have so much, we just don't think about how much it really is. Instead, I often choose (and it is a choice) to complain about what I don't have. Our pastor yesterday in his sermon likened complaining to virus that infects us and then easily spreads to others. Well, this afternoon I wasn't openly voicing complaints, but my attitude was screaming ingratitude. And I have already mentioned how well that turned out.

So my goal for the rest of the day is to see if I can turn the day around, and I will work on my thankfulness, the antidote to the dreaded complaining virus. And we'll start with being thankful for our toilets... especially since the little girls are 99.9% accurate in making it to them in time.
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It's Monday, so it's Chad's day to be prayed for...

Continuing to advocate for the children in Bulgaria. Their files were sent back which means that they cannot be advocated for on Reese's Rainbow or have any funds donated towards their adoptions. It means they are essentially invisible and unwanted. It tells the government and the agencies that yes, indeed, their initial assumptions were correct. No one wants a child like these. They are not worth it.

But they are! They are created by God in His image and we are called to care for them. They are truly the least of these. I cannot let them go; I think about them in nearly every free moment that I have. I'm going to post one of their pictures here at the bottom of each of my posts each day. Would you join me in praying for each of these children? Pray that a family would come forward who is willing to adopt them. Love them. Pray that they will know they are not forgotten? There is still hope for these little ones as their files can be specially asked for, it just adds time to the process.


This is Chad. He is 9 years old and has always lived in an institution. An institution with severe neglect. No one has ever even asked to look at his file and now it looks as though they never will. Pray that God will not let this little one become invisible. Pray that his parents will find him and show him what it means to be loved.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The weary days

I have Nahum 1:7 up on a long sheet of paper in my kitchen, "The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; He knows those who take refuge in Him." This went up earlier this fall on a particularly bad day mainly because I needed to see it. Then things improved and I started to think about what new verse we should decorate and put up.

But this past week has me needing to refer to again. Often. I was prepared for things to be hard after having gone out of town, but I guess I wasn't really prepared for the degree of regression. It feels as though we are right back where we were when I originally put the verse up. I understand the reason... our (my) going just resurfaced all those feelings of abandonment and fear and made my boy realize how much he has come to love me. And that love has terrified him because it makes him vulnerable. So we are back to being as unpleasant as possible in order to make me abandon him and just get it over with. He 'knows' it is going to happen sooner or later and the anticipation is killing him.

I have read that you can't undo progress. That it only seems as though a child has lost ground, but it is merely  a precursor to future greater growth. I have no idea if this is really true, but I am holding on to it for all I'm worth at the moment. (And I'd really rather you not disillusion me at this moment if it's not. OK?) Because by the end of the day I'm all used up. The constantly having to remain calm, to extinguish (figurative) fires with as little drama as possible, to protect my other children from the barbs of the unkind words, to try to keep life as normal as possible for everyone in the midst of a tornado, all the while seeking out ways to connect with and reassure the wounded child is exhausting.

I know we have weathered storms like this before and come out on the other side, but even with that truth, I too, find that I have regressed. Instead of remember that the Lord is my stronghold, that He really does have everything under control, I doubt and I fear. What if things never get better? What if things get worse? What if I have damaged my other children? What if...? What if...? What if...? I lose my way wandering through this wilderness instead of taking refuge right away.

We regress together, my boy and I. He senses fear and he fights. I sense fear and I crumble. Fear, possibly the enemy's most useful weapon. Because it saps all your thoughts, your attention, your energy into projecting what will happen, it leaves nothing for dealing with the present. It certainly doesn't leave room for joy. I think it is the lack of joy which is most wearisome.

As I gently lead my son back from his fear, back into the joy of a family, God is gently leading me out of my fear and into His joy. Following Him is easy, if we are willing to give up control and turn things over to Him, including our need to worry.
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These children still do not have families going forward to adopt them... keep praying!

Continuing to advocate for the children in Bulgaria. Their files were sent back which means that they cannot be advocated for on Reese's Rainbow or have any funds donated towards their adoptions. It means they are essentially invisible and unwanted. It tells the government and the agencies that yes, indeed, their initial assumptions were correct. No one wants a child like these. They are not worth it.

But they are! They are created by God in His image and we are called to care for them. They are truly the least of these. I cannot let them go; I think about them in nearly every free moment that I have. I'm going to post one of their pictures here at the bottom of each of my posts each day. Would you join me in praying for each of these children? Pray that a family would come forward who is willing to adopt them. Love them. Pray that they will know they are not forgotten? There is still hope for these little ones as their files can be specially asked for, it just adds time to the process.


This is Brandi. She is 6 years old. She lies in her crib and waits and waits and waits for someone to scoop her up and tell her how loved she is. Just imagine a grin on her face, her hair allowed to grow out. Imagine how transformed she will look when she is loved. Pray that she doesn't have to wait too much longer for her parents to find her.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Frugal large family meals -- Risotto

I love risotto. It is one of those items I keep in my pantry to have on hand for those days that the original plan fell apart. It's easy, has that comfort food feel about it, and it is very flexible. It's only downside is that it does require time standing at the stove and stirring, though I find doing that rather relaxing. And if I'm busy stirring the risotto, it gives me an excuse to direct and delegate all of the other dinner preparation jobs to the masses. OK, maybe it has two downsides because arborio rice can be a bit expensive, but even a four dollar box of rice is still less than a lot of things these days.

There's not even really a recipe for it. What you really need is proportions. Here is what I've pretty much figured out:  for every cup of rice you use, you will need four cups of broth and one cup of rice will feed ~4 people. (See, this is why it counts as frugal.) I usually cook 3 1/2 cups of rice and heat 14 cups of broth for 11 fairly big eaters. Once you've got that information, you're set to go. You can make it just like this, with rice and broth (chicken, beef, vegetable... you can add a splash of wine into the broth if you desire), or you can add things. A little cooked chicken with some vegetables... small shrimp (though that suddenly ejects it from the frugal category)... just vegetables... or two that we like a lot are with sausage or with tomatoes.

To make it you will need a large pan (if you have a lot of people in your family, you will need a really large pan), and you will need a pot for the broth. First heat your broth so that it is simmering by the time you need it. Chop an onion and saute this in your large pan in some olive oil. Once the onion start becoming translucent  add in your rice. Coat the rice with the olive oil and saute it for a minute or two. (If you want to use any meats that need to be cooked, such as sausage, you need to cook your meat in the pan first and remove it before beginning with the rice. You will add it back in at the end.)

Now comes the fun part. Take a cup measure and add a cup or two of liquid to your pan with the rice. It will steam quite a bit the first time, so be prepared. Over medium-high heat, stir the liquid into the rice until it is nearly all absorbed. Then add another cup of liquid and continue. Arborio (or short grained) rice can absorb about four times is size in liquid. That little bit of rice really will absorb all that broth, it just takes a little time and stirring.

During this process, you will need to determine when to add your other ingredients. If you are adding something like zucchini, you may want to add them part way through so they can cook. If you are adding already cooked items you will want to add them in time to heat them without cooking them any longer, so usually toward the end. For the tomato risotto, I add a couple of cans of diced tomatoes to the broth and they are slowly added to the rice.

Once it's done (which is when it has absorbed all of the liquid it can... the rice will be soft and creamy), you will want to serve immediately, place a serving of rice in a bowl and sprinkle grated Parmesan over the top (or Romano, if like us, you have people who can't have cow's milk). To be truly authentic, you eat it with a spoon around the edges so that the center stays warm while you are eating. I usually serve a big, green salad with this.
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I have a new article up at Heart of the Matter on Homeschooling and Poetry.

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One thing I wanted to share... remember those children in Bulgaria whom I've been advocating for? Well, I found out that their files were sent back. This means that they cannot be advocated for on Reese's Rainbow or have any funds donated towards their adoptions. It means they are essentially invisible and unwanted. It tells the government and the agencies that yes, indeed, their initial assumptions were correct. No one wants a child like these. They are not worth it.

But they are! They are created by God in His image and we are called to care for them. They are truly the least of these. I cannot let them go; I think about them in nearly every free moment that I have. I'm going to post one of their pictures here at the bottom of each of my posts each day. Would you join me in praying for each of these children? Pray that a family would come forward who is willing to adopt them. Love them. Pray that they will know they are not forgotten? There is still hope for these little ones as their files can be specially asked for, it just adds time to the process.


Here's Theodore. He's 10 years old, but because of where and how he has been living is much younger developmentally. He is by all accounts a sweetheart. Please pray for him. [He does have several families interested in adopting him, but the Ministry of Justice still needs to make a decision so nothing is settled yet.]

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The circus

I don't have many days as busy as yesterday, but I'm reminded why I don't like them. We did school in the morning, then after lunch I took H. to Mandarin tutoring, stopped by the store to find black pants for B. (who needs them by Friday), came home, took Gretel to the vet, came home, organized myself to run a choir rehearsal, collected the people I needed to take to the rehearsal, ran the rehearsal (it's for our church's Christmas pageant on Christmas Eve), loaded everyone in the car, went home, collected the other who weren't at rehearsal, we drove to M.'s school picked her up, and then drove to the circus. J. had picked up sandwiches that we all ate in the car because we were cutting the timing so close.

After that, the circus was positively relaxing. And fun. And we had great seats. We had center front tickets in the lowest section. The youngest of the group were transfixed. G. declared that she thought the trapeze looked fun and K. really, really wanted to be able to drive the motorcycle on the high wire. H. would repeat at intervals to J. that, "This is so awesome!" M. spent a good portion of the evening paying attention to how the sound was managed and was able to explain why they kept the drummer of the band inside a plexiglass box. I enjoyed watching the little girls watch the circus as much as the circus itself, though I discovered that taking newly toilet-trained twins to a public restroom is an adventure all in itself. I was also really relieved when the lion and tiger act was done. I've decided that watching the trainer getting mauled is not my idea of fun and there were a couple of lions who were acting as if that is exactly what they wanted to do. And even when the trainer tries to assure us it is just a part of the act, I don't quite believe him when his voice is sounding a little stressed and is just starting to climb the caging.

But it was one of those great family outings that just works really well. The tickets were waiting for us just as they said they would be. We got to the arena in good time to find seats and visit the bathroom. Everyone had fun... with no meltdowns. And it was a good show. Just great family memories. And to top it off, M. was free and able to join us so we really had everyone there. Yet another benefit of children who go to school close to home. And I certainly don't downplay the fact that at 19, she still wanted to do something like this with her family. That's the kind of thing that just makes me smile throughout my day.

So, thank you Ringling Brothers for the free tickets. It was truly a blessing.
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Two children to remind you of today, since I missed yesterday's post. And there's no way I'm not showing you dear little Kramer's picture again.


Continuing to advocate for the children in Bulgaria. Their files were sent back which means that they cannot be advocated for on Reese's Rainbow or have any funds donated towards their adoptions. It means they are essentially invisible and unwanted. It tells the government and the agencies that yes, indeed, their initial assumptions were correct. No one wants a child like these. They are not worth it.

But they are! They are created by God in His image and we are called to care for them. They are truly the least of these. I cannot let them go; I think about them in nearly every free moment that I have. I'm going to post one of their pictures here at the bottom of each of my posts each day. Would you join me in praying for each of these children? Pray that a family would come forward who is willing to adopt them. Love them. Pray that they will know they are not forgotten? There is still hope for these little ones as their files can be specially asked for, it just adds time to the process.


This is Kramer. I can't think of a time a child has touched my heart like this little boy has. (OK, maybe I can, it was H.'s picture.) He is 8 years old and has CP. Because of the CP, he has languished in a crib without appropriate food, love, or therapy. How can anyone look at this little boy and think he is worthless? Not worth the effort and love to allow him to flourish and reach his potential? He needs a family. He needs a mother and father who will love him. Please...

and



This is Harvey. He is 3 years old and is the size of an infant. Harvey is extremely malnourished and also has some cranial-facial issues. This little one also touches my heart since K. was malnourished (at some points in his life, rather extremely) and two of my children have cranial-facial issues. It is something that sounds very scary, I know. But my children are so much more than their diagnoses. This little boy has never known what it is to be loved and cared for. Doesn't he deserve at least that?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Let's tackle the socialization and homeschooling question

I know I'm not alone in thinking of the whole socialization and homeschooling issue to be a bit passe. Homeschooling, at least in metropolitan areas is pretty mainstream. Plus enough homeschooled children have graduated and are functioning quite well in the broader world that it's not quite the fringe movement that it used to be. At least that's what I blithely tell myself until confronted with another outrageous example of cluelessness.

I know you're dying to know what this most recent example is. Well, today was library day and while I was walking through the stacks looking for something else, I came across a book titled, The Family Sabbatical Handbook:  the budget guide to living abroad with your family, by Elisa Bernick. Sounds good, huh? J. and I would love to be able to do this someday. Plus, think of the blog fodder. It would rank right up there with 'family of 12 goes on 'round-the-world tour'. (Which we are still willing to do... and write about in hilarious detail... if someone would just provide the grant money. Hint. Hint.) Since it never hurts to be prepared, I picked it up to see what some of the advice was.

In full disclosure, I have only very generally skimmed the contents as I watched the littles entertain themselves in the library's play kitchen this morning. It could very well have some useful information (for families of four) and I do plan on reading it. As is my habit, I looked up homeschooling in the index as a place to start perusing. Oh my. Rarely have I seen the 'dangers' of homeschooling so explicitly laid out.

Such as, "It [homeschooling] requires considerable commitment from a parent or hired tutor and it can limit your family's exposure to the local culture rather drastically. We had originally planned to homeschool Cleome in Mexico for the first six months and brought along a number of books and workbooks with that in mind. But after only three [italics mine] days of homeschooling our plans changed radically. We realized that (a) Cleome needed a friend right away and school was the easiest place to make that happen and (b) homeschooling was a huge commitment and we resented the amount of time and energy it took away from our own creative activities." (Kudos for outright honesty for that last line.)

Or this, under the subtitle 'A Homeschooling Caution': "If you intend to continue homeschooling your children during your sabbatical abroad, I suggest that you think very carefully about the impact of that decision on your family's overall experience. As foreigners, you will most likely already feel a sense of isolation from the world around you. And schools abroad, even more so than back home (where there are usually other places to meet families in your area), are invaluable places to meet both local and other expat families -- something that's critical for experiencing the richness of the culture around you."

These examples really sum up three commonly made assumptions about homeschooling. 1. That homeschooling is time intensive, workbook intensive, and looks just like a brick-and-mortar school 2. That homeschoolers are isolated unless they find themselves near pockets of other isolated homeschoolers and 3. The only place for families and children to make friends and develop a social life is through school.

The first item I have dealt with on many occasions on this blog. I will say, that were we to take the whole family abroad for an extended length of time, I would probably not drag a whole lot of school books with me. Oh, we'd probably keep the math skills up and such, but there would be so many learning opportunities right outside our front door that it would be silly to spend too much time cooped up with a workbook.

Items 2 and 3 tend to go together. If you can only conceive of children making friends through school, then you must automatically assume that homeschoolers can only make friends among themselves. This makes me wonder then, do ex-pats without children borrow children in order to take them to school so that they [the childless ex-pats] make friends as well? This is ridiculous, of course, but if adults can make friends without the benefit of school, why can't children? My children have a wide variety of friends who come from many places... church, activities, neighbors. Just as you and I do.

I will grant that doing this in a foreign country where you cannot necessarily speak the language does make it more difficult. But that doesn't make it impossible. You still have to interact with others and given enough time you meet people and become more comfortable. For instance, when we were in Vietnam adopting K., M. really wanted a new ao dai made since she had outgrown her first one. There was a tailor's shop across the street from the hotel and so we went in. It turns out the couple who ran it were very nice and had a daughter a little older than M. The father spoke excellent English, having studied in the US, and we had a nice chat about his adventures in Iowa. A little surreal, but fun. I could imagine that if we would have been there longer that we would have returned to this tailor for other items of clothing, and in doing so would have had more conversations. Eventually after more conversations, a friendship begins to develop. Friends tend to introduce friends to other friends and so on and so on.

The difference between this and school is that school gives the illusion that you have many people whom you socialize with. I don't know about you, but just because you are surrounded by people doesn't mean that you have a lot of friends. There were many times throughout my school career that I didn't feel as though I had someone to play with at recess or talk to at lunch.

Of course homeschooling isn't for everyone. The world would be a very dull place if we were all exactly alike. It doesn't bother me if you chose public or private school for your children. And being in a different country does change the game a bit. I certainly know of homeschoolers who, for the time they're out of the country, choose to put their children in school. This could be for many reasons, a major one seeming to be language acquisition. (There are also countries in which homeschooling is illegal.) But it seems a bit much to write-off an option because it either didn't work for one person or because of preconceived ideas about it.
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A couple of Pleven updates. First, Penny does have a family! I will be taking her off my rotation, but I will be putting Theodore (briefly, I hope) back on in her place. It seems I misunderstood the Bulgarian process. There are a couple of families interested in adopting Theodore, but the decision has to be made by the Ministry of Justice as to which family will be matched with him. Since he still isn't officially matched with a family, I will continue to ask you to pray for him.


Continuing to advocate for the children in Bulgaria. Their files were sent back which means that they cannot be advocated for on Reese's Rainbow or have any funds donated towards their adoptions. It means they are essentially invisible and unwanted. It tells the government and the agencies that yes, indeed, their initial assumptions were correct. No one wants a child like these. They are not worth it.

But they are! They are created by God in His image and we are called to care for them. They are truly the least of these. I cannot let them go; I think about them in nearly every free moment that I have. I'm going to post one of their pictures here at the bottom of each of my posts each day. Would you join me in praying for each of these children? Pray that a family would come forward who is willing to adopt them. Love them. Pray that they will know they are not forgotten. There is still hope for these little ones as their files can be specially asked for, it just adds time to the process.


This is Garnet. She is 10. Ten years old and lying in a crib. It's all she's ever known. How can we let this happen? How can we leave her there knowing now that she is there? Despite what she has lived through, she still looks as though she has life in her eyes. Imagine what she would look like with the love of a family.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Orphan Sunday

Yes, I realize it was a week ago, but our church observed it yesterday. J. was asked to share his testimony. I was so proud of him. Here is what he said:


Good morning.  Today we are recognizing orphan Sunday. 

Let me begin by pointing out that the children whose pictures you see projected here are real children with real names who need real families.  Each of these children needs just one family to step forward to provide the love and comfort that we take for granted.  If you need to know more about any of these children, please speak with xxxx or xxxx following the service, or simply contact the church and one of them will be happy to get in touch with you.

My name is J. and one reason that I’m here before you on this orphan Sunday is because my family looks a little different.  We have many children, some of whom are adopted from Asia, and this makes us conspicuous.  We joke that our family motto is “outside acceptable parameters.”

Occasionally, some people respond to our family by saying, “How do you do it?” or “Aren’t you wonderful!” or “I could never do that.”  The comments are meant well, and we are grateful that we rarely hear the kinds of negative reactions that some adoptive families elsewhere frequently hear (especially adoptive families whose children’s color or physical or developmental special need makes others uncomfortable).  But the implication is that we are essentially different from other people.  We are a mystery: how and why would someone intentionally allow their family to get like that?  Unconsciously, those who set us apart as some sort of aberration (a good aberration, of course, but aberrant, nonetheless)… unconsciously, perhaps they are excusing themselves from responsibility. 

But we are not different.  There is nothing special about us.  We do not have access to special psychological, emotional, or financial resources that others don’t have.  Honestly, we had no idea what we were getting into with adoption, and we still often feel as if we have no idea what we are doing. 

We are, quite literally, incapable of being the kind of parents that our children need… at least, on our own we are incapable.  Of course, the point here is that we are not on our own.  We are forced to rely on God for even the smallest aspect of our parenting, and this is true of every other aspect of our lives, as well.  This is what we have learned from adoption.  If we can adopt, then anyone can adopt.  We are not different.

I take that back.  We are different.  But the difference is a result of having surrendered to God’s call to adopt, not the reason for it.  We have been made different by adoption.  We have been irrevocably changed by our adoption experiences.  I have discovered in new and deeper ways my own brokenness, sinfulness, and self-centeredness.  I have also discovered, though, the depth of God’s love for me and his miraculous ability to provide for me in all circumstances.

We are all orphans, abandoned and without hope, until God adopts us into his family.  And even then, what heartbreak we must cause our loving Father as we reject his plans for us, rebel against his rules, run from his presence, fight against him at every turn.  Yet he does not let us go.  His adoption of us is irrevocable and he will be our father and we will be his children, no matter what we do or how we lash out.  His patience and correction will not fail. 

There are more than 140 million orphans and significantly at-risk children in the world.  (If the world’s orphans were gathered together in one territory, their population would make them the 10th largest nation in the world… larger than Mexico, but just smaller than Russia.)  In the US, there are about 500,000 children in the nation’s foster care systems.  More than 100,000 of these children are waiting to be adopted.

But these kinds of numbers are hard to grasp.  Statistics can invoke immediate shock and concern, but they generate little lasting change.  Instead, imagine one child, a child you know… perhaps one of your own children, or a niece or nephew… a grandchild… the child of a friend or neighbor.  Now imagine that child abandoned and alone… imagine that child hungry…  imagine that child trapped in a crib without any human affection… imagine that child unable to receive even the most basic of health care.  What steps would you not take to rescue that child? 

I’m tempted to say that none of this is meant to make you feel uncomfortable and that I know that not everyone is able to adopt a child.  But… you know what?  It is not for me to let you off that hook.  In fact, allow me to pray that God may make you even more uncomfortable in days to come.  Following Jesus is disturbing, and disturbance is a necessary precursor to growth.

Comfort and security are powerful idols in our slice of the western world.  Our words say we trust God, but our actions suggest that we put greater trust in education, career development, financial security, retirement planning.  Even when we understand that value and purpose are not to be found in affluence, success, and security, it is not easy to relinquish control and allow God to use us.  However, if our lives are not knocked off-center by God’s call, then perhaps we have not been adequately disturbed.

Adoption is messy; it smashes the idol of the perfect family; it forces us to acknowledge that we are not in control.  Children who come from hard places bring deep wounds.  We are learning to let go of our ideas about what life should be, our ambitions and desires for the future, our claims to comfort and ease.  In place of these things, God is giving us peace that transcends all external circumstances and purpose in his kingdom.

Please carefully read the handout you will receive as you leave worship today.  It offers some ways that you can respond to God’s call to care for orphans.  As today’s scripture readings from Isaiah and James remind us, there is never a Sunday or any other day when God’s heart does not break for the parentless.  Nor is there a day when caring for the parentless is optional in God’s kingdom.   
____________________
Good news! It seems as though Penny has a family who is working on adopting her. 2 down, 5 to go. At least with this group of 7. The very sad thing is that there are dozens and dozens more children warehoused solely because of their disabilities who live without hope in outrageous conditions.

Continuing to advocate for the children in Bulgaria. Their files were sent back which means that they cannot be advocated for on Reese's Rainbow or have any funds donated towards their adoptions. It means they are essentially invisible and unwanted. It tells the government and the agencies that yes, indeed, their initial assumptions were correct. No one wants a child like these. They are not worth it.

But they are! They are created by God in His image and we are called to care for them. They are truly the least of these. I cannot let them go; I think about them in nearly every free moment that I have. I'm going to post one of their pictures here at the bottom of each of my posts each day. Would you join me in praying for each of these children? Pray that a family would come forward who is willing to adopt them. Love them. Pray that they will know they are not forgotten? There is still hope for these little ones as their files can be specially asked for, it just adds time to the process.


This is Chad. He is 9 years old and has always lived in an institution. An institution with severe neglect. No one has ever even asked to look at his file and now it looks as though they never will. Pray that God will not let this little one become invisible. Pray that his parents will find him and show him what it means to be loved.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Oh, my aching feet!

We are back and we had a wonderful time. Even better, all the people we left at home had a good time and managed quite well without us. I am so thankful for the friends who volunteered to help watch everyone. There is a little wigginess on everyone's part as we get back to a regular schedule, but I expected that. Transitions are hard.

I think I walked a good portion of Washington DC in the 2 1/2 days I had there. I have to say, it's easier to do intense sight-seeing when you are on your own. The other plus I discovered is that I didn't have to save any energy for the whole dinner/bedtime routine because all I had to do was get myself into bed and collapse. Which is what I did.

Wednesday we arose at the completely unreasonable hour of 3:15 am so we could get out the door by 4 to catch our 6 am flight. On the plus side, I did have nearly the entire day to sight see once we arrived. The first day I saw the Washington Monument, the Museum of American History, and the Museum of Natural History. By 3pm, I was dragging and decided that it was fine to go back to the hotel and take a nap.

Thursday, I had arranged to meet a good friend who had recently moved to Baltimore. She took the train in and we visited museums together. We say the National Portrait Gallery, Ford's Theater (which has a really well-done museum on the Civil War and Lincoln's assassination, then we walked the mall from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial and saw the World War II Memorial and the Vietnam Memorial as well. From there we went to the National Archives and then met our husbands for dinner. It was great to catch up with these friends.

Friday, I seriously considered just staying in the hotel and putting my feet up and reading. But I knew that I would kick myself if I did that so forced my weary muscles to get up and go some more. I ended up taking a tour of the Capitol and the Library of Congress. I was really quite taken with the way the tours are done in the Capitol. It is swarmed with tourists and I can't imagine what it is like when it is the height of tourist season. I was also wondering how on earth I was ever going to hear the tour guide. Well, they have a really nifty set-up. Each person is given a set of headphones attached to a small receiver which is worn on a lanyard around the neck. The headphones are wirelessly connected to the tour guides lavaliere mic, so he can speak at a normal volume and everyone in the group can hear him. It worked so well that there could be multiple tour groups in the rotunda and everyone could still hear. (My tour guide was very good, but he sounded exactly like Corbin Bernsen [from LA Law and Psych] and looked quite a bit like him as well.)

After the Library of Congress I walked to the Botanic Gardens and just sat and rested while I waited for J. to be done with his last session. It was very pleasant and I wished I'd had the energy to walk through the whole thing. But I still needed enough energy to get to the Metro stop and take the Metro to the airport.

It was a great trip and J. and I enjoyed our time alone. I am also thrilled that TM weathered the whole thing remarkably well and somewhere inside him now knows a little bit more that we always come back and he's always a part of our family.
_________________

These children still do not have families going forward to adopt them... keep praying!

Continuing to advocate for the children in Bulgaria. Their files were sent back which means that they cannot be advocated for on Reese's Rainbow or have any funds donated towards their adoptions. It means they are essentially invisible and unwanted. It tells the government and the agencies that yes, indeed, their initial assumptions were correct. No one wants a child like these. They are not worth it.

But they are! They are created by God in His image and we are called to care for them. They are truly the least of these. I cannot let them go; I think about them in nearly every free moment that I have. I'm going to post one of their pictures here at the bottom of each of my posts each day. Would you join me in praying for each of these children? Pray that a family would come forward who is willing to adopt them. Love them. Pray that they will know they are not forgotten? There is still hope for these little ones as their files can be specially asked for, it just adds time to the process.


This is Brandi. She is 6 years old. She lies in her crib and waits and waits and waits for someone to scoop her up and tell her how loved she is. Just imagine a grin on her face, her hair allowed to grow out. Imagine how transformed she will look when she is loved. Pray that she doesn't have to wait too much longer for her parents to find her.
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