Friday, October 28, 2011

The Little Sister









Yes, I know it is a funky hat.  But they made me wear it because my sister wore it when she was two




Yes, I'm cute.  But I'm also two years old and will smile when I darn well please. 

The Stinker. I Mean....The Brother











The new rule is that if he is "acting like a superhero" (being kind, cooperative, not whining, etc.) that he is allowed to wear the costume (since he would sleep in it if we let him).  But if he is not acting like a superhero (no explanation required), then the costume comes off.  It's actually proving to be quite effective. 

The Big Sister






She told her teacher yesterday, "I knew kindergarten would be fun, but I didn't know it would be this fun."  And then gave a little leap of joy.

That's my girl!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

You Want Pictures? I Got Pictures.

Yeah....I would keep an eye on that one too, Lily.









Classic Josiah:  Pants too big; mismatched socks.

See?  I really am taller.  We are not twins.  Just to clear that up, since there has been some confusion!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Call Us Crazy

Hmmm.

Okay. 

How do I say this? 

The beginning.


Do you remember how I said we fell in love with this little guy? 

No?  You don't remember absolutely everything I write?

Well then.  We did.  Fall in love with him. 

I guess we fell in love with lots of them.  But this little guy?  Well, I couldn't stop thinking about him.  And I found out that he is, indeed, available for adoption. So I started praying for a family for him. 

But I never really thought it could be us.  Because all along, all these years, I understood that social welfare only let you foster/adopt one child at a time. 

But then, I ran into our lawyer.  Introduced her to Lily.  Chatted a bit, and on a whim, I asked her, "Does the law state that you can only foster one at a time?"

And she blew me away by saying No.  She said that almost always, it's the decision of the social workers to only allow one at a time.  But it is not prohibited in the law.  Just like the law does not limit the number of children a family can adopt--even though the social workers usually try to limit it to Two.

But as you know, over a year ago, the big kahuna at social welfare gave us permission to apply for Three.  He is a very good guy.  He is very pro-adoption. 

So we prayed.  And we thought. 

We have always wanted four children.  If we wait until Lily's adoption is finalized to apply for a fourth, we won't have time to complete it before our home assignment (two years from now).  So that means that we won't be able to apply again for three years.  Meaning it could be four years until we get our fourth child.

We would rather not wait that long.

And there's a little boy who is perfect for us, waiting for a family right now.

Now, don't jump the gun here and get too excited.  This is a long shot.  Truly.  In fact, I almost didn't tell you about it because it really is a long shot.  Getting permission to take this little boy (essentially, to foster two unrelated children at once), is almost unprecedented.  There is no law preventing it.  But that doesn't mean it will happen. 

But we decided to publicize this because the more people are praying, the better. 

So, look at that little face, and pray.  Please!

Gil and I went to social welfare last week.  The person we wanted to see is traveling and won't be back until November.  So we will go again then.  If he says yes, it would be a matter of months, not years, until we could bring the the little guy home.

Because, of course, our lives are not quite crazy enough yet. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Meet Sam


I meant to introduce you to Sam a while ago, but considering that she moved in with us just three days before we brought home Lily....well, I've been a bit pre-occupied. 

Sam is the student who is living with us this year.  She is a junior and she is South African (yes, there are Africans of European decent, just as there are Americans of European decent) which means, of course, that she has a fabulous accent and insists on teaching my kids to say to-MAH-to

Sam spent her childhood in Tanzania.  We got to know her family well during our early years here, and then her parents were called to serve in a different country, where they've been for the past few years.  There hasn't been a good schooling option for Sam in that country, so they decided to send her back to HOPAC, which is where she has always felt most at home.  But HOPAC is not a boarding school, so.....we offered to have her live with us.  We had such a great experience with Maggie last year (who is settled now at Stanford, by the way), that we decided to do it again with another student.

And Sam has been a wonderful addition to our family.  She entered into all our chaos with flexibility and a willingess to help however she could.  She is our permanent baby-sitter and is another source of laughter and color in our house.  And hopefully she likes us, considering that Gil is her Bible teacher and her soccer coach....so she can't really get away from us! 

Friday, October 14, 2011

When a Kiss Is More Than Just a Kiss

How does a little girl become a daughter?
Is it because she grew in your womb?
Is it because of a name on a dotted line?
Is it a decision?
A feeling?
Because she looks like you?

I've read a lot about attachment and bonding.  What's interesting is that even though the experts emphasize how important it is, they don't even really know what it is or where it comes from.  Obviously it's not all biological, judging from the atrocious behavior of some birthmothers.  And the way that adoptive mothers would lay down their lives for a child not of their race, color, body. 

I've never written about bonding here.  And I know that's because with my other two kids, I was extraordinarily insecure about it.  I did not feel instant connection with my children.  They felt like strangers at first; someone else's kids.  And that made me feel like something was wrong with me.  I devotedly, dutifully took care of them....but it all felt very, very strange.  But of course, when everyone says to you, "Oh, you must be so happy!" and "Aren't you just so much in love?"  I would smile and say, "Oh yes, yes, of course!" and wonder why it was so hard to actually feel that way.  And when my children would reach for a stranger and hug her the same way they hugged me, I felt a knife go through me.

But it happened.  I don't even know when; there wasn't an instant difference from one day to the next.  I just knew that one day I looked back and knew I would lay my life down for these children; that I loved them more than life itself; that they were of my flesh, my heart, my soul.  That their smiles made me happier than anything else. 

So this time, with Lily, has been completely different for me.  It's not that I felt any different at first:  She still felt like a stranger; I still had to fight feelings that she didn't belong; taking care of her was a duty.  And she was not very happy with me either.  But I wasn't stressed about it.  I knew how to anticipate what I would feel....but I also knew that it would change. 

And because I've been able to feel much more objective this time, it's been so much more interesting to me to sit back and watch the attachment happen--in Lily, in my family, in myself.  It's such an amazing process.  A child who once belonged to no one, now belonging to us.  Us.  And she's realizing it, and we're realizing it. 

She was outside yesterday, and she fell and hurt herself.  Barely hurt herself, of course, but she is a bit of a drama queen (what two-year-old isn't?) and she screamed.  But she screamed for me.  "Mommy!" 

Very good sign.

She runs and hugs Daddy and Grace when they come home.  She comes to me when she wants food.  She brings me my phone or my purse or my shoes....all the time, even when I don't ask for them!  And last night, for the first time, she said to me, "I want kiss."  Meaning, "I want to kiss you."  She wanted to give me a kiss. 

And I wanted her to kiss me.  Every day she gets cuter.  I don't know if that's because she is changing or because I see her differently.  Probably both.  Her eyes gain more expression every day.  Her excitement for life increases every day.  She understands more, speaks more, dances more.  It's a beautiful thing to behold:  A little girl becoming a daughter. 

She still grabs on to any woman who comes through our door.  But I just laugh.  Old habits die hard.  She'll learn.  I did.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Note To the Nay-Sayers

A couple of months ago, I read a horror story.
It was a news article about two-year-old little Guatemalan girl who was kidnapped and then ended up in an orphanage.  Her birth mother searched for her for 4 years and finally tracked her down.  She had been adopted by an American family who is ignorant of the fact that their daughter was actually kidnapped.  And now the birth mother wants her back. 

Horrific for the birth mother.  Horrific for the adoptive mother.   Tragic for the little girl. 

It sent shudders up my spine. 

But what was more disturbing to me was the comment section below the article.  The criticism against international adoption was intense.  I know not to take such comments too seriously, considering they are often full of grammatical errors and written by people who have way too much time on their hands, but it's not the first time I've read that kind of criticism.  Recently it seems I've come across it quite a few times. 

So since I am passionate about international adoption, here's my soapbox on the main arguments I have heard. 

1.  International Adoption is full of corruption. 

I would agree with a revised statement:  International Adoption can be full of corruption.  Just like anything else in life.  The program in Guatemala has been suspended for years now because of corruption.  Prospective adoptive parents need to do their homework, both on the agency they use and the country they are interested in adopting from.  They need to ask the hard questions and not be naive.  But just because a few cases of corruption exist, there's no reason to assume corruption is everywhere.  Is that a reason to shun the millions of children who will never know what it's like to have a full tummy, a hug from a mama, and the chance to learn to read?

One of the main advantages to Tanzanian adoptions is that we work directly with the government and not with any agency.  No one gets paid, ever, except the lawyer that we use at the very end to finalize the procedure.  Only residents of Tanzania can adopt from here, so I can't encourage just anyone to apply, but I can encourage a prospective international adoptive parent to find out exactly where their money is going. 

2.  International adoption steals children away from poor families who would love to care for their children but can't afford it. 

Ooohhh...this is a sensitive issue!  And it's complicated.  And it's not fair for people to say, "Wouldn't it be better to support the birth family instead?" 

Can't it be a yes/and instead of an either/or? 

I think of Forever Angels (Lily's orphanage), which definitely does both.  Take a moment to read up on their website if you are not convinced.  Their first choice, always, for their babies, is to get them back with their birth families.  They help mamas gain an income.  They help them find jobs.  They research every possible lead on relatives.  (Their search for Lily's relatives was very extensive). They give out food, clothing, resources to the families of their children.

But what about the children who have a mother in the psychiatric ward?  What about the newborns who are found in a pit latrine?  What about the ones who come to the orphanage covered with scars? What about a country where 10% have HIV and is decimating a whole segment of the population? 

When you hear stories about Haitian women begging foreigners to take their babies, it is heartbreaking.  So of course community development is vitally important....children are meant to stay with their birth families!  But we live in a broken world where that is not always possible...or even the best thing for that child. 

3.  Americans should adopt only from America before they start worrying about the children in the rest of the world. 

Wow.  Really? 

But I've actually read that statement. 

The truth is, that with abortion so accessible, healthy adoptable infants can be hard to come by in America.  And even when they are, it can be painfully risky for adoptive parents since the birthmother has a certain number of days to change her mind (depending on the state). 

I would love to see more children adopted out of the foster care system, and if we were in the States, we would have probably gone down that route.  But as far as I understand, even that can take years to make happen.  And parenting foster children, even if they are adoptable, is a calling in itself. 

As a Christian though, I really hope that no one would use this argument even if there were just as many adoptable children in the States.  Do we wait until poverty is eliminated in the States before we go elsewhere?  Do we only evangelize in the States before we go elsewhere?  And the truth is, an unwanted child in the States is unlikely to starve to death in an orphanage....as is true in many, many countries.

Of course, I'm all for American adoption as well.   But if people feel passionately called to international adoption, don't make them feel guilty for their calling. 

4.  An adopted child can never really be a part of an adoptive family.  He/she will always feel a connection to his/her birth mother/family/country and it's doing them a disservice to take them away. 

Ugh.  It turns my stomach to know that people think this. 

I am not adopted, so I cannot speak to this personally.  I can only speak of this biblically.  If we can be a part of God's family, then these children can be a part of ours.  Period. 

What makes me sad is that this is the main argument used even in Tanzanian culture, on why they don't adopt children from their own orphanages.  Blood ties run deep.  Your tribe, your clan, your family name....that is everything here.  It's why distant relatives would rather have a child spend her whole life in an orphanage rather than releasing her for adoption.  It's why adoption is simply not an option for infertile couples, let alone anyone else (with very, very few exceptions). 

I've been reading up again on attachment and adoption issues, getting new ideas to help Lily's adjustment (which is really going well, by the way).  But do you realize what happens to children who never make a significant attachment to a permanent caregiver?  They are thus unable to have any significant relationships in their lifetime.  What happens to these orphans when they become teenagers and still have no family, and no emotional ability to really create their own?  Such is the fertile soil for prostitution, crime, and other heartbreaks.  What's more important--that a child knows his native culture, or that he knows unconditional love?  


I know I'm probably preaching to the choir to my readers.  But just in case...just in case someone out there is considering international adoption and is being swayed by these nay-sayers.....think again.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Grace for the Day

I don’t have many complete and coherent thoughts these days.  They come in scattered little bursts and are mostly focused on the next thing to get done. 

This has been the hardest parenting month of my life.  And I feel like such a wimp, knowing that there are many moms out there who have special needs children or lots more children than me, and I wonder how exactly they do it, since I feel like at any given moment I just might burst into tears.  I daydream of sending Josiah to pre-school.  Or boarding school. 
I guess I had it easy before, since I had never had three children all crying at the same time.  Or have a child throw a fit in church before.  Or in the Benson Online Internet office.  And when people in said internet office first question whether or not these really are my children, and look at me very skeptically when I assure them that they are, and then I have to carry said children out bodily, kicking and screaming simply because of one yellow crayon, it doesn’t do much for one’s self-confidence as a mother.      
Whenever I think I have learned a lesson in selflessness, my children make sure I have another.  I end the day emotionally and mentally exhausted though I haven’t done any real coherent thinking.  Disciplining all day long makes me want to crawl into a hole. I can’t minister to people the way I want to; I don’t have time to read; nothing ever seems to be done well.   I just realized today that I will have to miss our mission’s conference in Kenya next April (which only happens once every couple of years) because Lily won’t have a passport by then.  I cried. 
Yet I am so thankful.  Thankful for this chance for my own self-will to be ripped out of me.  Thankful that I can learn, one more time, that God doesn’t need me to “get things done” the way that I think He does.  Thankful for the opportunity to be confronted with my own selfishness.  Thankful to learn just a little bit more what it means to lay down my life.  To have my pride cut out from underneath me that somehow I thought I was a “good” mother…whatever that means anyway. 
It’s all grace.  Grace if I am able to get through a day.  Grace if I get a good night’s sleep.  Grace that my daughter is doing so well in school.  Grace that Lily has shown such tremendous progress.  Grace that I have been given good work to do.  Grace if my children turn out “right.”  Grace that I am His.  That I have a purpose, a plan, true love, this great salvation, a future filled with hope.  Not much else matters other than grace. 
Everyone needs a little Grace in their lives.  Or a lot.