Saturday, March 31, 2018

Playing with quail eggs

Because one of my greatest abilities is to become consumed by something that doesn't really need to happen, and then focus on that thing to the exclusion of all others, I'll show you what I did today.

These are the quail eggs I cleaned out a couple of months ago. They will hang on a little tree and become the table centerpiece for Easter tomorrow.


But wait, I also played with fresh quail eggs. Q. is laying pretty consistently, and they had accumulated again. I decided to try making deviled eggs with them for dinner tomorrow.

And with a salt shaker to show how very small they are.

And that sums up my day. Laundry? No. Cleaning the kitchen? No. Anything other than taking care of animals and playing with eggs? Nope, this is pretty much the sum total of my day.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Two years later...

Yesterday, I finished a project I had started for Easter two years ago. Last year, the whole project, in progress got packed in a box, so finishing it was not an option. This year, I have done nothing for Lent, we did not do a Seder last night, and today, Good Friday, is looking as though it will be consumed with our rather obsessive need to finish the coop and get the fowl out of the house, will be a non-starter as well. Finishing something to make Easter seem special seemed like a really good idea. Compulsive sewing is always therapeutic after having received really, really bad news from the car repair place. REALLY bad. So I sewed, and here's what I ended up with at 11pm last night.

Now I have something pretty for the Easter table, and I have checked off a major item on a lingering sewing to-do list. I like that.

If you were looking for something a little more Good Friday, related, you know, from when I was capable of doing such things, take a look at Good Friday for Children.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Catching up

This post is probably not what you are anticipating. Usually when I write about catching up, it usually has to do with exciting topics such as laundry or cleaning or organizing. As scintillating as those things might be, I'm afraid that is not what I'm going to discuss this time around. Instead, I'm going to discuss the idea of catching up in regard to children, academics, and adoption.

I've now seen quite a few times genuinely concerned comments from parents about whether or not their child will ever be caught up. Another variation is to ask exactly how long one can expect a child to take to get caught up. While I don't want to discount the parental concern behind these questions, they [the questions, not the people asking] always make me squirm a bit. Consequently, I am always employing my rarely used filter to not write some helpful comment, such as, "Who cares?" (The 'who cares?' question, just to be sure I'm not misunderstood is directed at the concept of catching up; it is certainly not directed at the child or the parent.)

But what's the point of having a blog if I can't remove the filter and genuinely ask what it matters... and what it means... for a child, often older and internationally adopted, to be caught up?

Let's look at the idea behind being caught up before we turn our attention to the adoption angle. You all do realize, don't you, that the idea of what any child should be able to do at any given time is pretty darn arbitrary, right? It used to be that what was considered normal for a kindergartener would now be considered behind. It's not because children are somehow smarter,either. The other thing to remember is that the supposed norms by which nearly all school children are measured, are based upon a "normal" child who doesn't exist. Children are jagged. People are jagged. Each of us is a unique person, with unique skills, gifts, and challenges. None of us is normal in that none of us meets exactly the criteria of that imaginary normal person.

And here is a complete aside. When you do come close to normal, it is so unusual as to be commented on. In seminary, in order to graduate, I had to take the Minnesota Multiphase Personality Inventory or MMPI. It was a very odd test to take, and pretty much its purpose is to discover if the person taking it has any psychopathologies. I was happy to hear... and I'm sure you will be too... that I do not have any psychopathologies. In fact, I was pretty darn close to normal. I was so close to normal on so many of the indexes, that the person reviewing my test made astounded comments about it. So, there you have it. If you want to know what normal looks like, it looks like me. And pretty much all the good it has done me is to have an interesting anecdote to share at cocktail parties. Because I go to so many of those.

Where were we?

Oh, yes, arbitrary standards for assessing children.

We all know that most children don't fit the arbitrary standard for what they should be doing when. That's how we end up with struggling learners. They were not ready to learn what was presented at the pace it was presented, and so they struggle. Soon that struggle becomes ingrained. Or we end up with gifted students, the type every parent wants. But I'm not so sure things are any better for them, because I can't believe its healthy to never have to learn to struggle with something in order to learn it. There is hard work in learning, but it helps no one to have to struggle too hard or to not struggle at all. The point is, and there is a point in here somewhere, children really are all over the board in their readiness to learn and their ability to learn. The idea that we can say what any age group should be doing is a myth.

I think this is why it irks me so much when parents of newly adopted older children fixate so much on whether or not their new child meets this external, arbitrary standard. Many of these children have missed out on a lot. There is a lot of information and experiences and skills and health which need to be put in place first. I do not believe that these are really optional if you want to provide a child with the best framework for moving forward in their new life.

What does it really matter if a child is not ready to go to college at 18? What does it really matter if it takes a child several years to learn to read? What does it really matter if they live at home with you until their mid-20's so they can develop the skills they need at a pace that makes sense for them? Our society has gotten so hung up on the idea that childhood ends at 18 and a parent's time is up. It's not as though brains freeze up and cannot learn past 18. It's not as though some magic window has closed and no more information can be poured in. It's truly not the end of the world.

Parents who chose to adopt an older child, bring them home, help them as that child switches cultures, languages, and living situations, have already chosen a different path from most of the society around them. Embrace your different choices, and allow your child to learn at their pace, in their own time. You do not need to fall for the imaginary standardized track of normalized education.

Eventually everyone grows up. They find their way. How many of you, those of you who are past the age of 30, really think much about whether the person you are talking to learned to read late or not. Do you even know? Probably not. Or do you know if they took an extra year for high school? or college? or went to college? You might if they are a close friend, or if they told you, but I have found that most adults don't spend a lot of time rehashing their educational experiences out of the blue. Instead, they are living their lives, just like anybody else. (Do I really need to add that I am speaking of children who do not have serious cognitive issues? I am more than enough aware that adulthood for these individuals will look very, very different.)

Worrying about whether or not your child is catching up or will catch up or how fast they will catch up is crazy-making. Kind of like that last sentence. It becomes an end in itself instead of really looking at what gains the child is making and what missing pieces need to be filled in. Personally, I would rather delay reading and focus on vocabulary and pronunciation for a good long while, even if it means on the face of it, my child is behind. But what that also means is that I have not sacrificed a solid foundation for a quick jump in skills that may fall apart when words get more difficult. This is one small example, but it gives you a sense of what I'm talking about.

There is not finish line. Life is not a race. There are no awards for getting there... where ever there is... first. You are not a bad or negligent parent if your child is a late reader. You are not a bad or negligent parent if it takes your child a bit longer to learn things. Conversely, and this may be harder to swallow, you are not a gifted parent if your child learns things quickly and easily. Children cannot be behind or ahead, they can only be where they currently are. Start there. Move at their speed.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Sorry, no post

I have a large cat on my lap, who is making it very difficult to type. Plus, she keeps putting her feet on the keys, and has nearly sent an email and changed the size resolution on my screen. I managed to delete the email, but will have to wait for an older child to make the little tiny letters bigger. But she is warm and fluffy and quite friendly when she wants to be, which evidently, is now. She is also virtually unmovable once she has decided she is comfortable.

Instead, I will share one of TM's photos I found that I don't believe I shared with you. Because that is something I can do with my arms pinned between the keyboard and the cat.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Crowd sourcing

I'm speaking next month to a local MOPs group about meal planning and family dinners. This is something that I could probably do off the cuff at a moment's notice, but it's been so long since I created my original talk that I feel that need to revisit it, and maybe put some updated photos in my power point.

So loyal and diverse blog readers... if getting dinner on the table every night is a challenge for you, what is most challenging about it? The planning? The shopping? The cooking? All of the above? Your answers will help me to focus on what I talk about. Because truly, I could go on and on and on.

Having just made the week's menu and gone to the store today, I am personally aware of how grinding it can be. I sat down with my paper and pen, glanced through my recipe binders, and realized I didn't feel like cooking anything. Actually, that's not quite true. I find the change of seasons difficult, and particularly when warm weather is slow in coming. I want to grill. I want cold salads. I want summer and the food that goes with it. I'm tired of the lingering cold, and the entire family will be thrilled when a new fruit comes into season.

I managed to get a list made, though I think I still have one day empty, assuming that I will be able to scrounge something when the actual dinner approaches. Plus, A. decided she wanted lemon chicken, which is a bit labor intensive.** A. wanted it so much that she was willing to make it. That's the kind of menu planning I can live with. We had it tonight, and she did a great job.

Now it's your turn. Share what's difficult, if anything, about getting dinner on the table every night.

**When I went back and looked at the recipe for lemon chicken that I shared, I noticed that I didn't give directions for the making the lemon sauce which goes over it, and I think, greatly improves the dish. Here it is (it's essentially a white sauce, using chicken bouillon and lemon for the liquid):

First, make three cups of chicken bouillon or chicken stock and add 1 cup of lemon juice. Set this aside for a moment. Leave the drippings in the pan from having cooked the chicken, and add enough fat (oil or butter) to make 8 TBSP. (You will have to guess. And yes, I can here some of my non-cooking friends moaning from here. I suppose you could scrape out the drippings and measure, but that seems like a lot of work to me.) Now, heat them back up and add 8 TBSP flour. Use a whisk, cooking over medium heat to completely stir the flour into the fat. Then slowly add in your stock/lemon juice mixture. Keep stirring over medium heat until it has thickened. If you don't need four cups of lemon sauce, you could halve the recipe.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Our weekend in pictures

This weekend was good, but definitely of the sort where the coming of the next week sounds rather restful. The first thing was did was celebrate M's 25th birthday, though it was a couple of weeks late. I'm learning that with adult children, you celebrate when you can.

Yesterday, J. and the older people also started making the shed for the chicken coop. While it wasn't snowing, the air temperature did feel like 25 degrees, or so B. told me. I stayed inside and did laundry and made cherry pies for M.'s birthday dinner.

This morning, we get home from church to discover that the chicks all of a sudden decided that their brooder box was too small. They showed this feeling of impending claustrophobia by deciding to gang up on four of the chicks, and peck them until blood was drawn. Sigh. After quickly consulting the internet and the chicken book, we took the injured birds out of the box and put them in whatever containers we could find.

The bird in the plastic drawer if particularly amusing since every time we open the drawer to check on her, a chicken head immediately pops up. This also necessitated a trip to the nearby feed store to buy chicken medicine. "Buy chicken medicine," is another thing I get to check off my bucket list. Tonight, J. will enlarge the box, and we'll figure out a way to quarantine the injured chicks inside it until they heal.

Thankfully, the biggest weekend event, the coop, is now much further along.

B. helping L. hammer some nails.


D. and B. at the top while J. and M. push the roof piece up.

By the time dinner was ready, the roof was on and the door was tacked into place.

While the coop was being built outside, I was planting seeds inside.

That's all very farm-y, huh? We are definitely not in the city anymore! In the meantime, every two hours, the ducks would peep extremely loudly, which we have learned is their signal that they are out of water. Again.

This is what they look like. They stand there, peeping, while looking at their empty water and then somewhat accusingly at the person who comes to see why they are making so much noise. They are hilarious and messy and huge, but at least they don't peck their fellow ducks until they bleed.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Friday bullets, March 23, 2018

I still have a few hours before I have completely missed Friday.

  • My seed ordered arrived today! There is a slight chance I might be a bit over confident as to what we can actually do garden-wise this year.
  • P. also has some big news... she is now officially the newest driver in the house!
  • Does this happen to anyone else? Some weeks, fruit sits around and around and around, barely getting eaten. Other weeks, days before I am due to go to the grocery store, I look and the fruit bowl looks like this.

I wish they had some sort of indicator light so that I could know in advance and buy the appropriate amounts.
  • We are studying China right now, and I was a little stumped as to what to do for our dinner. We have Chinese food fairly frequently, and it's not so out of the ordinary for us. I decided that we would do a more labor intensive meal that I don't usually do. In this case, it was jiaozi, or dumplings. Y. has been looking forward to it for days. J. helped with the wrapping, and reported a certain degree of chaos. I'm pretty sure without Y.'s mad jiaozi-wrapping skills, they would never have gotten done. Here is the final product.

It's hard to see the actual dumplings, but due to me only being able to find square wrappers, and many children of many abilities doing the wrapping, they didn't look quite like what one would expect to see. They were delicious, though, and definitely made Y. extremely happy. 
  • It was more of a party than usual because we had some friends join us.

Their mom was one of the first friends I made out here, and is currently very close to delivering twins. So we are having a little slumber party.
  • A. has a new phone, and has been practicing using its camera on Olive.

  • Have I told you about Q., the guard quail? The dogs like to bark whenever they see someone or something outside. Really, it's often just too much. We've discovered that Q. must think this is what animals do. Whenever the dogs start barking at the windows, we'll see Q. turn, look out the window intently, and start to chirp loudly, right along with the dogs. When they stop, she stops. Somehow I don't think the fierce chirping of a quail would cause an intruder to have second thoughts.
  • We are due for some rather chilly weather tomorrow, though it seems we will be missing the snow which was originally forecast. This is very good because tomorrow is the day that M. and B. are coming out and will be helping J. to put together the new coop. It will be a little more pleasant to do so with it not snowing.
  • Last Saturday, we took our younger people to our church's egg hunt. There was a spot to take a photo, so did. Or maybe I should say we tried. This. This is why we have so few posed photos. It's as though a camera focused on our children interacts weirdly with their muscle function and causes them to lose the ability to smile.
  • Have I decorated those quail eggs I so carefully cleaned out? No, I have not. How on earth did we get to one week before Easter? For that matter, how did we get to the end of March?
Enjoy your weekend everyone!

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Why don't you adopt one of our children?

I know I shouldn't, but sometimes I just cannot help myself, and I read comments. In this case, it was some of the comments attached to the article I posted about asking people to sign the petition to investigate the burdensome regulation being required for international adoption.

[Go to this article if you haven't signed the petition yet: You Can Help Save International Adoptions]

On the whole, there are three varieties... comments saying someone signed the petition, comments from those who are opposed to adoption of any variety, and a large number of people asking some variation of the question used in the title. I realize that in all the writing I've done about adoption, I have never addressed this particular issue. Some of you may very well be wondering why a family would choose international adoption. While I cannot speak for everyone, I can share some of my thoughts.

The first thing to understand is that the US foster care system is not an adoption program, it is a family reunification program. The first goal for a child entering the foster care system is to be returned to their family of origin. Of course, we all know that this doesn't always happen, that parental rights are terminated, and adoptions happen. People who begin fostering with the intention to adopt know that it can be a long, painful, and unpredictable process. Don't get me wrong. I think it is very important that children whose parents have had their rights terminated find a new family. Very important. But not every family looking to adopt feels capable of going this route.

Over 400,000 children, on average are in the foster care system, but 115,000 are legally available for adoption, and over half of those children are over 6 years of age and have spent years in the foster care system. This is not the demographic that most first time adopters are looking for.

That sounds pretty bad, huh? But I completely understand it. The idea of adoption can be kind of scary; there are a lot of unknowns. This is particularly true if it is your first time adopting. Take us for instance. We wanted to add to our family, but a child so much older than our youngest didn't seem right. A child who had been shuffled around the system or who had significant special needs also felt a wee bit too scary. We are no the only ones to feel this way, and it is actually pretty wise. Hurt children take some special parenting, it is a steep learning curve.

Then there is whole kettle of fish regarding family size limits. At one point, we actually qualified for domestic adoption. That was when we hadn't adopted yet, and felt so unsure of ourselves. Once we had adopted, begun climbing that steep learning curve, and felt a bit more confident, we had too many children. I know I've harped on this before, but IL DCFS would rather a child languish in the foster care system without permanency than allow a large family, in this case a family with 6 or more children, adopt. If the rules say you can't, it's hard to get around that.

We also had experienced raising babies. There are many couples out there who are waiting and waiting to be matched with with an infant, and we didn't want to take that chance away from another couple.

So what are some reasons for international adoption? Children in orphanages usually have little to no access to specialized health care. Children in orphanages do not always have access to education. Children in orphanages who age out may do fine on their own, but they are also extremely at risk for trafficking, suicide, and drug use.

By asking the question, "Why didn't you adopt one of our children?" there is an assumption that some children are more deserving than others. This is not the case. Each child is valuable. Every child deserves a family. It is not an either or question. A choice of one type of adoption does not imply a disregard for the other type. I know plenty of families who have done both.

Children deserve families. Anyone tempted to kvetch about where a child came from should stop for a moment and take a good long look at what they are doing about family-less children.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Extreme introverts should never have to move

If you hadn't figured it out yet, I am pretty much a classic introvert. I need time alone. I enjoy peace and quiet. I do better when I can think about things for a while. And while I enjoy most social interactions, I find them exhausting. This is true even for people I know really well and whose company I enjoy. Even then, I find I need to sit quietly for a while and recharge my battery.

Days like today, make me realize how very much of this is true. It was one of those days of moving from one event to another. First, I had the monthly homeschool group I've been attending this year. It's been good. I enjoy it. And while I've met quite a few people whom I feel comfortable talking to (you know, minus the whole introduction, yes, indeed, I do have 12 children-thing), it's still all new enough that it is extra taxing on my people margin. From there we came home, grabbed some lunch, and then I was out the door again, this time with P. who needed a regular physical.

Normally this would also not be terribly taxing, but we are still figuring out our new family practice, and I had yet to meet this particular nurse practitioner. I never quite know what to expect, and I admit that it is very difficult when meeting new doctors to keep the chip on my shoulder somewhat hidden. (This comes from just enough difficult doctor and therapist interactions to put me on my guard until I get to know someone.) Thankfully, I really like this nurse practitioner, so all was well.

When we got home, my friend who also moved from the city to halfway across the state at the same time we did, had just pulled up with her children. We had arranged for them to come and see the chicks and ducklings, and so we moms could have a chance to visit. This was fun, and I enjoyed it. It is so nice to have at least one friend in the area who knew me before we moved. Even better, when I arrived home, helpful children had cleaned the kitchen, walked the dogs, and had given the ever thirsty ducklings yet more water.

When our friends left, it was teatime, followed by me hiding for a bit in my room while also trying to finish my Bible study homework. Because, yes, the day wasn't over yet, Wednesday nights are also when I have my women's Bible study I've been attending this year. This is also pretty low key, since I've gotten to know the women in my group, and the newness has somewhat worn off.

All good things, nothing was physically taxing, but I am exhausted. I realize that this is how I have spend a good part of this year. The constant meeting new people, introducing myself, and remembering who people are over and over and over it taxing. There hasn't been a lot left over. I find I don't want to talk on the phone much, and when I am home I am quite content to keep myself busy there. I have only missed people dropping in to visit a little bit.

I know that as we put down more roots here, build deeper friendships, and just become more comfortable that life won't feel quite so tiring when I'm not at home. I know that at some point we will have built relationships where people will drop by again unannounced to visit. It just takes time. And in the meantime, everyone who does know me, please excuse my need to play hermit more than usual. Well, as much as someone with twelve children can be a hermit.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Chickens in junior high... plus a pretty important request

Our chicks and ducklings have been hatched for about two weeks now. They are both much bigger, the ducklings in particular. The funny thing about the ducklings is that while they are bigger, they are still very fluffy, not having grown any adult feathers yet. It is a little silly to see these 6-7 inch tall birds with these little, itty-bitty, teeny-tiny wings. We still cannot tell them apart either, well, except for the duckling that is so much smaller than the others. Her we can tell. Here's my surprising duck fact for those of you, like me, who have had very limited personal interaction with the animals. They have little claws on the end of their webby feet. And these little claws are very, very sharp... far sharper than the chicks very visible claws. They are still as messy as ever, and more than a little noisy. Next weekend we hope to get the coop built, and will be moving these noisy, messy, adorable not-so-little things out of the house into their real home as soon as is safe for them. Thankfully, they can move out sooner than the chicks.

Those chicks... they are growing, but not as quickly as the ducks. What they have that the ducks don't are adult feathers. They now have fully feathered wings which means that they are quite good at fluttering about around the brooder box, as well as up to the top of the brooder box when it is open. They would like nothing more than to spend some time exploring the wider world. Of course, if we were to let them do this, I'm afraid they would become a Scooby snack for our resident Scooby Doo. Instead, whenever we feed and water or clean the coop, it takes several people. One person to do the actual work, and at least two, if not three other people stationed around the edges to both keep the predators out and the chicks who want to explore in. It's kind of crazy circus.

This morning, as I was watching them as I drank my cup of coffee, I noticed a new behavior that we hadn't seen before. The squabbling for the flock pecking order seems to be in full swing. This morning it was taking the form of chicks running at each other and bumping their chests together. Between the perpetual squabbling and the gawky, not quite fluff, but not quite feathered adolescent awkwardness, I was suddenly struck by the fact I have 21 chickens surviving junior high in my kitchen. It doesn't look any prettier in poultry form. At least if you are a chicken, the junior high phase is a matter of weeks as opposed to years.

The chicks will have to wait longer to be moved outside. None of us is quite sure, though, how exactly we are going to have room for 21 large chickens inside. We may have to rig up a heating system for them outside to move them out sooner. Poor J. has seemed to spend all his free time over the past two weeks perpetually reconfiguring the brooder boxes; enlarging them as the birds grow bigger and constructing wire lids to keep them safe, but allow us access. It's an adventure.

This next items is neither poultry related, nor is it terribly funny. Over the past several years, the regulation of international adoption has increased significantly, with no real corresponding benefits. All it does is add cost, time, and paperwork to an already complicated process. Recently there has been a new set of regulations which have rolled out. Please, read the article that I link to, read it, and consider signing the attached petition. It would also be wonderful if you could share the information in your realm of social influence. Thank you! (Oh, and as an aside, I wrote the article explaining the situation, even though my byline doesn't appear on the article.)

You Can Help Save International Adoptions and Solve the US International Adoption Crisis

Sunday, March 18, 2018

"I don't think God would ask me to do something so hard"

First, before I go on I must take a page out of my adult children's book and say, everything is fine here. (My children will immediately say all is OK if they are calling at an odd hour or use the phrase, "Can we talk sometime?" I appreciate this, as my ability to panic is hair trigger, and this little phrase allows me to breath again.) This post is not about our immediate circumstances. Close friends and family can now take a deep calming breath.

I have heard quite a few variations over the years of the sentence I used for the title. Other variations include, "We prayed really hard for our child, and that's why he doesn't have any problems." Or there is, "We were called to adopt, so of course God has blessed our journey." Each of these beliefs has some real theological problems to it.

Let's start with the last two, because as well as being wrong, they can also be extremely hurtful. If you flip them around, you can understand why. If someone prays really hard for their soon-to-be adopted child, and that child has no presenting behavior or emotional issues, then it can also be true that if you do have a child with behavior or emotional difficulties, it must be your fault because you didn't pray hard enough. The flip side of the third belief is also tough to swallow. That would be, if God is not blessing your journey (I'll get into the whole idea of what blessing really looks like in a minute, so set that aside for the moment), then He didn't really call you to adopt, you must have heard wrong.

Think for a moment how either of those statements might feel to a parent who is struggling with a struggling child. Instead of being supported by a fellow believer, they have instead just had a punch to the gut. There is nothing like being told your difficulties are all your fault, for either not paying attention or for not being diligent enough in your prayers. I can tell you for a fact, a parent struggling with a struggling child is already feeling guilt-ridden enough, and chances are they are already having a spiritual crisis as a result. There is nothing good or helpful about giving them a nice shove along that path.

If you have not struggled with a struggling child, I am genuinely happy for you. It might just be what God ordained for you. I'm not going to try to second guess that for a moment; that's between you and God. The trouble comes when that one moment of having things work out how one hoped is made into a blanket, "This is how God works," statement.

But what I want to focus on is why the thinking in any one of these statements is just plain theologically wrong, and I want to do that by sharing a little of my spiritual journey. If you have been reading here for any length of time, you know that some of my children suffer from the hurts they endured before they joined our family. Some of these hurts are very, very deep, and the pain is real. A child in emotional pain cannot always understand or control what he or she is feeling, and the result is behavior that can be both baffling and extremely difficult. Parenting a child who has been hurt can be extremely difficult as well.

I've done this kind of parenting for nearly 12 years now... very nearly half my parenting career. There were times when I was terrified of what the next hour, much less the next day would hold. There were more than a few moments where I was convinced that I could not do this for one more second. The number of tears I have cried over my own guilt and mistakes, over my children's hurts, over my frustration, over fear for my family, or sadness that my life was not looking as I imagined it would could probably fill a large swimming pool. There have been moments that have been the most difficult thing I have ever done in my life.

(There have also been moments of great joy. I don't want to give an inaccurate depiction of our life, but the point of this post is to focus on the hard.)

With each of our children, there have been moments where I have been utterly convinced by circumstances and events that God had made us their parents. That we were the ones chosen to be the parents who had the privilege to raise and love these children when their first parents could not. I was never in doubt about that for any one of them. That is a very good thing, because in the dark moments, I would cling to that knowledge. I didn't doubt they should be here, but I did doubt the goodness of a God who would ask this of me.

I just wanted to love a child who needed a family. That idea seemed so very simple and easy. How hard is it to love a child, after all? It's good to want to love a child, to give a child without a family, a permanent family. How could something that started out as such a genuine desire to do something good become something so gut wrenchingly hard? It was a very short hop from this, to the genuine question of, Did God love me?

There were some hard years in the last twelve. It's hard to keep moving forward when things don't seem to be getting better. It's hard to keep moving forward when you feel as though you have been deserted by God, or worse yet, to feel punished by Him. Did I not do the right thing? Did I not try hard enough? Why was God making me go through this? Was it ever going to end?

I am in a better place now... a much better place. As I struggled and searched and questioned and cried, God was there. I didn't always feel His presence, but looking back, I can say He was there, but I was too focused on the immediate feelings of fear to even be aware of His presence. I can also say, that much of what was a struggle for me was because I was coming at things from the wrong angle.

I wanted to do great things for God. I wanted to live a life that would glorify Him. I wanted to make a difference in the life of a child. I certainly had my own agenda. While none of these things was bad, it was the idea that I was going to do these things... I would show people what it meant to be Godly... I would heal and love and nurture a child... I... I... I.

You know what? God doesn't need me. There is nothing I can do for God that He can't already do for Himself, and significantly better, I might add. But do you know what is even better? He might not need me, but He wants me because He loves me. And the only thing He desires in return is for me to love Him back, without any agenda.

So how does all this fit in with adoption? God used all the hard in the past years to show me that I couldn't do it. When I tried to do it all on my own, it was an abysmal failure. God used all the hard to show me exactly how much I needed Him. God allowed me to experience the hard precisely because He loved me.

Are things all easy now? Good golly, no. Some days are still hard. Some days I still wonder how I'm going to get through it. Some days I do doubt that God knows what He's doing. I'm human. It's what we do. But I am also much, much better at realizing that I'm not in charge. The more I try to push my own agenda, the more uptight and fearful I become. When I remember that God is actually in charge, I can ratchet back a bit. Because it is truly miraculous how He has worked healing and brought about change.

If I leave you with one idea, it's that God loves you. God loves you even if He asks you to walk through what seems to be too hard. It could very well be that looking back, you will see that He asked you to walk through that hard precisely because He loves you. Jesus walked through the ultimate hard for us. God knows what it's like.

Saturday, March 17, 2018


For those of you not parenting children affected by trauma, you might not know that term in the title. It refers to the fact that our bodies store traumatic experiences, and that on the anniversaries of those traumatic experiences can react as if they were happening again. It's weird, but true. I've watched multiple children struggle, and I couldn't figure out the reason until something later reminded me that a traumatic event in their past happened on that date. Adoption anniversaries are huge for this kind of stuff around here.

I knew intellectually what was going on, but will admit there was a small part of me that struggled to feel compassion, because, good grief, that was a while ago. Can't we just move on? (Remember, I tell you all the time that I'm not perfect, that this interior lack of sympathy is just a piece of that.) Well, this past week I had a personal experience that kind of changes all that.

I have been in a rotten mood all week. For the life of me, I couldn't figure out what was up. Things seemed to be all going quite well, yet I was experiencing some pretty extreme anxiety, my patience and temper, always a little difficult to keep under control, were hanging by a thread, I felt as though my skin was literally crawling much of the time, and I couldn't shake these very physical feelings. What on earth could be going on? Of course, any mom reading this knows all too well, that once you start down the path of easily irritated and short-tempered, then it doesn't take too much time before you also get to add a heaping helping of guilt to the whole package, because you know you are being a rotten mother. So there was that on top of everything else.

Completely unrelated, but I must have had some sort of glimmer in the back of my head, I got to wondering what we were doing this time last year. I couldn't quite remember when we put the Big Ugly House under contract, and when we started looking for new houses. I knew it had to be around this time, but just couldn't remember. Enter the good ol' blog. It is so easy to go back and look at this date last year to see what we were doing. Well, it was illuminating.

Just about this time last year, life for us was incredibly up in the air. J. had started his new job, so had started the monster commute that kept him away from home far longer than any of us were used to. I was trying to do my best to pare down and pre-pack belongings in order to get the house on the market. School had already been called for the year, because you can't put a house on the market and teach school all at the same time. Plus, I was struggling with some extremely mixed feelings about everything that lay before us. In short, I was kind of a wreck and the future was very, very cloudy.

It was at this point that I realized I was experiencing my own little traumaversary. Over the past week, I had to remind myself multiple times that this new house, this new place, was really where we were living. We didn't have to pack up and move. I had to remind myself of this because worries about where we were going to live were popping into my head. It also explains why I was feeling as though I was a walking exposed nerve, perpetually irritated at everything and everyone. It's how I felt through the whole period where there were so many unknowns. My body was repeating everything I had experienced the year before.

I have to say, I have significantly more empathy for my children. This particular episode was a pretty benign traumaversary. It was short-lived, things quickly resolved well, no one died. If this was my experience... and it was very real and very unpleasant... over this type of trauma, how must my children feel in the midst of traumaversaries for significantly more traumatic events? It wasn't just all in my head, it was physical feelings all over my body.

There is nothing like experiencing something for yourself to elicit compassion, huh?

Friday, March 16, 2018

Friday bullets, March 15, 18

I'll jump right in, thus avoiding working on the article I need to get written.

  • It seems as though spring might actually be on its way.

Yes, it turns out we have a giant pussy willow growing next to our little stream. I cannot tell you how happy this makes me.
  • Because it is very nearly spring, I decided to start The Secret Garden as our tea time book. I don't know how many times I've read this out loud, and was surprised when the youngest of my crew didn't know it. But no matter how many times I've read it out loud, I am always caught off guard by the need to do some editing on the fly as I read in the first few chapters, due to some no longer even vaguely appropriate racial terms. Sigh.
  • I can now cross "dried baby chick with a blow dryer" off my list of things I've never done. When we got up yesterday morning, we discovered one of the chicks had a shaving totally glued onto her skin by poop. It took quite a soaking in warm water to loosen it. Thus the need to dry the chick with the blow dryer.
  • I am waist deep in laundry. Last Friday, J. discovered that the drain pipe from the utility sink in the basement had come disconnected. It meant that I couldn't do laundry. I didn't really miss it. J. was able to fix the pipe, but that means that now I have more laundry than ever. Some people got to stay extra long in their pajamas yesterday morning due to waiting for clean clothes.
  • One of the goals with this move was to have a bigger garden; one that would have enough room to grow everything we wanted to grow. This spring, we plan on putting it in, and start growing things. This is why I have been more than a little consumed with this catalogue.

I want all the seeds. Yes, I know that would be ridiculous, but still...
  • It is a little tricky to take care of the chicks and ducklings, and certainly takes more than one person. The chicks are perpetually trying to get out and Nefertiti is perpetually trying to get in. Thankfully Kenzie doesn't care in the least, but boy, Olive loves those little balls of fluff. Usually she is pretty good, but a couple of days ago, to everyone's surprise, she leaned over and picked a chick up in her mouth. A. screamed, Olive dropped the chick, a little girl scooped the slightly damp chick up and deposited it back in the box. The chick is fine, A. may have lost a year or two of her life. 
  • We went to the library last Wednesday. Now that everyone is reading so well, they have become aware of all of the books in the library that they can now read. It was very exciting, and we came home with a lot of books.
  • There is nothing I love more than to see a child curled up in a chair, reading a book.
  • This past week's school has been a bit over taken by all the ducklings and chicks. It takes time to keep them clean and fed, and they are so interesting to watch and play with, that there has been little interest in doing much else. I'm just as bad as they are. 
  • Finally, I'll share some chick and duckling pictures. I promise that there will eventually be other things written about here.

Happy Friday!
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