Monday, January 31, 2011

The rest of the story, Conleigh's homecoming, part 1

As many of you know, Conleigh's homecoming was very unconventional.  But, I'm not sure how many of you know the WHOLE story.  And as I sat down to write a post commemorating February 3, 2010, I realized one post was not going to cut it.  It quickly became long and complicated.  So we're starting a few days early, before the actual date.  Let me set the stage for you...

The days and weeks following the January 12 earthquake were chaos.  There were many concerns about both Kenson and Conleigh's orphanage having food and water.  There were many rumors about what different governments might do to unite Haitian children with their adoptive families.  And foremost, there was a constant stream of general infomation about Haiti being reported by CNN, Fox, ABC, etc..  I spent a lot of time on the phone with government officials, contacts I had in Haiti, contacts in the States, trying to straighten out things in regards to Conleigh as well as trying to see what might be done to advocate for both orphanages. 

When the initial news started trickling down that Hilary Clinton was working to secure refugee status for these kids, it seemed too good to be true.  We were very cautious in believing that Conleigh might be allowed to come home early.  In international adoption, such situations are unprecedented. 

We were required to submit documentation with the US State Department, indicating that we had been in process prior to the earthquake.  We did not expect an immediate response but after many days of waiting, not having an approval from the State Department was confusing and disheartening.  We knew that there was no reason for Conleigh's parole to be denied but it still felt like we could have the rug yanked out from underneath us at anytime. 

To add to that was the confusion that existed between the orphanage, the adoptive families, and the US government both in Haiti and in DC.  Adoptive parents were told that their orphanage directors would receive notice to appear at the Embassy to present their documents which was the final piece of receiving parole.  The orphanage directors were being told to show up at the Embassy with the kids and to be prepared to travel at the drop of a hat. 

I think we finally started to believe that it might really happen the last week of January.  On Friday, we received a phone call indicating that the director of Conleigh's orphanage believed that they would be leaving Haiti for Florida that day.  This followed multiple days of the orphanage director bringing the three American children to the Embassy and sitting at the Embassy all day, waiting to be processed, only to have to get back in the truck at the end of the day and drive the 2 hours back to Mirebalais.  We still had not received any confirmation from the State Deparment indicating that Conleigh had been approved for parole, let alone travel. But Melinda, the director, was saying to come.  We were greatly concerned that if we were not in Florida when Conleigh arrived that she might be placed in temporary foster care.  It's not the worst situation but for an already confused child, it could be traumatic.  So we quickly tried to gather our stuff to make plans to get there.  My dad was at  meeting in Grand Island and came to pick up Kenson.  But by the time he got here, we had gotten another phone call saying that the kids were not traveling on Friday and no one knew when they would be traveling.  I tried to see if Senator Johann's office or Adrian Smith's office had any more information but they had the same information we did which was that our file had still not received approval and there was no reason to believe we were set to travel.  We decided that it would be sooner rather than later and so Kenson headed to my mom and dad's while D and I tried to decide what to do. 

We were really feeling like we needed to head to Florida but we had no idea of how long we would have to wait.  The actual parole process had started about a week previously but had stalled in the middle and there were many days where no parole documents were issued.  If we headed to Florida and that happened, we might find ourselves living in a hotel for a week or more.  We did receive some news on Friday or Saturday that helped make our decision easier.  The umbrella organization that is over Haiti Children's Home has housing available for missionaries on furlough.  They agreed to let us use their apartments for a very cheap fee, like $25 a day.  Knowing we had somewhere to stay sealed the deal.  By Saturday, D and I had decided we would fly to Florida on Monday, with no real plan other than staying in those apartments and hoping Conleigh was out soon. 

So Sunday we showed up at church, told our church body that we had no plan other than that, and planned to fly on Monday.  We were blessed by a church body who prayed with us and shoved a few $20 bills into our pockets.  Bright and early Monday, we flew to Orlando as that was the airport Melinda felt they would be flying into. 

We rented a car at the airport and started our drive to the missionary apartments, about 2 hours or so north of Orlando.  We had no map and no plan but thankfully we did have GPS.  We arrived at the apartments, got checked in, and decided to go find a grocery store to buy a few supplies since we might be there for a few days. 

No sooner had we gotten back in the car when the phone rang.  Another family had called to tell us they thought the kids might be flying out at that moment.  So we turned the car around, packed up our stuff out of the apartment, and headed back south. 

(More to come...)

Friday, January 28, 2011

Adoption Fundraising

A few days ago, I posted about my friend who is doing an adoption fundraiser to bring home a daughter from China.  (Last I heard they were several thousand dollar short specifically in the area of travel expenses.)  When I wrote that post, I knew some people would deliberately skip it because they just don't agree with people raising money to do adoptions.  I know that there are a lot of people, from all sorts of backgrounds, who are uncomfortable with the whole fundraising aspect.  I know because I've heard the concerns of people as finances and adoption were discussed.  Comments I've heard have ranged from "If you can't afford to adopt, then you can't afford to have another child.", "That's like asking for someone to pay for you to have another child." and "Do they really need another child?  They already have 1.  (Or 2.  Or 3. Or 5.  Or 7.)"

In some ways, I understand the concerns.  Yes, it is important to be able to feed and clothe your children.  And it is important to be a good steward of the money (and other resources) that God blesses you with.  And I understand that sometimes people simply equate adoption to pregancy or infertility treatments, and that they find it hard to fathom someone asking for financial help with the birth of a child or the medicines/procedures required for a couple experiencing infertility.

But in a lot of ways, adoption is unique.  Financially it is unique in that you are asked to provide money upfront.  Often the amounts due are due in stages but you still must be able to come up with a decent amount of money at each stage.  In other words, you are required to have large lump sumps of cash available over a short period of time.  This is not necessarily indicative of a family's ability to provide for a child over time.  Imagine that in order to get pregnant, your doctor required a sum of several thousand dollar beforehand.  Imagine if at 3 months pregnant you were required for another payment of several thousand dollars.  And at 6 months.  And finally a large lump sum of cash was due before your infant could leave the hospital.  How many families would be able to afford a pregnancy simply by relying on what finances they had in their bank account?  Probably not many.  But the catch is, I'm pretty sure that we would say their inability to pay for the pregnancy was not necessarily indicative of their ability to provide in adequete ways for their children.  Adoption is the same way.

The other concerns often cluster around a belief adoption is the same as a "normal conception" or infertility treatments.   People say that it would be unreasonable for people to raise funds for a pregnancy or treatments and that therefore the same should be true of adoption.  In some ways, I think people often misunderstand adoption fundraising as a belief that "I am entitled to as many children as I want and it is the responsbility of others to help me in my quest."  Honestly, that statement should be a very far cry from the true heart of the adoptive parent.  It is not like a pregnancy, which depending on the parent's beliefs, can be completely about that family's desire for children.  While obviously every adoption should start out of a family's desire to love and care for a child, adoption is not about the right of a parent to have more children.  Instead, it is about the universal right of a child to have a family. 

I think what is often missing from the picture is the ability for people to put aside their own personal convictions so that they can examine what is at the heart of adoptive fundraising.  Adoptive fundraising is about a child joining a family.  A child who may have a living mother and a living father but is in need of more stability and security than that mother and father feel they are able to provide.  It is about not growing up as one of many in an orphange but instead being someone special in someone's wallet.   It is about redemption in it's purest form, an opportunity for God to take a messy, broken situation and create something beautiful.   It's about kids who honestly have no chance becoming kids who have a million chances. 

I know it's hard to put personal convictions aside; we all have our hang ups.  But really, is this a hill someone wants to fight for and defend?  A hill to die on?  Are you willing to preserve your personal convictions while a kid goes to bed without somone tucking him in and kising him good night?  Are you really so certain that your personal convictions are correct that you would risk the ability of a child to grow up never having to be afraid of being homeless or foodless or clothesless? 

Here's my take:  kids finding families trumps personal convictions every time.  If it irks you that people assume you have the money to spare, fine.  If it annoys you because it seems like an interuption into your life, fine.  If it irritates you that someone could consider accepting charity in order give a child a home, fine.  But put it aside for a moment and consider what is the heartfelt, human response to a child without a family.  For a family who sees the needs of that child and has agreed to sacrifice their time, energy, and financial resources to meet those needs.  For a family who may be gifted in ways that you aren't, specifically when it comes to parenting children who come from hard places. 

When I taught first grade I often told my kids "You can be a problem maker or a problem solver."  When it come to adoption fundraising, which one are you?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Bath and Body Works Deal

Today's Groupon is $20 worth of items from the online Bath and Body Works store for $10 or $30 worth of items for $15.  (If you aren't signed up for Groupon, it can be useful even if there isn't a Groupon for your town.  You can use it to buy gift certificates for friends/family for the cities they live in.  Or, like today, sometimes the daily deal is for an online site that anyone can use.  Use my link to sign up and it will credit me for introducing you to their service.)

And for even greater savings, I'm pretty sure you should be able to pair this deal with money back from Ebates.  (If you use Ebates' portal when shopping online sites, Ebates gives you cash back.  Again, if you haven't signed up, use my link and it will credit me for introducing you to their service.  Ebates has tons of stores including the online versions of Walmart and Target as well as Ebay and Barnes and Noble.  It's a great way to buy gifts, especially if you do it when stores offer free shipping.)

Right now Bath and Body Works is set at 3% cash back on Ebates so on your $30 purchase, you'd get just about a buck back. 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Winter Pics

Better late than never...finally Christmas pics.  We do matching pajamas for Christmas morning along with stockings and a gift from Mom and Dad.  (Leapster Explorers)  The Cheetos in the stockings were probably the biggest hit of all.  Then we made the family rounds with some great store bought gifts (Toy Story, Tinkerbell, lots of new imaginative play items, and stick horses and hats), some unwrappable gifts like family passes to the museum and zoo, and some homemade goodies (sock monkey, sock elephant which we love Ms. Alissa, and new hats and mittens from Mom). 

We also finally got around to sledding which the kids now think it divine.  Sledding was requested two days in a row and made it into the things to thank God for on both days.  We have the best sledding hill right by our house which is very convenient.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

2 years

It's hard to believe it's been two years since we traveled to Haiti to bring Kenson home.  He has now been home almost as long as he was in the orphanage.  The long 2+ year wait seems far away but at times, it certainly brings itself to the front of my mind.  The last 4 months were agonizing as it took a crazy amount of time to get a passport and then we ended up having to go through Christmas and New Year's waiting for his visa.  (Read lots of holidays where the offices were not open to process paperwork.) 

So much has changed for this little boy.  He can count past ten.   He knows scores of songs.  He talks constantly and continues to ask lots of questions about how and why.  He is learning to write his name and can make all of the letters but hasn't quite decided to trust us that in order for the letters to be read, he has to write them in a certain order.  And perhaps the most evident thing is that he's grown.  A lot.  In two years he has gone from wearing 24 month clothing to needing 5T for shirts and pants.  And in the pants department, he is fast approaching needing longer ones.  He is a sturdy 52 pounds.  He's moved dramatically up the growth charts from being in like the 25% for height and weight to now being in the 90's for both.  He has lost that baby face and is looking so much like a little man.  His smile is still infectious and somehow that smile is always present in his eyes.  He still likes rules and for others to follow them. 

Haiti trip 2008

Our homecoming trip, 2009

Jorge's wedding, May 2010
Two years...two years since we've been to Haiti.  (Writing that makes me wish I was headed back.)

Thankful for the ways God has blessed us in those two years...

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Watch me!

"Watch me!  Watch me!'  A fresh burst of three year old energy hurtles itself up into the air and lands on two feet.  A big smile.  Giggles.  Two parents look at each other and just smile in a knowing way about the silliness of one little girl.

And that is why children need families, not orphanages. 

Families are for "watch me moments."  Orphanages-no matter how loving and attentive-are not.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

New Books for a New Year

I just added a few new books to my widget full of recommended titles.  Many of the new titles represent books that I have not yet read or am in the proces of reading.  I love finding books vicariously ie by having someone else tell me about it and I think books have the ability to connect people in powerful ways.  So enjoy my list of new reads...

I am currently reading this as part of my quiet time.  I'm not terribly far into it but I appreciate the author's perspective on our need to slow down and seek God.  I also appreciate one of the prayers offered early in the book.  "God, What am I missing?"  This simple prayer is amazingly complex.  It reflects a desire to see God in the big picture, for Him to reveal what His best plan is for your life especially when you feel like some of the big pieces in your life are not aligning in a way that makes sense.  And it reflects a desire to see God in the minutia of life, to slow down and catch the God in the everday moments we take for granted.

I am over half done with this read.  It's a title I found via a happened upon blog.  It's a book that I'm not sure I'm 100% in line with but one that I appreciate because it challenges my thinking.  And one that I appreciate because I think the church does not necessarily do a great job of preparing young women to be wives.  It covers a lot of basic concepts on compromise and submitting, on serving and compassion.

I just finished this novel and am so glad I didn't return it to the library as I was planning.  I've actually had it since before the holiday break but hadn't made time to read it.   When I checked it out, I only briefly perusued the dust jacket to see if it appealed to me.  (I had two kids with me...which should explain the words "briefly perusued.") I knew it was historical fiction but was pleasantly surprised to find that the book begins in the 1770's in Haiti, details the slave revolt which made Haiti the world's first black democracy, and ends in New Orleans.  It does have some adult content which is less than desirable.

This one is actually not on my bookshelf.  It's one I'd love to own and am hoping that I will sometime get the chance to read it.  The subtitle says it all:  A Call to Faithful Living in An Affluent Society. 

This is actually our small group's selection for the year.  We rarely make our small group because we lack a babysitter/atttending means being out until 9:30 or 10:00 on a weeknight.  But we've been in the same group for 7 years and consider them important in our lives.  So we do try to get there occasionally.  Since we're not at small group, I often read this on my own.  I have loved what I've read.  Randy Alcorn establishes a connection between relativism (the lack of a belief in abolute truths, specifically that good and evil exist) and the frustration we have with a God who allows horrific things to happen.  He also devotes time to the way our frustration with God often comes back to what we believe about God's character, namely the specific belief that God is good..

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Deep Dark Secrets of Toddler Adoption, #6

#6...I'm not really sure it's a secret. I honestly can say I have enjoyed our experiences with toddler adoption. Even the tough stuff. There is much joy to be found in 2 and 3 year olds. The delight they find in new things. The simple ways that they amuse themselves. The way they are honest to a fault. The way they develop their personalities and senses of humor.  
I think I'll end my list of secrets by sharing an invaluable resource if you're considering toddler adoption.
The Weaver's Craft is a practical and hands on type book dedicated just towards the topic of toddler adoption. It provided me much insight into what a newly adopted toddler might need. And it also provided me with much hope when I was discouraged or frustrated. It allowed me to view the small actions of my kids that might have easily been overlooked as signs of positive attachments.

Toddler adoption isn't probably a perfect situation for every family. But for us, it's been a great fit.

Suppertime Prayer

"Dear God,
Thank you for Nicky and Alex.  And help my nose feel better.  And please keep the boogers from going down my throat.

Ah, sweet honesty from Mr. Kenson who is struggling with a bit of head congestion.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Deep Dark Secrets of Toddler Adoption, #5

#5  Your child will not be perfectly disciplined, and in fact may be more of a hellion than you really care to admit.  I am not saying that to be mean or to call kids name.  I say that because toddler adoption involves a kids who come home displaying less than desirable behaviors.  They have grown up in settings that are not family settings.  Large groups of kids naturally means kids are able to get away with more.  Most orphanages are not trained in child development or managing large number of kids. 

Kids will come home with long lists of behaviors that you may not have expected.  Swearing (in English or their native language), hitting others, choking others, spitting at others, spitting on the floor, throwing food on the floor, throwing objects, kicking, biting, refusing to stay in a time out, refusing to sit with you in a time ine, destroying toys or other household objects simply because they can, being too rough with the family pet, stealing food or other objects, having no fear of real danger like hot stoves or cars in busy parking lots, haing no inside voice and instead maintaining an extremely loud voice level all day long-I'm sure the list could go on and on. 

Yes, many of those are typical toddler behaviors.  But some of them are not.  And even the ones that seem normal for a toddler often leave you as an adoptive parent wondering about if it's really so normal.  There are oftentime pieces of the behavior that seem less than normal and just a little off.  Expecting that your child will have issues with their behavior is important as is having productive ways to deal with it.

With one of mine, we literally spent hours upon hours teaching the concepts of sitting in time out or sitting in time ins.  And there were much time spent covering the words "obey", "this hurts your heart", and "is your heart trying to get its own way?"  There were days when it felt like all I did all day long was discipline.  There were times where I literally forced myself to look at my child at night, while he/she was asleep, so that I could maintain a positive image of that child for the next day.  We are still working on impulse control and connecting consequences to behavior but we've come a long ways from the initial days of giving a direction and watching the child do exactly the opposite.... 3 or 4 time within a 10 minute span.

Adoption Fundraiser for Arielle

My friends are doing what a lot of people would deem as scary and something that is all too often pretty unheard of.  Nope it's not starting a church service dedicated to bellydance themed worship or choosing to relocate to outer space ala George Jetson. 

They are adopting a teenager. 

She's 13, will be 14 this summer.  In my mind, that's old.  And in the eyes of different governments, it's old as well.  Many people don't realize it but kids actually age out of adoption.  It depends on the country as to what age that is but in her case, she has to be home before she's 14 or she is unadoptable.  (It happens very frequently with kids who have disabilities as well.  Often if they are young enough to be in a baby/toddler home, then they are able to be adopted.  But once they get older, they are institutionalized and unadoptable.) 

They have actually gone through a very quick process and were hoping to travel in February.  But they are short money and must have that money raised before they travel.  Imagine telling your child that you had to wait to pick them up because of money.  Or being worried about your child aging out of the adoption system before you raised the money to bring her home.  I know adoption fundraising can be a sore spot for people.   (And I actually have a post on the topic rolling around in my head.  But  you'll have to wait for that.)

For now, consider a small gift that would bless this family.  A random act of kindness that may seem small or even an inconvenience or an annoyance but something that would cause tears and smiles for this family.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Deep Dark Secrets of Toddler Adoption, #4

Secret # 4
Adopting toddlers does not mean that you will be past all of the behaviors that one associates with babies. People generally associate diapers, bottle feeding, and sleep deprivation with babies. But if you adopt a toddler, there is a really good chance that you will experience all three of these things.

With potty training, there is a good chance your child actually was exposed to potty training prior to them coming home. But you really don't know how successful they were. So as a stress reducer (for you and the child), it is much easier to go back to diapers and avoid the issues of accidents until life has calmed down. Being in diaper also represents an opportunity for your child to be dependent upon th parent. When in diapers, they will need the parent to change the diaper which helps to cement the belief that the parent will meet the child's basc needs.

Bottle feeding is also something that can help a child attach to a parent. Infants learn to recognize their parents while feeding. Infants learn to have their physical need for food met while their emotional needs for intimacy are met through the snuggling that occurs while feeding. For newly adopted toddlers, they have missed these experiences with their new parents. Bottle feeding allows for cuddling and snuggling, creates opportunities for a parent to hold the bottle and dictate that they will meet the need, and allows a toddler to enjoy the baby stage of life which may be been hurried or missed altogether.

Lastly, just because you are adopting a toddler, do not assume you will have a child who sleeps through the night. One of mine slept through the night from the very first night. One of mine slept through the night maybe 5 times in the first three months and continued to have sleep issues for 6 months after placement. The first three months often involved multiple wakings each night. It was not fun and very much like having an infant. But the weird part is that no one else really knows or assumes that this is happening unlike when you have an infant at home. Then people assume you are not sleeping. With a toddler, the opposite assumption is made.

Adding to the complexity of those issues it that by allowing your child to be in diaper, have a bottle or be comforted at night, you may be defying cultural norms.  (Or at least the advice of your mother-in-law.)  It can be very hard to see other kids who are the same age as your child and recognize that they are completely past all the "baby" behaviors that your child may need to be allowed to continue in.  It can make you doubt yourself or make you feel like your child is falling behind and may never catch up.  (Even though that is not true for a moment.)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Deep Dark Secrets of Toddler Adoption, #3

Secret # 3

Your child will grieve and will deal with that grief in ways that are not very fun to watch or deal with.

Your child's life before you, even though imperfect, was still familiar and comfortable to them. If I had a dollar for each time we have been told how blessed my kids are to be in America, I might be able to go out for a nice dinner. While I agree that my kids (and every other person living here) are blessed, it does not negate the fact that they have had to sacrifice much to be here. Their language, their friends, their food, their culture, their schedule, their caretaker, even their beds and their clothing...all of these things have disppeared in an instant.

With toddlers, their experience is unique in that most of them are unable to communicate what it is they are feeling. (This is true of older children too but with toddlers it is different because older children might be able to express themselves in their native language. Toddlers, regardles of language, do not have the language skills to express themselves.)

So in place of words, you get raw emotion. Anger. Sadness. Confusion. Despair. Both of my kids have had times of inconsolable anger and sadness. Times where we have simply moved things out of their way and let them rage on the floor, rolling and kicking from side to side.

One of mine tried to gain control by shutting me out and shrieking anytime I drew near. This went on for many days. I tried hard not to take it personally but it certainly didn't line up with my preconceived ideas of spending the first days at home cuddling and holding and nurturing.

Other kids will use their bodily functions like pee and poop to maintain control. (We did deal with this on a small scale as one of mine repeatedly pooped in the tub in a way that seemed very deliberate.)

Another way kids seek control is by food which can mean not eating, eating only certain things, or not stopping and hording food.

It can be incredibly heartbreaking to watch because you wish you could make it stop but you can't.

And it can wear on your nerves because of the length of time that some of the behaviors go on. Think tantrums that last 45 to an hour or two. Think controlling behavior that takes months or years to heal.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Deep Dark Secrets of Toddler Adoption, #2

Secret # 2

Adopting toddlers can be a very isolating experience. (As can any adoption.) Adopted kids need their worlds to become very small once they have arrived home. Their worlds have literally exploded and they need their parents to minimize that world for them, to help them sort out who and what are important in their lives now that their lives are upside down.

If you are adopting, there is a very good chance you may not spend any amount of time away from your child for months on end. That means not leaving them with a neighbor while you run to the store, not leaving them with Grandma on an overnight trip, and not even leaving them in children's Sunday school while you go to adult Sunday school or church.

It's not that you are a martyr who is trying to be invincible. It's that it's what your kiddo needs from you at that moment.

Your activity choices, especially in the first few months, may mean avoiding shopping or museums or church because it is too overwhelming for your child. You can feel very cut off because you're world has also become very small.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Deep Dark Secrets of Toddler Adoption

Adoption is an interesting beast.  Sometimes it is lovely.  Sometimes it is wrapped up in a nice, neat package with a pretty bow.  And sometimes it howls like the wind on a snowy night.  Or is a soggy grey rain that seems to have no end in sight.

In our adoption experiences (and our one short bout with foster parenting), we've seen all of those things.  (And more.)   I wouldn't say we've experienced the wildest end of the adoption spectrum.  But I think we've certainly gotten a good dose of the realities of adoption, specifically adoption as it pertains to 2 and 3 year olds.

So for the next few posts, I thought I'd share some of the secrets that people may or not now about toddler adoption.
Secret # 1.  Adoptiong a toddler means incredible amounts of cuddling, holding, and carrying.  With adopted kids, they are learning to count on you as their safety net.  (And that's a great thing.)  But the reality of that is that they will literally cling to you at every turn, especially when they first come home. 

There is no separation.  Your child will not play in a different room than the one you are in.  If you sit down, even if there are toys on the floor, there is a good chance your child will bring those toys to your lap.  Sending your child upstairs or to a different room of the house where he cannot see you will probably result in a tantrum that is a product of anxiety over being apart from you. 

If you go out in public, expect that desire to cling to be magnified.  Of course, when you are in a setting where people know you, they want to visit and gush over your new peanut.  And you may find that your child's hands immediately go up, asking for you to hold him, and your child's face pressed deep into your neck as he tries to avoid those interactions.  Which may last for many minutes.  And may mean you start losing feeling in your arms as you deal with the 40 pounds of weight that are pressing on some random nerve.  My daughter has been home almost a year and still is reluctant to sit on the rug by herself at storytime at the public library.  (She absolutely refused to sit on the floor for about 9 months and would only sit on my lap.) 

And if you are headed to the store or walking somewhere, insecurity aside, their little legs may simply not be strong enough to walk the full distance.    Kenson's legs were not as strong as most kids his age. 

That doesn't even count the concept of "time in" where instead of giving a consequence of spending time away from the family, you have the child sit with you, on your lap.   Or the idea of using  baby sling to carry a child who is having a rough day and needs the extra support of knowing he or she is close to his parent. 

Your arms and back will ache.  And your lap will take big gulps, trying to find fresh air.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Today is a bit surreal.  I'm not sure how life turns out the way it does but the month following Christmas is a month chock full of memorable heartaches.  Our family experienced the death of my mother-in-law three years ago, after a very short battle with cancer.  Two years ago, my grandfather-in-law passed away unexpectedly while at work.  And one year ago, on January 12, 2010, life changed for us (and literally millions of other people worldwide) as an earthquake devestated Haiti.  I know that for some, my lamenting the January 12th date will seem odd or maybe overly dramatic.  But it is one of those things that has pierced my heart, where my heart is literally full of sorrow as I think about it.

January 12, 2010

It's one of those moments where I will probably always remember exactly what I was doing when I heard that there had been a massive earthquake in Haiti.  It was about  suppertime and the tv was on, randomly set at some channel.  No one was really watching it.  D and I were wandering around the house, working on various things.   And I have no idea where Kenson was.  (Please celebrate my amazing parenting skills!)  Just by chance, I walked through the living room and happened to hear the news reports.  And from then on, life was a bit upside down.  The intial reporting was very conservative in the reports of the number of dead.  I remember saying to D that there is no way the death toll will be that low.  Port au Prince is too crowded.  The housing is too unstable.  My first thoughts were not really of my daughter.   There were of a country that was as ill prepared as any country might be to deal with a horrific natural disaster.  Of course, Conleigh did come to my mind later, and we spent two weeks on the phone for hours at a time, trying to figure out what was going on.

The last few days have brough media attention back to Haiti.  I'm surprised at how difficult it has been for me to watch.  And I am so aware of how insignificant my own feelings of sadness and despair are compared to so many others who live and work in Haiti. 

More than anything, I think it has cemented in me a belief that I am connected to the birth country of my children.  Unfortunately, it is easy to walk away from the country and people who make up parts of the inner fabric of who my kids are.  I don't live there.   I don't have to deal with the realities of life there.  It's like anything else; it can be easy to look the other way.  But for some reason, this earthquake has meant a kinship that I'm not sure I can explain.  Yes, those feelings were there before but for some reason they are stronger, more emotional.  I know I have said this before, but the faces of those people are not random faces.  They are the faces of my children.  In the case of one documentary that is being aired on Hulu, they are the faces of kids I have seen and held and talked to in person. 

For both of my kids, we do not know anything about their birth families.  Neither family has reported in with the orphanages since the quake.  There is a really good chance that Conleigh's mom is okay as she lives outside of Port Au Prince.  Kenson's mom?  I do not know.  There were so many dead and so many injured in life transforming ways. 

Take a moment or two to watch the television coverage of Haiti today.  Take a moment to watch the documentary I mentioned earlier.  (It's actually filmed at Kenson's orphanage and details their attempts to meet the needs of the children in the days after the earthquake.  The video link is below.  It's about an hour long.)  Just take a moment and pray for healing, stability, renewal, and vision for a country that needs it.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Things I Wish I Hadn't Seen This Week

*my daughter's face about 1 inch away from the water level  of a public restroom toilet.  (Sunday, we were eating out and Conleigh and I went to the bathroom. As we were left the table, Derek made a comment about going to powder our noses. Conleigh thought he said potty with your nose. I tried to explain but to no avail. As soon as we got in the bathroom, the girl tried to plant her nose in the toilet. She was within inches of a face first dive into the bowl. Thankfully it wasn't a nasty gas station bathroom, you know the ones where they still have the fabric towel that rotates through the dispenser.)

*my son drool on his face and then use the ear of his new sock monkey to wipe it up

*my daughter bring snow boots in from the back porch, still packed with snow, only to find her licking the sole to eat that snow

In a similar vein, there are many more serious things that my kids do that I wish I hadn't seen.  That's part of being a parent.  Helping kids navigate their behaviors and teaching them what is acceptable and what is not.  My daughter is full of drama... in a lot of ways.  She is opinionated and not afraid to tell you what she thinks.  She has always had the attitude of "if you would just listen to me and hear my point of view, you would surely understand and do it MY way!"  (Eerie how much like me she is!)  Last night at supper, D was reminding her about good table manners and her body started with the teenager posture.  (Hands on hips, eyes headed back towards the recesses of her brain, mouth in go mode)  D warned her not to say anything and the conversation continued along these lines;

D:  Don't say anything.
Conleigh:  But...
D:  Do not back talk.
Conleigh:  I ....
D:  Stop.
Conleigh:  Am.....

The final tipping point was when somehow she did manage to get a word in.  With her fingers pinched in demonstration, Conleigh uttered the words "Just a 'ittle bit?"  As in, can I just talk back a little bit?  I had to leave the room as I was laughing way too hard. 

Perhaps she'll be a lawyer. 

Or a politician.

Friday, January 7, 2011

God and Me-Yielded vs. Pursuing

Last week, I wrote about having a vision for 2011.  (That sounds a little weird.  Know I'm not talking about psychic Miss Cleo type vision.)   I wrote about a spirit of yieldness versus a resolve to do improve things, start new habits,  etc.. 

I still like the word yieldedness but after church on Sunday and a little Crazy Love reading, I think I have some words I like better.  Kirk preached on Sunday on the idea of transformation.  His premise was that resolution is one thing but transformation is another.  God does not desire for us to simply resolve to do better.  He is not the cosmic grandfather who has a doormat that states "What Happens at Grandpa's Stays at Grandpa's".   We can not continue our behavior that dishonors Him, and expect that He will simply look the other way because His love for us runs deeply.  At the same time, the idea of being resolute enough to change our own behavior and make us more acceptable in God's eye is not accurate either.  God is not your high school English teacher who was impressed by your ability to properly puncutate sentence and spell without a dictionary.  And unlike English class, editing your life and turning in only the best version of you does not impact Him either.  He loves us because He made us not because we are able to do certain things well. 

Transformation differs from both of those ideas.  It does not require that God execuses our behavior nor does it require that we improve our behavior.  Instead, it takes our very being and changes it into something new.  Think seeds planted in black dirt that must burst out of their germ in order to sprout and blossom.  Think caterpillar in a cocoon, undergoing a change that will completely destroy the worm-like shape in order to create a butterfly.  Think a messy life that lives only for itself emerging as a life that is still messy by lives for a purpose greater than self.  That is transformation.  "For if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has gone, the new has come."  (1 Cor. 5:17)  

Yieldedness seems to fall under the umbrella of transformation.  I want yieldedness because it seems to represent a transformed life but at times that seems unwieldly and tends towards the legalistic.  Even the task of being yielded become a goal to accomplish, something to strive for so that I might take my performance to the Lord, asking for His approval over my life.  While I certainly want Him to be pleased, I also have come to recognize how, for me (an overachiever who loves the feeling of a job well done, especially when somone else has noticed just how well done it is), that I dimminish what God has done for me by trying to prop up my abilities at His feet.  As I lay my hard work at His feet, I stand there like a little girl, eagerly awaiting for Him to tell me how pleased He is with my efforts. 

Which leads me to another word:  pursuing.   I read Francis Chan this week and he writes, "As long as we are pursuing Him, we are satisfied in Him."  (Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless GodPursuing.  What if our new year was a year dedicated to pursuing the God who made us?  Wouldn't that take care of every bit of resolving to do better, of wanting to be yielded, of needing to be transformed?  And what if it wasn't just a 2011 thing?  What if the core of our being decided every day to pursue Him like mad?  That's where I want to live.  Pursuing God.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

We made pasta noodle necklaces at library today.  Kenson has already informed me that after his nap he will be using it as a sling to defeat Goliath....gotta love boys.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Newest Hair Styling Tools

My children have both recently started complaining about having their hair done.  I'm not sure how much is real and how much is imagined.  Regardless, today I got to witness Conleigh's version of doing hair. 

The tools:  a wooden spoon, a tea kettle full of pretend water, an oversized toy toothbrush, and an empty box of Ritz crackers which I believe was coconut oil.  True to form, as soon as she started touching Kenson's head, he started yelling, "Ow!"  And true to Mommy form she reassured him that "We're almost done."  I personally think they both ought to be very thankful that I don't do hair using the tools Conleigh managed to find.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Vision for 2011

Many time the focus of a new year becomes goals and resolutions.  While I'm not saying there is anything wrong with that, I do wonder how well that meshes with the spiritual discipline of yieldness.  Of course, God could be convicting you and using a goal or a resolution to do so.  But in my own life, setting goals often ends up as me setting out on my own and creating a list of things I would like to accomplish.  And rarely do.  So maybe that's why I don't gravitate towards goals and resolutions.  It's easier to not attempt than to attempt and fail.  (Don't you like how that sounds like some kind of backwards motivation quotation.) 

For me, it's that running ahead of God thing, where I embark on some grand adventure and may invite Him to travel with me instead of waiting and catching the vision God has for me.  I am a visionary personality, something I never would have thought but one day during a class in college, as we were talking about leadership traits, my friend Beth pointed this out.  Unfortunately I'm more vision and less practical application.  But I always have grand schemes running through my head.  I am not a details gal.  I am a big picture type thinker and the thought of a whole year ahead of me leaves my mind with much room to dream and wander and plan.

For us, 2011 seems to represent a lot of uncertainty and indecision and waiting.  Our house has still not sold.  We are at a little over 18 months of being on the market.  Moving still seems like it is what God has for our family but it has been a big "not yet."  We will also start the year by celebrating that we are a family of four.  But it leaves us wondering when and how we will grow to a family of five or six or who knows.  And I think that leads us to the biggest uncertainty, our finances.  Thankfully D has a secure job with a set monthly paycheck.  I however do not.  That is of course by design.  But there is a part of me that is wishing that my financial contributions were more consistent.   I love the flexibility substitute teaching affords but I don't love having a paycheck that varies greatly each month.  While I know it is not true, there is a part of me that thinks a better paycheck would make our lives easier.  It would make choice about adding to our family easier.  It would make the decisions about our house easier.  It would make the decisions about our monthly budget easier.  It is one area where I am constantly tip toeing towards the edge of discontentment.

So as I think about the new year that is ahead, I can't help but think of how I want 2011 to be indicative of a desire to do what God wants.   I want our family to move to the town where we work and worship but I have to choose to believe there is some reason why God hasn't allowed this yet.  I want our family to grow but no clear path for how to do that seems to be popping up.  And I want our finances to honor God but I find I struggle with believing that God has a plan to provide for all of our needs.  It represents a year of anticipation, of feeling that you are standing on the brink of something good but not being able to see what that good might be, believing that if God is in the thick of it, it is always a good thing

Yielded...may that be my vision for 2011.